October is National Chili Month, so it’s time to cook up a big pot of this hearty and nutritious stew. Using a slow cooker makes this all-time favorite meal quick and easy, but be sure to cook your meat before adding it to the slow cooker!
There are many variations for chili recipes, but the common ingredient is beans. Beans are a nutrition powerhouse. They provide protein, fiber, potassium and iron.
The traditional “chili bean” is the kidney bean, but other beans can be used, like pinto beans, black beans, navy beans or Great Northern beans. Many people like to use two or three different types of beans in their chili.
Canned beans are more convenient to use because they do not have to be presoaked and cooked as dry beans do. One 15-ounce can of beans is equivalent to one and one-half cups of cooked dry beans. To reduce the sodium of canned beans, buy the ones that have no salt added or you can rinse the beans first in a colander under cold running water. Rinsing canned beans can reduce the sodium by up to 41 percent.
Beans blend well with other ingredients in the soup and absorb the flavor of the ingredients, especially the spices. Spices used in chili are the signature ingredients that make it “hot or not” and personalize the stew.
- Traditional spices:
- chili powder
- fresh ground pepper
- cayenne pepper
- You can also add:
- diced chilies
- hot sauce
In addition to beans, meat is included in many chili recipes and provides another source of protein. Ground beef is the most common but you can substitute ground turkey, chicken or venison to lower the fat.
One of the drawbacks of eating beans and other high-fiber foods is the gas that is produced during digestion in your body. Rinsing the beans or discarding the soaking water (for dry beans) helps to minimize the gaseous problem. Your body will adjust to these fiber-rich foods when you introduce them gradually into your diet. You can also use an over the counter medication that contains an enzyme that breaks down the gas-producing substances in beans to relieve the “gas issue.”
Make a large pot of chili to enjoy now, but be sure to store some for a later time. To store it safely, divide it into smaller portions and cool before putting in the refrigerator or freezer. If stored in the refrigerator, use it within three to four days. If you want to keep it longer, store it in the freezer but use it within six months for the best quality.
To prevent foodborne illnesses, remember to thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator and not on the countertop at room temperature. You can also thaw in the microwave using the defrost setting as long as you plan to serve it immediately once reheated.
Add a nice, green leafy salad and some homemade cornbread to complement your delicious chili.
Check out the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website for easy make-your-own chili seasoning mix and some chili recipes.