08 October 2009

Vegan Chili for the Non-Cook

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What I feared has happened: I ran out of pre-blogged posts, and have been too tired to cook in a few days. However, I pressed my husband, who has a fairly limited cooking repertoire, into making some super easy (and yummy) chili on a night I knew I would be way too tired to cook.

I left him with two big cans of organic crushed tomatoes, one can of Hunts Garlic & Herb spaghetti sauce*, two cans of kidney beans, a chopped onion, some Penzey's Chili 9000, and Penzey's Garlic Granules. He sauteed the onion in olive oil, and then added all the canned goods (having rinsed the kidney beans, I assume), plus 2T of the chili powder and 1t of the garlic. The consistency was perfect, and the depth and complexity of the Chili 9000 gives even a super basic recipe like this some extra oommph.

*Especially for the money, I prefer the basic Hunt's spaghetti sauces for a basic marinara. It's easy to modify the seasoning, but the best bit is that there is either no sugar added, or very little. If you check the nutrition labels, most of the more expensive jarred sauces have sugar content at least double the Hunt's vegan sauces.

07 October 2009

Vegan Kindle

I have been a voracious reader all my life. I spent every flashlight battery in the house reading under the covers. I begged to be allowed to read at the dining room table. I've read thousands of pages on buses, as the passenger in cars, on trains, on planes. Even a college class where we read ALL of Solzhenitsyn in one ten-week period could not destroy my love for the written word. If I'm awake, if my eyes are open, I'm often as not scanning my surroundings for something to read.

About ten years ago, I did a product test for Microsoft. I can't remember what their e-reader was called, or even whether or not it was a physical object when I did the test. But I remember that my opinions about e-books at that time were largely negative. No, no, no; I preferred paper. No, there is something special about holding a book. No, I can't read on a screen. And so on.

Somewhere along the way, my thinking changed. For one thing, once Amazon's Kindle landed in the hands of actual readers, their enthusiasm was infectious. Also, E Ink is pretty freaking cool.
And I'm a long-time Amazon customer whose experiences with the company have been nearly always positive, and their commitment to the e-book format frankly gave me more hope for its future than, well, Microsoft could. So I decided to spend my birthday cash on a Kindle 2.

One of the things I was curious about, but resisted the urge to explore fully until my Kindle actually arrived, was how many vegan cookbooks are available for the Kindle. It's a little nervewracking to think of using an expensive electronic device in the kitchen, where I routinely spill water, and, um, occasionally set off the smoke alarm. And maybe splatter things a bit. But my kitchen is home to our washer and dryer, and that's where I set up my conventional cookbooks, and they have been safe from harm. But even more appealing than cooking from a cookbook in e-book form is the prospect of menu-planning in whatever moments I can steal during the course of the day. I usually plan menus by flipping through my cookbooks, and coming up with a week or so's worth of compatible dishes. I do frequently throw a stack of cookbooks in the passenger seat of my car, or into my bicycle's pannier, but how much more convenient could it be to have a library of cookbooks available on my Kindle? With the capacity for annotating recipes?

It's not a complete library, but there are some great titles available in the Kindle Store. My one criticism so far is that the book samples for several titles I checked out did not include any recipes. I think that including at least a few would give potential buyers a better feel for an author's recipe-writing style, for how simple or complicated they like to make things, and to what sorts of ingredients they rely on. The other drawback might be that photos are, and will be for the foreseeable future, black and white. I don't mind that so much. The portability issue carries the day!

06 October 2009


I know, that's terrible. But it's what we call one of our favorite dishes, one we've been loving well before I was vegan and my husband was wandering in that direction.

(In our household, I've been vegetarian since 1988 (? - I think), and vegan since sometime this summer; my husband has been vegetarian since 1995; and the 10 year-old kid has been vegetarian since birth.)

The bonus is that it is super-duper easy and cooks quickly. If you put on some rice about half an hour before you want to eat, you can easily whip this up during the last 10 minutes of the rice's cooking time. (I think short grain brown rice is best.)

The recipe for African Pineapple Peanut Stew is here.

05 October 2009

More cheatin' pre-blogging!

And there are no pictures here, because a) it's night time, and dark, and b) seriously, even the most heavenly soup doesn't look that great in the slow cooker.

But holy cow, the slow cooker is a miracle.

I decided to make the Split Pea Soup from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Vegan Table for tonight's dinner. It's Sunday (remember, I'm a cheating pre-blogger), and it's my only day off this week, and I knew we were going to see a movie at six. So this morning, I chopped everything for the soup, threw the veggies, the split peas, and the herbs in some water, and then refrigerated it until I was ready to start the cooking at around one.

My only mods to the recipe were that I added about 1/3 cup of nutritional yeast at the end of the cooking time, plus about 1T of Earth Balance margarine. It took about 6 hours in my slow cooker, which I boost when cooking legumes by putting it in rice cooker mode for a bit before starting the slow cooking. The liquids come to a boil, and then are hot enough to simmer for awhile before settling down for a true slow cook.

I all but refuse to see movies anywhere but our local theatre, and since it is in easy walking distance, we always walk unless there is a downpour. Tonight, we were at the tail end of a warm afternoon when we walked there, but it was right brisk when we came home--having hot soup waiting at home was perfect.

02 October 2009

I am pre-blogging, and it is my birthday. Now, I like pie, apple pie, specifically, far better than birthday cake anyway, but when you combine the first crop of apples from our tree in about five years* and Vegan MoFo, you get a homemade vegan apple pie.

I used the pie crust recipe from Veganomicon, but since I can't follow directions to the letter ever, really, I used Earth Balance stick margarine instead of vegan shortening, and instead of cutting it into the flour mixture by hand, I processed it in the food processor. It could have been a little flakier, perhaps, but it had a nice flavor and held together well. (I even got the first piece of pie out of the pan intact.)

I don't have the faintest idea what variety our apples are, but they are small, dry, cooking apples. I used the Apple Pie recipe (p100) from The Joy of Vegan Baking, but I substituted the Streusel Topping (p84) for the top crust. I also substituted Apple Pie Spice from Penzey's for the spices specified.

The result was a very firm textured, tasty pie. And as a special birthday treat, The Pickiest Vegetarian Kid in All the Land agreed to try some. And he liked it! The good news: he liked it! The bad news: now we have to share the pie!

*We used to have an apple tree that was about 100 years old, per our neighbor who grew up in the neighborhood. One afternoon about five years ago, I was in my office upstairs when I heard an odd crash. The tree had collapsed, and had done so into a driveway we don't park in. Nothing and no one was hurt. Eventually, suckers started coming up from the old stump, and we let them come, to see what would happen. This year, for the first time, apples!

01 October 2009


I was browsing my new copy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's fabulous Vegan Brunch when I paged upon the vegan sausage recipes. I'm not a huge fan of meat analogs EXCEPT for 1) bacon (fakin) and 2) sausage. Love the other fake white meat. Do not love: the price of purchasing the commercial versions or the slightly scary ingredient lists.

So while I was skeptical, I decided to give it a try. And holy cow (pig?), the recipe worked. VeganDad has Isa's basic recipe posted here; I used navy beans, and a slightly different array of spices. Not only did the recipe produce the desired results, I got to use one of my favorite appliances in a new way. I have a combination rice cooker/slow cooker/steamer, which worked like a dream for the 40 minute steaming period.

So now we have vegan sausages. What to do with them? The answer in my book is usually this: saute them with potatoes and greens. And guess what? Not only did I make the sausages, I grew the potatoes and the greens. There may even have been homemade vegan lemon poppyseed muffins to go along with this breakfast-for-dinner affair. Because I don't know what got into me.