The more you listen to my show After Hours on CBS Sports Radio, the more you hear common themes. Of course, we talk about sports. But we also mix in healthy doses of pop culture, “Star Wars” references, quirky humor, and FOOD. So much food! Growing up Polish and Italian, I come by it honestly. Food is the centerpiece of every family gathering and an instant conversation-starter. My mom still tells me what she’s making for dinner almost every night, ha. But believe it or not, I didn’t start cooking myself until I was 30. In fact, I didn’t have the slightest interest in cooking until well after I started my radio career. It used to be one of the big jokes at Christmas: my family would always buy me a cookbook or some type of kitchen utensil in the hopes I would start to care. Not sure what piqued my interest–maybe it was time spent with my grandmothers as an adult or maybe it was my desire to overhaul my eating habits and be healthier–but I finally decided to take the plunge into the world of cooking. My family was so proud and delighted.
I don’t do anything halfway, so I dove headlong into cooking. I was determined to find some signature meals and dishes to demonstrate how much I evolved. I asked my mom and Grandma Mary for the recipes to my favorite dishes like our Venus de Milo soup (a secret family specialty), stroganoff, lasagna, pumpkin pie, and chili. Now that my grammy is gone, I cherish her old handwritten recipe cards. I harbor so many sweet memories of standing in her kitchen in Youngstown, Ohio, watching her cook, smelling the fantastic aromas, and begging to taste-test.
The first time I tried to cook chili, I was afraid to stray from the recipe at all because I was sure I would mess it up. I remember calling Mom about a dozen times to ask for clarification on how much garlic or chili powder and how I would know when it was done. Improbable and comical that now chili is MY signature dish. It’s the meal I make when I’m visiting family or when I have friends staying with me. It’s also my go-to when I need something portable for a church function OR when I want to take food to the guys at work! Of course, it’s also the perfect companion during football season when autumn and cooler temperatures inevitably arrive.
People always ask for my chili recipe. That includes radio listeners and twitter followers, and I’ve shared it with friends now and then. But this is my first time “going public.” After years of fussing with the recipe and mixing in various ingredients, I now make a half-dozen versions of the timeless standard; but my baseline brew is the following:
- Brown a pound of ground beef with salt and pepper and drain. For a healthier option, I use ground turkey.
- Chop up and throw in several cloves of garlic and a medium onion
- Add two cans of diced tomatoes. Be creative. I like Rotel with green chilis and Italian-style tomatoes.
- Add two cans of drained beans. My favorites are dark red kidney beans and cannellinis.
- Pour in 2 cups of all-natural chicken broth. You can use more to thin out the chili, but I like it THICK!
- Mix in veggies to give the chili character and make it healthy. Mushrooms and bell peppers are my must-haves.
- Start with 2 tablespoons of chili powder (or a packet of chili mix).
- Leave on medium heat until boiling and stir occasionally.
- Lower heat to simmer and add more chili powder to taste. My nieces usually try to sneak in hot sauce!
- Let your creation sit on the stove to thicken and fill your kitchen with an amazing aroma.
Time to eat! I love my chili with shredded mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top and a couple thick slices of bread and butter. Now and then, I ladle it over a sweet potato or rice. Of course, I also eat it with my favorite Tostito’s lime chips. And the best thing about a big pot of chili is leftovers! So easy to spend a half hour throwing it together when I know I’ll have extra meals waiting for me in the fridge…or extras to share with others.
Be sure to tinker with the recipe and come up with your own special concoctions. Can’t wait to hear what you think! Bon Appetit! XO