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The secret's out: Chocolate makes the chili

OK, so it hasn't won any awards. But it should.

My buddy Susan, who subscribes to my weekday e-newsletter, "Easy Meal Ideas," asked me recently to send out the recipe for My Award-Winning Chili. It's a good one for cold weather, plus it doesn't have a lot of beans, which aren't popular at her house.

My secret ingredient is an ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate. Don't worry, it's not like you're throwing a Hershey's bar in there. It's unsweetened, for one thing. The chocolate adds flavor depth that enhances the chili without being obvious. You can dump it in whole and it will melt as it cooks.

Another thing: I like the fire-roasted canned tomatoes from Progresso, but if you don't like big hunks of tomatoes in the chili, puree the entire contents in the blender. The flavor is still there but not the chunks. There you have it ... my chili secrets.

By the way, today's recipe is just one example of the recipes you can now get by e-mail every weekday afternoon. Sign up for Easy Meal Ideas From Janet's Kitchen, and you'll have recipes delivered to your in-box. Go to

My Award-Winning Chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1-1/2 pounds of ground beef

1 large can Progresso fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed in blender

1 small can tomato paste

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder (I mix 1 tablespoon regular and 1 chipotle)

2 teaspoons cumin

1 bay leaf

1 square unsweetened baking chocolate

1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

In a large pot with a lid, heat oil. Saute chopped onion and minced garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper while sauteing. Add ground beef and brown. Drain mixture and return to pot.

Add pureed fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, bourbon, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, then add unsweetened chocolate; stir until it melts.

Cook on low for about 45 minutes, stirring regularly. Add kidney beans and heat through.

This chili can be made a day in advance; when ready to serve, remove bay leaf. Serve with sour cream, grated cheese and scallion slices.

Serves 6.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.