But this is one I came up with all on my own. It's pretty common on poultry processing days, that I'll fire this up in the morning, so we have lunch ready when we are done with the birds.
Now, you are thinking "sweetheart, I know how to make chili, and I know how to use my crock pot...
Yes, but I cheated. In the middle of winter, when I am forced to buy veggies at the grocery store, I came up with this... (because I prefer fresh, local stuff than anything from a grocery store)
Now, first, what are the main, basic ingredients in chili? Meat (whatever you like, can be ground or cut into chunks), onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, chicken stock, cumin and chili powder.
First, I always have meat in the freezer. So here is cheat #1: I use stew meat. Ground meat has to be browned before putting it in the crock pot. I made the mistake once of NOT doing that, it was pretty gross. But browning the meat takes time. You can toss in stew meat still FROZEN, if you let your crock pot cook long enough, it'll all be cooked. (Of course, you can skip the meat altogether and just make veggie chili). I've used lamb, beef and YAK! It was so good!
Cheat #2: This really isn't a cheat. But I make my own chicken stock, I use it as a base in my chili. I don't have to do anything, again, I make a ton all year long, and just freeze it. You can just dump the big frozen chunk right into the crock pot, it'll melt, believe me. So on a day that you DO have time on your hands... here's what you can do. Take a chicken - if you buy from us, get a STEW HEN (they are less expensive, but more flavorful and perfect for stock) Toss that sucker in the crock pot (again, it can go in FROZEN) fill it with celery, onions, carrots, thyme, sage, rosemary... and load it up with water. Let that cook on low in your crock pot for 8 hours. After, you can pull out the chicken. I debone the meat, and use it for something else (like chicken pot pie, or mix it into my daughter's mac'n'cheese), I feed the bones to my dogs (I know it is a no-no, but they have iron jaws and iron stomachs and they annihilate those bones). The cooked veggies go to the dogs, too OR to my chickens, who LOVE them. I strain the liquid, pour it into containers and freeze.
Are you raising your own chickens, and then bringing them to me for processing? Ask to take home the NECKS separately, or use an old layer who isn't laying anymore. I also use chicken necks just for making stock. Same deal as above, but at the end, the whole neck goes to my pups.
OK, so making your own chicken stock isn't much of a cheat. But, before the end, you'll see that almost none of my chili comes from anything bought at a standard grocery store...
Cheat #3: Here is the real kicker, this was my big winter epiphany, my "why didn't I realize this before" moment, my big "what am I going to do with all that" moment... my chili recipe requires onions, peppers (some hot and some sweet), garlic, tomato sauce, cumin.... Guess what ONE PLACE I can get all those things. Don't you dare say the grocery store!!. CANNED SALSA! I make my own chunky salsa at the end of harvest from all the veggies I get from either my garden, or the local CSA's I buy from. I make a ton of salsa, more than my family would ever eat as salsa. Not only do I just go to my cellar, grab a jar and pour it in. But think about it, I don't have to chop up all those things. Just grab a quart jar of salsa and pour it into the crock pot. My Salsa is almost done!
(If I want more onions, I also can red onions in honey, and I can add a jar of those to put a little more onion into my chili)
Cheat #4 Well, of course, if I am canning salsa, I am canning tomatoes... get a jar of quartered tomatoes and toss them in, water and all.
Cheat #5 beans.... I don't like buying canned beans. What's in there? Then I have all these cans to recycle, and they are big and heavy, and my pantry shelves are almost falling apart. I buy dried beans. They are much lighter to store, and I think less expensive, too. I toss those suckers in dry as a bone. Guess what, ALL DAY in the crock pot, those guys are going to soften up, and they will absorb some of the liquid from the canned tomatoes and salsa and such.
There are no more real cheats after that. I add in a bit more cumin and some chili powder from my spice rack, and I let that all cook all day. If I get a chance, I may stir it once or twice. But all I have to do is gather 2 spices from my spice rack, 3 jars from my cellar (tomatoes, onions and salsa), beans from my pantry, meat and chicken stock from my freezer, toss it all in... no chopping, no defrosting, no soaking beans... and I have a nice big pot of chili waiting for me.