Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quinoa Chili

My mom first introduced me to quinoa and I love it.  I am surprised how many people have never even heard of it - when I bring it to lunch, I get all sorts of quizzical stares and questions about what I am eating.  My mom and I both like to buy our quinoa from Costco.  I didn't want to drive there the other day, so I ended up buying my most recent batch from the bulk foods section of Fred Meyer ($3.99/lb).

This recipe for Quinoa Chili came from http://www.allrecipes.com/.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

1 pound extra lean ground beef *Optional

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced (2 teaspoons preminced)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced - use a serrano pepper if you prefer more heat
1 Tablespon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 19oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley)
black pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1) Bring the quinoa and water to a boil over high heat.  A good rule of thumb for cooking quinoa is a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio.  Reduce heat to a medium low, cover, and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes.  FYI I also cook quinoa all the time with no cover and it turns out fine.  Quinoa is pretty difficult to mess up.

2) If you are using meat, cook over medium high heat until the beef is crumbly, browned and no longer pink.  I like to ensure the meat is cooked throughly, so you don't have to worry about getting sick if you taste the chili while it cooks.  Drain the grease and set the meat aside.  If you are not using meat, skip this step entirely.

3) Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  You can use a soup pot or a big stirfry pan - pick a pan big enough to make all the chili in as well.  Add the onion, garlic, and serrano pepper* and cook for five minutes or so. 

*A note on the pepper - the store was out of jalapeno peppers so I decided to be adventurous and try a serrano pepper.  I was really scared to use it because a) I hate food that is too spicy and once the spice is in, you can't take the spice out and b) I always manage to get spicy-ness in my eye and it burns.  I was really careful this time and removed all the seeds from the middle, then chopped the pepper into tiny pieces.  It wasn't too spicy at all, so don't be too afraid to try a new kind of pepper! Next time I would even consider leaving the seeds in.

4) Add the cumin and chili powder and cook a minute more.  The onion mixture may look a bit thick - this is fine. 

5) Add the black beans, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, zucchini, oregano and parsley.   Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Simmer until the bell peppers are tender, about 20 minutes.

6) Add in the quinoa, beef (if using), and corn kernels.  Return to a simmer and cook five more minutes. 

7) To serve, stir in sour cream and add cheese if desired.

My recipe (meatless) made 8 cups of chili.  I calculated the calorie content and that is approximately 271 calories per cup.  This soup is CHOCK FULL of vegetables and I can't imagine many meals you can make that would be more healthy or delicious.  The beans add substance and there are all sorts of veggies and healthy spices (I especially love the addition of zucchini).  Ease off the cheese and lay off the meat, and you have an even healthier meal. You could also use Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. 

One other bonus?  The chili looks really awesome - it is very colorful.

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