Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hearty Root Vegetable Chili and Beet Green Chips

I don't know about you, but the cold snap we had a couple of weeks back made me want to stay inside, cook a big pot of chili and then hibernate under a cozy blanket with my dog and watch reruns on Netflix of British TV shows. And that's just what I did!

I love a good pot of chili, and this one is my favorite. It's low in sodium, high in fiber, choc full of vitamin A and C, and I think it tastes great, too. Oh yeah, and it's also vegan and made almost entirely of either whole or minimally processed foods.

The supplies needed:
  • 8 qt stock pot (if you use smaller you'll need to adjust the recipe in half)
  • The usual suspects including a peeler, good chopping knife, paring knife, cutting board, etc.

  • 2 quarts of low sodium vegetable broth. I like the Pacific Organic stock, personally.
  • 2 cans of no salt added kidney beans (or about 1-1 1/2 cups of dried beans)
  • 1 can of no salt added black beans (or about a half-3/4 cup of dried beans)
  • 3 cans of no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1 jar of sodium free chili powder (if you can't find at your market you can mix it yourself)
  • 1 tsp - 1 tbsp of cayenne pepper or chipotle pepper (depending on how spicy you want it to be) 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium sized rutabagas (or equivalent such as one large and one small)
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 head of garlic (I actually use more than that, but I love garlic as much as I love cake!)
  • 2 large turnips (or equivalent such as 3 medium)
  • 3 parsnips
  • 3 beets (If you can, buy them with the greens attached. We'll use them later!)
  • 2-3 green peppers

Begin by chopping and prepping all of your fresh ingredients. I prefer to have the rutabagas, turnips and beets diced into little cubes, but I used my food processor this time and just sliced them. The result was that I had larger pieces of veg in each bite, but they did soften more. The end result isn't much different, and it took me a fraction of the time and effort and I'm a lazy ho. So, there you go. As you chop things you can combine everything except for the onions and garlic; and the green peppers.

Heat the stock pot over medium high heat and then saute the chopped onions and minced garlic in the olive oil until they are translucent and give off their juice. At this point you can add the vegetable stock, tomatoes, chili powder, and cayenne. One helpful hint is to pour about a cup of vegetable stock into a medium sized mixing bowl before adding any of the stock into the pot. You can whisk your chili powder and cayenne into that reserved mixture and it will make it easier to get it mixed into the rest of the stock when you pour it all into the stock pot. Once you have the stock in the pot you can add the root vegetables and celery. Cover and let it cook on medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften.

Once the root vegetables are starting to soften you can add the tomatoes, beans, and green peppers. Because the root vegetables take so long to soften, if you add these in right away they will be nothing but mush by the time everything else is soft--that's not a good thing. If you decided to just use dried beans you would soak them overnight and add them at the same time you put in the root vegetables so that they can cook while you watch Doctor Who.

The tomatoes, beans and peppers only need to cook about 15 minutes, so now's the time to set the table (or in my case to put on my nice pajama pants and a clean shirt and queue up Torchwood. The chili is going to be ready in a few minutes and you're going to be stuffed!

Yield is about 16 2-cup servings (8 quarts). Yes, this is a lot of chili. Fortunately, it freezes very well. I like to get 16oz disposable deli containers from the local food service market and portion out the chili in those. I freeze some and the others are ready for me to grab on my way out the door to work for a healthy lunch.

And, speaking of healthy. . . here's the nutritional deets per serving:
  • Calories 182
  • Total Fat 2.2g
  • Saturated Fat .3g
  • Cholesterol 0g
  • Sodium 128g
  • Potassium 669g
  • Total Carbohydrates 35g
  • Dietary Fiber 10g
  • Sugars 12.4g
  • Protein 7.2g
  • Vitamin A 69.5% RDA
  • Vitamin C 77% RDA
  • Calcium 14% RDA
  • Iron 15% RDA

Now, if you were a good kiddo you bought the beets with the greens attached, and if you were really good you cut them off and set them aside so we could make a delicious snack out of them.

I really like beet greens. They taste a bit, to me, like spinach. The larger leaves are really meaty and the beautiful vibrant red veins make them a great addition to a green salad. So, wash them, chop them up, and enjoy! But, since we're going with a hunker-down-on-the-couch-and-watch-some-Netflix theme today, let's turn them into Beet Green Chips!

No doubt you've heard of Kale Chips. They're super trendy. As much as I hate trendy shit, I have to admit they are good. Damned good! Beet Green Chips are equally good and considering most people just throw the beet greens away they're basically like a free snack. Ok, well, you have to pay for the utility bill, but now we're just nitpicking. They're also super easy to make!

Here's what you need:
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Beet Greens (just the leaves--cut off the woody stem)
  • Olive Oil
  • Spices (I love the Chipotle Garlic spice grinder, but you can use anything you like)
  • Bragg's Liquid Amino Spray (Optional--it will give them a salty flavor if you crave that in snacks)

Preheat your oven to 350. I like to leave the cookie sheet in the oven while it's preheating so that the greens go down on the hot surface and start to sizzle and cook right away. Wash and dry the beet greens. You can do this ahead of time, but make sure the leaves are nice and dry. They will crisp up better this way. Toss the greens in a small amount of olive oil.

Alternately, you can use spray oil. However, just remember that the claim on the front of the bottle that it is fat and calorie free is a lie! If you use spray oil you ARE adding fat and calories the same as if you used regular old olive oil. If you've mastered the art of only spraying that thing for 1/3 of a second you need to come over and teach me your Jedi tricks! Look at the ingredients--it's oil. Oil is 100% fat. That said, I do prefer to use the spray oil. You can do just a very small spritz and that is enough. I still count it as a tablespoon of oil in my daily food log, though. I'm just keeping it real, hunty!

Ok, anyway, so you toss the greens in some oil and then lay them out in a single layer on the cookie sheet or just lay them out and then give them a light spray with the oil, and then sprinkle them with your seasoning of choice. This is also the point where you'll lightly mist them with the Bragg's, too, if you want to. To be honest, I find them delicious without the added seasoning from the Bragg's, but sometimes you just NEED that extra salty flavor. Just be careful to only spritz each cookie sheet full with about 1/4 of a spray from about 16-24 inches away (meaning only press the spray tip down about 1/4 of the way). A full spray is about 1/2 of a serving and each serving has 160mg of sodium and will add too much saltiness. Frankly, they will taste like soy sauce if you overdo it. Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes, and voila. Happy Snacky! You can bake multiple sheets at a time but may need to increase the temperature slightly or bake them a little longer. You'll know they're done if they are crispy and no part of the green is still wet and mushy.

Throw those sonsabitches in a bowl, grab yourself a beer or a glass of cheap wine, and get back under your Snuggie. Fire up Weird Science or some other wacky mad scientist flick because you've just turned a leafy green vegetable into a salty snack!

The Yield on this will vary depending on the number of leaves you got from your bunch.

Nutritional Info for 4 cups of Beet Greens, 1tbsp of oil and 1/2 tsp of Bragg's:
  • Calories 152.8
  • Total Fat 13.7g
  • Saturated Fat 1.8g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 1.4g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 10g
  • Cholesterol 0g
  • Sodium 503.9mg
  • Potassium 1158mg
  • Total Carbohydrates 6.7g
  • Dietary Fiber 5.6g
  • Sugars .8g
  • Protein 3.7g
  • Vitamin A 192.3% RDA
  • Vitamin C 76% RDA
  • Calcium 17.8% RDA
  • Iron 22.2% RDA

Ok--so, they are a bit high in Sodium and Fat, but keep in mind that I've treated the entire 4 cups of greens as a single serving for this. I'm a glutton. What can I say? I didn't label this one as guilt-free for a reason! The reality is that the sodium and fat for a snack food isn't horrible, and the fats are almost entirely monounsaturated, which are the best fats for you. And, you have to balance that out against the amount of fiber in a serving (which makes it a filling snack) and the amount of Vitamins A and C as well as a healthy dosage of Calcium and Iron. You're not going to get any of that from potato chips.

Well, at this point I'm hungry and it's the weekend and I have the entirety of the X-Files queued up. If I had any chips left you bet I'd have a big bowl of them in my lap. But, trust me, the last batch I made was gone with the weekend!

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