Monday, February 7, 2011

The Soup Project: Black Bean Chili and meal planning

Ever since Oprah's staff took the week long vegan challenge, people have been asking about vegan diets. In our house, I'm not vegan but rarely eat dairy products and Tom eats meat but doesn't shop or cook much, so our dinners tend to be vegan with dairy optional. It's not that hard to do, but when I checked the menus on Oprah's challenge week, I was surprised they relied heavily on faux meat substitutions, like tofurkey (something carnivores usually snicker about and never take seriously).

Vegan Meal Planning
At our house, we rely on grains and beans to build our meals, a much more economical way to eat than packaged processed faux meat. (One exception to this is Field Roast, a version of seitan, a wheat-gluten meat substitute that has quite an amazing texture and flavor and is worth experimenting with in recipes.)

For great suggestions on vegan budget meal planning (or even if you just want to cut back on meat consumption) check out Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson, author of Vegan Planet. Planned leftovers, cutting down on kitchen waste, and keeping a well-stocked pantry are just some of the suggestions in this useful book. Robertson also covers buying CSA memberships, produce stands, and growing your own produce. I liked the simplicity of her recipes and even selected one, White Beans and Lemon Potatoes, to make this week.
Here is a quick look at this week's vegan dinner selections at our house:

1. Black Bean Chili (from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook), Lemon Coleslaw (from Barbara Kafka's Vegetable Love) and corn chips

2. Leek Soup (adapted from 101 Cookbooks), tortilla wraps with spicy yams and black eyed peas and Lemon Coleslaw

3. Lemon-Parsley Quinoa Pilaf, roasted vegetables with horseradish sauce

4. Shepherd's Pie with Lentils (adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook), green salad and grilled garlic toast

5. Wild Rice and Mushroom Casserole, braised kale and green salad

6. Pizza Party with roasted vegetables, Chipotle Field Roast, (cheese optional) and green salad

7. White Beans with Lemon Potatoes and Greens (adapted from Vegan on the Cheap), cornbread and green salad

One secret I discovered for a successful meal plan within a budget is to set aside a half an hour to come up with recipe ideas and generate your food list for the week. Make sure to also consider desserts. This week we look forward to Raw Apple Cake and Lemon Sugar Cookies with fruit compote.

Here's the recipe of the week:

Black Bean Chili
This recipe is one of my favorites adapted from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. I created it for black eyed peas, but you can easily use black beans like the ones I bought from the Alvaraz family farm last fall at the farmers' market. This chili goes nicely with cornbread or warm corn tortillas and a green salad.

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (remove seeds if desired) or use 1 tablespoon chopped "kick butt" Mama Lil's peppers
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 carrot, sliced
1 1/2 cups dry black beans, soaked overnight and drained
3 cups water
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro, diced avocado, copped green onions or bread crumbs for garnish

1. Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the oil, onion, and jalapenos. Stir, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until the onons are soft.

2. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic, carrot, black beans, water, tomatoes and tomato paste. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the black beans are tender--about an hour.

3. Add vinegar, sugar and salt to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro, avocado or green onions, if desired. Serves 4 to 6.

Stay tuned for ideas on how to dine out on a tightwad's budget plan. Here's a humble feast designed for those who want to dine out but often don't have the cash flow for high end meals. Check it out.

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