I decided to make a slightly modified version of the recipe for Veggie Chili I found on The Pioneer Woman website one bleak and rainy day, and it was the perfect comfort food antidote. It does take a little time to make, but the end result is worth the effort. Best of all, you would never know that this hearty dish was so good for you, chock full of vegetables and beans and made with very little oil. I make no apologies for the mountain of shredded cheese atop my portion, however -- I just happen to be one of those people who likes a little chili with my cheese! Top your own serving with anything you like, but do be sure to give this recipe a try.
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2-3 red bell peppers, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 C. stock, any flavor (I used unsalted chicken)
2 small cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce (I used unsalted)
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes (I used unsalted)
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chilies
1 tsp. oregano
1 T. cumin
2 T. chili powder
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
salt to taste
4 cans (about 14 oz. each) beans, any type, drained and rinsed
2 medium zucchini, diced
1/4 C. masa or cornmeal (I used white cornmeal)
1/2 C. warm water
In a very large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, peppers, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powders, and salt to taste. Stir and cook a few minutes longer.
Pour in the stock, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and diced green chilies. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans and zucchini, stir, recover, and simmer for 30 more minutes. Mix the masa or cornmeal with the water and stir it into the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve with your favorite toppings (cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, black olives, etc.). Serves 12.
Note: This recipe can be varied any way you like. Add your own favorite vegetables (just about anything would work). Vary the herbs and spices to suit your preferences (I don't like really spicy foods, but if you do then add hotter peppers, both fresh and ground). Stir in 2 T. tomato paste for more tomato flavor, and/or replace some of the stock with Mexican beer. I served this chili with corn muffins, but warmed tortillas, corn or tortilla chips, or even baked potatoes or spaghetti would also be good, and any leftovers would taste great on top of a plate of nachos, or even over eggs for breakfast!
I also wanted to add a comment about the use of so many canned products in this recipe. Whenever I use processed foods, I like to minimize the amount of unnecessary preservatives and additives. Here are a few helpful tips:
1) try to use products with five or fewer ingredients;
2) if possible, avoid anything with additives you can't pronounce and/or don't recognize;
3) I like to use unsalted or at least reduced sodium versions if available;
4) avoid added trans (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated) fats.
The original recipe called for a can of Ro-tel tomatoes. I did not have any on hand, and don't really use this ingredient as it has a lot of salt and I could not find a reduced sodium version. I simply substituted a can of diced tomatoes and a can of diced green chilies for the Ro-tel tomatoes, but feel free to use the real thing if you prefer. I tend to use very little salt when cooking, so season the chili according to your own tastes, adding salt as needed (it is much easier to increase the saltiness of a dish than it is to decrease it!).