Money is bound to be tight for families dealing with a health crisis or chronic illness. So once hospital visiting hours are over for the day or you're coming home from yet another treatment appointment, you're caught in a trap: too exhausted to cook but too broke to eat out yet again.
Whether you like to cook, or view it as a nothing but a necessary chore, now is not the time to skimp on meals. Sure, your stomach is too tied up in knots to enjoy a meal, but neglecting nutrition is one of the worst things you can do when your energy is already sapped by health worries.
I'm a fan of Rachael Ray (yeah, I know... you either love her or you hate her). But even if you're not, you can find many of her famous 30-minute meals for free online. I also like 30 Day Gourmet for meals that freeze well. If you have some downtime to browse, check out the American Dietetic Association page with tips on eating right affordably.
Meanwhile, try this recipe that's one of my favorites from a long-ago issue of Family Fun magazine. What's great about chili is you can leave out anything you don't like and add what you love. This is the quickest chili recipe I've ever seen - it says to simmer for up to two hours, but I've served it after only 20 minutes on the stove. It's great right out of the pot, even better left over, and freezes beautifully.
Chili (from Family Fun Magazine, circa 19??)
2 15-oz. cans kidney beans
1 medium green pepper
2 medium onions
2 or 3 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
1 ½ to 2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 ½ tsp. cumin
1 ½ Tbsp. Flour
3 cups chicken or beef broth
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. steak sauce
½ to 2 cups additional stock, tomato juice or water, if needed.
1.) Brown ground beef. Remove from pan.
2.) Pour 3 Tbsp. olive oil into skillet and add diced peppers and onions. Saute on medium heat for six minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
3.) Sprinkle chili powder, cumin and flour over the vegetables and sauté for one minute more, stirring nonstop. Stir in 1 cup broth and cook for one minute.
4.) Put browned meat in stock pot and add contents of skillet, along with crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire and steak sauce. Stir in remaining 2 cups of broth and beans.
5.) Gradually bring chili to low boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat slightly and cook chili, covered, at gentle simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. When done, the chili should be thick, but still somewhat soupy. If it starts to get too thick, add some extra stock, tomato juice or water.
6.) Serve chili in soup bowls, garnished with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of cheese and jalapeno pepper, if desired. Makes 8 or more servings.