Friday, April 23, 2010

Quick Meal Friday: Slow Cooker Veggie Chili

Sometimes you just know the dinner hour is going to be rough. A late softball practice, an afterschool playdate, a cranky baby on vaccination day, three solid days of rain... (I know you know what I mean...) It would be so easy to stop at Rubio's or pick up a pizza. With three kids now, those days could happen rather frequently, and, since we keep our dining out to an absolute minimum (maybe once a month), I need a different solution.

Aha! I pull out my slow cooker!

If you haven't checked out A Year of Slow Cooking yet, give it a try. There's so much fun stuff on this blog that will help change the way most cooks view their slow cookers. It really is more than a vehicle for delivering a meat stew to the table. I loved reading about how cheap it is to run the slow cooker too.

We have an old stand-by recipe for a vegetarian chili that is so satisfying after a long day. The flavor punch and household aroma gives you that feeling that you've been working on this pot of dinner all day. I also love this meal because it's a winner for all five of us. No griping about green things or hidden cheese (I still can't believe I could have birthed a child who doesn't like cheese) or the not-so-useful comment, "I don't know; it just has a yucky taste!"

As you can see from my blog recipes, we aren't vegetarians but we eat quite a lot of meatless meals. I would guess about 75% of our meals are vegetarian (including seafood and animal products like butter and eggs). This helps us stay healthy and keep our food costs down, but - I'll be honest - we just plain like it. If you are working on similar health and money-saving goals, give this recipe a try and let me know what you think.

This comes from my favorite slow-cooker cookbook:
Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals That Are Ready When You Are.

The book is inexpensive, as are most of the recipes. My pages are dog-eared and crinkled and covered in tomato stains. You won't be disappointed.

Consider the dumplings to be optional. Red pepper or zucchini or carrots all work well if a green pepper isn't in your fridge.

Three-Bean Chili with Cornmeal Dumplings
(adapted from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)
Serves 4-6.

For chili:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder (or more to taste)
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked or 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups cooked or 15.5-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups cooked or 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For dumplings:
2/3 cup all-purpose or white-whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup milk or soy milk
2 tablespoons olive oil

To make chili:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and chili powder, and cook about 30 seconds longer. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker (at least 4-quart size). Add the tomatoes, beans, and water. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

To make dumplings:
About 45 minutes before serving time, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the milk and oil until just combined. *Do not overmix!* Turn the slow cooker to High, and drop the batter by the spoonful onto the hot chili. Cover and cook on High until the dumplings are cooked through, about 30 to 40 minutes. Can serve immediately.

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