No beans chili for a crowd

elba1September 2, 2014

Hi folks, I will be having a family party to celebrate my husband's fiftieth later this month. We will be gone the day before for family day at my son's college, and will be at church all morning the day of the party. Trying to do some menu planning - primary dietary constraints are one has celiac, and my son can't have any nuts or legumes (except green beans). There are no vegetarians. Trying to take the emphasis off pasta & breads - last time did pulled pork, potato salad, coleslaw, etc. for my son's graduation & everyone liked that. This time was thinking I'd give chili a try because I could make it Friday & reheat in in the crockpot while we're at church. Here are my questions:
1. I have a "no beans chili" recipe that I have made before (serves 6), but when I make a larger amount, I don't think it tastes the same - suggestions? I will post the recipe below, so this post isn't too long.
2. Here's what I was thinking of serving with it - what do you think? Rice, cornbread, salad, shredded cheese, scallions/red onions, sour cream, tortilla chips, crackers, pickles, jalepeno peppers, crackers.
3. My daughter isn't a big fan of chili, but she likes tacos - was wondering if I should put out some taco shells and a strainer spoon to the side, and also make some hot dogs for chili dogs or if someone didn't want the chili (most would eat it)?
Thank you!
p.s. I found the chili cook-along thread, but I find it harder to read since it is formatted like one long narrative, and I don't think had recipes to serve at least 21 people.

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1 # ground beef
2 minced garlic cloves
1 large chopped onion
2 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
28 oz crushed or stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Since there are no beans, I would sometimes add some veggies instead like corn, green pepper, carrots, celery. And when I make larger amounts, I wasn't really measuring the spices. It never tasted quite right - I do know that with certain ingredients you can't just quadruple them.
Most of the family doesn't like really spicy food, so there are no hot peppers in the chili.
1. How would you tweak this recipe for around 21 people?
2. Would you add any vegetables, such as the ones I listed, since there are no beans in the chili?
Thank you for any suggestions!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 1:01PM
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If you need a good recipe for gluten-free cornbread everyone will like, I can recommend this one. -Grainlady


(source: The No-Gluten Cookbook - series editor, Kimberly A. Tessmer, R.D., L.D.)

Makes 15-20 (thin) squares.

These can also be cut into small rectangles or triangles and used as bases for dips and spreads. I cut them in small bread-size squares (3"x3") and use them split for toasted or grilled sandwiches. I also serve sloppy joes on squares. I'll cut a slice in half, butter lightly and grill both sides for an open-face sloppy joe.

1 c. cornmeal (I use sprouted cornmeal, but regular works fine)
1 c. corn flour (I use Masa flour, the kind used for tortillas)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
1 t. salt, or to taste
4 T. white or brown sugar (I use palm sugar)
1 c. GF sour cream (make sure there are NO wheat starches in the brand)
1/4 c. buttermilk
2 beaten eggs
4 T. butter, melted

1. Prepare a 9x13" baking pan with GF non-stick pan spray and preheat oven to 425-degrees F. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Stir in sour cream, buttermilk, and eggs. (You can add various herbs and spices to change the flavors, such as oregano, garlic, or Italian or Pizza spices for an Italian flavor, or chili and cumin for a Mexican taste.)

2. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for 20-minutes or until lightly browned.

Helpful hints: When serving someone with celiac disease, make sure you don't cross\-contaminate foods with those that might contain gluten \- that includes toasting bread in a toaster that has been used for gluten\-containing bread, butter/margarine, mayo and peanut butter where someone may have cross\-contaminated from spreading it on bread..... 

Caution using pre\-shredded cheese because many are NOT gluten\-free. They coat the cheese with starches/flours that can contain gluten to keep it from clumping together, so you will want to purchase cheese in bulk and shred your own. 

Sounds like a great party! 

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 3:05PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Sounds great to me!
However, if you add a 2nd entree, hotdogs, almost everyone will have at least one or more so I would keep that in mind with quantity.
I do like the idea of hotdogs, really, everyone except serious foodies like MORE variety rather than the "perfect menu" so anything extra you throw in will be appreciated by someone.
If you do hotdogs too, you need to have appropriate accompaniments,: i.e. mustard and ketchup (as you already have diced onions)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 3:29PM
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Will there be younger children at the party? For a novel idea, you could add individual snack bags of Fritos corn chips and let anyone make their own "Frito Pie." You simply open up the bag of fritos along the side (with scissors), add a scoop of your chili, onions, cheese, etc. and eat the "pie" out of the bag with a plastic spoon. Young adults will love this too - so be prepared!


    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Thank you both! Hmm - I might give those crunchy cornbread squares a try - looks like they use pretty "regular" ingredients, so why not. I know a lot of gluten free recipes use nut flours, which are out for us, of course. I do know about the celiac cross contamination - not to get into it here, but this person seems not to be taking it as seriously yet - had a piece of regular cake last visit (I had ice cream as another option). Think the person "tested" positive, but may not have had worrisome symptoms yet. Some people I know would bring their own food to be safe (for instance, I wouldn't be able to make it in a pan and use utensils that have never had flour on them, etc.). We've come across this at church functions. I do always shred my own cheese. I'm keeping pasta and bread away from the main focus, but not going crazy with it, and I'll share the menu with the person it affects.
Guess I'll go with the hot dogs too - what the heck it's a party :)! And yes, I'll add ketchup, mustard, relish.
Hope to get some feedback on the chili recipe too. Thank you!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 4:17PM
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Hi Teresa, there will be some teens, and yes, I heard about that idea here - maybe it was for a big band party or something. I was going to have "organic tortilla chips" instead of Fritos thinking that would be "healthier," but the effect wouldn't be the same, so maybe I'll pick up some Fritos too!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 4:20PM
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I have the same problem with tweaking recipes for larger quantities. What i'd do is cook 3 or 4 separate chili pots, thus sticking to the original recipe with true and tries results. I'd do 3 pots if I thought some people won't have chili and 4 if I wanted to be on the absolutely safe side. There are worse things in life than leftover chili.

If your son can have green beans, I'd just add green beans. i've seen recommendations to chuck them in right at the end, but I'd add them at the beginning so they absorb all the flavours. LOVE mushy shapeless tasty green beans! They also add a wonderful flavour to the whole concoction.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 3:15AM
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Thank you very much for your suggestion. Wondering if when I randomly added some veggies like celery - that could really change the taste, more so that I would have thought. I see what you are saying - I guess I don't get it how you could make 3-4 different pots then put them together and it should taste fine, but not be able to triple/ quadruple it in one pot.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 11:58AM
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It's the seasonings that are different for one big pot than four little ones--as you know since you don't quadruple! For instance, when you double a recipe, you don't double the salt or it'll be too salty, but you do need to increase it. With spices, it can go the other way, where a half teaspoon is plenty for a small pot, but you need more than double for the same flavor in a bigger pot. (Don't ask me why--I don't know--it seems a lot like tuning a piano. You can't go by the math, you have to temper it.) With things you think will be too strong, you can start careful, taste just before you leave the house, and just when you get back, and adjust. I know that's not a good crockpotty thing to do, but the best way to know how it tastes is to taste it! Do you use salt? It doesn't take a lot, and your onions might have enough salt in them, but beef tastes bland and blah without at least a little salt.

And, yes, celery could change it a lot! Celery has a lot of water and salt. Green peppers have a very distinct flavor and will totally change the flavor of a pot of chili. Carrots are sweet, as is corn. All are good, and I'd put them in too, but they can change the basic flavor. I might also add zucchini, which is just a bit wet and doesn't add a big flavor component.

Rather than cooking down the veg in the chili, you might just want to steam or roast them to just tender and have them as additional mix-ins. Or have them cooked and ready, but just stir them into the chili as soon as you get home from church, so they're warm and have gotten a good coating of sauce, but haven't changed the base chili much. Or you could dish up in a couple of big oven safe bowls and do one with veg stirred in, and maybe a smaller one as is if you think there will be people who won't eat the veg, and put them in the oven to keep warm until you're ready to serve and let them meld that way.

Since you're talking about tacos and hot dogs, why not get 100% corn tortillas? You can grill/toast them ahead of time and put them out as wrappers for whatever people want to put in them. If your guests aren't looking for a lot of starch/sweet you could even do that instead of the cornbread.

Do heed the hot dog warnings! I had lovely fresh handmade top quality tasty hamburgers for Independence day and people flocked to the not so great hotdogs that one guest (with permission) brought to suit himself. Even people who imagine themselves as foodies love a good gristly nitrate-laden salty old hotdog! If you don't want to have hotdogs for everyone and change your whole menu from chili to chili dogs, you could get the miniatures, or cook and cut up some regular ones to be used as more mix-ins (and hold a couple whole ones back for the kids who just don't want the chili).

I've been going through some of the same thing. I have a Celiac, a couple of pescatarians, a nut allergy, one who won't eat things where all the ingredients are mixed up in a pot, like a stew, and one who won't eat just about anything, and is allowed to bring his own (like the hotdogs) if it's not formal sit down. If it is formal sit down, he gets a baked potato (even if it's not on the menu--a hold over that everyone understands from one who was in very poor health for years before he died but could always eat a potato) and whatever else he's willing to deign to eat, and he can get his own dinner at home. :)

Best of luck with the menu, and that it turns out easy after your good planning and organization, so you get to enjoy the day and the company.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 12:59PM
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Thank you! I think I'll leave veggies out and see if it looks ok. I don't mind it with veggies, and wanted to use them to replace the missing beans, but it might not be what folks think of as chili (unless I decide to go with a bit of green beans). If I have a veggie on the side, it will probably be corn - I do like it when I put corn in it. I probably did put salt in it, I just usually don't bother to list salt & pepper. Good idea for the corn tortillas - I'll check them out. Glad for the reinforcement advice about the hot dogs - I'll have a couple dozen on hand.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 1:33PM
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pllog said what I was going to. I'd up the chili powder, oregano, and cumin for one thing... but you get the picture.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 1:49PM
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Thank you. I also tried adding more garlic last time, and that didn't quite do it, so I think it was my veggies that changed the taste. And I think I stopped measuring, so the proportions were probably off. I thought for things like soup, stews, chili they are more forgiving and you can just dump stuff in and it will taste good, but obviously that isn't quite right :).

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 8:09PM
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I thought for things like soup, stews, chili they are more forgiving and you can just dump stuff in and it will taste good, but obviously that isn't quite right :).

Well, it is sort of true. But even in stone soup, which is completely just throwing in whatever, you have to balance the flavors. Learn to taste things. Every time you add something, taste how it makes the overall taste different, and taste again after it's cooked for half an hour to see how it melds with the other flavors. If it's hard for you to discern, try writing it down. Start with basic words like "sweet" and "bitter", then move on to comparisons to other flavors "fruity", "citrusy", "herby" (not for herbs, which are by definition herby). Make up a word if you need to, so long as you'll remember it. Maybe adding taragon tastes "blue" to you, or "spider". Savor the flavor, write down "spider" and remember that that was what it tastes like. When it's all cooked and you go to serve, look at your list and try to see if you can taste all the things you wrote down.

If you're not sure if something is going to taste good if you add it, start by getting a full spoonful of what's in your pot and add a bit of what you're planning to add. Taste and see if they taste good together.

If you're improvising, constantly taste and adjust. Think about proportion. Maybe a zucchini would be a great addition, but three zucchinis would be too much. Maybe adding vegetable X would be good, but it overpowers the seasoning. Go ahead and put it in, but then add more of the spices and herbs to put it back in balance.

And be willing to fail. You can't learn otherwise. Sometimes it's just not all that great, so you've learned something for next time. Meantime, there are things you can do to make it edible. Sometimes a spoonful of sugar really does the trick. When I can't get the flavor right in a soup, I've been known to dump a lot of turmeric in it and it instantly goes yummy (I used to call turmeric my "yummifying agent'). Chili can get too acid and rough, and ketchup (which is also a lot of sugar) can bring it back. If a dish tastes too weak and thin, reducing it (simmering so steam takes water out) can do the trick, or if it's just too weak, add some reduced broth. There are a lot of other such solutions.

None of these are things to do when bringing company home from church, however. That's when you make a recipe you know the way you know it to be good.

Go ahead and add the corn. Lots of people put corn in chili, and you like it. Just make sure there's enough of the spices and herbs. You can also try a milder tasting bell pepper, yellow or orange, if they're not too expensive, or red if it's not too dark (dark ones have more flavor). Those will also look pretty. Green beans are a bit bitter, but probably won't make the pot taste weird if you want to cut some into it as well. You might want to put some of these in late, maybe right before you leave for church (cut them day before, but put them in the pot for the last hour or two), so they keep their crunch and don't affect the flavor as much. Really and truly, however, the best thing is to taste as soon as you get home so you have a chance to adjust.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 9:47PM
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Thanks, what you said makes sense - I'll go with the peppers and corn and not the green beans - just wanted something visible besides ground beef in there or it looks like meat sauce instead of chili. I appreciate the feedback.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 3:26PM
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