December’s open houses, family get-togethers, and office parties can take their toll on a waistline. One solution — in addition to copious exercise and willpower, of course — is to add a few more meatless meals to the weekly regimen. Balance the splurges with a vegetarian chili, thick with beans (the best chili is made with dried, rather than canned), tomatoes, onion, ground pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds), and chili peppers. Sprinkle the top with cheddar, whole pepitas, and cilantro. You won’t leave the table hungry.
For another meal, ladle some of the big pot of chili over baked potatoes. The combo contains more nutrients than, say, chili in a bread bowl. And it’s another hearty meal that won’t break the calorie bank.
(Chili, chili-stuffed potatoes)
1½ cups grated cheddar
4 baking (russet) potatoes
2 dried guajillo or ancho peppers
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound dried pinto or red kidney beans,
or a combination
¾ cup roasted pepitas (hulled green
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon chipotle powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1. In a large flameproof casserole, place the beans and water to cover by at least 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 1 to 2½ hours or until tender. Drain into a colander.
2. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil. Place the dried chilies in a heatproof bowl. Pour 3 cups boiling water over them and set aside for 15 minutes.
3. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chilies to a food processor. Reserve the soaking water. Add ⅓ cup of the chili soaking liquid and ½ cup of pepitas to the processor. Puree until it forms a thick, ground paste.
4. In the same pan used to cook the beans, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili and chipotle powders, cumin, and oregano. Stir in the chili-pepita paste and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the tomatoes and the remaining 2⅔ cups of chili water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the cooked beans (you should have about 6½ cups). Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. If the chili is very thick, add a little water. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper, if you like. Reserve about 4 cups of chili for the baked potatoes.
6. Ladle the chili into soup bowls. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup pepitas, cheese, and cilantro.