Most financial experts would advise a gal on a tight budget (like yours truly) to plan a menu, and a consequential shopping list based on that menu. They'd tell me, "Stick to your menu. Do not buy more than that, and you'll be good to go." But I don't work that way. Really, the only gauge I shop with when I head to the grocery store is the stack of coupons in my hand matched by what's already on sale. I carefully peruse grocery store websites, newspaper inserts, and coupon booklets to find what deals I can stack on top of each other for the best prices. I have turned it into my scientific specialty, and I very often end up saving more than I spend. And that, my friends, is how I stock my kitchen. With that being explained, this particular stew came about by what I found on sale at the market last Friday. I found a varietal bag of organic frozen mushrooms on clearance, organic spinach on its last legs at a great price (it was still gorgeous), and vegan Italian sausages on sale for half-price at Kroger. I already had an abundance of brown rice, and I had a coupon for organic tomato sauce. Sooo... voila! Meet my Spicy Rice and Vegetable Stew, an idea born from the standard tomato-based beef stew recipe and sweetened with an extra jolt of hot and spicy!
1 cup water (plus one can full, later)
1 medium white onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 large spinach leaves, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I used a variety of frozen mushrooms)
1 cup broccoli florets (I used frozen)
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain brown rice
1 package of your favorite vegan "meat" (I used sliced Italian sausages)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
A few shakes of liquid smoke, if ya got it
Dash of cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large skillet, saute onions, carrots, and garlic in 1 cup of water over medium heat until soft. Most of the water should be cooked off before you proceed.
- Add tomato sauce. Fill tomato sauce can with water, and add that too. Stir well.
- Add in your pre-cooked rice, and stir again. Cover and allow to simmer over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until everything is equally hot through and through, and well mixed.
- Add your choice of "meat." I like to use vegan Italian sausages, but ground beef substitute works well too. I've never tried it with a chicken substitute, but I think that might work too! If you're using sausages, I suggest you slice and pre-cook them in a cast iron skillet until they are lightly brown and crispy on the sides, but this is not absolutely necessary if you're in a hurry.
- Add remaining veggies, starting with the spinach, then the mushrooms. Put the broccoli in last - try to keep it from getting overcooked and soggy. You might even want to save it until the very last step.
- Add remaining spices, to taste. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Makes 8 servings.