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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chili and cinnamon rolls

As the weather made its irreversible turn toward winter this past week everyone I work with started talking about making chili and cinnamon rolls for dinner on Tuesday or Wednesday night. Pretty much everyone I know who grew up in Nebraska instantly thinks of the chili/cinnamon roll combination but I've found that people not from Nebraska have never heard of the concept, considering it weird, or foreign, or even gross.

In my 13 years in a Nebraska public school you could count on chili and cinnamon rolls being on the lunch menu at least every other week during the fall, winter and early spring. Just about everyone I know who went to school in Nebraska says the same thing. The meal of chili and cinnamon rolls isn't just something we all have because we like it. It's also a reminder of childhood and simpler times.

Why is Nebraska peculiar in this manner? Did the state dept of Education have some sort of deep connection to the chili mix and cinnamon roll dough industries?

Anway, Yesterday I finished the chili I made on Wednesday evening. Here's the last bowl.

Since coming under the influence of a mean band of Texas chili fascists a few years ago I only make my chili the correct way, with no beans. Beans can be added later, as with the Cincinnati 3,4 or 5-way. Vegetarian chili, which I used to make often when I was a vegetarian, is simply spicy bean soup.

My recipe:

Spice measurements are approximates since I don't measure.

1 eye of round roast (any cut will do, longer cooking negates the need for a tender piece of meat from the start) - cut into small cubes
1 large onion - chopped
2 yellow chili peppers - diced
2 fresno peppers - diced
1 large bell pepper - diced
2 tbsp cumin
4 cloves garlic - minced
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce - chopped
1/2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 bottle of good beer, preferably brown ale or a decent lager like Sam Adams

soften all peppers and onions over medium heat in a little oil while browning the beef in a separate pan. Add beef, chipotle peppers and sauce, beer and tomatoes to pepper and onions and add seasonings. Bring to boil and then simmer for awhile. Put it all in a crockpot and cook it as long as you'd like. The beef gets more tender the longer you cook it.


Anonymous Lori said...

I grew up in suburbs of Kansas City, KS and Wichita, KS. My favorite school lunches were the chili/cinnamon roll combo. I was actually allowed to buy my lunch on those days!! Sometimes, I would get too full to eat all of the cinnamon roll - I still kick myself for that.

Years later, I moved to Houston. I tried many varieties of chili down there. I look forward to giving your recipe a go. Unfortunately, I don't do cinnamon rolls:(

3:15 PM  
Anonymous gary said...

I love that combination too! It is surprising how many people have never heard of such a thing.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Mr. T said...

That is just a really odd combination. No, I am not from Nebraska originally. Do people actually dip a cinnamon roll in the chili? Is it eaten after the chili as a dessert? Who was the guy who first said, "Hey everyone, lets eat our chili with cinnamon rolls"? And who actually thought that was a good idea and followed suit?

Really strange. This one goes on the list along with cheese frenchies and Dorothy Lynch dressing.

Anyway, that chili recipe does sound good though.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We always got either grilled cheese or cornbread and syrup with our school-lunch chili. Either one sounds darn good right now.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Amber said...

It has been my experience that the Chili n' Cinnamon Roll combination is a Nebraska "thing" too. In my other home states, people would think I was stranger than my usual strange for even suggesting it. There are worse things that have come out of Nebraska!

9:52 PM  
Blogger Swoof said...


Thanks for the insight. I don't know many children of the sunflower state despite growing up 15 miles or so from the border.

gary, it's a husker thang.

mssr t,

Odd not at all. The traditional chili spices go well with cinnamon. Your deep understanding of east Asian foods should tell you that. Of course, rednecks in El Paso weren't trying to make curry when they made chili.

amber, right on!

10:48 PM  
Blogger rally said...

"I only make my chili the correct way." The hell you do. The only thing correct is the no beans. Everything else is decidedly not correct (see Bridges or Tolbert). You've made onion/pepper/beef soup.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Swoof said...

Please enlighten me on the difference there, Ral. I've looked at those Texas Red recipes before and the basic concept is the same.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cinnamon roll is usually eaten on it's own, not dipped in the chili, in my neck of the woods. (Nebraska) I came upon this site researching a statement that a co-worker had said. She (originally from Texas) claimed that chili and cinnamon rolls was an odd combination and she thinks it is only a Nebraska thing to do. In my research I have found that it is also common in the Saint Joseph and Kansas City area of MO. Her statement shocked my because as long as I've been alive having chili and cinnamon rolls is as common place as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It is amazing how local this combination has remained.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Andy Stanton said...

It is also a Northwest Kansas thing, too. I grew up in Logan, Kansas and it was my favorite day of school lunches!

We're currently having the discussion with some middle-agers on Facebook from around the country who think I'm crazy!!!

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just had a conversation with a girl from my high school that told me that many people she's met have never heard of the combination either! We are from Iowa and after hearing that I decided to google it. Apparently it's a tradition in a few Midwest schools and everyone else thinks it sounds disgusting. My mom also went to the same school as me so I was raised on it! It's second nature to me :)

9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All Iowa school kids grew up on chili and cinnamon rolls as part of their school lunch system. It's widely known at least in the midwest.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in the Arkansas Ozarks, and our school regularly served chili with cinnamon rolls for lunch, and did so at "chili supper" fundraisers also. Man, I miss those!

5:27 PM  
Blogger Parrotsonthemove said...

This is totally off topic, but are you old enough to remember Don's Chili Bowl in Lincoln....or maybe "Millie's" or "Millie's Cafe"? Don's was on "N" St. in the 50's. I have no idea the address of Millie's. She opened her place at about 6pm through 3am (this is before there were Denny's or any of those all nite places)

Millie Galloway was my Grandmother. Don, her husband, my "Step grandfather". He was an astounding short order cook and when he died he took the world's best hash browns with him.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm from Montana, and chili just shouldn't be served without cinnamon rolls - the school lunch ladies taught us that! The same sentiment comes from my Colorado cousins, so perhaps it is a mid-to-north-west tradition. My friends in Minnesota and Michigan look at me like I'm crazy when I suggest it though...

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also big in Arkansas! I love chili and cinnamon rolls. I suggested it to my girlfriend who is from Tennessee (right across the river) and she had never heard of it. It was the all time favorite school lunch growing up as a child. I still to this day go to my old elementary and buy the cinnamon rolls from the greatest lunch lady ever! It's a great combination!!!

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Viagra said...

That chili looks so delicious!

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was also a southeast Kansas thing. Dating back to the 70's.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous DALLAS ATTRACTIONS said...

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8:59 PM  
Anonymous Elliott Broidy said...


4:54 PM  
Blogger Candis Davis said...

I grew up in the South...Georgia to be exact, and it was a tradition at our public schools as well!

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up in Lincoln, cinnamon rolls & chili go together like peanut butter and jelly! You can dip the roll in the chili,, use it like a "scoop" or you can eat It after or during, totally a personal preference. If you haven't tried this, I think your truly missing out on a great combo! Yay for LPS lunches!!

4:50 PM  
Blogger Ashe Ragnell said...

It's popular in Kansas too. Not so strange - Cincinnati chili has tons of cinnamon, cloves and allspice cooked into it. It's really delicious. But then I dip my fries in bleu cheese dressing, too...

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Montana schools also served that perfect combo. In fact, I'm going to be making chili with cinnamon rolls soon now that it's getting cold out.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love chili and cinnamon rolls...but speaking of awful foods, how about chitlins (fried pig guts) or boiled peanuts....now there is something that I will never try...some people must be hitting the moonshine...

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom and I are both Kansas and she said she used to have chilli and cinnamon rolls all the time in school! Tonight we're having it for dinner. Tastes awesome!

1:00 AM  
Blogger hoosierdaddy77 said...

This post sheds some light on the chili/cinnamon roll combo. I live in Southern Indiana, and personally had never heard of it until a lady that worked for me brought it up. She grew up in the town Martinsville (1/2 hour south of Indy), and she always eats cinnamon rolls w/ her chili. She said it was a school lunch thing. My brother-in-law is also from that town, and he eats the combo, too. No other place I've found in Indiana does that. I wonder if a Nebraskan transplant was a lunch lady for the schools?!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Josi Bunder said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up 50 years ago in NE Wyoming never heard of it until I visited relatives in Nebraska last month. I found it to be an attempt to improve a poor excuse for chili. I know very few people who burn enough energy to warrant eating the extra fat and simple sugars in sweet cinnamon rolls which are disgusting as sides let alone with a weak attempt at chili. Sorry, don't recommend if you have lived anywhere West of the Rockies!

10:55 PM  

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