When the weather turns teeth-chattering, there’s nothing like a big bowl of hot and hearty chili. It’s almost obligatory. Can’t you just picture it? Howling wind and pouring rain outside. You huddled beside a roaring fire, woolen blanket on your lap, fortifying yourself with a thick chili topped with cheese and maybe a few (which translates to a large handful) Fritos.
As an ex-carnivore who still has fond memories of chili teeming with beef and/or pork, I just couldn’t accept the typical vegetarian version which generally replaces the meat with various vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, and carrots. Now, I love vegetables as much as the next person, but there’s no way a mushy zucchini or eggplant will have the same bite as meat.
That’s where imitation meats (heretofore referred to as ‘fake’) comes in. Their purpose is to serve as foundation for the other ingredients in a dish by offering a texture similar to the real thing – without leaving a taste in your mouth that makes you run to the nearest sink to empty your mouth. Been there, done that! If you’ve tried a fake chicken, for example, that brings to mind cardboard – try again with a different brand. Or, perhaps, try cooking it less. Fifteen seconds too long with fake hamburgers can turn a tender patty into a hockey puck.
Fortunately, my chili recipe calls for ground “beef”. (Reminder – quote marks mean fake.) Since all the ingredients simmer together, there’s no worry about overcooking. I love using Morningstar’s Crumbles (found in the frozen food section), but since taste is subjective, use what suits you.
This dish is one of those throw-everything-together-in-a-pot-and-then-simmer recipes. And, unless you have the flame too high and forget to stir, it’s fail proof. If you like this chili, I wouldn’t be living up to my title of Queen of Freeze if I didn’t recommend doubling or tripling (which is what I do) the recipe, then freezing in portion sizes for future use. Cook once, clean once, enjoy homemade meals for months to come!
NOTE: Because I’m a bit obsessive about saving money (cheap!) and cooking from scratch, I buy raw pinto beans and cook them myself ahead of time. It takes about 1½ cups of uncooked beans to make the 2 cups called for. If you’re going to do this, allow a couple of hours, at least. No surprise, I actually buy a large bag of beans, cook the entire amount, then freeze the unused in 1 cup increments.
BONNIE’S VEGETARIAN CHILI – makes 9 cups
- 2 lbs fake ground beef (I use 2 pouches Morningstar Crumbles)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 onion, chopped (I use my food processor to finely chop)
- 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, chopped (remove stem end, skin, & any flaws)
- 1 15-oz can tomato sauce
- 1½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 4 T chili powder
- 3 T paprika
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 1 T salt
- 2 cups cooked pinto beans
Put all the ingredients into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring now and then. Lower the flame to keep chili at a simmer, uncovered, for an hour. Stir often enough that the bottom doesn’t burn. A flat headed wooden stirrer is perfect for this.