The bus will be arriving in fifteen minutes. Maddox in a snow suit, under a thick wool blanket in the stroller, now resembles the little brother in “A Christmas Story” and can barely put his arms down. Next, Trey insists on wearing only a t-shirt under his coat because it has spider-man or star wars on it or something, which apparently trumps the cold when you’re five. I choose not to have that battle, today. So I bundle him up too, placating both him and myself, a compromise made daily in order to make it to the bus stop on time.
Hats, gloves, scarves and heavy coats are on. Once everyone is ready and I double check everything three times, we’re off! The wind whips through us, sending shivers down our spines as we briskly walk to the bus stop talking about how it really should be snowing by now and what we’re doing after school. We finally make it and we wait, huddled together. The roar of the engine is heard over the top of the hill and the big yellow school bus is in sight! It pulls up, Trey gets on. We wave and say, “bye!” as the doors close and the bus starts on its way again. I lean in to ask Max if he’s cold, he just says, “burr” which is also his newest word, by the way. So, I run back home pushing the stroller and then we quickly go inside to thaw ourselves with warm milk for Max and some cinnamon stick tea for me. Good morning. Is it really ten already?
After about an hour of playing, I attempt to get Mr. Max to take a nap. That’s hit and miss these days. With errands looming and chores in the forefront of my thoughts, I think, “what am I having for lunch?” And then it hits me. I made chili last night!
Not just any chili, but really one of the best I’ve ever made in Mike’s opinion and mine. That is saying a lot, because he’s not one for empty compliments nor is he naturally inclined to love something healthy, like this vegetarian chili. Why do we love it so much? It has different levels of spicy and sweet, it has hints of smoky and fresh and it has a punch of spice but also a slow, warm underlying heat to it too which quenches my seemingly insatiable desire for warmth today. As I finally get Max to nap and the house becomes quiet, I dig in to this steaming bowl of delicious comfort and soon the icy freeze in my body melts. Now, warm and satiated, I officially declare this chili one of my favorite ways to revel in a winter day like today.
Black Bean Chili
- 2 cups dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
- olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots or parsnips
- 2 cloves garlic, minced/grated
- 2 cups roasted diced tomatoes with garlic olive oil and basil (recipe below or you may use store-bought)
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetarian vegetable stock
- 2 cups of water
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 3 tablespoon chili powder (more to taste)
- 2 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 serrano chili pepper, minced
- 1 cup beer
Preparation: Soak the sorted and rinsed black beans in water overnight. Drain water from beans and then rinse them.
- In a large pot over medium high heat, drizzle olive oil until lightly coating the bottom of the pot.
- When oil starts to smoke, add onion, red pepper flakes, carrots and celery.
- Sprinkle vegetables with a little salt and pepper, and toss with a wooden spoon to combine.
- When onion becomes translucent, add the garlic and stir continuously for about 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant.
- Add tomatoes (recipe below) stir once and then let the vegetables cook untouched for about a minute or until liquid from vegetables is near to completely evaporated and the vegetables, themselves begin to brown on the bottom of the pot.
- When vegetables begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, add the crushed tomatoes and then vegetable stock.
- Stir to combine while scraping up any bits of vegetables that got stuck to the bottom of the pot.
- Add water, cumin, chili powder, chipotle peppers and the serrano chili pepper. Stir and then add salt and pepper to taste. Add the prepared black beans.
- Bring to a light boil stirring every few minutes for about 30 minutes or until beans start to become tender and the liquid begins to reduce.
- When the liquid coats the back of a spoon, taste and add additional chili powder or salt and pepper if desired.
- Reduce heat to low, add beer.
- Stir and cover.
- Cook covered on low, stirring every 8 minutes or so, until the chili is thick to your liking and the black beans and vegetables are exceptionally tender.
- Note: The longer this cooks, the better it will taste as the slow cooking process at the end marries everything in the chili together. Because of this, you may add water every half hour if needed so the chili does not become over reduced.
- 4 cups sliced fresh tomatoes
- about 8 whole basil leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 5 black peppercorns, freshly ground
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Place tomatoes in baking dish, slightly overlapping.
- Stick basil leaves evenly under tomato slices and grate garlic clove over the tomatoes.
- drizzle olive oil and vinegar over tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place in preheated oven until the edges of the tomatoes begin to shrivel.
- Use immediately or jar for future use.
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