Lentil and Vegetable Chili

I love making a big pot of chili for dinner. I have made chili with ground beef, chili with ground turkey, and chili with leftover roasted turkey. All of these variations are deliscious. I crave them all from time to time. I couldn't help but wonder if I could come up with a no-meat chili, in honor of Meatless Monday, that would be completely satisfying. Answer: yes! I couldn't believe how many times my husband said, "this is really good." He ate the leftovers almost every day for lunch or dinner until they were gone. I was lucky to get one more cup for a lunch later in the week. I think the leftover chili was even better than on the first night I served it, because the spices had extra time to meld together. (Perfect for phase 1 South Beach and phase 2 of The New Atkins).

Lentil and Vegetable Chili
1 lb of green lentils, soaked in water with lemon (see why you should soak your grains here)
1- 2 lemons
1 large onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 zucchini, diced
8 oz of portobello mushrooms, diced
1 (15 oz) can of kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes, no salt added (I like adding my own salt)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

(optional garnish)
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (low fat for South Beach | regular for The New Atkins)
sour cream (low fat for South Beach | regular for The New Atkins)

1. Soak the lentils in a bowl (or the pot that you will cook the chili in) with enough warm water to cover the lentils by 1 1/2 inches. Squeeze lemon juice in the water. If the lemons are not juicy add a second lemon. Soak for 7 hours. I do this first thing in the morning before going to work so when I'm ready to prepare dinner the lentils are ready.

2. Drain the lentils and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot until it shimmers. Add the minced onion and stir for 2 - 3 minutes until the onions become translucent.

3. Press garlic over the onions and stir until it becomes fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Stir in the lentils.

5. Add the amount of water to the lentils, onions, and garlic as directed on the package of lentils.

6. As the lentils are cooking according to the package instructions. Chop the mushrooms and zucchini in a similar size dice.

7. Halfway through the lentil cooking time add the mushrooms and zucchini. Do not stir. Simmer the lentils and vegetables for the remaining lentil cooking time.

8. Finally, when the lentils are finished cooking then you can stir the pot. Add the kidney beans (you don't have to drain them or you can if you prefer).

9. Add the diced tomatoes.

10. Now comes the flavor. Add all the chili spices: chili powder, paprika, oregano, cilantro, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

11. Cover and simmer the chili for 15 minutes until the flavors marry well. Serve up the chili with your favorite garnishes (or whatever you have on hand which is usually the case in our house).


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