Let’s face it: January sucks. About the only thing I can say for it is that it’s great chili weather — and chili is one of the easiest vegan meals you can make.
1. Start by chopping up a small onion or large shallot.
2. Saute it in a little olive oil. Once it’s browned, add two or three cloves of minced garlic.
3. Add a can each of chopped green chiles, diced tomatoes and black beans. I drain the beans and rinse them before I add them to the pan. I don’t remember why I do that, but somebody (my mom, probably) told me it was a good idea.
4. Season with chili powder and cumin.
5. Stir and bring to a boil. At this point, you can either cut back the heat and let it simmer, dish it up into containers to take to work, or serve it immediately. If you let it rest a few hours, the flavors will blend nicely. (If you want, you can add a tablespoon of cocoa powder or a splash of red wine along with the tomatoes to expedite that process.)
Also, keep in mind this is just a starting point. You can add green pepper if you have some on hand. For a meatier texture, add a handful of bulgur wheat or texturized vegetable protein. Want it thinner? Add water or tomato juice. Thicker? Add a little cornmeal. Hotter? Throw in a finely chopped serrano pepper. Feeding an army? Double or triple the recipe, or stretch it by serving it over rice or pasta. You get the idea. I made mine more photogenic by adding avocado slices, a dollop of Tofutti vegan sour cream and some sliced olives.
In the interest of making this site more practical and taking it back to its roots as an erstwhile quasi-almanac, I’m adding a pair of new features for 2014.
The first new feature: Eco-Saturday. Every Saturday in 2014, I’ll post a tip for reducing your environmental footprint. We’re not talking about big, expensive projects like installing a solar array on your roof or a woodstove in your living room (although I highly recommend both if you can manage them). We’re talking about cheap, simple projects like making your own laundry detergent; upgrading to LED bulbs in the light fixtures you use most often; or using power strips to eliminate phantom loads. Most of the projects I have up my sleeve can be done in an afternoon or less, and all but a handful cost well under $20 apiece.
The second new feature: Vegan Friday. In the interest of reducing my environmental footprint, I’m going to try to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet. Full-time vegging isn’t a viable option at this point, but a weekly vegan meal? Yeah, I can swing that. To expand your culinary options and keep myself honest, I’ll be posting a vegan recipe every Friday. Most of these recipes will be quick and easy, and of the 60 possibilities I put on my master list, only six depend on ingredients you’re not likely to find at the average supermarket.
Oh, and I’m also working up a list of Folk Thursday possibilities so I can share a more diverse assortment of videos with you. Expect to see classics like the Freedom Singers, Leadbelly, the Weavers and the Kingston Trio, along with some lesser-known artists and quite a few non-folkies covering folk and/or protest songs.
If your New Year’s resolution involves being nicer to the environment, be sure to check back here every weekend in 2014. I’ll make it easy for you to keep that resolution.