Monday, July 9, 2012

Freddi's Famous Italian Chili: A Family Tradition

As you may have seen yesterday, I asked my wonderful mother to guest blog about her famous chili recipe--the one that remains a frequent request from myself, family and even, years later, high school friends! Enjoy!

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It’s a well known and fairly obvious fact that I am at my happiest when my family is around—and by family, I mean anyone that I care about.  When my kids were young, family included many of their good friends….and it still does. (I love you guys!!)  I still get so happy when my kids have their best friends around.  Must be the Italian in me!

In high school, I was the mom who welcomed all of their friends into my heart and my home, and was the one who treated them like my own (love, hugs and as they will tell you- lectures, as needed).  I loved that they all called me “Mom” or “Mama O’B”.  Since numerous kids were always around, I quickly learned how much growing kids liked to eat (especially the boys!).  I always kept my pantry stocked with their favorite foods and my kids knew that their friends were always welcome…which often translated to no advance notice of eight kids packed around the table! 

Like a lot of families, many of our traditions are centered around food. I always felt that traditions were so important to keeping a family close—Thanksgiving dinner anyone? 
One of the traditions in our house is my Italian chili.  It’s kind of funny to call a food a tradition, but somehow “all my kids” made it one.  I get requests for it; there are specials days dedicated to it; it’s expected to be in my freezer at all times.  

The week of Halloween, I would happily make a pot of chili in anticipation of the kids all stopping by at some point.  They knew that the chili would be simmering on the stove - and sooner or later, all those trick or treating kids ended up at my house to hang out and eat and swap candy.  Then there was Super Bowl Sunday - again, it was a tradition for the kids to come for chili and nachos and stay for the game.  What a great winter night for me!  After high school, they all went on to college, but the chili tradition didn’t die. I still remember one of my son’s best friends (one of “my boys”) who asked for my chili recipe long ago calling me from Syracuse to tell me that he had made a version of it (aww). It made me both happy and sad at the same time.

Even now, I always have chili in the freezer, so any request for Mom’s chili is quickly satisfied.  Like Super Bowl Sunday and Halloween, the Fourth of July is another day where chili is a tradition…specifically, chili cheese Thumann’s hot dogs (and now they top their burgers with chili - isn’t that odd?) (Andie's note: by odd, I believe she means DELICIOUS! Just to clarify...) Since chili is so important to our family, it’s not really a surprise that Andie asked me to guest blog about it.

There are numerous ways to serve the chili--here are some of our favorites:
  • The kids loved making simple nachos and then scooping the chili on top as they eat it. Our favorite nachos use Doritos rather than tortilla chips--simply layer a cookie sheet with Doritos, and top with grated Monterey Jack cheese (plain or spicy).  We always did this for Halloween and Super Bowl Sunday.
  • As I said, our Fourth of July holiday always includes chili cheese dogs and chili cheese burgers. Just cook your hotdogs/burgers as normal, top with delicious chili and prepare to get messy!
  • For a cold, snowy day, serve the chili in a bowl covered with corn bread. Simply scoop some chili in a bowl then cover with Jiffy Corn bread dough (just follow the directions on the box). Or make the corn bread in muffin pans and serve with the chili.
  • Or, to be simple, just serve with hot crusty Italian bread. Yum!

Freddi's Famous Italian Chili

please note, these are best guesses, as my mum doesn't use anything to actually measure

1 lb ground beef (I use Angus)
1 large can of store brand red kidney beans, drained of some of the liquid (You can also use a mix of light red and dark red or light red, cannellini and black beans)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, diced
Bunch of mushrooms, diced
Olive oil
Oregano (I guess I use 3 TB or so)
Basil (guess 2 TB)
Garlic powder (guess 2 TB)
Salt, Pepper
Chili Powder (at least 4 TB)
Cayenne Pepper (at least 1 TB)
1 16oz or so can of Italian stewed tomatoes, drain some of the liquid


1. Brown the ground beef in an iron skillet. 

2. Once cooked, drain most of fat off.

3. In same pan, brown the chopped onion. 

4. While browning beef pour olive oil in the bottom of a large pot, add the can of chili beans, and the browned beef.

5. Add all the spices and the onion and the green pepper and can of stewed tomatoes. Stir gently. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

6. Add the mushrooms; simmer another 15 minutes or so until the mushrooms absorb the flavors.

Cooking Notes: 
  • You can also make this in a crock pot and cook all day on low.  Just add the mushrooms at the end of the day.
  •  Everyone likes the chili best when it is frozen first before serving.  It gets thick this way.

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