Vegetarian Chili – A Labor of Love

“The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children”
― Philip Carr-Gomm

My late grandfather Thomas Puskala was a soil artist and his straight, manicured vegetable rows were a work of art. He was an organic gardener before it was hip and he carefully recorded the seasons and moments of insight on his calendar. He cited the migration of geese and robins, jotted down when he planted the peas, and detailed the ebb and flow of frost’s destructive fingers. I think of Grandpa when I publish a new blog post. He would have loved how I document my garden with snippets of poetry, layers of photos, and the capacity that my words and recipes have for outreach. Technology affords us the opportunity to document our lives with vibrant threads of meaning.

Thank you to my cousin Alicia for this photo of Grandpa Puskala. ❤

I thought of Grandpa this past summer and fall when I grew and put up over thirty quarts of garden tomatoes. Our new hoop house made for a remarkable growing season and our tomato plants became tree-like and laden with juicy fruit. It felt therapeutic to quarter the scarlet orbs (skins and all) and roast them with garlic and onion for marinara, plunge them into boiling water to remove the skins for stewed tomatoes, and add spices to the boiling pot and render salsa with fiery depth. Though, through the canning process, I am preserving more than just an Upper Peninsula of Michigan summer in jar. I am also encapsulating Grandpa’s old fashioned values and his affinity for nourishing his family with wholesome food and living as close to the land as possible. Every bubbling pan of lasagna and simmering pot of tomato basil soup is a homage to my grandfather’s legacy.

I know that I am not alone in taking extra steps to make healthy meals for my family. However, with cold comes with an offering of food temptations. Making wise food choices can be a challenge and craving comfort food makes it easy to surrender to indulging in too sodium and sugar laden treats. With spring right around the corner, you may be thinking of ways to jump start your healthy intentions. A great tip that I try to incorporate into my family’s meal plan is to have soup or chili on hand. This guarantees that we always have a quick and homemade dinner or lunch in a pinch. The chili recipe that I am sharing with you is heavy on fiber from beans, which makes it filling.

I started sharing recipes on my blog in 2013, and I like to challenge people to experiment with vegetarian or Vegan recipes. Not only do those who practice a plant-based diet know how to find alternative and filling sources of protein, but often plant-based recipes use healthy spices and herbs for flavor. This chili recipe is one that I have shared with friends for years and I always mention, that if desired, they can add meat. However, most report back that they enjoyed the recipe without meat. This recipe is on rotation in our house year round, but it is especially satisfying in the winter months as the temperature dips (which is still the case in Upper Michigan).  I often make a double or triple batch and it freezes well. This year I even pressure canned a few quarts to keep on hand in case of an emergency.

Last weekend I participated in a chili cook off at the 5th Annual Wellness Fair at Gwinn High School. I took first place in the amateur division – winning over two student groups and my boss Sandy Petrovich, the Superintendent of Gwinn Area Community Schools. It was neat to watch Ms. Petrovich and her student competitors banter back and forth. It was exactly how a school function should run – it was well attended and involved all of our education stakeholders. The entire event made me so proud to be a Modeltowner!

The Wellness Fair was exciting to participate in and GACS Food Service Director, and organizer of the Wellness Fair, Barbie Ward-Thomas does a phenomenal job encompassing all types of wellness in the event: physical, emotional, financial, and social wellness. We are so lucky to have her as our support and advocate for health at GACS!

To see a story of the event covered by local media click HERE

My award winning chili!

I served up my chili with sour cream, wedges of lime, and fresh cilantro!

I was pleased to have been selected first place by community tasters (everyone is invited to sample the chili and cast a vote). It is always interesting to see the look on people’s faces when you mention that the chili is vegetarian. Some people look at you skeptically like you are trying to spread an agenda, but then I explain how flavorful it is and full of ingredients. If that does not win them over, I like to mention how easy vegetarian chili can be on your pocketbook since beans are extremely affordable (especially if you buy dry beans and cook them yourself). I also made sure to bring a jar of my canned tomatoes to show people the love and attention that I put into my chili. ❤ Love wins every time!

THREE BEAN VEGETARIAN CHILI
*3 cups of tomatoes
*1 cup tomato juice
*1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
*1 cup chopped celery
*1 cup chopped onion
*1 cup of corn
*3 minced cloves of garlic
*1 cup white beans (cooked)
*1 cup black beans (cooked)
*1 cup kidney beans (cooked)
*1 small can diced green chilies
*1 Tbsp ground cumin
*1 Tbsp ground coriander
*1 Tbsp dried oregano
*1 Tbsp chili powder, (Add as much for desired heat.)
*Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Sauté celery, onion, green pepper and garlic with olive oil. Add all ingredients to crock pot or stock pot (you may also want to add a cup of water). The longer the chili cooks, the better it will taste. If I cook via stove-top I simmer for 60 minutes. Using the slow-cooker method I cook on low for 4 hours. Season to taste (adding more chili powder or “heat” if desired).

You can also toss in other vegetables that you have on hand. In the past I’ve added zucchini, carrots, and even cabbage.

While you can use canned beans that you purchase at the market, I suggest buying dry and cooking your own (makes it even more economical). I make the beans in bulk and freeze. One pot makes approximately fifteen cups. While it is fantastic alone, sometimes I like to add a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, an avocado wedge, whole wheat pasta or quinoa, and/or a squeeze of fresh lime juice to perk up the flavor even more. Add a side salad (the one featured here incorporates citrus, pomegranate, jalapeno slices, and avocado) and you have a nutritious and hearty, but not heavy, meal. For easy to assemble homemade salad dressings, make sure you check out my blog.

I hope that you were fortunate as my family to have a bounty of tomatoes over the summer. If you do not garden, you are missing out on one of life’s most simple pleasures. There is nothing like a tomato fresh off the vine – still warm from the sun. Take advantage of a blustery UP day to dream about tilling a small plot of land or filling a row of containers on your deck with lush plants. My husband and I will spend our winter months pouring over seed catalogs to fill our new hoop house in the spring. I know my grandfather is watching and I know that he loves our farm. ❤

My new cards I had printed to give out at the Wellness Fair in hopes of drawing in new readers.

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Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John Steinbeck

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

As a Weight Watchers leader I often encourage my members to experiment with vegetarian or Vegan recipes. Not only do those who practice a plant-based diet know how to find alternative and filling sources of protein, but often plant-based recipes use healthy spices and herbs for flavor.This chili recipe is one that I have shared with my WW members for years and I always mention, that if desired, they can always add meat. However, many of my WW friends report back that they loved the recipe without meat (and often so do their meat-loving spouses). While my husband Mike will eat meat-free meals, I often make a double or triple batch of this chili and I do sometimes add meat to his. This recipe is packed with flavor and it freezes well. Today after finishing off the pot that I made last week I added ingredients to my shopping list and I will be making a double-batch this weekend and will add many servings to my rotation of soup in the freezer. Having soup/chili on hand is essential to our meal plan and it guarantees that we always have a quick and homemade dinner or lunch in a pinch.

Not only is this chili satisfying and full of fiber and protein, but it is also easy on the pocketbook. While you can use canned beans that you purchase at the market, I suggest buying dry and cooking your own. I make the beans in bulk and freeze. One pot renders approximately fifteen cups and for WW members it comes out to a mere 2 PP per cup. While it is fantastic alone, sometimes I like to add a dollop of plant-based sour cream, chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, whole wheat pasta or quinoa, and/or a squeeze of fresh lime juice to perk up the flavor even more.

Three Bean Vegetarian Chili with Side Salad

Today I had a bowl for lunch and I added a side salad with romaine lettuce, a slice of avocado, pomegranate, pickled jalapeno, avocado vinaigrette dressing, a dash of taco sauce, lime wedges, and grapefruit segments. What a perfect winter lunch.

THREE BEAN VEGETARIAN CHILIThree Bean Vegetarian Chili ~ Healthy & Hearty Comfort Food

  • 3 cups of tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato juice 
  • 1 cup of chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped celery   
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup of corn
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic  
  • 1 cup white beans (cooked)
  • 1 cup black beans (cooked)
  • 1 cup kidney beans (cooked)  
  • 1 small can diced green chilies   
  • 1 Tbsp  ground cumin  
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano     
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder, (Add as much for desired heat.)   
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

Saute celery, onion, green pepper and garlic with olive oil. Add all ingredients to crock pot or stock pot (you may also want to add a cup of water). The longer the chili cooks, the better it will taste. If I cook via stove-top I simmer for 60 minutes. Using the slow-cooker method I cook on low for 4 hours.  Season to taste (adding more chili powder or “heat” if desired).

You can also toss in other vegetables that you have on hand. Last week I added a small zucchini and in the past I have added carrots and even cabbage.

Printable list and recipe: Three Bean Vegetarian Chili

Pin this post HERE.
Salad with pomegranate, avocado, and pickled jalapenosIf you are looking for healthy ways to bulk up your meals I recommend that you check out my other soup recipes.

Check back often because my goal for 2014 is to continue sharing my recipes with others who are trying to find ways to incorporate more vegetables into their meal plans. You can follow my Produce with Amy board on Pinterest and please stop by and like my Facebook page. Cheers to healthy 2014 and thriving!

Three Bean Vegetarian ChiliWinter