Chilli! Chili? Chilli?! Chilli con carne, or just “chilli” is one of my favourite meals to eat, and to make! Why? Because not only is it so simple to make, but there is no correct way to do it. I think I was trying to make bolognese once and ended up making chilli #unidays. Chilli is also great because you can make a huge batch of it and eat it throughout the week or freeze it and defrost it when you want it. This is going to be a long post because I’m going to try and explain my method in relation to the zone, as best as I can!
I was asking one of my trainers about the Zone Diet, and explained how I can get a bit confused with the maths, particularly how do I separate large batches of things out – is it based on grams/ounces or cups or what? Because my animal (meat) protein is usually done in oz/g, but by carbs are usually done in cups… and I’m just clueless….
So, he referred me to a cool article on the CrossFit Journal, and the associated youtube videos starring Matt and Cherie Chan (super famous crossfitters) where they do meal prep day and make a chilli. Based on Cherie’s instructions, I adjusted the chilli to my own preferences! I’ve already made two zone chillis in the last week – one for my boyfriend at his place and one for me at my place – similar ingredients based on what I had around me. I’m going to focus on the most recent one I made, and offer substitutions too!
Quickly, just on the topic of prep day – I would love to have an entire day where I can prep all my food for the week, but because I try and eat paleo-ish, most of my groceries are perishable i.e. fresh and therefore will die. So I prefer to buy enough meat/fruit/veg so that it will last for maybe 2 or 3 meals for 2 or 3 days. Just through trial and error, I have found out that I am quite feeling-motivated when it comes to food. I hate eating things just because I have them in my fridge. I always want to eat based on how I feel “I feel like a curry tonight” “I feel like something really simple” “I want a burger”. So my view on prep day is to have my staples/favourites – garlic, onions, sweet potato, eggs, bacon, avocado. Then, in the morning or whenever I have a chance, I’ll buy veg and meat for the day. I am lucky because I live in the city centre and live next to two supermarkets, a green grocer, butcher and fish monger. Other people aren’t so lucky, maybe a bit more prep is needed for you. I am all for buying local and supporting the local shops. I also find that the butcher tends to be a bit more worth my money – 500g of lean mince is usually about the same price and nicer than the stuff I buy in the supermarket. Just saying.
RIGHT! ZONE CHILLI. I tend to do the maths as I go along. I am going to try and explain this as best as I can. The zone, as I’ve explained before, is where your day is split into blocks, and each meal is then split into equal blocks of PROTEIN (1 block = 7g), CARBS (1 block = 9g), FATS (1.5g). The prescribed ratio of these foods per meal is 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat. DON’T WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS.
I am currently on 10 blocks per day, and the recommended meals are:
Breakfast – 2 blocks
Snack – 2 blocks
Lunch – 2 blocks
Snack – 2 blocks
Dinner – 2 blocks
Total: 10 blocks
However – 2 blocks suck. They leave me feeling unfulfilled, and because I don’t tend to snack, I find it annoying that my snacks and my main meals are the same size! So, to work it out for myself I have tweaked it so I am getting two 3-block and one 4-block meals. It just makes things easier for me! For example:
Breakfast – 3 blocks
Lunch – 3 blocks
Dinner – 4 blocks
Total: 10 blocks
I’m still not sure if my maths is 100% correct on this, and it probably isn’t, but I’m trying not to be too hard on myself until I get the hang of things!
I started off with my PROTEIN. I got 300g of lean mince from the butchers, which is about 10z (ounces are American, and foreign to me, but they make the zone so much easier, so I will use both). Which, in my mind is 10 blocks, but I was wrong, and forgot when mince is cooked its 1.5oz for a block. Let’s overlook that and say that its 10 blocks.
So, now what I’m going to do is try to get 10 blocks of carbs and 10 blocks of fats. In fact, what I really want to do (for me personally) is have about 8 or 9 blocks of carbs/fats, so that I can add carbs in when I serve. For example, I could add a block of sweet potato or rice with my chilli as my carbs, or a few blocks of avocado or have some almonds on the side. This may make a bit more sense later on.
My method is I write out how many blocks I have as I go along, as I finish chopping veg. So my raw measurements for my CARBS looked something like this:
– 2 peppers (1 block)
– 1 cup chopped onion (1 block)
– 1 large courgette/zucchini (1 block) [~2 and a bit cups raw]
– 5 large diced tomatoes (5 blocks) [you can substitute for tinned tomatoes (1 can =1 block) or salsa (1/2 cup = 1 block)]
– tomato puree/tomato paste ~100g or 1/2 cup (1 block)
TOTAL: 9 blocks
I do this as I go along, seeing where I can be more generous with ingredients. I knew I would be able to get a whole block out of tomato paste because I used so many tomatoes, and when they cook out a bit, they release a lot of water, so I know that I’ll need to thicken my chilli up. I also know how much 1 block tomato paste is because (a) you can google that, duh, and (b) the organic tomato paste I bought had the amount of carbs per100g of serving on the back down as 10g, which is about 1 block of carbs! (Apologies if I’m confusing you!)
Carb substitutes or options – kidney beans! The classic kidney beans, which I just didn’t have, so didn’t add in this time, but they are a solid block. I also think any veg can be added in – mushrooms, carrots, peas, whatever you want! But, I think peppers and onions are really the staples and are really good, solid blocks.
Finally – my fats – I love fats, but they can be difficult to incorporate nicely into a meal. They are usually my “add-on” at the end. I knew that I would need to have some fat blocks solely for cooking my goodies in – so at least 3 blocks of olive oil (1/3 tsp = 1 block). A clever idea from the Chan’s chilli is adding in olives to the chilli – something I have never done before, but so simple! I think it can be difficult to incorporate fats well, they’re usually an add on, like “and here is 6 almonds to go with that!”. Having said that, some people don’t like olives, so my suggestion would be to have fat as an add on. So my fats looked something like this:
– 15 olives (3 blocks)
– 2 tsp olive oil (6 blocks)
TOTAL: 9 blocks
Then! I began cooking!
My olive oil goes into a saucepan and I fry my onions and some crushed garlic (garlic apparently = no blocks) until they soften and are fragrant.
I add in my lean mince – as my protein source this can be substituted for turkey mince, which is really good!! I also contemplated frying some bacon and adding that in because I got bacon from the butchers, but then I was just like… ahhh, so many blocks to think of.
Next, I add in my spices. For chilli, I tend to yolo with paprika, ground cumin, chili powder, maybe some chipotle paste/powder, salt and pepper. I try not to be too specific with my measurements, but if I’m being completely honest, I use tablespoons of paprika and cumin. Chilli powder or cayenne pepper are not so forgiving, so I tend to add those in bit by bit and taste, and add accordingly.
What I love about the mince from the butchers is that it just cooks so nicely. Mince meat from my big chain supermarket tends to produce loads of grease, fat and gristle (so gross and puts me off my food). So, when my mince has browned nicely, I add in the rest of my carb blocks. Peppers and courgette first, stir them round and get them coated in the spices!
Then I add in my diced tomatoes. If you have swapped out a block or two tomatoes for a different carb, maybe consider adding in 1/2 cup water so that your chilli stews in something, otherwise its not stewing, its just a big mince stir fry!
In go my olives! You can skip this if you don’t like olives and just add your fat blocks at the end when you serve. My personal choice would be with avocado. Or treat yourself with a scoop of almond butter as dessert!
I added in about 100g of tomato paste (which was half of my tube), then brought it to a boil, covered it and turned the heat down to a simmer, and let it stew for about 40 mins.
Whilst that simmered away, I boiled my rice (1 block of carbs). I cut up half an avocado, which depending on its size can be anywhere between 3 and 6 blocks. My avocado was 4 blocks, and I added another block of protein (cottage cheese) and served myself a 3 block portion of chilli. So, in total, had a four block meal!
Looking at it, I was like, I am SO hungry and this definitely isn’t enough food. I ate, and was satisfied. I have to remind myself that I am SOOOOO used to overfeeding myself because I don’t know when to say no, and also because I’m not satisfying my macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) when I just eat a giant bowl of pasta. Its important for me to get into the habit of eating at a steady pace, not scoffing all my food down, and then waiting when I’m finished for my body to realise, “right, I’m full”. Rather than finishing my last bite and being like “I’m still hungry – going to go finish ALL the chilli that I’ve prepped for the week.”
I produced three, 3 block portions of chilli. The chilli was 10 Blocks Protein and only 9 blocks of carbs and fats. So, I can either eat these as a 3-block-meal, by adding one block of carbs and fats. Or I can eat them as a 4-block-meal, by adding one block of protein and two blocks of carbs and fats.
Its all very new to me, but the more I practice and understand the maths, the more it will become like second nature, I’m hoping! I don’t know how much of a fan I am doing the big prep (big chillies, stews etc) – I suppose its easier in the long-run when I’m hungry during the week. But it took me about double the time it normally would to chop/prep all my veg because I had to count and refer to my block chart. Not everyone has the time to do that – so hopefully this recipe will help someone out and it’ll be quicker for them than it was for me!
ZONE CHILLI (10 Blocks for 3 and 4 block meals)
– Electronic Scales
– Measuring Cups
– Measuring Spoons
– Pen and Paper to write blocks down
– Block Chart
– 300g (10z) Lean Mince Meat [10 BLOCKS PROTEIN]
– 2 chopped peppers [1 BLOCK CARBS]
– 1 cup chopped onion [1 BLOCK CARBS]
– 2 cups chopped courgette/zucchini [1 BLOCK CARBS]
– 5 large diced tomatoes [5 BLOCKS CARBS]
– tomato puree/tomato paste ~100g or 1/2 cup [1 BLOCK CARBS]
-15 olives (whole or chopped, up to you) [3 BLOCKS FATS]
– 2 tsp olive oil [6 BLOCKS FATS]
– 1 clove crushed garlic
– 1 tbsp paprika
– 1/2 tbsp cumin
– 2 tsp chilli powder
– salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil in saucepan or wok
2. Add garlic and onions until fragrant and soft
3. Add mince, stirring until brown
4. Stir in spices, coating everything
5. Add peppers and courgettes, folding them in the spices until they begin to soften
6. Add tomatoes and 1/2 cup water (optional) if need be.
7. Add olives
8. Add tomato paste.
9. Bring to boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer. Stirring occasionally for about 20-40 mins depending on how thick you want your chilli.