Several weeks ago my in-laws were coming to visit so I made a big pot of chili to feed them. I used a new recipe (because I have never managed the "perfect" pot of home made chili and am still searching) that I found here. Knowing my MIL can't tolerate spicy, I cut the pepper and chili powder in half, but otherwise I mostly followed along and cooked it most of the afternoon in the crock pot. It was still too spicy for me, which meant my MIL wouldn't be able to walk past it in the kitchen. I decided to start over and made a quick, new, very mild pot of cheater-chili on the stove. It was tasty and we all enjoyed it. But I had this crock pot full of too-spicy chili waiting on my kitchen cabinet. What was I going to do with that???
I'd read a brilliant idea on Pinterest a week or two before regarding freezing soup in small portions using a muffin tin. I knew that a regular sized muffin tin would freeze about 1/4 cup of liquid in each muffin cup (that's how I freeze chicken stock/broth) so I decided to use the too-spicy chili to make chili starter for the winter! I let it cool then scooped it out into lightly oiled muffin tins, covered in plastic wrap then aluminum foil, and popped them in the chest freezer over night. The next day I popped them out, put them in a couple of freezer bags and threw them back in the freezer.
Today I really wanted a bowl of chili for lunch. It's cold and wet and nasty outside and I know we're having Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, so chili was a no-brainer. But I also had to fix something quick for my toddler to eat and then get her down for a nap and my nap time to-do list is overflowing, so I was in a hurry. I grabbed one round of chili started, a couple of small cans of tomato sauce, half a pound of ground beef (already cooked and frozen in my freezer, I used half a one pound serving) and a small can of red beans. I threw all of that in a saucepan with a dash of beef bouillon and let it go while I fixed Kaycie's lunch, got her to eating, grated some cheese to go on top, and took care of a couple of kitchen cleaning items that needed to be done. After about 20 minutes of simmering I fixed myself a bowl and left the rest to keep simmering away to tasty goodness. Perfect.
I was concerned that one round of starter wouldn't be enough seasoning, but it was pretty spot on. If it hadn't been, I could have easily thrown another one in the pot to defrost or added a dash or two of whatever I felt was lacking. And if I was making more than a medium saucepan full, I'd definitely start with two or three. But since I'm the only one eating it, I figure it's just enough. I've already scarfed two bowls and there's enough for maybe half a bowl left.
So, for the extra effort of opening three cans instead of one, I had a tasty home made chili instead of a tolerable bowl of canned chili that I probably wouldn't have eaten half of. Now, what else can I freeze in a muffin tin...