Cinco de Mayo Week continued: Chili Night and a thirst quenching surprise

Chili Night! Vegan 'Chili con Quinoa' with 'No-Corn Bread' and 'Chilly Chili Limeonade'! What a fantastic mea...

Chili Night! Vegan 'Chili con Quinoa' with 'No-Corn Bread' and 'Chilly Chili Limeonade'! What a fantastic meal

Chili is one of those great dishes that can be personalized, not to mention it is well-rounded enough to be an entire meal in a bowl. Veggies, protein, spice, its a pot of gold sure to leave you satisfied. 

I love chili. 

Chili was a regular meal in my house growing up. My dad was the cook in our family and made what he enjoyed most. He loves anything spicy and hearty so chili was a staple. He made it in a few different ways. He made a great bean-filled fiery vegetarian chili and a delicious chili con carne (meat chili). My dad always leans towards vegetarian cooking when given the opportunity. He enjoys many meatless meals and loves beans more than anyone I know. The food he cooked the most for us as kids was definitely Tex-Mex. He loves cowboy-style baked beans, chili, tacos, fajitas and nachos. He douses anything and everything with hot sauce, hot pickled banana peppers and red chili flakes for an extra kick. I can remember a few meals where the food was so spicy my mom refused to eat.

Beyond my dad's cooking, I enjoy chili every summer at an annual 'corn roast' held at my mom's book editor's farm. The couple invites all their friends and family for a day of hay rides, homemade chili, corn on the cob, baked beans, and more desserts than you can try. I love going out there. The food is delicious and the setting is breathtaking. The last time we went, I introduced my husband to our tradition. Several plates of potato salad and seven slices of pie later and we could barely muster the energy to play anymore ping pong (barely)

This week, in honor of my dad, our corn-roast roots, and Cinco de Mayo (this Sunday May 5th) I made a hearty vegan chili. 

The chili was an experiment and turned out totally awesome. It was also bean-free!

I have really cut back on eating beans for the past few months. As a vegetarian with a soy allergy, this choice has been
hard to stick to. For the past several years, beans have been a staple in my diet and my main source of protein. I love Middle Eastern food, especially hummus and falafel, so going without beans has been hard. I made the choice because I have a really hard time digesting beans and pulses. I often end up with intense stomach pain right after eating them and end up bloated the next day. I decided the flavors weren't worth the sacrifice and began to seek alternative protein sources. 

Enter quinoa. 

Quinoa is such a fantastic food -- a super-food in fact. It is loaded with protein and amino acids. My husband has been pushing it on me for years but it was only recently that it became a staple in my kitchen. I now bake with it and add it to a variety of savory meals. 

After falling in love with quinoa I discovered amaranth. 

The distinctions between the two seeds are small. They are nearly identical in fact. Amaranth is not bitter, it has a bit less protein but higher levels of vitamins and minerals per serving. I use the two super-seeds in different ways. I prefer quinoa for heartier meals and amaranth for thickening and for desserts and porridge.

I used both amaranth and quinoa in my chili recipe. I used amaranth flakes as a thickener for the chili and used whole quinoa as a meat substitute.

What I ended up with was 'Chili con Quinoa', a delicious and hearty vegan take on 'Chili con Carne' without a bean in sight.

The day my husband and I settled on making my new chili I started thinking that chili really needs a bread accompaniment. Its one of those dishes that needs something to mop up the flavor. My first thought was to fry some small savory pancakes or flatbread but then inspiration struck -- cornbread!

Since I had set my sights on a bean-free chili, I decided to challenge myself by making a vegan corn-free cornbread. 

Instead of corn meal I used millet grits, amaranth flour and amaranth flakes. I added savory spices, pumpkin seed butter and nutritional yeast for cheesiness, grated zucchini for texture, and some pear sauce for a hint of sweetness. Sounds gross but trust me it comes together beautifully!

What I ended up with were cheezy, savory vegan zucchini no-corn bread muffins. 

Once they cooled in the fridge their texture was perfect as they really firmed up.They were the right savory flavor but a bit too soft (but delicious anyway) right out of the oven.  They keep well too, we have some leftover muffins in our fridge from last Friday that my husband is still enjoying.

To make up for the lack of beans in the chili, I added a ton of veggies and some amaranth flakes to thicken the tomato base. I also added red and black pre-cooked quinoa which gave the chili a real meatiness. I even topped our bowls of chili with a batch of "Danielle's Tex-Mex Quinoa Meat" to add another layer of texture and flavor.

I have been collecting chili trade secrets for years so I added a few special spices and condiments to make the flavor of the chili come together.

The result was some damn fine chili, even my husband agreed. It was also damn filling! He could only get through one serving of it before he was too stuffed to continue (and he can eat a lot). The fact that he loved this chili speaks volumes because he was very skeptical that a vegan chili could be good without beans.  

"But chili needs beans"  No, it doesn't.

I know that some of my ingredients may sound a little unusual but trust me and use them. The cocoa powder makes this chili amazing and the pumpkin seed butter and nutritional yeast create a richness that takes the chili to another level of awesome.


Chili is a dish that begs for serious spice. If you can't handle the heat you can always use less chili powder -- I wouldn't recommend this. To me, chili powder provides more than heat, it adds a unique flavor that can't be replicated. I really encourage you to use the full amounts and specific spices I list in the recipes below. My suggestion is to serve your chili with some cooling sides.

Chilli needs heat and accompaniments to cool the burn. The no-corn bread is great for numbing the fire. I have also included a recipe for a vegan lime crema which is flavorful way to cut the heat. Think Indian raita or sour cream.

If you plan to prepare this meal I highly recommend making a batch of my Chilly Chili Limeonade along with it (recipe follows). This vibrant and healthy tonic will not only compliment my chili con quinoa and no-corn bread perfectly, it will also soothe your body and soul. Spicy lemon water is an elixir for the liver as well as a truly detoxifying tonic. By using chili powder instead of cayenne pepper (traditional recipe), and lemon and lime juices instead of only lemon juice, this drink bursts with Mexican flavors. With natural sugar-free sweetness from the addition of stevia, you've got yourself a seriously healthy and addictive lemonade.

All of the following recipes are:

Chilly Chili Lime-onade
Makes 1 large serving or 2 small servings.

  • 1/2 large organic lemon, juice of
  • 1 1/2 large organic limes, juice of
  • 10-15 drops liquid stevia (or more if needed)
  • cold filtered water to fill your glass
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder

Mix all ingredients together well in your chosen LARGE drinking glass. Taste! Add more stevia drop at a time if not sweet enough. Add more lime if not tangy enough (depends on how much water you add) Garnish with a slice of lime or lemon inside the glass or on the rim.

Zucchini No-Corn Bread
Makes 18-20 muffins.


Preheat to 350 F

Dry Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 tbsp kelp flakes
  • 3 dashes coarse sea salt
  • 2.5 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/3 cup nooch
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup millet grits
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup amaranth flour
  • 1/4 cup amaranth flakes
  • 1/4 cup quinoa flakes

Mix all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tbsp chia seeds soaked 10 mins in 1/3 cup veg broth and 1 tbsp pumpkinseed butter, mixed well
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1  1/4 cup veg broth
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 2.5 tbsp pear sauce
  • 2 dashes rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

Add olive oil to dry mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add chia mixture and stir to incorporate. Add veg broth and stir through. Add water and stir through. Add zucchini and stir through. Add. pear sauce and stir through. Add vinegar and stir through. Leave batter alone 5 minutes. Scoop into muffin/cupcake cups in a muffin pan(s) and fill 2/3 full. Should fill 18 muffin cups.

Bake in center rack in oven until slightly firm to the touch, about 20-25 minutes.
These muffins are the right texture after some time in the fridge. They can also be enjoyed hot from the oven but you may find them too soft in texture.  After refrigeration they can be heated up again before serving in an oven or toaster oven.

Chili Con Quinoa
Makes 4 large servings or 8 small servings

  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1.5 large red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 dashes sea salt
  • 1.5 tbsp Kelp flakes
  • 3 tsp Cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup amaranth flakes
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup veg broth
  • 1 large can diced organic tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp pear sauce
  • 3 dashes rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 lime, juice of
  • 1 tsp pumpkin seed butter

Saute oil , onions and spices (not nutrtional yeast) together over medium heat until onions are soft. Add garlic, and peppers and zucchini and stir. After a minute add 1/2 cup veg broth and stir. Cook for 3 minutes then add tomatoes. Stir, reduce heat to simmer. Add pear sauce, amaranth flakes, lime juice, vinegar and chia. Stir and bring to a simmer.

Add nutritional yeast and stir. Cook 2 minutes. Add pumpkin seed butter and stir through, cook 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of your cooked quinoa and stir, reduce heat to low.

Use the rest of the cooked quinoa to make Danielle's Tex-Mex Quinoa Meat .When making the linked recipe for the quinoa "meat", add a 1/2 tsp of cocoa powder to the onions (when frying the spices in the beginning of the recipe) for extra flavor.

Lemon or Lime Crema
Makes 1-2 servings
  • 3 tsp vegenaise
  • 1.5 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
  •  1.5 tbsp water
  • 1 heaping tsp chia seeds
  • 1.5 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp kelp flakes
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp chilli powder or 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients except vegenaise together thoroughly in a small bowl. Allow to sit in room temperature for 5-7 minutes before stirring through vegenaise. Allow another 5 minutes to thicken. Stir and refrigerate until ready to use.

To Serve Chili:
 Makes 2 large servings
  • 1/2 english cucumber, grated with a cheese grater
  • 1 batch Danielle's Tex Mex Quinoa Meat
  • 1/2 batch Chile con Quinoa
  • 1 batch vegan lime crema
  • 2-4 no-corn bread muffins
Once the "quinoa meat" is ready, serve warm chili in large bowls, topped with half the "quinoa meat", grated cucumber and a drizzle of the vegan lime crema on top. Each bowl should be served with 2-4 no-corn bread muffins.

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