Friday, January 14, 2011

Vegetarian Chili With Mango

In my mind, twenty inches of snow go hand-in-hand with a warm bowl of chili, especially since we are skiers in New England.  Just about every time we ski, chili is our go-to snack.

I made a vegetarian chili because I'm trying to reduce our beef consumption. Plus, we had meatballs this week, although with ground beef from sustainable farms, and we'll have pot roast this weekend.  And when I think of how much ground beef those ski resort kitchens serve in their chili, I feel pretty good about my decision.

I started with beautiful fresh produce.

The mango, below, is photographed separatey because it was an afterthought. When I started snacking on it, I thought it would be good in the chili!  (If you haven't cut a mango, watch this link for easy instructions:

Three-Pepper Chili with Mango and Black Beans:

1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 mango
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 4 oz can chopped green chiles
1 28 oz can low sodium organic diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne
2 15 oz. cans no salt black beans, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro or parsley
Salt to taste

Roughly chop peppers and mango, dice onion and mince garlic.  Saute peppers and onion in a medium size dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat with olive oil until tender, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute about 1 minute being careful not to burn.  Add mango, green chiles, diced tomatoes (I used Bionature which has a lot of puree), vegetable broth, chili powder, cumin and cayenne.  Cover and simmer about 30 minutes.  Add black beans and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.  Add cilantro or parsley, mix and serve.  Add salt if needed.

I gave the peppers a rough chop because they were so beautiful I wanted to be able to see and taste them rather than let their colors and flavors be overwhelmed by the stew.  After the peppers, onion, and garlic were tender, I added the mango and look at those gorgeous colors!

I admit I really couldn't taste the mango.  Maybe it should be added with the beans (after the vegetables cook for 30 minutes) but I think it gave the stew a little sweetness.  A nice addition, though, and provides extra nutrients, and if your kids won't eat a mango this is a good way to sneak it in their diet (my kids didn't even notice).

Fresh chopped parsley and an organic blue corn chip for me:

 And freshly grated organic cheddar cheese for the kids.

Sour cream would also be delicious on top.

Nutrition Information:
Black beans are antioxidant superstars, rich in cholesterol-lowering fiber and provide folate and manganese for heart health.  Tomato puree provides that great antioxidant, lycopene, essential to fighting free-radicals and maintaining healthy bones.  Peppers are high in vitamin A and C, have powerful antioxidants, and red pepper provides more lycopene.  Mangoes are a "super fruit" with antioxidants, fiber, many vitamins and minerals, and an excellent source of potassium for heart health. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fennel, Leek and Potato Soup Even Your Kids Will Love

I try to expose my children to new foods, flavors, and scents as much as possible.  So on Sunday, I introduced them to fennel with this lovely soup. Since I wasn't sure whether they would like it, I had leftover turkey meatloaf as a backup. 

When I started cutting the fennel bulb, I had my children smell the licorice aroma.  They both looked at me like I was crazy, they had that mom's-going-to-have-us-eat-something-weird look, and reminded me how much they don't like licorice. They were a little worried about the end result.  I too was a little worried . . . licorice soup . . . kind of strange . . . not sure about this . . . .

Well, in the end, I didn't need to take out the leftover meatloaf. My kids loved it, especially with garlic-rubbed italian bread on the side.

* * *

I've cooked with leeks before, so I knew how to prepare them. But I needed a tutorial on fennel. Here's what I learned. I also included a link about trimming leeks:

To cut fennel, see:
And to cut leeks, see:  Good idea. I wish I had watched this before.

Makes about 7, 1 cup servings
1 tablespoon butter
2  cups chopped fennel bulb (about 2 small bulbs)
2  cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
1 3/4 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
1 1/4  cups water
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8  teaspoon black pepper
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
Fennel fronds (optional)

  • My method: Melt butter in a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add fennel and leek, sauté 4 minutes or until soft. Add potato, water, salt, fennel seeds, pepper, and broth, and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer with a cover for 20 minutes or until potato is fork tender. Place half of the soup in a blender and process until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a bowl and repeat procedure with remaining soup. Return pureed soup to pan and simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Use fennel fronds as garnish if you'd like.

  • To print recipe, go to

I felt the soup needed a little more flavor so I added about 1/8 teaspoon of fresh nutmeg.  

I used 2 cups of potatoes instead of 1 3/4. 

And instead of pouring the soup into a blender to puree, I used an immersion blender. It took a little extra muscle to get a smooth finish but worth it. 

The soup went from this:

To this:

The Fronds!
Right after filling our bowls I remembered the fronds. Oh, the fronds! The fronds! Wait!  Need to add the fronds!  Well, standing there with a bunch of fronds in my hands, I couldn't remember if they were optional or how to use them. Too late, we wanted to eat, I placed a pinch of fronds in my bowl for a garnish. 

* * *

I placed the leftover soup into individual glass serving containers so the kids can easily reheat in the microwave when they get home from school:

After reading more about cooking with fennel I learned its flavor becomes mild when cooked, so that's why it didn't have a strong licorice taste.

Nutritional facts:

Fennel is a good source of vitamin C, folate, potassium, antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory 

Leeks are a good source of potassium, B6, iron, folate and manganese, which is good for digestion and normal bone growth

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Meatballs on Top of Mushrooms

I got a little creative the other day when I opened my fridge and wondered what I could make with the leftover meatballs other than reheating them with more spaghetti or making a sandwich.

I came up with these Meatballs on top of mushrooms!

Meatballs On Top Of Mushrooms
Prepare the large mushroom caps by wiping off some of the soil with a soft brush or towel. Gently break off the stems, place on an oiled baking sheet, sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese and top with meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 -30 minutes until mushrooms look tender.

When done, turn off oven, remove sheet with meatballs and top with a good mozzerella (or provolone) and return to oven for a few minutes until cheese melts in the residual heat.

The meatball recipe comes from "We Called It Macaroni" by Nancy Verde Barr, a local chef, who went back to her roots in Southern Italy to create this wonderful authentic cookbook of Southern Italian food. I actually met her at Brown University when she was promoting her book (back in 1990 I think!). I signed up for her lecture and cooking demonstration that was followed by a fantastic Italian meal. I've loved her cookbook ever since and have never made a meatball from another cookbook, ever.  

These meatballs are very tender, indeed, and everyone who has tried one has fallen in love.

Meatballs (polpettini)

1 lb ground beef (I've tried 93%, but 85% tastes best)
4 large eggs, beaten (this is the secret to these tender meatballs)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs (I've used all different kinds and it doesn't matter, choose your favorite)
1/3 cup dark raisins (optional)
1/4 cup grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups tomato sauce

Mix all the ingredients (I omitted raisins this time), except the sauce, and blend well.  Wet hands and roll into desired-size meatballs. Drop directly into the simmering sauce and cook 30 minutes or until cooked through.  

She notes that these meatballs are so tender they should not be cooked by sauteing in a pan on the stovetop.

Usually, I don't cook the meatballs in the sauce.  I don't know - it just bothers me that the fat will be added to my sauce.  I've done it on occasion and it all tastes great, of course.  But I choose to cook mine in the oven on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 20 - 30 minutes, depending on their size.  Then I add them to my sauce for about one hour.

I think I'd like to try this dish again with smaller meatballs and in individual casserole dishes loaded with gooey cheese. And for individual appetizers sometime, maybe I'd use smaller mushrooms with smaller meatballs to make them bite size.