Everyone Needs a Little Easy Goodness Sometimes

Black Bean Chicken Chili

Last night I was running late. Really late. It’s never a good thing to be leaving the grocery store fifteen minutes before your dinner guest is expected. Even if that guest is one of your best friends and the gathering is only a casual catch-up-drop-by-this-is-really-not- a-dinner-party-spontaneous sort of a thing.

As I was driving home from the grocery store, with no plan about what to make and the knowledge that I would have ten minutes to put it together, I was feeling a little panicky.

Bristling with impatience as I sat at a red light, I came up with and rapidly discarded several menu options.  Everything, even my quickest of quick meal classics took at least fifteen minutes of preparation time.  Then, with a sigh of relief, I remembered the easiest recipe ever.  It also happens to be the first recipe I ever created from scratch by myself. Not that I am really proud of it or anything…

This recipe was born my junior year of college at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. I was an unusual undergraduate; the only dorm resident that owned not only a full set of pots and pans, but also a dinner table that sat six that would fold up into an small console table. And yes, I had dinner parties in my dorm room.

Cooking in college was a necessity for me because I could not stomach dorm food day in and day out. Cooking in college was a challenge because I did not have a car, and so groceries could only be procured by a shuttle that ran on Saturdays or by taking a two-mile walk through bone-chilling cold. Adding to this difficulty was the limitation that all food had to be stored in a small dorm fridge or in my closet. Because of the limited shopping and limited storage options, I developed a solid ability to devise dishes almost entirely from pantry items.

It was on one chilly winter day that this chili came about as a use for some leftover boneless chicken breasts.

Black Bean Chicken Chili

serves 4, can be made in 10 minutes of active time with 10 minutes of simmering

1 to 2 boneless chicken breasts

1 medium onion

2 medium garlic cloves

1 14 oz can no-salt added diced tomatoes

1 14 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 small can of chopped green chilies

1 heaping tsp of cumin

1 tsp of mexican oregano (mediterranean oregano is fine)

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbs olive oil

Start pre-heating a medium saucepan over medium- medium-high heat with 1 tbs of olive oil. Chop onion and add to pan. While onion begins softening, finely chop the garlic cloves. Add to pan. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to pan with garlic and onions. While chicken begins to cook through add the cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Allow the spices to toast. When chicken is almost cooked through (about 5 minutes) add the beans, tomatoes, and green chilies. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes until flavors combine.

Serve with warm tortillas or rice and garnish with any combination of: avocado, sour cream, chopped cilantro, grated cheddar cheese, chopped green onion tops.

Last night I served it with quesadillas made with corn tortillas and cojita cheese and garnished with avocado tossed with lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper.

5 Comments

Filed under cooking and food, Food, photography, Recipes, Stories, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Everyone Needs a Little Easy Goodness Sometimes

  1. Yum! I know that feeling of anxiety. My solution is usually to set out cheese, crackers, and olives, put on some good music, crack a bottle of wine, and start a sparkling conversation with my guests. I’m very lucky because my kitchen is right out in the open, so people can hang in the living and dining rooms and still have access to their hostess fussing around with meal prep.

    Do you take your own pictures for your blog, or is your partner a professional photog? I can’t even seem to load my digital camera’s photos on my blog. Your photos make my mouth water.

  2. Your cheese and cracker solution is usually a favorite of mine too. After saying, “oh it’s no trouble for you to stop by, we’ll be eating then anyway,” I felt like we actually had to be eating then.

    You are my new best friend for complementing my pictures. I take all of my own photos on a really old canon powershot. When I started the blog I did some reading on food photography, and I feel like it’s getting better all the time. I used to use blogspot, so I will send you an email about getting photos up there.

    My husband is a graduate student in political science. He’s currently writing his dissertation on civil war and ethnic conflict.

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