Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slow Cooker Chili

This is a staple meal at our house - I make it at least once a month, and it's seldom that I don't have any stashed in the freezer. Since this is more of a technique than a precise recipe, there are few exact measurements, but I come up with about the same amount every time. My slow cooker holds (I believe) 7 quarts; you could easily halve everything for a smaller model. Because it takes a couple of days, it does require some advance planning.. but every time I make it, I feel like I've spent no effort on cooking a hearty dish that will feed us for several meals. It's also very easily adapted to specific dietary requirements: for example, it's entirely gluten free, and both vegan and fat-free until (unless) you put meat in.

48 hours before mealtime:

Soak two cups pinto beans in about 4 cups water with a tablespoon or so of baking soda. I like to do this part while making dinner, or just before bedtime.

24 hours in advance:

Drain the beans. Place them with 8c water in a large slow cooker on low. Add about a tablespoon each of chili powder and ground cumin. I also add one chipotle at this point; we're wimpy when it comes to heat.* Naturally, esteemed reader, you'll have different spice/flavor preferences. Also stir in one chopped large onion and a handful (6-8 cloves) of chopped garlic. Cover and go about your business. Again, I generally do this right before bedtime, with a plan of chili for dinner the next day.

Next morning:

Give the beans a stir. Add about a tablespoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Add crushed tomatoes: I get best results with about a quart (often a 29 ounce can), but have also used lesser amounts successfully. Obviously, more tomatoes means more added liquid; take that into account. I think I managed to burn (yes, in a crock pot!) my earliest attempt at this because of inadequate liquid. If I'm using it, I add a pound of browned meat at this point as well.** This timing assumes you're making this for dinner; it's around 12 hours after the beans are started.

A few hours before serving:

Crush and stir in a double handful of tortilla chips (I've used corn Chex in a pinch). If after a bit it's still more liquid than you prefer, add some more chips. Adjust your seasonings, and eat when you're ready!

We like to serve this with cheese and sour cream, and to eat it with chips or rice.

This is a very flexible recipe; many of the cooking times are much longer than they absolutely need to be, so you could do it in less time. This is how I've worked it into my routine, experiment and see how it works into yours!

Many thanks to my friend Helen who posted the version I adapted this from.

*When I open a can of chipotles, I freeze the lot individually in an ice cube tray, each with a little sauce. Very handy!

**We like stew beef the best, but I often use ground beef. I've also tried ground chicken. Ground turkey or pork would work as well. Or be a rebel and don't use any - it's just as good!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Saw that coming..

I'm glad I went into the whole flats challenge know I'd need an out, because I woke up this morning into what in retrospect seems to have been a huge anxiety attack. I was shaking, so touched-out I couldn't bear my own touch.. Bless my SIL Anna for coming and taking the Infanta off my hands for the afternoon. I was able to calm down, even nap for a couple of hours.. but no way was I going to be able to cloth diaper today.

Tomorrow's a fresh chance, right?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Knock Me Flat

I love using cloth diapers, but I lost my momentum with using them eighteen months ago; the Infanta has been primarily in disposable diapers since then. Elessar has also been in mostly 'sposies since she was born.. I make sporadic efforts to switch to cloth, but since it mostly ends up being an extra layer of stress that triggers my PPD*, I've been purposefully letting it go.

But I keep looking for inspiration to get back to my cloth. One of my Twitter mamas started talking a couple days ago about the Flats Challenge and it sounded interesting, so I checked it out and I'm in! Back when the Infanta was born we purchased a package of flats; they languished unused in a drawer until Elessar proved to be a spitty baby, and we needed burp cloths stat. I also have assorted receiving blankets that will work well, too.

Because of my PPD*, I'm going to modify my participation some (and therefore won't be linking myself to the challenge directly - they seem pretty all-or-nothing). 1) I'll be machine washing. 2) I will use 'sposies (or other diapers) as needed - at night, or if I just need to go for the "easy" route.

*I say "PPD" (post-partum depression), but I mean "PPMD" (post-partum mood disorder) because I have a lot of anxiety, too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Infant care

"I nursing!"

Inspired by the daily actions around her, the Infanta has been practicing her infant care skills. If she chooses to have children, she'll know how to take care of them!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Nature Walk!

The Infanta spent most of yesterday begging to go on a nature walk. She even buckled her kiddie leash on over her nightie and started trying to drag me out the door while I was still in my own jammies! We didn't get out the door yesterday (partly because it was distinctly damp out), but I was determined to go today. Fortunately, while overcast, it wasn't actually wet, and since we had a rough start to the morning I wanted to do something to get us all happier.

Enter the Salem Audubon Preserve. It's about half a mile away from us, just past our local park, and I've been meaning to visit it for, oh three years now.. and just got there today. It's gorgeous, and we'll be going back soon!

We stopped at the store after we left the preserve, and since we passed it on the way home, the park. Happily I managed to keep the Infanta to 5 trips down the slide, so we could get home and eat lunch.