Freezer Chili Meat

Quick and Easy Chili - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI do like to periodically make a few quarts of chili, and freeze some to have on hand. (Hmmm… I thought I’d written about that – I’ll have to, this winter!) It reheats beautifully,  I freeze different sized containers so I have single and double meals, I always have something he can fix, or that we can carry to gaming. It’s a good standard practice.

But right now, practically the only thing I do not have in my freezer is room. We’re still going to need fast convenient meals, I’m coming into my busy work season (when I’ll be coming home late and tired) and I really want meals on hand, but…

And I had a big package of ground beef and pork, all ready for a bulk recipe of chili, or meatloaf, or… something that would take too much room in the freezer. A problem.

Or is it? After all, the meat came out of the freezer – meat alone could fit back in… and the rest of chili? Well… seasoning, of course, but other than that… Beans. Well, they’re bulky… but I always have them around, and I try to have cooked beans on hand much of the time, and even if I don’t, they do come in cans… Tomatoes. I don’t really need to open a can of tomatoes to cook them down and then put them in the freezer… I could just add them when I’m ready to eat. If I add beans and tomatoes, that’s not quite as fast and easy as just heating something already cooked, but it’s still better than starting from scratch. So, why don’t I just cook the chili meat with onions, peppers, and seasoning, and then add it to beans and  tomatoes as needed? Or, for that matter… add it to refried beans, or make tacos, or add beans and make diner style Super Nachos, or… I can do a couple of things with this. OK, that’s a point in its favor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had roughly 3/4 of a pound each of ground beef and ground pork. And I did not have commercial chili powder – but I did have fresh chillies. So I took a teaspoon of cumin, and half a teaspoon of oregano, and a pinch of salt, and ground them together in a mortar and pestle. (And, of course, you can just use ground cumin… you can even just use whole cumin – it does cook soft enough to not be annoying…)Chili seasosnings - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Then I chopped an onion, and three hot peppers, and sauteed them lightly with just a touch of olive oil. I probably really should have used a larger onion, or a second one… I might add a little more when I put it together later, but I don’t have to –  this was all right. It is a bit hot on its own, but I plan to mix the meat with beans. Once the onion and pepper was soft, I put three cloves of garlic through a garlic press into the pan, added the spice mixture, and stirred it all around to heat and release flavor.

Adding meat to pan - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI broke up the meat into bits and added it to the hot pan to brown. I raised the heat a little, and stirred it around while browning, then lowered the heat and let the moisture cook off and the meat caramelize. Then I let it cool.

Once it had cooled, I put most of it in a labeled freezer bag, flattened the bag, and put it in the freezer. (I flatten it to save space, so that it will freeze quickly and evenly, and, above all, so that I can then break off chunks to use, instead of having to thaw the whole thing.)Frozen Chili Meat - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I left some in the pan, and started dinner…

Quick chili in the pan - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI had a pint container of cooked beans. They were actually Roman beans, this time – usually I would be more likely to use either pintos or kidney beans. I really could use almost any kind, of course… it just would not be as traditional. I added the beans with their cooking liquid, rinsed the container out with a little water and added it, and let it all simmer for a while to blend flavors. I also had a half tomato I wanted to use, so I chopped it and put that in after a few minutes. I let that simmer while I fixed vegetables and heated cooked rice – and the whole meal was ready in about 10-15 minutes.

Quich chili, with preseaned, cooked meat - www.inhabitedkitchen.comUsually I would add a small can of diced tomatoes with the beans, instead of the fresh tomato, and let that all simmer together. I normally cook and use dried beans, and I usually have some available, but if I did not, there’s always a can of beans in the cupboard…  I might put some corn in – we like that combination. I could serve it with corn bread, or tortilla chips, or polenta, instead of rice. I added some cheddar cheese – Rich particularly likes that combination. People sometimes use sour cream, or raw chopped onion as garnishes. Whatever you like… and whatever is easy.

Because this is all about an easy meal. The initial preparation of the chili meat only takes a few minutes more than it would if I was just making a simple scratch chili for one meal – chop a little more, brown a little more – but then saves me those steps for several future meals. Once in a While cooking at its best.

Freezer Chili Meat

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Freezer Chili Meat

Don't have room in your freezer for homemade chili? Just season and cook the chili meat and freeze that - add it later to beans, or whatever else you'd like.

Ingredients

  • 1 t cumin
  • 1/2 t oregano
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 hot peppers (or to taste) minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • oil for pan
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat - beef, pork, turkey, chicken, in whatever combination you choose

Instructions

  1. If desired, grind cumin, oregano, and salt together. (Or just use ground cumin.)
  2. Saute onion and peppers in oiled frying pan until soft. Add garlic and stir. Add spice mixture and stir.
  3. Break up meat and add to hot pan. Stir. Brown meat well, and then let cook until cooked through.
  4. Let cool, and freeze.
  5. Later, break off chunks and use in your preferred chili recipe to save time.
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WIAW 38

What I Ate... www.inhabitedkitchen.comWe’re still in the In Between Stage, Transition Season…  Corn and winter squash.

And the weather jumping up and down all over is doing a number on me – migraines have been bad. So I’m going for easy…

Breakfast - www.inhabitedkitchen.comBreakfast. Corn muffins, refried beans, eggs. It’s become a basic for me, gives me energy for the day, sets me up well… The beans are just cooked pintos (or others… these are actually Roman beans… whatever I have on hand, really) and I heat them with a dab of pureed chipotle in adobo (I wrote about that with collards) since that adds flavor as well as heat. I just put a dab of that in the pan, add the beans and some water, heat them (which softens them) and mash them with a fork. Then I drop in the eggs, cover the pan, and cook 5 minutes, until the eggs are done. Sometimes I’m baking the muffins as I go, often they’re already baked, and I cut them and reheat in a toaster oven.

Lunch - www.inhabitedkitchen.comFor lunch – well… we’re still getting lettuce, but we’re no longer getting a lot of other vegetables I want in salads. And it is getting cooler, so we no longer really want many meals that are only salad… I also had a dab of leftovers from the other day – a little chicken and vegetable saute (not at all enough for a full meal even for one) and some rice (ditto.) So – I heated the leftover chicken and rice in a frying pan, and then beat in an egg – fried rice. Then I made a salad with lettuce, carrots, and bell pepper, and added some feta to full out the meal. Then I put them both on the same plate at the same time, which may have been a mistake – they kept encroaching on each other. Didn’t taste bad, actually, but… I think next time I’ll eat the hot food first, then have the salad…

Chili dinner - www.inhabitedkitchen.comDinner was sort of thrown together chili. No long simmering, just seasoned meat tossed with already cooked beans, I’ll write about it later… Also sauteed cabbage. Rich was out working, and came home late to dinner, so this was something I could make and then hold for him. I ate at the usual time, then reheated everything for him, without hurting anything. (If anything, the chili was improved.)

Joining Jenn… who inspired all this in the first place! wiaw-fall-into-good-habits-button

How Not to Work with Historic Recipes… Buckwheat Pancakes

Buckwheat Pancakes - www.inhabitedkitchen.comThe pancakes are really good… so if I were just doing this for myself, I’d be happy. But to share with you people? Um…

OK, let’s start here. I have quite a few vintage-to-antique cookbooks dating as far back as the late 19th Century. I have cooked from them for years, so I’m used to the sometimes more casual approach to measurements that some of them have. (I also, for fun, work with recipes dating back to the 13th century, which have even more casual measurements – if any – and everything in between. And some of my friends, who have done that with me, are laughing as they read this…) When I was writing about buckwheat, I went back to the old books, and found a really interesting recipe for buckwheat pancakes.

I have The Winston Cookbook: Planned for a Family of Four by Helen Cramp. (Published by The John C. Winston Company, copyright 1913.) This was a discard from the local Public Library (where my great aunt worked.) My grandmother clearly cooked from it a lot – the book is pretty worn, some of which probably happened before she ever got it and was the reason it was discarded (there is a note that pages had been torn out) but there are also notes in her handwriting all over it. Recipes written in margins and on the backs of the color plates, a comment in the canning section that “one peck of green beans (is) enough to handle at one time,” X marked next to recipe titles. (Did she like them? Dislike them? I have no idea. She lost her sight – and stopped cooking – before I was five.)

In the chapter Bread, Hot-cakes, Etc. I found

Buckwheat Cakes No. 2.

1 pint buttermilk
Buckwheat flour
¼ cake yeast
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon molasses
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Into the buttermilk stir enough flour to make a soft batter;add the yeast cake dissolved in a little warm water and the salt and beat thoroughly. Let rise over night and in the morning stir in the molasses and baking soda. Save a cup of the batter to be used instead of yeast for the next baking.

Well. It was the last line that got me, really… keeping a starter, like a sourdough. So, I want to play with it – make the first batch, but then also see how it develops. (And buttermilk is cultured from a starter, too – can I make later batches with regular milk, assuming the culture is present and will inoculate it? Should I use buttermilk every, oh, third or fourth batch to be sure? Or will I really need to keep using it?)

So, I decided to make it. But I didn’t want to tell you to just add “enough flour to make a soft batter.” I mean, most of you can do this, but, especially with something like buckwheat that you may not always have on hand, you need a clue… So I decided to get all sciency. But… I kind of blew it, and forgot a few factors, and wasn’t really very scientific…

Weighing buttermilk - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI often work on historic recipes with a friend who actually is a scientist (and is the one laughing at me here… or possibly just being horrified.) At this point, she always says “How much do you think you will need?” because she is looking for precision and reproducible results. So I looked at pancake recipes… and some had a cup of flour to a cup of milk, and some had the same amounts by weight… and I sort of started thinking about that – I’d weigh the buttermilk, then start adding flour, until I had the right texture, and then weigh it to see how much I’d actually added. And I’d measure it by grams, because that is more precise. (Or, actually, because the arithmetic is much easier…) And the pint of buttermilk they called for weighed 505 grams (call it 500…)  And so I started…

Note – Buttermilk is thicker and less… liquidy… than the milk my other recipes called for.

Note – All the other recipes, unlike this one,  also had eggs and either oil or melted butter… and I totally disregarded that working out liquid/solid proportions… (No, I do not know where my brain was…)

Note – Buckwheat flour weighs 4½ oz per cup (according to King Arthur Flour, who should know.) So, while I did see one source calling for equal weights, the fact that most called for equal numbers of measuring cups should have had me aiming at 250 grams or so to begin.

Note – My scale may be wonky… Well, unlike the others, that doesn’t count as something I should have known, I didn’t realize it until a day later, when it wouldn’t hold a tare weight. So I don’t know if that factored into this at all. Probably not, but…  as I worked it did keep shutting down.

Do you see where I’m going here?

This may be too much flour... www.inhabitedkitchen.comSo. I made a note of the net weight. Then I made a note of the gross weight, so I could start from scratch if the scale shut down. (1505. That bowl is 1 kilo! That’s going to be useful in future… ) Then I hit tare and started adding flour, and trying to mix it in before the scale shut down (not a problem I’d really expected…  yes, I now also have a new battery in it.)

So… I dumped in some flour, stirred a little, added some, stirred a little, added more…. oops… 325 g was suddenly much too much. This was no soft batter – it had the texture of clay.

OK, so now I tossed out the inept non-scientific sciency stuff, and worked on rescuing the batter. First, I poured in, a little at a time, all the rest of the buttermilk I had… which was probably about a cup. (I bought a quart, I’d used a glass in something else.) Then I added a little more plain milk… not at all sure, now, how much.

That's better... www.innhabitedkitchen.comOK, so now I had a consistency like a batter. It’s a bit different than I’m used to with wheat flour – a bit more viscous, interestingly. So, at this point, I went ahead with pancakes – with no idea how much of anything was in it…

I decided that, well, yeast grows anyhow… and I was making this in the afternoon, not evening, so it would be sitting about 16 hours, rather than the 10 or so I think of for “Mix this after dinner, use it at breakfast.” So – a cake of moist yeast is the equivalent of a packet of dried yeast, which in turn is 2½ teaspoons. So I softened a rounded half teaspoon (I was past worrying about precise measurements…) in a spoonful of water, and stirred it in, with the salt. Then I set it aside to work overnight.

Note – The original recipe has you add the molasses later – it is flavoring, not something added to feed the yeast. Yeast does perfectly well with just the flour. I make yeast bread without added sugar all the time.

Note – My kitchen is normally quite warm. I had the window open, because it had been hot the day before. A cool front came through that night… So the yeast grew much less than it usually would in my kitchen, but probably about the way it would in a normally cool kitchen. (We tend to ignore ambient temperature as a factor, when it can be a major one.)

Buckwheat batter in the morning - www.inhabitedkitchen.comAnyhow – in the morning I found this. I stirred it down, added the baking soda, skipped the molasses because I don’t use added sugar and it is just flavoring and sweetening here (and that tiny amount won’t alter things drastically) and proceeded with pancakes.

Well, first I did, in fact, put aside a cup of batter, to play with later. Because I’m crazy that way.

Now we're cooking - www.inhabitedkitchen.comFor this, I pulled out the cast iron pan that belonged to the same grandmother who owned the book, heated it and buttered it lightly. I tend to make smaller pancakes, traditionally called Silver Dollar Pancakes, because I can fit several in a pan, they cook more quickly than larger ones, and they’re easier to turn over. So I poured in my dollops of batter, and waited for the bubbles all over the surface that tell me a pancake is cooked enough to turn.

And waited…

Buckwheat Pancakes! www.inhabitedkitchen.comOK, so…. I don’t know if this has something to do with this being, in fact, a gluten free pancake so it behaves differently, or if it is a sign that the yeast wasn’t working, or that I should have increased the baking soda more (though honestly I have no idea why it even calls for baking soda, when it’s really not enough to do much in that much batter, and the yeast should provide enough leavening) but anyhow – no bubbles. But the top was getting the dry look I recognize in other bready foods, so I turned the cakes, and they certainly were cooked enough. Then I just browned the other side, gave them to Rich, made a second batch for myself, and ate them with a little butter.

And they were good…Rich's pancake breakfast - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

I don’t think they need syrup, but if you do (Rich did)  please do use real maple syrup – the flavor of these deserves the flavor of the real stuff, not just sweetness. Or some of that molasses. Or… I’ll be making applesauce and apple butter, soon – these will be wonderful with apple butter. Really, though, that’s gilding the lily – the butter was enough. After breakfast, I went ahead and made up the rest of the batch, so I can now also tell you they microwave nicely, so you can make a batch and use them for several meals. I’ve been eating them with eggs on the side. I did try them once with the beans I eat, but, while that was OK, the beans masked the taste of the pancakes – no point in that. These deserve to stand on their own – with sausage and eggs, the next day.

And now I’m going to go play with the reserved batter. I’m thinking this is something I can just keep in a covered bowl, and mix up the batter at night, and use half in the morning, and… keep going…. I’ll let you know.

I’ll also do this properly, one of these days, and give you a real recipe with real measurements and all, and when I do that I’ll add a note here, so you know it. But I thought I’d give you a glance behind the scenes, as it were – sometimes it doesn’t all go the way you expected (which is sometimes your own silly fault – it mostly was, here.)

But sometimes – you can still have good pancakes.

Buckwheat pancakes with butter - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Gluten Free & DIY Tuesday

WIAW 37

Vegetables!Vegetables! www.inhabitedkitchen.com

We have vegetables… and I’ve been running… well, cooking.

I have chopped. I have sauteed. I have bagged and frozen. I have pickled and fermented (maybe next year, I’ll write about that… This year, with everything else going on, I didn’t have the energy to write as well as do it…) We have, to use in the colder weather, mirepoix, and sofrito, and individually sauteed hot peppers, bell peppers, onion and celery, and roasted eggplant, and herb cubes, and garlic chili sauce, and refrigerator pickled jalapenos, and cucumbers, and… All of these things will add a lot of life to our meals all winter – a kick of flavor.Preserving the Harvest - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

And the weather is nuts. Since we got some nice October weather last August, now in October we’re getting beautiful early September weather. I wore a light jacket a month ago, not this week. But since that’s the reason we’re still getting corn and tomatoes, I’m not complaining. (Well, and – it’s really beautiful. Clear and bright and sunny!)

Food, I’m supposed to be writing about what we ate yesterday…

Breakfast - www.inhabitedkitchen.comBreakfast. I’m back on my corn muffin kick… How can you go wrong with corn muffins? And, though I no longer have protein shakes regularly, I still do sometimes. I was remembering making a pumpkin shake the last few years – and decided to go with it. I usually used soymilk or regular milk, but I have buttermilk, which was even better, because it’s tangy. Mixed that with canned pumpkin (I also use cooked winter squash of any kind – all good – though it is convenient that the canned pumpkin is pureed. I can use a manual shake container, it doesn’t need a blender.) I also added a pumpkin pie spice mix. If you don’t have that handy, cinnamon and nutmeg give the right idea, though the blend is more complex (and one of the handful of spice mixes I buy.)

Lunch - www.inhabitedkitchenLunch was soup and salad – but I didn’t get a picture of the salad… or the muffins I ate with that, too. Here’s lentil soup, though. You’re going to see a lot of lentil soup – it’s a basic, in this house. I crumbled in a little sage breakfast sausage, this time, for a change.

Dinner – we had just picked up the new CSA (the picture above is last week’s.)  I have more cute baby eggplants – this seems to have been a very good year for eggplant. Dinner - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI had earlier been chopping and sauteing other vegetables, so I had celery, onion, and garlic in a pan, then browned the eggplant lightly, added chicken broth, and simmered it until the eggplant was meltingly soft. I’d roasted a chicken the other day, so stripped the carcase (which is in the slow cooker now, of course) and added chicken to the vegetable mixture. Then, at almost the last minute, corn and tomato. (Which at least weren’t beige, unlike everything else in the pot by that time… )

Linking as always to Peas and Crayons

wiaw-fall-into-good-habits-button

Double Corn Fritters

Double Corn Fritters - www.inhabitedkitchen.comAre you frittering away your corn? You should be!

I mean… I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it…

I realized the other day that I’d gotten three ears of corn last week, not two, but we’d only eaten two… so what did I want to do with some corn that was just a little past its prime? Well – I’ve been researching pancakes,  dumplings, muffins, and other things made with a savory batter (you’ll start seeing some of the results soon) so fritters were on my mind. I’ve also been looking at traditional uses of a variety of grains and flours – buckwheat pancakes, corn dumplings, oatcakes – so it felt obvious that I should make these with cornmeal, since, well – corn.

Technically a fritter is deep fried, but for some reason corn fritters are generally pan fried. They’re really almost more like pancakes, or griddle cakes, with corn in them, while other fritters are closer to a doughnut. I’d certainly rather pan fry them – so much easier…

Ear of corn, trimmed to microwave - www.inhabitedkitchen.comFirst, I microwaved the corn. I’ve taken to doing this routinely even when I’m going to cut the corn off the cob, but I only heat the corn for two minutes, not the five minutes I use for corn on the cob. This is just enough to create enough steam to soften the husk and the silk, making both much easier to remove. It also just begins to soften the kernels – they are still crisp, but they don’t fly all over the place when I cut them off the cob.

Shucking microwave steamed corn - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI trimmed the ends, leaving it just closed, and removed the first few dry layers of husk, then microwaved it for 2 minutes. I let it sit in the oven a couple of minutes, then removed it to start cooling enough to handle. (Since I’m going to continue cooking it, there is no reason for me to deal with shucking steaming corn… I let it cool, and even pull it open a little to let steam escape.) When it cooled enough, I cut the kernels off the cob, and got a scant cup. (A full cup would work fine, if that’s what you have, or if you want to use frozen or canned corn out of season. Thaw frozen corn before putting it in the batter.) I reserved the cob, to scrape later.

Sauteing onion and jalapeno - www.inhabitedkitchen.comWhile the corn was cooling, I chopped a small onion and seeded and chopped a jalapeno pepper, and sauteed them lightly. I then let them cool, as I did not want to put anything hot in the batter. (Another time I might use already sauteed onion and pepper from the freezer – it would certainly be faster and easier. Again, I would thaw it before adding it to the batter.)

Once I had everything ready to go into the batter, I made the batter itself. I beat an egg, and added half a cup of milk and a pinch of salt. Then I added a cup of cornmeal, mixed with a teaspoon of baking powder. Now, the cornmeal I use is stone ground – it’s a whole grain, including both germ and bran, and it is a much finer grind than many brands of commercial cornmeal – pretty much the same texture as flour. I’ve used it for years because it is whole grain… but the texture also makes it easy to use in baked goods. Batter for corn fritters - www.inhabitedkitchen.comSometimes I use yellow, sometimes white (which this happens to be,) without any real reason either way – whichever is less expensive, or the first I happen to pick up – though I know many people do have a firm preference. I have used it in recipes interchangeably with coarser meals for years, so this should work with whatever you have – but I want you to know what you are looking at in the pictures.

Anyhow, I mixed the batter, and then scraped in everything left in the cob and stirred that in.  Then I mixed in the onion and jalapeno, and the cut corn.

Fritter batter dropped in pan - www.inhabitedkitchen.comI heated the frying pan, and added some oil – a little more than I would for pancakes, as I do want the oil to crisp the edges a bit. I then used the classic way to know a pan is hot enough for pancakes – a drop of water danced a moment before evaporating – and scooped up spoonfuls of batter. I wanted small flattish cakes, so the middle would cook through. I did not think to time it – like so many things, the timing here will vary – but I flipped them when the batter started looking a little dry, rather than moist and shiny, which is a sign that it is cooking through, and will hold together well enough to turn. I cooked it about five more minutes on the second side.

Corn fritters in cast iron pan - www.inhabitedkitchen.comInterestingly, though I used a cast iron pan precisely because of the even heat, these browned unevenly – browning more in the center, where the pan is slightly raised and the oil had drained away, rather than at the edges, where there was more oil. So, when I made the second batch, I did not add any more oil… just swished around what was left, to be sure there was a light coating all over the pan.

For scheduling reasons, I made these in time for my own lunch, though Rich was out that day. So I had some (and good they were, too) and then reheated the rest in the toaster oven for dinner. I would not microwave them – they’d be soggy… and the recipe doesn’t really divide, and… it serves four, sort of, three generously. So it is good to know they will reheat, if you’re cooking for just one. (Proof of concept! Yeah, that’s the reason I gave you reheated leftovers, dear!) They reheated very nicely in 10 minutes at 400°.

We ate them with a chicken vegetable saute, but I think they’d also be a lovely side dish with baked beans, or a grilled pork chop.

Double Corn Fritter with Jalapeno - www.inhabitedkitchen.com

Link up your recipe of the week

 

Double Corn Fritters

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 10-12 fritters

Double Corn Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 ear of corn in the husk (approximately 1 cup corn kernels)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • oil for pan
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c cornmeal
  • pinch salt
  • 1 t baking powder.

Instructions

  1. Trim the corn, and microwave for 2 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Saute chopped onion and chopped jalapeno until soft, let cool.
  3. Shuck corn, cut off kernels, reserve cob.
  4. Beat egg. Mix in milk, salt, and any scrapings from the corn cob.
  5. Mix cornmeal and baking powder. Add to milk egg mixture, mix lightly. Stir in corn and onion/jalapeno mix until all vegetables are lightly coated.
  6. Heat pan, add oil. Drop batter into pan by the spoonful. Flatten slightly if needed. Cook until batter starts to dry and cook through (5-10 minutes) then turn over. Cook until second side is brown, and middle is cooked through.
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