Damned by Writers Block [Vegetarian Chili with Cinnamon Yogurt]

I haven’t been taking as much time to write lately. Of course, all the normal things that life brings with it tend to stand in the way, but this time it’s something different.

Writers block. My head, knock on it as hard as I may, will not answer. Sometimes I wonder if it’s taken a vacation somewhere wonderful and left me behind to fend for myself. How terribly rude that would be. I have an arsenal of photos and recipes to share but when I sit down, excited to share them with you, I just can’t muster anything. There’s been a lot of “I like to eat…” and “This tastes good…”. And really, you deserve more than that. Especially when I’m sure, or at least semi-sure, I can provide you with something more entertaining than single syllable, unimaginative description of what graced my plate last night.

This morning, rather than laying the guilt trip I’ve been giving myself on any longer, I made a life-sized pot of peppermint tea, set up a nice comfy spot on the couch beside a sleepy black cat, and started to read anything food related that I could. While I certainly was inspired to write, it wasn’t really condusive to what I wanted to talk about. So here I sit, spilling my brainless guts out to you in hope that I’ll eventually get back onto a topic that will lead me to the recipe I want to share today.

However, since that’s not happening and I’m sure I could yammer on all day about how writing isn’t always the easiest of tasks, and how blog writing can be a lot of pressure sometimes, and how I’m sure if I listen hard enough I could hear the crickets who have inhabited my brain, I’ll jump right into the meat it. Which is not the most exact way to describe it, since today I’m talking chili. A meat-less, but still seemingly meaty, chili that’s packed with so many flavours, textures and colours that it makes the addition of meat completely unnecessary. I top mine with a dollop of cinnamon-spiked yogurt for added earthiness and something to tame the spice. 

I also just happened upon a bottle of Muskoka Brewery’s dark Harvest Ale on my way home from work last night. So intead of using the stock I had, I opted for that instead. It gave it a bit more depth and earthiness with just a touch of bitterness. I loved the way it pairs with the smokey flavours. 

Vegetarian Chili with Cinnamon Spiked Yogurt
adapted from 101cookbooks Pierce St Vegetarian Chili

This chili is so easily adaptable to both your personal tastes and whatever you happen to have in your pantry. Don’t like beer? Add stock or water. Don’t like chickpeas? Add black beans. Do what makes your mouth happiest. Afterall, if chili doesn’t make you happy, you’re not doing it right.

I thought I had a can of chipotle peppers at home but it turns out I was wrong. I’m going to call for them anyhow, but in a pinch, a tbsp or two of smoked paprika adds a nice smokey kick.

1 large yellow onion, diced
olive oil
2 shallots, diced or sliced thin
8 cloves of garlic, rough chopped
1-2 tablespoons of ginger, peeled and grated
2 jalapenos peppers, seed and ribs removed and diced fine
2 tsp ground cumin
2-4 tbsp chili power (depending on how much spice you like)
1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can with adobo or dried and rehydrated), chopped
sea salt
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 750ml (26oz) bottle of favourite dark ale
1 can chickpeas
2 cups lentils (I used brown, you can use your favourite or a mixture)
1/3 cup potted barley
1/3 cup bulgur
1 large sweet potato, cut into small cubes
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tsp good quality ground cinnamon

Topping options; fresh chopped cilantro, reserved jalapeno, minced red onion, feta cheese, olive oil

Sweat the onions and shallots in some olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once they’ve become translucent, add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno, cumin, chili powder and chipotle peppers. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until everything is very fragrant. Add the can of tomatoes and the beer. Give everything a good stir. At this point, have a taste of the liquid mixture. Add salt to taste and more spices if it’s not hot enough for you.

Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the chickpeas, lentils, barley and bulgur. Turn heat down to a simmer and let cook for 15-20 minutes. At this point, carefully have another taste for seasoning. Adjust to your liking. Add the cubed sweet potato. If the mixture is becoming too thick, add water 1 cup at a time too thin it out. Cover again and let simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

While cooking, mix yogurt and cinnamon in a small bowl. Refridgerate until ready to serve.

Spoon chili into big bowls and top with yogurt and whatever else your heart desires.

Take a bite and feel your mouth turn up in a toothy grin only a big bowl of chili can provide.

That’s the bite, right there, that makes me supremely happy. Messy, unattractive, spicy and perfect. 

And of course, it tastes even better the next day. I am mowing through bowl #3 in 24 hours.  

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