Guess who won Best Chili at the church cookoff on Saturday? Maude and Ralph Blair. That’s who. (Yay Ralph and Maude!!) And the photo you see is Maude sporting the trophy apron.

Here’s the chili story. 8 years ago. When the Blair family only had two kids and we lived in a little house in Utah, we won the Fall Chili Cookoff at our church. To anyone who knows my meager skills in the kitchen, this was surprising news. Especially considering the recipe used as the basis for the chili was found on the back of our generic chili powder bottle. I made a few adjustments (I doubled the garlic and spices), but otherwise, followed the recipe exactly. Here it is (with my adjustments):

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped

2 tsp garlic, chopped

3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce

2 16 oz. cans kidney beans
2 T cumin

2 T chili powder

Brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic. Drain the fat. Add the rest of the ingredients (don’t drain the beans) and simmer for 30 minutes. Or all day.

Pretty basic. But we now call it the Blair’s Award Winning Chili. And that makes it sound fancy. Sadly, we ended up making it so often, that we got sick of it, and stopped making it altogether. And kind of thought our chili-making days were over. In fact, for this year’s chili cook-off, I signed up to bring corn-bread instead. But then I heard whispers that they might be low on chili, so we decided to pull out the old recipe and whip up a pot.

I got the meat and onion and garlic going and Ralph and Maude started asking if we could add some “secret ingredients.” Like what? says I. They pull out a packet of taco seasoning, a packet of ranch dressing mix, and a packet of creamy pesto mix. Can we add these? I had a quick vision of seeing the entire congregation die of sodium poisoning and said, well, we’ve already got garlic happening — both the pesto mix and the ranch mix have lots of garlic and could be okay. Why don’t you pick one. They picked the ranch.

We added the ranch and the beans and the tomato sauce and let things simmer a bit. Then we tasted. They wanted more spices. I recommended some cumin and chili powder. They sniffed both of those and gave their approval. We decided it needed a bit more salt. They asked if we could add black beans. Sure, why not. They asked if they could add garbanzo beans. Ummm. No.

Then Ralph decided we still needed one more secret ingredient. He suggested cream cheese. Cheese is always a good thing, so we added a couple of spoonfuls and let it simmer for a few hours, until it was time for the party.

And honestly, it really was delicious. Plus it confirms what I’d already suspected: that Ranch Dressing is one of the greatest American inventions. Rivaled only by the cotton gin and assembly line.

Here’s Ralph and Maude’s Recipe. They call it “Three Bean Chili Deluxe:”

1 1/2 lbs ground beef

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 heaping tsp garlic, chopped
3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce

2 16 oz. cans light kidney beans

2 16 oz. cans dark kidney beans
2
16 oz. cans black beans
1 entire packet of Ranch Dressing powdered mix

1 T cumin

1 T chili powder

1 t salt

2 spoonfuls of the secret ingredient

Brown the ground beef with the onion and garlic. Drain the fat. Add the rest of the ingredients (don’t drain the beans) and simmer for 30 minutes. Or all day.