Southwestern Lentil Chili

I think every foodie has a penchant for something naughty- some low-rent processed salt or sugar bomb that in a weak moment you might put in your grocery cart and then squirrel away under under a big head of romaine lettuce. For me, this guilty pleasure is Hormel Chili.

Oh gelatinous canned meat ambrosia! When I was a kid I’d have Hormel Chili slathered over Japanese white rice with onions, cheddar cheese, and saltine crackers crunched on top.

Stop judging me. It’s heaven, you don’t even know.

Then, in 1994 Hormel chili and I were separated by good sense when the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act went into effect and my mom, aghast, went through our canned goods. There were many casualties in my childhood staples that fateful day (I miss you, too, Sapporo Ichiban!), but none stung my parents and I more than Hormel Chili. We switched to Hormel’s 97% Fat Free Turkey Chili. My father and I whined about it for five years.

Nowadays I scratch my chili itch by making Southwestern Lentil Chili (I know. More lentils. It’s like I want you to have gas). This stew is so darn packed with veggies and protein, and so darn filling! And it’s thick- you can stick a spoon straight up in it. This makes a big pot and then I portion it out and freeze it when I need a quick lunch or dinner. I used turkey sausage, but you could use any kind of seasoned ground meat.

Makes 10 Huge Hearty Servings- Serving Size: 2 Cup!

  • 1 Large Onion
  • 4 Medium Carrots- Diced
  • 2 Stalks Celery, Diced
  • 1 Large Red Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 2 Russet Potatoes, Peeled and Diced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 Pasilla Chiles, Roasted, skinned, and diced or a 12 Oz Can of Ortega Chiles
  • 1 Lb Lentils, picked-over and rinsed
  • 1 TBsp Olive Oil
  • 60 Oz. Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Lb Hot Turkey Sausage, cooked through
  • 15 Oz. Tomato Sauce
  • 6 oz Tomato Paste
  • 3 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • Hot Sauce (optional)
  • Cilantro for garnish.

1.) Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes, then add celery and carrots. Saute for another 2-5 minutes longer.

2.) Add the potatoes, red bell pepper, garlic, lentils, chicken or vegetable broth, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir to combine.

3.) Add the seasoning: Chili Powder, Cumin, Bay leaf, salt, and pepper and let simmer gently uncovered until lentils are cooked through- about 45 minutes to an hour. Keep stirring occasionally to keep lentils from burning on the bottom.

4.) Add the cooked turkey sausage (or any cooked meat) to the cooked chili, stir to incorpoate. Now’s the time to turn up the heat if you want to. Add cayenne pepper a little at a time until you have the kick you want, or just garnish with your hot sauce and some cilantro. Done!

For a big serving of 2 Cups:

Calories: 275  – Fat : 3 grams –  Carbs: 48 grams – Fiber:19 grams – Protein: 30 grams

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Steamed Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Chive Dipping Sauce

The antioxidant capacity for the artichoke is one of the highest reported for vegetables. Good stuff!

When I was a kid artichokes were served with one condiment, and one condiment only: Mayonnaise. Then I became a teenager and was too good for mayo. Mayo was gross. Why did my mom ever feed me mayo?!

On my Weight Watchers stint of 2006, a friend reintroduced me to the allures of artichokes as we were both counting calories and budgets. They were cheap in spring, since California produces about 100% of the US crop of artichokes we could wrangle them at Trader Joe’s for a dollar a piece. My friend would stuff their leaves with copious amounts of garlic, boil them, and then we’d dip them in spiced light butter and “ooh and ahh” like a pair of cooing Gollums. Oh artichokes, we will never be apart again!

Then Julie and Julia came out and I discovered Hollandaise sauce. I had never had Hollandaise sauce before (I’ve also never had eggs benedict. I know this is culinary sacrilege, but poached eggs kinda creep me out) but after seeing Amy Adams dip an olive-y petal into the stuff I vowed to try it. Hollandaise was dreamy and frothy buttery goodness- but oh so, so bad for you. Like someone said, “Hey, let’s take a stick of butter and add more cholesterol to it!”

So now I’ve endeavored to find a new condiment, a new yin to the artichoke yang.

This recipe serves four people. Each person gets their own artichoke- it’s artichoke law, because everyone should have a tender artichoke heart of their very own. I’ve used regular sour cream here. You could theoretically sub in a lower fat sour cream, but don’t. You’re already a hero for not using butter, no need to martyr yourself. When buying artichokes, look for ones with green leaves that are tightly packed and feel heavy. Her majesty Julia Child said, “Very fresh artichokes will talk to you when you squeeze the head- squeaky fresh, in other words.”

  • 4 medium sized artichokes
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 5-7 cloves garlic roughly chopped (be bold! The sour cream will dampen the garlic)
  • 2 TBsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 C chopped chives
  • 1 TBsp champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1. Steam your artichokes until tender. I put mine in a large pot stem side up, add about two inches of lightly salted water at the bottom, and put over medium heat for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily pierce where the stem meets the bloom with a fork. After cooked, set them aside to cool a bit.

2. In a food processor add the lemon juice, chives, vinegar, salt, honey, and pepper. Process and put into a bowl (it will look similar to a pesto). Add the sour cream and stir in. I like portioning the dip into individual little ramekins.

Calories: 198  – Fat : 12 grams –  Carbs: 19.6 – Fiber: 5.2 grams – Protein: 7.2 grams

Note: Calories were calculated assuming everybody eats their entire portion of dipping sauce, which is unlikely. This dip would also make a good condiment to a crudites platter.