Beanless Beef Chili

Growing up in northern Wisconsin, I used to think that chili was made with kidney beans, hamburger, tomato sauce, and onions seasoned with salt, pepper and a little chili powder.  People from Texas might have confused it with tomato soup.

As a child I liked the stuff, and Mom cooked chili for us at least a couple times a month in the winter.  But one day long after I had left home, I was served a bowl of real chili.  I have never looked back.

There are a great many variations in chili recipes, and this is just one that I prefer.   There are no beans and it does not taste like tomato soup.  It is spicier than most of the chili served at church suppers or cafes in northern Wisconsin, but it is mild compared to many bowls of chili I have enjoyed over the years.

If you are nervous about using three jalapeños, start with one or two.  You may surprise yourself and decide to make it with four or five of those flavorful peppers next time.


2 lbs. round steak, chuck steak or other inexpensive cut of beef
1/2 lb. pork sausage
3/4 cup shallots
1 medium onion (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter)
4 cups beef broth
1/2 cups dry red win
4 cups chopped fresh, frozen or canned tomatoes
1 small (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
3 jalapeño peppers
1 1/2 T chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 T brown sugar
1 T flour mixed with 2 T water
Salt and pepper to taste


Cut the beef into 3/4 inch cubes.  In a large Dutch oven or heavy kettle heat a teaspoon of oil and brown the pork sausage until it turns gray, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon.  Add the beef and continue cooking the meat.  Season it with with a half teaspoon salt and a quarter teaspoon black pepper.

Peel and chop the onion and shallots.  You should have about two cups of onion and shallots in total.  Add the onion, shallots, beef broth, wine, tomato paste and tomatoes. Simmer for an hour.

Wash and cut the peppers in half and remove the stems, seeds and white membranes. Dice the jalapeño peppers fine and the green and red peppers medium and add them to the chili.  Stir in the chili powder, cumin, thyme and sugar. Simmer for about an hour.  Mix the flour with the water and stir it into the chili.  Cook for three or four minutes, then taste and adjust the spices.

Serve with buttermilk cornbread, butter and honey or jam and shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream that guests can add if they wish.

OPTIONS:  If you like your chili hotter, add some cayenne pepper, hot sauce or one or two more diced jalapeños.  For really spicy chili, add one or two minced habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers.

NOTES:  If you don’t have any shallots on hand, mince 5 or 6 cloves of garlic and increase the amount of onion so you have a total of two cups.   Be sure to wear gloves when working with hot peppers.


Finnish Macaroni and Beef

When I was a District Exchange Officer for Rotary districts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, I helped coordinate exchanges for students coming to our area from Finland and students from Minnesota and Wisconsin going to Finland.  It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot.  For instance, I learned right away why Finnish students were amused by Minnesota’s slogan, “The land of 10,000 lakes.”  Finland has over 187,000 lakes!

Once a year my wife and I invited the exchange Students from Finland in our Rotary Districts to spend a weekend at our home.  Since the students were living in cities that could be more than 100 miles apart, we tried to make the weekend an opportunity for students to get better acquainted.

The rules were simple.  Students could speak Finnish as much as they wished.  My wife cooked Friday dinner and I made breakfast Saturday and Sunday.  The students could make whatever they wanted for lunch and dinner Saturday and a final snack at Sunday noon.  My job was to get the ingredients they needed.

We had a lot of fun together and enjoyed many of their favorite recipes, some of which had been sent via airmail from mothers and grandmothers in Finland.

One popular dish nearly every year was Lihamakaronilaatikko (Lee-hah-mah-cah-row-nee-lah-tee-ko), which is a Finnish version of a macaroni and hamburger hot dish.  Instead of a tomato-based sauce with mixed vegetables,  a cream sauce.   This is comfort food for a cold winter evening.


2 cups uncooked macaroni
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion
1 T vegetable oil
2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2  cup grated Swiss or Jack cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 T. butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Finely chop the onion . Heat the oil in a saucepan and brown the ground beef over moderate heat.  When the meat is nearly done, add the onion and continue cooking until the onion is translucent.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon white pepper.   Drain the meat if necessary.

Boil the macaroni in salted water until a bit more than half cooked.  Drain the macaroni and mix it with the beef, then pour the mixture into a greased oven casserole.

Grate the cheese and beat the eggs until they are lemon yellow.  Add the milk, grated cheese 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon white pepper.  Mix well and pour over the macaroni-beef mixture.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and add a few small pieces of butter on the surface.  Cover and cook at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, remove the cover and continue cooking for another half hour or until the batter has set.

NOTES.  Like many other Scandinavian dishes, this is a white mildly spiced dish.  Ketchup is the condiment of choice, so put the ketchup bottle on the table when you serve Lihamakaronilaatikko.  Some versions are made with beef broth, but our student guests preferred this recipe.