Monday, October 27, 2014

Organic Lime & Cilantro Chili

When we were at the school's Monster Mash on Friday, I was catching up with one of our neighbors who has been suffering from some chronic back pain recently. She shared how it has resulted in making more "boxed" meals or processed foods which she said was not ideal, but she has been limited.  I was so excited about the freezer slow cooker meals I'd made on Sunday and discovered her family loves chili. It just so happens that I prepared two of these since I was pretty confident that my family would like it. Instead I'm taking one over to her family tomorrow. I've had my own difficulties with lower back pain and know it can wreck havoc on your intentions to cook healthy meals. Just another reason why freezer slow cooker meals totally rock, you get to help a neighbor in a simple, yet meaningful way!

This meal was inspired by New Leaf Wellness and I just loved the fresh sounding name of her chili recipe. I don't think I've ever bought cilantro before, or added lime to anything that wasn't a beverage... so you have a clue to my culinary skills, right now, next to nil. But, I've been following Cook Smarts  and learning a few things over the last several months which was part of my motivation for doing this meal planning!

I followed the recipe pretty closely and felt that even though there were a lot of ingredients, it was really easy to make. It totally helps that my husband browned the ground beef for me. Whenever possible, I used organic items. I had purchased organic black beans the day I went shopping for all my ingredients, but didn't consider that I'd need to soak and sort them... but I'm excited to use them next time! I even purchased organic cumin. The grocery store didn't have organic chili powder. We switched to organic ground beef a couple years ago and just once or twice when we've run out and didn't want to face the Costco crowds, we've run to the closest grocery store and bought regular ground beef. Even my husband commented on the regular ground beef just tasting "off" when we did that... and he was not too keen on my making the decision to slowly switch us to organic in the first place. So, when I heard at ShiftCon that there was recent news on scientific proof that organic food tastes better, I was not surprised. That got me to thinking about my spices.... many in my pantry are well over the 6-12 month shelf life anyway so as I try out new recipes over the next few months I am committing to buying new organic spices to replace the old!

I made some adaptations to New Leaf Wellness Slow Cooker Beef,, Lime & Cilantro Chili and think you will want to take a look at her website to find some other tasty inspirations to try.

1.33 lbs. organic ground beef (we buy those 3 packs at Costco so that is the weight of 1 pkg)
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15 oz can black beans, drained, rinsed
1/2 cup diced red onion
Juice and zest of one lime
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp organic ground cumin

Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese
Fresh chopped cilantro (don't pass on this!)
Sour Cream
Red onion (I forgot my intention to use what I had reserved from freezer meal prep day!)

Next time I'll likely use twice as much tomato sauce or diced tomatoes since my kids like a chili that is bit more soup-like.

As I was assembling everything I loved the scent of the lime zest combined with the cumin and chili powder, the traditional chili smells,. I knew it was going to be good! This was one of the first meals I assembled and I was so proud to have 2 hearty, flavorful meals to put into my freezer. 

1. Label your bag before you get started.
2. Brown the ground beef and drain. Allow to sit and cool a few minutes before bagging.
3. Add cooked meat and additional 8 ingredients to freeze ziplog bag. Seal the bag, getting out as much air as possible. Give the bag a good shake and mix ingredients by using hands on outside of the bag to massage ingredients around. I spend a minute or two doing this until everything is evenly distributed and the meat can marinate in the sauce/spices.
4. Lie flat to freeze.
5. Defrost by pulling item out of freezer the night before and putting in the fridge, or leave on counter one hour, or run under warm water for a minute or two. It does not need to be defrosted completely, just enough to open bag and dump ingredients easily into the slow cooker.
6. Grease the inside of your slow cooker. This time I used Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil which comes in the form of a spray - making it oh-so-easy! I will tell you more about Chosen Foods in an upcoming post.
7. Cook on low 8 hours. Give a final stir and serve!

HOT TIP: Whenever you find a freezer meal your family loves, make two or three or even four the next time so you really cut down your time spent on each meal. It will help with the grocery shopping too since you just need to buy more of the same ingredients. I've read that most families have just about 20 meals in their rotation, and since these meals can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months, making 4 at a time is maximizing your time and energy and possibly money if you happen upon some incredible discounts.

When we got home from Amberly's softball game, the house smelled of a great fall meal and everyone was hungry! What was so awesome is that I only had to come in and....

1. Prepare the toppings:

2. Prepare some cornbread muffins. We are hooked on Marie Calendars and I just try to ignore the fact that almost ALL corn products in packages are GMO... so if you have a brand you love that is organic and can give me a hot tip, I'll gladly give it a try.

3. And dinner was served!

Recipe rating: 1 to 5 Stars

Joann - 4 stars, I think with the extra tomatoes next time it will be the right consistency for me. I just loved the lime and cilantro flavors playing a medley in my mouth... which was only better when I crumbled my cornbread muffin and ate it altogether.

Cory - 2 stars. He's not hip to "new" flavors of old stand by meals as much as I am. He ate it though and didn't spoil the kids' ratings by saving his comments for last.

Amberly - 5 stars. She loves sour cream so I wondered if this biased her rating. Nope, she tried the chili on it's own, then I asked her to try a bit with just some cilantro and she agreed that the cilantro really adds to the whole flavor of this dish.

Kyle - 2 stars. He didn't eat his taco meat for our taco salad dinner last night either and ground beef seems to be his nemesis. He did point out that he loved the black beans though and ate some of the chili.

Owen - 5 stars. He wanted to give it a 10 star rating! I did not put cilantro on his this time, but plan to leave some on the table for his choosing next time. When presenting a 5yo with something new, best to think of the presentation of the meal so there is a better chance of their embracing it.... in this case it was a total win!

Since my husband either has class or softball two nights a week, this can certainly be added into our rotation of meals and it may just end up on the nights he's not home for dinner.

I can't wait to take the other freezer bag over to my neighbor tomorrow and hear how they like it. I'm curious if you have used your freezer meal stash to help out a friend either with a baby on the way or recovering from an injury. Do you think you'll double up on your meal prepping with this in mind? There's so many ways we can be neighborly even in the rush of this modern day life-style. This alone may be the thing that keeps me motivated to stay on track with my new found love of slow cooker freezer meals.