Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: March 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lentil Chili Nachos

This was a really good dinner. I had something like this when I was in DC after graduating from college last year and the chili was way too flavorful and salty, but I loved the idea of a lentil chili nacho. Not only was this delicious, aside from the chips (which aren’t too bad), this was a very healthy, and easy to make meal.

Note: This makes a lot of chili, a lot. After I had filled our plates, I froze a quart, and put the other half quart of chili in the fridge for lunches this week. If you don’t like leftovers, you can always cut the recipe in half. It may also seem like there are a lot of hot peppers in here - this chili is not spicy at all (this was confirmed by Brett who is not a spice freak like me), however, if you are very sensitive or cooking for children, you might want to omit one of the jalapenos and the habanero.

This was Brett's plate topped with guacamole, olives, tomatoes and jalapenos.

This was my plate topped with guacamole, jalapenos, red onions, olives and tomatoes.

Lentil Chili Nachos

Lentil Chili:
2 cups dried green lentils
6-8 cups water

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, minced
1 habanero, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1-2 cans no-salt added tomato sauce (depending on how thick you want your chili)
chili powder
a couple large pinches chipotle chili powder
ground coriander
Mexican oregano

Toppings (this is what we used - you can top it with whatever you want):
black olives
diced onions

blue corn chips

Wash lentils well in a wire mesh strainer. Combine with water in a large pan, bring to a boil, and cook until lentils soft, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the rest of the veggies. Heat a few tablespoons of water in a medium pan and cook the peppers, garlic, and onions until soft.

Once lentils are done, drain and rinse them. Transfer them to a large pot. Add the cooked veggies, tomatoes with chilies and tomato sauce. Add seasonings to your liking.

Keep on low heat and simmer for about an hour.

While the chili is simmering, it is the perfect time to get your toppings prepped.

Once chili is done, make a large ring of chips around a plate. In the center, layer the chili, whatever veggies you desire, and guacamole.

Having the ring of tortillas and dip in the center keeps the chips from getting soggy.

'Til next time!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Veggie and Bean Burros

So I was telling Lindsay (the Happy Herbivore) yesterday that I should have named my blog 'What Will I Think To Stuff Into A Tortilla Next.' It's so true. Now, we all have our 'things', for some it's pasta, others bread, for me it is tortillas in pretty much any form except those that contain lard or lots of icky preservatives. I am also passionately addicted to guacamole. Who knew what wonder and beauty would come from mixing avocado, garlic, lime and just a couple of spices, it's amazing.

Anyways, I'm done waxing poetic about guacamole, but you shouldn't be surprised that it is an accompaniment to the dinner that is the subject of this post.

Upon reading the ingredients list of this recipe one might find it a bit odd, but trust me, all these veggies work very well together and with the seasoning combination. I would have never thought to put broccoli or cauliflower in Mexican had I not had fajitas with broccoli and cauliflower at a place in Illinois that were out of this world. I think, more than anything, the spice combination is what is important.

Note: Again, if you don't want to use a tortilla, you could always just serve this over rice, quinoa or millet. I also had some left over navy beans so I threw them in here too, you could use just black beans or just navy beans too if preferred.

Veggie and Bean Burros
(Makes enough filling for 4 burros.)

1/2 cup navy beans, cooked
1 cup black beans, cooked
can chopped green chilies, drained
1 zucchini, roasted and sliced
1 cup cauliflower, cooked
1 cup broccoli, cooked
Mexican oregano
ground coriander
chili powder


In a medium sized bowl, mix together warmed beans, green chilies, and spices to taste.

In a separate bowl, combine all the veggies except the yams.

Layer bean mixture, veggie mixture, and yams in a warmed tortilla. Roll up and fry if you like.

Top with guacamole and salsa.

I hope everyone enjoys their Friday!

'Til next time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Squash and Bean Quesadillas

We had another winner last night. These quesadillas were really good. They were filling, spicy, and oddly authentic tasting for a more 'fusion' style meal.

A couple of notes: You could easily eat this without the tortilla. Just serve the roasted veggies and bean mixture over a bed of quinoa, top with guacamole and salsa and you'd be good to go. Also, I roasted my veggies and cooked my beans ahead of time, so this meal only took about 30-35 minutes. I just prepared the guacamole, heated and spiced the beans, and got all the 'fixings' together while the quinoa was cooking.

Before I go to the recipe I want to make one plea - don't fear frying your burritos or quesadillas. Use coconut oil and not very much of it at all. This doesn't add any significant amount of fat to the meal, the coconut oil does not release free radicals when heated, it only takes five minutes and it takes the meal to another level. I highly recommend trying it this way at least once.

Squash and Bean Quesadillas
Serves 3 (enough for Brett to have the leftovers for lunch)

1 zucchini, roasted and sliced
1 yellow squash, roasted and sliced
hot peppers, roasted and sliced (I used a habanero, jalapeno and serrano)
1/2 red bell pepper, roasted and sliced
1/2 cup black beans, cooked
1/2 cup navy beans, cooked
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
chipotle chili powder
Mexican oregano
ground coriander
vegan monterey jack cheese (optional)


Preheat oven to 425.

Heat some coconut oil on a baking sheet.

Wash and cut zucchini and squash in half. Place on baking sheet and roast in oven for 20-25 minutes or until soft and skin of veggies slightly blistered.

Let cool for a few minutes, then slice.

While veggies are roasting, cook quinoa.

In a small skillet, heat some water and add onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 7-10 minutes.

Heat beans. Toss with spices to taste. Add in hot peppers.

In a large skillet heat a little coconut oil in the pan.

Layer quinoa, roasted squash and bean mixture into a warmed tortilla topping with optional cheese before folding the tortilla in half.

Carefully place quesadilla on hot skillet and fry on each side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes for each side. Make sure to keep an eye of the tortilla to prevent burnage.

Top quesadilla with guacamole salsa.

'Til next time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Salsa Verde Enchiladas (How I Love Thee)

So first off, Chandelle, we LOVE you. We made her Salsa Verde Enchiladas for dinner last night, and this was the best thing we've made since I created the Fiesta Burrito - both Brett and I agreed. These enchiladas were absolutely fantastic. Her recipe originally called for seitan, but she, knowing that not everyone is very fond of seitan (like me), kindly offered up a bean suggestion as an alternative. I took her advice and used a combination of kidney and black beans, and halved the recipe since there are only the two of us. I may have also added an extra jalapeno and a habanera pepper to my salsa verde. :-)

My apartment smelled like a Mexican restaurant - truly authentic. When I smelled it, I knew it was going to be good. Brett and I stuffed ourselves with these, both wishing that we had more room in our bellies and more food because that's just how good these enchiladas were. We will be having these again very soon, I almost want to have them again tonight but I don't have all the stuff I would need.

Oh! And as if I haven't waxed on about these amazing and beautiful enchiladas enough (I get really weird about good Mexican food), both Brett and I agreed, this would be something you could serve omni's, as is, and they would probably like them a lot. Go a little further and serve these with some guacamole, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, vegan refried beans and rice, and your guests will think they've died and gone to a Mexican restaurant. You'll certainly score some points for authenticity and creativity.

Aren't they gorgeous?

Chandelle, this is going to be something we will enjoy often!

Well, it's Spring Break at the university I work at, so I took today and tomorrow off to give myself a nice long weekend. I'm off to enjoy the weather and maybe try to come up with some good tasting Mexican food of my own!

'Til next time!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chocolate Espresso Orange Cookies (and a grocery store wrap up)

I was in the baking mood today, and I had an idea, so I decided to try it out. I made Chocolate Espresso Orange Cookies. This recipe only makes 10 cookies, as I was just trying to see how they would turn out, but they are fantastic! They are rich, soft and cakey, with a subtle espresso and mild orange flavor.

Chocolate Espresso Orange Cookies
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground flax seeds
2/3 cup organic vegan sugar
1/3 cup plain hemp or rice milk
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tsp orange zest (I used one small organic orange)
1 tbsp instant espresso coffee

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and flax seeds in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.

Stir into the dry mixture in batches, using a fork if necessary.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a cookie sheet (non-stick or parchment lined). Leave about 1 1/2 inches between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

So, as I'm sure most of you who have read this blog for any significant period of time know (or those who have looked at the recipe index), I like Mexican food. A lot. It's just my thing. If you don't like Mexican food, this blog is probably not for you. :-) Anyways, I have been working on veganizing authentic, traditional Mexican cusine, trying to keep the integrity of the dish (accenting the herb, spice, pepper, etc. the original recipe does), as well as working on creating recipes for more 'fusion' style dishes. I really like this kind of food so it's fun, we'll see how these recipes turn out. I plan on trying a few of the more 'fusion' style ones this week.

I thought I'd end this post with a little 'grocery store wrap up', maybe it'll give you an idea of what's going to be on the menu. The only things not pictured here are corn tortillas and canned black olives. We're pretty stocked up on dried beans and rice.

Let's see, we've got serrano peppers, 2 organic oranges, a tomato, 2 avocados, jalapenos, a lime, a red bell pepper, about 1lb. of tomatillos, organic mixed baby greens, a red onion, 2 organic jewel yams, garlic, a yellow squash, 2 zucchini, a bunch of organic cilantro. 4 organic Pink Lady apples, 2 organic kiwi, and some habanero peppers.

'Til next time!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Meal That Just Wasn't Meant To Be

So, I’m sure many of us have had ‘issues’ in the kitchen from time to time. I experienced this myself, though this seems to have been a more drawn out kitchen fiasco than I’m used to. It’s almost as if yummy food fate was just not on my side. This experience will be the subject of today’s entry.

You see, I had this idea for a Mediterranean-style lasagna. I thought using a pureed white bean spread instead of tofu or faux cheese would be a good change up, and using veggies such as artichokes, zucchini, and kalamata olives. I was originally planning on making this on Monday when I had the day off. First I made the white bean spread, it turned out a bit too flavorful, but I didn’t think much of it, because I thought the blandness of everything else would tone it down. So, I proceeded to prep the rest of my veggies and then just shucked everything in the fridge so it would be ready when we wanted dinner. Well, when that time rolled around I got everything out and noticed that when Brett picked up the marinara sauce he accidently got the wrong one, this had cheese in it and I’m allergic to dairy. So we just decided to have the Black Bean and Mushroom Burritos instead.

Fast forward to yesterday, Brett was going to go to the store to exchange the marinara, and I was going to make the lasagna for dinner. Well, the zucchini I roasted for the lasagna had gone bad in the fridge (which really bummed me out, I hate wasting food), so I asked him to pick up another as well. Well, he remembered to return the marinara and get a zucchini, but forgot to get the right marinara. Again, I didn’t notice until I was prepping ingredients for the meal. You would have figured at this time that we would have thought that someone out there just did not want us to make this, but no, I was determined.

So I roasted the ‘new’ zucchini, and Brett went back to the store (keep in mind we don’t have a car, he had to walk 20 minutes to and from the store TWICE). Well, this time he got the right marinara, so I thought our luck was turning. I began to boil the lasagna noodles and had the heat on too high, the next thing I knew I was being sprayed in the face and neck with boiling water. Don’t freak out, aside from a small burn on my neck, I was just fine, but starting to get angry at what a pain in the ass this meal was turning out to be.

Anyways, I had the oven preheated, the noodles cooked, and everything prepped, so I began to ‘build’ my lasagna. First off, I tasted the white bean spread, and man, the flavor really intensified over the two days it was in the fridge, it was apparent at that moment that I had used way too much garlic. But again, I just disregarded it. Now, I also made a bit too much bean spread and was a little, um, how can we say this nicely, ambitious about how much bean spread one layer of lasagna could handle. I ended up with an almost two inch layer of bean spread, meaning that after I added the veggies (which I still insisted on attempting) it only ended up with one layer of noodles, on the bottom. At this point I was just irritated, so I said ‘eff-it’, we’ll just put it in the oven and eat it like a casserole.

When this meal from hell came out of the oven, Brett damn near cut himself trying to get a ‘piece’ out. It smelled a bit weird, so we decided just to try a bit before going through the trouble of filling plates. Let’s just say it tasted like over seasoned mashed potatoes with lasagna on top. Ick! Amy’s vegan pizza to the rescue!

As much as this meal troubled me, I believe the basic idea does have potential, but you can be damn sure I will do things differently next time.

And like I was telling Brett, the experience does make for a good blog post!

'Til next time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Black Bean and Mushroom Burritos

First off, I just wanted to thank everyone for their kind comments about my piece on Cookiemouse's blog, I'm glad I was able to make some sense out of all the stuff in my head. :-) And also, thank you for the comments on my last post, I'm not alone!

So anyways, last night for dinner, I made Black Bean and Mushroom Burritos. I created this recipe a few weeks ago, smoky spiced mushrooms and spicy black beans sounded like it would be a great combination. Somehow or another, I forgot about it until I was making my grocery list for this week. This meal was incredibly easy, pretty dang nutritious, and super yummy – it got the omnivore’s seal of approval too. What more can you ask for?

Black Bean and Mushroom Burritos
1/4 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 package button mushrooms, sliced
2 cup black beans, cooked
1 cup cooked brown rice
chipotle chili powder
regular chili powder
ground coriander
Mexican oregano


Heat a few tablespoons of water in a skillet. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes.

Season with chipotle chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, and salt. Cook until mushrooms and onions are soft.

Meanwhile, mix black beans and rice in a bowl. Season with regular chili powder, cumin, cayenne and salt.

Spoon bean and mushroom mixture in a warmed tortilla. Roll up!

If desired, brown on a skillet. Heat just a tiny bit of coconut oil in a small skillet (I'm talking less than 1/2 a tsp). Cook burrito on all sides, checking often, until golden brown.

Top with guacamole and salsa.

'Til next time.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Enchilada Sauce, Soft Vegan Ginger Cookies, and A Sad Observance

I thought I’d start this entry with that last little bit in my title, the ‘sad observance’, ‘cause, well, I don’t want to end the post on a depressing note. Yesterday, here in Columbia, many got out to observe the 5th anniversary of our invasion and occupation of Iraq. The actual anniversary is this Wednesday, March 19th, but weekdays aren’t the best for large gatherings. There was an anti-war rally and march through downtown Columbia, culminated by some very moving speeches and music. I don’t generally go to demonstrations as I feel that they, at least in the case of anti-war demonstrations, are pretty useless and sometimes just stand to perpetuate stereotypes. But there are times, such as the anniversary of this sad calamity, that I feel the need to get out with like minded people, and tell my fellow citizens and the rest of the world that not everything can be done in my name. I am sorry to the rest of the world – especially Iraq and Afghanistan (and also a lot of Central and South America, Mexico, Africa, East Timor, Chagos Islanders, and so on), I am sorry for what we do to you out of ignorance, incompetence, greed and arrogance. It’s times like these when I know I’m not alone in my sadness and anger.

There was a very good turnout to the event as well, over 1,000 people. That might not seem like a lot to some, but Columbia is not a huge town, and this is Missouri, a very conservative state. We had a wonderful speaker from the local chapter of the NAACP, a local representative, an Iraqi transplanted to the US, and a conscientious objector from the US military. His being there was a true act of bravery - he is putting himself at great risk, what he is doing for his principles, some might call it ‘deserting his country’, I call it ‘not wanting to kill people for their ‘freedom’’. It also reminds us that we cannot turn our backs on the veterans who return from this tragedy, it is not their fault that they are being used as a weapon of hate and greed, many enlisted only did so because they felt like they had no other opportunity in life, we must care for them with respect and treat them with dignity.
With that, I will share a few pictures, then move on to the much less depressing matter of food (including a recipe for yummy cookies!).

Students from the University of Missouri - Columbia holding banners.

Brett (who really needs a haircut and thus really fit the 'hippie' stereotype at the anti-war rally) signing the banner, and some guy who appears to be wearing a top hat.

Part of the crowd.

More crowd (I like that world flag).

The Iraqi speaker.

So anyways, thanks as always for listening to my crazy rambling, and now I'll get on to the food.

I made roasted veggie enchiladas again the other night, they are so good, but I get tired of using premade enchilada sauce. I started to wonder how difficult it would be to make my own and found out it wasn't too hard at all. I had an extra can of tomato sauce on hand, so I thought I'd give it a whirl, and if all else failed, I still had the premade sauce. Well, let's just say, I tossed a few spices into some tomato sauce, a splash of vinegar, and suddenly, I had excellent enchilada sauce. I doubt I'll ever buy the premade stuff again.

Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce
15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp white vinegar
chili powder
garlic powder
onion powder
Mexican oregano

Season sauce as you like it. Add a tablespoon or two of water if you like a thinner sauce. Heat thoroughly and enjoy!

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but one of my favorite things to do, cooking wise, is to successfully veganize a recipe. Well, I found a recipe for very non-vegan, and also very non-healthy soft ginger cookies. Now, in my opinion, cookies shouldn't be healthy, they are cookies dammit, indulge yourself once in awhile, don't make them all the time, and leave some of the fat in so they are still enjoyable!!!! Enough of the tirade. I 'healthified' these to an extent, I switched the flours, sugars, cut down the amount of margarine use, and I also didn't have a couple of the ingredients, so I subbed in what I had. This is what I came up with and they were delish! I ate four last night, and Brett ate a bunch as welll. Four might not seem like too many cookies, but these bad boys are big!

Soft and Chewy Vegan Ginger Cookies
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Earth Balance, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup raw vegan sugar
replacement for one egg (I used Ener-G)
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp raw vegan sugar

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl mix flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt.

In a small bowl stir together the sugar, Earth Balance, and applesauce until well combined. Stir in the 'egg', water and molasses. Mix well.

Add sugar mixture to flour mixture in small batches.

Drop by heaping spoonfuls on a cookie sheet.

Flatten slightly and sprinkle vegan sugar on top.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Allow to cool on sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Makes 20 large cookies.

And finally, Cookiemouse, from the blog bearing the same name, so kindly asked me to write a guest blogging piece for his blog. I wrote about the environmental argument for vegetarianism and veganism. If anyone wants to check it out (our just check out his blog), you can find the entry here. Thanks again for asking me to do this Cookiemouse, I really enjoyed it.

Whew! This is a long post! Well, I took the day off of work today to give myself a three day weekend, so I'm off to enjoy it!

'Til next time!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Recipe Index and Oatmeal

First off, I want to give a big thanks to Chandelle for giving me directions on how to create a recipe index and encouraging me to do so before I had so many recipes that it would be a hassle to create one. So thanks to the lovely Chandelle, I now have a recipe index! If anyone is ever interested in going straight to a particular recipe, now all you have to do is follow the link on the right hand side of the page!
For brunch today, Brett and I had coffee and oatmeal. Nothing special I know, but we came up with two new (only to us of course) variations.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal (this was Brett's)
1/3 cup regular rolled oats
1 cup plain rice milk
1 small apple, peeled, washed and diced
2 tsp ground flax seeds
3 tbsp agave
2 tsbp brown sugar
a few dashes of cinnamon
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients except oats and bring to a boil. Simmer until apples begin to soften. Add oats, simmer for five minutes.

Remove from heat, let stand five minutes and enjoy!

It's purple!

Mixed Berry Oatmeal (this was mine)
1/3 cup regular rolled oats
2/3 cup plain soy milk
2 tsp ground flax seeds
2 tbsp agave
1 cup frozen mixed berries

Mix all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes.

'Til next time.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Proper Relationship with Food

I was looking at Chandelle's awesome new recipe index (I hope you don't mind Chandelle, I'd like to do mine the same way), and I happened upon her first blog entry where she discussed the purpose of her blog. I have to say, she and I see eye to eye when it comes to our views on the appropriate relationship between ourselves and food and have some of the same concerns about people, even some in the vegan community. In my opinion, she hit the nail right on the head, especially in her resulting commentary to my response. It inspired me to do a post simply to link to it. I read it earlier this morning and have been thinking about it on and off all day. If you are at all interested, please take the time to read it. Her blog is excellent by the way, always full of yummy recipes (and sometimes funny stories about kids and cooking mishaps) and she relies on whole foods that are organic or fair trade and local wherever possible. She is living proof that we can (and should) 'vote with our dollars' and 'eat by our conscience' but not fool ourselves or make our lives difficult by trying to follow a purity of principle, it's just not possible.

'Til next time!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baked Beans, Cornbread and Spinach (Plus Cute Kitty Pics)

So last night for dinner, I made Happy Herbivore’s Baked Beans and Cornbread. I made steamed spinach instead of collards, because I’m just not sure I’m ready to try them yet. I’ve been told they have a ‘unique’ flavor that takes a bit to get used to, and I haven’t been feeling too brave lately. I can’t believe I didn’t try to make something like this at home sooner! It was super easy. And I like baked beans, I always have, it just wasn’t something I had very often growing up, which is why, I suppose, it has been under my radar for so long. I do have to say, I like the vegan version better than I remember liking the 'traditional' version.

I don’t use canned beans unless I have to, I personally feel like it’s a waste of money, raw materials, and that beans cooked at home taste much better, but I understand the convenience of them and will not chastise others for using them, just will avoid using them myself. With that in mind, I’m also not sure of the amount of cooked beans (from dried) equals a can of beans. Now I know that the standard can of beans contains roughly 2 cups, but there is also liquid in there. Anyways, I just used 2 cups of cooked navy beans and added a few extra tablespoons of water to account for what would have been in the can. Next time I make this, I won’t add the extra water, since as you can see from the picture, my beans were a bit ‘liquidy’, but they were still fantastic.

I thought I'd end this entry today with some random pictures of my lovable fur balls. I was inspired by Leng and her pictures of the adorable, and so cleverly named kitty, Miss Dottie (my favorite picture of Miss Dottie is here).

A rare picture of Nermal (left) and Gabby (right) laying together.

Nermal being spastic on her cat tree.


Nermal looking quite curious.

That's all for now!

'Til next time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Midwestern Spice Chili

I have been craving chili for awhile, but had avoided making it until I could come up with something creative, as I have, over the years, pretty much ‘chilied’ myself out. You see, chili was one of the first things I learned how to cook back when I was still an omni, so I made it all the time and wore myself out on it (and Brett too!). Then I came across SusanV’s Gold Rush Chili and thought it was a good starting point. I modified it to our tastes, and this is what I came up with!

A little note of warning though, if you don't like spicy food, either cut out or cut down the roasted hot peppers and cayenne.

Midwestern Spice Chili
1 cup kidney beans, cooked
1 cup navy beans, cooked
1 cup black beans, cooked
15 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 butternut squash, cubed and roasted
1 sweet potato, peeled, cubed and roasted
jalapenos and other hot peppers, roasted and sliced
1/2 bell pepper, roasted and diced
1/2 cup corn, cooked
1/4 onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
regular chili powder
chipotle chili powder
Mexican oregano
cayenne (of course)
black pepper

Heat water in a large pot, add onions and cook 5 minutes, add garlic and cook another few minutes or until veggies are soft.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Spice to your liking and simmer over low heat for a half hour to an hour for the flavors to meld.

This makes quite a bit of chili. We had our fill for dinner, portioned out two servings for lunch and then froze the rest. You could also just cut the recipe in half.

I also thought I’d leave you with the ‘recipe’ for one of my favorite snacks: mixed nuts and dried fruit. I call it a ‘recipe’ because there is no actually preparation really involved other than mixing the ingredients together in a bowl. But I thought I’d share this snack as it’s delicious, healthy, and filling.

J's Yummy Snack Mix

(Note: All my ingredients were organic and purchased from the bulk section. It cost less that $5 to make a HUGE container full of this.)

roasted peanuts*
raw almonds
raw sunflower seeds
raw cashews
dried mango
dried cranberries
dried cherries

*This is the only nut I bought roasted and salted as I wanted a little salitness in the mix. You could just use raw peanuts too if you wanted.

Mix everything together and chow down.

So yummy!

'Til next time!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Muffins and Spicy Anasazi Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Yesterday, I made Happy Herbivore’s Apple Crisp Muffins. I was originally planning on making her Sweet Potato & Maple Muffins earlier this week, but the yam I baked was eaten before I got home from work the next day (Brett didn’t know they were for the muffins). Anyways, I pretty much always have apples around, so it all worked out. These are fantastic! They really do taste like an apple crisp. I’ve already had three since I made them yesterday! Now my pictures aren’t as pretty as HH's, I overfilled the muffin cups, so they kind of spewed out a bit, but they are still oh so tasty!

Now, the only thing I don’t like about muffins is my pan. You see, muffins stick to it like nothing else, so you either use muffin cups or grease the hell out of the tin (which is still no guarantee), I don’t like either of these options, but as of late have chosen to avoid greasing the pan, but feel bad about all the muffin cup papers that I have to use. I am thinking of not making muffins anymore, and just making breads, since my bread pan is glass and doesn’t have a sticking problem and doesn’t require me to waste lots of paper. Anyone know if you could make a loaf out of this recipe? I’m wondering if it can be done to other muffin recipes or if the proportions would be off…

Anyways, for dinner I made Spicy Anasazi Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Roasted Acorn Squash. This meal was hearty, healthy and super tasty. I have been mulling over other things to stuff acorn squash with since the last time I made it as most of the recipes you find are sweet and acorn squashes are much more versatile than that. No one should be surprised that I ended up with a Mexican inspired idea, and that yams, hot peppers, and guacamole make their way in to the meal. I will make a guacamole tag as well, I make it at least once a week, it’s one of my favorite foods, and so simple too. Anasazi beans are really good; they are a traditional Native American bean that is used in Native American (of course) or Mexican dishes. Pinto would work just as well in here though. We had chips and guacamole with this, but ended up not eating the chips and just putting the guacamole on the squash.

Here's a picture of the Anasazi beans before the were soaked and cooked, they are lovely beans dry, but really don't look like anything special once cooked. Brett said they reminded him of cows dry, it almost made me feel bad for eating them. :-(

Spicy Anasazi Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 cups anasazi (or pinto) beans cooked
1 small can of black olives, drained
1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 yam/sweet potato, cubed and roasted
1-2 roasted jalapenos, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili powder
Mexican oregano
chipotle chili powder
cayenne (optional)
splash veggie broth

simple guacamole
blue corn chips (optional)

Rise quinoa in a wire mesh strainer.

Bring water to a boil, add quinoa and reduce heat, simmering for 15-20 minutes or until all liquid abosrbed.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon or so of water and cook garlic until soft.

Add the rest of the ingredients until heated through.

Stuff into roasted acorn squash halves. Top with guacamole.

'Til next time.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why I exercise, but not in the traditional sense (plus a grocery store wrap-up)

To be honest, the reason I don’t traditionally exercise, you know going to the gym, working out to a video, or using some funky equipment is, well, because I flippin’ hate it! And I think many people feel the same way about this as I do. Does this mean I think we don’t need physical activity? Well, of course we need physical activity, but I don’t think we need to ‘work out’ in the traditional sense to be healthy and fit. And why do so many feel this way about this type of exercise? It seems that many of us aren’t cut out for ‘traditional’ exercise. Could it be that this type of physical activity is a bit unnatural? Hear me out here.

Here is my anthropological argument against traditional exercise: do you think our ancestors sat around doing curls with rocks? Bench pressed tree limbs? No, they got their physical activity though day-to-day activities of survival and life, walking, swimming, gardening, foraging, playing, etc. Perhaps this is my justification for not wanting to exercise in the traditional sense, but to me, that’s ok, it makes sense.

I prefer to get my exercise the way my ancestors did, from my daily activities, which is very possible, even for those of us who don’t live in walkable cities. This may also be an ‘exercise routine’ that many of us could actually stick with.

You see, I walk at least two miles a day, I enjoy it, happily do it, but don’t realize I’m exercising, I mean I know walking is good for you, but the purpose of my walking is not for the exercise, it is to get me from point A to point B. Psychologically, there is a difference between the two. Ask me to walk two miles on a treadmill? No thank you, it’s painfully boring even with TVs and music, and I must say, at least when I am walking outside, as opposed to on a treadmill, the scenery changes and I’m not just moving in place. (Starting to see my ‘unnatural’ argument?)

I also firmly believe that exercise, like most everything else, is best done in moderation. Continuous, long-term, intense physical activity can be just as bad for a person in the long run as being sedentary. This is not to dog those who have the motivation to make a daily trek to the gym. In a lot of ways, I respect that level of commitment and motivation, however, personally don’t like the rigor and routine it requires. Not to mention, I find it pretty boring.

I also believe that most of us can’t really stick with a traditional exercise regimen, at least not on our own, and again, our ancestors (or even our grandparents who got outside and did hard physical labor, not for physical labors sake, but to farm or what have you) did not need personal trainers. Many of us can’t stick with a traditional exercise regimen and thus ‘fail’ at improving our health through physical activity. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that exercise for exercises sake tends to become a hassle, a chore for most people, who dread the idea of going to the gym. Not to mention, many of the machines and activities at the gym mimic activities that can be done in real life (walking, stair climbing, biking, rowing, and so on), my take is, do these things in real life don’t just mimic them, they’ll be much more enjoyable that way (and cheaper), and will likely not feel nearly as much like exercising.

My point in all of this is that much of our inability to create and stick with a traditional exercise regimen is psychological in my opinion. Going to the gym is a hassle, it’s boring, and it’s not very fun, so most of us either have to convince ourselves that being fit is just beyond our grasp or force ourselves to do something that we likely won’t stick with in the long run. Well, we don’t have to feel that way, nor do we have to force ourselves to the gym. We have to find activities that we either enjoy or distract us from realizing that we are exercising.

Here is some advice that has worked for me on how to get exercise without exercising. Many of these activities are also more environmentally friendly and could save you money on things like gas.

1. Walk to your destination. This is the simplest thing you can do – even if you don’t live in a walkable city. If you live near enough to the places you frequent, start walking to a few of them. It’s hard to feel like you are exercising when you are on your way to work. This isn’t an option? Well, simply park your car as far away as possible from your destination and walk from there (i.e. at the back of the lot where nobody parks). It’s easy, less frustrating than circling to find a ‘good’ parking space, there’s no funky equipment to buy, and it’s something that can easily become a (healthy) habit. :-)

2. Go walking for pleasure with a friend. I don’t mean power walking here, though if you want to that’s fine, I personally don’t prefer sweating, but that’s just me.

3. Go bike riding.

4. Go swimming with a buddy. You don’t have to swim laps either, again, this is an activity that I find to be pretty boring. You might be surprised at how good a few hours of playing in the pool are for you.

5. Take the stairs. This is not only better for you, but you save energy that way also, as some mechanical box is not taking you to your destination, your feet are. I work on the 7th floor of my building and walk up 7 flights of stairs multiple times a day. Did it take me a awhile to be able to do this? Yes, but I hate waiting for the elevator, so I did not work to be able to get up those stairs without being out of breath because it’s good for me, that is just a pleasant side effect, I just happen to be impatient and not really like elevators.

Of course this list is by no means exhaustive. My point in all of this is to show that it’s possible to be fit and healthy without having to slave away for hours a day at the gym. I am thin, strong, fit, and healthy and I will likely never set foot in a gym in my lifetime. It’s not impossible, you just have to be creative and find a reasonable way to get some physical activity that you enjoy. Some like tennis (I don’t like running), some like hiking (that’s fun), some like golf (never played), and so on. Most people don’t do these things because they are ‘good for you’, we do these things because they are fun.

Now I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know what I like and dislike and that many other people struggle with traditional exercise in much the same way as myself, so I thought I'd put it out there.

I thought I'd end with a wrap-up of our trip to the grocery store yesterday, maybe give you an idea of the things I'll be whipping up this week.

Let's start with produce, we got three jewel yams, a lemon, a lime, two oranges, a small butternut squash, a yellow onion, a bag of spinach (I hate buying bagged spinach, damn the Midwest and it's winter!), a yellow bell pepper, an acorn squash, some lovely serrano peppers, some lovely jalapeno peppers (I love when peppers start to turn red), and three avocados. I must ask, why do they have to put such big labels on organic produce, I mean seriously, when I get organic little new potatoes, there is a sticker on every single one. How environmentally friendly is that?

Next are bulk items. I love the bulk section, at our grocery store, pretty much everything in the bulk section is organic and inexpensive. We got chipotle chili powder, dried cranberries, peanuts, rolled oats (though not enough, we got the last of what they had), quinoa, yellow cornmeal, and pecans.

And finally, the procesed or minimally processed items. We got an Amy's Roasted Vegetable Pizza, a Kashi cheese pizza (for Brett), canned diced tomatoes with green chiles, canned sliced black olives, canned tomato paste, Original Newman O's (for Brett), Nature's Path Apricot and Nut granola bars, blue corn chips, and organic picante sauce.

Well, this is long enough!

'Til next time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Smashed Yam, Black Bean and Spinach Quesadillas

I’m not sure why I have never come up with this combination to this point as I love Mexican inspired food, sweet potatoes/yams, beans, and quesadillas. But alas, here it is! This was a wonderful dinner, both Brett and Jennifer approved, and surprisingly healthy for the sheer size and amount of flavor of the quesadillas.
Note: I use organic jewel yams during the winter as they are tasty and always available at my local grocery store, during the summer I use sweet potatoes or whatever kind of yams are available at the farmer’s market. I understand these two terms are used pretty interchangeably in the US and either can be used in any of these recipes. I think there are differences in what the terms refer to elsewhere, but for the purposes of my blog, I am referring to brownish-red tubers with the orange insides.

And now presenting the Smashed Yam, Black Bean and Spinach Quesadilla with Simple Guacamole.

Smashed Yam and Black Bean Quesadilla

1 large yam/sweet potato, baked and mashed
1-2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup frozen sweet corn
1/2 red bell pepper, roasted
1 9 oz. bag baby spinach
1/4 cup veggie broth
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
cumin (to taste)
chili powder (to taste)
Mexican oregano (to taste)
cayenne (to taste)
salt (to taste)

1 tsp coconut oil per quesadilla
simple guacamole

Bake yam/sweet potato and mash.

Heat a couple tbsp of water in a skillet and add garlic, cooking until soft. Add beans, corn and spices and heat through. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat veggie broth in a small pan and add spinach in batches, cooking until soft.

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet.

Layer mashed sweet potatoes and cooked veggie/bean mixture into warmed tortillas.

Place in skillet and cook on each side until golden brown, checking often to avoid burnage.

Top with salsa and simple guacamole.

‘Til next time!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry with Cashews and Adzuki Beans

I had looked at the Pineapple-Cashew-Quinoa Stir-Fry in Veganomicon a few times, but always passed over it as the flavoring just didn’t seem to do it for me. But I really liked the idea of a stir-fry with pineapples, quinoa, and cashews in it. So I thought about improvements awhile to see what I could come up with.

I ended up, big surprise, going with a sweet and spicy sauce (it is a great compromise, the spiciness pleases me, the sweetness pleases Brett and the combination works great), and I added more veggies and some adzuki beans.

I must say, this was a huge hit! And it was loaded with protein; you got quinoa, cashews, and adzuki beans. Brett and I both loved this and he even came up with an idea for a variation for a fruity breakfast stir-fry. I was impressed, it sounds fantastic, I think we’ll have to make it for a weekend brunch sometime soon to see how it turns out.

Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry with Cashews and Adzuki Beans

Serves 4-6 (leftovers = yummy, easy work lunches)

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
hot chili oil (to taste)
4 tbsp agave
1" ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
juice of 1/2 a lime
red pepper flakes
cornstarch mixed with water

Stir-Fry Stuff:
4 carrots, peeled, cut into rounds, and boiled
1 cup snap peas, cooked
1 cup broccoli, cooked
1 can organic pineapple pieces
1/2 cup raw organic cashews
1 1/2 cups cooked adzuki beans

Rinse quinoa very well before cooking.

Bring 2 cups water to boil, add quinoa, reduce heat and cook, uncovered until water is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil, add carrots and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add snap peas and broccoli, cook for a few minutes until all the veggies are soft. Drain.

In a small sauce pan heat water, add garlic and ginger and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients aside from the cornstarch/water mixture.

Once quinoa is cooked, transfer it to a large skillet. Add veggies and beans.

Drain pineapple juice into pan with sauce and add the pineapple chunks to the quinoa, veggies, and beans.

Bring sauce to a boil, add cornstarch/water mixture and stir frequently until desired thickness.

Remove from heat.

Stir in to quinoa mixture and top with cashews.

'Til next time!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Whole Wheat Mexican Pizza

It was a gorgeous day here in Missouri yesterday (and is shaping up to be another nice one too!), so we went walking, opened the apartment up and really took advantage of the much needed sun and lovely weather.

We had Mexican pizza for dinner last night. Brett made the pizza crust, for some reason, dough is his thing. All I had to do was print off the recipe for him, make 'refried' beans (I only fried them once, I still don't entirely get the 'refried bean'), and roast some peppers. It worked out very nicely for me I must say.

We used Lindsay's (aka The Happy Herbivore) recipe for Fat Free Whole Wheat Pizza Dough. (I swear, we are going to have to start paying her or something, we use her recipes so often.)

We used spicy vegan refried beans instead of sauce, yum!

Spicy Vegan Refried Beans

2-3 cups cooked pinto beans, cooled in the fridge
1 tsp coconut oil
1 can chopped green chiles with juices
cumin (to taste)
chile powder (to taste)
onion powder (to taste)
garlic powder (to taste)
salt (to taste)
cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet. Add pinto beans and fry until beans are warm and some are splitting and getting mushy.

Transfer beans to a large bowl. Mash with a mixer or potato masher. Add spices and canned green chiles with juices. Combine with the mixer.

J & B's Vegan Mexican Pizza

1 HH Fat Free Whole Wheat Pizza crust (unbaked)
spicy vegan refried beans
cooked black beans
serrano peppers, roasted and sliced
red bell pepper, roasted and sliced
black olives
vegan monterey jack cheese, cut into small dice (optional)
enchilada sauce (optional)

Spread refried beans on crust and top with the remaining ingredients.

We baked ours on a pizza stone.

Preheat oven to 425 with pizza stone in it for about an hour. Bake pizza for 10-12 minutes or until crust is done to your liking. To get the 'cheese' to melt, turn the oven to broil in the last few mintutes of cooking, keeping the oven door open to keep the crust from getting over done while the 'cheese' is melting (a little Brett pizza making secret).

This was super tasty and it's always fun when Brett and I can get in the kitchen together. The meal was also one of those where I didn't feel bad at all putting a little vegan cheese on top.

'Til next time!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Orange-Agave-Teriyaki Stir-Fry with Adzuki Beans

First off, thank you all for your kind comments on my last entry, they really mean a lot to me; it’s nice to know that people enjoy this blog.

So anyway. When deciding to focus more on whole foods and less on tofu, seitan, faux cheeses, etc., the one food I was having trouble with was Asian. Both of us really like Asian food, and beyond nuts, I was coming up short with ideas for protein sources in stir-fries that weren’t seitan or tofu. Then Lindsay (aka The Happy Herbivore) sent me a link a friend gave her to this small family farm in Idaho that sells all sorts of dry beans and lentils. They sell lots of organic and heirloom varieties of beans. So I had a look around on their site and it was food nerd heaven. Anyways, I ordered 1 lb. each of organic cranberry beans, organic anasazi beans, and organic adzuki beans.

Well, my problem with protein in Asian is no more, there are nuts, there are soy beans, and now there are adzuki beans. These are lovely little beans. I got a picture of them before cooking since they are far prettier before the color is leached out of them in the soaking and cooking process.

So for dinner on Friday nights we generally do something like a frozen pizza, order in or eat leftovers as it has been a long week at work and we go to the store on Friday nights so after lugging home a load of groceries we’re pretty physically tired as well. None of that stuff sounded good last night, so I decided to whip together a quick stir-fry, and I mean quick, I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen, nor did I want to eat crap food. I like to have frozen veggies on hand, as they are convenient, I much prefer fresh veggies, but sometimes it’s nice not to have to chop all sorts of stuff up. So I went the frozen veggie route. You could use whatever veggies you had on hand in this of course, but I used: peas, asparagus, carrots, green beans, cauliflower, yellow squash, celery, onions, and mushrooms. Aside from the peas (I added them in), it was one of those frozen ‘stir-fry’ veggie mixes. Both Brett and I hate celery so I picked that out.

Note: This did make a decent amount of sauce. We had some leftover afterwards, you could always cut the sauce recipe in half if desired.

Orange-Agave-Teriyaki Stir-Fry with Adzuki Beans

1 teaspoon coconut oil (it will melt while cooking)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup shoyu
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup agave
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
juice of half an orange
pinch cayenne (optional)
cornstarch dissolved in water

Mixed veggies
1-2 cups cooked adzuki beans
Hot, cooked short grain brown rice
Sesame seeds (optional)

Have all your other ingredients warming while you make the sauce, this saves a lot of time.

Heat water in small sauce pan. Add garlic and ginger and cook until soft. Add all the other ingredients except the cornstarch and water and bring to a soft boil. Add in the cornstarch mixture and stir frequently as sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Serve over hot rice, veggies and adzuki beans. Top with sesame seeds (and more cayenne if desired) before serving.

This was very tasty, both Brett and I enjoyed it, and it only took me about 20 minutes to throw this together since the beans were already cooked and I had cooked rice on hand.

‘Til next time!