Starbucks has switched to holiday cups and holiday music. It’s officially winter. And Mother Nature decided to reinforce the reminder. In the aftermath of Sandy, we’re forecast to have a Noreaster join us this evening, bringing 40mph winds and 3-5 inches with it. Um, really?

Yes, really. So, why fight it? Even though it’s only the first week of November, we’re full swing into winter mode at my sister’s house.  Spiced apple cider, sipping chocolate, and a glowing fireplace made frequent appearances in the house this week. Socks, hats, and hoodies did, too.

Spicy Two Bean Veggie Chili

When we finally got power back this past Sunday, my first instinct was, of course, to cook. My sister and I went on a major grocery shopping spree to restock her fridge (we lost a lot of food to Sandy – which, allegedly, insurance will cover!), and I came back with all the ingredients I needed to make a hearty vegetarian chili.

Chili is one of those dishes that when I first start making it, I think I’m doing something wrong. I do the easy version: canned beans, sautéed onions and canned tomatoes comprise the bulk of it. And when I first dump these ingredients into the pot, it seems like it’ll never get to the right consistency or flavor. But then, I convince myself it will, and I dump a whole lotta spices into the pot, and let it boil and bubble. Lo and behold, after about 45 minutes, it’s smells and tastes like chili!

The great thing about veggie chili is that it doesn’t need to cook as long as turkey or beef chili. I highly recommend garnishing your bowl with shredded cheddar cheese, cilantro, scallions and crumbled tortilla chips. The crunch goes a long way! I served this with some Jiffy-mix cornbread muffins and delicious sautéed kale. Talk about a satisfying meal.

Spicy Two-Bean Vegetarian Chili (Serves 6, Prep time: 1hr)

(Please note: spice measurements are approximations. I generally pour stuff in, mix it, taste it, and adjust.)

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 2 cans kidney beans (I prefer dark red but only found red at the store. It was fine!)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with chillies
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ bunch of cilantro, washed and leaves picked
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Cheddar cheese, grated (for garnish)
  • Scallions, sliced (for garnish)
  • Tortilla chips, crumbled (for garnish)

In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium heat and add onions. Sautee until tender. Add 1 can of kidney beans (with juices). Drain the remaining cans of beans and dump them in. Add the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Let the mixture heat for a few minutes, then add all the dried spices. Stir and let it heat for a few more minutes. Taste! Depending how much heat you like, you can always add more cayenne and paprika. I can't stress enough how much you need to stir and taste this dish -- just keep adding the different spices until it tastes good to you. It's art, not science :)

When the chili starts to boil, reduce heat the low and cover. Let it simmer for about 30 more minutes (or until it's chili consistency). Now add 1/2 of the chopped cilantro to the pot and stir. Simmer for a few more minutes, and if it tastes delicious, serve it up. Garnish each bowl with cheese, scallions, cilantro and crumbled tortilla chips.

Note: Reheat leftovers on the stove - just add some water if it's too thick.