In order to fit in all the elements that make for a successful morning, sometimes we want a fast, easy-to-make breakfast. The easiest thing might seem like grabbing a muffin or a bowl of cereal, but neither of those things is particularly healthy, even if they are fast. Lots of sugar, sodium, and fat go into the average cereal or breakfast muffin, and not enough vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Instead, opt for a healthy smoothie like this one!
I love a traditional, spicy chili, slow-simmered. This is a vegan-friendly version, designed to simmer in the oven while you watch a movie, chase your kids around, or finish that report you need to get written. I hope you enjoy it. Since I get requests for recipes, I’ll walk you through it. You can most definitely adjust the proportions – this makes a large Dutch oven full, which is dinner, plus lunch, for two, and several more meals’ worth for the freezer, or just enough for a big crowd for dinner.
Olive or canola oil (I am using canola these days because it is produced in Canada)
2 cloves garlic
3 stalks celery
2 large carrots
1 green and 1 red bell pepper
2 cans or l large bowl of cooked beans, as you like (kidney are traditional, but we had chickpeas and black-eyed peas on hand)
2 cans diced tomatoes stewed without salt (large cans, 28oz.)
1 T/15ml each of chili powder, oregano, smoked paprika
1 chopped chipotle in adobo (or another jalapeno and a bit more smoky paprika)
1/4c/60ml red lentils (split peas will also work, but take longer to cook)
If you’re working alone, chop everything, then start. If you are working as a duo, chop the onions and garlic, and the other can stir and manage the cooking while one chops.
Heat the oil over medium heat. Turn the oven on to 350F
Add the onions and garlic:
Stir and sweat these until they start to get shiny, then add the celery:
You can use a machine to chop, but honestly, the time to chop each vegetable gives just about the right gap for the prior one to cook a little. Now for the carrots – these aren’t a traditional chili vegetable, perhaps, but they have the tremendous effect of adding a little sweetness to the chili, as do the onions as they sweat down more and more.
After the carrots, the peppers, the most tender of the vegetables, come last. Use any colour, but red and green give a great combination. Continue to cook until this mixture of vegetables (the “holy trinity plus” or a mirrepoix) have begun to soften nicely. Now you’re ready for the rest of the ingredients.
Tomatoes come first, then the beans. Stir everything well so you get a good mixture.
Canned beans are easy and fast, but they often have a lot of added salt, which most of us don’t need any more of in our modern diets. We get enough naturally. In the EAT section of this blog you can find a recipe to cook your own; they can also be prepared very nicely in a pressure cooker.
Adding a few red lentils will help it thicken and contribute to the meatier texture some people prefer.
Bring this to a simmer over medium heat, then put it all in the oven uncovered for at least an hour.
It will cook down and thicken considerably; you can let it carry on for as long as it takes until you are ready to serve. Sometimes we will make a batch of cornbread on the side, but it really didn’t need anything else. Enjoy!
I’m always grateful for the opportunity to cook together with friends or family and to have a warm, low-maintenance dinner at the ready. Freeze whatever you don’t need, and remember it’s always better on the second day.
Learning to grow your own food, whether it’s a single pot of herbs on the kitchen counter, or a bigger enterprise, like this, is an empowering activity. When you grow something you can eat, you appreciate all your food just a little more than you did before. For many of us, gardening is a labour of love, and out of tiny seeds, many lessons grow. Here are just a few:
- Attention: some gardeners plop seeds or plants in the ground, water, and walk away. If they don’t see something happening immediately, they stop paying attention. They don’t realize that daily attention will help them learn when to water, whether there are pests or problems, or how to recognize the living things they are producing, at each and every stage.
- Patience: plants can be fast-growing, and beans, or other species, are useful for first-timers. They show themselves very early. This is why transplants can be helpful in the first-time gardener’s plot. The beets and carrots, on the other hand, make us wait. And wait. But we learn they are worth it.
- Resilience: sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped. Gardens teach us to go with the flow. They demonstrate that sometimes we get something more wonderful than we expected, but that there are also disappointments – yet the garden carries on regardless.
- Ingenuity and charity: over-abundant plants, whether they are tomatoes, zucchini, or other super-producers, provide us with an opportunity to research ways of preserving them to eat later. They can nourish us in the winter, when food prices escalate, or they are natural, healthy gifts we can share with our friends and family.
Gardens need not be restricted to giant country or suburban plots. Small spaces produce amazing and wonderful amounts of food. Busy lives mean that parents may never have learned to garden, and so can’t pass this valuable skill on to their kids. Fortunately there are dedicated volunteers like the folks at Green Thumbs, who are making sure the gardening knowledge is passed on to new generations of growers. I urge you to click the link and check out these neighbours of mine!
People always ask why our hummus tastes so good. It’s mainly from using home-cooked chickpeas, which have no salt. This lets the real flavour shine through, and also making it in the food processor gives a light and fluffy result.
We make a big batch of chickpeas and freeze, then pull out a container a few hours before we want to make this, or make some straight away.
To cook the chickpeas:
Place dried chickpeas in a Dutch oven or casserole that is also stovetop safe. Why do extra dishes? They should fill no more than 1/3. Cover with 1-2″ water and soak overnight or all day while you are at work. How much water depends on how long the chickpeas have been hanging around, feeling parched.
Preheat oven to 250F
To cook, add more water to cover about an inch or the depth of the top segment of your thumb. Throw in a few peeled cloves of garlic, and a good shake of cumin. Bring to boil on top of the stove, cover, and put in the oven for 2-1/2 hours.
Cool and use or freeze with their cooking liquid, or aquafaba.
To make the lunch:
Buzz the zest of a lemon with 2 cloves garlic in a food processor. Add a couple of cups of chickpeas and liquid, the juice of the lemon, another good shake of cumin, and a tablespoon or so of tahini. Process until smooth and fluffy, adding a little water if necessary.
Today’s lunch is a new twist on an old favourite: rice and beans. Veggie bowls like these are a cheap and cheerful way to get your five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables, too. We started with reheated leftover brown rice and cooked beans. Then we topped this with grilled pattypan and orange bell pepper, and some diced avocado. Finally, a dressing (for two) with 1 T (15ml) each lemon juice, soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil and 1 t (5ml) wasabi paste for just the right fusion of flavour.
One of the great things about this time of year is the fantastic selection of vegetables. Although it isn’t tomato season quite yet on the coast, everything else on this tray came from our garden: red onions, pattypan squash, and turnip. Diced with our own oregano and a splash of olive oil and vinegar, we roasted this tray for 30 minutes at 400F, then let them rest in the oven 30 minutes or so while we boiled water and made pasta. Half the batch formed our pasta topping, so then today…what to do with the leftovers?
We diced a potato and cooked it in 2c water until tender (about 6 minutes). To this we added the 2c roasted veg, and an equal amount of 1% milk (plant milk would work just as well). Heat until piping hot and serve with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and basil on top.
One of our good health mantras is, “Eat Less. Move more.” In truth, it might be closer to “Eat more fresh, plant-based foods and less animal-based and processed foods. Move more.” Somehow that’s just more complicated for folks to understand, accept, and stick with. One thing is for certain, we’ve looked at all sorts of diets and eating styles, and we know that making vegetables the main course of any meal is vital to getting the fibre and nutrients a body needs. So instead of a salmon sandwich, we knew our Friday fish was calling out for a salad.
Today’s lunch includes greens, tomato, carrot, cucumber, and mushrooms. It could just as easily be a combo of the veg you like best. The rules are, strive for colour, things that can be eaten raw, and be sure to get the leafy stuff in there. We split a 7.5 oz can of water-packed wild caught salmon between two of us, and topped the salad with (for two) 2t/10ml each of Dijon, fat free plain yogurt, and pesto whisked together with 3T/45ml lemon juice.
How will you get more veg in your diet today?
Leftovers can be a great start to lunch, and using them up while they are top-of-mind is key to preventing them from becoming a science experiment at the back of your fridge. This is a salmon loaf from the classic Anne Lindsay cookbook, Lighthearted Everyday Cooking. Ours is an ancient dogeared copy, but it is still a wealth of easy, practical healthy recipes.
We paired it with a slaw of grated carrot and shaved celery, dressed with a mix of equal parts Dijon, light mayo, and rice vinegar.
These veggies are as fresh as can be – harvested in our own garden and roasted within minutes of being picked.
Choose your own mix of veg and herbs. Chop into bite-sized pieces, toss with a little olive oil and wrap in a double layer of foil. Put this on your grill while it’s heating, turning occasionally. It’ll be done when your steak or pork chop is cooked. Not grilling meat? About 10 minutes (plus the preheating time) should do the trick.
…tastes like, “deliciousness”.
On the menu for today’s breakfast:
Whole wheat toast, homemade, with 5ml butter
1/2 sliced tomato
125ml or 1/2 cup each sliced mushrooms and diced bell pepper,
Cooked in a nonstick pan with
2ml or 1/2 t butter
Scramble a medium egg, add to the veg, and cook over low heat until almost firm.
Enjoy your day.