Beef and Bacon Stew with Veggies

As you all may or may not know, I live in the blustery city of Rochester, NY, which is located on the shivery shore of Lake Ontario, just a few hours’ drive from Toronto, ON. Honestly, it is considerably more like southern Canada than it is like NYC (though the city is what many of my friends back in the Hoosier state inevitably think of when they hear I live in New York). Even when the bi-polar effects of global climate change are accounted for, we basically get a good 7 or 8 months of soup-and-stew weather each year.

I don’t know what it is, but sometimes nothing seems quite as warming a nourishing as a big bowl of hearty stew.

And so it was that yesterday, when I was contemplating what I wanted to make a big batch of for the night’s dinner and several of my lunches throughout the week, I decided that stew was definitely the way to go.

At first, I was pretty convinced that I wanted to make venison stew. In fact, I’m still pretty sure that that’s something I want soon. However, on short notice, all the venison that I was able to locate was tenderloin meat. Now, if I’m having a steak, tenderloins just about rock my world. However, they are not optimal for a stew: the best stew meats are cuts which are higher in fat and collagen, which enable the meat to become even more tender when it is cooked for a long time over a low heat, rather than less tender the way a tenderloin would (it would just dry out and basically be a waste of money, effort, and a delicious steak).

And so it was that I went with a lovely, well-marbled grass-fed sirloin steak. Grass-fed meats tend to be gamier in flavor than those from grain-fed animals, so not only is it healthier, it also is closer to the flavor that I was hoping for. Still not venison, but damn, this stew turned out good regardless!!!

Regarding broth: homemade broth is always, always superior, and it is so easy to make. However, I don’t always have some on hand, and I didn’t have time to make any yesterday: I confess, I ended up buying some. So, here’s the thing: I was absolutely appalled by how many of the broth options in the store were made with variations of sugar!! I was eventually able to find one that didn’t have any scary or sugary ingredients, but the whole process simply reaffirmed to me that I have to make up a big batch of stock soon to have readily available in my freezer. Be careful of what you buy, and read the labels!

This stew turned out absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have been any happier with how tender the meat was or how balanced the flavors were. Of course, soups and stews can be infinitely variable, so feel free to substitute the vegetables and herbs that you have on hand for those called for in the recipe: in my opinion, it’s always better to be flexible than to waste food!

Beef and Bacon StewBeef and Bacon Stew with Veggies

  • 2 lbs. grass-fed organic sirloin steak, tenderized by pounding and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. uncured, nitrate- and nitrite-free bacon
  • 2 tablespoons EV olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch-long pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 t coconut flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sweet potato, washed and cut into ¾” cubes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch green kale, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • One 14 ½ can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups beef or vegetable broth
  • 12-16 oz. fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of portobella and shiitake), cut into thin bite-sized slices
  1. Season the sirloin with sea salt and black pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until it is crisp over medium-high heat. Allow the bacon to drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Crumble it when it is cool, and set aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Add the olive oil to the bacon drippings. Brown the sirloin steak in batches: place browned meat in a large slow cooker.
  4. When you are done browning the meat, sauté the onion in the skillet until it is fully translucent. Add the carrots and garlic and continue sautéing for a few more minutes. Then, sprinkle on the coconut flour and sauté for one more minute before transferring to the slow cooker.
  5. Add the bay leaves, sweet potato, thyme, parsley, kale, tomatoes, and broth to the slow cooker and stir gently to combine.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 4 or 5 hours.
  7. Add the mushrooms and bacon: stir to combine. Continue to cook on low until the steak is tender and fully cooked, about 2 more hours.
  8. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Enjoy!
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One Pot Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetables (with Tahini Sauce)

So, my plan for tonight was to go to see Dave Foley tonight at the Comedy Club in Webster. I was decidedly excited. I have loved Kids in the Hall since, well, since it was first aired in the U.S. back in 1989.

However, I changed my plans. I’ve had several long days this week, and I decided I wanted nothing more than an evening at home to spend cooking, writing, and relaxing. And, quite honestly, it’s been a delight. I’m not boring, I promise, I’m just a wee bit introverted. 🙂

It has now been a whopping 9 days since I went Paleo, and I am still absolutely loving it. My energy is consistent and centered through the days, I am sleeping peacefully though the nights, and waking up feeling refreshed and energized in the mornings. It even seems like my respiratory allergies aren’t bothering me as much as they usually do, but more time will tell with that matter.

I’ve been surprised at how few cravings I’ve gotten for non-Paleo food items, especially since many of the items I cook and bake at work contain sugar and grains. However,  I continue to integrate more Paleo items into the prepared foods we offer at Lori’s, and I am just amazed and inspired by how many delicious things I can eat, and am having so much fun approaching food with creativity and exploring new ideas about ingredients, that I don’t miss the things I’ve sacrificed in the name of greater health.

With all that said, I had fun preparing dinner this evening. (Yes, I admit it, I am in love with cooking: I get home from a full day cooking at work, and I want nothing more than to cook a bit more.) I made a big batch of Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetables, which I served along with some homemade tahini sauce, and I love it! The chicken turned out tender and flavorful, the vegetables were a built-in side dish full of tasty happiness and vitamins, and the tahini sauce complemented them perfectly… and it made enough that I don’t have to worry about lunches the next several days. It will also serve as a base for a couple of breakfasts: see the note in point 7 of the directions.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken that you quarter yourself. This definitely saves you some money if you’re going for a local, organic chicken (which, of course, I suggest doing, for health, ecological concerns, and resistance to the factory farm industry): whole chickens are priced significantly less per pound than ones that have already been cut into pieces. If you are unsure how to quarter a chicken, don’t worry, Youtube will come to the rescue: I found this video to be clear, direct, informative, and accurate.

Nothing else in either the ingredients list or the directions requires much additional explanation, so here you go:

IMG_6281One Pot Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetables with Tahini Sauce

  • 2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stems removed and sliced ¼-1/3 inch thick
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 zucchini, sliced about ½ inch thick
  • 1 young organic chicken (about 3 lbs.), quartered
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley chopped
  • 2 T chopped rosemary
  • 2 T chopped mint
  • 1 T chopped dill
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 8 c baby spinach leaves
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 5 c filtered water

Tahini Sauce:

  • 4 oz. tahini
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ t paprika
  • ¼ c water
  • ½ c extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

TO MAKE THE CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Place olive oil in a large, oven-proof stock pot: heat over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the onion and sauté until fully translucent.
  3. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the moisture that is released from the mushrooms is fully evaporated.
  4. Add the zucchini and bell peppers and sauté 3-4 more minutes.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and cover with an oven-proof lid. Bake for 75 minutes. Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce.
  6. Remove from the oven and set your oven to broil. Remove the bay leaves from the broth. Place chicken pieces under the broiler for about 6-10 minutes, turning over halfway through, until nicely browned. Remove from the broiler and serve on top of the vegetables and a bit of the broth, topped with tahini sauce.
  7. SAVE THE ADDITIONAL BROTH! A delightful Paleo breakfast can be made by heating up some of the vegetables and broth over the stove, poaching an egg, and eating it all together (with or without some of the tahini sauce, and with or without some of the chicken). It’s a quick and healthy start to the day!

TO MAKE THE TAHINI SAUCE:

  1. Place all ingredients EXCEPT for the oil in a food processor and combine thoroughly. Slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until fully emulsified.
  2. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Winter Squash Bisque

Again, this is a simple recipe and I’m terribly busy nowadays, so here’s the recipe… An anecdote may be added later, or perhaps not.

·         2 T olive oil
·         1 large Vidalia or Mayan Sweet onion, finely chopped
·         1 c carrots, finely chopped
·         2 to 4 T fresh ginger root, minced
·         6 c winter squash (butternut, pumpkin, acorn, etc.), peeled and cut into large cubes
·         8 c vegetable broth
·         1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans
·         1 t salt
·         ½ t cinnamon
·         1/8 t nutmeg
·         2 T soy sauce
·         1/3 c hazelnut butter (or you can substitute with almond, sunflower or peanut butter)
·         1 T maple syrup or honey
·         Pinch black pepper
Garnish (optional):
·         2 T hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
·         2 T chopped fresh chives or Italian parsley
1.       Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Add the onions and sauté until they are translucent. Add the carrots and ginger and sauté for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the squash and sauté 5 minutes longer.
2.       Add the broth, beans, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the squash is tender.
3.       Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the nut butter, maple syrup and black pepper.
4.       Cool the soup to almost room temperature, then place in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth: you will have to do this in several batches. Season to taste. Garnish with toasted nuts and chopped parsley or chives.
Notes: 

  •  Depending on how sweet the squash is, more or less maple syrup may be added. You can also add a little juice and/or zest of lemon, orange or lime. 
  • Fresh sage, rosemary, and Italian parsley as well as other herbs can be added while the soup is coming to a boil for a slight undercurrent of flavor. 
  •  I strongly recommend having a few slices of a nice pumpernickel bread with a schmear of butter or Earth Balance spread on-hand to dunk in this soup. Delicious!

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans, and Walnuts

I’ve been busy because life is full and rich.

The downside: I haven’t posted in, like, forever. The upside: now that I’m posting again, you can be sure to get healthy and seasonal recipes that are quick and easy to make. Huzzah!

So, in the interest of making a post efficiently, I’m going to jump right to the recipe. I promise: future posts will include anecdotes. But this one won’t.

Pasta with Sauteed Leeks, White Beans and Walnuts 

1 T olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 c low-sodium vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, chopped
12 oz. pasta of your choice (I used wild mushroom fettuccine from Flour City Pasta. It was delicious.)
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)
1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts

  1. Put large pot of salted water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes: saute 10 minutes, or until vegetables just begin to brown.
  3. Stir in beans, broth, and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. When water boils, cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain. 
  5. Gently fold the leek and beans mixture and the walnuts into the pasta. Serve sprinkled with feta or goat cheese, if desired.

(Adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe)

Legen-(wait for it)-dary Banana Bread

So, it has been a long time since my last post. Over a month. I am not going to bore or insult you with a long enumeration of reasons why this was, but trust me, I’ve been busy doing very worthwhile, necessary things. I apologize, and hope you will all be able to forgive me.

One of things I did was spend a week in Indiana, visiting various friends and family members. It was a precious and enjoyable trip: I feel as though I connected with my family on a deeper and more authentic level than ever before, and it was a complete joy. *cue the kittens and rainbows* *audience gagging from the overly sweet aftertaste of my sentimentality*

But seriously, it was that good. So, there.

Of the many people I spent time with while in the Hoosier state, there was one friend who I was particularly excited to see, Cherrie. You see, she and I were like soul-siblings for several years.

For example: nine years ago, when I got back from a month on the Appalachian Trail, her home was the first place I went to when I got back to Indiana. One of my favorite pictures of me of all time was taken that day. It shows me, sweaty and buff and clothed in dirty forest gear, lifting all three of her daughters at once: one on my back and one in each arm. My hair was dreadlocked, my knees were scuffed and scabbed, and I was smiling the dorkiest, most delighted smile you can imagine. She and her family were like home for me.

Then, sadly, Cherrie and I had a parting of the ways. It was over everything and nothing, and the long and short of it is that we didn’t speak for over 3 years. By the time our feelings had settled, our phone numbers and email addresses had changed, and both of us had moved. Sigh. Although I wanted to, I had no way to reach her.

That is, until we found each other in the virtual ether of Facebook. After the apologies, we exchanged messages, pleasantries and links in the way that all good Facebook friends do. Which was a perfect delight, except for the way that it made me miss her and her family even more than I had.

So, of course I made it a priority to spend some time with her while I was in the area. It was such a joy to sit down with Cherrie over a cup of coffee, talking about everything and nothing while her daughters and husband chatted, played, and watched television in the next room. We made dinner together, laughing and catching up on how our lives have shifted and changed.

One thing that particularly tickled me was the way they all remembered my banana bread. In fact, when I was on the phone with Cherrie, before I even got to their home, I could here the young voices in the background asking if I would be able to make banana bread while I was there. I knew that they always loved it, but I honestly didn’t expect that, years later, they’d still be raving about it.

Sadly, I didn’t have the time to make bread while I was there, but I made them a promise: upon my return to Rochester, I would make a few loaves of the banana bread recipe that they so fondly remembered and send it on to them. I also promised that my first blog post after my more-than-a-month-long hiatus would be the recipe.

I did as I promised, and sent two loaves on to them: I just got a call a few hours ago from Cherrie that the loaves arrived. She thanked me, we chatted a bit about the general stresses and joys of life, and when I finally hung up, I had a big smile on my face. It is truly one of the blessings of life to be able to share our gifts, talents, and food with loved ones.

So, now there’s nothing left to do but post the recipe.

Just so you know, this isn’t the world’s healthiest bread recipe: it actually exists somewhere on the border between bread and cake. But it is beyond delicious, and should be made and enjoyed often, despite the butter and sugar within.

If you do want to boost the nutritional value a bit, be sure to use a whole grain flour or oat flour, and add the optional nuts and dried fruits. You can also substitute 1/2 c wheat germ for 1/2 c of the flour. Even if you do none of these things, at least there’s a plethora of banana in the recipe to ensure that there are some vitamins and minerals to go along with the sweet indulgence.

This recipe has two ingredients that make it different than most other banana breads, and it is these two items that make it such a moist, memorable bread: yogurt and maple syrup. They are such simple, commonplace ingredients, but they do wonders towards improving the texture of the finished loaves.

One quick tip: I find that it really helps to grease the measuring cup lightly with canola oil when measuring viscous, sweet liquids such as maple syrup, honey and molasses. I mean, why waste the gooey sweetness because it’s stuck on the side of the measuring cup and all along your rubber spatula, when you could easily just pour it all in with no trouble?

Whenever you bake with bananas, you want them to be really ripe. Like, almost completely brown and kinda gross and slimy on the inside. Also, whenever you have some bananas that are going overripe but not the time to make bread, feel free to freeze them in an airtight baggie until you have the opportunity to bake. After all, why waste the most important ingredient of this delicious recipe??

Making this recipe takes some time, patience and attention: there are quite a few steps, and all of them are important. That’s why I make a big enough batch of batter to make several loaves at once: even if it’s too much bread, these loaves freeze well and can make some pretty transcendent french toast. And as long as you follow the directions and avoid over-baking it, it is guaranteed to be the most legendary banana bread you’ve ever had.

Legen-(wait for it)-dary Banana Bread

(Makes three 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaves)
(Have all ingredients at room temperature)

  •  4 1/2 c sifted flour (Yes, it really makes a difference if you don’t sift it. Just do it.)
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 c mashed ripe bananas 
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/2 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 t grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 c chopped dried apricots or other dried fruit (optional)
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Combine the mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. 
  3. Beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the maple syrup. Then, gradually add the sugars and lemon zest (if using): beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternately with the banana mixture in two parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the nuts and dried fruit, if using. 
  5. Scrape the batter into lightly greased bread pans. Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon or spatula. 
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out nearly clean, about 45 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time (unless you’re lucky enough to have a kickass convection oven, in which case you can skip this step and know that I am very, very jealous of you).
  7. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then gently slide a thin knife around the edge of the pans to loosen the loaves. Invert the pan to remove the bread from the pans. Allow to cool at least another 15 minutes before slicing.

Vegan Black Bean Soup

There is a thin layer of snow on the tarp that covers the wood for our stove. The cats are sleeping, curled up in a shameless display of relaxation.  It is definitely a good night for a hot and hearty soup.

After a fairly lengthy debate with myself regarding what soup to make, I decided upon black bean soup.

Black beans have a rich, satisfying flavor that is simply perfect on a cold evening. They are an incredible source of folate (a B vitamin), dietary fiber, tryptophan (an amino acid), protein, magnesium, thiamin (another B vitamin), and phosphorus: they are also a very good source of iron. The fiber level in black beans is high enough that it has been shown in several studies to lower cholesterol levels and maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Black beans also contain molybdenum, which has been shown to help detoxify sulfites. If you combine them with brown rice (and yes, this recipe is great served over rice), they supply you with complete protein amino acids. A study published in Food Chemistry and Toxicology concluded that regular consumption of black beans results in “a clear reduction in pre-cancerous cells.” Regular consumption of legumes such as black beans has also been correlated with a significant (up to 82%) reduction in the risk of heart disease. And, as if that wasn’t enough, black beans have been proven to contain 10 times the number of antioxidants in a comparable amount of oranges. Pretty nifty, eh?

(I now have visions in my head of all the healthy, not-taking-any-shit, 90+ year-old trannies that will be running around the world in the years to come, changing the world for the better, thanks to recipes like this one!)

And yet… you may be aware that beans are well-known for making a certain bodily orifice considerably more vocal and, ummmmm, fragrant. However, there is an easy way to minimize the gaseous potential of these nutritionally heroic legumes. When you cook them yourself (as you will do when you follow this recipe) instead of using canned beans, you will notice that a white foam collects on the surface of the soup. Whenever you notice a good amount of this foam, simply skim it off and discard it. It’s just that simple: now you can enjoy all of the nutritional benefits while minimizing the odorous aftermath. Huzzah!

To soak the beans, either cover them in warm water and allow them to soak overnight, or else add them to boiling water, remove from heat, and allow to sit for 1-2 hours. Either way, make sure you use enough water to cover the beans with about 3 inches of water above the surface of the beans. In addition to shortening their cooking time, this will also help reduce the amount of gas that the beans will produce.

One more thing about the beans: do not– I repeat, do not— add the salt or the lime zest and juice until after the beans are fully cooked. If you add salt or acid to the broth before the beans are cooked, they will take longer to cook and the beans themselves will be tougher. One more time: the beans will never soften properly if you add salt or acid to the broth before they are fully cooked. Got it? Good.

Regarding the lime that is used in the soup (as opposed to the one that is used for garnish): zest it before you juice it. It’s just easier that way.

This recipe also uses roasted garlic and a roasted bell pepper. For a refresher on how to roast these two ingredients, please refer to my earlier post “Spinach, Mushroom, Kalamata and Roasted Pepper White Pizza,” http://transgustatory.blogspot.com/2010/10/spinach-mushroom-kalamata-and-roasted.html.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Here’s the recipe:

Vegan Black Bean Soup

  • 1 pound dried black beans, soaked
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, diced
  • 2 Serrano chilies, minced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced at least 1/4″ thick
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped coarsely
  • 4 quarts (1 gallon) vegetable stock
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1/2-1 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 heaping t cumin
  • 1 heaping t ground coriander
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of one lime (the same lime)
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lime wedges (for serving)
  • fresh cilantro, chopped (for serving)
  • sour cream (or vegan substitute), optional
Skim this foam off of your soup, or you’ll be sorry!
  1.  While the beans are soaking, saute the onion until soft and translucent. Add the chilies and the carrots and saute 3-5 minutes longer, until the chilies are softened and the carrots are bright orange. Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes longer, until fragrant. Stir in the bell pepper and remove from heat. 
  2. Combine the beans and stock in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add the onion/chili/carrot mixture. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and oregano. 
  3. Simmer the soup, uncovered, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, skimming the surface as necessary and discarding the foam (see above). The beans should be very soft, just beginning to fall apart. Add additional water if necessary. 
  4. Puree about half of the soup with the lime zest, lime juice, and roasted garlic cloves, then stir back into the remaining soup:  make sure that there are no bay leaves in the soup that you are pureeing!! Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  5. Serve in bowls and garnish with lime wedges, cilantro, and sour cream (optional).

Vegan Chipotle Chili

I have been on a major comfort-food kick recently. I am guessing that this has something to do with a combination of factors, including (but not limited to): the colder weather, the shorter days, the general busy-ness of life, and the increasing frequency that I have been speaking out in the community.

Most of which are completely self-explanatory, except for perhaps the final one. That last factor is significant because, truth be told, I get nervous when speaking in front of a group of people. Don’t get me wrong: I’m good at public speaking. I’d just rather do my collocating, exhortating, educating and illuminating through writing. I like to take my time with the words and thoughts, allowing them to come together in their own time. If I can do this quietly while at home, next to the wood-burning stove and with my cat Fauxgerty on my lap, so much the better.

But far be it from me to turn down an opportunity to present my experiences and knowledge to the world, especially when there is a chance that my experiences and knowledge offer some potential for healing in the world, knock on wood. 

As a result, I have facilitated discussions on how to encourage and develop trans-inclusive language, how to make effective public service announcement videos, and how to come to terms with one’s gender identity, all within the last month. I have also been recently interviewed on multiple occasions by multiple media outlets on my experiences with bullying and surviving through struggles with depression (check out my previous “About Me” post to watch the video I made for the It Gets Better Project: http://transgustatory.blogspot.com/2010/10/it-gets-better-letter-to-myself-at-17.html).

I am, above all, grateful for these opportunities to encourage discussions on these very important topics: however, I also tend to get very stressed out and nervous during the preparation and delivery of any sort of public speaking situations.

And, as I have said before and said again, the energy we take into our bodies has a direct effect upon the energy we have to give to the world. So, given all the busy-ness and stress, when I have gotten cravings for homemade comfort foods, I haven’t been holding back. And when it comes to chilly evenings, sometimes nothing beats a steaming bowl of spicy chili.

This is another failure-proof recipe. Use whatever veggies you want, as long as you use the same total volume that is called for in the recipe (if you decide to use spinach, be sure to cook it before you measure it! It cooks down a LOT). Also, for the most satisfying chili, be sure to leave the veggies in nice, big, hearty chunks.

There is one ingredient that may strike you by surprise: unsweetened chocolate. As I mention in the list of ingredients, vegans should be very mindful to select a vegan brand. Any 100% cocoa baking chocolate should be vegan, and is actually what I recommend most strongly: when you start getting into the 95% and under chocolates, you have to be sure to check what that other percentage consists of!

The chocolate melts completely into the broth, giving the finished chili a mole-like quality that is simply divine. Simply trust, and enjoy.

(A quick note to new new readers, which will also serve as a disclaimer for the photo below: no, I am not a vegan, hence the appearance of real sour cream and cheese on my bowl of chili. However, in my efforts to prepare foods with mindfully-selected ingredients, a large percentage of the foods I make are vegetarian and/or vegan. I hope that these recipes can be enjoyable to you, without there being any offense taken at the recipes that do include dairy, egg, and meat products….)

Vegan Chipotle Chili

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 c chopped onion (Spanish or Vidalia)
  • 1 c chopped carrots
  • 1 c chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 c green or yellow bell pepper
  • ½ of a head of garlic, chopped
  • Approx. ½ of a 7-oz. can of chipotles in adobo sauce (to taste), pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped (VEGANS: this is almost always vegan, but read the ingredients just in case! If you can’t find a brand that you are confident is vegan, just soak 2-3 dried chipotles in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, then dice.)
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 10 whole black peppercorns, ground
  • ¼-1/2 t ground allspice, to taste
  • ¼-1/2 c ground cloves, to taste
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 t salt, or to taste
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • One 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • Three 16-oz. cans beans (I recommend one each of black beans, pink beans, and cannellini beans)
  • 1-3 c tomato juice
  • 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped (VEGANS: be mindful of what brand you get to ascertain it is, in fact, vegan: this can be omitted if you have any doubts)
  • 1 avocado, in bite-sized pieces (optional)
  • coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Sour cream (or vegan substitute, optional)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (or vegan substitute, optional)
  • Cooked spaghetti (optional)
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pan. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until almost entirely translucent (but not quite). Add the carrots, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onions are golden, about 10 to 15 more minutes.
  2. Add the chipotles, chili powder, cumin, vinegar, pepper, allspice, cloves, bay leaves, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne. Cook for two to five minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Add the tomatoes, beans and 1 cup of the tomato juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the unsweetened chocolate. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding tomato juice as needed, until the flavors are fully blended, AT LEAST 45 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  4. Ladle into bowls (over cooked spaghetti, if you’d like: it’s yummy!) and serve with any combination of avocado, cilantro, sour cream and cheddar cheese that you desire.