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Vegan Planet: October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Black Bean Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Just in time for Halloween! I adapted the Five-Minute Slow-Cooker Chili from Quick Fix Vegetarian. The original recipe calls for black and red beans, but I went with “all black” for Halloween and instead of topping with corn kernels or avocado, I swapped in a dice of delicious roasted sweet potatoes. As you can see in the photo, the colors are perfect for Halloween. Best of all, the recipe couldn’t be easier, which is great since everyone is busy making costumes, right?

The secret ingredient in this chili is: chunky salsa! Because salsa already contains bits of onions and peppers, using it eliminates the need for chopping veggies which keeps prep time down to a minimum. You can literally put this chili together in five minutes. (For this special Halloween version, you’ll need to add the time it takes to peel and roast the sweet potatoes.)

If you don’t have Quick-Fix Vegetarian(100% vegan), you may be surprised to learn that it contains an entire chapter of slow-cooker recipes. That’s because I think slow-cooker recipes are actually among the “quickest” recipes you can make. All it takes is a few minutes of prep time and then you can turn on your slow cooker and let it do all the work. (I use mine all the time.)

Black Bean Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
The chili itself takes only minutes to assemble. The sweet potatoes will take additional time, but you can do that while the chili is simmering in the slow cooker. This recipe is an adaptation of Five Minute Slow Cooker Chili from Quick Fix Vegetarian.

1 (24-ounce) jar chunky tomato salsa
2 tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste
1/3 cup barbecue sauce or tomato ketchup
3 (16-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water, or more if needed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups roasted sweet potatoes (see below)

1. Pour the salsa into a 4-quart slow cooker. Stir in the chili powder and ketchup. Add the black beans, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
2. Cover and slow-cook on HIGH for 3 hours or on LOW for 4 to 6 hours.
3. To serve, spoon the chili into shallow bowls and top each bowl with some of the roasted sweet potatoes. Alternately, you can add the roasted sweet potatoes to the entire pot of chili and stir gently to combine.

Serve 4 to 6

NOTE: To roast sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking pan. Peel two medium sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch dice. Toss lightly with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking pan. Roast until tender inside and a little browned around the edges, about 20 minutes, turning once about halfway through.

Variation: For added texture, you can add some ground veggie burger crumbles, tempeh, or seitan when you add the beans.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008


My New Favorite Soup

The only thing I like better than soup is enjoying soup in cold weather. It’s like I have an internal switch that turns on right after the first frost. I instinctively reach for my soup pot and usually have something new simmering every few days until summer.

Soups are wonderful. They’re easy to make, economical, and satisfying. I usually favor substantial soups that can pass for a meal: a thick and hearty black bean soup or a brothy minestrone crowded with vegetables, beans, and tiny soup pasta.

Sometimes I crave Asian flavors and that’s when a tangy laksa, made with chewy rice noodles and chunks of tofu, is on the menu. Like the old song, Love the One You’re With, each soup I make is my favorite while I’m eating it. This week, I made a pot of my current favorite: spicy and flavorful callaloo.

With its Caribbean origins, traditional callaloo is made with greens and seasonings native to that region, so I’ve developed a recipe using easy-to find ingredients. I call it Close to Callaloo. If you add some beans and rice, it becomes hearty enough to call dinner.

Close to Callaloo
This luscious soup pairs colorful vegetables with a spicy coconut broth. If your hot chiles don’t give off enough heat to suit your taste, add some cayenne to amp it up. To make it more substantial, add the optional kidney beans. Some cooked rice added to the bottom of each bowl is another good addition for turning it into a one-dish meal. This recipe is adapted from Vegan Fire & Spice.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 or 2 hot chiles, seeded and minced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small dice
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 bunch spinach, coarsely chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
Cooked rice (optional)
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, chiles, and sweet potato. Cover and cook until softened, 10 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, thyme, and allspice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and greens and season to taste with salt and pepper. (The amount of salt you need will depend on the saltiness of your broth.) Continue to cook until the greens are wilted, pushing them down to cover with the broth, about 10 minutes. Stir in the kidney beans, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings.
To serve ladle into soup bowls over a large spoonful of cooked rice, if using.
Serves 4

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


My Thanksgiving Dinner – on

When Erik Marcus invited me to share my Thanksgiving menu and recipes on, I thought it was a great idea. I’ve been making vegan Thanksgiving dinners for more than twenty years and have come up with a perfect vegan feast that is filled with traditional flavors from cranberries to pumpkins.

Some years we have guests at our Thanksgiving table, but more often it’s just the two of us. I always make a huge spread with all the trimmings anyway. Of course, we always end up enjoying the leftovers for days, but each year we say “wouldn’t it be nice to share this wonderful meal with more people?” And now I can, thanks to Erik’s terrific idea.

Follow this link to and check out my menu and recipes. Even if you have your own traditions, you may just find a new dish or two to try. I especially hope new vegans will find it helpful, as it can take the guesswork out of preparing your first vegan Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ve even served this menu to omni relatives who discovered what vegans already know: Yes, you can have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey on the table. In fact, one of them said (while going back for seconds): “it’s so good — it tastes like Thanksgiving!”

What’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


An Apple Pie is an Apple Pie

I live in the apple country of Virginia where every small town for miles seems to be having an apple festival this month.

There was a mini apple festival of sorts in my own kitchen last weekend, too, when I brought home a large bag of Stayman apples that had been picked at a local orchard. I had never used Stayman apples for baking, always preferring Granny Smiths as my tried-and-true favorite.
After hearing good things from locals about the Staymans, I figured it was time I given them a try.

My plan was to make an apple crisp, which I tend to favor over pies, not just because they’re faster and easier to make, but, compared to a double crust pie, they seem almost healthy with their nearly virtuous oat and nut topping. But Jon wanted a “real” pie (I think the crust is his favorite part of a pie).

We finally agreed on a compromise pie: it would have a regular crust on the bottom and a “crisp” topping on top (recipe below). Served warm with a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream, it was apple pie heaven and really didn’t feel like much of a compromise to either of us. As the photo shows, there was enough ingredients left to make a little “taster” tart in addition to the pie.

As for the Stayman apples, they worked out just fine, but I plan to stick with my Granny Smiths — I think they have more flavor and a better texture. Sorry, Staymans!

Apple Compromise Pie

1 (9-inch) pie shell, unbaked
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons vegan margarine
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
5 or 6 Stayman (or Granny Smith!) apples
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover the rim of the pie crust with foil and prebake the crust for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, take the foil off the crust and set aside.
2. For the topping: in a bowl, combine the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the margarine until crumbly. Add the oats and walnuts and mix well. Set aside.
3. Peel and core the apples. Cut them into very thin slices and place them in a bowl. Add the sugar and cinnamon and toss to coat.
4. Spread the apple mixture evenly into the crust. Sprinkle the topping mixture on top of the apples. Bake until the apples are tender, about 45 minutes.
5. If the crust edges start to get too brown before the pie is done baking, cover the edges with foil.

Serves 6 to 8

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Impromptu Stew

I recently made a rich and delicious stew. It came about quite easily and almost effortlessly, although if I were to write the recipe it would sound impossibly complex. I put it together with leftovers, odds and ends, and a shrug. It went something like this:

Two days prior to making stew, make a seitan pot roast (see recipe in March 7 post). Refrigerate the leftover pot roast and the 1/2 cup of leftover gravy. The next day, use some of the pot roast to make seitan “cheesesteaks” for lunch and put the small chunk of remaining seitan back in the refrigerator. For dinner, make pasta puttanesca (see recipe in January 19 post). Refrigerate the leftover pasta.

On the day of the stew, rummage through the refrigerator to find one onion, a handful of baby carrots, one potato, some frozen peas and lima beans, and that leftover seitan, gravy, and pasta from the two previous dinners.

Chop the onion, carrots, and potato and place them in a slow cooker with about 2 cups of vegetable broth and the frozen lima beans. Let it cook for a couple hours (until the veggies are just tender), then chop the seitan and add it along with the peas, leftover gravy, and a can of diced tomatoes. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding salt depending on the saltiness of your broth, and any herbs or spices you enjoy — I added some basil and savory. Slow-cook another hour or so. About 15 minutes before serving time, stir in the pasta to let it warm up and soak up some of the rich flavors in the stew. (Alternately, you could heat the pasta on its own and ladle the stew on top, or serve the stew over cooked grains, if that’s what you have in the house.)

So there you have it. An impromptu stew that turned leftovers from two previous meals into a warming and delicious dinner.

(Note: you can also make this stew in a pot on top of the stove — I just felt like using the slow cooker.)

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Friday, October 3, 2008


When Life Gives You Blackberries: Make “Ice Cream”!

I can’t believe it’s already October. I have no idea where September went, let alone the entire summer.

In an effort to recapture one final sliver of summer, I made homemade blackberry (dairy-free) ice cream yesterday. I used a container of coulis from my freezer stash made from our own blackberries picked what now seems like ages ago.

Rather than following a recipe, I simply combined the thawed coulis with a container of chilled MimicCreme in my ice cream maker. Since the coulis and MimicCreme were both already sweetened, there was no need for additional sugar, and having them both icy cold made them transform into a delicious vegan ice cream in no time.

I scooped it into dessert glasses and topped it with a spoonful of the rich coulis as a burst of pure blackberry goodness. Before long we were enjoying summer again, one luscious purple spoonful at a time.

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