Friday, October 14, 2011

My first stab at chili

I mildly regret not having tried my hand at chili back when I was still doing a lot with ground turkey.  It would be nice to be able to say I did that at least once, even though I wasn't the world's biggest chili fan.  I like to think that if I've had something once, or even many times, and found that it wasn't that great or was only really good some of the time, I can improve upon it at home.  Many's the time I've eaten gumbo that looked and acted suspiciously like canned tomato soup with a few random pieces of rice, okra and/or shrimp.  (I'm looking at you, Wild Wing Cafe.)  But every time I made it myself, it was great.  Not to toot my own horn, but it was.  And now that I no longer eat any of the meats that were the cornerstone of my homemade version, I can at least look back fondly upon the days when I made it and it kicked ass.

Alas, my first attempt at chili was meat-free.  Having also never eaten veggie chili before, I had to stop and think about what goes into chili besides ground meat, beans and tomatoes.  As it happened, a couple of bell peppers in the backyard were due to be picked and we had half an onion and a couple of jalapenos left over from the last time Steve made guacamole, so we had enough on hand to make a truly veggie chili.  I never thought about adding corn, although I'm sure that would have been good.  Basically, I used the above fresh veggies plus a bunch of cans of beans and one can of tomatoes, added some spices and stirred it up until I had something remarkably like chili.

Five-bean veggie chili:
2 tbsp canola oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, finely diced
1/2 medium-large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
2 Knorr brand cilantro cubes
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can navy beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes with their juice
1 can fat-free refried beans
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste

Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add diced peppers, onion and garlic and stir well.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Add cilantro cubes, stir well and reduce heat.  Add next four cans of beans and tomatoes; stir well.  Add refried beans and stir well to blend with liquids and thicken soup.  Add spices and raise heat to boil off excess liquid, stirring often for 10-15 minutes or as needed.  Serve alone or with rice, cornbread, tortilla chips, etc.
Not bad!  Although next time I'll probably use less water - maybe one cup or less, since the undrained tomatoes add quite a bit.  I'm really not sure how much time I spent on this, but it seemed like at least half of that time I was boiling off the excess liquid until it was thick enough to call chili.  Flavorwise, I give myself an A!  Next time (and I'm sure there will be one, since flexible recipes like these are right up my alley) I'll probably add a bit more spice, possibly in the form of the dried red chilies I get from the Indian grocery store on Two Notch Rd.  I'm sure I'll try it with corn at least once and maybe also experiment with different hot peppers from the produce section.

So, that was my lunch hour today.  Tonight we'll be going out someplace where I can load up on pasta for the big race tomorrow.  If any of you in the Columbia area are doing the Ray Tanner Home Run, hopefully we'll run into each other - and good luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hot Vegetable Salad

Well, I made it through all 21 days (23 days, actually) of the vegan kickstart.  I was pretty pleased with that, since I was really only trying to see how long I could last without cheese.  And now I know.

Now that I'm back to being a regular old vegetarian, I decided to attempt a knockoff of California Dreaming's Hot Vegetable Salad.  Mind you, I've never tried it; I was planning to order it at my office's holiday luncheon in 2009 but ended up spending that day at home sick.  Anyhoo, we've had a bunch of produce in the fridge for the past week and I was starting to fret about what to do with all of it when, somehow, I was reminded of this salad.  Mine's not exactly the same (I didn't have any green beans or hearts of palm on hand), but that's all right because the recipe lends itself well to adaptations.

Hot Vegetable Salad:
(Serves two)
1 tbsp Earth Balance
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 yellow squash, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and halved
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
6-7 ounces fresh spinach leaves
1 vine-ripened tomato, diced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp shredded Asiago cheese
1 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat Earth Balance and 1 tbsp olive oil in nonstick pan over medium heat.  Add squash, peppers and garlic and saute until peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add artichokes, salt, pepper and thyme and continue to cook until peppers and squash are tender but not mushy, another 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, combine salt, pepper, lemon juice and remaining olive oil in a bowl.  Add the dressing to the spinach leaves and tomato and toss well.  Place the spinach and tomato on two 9-inch plates, cover each bed of spinach with half of the cooked vegetables and top each salad with equal amounts of Parmesan and Asiago.
Did I mention that it's equally tasty and easy to put together?  This is easily one of my shortest blog posts that actually contained a recipe!

Give this a try whenever you have a bunch of veggies you don't have any ideas for.  Maybe even use some of your veggies in the salad and some in a soup recipe on a soup-and-salad night!  If you happen to have veggies (hot or cold) left over from the salad, maybe use them in a wrap the next day with a little more cheese (and/or some drained and rinsed chickpeas or cannellini beans).  So many possibilities!

Have a great week, and hopefully I'll see some you (in the Columbia area) at the Ray Tanner Home Run next week!