Sunday, May 29, 2011

Once Upon A Time There Was a Chili-Cook-Off...

This past winter, the amazingly creative Anika, of the fabulous "Seattle Vegan Score" blog, (and maybe others, I'm not sure who all), came up with the concept of a Great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off competition and fund-raiser!

And what an AWESOME idea it turned out to be!!
The event was sponsored by groups like Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN), Seattle Animal Defense League, Action for Animals, and more. The idea behind the cook-off was for all the profits to be used towards putting on Seattle's first Vegan Iron Chef competition, planned for sometime in late 2012. (Similar to the super-cool Vegan Portland Iron Chef event! Woo!)

Turns out Seattle was pretty stoked for the chili cook-off too!! By the day of the event, Sunday, May 15th, the great Seattle Vegan Chili Cook-Off was completely sold out. They sold over 200+ tickets and had to turn 40 people away at the door. A day before the event Anika had so many people begging for tickets, she couldn’t keep up with the emails and tweets. That’s not to mention all the people who discovered the sold out news on the web site and wept silently while ticket holders enjoyed their chili.
So, other than it being an amazing, vegan event, why am I telling you about it?
Well dear readers, I decided, (quite foolishly I thought for a while) to ENTER the Great Vegan Chili Cook-Off.
(See the little red arrow in this photo? Yes, that's me! Caarrrazy!)
Why? Well. Many reasons, the main ones being:
1.) I DO NOT LIKE chili! I had previously made it, what, twice?
2.) I do not like big, loud, noisy, public events (in all seriousness, they make me quite panicky!)
3.) I do not like driving to Seattle.
4.) I don't care for cornbread or beer (also served in abundance at the cookoff).
5.) I don't like talking to people I don't know. Yes, true story.

So, what possessed me? I really have NO idea except I very much wanted to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone - **whew** - a GIANT step out.
I really was scared to DEATH, but in the end, enjoyed myself, and met so many great people!

Yes, after much gnashing of teeth, anxiety riddled tweets to poor Anika, Jess Scone and whoever would listen, and twenty versions of experimental chili tried out on my poor kids... I packed up my crock-pot, my lucky apron, my courage and away I went to the wilds of Seattle.

Annnnnd, after serving bowlful upon bowlful of my chili to a bunch of really cool people, I managed to make it through the event AND.... came home with SECOND PLACE!!!!!

Yes, second! I know! I was absolutely blown away. There were a whole lot of amazing chili cooks there, I think more than 20? And by all reports they were ALL very tasty! SO shocked!

Voting was done by people attending the event. Each had five tickets to distribute as they chose. I want to say a HUGE, HUGE thank-you once again, to those who donated, organised, planned, attended, tasted, voted, pulled-off and conceptualized such a GREAT event!!

In addition to our chilis, the crowd feasted on cornbread, beer and tons of beautiful vegan baked goodies donated just for the event, and grooved to some fun music! Such an incredible idea for a fund-raiser.

You can read much better accounts of everything here: Chili Cook-Off, Vegan Score, and the Cook-Off on Flickr, - please check them out!!

Last but not least; People have asked for my recipe, and while most of you know chili cook-off competitors don't traditionally share their winning secrets, I don't mind sharing the basics, (without a few of my personal "tweaks"). Yes, finally, two weeks later, HERE YOU GO!!

Marti's (2nd) Prize-Winning
New Mexico Green and White 'Chickn' Chili

  • 2 cans small white (Great Northern?) beans
  • 2 cans white kidney (cannellini) beans
    (OR cook your own beans from dry, this is what I did, but canned is easier for some people)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen white corn kernels
  • 4 cups good vegetarian chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 1 13 oz. container BUENO® Autumn Roast Frozen Hatch New Mexico Green Chiles
    (OR equivalent amount fresh roasted, peeled and chopped poblano peppers OR canned, chopped green chiles)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. dried, crushed oregano
  • 2 7-oz. packages Gardein Chick'n Strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • ½ white onion, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, minced finely
  • 1 habanero pepper, minced VERY fine (ONLY if you want more heat!!)
Drain canned or home-cooked beans. Rinse canned ones. In crock pot or large soup pot, combine beans, chile, corn and broth. The secret here is to get a broth you REALLY like, it'll make or break the end resulting flavor of your chili.
Add bay leaf and oregano and bring to simmer. Let simmer while preparing Gardein "Chick'n".

To prepare Gardein Chick'n, coarsely chop (cut strips aprox. in thirds) the strips and sautee in a bit of oil just until cooked and firmed up. Set aside, let cool a bit and then "shred" randomly with your hands. Spread shredded-crumbled chick'n out on a cookie sheet and place in a low oven (250°F) for about ten - 15 min or until slightly "dried out" just a bit (NOT crispy dry!) and starting to get a bit of light toasty color. This step helps the chick'n hold it's texture in the chili and not disintegrate into mushiness.

Add chick'n to simmering beans. Add another cup of broth if too thick.
In a frying pan, add oil and then sautee bell pepper, garlic, onions, celery and jalapeño (and as much of the habanero you want, if using) over medium heat until soft.
When vegetables are soft, add to bean mixture and continue to simmer on medium-low for about an hour, checking often to make sure it doesn't stick.

Taste and adjust flavors with salt, pepper, lime juice, hot sauce or whatever you think it needs.
Remove bay leaf.
Serve now, or later.
My friend Shaun says chili tastes better if refrigerated overnight so flavors mellow and blend, and then re-heated. I tend to agree. What do I know, I don't like chili, right?

I served this garnished with bright-green Jalapeño-Cilantro Pesto that just MAY have been the actual "winning" factor:

Jalapeño-Cilantro Pesto
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, rinsed well
  • 3 jalapeños as needed (taste, you want SOME "heat")
  • juice from three limes
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
If you have time, soak the cashews and pumpkin seeds several hours or over night.
Then, blend everything in your food processor until smooth (though still slightly "grainy" is fine).
Drizzle/dollop a couple teaspoons on each bowl of Green-and-White Chili.


Tiffany said...

What a cool event! It's so awesome that you were able to step out of your comfort zone like that and snag second place! Congrats! Your chili definitely sounds like a winner. The pesto is a nice touch. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

Catherine Weber said...

Well done! Sounds delicious!

celyn said...

Hooray! Congratulations!

sara said...

congratulations on your win!

Anonymous said...

How cool is that?! Congrats!


Jen said...

Congrats, Tofumom! And double hugs for getting out of your comfort zone. I know how that is, so hard! Thanks for all of your love and support. I've been behind on my blog reading and was catching up on yours. Squee for chili!

Sheree' said...

Way cool!! You are so much braver than I... Never in my wildest dream would I have taken that on. My hat goes of to and a big congrats!!

Carolyn said...

Congratulations on the win, especially since after looking at the recipe I want to try it NOW! The Mid-Atlantic is not quite as far along the clue trail as Seattle, but I am hoping we will get there soon and start sponsoring these kinds of events. Fingers are crossed...

Alessandra said...

What an event! I really like the look of those cupcakes :-)


Josh Dixon said...

Congrats on winning 2nd place! The chili recipe sounds delicious. I wish you could have posted a picture of the chili itself...