I don’t come from a place where chili is a thing. Heck, I’m from California — we put barbecue chicken on pizza. We don’t have things. What this means is that I don’t have firm and fixed ideas about what should and shouldn’t be in chili, and as a result, I’ve tried many a chili recipe over the years. I’ve tried white chicken chili, turkey chili, chili con carne, chili without beans, vegetarian chili, what was supposed to be Cliff Huxtables super spicy chili from the Cosby Show, and even a really weird one from epicurious that had green olives and raisins (which wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t chili. I may not be a firm con carne or con frijoles person, but I feel about chili the way the Supreme Court feels about pornography — I know it when I see it).
I never really settled on THE chili — the one that becomes my go to recipe, that I make again and again — until I found this chili. It presents a mild heat without bowling you over with spiciness, it has beans, which I like, and meat, which I also like and it has tomatoes without being a tomato stew. Best of all, it is easy as pie to make and can be made in the crockpot, which means all I have to do is chop an onion and brown a little ground beef in the morning, dump it in the crockpot with several cans and spices, and I have a nice bowl of chili waiting for me when I get home. It’s also great for a Super Bowl party — hearty and warming, and there’s no last minute fuss to prepare it when your guests arrive. [...]
When you’re cooking dinner for your family every night, it’s easy to get into a rut and/or run out of ideas (yes, even if you’re a food blogger. I often panic when I sit down to make my weekly grocery list, then I start by looking through cookbooks and websites for ideas, which turns to procrastinating by looking through Facebook and CNN, which oddly enough do not provide many meal planning ideas, before I give up and make the things we had last week because hey, we liked them then.) The point is, when I see something that looks like it might become a regular in my family dinner plan, the heavens open up and choruses of angels sing Hallelujahs. Hey, inspiration is a glorious thing.
And that is why, when I saw this rather unassuming dish on Peanut Butter and Jargon via Tastespotting (which seems like it should be an excellent source for meal planning but usually leaves me craving melted cheese, gooey desserts and cocktails. Not that I’m complaining) I jumped on it. It contained all sorts of things I like in a meal – it’s reasonably healthy, easy to prepare and made from simple fresh ingredients. I love a good casserole but I so rarely see ones that aren’t dripping with cheese or cream of something soup, and this one — made with onions, white beans and chicken sausage and topped with breadcrumbs — was like a breath of fresh air.
I like to pack my own lunch. Yes, I’m giving up the social hour at work, but frankly the lunch offerings in my neighborhood tend to pale in comparison to what gets produced in my own kitchen. I wish I could say that it’s because I’m an amazing cook, but really it’s just that corporate lunch spots tend to be that uninspiring. Too unhealthy, too bland, too expensive, too time consuming. All I want for lunch on a work day is something to eat (at my desk, in the office kitchen or outside near the fountains) that gives me a jolt of flavor and wakes up my palate without making me want to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. And, surprise surprise, that usually comes from home.
The question then becomes what to bring. Once you’re freed from the time constraints of a one mile radius of your office, the world really becomes your oyster, with certain limitations. Not for me are the lean cuisines heated up in the communal microwave by my coworkers, the aroma of Fiesta Grilled Chicken or Oven Roasted Beef Burgundy permeating the floor. Leftovers can be nice and quick, but they’re not always available and I hate reheating for the above mentioned aromatic reasons. A sandwich only reaches its pinnacle of sandwichness when it’s freshly made, and doesn’t spend at least four hours curled up in your purse or desk drawer waiting to be eaten. What I really want is something that can be made in advance (because who has time to cook lunch every morning?), holds well (preferably at room temperature) for several hours and still tastes and looks appealing and fresh.
Enter this salad — roasted vegetables, beans for protein, and a bright salsa verde to lend color and flavor. It’s satisfying (all that fiber!) without being stultifying and will wake up your tastebuds without earning you dirty looks from your coworkers. You can make it on Sunday and eat it for the next three days and the flavor stays fresh. Just don’t get too intimate in a meeting — the garlic may scare people off (this may, however, be a bonus). [...]
I know I’m going to get my frugal license taken away for this, but the truth of the matter is I don’t really like leftovers. Sure, I’ll take last night’s dinner as a brown bag lunch the next day, but that’s pretty much it. I’m certainly not eating the same thing for dinner the next night, and forget about having it every night for a week.
However, when you are cooking for two adults and a toddler (who may, or may not eat whatever you’ve made, depending on some bizarre power struggle/whimsy/will of the gods), sometimes leftovers are unavoidable. Sometimes I foist them on my husband to take to work for lunch multiple days in a row; sometimes I strongly hint to my babysitter that she’s welcome to help herself to anything in that fridge, but sometimes these strategies don’t work, and I am forced to my last resort. No, not eating leftovers. I’m talking about the element of disguise.
See, even though I may not want to eat the same thing three days in one week, I am perfectly willing to eat three different things with the same base ingredients. Like these black beans three ways. I like beans and rice, and realize that many people eat it every day of their lives, but sadly, I am not one of those people. I can, however, eat beans and rice one day, and a quesadilla another day, and soup on a third day and be perfectly happy to do all three. Apparently I’m not too bright if I can trick myself this easily, but there you go. Thus we have — black beans three ways, or how to use up your leftovers without driving yourself crazy. [...]
Louis Armstrong reportedly signed all of his letters “Red Beans and Rice-ly yours” in a tribute to New Orleans. Few dishes are as strongly associated with one city as Red Beans and Rice is with the Big Easy. And it’s no wonder — the dish is easy to prepare, easy to afford, and easy to eat. Just a few ingredients — beans, some vegetables, a few spices — are transformed. It may not LOOK like much, but it tastes just dandy. The simplicity, of course, made it perfect for my week of low budget meals. Dried beans are inexpensive, the vegetables are staples, and I have a well stocked spice cabinet. This is also a dish that is regularly in rotation in my household, because it cooks best in the crockpot. And if you are a working mother (or working anything, frankly), the crockpot should be your friend. Read more … [...]