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Impromptu Smoky Chili

November 27, 2016


Bowl of chili with shredded cheese

                          Impromptu Smoky Chili

It is getting colder up here in northern Michigan, time for some comfort food. My dad’s chili recipe is a family fav, but alas, the cupboards did not contain all the ingredients! So I improvised, as usual. It turned out quite well. So well, I have been snacking on it all night, which is probably not going to help my efforts to lose weight before my trip to Tucson in January. I think it turned out well enough to share the recipe, so if you are in the mood for something a little different, give it a try. I should add that my husband has to start watching his cholesterol intake, quite recently, making the addition of barley one of creative necessity. However, it really helped to make the chili thicker than usual, in a good way. I used the beans I had on hand, so feel free to use whatever you have in your pantry. If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.

*Note: the addition of smoked butter really makes this chili sing. However, you might not be able to find it, since it is a local specialty item, from Boss Mouse Cheese. If you can’t get the smoked butter, I would try using 1/2 tsp smoked paprika or liquid smoke. If smoky isn’t your thing, just skip it.


  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 med-lg onion, diced small
  • 3 small cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots (small dice)
  • 1 lb ground beef (chuck, round, sirloin, whatever)
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbls double concentrated tomato paste
  • 3 cans of rinsed beans, all the same or a mix  (I used black beans, dark red kidney beans and HEB brand Borracho beans with beer – these are a bit spicy, but worked great in this recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked barley (I used Mother’s quick cooking barley and used beef broth instead of water for extra flavor)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbls chili powder (or more if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt (two of my cans of beans were low sodium, so I used more salt)
  • 12 oz water
  • 1 Tbls smoked butter (optional)
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)

Cook barley according to directions on box, bag or internet. I used a quick cooking barley, which cooked in 12 minutes. Once the barley is cooking, over medium heat, in a large heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil and add onion, garlic and carrots. Cook until onions are translucent. Once onions are translucent, add ground beef and cook until meat is cooked through. Add cumin, black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder and salt. Stir to combine. Next, add the tomato soup, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are cooked through. Add all the beans and barley, stir gently to combine. Let all simmer for 5 minutes. Just before serving, add the smoked butter to the pot and gently stir to melt and mix in well. Ladle chili into bowls and top with shredded cheese of your choice (I used sharp cheddar) or sour cream, or both if you want to throw caution to the wind.


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