Monthly Archives: August 2011

Vegan Chili Mole


Vegan Chili Mole with Guadalupe, my kitchen goddess.

Don’t you love cheap and hearty dishes that pretty much cook themselves while you scour the internet for the perfect vintage forest green sweater vest with pockets? Oh, am I the only one that stayed inside doing that on a beautiful sunny day?

Anyway, I love chili for its versatility, cheap ingredients and high fibre content. In my first year of college, I had my chili-making skills down pat. Problem is, I pretty much lived on the stuff and it has taken me about five years to stomach the stuff again. Which is really a shame.

I know, I know, everyone has a go-to chili recipe and the world really does not need another! But this chili is different than my regular standby. I was craving enchiladas with mole sauce but my fridge is shockingly void of corn tortillas. Weird, because I always have a huge bag of them on the go. For this chili, I simply used the same  mole-ish spices and threw in the vegetables I had on hand, as well as some pantry staples. As an afterthought, I put in a Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo. Optional, but highly recommended if you are not avoiding soy. This stuff is worth crossing the border for! It is flipping fantastic in tacos and, as the friendly Trader Joe’s cashier advised, in vegan chili.

Rich and satisfying vegan chili.

This recipe is very flexible. Feel free to use different beans and vegetables. I often add corn and celery, among other things, but I did not have any on hand today. I am pleased with this chili, though, despite its lack of green things. Please don’t be alarmed by the long ingredients list! A lot of it is just spices that take a second to throw in.


2 tbsp. olive oil

1 large white onion, diced

3 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder

1 tbsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

1/2 cup water

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 yellow (or green) zucchini, diced

2 carrots, diced

15 mushrooms, chopped small for mushroom haters

6-8 smallish garlic cloves, minced

19 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

19 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

25 oz. bottle strained tomato sauce (normally I would use a can of Hunt’s, but did not have any)

Trader Joe’s Soy Chorizo (optional but fantastic)

chopped cilantro for garnish

Daiya Pepperjack for garnish, optional


Heat olive oil on medium low heat. Add onion and fry, stirring, for 10 minutes.

Add mole spices (from salt to cocoa powder in the ingredients list). Cook, stirring for a few seconds, then add water to prevent burning. Stir and cook a few minutes until saucy.

Add red pepper, zucchini, carrots and mushrooms (and any other veggies you want to use), letting cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and ground Soy Chorizo. Lower heat, cover and simmer until the carrots are softened, 30 to 45 minutes.

Taste for salt and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve by itself or over brown rice. This would be good topped with Daiya Pepperjack and soy sour cream too.

Serves lots. Makes a large pot of chili, perfect for sharing or freezing. 








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Nectarine, Avocado and Butter Lettuce Salad with Mint Lime Dressing

Sun-ripened Nectarine, Avocado and Butter Lettuce Salad in the nude.

I just remembered my recent recipe promises that have yet to be fulfilled. And won’t be, unfortunately. Elly and I did make apricot jam, pickles and thai pesto, and as new (but very enthusiastic!) canners, things did not go as planned.

The jam actually turned out really well. Tart and sweet with a dark caramelized colour, it is a jam of which we are proud. We even made different flavours: apricot vanilla, apricot infused with Triple Sec and orange zest, and our favourite, spicy ginger apricot. Yum. The problem is, we very loosely followed a recipe and the jam ended up too runny, so we cooked it for a long time, constantly skimming off delicious, delicious liquid that Elly turned into apricot limeade to which we added gin and soda. Also yum. It was a hectic, fun and highly unbloggable cooking experience.

For the pickles, we sort of followed a recipe for garlic dills and I hesitate to share that one too as we will not be able to taste the pickles for another two weeks.

Imma pickle you!

And the thai pesto? A fail. Back to the drawing boards on that one.

Anyway, back to the star of today’s post: the Okanagan Nectarine. I don’t know what nectarines taste like where you are from, but these are juicy, slightly tart, very sweet and neither too soft nor too hard. Perfection. The good ones have brown “scars” on them, belying their inner awesomeness. I love them so much that in my History of Chinese Medicine and Healing class last year when we had to write a short piece focussing on a description of the senses, I chose to write about the Nectarine. What resulted sounded kind of risqué. The nectarine became a she. I had to read it to the class and only then did I realize how sensual I had made the experience of eating a nectarine. I won’t share it here, because I am slightly embarrassed by what my stressed-out brain came up with in the thick of research papers and exams.

I recently bought a bag and have been enjoying them plain, cut up and topped with coconut ice cream (amazing!), and today, in a salad. I came home from yoga this morning feeling particularly pious, so I made this for lunch. The result was light, tangy, creamy, crisp, sweet and salty, bursting with a lime and mint flavour. I used a lime mint dressing recipe by the Alkaline Sisters that I found on Green Kitchen Stories. 

I added radicchio because it is pretty, but please don’t put it in this salad! The bitterness reacted very weirdly with the nectarines and dressing. Not good. I ended up picking around it, but left it in the accompanying photos because it is aesthetically pleasing.

Nectarine, Avocado and Butter Lettuce Salad, Mint Lime Dressing on the side. Please ignore the radicchio.


1/2 head butter lettuce

1 avocado, cubed

1 juicy ripe nectarine, cut in 8 wedges and then cubed

1 recipe Mint Lime Dressing (I added a little more salt and water)


Tear lettuce into bite-size pieces, wash and spin.

Arrange on plate with nectarine and avocado pieces.

Serve dressing on the side if you want to keep it looking pretty.

Experiment with freshly ground pepper.

Bon appetit!

Serves 2 generous salad portions. 

This salad is juicy, creamy, crisp and tangy. What more do you want?


Filed under Salads and Sides

Vegan Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini, Two Ways: Mexican and Mediterranean

Mexican and Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini... a delicious result of my indecision.

Change is still in the air, hovering at a polite distance rather than hitting me full in the face in the form of frustratingly full cardboard boxes and lack of internet. While two weeks sans internet was inconvenient, especially in the blog department, it was not all bad. I certainly read a lot more. And we even ate dinner at the table while gazing thoughtfully at the mountains through one of our many windows.

Yes, change is good. Mostly. Moving always seems to result in eating out more, and even though I managed to cook dinner the night we moved in, I have found myself mostly falling into bad eating habits.

The truth is, I love perusing food blogs for inspiration and, in that respect, I felt rather lost without the internet. I also did not do much grocery shopping, so we have been subsisting on concoctions made of pantry odds and ends.

Remember my giant 39 cent zucchini? Well, I felt it did not deserve the hodgepodge treatment I have been giving lesser vegetables these past couple of weeks. Also, I just was not inspired to deal with it.

Then lovely reader Laura Neff wisely suggested I ought to stuff it. I had never stuffed a zucchini, normal sized or mammoth, but this seemed like a good idea, especially considering its monstrous girth. Luckily, even though I had had it for three weeks, it was as good as new.

In typical Libra fashion, however, I could not decide which flavours I was craving. So I made two recipes at the same time. Both versions have the same quinoa base, but I jazzed them up in different ways. Version One combines flavours that are vaguely Mexican: quinoa and black beans are kissed with lime, cilantro, cumin, chili and hot sauce with a touch of cinnamon. Version Two is similar to my Mediterranean Quinoa Salad: I added Kalamata olives for a salty bite, along with fresh basil, Italian parsley and oregano. I am happy with how they both turned out, but if you are using a normal zucchini, I would halve the recipe and pick one version, as this was somewhat time-consuming.

A disclaimer: Jack was not really a fan of this meal. It brought back childhood memories of stuffed zucchini, a dish he was never fond of. Also, the stuffed zucchini he knew was filled with meat, so he felt like the quinoa did not really cut it as the main protein. I, however, found this to be a thoroughly satisfying meal, served with a simple salad of tomato, purple cabbage, onion, arugula and radicchio. So please read the ingredients and decide if this sounds like your bag.

Ah, it’s good to be back!

The tamed beast, all fancied up with Mexican and Mediterranean trimmings, respectively.


* The following is enough for both the Mexican and Mediterranean versions, enough to fill a very large zucchini with a little left over. If you are not stuffing a massive zucchini or feeding a small army, halve the ingredients in this section, pick a version, and add the additional corresponding ingredients. I divided this into two bowls.

1 very large zucchini (mine was bigger than my whole forearm. You could use a few smaller ones instead.)

1 1/2 cups dry quinoa (or brown rice, or other grain of choice)

1 1/2 large white onions, diced

2 ripe field tomatoes, diced

1 yellow bell pepper, diced small

7 cloves garlic, minced

12 mushrooms, finely chopped if there are mushroom haters in the house

olive oil

salt and pepper


Cook the quinoa according to package directions. I used 3 cups of salted water. Be careful not to overcook!

While quinoa is cooking, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium low heat. Add onion and fry, stirring, until softened, around 10-15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Add the diced field tomatoes and 1 tsp. salt. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes become a little saucy. Add the minced garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms, cooking until the veggies are softened to your liking.

While veggies are cooking, trim and halve the zucchini. Scoop out seeds with a spoon, and discard if they are large and squash-like. If not, add them to the veggie mixture. Carve as big of a “moat” in the zucchini as you deem necessary to hold the quinoa. Brush both sides with olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

Divide quinoa into two large bowls, if you are in fact crazy enough to make two recipes. Distribute the veggie mixture evenly and stir to combine. If halving the recipe, just combine everything into one bowl and choose your adventure (Mexican or Mediterranean).

Monster of a zucchini stuffed with hearty Mexican-flavoured quinoa and black beans.

Mexican Stuffing Ingredients:

1/2 recipe quinoa (above)

1/2 recipe sauteed vegetables (above)

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 a bunch cilantro, chopped

1/2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. chili powder

tiny pinch cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Mexican hot sauce (Cholula or something similar. I used Salsa Huichol.)



Mix everything together. Taste for salt and pepper and add more as necessary.

This beast is stuffed with quinoa studded with salty Kalamata olives and peppery fresh Italian parsley and basil.

Mediterranean Stuffing Ingredients:

1/2 recipe quinoa (above)

1/2 recipe sauteed vegetables (above)

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

dash cayenne

1/2 tsp dried oregano

splash balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste


Mix everything together. Taste for salt and pepper and add more as necessary.

To Bake:

Fill hollowed-out zucchini halves with desired quinoa stuffing. You can pile the stuffing pretty high, as it does not move while baking. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. To kick it up a notch, once baked sprinkle with Daiya vegan cheese and broil until melted.

Yum yum!

Mediterranean Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini. Even better with Daiya!

Serves 8, approximately. If making the whole batch, I would follow Laura’s suggestion and freeze it in slices. Too lazy to do this, I am pawning mine off on friends. Excellent served with a simple green salad with oil and vinegar dressing. 

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