Yoo-hoo! It is that time of year again, when camping starts calling. The temperatures have dropped and we have pulled out our light jackets.
Our good friends, The Scruffy Shaggy crew, invited us along for a family camping adventure. We jumped at the chance to spend time with people we love in the great outdoors. It would be certain, that a weekend get-a-way with this gang would supply many good times.
While visions of sitting around campfires, danced in my head, I thought about what food would enhance our camping experience. Dinner had to be a dish that we could cook over an open fire but not take all evening to make it. My inspiration came from trail cooks of the old Wild West that probably invented chili for cowboys needing a hot meal on the move.
Now I have been known to make a good pot of vegetarian chili, just ask my friend La-La who always requests it. Maybe this comes from my years of growing up on my Mom’s chili which would turn it into Sloppy Joes the next day and hotdog toppings the day after. She knew how to make us feel like we weren’t eating the same thing three days in a row! As an added bonus she always served her chili with a side of her famous, South Carolina style, cornbread.
Now you can’t have chili without something hearty to sink your teeth into, and since we don’t eat meat and try to stay away from soy, I had to come up with some substitutions in Mom’s chili recipe. The main substitution was for the meat. When you omit soy from the possibilities, options start looking pretty slim. Sure there are vegan chili recipes out there that are cook up a big bowl of beans and call it chili, but I wasn’t interested in that. I was literally standing with my head buried in my kitchen cabinets, racking my brain for a good substitution, when a bag of buckwheat groats showed up to save the day. I thought the texture and size of the groats could mimic ground beef. Come to find out, I was not the only one who had this genius idea. There are more buckwheat chili recipes online but none of them have my Mom’s seasonings (wink, wink)!
If you haven’t eaten buckwheat before let me introduce you to your new best friend.
Buckwheat is one of those foods that can fool you with its name. It is actually not a part of the wheat family or even a grain. It is a fruit seed related to the rhubarb and sorrel plants. This gluten-free super food is a high quality protein, containing all of the essential amino acids, including lysine. Because of this amino acid profile, it is able to increase the protein value of foods like beans. How perfect is this for a chili recipe?
Beans, beans, good for your heart. The more you eat them, the more you, lets stop right there. Beans can be very nutritious but many people avoid them for their gassiness effects. For this reason alone, I love to soak my beans. When you soak and discard the soak water of beans before cooking, you will actually be removing most of the gas producing carbohydrate raffinose. You are also unlocking enzyme inhibitors that allow your body to digest and absorb the vitamins and minerals found in beans. I also like using dry beans because they have no sodium added to them and always taste better then their canned friends. Maybe it has something to do with the tin can? Not to mention, dry beans produce less waste and are cheaper. If you are in a time pinch and need to use canned beans be sure to drain them and rinse very well. This will take off some of the sodium but not all of it. For this reason, if you are using canned beans, do not add the sea salt listed in this recipe.
I love throwing in a piece of kombu, also known as a sea vegetable or seaweed, in this recipe for two reasons. One, kombu helps your body digest beans because it contains an amino acid that helps break down the heavy starches in beans. The second reason is that edible sea vegetables contain large amounts of minerals and phytonutrients. Basically, by adding in some kelp, you are adding in more nutrition to the pot. You will be adding things like iodine, vitamin C, manganese,vitamin B2, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and copper as well as a good source of protein, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1. As the kombu cooks with the chili all of these wonderful benefits are being released into the chili.
On a side note, I don’t eat soy for several reasons, to give you an idea soy is very mucus forming in the body. It also mimics human estrogens and has the ability to disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system. Read more here
If you are camping, it is best to make parts of this recipe ahead of time and then tote them in a cooler with you from home. This means you need to prepare three parts separated in three containers. One for the bean mixture, one for the buckwheat mixture, and one for the tomato sauce mixture.
MOM’S CAMPFIRE CHILI SOY-FREE
Warm up and fill up with a big bowl of this chili while you count the stars.
You will need these ingredients:
Simmer tomatoes 20 min
Directions for campfire cooking:
Directions for stove cooking:
Step by step:
Skip this part if you are using canned beans. Otherwise, let’s get soaking. You need 12-24 hours of soak time for the beans and 7 hours soaking for the buckwheat. It is easy to start soaking the night before you plan to cook or start soaking early in the morning and then cook them at night.
For the kidney beans give them a quick rinse with filtered water to remove any dirt or debris. Place them in a large pot, cover them with filtered water, and a pinch of baking soda and cover with a dishtowel. Allow them to sit on your kitchen counter 12-24 hours. It is best to rinse and refresh the water and baking soda 2-3 times during the soaking time for maximum digestibility. If you aren’t home to do this, some soaking is better then no soaking, so don’t worry. It is pretty cool though to watch the bubbles, which are the phytic acids, form on the surface of the water and the see the phytic acids leave as you rinse them away. Once your soaking time is complete, drain the beans, rinse in filtered water, place them in a pot with fresh water and bring to a boil. Add a whole head of garlic, a piece of seaweed and turn heat down to medium. By adding kombu you are helping beans to be more digestable, improving texture and flavor of bean and adding vitamins and minerals to the beans. Cook approximately for one hour, remove from heat, drain, remove kombu and add 2/3 cup ketchup and 1/3 c mustard. If you are camping, your beans should be soft but not too soft as you will cook them more over the campfire. When beans have cooled place them in an airtight container. If you are cooking at home, you want your beans soft but not mushy. Keep bean mixture in the cooking pot.
Treat the buckwheat basically the same way you did the beans. Rinse the buckwheat with filtered water to remove any dirt. Place them in a bowl, cover with filtered water and a dishtowel. Let them sit for 7 hours. Buckwheat requires less soak time because it has lower levels of phytic acid. You will see bubbles begin to rise to the top of the water, which is a good reminder to drain, rinse and re-soak your groats. Once your soak water is complete, drain the buckwheat and let them rinse under running water (preferably filtered) for a good minute. Stir the buckwheat as it is rinsing to remove all of the starchy stuff that drains off. Let it sit in a colander to eliminate as much liquid as possible.
Tip: Don’t throw out your soak water. Instead water your plants with it. They will love the nutrients in the soak water!
Let’s get cooking! Melt the butter or oil and sautee your onions 5 minutes, until they become soft and translucent. Add the bell pepper, salt and spices, stir and sautee 3 more minutes until peppers are soft. Add the buckwheat and sautee 4 minutes. Stir occasionally so the buckwheat doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and cooks evenly. If you are camping, place your buckwheat in container #2 to take with you to the campsite. If you are cooking at home, add this to the beans.
Now that you have your beans and buckwheat prepared, it is time to get the flavors mingling. In a small sauce on medium low, melt the tomato paste, almond butter, water, sea salt (if using dry beans), lemon juice and garlic powder and stir it until it looks like a sauce.
Add the tomoatoes to this sauce and cook for 10 minutes. As the tomatoes begin to stew they will release water and your sauce will start to get thinner. You want your tomatoes to be soft.
If you are camping, put this tomato sauce in a container #3 to take to the campsite.
If you are cooking at home, add this sauce to the beans and buckwheat.
Camping: When you are ready to cook your chili over an open fire, place the mixtures in all three containers in a large pot with a lid. You will want a lid so that the smoke and soot does not get into the food. Depending on how your flames are you will need to cook your chili 10-20 minutes, until it is hot. Top with a little shredded cheese and tell some good stories around the fire.
Home cooking: Now that all of your ingredients are in one pot, cook on medium low heat until everything is warm and ready to serve, about 30 minutes.
From one happy camper to another,