We LOVE chili and corn bread and tried making some Oven Baked Chili in a cast iron skillet for dinner. I made this chili from scratch (using tomatoes from my garden, cilantro, and dry beans from my food storage). I placed a layer of corn chips on the bottom of the skillet, poured my homemade chili on top and topped the entire dish with a blend of sharp cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese. I baked it and topped it with some garlic chives from my garden. Served with cornbread, this is a complete meal the whole family can enjoy!
I want to start off this post by sharing how I cook my dry beans. For chili, I like to use dry kidney beans. I’ve also used dry pinto beans with good success. There are several methods out there for cooking dry beans. One is the “quick soak” method. With this method, you put your dry beans in a stock pot, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil. You boil for one minute and then cover them and turn off the heat. You let them soak for one hour and then turn the burner back on to a gentle simmer and cook them for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until the beans are done to the desired consistency (time varies depending upon the age of your beans). You can add salt, as desired. For years, this was my go to method of cooking beans (if I forgot to soak them in water overnight). The problem with this method is that it requires you to be home and on alert while the beans are cooking. Often, I am busy with my kids and unable to watch the beans closely.
One day I tried an experiment. I thought, “What if I put the beans into my crock pot and left them for several hours?” It worked! No soaking, no “quick boil” method, no watching and stirring. I simply rinse and put 2 c of dry beans into my crock pot and covered them with an ample amount of water. If I want enough for my chili recipe, then I use 4 c of dry kidney beans. This pretty much is the most I am comfortable cooking at a time in a crock pot. I then turned it on low and left it for about 5-6 hours. Voila! Kidney beans cooked to perfection. I added about 1 T of salt to the water so that it could season the beans before I drained the liquid off of them. Another option is to cook them in the crock pot on high for about 2-3 hours. You do need to periodically check the beans as you can overcook them and then they become mushy. Believe me, I know from experience. To avoid this, you need to occasionally take out a few beans and test them to see if they are done. One thing to note, cooking time really does vary depending upon the age of your beans. I had some dry pinto beans that were about 15 years old. While still good, they are harder to use. If I have older beans, I add about 1-2 tsp. of baking soda to the bean/water mixture at the beginning of cooking them. I don’t know the science behind it, but it works like a charm. My pinto beans cooked beautifully! It’s really that simple. I used to be afraid of cooking with dry beans, but now it is my go to food from my food storage. It is cheaper and not hard at all. It just takes a little bit of planning in the morning. Feijoada is another favorite dish we make using dry black beans. I’ll for sure post the recipe in the future! We have it all the time. Note: You can also use canned kidney beans if you are in a hurry. That makes for a REALLY quick dinner for your family. I just wanted to show you some options:)
Now for the chili recipe. Once your dry beans are cooked, drain them and set them aside. For my chili, I really like using garden fresh tomatoes. As it is winter time, obviously I don’t have any in my garden right now. That said, last summer I preserved a lot of tomatoes and was able to use them in this recipe. The easiest (and freshest) way I have found to preserve garden tomatoes is to freeze them. I core the tomatoes, cut them in half, and then place them in my Vitamix. I lightly chop them on the lowest speed setting so that they are a crushed tomato consistency. I then place about 2 c worth of crushed tomatoes into a freezer bag and freeze them for future use. The nice thing about preserving tomatoes this way is that you don’t even need to peel them and it tastes so fresh and good. I use frozen crushed tomatoes for vegetable soups, homemade spaghetti sauce, and my chili recipe, among other things. It is a pain to thaw them, but in soups and sauces you are able to simply cut the bag and dump the frozen tomatoes into the pot and allow them to slowly thaw as you are cooking the soup. Super fast and easy and it tastes SO good!
I like using hamburger meat in my chili. I usually pre-cook and freeze my hamburger meat to make cooking faster and easier for me. I put the frozen cooked hamburger meat into a stock pot and add one chopped onion. I saute the onion while allowing the hamburger meat to thaw. I then add the tomatoes, beans, and the rest of the chili ingredients into the stock pot and simmer them all together until the chili is done. In this recipe I used fresh cilantro, though that is totally optional. Hindsight, I would have added a few freshly chopped jalapenos to give it some more heat, though that is totally up to personal preference.
While the chili is simmering, you can start to preheat the oven and then start on the corn bread. This corn bread recipe is SO delicious and is honestly more like a corn cake than a corn bread. I have never had any leftovers. It is on the sweet side, but super good topped with butter and drizzled with honey. Yummy!!! I have a double oven, so I like baking the chili and corn bread at the same time so that they will both be hot and ready at the same time.
Here are the recipes for the Oven Baked Chili and Corn Bread:
- 2 lb. hamburger meat
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 8 c cooked kidney beans (4 - 16 oz. cans drained or 4 c dry beans cooked. For instructions on how to cook dry kidney beans, see blog post)
- 2 c crushed tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 16 oz. beef broth
- 1 can tomato sauce (16 oz.) OR 2 c water and ¼ c tomato powder (from food storage)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 T chili powder
- ¼ c cilantro, chopped (optional)
- 1 tsp. salt, to taste
- 2 jalapenos, chopped (optional)
- 1 10.25 oz. package corn chips (any flavor you want - I like regular and chili flavor. You can also use crushed tortilla chips.)
- ½ c shredded sharp cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese
- garlic chives, chopped
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place corn chips in the bottom of a cast iron skillet. (Note: These measurements are enough for a cast iron skillet PLUS a 9x13 pan so you will need to halve everything if you just want a skillet's worth of dinner or save leftover chili for another meal.)
- Set aside.
- Brown hamburger meat in a frying pan.
- Drain off the excess fat.
- Add onion and chopped green pepper and jalapenos (if using).
- Saute onion and green peppers with meat until mostly cooked.
- Put meat mixture into a large pot.
- Add rest of ingredients (except corn chips and cheese).
- Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes uncovered.
- Remove bay leaf.
- Pour chili over the corn chips.
- Top with cheese.
- Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and top with diced chives.
- Serve warm.
- 2 eggs
- 1½ c milk (I like using almond milk or 2% milk)
- ½ c butter
- 1 c white sugar
- 1 c cornmeal
- 1½ c flour (can use white or whole wheat)
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Soften the butter until room temperature.
- Combine all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix together. (It's okay if there are a few small clumps of butter as these will melt beautifully while baking.)
- Bake in a greased 8"x12" pan at 375 for 25 minutes or until done. You can test it by pricking a toothpick into the center and seeing if it comes out clean.
- Serve warm with butter and honey.