Every year I get a little sad when chili season comes to an end. Here in the Rocky Mountains we can get away with chili well into spring, but by the end of April it’s about time to stash the jar of kidney beans on the top shelf until fall.

I get so much joy out of a pot of chili it’s a little embarrassing–the crock full of chili simmering away as I go about my business. The yummy smells assure me that no matter how undone the other things in my day might become, dinner, at least, does not require anymore attention from me and will be ready at the appointed time. Hallelujah!

This chili is a stand-by in our family. It uses pantry staples so I can usually pull it together without shopping, even at the end of the month. It’s also a little lighter than the usual beef and bean chili. That makes it just about perfect for not only closing out the month, but also closing out the chili season.

In my cookbook I have a little note scrawled at the top of this page reminding me that “Sweet Pea LOVES this chili”. The first time I cooked it our first-born was only a toddler and she inhaled her bowl and asked for seconds. The Sweet Pea defied conventional childhood expectations, preferring to eat the things that grow from the ground rather than the things that eat the things that grow from the ground. I found myself constantly searching for protein sources for her. So when she devoured this chili recipe, I was a happy mama. With the molasses and the apple juice it comes out lightly sweet, like a pot of baked beans, and what kiddo (or grown-up) doesn’t go for that?

In our house, we round out this chili with some allergen-free cornbread (I like Cybele Pascal’s recipe), a crispy salad and a bottle of hard apple cider for the grown-ups.

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Sweet and Spicy Lentil Chili

Source: Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson (with minor adaptations)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup apple juice

Method

  1. Heat the oil on high in the crock pot. Add the onion, pepper and garlic. Cover, cook until softened (about 15-20 minutes in my slow cooker. If you’re in a hurry, you can achieve the same thing by sauteeing the veggies on the stove top and transferring them to the crock, but then you have another pan to wash.)
  2. Stir in the chili powder and heat for a few more minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Add the lentils, tomatoes, molasses and allspice and season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the water and apple juice, cover and cook on Low for 8 hours. Add more water if needed, to thin during cooking.

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