Chili used to be one of the easiest meals in my repitiore of crowd-pleasing entrees. Just fry up some sausage and onions, add some cans of tomatoes, some cans of beans, a can of green chili peppers, some spices, simmer it a bit, and your done!
Enter Whole Foods and Nourishing Cooking Practices, and my easy chili recipe became full of extra prep and forethought and hardly worth the effort.
Fast forward a few more years, and chili has once again become an easy, throw-together meal that’s yummier than ever and even more nourishing. Let me tell you how…
How did I go BPA-Free?
Did you notice all the cans of stuff my old chili recipe had? When I learned about the dangers of BPA and that a lot of our exposure to this dangerous chemical comes from canned food, I made an effort to reduce the amount of canned food I bought. (Comprehensive post about BPA and why to avoid it) Thankfully, I was already on a good track here, having learned long ago that there was so little nutritional value left in canned foods that it was a waste of my food budget. The only things I still bought in cans were tomato sauce and pineapple. Now it was time to address the tomato sauce.
I found a nice marinara sauce sold in a glass jars at my favorite grocery chain that contained no sugar or soybean oil in the added ingredients. Now I use it in everything, even when a recipe calls for whole or chopped tomatoes – my husband doesn’t enjoy meeting chunks of tomato in his dinner anyway. I wash the jars and keep them for…
My beans. Once every other month or so, I soak a big bowl of red or kidney beans overnight and cook them down slowly the next day till they’re nice and soft. I pour them into my recycled tomato sauce jars, cap them, and freeze the whole batch (except what I make into fermented bean paste!). These jars fit nice in the door of my freezer where nothing else seems to fit.
Finally, the secret ingredient to all good soups – the stock. Every three months or so I take all the beef bones I’ve been saving in a ziplock in the freezer and make beef stock out of them. This is another two day process involving a bit more effort than the beans, but a batch of beef stock lasts me a long time ’cause I use chicken stock more often than beef. I pour the amber brown liquid into more of those recycled tomato sauce and put them in the door of the freezer along with the beans.
And that is how chili once again becomes an easy, throw together meal, yet frugal and full of nourishing, whole ingredients! I just have to remember to thaw a couple jars along with the meat. (If I don’t pull it out in time, all of these ingredients can soak in a bath of hot water in my sink to thaw more rapidly).
|Beans, stock, tomato sauce, and grass-fed beef|
Another benefit of my new chili recipe is it has so much flavor that you don’t even notice that I now make it with ground beef instead of sausage – cheaper and healthier, as my ground beef is grass fed, and my pork source is not!
*I seeded and chopped a whole pile of hot peppers from a neighbor’s garden this summer – I keep them in a bag the freezer and break of a chunk whenever I need it.
I’ll be making a large batch of this for our ski trip at the end of the month. It’s such an easy way to feed a crowd – try it this weekend!