I hear a lot of people say that they don’t have time to cook. I can actually understand that. So many aspects of our culture (cookbooks, cooking shows on TV, magazines) tell us that cooking means choosing a recipe, shopping for specific ingredients for that recipe, following that recipe between 5 pm and 7 pm, and then serving up a beautifully plated dish for you and your entire family. Of course, that is cooking. But that’s not the only type of cooking you can do. On Sunday afternoon, we spent about 25 minutes of active time and made lunches for three days for John and myself. I didn’t use a recipe and it turned out quite well.
Chili*** (or a “stew” with beans, meat, tomatoes, and spices) is a simple and easy dish that you can customize in any number of ways. It’s high in protein and fiber, and can be easily gluten free. I always have dried beans in the cupboard, along with onions, and home-canned tomatoes, and it is rare that I don’t have a pound or two of ground beef or pork in the freezer.
This won’t be a recipe per se, but a general idea of how we go about making “chili”.
On Saturday night, I soaked about 2 cups of dried beans in water. Be careful with this and always use a container large enough for the beans to soak up water and expand. This last weekend my container was a little too small and I ended up with water everywhere! I also took a pound of ground beef and a pound of ground pork out of the freezer to defrost.
On Sunday evening I boiled the beans for 20 minutes until they were tender. Meanwhile, John sliced up a large onion and cooked it over medium heat in a little olive oil and salt. He then added the beef and pork and cooked them about 3/4 of the way through, about 10 minutes.
The beef, pork, and onions went into the slow cooker along with two quarts of home-canned tomatoes, the cooked and drained beans, a little water, some dried peppers, chili powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper. I set the slow cooker for 8 hours on medium and we went to sleep. When I got up in the morning, the stew was done. I filled a container for my lunch and then since I had to get to work, I added a bit more water, turned the heat down to low for another 8 hours, and walked out the door. My slow cooker has a “keep warm” function, so it cooked until 3pm, and then kept itself warm until I got home.
This is every bit as much cooking as following a recipe out of a cookbook and preparing a sit down meal for your family. The active time was about 25 minutes, it used items we had in our pantry and freezer.
So, to summarize, the basic formula is meat + beans + tomatoes + onions + spices + water + slow cooker = delicious. I’d recommend a basic spice mix of chili powder, paprika, a few pinches of salt, pepper, and some hot pepper flakes.
***Note: I’m aware this recipe isn’t exactly chili. Chili is one of those foods like pizza and BBQ that is very regional and very personal. So if it makes you feel better to refer to this as a stew rather than chili, go right ahead. It doesn’t make it any harder to prepare or any less delicious.
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