Sprouted Bean & Beef Chili
Health food stores don't talk about beef! Did she say beef? Beef has been given a bad rap. Yes, cows are large animals that leave a bigger ecological footprint than their smaller animal counterparts. Yes, we eat far too much beef (and animal protein in general) in North America. Yes, there are problems with cattle farms. Yes, r-e-d-u-c-i-n-g the amount of beef (and all animal products for that matter) contributes to a more sustainable eating and growing food system. But the keyword is reducing. If you choose to bypass all or certain animal products for whatever reason, cheers - this is not meant to be a political post. However, if you choose to make a reduction in animal products, not only should you not feel guilty for still consuming them, you can find a sustainable way to incorporate them into your life and still be a good, healthy citizen.
Let's have a look at the 3 R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Okay, where are we going here?
You can reduce the amount of beef/animal protein that you consume in a number of ways. Common themes may be to go meatless a few days a week, reduce your portion sizes and to choose proteins from farms that are truly making sustainable agriculture choices. All super. You can also reduce by cooking only a small amount of animal protein in a dish that has lots of other fillings to offer. Example: A family of four could consume 4-6 chicken breasts if they are having chicken breasts as the main dish. Or a family of 4 could share 1-2 chicken breasts if they are eating tacos with lots of vegetable fillings and a black bean salsa or making a veggie filled soup with a few precious bites of the poultry. Get where this is going?
This could go the obvious route and speak of left overs. Yes, great stuff. You can get creative with left overs and make something new out of them instead of just reheating what was served last night. Actually planning to have left overs is another time saver. Another way to go would be thinking of the parts that can be saved to use again. Think bones or shells from seafood to make stock or learning how to use those innards that come in your Thanksgiving turkey every year.
Green composting bins are coming to our city. It is a slow process, but they are coming. Imagine the impact that could be made if most of us used these bins for not just our produce scraps, but our animal protein trimmings, bones and spoilage as well? Right now there are composting programs available to commercial businesses including your favourite restaurant. Ask to see if their kitchen has compost pick up. This includes not only the obvious, but these compost pick up services will also take all of the scrapings from the plates - any wasted cooked food - including animal proteins, bones and trimmings. That could be a huge waste savings that gets turned into quality soil. Sweet.
Ultimately, you will choose what makes sense for you. Meat, less meat or no meat. All up to you.
We are using Sunworks organic ground beef for this chili. Sunworks is a family farm just outside of Armena, Alberta. All of their beef is Certified Organic, Certified Humane by the BC SPCA and grass fed right from birth. Their herds are Galloway Cross cattle which are a smaller animal well suited to grazing. They do not have horns and have a double hair coat which helps them to be more comfortable in our Alberta winters. The cattle are fed only Certified Organic feed (grass, hay and alfalfa) and are not given any antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by-products. They are raised using time controlled grazing methods which supports their diet of fresh grass, protects top soils and returns valuable nutrients to the soil through the composting of waste. Fresh water is pumped in for drinking both for animal health and to preserve valuable wet lands. The cattle also enjoy kelp and mineralized rock salt, both Certified Organic. Processing of the cattle happens at a small, family run, government inspected facility only a half hour from the farm.
Cattle raised on grass may experience better health, have higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in their meat and have a smaller ecological footprint as less energy goes into growing grass than grains. Organic grass fed beef is also less inflammatory than its conventional counterpart and contains great amounts of niacin, B12, B6, phosphorus, iron, zinc and selenium. Of course the soil quality where the grass grows is paramount as to what kinds of nutrients the meat ends up containing.
You can take almost any favourite recipe and give it a makeover to match the choices that you are trying to make (who says burgers and pizza have to be unhealthy?). This chili recipe starts with kicking out the canned beans (no offence - there are great canned beans out there!) and using sprouted beans and lentils instead. Why sprout? Well, sprouting increases the digestibility of the beans. You know if your body finds beans hard to digest. Trust us, you know. Sprouting also changes the bean or lentil from a seed to a plant. The dried bean/lentil is all locked up like a treasure chest. When you soak it, you open up the chest, beginning the germination process. This unlocks the digestibility of things like calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc as well as increasing the amount of protein available to you. For this chili, you don't want to actually have the beans/lentils start growing anything green from them, you are just soaking them to begin the process and release the phytic acid that is holding everything all locked up.
Other advantages to the dried bean over the canned one, are cost, taste and texture. Dried beans and lentils are super affordable, leaving you a few dollars to buy better beef. The taste is fresher (and soaking them enhances flavour even more) and the texture is al dente instead of mushy. Win-win-win.
If you know you are going to make chili on the weekend, about Wednesday or Thursday you throw your dried beans and lentils in a bowl (about half full) and fill it with water. Every morning, just drain your bowl into a sieve, rinse your beans well and then fill it back up with fresh water. You can do this for 1-3 days.
We also take our advice on the 'reducing' and we add lots of tasty things. You can make 2 pounds of ground beef feed 10 people easily. Serve a side salad (think coleslaw makeover?!) or some corn bread and a raw veggie plate and you are up to at least 12! Some things you will add to your chili right in the cooking process and others will be a buffet of toppings that go on top right in your bowl. Think yin-yang as we mix cooked and fresh together to bring the chili into spring and freshen it up. This makes an easy make ahead that is filling, has great left overs, freezes well and gives a great protein and veggie boost to fuel all of our outdoor pursuits.
Sprouted Bean & Beef Chili
1 1/2 cups mixed beans & lentils sprouted 1-3 days (see above) (we used black and adzuki beans and puy lentils, but you can try anything you like)
2 pounds Sunworks organics ground beef, or your favourite (you can also use chicken, turkey, bison or of course, just veggies!)
2-3 medium onions, diced
2 bell peppers, or a selection of mini peppers, maybe even a hot pepper or ancho chili if you'd like, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder (try a nice deep red variety or make your own to your liking using paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic, cayenne and onion powder)
pinch salt, pepper
2-3 cups of mixed diced vegetables - choose from things like: celery, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, etc
2 cans or jars of pureed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes whizzed in the blender)
optional cooked additions toward the end of cooking: 1 cup fresh or frozen corn, 1 tbsp cocoa powder
optional fresh toppings to add to the bowl: cilantro, parsley, avocado, plain yogurt (cow or goat)/natural sour cream/creme fraiche, fresh tomatoes, grated cheese, scallions, etc.
sides: organic corn chips for scooping, homemade cornbread, raw veggies, salads (maybe a revamped coleslaw?)
Sprout your beans and lentils for 1-3 days as mentioned above. Once you have soaked them for their time, you do need to cook them a bit. Rinse them off and place them in a pot with about double the amount of fresh water and a quality sea salt or piece of kombu (kombu is a seaweed full of minerals and helps decrease cooking times and increases the digestibility even further). Bring to a boil and then turn down and let simmer for 20 minutes (25 without the kombu). Drain. They can be kept in the fridge until you make the chili. They also freeze well so you can make extra for an even quicker chili next time.
In a large pot, cook your beef. The ground we are using is very lean so there is no need to drain off any of the fat. When it is about 1/2 cooked, add your onions, peppers, garlic, spices, salt & pepper and variety of mixed vegetables. Continue to stir often until the vegetables begin to soften. Add your tomatoes, combine well and simmer for at least 1 hour (without a lid) or up to 3 hours if you have the time. The large amount of vegetables in this chili adds water to the mix so you want to cook off that water so that your chili is thick and rich (that is why you don't want a lid). In the last 15 minutes of cooking you could add some fresh or frozen organic corn or a tbsp of cocoa powder if that interests you (rich & creamy!). Make sure to taste it before serving and add additional cumin, chili powder, salt or pepper if needed. The chili improves with time and can be made the day ahead and then stored in the fridge where the flavours will continue to mix. While the flavours like time to mix, you also don't want to cook it forever. Leftovers freeze well.
When ready to serve, have everyone add their favourite fresh toppings and serve with sides that inspire you and feed your crowd!
Sunworks organic farms also raises pork, bison, lamb and chicken as well as Certified Organic, Gluten Free, Filler Free, Preservative Free Sausages and Deli Meats. All available fresh and frozen at our Arbour Lake and 4th Street markets along with a variety of other great options from farms doing great things.
Recipe and post by Amy Buckman, Community Ambassador, Amaranth Stores.