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Roasted Red Pepper and Black Bean Dip

Just like with soup, I’ve found that there are endless combinations of ingredients that you can blend together to form a solid, irresistible dip. With soup, you’ve got your fundamental elements, which can vary to some degree, but will persistently be added for key flavor – i.e., garlic, onions, and celery. Same goes for spreads and dips.

I nearly always start out with a couple cloves of fresh garlic in the food processor (although not much more because raw garlic is pungent). Then I add a bean to create the bulk, making for a nice protein-centered base. Chickpeas, for a traditional hummus, black beans for a color-changer, white beans for a delicate or Italian spread, etc. etc.  Then I go for tahini, or olive oil, or sometimes even peanut butter to create the rich, much needed creamy element of the dip. From there, I’ll decide on the spices, and then add one or two herbs to freshen things up.

Then, I simply let the magic of the food processor take over and do the work. Creating a dip/spread is really a simple process that leaves a lot of room for creativity.

The one below is not too wild, drawing from many of the same spices used in hummus. Feel free to go out on a limb and add in some of your own spices…Maybe those ones hidden in the back of the cupboard that don’t get many opportunities to shine. If you want a safe route, or simply a recipe to follow so you can unwind, stick with the spices below that will guarantee a delicious spread. (Although, I will make you choose between using cilantro and parsley.) If you do decide to venture out onto your own route, trust me, you can’t go too wrong. Just start with a small dosage of whatever herb/spice you’re experimenting with and go from there.

Click here for recipe…

Vegan Bean and Sausage Chili

Whew. Just got back from a 9-hour photoshoot with a great crew of people. The only downside to the day was an icy bike ride over and a finger-numbing ride home.  I’ve gotten so used to the light jacket-friendly days of January that this below-freezing weather nonsense in February feels preposterous.

I’ll gladly admit I’m a winter-hater, but it does provide a pretty good excuse to cook up some chili. Nothing feels better than coming home on a frigid evening to a hot bowl of chili, accompanied by a side of corn bread if I’m lucky.

The following recipe creates a hearty dish showcasing several meat-free, protein-packed ingredients. Here, kidney beans team up with vegan sausage to provide around 13 grams of protein per serving.  Served atop a 1/4 cup of bulgur (one serving), and you tack another 5 grams on to the meal.  Who says protein has to mean meat?

This dish is also brimming with flavor.  The beans and sausage simmer their juices with those of tomatoes, while being infused with the flavors of chili powder and smoked paprika.  Portobellos add that “meatiness” you’d expect from a protein-filled meal, and cilantro tops it off with a vivacious bang of freshness.  This is  F-F-F chili, vegan style.

Click here for recipe…

Classic Black Beans and Rice

By the end of high school, I pretty much thought black beans and rice was the definition of vegetarian. I used to eat this meal once a week. Actually, more like twice a week because my mom would always go crazy with the leftovers. We weren’t really a pasta kind of family, but my mom always made sure to make a pot of beans large enough to feed the whole Italian mafia if she so desired. That meant a lot of beans for us.

Now that I’m out on my own, I can see why this was a regular meal on our dining room table. It’s a flavorful dish that comes together easily and can be put on the table within the time it takes to make a pot of brown rice.

I had forgotten about this simple staple in my life, pushing it away for some time after I left home. In fact, these days it’s not just black beans I’ve been neglecting, but rice too. Quinoa has become my new rice. As one of my professors and fellow foodies once said, “Rice is so 2002.” But let’s not get carried away. It will always have its place, and with this dish, quinoa just wouldn’t do.

Anyways, now that some time has passed, I’m bringing this dish back into my life. Black beans and rice is no longer a mundane staple in my life. Now it’s just an easy and cheap meal that’s delicious in an unpretentious way. Add a little salsa and a few slices of avocado, and you might find yourself with a new weekly meal of your own. Just make sure you don’t go too overboard with the leftovers.

Click here for recipe…

Bean and Vegetable Quinoa Pilaf with Tahini

After whipping up my last quinoa pilaf, I realized I had forgotten how easy cooking can be. When I’m stressed or simply overloaded with too many extraneous ideas to allow for creativity, cooking turns into an obligatory homework project. From outside the kitchen, it can psychological feel like nothing but a tiresome stack of unwashed dishes.

However, cooking’s really no different than when you conquer that first mile of a run. Ten minutes in, and often you’re ready to take on the whole trail.

For cooking, this is especially true with one pot dishes like these, where there’s very minimal cleanup required once you hit the homestretch.

Simple pilafs like these also keep things light and healthy. There’s no stove full of pans to oil up but rather just one pot of quinoa simmering away. That being said, don’t skimp on the tahini when you finish this one off. The creamy component is needed and adds a perfect richness that compliments the flavors infused in the quinoa. Enjoy!

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Kale, Seitan and Bean Soup

I’ve been experimenting with making homemade seitan lately. It’s surprisingly easy and definitely cheaper than buying it from Whole Foods. (Luckily it requires wheat gluten, still necessitating a trip to my local Whole Foods. AKA, I still get to be a grocery store nerd and spend my time window shopping through the aisles.) Once I refine the seasonings and simmering broth, I’ll write up a seitan post.

In the meantime, I’ve devised this soup, inspired by a batch of homemade seitan that erred slightly on the salty side. Rather than let it go to waste, I decided to give it a good rinse and throw it in a soup. Hence why I leave you to decide your own dosage of salt for this one.

The soup was also sparked by some beautiful dinosaur kale that I picked up on one of those habitual Whole Foods outings. I had to justify my liquid Kombucha spendings with something of actually substance, so I went for the kale. It builds a nutrient-rich, colorful base for this hearty soup/borderline stew. For a warming winter meal, serve with a slice of warm, crusty bread or corn bread. And since I’m on the whole “free PR for Whole Foods” roll today, let me add that the WF vegan cornbread is pretty darn good.

Click here for recipe…