Healthy for the Soul

It’s been a particularly cold and snowy winter here in NYC.  And yes, yes, I know it’s been a lot colder and snowier in other places–but, well, that’s why I don’t live in those places!

Despite the cold and snowy weather, it has been entirely too long since I made a big, ol’ pot of chili.  Now, before you ask–the recipe is not mine to share.  What I will tell you, however, is how I bump up the nutritional value.  As a Texan, I’m the first to admit it makes it less of a proper chili: aka, it won’t be winning any chili competitions, but since that means there’s more for me, I’m perfectly okay with that ;- )

My additions (hey, don’t knock it until you try it! And if you want to add some or all of them to your favorite chili recipe, just don’t forget to adjust the spices!):

Beans.  3 types of beans (black, red, and kidney)–these help bulk up the chili, so I can use less beef and still get a nice big pot!  I use canned beans and just give them a good rinse before I add them, which helps get rid of up to 40% of the sodium level listed on the can!

  • They are very high in soluble fiber–which lowers cholesterol and triglycerides
  • They are high in protein
  • They are low on the glycemic index (in other words, they help control blood sugar)
  • They metabolize slower and thus, make you feel fuller longer
  • They’re chock full of nutrients and antioxidants, which studies show to lower cancer risks in people who eat beans 3 times a week!
  • They’re very wallet friendly–the 3 cans of beans that I use in my chili cost about the same as a pound of ground beef!

Corn.  That’s right, I said corn.  I use frozen and just toss about 1/2 bag in.

  • Corn is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber–again, lowering cholesterol
  • Corn provides a good source of B-vitamins as well as Vitamin A and cancer preventing antioxidants
  • Corn, however, is higher in sugar than most veggies so it’s definitely something you want to eat in moderation
  • Oh, and the health benefits don’t extend to corn in it’s chip form.  Alas.

Diced tomatoes–2 large cans of diced tomatoes plus a can of Rotel.

  • Canned tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, which has been shown to lower risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.
  • They are high sources of fiber and Vitamin C as well.
  • There are some concerns regarding BPA in the lining, but the general consenus is that if you’re eating them in moderation, then you are fine.  If you’re concerned, you can always switch to tomatoes canned in jars or boxes or look for organic brands which have made the switch over to non-BPA lined cans.

Cilantro…because, well, I add cilantro to everything.  I found these great frozen cilantro cubes by Dorot–perfect for keeping a lot of fresh herbs on hand in the freezer without them going bad!  I use about 6-8 cubes in my chili.

  • It is high in vitamins, particularly A & K
  • It is rich in antioxidants
  • It can help lower you LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise you HDL (good) cholesterol
  • It is  an analgesic, a digestive and a fungicidal (aka, it helps with pain, digestion, and killing germs–which is part of the reason some people find it to have a soapy taste!)

Greek yogurt (as a topping).  It’s the bomb and if you know me, then you know I pretty much use nonfat Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream for everything.

  • I cup provides (on average) 23 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium requirement
  • Because of the straining, Greek yogurt has less lactose than regular–making it easier to digest
  • It is a good source of probiotics
  • Greek yogurt usually has about half the sugar AND salt than regular yogurt.

Avocado (as a topping).

  • They contain over 25 essential nutrients and lots of antioxidants, which helps you look and feel better
  • They help lower LDLs and raise HDLs.
  • They are a good source of potassium, which helps control blood pressure
  • They are a great source of Vitamin E, which helps keep your heart healthy
  • They are also a great source of folate, which helps prevent birth defects and can help prevent stroke
  • They have lutein, which helps you see better.
  • They help inhibit growth of prostate cancer and can help prevent breast cancer.
  • I could go on, but really, why AREN’T you eating avocado???

I will admit that today’s big bowl was also accompanied by Fritos and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese (that’s where the Healthy for the Soul part comes in)–because sometimes a Frito pie is just what is needed when a Texan is surrounded by snow, snow, and more snow.

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Crockin’ Chili!

So the following conversation happened when I opened my crockpots (SHAMELESS PLUG: naming contest still going on–I’ve had some great suggestions, but it’s not too late to put your 2 cents in!).  Ahem, where was I?  Oh yeah: conversation (loosely transcribed):

ME:  thank you! I can’t wait to use it

CHRISTI: what are you going to make?

Not sure yet.  Chili, maybe, yeah…chili

You don’t need a crockpot to make chili

No, but it still would be amazing

Now, I should interject here that Christi’s mother has THE best chili recipe, but Christi was right. I didn’t neeeeeeeeed my new crockpot to make chili.  Alright, back to Pinterest.  My mission: a crock pot chili recipe that looking tasty & interesting. I found this recipe from kitchentreaty.com

Okay, so…THE first I noticed: no meat–a slight pause for a raised-on-a-Texas-cattle-ranch girl like me, but under the motto of I’ll try anything once and the fact that it just sounds amazing, I figured what the heck!  Plus when you read about kitchentreaty.com it is a great site dedicated to cooking for vegetarians and omnivores who cohabitate/marry/hangout/party/etc (I mean, she explains it more eloquently than that–I’m just cutting to the chase so we can get to the chili!).

Almost everyone I know who enjoys cooking or baking and finds a new recipe, follows the recipe the first time and then if they feel adventurous the next time adds their own spin on it.  Not me, because…well…I just have an inability to leave well enough alone.  Plus I personally feel that all great chili recipes need some beer thrown in (even the aforementioned best chili recipe).  As I was looking down the list of ingredients–I ain’t gonna lie–I did a few double-takes on some of the spices, but I promised myself that I would only allow myself to swap out 1 cup of beer for 1 cup of veggie stock.  I’d like to interject here that I personally feel that any one who considers her/himself a chili aficionado might balk at some of the ingredients.  Albeit from the beer, I did not stray from the recipe.  That in and of itself is shocking.  Next time, though, I’m adding more jalapenos (as she suggested).  I only added one because it was making me cry while cutting and I figured that was probably hot enough.  Alas, no.  You can taste the jalapeno, but none of the heat.

Served with cornbread & Shiner Cheer (the beer I used), my tummy was very, very happy.  VERDICT: if you are vegetarian, looking for a change of chili pace, or looking for a less expensive chili–this is definitely one to add to your recipe book!  Btw, if you follow her recipe–linked above–it’s vegan and gluten-free, you know if you’re into those kinds of kinky things ;- ) Thanks kitchentreaty!

Mmm Mmm Good!

Mmm Mmm Good!

Crock Pot Pumpkin Red Lentil Chili

  • 1/2 cup of chopped yellow onion
  • 1-2 jalapenos
  • 2 15-oz cans of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (make sure you get puree and not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 15-oz cans of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup of veggie broth
  • 1 cup of beer (whatever you may have on-hand, but I’d stay away from dark beers, like Guinness, as I think the flavor would be too overpowering)
  • 1 Tbsp of chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (yeah, cinnamon–keep reading down!)
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder (that’s right.  chocolate and a whoooooole tablespoon!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin

Add all the ingredients to a 3-quart or larger crock pot and stir.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours (mine took right at 5 hours) or on low for 8-10 hours (are you kidding, who can wait that long?!?!?!?!) until lentils are done and chili is thick and hearty.  Serve with assorted toppings (I used cilantro).

It was delicious and good for you–perfect for a chili-weather kinda day!!