So I know it might appear as though I am posting this chili recipe because the Superbowl is upon us. But lets be honest, if I actually wanted you to make this chili for the big game day, I probably should have posted this days ago so that you could get prepared, buy the necessary ingredients, and plan ahead how much time you would need for prep and cooking. Right?
Wrong. Because this chili requires virtually no prep time, most of the ingredients are canned (gasp! Yes, I said canned!), and the whole thing is done in 45 minutes total, you could decide to make this chili on a whim any day... including Superbowl Sunday.
Growing up, I remember my mom used to make a traditional chili several weekends a month during football season; when I say traditional chili, I mean the hearty, meaty, deep-red stuff that is best enjoyed alongside a cold beer, a bowl of chips, and a healthy serving of masculinity. It was the stuff that real men enjoy, and my dad loved it. That chili had beef, lots of it, and sometimes beans (although chili purists think beans are the devil) and it was always spicy and rich. However, about 5 years ago my mom started making this Chicken Barley Chili recipe, and she has never looked back. This chili is a little bit different...ok, it is a lot different.
For starters, this chili is healthy. It has chicken instead of beef, which automatically reduces the artery-clogging properties of traditional chili. It has several forms of protein: chicken, black beans, and barley; the barley is also a whole grain and a good source of fiber. Add in the antioxidants from the tomatoes and a vegetable source from the corn, and you have a shockingly healthy meal.
This chili is also different because it can be prepared in only 45 minutes. Really. I know...you are thinking that you are slow in the kitchen, and you need time to read the recipe, and what about chopping everything?? Personally I usually find those 'active time' or 'prep time' guidelines to be total crap, but I can assure you that you can do this in 45 minutes. Ok, lets say 50 minutes to give you 5 minutes to use the can opener.
Which brings me to my next point: this chili uses common ingredients that you already have in your pantry. And yes, those ingredients are canned. I know, I know... here on The Cilantropist I am constantly advocating the use of fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients, and I hope this recipe using the store-bought stuff doesn't make you don't break rank and head for the hills. While fresh is always best, sometimes you just need a filling meal that is easy and also delicious. I learned this from my mom, and she is a pretty smart lady.
Oh, and one last thing: This recipe makes a boatload of chili. I make it in a large stockpot that holds at least 4 quarts (the recipe makes about 3 quarts, or 12 cups); the size of the recipe makes it ideal for big parties like the Superbowl, potluck dinners, or weeknight family dinners plus leftovers. The size does not make it ideal for one Cilantropist to eat all that chili, so I usually do one of two things. First, I pull out my favorite pyrex and fill up a few containers to put in the freezer; this chili freezes marvelously, and I cannot tell you how many dinners and workweek lunches have been saved by a frozen portion of chili. Second, I share it with friends! Because my mom taught me more than how to make a good pot of chili, she also taught me that sharing is caring.
My Mom's Easiest Chicken Barley Chili
My mom thinks she might have gotten this original recipe from the back of a box of Quaker barley, but she honestly can't remember. Either way, she uses the recipe religiously, and now my sister and I each have a copy of it as well. This is my go-to recipe during the winter, when I want an easy, filling, and comforting dish that reminds me of home.
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with chilis, undrained
1 jar (16 oz) salsa, medium or mild depending on preference
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
4 cups water
1 cup barley (just so you know, 16 oz bag has about 2 1/2 cups barley)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15.25 oz) sweet corn, undrained
2-3 cups (about 1-1 1/2 lbs) cooked chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Fat free sour cream
Shredded mexican cheese
In a large stockpot, combine the first 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low heat for approximately 35-40 minutes. Add black beans, sweet corn, and chicken, then bring to a boil again. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low for an additional 5 minutes. Check barley to make sure it is soft and cooked through. Chili will thicken upon standing; if you like, thin with additional water, although I usually find the thicker consistency to be perfect. Serve hot, topped with sour cream, cheese, or chopped cilantro.