Sultry Sweet Potato and Chipotle Chili

My lady over at IGVD shared her famous bean burger recipe recently… She says it’s my burger recipe, but in fact I am just the person who came up with the chili recipe that makes an approximate fuckton of leftovers that she got stuck with, and so needed to come up with ingenious ways to use it all up. To make matters worse, she added too much chipotle (despite my strongly worded warning) and so concocted this burger recipe to dilute that somewhat. Since her recipe goes along with my chili so nicely, here it is- my favorite chili! I have no pictures of it, so here’s something cute instead.

MEOW

MEOW

This is a pretty cheap, healthy, warming chili that uses the classic flavour combination of chipotles and sweet potatoes and then adds a healthy dose of seductive depth from cocoa and cinnamon. This is a true pantry dish, you can keep the ingredients on hand and whip it up when you have a crowd coming over or when you need a special meal. You’ll only need up to a quarter cup of chipotles in adobo altogether, depending on your heat tolerance. The remainder freezes well squished flat in a baggie, then you can break off however much you need the next time you want to spice up your rice or beans. If the chipotles are too hot, but you want some more smoky goodness, add some smoked paprika or natural smoke flavour. Be sure to use fair trade cocoa, preferably dutch-processed (darker in colour and flavour). You can substitute a couple of cups of cooked quinoa or even brown rice for the veggie ground round, just add some more veggie stock to balance the flavours. If you happen to live with someone who is afraid of vegetables (like I do), you can puree all ingredients up to the addition of bay leaves after cooking them, then return them to the pot and continue with the recipe.

Cans:

1 large can diced tomatoes (28 oz. preferably no salt added)

1 small can Mexican stewed tomatoes (19 oz.,or 1 small can regular tomatoes plus 1 tbsp chili powder)

2 small cans pinto beans (14 oz.)

2 small cans black beans (14 oz.)

1 small can green chilies (7.6 oz., look in the Mexican section of your grocer)

1 tbsp from small can chipotles (7.6 oz. Start with a tablespoon, and slowly go up from there, checking for heat as you go. Chop carefully with gloved hands.)

1 can corn (or about a cup and a third of frozen corn- add the juice from the can if you’re a big fan of corn)

oil for cooking

Veggies:

1 large peeled sweet potato, cubed into bites, about three cups

2 large peeled carrots, diced, about two cups

1 large yellow onion, diced, about two cups

1/2 a head of garlic, minced

1 or 2 bell peppers, whichever kind you like, diced, about a cup

stems from 1 bunch of cilantro, about 1/3-1/2 cup, washed well and minced

Flavour flavour:

1 veggie bullion cube (I use fake beef kind, more if substituting grains for soy, or to taste)

1 tbsp Ancho chili powder (or some other dark chili powder, not chili flakes)

2 bay leaves

1/4-1/2 cup fair-trade cocoa

2 tsp cinnamon

Soy:

2 packages veggie ground round, beef style (or substitute 2 cups of a cooked whole grain)

Garnish (optional, but awesome):

chopped cilantro leaves, chopped green onion, lime wedges, soy plain yogurt or sour cream, soy cheese

Saute the onions and carrots in a bit of oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat in your largest pot. When the vegetables are translucent, add the cilantro stems and the garlic, cooking for about a minute. Toss in the tomatoes, chipotles, bullion, chili powder, bay leaves and all the beans. Bring to a boil and add the sweet potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and the liquid has reduced a bit, about 20 mins. Add the cocoa, cinnamon, ground round, bell pepper, corn, green chilies and adjust for flavour. This is where you may decide it needs more heat (chipotles or Ancho chili powder), smokiness (chipotles or smoked paprika, salt (bullion), or depth (bullion, cocoa, blackstrap molasses might do it). By starting with a conservative amount of spices, you can build it up slowly and hopefully avoid the risk of going overboard. Be careful not to add too much cinnamon–as tasty as it is, it’s supposed to play a supporting role in this dish, and can easily overpower the subtle flavours of the chilies and cocoa. Simmer for about 30 minutes, then serve it up and allow people to garnish their own bowl. We served this with plain, steamed collards, cut into ribbons, and Jackie’s tasty corn bread with margarine and agave nectar for dessert. Heavenly.

Pho/Air-boat street food/etc.

Big bowl for pho for big Bear, little bowl of pho for little kitten.

Big bowl for pho for big Bear, little bowl of pho for little kitten.

When I was in my undergrad, I took a bunch of courses in the evening. There were two reasons for this, mainly that I refused to take morning classes, but also because the part-time studies department’s Philosophy classes tended to be more interesting. In those cool in-between months after the term started but before Winter came, I often failed to dress appropriately for the weather and would find myself shivering alone in the corridors waiting for evening classes to begin while sometimes falling asleep over my readings. It was at this time that I would get one of two things: a coffee and a chocolate chip oatmeal muffin from the only cafe that remained open for the night students, or a steaming-hot Styrofoam bowl of Pho from the little Asian vendor in the cafeteria.

I always asked for the vegetarian Pho, even before I was vegan, because it seemed like a much better deal- you got so many veggies! Tender-crisp bok choy, slivers of nappa cabbage, whole petals of oyster mushrooms, sprouts, carrots, peppers, and tofu, all in a fragrant broth with warming anise, clove, and black pepper. The whole thing was topped with a mountain of Thai basil and cilantro, and finally a wedge of lime. It was more expensive than the coffee and muffin, and while it had no chocolate in it, it was still the superior choice.

There is some controversy over whether Pho is related to pot-au-feu, the dish common to the French invaders of Vietnam. Westerners like to think of Pho as a fusion food. I think it’s more likely that the French simply assumed that their culture was the epitome of Culture, and thus interpreted the native Vietnamese dish in the only way their fragile egos could manage- as an approximation of the more familiar pot-au-feu. There is something decidedly un-French about traditional Pho as well, namely the way it was vended. No white linen table cloths, wine, or candles. Just hot street food, prepared with taste, nourishment, and efficiency in mind.

Pho was originally sold at dawn and dusk by roaming street vendors, who shouldered mobile kitchens on carrying poles (gánh phở). From the pole hung two wooden cabinets, one housing a cauldron over a wood fire, the other storing noodles, spices, cookware, and space to prepare a bowl of pho. Pho vendors kept their heads warm with distinctive, disheveled felt hats called mũ phở. (thank you Wikipedia)

I wonder if the Chinese food boat scene from The Fifth Element is at all related to the history of Pho? Some days, especially when it’s cold, I wish for certain conveniences out of sci fi like travelling Pho air-boats or teleportation.

It may be too early for you folks south of the border to be thinking of hot soups as an ideal comfort food, but here in the Great White North the nights have been getting quite chilly, and ominously gray skies have brought portents of Autumn and frost. Unless you have a magical Pho Boat coming your way, this recipe is the best thing to keep the chill out.

Come here, boat of tasty! I want all your deliciousness! But you can leave the terrible ethnic stereotypes behind...

Come here, boat of tasty! I want all your deliciousness! But you can leave the terrible ethnic stereotypes behind…

It took me a while to figure out how to make a good vegan Pho, and the trick is to take your time to treat the veggies right, and not worry too much about being traditional. This is your Pho, make it how you like it.

  1. Take a couple big yellow onions, peel the outer layer and halve them lengthwise. Cut a 5-inch stem of ginger root lengthwise. Blacken the outer layer both over a flame (broiler/element/blowtorch). Rinse away any flakes of char and set aside.
  2. Roughly chop five large, peeled carrots, and a couple cups of mushroom stems (any kind, preferably belonging to the caps you’ll use in the soup) and roast them in a pot with coconut oil until beginning to brown. This will take a bit of time, but keep an eye on it and have a beer to keep you occupied.
  3. Add to the carrots and mushrooms a couple of star anise, a couple of whole cloves, a 4-inch stick of cinnamon, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, a three-inch strip of kombu and several black peppercorns. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the onion and ginger, then about 5-6 cups of low- or no-salt mushroom or vegetable broth- enough to cover with an inch or two to spare.
  4. Simmer until reduced by 1/3, then add a tablespoon or two of good tamari and/or vegan fish sauce. Strain well through a fine sieve. This broth can be kept in the fridge or frozen until ready to use.
  5. Cook medium flat rice noodles til tender. Add to big bowls of freshly-boiled broth.
  6. Prepare vegetables. Firm tofu, mixed fresh or dried/re-hydrated mushroom caps, tender greens, snow peas and peppers can be sauteed ever so lightly, then divided among individual bowls.
  7. Toppings should be served on the side, to be added with chopsticks to the bowls by diners. Scallions and red chilies finely sliced on the bias, whole cilantro and Thai basil leaves, wedges of lime and bean sprouts. Vegetarian hoisin, chili-garlic paste/sriracha, and seasoned rice vinegar should be offered as well.

To Eat: Pile on the herbs, sauces, etc. and barely stir them into the piping-hot broth. It will wilt the leaves, while maintaining some of their texture and providing lovely contrast between the spicy/sour/cool/herbal notes of the garnish and the warm/earthy/sweet/savoury notes of the soup.

Bon appetit!

Vegan Mushroom Soup

Vegan Mushroom Soup

This just randomly appeared at the Irish pub I frequent one day. The same Irish pub that refuses to make any accomodations whatsoever to its menu to allow vegans to have a decent meal. Bam. Out of nowhere. Accidentally vegan mushroom soup. How do you make it? In hot olive oil cook a couple of big leeks with a pinch of nutmeg, finely chopped and seasoned with salt. Add 4 pints of mushrooms that have been very finely chopped in a food processor and a few cloves of crushed garlic. Cook until the water is released and then evaporates. Add a a couple of potatoes, chopped, a splash of chardonnay, a teaspoon or two of thyme and enough veg stock to cover. Simmer, puree just enough to make the potatoes creamy, and serve. Let me tell you, when all you were expecting to be able to eat is French fries and a Bloody Mary, this is the best thing on the planet.

Perfect Vegan Pumpkin Pie

This really is the perfect pumpkin pie. It comes together quickly, it has perfect pumpkin pie flavour, the texture is firm and silky, and there’s no soy aftertaste. I couldn’t ask for a better pie. You might want a more spicy pie, so add a bit more of the spices- it tastes pretty much the same raw or cooked, so make sure it tastes good to you before filling your crust.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup firm silken tofu
1/2 cup Silk coffee creamer, other brands might work too.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2 cups canned pumpkin- I used an organic brand that was very dry and firm- it needed to be spooned out of the can, it wouldn’t come out on its own. You want your pumpkin to be this dry, so consider straining it in cheesecloth.
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger, nutmeg, salt
1/4 tsp cloves

You will need a 9″ pastry crust that has not been blind baked- stick it in the freezer for at least 30 mins before your bake time. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and place your rack in the middle. In a food processor blend first the tofu and creamer until smooth, then blend in the sugar and corn starch until smooth, then all the remaining ingredients. Fill frozen pastry crust and wrap the crust edges with strips of tinfoil to prevent burning. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for another hour, checking every so often to ensure the crusts aren’t burning and the filling is setting. Let cool on a rack, then transfer to the fridge over night to set completely. If you can wait that long. I decorated mine with pretty pastry stars, but you probably aren’t as nerdy as me, so a dollop of cashew cream will do fine for garnish. Or a cup of coffee, if you are like me and think pie=breakfast food.

Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini

I spent the day trying not to be too sick, trying to write my thesis, trying not to get too distracted, trying not to tear the boy to pieces in the middle of it all. There was a lot of trying. It was a trying day. Trying days call for one of two things: take-out, or pasta. In this case, it was pasta, due to the fact that I couldn’t bring Wok Box home on the bus in -17 degree weather without it freezing (not that the bus came, mind you- after standing outside in that nonsense for 30 minutes I split a cab with the other bus stop attendees.)

Rummaging through the fridge I found and almost wilted box of baby spinach that the boy abandoned (I eat the boxes of arugula, he’s in charge of the spinach) and so figured I’d do something with olive oil, spinach, garlic, spaghetti. But then, right next to the bag of leek tops waiting to become broth, I found about a third of a tub of Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. I had heard of recipes for Alfredo sauce that use cream cheese before- more stable than regular Alfredo, cream cheese bases are often used in food service to reduce the risk of separating at uneven temperatures or over long wait times. I figured, how hard could it be? As it turns out, it’s ridiculously easy. Hardly even a recipe. Exactly what I needed after a day like today.

Since I refuse to have just pasta for dinner, I served it up with some frozen green and yellow beans, and made up my usual Chick’n Scallopini recipe. It’s quick, super easy, and delicious. The boy doesn’t like it, I should mention, but he dislikes most chicken-style seitan, so that’s no surprise.

Easy Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Chick’n Scallopini
Makes 2 servings for people who live in sub-zero climates, probably 4 elsewhere

For the pasta:

4 servings of spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
1/3 tub Herbs and Chives Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach, packed
1 teaspoon Spike, or salt alternative

Make pasta. When cooked but still firm, drain all but about 1/2 cup of cooking water. Put in back on the stove over medium-low heat, make a well in the center and add garlic, cook for about 2 minutes. Put the cream cheese in over the top of the pasta teaspoon by teaspoon. Stir it all in until the water, garlic and cream cheese are blended. Add a bit more water at this time if it’s getting too dry, then add the spinach over top, and put on a lid. In about 1 minute the spinach should be starting to wilt, stir the Spike and the spinach into the pasta. Serve soon. If it gets stogy, add more water and reheat.

For the Scallopini:

1 package Gardein Chick’n Scallopini, or 4 chicken-style seitan pieces
flour for dredging
olive oil for pan-frying
1 teaspoon of Spike seasoning or salt alternative
2 teaspoon tamari
2 tbsp water
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 2-inch sprig of thyme, or about 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp vegan butter
juice from 1/2 a lemon
freshly ground pepper

Pre-heat a skillet on medium-high heat with a thin layer of oil. Dredge frozen chick’n pieces through flour, and place in hot skillet. Give the pan a shake, wait a minute, then flip. It should be browning. Sprinkle Spike over, and turn once or twice more to get a bit of golden brown around the edges and crispiness all over. Remove the scallopini, reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the garlic, thyme, tamari, and water, cooking two minutes, stirring up all the brown pits from the bottom of the pan. Bit-by-bit, stir the vegan butter into the sauce. Finish with the lemon and pepper, to taste. Feel free to add a bit more water if it needs to loosen up. Return scallopini to pan and quickly coat with sauce, serve over pasta with a side of steamed freezer veg… or something better, if you have it.

Sick Food

I am sick. Ugh. This leaves me mostly not wanting to cook. Unfortunately, filling my body with pre-made foods, fat, salt and starches might feel good temporarily, but it doesn’t give me the fuel I need to get better. Enter Ye Olde Vegetable Mishmash. Yes, that’s the technical term. It goes something like this:

1) Find vegetables in your fridge and freezer. Anything will do. You aren’t making it to the store any time soon, so use what you have.
2) Chop veg in roughly equal-sized pieces. Add some aromatics and alliums. Leeks, onion, green onion, garlic, shallots, ginger, lemon grass, herbs, etc. Whatever you have on hand.
3) Heat a little olive oil in a pan, add veg in order of cooking time, from firmest to leafiest. You want to add leafy or grassy vegetables at the very end after everything else is done.
4) Finish wish a splash of acid (lemon, lime, cider vinegar, wine), a splash of tamari or a swirl of miso, and some red chili flakes or black pepper. Ta-da!

Have a bowl or two of quinoa or oatmeal with seeds and nuts sometime through the day in addition to this, and you’re set. No more than 15 minutes standing time, tops.

This time with yellow zucchini, red chard, a lone shallot, garlic, and lemon

 

Breakfast Barley with Red Chard

I have been looking for a savoury, grain-based warm breakfast dish for a while. I always have my criminis and kale on toast, or tofu scramble as back-ups. But I was looking for something that I could make ahead in a bigger batch to warm for breakfast over a few days with just a quick pass through a hot skillet. I tried making an oat-based dish to start, since I love oats, and I especially love savoury oats with tamari and hot sauce (!). But that wasn’t going to work- oats don’t reheat well. On the other hand, barley is sturdy enough to survive multiple reheats and still keep its shape and texture. Lovely stuff. It has good stick-to-your-ribs qualities, and is traditionally used in savoury dishes, so coming up with this wasn’t much of a stretch. If you don’t have a seasoning salt that you like, such as Spike or Old Bay, go ahead and use regular salt, but consider adding some onion or garlic powder in addition.

breakfast barley and red chard

Breakfast Barley with Red Chard
Makes 2 servings, multiply as desired

1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots
1/2 cup pot barley
3-4 leaves of red chard, stems diced and leaves torn into bites
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
pinch of saffron, soaked
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp pepper
sprig of thyme
sprinkle of lemon

Cook the shallots and chard stems in the oil until fragrant and starting to turn golden. Add the barley and garlic, stirring regularly for about 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil then simmer on low, stirring occasionally. When thick (about 15-20 minutes), add another 1/2 cup of water and stir in the spices. Place the chard leaves on top of the barley and cover the pot (do not stir). In about 3 minutes, the chard leaves should be bright green and wilted, stir into the barley and serve. I recommend enjoying this with some pita, to soak up all the tasty sauce. Refrigerate unused portion, and reheat on a hot skillet with a splash of water for the next day’s breakfast. Or elevenses. Depending on how you roll.