Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If a Second Grader Can Do It, You Can Too! (Eli's Famous Vegan Chili)

I'd like to dedicate this blog to my friends Amy and Mary.  If my 2nd grader can do it, so can you!  I hope he is as much an inspiration to you as he is to me.

I’m going to vent for just a minute.  (I can do that, it’s my blog.)  I get annoyed when someone just leaves meat out of a recipe and then calls it “vegetarian.”  Spaghetti and meatballs with the meatballs picked out is not vegetarian/vegan. And just because donuts don’t have meat in them, doesn’t mean they are a good vegetarian meal!  A kid who eats nothing but plain noodles is NOT a vegetarian.  He or she is a picky eater.  I know a lot of picky eaters who claim to be vegetarian.  Not so.  And it’s kind of disrespectful to those of us who are truly trying to live a more healthful and mindful life.  It is important to decide for yourself WHY you are vegetarian/vegan.  And it is important to cook well-rounded meals that include proteins, veggies, whole-grains and a variety of nutrients.   

Okay, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. But there's always an exception to the rule, right?  Chili is one of those dishes that just leaving the meat out DOES make it vegetarian.  A good chili has a variety of beans, some peppers and onions, maybe corn or other veggies and some tomatoes (diced, sauce and/or paste).  So it really IS a good vegetarian/vegan choice. Round it out with a whole-grain bread, jalapeno corn bread muffins, or even spoon the chili over some whole-wheat pasta to get a few healthy carbs.  Serve it up with more fresh veggies and fruit.  Pour yourself a tall glass of soy milk.  Balance, people.  That's what it's all about--well, that, and the Hokey Pokey.

My son, 8-year-old Eli, makes a great chili.  We had it for dinner tonight, and he cooked it.  He chopped, he drained and rinsed, he sautéed, he stirred, he cooked.  He loves to cook and told us at dinner that some day he might be a chef with his own restaurant and he would cook vegan food for us for free.  I really, really, really hope that happens.  At least the free meal part.  Eli used a very large, very sharp knife to cut veggies.  He used the gas stove to cook.  Yes, there are some dangers.  He knows not to cook like this unsupervised.  But, as my funny hubby says, "How else will he learn that knives are sharp and fire is hot?"  

LET YOUR KIDS COOK!  Get them involved right from the beginning.  Take them shopping and let them choose veggies and new foods.  Sit down and read cookbooks together or search recipe sites on the internet.  Find exciting new things to try with your family and cook together.  Even if you think (or know for sure) that something will turn out like crap, still let them try it.  "How else will they learn that some things taste like crap?"  It will be an adventure and you'll be talking about it for years.  (Just ask my family and friends about the Eggplant Parmesan incident of 2001.)

Before I share the recipe, I thought I’d give the chef a chance to speak his mind about vegan cooking and eating.  So here are a few words from my 8-year-old son, Eli:

“Um, Mom, I’m 8 and a half.  Are you going to change that?  Okay.  I’m really glad that I got to cook for my family and I’m very proud of my chili.  I’m proud because it tasted really, really good and my family enjoyed it.  I don’t have anything to say about the vegan part.“

So there you go.  Tonight’s menu was Eli’s Famous Vegan Chili with  9-Grain Italian Bread and fresh fruit.

(well, it’s famous around here anyway)
2 T. olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 T. tomato paste
1 c. frozen corn
2 cans pinto beans with juice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans diced tomatoes
½ t. sugar
½ t. oregano
½ t. fresh crack black pepper
1 t. sea salt
1 ½ t. cumin
¼ c. chili powder
Pinch of heat (cayenne or your favorite heat source)

Saute the onion and peppers in olive oil until a little soft.  Add tomato paste.  When warmed through, add in all remaining ingredients.  Simmer 10-20 minutes. 

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