Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Daphne's Vegetarian Chili

Since this is my first post on this new blog, let me tell you a little about what I’m all about.  I love to cook – it’s always been like therapy for me.  If I get snowed in, I might experiment with risotto.  If I get fired, my freezer will fill up with a dozen kinds of gelato.  If I lose a beloved pet, I’m likely to channel my grief into perfecting my Bolognese sauce.  I’ve also celebrated with food my entire life.   When a holiday approaches, my first thought is always “what will I serve?”  I can’t imagine having weekend guests without laying out a four course meal and followed by a yummy brunch in the morning.

Now that I have a family, I’m trying to raise my kids with an appreciation for a wide range of unprocessed, healthy foods.  As a woman over 40, I’m also constantly struggling with keeping weight off and trying to balance this with my love of amazing cuisine.  So, I’ve adapted lots of recipes and techniques I read to be much more calorie and fat-conscious, and to more fully utilize whole grains and fruits and vegetables. 

I use recipes for inspiration, but to be honest, I don’t measure anything (unless I’m baking…and even then, I’m pretty loosy-goosy), so all the amounts in here will be approximate.  When my recipe comes from an external source, I’ll note it as such and provide a link back to the original recipe.  I never really follow recipes to the tee myself, but use my imagination and what is already in my refrigerator or what I see at the Farmer’s Market to fill in the gaps and change them up.  My goal is to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and try to cook something new, explore new flavor profiles, and cook healthy, yummy, affordable and fun dinners for your loved ones. 

So, onto today’s recipe: Vegetarian Chili.  I’m definitely NOT a vegetarian.  I’m a die-hard carnivore but I do like to try to do meatless, or nearly meatless, meals about once a week.  It’s good for the earth, it’s good for our bank account and it’s a sneaky way to get my husband and kids to eat more veggies.  If you’re not into any of that, you can definitely use meat in this dish and it will be great!  That’s actually how I made it the first time, using ground turkey instead of the soy crumbles and chicken stock instead of the vegetable broth.  It’s your call!  Also, if you’re missing any of the spices or ingredients, don’t sweat it!  Everything is negotiable and this recipe is based on what I had handy when I made it – you could switch out things, or just omit a few items, and change it up a bit.  The idea is to have fun!  Enjoy!


1 Tbsp canola or light olive oil
1 medium yellow or sweet onion, finely chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded, and chopped
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup matchstick carrots, chopped into smaller pieces
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp ground cumin
3 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp prepared Dijon mustard
1 pkg Morningstar Grillers or Boca Crumbles (In your grocer’s freezer section)
½ bottle of beer (IPA or Belgian-style works great)
1 15 oz. can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with packing liquid
1 32 oz. container of vegetable broth, or reduced sodium chicken stock
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¾ cup frozen sweet corn
1 lb, butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into a ½ inch dice
Salt & pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste


Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium high heat.  Add all the chopped vegetables (onion, jalapeno, sweet peppers, garlic, and carrots).  Cook about 5 minutes until softened.  Add in the spices, using amounts to your preference.  Continue to cook for 2-4 minutes to allow the spices to toast so their flavor and aroma will fully bloom.   Add the Dijon mustard and the frozen meatless crumbles.  (If using ground turkey, brown that first in the oil and then add in the vegetables and spices and proceed to the next steps.)   Now, deglaze the pan with the beer – feel free to drink the other half of the bottle at this point too!  If you don't like cooking with alcohol, you can use broth for this part too.  Deglazing is a fancy word for adding liquid to a pot with meat and/or veggies and aromatics cooking.  When you add the liquid, and scrape up the bottom of the pot, you’ll get a lot of yummy browned bits packed with flavor.   Next add the tomatoes along with any liquid in the can, and add the broth.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes on medium.  Now, add all the well-rinsed and drained beans and simmer for 5-10 minutes more uncovered.  By the way, you can use any variety of beans you prefer or have on hand,  I just like this variety, but you could use all one kind if you prefer or just sub out any that are not your cup of tea.  Now, add the frozen corn kernels and diced butternut squash, cover, and simmer on med-low for about 15-20 additional minutes.  Add the fresh, chopped cilantro and season to taste with salt, pepper, hot sauce, and any more of the spices from the earlier addition. 

This is a great healthy chili on it’s own. It’s also wonderful over whole-grain spaghetti, or as topping for a baked potato.  I like to top it with finely chopped green onions, shredded reduced fat Monterrey jack cheese,  and light sour cream or greek-style yogurt.  It makes a big batch so feel free to freeze half of it right away.  If you don’t dig corn, butternut squash or cilantro, you can omit those.  Be daring though – all of those unusual additions give the chili great texture, and a wonderful depth of flavor.  Plus, they boost the fiber, vitamin and antioxidant content, and they stretch the dish very economically.  Round out your meal with some more of that beer (you probably had to buy a 6-pack anyway, right?) and something light and fruity for dessert. Now, time to put some yummy in your tummy!  

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