Wednesday 27 April 2011

To Vegan or Not to Vegan

Ok, so recipe time. In deciding what recipe I was going to post first I went to my most trusted advisor, and he said that he loves this recipe so much it should be the first to go out there. Whenever I ask for help making a shopping list, it’s always, ‘did you get black bean chilli recipe makings?’, and ‘no baby we have some in the freezer still.’ When I first moved to London the idea of adapting all of my old favourite recipes seemed like it might be a bit of a challenge and this one was the first to be made here. But it turned into be the fastest two pot recipe I make, and I’ve only had to substitute a few things. One substitute I’ve not seen here is yellow summer squash, so I’ve resorted to using all Zucchini squash (Courgettes), also the chilli powder here just isn’t up to par as far as my Tex-Mex palate is concerned so I’ve always used a stash that I’ve brought back from the US, or I go to the shops and buy every chilli powder they have and test to make sure which has the right flavour. For the purpose of this blog I’ll tell you what I use and give you suggestions to find your own flavour. Yea so apart from those two things it’s a very simple recipe, and totally vegan (if eaten without the sour cream or cheese garnish), also high in fibre, high protein and LOW FAT.

So, for the ingredients, don’t be scared if it seems like a lot, it’s just a process of developing flavour, and the one thing about cooking is you can’t stress about measuring (too much), if you stress about it a recipe is going to be hard and ridged and there won’t be any fun in making it. Remember this recipe feeds a group of 5+ so if you want cut it in half or it freezes well and makes great leftovers. And one more thing, I’ll try to always post in Metric and American System of measurements for all my friends. Ok here it goes:

Black Bean Chilli

3 (15oz or 400g) cans of Black Beans (undrained)
2 (15oz or 400g) cans crushed or chopped tomatoes
1 small-medium jar of salsa
1 medium onion
1 medium green/red pepper
3 cloves garlic
2 zucchini (courgette)
1-2 yellow squash (if you can find it, if you can’t find it use a yellow courgette or omit it)
~100g (handful!) of Cilantro (coriander)
3 cloves of garlic
3tbps good chilli powder
Splash of oil to get veggies stir frying
1tsp cumin
Salt/ pepper to taste
White or brown rice cook as you like for serving
Sour cream for garnish
Shredded cheese for garnish

First, open all cans and jars and have available next to pot.

Next, prep and dice these veggies and group them accordingly:
  1. Onion
    Courgettes (Zucchini)
  2. Garlic
  3. Chop cilantro

Then, cook:
Add small amount of oil to a relatively big pot.
When hot add 1st group of veggies until soft and then add garlic.
Stir around until garlic becomes fragrant.
Add all other ingredients, beans, tomatoes, salsa, and spices, chilli powder, cumin and salt and pepper.
Drop in cilantro.
Simmer until everything looks soft and the cilantro has turned from bright green to the colour of the chilli.
Serve over hot fresh rice, with sour cream and cheddar cheese on top.
Omit the sour cream and cheddar for a 100% vegan dish.

This is just one example of something that I make that exudes massive amounts of flavour, uses a lot of ingredients, but doesn’t take a lot of time if you can manage just calm down, and think it through by a series of a few simple processes. This recipe is best tried with a little inhibition, add a little of this, and that to make it taste how you want it, and use what you have to create it and make it your own.

Monday 25 April 2011

No Time Like the Present. Step 2.

So, when I think about writing this blog I like to think of it as therapeutic steps. These steps are the ones that get me through the day and help me maintain a certain lifestyle and eating habits. I know that like most people, we always aren’t able to make the best choices when it comes to eating at home, eating at a friend’s house, eating out, or even just snacking throughout the a day. Living in London for sure has its drawbacks with food. When I first moved here I was blown away with the amount of food for pecking on at every little shop two steps from one another. Sandwiches, crisps (American chips), candy, soda, and LIQUOR! I’m sure this probably comes to no surprise to people have live in cities where everyone walks everywhere and grabs what they can when they can to feed themselves or just not pass out. For me this was a new concept totally, so I was lured into the cheese snacks and the “nice” sandwiches, and seemed healthy. To a person like me who drives everywhere in Texas we usually can wait without food and resist buying some re-hydrated piece of garbage at the mini mart to fill a gap in our stomach. So I thought, hey, this is healthy stuff, it’s a sandwich, it’s not a fried burger from a fast food joint, which to be honest, here in London are sort of few and far between unless you spend most of your time at the big train stations.

My first goal was to reevaluate and stop luring myself into the food that’s out there and eat at my house before I went anywhere. What really helped me personally was helping someone else, my husband. He turned into my test subject. He gets all my experiments, that were initially just dinner, but he doesn’t complain because he loves eating (who doesn’t!). But if I was going to make this an all-around life style I had to eat breakfast lunch and dinner. Feeding my husband was part of that too. He was spending a lot of money each week on crappy sandwiches, high in fat, cholesterol and all other bad things so I really wanted to address that and now I try to send him with lunch every day for school, oh I mean work. But it keeps food around the house for me to eat as well as helping him maintain his and my weight. I definitely realized that if I was to succumb to the sinful food available to me which I had been previously doing, I was going to make both him and I explode into those people that drive around in the super markets in a scooter because they’re too overweight to walk around themselves. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I don’t want it for myself. Needless to say, I think its small changes in your life; shifting one decision from another is what really makes a difference. It may not always happen fast, or it may not always make you feel as if a difference is happening in your body, but in the end, if you start taking care of your body, your body will take care of you. End of story.

Next chapter: Recipes and all sorts of good stuff, so keep an eye out.

Sunday 24 April 2011

35 million steps. Step one.

There must be 35 million steps in life to get somewhere right? My life has taken me in some really interesting directions. Some of my most passionate things have become my life and something I’d like to share every day. So step one is…well step one is figuring out how to start a blog. I think what I’m going to do is talk about what it’s like to be aware of the type of days that you lead for start. There are fast days, slow days, going out days and running around town and never home days. I think it’s really important to know what kind of days you’re living. At the moment for me, I’m living a rather slow paced everyday life, but the one thing I can’t stand is inefficiency in the kitchen. I usually tend to prepare my meals to maximize my time doing as many things as possible. I don’t think that my need for speed in the kitchen comes from any sort of efficiency issue. I just tend to be very logical about the order I do things and it tends to really get the job done. I’m good at prioritizing and managing how to group different bits of prep work to get me to the end result faster.

I have a lot of favourite recipes that I breeze through, and it takes 30-45mins tops to get dinner on the table with a very nice spread I might add. One of my biggest things is I want to help people become more efficient. In my last years at University it was apparent that I had become very controlling in my everyday business life, trying to juggle 18hrs my graduating semester really turned me a new leaf in my life, not to mention the further stress of a wedding I planned all by myself!  A part of me I had really never seen before. Sometimes you see part of yourself emerge and you can channel it for good. I think almost a year later the rolling towards the good is finally kicking in. I’ve been able to find my sweet spot when it comes to management. Food.

I’ve never been a stranger to helping people figure out what to do with their food and make a balanced meal. I’m a part of IRC (internet relay chat) and I have friends from 10+ years ago, some bachelors in previous years would say to me, “I have pasta, eggs, frozen peas and mayonnaise! What do I do with it!”  Well needless to say some really interesting things came from it, but for the most part I like thinking of anything you can do with the smallest amount of ingredients. When I was going to school in Texas I would try to help my husband come up with meals that he could cook quickly after work, that were nutritious and provided the escape from the takeout pizza or curry. He was able to do it easily because I simplified the directions to where it was as fast and simple as possible to achieve a really nice meal.

So basically that’s my goal here, food fast, while still adding something healthy to it. My future goal is to own my own company. I am interested in mixing spices to make cooking easier; my main focus has been on Mexican cuisine, since I’ve been raised on that culture. But, reinventing recipes so that they taste good, made fast, and are healthy is what it’s all about. That’s what we all want out of life, to be happy and not constantly guilty about our food choices. As I work every day to change my life style, I hope to be able to share that same enthusiasm with you and hopefully you will try my recipes and find that they are doable, manageable and GOOD!