Cranberry Chili

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Medium Yellow Onion

1 Small Carrot, Finely Diced

2 Stalks Celery, Diced

2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced

1 Ounce Dried Mixed Mushrooms,* Roughly Chopped/Broken, Re-hydrated in Water and Drained

12 Ounces (1 Bag) Fresh Cranberries

1 Fresh Jalapeno Pepper, Finely Diced

3 - 4 Tablespoons Chili Powder

26.5 Ounce Aseptic Box Chopped Tomatoes (or 28 Ounce Can)

2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed

1 Cup Prepared Salsa**

4 Cups Cooked Cranberry Beans (AKA Roman Beans) or Pinto beans

1/2 Cup Coarse Bulgur

1/2 Cup Water

Salt, to Taste

Optional Topping Suggestions:

Thinly Sliced Scallions

Finely Diced Red Onion

Hot Sauce

Shredded Vegan Cheese

Vegan Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt

Crushed Tortilla Chips

*I used a combination of dried porcini, shiitake, black, and oyster mushrooms, but anything you've got will work just fine.

**Use your favorite! Ramp up the heat with a spicier choice or keep it more tame with mild salsa; it's all good.

In a large stock pot, pour in the oil, swirling to coat the bottom of your vessel, and set over medium heat. Add in your onion, carrot, and celery, sauteing until softened and aromatic; about 5 minutes. Introduce the garlic next and continue cooking until the onions begin to look lightly golden brown. This should take between 7 - 10 more minutes, but you're better off keeping an eye on it rather than timing it. Add a small pinch of salt if they begin threatening to stick.

Toss in the re-hydrated mushrooms next, along with the cranberries and jalapeno. Turn down the heat to medium-low, and let the cranberries soften a bit. After a few minutes, use the back of your spoon or spatula to crush the berries against the side of the pan, helping to break them down and release their pectin. Give them about 10 minutes, more or less, to get acquainted.

Starting with the lower amount of chili powder, sprinkle it in and stir well, incorporating it thoroughly with the other ingredients. Quickly add in the chopped tomatoes, liquid and all, to prevent those spices from burning. Scrape the bottom of the pan with your stirring utensil to properly deglaze and ensure that nothing is left sticking there. From that point, add in the rest of the ingredients except for the salt, taking care to first work the paste out so that it's smoothly dissolved into the stew without any large blobs remaining.

Cover, reduce the heat just slightly again to keep it at a low simmer, and the chili gently bubble away for about 30 additional minutes. Stir and check for consistency periodically. Near the end of the cooking time, adjust the amount of chili powder and salt to taste. When it's properly thick and the bulgur is tender, you're good to ladle it up and enjoy! Top as desired, or of course, feel free to just eat it straight.

Makes 8 - 10 Servings (And Freezes Well!)

©Hannah Kaminsky http://www.BitterSweetBlog.com