I remember the day like it was yesterday ... I really didn't like beans. At all. Well, green beans were okay, but all those other beans; kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans, etc? I thought they were all quite disgusting. There was something about the texture ... yuck! I couldn't stand them.
But mom taught all six of us good manners, so, when I was invited to a friend's house and her mom served a BIG bowl of chili, loaded with BIG, dark red beans, I did what any respectable bean-hating person would do; I didn't say a thing. But I didn't eat the beans either. Since I was really hungry, I did eat the chili; and when I was all finished ..... there wasn't a bean left in the bowl!
Now, you might be thinking that I'm a magician, but it wasn't anything that spectacular or fun. Picture this; with each spoonful, I very carefully rolled the food around in my mouth, swallowed the good stuff with the nasty beans remaining isolated in my mouth. Then, while I had them quarantined, I would quite nonchalantly bring my napkin up to my mouth and silently eject the beans with no one the wiser. Brilliant, right?
Ah, maybe not ...
My friend's very kind and soft-spoken mom didn't say a word about the chili or my behavior during the meal. In fact, I thought for sure she was paying no attention to me. Was I ever mistaken. After everyone was finished eating (and I was trying to figure out how to deposit the beans into the trash, without being noticed), she looked directly at me and said ever so sweetly, "Chrissy, would you please bring your napkin up to the table"............. Busted!
I found out years later that she was doing everything she could to keep from laughing hysterically during the entire meal. I guess you might say, the moral of this story is; "Moms can read you like a book, so don't even think about trying to pull the wool over their eyes."
Funny thing, when I grew up, I learned to love beans, every kind of bean! I love making soups and chili's with lots of beans, since they're not only really yummy, but healthy and nutritious too. Beans are full of protein, complex carbs, fiber, B vitamins and potassium. They're a staple in many countries around the world, and studies have actually shown beans to be a dietary component affecting longevity.
These days, here at the Café, we make lots of different types of chili's; with beef roast, pork, and steak, Sometimes I add unconventional veggies. This time I had a beautiful rotisserie chicken and decided that a pot of White Bean Chicken Chili would be great for quick meals on the run and weekday lunches. I always love to add lots of healthy veggies to my soups and chili's. This one has onions, carrots, celery and yellow bell peppers. It also has a touch of smokiness, as the recipe starts out with sautéing two strips of chopped bacon. It's wonderful served with chips and garnished with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese or a scatter of finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves.
This chili would be a great dish to make ahead for the upcoming holidays, when you'll probably have extra mouths to feed and not a lot of time to cook. It keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge and freezes beautifully. Remove it from the freezer the night before and let it thaw overnight. My husband took some to work as a lunch treat for his co-workers this past week with a bag of tortilla chips. They loved it and I think you will too!
- 2 strips bacon sliced crosswise in ¼-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 medium onion cut in ¼-inch dice
- 2 stalks celery cut in ¼-inch dice
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper cut in ¼-inch dice
- 3 medium cloves garlic minced
- 1 small jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 3 medium carrots cut in ¼-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 4 19- ounce cans white beans*
- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast I use leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken
- ½ cup half and half
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Place bacon in a large dutch oven and cook over medium heat until golden and beginning to get crisp. Remove cooked bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels. Set aside.
Add olive oil to bacon fat in pan. When oil is hot, add onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeño to pan and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add flour, cumin, chili powder and oregano and cook 2 minutes, stirring continually.
Slowly add chicken broth, continuing to stir. Bring to a boil then add carrots and sea salt. Reduce to a steady simmer.
Rinse and drain beans. Mash 2 cups (approximately 2 cans) of the beans with a fork until fairly smooth. Add beans, mashed bean mixture, reserved bacon and chicken to simmering broth. Cook 15-20 minutes or until carrots are very tender.
Add half and half and cilantro and stir to combine. Serve hot with tortilla chips and garnish with extra cilantro and/or a handful of cheddar cheese. It's also great with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
* I like to use several different varieties of white beans in different sizes. This time, I used 2 cans of Cannellini beans and 2 cans of butter beans. Great Northern would also be fine.