Eating Stumptown

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What is your go-to recipe when you are cooking for a group?  My favorites are roast chicken and short ribs, but sometimes those dishes involve way too much time I don’t have.  Plus, living in Portland means you are likely to run across a vegan, a vegetarian, and a gluten-intolerant all at the same party. Short ribs with a crusty bread just isn’t going to cut it.

I have tackled this problem in the past by making three main courses and just hoping that everyone could find something to eat. This takes a lot of time and, not to mention, money.  So when Erik told me about this delicious chili recipe he stole from his friend, Brett, I was thrilled.  It is easy, delicious and vegan – with some yummy toppings that will please all sorts of eaters.

This past weekend, Erik raced cyclocross – you know this sport, right? Cyclists ride mud-covered, off-camber courses that have barriers demanding you get off your bicycle and jump over, lugging your bicycle with you.  It is not for wimps (like me who is really afraid of hurting myself, being yelled at by aggressive riders, and generally looking like the world’s biggest idiot.)

The best part about the races, if you are thinking about attending or joining, is the atmosphere.  Tents line up along the course, cheering riders on with cowbells and obnoxious screams.  There are vendors selling waffles, french fries, and sometimes, beer. This year, with the team’s new tent, we were able to bring a camp stove, chairs, and a fireplace.  It is like camping, but you get to shower and sleep in your bed at night. Awesome.

In order to keep myself busy (and discourage others from encouraging me to stop being a weenie), I made this chili for a crowd of hungry racers and spectators.  My only regret is that I didn’t make more.

Vegetarian Chili
Feeds 8

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups of chopped onion (one really large or two medium)
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp of cumin
2 Tbsp of chili powder
1 Tbsp of ground coriander
2 tsp of cayenne pepper (more or less for desired spice)
6 cans of beans, drained (I use a mix of kidney, black, and pinto) or 4 cups dried beans, soaked and cooked*
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes including juices
1/2 cup cilantro (plus more for toppings)
Salt to taste

Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Diced jalapeno or hot sauce

Heat olive oil on medium-low in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add onions and cook for 8-10 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in cumin, chili powder, coriander, and cayenne and cook for about two minute. Dump in beans and tomatoes. Bring pot to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of cilantro and cook for another 5. Salt and serve with whatever toppings you choose!

*If you start with dried beans (I did this last time and kind of like them better!), first soak the beans overnight in cool water. You want to cover them with at least three times as much liquid. Next, drain the beans and place in a pot on low (or crockpot) with at least 2 inches of water covering the beans. Bring the beans to a simmer and cook for 2-4 hours, checking after the first hour for doneness. The beans should not be al dente, but also not completely broken down. I cooked mine 3/4 of the way and then finished the cooking in the chili and it worked fine. I just had to add water to my chili.

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Before a few weeks ago, I used to be able to sit through fast forwarding commercials on my DVR with the upmost patience. I used to be able to wait for someone to call me right back without logging on to the computer.  I could read books and peruse magazines on the weekends. But, things have changed.  I found Pinterest and every spare twelve seconds I have is spent searching through photos of far-off places, delicious foods, cool clothes, and, of course, food.  This site, if you haven’t heard, is basically collections of photos that link back to their original source.  It can be used as a style board for redecorating your house, a place to store ideas for big events, an inspiration for outfits, and a cloud storage for online recipes.  Oh, and did I mention the photos of kittens?

For this kitty, and so much more, check out my pins.  Also, sign up so I can follow you!

In one of my many pinterest wormholes, I found that someone had posted a recipe for healthy cookie dough and I had to click on the link to see just how it was possible to make HEALTHY cookie dough – and how fast I could do it.  The original source came from Chocolate Covered Katie, who makes healthy vegan desserts that are low in sugar and still taste good. (Believe me, I know, I too was a skeptic).

Today, after staring at the recipe for a few days, I decided to make it around lunch time.  The recipe promised to be high in fiber and protein, so I figured it sort of counted as lunch.  I modified Katie’s original recipe a bit, including decreasing the amount of sugar, and after eating a small bowl (seen above) I was completely full. In fact, it is almost six and I am still not hungry!

The “cookie dough” was good enough that I would definitely serve it at a party the way she explains on her blog, with graham crackers, or keep in the fridge to munch on when I get the urge to eat ice cream (or actual cookies).

Let me know if you make it!

Adapted from Katie’s Healthy Cookie Dough (just for eating – not for baking)

  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained)
  • start with 1/8 tsp of salt, add more to taste (I ended up with about 1/4 tsp)
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, more to taste (I added 3 tsp total)
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (peanut butter will work, but maybe use less so it doesn’t taste too peanut-y)
  • up to 1/4 cup milk (start with 1 tbsp and add more as needed – she uses nondairy milk, but I used the cow’s stuff)
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar (Katie makes this without sugar or up to 2/3 cup to your taste)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 tbsp oats (If you omit, don’t include the milk)

Add all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. Then mix in the chocolate chips.

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Has it actually been two months since I have last updated a post? Wow! No wonder everywhere I go someone gets mad at me for not writing. Sorry! The last few months have been spent working like crazy and after staring at the computer for 10-12 hours a day, it was near impossible to muster up enough energy to write a post. Not to mention I have been doing some awesome traveling on weekends that has completely filled up my time.

A sunset after a storm in Georgia.

Me! On top of a spire at Smith Rock.

When I am in town my weekends typically begin with a Saturday morning trip to the farmers’ market. With my recent weekend getaways, I missed weeks and weeks of farmers’ market goodies. I found myself day-dreaming about which fruits and veggies have come and gone in my absence. Did I miss snow peas? What about asparagus? Strawberries? Sure enough, when I went berry picking last weekend I HAD missed a season. STRAWBERRY SEASON OF ALL THINGS! Luckily, at the market a few vendors still had them so I could make some jam. Thank god. I almost had a heart attack when I thought I missed making strawberry jam.

I made a couple of types – one regular and another with Thai herbs. The herbs added an interesting twist on a regular jam, but not so overwhelming that it was all you tasted.

I have looked at this Thai Herb Strawberry Jam recipe many times since I started canning and I am glad I tried it. I love a juxtaposition of flavors in sweets… Salted caramel might be the best combination in history. So, I think this jam on salted butter toast with maybe a few fresh mint leafs will make any morning a bit brighter.

Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs
Adapted from Canning For a New Generation

3 pounds hulled and diced strawberries (about 9 cups)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 tbsp of lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped mint
1 tbsp chopped Thai Basil
2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Add diced strawberries and sugar to a 6-8 qt preserving pot. Turn the heat on medium until it reaches a simmer, reduce temperature and simmer for 5 minutes. Once strawberries become liquid-y, place in a strainer over a glass or stainless bowl. Stir strawberries so they release some of their liquid. Place syrup back in preserving pot and turn up the heat to high. Bring to a boil and reduce to about 1 1/2 cups, or about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Once reduced, add back in the strawberries and the collected juice. Lower heat and continue to simmer for 15 more minutes, stirring frequently. When the jam has begun to set, turn off heat and stir in the herbs. Fill sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace and remove air bubbles. Add lids and screw tops according to the manufacturer’s instruction. Place in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

*Per usual, follow proper canning techniques and follow your jar manufacturer’s instructions.

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I am not going to deny it, I am obsessed with kale. I don’t know when this switch happened, but it was sudden and intense… A little like falling in love. I think about the kale constantly: wondering what other seasonings I could add to make it even better, imagining it with this dish or during this occasion, making plans for it to be in my life for years to come. I don’t know what else to call it, but love…

It isn’t just any kale I am obsessed with either, no, it is a specific cooking style that makes me swoon: kale chips. Paper thin, crispy and salty. There is nothing more I want from food. Even though Kale is one of the Super Foods, I feel like they might be unhealthy – they are that good.

I have made quite a few batches now and have figured out a few things. First, the kale has to be completely dry so that the chips come out crispy. Next, it is best to toss the kale in oil as opposed to drizzling on top (and you don’t need much!) Lastly, I think salting them once they are done works best. Oh, and because my sister bought me some for Christmas, if you have any truffle salt sprinkle some of that on top of the chips. Heaven.

These chips have got quite a lot of recognition on the blogging circuit, but for some reason I held off on making them. And true, they don’t taste exactly like potato chips, but VERY VERY close. And anything that tastes close to potato chips, but are healthy, will most definitely be able to keep my fickle affection for years to come.

Kale Chips
1/2 bunch of kale (I use Lacinato, but others will work)
1 tbsp of olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Wash kale and dry thoroughly. Remove center rib from leaves and tear or cut into chip-size pieces (the kale shrinks a bit, so I make mine a bit bigger than normal). Toss chips in oil and lay onto parchment covered cookie sheet (not necessary, but makes for easier clean up). Make sure chips are not overlapping.

Place in oven and cook for 10-15 minutes. My oven takes about 12 minutes, depending on the day. Chips are done when they easily break apart (like a really thin potato chip). Don’t let them turn brown as they can become bitter.

Remove from oven and salt. EAT!

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After the holidays I realized I spent a month eating whatever tasted good, spending far too little time in the gym, and stressing out.  My food choices leaned heavily toward the bacon-y, bread-y, creamy side of the food pyramid and a little too far from the fruits and vegetable side.  I even started to notice that I was craving sweets periodically through the day and found a piece of bread or a little candy really changed my mood.  I think that is a sign that things have gone too far.

So, for the next couple weeks Erik and I decided to do a cleanse.  Basically, it takes away everything fun and replaces it with vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and fruit. The goal is to give our bodies a little breather and hope that all those bad foods will seem less appealing once the addiction breaks.

It doesn’t sound (or look) so bad when I put it that way, but when you think about what you can’t have it really changes my mood.  No dairy + no sugar + no caffeine or alcohol + no soy + no wheat or simple carbs = SAD FACE.  I miss butter.  And the headache I have from the lack of my morning cup of coffee is no joke.

In order to not shock our systems too much, the dish I made last night was filling, delicious, relatively local, and perfectly aligned with our cleanse.  It was a miracle. Quinoa with sweet potatoes, black beans, and parsley.  Gluten-free and vegan, it was a great accompaniment to a salad with a miso dressing.  Plus, we have leftovers for today’s lunch.

Before I go on to the recipe, tell me, what do you think about cleanses?  Have you done one you like?  Is there a point of breaking your caffeine, sugar, god-knows-whatever-else addictions if you are just going to go back to eating them eventually?

While you ponder that, think about making this for dinner:

Quinoa with Sweet Potato, Black Beans, and Parsley
1 cup of quinoa, well rinsed
1 tsp of salt plust more to taste
3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (more to taste)
1/2 cup of veggie broth (or water)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 sweet potato diced (cooked in the microwave or in the oven)
1 tbsp of lime juice
1/4 cup of chopped parsley

Boil 6 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt on stove. Once boiling, stir in quinoa and reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer for ten minutes and let quinoa drain for 10 additional minutes.

Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook 5-7 minutes, until softened and starting to brown. Next, stir in the cumin, red pepper flakes, and veggie broth, and allow to come to a simmer. Add in the black beans and sweet potatoes and cook for about 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and toss in the quinoa, lime juice, and parsley. Stir to combine and drizzle in the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil. Taste for seasonings, serve.

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