I enjoy preparing a meal and sharing it with friends. When I ask folks over to dinner, I always ask them what they like to eat, if they have any allergies and are they - vegetarian, vegan, non-gluten, non-dairy etc…

When you make a meal for others, you certainly want them all to be able to consume everything on the table.

One particular party a few months ago almost had me stumped. There were two non-gluten, three vegetarian, two non-dairy and egg-free, two vegans, and someone who did not eat mushrooms. I couldn’t think of a tasty main dish for everyone. Then I remembered a chili I used to make at the café I owned years ago. It was not only delicious, but everyone loved it and everyone could eat it. I did not even have to change any of the ingredients.

For an antipasto I served hummus, guacamole and vegan pesto with non-gluten crackers, blue tortilla chips and an array of cut vegetables on a platter for dipping. The chili needed only a large tossed salad, and some warm non-gluten bread on the side.

Don’t let the food needs of people be a daunting adventure for you. There is something for everyone out there.

Northern Lights Famous Three Bean Chili

This chili stands on its own without the addition of meat or vegetable crumbles. It is a simple recipe that is lifted with an ancho chile puree. This puree is the secret to the rich flavor of the dish. This chili freezes well and will keep in the refrigerator for a 3-4 days.

The dried ancho chiles come in a sealed plastic bag. I buy them when I see them at the store, so I have them when I need them to make this chili. You can also order them online.

3 24oz cans whole tomatoes packed in water or juice

6 cloves garlic - chopped

2 large onions – chopped

6 ribs celery – chopped

3 red peppers – chopped

3 green poblano peppers – chopped

4-6 tablespoons good dark chili powder (or to taste)

1-2 tablespoons cumin

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

6 dried ancho chiles – seeded and stemmed

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

1 can cannellini beans with liquid

2 cans red kidney beans with liquid

Make the Ancho Chile Puree

The ancho chile is a dried poblano pepper. It is a dark red mahogany color and has a slight amount of heat to it. To make a flavorful puree - seed and stem about five anchos. Cover them with water in a small saucepan and simmer until they are soft. This usually takes about 10 minutes. Blend the anchos and the water in a food processor until very smooth. Pass this mix through a medium strainer. Add more water if it is too thick to pass through the strainer. It is really worth the trouble to add this vibrantly colored puree to the chili you are making. It gives it incredible depth.

Make the Chili

Heat olive oil in a 10-quart stockpot and brown the garlic until just colored. Stir in the onions and cook until they are soft and almost transparent. Add the celery and peppers and cook till they are soft. Put the canned tomatoes in a bowl and mash them slightly. Decide how chunky you want them in the chili. Add the tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, basil and oregano to the onion mix. This is the time to add the ancho puree. Let this mix simmer for about 30 minutes on medium heat. Stir occasionally so it does not stick. Then add the beans with their juice and simmer for another 15 minutes on medium heat. Add the parsley and cook on low heat for about 30 more minutes. Let sit about one half hour before serving with a salad and warm non-gluten bread.

Antipasto for Chili Dinner

You can make a fantastic hors d’oeuvres platter for ‘happy’ hour before your dinner that will meet all your diner’s food needs. For dips you can use hummus (make your own or buy it pre-made at the store), a parsley pesto dip and/or a simple guacamole. Surround your dips with cut, raw vegetables for dipping and non-gluten crackers and blue tortilla chips.

Parsley Pesto Dip

You can make this dip one or two days ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you are ready for it.

2 bunches well chopped fresh parley

1 bag fresh chives – finely chopped

½ cup fresh walnuts

2 cloves fresh garlic finely chopped

Fresh olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup pitted Greek olives

Put the garlic in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse a few times. Add the parsley and chives and pulse a few more times. Add enough olive oil (don’t make it watery – you can always add more) through the feed tube into the mix and process until well blended. Add the walnuts and process until smooth. You may need to add more oil. Add the Greek olives and pulse until they are in small pieces in the pesto. Put into a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.

Guacamole Dip

This is a simple guacamole that is easy to make and goes very well with the chili. It can also be made a day ahead of time and stored. Make sure you have plenty of fresh lime in it so it will not discolor.

3-4 Avocados – peeled and pulped

1 bunch green onions – finely chopped

¼ cup fresh cilantro – chopped

1 clove fresh garlic – finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper – finely chopped

3 fresh limes – juiced

Peel and cut the avocado into a bowl. Pour the lime juice over the avocado and mash into a chunky mix. Put all the chopped vegetables and herbs (green onions, cilantro, garlic and jalapeno) into a bowl and mix it all together. Use salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly till used.