Fall means chili. I love chili and eat it year round, but it’s meant to be eaten in fall. That’s when it feels more perfect. Crisp days and the sound of wind blowing through fallen leaves. What’s even better is crock pot chili. Everyone knows the best chili cooks for hours and what better way than the crock pot. I have to admit, I often forget we own a crock pot. I actually can’t even take the credit for this pot of chili since he made it while I was at work. This one was perfectly spiced and had a good amount of liquid. I hate thin chili.


I was all set to eat my chili with just bread (don’t worry we had Earth Balance it just wasn’t on the bread yet) when he remembered we had some Daiya cheddar in the fridge and oh my. It made my night. Growing up my mom made lots of chili. Lots of incredibly spicy chili. So spicy I could barely eat it. To counter that my brother and I would load it up with cheddar cheese and saltine crackers until it was so stiff it wasn’t technically ‘chili’ anymore but rather some weird uncooked casserole. Luckily the chili in my life is not one-dimensionally hot. It’s full of spices and complex flavors that don’t need to be muted by add-ins. Though I still can’t resist the cheese-y stuff if I have it.

This doesn’t have much of a recipe. A big can of Mrs. Grimes Chili Beans, a can of tomatoes, some onions and a sweet potato, chili powder plus extra cumin and ancho, salt. I keep meaning to experiment and try other types of chili – white chili, beer chili, chili sin carne, etc. – but I love this and can’t seem to move past it.


Savory Fruit

I’m not usually a fan of fruit in my entree. Raisins and apples can go in salads and citrus gets a pass. At least I thought I didn’t like fruit in things. During my French cookbook obsession I found a recipe for a chicken-sweet potato tagine with prunes. It sounded weird enough that I might like it. I’ve done raisins in tagine before and thought it was ok and I happened to have two pounds of prunes that really needed to be used it. Don’t worry the recipe didn’t call for two pounds, more like eight prunes. The only change I made to the recipe was to swap chickpeas for the chicken. It does call for a lot of saffron which I miraculously had. This was the first time I made something that had a very strong and distinct saffron flavor and I can’t say I loved it. Possibly the mix of saffron and prunes, each very distinctive, might have been overwhelming. It was good that night for dinner but I couldn’t bring myself to eat the leftovers the next afternoon.

I served it with couscous and some sauteed chard and mushrooms. The tagine recipe is from Around My French Table.

From Scratch

A while back I finally sat down and made enchilada sauce from scratch. I’ve wanted to do this for years but never got around to it. This goes for a lot of things ‘from scratch’. I cook a lot of stuff at home and try not to rely on store bought portions of recipes, but sometimes it’s just easier. Canned sauces, tins of curry paste, pre-mixed curry powder. I suppose to a lot of folks cooking anything at home means ‘from scratch’ but to me it means you started out with identifiable single ingredients. Someday I’d love to make homemade curry pastes and powders. Maybe seeing how easy and tasty the enchilada sauce turned out will inspire me. But for now I’m happy with my sauce.

I’m trying to recall now, but I think this was based on the recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I liked it a lot but would like to use a mix of peppers next time, maybe anchos, guajillos, and New Mexico chiles.

Enchilada Sauce

4 dried ancho peppers
1 tbsp. oil
1 med. onion
3 cloves garlic
15 oz. can of roasted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped

Remove seeds and stems from peppers and cover with boiling water. Heat oil in a saucepan, add onion and cook for several minutes, until it begins to color. Add garlic. Mince soaked peppers and add to onion, if it seems dry add some of the soaking water. Cook for a couple minutes then add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until it has thickened. Add cilantro and take off heat. When slightly cooled run through a blender or food processor.

This made enough for one 9×13 pan of enchiladas. The recipe I used for the unpictured final product was from the Fall 2011 Penzey’s catalog, a recipe submitted by Dane Kuttler. I was intrigued when I first saw the recipe because you boil the sweet potatoes in vinegar and soy sauce. I just had to try it. I usually make up my own filling as I go along but it usually includes sweet potatoes, can of black beans, can of diced tomatoes, and spices.  For this I tried to stick with the recipe but clearly changed a few things for vegan and health reasons.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas

5-6 ww flour tortillas
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled if desired
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 c. Daiya vegan cheddar cheese, divided
1 batch enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Wash and chop sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces. Put the potatoes, soy sauce, and vinegar into a medium saucepan, cover with a lid, and boil until potatoes are soft and liquid is mostly absorbed, about 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Saute onion, garlic, cumin, and ancho until fragrant, be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the black beans and a little water or more vinegar and turn heat. Let it warm through then take off heat.

When the potatoes are done slightly mash then, then mix the black bean mixture and potatoes together. Add 2/3 c. vegan cheese and mix in. Put a third of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Fill the tortillas with a few good spoonfuls of filling and place seam down in pan. Continue until pan is full. Spread the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the sauce is slightly bubbling around the edges of the pan. Cool slightly and enjoy.

Oh Yeah, Dinner.

In all my excitement about the pecan pie I forgot to mention what we had for dinner last night. When I go home from work I launched into making the pie and some homemade bread using new sprouted wheat flour and completely forgot about, ya know, the actual dinner. I would love to have pie and bread for dinner but my conscience can’t allow that. So I made super healthy stuff to go with the super unhealthy pecan pie. First up, massaged kale salad. Sounds sensual, tastes delicious.

I realize this photo is much more interesting for the colors rather than actually getting a good idea what the salad looks like, but kale salad is one of those things we never plate for some reason. I make it in a big steel mixing bowl that was my grandma’s and we just set it on the table and eat out of it. Every other salad gets a nice spot on the plate but for some reason this one never makes it out of it’s dirty bowl, so no great picture for you. I can’t even give you a real recipe with measurements, just approximations.

My Massaged Kale Salad

1 bunch kale, de-stemmed
1/2 a lime
1 big spoonful of tahini
1 decent splash of tamari
1 beet, grated (this one is a beautiful chioggia, but golden beets are my favorite)

Chop the kale into ribbon. Juice the lime into a large bowl, add the tahini and tamari and whisk together. Add kale and massage the crap out of it to break it down a bit. I usually try to use lacinato/dinosaur kale but curly kale works too. Once your fingers start to cramp add the beet, stir, eat out of bowl.

I also love this with an avocado instead of the tahini and lemon juice instead of lime. Really it’s just fat, acid, salt in some form mashed into the kale and add shredded root vegetable. I keep it simple and only add one additional vegetable. All those other odds and ends get thrown into the other thing we had for dinner last night.

Pepper bean salad.

A co-worker turned me on to this. It has single-handedly turned me into a cilantro non-hater. This is quite a feat people! I have hated cilantro for years and now I find myself buying it for this salad! I’ve made the recipe so many times I don’t use a recipe (though I did link one). Now I do cut down on the oil and acids and play with the spices some as well as using it to clean out my fridge (good with bits of cucumber and tomato) but the essence of it stays the same and it’s so simple it’s easy to swap things out.

Plus, it gets better the longer it stays in your fridge. If it lasts that long.

Frank-less Beans

I love squash. I know I went on about it in a previous post, but really. It’s just awesome. It’s sweet, it’s savory, it last forever, its easy to prepare. I can’t get enough of it. Which is fortunate because I have two beautiful ones on my table night now. One is a Long Island Cheese that I got in our CSA today. Have I mentioned how much I love our CSA? I got a seven pound squash from them today and I was so excited they took my picture with it. The other one is a bit of a mystery and may need a photo to help identify it. The skin is a dusky green-blue and it’s probably 4 pounds with really deep ridges. It kind of looks like the Australian Blue Pumpkin. Either way, it’ll be delicious stuffed!

The other more recent squash was a kabocha. They are my favorite, the little ones are perfect to split for dinner. I split this one, scraped out the seeds, put cut side down on a baking sheet and roasted at 375 while I baked focaccia bread. When it was done I let it sit for a while and the rind sort of steams off and can be pulled away. I ate a quarter of it with my frankenbeans and then had more later for dessert with maple syrup and cinnamon.

Those frankenbeans are a frank/hot dog-less version of the recipe in Please Don’t Feed the Bears. If you don’t have that yet you should really get it. It’s awesome and hilarious. Not always the lowest calories since more than half the recipes rely on peanut butter, pasta, or potatoes, but everything I’ve had from it has been great. Because it can be a little hard to navigate I tend to find lots of recipes that seem new and require a bookmark. I love just leafing through it until something jumps out. When I was roasting my squash I wanted some sort of beans to go with it and needing something sweet and saucy I knew Bears would have something for me. I didn’t have everything the recipe called for and added a few things of my own.

Frank-less Beans Inspired by PDFT Bears
1 tbsp. oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 c. ketchup
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. granulated garlic
dash of liquid smoke

Saute the onion in oil. When it starts to brown add the rest of the ingredients and a little water, let simmer until thick.


Comfort Food and Comfort Beverages

I was so proud of myself.  I’m at my mom’s again to aid and assist so I brought my computer, my camera, and a determination to upload the pictures of the food I’ve made the last few days. I got home and checked my school stuff and email and was all set to upload photos and…

It died. I remembered everything I needed in my flurry to get here on time, except the power cord for my macbook. So it will wait a while. Instead I’ll just have to explain what I’m eating in explicit detail.

Continuing my mofo trend, I’m having comfort food. But this is my vegan comfort food. It was one of the first recipes I made that was vegan and its still one of my favorites. Its very fast, very cheap, and very customizable.

Its beans and tomatoes. Tonight I went the quick chili route and got out a pot, dumped in one can of diced tomatoes, one can of rinsed black beans, spoonfuls of chili seasoning and bbq seasoning, and let it cook until it thickened up a little. I spent all of four minutes doing this then opened a Woodchuck and waited. I’ll get to the Woodchuck in a minute.

The first veg cookbook I used consistently was Student’s Go Vegetarian. It was perfect because most things have one or two servings. Not everything was great (I tried making vegan pancakes and they weren’t so great. I’m glad Nick cooked his recipe for me and made breakfast my favorite meal again). But the black beans and tomatoes with polenta (or whatever its called) was so perfect and filling after so many nights of ramen or salad. I mix and match beans and flavorings with diced tomatoes and my favorites are:

Black beans, Ro*Tel tomatoes, chili spices

White Northern beans, Italian seasoned tomatoes, Italian herbs

Garbanzos, diced tomatoes, Turkish seasoning or a curry

Pinto beans, Ro*Tel tomatoes, taco seasoning

I could go on, but these are my favorites. Let them cook down and serve with rice/pasta/crackers/bread/tortillas or add some vegetable broth, a few extra veggies and make soup. Its amazing how happy this simple pairing can make me. Though I do find it odd that I never make this at home. Maybe because I like to cook more involved things there or maybe its just that by the time I get to my Mom’s I’m either off work and tired or just too lazy to do anything.

Back to the Woodchuck. I do not like beer, with a few exceptions. I don’t like anything hoppy and malty is ok but only a handful of days out of the year. Cider on the other hand is welcome. At the monthly Vegan Drinks in Ames I’ll treat myself to the Strongbow they have on tap, but thats about it. That changed tonight when I tried Woodchuck’s seasonal fall cider.

If I didn’t feel its silly to use expletives when writing something so even keel such as beans and tomatoes I would string out a list of words beginning with ‘holy’ and ending with ‘this is amazing’. Its like drinking fermented apple crisp. It tastes like fall. Its appley, cinnamony, comforty, you get the picture.

Unfortunately I just checked the site and its all done at the end of this month. I, apparently, missed the start of it in August. So now I’m left to stock up on this so I can enjoy it during the holidays – wherever I happen to be for them.

Hanging in There

So its Saturday and I’m with the fam. Since I would starve otherwise I made a millet-black bean salad to bring with. I’m loosely based off of the Mexican millet from Veganomicon. 

Its a life saver. 

This whole weekend is fun. But I would really like to be back home so I could spend time with the most amazing person. He lent me this. 

I wish I could sleep away the next twelve hours so I could merrily be on my way home. But for now I’ll entertain myself with a cupcake and sweet thoughts.