Cough! Sniffle! Hack! Yeah. So this is the most wonderful time of the year? Really? Tell that to my head cold. While it really can be the most wonderful time of the year, with sparkly lights, cool weather, holiday cards, and time with family and friends, it can also be the most stressful time of the year. Trying to get all of the things done that you think need to happen in order to have the “perfect” Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whichever holiday you may celebrate, can put you over the edge. And your body is your only barometer for when you’ve had enough.
Well, as I’ve watched those around me taken out one by one with this “creeping-crud-of-a-head-cold-meets-borderline-flu-meets-immune-system-overload”, I knew it was only a matter of time. After all, I already have a crazy immune system with this super fun thing called multiple sclerosis, so when I see it coming, I dive for the vitamin C like a crack addict searching for their next fix. Sadly, while on one hand I’m thinking “take that, you disgusting, infectious attacker coming from all sides!”, I realize that 9 times out of 10 it’s going to get me. Kind of like the rhythm. You know it’s gonna get you.
And so I felt the coming of this dreaded fog begin to hit me a couple days ago. The lovely things that our bodies do when under attack are so appealing and appetizing, no? As I dip into the stash of Mucinex, Nyquil, hot tea, and whatever other home remedies I may come across, I also realize that the old adage of “starve a fever, feed a cold” is oh-so-true. In addition to the pile of tissues and throat lozenges, I need food. I need EASY food. And I need comfort food.
Luckily for me, my Midwest roots have just the answer—chili! But not just ANY chili. The BEST chili on the planet (in my not-so-humble opinion) is Tony Packo’s chili. Never had it? You are missing out, my friend. Think back, if you will, to the old television show M*A*S*H. Now think about the various characters. Klinger, played by Jamie Farr, was always waxing poetic about missing good ole’ Toledo, OH. He’d talk about the Mud Hens, the girls he left behind, and the restaurants he missed. Well I’m here to tell you that Jamie Farr really is from Toledo, OH, and he put Tony Packo’s and their irresistible Hungarian hot dogs and chili on the map. To this day, whenever celebrities, politicians, or other people of note visit Toledo, they have to go to Packo’s and sign a hot dog bun, which is then framed and hung on the walls. Weird, I know, but hey, it’s their thing.
Having grown up in Toledo, it was always a special pilgrimage to head to the original location (there are several in town now) to get a dose of the tasty goodness they serve up every day. In fact, on Saturdays, they used to have the worst magician you’ve ever seen, and he was one of the main draws. Cheesy as the day is long, and somehow a visit to Packo’s wasn’t complete without him. Ah, the good old days.
Like so many one-pot meals, chili just begs to be doctored and changed up based on your mood, and what you have handy in your pantry. As I stated above, I firmly believe that Packo’s is the best chili out there, but I also admit that I am biased since I grew up on the stuff. What I like the most is that whenever I have it, whether in the restaurant or at a friend’s house (this stuff is a staple during football season, folks), it is always different depending on who is standing at the stove. But the basic flavors—deep, rich, a little zippy—are always there. Comfort in a bowl, I tell you. And when I’m (home)sick, that’s what I crave. No M.D. required, just a jar of Packo’s and some imagination. Ah…I feel better with every bite.
But alas, as I’ve moved around the world it’s not a brand that is on every grocery store shelf. So I’ve always made sure that I have a stash in my pantry, waiting for days like today when I need a reminder of home, and a perfect meal to feed my cold. I’ve even had cases of the stuff shipped overseas. Now THAT’S dedication. I open a jar, and just start adding goodies to the starter mix and POOF! My cold is cured! Well, maybe not, but comfort is still what the doctor ordered. I’m feeling better already…
Doctored Up Chili:
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
- 1 jar Tony Packo’s Super Charged Chili Recipe
- 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
- 1 can diced tomatoes, with juices
- 2-8oz. cans tomato sauce
- In a large saute skillet, saute the onion and bell peppers until softened, about 8 minutes. Remove mixture from skillet and set aside. Be sure to remove the dachshund from under your feet to proceed.
- In same skillet, brown ground beef. Depending on the meat/fat ratio, drain any excess fat from pan.
- In crock pot insert, place sautéd onion & peppers, browned beef, and next 4 ingredients (through tomato sauce).
Add the jar of Tony Packo’s Super Charged Chili Starter, and stir all of ingredients together.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
5. Serve chili with cheddar cheese and sour cream, or any other toppings you like to throw in there.
What types of “doctoring” do you like to do to your chili? What is your favorite out there? Share your tips and ideas here so that we are all ready to doctor up our next batch!
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