Baller-Ass Chili

The finished product, which tastes better than it looks.

So it’s starting to get colder—I have the hood up on my hoodie and high basketball socks on right now—and it’s time to eat some chili. Think about it: it’s a mix of awesome nutrition, flavor, and ease—a trifecta for this veg virgin. And the meal is just as satisfying without meat, especially when you add mushrooms. I use normal white button mushrooms, but only because I’m allergic to portobellos, which I imagine would be awesome in here. Just make sure to have at least an hour once you throw all of the ingredients into the pot; I’d hate to be the reason your kitchen burns down because you weren’t minding the stove. Plus, burned kitchen almost always means burned chili.

Ingredients:

3 – 15.5oz. cans of Nature’s Promise beans (I like black, light kidney, and dark kidney)*

1 – 14.5oz. can of stewed tomatoes*

1 – 15.25oz. can of whole kernel corn*

1 box mushrooms, sliced

3 peppers, red and orange, diced (about 1/2” to 1”)

1 jalapeño pepper, diced

1 tbs. cilantro

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1-2 tbs. garlic salt

1 tbs. cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1 tbs. black pepper

Makes 4-6 servings.

*A quick note about the canned goods: I always look for “low sodium” and “no salt added” varieties because, well, canned stuff is a salt bomb. I hear you can drain and rinse the canned stuff to drastically reduce sodium content, but for chili I keep the liquid (it gives flavor and acts as a thickener) and, for stuff like tomatoes, rinsing can over saturate the food. So, in short, go for low sodium options. I like Nature’s Promise (only at Giant food stores) for the beans. Most major brands have low sodium options. Buy them.

Now for the steps, which couldn’t be easier. Cover the bottom of a large pot with oil and heat it over medium-high heat. I recommend putting a piece of a pepper at the bottom and waiting for it to sizzle, which means the oil is ready. When that sizzle happens, add the peppers, mushrooms, and about 1/4 to 1/3 of each of all of the spices. Cover and stir until the peppers are somewhat soft and the mushrooms are brown. Make sure to get the seasonings around as much as you can.

Once all that is softened, everyone else into the pool: add the beans, tomatoes, corn, and the remainder of the spices. Stir it all up and jack the heat up to high until it all boils, then drop the heat to a simmer or low (you want somewhere at or below a slow, rolling boil with occasional bubbling) and leave uncovered. Let the whole thing sit over the low hear, stirring every 10 minutes or so, for at least an hour—more if you have the time. You want the liquid to reduce and flavors to concentrate, so the process takes time—but you’re only stirring every 10 minutes, so don’t complain.

To be honest, the chili comes out somewhat soupy, so feel free to simmer it longer or drain the corn before you add it (the less liquid means more stirring, so all ingredients are submerged for equal amounts of time). I say drain the corn because it’s a stronger flavor than the tomatoes and the thick liquid from the beans helps to thicken up the chili—you know, the whole point of draining the corn in the first place. Also, feel free to add some brown rice or, the real winner, place Jiffy cornbread at the bottom of the bowl. Hell, do the cornbread even if the chili comes out like paste because it’s awesome (I just didn’t have time to do it this time around). Oh, and feel free to add sour cream (disgusting, you pervert) and/ or fat-free or low-fat cheddar cheese right after you spoon it into your bowl for a creamy and gooey treat (which is also, incidentally, what she said). My next chili recipe will probably have a guacamole add-on option (not what she said, unless she cooks).

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 3.5. OK, so I know I hyped this chili because of the mushrooms took place of the meat but, truth be told, some omnivores are unable to think “chili” and not mean ‘meat’—perfectly understandable, considering chili was originally all-meat and the purest varieties have big pieces of cubed beef. Nonetheless, this veg option is great as a hearty side or an occasional dinner (especially with cheap and easy Jiffy cornbread!) when dealing with meat eaters.

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