Meatless Monday – Spicy Coconut Noodles

Happy Halloween!pumpkins-1642289_960_720

Chili on Halloween has become something of a tradition for our family, mostly because it’s healthy comfort food to warm up your insides on a cool fall evening but also because you can make a BIG pot and share it with friends.

We have enjoyed Halloween parties with friends most of Tween’s school years. This year, however, Halloween is a Monday, a bummer day for a party. And Tween is in middle school, which comes with increased independence in our safe small town, and less need for parental gathering. Not to mention an important school project due tomorrow for Teen and a friend (both were at a smashing party last year–how time changes priorities! And what teacher assigns a big project due the day after Halloween? Seriously!).

So we’ll enjoy chili at home and actually be here to answer the doorbell and pass out candy to cute kiddos in costume. Not a bad option.

If you haven’t tried my veggie chili, please do: easy, quick, oil-and-salt free, healthy and, best of all, Delicious! AND I want to share with you a recipe that has become one of my weeknight go-to quick-fix meals. It’s super-easy and flexible, a good whatever’s-in-the-crisper recipe.

The genesis for this recipe came from Real Simple, an absolute gem of a magazine and a hit-or-miss recipe source, IMHO. If the recipe looks good I’m willing to try and, though the misses occur, the keepers seem always worth keeping.

I wasn’t sure the first time I made Spicy Coconut Noodles. But by the third time–having added my own twists–I knew this would stay in rotation.coconut-noodles

Spicy Coconut Noodles
Serves 4-6

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti (I prefer Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti)

13.5 oz unsweetened coconut milk (I buy it by the box at Trader Joe’s)
3 Tbsp tomato paste (tomato sauce will do in a pinch)
1 tsp chili powder (or to taste – Guy always wants it hotter but, for the sake of others, sriracha…)
1 Tbsp chili-garlic paste

Add-ins (all optional – go with what you like//what you’ve got, but definitely GO for it!)
1/2 c unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c unsalted peanuts/cashews (chopped if desired) or sesame seeds
1/2 c edamame
1/2 c peas
1/2 c diced carrot
1/2 c bell pepper, any color, diced (I always have mini red, orange, and yellow bell peppers)
1 package Trader Joe’s vegetarian gyoza, prepared according to directions
3 green onions, diced
other options: basil leaves, mint leaves, sprouts, celery (diced), zucchini…you name it!

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine coconut milk, tomato paste, chili powder, and chili paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

If using (please do!), saute coconut in a dry pan until toasted (take care – it goes slow at first and fast at the end); empty into a bowl and use the same pan to toast nuts/seeds (sassy turn: add a few drops of low-sodium soy sauce to the pan). Set aside for serving.

If using, prepare gyoza according to package directions.

Defrost vegetables (I always have frozen peas/edamame); chop vegetables (carrots/bell peppers). Toss add-ins to sauce as it simmers.

Add (gyoza, if using, and) noodles to sauce. Toss well in pan. Top with toasted coconut, nuts/seeds, and green onions. Serve immediately.

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 cans diced tomatoes, not drained
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 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!