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Hi, I'm Pam Mehnert

As Outpost's general manager, Pam's work keeps her at the office, in meetings, or in front of her computer more than a simple 40 hours each week. However, her passion as a foodie has driven her to take on this challenge for the culinary experience of...
Pam Mehnert

Week 29 - My Cheating Heart And Some Chili Atonement

A Year of Inconvenience
For one year, I'm making everything from scratch and forgoing convenience foods. Join me on my journey! By Pam Mehnert on November 10, 2010

If you’ve been following me on Facebook in between posts, then you know I had a few moments of indiscretion this past week. I cheated - oh yes I did – in fact I cheated two days in a row. And while I felt a bit guilty at the time I would have either lost my sanity or gone hungry had I not allowed myself the choice of convenience foods


At this point in my challenge I have a pretty good routine as long as I cook and bake some of the basics on the weekend (things like bread, granola, crackers, and meats for sandwiches) and as long as I generally plan out and shop for lunches. When I don’t do that planning and when you combine the fact that I didn’t plan well with a really busy workweek of projects and meetings, I apparently cheat as easily as you can say “hey, she’s cheating!”


I fell off the inconvenient wagon on a day where I had to leave my house early for a meeting at one of our stores, then travel back to my office for about one hour, before I had to leave again for other meetings all afternoon. That one-hour was to be my lunchtime, and I left the house that morning unaccompanied by any lunch bag. So I purchased a deli salad from Outpost for lunch that day. I’m guessing you were waiting for me to claim I went to Mickey D’s or something – but that’s my version of cheating. The second day I cheated, was the very next day under very similar circumstances. This time I went across the street from our offices and grabbed a slice of pizza (from a local pizzeria). For dinner that night, I graciously accepted a sample jar pasta sauce from our purchasing manager, and enjoyed it with some dried pasta I forgot I had in my pantry at home, but conveniently remembered when I accepted the jar of sauce. Ahh well, lightening didn’t strike and I’m back on the inconvenient bandwagon.


I decided as penance for my corrupt act of cheating I would tackle the one recipe I was a bit hesitant to change from my inconvenient ways and that’s my chili recipe. Getting the spices just right without using what I felt were always my secret ingredients from cans (ie: canned chili beans with jalapeno and cumin, and Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes) I attacked this challenge by playing a bit with similar spices from scratch. The results were pretty good. I don’t like using frozen tomato products as much as canned, but I reduced the water quite a bit and I think that made for a better end product. If you’re like me you’ll want to experiment a bit on your own with your own level of “heat” as well as the chocolate that I think really adds quite a bit to both the color and flavor of the dish.


Original Recipe

Everything From Scratch



1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 cup chopped yellow onion

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped celery

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-2 pounds ground bison

1-2 pounds ground bison

2 28 oz cans roasted tomatoes

28 oz. oven roasted tomatoes (either those that you canned, had frozen, or roasted prior to making the chili)

1 14 oz. can tomato sauce

14 oz. tomato sauce made from scratch

1 15 oz. can chili beans w/ jalapeno

1 cup red beans (soaked overnight and cooked until tender)

1 15 oz. can pinto beans

1 cup pinto beans (soaked overnight and cooked until tender)


2 jalapeno peppers, roasted and chopped


1 red pepper, roasted and chopped

1/3 cup chili powder

1/3 cup chili powder PLUS 1/3 cup ancho chili powder (2/3 cup total)

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened powdered baking chocolate

2-3 tablespoons unsweetened powdered baking chocolate

1 teaspoon cumin

3 teaspoons cumin


2 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (chopped)

3 cups water

2 cups water


Instructions for either recipe

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onion and celery and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the ground bison to the onion and celery and cook for 10 minutes, breaking the meat up as it cooks. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for one additional minute.
  3. If making the recipe totally from scratch – add the roasted jalapeno and roasted red pepper at this point.  
  4. Add all of the spices (chili powder, salt, baking chocolate, and cumin) to the meat and vegetable mixture and give it a good stir.
  5. Add the roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce and water.


Let the chili cook over a medium-low heat for about 2 hours until it cooks down to the consistency you like. I let mine cook down about 1-2 inches from where the liquid first started in the pot – it really intensifies the flavors.


If you’re making the recipe from scratch, at this point you want to taste the chili to see how much of the chipotle in adobo sauce you want to add. I added 2 tablespoons and it gave me the heat I like. If you like a lot of heat, use at your discretion. Also add the cooked beans and you are done!


If you are following the original recipe, this is the point you would add your canned beans. The chili will pick up additional flavor from the sauce in the canned chili beans, so you’ll want to taste it when it’s all combined and heated up a bit more to decide if it has enough heat for you. If not, follow the “from scratch” recipe above and add some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce at the end.



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