When I was growing up my mother (a gourmet cook) didn’t go in much for the concept of “kid friendly cuisine”. She made what she liked, how she liked it, and whether or not I was interested in it didn’t matter – that was what was for dinner. She’s a very good cook, but she has always had extremely “adult” tastes; serving me things like onion-packed lamb-burgers with blue cheese, moussaka and asparagus quiche at the age of 6. I didn’t like it. For some reason she mellowed later and my much younger brother had a different culinary experience, which included hot dogs, brand name cereals and store-bought chips.
I remember interrogating one of my friends at age seven about what this miraculous sounding “Dorito” thing was (I only had dried soybeans as a snack). She described it for half an hour, and in the end I imagined a triangular, cherry flavored candy – totally off. I’ll stop before I sound too damaged from my childhood food experience (and my mom does read my blog, after all), but I will admit I back-lashed in my teens and young twenties eating nothing but frozen fried chicken, nachos and ravioli for 5 years (I really don’t think I ate a vegetable the entire time, outside of salsa and Bloody Marys). Mmmmm....Bloody Marys.
Because of that backlash I’m careful to consider my kids’ tastes, but I don’t want to serve them anything so dummed down that I can’t eat it myself. I know some parents have solved the problem of differing age tastes by serving separate dishes to the kids, but I want us to all sit down every night and eat the same thing at the same time.
One way to make a dish “Adult-Adjustable” is to keep one or two components separate and add them together on your plate only at the end (grilled onions, mushrooms, spinach, etc, to top a creamy pasta, which may only have peas and chicken on their plates).
A common problem is not being able to make things as spicy as I want them. I like spicy. REALLY spicy. Chili, undoubtedly, needs to be spicy in my book, but my two guys also love chili (albeit, the kind you get on your foot-long coney at Sonic). Since it’s a great slow cooker meal I really wanted to perfect Slow Cooker Chili in a way that made everyone happy. I start with a chili that’s an homage to 50’s housewives (I used canned and jarred ingredients…but this is supposed to be a quick meal you throw in the pot before you leave for work). The secret is the fresh pico de gallo (you can make it super duper hot) that only the grownups top their chili with just before serving.
Slow Cooker Chili
1 pound ground beef
3 TB chili powder
3 TB paprika
1 TB Onion powder
3 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 can diced tomatoes
*1 small jar Pace Picante (or a salsa you like) medium or mild depending on your kids’ tolerance
*you can substitute 1 can of tomato sauce if your kids will freak out about the
“green bits and onion chunks”. Sigh.
1 big or 2 small cans V8
1 can red kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can white northern beans (or navy beans)
½ cup water
Mix all the spices together
Turn Slow Cooker to Low. Brown beef in a pan and add half the spice mixture.
Add beef, tomatoes, salsa and juice to the cooker. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse thoroughly.
Add beans, the rest of the spices and the water to cooker and stir well.
Salt to taste. Cover and leave for work.
The chili will be good whether you cook it for just 4 hours or as much as 8.
You can make the pico when you get home, or have it already made (it’s good in the fridge for about 24 hours, then it gets wilty).
Pico de Gallo
½ cup Diced Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup Diced white onion
4 or 5 diced serrano peppers (I prefer them to jalapenos, but you can use
2 or 3 hot jalapenos instead – if they’re hot- sometimes they’re just not
hot. What’s up with that?)
½ cup chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ lime
Salt to taste
Mix in a bowl and you're done!
Top your chili with cheddar (and maybe sour cream) as well. Eat with tortilla chips instead of a spoon.