Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vegetarian Chili

This is one of my favorites dishes. It's never quite the same because I continually alter the ingredients based on what's on hand. I always season to taste, but I listed my preferred spices. Start with salt, pepper and chili powder working your way through the list until the flavor and heat suits.

Vegetarian Chili Ingredients and Directions
1.5 cups dried black beans
1.5 cups dried kidney beans

Sort and rinse the beans. Soak overnight and follow directions on package for preparation or use a pressure cooker. In a pressure cooker, add a tablespoon of olive oil and 12 cups of water (4 cups of water per cup of beans). Put the pressure cooker on high and wait for the steam to rapidly escape through the regulator. Lower temp to medium/medium high keeping an easy spin on the regulator. Once the steam begins to release at a constant rate start a timer for 24 minutes. Afterwards, remove the pressure cooker from the stove and run cold water over the lid avoiding the steam vent and other valves until the lid releases. Do not immerse the pressure cooker under water. In addition to the beans, I use most of the water from the pressure cooker (more of a broth at this point) in my chili.

1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 jalapenos with seeds removed
1 habanero pepper
5 sweet baby peppers
1 package MorningStar Farms Grillers Crumbles, Boca Ground Crumbles, tofu or tvp (textured vegetable protein)

In a cast iron frying pan, add a teaspoon of olive or grape seed oil and brown the onion and garlic. Add the jalapenos, habanero and sweet baby peppers sauteing until soft. (I love frying/sauteing in cast iron because you can use a lot less oil without the stick.) Finally, toss in the veggie crumble, tofu and/or tvp (textured vegetable protein). If you're using tvp, a defatted soy flour product that's high in protein, add water to soften into a hamburger-like texture. Tofu can be cut into small cubes or crumbled. (Sometimes, I freeze a block of tofu. The freezing changes its texture, and the tofu absorb flavor better.  Perfect for crumbling into a chili or pasta sauce.) Season the frying pan ingredients to taste with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and soy sauce.

1 cup reconstituted dry or fresh mushrooms
1 cup frozen corn
1 quart low sodium tomato juice and/or low sodium V8
28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
5 carrots chopped
5 stalks of celery chopped (I use the leafy celery tops, too!)
2 heads of broccoli chopped into bite-sized florets

chili powder
chipotle powder
Walker & Sons Slap Ya Mama "Hot" Cajun Seasoning
liquid smoke
soy sauce
lime juice
Mexican oregano
10 dark chocolate chips (This helps cuts the acidity/brightness of the tomatoes.)

In a 12-16 quart stock pot, combine prepared beans and water, fried veggie crumble with onion and peppers, mushrooms, frozen corn, tomato juice and/or V8, crushed tomatoes, carrots, celery and broccoli. Cook on high until boiling, reduce heat and simmer. I like to cover during simmer adjusting the heat to prevent a boil over. Stir regularly. Don't let the ingredients burn to the bottom of the pan. Season to taste using the spices listed or some family favorites. Chili is ready when vegetables are soft, but it's also one of those food that tastes better the next day once the spice and ingredients have had a chance to meld.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Going Vegetarian

"You're a vegetarian?!? What do you eat?" I hear this time and time again. A lot of people are incapable of envisioning a meal devoid of dead animals. It's fairly simple. Don't add meat to recipes, and be sure to check the labels on packaged food. Avoid anything with meat or stock in it.

Originally from Iowa, I grew up eating meat. Even though I was raised in a meat and potatoes family, I decided to stop eating meat in 1994 about the time my husband and I became engaged. My husband-to-be followed a vegetarian diet thanks to his former college roommate. Meat always turned him off even as a child so going full on vegetarian wasn't a difficult choice.

Once it looked like we were in it for the long haul, I asked him if it bothered him that I ate meat. He was honest telling me that watching people eat meat and smelling it cook turned his stomach, but he was not going to ask me to stop. That was up to me. Well, I really loved this guy, and I decided to give the vegetarian lifestyle a try. As it turns out, I've never regretted my decision, and our son and daughter are also vegetarians.

We really enjoy home cooked meals in our home. Rarely are we served a dish in a restaurant that's better than what what's prepared in our own kitchen. Friends and family appreciate the food we prepare, too. Our refrigerator door holds hot sauce bottles in various heats and every variety so it definitely gets a little hot and spicy at times.

I began this blog so I can share some of my family's favorite dishes. Most require little preparation and contain fresh ingredients and/or common staples. I hope this inspires you to get into your own kitchen and do some experimentation. Remember, if you're a die-hard carnivore you can always add or substitute meat in most recipes.