Vegetarian Chili At Its Best

As a vegetarian, I’ve tried quite a few versions of veggie chili in my days, and this one is my absolute favorite.  It holds such depth and complexity in the flavor, and it makes a super satisfying meal, even to the meat-and-potatoes crowd.  It’s easily adaptable for vegans (just a couple ingredients to omit), and this recipe is great for parties because it makes enough to feed a crowd.  Freeze half for a quick meal another time — it’ll taste even better than the first time around!

Hearty Vegetarian Chili

(recipe based on Mike’s Black Eye Chili from the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup)

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 oil (olive, sunflower, or canola work well)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 large red onions, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried black beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried pinto beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried red kidney beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans (or 1 1/2 cups cooked, or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 cup dried lentils
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (or a 28-ounce can)
  • 1 12-oz. bottle of beer — use whatever kind you like to drink, however, I don’t recommend beers that are very light or very dark.  My favorite in this recipe is Yuengling.
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (optional)

Spices:  alter this according to your tastes.

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • pinch of ground red pepper (cayenne)

For Garnish:

  • sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
  • chopped cilantro
  • avocado slices
  • fresh lime juice
  • chopped scallions

Directions:

Pre-cook any dry beans that you are using.  First soak them overnight in salted water.  Drain and rinse them.  Then cook them in water at a 3:1 ratio of water to beans for about 1 hour.  A sprinkling of salt and a splash of oil can be added to the cooking beans, if you so desire.  The salt will enhance the flavor, and the oil will help prevent the beans from foaming and boiling over while cooking.  Test them to be sure that they are almost done.  It’s okay if they’re not completely cooked because they will finish cooking in the chili.

Prep all your vegetables.  Measure out all your spices into a small bowl and stir to combine.  Heat oil in a large soup or stock pot.  Add garlic, onions, and 2 teaspoons of the mixed spices.  When the onions have softened slightly (after 3-5 minutes), stir in the wine, and allow the alcohol to burn off.  Add the jalapeño pepper, bell peppers, and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, beer, honey, lentils, one cup of water, beans, corn, and the rest of the spice mixture and bring to a slow simmer.  Stir in the chocolate and cilantro.  Taste and add more seasoning, if needed.  Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Stir the chili occasionally, and add more water if it gets too thick.  Remove from heat, and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to properly mix.

Eat this alone or over rice, and add the garnishes as you see fit.  If desired, add more heat by using 1 chopped habañero pepper, or by adding more cayenne powder.

Tip:  there is no one ingredient that will make or break this recipe.  Only two varieties of bell peppers or beans instead of three?  No biggie.  No beer?  Just add more water and increase the spices.  Conversely, you can add more of any ingredient that you like.  This chili is very adaptable.

Background:  I found this recipe in a book called the Marlboro Cookbook: Chili Roundup.  Somehow I was fortunate enough to get on a mailing list during a chili recipe contest being conducted by Philip Morris around 2000 or 2001, and I was sent this book for free.  The book contains 50 of the top recipes that had been submitted by people from all over, including 7 that are vegetarian (see the photo of the index page below).  If you come across this book online, don’t hesitate to buy it, or if you want more info about it or a copy of one of the other recipes it contains, contact us at twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com.


Family Dinner

Over the weekend, I tuned into Slow Food USA’s live TEDx broadcast. It was a day full of informative and inspiring lectures, given by people from all walks of the slow food movement life. Of course, I attempted to watch the live stream on my laptop, while I moved from room to room, taking care of my children, the house, and getting packed for an upcoming trip. (I am sure you can imagine how successful that was!) Fortunately, I was able to catch a snippet of info here and there, and wanted to share the gist of what I took away with you readers.

Among some of the wonderful speakers, that ranged from Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, to a man who grows a garden in the back of his pickup truck, was Laurie David, activist, and founder of, StopGlobalWarming.org. Her emphasis, as well as the emphasis of the entire day, was the importance of the family dinner.

The family dinner. Hmmmm….for some of us, the family dinner might be so foreign that it seems it should have a place in the history books. That’s a sad thought, but unfortunately, rather true. In today’s fast-paced society filled with countless after-school activities and long hours of work, the family dinner is a rarity, and not the standard anymore. Family dinners were what ritualized a closeness to one another within families. Now the family dinner lasts less than 20 minutes and usually involves the television. Even if some members of a family are physically sitting down together to gobble down some nourishment quickly, most likely there is no conversation taking place.

“Back then,” when most of our grandparents were raising families, all food was organic, and most people kept their own gardens. (What a crazy concept!) So a majority of people had access to better food, spent more time together, and had better health than we do today. Is it just me, or does it seem like we lost something important along the way?  Today 1/3 of the world’s population is obese.  And we suffer from fatal diseases, such as diabetes, at a staggering rate. Today’s generation of children will be the first ever in history to have a shorter life span than their parents. 50% of all meals are now bought outside the home. And that means that 50% of the time, people do not know for certain what and how much of an ingredient they are eating. Truly the only way to know exactly what you are consuming is to make it yourself, avoiding processed foods when at all possible.

We parents and children are rushing around daily to various places. But what are we really rushing to? Perhaps if we simply took the time to sit down together for an hour in the evening to eat dinner and discuss our lives with one another, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about losing our children to drugs, teen pregnancy, smoking, the Internet, or some new vampire series. In fact, studies show that children in families that eat three or more meals together per week fare better in each of those aspects.

Of course, it’s unavoidable to have scheduling conflicts here and there, but if we would all strive to make time for family dinner again, I think we might see huge improvements within our circle of family and friends. Who wouldn’t want a solution to lead healthier lives, maintain stronger family ties, and reduce our carbon footprint. The solution is: Family Dinner.

In case you would like to see the Slow Food USA TEDx broadcast, you can listen to it here: https://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5986/news_item/TEDx

We would love to hear your thoughts and comments regarding family dinner. Maybe you have a funny story or some helpful hints to share with us. You can always post a comment to our blog online, or send us an email at: twodancingbuckeyes@gmail.com

Music to My Ears

There are times in life, particularly as mothers, when you sit back and think to yourself, I guess I did something right. One of those moments happened this evening when both my children devoured their entire plates of dinner. The menu: sole, grilled asparagus tips, and millet. My heart leapt with joy when the five year-old exclaimed, “This is my favorite dinner, mom! I want it every night.” Trust me, I have had a number of battles over dinner with my son over the short years of his life. But throughout, I stuck to my guns and didn’t deviate my dinner menu to suit his tastes. If there was an ingredient that wasn’t to his particular liking, I made him have a small bite, and if he didn’t like it, he didn’t have to eat it. End of story. Of course, those items would present themselves on his plate again, at which point, he would usually say he didn’t want it, but again, he would have a small bite or two. And so, his palate grew. Within the last few weeks we had a turning point, and my son declared that he now likes, mushrooms, broccoli, and cheese. Whoohoo! I would not place either of my children on the “picky eaters” list, as they both love to eat a wide variety of vegetables, seafood, and meats. However, there are always those few untouchable items, and it’s nice to see your hard work pay off.

While we’re on the topic, I never understood why parents would ever call their children “picky.” Children go through phases of liking one food. Then, doing a 180° turn, they put their noses up in the air when that same item is served.  This is totally normal. In fact, if I recall correctly, it may take up to 15 times of trying a certain food before a child accepts it. I think the key to raising a child with an expansive palate is to expose them to a wide variety of foods from babyhood. (And eat a variety yourself, since the fetus develops some taste in the womb, and a newborn, through its mother’s milk.)

Why would children, all over the world, develop palates relating to their national cuisine? Children love different spices and tastes, just like adults do. It’s scary to think that a majority of American children have a rotating menu of mac n’ cheese (out of a box, no less!), hot dogs, pizza, french fries, and chicken nuggets. Listen, I understand the occasional use of these food items, but I find it reprehensible that most restaurants offer these very items on their Children’s Menus. Honestly, what is a child supposed to think he “likes” if all he’s told and all he’s given are these same five items? In the last couple of years, I have seen a few restaurants in New York City begin to offer smaller adult portions for children on their menus. But, I suppose, you could just do what I do when I dine out with my little ones: ask for an extra plate and let them eat a little bit from every other adults’ selection. This way you don’t waste food, you save some money, and your child will have the opportunity to sample a number of different dishes. Seems like a win/win situation to me!

In conclusion, don’t get discouraged when you offer your child something to eat and he refuses it. Keep trying again from time to time. Cook with your children, or at least, let them see what you are making. Talk about food with your kids. And most importantly, be a good example. They probably won’t want fish and asparagus if all they see you eat are hamburgers and potato chips. Happy eating!