Though it does contain meat, this recipe is referred to in my family as low-cal or vegetable chili, because it produces a chili lower in fat and more nutritional than the traditional kind.
Something I like about the recipe is that it specifies a range of quantities, so that it can be tweaked and customized to suit individual taste. Typically, I use the maximum quantity of all the ingredients, including the meat and chili powder, but I reduce or omit the cooking oil. For a milder chili, or one that is meat- or vegetable-heavy, just vary the proportions accordingly. Garbanzos can be used with, or instead of, the kidney beans.
If grass-fed beef is used, browning it in a separate pan as specified in step 1 may be unnecessary. Instead, brown the meat in the same pot where the chili will be made. Then add the vegetables and proceed with the recipe, omitting most or all of the oil.
1/2 to 1 pound extra lean ground beef (preferably extra-lean grass-fed ground beef, which has very little fat)
1 tablespoon or less olive or vegetable oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
6 – 8 mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes or 2 cups chopped, peeled, fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup chili powder, to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz. can kidney beans, drained
Traditional garnishes (optional)
Grated cheddar cheese
Reduced fat sour cream
Oyster crackers or saltines
1. Brown the beef in a pan over medium-high heat, breaking it up into pieces as it browns. Drain off any fat by removing the beef from the pan with a slotted spoon and allowing it to rest on clean paper toweling.
2. In a large heavy pot, using a small quantity of oil if necessary to prevent sticking, saute the garlic, onions, mushrooms, and celery over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the meat, then the tomatoes, stirring to combine. Add the chili powder, vinegar, and some water if needed.
3. Heat to a bubble; cover and simmer for 45 minutes over reduced heat, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the strained beans and mix thoroughly; again heat to a simmer.
5. Serve chili hot, with cheddar cheese and sour cream as optional garnishes. Some people like to top chili with oyster crackers or broken-up saltines.
This recipe yields 6-8 servings. It’s easy to double, and it freezes well. It can be made a day in advance and refrigerated, which will improve its flavor. On game day, just re-heat and serve!