Saturday, January 29, 2011

cooking - and eating is an art form

In my previous post, a few of you asked for recipes for my vegetarian chili and baked ziti. I'm one of those cooks who likes to create as I go. I can have an idea in my head for what I want to make - for example, let's take the vegetarian chili - and I'll gather more inspiration by looking up vegetarian chili recipes online or in cooking magazines. One recipe might use eggplant and another, fresh pumpkin. Those ideas only fuel my creativity to try certain ingredients in my own dish. It also depends on what I have on hand. I like using beer in my chili, but if I don't have any (which I usually don't, since we're not beer drinkers), I use beef broth. OK, so I know beef broth isn't vegetarian, but since I'm a flexitarian, I don't mind using beef broth for the flavor.

Thus said, I did write down the recipe as I was cooking the chili, so I can share this one with you:

1 T. olive oil
1 lg. yellow onion, chopped
1 med. green pepper, chopped
2 sm. poblano peppers, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 lg. carrots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow/summer squash, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. frozen corn
1 15.25 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1 15.25 oz. can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 14.25 oz. can beef or vegetable broth
3 T. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. McCormick cocoa chili blend OR 1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  Optional toppings: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions

In dutch oven, heat the olive oil and then add onion - garlic. Saute for 8-10 minutes, or until veggies are just about tender. Add corn through broth, mix well, then add seasonings. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1-2 hours. Ladle into bowls and pass the toppings.

As for the baked ziti, I don't have a specific recipe. I used whole wheat penne-shaped pasta as I couldn't find whole wheat ziti. You can use homemade marinara sauce, but this time I used Trader Joe's low-sodium marinara sauce. I added cubed pieces of fresh mozzarella, torn pieces of fresh baby spinach, shredded mozzarella cheese, and Italian spices. Bake and enjoy.

I love recipes such as the ones above, because there's so much room for creativity. Try different kinds of veggies or beans in the chili, or add different types of peppers such as jalapenos or chipotle.  if you want to add meat to the baked pasta dish, add cooked ground beef or turkey, or Italian sausage. Experiment with seasonings.

Oh, so the picture at the top of this post? That's my son, eating lo mein. Disclaimer: I raised him to have good manners. Really, I did.


  1. Sounds yummy! I'm vegetarian and use an organize vege extract for seasoning all my dishes. Like you, I never, ever follow a recipe exactly so kinda hard to share when you are always mixing things up. :) Chili and cornbread make a perfect match, don't they ?!!! Sending warm wishes your way, Tammy

  2. Ha, this picture cracks me up!!


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