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Anything that starts with bacon has to be good

Bacon is a hit at our house.

Which is strange, because I hardly every buy it. And who does? In these days of health-conscious eating, I don't know many people who pick up a pound of bacon every time they hit the grocery store.

We treat ourselves to bacon a few times a year, usually on Christmas and Easter mornings. So I find it odd that my kids — ages 4 and 6 — can recognize the smell of bacon cooking from a mile away.

That may be a slight exaggeration. But when I was cooking bacon for this week's recipe, Springfield chilli, the aroma brought both girls in from outside.

"It is bacon?" my 4-year-old asked with wide eyes.

"Hmmm, I'm not sure," I mumbled, trying to pretend I didn't just sear my mouth by shoving a whole bunch of hot bacon crumbles in it as she walked in the door.

"Whoo-hoo, bacon!" She screamed so loud I am sure the neighbors heard and will think I never feed the children.

"Daddy, it's bacon! We're having bacon!"

You would have thought I announced a trip to Disneyland. But, I admit, bacon is exciting. It can make just about anything taste good, including the chili, which ended up being very full-flavored, perfect for a fall night.

I picked the recipe not because it called for bacon, but because it called for beer. Ever since college, when a friend of mine set up a brewing operation in his apartment kitchen, I've been a beer fan. Forget chardonnay or merlot. A good ale or lager is all I need.

Also, it seemed simple. And my husband and I love chili. What more reason did I need?

Shopping was easy; all the ingredients were at my regular grocery store. Prep was straightforward. Nothing fancy, just a bit of chopping.

One glitch: I forgot to put onions on my shopping list. Luckily, I had a small onion in the pantry. That's what I used instead of the two medium onions the recipe called for.

I made some changes to the recipe. It called for a can of Budweiser, and that's not something that usually resides in our fridge. I used a bottle of Pyramid ale instead. Also, I had anticipated I would snack on the bacon, so I cooked three strips instead of one. (Good thing, because the kids gobbled up most of the extra bacon when I wasn't looking).

The recipe said to simmer the chili for 30 minutes. It smelled so good, I couldn't wait, and ended up serving it after about 20 minutes.

While a bit tomato-y for my taste, the chili had a good flavor. It was smoky (from the bacon), and the greasy taste you get with most meaty chilies was absent (because of the ground turkey?). I couldn't detect the beer.

This isn't a traditional chili. It's called Springfield chilli — with two L's. Apparently, this is the way they spell chili in Springfield, Ill., which claims the title of "Chilli Capitol of the Civilized World."

It's not fiery hot. In fact, it's more like a soup with a slight south-of-the-border flavor.

But it is delicious. And it's an excuse to buy beer and bacon.

That's something I can get excited about.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at

What The Tester Had To Say

You can't get away with putting ground turkey breast in chili, no matter how many "L's" you put in the word. Chili calls for beef, preferably coarse ground; so that's what I used. The chili powder I used was labeled "Mexican style"; it was just right. The resulting chili was deemed excellent. I have made better chili with a longer list of ingredients, but for a simple and quick meal, this recipe works quite well. — Ralph Moore, Modesto


My husband raved about how it was so much better than my usual recipe. Bruised ego aside, I agreed and liked this recipe, too -- especially how easy it was. I made it with just a couple of modifications. First, I used half the amount of meat and doubled the beans, using black beans instead of pinto, just because that's what I had on hand. The three tablespoons of chili powder seemed like a lot, but I put the whole amount in and the result was fine. — Carrie Munroe, Modesto


This chili needed two things -- more salt and more heat. The texture and appearance were right, but it improved when we added homemade salsa. I also added cilantro, an additional can of black beans and two strips of bacon instead of one. The beer didn't seem to add much flavor, but we had only Beck's at the time and maybe a darker beer would have been better. — Sandy Loya, Modesto


The flavors went well together, but the chilli was lacking that little kick. Next time, I may add a green pepper, more pinto beans, and cut back in the meat category (except for bacon). — Ann Griffith, Modesto


I fed this to volunteers from Stanislaus Union School District who were staffing a phone bank for the Yes on Measure T campaign. I told them there was a "secret" ingredient in it, and kept them guessing for a while until I told them about the beer. The comments ranged from "two thumbs up" to "5 out of 5" to "awesome" to "even could taste a hint of the beer and liked it!"I used all beef instead of partial turkey and used regular cheese instead of the reduced fat. It had a nice flavor without being too spicy and a good ratio of beans to meat. — Karin Reenstierna, Modesto


I thought it needed more chili flavor. I would add jalapeños and more garlic. — Rosemarie Thomas, Denair