October 22 is the day the Office of Sustainability’s building has their annual chili cook-off. There are rules, judging, blood, sweat and tears. It is intense! This year, the office decided to form a team to try to be queens of the chili. And what better timing to submit a sustainable chili for the competition- October is Campus Sustainability Month and October 24 is Food Day.
We decided to follow our own Sustainable Recipe Checklist to make sure our chili both tastes awesome and is inherently awesome! So let’s check!
1. Is your recipe healthy?
Definitely! We don’t add unnecessarily large amounts of salt (we made our own veggie stock) and we don’t add fats (except a wee bit of sautéing olive oil) or sugar. Sure, we could’ve added brown sugar to get you addicted and ensure we’d win, but… really? No. This chili is awesome enough.
We also put amazing nutrient-packed veggies in like black & white beans, summer squash, carrots, kale, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños. (3 points!)
2. Is your recipe vegetarian or vegan?
Totally vegan! Not using animals or animal by-products is more sustainable because vegetables require less energy to produce than animal products (since you have to grow more food to feed the animals, not to mention the crazy amount of greenhouse gases certain livestock produces). (3 points!)
3. If your recipe contains meat or dairy products, were the animals raised without artificial growth hormones or antibiotics?
Not applicable, my recipe is vegan. (3 points!)
4. Is your recipe made with ingredients from an organic farm and does not use pesticides?
Yes! We made sure to source our ingredients from farms and gardens we trust that don’t spray their produce with toxics pesticides. The tomatoes are from Cindy’s garden, the jalapeños are from Sarah’s garden, the squash, carrots, beans are all organic and from the Green Grocer Chicago, the Kale from Kate’s produce share, the oregano and cilantro from the UIC Heritage Garden (I asked for them- please do not pick plants from the Heritage Garden) (3 points!)
5. Does your recipe use local/seasonal ingredients?
You betcha! You can’t get anymore local than your backyard garden and most of the other ingredients came from farms like Genesis Growers, Montalbano Farms, Seedling Fruit, Mick Klug Farm in Illinois and Michigan. (3 points!)
6. Does your recipe use non-heavily processed foods with minimal packaging?
We are very proud that we used the freshest veggies. Even the beans didn’t have much packaging- we bought them in bulk and brought own own container to take them home (no cans necessary!) Also, using fresh veggies means no weirdo ingredients like “propylene glycol” in our chili! (3 points!)
7. Does your recipe avoid using GMO foods?
This is a hard question, because really- how do you know? Well, Sarah’s and Cindy’s peppers and tomatoes most likely aren’t GMO, but what about everything else? Usually organic means non-GMO, but Monsanto’s seeds are so pervasive in our agriculture system, all we can do is hope that it’s not GMO… and tell our elected officials to label our food! (2 points)
8. Were the ingredients sourced using fair trade practices?
Well, certainly the garden ingredients are sourced sustainably, and the other veggies from the Green Grocer? They work with their farmers directly and visit them frequently so we can be assured than no funny business is happening with the workers who handle our food. (3 points!)
9. Does your recipe require minimal serving ware?
Even though we can’t serve our chili with just a toothpick and napkin, we are going to try to get compostable spoons and bowls! Or… just pour it directly in my mouth… (2 points)
10. Are you serving your recipe with items that can be composted or recycled?
See above. (2 points
total points: 27/30 Woo Hoo!
and now… FINALLY… on to the good stuff
Fire-Roasted Garden Chili
1 yellow onion, cut into quarters
3 red (ripened) jalapeños
25 cherry tomatoes
1 small summer squash, cut into 1/2″ dice
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped finely and leaves chopped into small pieces
3 carrots, sliced 1/2″ thick
2 cups white beans- soaked overnight
3 cups black beans- soaked overnight
4-6 cups vegetable stock
1 small bunch cilantro, handful fresh oregano
cumin, salt & pepper to taste
1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the onions, tomatoes and jalapeños in a single layer. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes at 425. When cool to the touch, remove tough skin from the pepper and add peppers (without stems), onions and tomatoes to a food processor and puree until smooth and set aside.
2. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil and add squash, carrots, and kale stems and sauté for a few minutes. Add beans, tomato puree, kale leaves, cumin, and enough stock to cover plus a little extra. Bring to a boil, then cover and on low heat, simmer until beans are tender- 60 minutes or so. To thicken the chili, add a mixture of masa harina and water.
UPDATE! The black beans totally took over the color of the chili and after it sat for a day, it became this very unappealing gray blob. So guess what? It didn’t win. But it does make THE BEST bean dip! All I did was throw about 75% of it into a food processor, and… MAGIC! Chili is saved!