Healthy Chili Cheese Fries

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Remember when you were a kid and you went to the fair with your parents? After a day at the midway, the smell of fair food would become so irresistible it would finally overcome your desire to go on more rides.

All the food smelled so good, and the choices were overwhelming – corn dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, elephant ears, hot, fresh, french fries, onion rings, and chili cheese fries…and you would eat until your stomach felt like it might explode.

Then later you might have felt that unmistakable dirge of indigestion. That’s because the food was cooked with vegetable oil and included ingredients that were a mile long and indecipherable. Back then we didn’t care about all of that. Hopefully, now we know better.

Chili cheese fries, in my opinion, are the ultimate fast food. Even though I ate lots of fast food in my former SAD life, I never had chili cheese fries until we made them at home.  For some reason, they never sounded appealing, but everyone else around me seemed to be crazy about them.

I heard people talk about these things as though they were the Holy Grail of greasy, fast food. Now I know why.

Last summer we went to the fair and we did have some fair food, but then of course afterward we were still hungry…and there my husband stood staring longingly at the chili cheese fries. Instead of spending more money on fair food, we decided to go home and make our own.

Ever since we made our first batch of chili cheese fries that night, this meal has been a big favorite in our household. Who could possibly resist hand-cut french fries with home-made chili beans and ground beef covered in melted cheese, sour cream, and salsa? The ground beef we used is from a local grass-fed, organic beef farm, and the french fries are cooked in lard, tallow, or coconut oil, which makes them unbelievably delicious and savory.

Here it is: the mother of all fast-food, except healthy. You finally have license to eat fast food and be healthy. “Sinful” food never tasted so good!

Kitchen equipment:

  • cookie sheet
  • parchment paper
  • large pot or pan
  • oven dish with low sides
  • stainless steel measuring cup or small pan for heating oil

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef (we have a family of three and normally use about 1.5 pounds and have some of the chili mixture including the meat left over)
  • beans of your choice – we used black beans from Eden Organic – no BPA and cooked in kombu seaweed for better digestion, or you can get dried beans and soak them overnight in apple cider vinegar
  • 5 large tomatoes or one 16 ounce can of tomatoes (if you like more tomatoes, add more) – we use Bionaturae - no BPA
  • 1 cup of grated cheese of your choice (we used raw Monterey Jack cheese – you may want to use more)
  • 1 to 2 large potatoes of your choice (we used Yukon Gold)
  • chopped onions – we used half of a medium-sized onion, you may want more or less
  • chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chili pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • sea salt and ground pepper to taste
  • real sour cream or home-made yogurt
  • home-made salsa or organic store-bought (we use a local brand called Treasure Valley Salsa)
  • lard, tallow, or coconut oil
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)

Note that when we make this meal, we don’t adhere strictly to the amounts shown on the ingredient list. That’s why some ingredients don’t have an amount shown. I tend to add more chili pepper and cumin to my ground beef because we really like the strong taste of these spices. If you don’t like those to be as strong, add less.

Be certain to taste your chili mixture before you eat it, because flavors will vary depending on how much ground beef you use and how many people you are feeding. The above amounts are sufficient (with some leftover chili) for two adults and one child.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to about 365 degrees.
  2. Cut the potato(es) up into even-size pieces, and they should be thin and long like french fries. Don’t allow any of your pieces to be too thick, or else they will take longer to cook. While you are cutting potatoes, melt about 1/8 cup of coconut oil on the stove. I have a set of stainless steel measuring cups, and I use one for the oil and place it on the stove on low heat.
  3. Place cut potatoes into a bowl large enough to hold them (depending on how many potatoes you use, you will need a small to medium mixing bowl) so you can mix with the coconut oil.
  4. Pour coconut oil on potatoes and mix well with your hands or a spoon. If you have more potatoes you will need just a bit more oil.
  5. Set potatoes aside and prepare a cookie sheet with enough parchment paper to cover the sheet. Place potatoes on the parchment paper and distribute evenly, making sure that all or most potatoes are singly-layered, with no potatoes laying on top of one another. Sprinkle sea salt and paprika over the potatoes. Place them in the oven and set your timer for about 25 minutes. When the buzzer goes off, you will turn your potatoes over onto the uncooked sides and re-set the timer to cook for another 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. While the potatoes are cooking, brown ground beef, garlic, and chopped onions in a large pan or pot. When the ground beef is 90 percent done, add beans and tomatoes, a little filtered water, and spices – oregano, cumin, paprika, chili powder, sea salt, and ground pepper. The seasoning amounts listed are only suggestions. You should taste your own chili mix to make sure it’s what you like. Turn up the heat to boil and then simmer while your potatoes are cooking.
  7. Cut up green onions and grate cheese.
  8. When potatoes are cooked (they might be on the soft side, if so, you can cook  them a few minutes longer, but even when the potatoes are not terribly crisp, they still taste fabulous in this recipe), take them out of the oven.
  9. Place potatoes on an oven dish of some type with low sides – we have stone ware plates that are perfect for heating food in the oven. Spoon some of the chili bean-beef mixture on to the potatoes – as much or as little as you want. We heap our potatoes with the chili-beef.
  10. Pour the grated cheese evenly over the chili and potatoes.
  11. Place your plate in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
  12. Serve with sour cream, green onions, and salsa.

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit her site and read the other great real food posts there.

13 Comments

  • January 22, 2010 - 6:14 AM | Permalink

    Wow! Those look awesome! I have never thought about chilli cheese fries before, as I don’t really care for cheese, but I could prepare these at home without cheese for my portion. It sounds so simple, and I can’t wait to try it! thanks for the recipe.

  • January 22, 2010 - 9:29 AM | Permalink

    Mmmm. My kids love chili cheese fries! Hm, next time I make chili I think I’ll scoop a little off the top and hide it in the freezer…

  • January 22, 2010 - 9:35 AM | Permalink

    Peggy – and whose kids DON’T love chili cheese fries? For that matter, what adult could resist them when they are made of completely healthy, real, traditional food? It almost seems to be to good to be true!

  • January 22, 2010 - 9:37 AM | Permalink

    Alexis – this recipe is great, and I’m sure it would be just fine without cheese. It’s actually got a lot of ingredients in it, but a lot of it is just seasonings and stuff you have to chop up or take out of the fridge to dump on at the end. Once you have made this recipe a couple of times, it becomes like an assembly line. :)

  • January 22, 2010 - 9:48 AM | Permalink

    These look fantastic…I am *so* trying them soon!

  • January 22, 2010 - 12:27 PM | Permalink

    Ah, I wish!! I used to love these too. Unfortunately we’re dairy-free now so even with the upgrades we can’t swing it. But I do love the coconut oil fries by themselves! Ever tried them in beef tallow? I’ve heard those are amazing too. I’m waiting on some (grass-fed, organic) tallow from my local farmer and then I’m trying that too!

  • January 22, 2010 - 12:37 PM | Permalink

    Sara – I hope these are great when you make them. I’d love to hear how they turn out.

    Kate – I understand about being dairy-free. Many people are either due to allergies (even to raw dairy), or that they simply cannot tolerate raw dairy either. I think the world is becoming more and more polluted, so it’s even all the more necessary to make sure you know where your food comes from and that it’s clean. We HAVE to eat raw dairy or else the three of us (me, my son, and my husband) don’t do well. So it’s a pretty strict rule in our house.

    I have some beef tallow in my freezer, and yes, I have heard about fries being great in beef tallow. But what I’m most confused about is whether the tallow is okay to use as it is out of the tub, or if I still have to render it before using it for recipes? I already used some for my pie crust during the holidays, and it turned out pretty well. But I still have a lot of work to do to perfect my pie-making skills.

    I used the beef tallow a few weeks back in my stroganoff recipe and it didn’t turn out so well. I’m guessing that’s because I need to render it, and I haven’t learned how to do that yet. I guess that’s next on the agenda! Until then, I’m using coconut oil since it’s super nutritious and tastes great. :)

  • January 22, 2010 - 4:40 PM | Permalink

    Oh my! I’d totally finish the whole plate by myself! Looks so delicious!

  • January 22, 2010 - 5:01 PM | Permalink

    Oh wow, these look so good! Talking about fairs, here in Iowa we pride ourselves on the Iowa State Fair. All the glory that you described above, everything on a stick and deep fat fried in veggie oil. I do every year indulge in a corn dog, what can I say, I love corn dogs! Hmm.. I ought to think about making some at home! Ah and yes, I have some tallow to render which I’m dying to use for french fries! Thanks for sharing this Raine!

  • January 23, 2010 - 8:43 PM | Permalink

    Diana – Yes, the annual Idaho State Fair is something I have looked forward to since I was a child, and Tristan’s dad and I really enjoy taking Tristan to do all the fun activities we loved when we were little. I’m really going to have to try frying those potatoes in tallow, I bet they are splendid! I love corn dogs too…and I only eat them about once or twice a year.

  • February 2, 2010 - 10:26 AM | Permalink

    These look sooo good! An old favorite with a healthy twist! Thank you!

  • Lonna in Claremont, CA
    February 2, 2010 - 2:31 PM | Permalink

    Look delicious! Have you ever tried potatoes cooked in duck fat? I have and they are delicious, but I haven’t tried it myself.

    This weekend, I was at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles and found a poultry stand with frozen duck fat. I bought a whole quart, so I’d better get frying…

  • February 2, 2010 - 3:08 PM | Permalink

    Hi Lonna – I have not tried french fries in duck fat or beef tallow yet, but I have heard they are really amazing! That’s something on my list of to-do’s hopefully this year! Right now we’re in frugal mode due to just having started a business, so we’re trying to cut expenses. I’m not sure if I could find any sustainable duck fat around here, but I’m sure it’s probably not terribly cheap, either way. I do have some beef tallow, but I am saving it for some other projects. So for now I am going to be using my coconut oil. But I’d love to hear how your efforts come out! Good luck!! :)

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