Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Eat Chili in the Summer

Does anything really beat a bowl of chili? Okay, yes. Lots of things. But I just love a good bowl of chili. Especially if it's vegetarian. Because then I can eat it and still feel good about myself. :)

Some days, I wander the kitchen aimlessly, ransacking the cupboards, pushing items around in the fridge, scratching my head, and trying to figure out what in the world I'm actually in the mood for. Other days, I plan ahead, and all day I dream of making this perfectly thought-out meal, and I can barely wait until dinner time to prepare it.

And then there are days like today. It started out looking like I would have another I-don't-know-what-the-heck-I-want kind of days, but then suddenly a Dutch oven full of inspiration splashed me across the face, and I realized I had everything necessary to throw it together, and within twenty minutes, I'm sitting at the table, delivering spoonfuls of satisfaction to my taste buds.

Tonight's inspiration was chili. Yes, chili. I don't care if it's 80 degrees outside. When Lauren wants chili, Lauren eats chili. Which is pretty phenomenal, considering I had never even eaten the spicy stew less than a year ago.

Yes, it's true. I tried chili for the first time just last autumn. I have a slight obsession with soups, so I asked a coworker at the library what her favorite kind was. To my horror (at the time), she responded, "chili." After seeing my look of repulsion, she asked why I didn't like it. (Actually, it was more like, "How could you NOT like chili?!?!?!"

...I had no answer. I realized that I had always avoided it simply because I never used to like beans. But I had never actually tried it, so how could I say I didn't like it?

Luckily for me, my school makes some gosh darn fantastic chili. I tried it the next time I ate on campus, and let's just say my life has never been the same. In fact, falling in love with chili was the first step for me to fall in love with beans. Now I'm a total bean addict.

But when it comes to making chili at home, I always opt for meatless. I've tried replacements: rice? No. Carrots? No. Sweet potato? No. Tofu? Absolutely not. So typically, I just make a beans-only version. But now, I have found my hero.

That's not ground beef. And it's not ground turkey, either!

And you'll never guess what it is. Lentils. YES! It's those gosh darn lentils! Jennifer Perillo is seriously my savior. Last night, I whipped up an ENORMOUS batch of her lentil burgers to store up in the freezer. Yesterday, I used them to make meatballs. Successful. Today, I crumbled them up and used them like ground beef. Also successful! Can you believe it? The entire time I was "browning" them, I was laughing to myself for thinking this would actually work. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they stayed together, and how nicely the taste blended in with the chili (unlike other replacements I tried...yes, tofu, I'm looking at you!). It even LOOKS like ground meat!

It was for sure the most satisfying bowl of chili that has ever come out of my kitchen. Buon appetito!

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