Veggie Lentil and Lean Beef Chili

One of my favorite soups of all time.  So easy, so delicious, and so versatile!  Hearty and satisfying, packed with protein and fiber, it keeps you full, but doesn't weigh you down.  I make a huge pot of this and eat it all week long.  I have even been known to heat some up for breakfast!  Great on it's own, or it can be dressed up with some shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, cilantro and a small dollop of sour cream. 

Ingredients

7 c. water

1 Tbs. + 2 tsp. concentrated beef base

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. cumin/coriander mix (I buy mine in bulk from the local India store)

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. chili powder

1 Tbs. tomato paste

1 1/2 c. dry French green lentils (I prefer this type, as they hold their shape when cooking, but   

    any variety would work)

1 c. diced carrot

1 c. diced celery

1 small onion, diced

1-3 c. diced seasonal vegetables such as zucchini, yellow squash, paty pan squash, eggplant,

          or butternut squash (I recommend a combination of at least 2 of these)

1 1/2 c. diced peppers such as any color bell pepper, banana, or poblano (I also recommend a     

          combination here, with more or less poblano depending on preferred level of spiciness)

1 lb.  ground beef, browned and drained

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can stewed tomatoes, chopped and drained (optional)

Directions  

Add water, beef base, garlic powder, cumin/coriander, black pepper, chili powder and tomato paste to a large pot.  Whisk to combine.  Bring to a boil and add lentils.  Cook on med-high heat for 25 minutes.  Add all veggies (except canned tomatoes and beans) and continue to cook for another 25-30 minutes, until veggies and lentils are softened.  Add the cooked ground beef, canned beans and canned tomatoes.  Cook for another 5 minutes. 

Makes 3 1/2 quarts (approximately 10 servings).