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When I said goodbye to meat in April and dived headfirst into the world of vegetarianism, I was forced to get creative—and get creative fast! I had learned about TVP (textured vegetable protein) from a friend and was delighted when I learned that if it was seasoned correctly, the meat substitute that resembles crumbled hamburger can satisfy the most carnivorous of carnivores. At first, all I made was simple Mexican tacos, but since meat has left the picture, I have graduated to spaghetti and stroganoff. Finally, I did the unthinkable in Texas and made the jump to the mecca of all meat dishes: chili.

It’s been a lot of fun experimenting with vegetables and spices; this is a variation on my original meaty recipe, but with TVP in place of the beef—and a whole lot more veggies. To me, if food doesn’t have a little kick, it’s not worth eating, so if you’re sensitive to spice, leave out one or both of the jalapeños or remove the seeds before adding. I  recommend leaving the chipotle peppers in, as they give the chili a subtle smokiness, but if you simply can’t handle it, go ahead and leave those out as well.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 can (7 ounces) diced green chiles, drained
1 package (10 ounces) julienned carrots
2 fresh jalapeños, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 package (12 ounces) textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1 zucchini, julienned
1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (about 5 peppers with some sauce)
2 teaspoons sage
2 squares mildly sweet dark chocolate
3 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 package Goya seasoning (I like Culantro y Achiote flavor)
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained

Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Stir in onion and season with bay leaves, cumin, oregano and salt; cook and stir until tender. Stir in bell peppers, green chiles, carrots, jalapeños, celery and garlic. When vegetables are heated through, mix in TVP and zucchini, cover and simmer about 5 minutes.

While the vegetables simmer, heat chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, sage and dark chocolate in a separate, small pot, stirring until chocolate melts.

Add the chipotle mixture, tomatoes, chili powder, Goya seasoning and beans to vegetable mixture; stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir in the corn, then continue to simmer 5 minutes before serving.

Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 127 calories, 6.3 g protein, 4.1 g fat, 18.6 g carbohydrates, 5.2 g fiber, 820 mg sodium, 1 mg cholesterol

Ashley ClaryTexas Co-op Power Field Editor