Monday, August 24, 2015

Very Veggie Chili Spuds

There are a couple of theories about making quick dinners. One is to find things that can be cooked from start to finish very quickly. The other is prep and cook ahead as much as possible, so that dinner can be on the table quickly.

This is definitely the second version. The chili can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and reheated.

Or it can be tossed in the slow cooker earlier in the day and served straight from the slow cooker. This is particularly useful if people are on different schedules, since it can rest on the warm setting until everyone is done.

As far as the potatoes, they can be cooked ahead of time and reheated for dinner, or they can be cooked in the microwave right before dinner. A lot of microwaves these days have a "potato" button for cooking baked potatoes, so older kids can independently make dinner.

Very Veggie Chili Idaho® Potatoes
Makes 12 servings (1/2 potato plus 1 cup of chili per person)

For the chili:
1 pound ground beef*
2 medium bell peppers, cored and diced
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 small zucchini, cubed
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
2 15-ounce cans kidney, navy, pinto, garbanzo, or other beans, drained
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons salt-free chili powder
1/4 cup masa harina
1 tablespoon oregano (Mexican preferred)
1 tablespoon ground cumin

For the potatoes and toppings:
6 Idaho® potatoes (1/2 potato per person)
Shredded cheese, as desired (optional)
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, as desired (optional)

To make the chili:
This can be made in a slow cooker or in a heavy-bottomed pot on the stove. If you cook on the stovetop, you'll need to do some stirring to make sure it doesn't stick and burn.

If your slow cooker has a browning setting, you can make the chili entirely in the slow cooker. Otherwise, you'll need to brown the meat in a separate pan before adding to the slow cooker.

Brown the ground beef (you can add a splash of oil, if you think it's necessary), breaking it up as you cook it. Add the bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini and cook for another minute or two, until the vegetables begin to cook just a little.

If you've used a separate pan for the browning, transfer to the slow cooker.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you add them, or you can break them up in the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the corn kernels, beans, salt, chili powder, masa harina, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook, covered, for 4 hours, or up to 6 hours. While you could leave it a little longer if you need to, it's best to let it switch to warm after 6 hours or there's a chance the beans can begin to break down.

To cook the potatoes:
Scrub the potatoes, then stab the potatoes on all sides with a fork or paring knife and place them in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate. Use the "potato" setting on your microwave, or if your microwave doesn't have a potato setting cook on high. A single 7-8 ounce potato will be done in about 6-8 minutes; 2 potatoes will take about 10-12 minutes; four potatoes will take about 22-24 minutes, and six potatoes will take 28-30 minutes depending on your microwave.

It’s a good idea to turn the potatoes over halfway through the cooking time, and if you’re cooking a larger number of potatoes, you may need to rearrange them during cooking time so they cook evenly. Be careful, as they be quite hot. If the potatoes are not done in the time indicated, continue cooking as needed.

When the potatoes are done, carefully remove them from the microwave - they'll be very hot - and cut them in half lengthwise.

Place each half potato on a plate. Use a fork to fluff the meat of the potato, then top with chili and your other desired toppings. Serve hot.

You can cook the potatoes in advance, if desired, and refrigerate until needed. Just reheat to warm them enough for serving.

*You can use ground turkey if you like. To make it completely vegetarian, you can eliminate the meat, or substitute it with additional vegetables, beans, or your favorite meat substitute.

This post was sponsored by Idaho® Potatoes.

Potatoes stuffed with chili are an easy meal.