Cookbook Report: Crazy Sexy Kitchen

During autumn, Sundays are for cooking and Ravens games in the Bowen household. Last weekend, a gathering at our small Baltimore row house grew from the usual suspects—my husband and toddler—to ten very hungry guests. And whether you like football or not, fall is always the perfect season for a big bowl of vegetarian chili.
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Crazy Sexy Kitchen

During autumn, Sundays are for cooking and Ravens games in the Bowen household. Last weekend, a gathering at our small Baltimore row house grew from the usual suspects—my husband and toddler—to 10 very hungry guests. And whether you like football or not, fall is always the perfect season for a big bowl of vegetarian chili.

Full disclosure: over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of working on Crazy Sexy Kitchen with New York Times best-selling author and wellness activist Kris Carr and Whole Foods chef Chad Sarno. One of the perks of my job is having an advance copy of Crazy Sexy Kitchen on hand, which meant Crazy Sexy Bean Chili was on the menu that day (see recipe, below). I decided to make two batches and save one for later in the week, but by the end of the party there were no leftovers!

Crazy Sexy Kitchen emphasizes fresh herbs and spices, plus lots of veggies and plant-based protein. After cooking my way through this book, I’ve learned that using quality ingredients brings a dish from so-so to spectacular. And once you’ve tasted the difference, chopping fresh herbs and grinding spices is a joy, not a drag.

The game started at 1 p.m., and I had a kiddo and a house to get ready before kickoff. That meant cooking quick and smart. So instead of cutting and measuring my veggies, herbs, and spices step-by-step, I decided to prep all the ingredients first. It took some patience and extra time in the beginning, but the work was well worth it.

I used large bowls to group the ingredients in the order they’d be added to the pot, so that when it came time to cook, I could set the timer and allow the chili to simmer while getting ready for our guests. Each time the timer went off, I’d add the next group of ingredients and be on my way again. By 1 p.m., a big pot of hot chili was ready on the stove.

Crazy Sexy Bean Chili fills your house with irresistible, comforting, mouthwatering aromas (toasting the cumin seeds is a must). And I love adding chopped kale and fresh cilantro at the very end to give this dish some leafy green goodness and a punch of fresh herb flavor. The touch of maple syrup adds a hint of sweetness, and the tempeh (you could also use seitan or mushrooms) and beans make this meal hearty and super-satisfying. Needless to say, my guests were singing its praises. Even my toddler wanted seconds!

Crazy Sexy Bean Chili
Serves 8

This chili has a spicy kick. For less heat, remove seeds from the jalapeño and feel free to use only half the chile.

1 1/2 Tbs. cumin seeds
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño chile, finely diced
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 1/2 cups ground seitan, crumbled tempeh, or finely diced mushrooms
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 cup diced potato
2 15-oz. cans of black beans, rinsed
2 15-oz. can of kidney beans, rinsed
1 14-oz. can of crushed tomatoes, such as San Marzano
2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish (optional)
1 cup kale, chopped
Diced avocado, for garnish, optional

1. Toast cumin seeds in dry soup pot over medium heat for 2 minutes or until aromatic.

2. Add oil, onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Stir until onion is golden and translucent. Add chili powder, seitan, zucchini, and potato, and stir well. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, 2 cups water, maple syrup, sea salt, and cilantro. Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

3. Remove from heat;  stir in kale. Garnish with diced avocado and sprigs of fresh cilantro, if using.

Recipe courtesy Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr with Chad Sarno