Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Vegetarian Chili and Green Chile Cornbread

LESLIE: Chili is a classic American dish, and I suspect every home cook has a favorite recipe, vegetarian or not. Mine started life in Laurel’s Kitchen, one of the first cookbooks I ever bought, and a classic of vegetarian cooking, but the recipe is much changed. Some vegetarian cooking, especially in the 1970s, isn’t real high on flavor. And me? Well, flavor is kinda the point, right?

Since I started writing my Spice Shop series, I’ve heard plenty of readers say they don’t care for “spicy food.” What they really mean is they don’t care for heat, for peppers that scorch the roof of your mouth. This dish, as I’ve spiced it, gives a nice balance of flavor without a lot of heat, and the cornbread balances it nicely. If you’re looking for a three-alarm chili, this isn’t it.

This recipe also features the few foods I will use canned: beans, tomatoes, and diced chiles! Somehow, though, we recently acquired large bags of dried kidney and black beans, so we’ve been cooking them for chili, soup, and tacos. It’s easy, but requires some planning, and when it comes to dinner, I don’t always plan very far ahead!

Some cooks dot a piece of parchment or waxed paper with tablespoons of the extra tomato sauce, freeze it, then toss the dots in a bag and throw it back in the freezer. I usually just use the entire can, even though that’s not why my own recipe calls for! You decide, based on how thick you like your chili.

This freezes nicely, in small glass containers. If we want to make a chili with meat, we use this same recipe, sauteing the ground beef in the stock pot before adding the onions and garlic.

Early in our marriage, Mr. Right told me he didn’t like cornbread. Turns out, he didn’t like his mother’s cornbread! (She was an excellent cook, and even ran a restaurant for a while, but cornbread wasn't her dish.) This version is moist and flavorful, and never lasts long. This recipe comes from Vegetarian Soups For All Seasons by Nava Atlas, but again, I've spiced it up!

The chili recipe is gluten-free; the cornbread is not.

Leslie’s Vegetarian Chili and Green Chile Cornbread

olive oil
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 bell pepper, any color, chopped (optional)
2-14 ounce cans chopped or crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
4 cups kidney beans (1-1/2 to 2 cups dry, cooked, or 2-14 ounce cans
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
cheddar or Monterey jack, shredded, for topping (optional)

If you’re using dried beans, soak overnight in a large pot, then drain and return to pot. Cover with 3 cups of water for each cup of beans; bring to a low boil and simmer, about 1-1/4 hours, until tender but not mushy—they will continue to cook in the chili.

In a large stock pot, saute the onion in olive oil until softened and they begin to turn transparent; add the garlic and saute briefly. Add the celery, carrots, and bell pepper, and saute until soft, 3-5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, beans, and spices. Bring to a low boil, then simmer about 30 minutes.

Top with shredded cheese to serve.

Green Chili Cornbread

1-1/2 cups cornmeal, medium grind
½ cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt (low or full fat work equally well; Greek style is too thick)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-4 ounce can chopped green chiles
½ cup thawed frozen corn kernels (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray or oil a 9" square pan.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cayenne.

In a smaller bowl, lightly beat the eggs, and mix in the yogurt and oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture; stir until combined. Stir in the corn, if you’re using it.

Spread mixture in pan and bake 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden and a knife or tester comes out clean. 

Let cool slightly and cut into squares.

Serve warm with butter. Because it is so moist, store leftovers in the fridge.

From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming March 15): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Leslie, I had to laugh about your husband and the cornbread. I dated a guy who hated peas. We were in a restaurant one day and peas came with my order. He asked what they were! When he tried them, he loved them. Turned out his mother only served canned peas.

    1. Oh, the sins against food that have occurred in cans!

  2. This recipe looks delicious. I bet the chili would be even better with some Aleppo pepper added (our family's new favorite spice)!

  3. The picture of all the colorful ingredients is really appealing.

    "Besides being vegetarian, both recipes are also gluten-free." Not with the flour in the cornbread.

    1. You are right. Changing that now. Thanks for the catch.

  4. Looks and sounds amazing. And plenty of room for me to play with the ingredients, lol

    1. Kay, you're right -- both recipes are fairly flexible, always a good thing!