Archive for April 2012

Vegan White Chili

April 27, 2012

True confession:  I have food dreams.  Sometimes they come at night, other times, they are daydreams that take me by surprise with their palpable force and clarity.  I dream of steaming soups, stews, chowders.  I dream of piles of delicate appetizers, light first courses, savory second courses, rich desserts.  Homey, hearty, exotic, erotic.  In these dreams, herbs, spices, fresh vegetables and very specific flavor combinations take root in my mind and I am unable to forget them until I make them a reality in my kitchen.  The chocolate dreams I shall keep to myself for now.  I will share this one instead.

Last week I started dreaming about white chili.  I have only had it one time in my life, and although it was pretty good, it was not what I thought it would be.   It was more like soup, it had chicken in it, and although I was not vegan at the time, somehow chicken just did not seem right.  The white chili dream pops into my mind all week as  I am driving,  folding clothes, or trying to focus on a client’s form as they lift weights.  I know I have to make it.

I am in a hurry to make dinner tonight.  I dig around in the refrigerator and the cupboards.  I find tempeh and white beans.  Immediately the details of my white chili food dream fill my head and I hurry to pull the rest of the ingredients out and assemble them on the counter.

I tell my friend Charlene about it  and her first question is, “You have all that stuff in your pantry?”  Of course I do!

Vegan White Chili

1 block tempeh, any kind

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 large sweet onion, cut into small dice

2 ribs celery, cut into small dice

1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced, or more, to taste

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 15 or 16 oz can small white beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-16 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 c corn of your choice, I used Trader Joe’s Fire Roasted frozen

3 c vegan vegetable stock

1 tsp Mesquite flavor liquid smoke

1 tsp South African smoke seasoning blend (also from Trader Joe’s)  or 1/2 tsp smoked salt

2 tbsp masa harina (fine corn meal) mixed with 1/2 c cold water

3 c washed baby spinach

For Garnish:

fresh lime juice

chopped fresh cilantro leaves

*toasted pepitas

tortilla chips

extra hot sauce—I am currently drinking Tabasco chipotle hot sauce with most of my meals, but use whatever you like for more heat.


In a medium nonstick skillet, crumble the tempeh into bite-sized chunks.  Add water until tempeh is just covered.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until water is absorbed, about 10-12 minutes.

While tempeh is cooking:  In a large skillet or stock pot, saute onions, celery and red bell pepper in the olive oil over medium heat until the vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and chipotle pepper and saute for 2 minutes more.  Add vegetable stock, drained beans,  corn,  liquid smoke,  South African smoke seasoning blend or smoked salt.  Turn heat to high.

When the tempeh is dry, stir in the cumin and coriander until incorporated.  Add the tempeh and spice mixture to the bean mixture.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until bubbling.  Stir the masa harina and water together once more and add to the chili, stirring well.  Cook for about 5 more minutes, or until thick and bubbling.  If too thick, add more water, 1/4 cup or so, until you like the consistency.  Add baby spinach and fold gently until spinach just wilts.  Serve hot with a drizzle of fresh lime juice, a generous sprinkling of cilantro, and a couple of tablespoonfuls of toasted pepitas, with warm tortilla chips on the side.

*You can buy raw or already toasted pepitas.  I like to buy raw ones and toast them myself.  For this recipe, I toasted 1 c raw pepitas in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat until they started to darken.  I removed the pan from the heat, tossed them in 1 tsp garlic olive oil, and sprinkled them with 1/2 tsp each ground cumin and sweet Mexican chili powder.


Trial Run

April 25, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am three miles in.  My mind is playing the new, annoying game of “Can I Really Run This Far?” that has kept me from attempting to run long enough to prove I will be able to complete the Twin Lights Half Marathon in May.  The air is cool; the sun bright and warm.  The ocean is a rich, deep blue and calm.  Small waves lap the shoreline as I pass Front Beach, Back Beach, and Andrew’s Point.  My foot is feeling pretty good these days, the plantar fasciitis is slowly going away.  The insurance company has approved enough visits for physical therapy so that I can have the full ten treatments of cold laser therapy and it is working.  I am walking without a limp.  I am running, as my physical therapist tells me, with near-perfect bio-mechanics.

Today my goal is to run 11 miles in under two hours, although I have told my husband not come looking for me unless I am gone for more that two and a half.  I want to be left alone to win the game and toss it out for good.  Today’s run will decide whether or not to withdraw my entry for the race. I run up Phillips’ Ave., the hill long and slow.  I take my time, not pushing too hard because, after all, I have not run longer that six and a half miles in quite some time, maybe two months or more.  My mileage has dropped from 45-50 miles per week to under 25.  I have been cross-training like crazy, though.  Kickboxing, boxing, cycling, core and strength training at the gym two or three times each week have kept me in good shape.  I am trembling a bit on the inside despite it all, wondering if I have lost my distance mojo.

The chattering monkey in my head makes me wonder if I should turn left at the top of Phillip’s and head back.  I wrench myself to the right and cross the road, heading for Halibut Point instead.  I focus on my music, my breath, the sunlight bathing my face.  And suddenly I am there, running through the park as if I have been doing it all along these past weeks.  My legs are strong.  They carry me along the dirt trails and down to the Bay View path, then up and out along the fresh new mulch path back to the road.  I head back toward town, my stride easy, no longer wondering if I will be able to complete today’s goal.  I chug up the steep hill by my house and keep going.  I take Marmion Way the long way around and turn left onto South Street.  When I reach Eden Road, I cross and loop back around.  From this point, all I have to do is run straight home and I will be done for the day.

I glance at my watch as I approach my house.  1:42′.  I cannot keep the grin from spreading across my face as I climb the back steps.  I think about the way it feels to be surrounded by runners—listening to their breathing mix with mine, their footsteps pounding out a rhythm that gives me a beat to move faster and faster as we surge through 13.1 miles to the finish line.  I will not withdraw.  The game of “Can I Really Run This Far” has just been exchanged for “I Know I Can Do This”.  I will run the half marathon.  I will run strong and I will finish.