Every year, I find myself rushing through the end of August and first half of September to get to fall: butternut squash soup, pumpkin spice lattes, apple picking, cozy sweaters - I love it all. This year may have been even worse, since the best parts of summer for me - competing in horseback riding competitions - were taken away for the most part by COVID-19. Not complaining, I know we're all in the same boat. But it's time to put on a cute jacket, make festive fall coffee, and get into my favorite season.
A good way to start is with a big batch of chili. It makes use of the last bit of summer produce - bell peppers and fresh corn cut off the cob - while bringing in the cozier vibes. I've made so many vegan chili recipes over the years, and have taken everything I love the most from each to make this recipe. You can make vegan chili with mock meats like Beyond Meat or Impossible Meat, or you can go the straight beans and veggies route. I like to go in between and use Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) - cheap, full of protein, takes on the flavor of all your chili seasonings, healthier than most of the faux meats, and has an awesome chewy texture that adds body to this chili. It's basically soy beans with their fat removed and is high and fiber and protein. If you don't want to use TVP, a good 1:1 substitution here is quinoa, you just might need to add a little extra liquid.
And of course, never eat chili without cornbread. This sourdough cornbread has a little more spring to it due to the fermentation step, and a delicious sourdough tang.
Vegan Chili with TVP (serves 6)
2 tbsp neutral oil (I use avocado oil)
2 bell peppers, any color or a mix, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, depending on spice level, seeded if necessary and finely diced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp maple syrup
3 cups + 1/3 cup water
1 tbsp veggie bouillon (I like Better Than Bouillon)
1 cup TVP
2 ears of corn, cut off the cob
1 cup dry beans cooked, or 2 cans of beans (I like black and kidney, and I cooked 1/2 cup each from dry)
1 15.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
Cayenne pepper to taste
Optional scallions and cashew sour cream to garnish
Heat your oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or dutch oven. When it's heated, add the bell peppers, onions, and a pinch of salt, and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapenos and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the chili powder, cocoa powder, tomato paste, and maple syrup. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. When the pan starts to dry out, add the 1/3 cup of water, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. This is the base of flavor for the chili.
Add the additional 3 cups of water, veggie bouillon, TVP, corn, beans, and canned tomatoes. Add about 1-2 tsp kosher salt at this point. Turn the heat up to high until the chili is boiling, then turn down to low and simmer.
Taste the chili at this point for 2 flavors: salt and heat. If the spice level is too low for your taste, add cayenne pepper until it reaches your desired level of heat. If it is under salted, add salt now.
Simmer the chili for 45 minutes to 1 hour uncovered, stirring occasionally. Taste one final time for salt and serve hot. I like to serve with cashew sour cream - quick recipe below.
Cashew sour cream:
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
2/3 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp salt
Blend all of the ingredients until smooth.
Sourdough skillet cornbread
50g sourdough starter (fed)
225g nondairy milk
30g melted vegan butter
125g whole wheat or all purpose/bread flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp additional vegan butter
Whisk the sourdough starter, nondairy milk, melted butter, and sugar together until all dissolved and smooth.
Add the cornmeal, flour, and salt and stir until well combined. Use right away, or leave to ferment for anywhere from 2-12 hours.
Sprinkle the baking powder and baking soda on the batter and mix well to combine.
Preheat your oven to 350 F. If you want to cook the cornbread in a baking pan, use a 9 by 9 inch square pan and put it in the oven to preheat.
If you want to bake the cornbread in a cast iron skillet, preheat the cast iron skillet on your stove over high heat. Add the 1 tbsp vegan butter to either your preheated skillet or baking pan until it is melted. Rotate the pan around so that the butter coats the bottom of the pan or skillet.
Add the cornbread batter to your preheated pan and place in the 350 F oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
Serve with additional vegan butter and maple syrup.