Meatless Monday – Thug Kitchen 101

Two years ago my love whisked me away for a night in Mendocino. After a lovely afternoon walk on the beach, we ate dinner at The Ravens, a vegan restaurant so good you simply have to try it to believe it (especially if you think you don’t like veggies). While we waited for a table, we sipped chardonnay and browsed the bookstore. They had a great cookbook collection, and there I first encountered Thug Kitchen.

I don’t remember which of their cookbooks I picked up, but I couldn’t stop flipping the pages–these were the recipes I had been longing for as I increasingly leaned toward a plant-based diet. And the irreverence made me laugh. I’m not big on curse words, but the profanity makes it clear that the writers don’t take themselves too seriously.

Recently someone asked for veggie cookbooks recommendations so I grabbed Thug Kitchen 101 from the library. When my Guy saw how much I enjoyed it, he quickly placed an order for one more Christmas gift for me–yippee!

I don’t typically read cookbooks cover to cover, but I did with this one. I laughed. I experimented. I got my Tween in the kitchen cooking with me. I have made some recipes more than once. Others I’m still dying to try. As of right now, this is my favorite ever cookbook!

So far I have tried: flautas (where have these been all my Mexican-food-loving life? Note: make with leftover roasted fingerling potatoes), sun-dried tomato carbonara, skillet beer chili mac, coconut-lime rice, panko pasta topping, and 60-second parm. Not a miss among them.

Last night I had a killer headache and felt chilled to the bone after two hours of watching middle school rugby in a very gray San Francisco. I thought we had leftovers (Guy and Tween had taken care of those leftovers, apparently), so I needed to cook. It needed to be easy, fast, and comforting. Skillet Beer Chili Mac, I’m coming for ya…

You guys… So easy, so fast, comfort food at its best. The Kid and I had more for lunch today and Guy got jealous when he saw our dirty bowls because he forgot. We still have enough for tomorrow’s lunch and we might all drool on ourselves in anticipation between now and then.

The only things I did differently from the recipe: I cooked the onions without oil, added 2 cloves of garlic, and left out the maple syrup, oh, and I cooked the whole thing in my large soup pot. I used whole wheat curly macaroni and one can each of pinto and black beans (drained/rinsed). If you don’t do beer, you can sub another cup of veggie broth.

Skillet Beer Chili Mac
Serves 4-6

2 Tbsp mild chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 c diced yellow onion (about 1/2 of a large onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (mine was large; use a smaller one next time!)
1/2 c carrot (about 1 large or 2 small)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 c light beer
3 c vegetable broth
3 c small macaroni/pasta
3 c mixed beans (or 2 15-oz cans), like pinto or black
1/4 c nooch (nutritional yeast)
1 Tbsp lime juice
Optional toppings: sliced jalapenos, cilantro, red onion, avocado

Combine seasonings in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute onion for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno and cook for another 2 minutes. Add carrot, spices, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

Add tomato sauce, beer, and veggie broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in pasta, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 9-12 minutes until pasta is cooked. Remove from heat and add beans, nooch, and lime juice.

Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve with whatever toppings your mouth desires (avocado & tortilla chips for me!).

Link to the recipe as written (includes profanity)

Meatless Monday – Crock Pot Bean & Wild Rice Stew

What a humdinger of a weekend! Guy traveled for work. Wrong place at the wrong time on the rugby pitch sent Teen to six hours in the ER, leaving with a full arm cast. Tween got stuck in a snowstorm that dumped 6-10 inches in about 12 hours on Winter Camp, closed the roads, and provided an unexpected Snow Day off school.

I could barely get my head in the game this work-at-home Monday, attention bouncing between the to-do list and updates on the camp crew. No time or desire to grocery shop (for a hot second I thought about ordering groceries online for the first time), I needed a simple recipe for cozy comfort food.

Out came the crock pot. I had purchased a dried bean mix from Whole Foods’ bulk bins and a package of wild rice from Trader Joe’s. Combined with needed-to-be-used wilting celery, a half an onion, and a couple of heirloom carrots, and we had the makings for a stick-to-your-bones veggie stew.beans & rice

Use your favorite beans and grains and this recipe couldn’t be much easier. My kids love coming home from school to this smell permeating the house; a few hours of inhaling the delicious scent and they happily plow through a bowl (or two) of veggie goodness at dinnertime. In the past I’ve made a separate pot of barley or bulgur wheat and served beans atop grains but, as I said, today I was going for one-pot simple. I haven’t made this spicy, but if spicy’s your deal, then add extra spices for sure. One recipe I consulted suggested adding liquid smoke – and maybe I will next time! I put sriracha and chipotle hot sauce on the table and we add heat as desired.

Crock Pot Bean & Wild Rice Stew
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups dried beans
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute or no-salt herb mix
3 bay leaves
3 c veggie broth
2 c boiling water
½ large white or yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. sliced on a diagonal
2 ribs celery, diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 c wild rice
3 c boiling water

Put first 7 ingredients in a 4- to 6-qt. slow-cooker. Cover and cook on high 1 hour. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on high another 2-4 hours until most liquid has been absorbed and beans are very tender. Remove bay leaves and serve with your favorite hot sauce.
Note: If you opt to cook grains separately, do not add the last 3 c water to crock pot.
bean stew

While the crock pot did its thing, I took the dog on a brisk-beautiful walk around the neighborhood. Step for step with the up-and-down events of this weekend, we’ve had rain, sun, pea-sized hail, rainbows, and crystal-clear blue skies. We may not know what any day – or hour – may hold, but we can be sure: spring is coming.yellow


Meatless Monday – Veggie Chili

A dear friend offered to host the annual family-friendly Halloween/Trick-or-Treating party (meaning, as much fun for adults as kids, including Kitchen Dance Party long after we all should have been asleep) .

This Halloween dealt us a new parenting milestone – Teen definitely had his own plans and Tween, willing to attend party and eat food, felt desperate to Trick-or-Treat sans parental types. Let’s just say this was our first Halloween in eleven years that we did not attend an elementary school Costume Parade; we did not follow our Tween down the street; no Trick-or-Treating for us. Sniff, sniff.

Middle School boys, itching for independent Trick-or-Treat

Middle School Boys, itching for independent Trick-or-Treat

Anyway, Friend said she’d make both beef and veggie chilis. Knowing she had more than enough to do, I offered to make the veggie chili. Upon tasting it, another friend – stunned a pot of veggies could taste so scrumptious? – asked what in the world I did. And I can’t believe I haven’t shared Veggie Chili, one of my all-time fav comfort foods.

Thing is, I kinda wing this one. It always has onion, garlic, beans, and tomatoes. It usually has zucchini, bell pepper, and corn. Because I had some, I added mushrooms this time and they were delish, and will be a chili staple in the future. It has had carrots, but they weren’t a fav so don’t go there unless you feel passionately about carrots. I freely change amounts depending on how many I plan to feed: more than just my fam means another can or two of beans; a crowd means adding more fresh chopped veggies, beans, and tomatoes. Upping the quantity necessarily means upping the spices (but I always start conservative and add flavor as I go; you don’t want to get too spicy and fry kids’ mouths – you can always serve sriracha on the side).

So here’s what I did, and you can try your hand at winging a pot o’ veggie goodness.

Next-day leftovers over half of a baked Russet potato

Next-day leftovers over half of a baked Russet potato

Veggie Chili

1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, diced
2 baby portobello mushrooms, diced
5-6 cloves garlic, pressed
3 15oz cans diced tomatoes, not drained
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can each black and garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c chili powder
1 Tbsp Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or other no-salt veggie/herb seasoning)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp each onion and garlic powder
1 c corn (I use frozen, and roasted = awesome if you can find it)

In a large soup pot over high heat, saute onion until browned; if necessary, add a teaspoon of water at a time to avoid sticking. Add bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, and garlic, along with a small amount of water (1/4-1/2c, depending on veggie volume). Cover and cook down slightly, stirring every few minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, and seasonings. Chili may look dry but veggies will cook down and release additional liquid. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 or so minutes; add corn and cook until heated. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve with corn chips or corn bread, or over cooked brown rice, french fries, baked potatoes, or spaghetti. This chili is versatile!

And, BTW, did you notice? No oil, no salt? Nothing bad for you in this one!

Meatless Monday

Fall plays hide and seek with the Bay Area. Mostly, Fall hides. Oh, we catch glimpses of her as the mornings flash an early chill, a playful breeze kicks up, and the days gradually shorten. If we’re lucky, we might wake up to damp ground, evidence of a light rain or at least a heavy dew.

But afternoons can be hot and blue as summer. The calendar announces that Halloween is right around the corner, and we chuckle and shake our heads as child-like Fall has already donned her costume: Summer!

Last night while I brushed my teeth, Guy decided it really had to be time by now to switch to our warmer duvet. Too warm, neither of us slept well.

Even while the farmers’ market continues to sell flavor-bursting vine-ripened tomatoes, we residents of this mild-seasoned state begin to long for comfort food – soups and stews and roasts (all veggie in this household, mind you). And so last week, when given the opportunity to bring a meal to friends facing hardship, I made minestrone soup. It’s one of our family favorites, full of veggie goodness. Easy to make and even better as leftovers, it also makes enough to share. Add a simple green salad and crusty bread for dunking and you’ve got a hearty, satisfying meal.

Minestrone Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped
3 celery ribs, diced
2 carrots, diced
½ large onion, diced
1 c green beans, cut bite-size
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can each kidney and garbanzo beans, drained/rinsed
1 can chopped tomatoes, undrained
6 c veggie broth
Pepper/Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute/basil – to taste
1 c red wine
1 c dried small pasta, cooked separately
3 c spinach

Saute zucchini, celery, carrots, onion, green beans, and garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, broth, and seasonings; bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Add wine, pasta and spinach and remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

Notes: If you’re reheating the next day, you might want to add an extra 1-2 cups of veggie broth. My always-on-hand veggie broth staple: Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base. Simply mix 1 tsp with 1 c hot water and you’ve got a cup of broth. Cup for cup, I think it’s both less expensive and way more convenient that storing cans/cartons of veggie broth. Besides soup, I use it in cooking beans, grains, even sauteing veggies sans oil, everywhere you’d use whatever other veggie broth you’re using.

And if you haven’t discovered Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, you’re missing out. It’s a no-salt veggie/herb seasoning blend. I call it “21 Gun” and use it everywhere, for example, in salad dressings, and it rocks on steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Finally, don’t skip the red wine in the soup! Use whatever inexpensive but still tasty brand you can find – I’ve used shiraz and merlot/malbec. The wine gives the broth a depth of flavor you won’t get without it. I’ve tried a lot of minestrone recipes, but it’s the wine at the end that really kicks this up a notch.

So here’s the irony: I took a break from writing to walk the dog and, as I stepped outside, it began to rain!