Creamy Carrot Soup

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Upon telling my husband that I was going to make carrot soup, he said, “Oh, I just love carrot soup!” I thought that was a rather odd thing to love so enthusiastically but anytime I can get that guy to eat vegetables, I’m not going to question it. After having made this though, I can see what he was getting at!

My mom and I got carrot soup at a restaurant the other day that tasted like baby food– yuck. It was gloppy and flavorless. I had to make a good carrot soup to remind myself that carrot soup is indeed delicious! You can spice it up in lots of different ways too. But it’s also nice as just a simple soup with some crusty bread on the side. We made it a meal with a big batch of bruschetta. Enjoy!

Creamy Carrot Soup

Makes 6 servings

1 tbs olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1.5 lbs fresh raw carrots, chopped into 1/2″ chunks

1″ piece fresh raw ginger, minced (or 1/4 tsp dried)

1″ piece fresh raw turmeric, minced (or 1/4 tsp dried)

7 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

a dash of paprika

a dash of curry powder

a dash of cayenne

1 tbs vegan butter (butter is optional, I put a lot more in husband’s and he loved it, but it’s still delicious without)

fresh minced chives for garnish

 

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or large sauce pan. Add the carrots and onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the ginger and turmeric and cook another minute. Then add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the stock and remaining spices and stir. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the carrots are very tender.

Going in batches if necessary, add the soup to a blender with the butter and blend until very smooth. You can add a little more broth if it’s too thick.

My blender keeps the soup hot as it blends but if you need to, add it back to the pan to reheat. Taste to adjust seasoning

Serve with chives sprinkled on top and maybe another dash of salt and pepper!

creamy carrot soup

 

 

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Mexican Red Lentil Stew

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Hello food lovers! I am really proud to share this one with you guys. It’s pretty much the best stew I’ve ever made. It tastes like tortilla soup- hearty and filling, but without the empty calories from the tortillas. The texture of the lentils really mimics that of the tortillas, but let’s be real, I added some tortilla chips on top after taking this picture. 🙂

In addition to being totally delicious, this stew is also very filling, totally healthy, and costs about $1.50 per bowl. You get approximately 30 grams of protein per bowl, tons of fiber, and a big dose of folic acid and magnesium. The perfect blood sugar-stabilizing meal to keep you from late night snacking. You can omit the olive oil and cook the veggies in a little bit of the broth to make it fat free if desired. If you are on a budget or too busy to cook dinner every night, this is the perfect week night meal, and it tastes better every passing day.

Let me know what you think of it!

Mexican Red Lentil Stew

Makes about 6 big servings

2 cups dry red lentils, rinsed

4 cups of water

1 tbs olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced

1 big carrot, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

8 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups vegetable broth

2 tbs tomato paste

1 cup fresh (or frozen) corn kernels

3 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish

sliced avocado for garnish

1 lime cut into wedges

sriracha for garnish (optional)

Combine the lentils and water in a pot, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to low and let them cook for 20 minutes. Once done, pour off any excess liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeño, carrots, and bell pepper and cook for 8 minutes or so, stirring often. If at any point the mixture gets too dry and sticks to the pan, add a splash of broth. Stir in the spices and cook an additional minute, then the garlic and stir for an additional minute.

Next, add the 3 cups of broth, cooked lentils, and tomato paste into the vegetable mixture and let it cook until the carrots are tender, stirring often for a few more minutes. Then add the cup of corn and stir it in until heated through. At this point I stuck an immersion blender into the pot and gave it a few pulses to thicken things up. If you don’t have an immersion blender, scoop out one cup of the mixture and put it in the blender for 5 sec, then add it back to the stew. This step can also be skipped altogether to save time and clean up.

Finally stir in the chopped cilantro and taste to adjust seasoning.

You could add all the lime juice into the pot of stew, but I think it was nicer to squeeze it over the top and get some layers of flavors to your bowl.

Serve each bowl with some sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and sriracha, if you can take the extra heat!

Enjoy!

 

 

Golden Gazpacho

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Welp, I meant to do a daily post chronicling my raw cleanse but I got a new job with very long hours and got off track! Oh well, sometimes life gets in the way. I often surround myself with perfectionists but am not one myself. Very often I can’t hep but stop and think how grateful I am to NOT be one. What a waste of time and anguish! I like my imperfections and find that I tend to be a much happier person on average than my perfectionist friends, although that might be because I’m driving them crazy with my ways of doing things, haha.

So I did keep up my cleanse for a total of 3 days, not too shabby I guess. And as a general rule going forward, I like to subscribe to the ‘raw ’til 4pm’ concept. Not that I particularly follow the fruit centered, high carb, low fat principle, but I do like the simple concept of eating 2 raw meals a day.

We had a lovely taco party last night for my family, we made Cuban black beans, guacamole, and all the usual fixings, and I made this Golden Gazpacho as an appetizer. We also set up a huge screen and projector in our backyard and watched movies. We have spent the last month trying to beatify our backyard and turn it into an awesome wonderland. In addition to the 103″ ‘swim-up’ movie theatre,  we turned our once-grass dirt patch into a container vegetable garden, complete with string lights and a fire pit. We planted herbs, corn, watermelon, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, butternut squash, tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, eggplant, onions and lettuces! We also installed a drip system so we use much less water than normal watering methods. I can’t wait till something produces a crop so I can make some fancy homegrown recipes to share with you.

I have never actually had gazpacho before, the idea of cold soup did not interest me, but as I was cooking in the hot kitchen yesterday it started to sound like a pretty good idea. The sweeter the corn you can find, the better.

Golden Gazpacho

Makes 8 servings

3 ears of corn + 1 for garnish

2 gigantic heirloom yellow tomatoes

1 cucumber, peeled

1 serrano pepper, deseeded

1 yellow bell pepper, deseeded

3 tbs coconut sugar or raw brown sugar

1 tbs salt or to taste

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 yellow onion

10 cloves of garlic

black pepper to taste

1/2 tsp paprika

1 avocado, diced for garnish

1 bunch chives, diced for garnish

 

Combine everything but the garnish items in a high speed blender and blend until smooth- this took mine 5-10 minutes, a pretty long time!

Taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit.

Store in a big bowl in the fridge for about an hour so it chills and the flavors mingle.

To serve, ladle into individual bowls and garnish with raw corn kernals, avocado slices, and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

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sorry it’s blurry, but here’s our new outdoor movie theater!

here is our veggie patch, all the boxes built by my hand husband! top left is the before picture, with my brother and husband dutifully getting the dirt patch and boxes ready. top right and bottom are after!

here is our veggie patch, all the boxes built by my handy husband! top left is the before picture, with my brother and husband dutifully getting the dirt patch and boxes ready. top right and bottom are after!

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Christmas Chili

IMG_1998On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 5 different spices, 4 kinds of beans, 3 secret ingredients, 2 kinds of peppers, and a bowl of spicy white bean chili! (Ok that was a stretch.) Whether you are going to a potluck or just want something easy to heat up during the busy holiday season, this chili hits the spot. It doesn’t even take very long to throw together, and next time I’ll have to try it in the crock pot, for even less work. My secret ingredients (and this goes for a lot of soups, stews, and sauces) are vinegar, sugar and beer (or wine). You can’t taste that they are there, but they make the other flavors really pop. I called this Christmas Chili because of the large amount of red and green peppers, but also because this tasty stuff can help you avoid the dreaded holiday bulge. Each serving is about 215 calories and boasts 9 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein! Yummy, healthy, easy, inexpensive, and festive, woohoo!

Christmas Chili

makes about 10 servings

1 white onion

1 green jalapeno

1 red jalapeno

1 1/2 green bell pepper

1 1/2 red bell pepper

10 cloves garlic

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro plus more for garnish

2 tbs olive oil

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp salt

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp white pepper

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp cayenne (more or less, depending on how spicy you like it)

1/2 cup of beer ( I used a ‘holiday spiced ale’ but any beer on the lighter side will work well)

2 cups vegetable broth

1 tbs apple cider vinegar

3 pinches of sugar ( I used coconut sugar, because it almost has a salty/savory taste, but brown will work also)

1 16 oz. can navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 16 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 16 oz. can black eye peas, rinsed and drained

1 16 oz. can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup of fresh or frozen organic corn

Chop the onion, peppers, garlic, and cilantro.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook about 5 minutes. Then add the peppers and garlic, and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Add the spices and stir to combine.

As soon as the majority of the liquid has evaporated and you are having to scrape along the bottom of the pot o keep things from sticking, pour in half the beer. Stir and let it evaporate, then pour in the rest.

Cook an additional minute then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a low boil and reduce the heat to low.

Stick an immersion blender in the pot and give it two or three pulses. (Another option is to remove 2/3 cup of the chili, and pulse it in a blender a few times, then return it to the pot. This step gives it a thicker, creamier, stew like texture.)

Let it simmer for about 5-10 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

I love to serve it with fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, crushed tortilla chips, sriracha, and a big blob or tahini (instead of sour cream. I don’t know if that’s weird, but I think it’s delicious!) You can even use this as a yummy and warm bean dip. If you are into black bean chili instead of white, check out my other Hearty Black Bean Chili recipe.

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Coconut Pumpkin Soup

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I can’t believe it’s still 90 degrees here in Los Angeles, despite being almost November! Don’t get me wrong, (besides the whole looming global warming thing) I am loving it. This is because I dislike every single thing about summer ending; even back-to-school commercials still give me anxiety, even though I don’t have to go back to school.  Everything about being bundled up in dreary fall fashion and noose-like scarves, the onslaught of cloying corporate advertisements urging you to buy pumpkin spiced lattes and beige cashmere sweaters, and all of the way-too-early holiday decorations and music… ugh make it stop! I don’t want to buy anything! I don’t want to be cozy! I don’t want to see my breath in the morning! I just want one more month of watermelon, pool parties, and sunshine induced naps on the deck. Le sigh, good thing I live in California….alright, rant over!

Anyway, at least there is one thing about Autumn that doesn’t remind me that WINTER IS COMING, and that’s Halloween! Of all the post-summer frivolities, I approve of Halloween. Candy and dress up? Yes, these are rituals I can get excited about. I also absolutely adore pumpkin, (just not when it’s thrust upon me by some pandering marketing team.)

So in honor of the one redeeming aspect of fall, plus one last fleeting olfactory reminder of sunblock-smeared shoulders, I give you Coconut Pumpkin Soup. Compulsory color-changing leaves and all! This is such a quick and easy recipe, I whipped it up on my lunch break in 20 minutes. It has about 350% or your daily requirement of vitamin A, a welcome hero to help restore your sun-beaten skin. Pumpkin is high in antioxidants and very low in calories. This soup is only about 100 calories per serving- the perfect transition food from bikini babe to sexy witch.

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

Makes about 4 servings

1 tbs coconut oil

1/2 large red onion, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic

15 ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, though you can substitute fresh roasted pumpkin or Kabocha squash!)

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 tsp salt

A dash of each of the following: turmeric, paprika, curry, cayenne (I tried very hard not to make this yet another curry recipe!)

1 cup coconut cream (I actually used a coconut- based coffee creamer from Trader Joes, but canned coconut cream works as well)

In a deep pan, heat coconut oil over med-high heat, then add the onion. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes until soft and translucent, then add the garlic and cook one more minute.

Add the can of pumpkin and 2 cups of broth, stirring to combine.

Add the spices, stir and taste, adjust if necessary. Cook a few more minutes until you reach it starts to bubble.

Transfer to the blender (or I just used an immersion blender right in the pan) and start blending. Slowly add the cup of coconut cream until well combined.

That’s it!

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Moroccan Spice Stew

Moroccan Spice Stew

I started out wanting to make a simple pureed carrot soup. But then I just kept thinking of more and more ingredients I wanted to add, and I realized that what I really wanted was to recreate one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I’m talking about a giant bowl of assorted Moroccan food that I got from the food court at the Louvre Museum, in France. The first and only time I went to Paris on a college class trip, we were primarily there to visit all the museums and sketch the landscapes. As an art college graduate I’m embarrassed to admit that I found the trip a leeeeeeetle bit dull, but that might have just been because I didn’t really know any of the other students. Besides the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower, the main thing I really remember about that trip was that fantastic Moroccan food in the Louvre food court, from a little spot called Salam. I will never forget it! I think it was the first time I tried cinnamon in a savory dish, or maybe the first time I ever tried anything with that many intense spices, but I was just in heaven. So if you ever go to France, you already know what attraction I recommend. And yes it’s a museum food court buffet. Ah, I’m so classy.

 

Moroccan Spice Stew

Makes about 5 big servings

2 large carrots

1 red onion

1 sweet green pepper (I used a banana pepper)

4 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil

20 small green olives, slivered + 5 for garnish

5 dates, slivered (or 1/3 cup golden raisins)

8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne

1.5 tsp salt, or to taste

4 ounces tomato paste

4 cups vegetable stock

1 15 oz can chickpeas (or about 2 1/2 cups soaked from dry beans)

1/4  cup slivered toasted almonds

a few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

 

Start by chopping the carrots into a very small dice. I made the mistake of cutting them into to big chunks, and they cook at a much slower rate that all the rest of the ingredients, so I had to cook longer and thus blend the flavors more than I wanted. So a small dice. Next dice up the onion and green pepper. Heat the oil in a large cast iron pot or similar, and add the carrot, onion, green pepper, olives, and dates. Sauté on medium/high heat for about 10 minutes, until everything is softened.

Next add the garlic, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cayenne, and salt, and stir for 1 additional minute. If it gets to dry and starts to stick to the pan at any point, just give it a little splash of the vegetable stock.

Now add the tomato paste and vegetable stock, stirring well to incorporate everything. After about 5 minutes add the chickpeas and stir them in. Give it a taste, adjust the seasoning to your liking, and continue cooking on medium/high for about 5 minutes.  Test a carrot, if it seems cooked through, you are done! If you want a bit milder tasting stew, you can continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes on medium/low, which will allow all the really striking flavors-like olive and date and onion- to meld together. I personally like the flavor explosion sensation of cooking everything just enough to maintain their individuality.

Serve over a heaping pile of couscous or just in a bowl as is. Garnish with the toasted almond slivers, olive slivers, and chopped parsley, maybe some black pepper. Dig in!

 

 

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Classic Tomato Soup

Classic Tomato Soup

My mom’s garden (or as I call it, her micro-farm) is overflowing with tomatoes right now. She gave me a huge bushel of them and I wanted to put them to good use while they were perfectly ripe. I also got a delivery from this company that shops the farmer’s market for you and delivers a big box of organic produce to your door. It came with some gorgeous yellow onions, little carrots, and giant basil leaves, so this was some seriously locavore/farm-to-table-style soup! I took a pretty simple Martha Stewart recipe and mixed it up a bit with the fresh ingredients instead of store bought ones, because I think that is really the key to great soup. (Her recipe also called for a half cup of butter– hey, whoa there Martha, some of us have bikinis to wear.) So I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, homemade stock instead of canned, and fresh herbs instead of dried. It came out with so much flavor and as one taster put it, it’s a very light and summery soup!

Classic Tomato Soup

Makes 6 servings

24 ounces fresh tomatoes (about 4 cups)

4 cups water

1 tbs olive oil

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic, smashed

Assorted fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano)

3 tsp salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tbs olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

5 cloves garlic, chopped

5 basil leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons sea salt

a couple more grinds of fresh black pepper

 

Pour 4 cups water into a pot and bring to a boil on high heat.

Add the tomatoes into the boiling water for about a minute, then pull them out with tongs and dunk them in a bowl of ice water.

With the leftover tomato-boiling water, add the 1 tbs olive oil, carrots, onions, garlic and herbs. You can add other veg scraps if you want, this was just what I had handy. Cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 1 hour ( or if you have a pressure cooker, bring it up to full pressure and cook for 10 minutes, much easier!) You want to have 3 cups of stock by the time it’s done.

Strain the stock with a sieve and set the liquid aside.

Once the tomatoes have cooled, peel them and cut out any tough center part along with the stem. The peels should practically fall off. They are going to be very juicy so do this in a bowl where you can keep all the juices.

In a large, deep saucepan, heat the 2 tb olive oil on medium low and sauté the onions and garlic for 15 min. stirring often.

Add the stock, tomatoes, and basil to the pan and cook for about 20 min on  medium low heat.

Then pour everything into a blender and blend really well. Be careful with the steam!

Add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Voila! I served it with a green salad dressed in a mustard vinaigrette.

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

I’m sort of particular about how curry should taste, so I didn’t want to risk buying a curry paste at the store and not like it. Plus I really like making as many things at home and unprocessed as possible. This recipe makes a thick and rich yellow curry paste, and it packs a big umami punch. You can use it to make a traditional vegetable curry, or as a marinade to make satay on the grill. You can also use it as a stir fry sauce, or mix it with noodles. The best part is that it is full of healing herbs and spices. Turmeric for one, has been shown to have amazing anti-inflammatory benefits, and inhibits cancer cell growth. It helps with arthritis, liver function, lowers cholesterol, and protects against Alzheimer’s — that’s a lot of work for one little spice! I used this paste to make a delicious pumpkin curry (recipe below). The pumpkin is actually kabocha squash, which tastes a lot like sweet potato. I do love sweet potatoes, but kabocha has roughly half the calories and carbs per serving, which is a pretty big difference with swim suit season upon us! Kabocha also has great nutritional value, as it contains iron, calcium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.

Thai Yellow Curry Paste

Makes approx 1.5 cups

2 small bulbs garlic, cloves peeled

2 shallots, peeled and quartered

1” chunk ginger, peeled

1 tb coconut oil

4 dried peppers (arbol or thai)

1/2 cup cashews

2 dried apricots

1 stalk lemon grass, peeled and chopped

4 tb curry powder

1 tbs turmeric

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tbs chopped cilantro

1 tbs salt pink Himalayan salt

1 tbs coconut sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put the garlic, shallot, and ginger on a square of foil, drizzle with oil, wrap up and bake for 30 min. Meanwhile, soak the dried peppers, cashews, and apricots in 1 cup of hot water for 20 minutes. After the garlic, shallot, and ginger have cooled enough to handle, put all ingredients in a food processor and puree to a thick paste. If the mixture seems too thick to blend properly, add a little of the pepper soaking liquid, 1 tbs at a time. You can keep it in the fridge for a week or two.

Quick note: If you live by a Trader Joe’s grocery store, they have something called dry Thai chili paste, it’s made out of mushrooms and peppers, and it’s really wierd and good. If you can get your hands on some, scoop a tablespoon of it into your curry paste before blending. If you can’t get it, don’t worry, this will still be delicious!

Yellow Thai Curry

Yellow Pumpkin Curry

Serves 4

1 small Kabocha squash (also known as Japanese pumpkin, or you can sub two sweet potatoes)

1/2 red bell pepper

1 carrot

1/2 cup yellow Thai curry paste

I can coconut cream

4 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp mild miso

2 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs chili garlic paste (find in the asian food section at the grocery store, I like the Huy Fong brand)

Two heads of baby bok choy

1 tbs salt, or to taste

8 sprigs of cilantro

4 cups cooked brown rice

The skin of a kabocha squash is edible (and yummy) so you are welcome to leave it on, but I like to peel the outermost rough part off, leaving a marbled green and orange surface. They are not that easy to peel. Scoop out the seeds and mushy flesh in the cavity. (Save the seeds if you like and roast them with some herbs, just like you would regular pumpkin seeds.) Dice the squash into bite sized pieces. Slice the carrots diagonally, and chop the bell pepper into bite sized pieces, set aside. Pull the bok choy leaves apart from the central stem.

In a large pot, heat the curry paste and coconut cream over medium flame for 1-2 minutes, until it’s blended and starts to get bubbly and fragrant. Pour in the vegetable broth and turn the heat to high. In a small bowl, mix the miso and soy sauce, this is your fish sauce replacement. Add that to the broth, along with the kabocha and carrots and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the kabocha is fork tender. Add the bok choy leaves and cook for 1 more minute. Taste and adjust salt as necessary. Sometimes I throw in another tablespoon of coconut sugar.

Serve by putting one cup of brown rice in the bottom of each person’s bowl, and ladle the curry over it. Garnish with cilantro.

Hearty Black Bean Chili

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I can’t say I made this recipe up, this is based on Emeril’s vegetarian chili from the food network website. But I still want you to know about it, and I did make a few improvements adjustments. Really, the problem with most chilis is, they are always afraid to bring the heat, and that is unacceptable. I like things spicy as hell. So feel free to cut back as you see fit. I was also very skeptical about the zucchini, but it really added a little something extra.

Hearty Black Bean Chili

Serves 5

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped red and orange bell pepper (1 each)

1 serrano pepper, diced

1 habenero pepper, minced

1 red jalapeno pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 small zucchino, diced

2 cups organic corn kernals (people, if it’s not organic, don’t even think about adding this ingredient)

2 tbs chili powder

1 tbs cumin

a heavy sprinkle of cayenne

1 16 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

2 cans black beans, well rinsed

3 oz tomato paste

2 diced avocados

1 handful diced cilantro

1 bunch diced green onions

optional: tortilla chips

Add the olive oil to a big deep pot (cast iron is good here.) Once hot, add the onions and stir for a few minutes. add the peppers and zucchini, and stir things around on medium heat for a few minutes. Then go ahead and add everything else up to the tomato paste, and let it come to a boil. If necessary, add a little water, but you should be ok with all the crushed tomatoes.

To serve, scoop the chili into a bowl, sprinkle with the cilantro and green onions, and top with diced avocado. Serve with tortilla chips on the side for dipping and crumbling.