(Originally featured in Arizona City Independent Edition, April 18, 2001)
As I mentioned in my article above, one of our favorite vegetarian "convenience" foods is an easy-to-assemble recipe I call "Everything But the Kitchen Sink Chili Magic Chili." The second "chili" part is easy, because that's what it is. You'll see by the list of ingredients why I call it "Chili Magic" chili, and the rest is because you can put anything you like into it--except Jim and I choose to avoid anything that resembles meat.
Over the years, I've collected numerous bits of data on nutrition, and a point I gleaned decades ago explains the place this dish often has in my daily regimen. I believe it came from a book by Carlton Fredericks, which is probably still packed away with my other books on cooking and healthful eating. (In recent years, we've had to keep our excess books packed away because we own too many of those precious items. In fact, I'll soon post an article I wrote in which I confess that Jim and I are bookaholics!) These two subjects have long been a hobby of mine, though I don't spend as much time as I'd like applying the lessons in the kitchen. Too many other interests keep me occupied as well.
Mr. Fredericks wrote that he turned his meals around from the usual regimen that most people follow: He had his heaviest protein meal early in the day, a lighter lunch, and then in the evening he would consume the starchy foods that most people eat for breakfast. He claimed this upside-down approach gave him more energy throughout the day. What's more, by eating more calories earlier in the day, he burned them up as he went about his daily activities, rather than going to sleep shortly after the heaviest meal, as most people do, and letting those calories turn to fat.
He explained it much better than I do here, of course, but I decided to try it, and I found that it does help, with both energy and weight. You can check out the effect yourself next time you see me waddling around town.
I really became convinced that Carlton Fredericks was right when I realized that for several years my favorite breakfast was yogurt, nonfat and unflavored, with a banana sliced up in it. Talk about tryptophan! Add a little turkey--which I wouldn't, since I'm a vegetarian--and that meal would put me totally into snoozeville. No wonder I wasn't getting much pep from what seemed like a healthy breakfast.
So I started consuming my favorite chili for breakfast, with a little cheese for calcium, salsa for spice and the nutritional value of cooked tomato (which is supposed to be even better than raw tomato, according to recent studies), and a corn tortilla or some corn chips. Sometimes I add rice too. Then if I wanted to have a yogurt and banana, it would be at the end of my day. Add a milligram of melatonin, and that light supper would help me sleep like a log. In between the chili for breakfast and yogurt for supper, I might fill out the day and my stomach with a variety of foods, none of which contain any sort of meat.
I believe this "backward" diet has had a beneficial effect on my energy level, along with the quality of my sleep, but it's hard to gauge exactly how much good comes from this new diet regimen and how much from the healing I've enjoyed since coming to Arizona. Still, I'll stick with anything that seems to help, and I really feel satisfied for a much longer time after I've had my breakfast, whether it's chili or something else that's high in protein and calories.
Now, let me share with you the basics of my recipe for . . .
EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK CHILI MAGIC CHILI
In a very large pan (I use a "Dutch oven" pan, which I think holds at least six quarts), mix together:
2 - 15 1/2 oz cans Bush's Chili Magic chili starter
1 - 14.5 or 15 oz can tomato product, e.g. diced, stewed, sauce, puree, etc.
1 - 15 oz can beans, e.g. great northern, kidney, etc.
1 - 15 oz can peas, drained
1 - 8 oz or 2 - 4 oz cans mushroom pieces, drained
1 - 15 oz can Stagg's vegetable garden four-bean chili
1 - 16 oz can Rosarita no-fat refried beans
Just throw it all into the biggest pan you have and mix it all up, then nuke it by the bowlful with a little cheese, salsa, tortillas, rice, whatever you feel like, for a tasty and satisfying meal.
To understand a little about the development of this recipe and how you can adapt the recipe for yourself, let me explain a little about each of the ingredients I use:
CHILI MAGIC. Vegetarians love Bush's products because they make some wonderful down-home "comfort" foods, such as black-eyed peas, that most companies are wont to add some sort of meat fat to for "flavoring. Bush's doesn't do that for many of their products. Their Chili Magic has beans and spices, and the recipe for carnivorous chili lovers is right on the top of the can: "Just add meat and tomato!" Bush's makes three flavors of Chili Magic, Texas, Mexican, and Traditional. Our favorite is Traditional because it's got just the right combination of smooth but zesty spices for our taste. Because we don't include the meat, we like to fill out the dish with several other ingredients that add both substance and flavor.
TOMATO. If you use diced or stewed tomatoes, you'll be able to see the delicious red chunks in your food. If you add tomato sauce or puree, the chili will be thicker and richer, and with a definite tomato-y taste.
BEANS. Even with beans already in the pot, I do like to add more. Chili Magic already has red kidney beans, so I like to add the lighter, richer flavor of great northern beans. Pinto or kidney beans are also a good choice.
PEAS, MUSHROOMS. These add both nutrition and flavor. Including their juice in your chili will make it soupier, but if you drain them as we do, be sure to pour the juice into a glass and drink it. That's where a lot of the nutrients end up, and you don't want them to go to waste. You can use no-salt-added versions of these two veggies to cut the salt content of this recipe. As I mentioned in my previous column, mushrooms and beans are two of the foods that vegetarians use for both flavor and nutrition when substituting for meat in a recipe.
STAGG'S VEGETABLE GARDEN FOUR-BEAN CHILI. Stagg's is a product we've discovered since we moved to Arizona, where there is a greater selection of quality Mexican-style foods than is available back east. Stagg's vegetable garden chili alone is a delicious and convenient "comfort" food, and it adds just the right touch to our Chili Magic melange.
ROSARITA NO-FAT REFRIED BEANS. We also discovered that Rosarita makes four different and delicious flavors of refried beans that boast no added fat, only beans and spices. For our Chili Magic mix, we use one of those with a kick to it, such as Zesty Salsa, and stir to blend it in well. Incidentally, any of these refried beans can also be used as a nonfat party dip by mixing it with salsa and nuking it till it softens to the right consistency. Yum!
There you have it. Everything but the Kitchen Sink Chili Magic Chili. At least the way we make it. If you think you can improve on it, let me know. I'm always looking for different ways to entertain the palate, and stick to my vegetarian diet.