Transitioning back to vegetarian/vegan has been much easier than I expected it to be. I assumed that I would really miss eating meat and dairy. To a certain degree, there are some things I miss, but the cravings aren't terrible, and if I "cave" at all, I fall off the wagon for a piece of really
good cheese, or a little bit of butter on a delicious piece of bread.
What's most interesting to me is how good I feel. I have a lot more energy, have felt much lighter and noticing other physical changes that make any thoughts of going back to meat or as much dairy as I used to eat seem very much "not worth it".
The other thing that I'm really enjoying about this is opening the pantry or the fridge and using my imagination to come up with some really delicious meals by using ingredients that might seem pretty boring. My pantry is filled with dried beans, rice, quinoa, couscous, vegetable broth, vinegars, various condiments and other miscellaneous items that may not seem very special at first glance. It's particularly nice to be able to pull something together without yet another trip to the grocery store (in coming posts, I'll provide a "vegetarian pantry" list for you to use).
My trips to the store now are short, very straightforward and very inexpensive - another plus!
I had a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, and I knew I wasn't going to be using the entire red bell pepper, so I decided to make a roasted corn salsa to garnish the soup with. In the summer, I would use fresh corn, of course, but in the winter, this makes much more sense. Just don't use canned corn.
You could certainly just add these extra ingredients into the soup, but using the corn salsa as a topping makes the soup feel more special and the vibrant colors are welcome on cold, grey, Michigan winter days.
Black Bean Soup with Roasted Corn Salsa
3 Tb. canola oil
4 c. black beans, soaked 8 hours or “quick soak”
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 2 jalapenos (depending on how much heat you like to have in your recipe), diced
½ red bell pepper, small dice
2 Tb. cumin
1 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. chipotle chili powder
6 – 8 c. vegetable stock
1 c. crushed canned tomatoes
juice of 1 lime
¼ c Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce
(optional: 1 Tb. brown sugar)
Season to taste with sea salt
¼ c. cilantro, chopped
Drain the beans and rinse them twice.
Heat a large stock pot over high heat. Add the oil and allow the oil to heat until it shimmers in the bottom of the pan.
When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and saute until they’re translucent. Add the red pepper and jalapeno peppers and cook until somewhat soft, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add the spices, stir with the wooden spoon to combine the spices with the vegetables.
Take the stock, add about a cup of it to the pot, and stir with the wooden spoon, scraping up the “fond” off the bottom of the pan (don’t skip this step, that’s where all the flavor is!).
Add the rest of the stock, the beans, tomatoes, lime juice, and Smoke Sauce. Reduce the heat, simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the black beans are tender. This will take at least 40 minutes.
If you like the soup to have a “creamier” texture, take about 2 cups of the soup out of the pot and use an immersion blender to blend it. You may need to thin this with some vegetable stock. Add this puree back into the soup and stir to combine.
Adjust the seasoning with salt to taste. Stir in the cilantro. If you think it’s too spicy, you may want to add 1 Tb. of brown sugar.
Roasted Corn Salsa
1 (10 oz.) bag Earthbound Farms Organic Corn Kernels
¼ red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, small dice
½ jalapeno pepper
1 – 2 Tb. cilantro
½ lime, juiced
Sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a half sheet pan with cooking spray.
Spread the corn kernels out onto the sheet pan and spray with some cooking spray. Roast them in the oven until nicely golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Combine the corn with all of the other ingredients and season with salt.
Set aside until the soup is finished. When the soup is done, top the soup with some of the corn salsa.
It's been too long! Caught up in the daily details of running TLB, it was hard to find the time to write the blog. In many ways, the business has changed - I no longer offer retail sales and my product is only available in wholesale food service now, which I understand has been a disappointment for many of you.
That being the case, it seemed incongruent to update the blog and Facebook page as if there were stories and experiences that someone would want to read about in that "social", conversational way. This made the blog seem like a self-indulgence, rather than a resource, which I always wanted it to be.
Recently, though, I've taken on a project, unrelated to TLB, but "foodie", nonetheless, that I decided I'd like to share with you, our food-loving friends. Many years ago, disenchanted with the daily grind of restaurant prep and execution of recipes I had been making and eating for years, I made the decision to go vegetarian. It was so exciting to learn how to cook all over again, without the benefit of simple, go-to flavor enhancers like butter, cream, BACON. A new world had opened up to this young culinarian and I was hooked.
After 3 years, I went vegan, just to make it a little more of a challenge - and to keep it interesting. At the time, I was working at Whole Foods Market as their Community Relations Specialist and found it was easy to be vegetarian or vegan because we were in an all-natural, vegan, special diet paradise, but I struggled when I left to accept a position with another company, and eventually went back to my omnivore ways.
As time passed, I remembered how good, whole and healthy I felt when I wasn't eating animal products, and after practicing yoga and receiving my RYT 200, I started to soak up all I could learn about Ayurveda. With this new information, I was inspired to adopt my vegetarian/vegan lifestyle again and am enjoying the art of cooking at home, which had become a very dull and unenjoyable task.
On Sunday, into my kitchen I went. The fridge was stocked with tons of fresh produce, the pantry filled with vegan friendly staples, and I watched Scandal on Netflix (I KNOW! - Guys, bear with me -THAT is my guiltiest indulgence right now). Instagramming as I went, some friends asked for recipes and I really don't have anywhere else to put them, so - we'll put them here.
I hope you'll overlook the "un-TLB-ness" of it all, and just enjoy the journey as I transition back to vegan, missing Haloumi cheese with every step. Don't hold me to any standards yet - I might cave, temporarily fall of the wagon and succumb to a Taco Tuesday, or something, but I'm giving it my best effort.
I hope you'll enjoy one of the recipes I created on Sunday. I made some adaptations from a recipe that was created by a friend of mine, Marna, who's an amazing chef in her own rite.
Quick plug for a product that appears in this recipe - Street Eatzz 313 Foodie Sauce and Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce. Check them out at http://streeteatzz.com/
Do yourself a favor and get some! And, don't attempt this recipe without the Smoke sauce - it just won't be the same. The "Smoke", as it's often referred to, rounds out the acidity and the spiciness of the curry. It really does pull the whole dish together.
Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes & Spinach.
1 sweet potato, medium dice
1 Tb. canola oil
1 Tb. garlic, minced
3 Tb. canola oil
1 Tb. fresh ginger, grated
1 onion, small dice
2 Tb. curry powder
2 Tb. garam Masala
1 qt. vegetable stock
2 c. French Green Lentils
1 bay leaf
½ c. fresh salsa, drained
5 oz. baby spinach
¼ c. Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce
1 Tb. apple cider vinegar
sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a half sheet pan with cooking spray.
Toss the sweet potatoes with 1 Tb. of canola oil and place the cubed sweet potatoes on the sheet tray. Roast until caramelized, stirring occasionally. When the potatoes are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and set aside.
While the potatoes are in the oven, heat a large saucepan and add the oil and heat until the oil shimmers. Saute the garlic, ginger, and onion. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Return the pan to the heat and deglaze the pan with some of the vegetable stock. Use a wooden spoon to release the fond from the bottom of the pan (that’s where the flavor is!). Use a whisk to incorporate the curry powder, and garam masala and then add the rest of the stock.
Add the lentils and the bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Once the lentils and stock come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until the stock has been absorbed into the lentils and the lentils are plump, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the stove and place the lentils in a large mixing bowl. Remove the bay leaf.
Use this saucepan to wilt the spinach: spray the bottom of the pan with cooking spray. Return to the stove and add the spinach. Wilt. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Combine the lentils with the Street Eatzz Smoke Sauce and apple cider vinegar. Add the sweet potatoes, onion and garlic mixture, spinach, salsa. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.
This dish can be enjoyed by itself or you can serve it with basmati rice.
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds