Friday, November 11, 2011

Cashew Cranberry Chili

I’m a flexitarian. I laugh at myself each time I use it, because it's sort of a made up word that doesn’t really mean anything special, but I use it because it invites questions and stirs up a conversation. I especially use it in my Cooking Matters classes, where I immediately lose the crowd as soon as I say “plant-based diet.” Nuh uh! They’re not giving up their meat. And nor should they. And nor should I.

A flexitarian is also a semi-vegetarian, or a vegetarian who eats meat (Whaaa?). I’m sure true vegetarians roll their eyes at this definition and think we just don’t have the willpower to completely stay away from meat. Maybe for some that’s true. For me, I don’t pretend that I want to avoid meat…I just don’t like paying for it too often.

I like meat. Good meat. Fresh meat that comes from local grass-fed cows, happy pigs and chickens who roam. (Expensive meat). I’m perfectly willing to spend a little more money on something I can feel good about eating, but if I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m a student…an unemployed student. And above all, I enjoy eating a plant based diet. It offers more variety and nutritional benefit and forces me to be creative. Beans give you protein AND fiber (and no fat), nuts and seeds also provide protein, fiber and healthy fats. Add some veggies & whole grains and you're all set!

Here’s a recipe for a vegan chili that’s a little different than your typical bean based chili. I got this from a friend and fellow flexitarian, but I made some changes to suit my tastes (and because I like to break the rules a bit.)

Cashew Cranberry Chili

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed and chopped
2 cans beans (kidney, cannellini, cranberry, pinto, etc.)
15 oz can tomato sauce
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 can corn (or 2 cups fresh/frozen)
1 cup whole raw cashews
1 cup cranberries (fresh for more of tang, dried if you like a sweeter bite)
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. black pepper

1. Sautee onion, garlic, pepper, celery, carrots, and jalapeno until tender, 5-10 minutes.

2. Add beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes, corn, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. (If using fresh cranberries, thrown them in now as well).

3. Stir in the cashews and cranberries (if using dried) and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.

4. De-veganize this recipe by serving with a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt, sour cream, or shredded cheese.

Click here for a printable recipe!


  1. Looks delicious - I like the term flexitarian!

  2. Update: I'm leaving out the Italian spices next time. They give a nice flavor, but I prefer the chili powder and cumin to shine in my chili!


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