Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ranch recipes: Easy freezy quinoa chili

When we had a big group of friends out in April, one of the dishes Lauren made was a spicy black beans and quinoa (we called it quin-wow because it packed a little cayenne punch!). I already make a beanless quinoa chili and wanted to merge the protein power of the quinoa, beans and corn with some ground beef since Nathan is a believer in "meat makes the meal" especially when there is hundreds of pounds of burger in the freezers.

Anyway, what I came up with was a super simple recipe that is infinitely adaptable to what you have on hand in the fridge and is a very versatile dish that can be served up in a variety of ways to make a quick meal. Make a big batch and stick some in the freezer for later.

Here's the basic recipe:  

High protein quinoa chili

- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 lb ground beef (or whatever meat is available)
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup of quinoa (sometimes I also add a cup of lentils too, if you do so, be sure to add more stock, at least 1-1.5 cups)
- 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 2 pints of salsa (that's about 4 cups but add as much as you like)
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cups of black beans (one can, optional if you prefer a no-bean chili)
- 1 cup of frozen or canned corn
- salt, pepper, cayenne to taste

1. In a large stock pot, cook onions and garlic in a little oil over medium heat until translucent. Add ground beef and spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, and whatever else looks good) and cook until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
2. Add quinoa, chicken stock and bay leaves. Stir well to combine. Bring pot to a boil then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked.
3. Add salsa and water then add black beans and corn. Bring mixture to a simmer for 10 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper and cayenne (a pinch to a 1/4 teaspoon is a good place to start, don't go overboard too early though, you can always add more and the flavor will develop over time).
4. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream, green onions and a side of cornbread muffins.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that I can do so much more with it than just serving a bowl of chili - it acts as the all-in-one, main player in a variety of mexican-style dishes. Here's just a few of the ways to serve it:


- as regular chili with a side of cornbread
- cooked into slumgullion
- as a taco or burrito filling topped with lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese
- on a bun as a sloppy joe filling with extra salsa
- as a nacho topping paired with shredded cheese, olives, salsa, guacamole and sour cream
- as a topping for a taco salad
- poured over macaroni and cheese for a high-protein chili mac (pictured above)
- baked into a mexican lasagna, layered between tortilla strips with salsa, cheese, olives and green onions
- heated on the stove with a brick of cream cheese to make a chili dip
- top a hotdog to make chili dogs or homemade oven fries to make chili fries

The possibilities are endless. Make a big pot, put it in the freezer and save it for a rainy day or busy evening. I'm sure you will find some delicious way to incorporate it into your meals.


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