It's that time of year! Chili season! I'm not going to try to hide it- I've been waiting to make this chili since the first day I wore a jacket to work this fall. It is now November, and although Baltimore is 40 degrees (yes! 40!!) warmer than the November I used to know in St. Paul, I'm still slightly in denial of the fact that the crisp mornings of fall are now crisp days. The bright side? It finally feels appropriate to make chili!

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. It's really simple, but you have to plan ahead because the meat cooks really slowly in the crockpot (or oven, if you prefer) before you add it to the chili. But it's worth it- after having this shredded beef chili, you won't be interested in even looking at ground beef chili! Plus, you can always roast the meat in advance and just refrigerate or freeze it until you're ready to use it. I love this strategy because then I just make way more meat than I need and use it for enchiladas, open faced sandwiches with melted cheese, etc. This recipe also makes quite a few servings, but it works out well because it actually tastes best reheated! I usually make one batch at the beginning of winter and freeze smaller servings to enjoy until spring. But, feel free to bring it to your next football game potluck- your friends will love you, and maybe even convert to cheering for your team;)

my favorite shredded beef chili

1/4 vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
Shredded beef from a 2 lb. chuck or round roast (cook on low, smothered in garlic, in the crockpot for 6-8 hours and shred using two forks)
Two 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes (I prefer unflavored but use what you'd like!)
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons cocoa (yes- cocoa! It gives a nice, rich, yet indiscriminate, flavor!)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 bay leaves
2 cans drained kidney beans (I like to use one red and one dark red just to make it more colorful!)
1 can chickpeas

Sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic in oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the remaining ingredients except for the beans. Simmer for about an hour until very thick. Adjust spices and seasonings if necessary, then add the beans and heat gently. Serve with sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese. It's that simple! But you'll LOVE it.

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