Mid-Winter Chili: Vegan Style

It's amazing how things can change in just a couple of weeks. The birds have come out of hibernation and we've been graced with bright, sunny days! Spring is indeed coming!

It’s amazing how things can change in just a couple of weeks. The birds have come out of hibernation and we’ve been graced with bright, sunny days! Spring is indeed coming!

In an effort to wile way the long winter, signed up for a seven-week online class at Vanderbilt University through Coursera: “Nutrition, Health and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights,” taught by Jamie Pope, MS, RD LDN. Each week has a different focus, and I have been learning even more about nutrition, food labeling, supplements, and more to add to my cooking arsenal. Last week’s focus was on plant-based diets. And in a twist of serendipity, I had made this vegan chili a day or two earlier!

Chili is one of the easiest and quickest meals to make, basically you put everything in a pot and heat it until it is warm and the flavors have mingled. And this recipe is no different. After going to two stores, one of them the co-op, which has most everything vegetarian and vegan, I came up empty-handed on the sausage. So I substituted a bag of Boca meatless ground crumbles, which will change the flavor of the chili (and also adds gluten), but it was still delicious.

This dish is perfect if you have a group of ravenous teens, a potluck, or another large group of people to feed because it makes a mountain! My freezer is full of containers for later lunches and dinners. And for those watching pennies, I figured this cost roughly $10 to make, and at 10-15 servings, give or take, less than $1 per serving!

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Can’t-Believe-It’s-Vegan Chili

This recipe originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Instead of sour cream or cheese topping, go vegan all the way and top with some diced onions, creamy avocado, and/or sweet potato!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 (12.95-ounce) package vegan sausage, chopped (such as Field Roast Mexican Chipotle)
2 cups chopped tomato
1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried ground sage
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 cups Vedge-Style Vegetable Stock or unsalted vegetable stock
3 (15-ounce) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 (15-ounce) cans unsalted kidney beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 cups chopped kale
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Preparation
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients (through sausage); sauté 4 minutes. Add tomato and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper). Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half (about 1 minute). Stir in stock. Combine 2 cans cannellini beans and 1 can kidney beans in a medium bowl; mash with a potato masher. Add bean mixture and remaining beans to pan. Bring to a simmer; cook 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and simmer 5 minutes. Sprinkle with oregano.

Yield: Serves 10 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups)

Total: 35 Minutes

Retro Dessert: Floating Island

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Desk Set.” A little known Tracy and Hepburn film, Katharine Hepburn plays a research librarian at a television network in New York City; Spencer Tracy plays an efficiency expert. It’s great fun and I watch it every December because the movie starts in November and a big scene takes place at Christmastime. (So I was especially excited to go to Rockefeller Center last December to live my version of the movie!)

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There is a scene where, following a big rain storm, Tracy is soaked and ends up having dinner at Hepburn’s apartment; he makes her fried chicken and she makes floating island for dessert. Her boyfriend shows up, suspects their cozy dinner is something other than what it is, and assumptions and confusion ensues. Of course, it ends happily.

I’ve been making this dessert since the first time I saw this movie probably 20 years ago. A soft custard pudding, it has a meringue “island” floating on top. It is a perfectly comforting and homey dessert that takes little time and makes just the right amount for two. I had to research the history of this dessert and I thought it was American through and through,  but turns out it is European!

Floating Island
This recipe, from Betty Crocker’s New Dinner For Two Cook Book, says to make this in a double boiler. If you don’t have one, like me, a thick-bottomed saucepan works just as well.

Make Soft Custard (below). Make a meringue of 1 egg white and 2 tbsp. sugar. Drop meringue as “islands” on custard in serving dish. Chill before serving. (MVK’s Note: Making the meringue takes about 10 minutes at least with a hand mixer set on high.)

Soft Custard
¾ cup milk
2 egg yolks (or 1 whole egg)
2 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. vanilla

Scald milk in top of a double boiler over direct head. Beat egg yolks in a small bowl. Blend in sugar and salt. Gradually stir in scalded milk. Return to double boiler. Cook over simmering (not boiling) water, stirring constantly. When custard coats silver spoon (thin coating), remove from heat. Cook quickly. If custard should start to curdle, beat vigorously at once with rotary beater until smooth. Blend in vanilla. Pour into serving dish. 2 generous servings.
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Turkey (or Chicken) Tetrazzini

Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, I see lots of recipes online and in cooking magazines of how to use up the leftover turkey and I always find a recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini. I’ll be honest, I’ve never made it before, I don’t even know if I’ve eaten it before, but I knew it was a dish of turkey, mushrooms, and noodles in a creamy sauce. So one day when I found some leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer, I decided to set out create my own dish!

Both times I’ve made this it’s been weekend evenings, and while I’ll admit it’s not exactly time consuming, it uses a lot of pots and pans, so there’s a bit of cleanup. I’ve made this with turkey and chicken, and both were delicious (with an enthusiastic thumbs up from the eater of the house).  It’s also a flexible dish, and you can add more veggies if you want. I tried to cut down on some of the calories by using some chicken broth in the cream sauce, so it’s not as rich as it could be but is still flavorful. We’re still in comfort food weather here, so this is a perfect weekend meal, served with a side salad or steamed broccoli.

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It doesn’t appear it by the photo, but there are mushrooms in this dish!

Turkey (or Chicken) Tetrazzini

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red pepper (about one pepper)
¼ cup chopped red onion
1 ½ cups chopped mushrooms

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup milk
¼ cup chicken broth or stock
A splash of white wine or vermouth (optional)

½ pound of spaghetti (whole grain preferred), broken in half
2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, diced
1 Tablespoons panko or breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the peppers and onions, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for about four minutes until the veggies are no longer hard, but are not completely soft. Add to a large mixing bowl.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, fill a Dutch oven with water and bring to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for 7 minutes. Drain and add to the veggies.

4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until it is a thick paste. Slowly add the milk, whisking the whole time. Add the stock, and continue whisking until the mixture is a thin sauce. (*Note: If it’s still thick, just add a little more liquid, either milk or stock, and whisk.) Add the wine or vermouth if adding. Season with salt and pepper. Add to the mixing bowl.

5. Add the cooked turkey or chicken to the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add it to a greased casserole dish and sprinkle with the panko or bread crumbs.

6. Bake covered for about 20 minutes.

A Homemade Valentine’s Day Dinner

I thought I’d pop in early this week to pass along a Valentine’s Day dinner menu for you in case you were thinking of making a special meal on Friday night! I’m not one to really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I never need an excuse to make a nice dinner. Restaurants always raise their prices and they’re usually packed, so I usually opt for making a special dinner at home. CookingVintageValentineSince Friday is a work night, the choices on this menu is special enough for the holiday, yet easy enough to put together after a long week at the office.

So let’s start with cocktails! Since it’s a special night, it calls for making a special cocktail! Care to go retro? Try my ManhattanIf you want to splurge on the juice, try a pomegranate martini. Or if your meal is on the spicy side, how about a margarita?  

You must have something to serve alongside your cocktails! The stuffed mushroom recipe I make is easy, and you can make these the night before and just pop them in the oven when you get home. If you have extra time, this recipe for gougères is to die for, and are best right out of the oven–just don’t burn your tongue! Or this recipe for Artichoke Dip is always a crowd favorite. If it’s just the two of you, you can refrigerate the leftovers and warm the next evening and it will still be delicious.

Soup or salad? I will always go for salad whenever given the choice. You could make a simple salad of  greens but include something special like avocado or my favorite, Hearts of Palms. These run about $3+ a can, so I buy them only on rare occasions. Maybe a few grape tomatoes, a quick vinaigrette, and you’re set!

I always think seafood makes a special meal. You could make this scallop recipe (and forego the aforementioned salad), or linguini with clam sauce, which is quick and easy. Or what about this salmon recipe? Just pop the fish in the oven and make the quick sauce on the stove. If you have a little extra time and money, this Brazilian Stew is fantastic! A bit of crusty bread and dinner is served!

Dessert anyone? If you want something chocolaty, you could make these brownies the night before and serve warmed with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. Or what about gingerbread? This cozy cake is another recipe you can make in advance. Of course, one of the most special recipes of all is Julia Child’s chocolate mousse. This must be made in advance, so that way it will be ready and you can focus on the rest of the meal.

Whatever you have or make for dinner on Friday, whether it’s an elaborate four course dinner or takeout pizza, I hope you can share it with someone you love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mystic Pizza

I took a short hike the other morning. This is looking west to the Adirondacks. I couldn't help but notice the complete lack of snow below in Vermont!

I took a short hike the other morning. This is looking west to the Adirondacks. A weird winter indeed; a complete  lack of snow and Lake Champlain isn’t frozen over despite the cold temps in January!

An addendum to last week’s recipe. I was corrected by my mother that the correct title of the cookies is Coconut Orange Refrigerator Cookies. Duly noted and a correction has been made!

A favorite movie of mine from the late 1980s was “Mystic Pizza,” a coming of age story of three young women who worked in a pizza parlor in Mystic, Connecticut. While I always wanted my own pizza parlor days to resemble theirs (it didn’t), it certainly gave me lots of experience making pizza, which I brought back to my kitchen.

I usually make my same pizza recipe at home, but it’s always nice to make something different once in a while. You might think a combination of oregano, cilantro, and fennel seeds is odd, but it makes for a flavorful and different sauce than the usual tomato or marinara, especially with the kick of garlic. The local market I go to sells single containers of herbs for just .99, so you won’t have to buy a big bunch of cilantro–unless you want!
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Mystic Pizza
This recipe first appeared in the March 1998 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package quick-rise yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons cornmeal
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.

2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 1/4 cups flour, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; stir to form a soft dough.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

4. Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover; let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

5. Preheat oven to 450°.

6. Punch dough down; roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on a baking sheet or 12-inch pizza pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough to form a rim. Let dough stand, covered, 10 minutes.

7. Place a small saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium heat until hot. Add garlic, and sauté 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, oregano, cilantro, fennel seeds, pepper, and tomato sauce; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. Spread sauce over pizza crust; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Remove pizza to cutting board; cut into wedges.