Lentil Chili

When the snow is falling outside all I feel like making are comforting meals that can easily be eaten on the couch while I am wrapped up in my favorite blanket. Soup and chili are one of my favorites meals this time of year. They are so warm, filling and usually healthy.

This simple weeknight friendly chili recipe uses lentils instead of beans for a quick comforting meal. It also has an unexpected ingredient…chocolate! The chocolate adds an unexpected depth and richness to this hearty chili. It can easily be adapted to be a vegetarian recipe by substituting the bacon for olive oil. Do you eat lentils? If not, you really should! Lentils are one of the healthiest foods around. They are high in protein, cholesterol free, virtually fat-free, and low in calories. They are also budget-friendly, high in folate, fiber and a great source of iron. This hearty chili takes only an hour to make and is a great way to brighten up a snowy winter evening.

Lentil Chili

Yield: 8 servings (1 ¼ cups per serving/ 229 calories)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

2 strips bacon, diced (or 2 tablespoons of olive oil)
2 cups onion diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
3 cups V-8 or tomato juice
3 cups hot water
2 cups brown lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon chopped semi-sweet chocolate or chips
1 lime, juiced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate;set aside.
Sweat the onions, bell pepper, jalapeno and garlic in the bacon drippings (or 2 tablespoons of olive oil) until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and coriander; cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, V-8, water and lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.
Stir in chocolate until it melts, 2-3 minutes. Add the lime juice and bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish each serving with sour cream and avocado.

Recipe Notes:
Be sure to pick through your lentils carefully, removing any dirt and stones before adding to the chili.
To make this soup vegetarian, skip the bacon and use the olive oil.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (1 ¼ cups): 229 calories, 3g total fat (1 g sat), 3mg chol, 405 sodium, 39g carbs, 7g fiber, 14g protein

Source: Cuisine at Home, October 2010

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