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It seems like much of Canada is plunged into a deep freeze this week, which is by no means unusual for this time of year. We always like to complain about it though, which is also normal.

One of the best antidotes for the mid-winter deep freeze is some hot, hearty food. So what did I make this week? Chili, of course. I don’t have a set recipe for chili; I like to change the recipe a bit each time I make it, but I have a few hard and fast rules:

  1. No sugar! There are people who like to add sugar to their chili or tomato-based sauces to cut the acidity. To me, it also cuts the taste, makes it bland and dull, and just generally ruins it.
  2. Three beans! Yes, the standard kidney beans are in there (though I limit them because they’re one of the legumes my husband has a hard time digesting), but I always add black beans and chick peas for variety of size and texture. Also, I just don’t really like the texture of kidney beans – too pasty. This lets me cut back without losing the protein content or the crunchy texture.
  3. My secret ingredient… Forget sugar. I add mustard. Yep. Just one or two tablespoons of regular prepared mustard. I like the kick.

So those are my chili rules. I always make vegetarian chili – sometimes I add crumbled tofu to replace the meat, sometimes lentils, sometimes I just let the beans do the work. Of course diced peppers and mushrooms are in there, chili powder, cumin, coriander. This last batch I made with the last of the frozen tomatoes from our summer garden. Not a single canned ingredient in there. (Did I mention I buy dried beans and soak them and cook them? The canned stuff is nasty.)

Homemade jerk sauce

Homemade jerk sauce

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of my chili this week, but I did get a shot of what I prepared for our weekend dinner: jerk sauce. We’re having a friend over for supper Saturday night, and we’re making her our famous homemade jerk chicken (while I use the jerk sauce to marinate strips of tofu).

The recipe comes from Kathy Smart’s cookbook Live the Smart Way (see the My Cookbooks page for more info). It’s such an odd mix of ingredients, and if you taste it alone, the sauce is very powerful and not all that good. But as a marinade … wow. You won’t regret it. And it’s completely gluten- and dairy-free.

And lastly, my one last method to beat the Canadian winter: a cuddle with my baby girl, Marnie. (She looks sad here because it’s too cold to go our for our regular walks.)

Marnie looking mournful in the kitchen.

Marnie looking mournful in the kitchen.