Chili Chowder

ChiliChowder This delicious, hardy dish has flavors similar to chili, with the texture and consistency of a thick chowder.  I love it! Top with avocado and/or Sour Un-Cream.

I have made this using both canned black beans and beans I made from scratch with the pressure cooker.  As is usually the case, I preferred the version with the homemade beans.    If you have a pressure cooker, it’s SO easy.  Soak 1 pound of dried black beans overnight or 6 hours (some say soaking isn’t necessary but I always do).  Rinse and place in your pressure cooker and add just enough water to cover the top of the beans – the water should be just touching the beans.  Add 4 cloves crushed garlic, a few bay leaves and 2 tsp cumin seeds.  Cook at high pressure 14 minutes, and let the pressure come down naturally.  Beans are done! Makes about 5 cups of black beans. Remove the bay leaves, stir and add the whole batch to the rest of the Chili Chowder ingredients.

I order my dried beans online from Rancho Gordo, a farm in Northern California.  They are heirloom beans, which are open-pollinated seeds that can be planted and you’ll get the exact same bean. They tend to have a lower yield and can be much more difficult to grow but the pay off is in the unique flavors and textures that you don’t find with bland commodity beans.  They are always fresh too, which is great.  You never know how old the beans at the grocery store are, and old beans can take forever to cook.  I highly recommend Rancho Gordo beans.  It’s fun to experiment with all the different varieties they offer. Now get cooking!

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup with Lemon-Maple Brussels Sprouts

Most butternut squash soups are a little sweet for me. Honestly, I’ve got a major sweet tooth but some things, like my soups, I want to be more on the savory side.  So, this soup is still sweet of course, but the jalapeño and cooking sherry (or white wine) create some interesting flavors that help offset the sweetness.  And, while I don’t generally cook with oil, I added a tiny drizzle of truffle oil before serving – YUM.  Since I was a little heavy-handed with the jalapeño (by my definition – remember, I’m a spice wimp), I dumped my Lemon-Maple Brussels Sprouts in the soup to offset the heat.  Delicious!  In the future I will leave the seeds out of the jalapeño – this time I used half of the seeds and the soup was really spicy.

Zesty Potato-Corn Chowder

Fresh corn would have made this thick, chunky chowder even better but I was unable to find organic.  Corn is one of those items I always buy organic due to the possibility of GMO’s.  A very small portion of domestic sweet corn in the produce section is actually GMO, but since it’s not the law for it to be labeled (lame), it’s better to err on the side of caution.  Most of the GMO corn is used in processed foods (aka JUNK) and animal feed – just another reason to stay away from that crap and eat WHOLE plant foods!

Anyway, I digress.  This soup is delicious….and even better the next day.  For more intense and “zesty” flavor, add more cumin and chili powder, and use medium or hot green chiles – I used mild.  Jalapeños would be good here too, but as I’ve said before, I’m a spice wimp.  I used 2 teaspoons of chili powder and found it to be a bit too spicy, though the fam disagreed (told ya…wimp).  One of the two teaspoons was chipotle chili powder since I love that smoky flavor.  In one of the pictures below you will see something green in the chowder.  I stirred in some steamed kale and it was super yummy.

Update 9/26/13: I made this without the cashews (accidentally) and it was every bit as creamy and delicious.  So, I’ve changed the ingredient above to OPTIONAL.  

Double Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup (vegan, oil-free, gluten-free)

As much as I complain about not enjoying cold weather and shorter days, I must admit the food that is most often consumed during those months, i.e., soups and stews, is my most favorite!  I made this soup in the crock pot recently on a rainy Saturday.  Perfect! I really like lentils so a soup that calls for two kinds – even better!

Savory Pumpkin Soup Recipe! Heavy on the Rich Flavor, Not the Fat!

I had never made pumpkin soup before.  Shocking, I know, considering what a pumpkin freak I am.  Well, I gave it a go recently.  As per normal, I was determined to listen to my culinary instincts rather than follow a recipe…not sure if that’s big ego or just a can-do attitude talking :).  Either way, my instincts paid off, big time!!!  This soup rivaled any pumpkin soup I’d ever had, including the non-vegan, really fattening varieties I’d had in years past.  Try it!  As you know, I don’t cook with oil as a rule, but the small amount of truffle oil stirred in just prior to serving MAKES this soup, in my opinion.

Red Lentil and Rice Soup

RedLentilRiceSoupWhy are they called red lentils when they are pink, and become yellow once cooked? Weird.  All I know is they make an amazing soup!  Unlike other types of lentils, these cook and break down quickly, and end up soft, almost as if they have been pureed.  The first few times I made this soup it was on the stove, but recently I used the crock pot and it was even better.  There really is something to slow cooking, allowing the flavors to build and grow.  Either way, it’s an easy, delicious meal, any time of year. One of our favorites!!