Slow Soup: Rainbow Chili

Since the leaves are fluttering to the earth and the wind has taken on a familiar chill, it's definitely time to start putting together hearty soups, stews, and chilis. But those delicious dishes often benefit from hours of slow simmering, even if we don't have the time to babysit them on the stove. So pull out your slow cooker and get ready to enjoy a bevy of seemingly quick meals in your bowl. Over the next few weeks, look forward to a sprinkling of these hearty meals specifically designed to take advantage of your slow cooker and free you up to tackle your day and look forward to a warm bowl of autumn's finest comfort food when it reaches the end.

Our second offering in the series brings us one of the season's favorite meals: chili. And this one's brimming with flavor and color. When I assembled the vegetable mix for this one, it looked like I was staring at a deconstructed rainbow … thus the name of this chili was born. Mix and match ingredients you love to give you your perfect bowl of chili after a long day:

I added the wheat berries to my version because they helped absorb a lot of the delicious juices given off by the vegetables and gave the chili an extra bit of texture. You can omit them if you don't have them on hand, have allergy issues, or just don't like the idea of adding them to chili. Really, with the exception of the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and spices, most of the ingredients listed below can be mixed and matched to make a chili just your own. Oh, and like most chilis, this one's even better the next day!

Of course, topping a bowl of chili can be just as varied as the contents within. Grated cheddar cheese is shown here, but I also enjoy a dollop of sour cream, some sliced peppers and green onions, and even some crunchy fried onions or corn chips now and then. However you assemble it, I hope it warms you inside and out!

Rainbow Chili

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/2-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional - to taste)
  • 3 T. chili powder
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced into rings (remove the seeds if you prefer a milder chili)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. chopped zucchini
  • 3 c. chopped tomatoes (I used a combination of red, yellow, and orange tomatoes - you can use canned if you don't have fresh)
  • 1-2 c. tomato juice, depending on how juicy you like your chili
  • 2/3 c. wheat berries (optional)
  • 1 (16 oz.) can black beans

In a large pot, brown the ground beef. When it is nearly browned, add the seasonings, and non-tomato vegetables (onions through zucchini). Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly browned and softened.

Transfer the meat mixture into a slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients. Cook on LOW for 7-9 hours, stirring now and then.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes hands-on, plus 7-9 hours slow cooking