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Rich Vegetarian Chili for Game Day

For you sports lovers out there, next weekend is as much about the food (and drinks) as it is about the big game. Burgers, wings, brats, pizza, seven-layer dip and other comfort foods are inextricably linked to watching football. How many times in the past have you gone to a party or a sports bar and watched the game while eating a salad? While a big bowl of greens or a platter of crudité would be smarter choices to munch on while spending several hours on the sofa in front of the television, they’re certainly not befitting of the occasion.

 

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During this year’s Super Bowl Sunday, there’s a way to eat well and take care of yourself without feeling like you’re being a party pooper: make chili. Even if you could care less about football, chili makes a great warming one-pot meal anytime the temperatures start to dip. It’s especially satisfying after any sort of sustained calorie-burning activity, such as shoveling snow, gardening, or a long, brisk walk around the neighborhood.

Flavorful and Heart-Healthy

kidney beans

This dish can be quite meat-heavy—especially true of all-beef Texas chili—and a single serving can weigh you down, especially if you load up on the toppings. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The heart-healthy vegetarian version below is just as rich in flavor as many of its meat-centered cousins, but without the abundance of saturated fat and with loads more fiber. With crumbled tofu standing in for the beef, kidney beans to provide additional flavor and protein, and barley for some toothsome chew, you’ll hardly miss the meat.

For all the tofu naysayers, take note: Because chili contains a healthy amount of warm spices, aromatics and tomatoes, protein-rich tofu acts like a sponge in the best possible way. It absorbs all the flavors and contributes welcome meat-like texture, but adds little noticeable flavor of its own. It’s one of several key ingredients that play a balanced role in the senior friendly dish so that one doesn’t overwhelm the other.

With canned beans and quick-cooking barley taking the place of dried beans and hulled barley, the cooking time tops out at just over 30 minutes. The cooking method couldn’t be simpler. Other merits? It makes a generous amount, freezes well and is a dependable option for those times your vegetarian family members come over for dinner. And, should you still have any extra left chili left over, the flavor continues to improve overnight. Win-win!

Vegetarian Tofu, Bean and Barley Chili

When purchasing tofu, do not select the silken variety, as it will fall apart rather than crumbling. If possible, choose tofu made from non-GMO soybeans. If you prefer a non-spicy chili, substitute smoked paprika for the chipotle powder.

Ingredients

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 Tbs. tomato paste

3 Tbs. chili powder

2 tsp. chipotle powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 pkg. (16 oz.) extra-firm tofu, crumbled

1 can (14.5 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup quick-cooking barley

1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes

1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce

2 cups water

Diced avocado, sliced green onions, Greek yogurt and shredded Mexican-blend cheese, for garnish (optional)

Cooking Instructions

diced veggies in pan

1. Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, chipotle powder, cumin and salt and cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.

2. Add the tofu, beans, barley, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until barley is tender and chili is thickened, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Ladle the chili into individual bowls and top with avocado, green onions, yogurt and cheese, if desired.

Serves 6.