Quick Fixes & Black Bean Chili

Early this afternoon, when I was driving to my friend Shaun’s house for a pick-me-up, my GPS decided, as it is occasionally wont to do, to take me through a ‘short cut’. The ride should only have been at the most a half hour, but after absentmindedly bobbing my head along to the radio for-who-knows-how-long, I zoned back in to find myself in the middle of a field, surrounded by cows. The winding road I was driving upon was covered with a sweeping canopy of leaning trees and their leaves, and the sky was quite blue and clear, and it was all very beautiful- and I immediately panicked. What the…?! What were all these painted barns and little cottages draped in American flags?? Had I crossed a state line? Had the GPS tired of its little occasional games with me, and was now on full-on strike? The GPS was indeed still humming away to itself, unperturbed. On its screen was a single blue line that seemed to stretch out infinitely, which I simply could not take the prospect of- because I was famished.

I’ve always been useless at things like directions and time and space, and I am accustomed to being lost, almost to the point where it’s no longer a bother. But this day was different. I’d just left a two-hour long morning appointment, and before that, I had overslept, so I’d only had two handfuls of woken minutes before having to rush out of the house. I’d been so preoccupied that I’d brushed off the thought of breakfast, which is always a mistake, but especially when considering that rash decision from the point of what appears to be the wilderness.

It is still unbelievable to me that I can live in a suburb only twenty minutes from center city- a suburb which is somehow simultaneously only a relatively short ride from nowhereland? But thankfully, it is possible, and there was only one more agonizing half hour in the country, that bizarrely ended with me anxiously trailing behind two pick-up trucks involved in what I believe was a full-on drag race…at one in the afternoon. I surfaced into one of those ye olde towns that tend to- excluding, of course, the times i plan to go to such places on purpose, as a sort of charming escapade with friends- bring out this nervous suspicion in me, as if my sub-conscious is wary of some kind of time-travel trap. But it was at least some age of civilization, and I was able to pull over next to the overpriced five and dime store to re-set my GPS- and was soon enough turning the corner into Shaun’s driveway.

So I think my moral of this too-long hunger story is that sometimes it’s too easy to get pulled into the lure of gourmet slow-cooking, the delight found in cultivating tastes and stewing flavors into brightness, the enjoyment of leisurely meals, ladled out and consumed along with the stories and laughter of friends around a table. Or even, the anticipation of sitting alone to supper, with the opportunity to mull over the day and contemplate the peace of the uninterrupted meal… But it’s not only important not to skip meals, but it is also essential to have a knowledge base of easy quick fixes, snacks and meals alike, that one can snap up to sate hunger either before rushing off somewhere. (Although it is tempting to eat snacks and even meals, in the car, studies shows that individuals are healthier and leaner when they sit down to meals. Researchers suggest this is because setting the table and sitting down for a length of time better psychologically establishes the event of eating, which in turn, really cuts down on the urge to snack between meals, and to overeat in general.)

What this brings me to is three main points that I’ll talk about in upcoming posts:

1) It’s great idea to always have ingredients in your fridge and pantry that you know could turn into a quick and healthy snack at a moment’s notice. An example: carrots and hummus.

2) Build up a knowledge base of quick recipes.

3) Prepare food ahead of time. Certain meals, such as soups, can be frozen. Other standards- such as bean chili, which I detail below- can simply be cooked in the beginning of the week, stored in the fridge, and eaten throughout the next several days.

Black Bean Chili

1 can (16oz) stewed or crushed tomatoes
2 cans (150z) black beans, drained
2 cans (150z) beans of choice
2 medium onions, chopped
2-3 bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Take out a soup pot, and drizzle in some olive oil. On medium-heat, saute onions and peppers. (I used three green peppers I picked from my garden yesterday.)

After a few minutes, or when the onions have become translucent and the pepper tender, add the garlic. Saute til aromatic, and then add the rest of the ingredients. S & P, to taste. Stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least a half an hour.

This recipe serves 8, OR serves you well for 8 different meals. Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber, and are also very filling, so have been shown to help with weight loss. They are delicious spooned over a bowl of roasted vegetables, or even just a bowl of this bean chili, warmed and sprinkled with some diced scallions and a Mexican mix of cheese or a couple cheddar shavings, is perfect.

Meal Cost:
1 16oz can crushed tomatoes- $.50
2 cans black beans- $1.78
2 cans kidney beans- $2.00
onions- $0.40
2 green peppers- $2.00
garlic- $1
olive oil- pantry
cumin- pantry
cayenne pepper- pantry
chili powder- pantry
dried herbs- pantry

Total Calories:
crushed tomatoes- 120
black beans- 800
kidney beans- 840
onions- 120
bell peppers- 66
garlic- 12
olive oil- 120

Altogether, this recipe costs about $8. That evens out to a dollar a serving- so cheap! Each serving is around 270 calories.

Questions? Comments?

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