Health Guide February 03, 2011
Beef chili is the new comfort food. This simple and familiar meal gives many Americans a sense of well-being.
The combination of beef, beans, and spices is as American as apple pie and much healthier. Particularly out here in the West where I live, beef chili is as informal as the people, something that goes better with blue jeans than with a coat and tie or a string of pearls.
When I travel the small towns of the West, I can usually count on beef chili to be on the lunch or dinner menu. If I find it, you can count on me to order it.
I'll do that even though I know that the typical beef chili will be too high in carbs and salt. I also generally avoid beans now that I follow the paleo diet. But beef chili deserves to be the exception that makes eating a comfort.
Now even when we travel, we no longer need to settle for second-rate chili that is loaded with carbs that are sure to raise the blood glucose level of anyone who has diabetes. We can take first-rate chili with us.
David Kolar, the managing partner of Homestyle Fresh in Portland, Oregon, must have known how much I love beef chili. He sent me several packages of his company’s “Homestyles Beef Chili with Beans” that I dutifully heated and ate so that I could report to you on my findings.
Based on my experience I was hopeful but not enthusiastic. My closest comparison was Mary Jane's Farm Kettle Chili that I used to buy from REI for my backpacking trips. But each package of that stuff has 25 grams of effective carbs and doesn’t have any meat.
What David Kolar sent me on the other hand has only 4 grams of effective carbs. And it has lots of real beef.
A meal of Homestyles Beef Chili with Beans is therefore low carb in anyone’s diet. Of the 10 grams of total carbs that each package has, 6 grams are fiber. The secret seems to be that it used black soybeans, which are the only beans I have ever heard of that are mostly fiber.
But how does it taste? Anything that goes in our mouths better be both healthy and tasty.
Within a minimum of time and effort my verdict was in. Homestyles Beef Chili with Beans tastes wonderful!
The big problem with chili recipes is that we Americans seem to have almost an infinitely wide range of taste for the heat of hot peppers. Since I am a heavy heater, I knew that I would have to add a generous amount of hot sauce to Homestyles Beef Chili with Beans.
Once I smothered my meal with Tapatío Hot Sauce -- which I prefer because it doesn’t have any vinegar -- I knew that I had a winner. Following the directions, I heated some of the packages of the Homestyles Beef Chili with Beans in my microwave and some of them on the stove.
But something was wrong with the preparation instructions. They said to “heat on medium-high for ten minutes” on the stove. If I had following the directions, my meal would have been ruined, because four minutes was long enough.
When I wrote David Kolar, he replied that I was correct. “Our new packaging run will include a change to this direction.”
I also had a concern about heating the plastic dish and wrap in the microwave. So I wrote him about that issue too.
“There are no issues with heating of plastic packaging in microwaves,” he replied. “The tray itself is a multi-layer ‘barrier’ container that does not allow air to penetrate it at all. The lidstock is FDA-approved and food grade, and has unique barrier properties, too. The lidstock adheres to the tray by a unique heat process, without any adhesives. Most important, all of these materials are BPA-free, which makes them safer than many of the canned products out there that may contain trace amounts of this controversial material.”
My only other concern is that Homestyles Beef Chili with Beans has too much salt. A package -- one serving -- has 1160mg of sodium.
I don’t even have a salt shaker in my apartment and never add salt to my food whether I am eating at home or out at a restaurant. I prefer a salt substitute like “Mural of Flavor” from Penzeys Spices.
While this chili isn’t too salty for my taste buds, I hope that for our health David Kolar will cut back on the salt in future product runs. Since he can cut back on the heat, he can also cut back on the salt and let people add it at the table if they must.
The company’s website says, “We have created meals that are at once delicious, nutritious, and completely portable.” I agree. The complete ingredient list is tomato puree, beef, black soybeans, green pepper, textured vegetable protein, and spices.
Netrition.com offers each package for a reasonable $2.69. I just ordered 10 packages to eat at home and am even thinking of using Homestyles Beef Chili with Beans as backpacking and camping food. When I can camp out on the ground instead of on snow and ice.