Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Allergy-Free Eating on a Budget: Tip 4 and Chili con Carne

Tip 4 is to cook in bulk and freeze meals.  This cuts down on time and money.  If I'm gonna make a batch of chili, it doesn't take any extra time to brown 3 pounds of ground beef than it does to brown 1 1/2 pounds.  It may take a couple of extra minutes to open a few extra cans of beans and tomato sauce (if I'm using canned), but it would save me a ton of time when we want chili again.  It's worth it to me to wash an extra pan or two in order to save all the extra time later.  Isn't it nice to be able to just take out some chili from the freezer, thaw, and reheat?  All you would need to add is some shredded cheddar, sour cream, and possibly some sliced jalapeno peppers to garnish your bowl of chili.  My husband likes to scoop up his chili with tortilla chips instead of a spoon.  Great!  That saves washing a spoon.  :-)

I have been trying to used dry beans instead of canned because of all the additives in the non-organic cans of beans, not to mention the leeching of chemicals from the actual can into the beans.  However, I will break down and use cans when in a pinch (like if I have to make chili for a dish to pass dinner that I forgot about or something).  So, I have two recipes I'll share here, one with dry beans and one with canned.  Both have a similar taste, so you won't lose in flavor either way.  I will say that cooking with dry beans is an adjustment that I am still working on, but I think I have it right for this chili recipe.  Try it and see.  Let me know how it turns out for you.

Chili con Carne (canned beans)
2 (40.5 oz.) cans kidney beans
1 (29 oz.) can black beans
2 (16 oz.) cans pinto beans
3 lbs. ground beef
1 1/2 lbs. frozen corn
4 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
1 1/4c. + 1 Tbs. Mexican Seasoning
2 Tbs. basil
2 t. oregano
1/8 c. raw Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 c. lime juice (about 1 fresh lime)
1/2 c. Franks red hot

Brown the ground beef.  Drain and rinse the beans.  Dump all the ingredients into a large stock pot and thoroughly mix everything together.  Split the mixture up between 2-6qt. crock pots* and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  My husband and oldest son do not like onions or peppers, so I don't add chopped onions or peppers to this recipe.  Feel free to add them if you like.  I will sometimes add some chopped garlic.  If you do add some chopped onions or garlic, keep in mind that there is already onion and garlic powder in the Mexican Seasoning.  If I want it spicier, I will add some chopped jalapeno peppers.

*If your stock pot is large enough and heavy bottomed enough, you can cook your chili on medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  However, I like to cook it in my crock pot, so I don't have to keep a close eye on it.

Chili con Carne (dry beans recipe)
2 c. dry kidney beans
1 c. dry black turtle beans
1 c. dry pinto beans
3 Tbs. pure olive oil
bay leaves, if desired, added to pots of cooking beans
2-3 c. bean cooking water
2-3 lbs. ground beef, browned with 1/4 c. Mexican Seasoning
1 1/2 lbs. frozen corn
3-4 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
1 c. Mexican Seasoning
2 Tbs. basil
2 t. oregano
1/8 c. ACV
1/4 c. lime juice
1/2 c. Franks Red Hot

Sort and rinse your dried beans. Soak them in clean water with a splash of raw Apple Cider Vinegar overnight. Remember to keep your types of beans separated since they will vary in cooking times from each other. You should soak them in 3 parts water to 1 part beans.

In the morning, drain and rinse your beans, keeping them separated from each other.  (I made the mistake of mixing mine all up and cooking them together the first time I made this.  The black beans were done long before the kidney beans and were practically mushy by the time the kidney beanse were soft enough to make the chili.)  The pinto beans and kidney beans have a similar cooking time, so you can try cooking them together, if you would like.  I prefer to keep them separated until I am ready to make my chili. 

Cook your beans in pots with enough water to cover your beans by about 4" and bay leaf, if desired.  Add a tablespoon of oil to the pots to help prevent foaming and boil overs.  You want to make sure you cook the beans at a simmer, not a boil.  If you cook them over too high of heat, the skins will burst and slip off the beans.  Black beans should take between 1 and 1 1/2 hours to cook.  Pinto beans should take between 1 1/2 and 2 hours, and Kidney beans should take between 1 1/2 and 2 hours, though sometimes they may take a little longer.  If you are using beans that are a little old, they may take a little longer as well.  When your beans are tender, they are ready to use. 

Something to keep in mind is that tomato sauce will make your beans take longer to soften, so you want to wait until they are soft before making your chili.  You also want to add water to your chili, so the beans can soak it up and finish cooking by the time your chili is done.

When your beans are done, reserve 2 -4 c. cooking liquid to add to the chili as needed, then drain the beans.  Discard the bay leaves.  Mix the beans, at least 3 cans crushed tomatoes, ground beef, corn, seasonings, herbs, vinegar, lime juice, at least 2 c. bean water, and hot sauce in a large stock pot.  Once the ingredients are mixed well, you may decide that you want to add up to a 4th can of crushed tomatoes and/or more bean water.  That's fine.  Everyone has different tastes.  I used 2 c. bean water and 3 cans tomatoes.  If you want your chili more liquidy, you can add more, but you may need to adjust the seasonings accordingly.  If you used closer to 3 lbs. of ground beef, you may need a little more water and tomatoes than I did.  You should wait until your chili has been cooking a little while before tasting to see if you need to add more seasoning.  If you want a spicier chili, feel free to add some chopped jalapeno peppers.  I cook my chili in crock pots on high for around 4 hours.

Chili freezes well.  It would be great to freeze in single portions to take to work for lunch on cold winter days.  I have 6 people in my family, and I can get 3 good family-sized meals out of this (they're big eaters).  You may get more meals out of it if you add a salad and have less people in your family.  I find that my family will eat less if I portion out the food that I am freezing ahead of time.  They don't realize there is more food, so they won't feel the need for 3rds or 4ths!

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