Easy fall weeknight: Veggie Chili in a Crockpot.

Graduate school is graciously giving me the great displeasure of enduring two evening classes a week between the very convenient hours of 5pm and 9pm.You can imagine that cooking dinner on these nights is a struggle. The temptations for takeout are intense. The tempations for greasy comfort food as a reward for surviving class are definitely eating away at my conscience (see what I did there?). But I am determined to listen to the other half of my brain that says, “Josh–don’t eat crap. Think smarter and plan ahead.” So far, I am succeeding thanks to the handy dandy crockpot.

This useful kitchen gadget also makes for an easy transition into fall cooking–the perfect vessel for a nice stew or soup. Admittedly, I am jumping into a fall a little early. I’ll own that. But it’s getting chilly up here in Boston (read: it’s between 65 and 70 degrees, low humidity), and this southern boy has got goosebumps. It’s soup and stew time!

Enter veggie chili–a delightful and simple meal for a fall weeknight, comforting and good for you. I got the base recipe from Southern Living, but I made quite a few changes to the seasoning, mostly because their recipe offered very little seasoning. It seemed a little bland: a word that should never describe something that’s supposed to be savory and spicy. Still, being the current student I am, I’ll “cite” Southern Living for the recipe as it was the starting point for my culinary research.

Recipe:

Begin by chopping 1 medium-large onion, 2 carrots, and 2 celery ribs. You’ll also want to slice or chop 1.5lb mushrooms (I used cremini), and squash of your choice (2 if you’re using zucchini or yellow squash, 1 for larger squash like butternut).

All chopped up and raring to go!
All chopped up and raring to go!

Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium heat and add a 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (or vegetable oil). When it’s hot, add the onions, carrot, and celery and let the onions sweat and turn translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Then, add the squash and let it begin to get some color, also adding 4-5 tablespoons of chili powder, 1-2 dried chiles (or a good pinch of red pepper flakes), 1.5 tablespoons of cumin and a teaspoon of dried oregano. Let the spices heat through a little and then take the skillet off heat.

Skillet Veggies, all spiced up.
Skillet Veggies, all spiced up.

Now, the crockpot comes in. Into that big boy (a 6 quart crockpot, to be exact), add 3 cups tomato juice, 1 cup plain tomato sauce, and 2 15oz cans of diced tomatoes. Then, add the mushrooms and the spiced vegetables from the skillet. Drain and rinse 3 15oz cans of beans (I used white and red kidney beans; you could also use black beans or whichever beans make you happy). Stir in the beans and then season with salt to your taste. Do be careful with the salt as tomato juice often has sodium already so you might not need to add as much as you think!

Ready, set, slow cook.
Ready, set, slow cook.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Then, BAM. It’s done. (Not exactly BAM; it does take 8 hours, but you get the idea.)Top it with some oyster crackers and nonfat Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream).

It’s fall y’all,

Josh

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