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.
Stacy Sloan; Chef & Founder of Three Little Birds