Five to Try for February…#1 A New Recipe

Well, well, well…it’s a new month and time for some fun things to learn or try as part of my Five to Try creative experiment…have you heard about what I’m doing each month? (This will explain…) Last month, I got the opportunity to try my hand at oil painting and acrylic painting at Carrollwood Cultural Center, tried not one but TWO new Thai restaurants in the area (yum!), visited an art gallery that was new for me (Florida Craftsmen in St. Pete) and learned some tips for foods that might help ease some of the aches and pains from getting back into fitness after being out of shape for so long.  What will this month hold? Just wait… I already know a few of the adventures coming up, and it promises to be a sometimes scary, always interesting month despite its brevity!

To start off the month with a savory introduction, I thought I’d wander into those vegetarian cookbooks of mine. After all, I am a vegetarian yet I only have a handful of regular veggie recipes that I whip up once in a while, though they are very good and popular with non-veggies, too. So why not add some recipes this year during my 5 to Try experiment?

This month, it’s Veggie Chili…mmm…

Five to Try, February — #1 A New Vegetarian Recipe (Veggie Chili)

Now, I first have to acknowledge that I like just about every vegetable there is. You’ll find few that I won’t eat. So if you’re picky about your veggies, you may need to do a few substitutions. But the key that will surprise many of you carnivores is the “meat substitute.” It’s a dead ringer when mixed with all of the other goodies. The secret to this one is…Boca Burger Crumbles. Yes, buy it in the little bag already crumbled to get the proper texture. This fake meat works terrific in Mexican taco salad feasts, stuffed bell peppers, Sloppy Joe, lasagna and Italian dishes’ meat sauce. It won’t let you down here either. (And to answer the question that I know you’re asking, it’s SOY meat. Not Tofu, not wheat gluten, but SOY burger.)

I’m including the recipe here courtesy of  a great vegetarian cookbook that my very groovy friend Marti gave to me a while back titled Vegetarian: The Best Ever Recipe Collection by Linda Fraser. Highly recommend it! I’ve only made a few slight adjustments (in red) which helped our chili tremendously, one being the addition of the fake burger.



Serves 4

2 onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 celery ribs, chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 zucchini, sliced (we used 3)

14-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

14-ounce can chopped tomatoes (we used 2 cans and bought DelMonte seasoned tomatoes)

2/3 cup passata or tomato sauce (we used tomato sauce and a whole cup!)

2 TB tomato paste

1 TB ketchup

1 tsp hot chili powder, ground cumin and ground coriander (oops, no coriander here…hmmm)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

cilantro to garnish (we used it for flavor, not garnish)

optional – plain yogurt and cayenne pepper to serve (not for us, nope)


1. Put the onions, garlic, celery, pepper, mushrooms and zucchini in a large saucepan and mix together. (You won’t find the fake burger in this recipe, so let’s add another step in here. We browned the fake burger in a separate skillet and suggest adding the seasonings to the meat so it can absorb a lot of the flavors and then when it’s mixed with the veggies, etc. you’ll have a nice evenly distributed flavor across the chili.)

2. Add the kidney beans, tomatoes, passata or tomato sauce, tomato paste and ketchup.

3. Add the spices, season with salt and pepper and mix well. (At this point, we’d add in that seasoned fake burger.)

4. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. (We recommend 30-45 minutes to ensure the zucchini is cooked enough.)

5. Serve with plain yogurt, sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Garnish with cilantro springs. (We didn’t do any of this – but instead cooked some instant brown rice and ladled the chili over the cooked rice. It was a perfect combination!)

I wish I had a more enticing picture to send you…it definitely was much more mouth-watering in person than my photo captures. The key with this recipe is season to your liking! At first taste, ours was not seasoned well enough so be sure to sample as you’re cooking to really determine if it’s to your liking because there are far too many fabulous ingredients in that big pot for it to not taste good. But trust me, if you don’t include enough salt, pepper, and fill-in-the-blank for your other favorite seasonings (cilantro, anyone?) you are going to get a big pot of great textures and a whole lotta bland flavor.

I’m so glad we tried it and can’t wait to try our next little culinary experiment! If you decide to try this one at home yourself, let me know how it goes, okay? And good luck… now come on, get out of your own comfort zone, folks, and try this little 5 To Try experiment with me!

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