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Tag Archive: vegetarian

Extreme Chocolate Chili (gluten-free, vegan, nut-free)

September 21, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

Today, my mission is to provide a delicious, healthy meal that both carnivores AND veggie lovers will enjoy. 

That’s right folks—it’s time to talk about two of nutrition’s biggest topics: VEGETARIANISM and VEGANISM.

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I follow a lot of “paleo” and “real food” people on various social media sites, and I’ve often seen great critique of those who choose to avoid eating meat. They claim it’s “unhealthy,” that vegetarians and vegans eat too many carbohydrates and don’t get enough protein. They insist that although plant foods are important, animal foods should play a predominant role in the diet. They avoid foods like legumes and grains because they’re supposedly awful for the digestive system.

You know what I say? A lot of that is hooey. To be healthy, you should do what feels right for YOU and what works with YOUR body. If you have been successful with a plant-based diet, continue it! If you find yourself tired, hungry, or near-ill dining on tofu and chickpeas, well, don’t eat ‘em! Simple as that. Science changes every day, and every person’s biochemistry is different.

Why could being a vegetarian or vegan be awesome?

For one, it’s CHEAP. When I go to Patel Brothers (an Indian grocery store) to buy spices and obscure produce, there are 50 pound bags of rice and beans with really affordable unit prices. Buy a couple, and you have food for an entire year. My dad was a vegetarian for 24 years, and he saved a lot of money eating that way. Every week, he’d go to a food co-op with his roommates, stock up, and have enough to eat on a tight college student budget. While I am fortunate enough to have excellent meat and poultry at my disposal, many people aren’t as lucky and have many more mouths to feed.

Then there’s meat quality. Many of the vegetarians or vegans I’ve talked to would be fine eating meat…if it wasn’t so industrialized. While there are butchers and online retailers who offer grass-fed and pasture-raised product, it can be inconvenient and tedious to get to. When given the choice between a factory-farmed steak and lentils, I’d probably go for the lentils. Even though plant foods have molecules like leptins and phyates that prevent them from being digested properly, I’d rather take the risk than expose myself to antibiotics or other nutritional mysteries.

And finally…beliefs. There are cultures all across the world that avoid meat because it’s sacred to kill a particular animal. There are people out there that love animals and feel horrible about eating them, or disagree with the unethical way most of them are raised. You shouldn’t be forced to compromise your thoughts and opinions for what everyone else considers “healthy.” I think it’s important to explore lots of different sets of beliefs, but it’s equally important to respect yourself and your people.

Personally, I choose to base my diet off of animal protein, but that doesn’t mean I completely disagree with the concepts of vegetarianism and veganism; in fact, I follow many blogs that feature ingredients like quinoa whole grains—foods “paleo” people would scoff at. For me, these recipes are exposure to a whole other world of eating, and from time to time, I like to explore it. I also love looking at raw vegan recipes, simply because I find them SO COOL. How they turn a pile of nuts and dried fruit into a decadent dessert, I don’t know. I’m there for the eye candy.

When I do cook legumes or grains, I make sure that I prepare them properly to maximize their digestive potential. In the past, I’ve soaked and fermented rice, lentils, and buckwheat to make various kinds of pancakes and crepes, making sure to change the soaking water and let it rest for a LONG time. (When I ferment something, the bowl is usually sitting out for over 24 hours.) Soaking helps get rid of some of the digestive inhibitors, and fermenting introduces lots of good enzymes and bacteria that are great for the gut. While I don’t eat these foods every day, I do enjoy them once every few weeks to have a change in my diet. If you’re comfortable with it, I think you should, too!

We have enough problems in our world. Why should we fight in the food world, too? Let’s bond over delicious, healthy ingredients, not argue over our philosophies. 

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Enough with this chatter and onto the recipe (adapted from this book). I used black beans here to provide some protein as well as complex carbohydrates, and chocolate because, well, everyone likes chocolate. (Except for my grandmother. How they arrived at me, the chocolatiest chocoholic out there, I don’t know.) This one is perfect for a cool fall evening and packing into thermoses for a warm treat at work or school. Trust me, there is nothing more comforting than chocolate chili after a math and history test both of which you just totally bombed.

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The first thing you’re going to need are black beans—1/2 a pound of them, to be exact. You can use any old beans, of course, but it’s best if they’re organic and (if possible) local. Legumes keep for a while, but after a year or so, they can have an old, stale taste. Unless you’re seeking an “aged” chili, I would recommend getting the freshest product possible.

Submerge the beans completely with water and stir in 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. The enzymes in the vinegar will help to start breaking down the phyates in the beans, which are difficult for the body to absorb and lead to clogging up in your gut. (Ever wonder why beans make you toot so much? That’s why.) Let the beans hang out in their vinegar tub for as long as possible, at least 24 hours and preferably 36 or 48. The universe will not end, I promise.

Once the beans have finished their soak, strain off the water and give them a thorough rinse. DO NOT save that water—that’s where all of the anti-nutrients (phyates) are! Pick out any beans that are broken or just a little shady looking. 

Wash out the soaking pot and fill it again with water. Bring to a boil, then add the beans and cook for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside while you make the chili base.

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In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat up 2 tablespoons of your fat of choice (I used cocoa butter to extenuate chocolate flavor, but you can use coconut oil, ghee…whatever floats your boat) over medium heat. Once hot, saute 2 chopped onions, 2 chopped carrots, and 1 stalk of chopped celery (optional) until soft and beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Salt intermittently to help the vegetables start to release some of their juices.

To the veggies, pour in 2 tablespoons of chili powder (I used ancho, but chipotle should also be tasty), 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon of oregano leaves, 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of paprika. Stir to incorporate, then add in a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes and the black beans. Increase the heat slightly, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover for 2 hours.

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At the 1 hour mark, add in 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. You can use dark or semi-sweet, too, but I was more after the flavor as opposed to the sweetness.

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While the chili cooks, make the roasted cauliflower to go on top. It’s my favorite side dish, EVER…well, at least for right now.

Simply combine 1 head of cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, and 2 teaspoons each of garlic powder, paprika, and turmeric. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, toss with 1 tablespoon of your fat of choice (I used red palm oil to give it a nice color), and roast at 400 degrees until crisp and brown, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Ladle a big scoop of chili into a bowl and top with the cauliflower. Then, dig in to your delicious (and vegan) creation!

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What are your thoughts on vegetarian/vegan cooking? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Mon Grand Voyage (and a Spin on Ratatouille!)

June 28, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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One thing a lot of people don’t know about me (in the blogosphere, at least) is that I LOVE France. When I first went when I was 11, well, je suis tombée en amoureuse. I usually dislike big cities, but there was something about Paris’s narrow streets and petits marchés that made me think otherwise. I’ve been back twice since then, and every time I leave, I find myself wanting to return.

I’ve taken French in school since the second half of third grade, but I’m nowhere near fluent. I can write pretty well, but when confronted with an actual human being, I clam up! I always worry I’m going to say the wrong thing and wind up completely insulting whoever I’m speaking to.

I’m tired of being afraid and want to be able to have a real conversation in French. So…I’m going to France for a month to get brave and learn! This time, I’ll be going to a suburb of Nice called St. Laurent-du-Var, where I’ll be graciously hosted by my homestay mother. I’m really excited and extremely nervous, too!

One thing I’m looking forward to is the food. I’ve had plenty of Parisian fare—duck confit, chocolate mousse, and the like—but I want to taste what else is out there. Since it’ll be July, fresh fruits and vegetables should be plentiful; hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit one or seven marchés en plein air and eat so many tomates cerises I’ll become one. I also foresee mountains of olives in my future, as well as whatever else I may be able to sample.

For the duration of my trip, I WILL NOT be eating squeaky clean by any stretch of the imagination. I may look into doing a Whole30 challenge or something akin to it when I return, but while in France, I’m going to enjoy myself. No, I’m not going to eat a massive croissant at every meal, but I’ll certainly try to have a little taste of a variety of different breads, pastries, and dairy products.

Fortunately, I won’t have to leave the extension of my heart my laptop at home, so I’ll be able to take lots of pictures and update you guys on what I’m up to. Hey, maybe I’ll post a recipe or two, too!

In anticipation for my upcoming voyage, I made ratatouille, probably the tastiest mixed vegetable dish of all time. 

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I’ve been in French classes for over SIX years now, and the only movie I’ve ever watched is Ratatouille. At this point, I’ve probably seen it at least four or five times in French and six or seven times in English. And every time after I watch the movie, I want that idealized plate of vegetable goodness Disney so perfectly displays.

To make this dish a little more satiating, I melted a bit of raw Dorset cheese on the top. Don’t call the paleo police! If you’re lactose intolerant and/or avoiding dairy, feel free to take out the cheese…but if you can eat it, I highly recommend adding it for extra tang and creaminess.

This recipe is a breeze to make. All you need are some veggies, olive oil, a couple of dried herbs, and a big baking dish. If you’re sick of eating meat for dinner, this is a great way to work something vegetarian into the mix!

My recipe is adapted from this one.

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At least a half an hour before you want to bake your ratatouille, slice two small eggplants into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch rounds. Use whatever you can find, whether it be graffiti, Japanese, or globe.

Liberally salt the eggplant rounds and let them sit on a baking sheet or cutting board until assembly time, at least 30 minutes. This is to help some of the water get out and make your eggplant tender, not mushy and gushy.

Next, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut two medium-sized zucchini into 1/4-inch rounds and two large bell peppers into 1/4-inch rings. Maybe it’s just me, but I always eat the ends of the peppers after I slice them.

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Set the sliced veggies aside. On the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish, mix together 14 ounces of tomato paste or plain tomato sauce (about 1 medium can), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 chopped small onion, 2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. With the back of a spoon or a small spatula, spread it out so the bottom is completely coated.

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To assemble, put one piece of eggplant with two or three slices of zucchini and a slice of pepper. Keep going until you run out of space or vegetables…whichever comes first.

Sprinkle the top with 2 teaspoons each of dried thyme, basil, and oregano, a good crack of black pepper, and an additional tablespoon of olive oil.

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Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit snugly atop the dish. Stick the ratatouille in the oven until the veggies are tender and beginning to curl around the edges, about 45 to 50 minutes.

If you don’t want cheese, you can stop here. If you’re opting for the dairy, top the ratatouille with your desired amount of cheese (for me, about 10 tiny squares cut from two slices worth) and broil until completely melted, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with a large fork and a hungry belly.

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Next time, I’ll make more…since we had no leftovers. Oh well, at least it was tasty!

What’s your favorite French dish? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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