Midwinter can be a hard season. The charm of cold weather, the hope of snow and the cozy picture of the togetherness that brings, has worn thin and a more practical taste of lingering reality settles in. The winter rains turn the gray skies grayer, make the short span of daylight shorter and shroud the few brave blossoms that dare to show themselves on my Witch Hazel tree. This winter, like many, really isn't all that cold nor is it all that pretty. It is more like a damp gray stretch of limbo.
In this post holiday space of winter we tighten our belts to pay off the holiday bills, chastise ourselves for not working harder to lose weight or get fit, and look for signs of impending spring. We put our heads down and trudge on taking care of business. We crave practical comforts and simple down to earth amusements.
The country seems to huddle around the TV in January to watch football, or in our case, Netflix movies and "24". In the kitchen I cook family favorties: I roast chicken or stir up a creamy sauce for Macaroni and Cheese. I also think back to my childhood for recipes that are practical and breathe an aura of warmth and comfort.
One of my favorite dinners as a child was Chili. The chili I grew up with was a recipe handed down over the years. My cousins tell of my grandmother making a big pot of chili for them to eat when the arrived at her house for weekend visits. I don't remember my grandmother but my Aunt Hen made chili regularly and I remember it as an expected part of my mother's weekly menus.
The kind of chili I grew up with was called Homemade Chili in a local Homemaker's Association Cookbook. It might better be called Kentucky Chili or Bluegrass Chili as it seems unique to the region. It is unlike any chili I ever had in Texas, and while it is similar to Cincinnati Chili in seasoning and the inclusion of spaghetti, it is still very different. The way I remember it, and in the recipes I've seen, it is a thin brothy chili made with ground beef and beans. Spaghetti is added to the pot shortly before serving, rather than the chili being served over it.
I have rediscovered this chili in the past few years. It makes a very practical meal, stretching a pound of ground beef to feed a crowd. It is a great chili to serve for a superbowl party or anytime your budget is tight or you simply crave a bowl of old fashioned comfort food. At the very least it will add a touch of spice to a bleak midwinter.
adapted from "Come Cook With Us"
1 lb. hamburger
1 large onion, chopped (approx. 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 46-oz. can tomato juice
2 15.5-oz. cans red beans (I use chili beans)
2 Tablespoons chili powder
4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
3 qts. water
½ lb. spaghetti, broken
Brown the hamburger, onions and garlic in a large soup pot or dutch oven.
Add remaining ingredeints, except for the spaghetti. Bring to a boil and simmer at least 15 minutes but up to two hours.
Add spaghetti. Cook until spaghetti is tender.
Serve and enjoy!