Yesterday was my family Christmas celebration, so I didn’t get to start cooking till 10 or so last night. On the plus side, I took home enough leftovers that I only need to come up with suppers this week!
My husband doesn’t like kidney beans in chili, but since I like chili, I’ve had to find a workaround to ensure that we aren’t eating meals of solid meat. After a bit of trial and error over the years, I realized the answer to adding healthy filler to a pot of chili is… zucchini.
It’s basically tasteless (or at least completely absorbs the flavours that you cook it in), doesn’t add many calories to the meal, it’s cheap, and can easily be chopped up small enough that the overall texture for chili is similar to the traditional bean version. I mean, I’m sure that chili purists would argue that I can’t even call my dish chili, but, well, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
So when I make it, I start off by browning a couple pounds of hamburger ($10). And when I say brown, I want it BROWN. The meat needs to be practically crispy before I’m satisfied. While it’s cooking, I peel and chop two zucchinis ($3.50) into 1 cm cubes, then spread them out on a baking sheet and stick them under the broiler till they’ve dehydrated a little (10 min maybe?). They’re so full of moisture that you practically can’t burn them (but, you know, don’t try and then sue me when your stove somehow catches fire). I added a diced onion ($.25), half a head of garlic ($.5) and a green pepper ($1) to the meat at the end and cooked it all for a little more time, along with some Dutch meat seasoning (the ingredients are in Dutch so I don’t know what’s in it, but it’s great) and a couple tablespoons of chili powder. I get mine from an Asian supermarket and it’s incredibly spicy; add as much as you want.
Finally, I added a can of tomatoes ($2) and about a cup of beef broth ($0), and let everything simmer for an hour. At some point, I also took out the zucchini from the oven and spread it out on a towel to absorb any more moisture. It was after midnight at this point, so I put both the pot of meat and the veggies in the fridge; I assume most people would keep going.
Today after work I put the pot back on the stove and added the zucchini, which after the dehydrating ended up being about 4 cups worth. I ended up adding some cayenne pepper to give it a bit more of a kick. I brought it back up to a low simmer and let it go while I chopped up a head of broccoli ($2) and steamed it. Finally, in yet another pan, I browned a tablespoon of butter and poured it over the broccoli.
(I’m obviously not one of those people who doesn’t like my food touching.)
So, we’ve got oatmeal for breakfasts ($1), leftovers for at least 4 meals each (free!), and chili for supper. I’ve got more broccoli ($2) in the fridge for when the current batch runs out, and with the portion sizes I’m using (half a bowl per meal with lots of veggies) we’ve got meals for at least 3 days. $23 for most of a week’s worth of meals. Guess Christmas does have its benefits, since I’ve got one more big meal coming up next weekend (which I’m sure will leave me with a lot of food again).