This recipe is close to the heart of YTV’s The Next Star judge Mark Spicolu. It’s vegan, healthy—and his own spin on a recipe he learned from his mom.
Mark Spicoluk is a man of many talents. A punk rocker, record label executive, writer and producer, as well as a fitness fanatic, he is one of three judges on YTV’s The Next Star, a reality television show that seeks the most talented singer in Canada who is under 15 years of age.
A vegan, Spicoluk follows a healthy lifestyle. One of his favourite recipes is “Dream Machine Chili.” The title alone makes it compelling enough to try.
He says he gets asked on average once a day, Isn’t it hard to be vegan?’ His answer is always: No. “Maintaining a vegan diet is based around making new and simple decisions about what food you choose to buy and eat,” he said. “Basic choices that are no different than choosing to buy white socks instead of black.”
The alternatives that even our chain supermarkets offer these days make almost everything within arm’s reach, he said, and with so many organic farmers markets popping up everywhere, as well as the increase of healthier produce and products as a whole, a plant-based diet is simpler than ever before. “It works for your shopping logistics, wallet, health, energy levels, our planet earth and all the animals on it.”
He chose his chili recipe for this article because it illustrates the simplicity of some key vegan alternatives. “To make a good pot of vegan chili, and to maintain a successful plant-based diet, you just need to know your alternatives and make active choices. These days there seems to be an alternative for almost every meat and dairy product, which is better for your health and the lives of all other sentient beings on the planet.”
He learned this recipe from his mother. When he moved out on his own he realized how cheap it was to make, how long one pot could feed him for, and “how many rave reviews I would get about it.”
Over time he learned the joy of experimenting with the different ingredients you can use to make different variations. “A little more of this or that, or a new ingredient here or there, would change the dynamic and refresh the whole experience.”
He recommends textured vegetable protein (TVP) as the perfect ground beef alternative and his own personal favourite. “It is super cheap and can be bought at any Bulk Barn or a lot of supermarkets, and can be used in anything that calls for ground beef.”
The best thing about this chili is the experimentation from pot to pot, he says. From different veggies, to different meat and protein alternatives, to different canned legumes, it’s fun to try different ingredients such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley, spinach, lemon juice, ketchup and bbq sauce, vegan mayo, spices and sauces, potatoes and sweet potatoes. “Just play around and see what different things will do for the end result.”
1 packet of Chili seasoning
½ tablespoon of Cumin seasoning (more added later to taste)
½ tablespoon of Cayenne Pepper (more added later to taste)
½ tablespoon of garlic powder (more added later to taste)
1 can of tomato soup
2 cans of crushed or diced tomatoes
2 or three cans of beans of all kinds (black, mixed, kidney, navy)
2 cups of TVP
Open all cans and chop up all ingredients. Soak the TVP in hot water for two minutes, or pour water on it in a mug and put it in the microwave for one minute.
Add TVP to a pot set on medium. Add tomato soup, 1 can of water, chili seasoning, cayenne pepper, and 2 cans of diced or crushed tomatoes. Add any variant items you choose, such as chick peas, lentils or mushrooms. Add any remaining vegetables and beans. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Let stand on stovetop for 30 minutes until cooked.
The personal taste test
Take a spoon, scoop some up and have a taste. Check for three main sensations: Chili flavour, hot spice and garlic. Depending on your taste, add cayenne pepper (for spice), cumin (for chili flavour) and garlic– for garlic. Every time you put a little more in, stir it up a bit and have another taste.
Bubble, then simmer
When you’re at a point where you like the flavour, crank the heat to high and stir. Once it’s boiling, stir for another 60 seconds and turn down to low. Stir on low for two or three more minutes and then pop a lid on and let it simmer for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. The longer you leave it, the better it tastes. Mark likes 30 minutes. “It’s actually best letting it sit overnight with no heat, but who has patience for that? That’s what leftovers are for.”
When you’re ready to eat, take the pot off the element and stir it again as a lot of the liquid will should be on the top layer of the chili. Now it’s ready to serve.
Spicoluk freezes leftovers in plastic Tupperware containers that he has stored for months on end before thawing for a last-minute bowl. He suggests pairing it with foods such as spaghetti or other Italian noodles, quinoa or even rice.
This vegan chili can be made on a budget and in about 30 to 45 minutes—“depending on how hungry you are.”