Vegetarian Chili

Chili with cornbread is one of my go-to meals.  I love that you get a ton of vegetables and a ton of leftovers.  The recipe I’ve adapted is from Dean Ornish’s old cookbook, Everyday Cooking with Dean Ornish.  In case you aren’t familiar with the good doctor, he was the first person to prove that heart disease was reversible– that is, that once you’ve got plaque on your arteries, you can actually get rid of some of it by following an extremely low fat diet.  He advocated less than 10% of your calories from fat; I’m not sure if he still holds to that theory, but I do know that a lot of pretty sick people got better on his plan.  He came out with this cookbook decades ago, and for a while it was my cooking bible.  I still return to it every now and then, but the chili recipe became one of my all time faves.

Look at all those awesome veg! Yes, I'm going all Jamie Oliver on you!

This recipe is really forgiving.  It’s not like baking where you have to measure everything exactly.  You can substitute other kinds of vegetables if you want; for example, if you don’t want zucchini, you can use summer squash, or if you prefer green peppers to red, use those.  I usually use zucchini or sometimes a mix of zucchini and yellow squash, and I usually use one red pepper and one of another color– green or yellow, sometimes orange.  (The different colors sometimes help with getting the kids to eat it more heartily.)  I also tweak the chili powder in various directions.  For my base recipe, I usually use just one tablespoon of chili powder, since the kids don’t like it spicy.  One tablespoon gives you a pretty mild chili.  If I’m making it only for adults, I’ll double that.  If you really like it spicy, then go crazy.

the vegetables cooking with the chili powder

The thing that makes this chili, I believe, is the bulgur.  It gives a great texture to the chili that is closely reminiscent of ground beef.  It thickens it up and makes it heartier, and it rounds out all those veggies with a healthy grain.  I usually serve this chili with cornbread and some fruit, and you are done.

Vegetarian Chili

  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 – 4 zucchini, roughly diced
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, diced
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons chili powder, adjusted to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans (or other beans of your choice), with liquid
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat

In a large pot, combine the mushrooms, onion, zucchini, bell peppers, chili powder, and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a simmer over moderate heat, cooking until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the beans with their liquid, the marinara sauce, and the tomato paste.  Bring to a simmer and cook approximately 8 minutes, to blend the flavors, stirring occasionally.  Add the bulgur and cook, stirring often, until the grains are tender, about 10 minutes.  If the chili gets too thick, thin with water.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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  • December 29, 2009, 10:02 pm Becky

    Okay, I love the look of this. But let’s assume that I know next to nothing about healthy cooking, which is just about true. Where can I buy bulgur wheat? Whole Foods? Publix? What else do you use if for?

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  • December 29, 2009, 10:10 pm bethpc

    You can definitely get bulgur at Whole Foods; that’s where I buy it. You might be able to get it someplace like Publix, too, but I know for certain you can get it at Whole Foods. It’s usually either with the hot cereals or the rice. You can use it kind of like a rice substitute– you can make bulgur pilaf and lots of yummy salads with it. Here’s a pretty simple one from Martha Stewart: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/bulgur-salad. Thanks for pointing out my lapse there! :-)

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