Spicy and a bit sweet
I love a good chili. Hearty and delicious any time of year, whether you slow cook it in the summer or heat up the house with a stove-top batch in the colder months. But what if you found out you were allergic to tomatoes, as I did a few years ago? Would you give up your chili? Or would you be willing to try something a little different to get your fix?
After finding out about my food allergies I decided sitting around feeling depressed was just not my style–so I taught myself how to replace my allergens with comparable flavors and came up with this recipe. A side effect of all my messing around trying to make a good tomato-less chili? I discovered the health benefits of the various ingredients, and created this recipe with intent to be both delicious and nutritious.
The Main Ingredients:
3 cans beans or 3 cups dry then cooked*
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can pineapple tidbits
3 large green peppers – chopped
1 large onion – chopped
2-3 jalapeno peppers – chopped
Protein of your choice (we often use TVP, or nothing at all)
Spices (adjust to taste):
1/4-1/2 cup chili powder
2-3 tbsp Cumin – I like mine even heavier sometimes
2-3 tbsp Molasses – mostly for color
~1 tbsp salt – often needs more
fresh ground black pepper
~1 tbsp cocoa powder
~1 tbsp cinnamon
~2 cupfuls of smoke flavoring (about a tsp or so)
*Use whatever kind of beans you like — I like to blend them, usually pinto, black, and kidney beans, and sometimes Cannellini beans too. Don’t throw out the juice! It’s very high in fibre!
Crock Pot – Chop what needs chopped, toss it all in, wait. Adjust spices as needed.
Regular Pot – you can saute the onions and peppers (and fresh tomatoes if used) in the olive oil then add the protein before tossing in the pineapple and beans and any other canned ingredients. Usually just sautee this down until the onion starts to caramelize a bit then add the rest. Monitor and stir as necessary, adjust spices as needed. Cook until flavors blend and most of the water cooks off.
With meats be sure they cook all the way through. Vegan and Vegetarian versions just need to cook down.
Optional and/or replacement stuff I sometimes add:
A few Chopped fresh or cans of organic tomatoes if you aren’t allergic
1 small bag frozen organic corn
1/8 – 1/4 cup Olive oil (Only ever buy organic OO, see below)
Cilantro (added at the very very end, as it doesn’t cook off well)
Cayenne (or equivalent) instead of chopped jalapenos, to control heat better
1 bottle of a good dark beer (added very early and cooked down)
Rice, precooked, added early or instant brown rice added near the end to soak up extra juices
Cooked Quinoa instead of rice (or in addition if you like grains in your chili)
Cooked Barley (it’s somewhere between bean and grain, and quite good in chili as it soaks up some flavor)
2 or 3 large shallots, added at the end (to replace onions, which I also tested allergic to)
1 or 2 leeks, chopped and added early (another option to replace onions)
Corn or tortilla chips to be used instead of crackers, or for dipping later using the cold leftover chili like a bean dip
Some nutrition stuff:
Beans are high in fiber and protein, black beans have even more good stuff. Cannellini beans reduce carbohydrate absorption. The ‘juice’ from cooking beans, the same stuff you find in the can and might be tempted to drain, is actually really high in fiber and great for your intestinal tract, so I always leave it in.
Pineapple is good for digestion as the bromelain in it helps break everything down.
Green peppers are really high in vitamin C–in fact, as far as I know they are natures HIGHEST source of vitamin C. They have to be green peppers though, no other pepper even comes close.
Onions contain a lot of inulin to feed your intestinal flora.
The capsicum in the hot peppers increase your metabolism and help with a variety of other body functions.
Olive oil is good for the vascular system. Only ever by Organic Olive Oil because ‘imported’ olive oils and others may be oil blends with little actual OO in them. Be careful not to let your oil smoke, as this as bad. Like, crossing the streams bad.
Quinoa is a complete veggie source of protein. Remember to thoroughly wash quinoa before cooking, as the grain has an extremely bitter film on it that will taste awful if you don’t.
Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar. Cinnamon is a flavor note taken from Cincinnati, while I’m not a fan of the rest of their recipe, I like the properties of cinnamon and the health benefits, and it adds an interesting flavor.
Cocoa has benefits for the cardiovascular system, is high in antioxidants, and is high in magnesium. It also adds a bit of bitter to the chili, which can temper the sweet of the pineapple. Also, and perhaps more important, my wife swears it’s TRADITION!
A final word for those who swear they can’t cook:
In my kitchen, I do a lot of tasting as I go along, adjusting spices as needed to get exactly what I want. Chances are, if YOU find your recipe delicious as you are cooking it, your friends and family will too, once it’s done. Experiment. Have fun. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you’ll learn from them.
Unlike baking, which is more science than art, you don’t have to be so precise on the stove-top. Following a recipe blindly without ever tasting it as you put it together usually ends in dissatisfaction. Take a little time to sniff at the spices in your kitchen. Taste them. Try them in stuff. Teach yourself how much is too little and how much is too much.
Most of all, have fun!