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Quick and Cheap Dinner: Quick Chili

Posted Feb 10 2010 5:57pm

The first five weeks I’ve called Chicago home, I have only seen a light dusting of snow accumulate. The temperatures here have been “mild” according to the locals, mostly in the high 20s and low 30s. My “big coat”, the one that makes me look like the Michelin Man wrapped in a black Hefty bag, has only been necessary a handful of evenings.

And some how, this disappoints me.

Where is all the damn snow?!? My imagination promised me heaps of pristine fluffy flakes begging to be stomped on, scooped up and rolled around in. I have a RomCom playing in my head where my boyfriend and I, scarved and earmuffed, frolic and romp through the snow while bouncy pop music chirps about the glory of love. Has it happened IRL? Nooooooo! And I was seriously beginning to pout until yesterday, when we got over 6 inches of snow. This Pee Wee Herman video pretty much sums up my reaction:

I’ve only gotten a little bit of frolicking in, but I have to say that I find myself grinning and even giggling when I walk down the street. I stomp into the snow banks, and I don’t care that my boots get all messy. Snow is new to me and I pretty much love everything about it.

And all of this was to set up my new favorite winter dish, this super quick chili recipe I tweaked from Real Simple . I added some ground meat to it, but you could just omit that part if you want to keep it vegetarian. I love the addition of bulgur because it adds a little more heft to the dish. It sticks nicely to the ribs. In the photo you can see a big hunk of my favorite cornbread , made with blue cornmeal for fun. I’ll post that recipe after this one. It’s some good stuff.

Adapted from Real Simple
Serves 4
Total Time: 30 minutes
Cost per serving: ~$4

1/2 cup bulgur wheat
juice of half a lemon
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 pound ground meat (optional. Use beef or pork, whatever you have)
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (I like the ones with mexican spices or adobo seasoning)
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed

Prep work: Juice the lemon, slice the green onion, seed and chop the jalapeño, chop the onion, bell pepper and garlic

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add the bulgur and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep the bulgur covered for 10 minutes. The water should soak into the grains. Stir in the lemon juice, jalapeño, a nice glug of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. While the bulgur is cooking, brown the meat in a large pan or a pot over medium-high heat. If you are not using the meat then just heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and skip to the next step.
  3. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to tast. Stir everything to combine and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and their liquid and 1½ cups water to the pan and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed beans and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Divide the chili into bowls and top with the bulgur mixture.

The nutrion info assumes a total of 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 95% lean ground beef was used.

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