October 26, 2013

Easy Sausage and Three-Bean Soup

We're running a quite low on both money and groceries right now, so I took a trip to the salvage grocery store to stock up on vegan meat and cheese analogs at a price I can actually afford. And, boy oh boy, did I score some fun finds! In addition to vegan cheddar at 99 cents a pack, and the plant-based version of roasted ham slices at 50 cents a pack, I also snagged a two pound bag of guacamole (complete with tomatillos and cilantro) for 6 bucks! I ended up freezing four huge bags of the stuff. AND my favorite find of all was the Food For Lovers Vegan Queso at (get this!) 3-for-a-dollar. Wha??? I've always wanted to try this stuff, but like most vegan analogs it's too expensive for me to just buy one for experimentation purposes. But now that I know how good they are, I might actually blow the dough for a jar every now and then.

So, here's how I made the fabulously delicious impromptu soup you see in the photo. It's perfect for the Autumn weather we're having in Texas right now.

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 package Tofurky Italian Sausages, thickly sliced and lightly browned
4 cups vegetable broth

Add the following spices to taste: onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, turmeric (just a pinch), chili powder, salt and pepper

  • Lightly brown your sausage slices over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan with just a spritz of oil. Set aside.
  • In a large pot, place your broth, beans, and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer just for 20 minutes or so, allowing your spices to mingle and cook into the beans. 
  • Add your sausage and allow to simmer another 10 minutes. You can let this simmer for an hour or more, if you want to, to allow the flavors to deepen, but if you're in a hurry, go ahead and serve it up!
  • Ladle your soup into a bowl and, if you've got it, top with vegan queso and guacamole. Your mouth will thank you!
  • If you can't swing the queso and guac, I highly recommend the substitution of a fresh, hot baguette slathered in vegan butter.

October 20, 2013

Mexican Shepherd's Pie

I was recently lamenting in the Herbie Parents Facebook Group that my daughter is getting sick of all my usual dishes. She told me last week that she never wants to eat tofu scramble "EVER again.!" In her defense I do make it a lot, like a lot-lot. I can't help it! Isa Chandra's recipe over a stovetop-heated corn tortilla with a bunch of fresh guacamole on top is the greatest breakfast known to mankind.
Anyhoo, the point is that I requested new recipe ideas in Herbie Parents and I got a lot of great suggestions in return, including a recipe called "Katie's Mexican Tamale Pies," from the Chocolate-Covered Katie blog.
I am far too lazy to make teeny pies out of anything that isn't sugary sweet and/or doused with chocolate, but I definitely liked the looks of this recipe. So, I took the basic idea of the recipe, tinkered with it and added a a few new things, then casseroled the whole thing and topped the finished product with guacamole.
The verdict from my five-year-old? Total success! She loved it. I hope you will too. Special thanks goes out to my peeps in Herbie Parents for this one!!

1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small package frozen corn (about 2 cups)
1 12-ounce package LightLife Smart Ground
2 tablespoons Homemade Taco Seasoning (or more, to taste)
1/4 cup vegetable broth, or water
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 2/3 cups water

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the beans, tomatoes, corn, SmartGround, taco seasoning and broth into a large pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until corn is thawed and all ingredients are well-seasoned. Taste, taste, taste to make sure it's perfect. 
  • While your filling is warming up, go ahead and prep your polenta topping. 
  • Mix the cornmeal, salt, garlic powder and water in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until boiling. Then, reduce the heat the low and allow the mixture to simmer until thickened, still stirring frequently.
  • Spray a medium-sized casserole dish with a light coating of oil. Place your bean filling into it, then top with the polenta, spreading it evenly over the top.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to sit for five or ten minutes, until bubbling stops around the edges.
  • I highly recommend that you whip up some homemade guacamole while your casserole is cooling. It tastes A-M-A-Z-I-N-G on the top!
  • The next time I make this, I will probably throw in some onions and fresh cilantro, or maybe some fresh homemade pico de gallo. I think any or all would be fantastic additions! I just didn't have any on hand tonight.
  • Enjoy!

P.S. I know Mexican Shepherd's Pie is a dorky name, but I couldn't think of anything else to call this dish. It looks remarkably like a shepherd's pie when you cut into it! Check this out...

October 5, 2013

Celebrating the Return of Autumn

Today marks the end of another long, hot summer here in Texas. I love this state with all my heart, and I've lived here my entire life, but summer in Texas is life in the belly of the dragon. It's miserable. And then that first breeze of Autumn comes, and I just come alive like you can't imagine.

Somewhere around mid-to-late August the whole family gets depressed....

It looks a little something like this...
We are sick of being stuck indoors, sick of the heat, sick of the sun and all the sun-scorched trees and wilted flowers, and truly TRULY super-sick of gargantuan mosquitoes chewing on us every time we step outdoors. We just want a break!

And then September rolls around, school starts, and you begin to think, "We're almost there. We're almost there. Just hang on!" And you just barely get through September with your sanity.

Then October comes... Oh, October! HOW I LOVE YOU!

The mosquitoes start to dwindle, the leaves change to gorgeous colors, the rain comes by and by, and best of all, you get a sweet, cool breeze that just begs you to open up the windows and let it in for coffee. It chats with you while you clip coupons and make breakfast. And making breakfast is so great, because you can finally use the stovetop again without fear of a heat stroke.

Have I mentioned that October is my favorite month of the entire year?! I truly come alive in October.

So, today is the day I've been waiting for all year. This morning (when I inexplicably awoke at 5:30 AM) it was still hot. But, around 8:30 AM a stiff breeze swept over the city and blew in the sweetest, coolest air I think I've ever felt in my life. I burst out giggling with joy and called to the whole family to join me on the back porch. Now my windows are all open. They haven't been opened since last April! And I am so serenely happy.

So, how do I celebrate a wonderful day like this, the return of Autumn?

With Isa Chandra's Tofu Scramble and some homemade guacamole on stove-top tortillas, of course. Then I chased my huge breakfast with some of Dreena Burton's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies. My belly is happy. SO happy!

The Tardis cookie jar is full once again. Life is good!
The best thing about October, though, is Halloween. And, if you're into it (I'm a total fangirl) the start of the new season of The Walking Dead! I can't wait!!

Autumn wreaths, the use of my kitchen again (baking!), Trunk or Treat, cool weather, lower energy bills, and an endless supply of cheesy horror films on cable. It's like heaven.

What's your favorite thing about Autumn, and how do you like to celebrate it?