Words matter! Whenever we have a conversation with someone, we usually tailor our words to fit the person and the situation. For example, when I want my son to clean his bedroom, which he seldom does, I'll come up to him, pat him on the back and say, "Hey son, can I ask a favor of you? Can you please clean your room today? Some friends are coming over tonight for dinner and I'll want to give them a tour of the house, including your room." Understand that what I really wanted to say was "Son, as usual your room is a disaster zone; clean it, dammit!" But I know that a "polite" request will probably result in a clean room and maintain good feelings between the two of us; while my emotional outburst may let me momentarily vent my frustration, but might not lead to a clean room and will definitely sour my relationship with my son.

Over the years, I've also found that words matter when it comes to food and meal preparation. Let me digress for a moment. I think that most of us are aware that Guam has a very high rate of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Most of these serious health problems result from what we eat. For many of us on Guam, our meals are too high in fat, salt, sugar and processed foods. If you're like me, you want to prepare healthier meals for your family, but you don't have many "healthy" recipes, and you are afraid of your family's reaction to such recipes.

This is where wording and timing can matter. For instance, how would this announcement be received by your family members: "Guess what everyone, for tonight's dinner we are going totally vegan!" In most households, including mine, this pronouncement would be met with a flurry of rolling eyes and loud vocal objections. The reaction might be a bit more positive if instead we announced that, "Because we are observing Lent and we can't eat meat, let's try a meal that we all love, but with a twist: meatless chili." I know that this probably won't be met with a standing ovation, but with this approach our family members might be more open to trying something new.

Last week, I tried this approach when I made meatless chili. Fortunately, my two sons, my nephew and I are all trying to lose weight and tone up. I used this situation, along with the fact that it is Lent, to get them to try this new recipe. They were open to something new. Although we all prefer the real-deal chili, this was an acceptable alternative. Over the next few months, I will experiment more with vegetarian recipes and share them with you.

Oops, I'm sorry, I meant to say I'll share my "meatless" recipes with you! Words matter!

Week 20: Meatless Chili*

Ingredients

2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup finely chopped onion

8 to 10 mushrooms, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped carrots

1 jalapeno pepper, or other hot pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons sea salt (adjust to taste)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

One 15-ounce can tomato puree

One 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained

One 15-ounce can black beans, drained

One 15 ounce can of red beans, drained

2 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup bulgur wheat or uncooked quinoa seeds (I used quinoa seeds. Pay-Less had them)

Hot pepper and/or cayenne pepper to taste (I started with 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper)

1/4 cup minced cilantro for garnish (optional)

Steps

1. Add the oil to a large pot and put on medium-low heat.

2. Sauté the vegetables and spices in the heated oil until tender – about 10 minutes. (Add a little water if the veggies begin to stick to the pot).

3. Add the remaining ingredients except the cilantro and simmer over medium-low heat, covered, for 30 minutes.

4. Stir and simmer for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the veggies are cooked through.

5. Adjust seasoning to your personal taste.

6. Serve, sprinkled with cilantro.

Note: This chili freezes well.

*The actual title of this recipe is "Vegan Chili" but, because words matter, I changed it. Embarrassingly, I can't remember where I got this recipe from. I found this handwritten recipe in my cellphone photo collection. On top it says, "Scott Jurek's Vegan Chili and was from "Brenda and Dan."

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