Chili and Throat Tickles

The weather is perfect in Austin. I hate that I have become one of those people whose conversation starter is, “can you believe this weather?”, as if I have nothing better to talk about.

But this weather! Oh man, oh man. I love it.

The mornings have been cold enough where I get to wear mittens and a hat and the afternoons find me in shorts and a t-shirt. The days feel like summer in the pacific northwest, except there are carved pumpkins on the steps and a little girl dressed up as superwoman next door.
Of course real life had to bring my unhappiness down a tad by giving me a cold. It is the kind of cold that is just waiting around the corner. I can feel is brewing in my throat and my head, and I’m doing everything in my power to combat it.

Lots of water? Done. Weird herbal drink that tastes like ginger meets butt? Done. Warm tea with honey? Done. Nine hours of sleep? Yep.

Last but not least, I wanted to make a soup of some sort and because the weather is so perfect I couldn’t resist making chili. I was inspired by the thought of chipotle, as everything about it warms my soul. The thing I love about chili (and soup in general) is you really just throw everything into a pot and call it a meal. As a vegan, I stuck with a three bean chili loaded with vegetables and some peppers for good measure. It soothed my throat and kept me happy and full for hours.

Perfect chili for perfect weather and my not-so-perfect cold.

(oh, I also put down my iPhone and took REAL pictures of my food this time around. Shocking, I know.)

3 Bean Vegan Chipotle Chili

1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 zucchini
1 sweet potato
3 cloves of garlic
1 can of black beans
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of pinto beans
1/2 can of chipotle peppers (in sauce)
1/2 can of mild peppers
1.5 cups of vegetable broth (you can use more if you want, I like a thick chili)
1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
2 tsp salt

Heat up olive oil over medium heat. Add in chopped onion and sweet potato, and turn heat to medium high. Cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in chopped bell peppers and zucchini and mix in salt. Cook for a few more minutes before adding in the minced garlic.

Next you add in the peppers. I added in an extra spoonful or two of the chipotle sauce, as I wanted the chili to have an extra kick to it. I also chopped up the canned peppers so they kind of melt into the rest of the vegetables, and you don’t even realize they’re there until the flavor hits your face (in a good way). I also threw in half a can of mild peppers for good measure. Why not?

Lastly throw in the beans and the vegetable stock. Mix everything together and add the chipotle chili powder and any more salt your taste buds fancy.

I let this simmer for about 30 minutes, until the smell was too much and I wanted to eat all of it. I served mine with some gluten-free sweet potato corn chips, because they are perfect for scooping and add some texture to the dish.

So many veggies, this cold can’t stick around.

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Food Day and Vegan(ish)ism

I became a vegetarian when I was 12 years old. On our annual trip to Eastern Washington, my 6th grade best friend and I made a pact. After one more hot dog, we were cutting out meat. Cold turkey.

She lasted one week. I lasted 13 years.

I have fallen off the vegetarian band wagon every once in awhile. I had a few years where I ate fish. Two years where I even dabbled in chicken on a random occasion.

When I started my vegetarian adventure, I was a pre-teen. This means my diet consisted mainly of hot and spicy cheez-its (holy god, they’re addicting), saltine crackers and apples.

It was going well for me.

Although my food choices weren’t the healthiest, I knew that I would never put another piece of pork or beef in my body. At the ripe old age of 13, I discovered Meet your Meat.

Say what you will about education via shock and gore, this movie changed me. As an impressionable young thing who jumped into vegetarianism on a whim, seeing where meat came from was shocking.

It is evident in these videos (regardless of your belief in animals having the intelligence to understand) that what’s happening in our food system is horrible. No living creature should be treated like that. For me, that’s the bottom line

Knowing that was where the majority of our meat came from, I wanted no part of it.

And now here I am, 25 years old and I eat a mainly vegan (once in awhile an egg from Vital Farms isn’t going to hurt me), whole foods diet. Stepping away from cheese was big deterrent from vegan-ism, but as a person that eats nutritional yeast by the spoon full, I get by.

In a country where obesity and heart disease are on the rise, I am kind to my body. I partake in morning runs and long sessions of stretching. I spend hours in the kitchen making nice with kale and sweet potato enchiladas. I have a happy stomach that enjoys endless amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Tomorrow is national Food Day. A call for us to shake it up, change our relationship with our meal. It’s a call for us to look at our current system, our current policies, and see that this isn’t sustainable. We can’t live in a country where childhood obesity is the norm and the food that is most readily available is packed so full of sugar and preservatives there isn’t anything “food” about it.

I don’t eat animals. That is my part of being a conscious eater. 13 years strong and I don’t see myself eating meat anytime soon. I get that this strict diet isn’t for everyone, but if you are at all curious, give it a try. You may be surprised at just how wonderful your body feels.

Happy food day.

Vegan Pesto

There is something so satisfying about a giant plate of pasta smothered in pesto. I was so sad when I thought about losing that from my diet.

Silly me, just take out the Parmesan  add some nutritional yeast and you’re set.

This recipe is from Vegan Spoonful, just another wonderful vegan blog for my to get inspiration.

This pesto is good for pasta, for smearing on some bread or you can freeze it for later. So garlicky, so good.

  • 1 large bunch of basil (3 cups loosely packed)
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic
  • 6 Tbsp raw pine nuts
  • 3/4 – 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until creamy and perfect. Commence devouring at unladylike speeds.

homesteads and okra.

Growing up, it was all about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I devoured the Little House series, and when I was finished I started back at book one.  I vividly remember the story of her dad getting stalked by a panther, and how the attic was her favorite place to play.

When I was sick, my mom and I would eat popsicles and watch Little House on the Prairie.

Perhaps I owe this desire to nest, to garden, to explore the idea of being a modern homesteader to Laura. There is something very romantic about building your life with your hands, learning how things grow. I realize that I live in this strange dichotomy, one foot firmly planted in the world of blogs, Facebook and Twitter while the other foot is barefoot, in the dirt.

I channeled my inner Wilder last weekend and pickled some okra.

The boy, sister and I took a trip to the HOPE farmers market. A tiny little market tucked in between an abandoned warehouse-turned-art-space and the railroad tracks.

Still 85 degrees, I found myself seeking shade and leaning on my iced coffee to keep cool. We are entering into the second growing season (MAGICAL) of the year, which means all things green are back in season. Beautiful bundles of kale, large stalks of basil and the last of the okra.

Okra requires quite a bit of heat to prosper, and these 80 degree days and 55 degree nights means it’s on its way out. Inquiring on how long I would be able to get it, the farmer shrugged, “I keep thinking it’s done, and it keeps producing.”

I didn’t want to risk it, so I bought a shit ton and knew that it was time to preserve.

I have experience pickling thanks to hot August afternoons with my grandma. We’d all crowd in her tiny kitchen, each of us given a task that would result in the best and hottest pickles this world has ever seen.

My mouth just started watering at the thought of them. Literally.

There isn’t much difference between pickling cucumbers and pickling okra. You wash and sanitize the jars, stuff them with what you want, pour over the brine and process.

And then you wait, which is really the worst part of the whole ordeal.

Having schlepped all of my canning tools from Seattle (my mom thought I was crazy when I demanded that I bring my canning pot with me… priorities, mother) it was easy as pie to whip these puppies out. Now I have cans of okra sitting in my cupboard, just waiting to be consumed.

I think Laura would have been proud.

Hot and Spicy Pickled Okra

  • 2 pounds fresh okra, washed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1/4 cup salt (SO MUCH SALT)
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • head of garlic
  • assortment of hot peppers (we used jalapeno, habanero and serrano… our mouths MAY explode later)

First things first. Prepare everything. Start your canning bath, as the water takes forever to boil. Wash your jars. Fill them with warm water and put them in the canning pot to sanitize. When the water in the pot reaches boiling, boil the cans for at least 10 minutes to make sure they are properly sanitized. Make sure you also boil and sanitize the lids.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, you can get your okra, garlic and peppers ready. Set them aside, and if you feel inclined you can take a picture.

Isn’t food the prettiest?

Once your cans are sanitized you can start stuffing them. Now, this was my first time canning okra so I wasn’t sure how to approach this. My method was to stuff them with as much as I could, and hope for the best. Tip for next time: stuff more. After I poured the brine in there, everything rose to the top of the jar and I saw how much extra room I had in there.

Bummer

What is in there will taste delicious, I am sure. But now I know for next time that I need to really fill all of that extra space with something. Perhaps more peppers? Who knows.

So each of my jars had about 10 pieces of okra, 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, the three types of peppers and a couple of sprigs of dill.
Next time, I will jam so much garlic, dill and peppers in there the okra will probably be inedible. What can I say, I like things spicy.

After you cut up the vegetables, you will want to prepare the brine. To do this you will want to bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil, and then distribute evenly in the jars, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top. After you have filled the jars with the brine, wipe the rims of the jars, pop on a lid and put back in the canning bath to process for 10 minutes. After processing, remove and wait to hear that magical pop. Now I will just have to wait and see just how much heat I can handle…

 

Wheat Berries and Bliss

On my bike ride home the other day I saw a firefly.

For me, a baby of the pacific northwest, this was a reason to squeal. Instead, I simply smiled and sent out a silent blessing to the warm evening, my bare, bug-bitten legs and the fact that it is mid October and I was wearing shorts.

Man oh man people, I am so overwhelmingly happy.

When I get this joyful- like I’m going to bubble over-I want to create in the kitchen. Crafting recipes and working with food is my idea of perfection. Having only two days off this month, I plan on spending them in my garden, at the farmer’s market and in the kitchen. I have visions of vegan walnut banana muffins, cinnamon granola and shiitake udon soup.

Yesterday at work my daily recipe for the store was a tilapia dish with an arugula salad. The whole vegan(ish) thing left the tilapia out of my evening meal plan, but I can never turn down fresh, local arugula. Walking through the store I got inspired by the beets and decided to do a fall wheat berry salad.

The day before yesterday I found my bliss in fireflies.

Yesterday it was wheat berries and sipping whiskey in a dark bar with a boy I fancy.

Seek it out, and I guarantee it will be there.

Fall Wheat Berry Salad

Adapted from my brain

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 bunch of beets
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup wheat berries
  • 5-6 cups fresh arugula
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (for the dressing)
  • A little less than 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

You will first want to start your wheat berries. To make this process faster, soak them overnight. I didn’t do this, and I knew it was going to take forever to cook them. Put the wheat berries in a pot over low/medium heat and cook. Forever. It really only took a little over an hour, but that is basically an eternity when you are hungry.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and chop up your sweet potatoes and beets. I did balsamic roasted beets because it appears I wanted vinegar in every single dish… Also, because it is so freaking delicious. To make the balsamic roasted beets, toss them with 2 tbsp olive oil and 2-3 tbsp of vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I did the sweet potatoes and beets on different trays because I wasn’t sure how balsamic roasted sweet potatoes would taste. Do whatever tickles your fancy. I tossed the sweet potatoes in the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil and also sprinkled with salt and pepper. You will want to let these cook for about 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While all of those things are cooking, wash your arugula and set aside.

The next step is to make the dressing, which means you mix the 1/4 cup oil with the less than 1/4 cup vinegar, pop in the chopped garlic and salt and pepper and call it good. This will make more than you need for the dish, but who doesn’t love left over salad dressing?

Once everything is done roasting and cooking, mix the vegetables with the wheat berries and let cool. Then, toss in some salad dressing (to taste) and spoon over the arugula.

Tastes like fall in a bowl.

 

 

Neglect

I haven’t been paying enough attention to writing in this blog… I blame my schedule.

Fate has dealt me a pretty sweet hand in the last few weeks (let’s be real, it has dealt me a sweet hand for the last few months) and I am now getting paid to write about food. I wasn’t sure that was ever going to happen, but it is and even though it is only my first week on the job, I am blissfully happy.

I spend my morning searching through the grocery store (check us out), picking out ingredients and then planning recipes. My required hours fly by because all I want to do is look, think, and write about food. (like kale… mmmmm)

This new job (combined with the yoga studio) does have me working about 60 hours a week, which can get sticky.

Sticky for my mental health, sticky for my relationships with people, sticky for that whole “exercising” thing… Just overall, there is a whole lot of potential for being a hot mess.

Lucky for me, I have a fantastic boy and a fantastic sister to keep me in line.

The boy keeps me in line by always making my tired ass laugh with witty sarcasm and not letting  me complain about being tired. He reminds me that I chose this crazy schedule and I better realize how damned lucky I am.

Noted.

My sister keeps me in line by being my best friend AND my soon-to-be running partner. Nothing like a run at 9:45 pm after working eleven hours, am I right?

So all of these things, this great balancing act I have created for myself, has left little time to blog. This week, I even failed at making food… what?! WHERE ARE MY PRIORITIES? Thank goodness for that boy that lets me be stupid possessive about my kitchen while simultaneously cooking me dinner. Ha.

I’m difficult.

The boy successfully made this soup from Sprouted Kitchen (I may or may not send him 12 emails a day with ideas of food we can eat, places we can go, beer we can drink.) A harsh critic when it comes to his own cooking, he didn’t think the lentils were cooked enough.

I ate it so fast the top of my mouth was burned for a few days.

I’d give soup (and him) a gold star

Spiced Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk

From Sprouted Kitchen

I’m not going to lie to you, I copied her word for word as I didn’t cook the meal, the boy did. And I’m pretty sure he stuck to Sara’s directions. Thank goodness I have blogs like Sprouted Kitchen to pass on to everyone I meet.

1 1/2 cup lentils, rinsed (green suggested)

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 1/2 tsp. tumeric OR curry powder

2 tsp. dried thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer removed, lower portion finely minced

1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. cinnamon pinch of red pepper flakes to taste

pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

1 1/4 cup coconut milk (use full fat, just believe me)

3 Tbsp. lemon, lime or orange juice

a few handfuls of swiss chard, spinach or kale

1 cup flake coconut, toasted (optional)

chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Add the rinsed lentils, broth, thyme and tumeric or curry powder to a large pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils cook, heat the coconut oil in a pan. Add the onion and saute until just browned. Add the lemongrass, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, pinch of red pepper flakes and some fresh ground nutmeg and saute another minute. Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir, keeping the heat on a low simmer.

Add the coconut milk and greens and simmer another five minutes, stirring occasionally until just wilted. Taste for salt and spice and add as you prefer. Finish with the citrus juice and serve warm with toasted coconut flakes and cilantro on top.

 

 

Fall

Fall is my favorite season.

The only fall that I have ever known is the one filled with honeycrisp apples the size of my head and my family’s annual trip to the pumpkin patch. It is the fall that is filled with blue rain boots and roasted pumpkin seeds. It is the gathering of friends over new soup recipes and pulling out my overly baggy sweaters.

That is the fall I know.

Yesterday I found myself in shorts and a tank top. Swerving through the flat streets of Austin on my red bicycle. Trying to keep up with a boy who makes biking look like a cake walk. It felt like summer. Warm air and the sound of crickets. Firemen playing catch outside the station.

This is the fall I will get used to.

Until I do find my rhythm with this Texas season, I will make soup. I will sit in front of the air conditioner with my baggy sweater. I will pretend the leaves are changing and that somewhere in this big old state there is a pumpkin patch with my name on it.

Chickpea Stew with Olive Oil Fried Eggs

adapted from Bon Appetit

3 tbsp olive oil, divided throughout the recipe

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

8 cups spinach

salt and pepper

1 cup chopped red pepper

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp smoked chipotle (the recipe called for paprika, I had none… the chipotle tasted like heaven, do whatever floats your boat)

2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, rinsed

5 canned whole tomatoes, crushed

3 cups vegetable broth

4 eggs

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a cast iron over medium heat. When oil is hot add 1 garlic clove. Stir until the garlic starts to turn brown and add spinach to the pot. Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper. Cook the spinach until it has just wilted but is still bright green, about two to three minutes. Remove the garlic and spinach and set aside.
  • The magazine recommends wiping out the pan. I did no such thing. Woops.
  • Heat the remaining olive oil (I used less than 2 tbsp… there were still remnants, and it cut down on the fat content of the dish). When oil is hot add remaining garlic and the red pepper. Add the cumin and the chipotle, cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and tomatoes; stir to coat and let cook for about 10 minutes, until the chickpeas start to brown.
  • Add 3 cups of broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. Occasionally mash a chickpea or two to show it who’s boss, and to make the mixture a stew like consistency. After the 20 minutes, fold in the spinach and simmer for another 10 minutes. If it is too thick, add more broth 1/4 cup at a time. I didn’t do this, as I like my stew to be REALLY thick. Just a matter of preference.
  • Spoon all of this goodness into a bowl and cook your eggs. I just used the remaining oil that was in the cast iron, and cooked for medium low heat, covering the eggs with a little bit of water to cook evenly. I like my eggs sunny side up with a runny yolk, but do whatever floats your boat. The olive oil makes the edges nice and crispy, which is delicious with the stew. Yum.
  • Serve the stew in bright bowls and top with an egg.

* I made some homemade wheat bread with this recipe because every stew needs hearty bread. If you have the 2 hours that it takes to make bread, go for it. We may or may not have eaten two loaves in two days… Homemade bread is just that delicious.