Meatless Monday Inspires Young Chefs

Meatless Monday is a simple phrase that has become a source of inspiration for families across the country, even the youngest members. In coordination with the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) several budding young chefs participated in the 2013 C-Cap Meatless Monday Chili Recipe Contest. C-Cap provides undeserved youth interested in the culinary field the opportunity to achieve scholarships and education that will set the stage for successful career growth. The contest created a window of opportunity for high school seniors to put their creativity to the test, while gaining a stronger knowledge of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.

Kung Pao Chili - Winning Recipe

After all was said and done, seven finalists were selected to present their chili dishes to a group of supreme judges in the field of food and nutrition.  While it was a tough competition of smoky flavors and robust vegetable assortments, the top honors went to Lucila Flores and her Kung Pao Chili. Along with adding this culinary success to her name, Lucila is the proud recipient of a $5,000 scholarship.

The chili brought together an assortment of six veggies, including hearty mushrooms, and a variety of spices and oils that created a combination the judges simply couldn’t resist. With hearty ingredients such as mushrooms and beans, it’s almost hard to believe it’s meatless.

Luckily, you can enjoy the flavors of the Kung Pao Chili for yourself with the full recipe below. It might just inspire a new set of chefs within your own family.

Bon Appetit.

Kung Pao Chili

By Lucila Flores of John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, California.

Serves 6


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 8 ounces diced onion
  • 8 ounces diced carrot
  • 8 ounces diced zucchini
  • 1 pound trimmed and diced mixed mushrooms
  • 8 ounces diced bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese-style black bean garlic paste
  • 2-4 tablespoons Vietnamese-style chili garlic paste
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained
  • 1 (5-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice with 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved into it

For garnish:

  • 3 ounces coarsely chopped, roasted, salted peanuts
  • 6 sliced green onions
  • 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro leaves


  1. In a large pot over medium flame, heat the vegetable and sesame oils. Add the minced garlic and fresh ginger to the oil. Stir until just fragrant, but do not let it burn.
  2. Add the onion, carrot, zucchini, mushrooms and peppers to the pan. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the Chinese Five Spice Powder and continue to cook and stir for 3 minutes more, or until it has become fragrant.
  3. Add the mirin, vinegar, hoisin, black bean and chili pastes to the pan. Stir in the drained beans and water chestnuts. Stir in the orange juice-cornstarch mixture. Simmer, stirring frequently, for about 7-10 minutes, or until the chili has thickened. Garnish with peanuts, green onion and cilantro to preference and enjoy!



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