Smoky tempeh chili (4-5 servings)

I love smoky flavors. The deep, toasty scent and aroma of smoked foods transport me to chilly evenings when the breeze is heavy with the scent of woodsmoke and fallen leaves. Last week’s heat wave in Durham could be the reason I’ve found myself craving smoky dishes lately!

Today’s chili recipe, which is very loosely based on this one from Connisseurus Veg, is a snap to put together. If you’ve been curious about tempeh but haven’t taken the plunge yet, this is a great starting point. This chili is dairy-free and can be made gluten-free if you buy wheat-free tempeh and make sure your broth doesn’t contain gluten.

If you want the recipe only slightly smoky, use the first version of each ingredient listed. If you want a deeper smoky flavor, use some or all of the ingredient versions in parentheses below.

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 8-oz package tempeh, cut or crumbled into chunks [I used Lightlife three-grain tempeh]

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 16-oz jar salsa (use chipotle salsa for smokiness)

  • 1 tsp onion powder (toasted onion powder)

  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted)

  • 1 15-oz can pinto, kidney, or black beans, drained [I used a mixed can of all three types]

  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, minced

  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

  • 3/4 cup corn kernels (roasted corn)

  • 1 cup water or vegetable broth


  1. Add vegetable oil to a stockpot and turn heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, add the tempeh pieces and saute for about 5 minutes, trying to brown it on all sides.

  2. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.

  3. Stir in all the remaining ingredients (If your corn is frozen, don’t bother to thaw it first) and increase the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture boils, lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the chili is nice and thick.

  4. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite chili toppings: Cheese (vegan or not), avocado, cilantro, scallions, or crushed tortilla chips!

This chili is very filling, and it freezes well too!

Winter stew with vegetarian sausage, white beans, and kale (5 servings)

So far, 2018 has been mostly frigid, snowy, and blustery. (More like twenty-hibernate-teen, am I right?) Yesterday, thick, heavy snowflakes fell for thirteen hours straight in Durham, leaving a total of six inches in our front yard, although other parts of the Triangle received twice as much. It's definitely the most snow we've seen at once since we moved here in 2010.

The weight of the snow has caused widespread power outages in the area, but despite the damage, it was a beautiful snow. The rain that started the day allowed the snowflakes to cling to every branch and pine needle and leaf of the trees. I love how a thick snow creates definition and dimension that's easy to take for granted on an ordinary day, especially in the grayer parts of winter.

This type of chill and snow-blanketing calls for stew -- rich, hearty, flavorful stew that warms you up from the inside and enlivens the senses. This particular recipe is high in protein and fiber, so it's good for you, too! It cooks slowly in the crockpot, giving you time to read a book, reorganize a closet, write a hand-scripted letter, bake a pan of brownies, or whatever you love to do on a rare snowed-in day.

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 2 vegetarian sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used Field Roast Italian)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 15-oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups chopped kale or spinach


  1. Brown the sausage in a little oil in skillet over medium-heat.
  2. Place the sausage and all remaining ingredients except the kale or spinach in the bowl of a slow cooker.
  3. Cook for 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high.
  4. Add in the kale or spinach; cook on low for another hour or high for another half hour.

Next time, I'd add some chopped celery, too. I'm sure that if you're not into vegetarian sausage, you could add another can of beans or some browned mushrooms instead. This stew was just what we needed yesterday!

North African "beef" stew (4 servings)

Let's make 2018 a year of heartfelt, well-intentioned risk-taking. Let's get to know people we might have looked past before. Let's talk to neighbors we previously hadn't met. Let's take the time to learn what's going on in our communities and assist the organizations that are trying to make a difference. Let's then look beyond our zip codes to the beautiful, complicated, frustrating, joyful, always-evolving globe we all call home. Let's read and cook and eat and play outside our comfort zones.

To that end, this North African-inspired dish is an exciting way to widen your flavor horizons. The ras el hanout -- a blend that includes spices like cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice -- and the harissa paste hail from Morocco and Tunisia, enhancing the flavor of earthy root vegetables. The broth is richly-perfumed and slightly spicy but balanced by the sweetness of the currants and the herbaceous notes of the garnish. I can't say I've ever made anything quite like this before, but I'm looking forward to trying similar recipes in the near future. I took inspiration from this recipe but changed up some of the ingredients and quantities.

One note: As long as your beef substitute is vegan, this dish is vegan.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 - 1 1/2 lbs vegetarian beef substitute, such as Quorn, Morningstar, or Beyond Meat brand (weight will vary by brand)
    • You could also use seitan or mushrooms if you prefer!
  • 1 1/2 lbs mixed root vegetables (such as carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, or rutabagas), chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 Tbsp ras el hanout spice blend (You can find it in some grocery stores or make your own)
  • 2 tsp harissa paste (Trader Joe's has a great blend or you can also DIY)
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 cup currants or chopped dried apricots
  • fresh parsley, mint, and/or cilantro


  1. Using a stockpot, brown the "beef" according to package directions. (The brand I used needed a little oil over medium heat for 10 minutes.) Remove from stockpot and set aside. Cut into smaller pieces if needed once the beef substitute has cooled.
  2. Turn heat to medium low and add 2 Tbsp olive oil to the same stockpot. Add in the root vegetables and garlic; cook and stir for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly softened but not browned.
  3. Add in the ginger, ras el hanout, and harissa. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Add in the wine to deglaze the pan; cook and stir for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add in the cinnamon stick and broth; increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 30-35 minutes, adding more liquid if it boils down too quickly.
  6. Once the vegetables are just barely fork-tender, add in the currants and simmer for another 10 minutes. Then add the beef substitute back in.
  7. Serve garnished with chopped fresh herbs. You can serve it over cooked rice or couscous or with a side of naan, pita, or chapati bread.

Yes, this recipe calls for some ingredients that may be a little tougher to find and it includes a long list of steps, but it really isn't difficult. A little bit of searching will reward you with a decadently-scented stew that fills your belly and home with flavor.

To purposeful, enthusiastic, compassionate risks in 2018!

Samosa soup (6+ servings)

One of the most enlightening and entertaining aspects of cooking at home is realizing the sweeping variety of recipes that exist across the world. Sometimes I love to sit down with a cookbook and look at recipes I'll probably never make and might not even like just to take in the culinary diversity expressed by creative people all over the globe. 

So what is the most universally-consumed food across all cuisines? My gut says it's probably wheat, since almost all cultures consume some type of bread, pasta, dumpling, or noodle. But that same gut (which is getting hungrier the more I think about delicious, delicious carbs) also thinks the humble potato has to be in the top five somewhere. In fact, the wealth of scholarly publications on the history and cultural impact of the potato suggest I might be onto something! Mmm... potatoes.

According to the World Potato Atlas (yes, for realz), potatoes were first brought to India sometime in the 1600s but were initially received with skepticism. Today, however, they're used in many Indian dishes, from main dishes to dessert. They're often used in samosas, which are deep-fried, vegetable-stuffed pastries that are often spicy. I like samosas, but I'm not into deep-frying food at home, so when I saw this gorgeous vegan soup that turns samosas inside out, I couldn't wait to try it!

You will need:

  • 4-6 medium potatoes, scrubbed well but not peeled, chopped into even chunks
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1-2 green chilis, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced OR 1/2 Tbsp onion powder (Boo for IBS.)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (make sure it's gluten-free if you're going for that)
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 cup cooked green peas (I used frozen)
  • 1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • chutney and/or fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Place the potato chunks in a large stockpot and cover with cold water by an inch or so. Bring to a boil and cook with the lid off or vented (to prevent it boiling over) until the potatoes are fork-tender. (The length of time will vary, depending on the size of your chunks.) Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot to keep warm. Set aside.
  2. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet; add the chilis, garlic, and onion/onion powder to the oil and cook 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the spices (cumin seeds through ginger, above) to the skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, for another 2-3 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant and sizzling.
  4. Using a rubber scraper, add the spice mixture to the drained potatoes. Pour in the vegetable broth, coconut milk, and lime juice. Use an immersion blender to blend the potatoes and liquids, making it as smooth or chunky as you prefer. (I used a lot of potatoes, so mine was THICK -- like one-step-below-mashed-potatoes thick!)
  5. When the soup has reached your desired consistency, fold in the peas and chickpeas. Add salt to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each portion with a swirl of chutney (Sharwood's Mango & Ginger Chutney is lovely) and/or a sprinkling of chopped cilantro leaves.


This soup is silky and elaborately-spiced. It wasn't hot-spicy (I used only one chili and it was getting old anyway) but deeply flavorful in a multi-layered sort of way. It really did taste like the inside of a samosa!

Admittedly, I changed quite a few things from Shannon's original recipe. I left out a couple spices but increased the amount of the remaining ones, added ginger and curry powder, upped the coconut milk, and skipped grinding the spices in a food processor. I didn't mind the texture of the seeds in the soup, especially because it meant I didn't have to clean my behemoth of a food processor. Sometimes laziness wins out over authenticity, especially in my case!

Happy Vegan MOFO (MOnth of FOod), friends! Once again, I'll try to post a new vegan recipe at least once a week. If there's anything in particular you'd like me to try out, leave a comment below!

Flu stew (variable servings)

If the flu were a person, she'd be that girl you spent some time with every few years during your childhood, mainly because she knew a lot of the people in your class. Maybe she visited you once or twice during college, but after that, you parted ways and didn't think much about each other. From time to time, you'd hear about her visiting somebody you knew, but you shrugged it off because you didn't remember much about her after all those years apart.

But then one day in your adult years, she knocks on your door -- usually late at night -- cold and shivering and begging for a place to lie down. You let her in, figuring she'll be out of the way in the morning. But when she's still with you a few days later, you realize something is most definitely wrong. First of all, she's so irritating that she makes your blood boil but so clingy that she chills you to the bone. And god, she's boring. She says she wants to get caught up, but really, she just wants to force you to sit on the couch and watch movies for days in end. She's boring enough to make you ache all over. Even the most menial tasks, like doing laundry or washing your hair, become impossibly exhausting when she's around. And every time you think you're over her and ready to kick her out, she forces you to spend yet another boring day at home with her. And you can't even drink while she's around! Is there no end in sight??

Naturally, the only way to overcome both the flu and awkward social situations is soup. I don't know why, but soup seems to cure everything. And when you're not feeling well, the easiest way to prepare it is to throw stuff in a crockpot and then take a three-hour nap while it cooks. Trust me.

Now, I realize that people are of two schools of thought when it comes to flexible recipes: Some are excited by the challenge, and some are paralyzed with intimidation. I promise it's not scary. Basically, all you're doing here is gathering up whatever leftover and/or frozen veggies you can find, covering them with broth or ready-made soup, and tossing it all into a slow cooker. This really couldn't be easier, and when you're sick, you need things to be as easy as they can be.

You will need:

  • Several cups of fresh, canned, or frozen veggies, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I used broccoli florets, frozen corn and peas, sliced snow peas, chopped baby carrots, a diced tomato, and frozen butternut squash)
  • Some protein, such as chickpeas or granulated TVP (I used 1/2 cup TVP)
  • Whatever spices and herbs seem fitting (I used dried basil, dill, oregano, smoked paprika, pepper, and salt)
  • Several cups of store-bought soup and/or broth (I used a 32-oz carton of Imagine's Harvest Corn Soup and two cups of vegetable broth)


  1. Place the veggies and protein in the bottom of the crockpot. Add enough liquid to cover the solid ingredients. Place lid on crockpot and turn to high for 3 hours.

Honestly, it could not be much easier. When deciding which ingredients and base to use, think about how you're feeling and what your body needs. If you have a sore throat or chest congestion, you probably want to stay away from dairy-based soups. If you're all stuffed up, you might want to focus on aromatic, Asian-style ingredients like ginger, garlic, and green onions. Most of all, you just want to make sure you're getting plenty of vegetables and protein. 

As far as the seasonings go, I'd suggest waiting until the end to add the salt. For the most part, it's hard to mess up something like this, but salt is tough to undo. (You can try adding another cup of water and then tasting it to see if the salinity is less harsh.) Just go with what feels good and enjoy it!