Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese with Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

Happy bean day! Oh yes it is. I wonder why Bean Day doesn’t get as high billing as Christmas?

Fortunately our freezer is stacked with enough bags and containers of chili (some labeled, most not) to keep us fed until Thanksgiving. I keep making large batches of practical, freezable, beany things like chili to stash away for mealtime emergencies at a rate that does not at all sync with the number of mealtime emergencies there actually are in this house. I suppose when I’m completely unorganized in all other areas of my life, it makes me feel totally on the ball to be making dinner ahead of time.

I eat vegetarian black bean chili because I love it, not only because it’s the new year and good for me. I added a ballast of mac & cheese partly because I still had leftover cheese stubs from our polyester & cheese Christmas party, and partly because I adore church supper-style chili, which is traditionally served on a bed of mac & cheese. If you haven’t tried it this way, you should. Isn’t anything better served on a bed of mac & cheese?

Also, my friend Lauren is hosting this month’s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free (GAHIGF) – a monthly online event for which a theme is chosen, and bloggers create gluten-free dishes based on the theme. Lauren’s theme of choice: Follow the Calendar. As in, check out all the food-related Official days of the month, and pick one. January 6th happens to be Bean Day. (It’s also Shortbread Day. Whomever assigned that one kind of missed the mark.) Beans are totally my bag, baby.

The beans are kind of a no-brainer in terms of gluten-free-izing a recipe, but mac & cheese – I would miss that if I couldn’t eat gluten. There had to be some sort of a challenge here. There are gluten-free pastas out there – some made of quinoa, some corn – I’m a particular fan of brown rice pasta, which has a smoother mouthfeel than whole wheat pasta (which of course isn’t gluten-free, but we can eat it in our house) – be warned that it will make the cooking water much muggier than your regular pasta.

If you want to skip the pasta, this chili would also do just fine over a baked potato. Still, I’d likely add a dose of cheese on top. Or a blob of sour cream to offset the heat of the chili.

Note: just before I took this, as I was heating up the chili in a small pot on the stove, I opened another can of beans for something else, and got the 7 bean blend by mistake, and so dumped half the can into the chili. Which is why you see more than just black beans and chickpeas in the photo. Really, you could use any beans you like here.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili

canola or olive oil, for cooking
2 onions, chopped
2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers, seeded and chopped
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1-2 tsp. chopped chipotle chili en adobo (optional)
1 tsp. cumin
2 19 oz. (540 mL) cans black beans, drained
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can red kidney beans or chickpeas, drained
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can diced or fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 small can tomato paste (a couple heaping spoonfuls)

sour cream, chopped avocado, grated cheese, chopped green onion and/or chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Toss everything but the garnishes into a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Alternatively, saute the onions, pepper and garlic in a drizzle of oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat, add everything else, bring to a simmer, turn the heat down and cook for an hour, or until thick. Chili is always better the next day – if you like, cool and refrigerate it, then reheat the pot or individual servings.

Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese

An adaptation of Pam Anderson’s Shells and Cheese, Gluten-Free, from Perfect One-Dish Dinners– by way of Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.

1 lb. gluten-free macaroni or pasta shells (brown rice, quinoa, corn-your gluten-free fave)
a drizzle of canola or olive oil
1 lb. grated sharp white cheddar, Gouda, or your favourite meltable cheese, grated
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (I use my rasp)
1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (here, Danny demonstrates how to make them)
2-3 Tbsp. melted butter (I usually use half butter, half olive oil)

Preheat the oven to 350° and spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Boil the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water – allowing enough water to give the pasta space to move around – according to the package directions or until it’s al dente (tender but still firm). Drain the pasta immediately, drizzle with a bit of oil to keep it from sticking together, and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the grated cheese, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and sour cream, in a large bowl; dump in the pasta and toss it to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour into the casserole dish.

Mix the gluten-free breadcrumbs and butter, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta. Bake until the pasta and cheese are bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown, about 35 minutes.

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January 06 2011 10:25 pm | beans and one dish and slow cooker

15 Responses to “Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese with Vegetarian Black Bean Chili”

  1. Erica B. on 06 Jan 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    My oldest would call that chili-mac and smoosh it all together and eat as is. You’re right whoever paired shortbread with beans wasn’t thinking. Beans just go better with biscuits (the big fluffy kind ) don’t you think?

  2. Lauren on 06 Jan 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I never would have thought to pair mac and cheese with chili, but this looks so fantastic Julie! Two comfort foods in one – sounds like a good plan to me! Thanks for joining in :).

  3. Maria on 07 Jan 2011 at 8:34 am #

    Very hearty and comforting meal. Love it!

  4. Robyn on 07 Jan 2011 at 10:20 am #

    i have just added these to my hibernation weekend agenda. love that the chili can be made in the slow cooker!

  5. Paul on 07 Jan 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Great post for bean day, thanks for sharing!

  6. Gemma on 07 Jan 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    The forecast looks like (more) winter weather is coming. What a perfect supper this will be when it is cold and miserable outside this weekend!

  7. Stacy on 07 Jan 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Julie have you ever found fire roasted tomatoes in Calgary? If so where cause I haven’t.


  8. The Therapist in the KItchen on 07 Jan 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I love this. My daughter eats mostly mac and cheese or peanut butter. This recipe looks nice and the beans will be great for me.

  9. Ginette on 08 Jan 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Perfect for a snowy day like today when I can raid the pantry and find what I need. And conveniently use up some of the chipotle peppers I have left over from a soup recipe I made the other day, although I’m still a bit afraid of those things. Didn’t realize their potency and my soup ended up turning everyone’s mouth on fire. oops.

  10. naomi devlin on 09 Jan 2011 at 2:14 am #

    Looks like a delicious chili – I do love chipotl chilies for that smokey warmth. We definitely need comfort food in January, grey and cold with a liberal soaking of rain, euck!

    Thanks for contributing!

    x x x

  11. LJR on 09 Jan 2011 at 9:18 am #

    I have found fire-roasted tomatoes at Co-op and The Italian Store (off Macnight and Deerfoot) – Scarpones brand – and the Italian Store is next to Scarpone’s wholesale location. Very tasty!!

  12. JulieVR on 09 Jan 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Stacy – yes, Calgary Co-op! I was at the Italian Supermarket (Edmonton Trail and 20th) yesterday and they had a ton of great tomatoes, but no fire-roasted.. Lina’s might?

  13. Stacy on 09 Jan 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    Thanks. I will check!

  14. {weekend reading} Weekday Edition 2011 « FROM SCRATCH club on 10 Jan 2011 at 4:08 am #

    […] Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese and Veggie Black Bean Chili by Dinner With Julie. […]

  15. Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free Round-Up — Celiac Teen on 31 Jan 2011 at 7:04 am #

    […] friend Julie from Dinner with Julie combined two comfort foods with her take on Bean Day. Mac & Cheese with Vegetarian Black Bean Chili. I don’t know about you, but I find that few things are better on a bone-chilling day than […]

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