I’m baaaaack! Did you miss me? 🙂 I spent the first half of this month on an intense academic expedition, hiking the proposed international Peace Park in the Balkans Mountains between Albania, Montenegro, and Kosovo. I highly suggest anyone interested in learning about conflict resolution or environmental studies check out the International Peace Park Expedition’s website (it is an academically accredited trip through the University of Vermont’s Graduate College and their Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources). They have accredited academic expeditions all over the world, but enough advertising for the greatest experiential learning course you could ever possibly imagine… Let’s talk about food. 😉
As much as I love experiencing the cuisine of different cultures, there is a point where you have to put down the goat cheese and admit how much you wish you could have just a little taste of home. Honestly, I don’t know of any food that’s more American than chili – except maybe this one – and so to celebrate the amazing bounty of fresh veg at the market this morning, I’ve decided to make a vegan chili.
…Except, I don’t really like chili all that much on its own. It’s good for the first bowl, but I always feel like something’s missing when I eat chili. So, recently inspired by a Mexican Lasagna over at Healthy Food | Lazy People, I’m going to turn my slow-cooker chili into the base for my Tex-Mex Lasagna (and further procrastinate working on my final paper for the above mentioned class). So much win I can barely stand it. 😀
Fun fact: Dried beans are not only cheaper and better for you than the canned variety, the soaking dried beans require before cooking them removes the compound that causes flatulence. If you’ve gotten a little more musical since your great Aunt’s taco night last Sunday, that’s a pretty good sign that she’s using canned beans.
Slow-Cooker Veg Chili and Tex-Mex Lasagna:
- Large slow-cooker, knife, cutting board, strainer, tea kettle, large bowl, bottle opener, cheese grater, casserole baking dish, small ladle or large spoon, oven
- 4 green peppers, seeded and cut into large chunks
- 3 tomatoes, cored and cut into large chunks
- 3 large yellow onions, halved and slivered
- 3 jalapenos or other chillies of choice
- 1 head of garlic cloves (yes, head), peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large head of broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
- 1 zucchini, halved and slivered
- 1 yellow squash, halved and slivered
- 6 ears worth of white sweet corn, cut off the cob
- 1 – 12 oz. dark beer (I used a local Lager)
- 1/2 cup kidney beans
- 1 cup black beans
- 1/2 cup red beans
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- Chili powder
- Smoked paprika
- Cayenne pepper
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- Cilantro (optional)
- Lemon pepper
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 pkg 8″ tortillas (for Tex-Mex Lasagna)
- 1+ cups shredded sharp cheddar and jack cheeses (for Tex-Mex Lasagna)
- Sour cream, chives, lettuce and whatever other topping you like (optional)
- Tap water
- Fill the kettle with water, and bring to a boil. Put all the beans in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside and let sit for about 4 hours. Prep the veg, make your stock, take a nap, creep on Facebook.
- Drain and rinse the beans in a strainer. Add the softened beans to the slow-cooker. Add all of the vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, onions, chillies, garlic, broccoli, zucchini, squash, corn, and cilantro if desired), the beer, and the stock to the slow cooker.
- Now, it’s time to make a judgment call. A thousand people like chili a thousand different ways. The listed seasonings are the ones I deem necessary for a great Tex-Mex flavor, but I’m not exactly a chili connoisseur or even really a chili enthusiast. But, I do know that these flavors taste freaking awesome together – especially when added with the sharp cheddar and jack at the end. I strongly recommend each of the listed spices, but it’s really up to you and your taste buds how much of each you like. I’m in the mood for lighter seasoning (since it’s summer time), so I used the approximate ratio of:
- 4 huge dashes chili powder
- 2 huge dashes paprika
- 1 big dash cumin
- 2 small dashes cayenne pepper
- 2 small dashes lemon pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste (heavy on the black pepper)
- Turn the slow-cooker on High and let cook 4-5 hours. Taste test the doneness of your beans after about 3 hours to decide how much longer you want it to cook.
- The chili portion of this recipe is now over, so either rip off a crusty piece of sourdough and ENJOY!! or continue on:
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Ladle some of the hot liquid from the chili onto the bottom of the baking dish and cover with a layer of tortillas. From here on out, it’s the same process as building a lasagna. Layer the tortillas like it’s the pasta, the chili juices like it’s a tomato sauce, and the veg and beans like ground beef with the shredded cheeses until you’re casserole dish is full. Make sure to top with a generous final layer of the cheeses. Store any extra chili separately.
- Bake the Tex-Mex Lasagna for 15-20 mins or until the top cheese is melted and golden and the sides are bubbling.