Super Duper Vegan Chili

We’ve been having mad cravings for vegan chili as the weather is still cool for this time of the year.  The weather has actually been really wacky… lots of rain, and cold days.  The weather is usually in the 80s this time of year, but today it’s only reached a high of 65.  I’m not complaining.  At all.  Trust me.  The month of May just means the summer is around the corner, which means hot summer months.  Ugh.  Such a drag.  So as much as I would like some days in the high 70s/low 80s, I’m going to enjoy this weather now because it’s gonna get hot in herrre.  Okay, now I’m complaining.

We decided to take advantage of today’s weather to make some spicy vegan chili to satiate our cravings.  And satiate it did!  I would love to eat this chili all year around, but the thought of cooking and eating it during the summer when the temperatures can range anywhere from 100-110 degrees F seems torturous. In fact, anything involving the burners or the oven inside the house during the summer heat sounds unpleasant.

Interestingly, I enjoy this chili more than I do a hearty and meaty chili! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total carnivore. In fact, my initial thought before I tried this chili for the first time was how vegan chili could taste better than a meaty chili? Well, let me tell you, I was completely blown away after my first bowl. The texture of the “ground meat” fooled me, and the beans, vegetables, and spices were so flavorful that I didn’t need or miss the meat.  This chili even fooled my dad who says no one can trick him with vegan meat products.  Hah!  Take that, dad!

This chili is truly the best prescription for the soul.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onions, diced
1 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 large garlic clovies, minced
2 large jalapeno peppers, minced
1 large serrano pepper, minced
12 ounces textured vegetable protein (aka, original Smart Ground)
1 cups water
1 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 cans (15 ounces each) red kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained
3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, chopped
1.5 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and onions, and saute for five minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the textured vegetable protein and water, cook for 5 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another five minutes. Reduce the heat to a medium to medium-low (depending on your burners), and let it “stew”, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the bell peppers are tender).

Remove from heat and serve with your favorite toppings!

Baked Chicken Taquitos

My brother and I grew up in the back of the kitchen of our family restaurant.  No joke.  We had our own little study/play area.  It was pretty sweet, as I look back in retrospect.  [The play area, that is.  Not growing up in the back of the kitchen.] We had our own 13 inch TV with our old-school Nintendo unit hooked up to keep us entertained, out of trouble, and out of any danger from the kitchen chaos itself.  My parents had very little time to spend with us because they worked all day long.  Well, except for the fact that they still found ways to breathe down our necks to finish our daily homework assignments.  Ahh, Asian parenting.  So quality time was limited in our family.  As I was growing up, I longed for the “normal” family units that my friends had.  But my parents did their best to spend time with us.  My parents would take us to [insert fast food chain] after they closed up the restaurant for the night, order food, and we’d eat in front of the TV.  This was our way of spending quality family time.   So food, albeit it wasn’t always the healthiest, was our way to spend time together.

One fast food chain we used to frequent as a family was Jack In The Box.  Do you remember when Jack In The Box used to serve beef taquitos (and tacos)?  It was probably during the early 1990s when they rolled out with this menu item.  I can’t believe I’m going to say this, and am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I thought they were really, really tasty.  They were the perfect snacky, greasy, finger foods.  I’d ask for an order of taquitos (I think it was five taquitos to a box), and beg my parents to buy the guacamole and sour cream on the side for an additional charge.  I think Jack In The Box was my first introduction to guacamole and sour cream, and possibly even “Mexican” food.  Hysterical, yet pathetic, right?

I don’t know if they still sell them or not, but I do crave them from time-to-time, like I crave french fries from McDonald’s.  Mmmmmmm.  But I haven’t had fast food since 2006, and won’t start now.     So I’m always on the hunt for healthier alternatives…

Baked Chicken Taquitos (adapted from Our Best Bites)

1/3 cup Toffuti cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup salsa verde
1/2 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons green onion, chopped
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
10-12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Salt, to sprinkle
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, salsa verde, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, minced garlic, cilantro, green onion.  Stir to combine.  Add chicken and shredded cheese, and combine thoroughly.  Season with salt, if necessary.

Heat corn tortillas until soft and pliable, about 30 seconds, on a plate with damp paper towels inbetween and on top of the tortillas to “steam.”   Spoon about 3 to 3 tablespoons of the filling onto the lower third of each tortilla, and roll tightly.  Place taquitos, seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

Lightly spray the top of the taquitos with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden.  Serve with your favorite salsa, guacamole, and greek yogurt.  Yum!

Makes 10 to 12 taquitos.

There’s No High Fructose Corn Syrup Here!… Apricot-Mango-Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups.

I just watched Food, Inc. yesterday, and it’s making me look at food in a whole different way.  I think my jaw was on the ground from start to end of the documentary.  I was shocked and disgusted.  I’ve never really given much thought about how food is grown, how it’s processed, and where it comes from.  I just went to the grocery store and bought what I needed with my savings card to get the best bang for my buck.  Now I’m not feeling so guilty about the $100 I spent for some groceries the other day at one of the more eco-friendly, green markets.  The movie just reinforced the need to buy from local farmers, organic products, and from eco-friendly markets.  It’s also left me feeling the need to eat more veggies, and less meat.  Ugh.

Have you seen Food, Inc. yet?  If you have, did it change the way you buy food?

Apricot-Mango-Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups

4 apricots, diced
1 1/2 cups strawberries, diced
1 large mango, diced
2 tablespoons water
Agave Nectar

Preheat oven to 150 degrees F one hour before dehydrating the fruit roll-ups.

[Just as a side note, my oven did not have a setting for 150 degrees F. Instead, it has a "warm" setting, which I used, and worked out great. Also, as an FYI, you will be using this "dehydrating" setting for about 6 to 8 hours. It may be tempting to use a higher temperature to quicken the process, but you'll just bake the fruit roll-ups rather than dehydrate them. So patience is key with this recipe.]

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add water and diced fruit. Cook until the fruit breaks down so that it is soft and mushy. Allow the fruit mixture to thicken (the syrup should coat the back of the spoon and shouldn’t be runny or thin), almost like the consistency of a chunky applesauce. Adjust sweetness with agave nectar to your liking… I used about 1.5 tablespoons of agave nectar because the fruit was already really sweet.

Carefully pour the fruit “compote” into a food processor or blender, and puree the liquid until it is smooth in consistency.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease with non-flavored oil, such as corn or vegetable oil. Pour fruit mixture onto baking sheet and spread evenly across the baking sheet, about 1/4-inch thick.

Place baking sheet into oven and dehydrate for about 6 to 8 hours. The amount of dehydrating time varies depending on the thickness and the amount of sugar in the fruit mixture, so check every two hours until done. You don’t want crispy fruit roll-ups. When the fruit is dry and no longer sticky to touch, remove baking sheet from oven, and allow to cool at room temperature. If you find that the edges are a little crispy, just rehydrate by dabbing the edges with a wet paper towel.

When cool to handle, carefully peel the sheet of dehydrated fruit and lay it on a cutting board, and cut with a knife or pizza slicer into 2″ by 6″ strips, or whatever size you want. Cut wax paper or parchment paper just a little larger than the strips, and roll the strips of fruit into fruit roll-ups. Store in the pantry in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Grilled Corn Summer Salad

I love that warm weather means an abundance of summer fruits and vegetables.  I get really excited when I start to see corn being sold at the grocery store and farmers market.  It’s my favorite vegetable during the summer months.  I love corn, especially after it’s been slightly charred on the grill.  Yum.  My favorite way to eat corn, albeit it’s not the most efficient process, is to pick off each individual kernel while I watch TV.  It’s better than a bowl of popcorn or plate of nachos.  I know it sounds tedious, and it probably is, but it’s that brainless (and slightly obsessive) process of removing each individual kernel that I enjoy.  I didn’t have time to enjoy the corn kernel by kernel, so instead I made a grilled corn summer salad.  It’s a light and refreshing salad, especially with flecks of basil and the tanginess of the vinaigrette.

What’s your favorite way of enjoying corn?

Grilled Corn Summer Salad

3 ears of white corn, shucked, husked, and cleaned
3 yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
2 roma tomatoes, seeded, and chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup basil, chopped
3 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling vegetables
1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat outdoor grill to high heat and lightly coat grill grates with oil. Conversely, if you don’t have an outdoor barbecue setup, an indoor grill pan works great, too! Just heat grill pan over high heat.

Drizzle extra virgin olive on corn and squash. Place corn and squash (cut side down) on the grill. Cook until the kernels are tender and slightly charred, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cook squash until slightly tender and also slightly charred, about 5 to 10 minutes, turning 30 to 45 degrees to get perfect grill marks half way during the grilling process.

While the vegetables are cooling, whisk together the pomegranate vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob with a sharp knife. Cut the squash into half inch dices. Place basil, corn, and squash into a large bowl. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

For all the dog owners, if you didn’t already know, snail bait is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs (and cats).  Unfortunately, we found out the hard way, and one of our dogs ended up at the emergency vet the other night.  Bella, our pug, was tremoring and hyperactive, although she is always very hyper.  But this was unusual behavior for her.  She looked high.  I started to Google different search terms and found a hit for snail bait.  One website listed all the signs and symptoms of snail bait poisoning, and the first two matched what our pug was experiencing.  We called the emergency vet and immediately made our way there with our pug and the culprit… the box of snail bait.

The vet techs swooped up our pug from our arms and ran her back to the “hospital” without hesitation.  They put us in an exam room and we waited, and waited, and waited for the doctor.  It was only about 10 minutes before the doctor spoke with us, but it felt like an eternity.  We were extremely anxious, and wondering if *we* killed our dog.  It was the most nauseating feeling of not knowing what was happening or going to happen.  The doctor was very informative and patient with the number of questions we had.

With poisons and toxins, it is hard to predict the course of the illness, severity, and prognosis of the condition without knowing EXACTLY how much was taken.  At least with human ingestions, they can sometimes tell us exactly or at give us a close approximation of how much was taken, and we can predict (and I use that term loosely) the course of action with antidotes or supportive treatments.  Unfortunately, we had no idea how much of the snail bait Bella ingested.  So the doctor could not tell us what was going to happen, how long she was going to be sick, and if her clinical picture was going to deteriorate or improve.  The unknown scared the living hell out of us.  But the doctor reassured us that her and her team were going to do everything to stabilize her.

We waited around for about an hour until we got an update.  The vet said that Bella had calmed down with methocarbamol and diazepam, a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety/sedative, respectively.  They provided her with fluids, oxygen, and diazepam as needed. They assured us that they were going to keep a close eye on her through the night.  They even let us say good night to Bella before we left the pet ER, since they had strict visitation hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

We left feeling comforted, at ease, and less anxious because we knew Bella was in good hands, if that makes any sense.  The staff were so friendly and informative, that we just knew they were going to provide excellent care for our little four-legged girl.  The vet called us the next morning and gave us an update that Bella was doing well, oxygenating, and less tremulous and anxious after a few more doses of medications.  She even told us that she might be ready to be picked up later that afternoon!  And we did!  I’m happy to report that Bella is back to her hyper and happy self :)

Fortunately and thankfully, I feel like we caught Bella’s signs and symptoms of snail bait toxicity early enough, albeit she was really sick and had to be hospitalized, has fully recovered.  The cost of the ER visit with medications, X-rays, oxygen, IV fluids, and etc costed us $2000, but well worth it to have our furry little girl back home with us!

We intentionally left our box of snail bait with the pet ER.  Never again are we going to buy that toxic stuff.  If you need snail bait, get the pet-friendly kind.  I hear there are home remedies, too, such as a pie tin filled with beer.  But we’ve decided to make friends with the snails and forego any kind bait, pet-friendly or not.

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

2 heads of garlic
3 slices bacon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top of the garlic bulbs using a knife, leaving the tops of the individual garlic cloves exposed. Place garlic bulb on top of a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the whole garlic bulb. Drizzle with two teaspoons of olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and wrap foil tightly. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the feel soft when pressed.

Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. For large roasted garlic cloves, chop coarsely.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon slices and cook until the fat has been rendered, and the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. Once cool to handle, crumble the bacon into coarse crumbles.

In the same skillet with the bacon fat, add the onions and saute until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to just medium to medium-low, add water, cover with a lid and cook until the onions turn an amber golden brown. You will need to stir occasionally, until done, about 45 minutes.

Add the crumbled bacon, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, roasted garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and deglaze the pan and cook until most of the moisture is gone. Once cooled, pour into a container and keep refrigerated.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of jam.

Lime-Chile Mango Sorbet

I’ve come to the realization recently, with the help of my partner, that I’m a really clumsy person.  Leave it to me to knock over a glass of water at a nice restaurant, break all of our dishes, spill a glass of port while trying to take food pictures for this blog, and etc.  I gracefully, or better yet, gracelessly sprained my ankle the other night.  No bueno.  It’s not even anything worth mentioning.  In fact, it’s almost kind of embarrassing how it happened.  And it didn’t even involve alcohol!  Or sex!  I was taking my little dog out to potty and after he finished, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to bring in the trash/recycle bins with him in my possessions.  So with one arm wrapped around him, my other hand was lugging in the trash bin.  Well, somehow I tripped over the curb, and trying to protect my little pup, I twisted my ankle.  Hard.  It was so painful.  But my pup was okay!  I had to sit for a little while for the pain to subside a bit.  I mustered up whatever pride I had left to bring in the bins, and limped back home.

I don’t know why I did this, but I woke up yesterday morning and decided to go to work.  I’m stubborn like that.  I know I should have stayed home.  But didn’t.  I limped through the doors of work and was immediately bombarded with questions of what happened.  I wish I was witty enough to come up with a great story, but alas, I had none.  It must have been pretty comical for my coworkers to see my limping up and down the hallways of the emergency department.  What would normally take me only a few seconds to walk to one side of the department took me about five minutes to get there.  I felt very inefficient and useless at work.  But I did limp my way through helping with three trauma activations.  Unfortunately, however, with every step I took, my ankle became angrier and angrier at me.  So much so that I had to leave work to see a doctor for evaluation and X-rays.

So here I am today, not at work, with my ankle resting, icing, compressed with ace wrap, and elevated (i.e., RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevate).  I’m bored.  No one is home.  It’s just me and the three dogs.  I’m hungry.  And the only thing that sounds soothing and comforting is a bowl of mango sorbet.

What’s your bowl of comfort?

Lime-Chile Mango Sorbet (adapted from The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz, published by Ten Speed Press)

2 large, ripe mangoes
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon chile powder, plus extra for garnish

Peel the mangoes, and cut the mangoes into chunks. Put the mangoes in a blender with the sugar, water, chile powder, and lime juice. Squeeze the mango pits hard over the blender to extract as much of the pulp and juice as possible.

Puree the mixture until you have a smooth consistency. Taste, then add more lime juice if desired. Allow the mixture to chill thoroughly, then freeze it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes 2 pints.

Reconstructed Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake

I just so happened to glance up from my computer and caught a glimpse of what Paula Deen and her son was making.  I just had to make these today.  But I wasn’t that motivated to get off the couch.  You see, I declared today a lazy day when I got off of work last night.  It was one of those days in the emergency department where I left work feeling a little demolished.  So all I wanted to do today was to cuddle with my two little boys, catch up on recorded DVR shows, and rest.  And of course, it was just my lucky day because I had all the ingredients the recipe called for, so my lazy behind didn’t need to get off the couch to make a special trip to the grocery store.  Although I had all the ingredients for the recipe, I wanted to do more to it.  Give it a little more pizazz.  Make it a little bit more healthy.  And it just clicked… vegan strawberry cheesecake with graham crackers.

These are amazing and delicious little morsels of yumminess.  Wow.  These would be EVEN better with real cream cheese.  I think these might make the perfect dish to bring to a potluck or dinner party.  In fact, these are what we will be bringing to the next potluck we are invited to.  They were really simple to make.  It probably took us less than 15 minutes to put together.

You’ll love these.

Trust me.

Yum.

Reconstructed Vegan Strawberry Cheesecake (adapted from The Deen Brothers)

20 whole large strawberries, hulled
8 ounces Tofutti cream cheese, softened
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons cup confectioners’ powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2/3 cup graham crackers, roughly chopped

Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each strawberry so the berries stand upright. Place berries, cut side down, on a serving platter. Carefully cut the berries into 4 wedges, cutting almost to, but not through, the bottoms with a criss-cross cut. Fan wedges just slightly, taking care not to break them. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the Tofutti cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla until combined but still stiff. Using a teaspoon or pastry bag with decorative tip, fill the strawberries with the cream cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, place chopped graham crackers on top of the stuffed strawberries.

Makes 20 stuffed berries.

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