Here’s the thing about winter: it’s really two different seasons.
You’ve got December, when people everywhere are excitedly staring out the window as it snows and decking the halls and wearing all of their favorite winter hats again.
And then there’s January. February. And in Minnesota, most of March and April. People grow tired of winter. They are weary of pulling on heavy boots. So, so sick of scraping off their cars. And by people, I mean me.
I was born in late January. And to be honest, I’ve kind of always hated having my birthday during the bleakest part of winter – save for one year when my mom had all the girls from my class over for a sledding party, which I still remember as one of my happiest birthdays.
I’ve threatened Eric in the past - “This year…I’m doing a half birthday party. That’s right. July 26. We’ll go to the beach and grill out and throw frisbees – you know, like normal people do at a party.“ I never follow through. Mostly because January is freezing, and I’m happy for the diversion that a nice dinner out affords as a birthday celebration.
Despite all of this, I brought this baby girl into the world in this…the second part of winter. And I wonder if she too will resent that her birthday is always so. freaking. cold. I have goals, of course…goals to get her excited about winter and make ultra-cool mom suggestions like, “Why don’t we have a snowman building contest for your birthday?”
(I can already see her eye rolls).
Really, all of this moaning and groaning is to tell you about this chili. Because isn’t that one of the most redeeming aspects of these dragging months of cold? Soup. Stews. Chili.
For our second installment of our Make-Ahead, Freezer-Friendly Meals series, I’m happy to bring you this delicious red chicken chili. This recipe comes from the fabulous Heather at Heather’s Dish. I have been loving on this blog the past year; this girl is deep and makes great food. She has an adorable little guy that’s about the same age as Owen. And she says y’all a lot, which still sounds exotic and adorable to my Midwestern ears.
When I emailed Heather to ask her what her favorite make-ahead freezer meal was, she came back to me with this chili, and y’all, it is a winner! Tender chicken nestled in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy chili – with black beans, corn, celery, carrots. This is super easy to put together (especially if you have a food processor)…it just takes a solid afternoon to simmer away into chili-goodness.
When I tried this, I made a double portion, so there is a flat-frozen bag of this chili just waiting for me in my freezer…easy as
(recipe from Heather's Dish )
(yields 8 servings)
This red chicken chili recipe is easy but takes some time to simmer into the rich flavor it boasts. Give yourself a cold afternoon to make this!
3 chicken breasts
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 small carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. tomato paste
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (less if you like it less spicy)
4 c. chicken stock
2 c. water
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. corn kernels (frozen is fine)
salt and pepper to taste
(topping options: fresh cilantro, cheddar cheese, sour cream)
Bake the Chicken:
Baking the chicken (as opposed to boiling or frying) keeps it moist and gives you a nice non-stringy texture. Preheat the oven to 375*. Place the chicken breasts in a greased baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil on them, then bake for about 35 minutes until just done. Let them cool slightly then shred with a fork. Set aside.
Prepare & Cook Chili:
Put the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and jalapenos in a food processor and process until they form a kind of paste. (No food processor? Get your knife on and mince those veggies as small as you can).
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot (the more shallow the better!) over medium heat. Once hot, Add the puréed vegetables to the oil and season with salt. Cook, stirring very frequently, until they reach a deep golden brown. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the entire mixture reaches a deep red-brown color. This takes some patience but is going to give your chili some great flavor. Once the deep brown has been reached, stir in the chili powder, paprika and cayenne. Slowly add the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pot to release all of the brown bits. Let the mixture simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by half, then add about 2 cups of water. Stir to combine, check for seasonings and adjust as desired, and then step away from the pot. Let this simmer, stirring occasionally, until about 2/3 of the water evaporates. The chili should be thick and rich now. Add the shredded chicken, beans, and corn and let them all heat through with the chili. Once everything is hot, remove from the heat and serve with desired toppings.
Place in freezer-safe containers or bags. If using bags, I recommend freezing them flat to save space. Be sure to label so you know what's in there!