Fall for Vegan Chili

Fall for Vegan Chili

I’m having a hard time saying goodbye to summer. Spring was unusually delayed this year, and waiting for the thaw was notably cold and painful.

And so while everyone else is rejoicing at the newly brisk temperatures, I’m a little nervous about heading back into The Long Winter. I love fall, but I know what comes next and I’m just not ready to give up the beauty that comes with the sun.

So I’m looking for ways to celebrate the coming season. I’m not a football fan, and all the chatter and arm-chair quarterbacking that surrounds the fantasy leagues leaves me a bit bored. But chili gets me excited, so I made my first pot of the season and ate it outside, hesitantly embracing the deep golds and brilliant reds that are transforming the green landscape.

I started soaking the red beans three days ago because I bought them dried from the bulk section of Green B.E.A.N. Delivery. The convenience of canned beans is always worth the extra dollar, but there is something ceremonial in creating a meal in stages, over several days, with bits of attention paid little by little, in anticipation of a weekend meal.

Red beans have to cook a long time to achieve the soft flavor and texture that makes them worth the effort. So I added 12 cups of water and 2 veggie bouillon cubes to my 1 pound of beans and put the fire on medium. Then it was a free-for-all. White and yellow banana peppers, orange and green bell peppers, a vidalia onion, a bulb of chopped garlic, crimini mushrooms, a few carrots, and 1 celery stalk. I cut the bad spots out of four not-so-fresh tomatoes and added (approximately–I don’t measure) 1 tbsp of chili powder, 1 tbsp of cumin, 1/2 tbsp of tumeric and a packet of Simply Organic Mild Chili seasoning (sold through GBD).

Now, this can’t be rushed. You want it to be done in an hour, and it can be, but the beans just aren’t quite perfect that quick. I cooked for two hours, with a few “I just can’t wait” spoonfuls here and there. I also added some extra water after the first hour because I wasn’t cooking with a lid. A lid would lessen the evaporation rate, but I like to smell and hear the boil.

In the last 10 minutes, I added a handful (about 1/2 cup) of fresh, organic cilantro. Cooking any longer than that diminishes flavor, antioxidants and living enzymes.

You can add vegan sour cream, sheese and/or chunks of avocado to garnish. Green onions would be good too. The kids demanded chips with theirs, and I agreed.

As I sat on the deck, wrapped in a blanket and watching the steam rise off the hot chili, I sipped my cold beer and reminded myself that every season is wonderful, and that summer will return. The days ahead may be shorter and cold, but life is always what you make of it. Today, I made chili.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa, pronounced keen/wah, is the perfect grain. Recognized as a complete protein, it has all the amino acids, fiber and nutrients your body needs to feel great. It’s very versatile, so including it on your weekly shopping list and experimenting with all sorts of flavors is important if you happen to wake up vegan and wonder what to eat next.

Quinoa.

I’ve written a few other recipes, and it’s simple to prepare. The most important basic is to wash the quinoa. This needs to be done with a screen colander, as a pasta drainer doesn’t strain small enough. I not only rinse, but soak in a bowl of water briefly. If you don’t, it can be a bit bitter.

I cook my quinoa in a rice cooker, which calls for 2:1, water:grain. It’s easy and done in about 10 minutes. I always make too much–the whole one pound bag goes in. Everytime! I just forget that it cooks up. If you have any sense, use 1/2 pound. If you don’t, enjoy leftovers all week.

This salad can be served hot or cold. I stir-fry a mixture of veggies in a dash of olive oil and a bit of water. Green and red bell pepper, onion, 3 chopped garlic cloves, cubed acorn squash (pre-cut and purchased from produce section), crimini mushrooms and broccolini. And for fun, I added some dried cherries. You could use dried apricots, cut pineapple or even cranberries. 

I cook the veggies just long enough to make them soft. Overcooking is fine, but I like the crunch, and the less/lower the heat, the more flavor and living nutrients are retained.

Once the veggies are done, I combine with the quinoa and pour on the tastiest, easiest balsamic glaze ever. 

I use this on sauce everything. And it never gets old. I might need a bit of rehab on that, but I’m enjoying myself, so until I can’t afford my 3 bottle/week habit, I guess there are worse addictions.

As I used the whole pound of quinoa and extra veggies, we’ve been eating this all week. It even went in baggies to the lake and served as a picnic lunch. 

Why Qunioa?

     * It contains all 9 essential amino acids.

     *Is close to one of themost complete foodsin nature because it contains amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients.

     *It acts as aprebioticthat feeds microflora (good bacteria) in your intestines.

     *It is easily digested for optimal absorbtion of nutients.

     *It isgluten-freeand safe for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.

     *It’s a superfood! It helps regulate blood sugar, enhance elimination, contributes to heart health.

Fall for Vegan Chili

Poor Vegan Food: Cabbage, Chorizo and Mashed Lentils

Once upon a time, the smell of cabbage in your kitchen meant that you were poor. In the post-depression era of the forties and fifties, farmers and the financially fortunate cooked meat because they could. The spicy aroma of boiled cabbage stigmatized the lower working class and immigrant populations.

Now, cabbage is a friendly favorite in Irish pubs when it is pickled into sauerkraut and served over bratwurst, and a creamy comfort at summer picnics when served as slaw next to baked beans and fried chicken.

I received a head of cabbage in my Green B.E.A.N. Delivery bin this week and it’s been staring at me since Wednesday. Waking up vegan has meant getting out of my comfort zone and trying new vegetables. But cabbage isn’t exactly a head-lining staple these days. I remember my great grandmother cooking it, and from my childish perspective…it kinda smelled.

But cabbage has a rich history and deserves another chance at our table. It is high in vitamin C, has significant anti-inflammatory properties, and is a low calorie, high fiber food with a meaty texture. Oh, and it’s cheap.

I wasn’t going to let it rot, so I perused a few cookbooks and decided on a simple approach.

I chopped the cabbage, an onion and 4 garlic cloves and added 1/2 cup of water with a veggie bouillon cube dissolved in it. I added a package of chopped Light Life Smart Sausage (vegan) chorizo. After it had cooked a bit, I added 4 chopped tomatoes and salt and peppered to taste.

I served it with “mashed potatoes”. The quotes are necessary because that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. But what looked like mashed potatoes (and passed as such to the kids) was actually three components: white potatoes, sweet potatoes and red lentils.

The red lentils, which are also inexpensive, came from GBD. I ordered a pound from the bulk section. Soaking lentils for a few days allows them to sprout, which changes their nutritional profile from really good to rock star status. When I got them, I placed in a bowl of water and let them sit on the counter. Sprouted lentils are 26 percent protein and contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. They are also high in fiber, folate, B1 vitamin and minerals. Sprouted lentils are superfood.

 To cook, I covered them with water, added two veggie bouillon cubes, and boiled them until they were mush. (About 30 minutes +). They are so hearty and simple and good!

I also boiled 4 organic white potatoes and 2 organic sweet potatoes (washed, with skins left on, increasing the protein value to 18 percent, and preserving the vitamin C, B6, copper, manganese, and doubling the fiber). All three components were mashed with coconut cream. I added seasoning salt at the end.

So a cheap head of caggage, a pound of lentils and a few unpeeled potatoes created an amazing meal that contains more nutrients than you can get anywhere else.

The kids ate it. But in their defense, they were really hungry….

Wake up vegan!

Fall for Vegan Chili

Garlic, White Wine and Jamie Oliver’s Pizza Dough Make Vegan Pizza Fantastic!

I was a waitress in college–and I was good at it. I love food, chitchat and people, and my favorite clientele were relaxed, easy-going and there for the social experience.

Consequently, I’ve always been a good customer. If a mistake comes out of the kitchen, unless it’s a safety issue, I’ve just said “thanks”. I didn’t come to create problems, or hold up my friends meals while I micromanage my order. I came to have fun. As long as the food and service are within a wide end-zone of reasonable, I’m very easy to please–especially if there is a nice merlot involved.

But one day, I woke up vegan, and new ordering complications capsized the anything-goes adventure.  I’m officially a pain-in-the-ass, an embarrassment to those around me, and the one the servers talk about in the back. Even my high-maintenance friends whose soup is always cold and order is never right avoid eye contact when I start with awkward explanations and feeble apologies.

Ugh. I hate going out.

So it’s a good thing I love to cook. On a Friday night,  a glass of wine and a fellow chopper make the kitchen my favorite place to be.

The hardest part of great pizza is the dough. And there are so many ways to get it wrong. This recipe is Jamie Oliver’s Pizza Dough. The crust has a super-smooth texture with a bit of elasticity (pull) to it. And the best thing is that it creates 8 servings, so you can make 2 or 3 good size pizzas and then freeze the rest for quick-and-easy next time.

The flour is key. Five cups of white bread flour and two cups of finely ground wheat gluten flour are what worked tonight.

In an aluminum bowl, mix the flours and 1 tbsp of fine sea salt.  In a large measuring cup, mix 2 (1/4oz) packets of active dried yeast, 1 tbsp of raw sugar and 4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil into 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water. Let it set until the yeast begins to bubble. Scoop out a ‘well’ in the flour and add the liquid, using a fork to gradually mix flour into center. Once you’ve got it mixed, flour your hands and kneed the dough until it’s springy. (When you punch it, it comes back.) Thoroughly clean and dry the bowl, dust it with flour with flour, place dough inside and cover with a damp cloth. Place on your stove and preheat the oven to 550. Place a stone inside. Once the oven is preheated, bake just the stone for at least 30 minutes. By the time the dough has doubled in size (up to an hour), your stone will be ready.

Punch down the dough and cut into eight pieces. Wrap what you don’t intend to use in individual parchment paper and then put in a plastic storage bag in the freezer.

Roll out first dough on floured surface. Make it thin (about 14 inches). Place on a side-free baking sheet and begin designing the party-in-your-mouth that is now only a few minutes away.

For THE BEST white sauce: whisk together 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp of white wine and 2 pressed garlic cloves. Spread over dough.

I then added spinach leaves, white onion, crimini mushrooms, grape tomatoes, dollops of hummus (creamy!) and thinly sliced Ronde De Emerald Heirloom Squash (Who knew? Thanks for the introduction Green B.E.A.N. Delivery).

For the second pizza, I used Local Folks pizza sauce, fewer veggies and Daiya Vegan mozzarella cheese. (Kids…)

Open the oven, pull out the rack with the stone on it, and  gently shift the decorated pizza onto the stone. (Loosen, shake/shimmy it)  Set time for 3 minutes. Watch it carefully. Pull stone out and slide pizza back onto baking sheet. RUB TRUFFLE OIL ON THE EDGES OF THE CRUST.

Taste perfection.

Tip the server and the chef well. 🙂 And thanks to Jamie Oliver’s Pizza Dough recipe for an easy Friday night meal.

Fall for Vegan Chili

Food is Medicine: Black Bean and Polenta Scramble

Waking Up to the idea of major change can be a process or an “Ah Hah” moment. But you know the truth when you hear it…it resonates in your soul.  Here’s the truth: Food is medicine. And like any medicine, the right kind gets you healthy and the wrong kind makes you sick.

So why do we collectively choose to ignore this? Why is there a huge disconnect between what we eat and how we feel?

Let me highlight an example of this with my own personal experience. About 5 years ago, I went to my family doctor because I was having lots of headaches and couldn’t sleep. I also had a new baby (the 4th and final) that screamed like it was her job. While I was explaining my symptoms and pain to the doctor, I was sipping on a 64oz Burger King Diet Coke. I walked out with a prescription for Ambien, Adivan, Lexapro, (Sleep, anxiety, depression), Tylenol 3 (with codeine) and a follow up promise to get a CT scan of my head.

No shit? Can anyone see the elephant in that room?

We are so careful about our medications, knowing when and how to take them, dosing to the milligram and monitoring for interactions and side effects. But when the instructions say to take with food, it’s not an issue to grab a cheeseburger and wash the pills down with a soda pop.    

If drugs actually cured anything, the pharmaceutical industry would be out of business, instead of the 500 billion dollar a year industry that it is. Drug companies want to treat sickness, but they have no intention of curing it.

As a culture, we’ve got it backwards. Conventional and processed foods, mass-produced for maximum profit are poisonous, pure and simple. And as our bodies and our environment become more and more polluted with toxic chemicals, our society continues to look for a pills, potions and procedures to fix us. But while medications may suppress symptoms and even disease, they don’t fix the source of the problem.

Inherently, we all know this.

A favorite quote by Jonathan Safran Foer: “It’s always possible to wake someone from sleep. But no amount of noise will wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.”

This is what I made for breakfast: Black bean and polenta scramble. 

In a skillet, I started with the usual: 5 cloves of garlic, a medium yellow onion and a dash of flax oil. Add whatever veggies you like and have on hand. I used a head of broccolini,  2 ripe tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, a carrot, fresh spinach and chopped cilantro. I chopped a roll of polenta and added a can of black beans. I seasoned with cumin, chili powder, tumeric and sea salt.

Fall for Vegan Chili

We Are What We Eat; We Eat What We Have

We are what we eat:  yadda, yadda, yadda. Tonight, I’m highlighting a further issue. We are what we eat and then we eat what we have.

I had a rough food week, and I found my body feeling heavy and lacking energy.  I was on the go, and I didn’t plan or pack ahead. Consequently, I found myself hungry and desperate. Confession: THREE times on Thursday, I found myself at Starbucks for a soy latte and…being hungry, ordering…gasp! a bagel. I don’t usually eat a lot of bread, but I was hungry. And they offered to toast it for me, and I was cold. And then it happened two more times.

I don’t do a lot of bread because it’s just not necessary. I’m not a bear getting ready to hibernate for the winter, and heavy starches leave me drowsy. But the more bread-y foods I eat, the more I tend to crave them. Things reached an ugly carb climax Saturday night.

I came home late night to an empty house. I was minding my own business getting some reading done when the horned-angel in the red suit (who had just poured me a second glass of wine) happened to casually mention that it’s possible that the teenager might have chips or other contraband hidden in his room, two floors below.

He didn’t even have to say anything else. I was down two flights of stairs faster than logistically safe with three dogs underfoot and was justly rewarded on the third drawer. There they were. Not even stale. Crunchy. Fried. Tasty. Mine. I guess if hidden chips in my kids’ drawer is the worse thing I find, I’m a lucky mamma. But still, I’m pissed. I ate almost a whole bag of Kettle Brand cracked salt and pepper potato chips. One at a time, each one my last. I’d push the bag out of reach only to crawl back to my shame within minutes.

This whole thing might have been averted if Starbucks offered lovely salads or grilled veggies to compliment their cup of crack. But they don’t. Pastries that should be illegal are displayed innocently as ‘rewards’ and ‘treats’. They aren’t. And in the end, I found myself eating chips in bed after 11 pm. I hold Starbucks responsible. That could not have been my fault.

But of course it was. Seemingly unconscious choices have no less consequence.

On a positive note, I’m really happy with the Green B.E.A.N. Delivery of fresh fruits, veggies and well thought out complimentary purchases. I haven’t gone to the store in over three weeks, and the kids are adjusting to the garden of fresh variety little by little. Their alternatives are shrinking quickly now that school is out, and hunger has a direct effect on picky. My asparagus stir-fry doesn’t seem so bad when there is NOTHING else except the raw brussel sprouts I’m saving for tomorrow…and honestly, they get a kick out of the way it makes their pee smell. HAHAHA. Love it. That’s the perfect toy for my happy meal.

And my grocery budget has dropped in half. The specialty items can seem pricey, but when purchased in appropriate amounts with out the excess miscellaneous, we’re saving lots of money.

So if you are struggling with your diet, I encourage you to look at your available choices. A lack of ‘treats’ won’t make you feel deprived. They’ll make you feel motivated and strong.  You’ll begin to crave the good stuff. And if you keep it on hand, or say, have it delivered to your door, you’ll eat it. And if you are buying the goldfish and teddy grahams for the ‘kids’, ask yourself…WHY?

Seriously, I hear people say “I deserve this bowl of ice cream”, and I think…”Oh no! What horrid thing did you do to deserve that?”

You deserve to feel better. So do your kids and/or grandkids. Create new habits, shift your idea of ‘normal and easy’ food, and redefine what a real ‘treat’ is.

We put pineapple on a stick and grilled it over the fire. It was sticky, messy and oh, so sweet. Remind me, what is a s’more?

We ARE what we eat!

Fall for Vegan Chili

Black Bean Salad…I Mean “Dip”

As I’ve transitioned my family into a vegan diet, I’ve done a lot of bribing. Among other things, chips have been my biggest crutch. I can make just about any vegetable concoction with Indian, Mexican or Italian slant, and as long as I serve it along side chips or appropriate bread, there is a correlating bump in consumption. 

But at some point, I’ve got to break it to them that tortilla chips, even the organic and all natural varieties, are not actually a health food. 

So I’ve stopped buying them (not forever, just for a bit…) and the resulting confusion has been quite interesting. I actually caught my oldest using his fingers in lieu of the missing fried triangle. Maybe his hands were dirty and provided a bit of salt. I offered him a fork and some counseling, as even he was a bit embarrassed.

But ‘no chips?!’ can provoke desperation! I get it. 

I’ve converted the black bean party dip from the appetizer category to the salad category. It’s still just as good, and the spinach leaves give it crunch. I wouldn’t take it to a party sans kettle-style tortillas, but I will serve it to my family. It’s time to adjust their expectations one more time.

So this black bean salad/dip was simple.

3 cans of organic black beans, drained.

Chopped green, red, orange and yellow bell pepper

1/2 finely chopped habanero pepper

2 large green onions, white and green parts.

3 well chopped tomatoes, though diced can would work.

2 avocados, 1 mashed for the creamy texture, 1 chopped

1-2 tbsp garlic salt, cumin, 1-2 tsp of tumeric and chili powder

fresh spinach leaves, either mixed in or served on…I did both.

One ingredient I’d like to highlight is the fresh cilantro leaves. Cilantro is actually really good for you. It strengthens our immune system, and is known to help detoxify our body, even chelating heavy metals like mercury out of our blood system. Other well-documented benefits include:

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory capacities that may help symptoms of arthritis and edema
  • Protective agents against bacterial infection from Salmonella in food products
  • Acts to increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind), and reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
  • Relief for stomach gas, prevention of flatulence and an overall digestive aid
  • Wards off urinary tract infections
  • Helps reduce feelings of nausea
  • Eases hormonal mood swings and cramping associated with menstruation. 
  • A source of iron, magnesium, and is helpful in fighting anemia
  • Helps promote healthy liver function and stimulates the endocrine glands
  • Helps with insulin secretion and lowers blood sugar
  • Acts as a natural anti-septic and anti-fungal agent for skin disorders like fungal infections and eczema
  • Acts as an expectorant
  • Helps ease conjunctivitis, as well as eye-aging, macular degeneration, and other stressors on the eyes.

My mom is currently using it to make a tincture designed to make you less tasty to mosquitos. If that works, you’ll definitely be given the information. 

And not to beat a dead horse (or rotten banana) but use organic cilantro. The contamination of pesticides and other chemicals would definitely be an undermining factor as cilantro is used in such small quantities.

Read more about bribing your kids…