Quick and Dirty Lentil Chili Template

I had several requests on Facebook for my chili recipe when I mentioned I was making Lentil Chili with Sweet Potatoes. I didn’t actually follow a recipe – I just made it as I went along, so here’s how I did it, with some notes on ways you might embellish or modify the recipe. Do use the sweet potatoes if you have some – they are amazing in chili.


OK, y’all. I have about 3 minutes before I need to pull a batch of whole wheat sourdough everything bagels out of the oven, so here’s the recipe as I made it:

1. Take inventory of your bean cabinet. I’m sure you have one. Move the several varieties of lentils from the plastic containers they’re in to glass jars. Whatever won’t fit – sort and wash and set aside for the soup pot. (I probably used a total of about 1 cup of several types – green and black and split red and yellow and some mung beans. Any small bean that doesn’t need soaking will be fine, including black-eyed peas).

2. Cut up an onion and several cloves of garlic and saute them in olive oil.

3. Add the lentils and enough water to cover plus another 3-4 inches. Simmer them while you…

4. Dice up a couple of sweet potatoes. Throw them into the pot along with

5. A 28-ounce can of Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes (diced or crushed). Or whatever kind of canned tomatoes you like.

6. Season to taste with Punjabi Chole Masala powder (or chili powder) and smoked Spanish paprika. We like the hot kind. And some salt. Some additional cumin would be nice.

7. You might also want to throw in a veggie boullion cube and some additional water as necessary to keep the lentils from sticking. If you want something more like soup, add more water. For something thicker, add less water, but you’ll have to watch the pot a bit closer to avoid scorching.

8. Add any other veggies you like. Corn kernels are especially nice, but I didn’t have any today. Carrots are a nice addition if you don’t have sweet potatoes. Some frozen green beans would be pretty.

This recipe is just a sort of template. I use all kinds of beans in chili – the more the merrier. Today I used lentils ’cause they don’t have to be cooked ahead, like garbanzos or butter beans or pintos or kidneys do, and I was literally cleaning out my bean cabinet. Use whatever is handy.

When I’m making a more Southwestern style chili, I often throw in a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips or a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder to give them sauce a more smoky, deep flavor. Smoked chipotle chilies are also good.

Have fun!

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Good Shepherd’s Pie (Tempeh & Mushroom)

Last night, it was a bit blustery here in Atlanta. It was also our last opportunity to celebrate Christmas for several months – January 7 this year was Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Ethiopian Coptic Christians also celebrate then, and all the women at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market were in their festive Christmas dresses yesterday (mostly white with gold trim). In honor of this last Christmas feasting for awhile, I made a vegan Shepherd’s Pie filled with mushrooms, tempeh, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), carrots, peas, and a bit of fresh thyme. (The Coptic Christians would consider this “fasting” because it’s vegan. It’s feasting to us!)

I served this with a simple salad (see below) and Triple Chocolate Brownies served with coconut milk ice cream (Purely Decadent Brand). A feast indeed.

Good Shepherd’s Pie
Serves 8 (one 9X13 or 1/2 hotel pan)
This is gluten-free is you use wheat-free tamari instead of standard soy sauce

about 6 or 7 medium russet potatoes
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup Earth Balance non-hydrogenated spread
salt and pepper to taste

2 packages (1 pound) tempeh, cubed (I like Light Life’s Garden Veggie variety)
1/2 cup olive oil (divided)
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced (your favorite variety)
1 celery stalk, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or 2 15 oz cans)
1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce (tamari)
1/4 cup dry white (or red) wine, optional
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in
2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a 9 X 13 inch pan or something similar in size (or two 8 X 8 square pans). You can spray up near the top of the pan to make the potato crust easier to clean up, but no big deal either way.

Peel the potatoes and quarter them. Put the potatoes into a saucepan and cover with water. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a low boil/high simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until tender enough to pierce easily with a fork.

While the potatoes are cooking, chop the tempeh into small cubes (1/2 inch across or so). Fry up in some olive oil until browned all over. Pour the tempeh into the pan(s) and set aside. In the same pan (no need to wash it yet), add some more olive oil and saute the onion and garlic. When it starts to color a bit, add the mushrooms, carrots, and celery.

Cook until the mushrooms give up their liquid, and it begins to evaporate. The onions and garlic should be beautifully browned by now.

Add the soy sauce. Mix together the cornstarch and cold water and add the mixture. Cook until the gravy starts to thicken.

Add the garbanzo beans. Use the potato masher to smash them up a bit into the gravy. Add the peas, fresh thyme, and parsley (if using) and take the pan off the stove.

Pour this mixture into the pan with the tempeh. Stir the tempeh up into the mix.

By now, the potatoes have cooked. Drain them, and mash them with a potato masher, stirring in the soy milk and Earth Balance, salt, and pepper. They should be like delicious mashed potatoes – a bit rich and buttery. Add more soy milk if necessary to make them spreadable.

Spread the potatoes across the top of the casserole, adding a few swirls with the spatula. Pop the dish into the oven (you might want to put a cookie sheet beneath it to catch drips), and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the potatoes are beginning to turn golden on top of the swirled bits.

Serve hot, with a salad or something green.

Asian Pear Salad
mixed salad greens to cover four salad plates
one Asian pear (apple-pear or nashi), diced
1 cup of fresh blueberries or the seeds of a pomegranate
1 small or 1/2 long cucumber, diced

Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing:
1 tablespoon mustard (dijon, whole grain, etc.)
2 tablespoons wine vinegar (I used raspberry flavored)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

whisk together and drizzle over salads. Add salt and pepper as desired.


Filed under entrees, gluten-free, herbs, soy, Uncategorized

Apple Crisp (raw, easy, gluten-free, and delicious)

Raw Apple Crisp
Hey, y’all! Sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’ve been busy with other things, and also doing some tweaking of my own eating habits. I’ve discovered, much to my dismay, that gluten and I aren’t really friends. I can eat small amounts of gluten, but consuming it regularly doesn’t really do my body any favors. So, it’s a really good thing that I quit baking professionally when I did and went to massage school!

While there, I shared this raw Apple Crisp with my fellow students, and our anatomy/physiology teacher who was a raw foods enthusiast. There were cheers all ’round. It is really wonderful! It’s easy, sweet, satisfying, and doesn’t taste “raw” at all. I highly recommend it as an antidote to all the buttery, gluten-laden “treats” being foisted on all and sundry during the holiday season. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m sure this would be fantastic with some dried cranberries standing in for some of the raisins…

From the book Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People by Jennifer Cornbleet (Book Publishing Company, 2005).

Apple Crisp

Yield: one 8-inch crisp, 8 servings

2 apples, peeled* and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 apples, peeled* and chopped
1/2 cup pitted medjool dates, soaked 10-30 minutes in warm water
1/2 cup raisins, soaked 10-30 minutes in warm water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups Crumble Topping (see recipe below)

Toss the sliced apples with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and set aside. Place the chopped apples, dates, raisins, cinnamon, and the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade and process until smooth. Remove from the food processor and mix with the sliced apples.

To assemble the crisp, press 1/2 cup of the Crumble Topping into an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Spread the apple filling on top using a rubber spatula. Chill at least 1 hour.
Raw Apple Crisp in progress

Using your hands, knead pieces of the remaining 1 1/2 cups of the Crumble Topping until they stick together. Lay these pieces of topping on the apple filling to form a cobbled appearance, allowing some of the filling to peek through. Serve at room temperature, or warm in a low oven or dehydrator (see note). Covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator, Apple Crisp will keep for 3 days.

Note: To warm, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Turn off the oven, insert the Apple Crisp, and warm for 15 minutes. Alternatively, heat the Apple Crisp for 30 minutes in a food dehydrator set at 105 degrees F.

*Lisa’s notes: I use organic Pink Lady apples (a sweet-tart variety with an attractive and sweet peel) and never bother to peel them. If you’re using non-organic produce, or if you’re using apples with a bitter peel, then of course, peel them by all means.

Crumble Topping
Yield: 2 cups, 8 servings

2 cups raw walnuts or pecans, unsoaked
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins, unsoaked
8 pitted medjool dates, unsoaked
1/4 cup whole cane sugar or maple sugar, optional (for a sweeter topping) [Lisa’s note: I thought this was plenty sweet enough with out the sugar]

Place the nuts, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a food processor fitted with the “S” blade and process until coarsely ground. Add the raisins and dates and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and starts to stick together. Don’t over-process. Add the optional whole cane sugar and process briefly. Stored in a sealed container, Crumble Topping will keep for one month in the refrigerator or three months in the freezer.

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Using Lavender as a Cooking Herb

I love it when mainstream cooks I admire publish recipes that just happen to be vegan. This is a great example. Mark Bittman is known as “the Minimalist” at the NYT, so his recipes are always simple and quick, and quite regularly they’re vegan as well. I’m pretty sure that we’re having a version of this for supper, since I have some squash that need using, and all the other ingredients, including some gorgeous French lavender coming into its second bloom of the summer.

There’s a video of Bittman preparing this on today’s NYT homepage, but I haven’t quite figured out how to blog that. Those videos might be ephemeral, but if you’re reading this close to the publication date (Aug 27, ’08), check out the NYT homepage (www.nytimes.com). It’s the second video in the queue.
Don’t Let the Lavender Punch You in the Nose
Pasta with Shredded Vegetables and Lavender

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Star Spangled Breakfast

Star Spangled Breakfast, originally uploaded by teeveeolantern.

Crispy 100% Whole Wheat Waffles with Mimicreme Ice Cream, Blueberries, and Strawberries

Lisa’s Basic Vegan Waffles
This is a very basic, plain waffle. If you use unbleached flour, it is very light in color and texture. Adding whole wheat pastry flour helps give it a bit more “presence”. I like a 50/50 blend of unbleached and whole wheat pastry flour in these, as I do in most pastries. I have found that 100% whole wheat pastry flour makes really great, light pastries – better than a 50/50 blend.  These waffles were 100% whole wheat and they were feather light!  Feel free to change the flavoring extract, or leave it out altogether. The sugar is also optional, but it helps with browning.

Recipe By Lisa T. Bennett
Serves 6 if they’re polite and not too ravenous
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

2 cups soy milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 cups flour,(unbleached all-purpose, whole wheat pastry, or a combination)
1 tablespoon unbleached sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Pre-heat your waffle iron per directions. Set it on “medium” to begin with, until you see how your first waffle turns out.

Mix wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Lightly whisk wet into dry. (Don’t worry if there are a few small lumps.) The batter should be like a medium pancake batter. Spray waffle iron with non-stick pan spray. Ladle the batter onto your waffle iron and close lid. Bake for 5 minutes and test. If you can’t get the lid open easily, let it bake for another minute and try again. Remove waffle when it is golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately with desired toppings.

Note: the five-minute timing works perfectly for my very ancient standard waffle iron. Newer ones might bake faster.

For more waffle recipes and an article on the whys and wherefores of waffles, see the May 2005 article in the sidebar.

About that “homemade” ice cream….I used Sweetened Mimic Creme from Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe. I added a bit of vanilla extract, but otherwise, I poured about 2 cups of straight Sweetened Mimic Creme into my Cuisinart ice cream maker (one of those with the pre-frozen sleeves), and it worked like a charm. The ice cream “churned” in about the time it took me to dust off the waffle iron and mix up the waffle batter. The Mimic Creme is a cashew-based ice cream/dessert mix, so it has a bit of a nutty flavor, but we like that, so it was a hit at our house.

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Breakfast Links

Breakfast Links, originally uploaded by teeveeolantern.

The Italian sausages got a makeover with Southern sausage spices, and I formed them into little breakfast-sized links. After steaming them, I fried them up crispy in (what else?) more olive oil.

Instead of all the Italian spices, I used ground sage, a little ground ginger, a bit of allspice, a little thyme and marjoram. I still used a good bit of garlic, coarse ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes, since we like our sausage spicy.

I used 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) of dough to make each small breakfast link sized sausage, wrapped them in foil, steamed them for 15 minutes, and then fried up the cooled links in olive oil to make them crisp and golden.

One recipe that usually makes 8 large Italian sausages makes between 28 – 32 breakfast links.


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Cream(y) Gravy

Cream(y) Gravy, originally uploaded by teeveeolantern.

I used the crusty bits from the fried tomatoes and the olive oil left in the pan to make a “cream” gravy. I poured in some unsweetened cashew milk (you can use soy milk, but make sure it’s unsweetened), a bit of flour, and a little soy sauce. Yummy. If you’d like a more complete vegan gravy recipe, here’s a delicious one:

The Grit Yeast Gravy
Recipe from The Grit Cookbook, by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer
Serves 8
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

1 cup vegan margarine (Earth Balance preferred)
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup flaked nutritional yeast flakes
2 cups regular (not reduced fat) soymilk (unsweetened is best)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 3/4 cups hot water
2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, melt margarine completely. Stir in flour and yeast until blended and continue to heat roux until mixture begins to bubble. Use only enough heat to maintain vigorous bubbling, whisking constantly for 4 minutes. This is the time required to cook the flour to smoothness, and vigorous whisking is important to avoid burning.

Continue rapid, thorough whisking and add soymilk gradually. The mixture will quickly become thick and custard-like. Combine soy sauce, water, and Worcestershire sauce and add to gravy gradually. Blend well after every addition and do not add liquid so rapidly that gravy is very thin. If gravy does become too thin from the addition of too much liquid, continued cooking will thicken it.

Note from the book: Truly a Grit favorite. Our yeast gravy instills cravings in devotees who are denied it even briefly. People dig it! It lends stunningly un-vegetarian flavor to fellow Grit dishes such as our Collard Greens and Chicken Salad-Style Tofu. This recipe is easily halved.

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