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Vegetable and bean chili satisfying

In photo: Jeff Wilkin’s recipe for a vegetable-based chili includes peppers, onions, tomatoes, chickpeas and three kinds of beans. (Jeff Wilkin photo)

Another drive to decency has started in my bachelor kitchen.

Sadly, it looks like a campaign against comfort foods is part of the agenda.

Health advice is behind both decisions. While doing a story about high blood pressure — you can read the piece on Saturday — a doctor at Albany Medical Center was a sport and took my blood pressure for a video that will accompany the story.

The numbers were a little high, probably because I had not taken my medication for an existing blood pressure condition that morning. I’m also taking baby aspirin pills and fish oil tablets, both designed to fight the good fight against coronary disease.

My epic fail on the blood pressure test forced me to abandon plans for a weekend killer chili con carne in the Crock-Pot — sausage, ground beef, beans, tomatoes, onions and peppers. Another valentine from middle age, I thought, as Sunday dinner began to look like lettuce, olives and grapefruit juice.

Choosing ingredients

But then I solved the case. Why not make a chili without the meat?

I’ve never tried this kind of dish — I’m much more carnivore then vegan. This vegetable and bean dish turned out so nicely I am putting it on my Friday night menu during Lent.

For this chili, I started with a couple of cans of quality tomato sauce for a base. Instead of the usual one Spanish onion, two onions — one Spanish and one white — were sliced and diced. Three bell peppers, two red and one green, got the same treatment. I used both fresh tomatoes and canned diced tomatoes. But the real key was beans — red kidney beans, white kidney beans, black beans and chickpeas were drained and rinsed. Soaked, actually, because I was trying to get the salt off them.

Then the beans joined the vegetables in the Crock for a six-hour simmer, and really added color, texture and extra taste to the dish.

Celery, black olives, scallions and green peas are other options. Maybe even pearl onions. I just didn’t have any in the house this past weekend.

Any chili is good with bread, but I’m now avoiding factory-baked and plastic-wrapped bread. My new friends at the American Heart Association say bread and rolls can be high in sodium, so I’m going to invest and ingest bakery-fresh breads. They’ve still got salt, but I figure the preservative list is lower than ones I’d find on packages of Arnold, Sunbeam or Pepperidge Farm.

Plenty of options

For those upcoming Lenten menus, I think this works great for meatless Friday nights — and if sausage and meatballs are in your diet, they can be added Saturday to turn the vegetarian chili into a heartier version. A colleague has mentioned low-fat ground turkey as an alternative to my traditional favorites, and I guess that’s a path for the future.

My vegetarian chili tasted great with a few thick slices of fresh-baked Italian. I think I could also serve this chili over pasta — kind of a pasta primavera dish, pasta with vegetables.

I’d really like to serve this over a few scoops of mashed potatoes, but mashed potatoes are on the endangered list in my kitchen these days. At least until a decrease in blood pressure — and an increase in daily exercise — saves the day.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at

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