Spicy Black Bean Chili

A slow cooker is one of those fairly inexpensive kitchen appliances that can make life so much easier. If you’re the busy sort that doesn’t want to resort to pre-packaged foods, you want one. If you endure hot summers and don’t want to turn on your stove or oven, you want one. If you like cooking up batches of dried beans, you want one.

Here’s how easy it is. I decided I was going to make the Spicy Black Bean Chili from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. So one evening I put the beans on to soak. Next morning, I tossed them in the slow cooker, covered them with water, added a piece of kombu (I always do this with beans. It’s supposed to make them, uh, more butt friendly.) While I was at work, they cooked up perfectly. That evening, I did the minimal prep work, filled the cooker crock with the ingredients, and tossed it in the fridge overnight. Next morning, it came out of the fridge, cooked on low all day, and then became dinner that night. Helpful hint: putting it in the fridge is a good way to buy you another hour or so if you’re going to be gone longer than the maximum cook time.

I like this recipe but it is fairly mildly flavored. I usually just start tossing some extra stuff in there. It’s different every time. This time I think I just used cumin and cayenne. Sometimes I use chipotle powder or even a bit of chipotle in adobo.  What makes this even better is melting some Daiya vegan cheese on top and sprinkling on chunks of avocado.

Now, if you want to get really crazy, you can make the polenta fries from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. Thanks to the 50% polenta tubes we found a few weeks back. Instead of cutting them in planks as the recipe calls for, I cut them in cubes. Also, instead of rosemary I seasoned them with a little chili powder. Oh, and I don’t bother peeling the polenta tube. That seems…unnecessary. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, you’ll know if you see the recipe. Now that I’ve actually made polenta, I need to just make and use my own. Okay, so it isn’t corn bread, but it’s similar, right? This had to work…and it did! Tell me you don’t want to eat this:

Puréed Spicy Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew with Chickpeas

Wow, the Puréed Spicy Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew with Chickpeas from Dreen Burton’s Eat, Drink & Be Vegan is so tasty! Sweet, spicy and just a hint of peanut to it. The chickpeas I used were some dark colored dried ones I picked up at the Indian grocery. When cooked up they seem to hold their shape really well without being hard at all. Kind of lentil-like that way. The recipe makes a ton, so I froze a bucket and have still been eating off of it this week. I love it when healthy tastes great! Also, if you’re watching pennies, this is pretty cheap to make.

Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto on Pasta

Last night I whipped out this recipe from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. You can find the recipe here. I admit that I drizzled in a couple more tablespoons of olive oil, but it still has way less than a standard pesto recipe.  And doesn’t it look like Spring? Yeah, I know basil is a Summer thing, but work with me here. Also, I only used half of the pesto on half a pound of pasta. The rest I froze in a bucket for an even quicker meal some time in the future.