It’s been too long since I posted a food diary. A while back I wrote about my favorite food substitutions. Now I would like your input on favorite shortcuts in the kitchen.
I’m not talking about picking up take-out or eating a peanut-butter sandwich instead of a hot meal. For the purposes of this thread, I am seeking ideas that save preparation time or cooking time when you are making the meal.
After the jump I’ve posted my chili recipe, which incorporates three shortcuts. This won’t win you a prize at the chili cookoff, but it is tasty and highly adaptable to your own preferences or what you have in your kitchen. I’m all for cooking with what you have rather than slavishly following recipes.
The three shortcuts in this dish are 1) using canned beans, 2) using frozen corn kernels, and 3) adding a cup of your favorite salsa. I got the last idea from the Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites cookbook, which said the salsa gives the dish a “finished” flavor even if you don’t have time to simmer it for hours.
Note: When I used to make the vegetarian version of this chili, I used either two cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, or one can of black beans and one can of black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed. Of course it is better and cheaper to cook your own beans, but this thread is about shortcuts! Anyway, canned beans are not too expensive.
Now I usually make this dish with meat, and I use one pound of organic, grass-fed ground beef, one can of drained black beans, and one can of drained black-eyed peas.
With or without the meat, this makes a one-pot meal that is high in protein, iron and selenium (if you use black-eyed peas). Use whatever beans you like. I don’t care for pinto beans, but if it ain’t chili to you without pinto beans, don’t let any recipe stand in your way.
Chili for cheaters by desmoinesdem
(adapted from various recipes, including the black bean chili in Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites)
With meat, this dish takes at most an hour from start to finish. Without meat, you can have it ready to eat faster than that. As I said, the prepared salsa helps give it more depth of flavor than you would expect.
1 large onion or 2 medium onions, chopped
garlic to taste (I use a few cloves, chopped or pressed)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1-2 tsp chili powder (how much depends on your spice tolerance and the kind of chili powder you are using)
cayenne pepper to taste (if you’re using mild chili powder)
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar or honey to counteract bitterness in tomatoes
1 cup salsa (any kind you like; chipotle, roasted tomato, even green tomatillo salsa works)
tomatoes to taste (I have used 1 7 oz jar tomato paste, 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, 1 24 oz jar strained tomatoes, or half of a 24 oz jar of strained tomatoes. Really anything goes here.)
1 pound ground meat (optional)
2 cans beans of your choice, drained and rinsed
chopped vegetables of your choice (I have used green peppers, carrots or zucchini)
fresh or frozen corn kernels to taste (I like one to two cups of these)
Chop onion and saute in a little oil. You can get the dry spices ready while the onion is cooking. When the onion is soft, add the garlic and saute. After a minute or two, add the salsa, stir, and add the dry spices. Stir a few times.
If you’re using meat, add it now and brown, breaking up the pieces as you cook. If you use lean meat, such as grass-fed ground beef, there won’t be a lot of extra fat to drain from the pan.
If you’re not using meat, add tomatoes in whatever form you are using soon after the dry spices go in. If you’re using tomato paste you’ll also want to add a little water to thin it out. Add salt and sugar, bring to simmer, and add drained beans.
At this point you can chop whatever vegetables you are using and add them to the pot. Sometimes I don’t use any chopped vegetables, and that’s fine too.
If you are using meat, you’ll want it to simmer for a half-hour or so. If you are cooking vegetarian chili, you can get away with less cooking time–maybe 10 to 20 minutes after you add the beans.
I stir in the corn kernels only 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Frozen works fine for this dish, but of course you can use kernels fresh from the cob if you’re not trying to take shortcuts.
I used to eat chili on rice or toasted bread, but since I started trying to cut back on carbs I usually eat this chili by itself. In our household this recipe gets us two dinners–not bad for one hour prep and cooking time!