Maternity leave ended over a week ago and I'm slowly easing back into reality. I was fortunate enough to enjoy every moment of my leave with Jianna. Now I have weeknights and weekends with her :) My mom has been taking care of her during the day, which has been such a blessing. We're also still getting tons of home cooked meals from both moms :) While I love the fabulous food from the parents, I really need to get back into the kitchen, even if only once a week. The colder weather is officially here, so I thought to combat it with some hearty, homemade chili. I even kept Jianna in the kitchen with me for a little while as I spent the day cooking this simple meal. I really wonder what was going thru her little head. Everytime I looked in her direction, I was greeted with a huge smile and if I was lucky, even a squeal or giggle. These moments are so priceless.
I make a different version of this chili every Fall, and I make enough to last me throughout the cold months. I got the base recipe from my cousin, but as she conveyed to me, there really isn't a recipe for this. Just make it with your heart and soul, and there you have your recipe. She adds the secret ingredients of oranges and chocolate to the chili which really makes it unique. I'll do my best to give some general direction, but try to make it your own. Use the internet for some inspiration because you'll find that everyone has a secret ingredient. You'll find recipes that swear by beer, some w/ chocolate, others w/ chipotle peppers, etc. This time I decided, why not just use all three? Eating this on a cold night after hours of simmering in your kitchen is so comforting. Having my baby girl right next to me as I ate this heart-warming meal just felt like "home", which has taken on an entirely new meaning for me.
Chili always freezes great, so make some room in your freezer. I like to use some of the leftovers to make a "chili-mac". I really can't wait till Jianna starts eating. I hope my cooking agrees with her!