As Clotille so tactfully pointed out yesterday, the pharmaceuticals in my system right now are not making my poor menu choices. I’m doing that all on my own. And, get this: I’m doing it in spite of having made and frozen four different kinds of chili and a black bean soup a couple of weeks ago. How ridiculous! I’m having to actually go out of my way to eat badly!
I made all of those easy freezer meals in preparation for the next three weeks at work where we will be working 12-hour shifts, five days a week. As I’ve mentioned, the work is very physical and I’m kind of old; so, I will be completely exhausted by the time Christmas is here – way too tired to be prepping food everyday. I found these great chili and soup recipes. Here they are (in ascending order of how much I like them):
5. White Bean Chili (Vegan, GF) – This one was actually my least favorite and I have to admit that I believe that part of that is due to poor execution of the recipe on my part. This photo is one from the website which posted the recipe. Mine wasn’t nearly this pretty. I think that I may have overcooked the beans a little and I know that I mashed more of them than they did for this shot. Mine is much pastier. It’s still good, just my least favorite of the five things I made.
4. Veggie Loaded Chili – This one is spicy! It is really flavorful with squash, zucchini, tomatoes, black beans and kidney beans. Next time, I will reduce the amount of cayenne I use since I’m kind of a sissy when it comes to really hot foods. Too much heat and I can’t appreciate the flavors of everything else! And this one has all kinds of different flavors and textures. There’s a lot going on here and all of it good.
3. Black Bean & Lentil Chili – Oh, my goodness, y’all! This one is where we go from “Those are really good” recipes to “Where have you been all my life” recipes! This one is amazing! The recipe calls for regular chili powder and chipotle chili powder – which I didn’t even know was a thing. Now I’m wondering why it hasn’t been in my spice cabinet all along! It adds such a wonderfully smoky flavor to the chili (which is literally steaming hot in the photo here). You might think that the dish would end up being really hot with all that chili powder, but it’s not. It’s just wonderfully fragrant and tasty!
2. Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup – I’ll admit it right up front: I didn’t follow the instructions on this one. I had already soaked and cooked my black beans for use in the other recipes; so, I didn’t cook this in a crock pot. I also halved everything since I’d already used half of my one pound bag of beans in the other dishes. AND, I didn’t use the immersion blender to get the pretty picture you see here. However, this is one fine bowl of soup, people! I am a big fan of black beans, anyway, and this soup is a great showcase for the legume. Because I didn’t blend everything up, the carrots gave it more texture and, if I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn there was meat in this soup. Nope. Not a bit. I’ll do this one again for sure!
1. Sweet Potato Chili – This one is my favorite, but not really by much. Sweet potatoes are not the first things that come to mind when I think of chili; but, they are just fabulous in this dish which also includes unsweetened cocoa powder and cinnamon. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like any of that Cincinnati chili which I don’t care for. Like at all.) Although neither my nose nor my mouth palates are refined enough to pick out either spice in the finished product, the dish as a whole has such full and varied flavors that I wouldn’t dream of leaving them out next time since I’m certain that they are essential to the whole experience.
I have frozen servings of each of these dishes in muffin tins. Once the servings are frozen, I store them all in large freezer bags. They look a little weird, but they work out nicely for taking my food to work. I just cook up a batch of rice and put both the rice and a chili muffin in my container to heat up at lunch. By lunchtime, the muffin has thawed enough to look like an entree rather than like a treat imposter. By freezing the foods in the tins, I reduce the waste of individual plastic freezer bags and I take the guess work out of portion sizes.
Preparation, cooking, freezing and clean-up took probably about eight hours for all of this; however, I ended that time with enough meals to last me a couple of months. That’s not a bad return on my time investment. And, with a total grocery bill for the ingredients at under $50, it’s not a bad return on my monetary investment, either!
So, while I work through Christmas, it may be a little nasty cold outside, but it’s wonderfully chili in here!