Eat More Plants - Pennsylvania Produce

Posted: February 14, 2014

With cold weather and a hectic schedule, it’s sometimes hard to find time to even sit down, much less prepare a homemade dinner. Luckily, there is a quick, easy, affordable and healthy way to make dinner every night of the week.

 It might sound too good to be true, but that’s the beauty of a slow cooker. Using a slow cooker will allow you to put your meal on to cook before you go to work in the morning, and when you return, it will be ready to serve! The slow cooker also opens up opportunities to use recipes that can be more time consuming to cook, like chilies, which utilize plant proteins.

Plant proteins are jam-packed with nutrients our bodies can benefit from. Examples of plant proteins include beans, lentils, and soy products like tofu or tempeh. All of these are low in fat, high in protein, and have no cholesterol. Also, beans are good sources of folate, potassium, calcium and fiber, which will keep you fuller longer and has also been shown to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Another plus of plant proteins is that certain products are extremely affordable and nutrient dense. For example, on a recent trip to the super market, black beans only cost $1.95 per pound, while ground beef cost $3.49 per pound. Usually dried beans take a little extra preparation because you need to soak them, but many times there are canned varieties available that are just as affordable. Below is a recipe for a Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili that contains no meat products and is low in fat, and will give you a healthy serving of protein.

Vegetarian Chili - Recipe serves 4. Cost: Per recipe: $6.51 per serving: $1.63

2 onions (large, cut into 1/4 inch pieces)

1 green bell pepper (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)

3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 jalapeno chilis, (fresh, diced)

2 TBSP. vegetable oil

1 TBSP. chili powder

1 TBSP. cumin (ground)

1 can whole tomatoes (28 oz. – cut into 1/4 inch pieces or 8 medium fresh tomatoes)

2 zucchini (medium – cut into 1/4 inch pieces)

2 summer squash (medium – cut into 1/4 inch pieces)

1 can kidney beans (16 oz., rinsed)

1 cup cilantro (or coriander) (fresh, chopped)

salt and pepper (to taste, optional)


In a large pot sauté' onions, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno in oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes - stirring often.  Add chili powder, cumin, half of the chopped cilantro, salt and pepper, and continue cooking for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and bring mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add beans, and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.  Serve the mixture hot. Put remaining cilantro on top.

Nutritional Information: Serving Size 1/4 of recipe; Calories 300; Total Fat 9g; Saturated Fat 1; Sodium 310mg; Total Carbohydrate 44g; Dietary Fiber 17g; Sugars 17g; Protein 13g