Saturday, February 27, 2010

Where's the Beef?

I had a quarter pound of ground beef defrosting in my refrigerator so I could make a burger for dinner. But the burger didn't happen. Not because I have anything against burgers, or wasn't in the mood for one. I have simply become frugal. Cheap. A penny pincher. A buck stretcher. Yeah, that's me. Apparently inflation is playing a major role in the way I'm cooking and eating these days- it can't be the fear of outliving my IRA or anything like that I hope. My grocery bills would skyrocket if I didn't keep an eye on the bottom line. I've cut out almost all meat and poultry from my weekly shopping trips (for dietary and economic reasons) and stick mainly with rice, vegetables and pasta. (Oprah did want us to do that, right?) So instead of making the burger, I used the small (tiny) amount of beef and made a chili concoction that will award me about 6 meals instead of the one. I can't decide if I'm pleased with myself or annoyed that my mind is working this way. But at the moment I'm pleased, because I did make a mean pot of chili.

Penny Pincher's Chili

2 tsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups diced onion and green pepper- I use the frozen, already chopped
3 cloves garlic minced (2 tsp)
1/4 pound ground beef
2 small zucchini grated and squeezed of all water
1 T chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground corriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano- add up to a tsp if you like
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 T tomato paste- I use the kind in a tube
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 chili diced- I used a Serrano, should have used a second one, but a jalapeno or two would be fine
1 can (15.5 oz) black beans drained and rinsed
1 cup water- broth would work too
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 can (8.5 oz) corn
1/4 cup cilantro chopped

In large skillet over medium heat, saute onions and peppers in oil until soft (about 4-5 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add beef, zucchini and spices (chili powder through cayenne), stirring often until beef is nicely crumbled. Stir in tomato paste and cook a minute or two. Add canned tomatoes, diced chili pepper, beans, water and Worcestershire sauce. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Add corn and cook uncovered on low for five minutes. Garnish with cilantro, or stir it into the dish right before serving.

I served this with brown rice. I don't think I've shared this before, but cooking brown rice has always been a problem for me. I either didn't cook it long enough and it was soupy. Or I burned the rice and scorched the bottom of the pan. I have a one word solution for this problem:
Yes, Success- Boil-in-Bag Brown Rice. It cooks in ten minutes, not forty. It's an easy clean up, and so far it's worked for me.

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