I’m all about doing things ahead. One time in university, I had an entire draft of a paper written 2 weeks before the due date (seriously – who does that?). Every day, as soon as I get home from school, I layout workout clothes and work clothes for the next day. If I can, I like to make my lunch before I even eat supper. Even better than that is if I can make a batch of soup or chili on the weekend that can serve as multiple lunches for the week ahead. So today, I thought I’d share with you my basic recipe outline for veggie chili – one of my favourite make-ahead meals. It’s very flexible as to your taste preferences, spice tolerance, the number of servings you want to make, and what veggies you have on hand. I made the batch I photographed a week and a half ago and froze one portion, which I enjoyed yesterday. I LOVE having a ready-to-go meal in the freezer for nights that are too busy to think about lunch. Just pop it out of the freezer – no though required (added bonus: you don’t need an ice pack). But enough talking, let’s get chili-ing!
To start, chop up whatever veggies you like/have on hand into bite-size pieces. My favourite veggies for chili are onions and green peppers – but anything goes! This is a great way to use up veggies that are past their prime. I also mince up some garlic – a MUST for me in my chili (and almost anything I cook). Heat some oil (I use 1 teaspoon for every portion I make – so for example, for two days’ worth of lunches, use 2 teaspoons) in a saucepan (I use non-stick for easier clean-up) over medium-high heat. Add all your veggies and garlic, then sauté for a few minutes until slightly softened and maybe a little browned.
Next, add some canned tomatoes, a touch of water or stock (chicken or veggie, you choose), and whatever kind of drained canned beans you’d like (I use 1/2 cup for every portion). Just like the veggies, it really doesn’t matter what kind of beans you use. Add salt and your spices – for a basic chili, all you need is cumin and chili powder. Of course, I like to play around and experiment, especially with Epicure spices (I use different combos like Guacamole dip mix, Pueblo Bean dip mix, Nacho Cheese dip mix, or salsa seasoning). For a walk on the wild side, try a little bit of chipotle chili powder or a touch of chopped chipotle pepper. Chipotle adds a great smoky spiciness – but careful, it’s HOT! A little goes a long way! Two “secret ingredients” that I sometimes add – a splash of coffee or a pinch of unsweetened cocoa powder – they both add a unique depth of flavour.
Bring this to a boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer. The simmering time frame is flexible – I would say go for at least 20 minutes, but you could go for up to an hour, to develop the flavours more. Let the chili cool to room temperature, then put it into containers. You can eat it right away, the next day, or freeze it and eat it whenever you want!
You can really make this chili your own – add extra ingredients to bulk it up (if you want a meat chili, just brown some ground meat of your choice with the veggies). You can stir in any frozen veggies you like, and of course, extra toppings (sour cream, cheese) are always good!
I know it’s a little past prime chili season now that the weather’s getting warmer, but I still enjoyed this lunch on a spring day. A great go-to healthy option. When it comes to chili, are you a spicier-is-better person or can you not take the heat? (I’ve gotten spicier as I’ve aged. My mom used to be the heat-lover in our house, now she says it’s spicy when I cook, and I don’t think it’s hot at all!)
* One note: I have recently purchased glass containers for reheating lunches in the microwave. Given all of the stuff that you hear about plastic, I figure you can never be too careful, right? I don’t want any freaky chemicals leaching into my body from plastic if I can avoid it!