Monthly Archives: March 2011

Ah-ee-achoo! Or, My Name is Chili Willy.

Mmmm, chili.  Warm, filling, spicy, beany goodness.  Yep, I’m behind the curve here, as it’s finally going to hit 60 degrees in Portland today, and spring might actually be right around the corner.  Howevs, as you know, I’m recovering from The Plague, and a big bowl of this nutritional powerhouse is just what I needed today.

I found the basis for this recipe while babysitting my nephew.  I managed to tear myself away from his cuteness long enough to thumb through a cookbook on my sister’s coffee table, and this recipe popped out as simple, vegan, virtually fat-free, and easily modified to taste—thanks, Sis!  Wife pulled a Poor Man’s Scanner for me—she took a pic of the page with her phone and emailed it to me.  I saved the pic to my phone and took it to the grocery store with me this morning.  So easy!

Ok, so it’s not so easy to read, but it’s good enough for a recipe this simple.  I’ll give you the deets–modified to my tastes–so you don’t have to strain yourselves…

I made this in the slow cooker, but you could easily throw this together in a big pot and simmer it for maybe an hour, or until the spices are all blendy.  I added cauliflower to up the veggie content, and swapped out half of the chili powder for some cayenne for spice.

Ingredients:

Olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves minced garlic

1 T red chili powder

1 T cayenne powder

1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized chunks

28-oz can of crushed tomatoes (I used no-salt diced tomatoes)

2 15.5-oz cans of black beans, or 3 cups cooked beans

1 cup water

salt and pepper

Instructions:

Saute onion, pepper, and garlic in a bit of oil. Cover and cook on medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add chili powder and cayenne and cook for 30 seconds more.

Throw the mixture into the slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients. I added just a dash of salt and a bunch of pepper.

Set the pot to High and cook for 6 hours or so.

The Results:

Yum!  This chili is SPICY, though–and I love spice.  I think I’ll add less cayenne next time, and maybe add more beans.  The cauliflower worked out, but I think I’d prefer zucchini.  The zucchini at the store this morning looked nasty, though.

I’ll be dumping a big cup of this on a baked potato tonight, with some guac to cool it down a bit.

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A Simple, Lazy, Vegan Day

If you’re new to trying out vegan recipes, or thinking about trying a day or a week of whole-foods, high-nutrient veganism, you might be wondering: What does a nice, simple, healthful day of eating look like for me?

On those days when you don’t have the time nor the inclination to whip up fancy vegan meals, you need some go-to dishes that take just a few minutes to throw together.  I have managed to compile several such dishes, some of which I’ve blogged about already, so I thought I’d just rustle up a nice little menu plan for the New Vegan/Lazy Vegan/Busy Vegan.

I’m writing this post today because I am still too sick to do any real cooking, or any of the real thinking that goes along with it.  Try this menu out for a day or a week and see how great you feel!

Breakfast: Green Smoothie.  Every day!  Recipe here.

Lunch: Garbanzo Tahini Salad.  Recipe here.  Really in a rush?  Today, still too ill to really cook, I warmed a packet of Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley and dumped it on a bowl of mixed greens, which was a bit more fattening, a bit easier and faster, and still fairly “whole.”

Dinner: Soup of some sort–ideally homemade, ideally prepped on a lazy weekend day and chillaxing in the refrigerator.  Try FFV’s Tortilla Soup (recipe here) or some yummy veggie chili, both of which are great poured over a baked potato or a bowl of spinach.

That’s all I’ve got today, y’all.  Once I’m able to get off the couch for more than a few minutes at a time (I’m so dramatic), I’ll be back to cooking and sharing.  Trust me, you would not have wanted to see the results of the broccoli attempts I made today (spoiled broccoli, discombobulated me).  For now, it’s Jersey Shore and take-out for me.

Eating in Seattle

Well, you can’t spell Seattle without the e-a-t.  Heh.  Last weekend, Wife and I headed to the Emerald City o’ the North to meet up with her brother and his wonderful family.  We had a great time with them (including our adorable east coast nephew) and ate our way through the city.  I managed to keep things as vegan as possible, despite some decidedly non-vegan-friendly restaurant choices.

The food highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly our Friday night dinner at Steelhead Diner, a cool little busy restaurant near Pike’s Place Market.  Our waiter, Ben, made the visit a total delight, and spent at least 30 solid minutes talking wine with my in-laws over the course of the evening, which they loved.  Ben is leaving the Steelhead in just a week to cook full time for Matt’s in the Market–boohoo for the Steelhead, yippee for Matt’s!  Ben will one day be a famous restaurateur-slash-chef and his cute bald head could totally hang on the Food Network.

Here’s a pic of the most beautiful part of Steelhead’s menu:

Pan roasted broccoli may not sound that exciting, but HOLY CRAP it was good.  I plan on trying to replicate it when I’m off my death bed (more on that later).  We ordered it as an appetizer and ordered a second batch when we were just halfway through the first one.  AMAZING.  It was hard to get my phone out and take a good picture while fighting off three hungry omnivores for a shot at the last floret.  In other words, I failed to take a photo because I was stuffing my face (which is maybe a theme for me?).

I did slow down long enough to take a picture of my entree, a modified version of their roasted asparagus pasta–they had run out of gnocchi, I had them hold the cheese–which was very tasty.

Saturday morning brought a breakfast outing with the in-laws and their friends to Peso’s Kitchen.  Peso’s is famous for amazing breakfast dishes, not one of them vegan.  Howevs, we ended up with a sympathetic waitress who hooked me up with a huge plate of fruit:

…which I ate with a side of potatoes and a biscuit (which was probably not vegan, but had to be taste-tested).

All in all, it was a fun foodie weekend with some awesome family members, who always remind me how lucky I am to have married their sister.  Unfortch, Wife came down with The Plague on Friday and we had to head home Saturday, a day ahead of schedule.  I proceeded to get The Plague, and this is the first time since then that I’ve felt well enough to open my computer.

Anyway, that is my sad excuse for not posting about any cooking adventures this week.  I promise to remedy that soon!  I hope to be up and about the kitchen within 48 hours, maybe even attempting to replicate that amazing broccoli.  I will dedicate it to Ben (and feed it to my face).

Date Night for Vegans

Last night was date night!  Wife took me out to dinner, drinks, and a GREAT production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Portland Center Stage (see it, locals!).  It was a delightful evening all around, and the kind of night that reminds me how awesome and flexible and adventurous my omnivorous wife is.

While, of course, the company was the highlight of the evening, I had to share the food-related stuff with you.

Wife and I went to Hungry Tiger Too, a very vegan-friendly restaurant and bar here in SE Portland.  I had been there for late-night vegan corndogs (ssshhhh), but had never eaten an actual meal from their menu.  My brilliant meat-eating wife gets the credit for remembering we’d been wanting to try it, and I’m so glad she did!

Now, you know I’m all about eating whole foods–salads topped with beans, green smoothies, etc.–but there is something really nice about being able to go to a restaurant and order a “normal” meal without having to ask for a billion modifications to remove the animal products.  Wife and I shared vegan corndogs, hummus, and nachos–yes, nachos!

Well, they said it couldn’t happen.  I found a vegan cheese sauce I like–nay, I LOVE.  It was the perfect blend of spices, had a nice non-gummy texture, and even looked like real cheese.  Wife even went to town on these nachos, and she could have ordered herself the real deal.  While I wouldn’t eat like this normally (see my 3 S strategy), I was freakin’ thrilled to find this stuff.  Check it:

(photo courtesy of Stumptownvegans.com – I forgot to take a picture because I was busy stuffing my face)

I did take a picture of the corndog, but it looks so “real” that it might gross me out to look at it in the glaring light of Monday morning.

Fortunately, my pre-nacho day consisted of my tahini-garbanzo salad and a baked potato.  Do as I do in the morning, not as I do at night after a whiskey on the rocks.

Tortilla Soup

Have I mentioned that I LOVE Mexican food?  I would eat it four times a day if I could.  The bonus is that it’s super easy to make your favorite Mexican dishes vegan–just swap the meat out for beans, and hold the cheese and sour cream.

I’ve been trying lately to focus on my 3 S strategy–Smoothies, Salads, and Soups–so I made a hearty tortilla soup last week.  I then proceeded to eat it for every meal–even breakfast–with just one or two exceptions for the next three or four days.  YUM.

Here’s the recipe I started with:  Vegan Tortilla Soup

I added an extra cup of beans and a couple more cups of spinach.  I also like to pour a bowl of the soup over a bowl of greens to really up the veggie factor.

Here’s what mine looked like:

I went a little crazy with the tortilla strips. 🙂

Saladdiction

I love salads.  Before you go away thinking I’m one of those annoying “oh my god I can’t wait to exercise and eat salad and be perfect oh and btw I’m sooo skinny” people, I should clarify — I love that salad can save me from a not-so-perfect day of eating.  Yesterday, for example, I had my smoothie for breakfast and a salad (recipe below) for lunch.  By evening, my ladyproblems had kicked up to make me crave some serious bread and hummus, and I indulged.  A bunch.

Had this been a non-salad lunch day, I’d be feeling pretty guilty about the slip-up (which, I know, is not that bad–hummus and bread is not pizza and french fries–but it’s not what I was hoping for).  Howevs, the salad saved me–I thought “hey, I’ve had a pretty healthful day of eating” despite the hummus binge.  That’s why I love salads.  They save me from the ugly cycle of PMS = carbs + salt = guilt.

Also, I genuinely love the taste of my new fave salad.  The flavor is strong, and it seems like a creamy, decadent dressing, but it’s vegan and delightfully good for you.  Here are the deets:

Garbanzo Tahini Salad

Several cups Mixed greens/Spring mix/Baby lettuce mix

1/2 can Garbanzo beans

1/2 to 1 tablespoon Tahini + equal part water

Lemon juice to taste

Crushed garlic/garlic paste to taste

Salt, Cumin, etc. to taste

1. Throw a bunch (1/2 – 3/4 of a regular bag) of greens in a big bowl.

2. Throw garbanzos on top.

3. In a cup or small bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients and either whip with a fork or use an immersion blender to mix until smooth and creamy.  Add more water or lemon juice if too thick–you want it to be pretty liquid.  Add spices until you like the taste; I found I needed more salt than I started with the first time I made this.

4. Pour dressing over the greens/beans and toss together.  If the dressing is overwhelming, add more greens and re-toss.

 

YUM!

My Breakfast o’ the Gods

Every morning I start the day with a green smoothie.  WTF is that?  It’s also called a “blended salad,” but that makes me think of savory flavors, which are not involved,  and tomato juice, which is just gross.

A green smoothie is mostly greens, blended with fruit in such a way as to camouflage the taste of the greens.  TRY IT.  You’ll start your day having consumed more fresh veggies and fruits than most Americans eat in a week, and set yourself up for a day of healthful choices.  Also, it is pretty amazing how 4-6 cups of spinach can be blended to taste like a fruit milkshake and rock your world for fewer than 200 calories.  Ah, science.

Want to try it?  You’ll need several cups of spinach, a ripe banana, and 1/2 to 1 full cup of frozen berries (see suggestions below).  Here’s the scoop:

1. Pack your blender with 3-4 cups of spinach.  I use about 5 cups, but I recommend a lower spinach-to-fruit ratio when you’re first starting out.

2. Add an almost-full pint glass of water to the blender (and save the pint glass for later).

3. Blend.  If your blender is strong, this might just take a few seconds.  If yours is lacking in power, just blend for 30 seconds, then stop it and scrape the sides, push things around, and repeat.

4.  Once your spinach-and-water blend is basically liquid, add a banana.  I break mine into pieces and enjoy throwing them in while the blender is still moving, but do this in whatever way seems fun and not too messy.  Blend until it’s a green, creamy liquid.

5.  Add frozen berries–any kind you like–and enough to turn your green smoothie toward a more purple color as it blends.  Mine ends up less purple as I scale back the berries, but feel free to make it deep purple to begin with–it’ll be more fruity that way.  I use Trader Joe’s Frozen Berry Medley, but you can stick with any kind of berries you’re into.  I’d avoid using blueberries on their own, because they can be a bit too mild when you are first getting into the smoothie life.  Again, if you have a weaker blender (or just like this idea better), feel free to use fresh berries or thawed frozen ones–I just use frozen because I like the milkshake temp and feel it gives my smoothie.  My blender hates me for it, though.

6.  Blend for a while.  How long depends on blender strength, but I usually switch between high and low power and let it go for about 2 minutes to make sure the berries are all blended.

7. Pour into the pint glass and stick the leftovers in the refrigerator (to be consumed as soon as possible–definitely that day or even right away).

This smoothie gets me moving, in every way.  You should feel pretty energetic after a few days of this breakfast (as long as you’re not eating junk the rest of the time).  Also, be prepared for green poop (sorry)–the spinach loves to make an appearance there.

Later, try experimenting with kale instead of spinach, citrus instead of berries, etc.  Just make sure you add the banana, always–it makes it creamy and is definitely the strongest player in keeping the greens tasty.