Food on Fridays: Mom’s Secret Chili Recipe

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Food on Fridays with Ann

One of my daughters, a college freshman, told me she’s looking forward to coming back for a fall visit. I asked what food I should make and she said she misses my guacamole and my chili.

The chili surprised me. I don’t make it all that often, and I don’t have much of a recipe. I just open a bunch of cans and dump them together with ground beef.

“My chili? But it’s nothing special,” I said. “Except for my secret ingredient, it’s just a bunch of canned beans and tomatoes.”

“I know. I just love it,” she said, “and I miss it.” I felt all chili-warm inside to know she craves my version of chili. Makes me want to stir up a batch and ship it to her.

It occurred to me that I think she’s the only one I’ve told about the secret ingredient…until now.

It’s pumpkin.

After I brown the ground beef and dump in the cans of beans and tomatoes and tomato sauce, I open a can of pumpkin and spoon in as much of it as I can until the chili starts to look suspiciously orange. Then I stop, stir, adjust spices, and let it burble away in the crock pot.

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Photos by Ann Kroeker. “Pin” these images in a way that links back to this particular page, giving proper credit.

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  • Comments

    1. How sweet! Your daughter misses Mom’s home cooking. I remember those days. Chili sounds yummy as these days turn cooler. Who would have thought of pumpkin in Chili? Why, you, of course. You’re great at experimenting with different ingredients.
      Nice to be here, Ann.

      • Janis, so fun to see your comment. I have to get out and see what secrets YOU are sharing! :)

        A Cincinnati chili restaurant called Skyline Chili slips cinnamon and cocoa into their “secret” blend. I think my daughter craves it, not so much for the pumpkin, but because of the uniqueness and familiarity. And she will forever tie that particular version of chili to “home.” I love that. I just never imagined the deepest craving would be for my chili. I make a saucy chicken recipe that I thought would be top request. :)

    2. Oh, my word! I think I love you even more with the pumpkin thing! No wonder I bought two cans this week, just for the fun of it.

    3. Nice! Perfect for a quick dinner pre-game! Thank you Ann!

    4. Ann,
      How sweet that your girl missed your chili; thanks for sharing the secret ingredient…the pumpkin must add some sweetness, maybe? I took you up on your offer and linked up a post which was inspired by pizza dough but does not include a recipe per say…one must read bw the lines :) Happy Friday to you :)

    5. I love this. I would need to guess how many cans of beans and tomatos, but maybe 2 and 1 ?? And half small can pumpkin.

      • Hazel, feel free to use your own chili recipe and then sneak in some pumpkin. I just make it up every time. Let’s see…I’m often cooking for a fairly big gathering, so I’d brown maybe 2 pounds of ground beef. Then, two cans of beans (I like Brook’s brand, and my kids like it mild, so mild chili beans). Two cans of diced tomatoes (I like them diced tiny, and I drain them until I see how liquid-y the chili is and save the juice to add later). Then I add one can of tomato sauce OR one can of tomato *paste* and then add the juice from the tomatoes (that I drained). If it’s too bland, I add more chili powder (shake, shake, shake, shake…no measurement). And more cumin (shake-shake-shake). And sometimes extra paprika (shake-shake-shake…extra shake).

        My kids like the chili with macaroni cooked separately, oyster crackers, some cheddar cheese on top. If I have sour cream, they might add it, but it’s not essential. And if I have time to make cornbread or cornbread muffins, then it’s perfect. :)

    6. I’m thrilled to report your chili was quite a hit last night. We had unexpected guests show up before the game and we only have a small jar left! Thank you Ann!

      • Wahoo! And just think…you offered them chili that’s just a wee bit healthier with that pumpkin snuck in. :)

        Thanks for the report. I’d love to hear your main chili recipe. I’m willing to bet you cook your own beans from scratch and spice the whole thing yourself (instead of relying on cans)?

    7. “Suspiciously orange.” :)

      I just tried a chocolate cake recipe from the back of Patricia Polacco’s picture book Thunder Cake. The secret ingredient: tomato puree. But it’s never suspiciously red because of all the cocoa powder. Tasted great.

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