Kick Off Meatless Mondays with Vegetarian Chili

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We believe in the adage everything in moderation, no extreme exclamations are on our list of New Year resolutions. Which is why we like the idea of Meatless Monday, a movement that has been quietly growing since 2003 appealing to authors, nutritionists, filmmakers, health professionals, athletes, environmentalists, public school administrators, cities, chefs and every parent trying to make healthy food choices for their families.

The campaign for Meatless Monday got underway when Sid Lerner, the "ad man" who put "Don't Squeeze the Charmin" on our TV screens, joined forces with John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The idea is not revolutionary; it is rooted in WWI rationing efforts and public participation in the "Meat-less Monday" and "Wheat-less Wednesday". What has changed is our interest in going meatless one day a week, and there are many reasons that influence the choice.

more on Meatless Monday and a recipe to start the year

Personal health is a motivation; we all know that increasing a variety of grains, fresh fruits and vegetables is good for our bodies. Contributing to a sustainable environment and reducing our carbon footprint comes easily with a meatless day of eating. We have an aversion to factory farmed animal products, going meatless one day a week frees up a few extra dollars to purchase higher quality animal protein coming from humanely raised and slaughtered animals. We love fruits, vegetables and grains, making the commitment to a meatless day of eating is motivation for us to explore a variety of ingredients and prepare satisfying meatless meals.

The addition of Meatless Monday to our New Year's resolution is another step toward healthier eating. We kick off our commitment with a recipe we tweaked of an old January favorite, Vegetarian (dare we use the word) Chili.
We are pumping up for the college bowls, what could be heartier to serve along side those chips, dips and salsas than a hot and spicy bowl of chili?

Vegetarian Chili-serves 8-10
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small eggplant, cubed
1 chayote squash, cubed
2 large onions, medium dice
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and medium dice
3 celery ribs, medium dice
6 oz mushrooms, sliced
28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
2 cups corn kernels
2 cans garbanzo beans (substitute-kidney beans or 1 can each)
3 poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and chopped (Tip: purchase at Latino market)
(substitute 4 oz chopped green chilies)
2 cups vegetable stock
1-cup tomato juice or V-8 (Tip: read labels choose a juice without added sugar or corn syrup, spice it up with a hot and spicy brand)
½ cup red wine
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1-teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

Salt cubed eggplant and place in colander; allow to drain for 1 hour
Pat eggplant dry
Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil
When oil is hot (not smoking), add cubed eggplant and sauté until soft
Add onions, carrots, squash, celery, and mushrooms to the pot and sauté until soft. Add the garlic when the vegetables are nearly done.
Add tomatoes, tomato juice, vegetable stock,dried herbs and spices

Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the roasted poblano peppers

Stir the red wine vinegar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, beans and corn into chili mixture, simmer for 10-20 minutes
Add the red wine, simmer 10 minutes
Cover and keep the chili on low heat
Garnishes: dollop of Greek yogurt, Mexican Crema, shredded cheese chopped scallion, chopped cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, toasted pepitas.

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