Smoky and sweet tempeh Chili

There’s nothing more American or more comforting than a hot bowl of chili. It’s great in the summer at festivals and get togethers and it’s great in the winter to warm your chilly bones. It brings to the mind images of cowboys sitting around a camp fire, of fourth of July fireworks and of great chili cook-offs. Chili is so popular that there are entire festivals dedicated to it and vicious competitions.

I’ve taken part in several chili cook-offs myself, some of which I have won. This recipe that I’ve created is the closest to the one that I remember making for the last competition. I’ve made it very mild, allowing for the chef to decide how many peppers to put into it to add spice. I chose to use two serrano chilies that can be replaced with jalepeños if you like. Using just the two serranos leaves you with a very mild chili that even a child could eat, but I encourage anyone cooking this recipe to add more chilies to their liking, doubling or even tripling the quantity. The other option that can add spice to your dish is to leave the seeds. I almost always remove the seeds from my chilies before dropping them in the pot but by leaving the seeds you can really kick it up!

Another chili that I use in this recipe that is sweet, rather than spicy, is the Ancho chili. An Ancho chili is the ripened and dried Poblano chili. Poblano chilis are the green chilis that chili rellenos are made with, but when they are ripened they turn red and get a sweetness to them. It’s very similar to chipotle chilis that are nothing more than ripened and dried jalepeños chili peppers. When we think of green jalepeños, they are actually unripe. When ripened, jalepeños become red and then dried to become chipotles. In this recipe I reconstitute the Ancho chilies in hot water for about twenty minutes or so and chop them up finely and toss out the stem. This chili helps give the smoky flavor to this dish.

As always, get creative with this dish. If you want it spicy, add more chilies. Toppings can range from cheese and sour cream, to extra hot sauce and onions. Enjoy your food and keep cooking! I hope you like this chili as much as I do!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups of vegetable broth
  • 28 Ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 14 Ounce can of black beans drained and rinsed
  • 14 Ounce can of pinto beans drained and rinsed
  • 8 Ounces of tempeh chopped small
  • 1 Cup of celery chopped
  • 1 Cup of corn fresh or frozen
  • 1 Cup of carrots chopped
  • 1 Cup of cashews soaked and chopped
  • 3 Garlic cloves minced
  • 2 Serrano chilies seeded and minced (leave seeds for more spice)
  • 2 Ancho chilies reconstituted and chopped small
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 Teaspoon oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
  • Olive oil for sauteing
  1. Soak cashews and ancho chilies separately in hot water. We want the cashews softened and the anchos reconstituted.
  2. Heat oil over medium high heat and add onions, garlic, serranos, celery and carrots for about five minutes, or until they become softened.
  3. Add tempeh and cook for about another five minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook for about five more minutes.
  5. Scoop two cups of the chili into a blender and blend until smooth. This will give the chili a thicker and creamier texture. Add the blended chili back into the pot and simmer for about ten more minutes.
  6. At this point the chili is ready to be served but can sit and simmer on the stove for as long as you want. The longer the chili sits, the deeper the flavor will become.
  7. Garnish with chives and cilantro or any other topping you choose.

Tasty and Quick vegan Ramen

Who doesn’t love ramen? It’s a soupy noodle dish famous in Asian restaurants as well as college dorms, where kids who don’t cook, can boil water and have a high sodium, MSG filled meal that only costs about 25 cents. This is not a recipe for that ramen! On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is the traditional ramen where a master chef takes hours simmering the perfect broth. Some recipes even call for the broth to sit for twenty-four hours for the flavors to intensify. Who has time for that? My Ramen is nothing like the ones that are found in the college dorms but it doesn’t require the patience or culinary skills that some ramens require. This recipe is quick, in that it only takes about an hour or so, and it’s super tasty.

Ramen is a very popular noodle dish that translates to ‘pulled noodles.’ The noodles themselves are believed to have originated in China, but somehow made their way to Japan. Unlike Vietnamese Pho, Ramen uses wheat noodles instead of rice noodles. The broth is also a little more intense than the very light and clear broth found in Pho. Traditional Ramen broth is made with either pork or chicken and often times with an egg included in the presentation. This is a wholesome vegan version that uses Miso, ginger, garlic and onion for most of the broth flavor and is then simmered with shitake mushrooms to complete it.

You can’t forget the final touch that makes a bowl like this one complete, and that’s the toppings. I used tofu, baby bok choy, grated carrots, red cabbage, cilantro, green onions, torn up nori and sesame seeds. You’ll notice that I didn’t give exact measurements for the garnishes. It’s whatever you want. Do you want a little or a lot of cabbage? Do you hate cilantro? Make it your own and garnish appropriately. I like loading up my bowl with veggies so I may have overdone it a little. Have fun and bon appetit!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 Cups vegetable broth
  • 12 Ounce packet of extra firm tofu
  • 8 Ounces of ramen noodles
  • 5 Ounces of sliced shitake mushrooms
  • 4 Heads of baby bok choy sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 Cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 Cloves of garlic roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 Heaping tablespoon of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow miso
  • Green onions for garnish
  • Red cabbage for garnish
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Grated carrots for garnish
  • Nori seaweed torn into small pieces for garnish
  • Sesame seeds for garnish
  • Toasted sesame oil for sauteing
  1. Take your extra firm block of tofu and drain. Slice the tofu into thin slices, about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Heat about one to two tablespoons of sesame oil in a large sauce pan. Once it’s hot, add onion, garlic and ginger. Saute until fragrant and the onions begin to turn a little translucent.
  3. Add two cups of the vegetable broth into a blender with the onion, garlic and ginger mixture and blend until smooth. Add back into the sauce pan along with the rest of the broth.
  4. Add the shitake mushrooms to the broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer for about twenty minutes.
  5. In a separate saute pan heat about two tablespoons of sesame oil until hot and place the tofu flat. After about two minute the tofu should be crisp and turning brown, flip them and remove from the pan when they are browned on both sides.
  6. In the same saute pan, cook the baby bok choy the same way.
  7. Set the tofu and baby bok choy to the side and heat enough water in a sauce pan to cook the noodles. Follow the noodle instruction on the box.
  8. While the noodles are cooking, add the soy sauce and the miso to the broth.
  9. Evenly distribute the noddles into four bowls and do the same with the broth, pouring the broth over the noodles.
  10. Top with the tofu, baby bok choy and the remainder of the topping.

And there you go! You have a perfect ramen bowl to please the palate!

Creamy Vegan Celery Leek Soup

It’s not summer yet where I live. It’s spring and with spring we have rain every single day! At times like these all you want is to be warm and dry. The nice thing about this soup is that it’s low fat and low calorie, but with a lot of nutrients. I’ve been going for walks everyday, even in the rain, and when I come home it seems like I’m chilled to the bone and a steaming bowl of soup can be very comforting. I had in my fridge an excess of celery so I decided the best thing to do with it before it went bad, was make soup. This is a light but comforting version of the much heavier original cream of celery soup. It can be made easily in half and hour and feed a whole family. I recommend serving it with a warm loaf of rosemary bread, or a baguette.

One thing you may notice about this recipe is that I don’t use flour or ‘roux’ to thicken it. I used to work with a chef that liked to use corn starch as a gluten free option for thickening but I much prefer arrowroot powder. Arrowroot powder is derived from the tuber of a tropical plant. When you use it for thickening it must first be mixed into a slurry with equal parts cold water so it doesn’t clump up when it hits the hot liquid. Unlike cornstarch it has no added flavor to it. I was never a fan of the slight texture that corn starch added to things so that’s when I decided to start using arrowroot powder.

My favorite thing about this soup is that it can either stand on it’s own or as a starter before the main course. Let me know how you choose to serve it and any additions you may have chosen. Bon appetit!

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups Oat milk
  • 3 Cups thinly sliced celery
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Cup of thinly sliced leeks
  • 1 Cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup of cashews
  • 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil for sauteing
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of Arrowroot Powder mixed with 1 Tablespoon of cold water
  1. Place cashews in water to just cover them and set aside for a minimum of half an hour. You can go ahead and start soaking them the night before if you’ve planned ahead.
  2. Saute yellow onion and garlic in coconut oil until the onion starts to turn translucent. About three minutes
  3. Add the leeks and the celery and let cook down about five to ten minutes, until they cook down to about half their size.
  4. Once the sauteed vegetables are ready, place half of the mixture in a high speed blender along with the drained cashews and two cups of water.
  5. Blend until smooth and empty contents of the blender back into the pan.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients, except the arrowroot powder and bring to a simmer.
  7. Mix the arrowroot powder with one tablespoon of cold water and mix into a slurry. This will prevent it from clumping when put in the soup.
  8. Add arrowroot mixture and simmer, stirring constantly until the soup thickens to the desired consistency.
  9. Garnish and serve!

Pico de Gallo

Next to salsa, pico de gallo is the ultimate Mexican condiment. Translating to beak of the rooster, or roosters beak, it is something we’ve all come to expect when we eat Mexican food. Unlike salsa, pico de gallo doesn’t vary much. The ingredients are basically the same and they are always fresh. The fact that the ingredients are always fresh and never cooked is one of the main distinctions between it and salsa and also the reason you may hear it called salsa fresca which translates to fresh sauce.

Pico de gallo will always have some sort of combination of tomato, cilantro, lime, onion and chilies. Some people may use serrano or habenero chilies but I use jalapeños for this recipe as they tend to be the most readily available.

One of the other main distinctions about pico de gallo is that it isn’t blended or watery like a lot of salsas tend to be. Salsas can be raw or cooked, thick or thin or somewhere in between. It is almost like a salad and can even be eaten so. Because there is so little liquid in it, it can be put in tacos and burritos without leaking out the bottom and drowning the tortilla. The thing that I love most about pico de gallo is the refreshing simplicity of it and all the flavors that I’ve come to associate with summer. You can’t get it from a can because it must be fresh. It is a great recipe to make in the middle of the summer when all of the ingredients are in season and at the peak of their flavor. Just in time for all of our barbeques, pool side parties, fourth of July and festivals.

The easiest way to prepare this recipe is to chop and measure out all of the ingredients beforehand and mix them up when they are ready. It doesn’t get any easier than that! You can either eat it right away or let it marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour or so until the flavors marry and then serve it. Either way it will be delicious.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups tomatoes chopped small (about half an inch or less)
  • 1/3 Cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 Cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons of minced jalapeño
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  1. Chop and measure all ingredients. Use one tablespoon of jalapeño for a mild dish and two tablespoons for a spicier one.
  2. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  3. Serve right away or let it marinate.
  4. Serve as a garnish on tacos or enchiladas, a filling in burritos or as a dip for chips.

Vegan Enchiladas Verdes

Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant I always order enchiladas. There’s not a whole lot to order from the menu if you’re a vegetarian, but they are always filled with cheese and rarely anything else, which leaves me feeling bloated and tired. This is a satisfying yet non traditional version of enchiladas that I like and I don’t even miss the cheese. I use flour tortillas instead of corn so they get nice and soft in the oven and soak in the verde sauce. You can also make them with red enchilada sauce but green was what I had at hand. So we have enchiladas verdes!

One thing that I do a little different from other people is that I like to leave the liquid from the can of beans instead of draining it. The liquid in the can is called aquafaba and has been used for some time in vegan cooking as a replacement for eggs. Usually aquafaba from chickpeas is the one used most often as an egg replacement. It is clear and can easily be used in baked goods. It may sound strange but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I use the aquafaba from the pinto beans in this recipe because I like the way it thickens the filling and almost gives it a creamy consistency.

Since there is no cheese on the top of these enchiladas, it opens them up for your personal creativity. I used avocado, red onions, tomato and hemp seeds. You could use any number of ingredients. I would recommend using different colors. You can use red bell peppers, cilantro, radishes, or vegan cheese if you choose.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8, eight inch flour tortillas
  • 1 Cup zucchini sliced
  • 1 Cup Cremini mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 Cup red onion chopped
  • 1/2 Cup chopped bell pepper, any color
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • one 28 ounce can of prepared green enchilada sauce
  • one 15 ounce can of pinto beans undrained
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • oil for sauteing
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Begin sauteing onions and garlic in oil until the onions begin to turn translucent, about two to three minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, mushrooms and bell peppers. Cook for approximately five minutes or until the vegetable become somewhat soft.
  4. Add the can of beans with the liquid, and the spices and cook until the liquid begins to evaporate and the mixture thickens. About 5 more minutes.
  5. Using a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, lightly grease with oil and fill the bottom of the dish with approximately 1/4 of an inch of enchilada sauce.
  6. One by one, fill each tortilla with about a third of a cup of filling. Roll and place in the casserole dish on top of the enchilada sauce.
  7. When all of the tortillas are rolled and lined in the dish, pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas. It will seem like a lot but it’s OK to make the dish very saucey.
  8. Cook at 400 degrees uncovered for fifteen minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Top with your favorite garnish. I used avocado, red onions, tomatoes and hemp seeds.

Tabouleh Style Couscous Salad

I love couscous! Couscous is type of pasta made with durum wheat that is quick to cook and full of versatility. Originally from North Africa, it has found its way onto tables all over the world. Just like any other pasta, it can be eaten either hot or cold. This tiny pasta has been a staple in my life for many years. If I’m in a rush, I’ll saute up some vegetables with spices and couscous. If I’m camping or backpacking it cooks up with very little effort, is light weight and can be bought pre-seasoned from boxed meals like those from Near East, or Whole Foods brand 365. You can add garbanzo beans for protein, tofu, tempeh or pretty much anything else that you like.

I used to work in a kitchen that required me to make a cold salad everyday. Sometimes I would make it with barley, sometimes quinoa, orzo, bulgur or any other type of grain that happened to be around. My favorite was couscous because I love the texture and taste. It does well with a variety of flavors and doesn’t end up being the bulkiest thing in the salad like regular pasta can do. You don’t have to mix it with a bunch of mayonnaise or oil to make it taste good either. I like to think of it as more of an accent to the other ingredients.

Growing up in the Los Angeles area, I was used to dishes from all over the world. I had friends from many different countries including Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Iran, Armenia and Lebanon. Tabouleh is a traditional side dish from Lebanon but it has made its way into the cuisine of the surrounding countries. I was always given tabbouleh when I would visit my middle eastern friends. Traditionally Tabouleh is made with bulgur wheat but I much prefer the texture and flavor of couscous. When I was reminiscing recently about the good middle eastern food I used to get on a regular basis, I came up with this recipe.

I’m sure this recipe will satisfy anyone who is craving a fresh and flavorful salad. It is filled with healthy ingredients that will make your mouth water but it is also a very simple dish that requires very little effort. It can easily be made in less than half and hour and be ready for a barbecue or a potluck. If you can’t serve it immediately and make it ahead just add a little extra olive oil to it the moisten it back up. I hope you enjoy this recipe and consider making it next time you have a gathering.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 Cups Vegetable Broth or Water
  • 1 Cup Couscous
  • 1/4 olive oil plus 1 Tablespoon for cooking couscous
  • 1 Cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 1 Pint grape or cherry tomatoes sliced lengthwise in half
  • 1 Cup or 1 bunch of parsley chopped
  • 1/4 Cup mint chopped
  • 1/4 Cup green onion chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  1. Bring vegetable broth or water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Add couscous, stir well, cover and remove from heat.
  3. Let couscous sit for 5 minutes, covered. After 5 minutes remove lid and fluff with a fork. Allow couscous to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. While couscous is cooling chop parsley, mint and green onions. Slice tomatoes and cucumbers, and squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  5. Once couscous is cooled, mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl and serve immediately.