Tag Archives: mexican

Pumpkin Bean Quinoa Stew

Did you know that the spanish word for ‘pumpkin’ is calabaza?

I feel a bit like a broken record sometimes. This recipe, like many others, was born of pantry ingredients and a blasé attitude towards cooking. I’ve been busy and, as a result, not cooking or blogging. In fact, for the first time, feeding myself feels like a chore. I have even depleted my precious  freezer-ful of Trader Joe’s packaged vegetarian goodies. Sad times.

Feeling like I needed something wholesome and real, I glumly poked around my kitchen the other night, zeroed in on a can of pumpkin puree leftover from the Fall, and finally the rusty wheels of inspiration started turning. Very creakily.

What resulted was a Mexican-inspired pumpkin bean stew, with some quinoa thrown in for good measure. Cilantro, garlic , cumin and lime come together to give pumpkin puree a decidedly non-Thanksgiving kick.

Tasty and hearty, I hope this stew chases away your kitchen doldrums, like it did mine!

Hearty, rich and full of flavour.



1 tbsp olive oil

1 large white onion, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup dried quinoa

1 19 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or other bean, such as black or pinto)

1 28 0z. can pumpkin puree

1 bouillon cube

6 cups boiling water

1/2 a lime

1/2 tbsp salt ( and more to taste)

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced for garnish


Heat olive oil in a large soup pot on medium-low heat.

Add the onion, sprinkle with a little salt, and fry for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil a kettleful of water.

Add zucchini and bell pepper to the onions and cook until slightly softened.

Add cumin, chili powder, garlic and quinoa and cook, stirring, for a few minutes.

Add beans, pumpkin, bouillon cube, salt and 6 cups boiling water.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes or until veggies are tender and quinoa is cooked.

Squeeze in the lime juice, and stir in the cilantro. Taste for salt. I added more.

Serve with avocado and a sprinkle of cilantro on top if you want to get fancy.

Makes a big pot of stew. I froze a LOT of it for a rainy day. Add more water if you’d like a soupier consistency.



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A Very Vegan Fiesta Mexicana: Chipotle Queso Dip

Vegan Chipotle Queso Dip: The perfect guilt-free procrasti-snack!

This post is brought to you by procrasti-snacks and my brand new portable photo studio and lighting kit, a birthday present from my thoughtful father! Right now, I am supposed to be working on an actual paid writing gig, but when my gift showed up I knew I just had to try it out.

The chipotle queso dip I made over the weekend turned out too runny to be really dippable, although the flavour was pretty delightful. So, you see, I simply had to make it again and do a little photo shoot as well. Oh, the things I do for you, my gentle readers. Although the fact that I now have a lovely procrasti-snack to keep me occupied from the impending task at hand is a nice little added bonus.

This recipe is based on one that is floating around the world wide web and is easily found if you search for “vegan queso.” I made a few changes, however: I used my own homemade salsa, made it gluten-free and added a hint of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers. I mostly based it off this one at Nachos NY, which was inspired by Vegan Explosion’s Queso, which seems to not be posted anymore. Fear not! I tinkered with the ingredient quantities I used on the weekend and today’s chipotle queso is a much thicker, dippable dip. If you want to pour this over tortilla chips, à la movie theatre nachos, increase the water or salsa a little and adjust the salt accordingly.

This vegan chipotle queso dip has a hint of spice and boasts a big cheesy flavour. The best thing about it, though, is that it has very little fat compared to a traditional queso dip. It is also full of B vitamins, thanks to good old nutritional yeast.

The only thing that does not make this a completely ideal procrasti-snack is that it only takes about five minutes or so to make, forcing you to get back to work that much faster. Although, you could always blog about it after.

Insert cheesy joke here.

This dip is best served warm. The following recipe makes enough for a few people to have a snack. Double the recipe for a party!


1/4 cup brown rice flour (regular flour if you are into that kind of thing)

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 cup water

1/3 cup salsa (my recipe here)

1 tbsp vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)

2 tsp adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (a nice thing to have in the fridge)


Whisk all the dry ingredients in a saucepan.

Whisk in the water.

Turn on the heat to medium or medium low, depending on how hot your stove runs. Mine is super hot, so I lowered the heat.

Keep whisking! Seriously, if you do something else for a minute, you will get lumps.

Once the mixture is thick (this did not take long for me), whisk in Earth Balance until it is melted.

Add salsa and adobo sauce and let the mixture warm up.

Enjoy with some good quality tortilla chips!

Thick and cheesy vegan dip for you!


Filed under Condiments and Sauces

A Very Vegan Fiesta Mexicana: Six Layer Dip

This weekend, I hosted a Mexican themed costume party for my 27th birthday. My original plan was to have a “dress as your favourite celebrity that died at 27” party, thinking there were oodles of them which, happily, there are not. So, Mexican was the next obvious choice. I adore Mexican culture and food. And perhaps I have always wanted to dress as Frida, one of my idols.

Keen Frida.

It was so fun! It was an honour to rub shoulders with skeletons, luchadores and cowboys while dancing to latin tunes and eating veganized Mexican-insired snacks made by yours truly. I also made vegan horchata to wash it all down.

The Spread: Zucchini Guacamole, Six Layer Dip, Vegan Queso, Salsa and Guacamole. Not Shown: Tequila Bar (ugh).

I did not write down the recipe for the zucchini guacamole, as I got the idea from Healthy. Happy. Life.  I didn’t follow Kathy’s recipe, but maybe would not have thought to add lightly sauteed zucchini to traditional guacamole! I think it is a fantastic and delicious way of reducing the fat in typical guac. Not that I really care about that. Anyway, I lightly sauteed the zucchini and tossed it with cubed avocado, minced garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Or, rather, my sister Zoe did as I barked orders at her during my “party starts in one hour and I have yet to draw on my unibrow” freakout. I also made regular guacamole for my six layer dip. Sorry folks, I did not write that one down either! It also happened during the aforementioned meltdown. It is so simple though: just mash as many ripe avocados as you deem necessary and add minced garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper and cilantro. Easy peasy lime squeezy!


Anyway, on to the dip. This recipe makes a large (lasagna-sized) pan of delicious dip, suitable for a potluck! Feel free to halve the recipe.

Six Layers of Heaven.


1 large 29 oz. can refried beans (make sure there’s no lard!) or 2 smaller cans.

2 12 oz. tubs Tofutti Sour Supreme vegan sour cream

2 tbsp. taco seasoning (store-bought, or make your own, like I did, using this recipe)

A double recipe of salsa (my recipe here)

Guacamole (I believe I used about 8 small avocados, but kept some guac aside for dipping purposes)

3 green onions, sliced in rounds

Canned sliced black olives


Place salsa in a sieve over a bowl or jar and let as much liquid drain out as possible. This is important, otherwise you will end up with a soggy, watery dip. No bueno.

In a bowl, mix the vegan sour cream with the taco seasoning.

Using a spatula, neatly spread refried beans in a 9″ by 13″ pan.

Rinse the spatula and spread the drained salsa on top.

Follow with the guacamole and finish with the spiced Sour Supreme.

Sprinkle olives and green onions on top.

Serve with good quality tortilla chips and observe the crowd that develops around your potluck contribution!

Yo tengo hambre.

Coming soon: the recipes for vegan horchata and vegan queso dip!

Hasta luego!

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Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Salads and Sides

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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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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A Tale of Two Dips: Hummus and Salsa

Salsa and Hummus, snug as two bugs.

It has been a very busy and exciting few weeks chez The Keen Kitchen, hence the tragic lack of posts. Meals have been hurried
slapdash  affairs, consisting mostly of brown rice pasta, jarred plain tomato sauce and pesto from the last big batch that I thankfully made a couple weeks ago. Highly un-blogworthy  stuff.

Why so busy? Well, I am pleased to announce that we are moving! Just 2 blocks away, our new place is an adorable top floor suite that has oodles of natural light, partly thanks to a skylight in the kitchen (!). This is good news for The Keen Kitchen as I will no longer have to trudge outside every time I want to take pictures of the finished product. It also means I can blog all winter long!

Anyhow, to make amends for the recent lack of recipes, I offer you two solid dip recipes that are my potluck standbys– hummus and salsa. I am making them for my dear friend Nelinda’s upcoming engagement party, and they are, fittingly, recipes that I learned to make while living with her family and have adapted slightly. They are nothing fancy. You won’t find any trendy specialty ingredients in either dip. Instead, they are delicious classics that you can make using cheap stuff from the pantry and are always crowd-pleasers. They are also somewhat forgiving– I always just eyeball the ingredients but I’ll do my best to measure them today so I can pass them on to you!

Hummus: a creamy, garlic and lemon-infused classic.

This recipe yields approximately 2 cups of hummus. I usually double the recipe, as it disappears suspiciously quickly from the fridge. This time around, I tripled the recipe as there will be 45 people at the engagement party! I think a food processor is crucial when making hummus, although I have made it many times in a blender. The hummus will be creamier and smoother if you use a food processor and you won’t cuss as much throughout the process.

Hummus Ingredients:

1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 lemon, juiced

1 large or 2 smallish cloves garlic

1 heaping tbsp tahini

1/8 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. salt

a generous amount of freshly ground pepper


Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until very smooth, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides if necessary. If you desire a fluffier or runnier hummus, simply add a little more water or olive oil and adjust the salt. The longer you process, the smoother it’ll be!

Best served at room temperature.


Hola, salsa mexicana.

I also tripled this recipe, but I usually just make one can’s worth of salsa for taco night. This salsa is so fresh, easy and yummy, there really is no point in buying the store-bought stuff! This blends up perfectly in any old blender.

Salsa Ingredients:

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, liquid drained out

1/3 cup chopped white onion

1 large garlic clove

1/2 – 1 jalapeño, seeded or not depending on how hot it is. Test it.

1/4 lime, juiced

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 bunch cilantro

freshly ground pepper to taste


Throw everything in the blender. I put the onions, garlic and jalapeño first, then tomatoes, then liquids and seasoning, then cilantro.

Pulse on a low setting, such as “chop” or “mix” until desired consistency. The salsa can be as chunky or blended as you like!

Taste for vinegar and salt, and adjust accordingly. Keep in mind, however, that the flavours will intensify as the salsa sits.

Best served at room temperature.

Eat it.


Filed under Condiments and Sauces

Vegan Black Bean and Yam Enchiladas with Mole Sauce

Spicy, cheesy, creamy, rich and saucy enchiladas. Vegan, but you'd never know it!

 Enchiladas, so nice and hot! Enchiladas, I got I got!

When I went to Oaxaca, I ate enchiladas with mole for almost every meal. Not eating meat, I was pretty limited. Nevertheless, I fell in love with those cheesy, saucy morsels. Corn tortillas filled with stringy Oaxaca cheese and slathered with rich, chocolatey, spicy mole made for many a fine meal.

Intimidated by the rather daunting ingredients lists for traditional mole recipes, I never took the plunge and actually made my own. Happily, while perusing the adorable blog, Scissors and Spice, I stumbled across a recipe for easy mole, thus inspiring me to whip up some enchiladas tonight. This sauce comes together using ingredients from your pantry, which is always nice when you find yourself wondering what the heck to make for dinner.

These puppies are vegan and gluten-free, but I am pretty sure you could coax any type of -vore to have them for dinner! They are delicious, and taste even better the next day.


If you or your loved ones are sensitive to spice, reduce the chili powder and red pepper flakes. I found the mole spicy, but not crazy spicy.

Mole Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 a small white onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

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 Hunt’s tomato sauce (or other plain tomato sauce)

3/4 cup water

2 tsp. salt

Enchilada Ingredients:

1 large yam

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper

1 can black beans (I opened a 19 0z can, but did not use it all)

8 small corn tortillas

1 cup (approximately) of Daiya vegan cheese (I mixed the Mozzarella and Pepperjack flavours)


Make the mole! Heat oil on medium-low in a medium saucepan. Add garlic, onion and bell pepper and fry until the onions are translucent. Add in spices and cocoa powder, frying for a few minutes. Stir in the water and simmer for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce and salt. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is your desired thickness. Blend with an immersion blender, if you wish.

Preheat oven to 350°. While mole is cooking, cook the yam. I find the easiest way is to wash it, poke holes in it with a fork, and put it in a covered bowl or wrap it in paper towel. I then microwave it on high for about 10 minutes, until it is very soft. Let the yam cool, then peel it and mash in a bowl with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Rinse and drain black beans and set aside.

Heat the tortillas in the microwave for 1 minute, to make them more pliable and cooperative.

Assemble the enchiladas! Spoon a little mole into an 8 x 8 pyrex baking pan. Dip a tortilla in mole and fill it with a smear of yam, a spoonful of black beans, and a sprinkle of Daiya. Roll it up and smush it into the pan. Repeat until all tortillas are filled and are snugly in the pan.

Pour the remaining mole over the enchiladas, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with a little more Daiya. Cover with foil and bake for half an hour.

Serve with guacamole and Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, if desired.

Serves 3. If feeding a family, double it!

Holy mole!

PS. Thanks to Melissa from Swapmeat for pointing out the sizing issue of my images. I tried to fix it this time around, so hopefully these photos don’t appear stretched for anyone!


Filed under Condiments and Sauces, Dinner