Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cheap Eats and the Zen of Cooking

I feel sorry for people who don't know how to cook or who don't like to cook. There seems to be many more of those types of people today. They are missing out on good tasting and nutritious meals that can be enjoyed at home. They are missing out on the pride of creating something delicious and beautiful to look at from humble ingredients. They are missing the Zen of cooking. The meditative and soothing motions of kneading bread. The free form creativity and spontaneity of adding an unexpected new ingredient or flavor to an old recipe. But most of all I feel sorry for them because they are spending way too much money on pre-prepared foods and eating out.

Home cooking is not only nutritious and is inexpensive. Having been at one time lucky to have two nickles to rub together, I learned that you can make cheap meals. I learned how to, as my Mother once said to me, "stretch a chicken three ways to Sunday".

Here is one of my favorite ways to use up some left over pork or beef roast. Caution: free form recipe, which means I change it almost every time depending on what ingredients I have on hand

2 cups dried pinto beans or a combination of dried red, pinto, kidney beans
Bring to a boil. Turn off the pot and cover. Let set overnight.

Next day:
1 to 2 lbs of cubed raw pork or chuck meat or 3 cups cubed leftover meat
1 large onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
1- 2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
pinch or two of chili flakes
1 large can of whole tomatoes

Simmer the pinto beans for a few hours before beginning the rest of the chili. Those little suckers are hard. Drain the pinto beans and set aside. In the same stew pot, using a little oil saute the raw meat until browned on all sides. If you are using the already cooked meat you obviously don't have to cook it as long. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic and spices sautee until the onion begins to be limp. Drain the tomato juice from the can into the pot. Coarsly chop the tomatoes and throw them in. Add the beans back in and enough water or beef broth to cover the whole thing. Simmer for another couple of hours testing the beans for doneness. As I said those little guys are hard. Taste for flavor. If you like your chili done 5 alarm style you can add a larger pinch of the dried chili. If you prefer to keep your tastebuds from overloading, skip the dried chili. Add more liquid if needed. About 15 to 20 minutes before done, stir in a tablespoon or so of cornmeal to thicken the chili. If you like thin more souplike chili...then don't.

Serve with cornbread and a green salad. This makes enough to feed an army. At least 8 servings. The cost per chili serving using pork at $1.99 a pound, is calculated by my Living Cookbook program as less than $1.00. How cheap is that??

Nutrition (per serving): 439.7 calories; 38% calories from fat; 19.0g total fat; 80.5mg cholesterol; 390.4mg sodium; 1228.7mg potassium; 35.6g carbohydrates; 9.2g fiber; 3.3g sugar; 26.4g net carbs; 31.3g protein

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