While growing up I remember my mother making chili. The ingredients were ground beef, onions, canned kidney beans, canned tomatoes and tomato juice. The canned vegetables contain salt and still the dish was seasoned again and Mexicana Chili Powder. The chili powder was made into a paste with a few tablespoons of white flour for thickening and water. I did a Google search for the proper spelling of the chili powder and wasn’t able to find it. If it is misspelled I apologize. This was served with white saltine crackers and if you really wanted to enjoy the chili, crumble those crackers into your bowl.
The first time I had lentils was when I was in my late teens or early 20’s. For a long, long time I thought that the only way you could enjoy lentils was in a lentil vegetable soup consisting of onions, carrots, celery, canned tomatoes and elbow macaroni. While both bring back memories my tastes and dietary requirements have changed.
My mother’s chili was a staple in our house. The ground beef was not ground sirloin but the real 70% lean or such. The fat was not drained off but allowed to cook into the chili only adding to the flavor. When I say saltine crackers I’m not talking about a few but the more the better. No wonder I had weight issues most of my life.
I have gone to eating things lower in fat and working to eliminate as much as possible prepackaged foods from my diet, organic when at all possible and have been gluten free for the last 18 months or so. So how does one go about reducing fat, eliminating gluten and not sacrificing flavor?
How about combining lean ground turkey with lentils the typical tomatoes, onions and seasonings and enjoy a big bowl of Lentil Chili? Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked and they cook in a relative short time. While my recipe does use canned tomatoes and tomato sauce there are low-sodium options available for those who might need or want to reduce their sodium intake. The secret ingredient in this recipe is epazote.
Epazote is a Mexican herb that was used as far back as the Aztecs. It is frequently added to beans during cooking as it is said to help reduce the gaseous effect. I have made this recipe without and it really isn’t quite the same. Several internet resources suggest using Mexican Oregano as a substitute if the epazote isn’t available.
The recipe makes 8 to 10 substantial servings and can be frozen and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator as needed. It has a minimal prep time and cooks in about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve this with either blue corn muffins (recipe to follow at a later time) or crunchy tortilla chips.
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
5-6 cups chicken stock
2 cups lentils, rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can dice cut canned tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 teaspoons epazote
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
green onion, sliced
cheddar cheese, grated
In a heavy stock pot warm a small amount of olive oil and saute the onion until transparent. Add in the garlic and cook for a few minutes taking care not to scorch the garlic. Crumble in the ground turkey and cook until turkey is cooked through, breaking up with a potato masher.
Add the stock through epazote, stir to blend, bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and cook on medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. At end of the cooking time taste and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
Ladle into bowl and garnish with sliced green onions and grated cheddar cheese.