Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween.  As Halloweens go, the weather is pretty nice.  It's been just a so-so day for me.  The State of Illinois, in its infinite wisdom, sent new license plates for my son's car.  I found out, when I was trying to take the old plates off, that the bolts were rusted.  After researching the problem online, I headed off to the auto store to get some PB Blaster to spray on the bolts.  The biggest advice on the internet was to be patient and go slow.  OK, sounded easy enough.

So, I spray the bolts, wait about 10-15 minutes and go out with my vise grip pliers.  The right bolt turns reluctantly and comes out.   YAY!  The left bolt seems a bit more stubborn.  Do you think that I sprayed more PB Blaster on it and waited?  Nope.  I snapped the bolt head off, leaving the screw inside the nut.  It snapped off flush with the nut, so there was no hope of using pliers to get it out. Back to the internet!

The next procedure was to get a bolt extractor kit, make an indentation in center of the bolt fragment, and then drill into the center of the bolt fragment.  Once there is a pathway through the bolt fragment, I was supposed to tap the bolt extractor into the pathway and screw counterclockwise to remove the bolt.  Sounded scarier, but hey, I was up for the challenge.  Alas, I couldn't get an indentation in the middle of the fragment, which meant that when I tried to drill, the drill drifted.  Rather than risk more damage to the nut, I took it to the car dealer, which was the only place that would drill out the old bolt (believe me, I called around for a cheaper alternative).

I had the dealer remove the bolt fragment and then install the new plate on the back.  (This could or could not have involved tapping out the screw and rethreading the nut, I didn't ask.)  Then, I had the dealer install a new bracket for the front plate, which has been missing for years after someone rear-ended me and pushed me into the car in front of me, popping the license plate and bracket off of the front of the car.  While I've not been ticketed for a missing front plate, it's a distinct possibility in Chicago, so I just had them replace it.  $200 later, the car is back home.  :::sigh:::
So, while I was waiting for the car to be fixed, I decided to make some Slow-Cooker Black Bean-Mushroom Chili.  I received the recipe in a Recipe of the Day email.  I made a few alterations.  First, I halved the recipe as it's a TON of chili.  Second, I added some ingredients and changed one.
I sauteed the mushrooms, tomatillos, and onion in the spices and 1/4 cup of water.  I probably sauteed them 15 or 20 minutes before the liquid from the vegetables started to evaporate.  Instead of adding mushroom broth, which I didn't have, I added 1 carton of Imagine Organic No-Chicken Broth.  I still added a full can of tomato paste and two chopped chipolte peppers in adobe sauce.
I let the broth heat up so it was steaming before I added it to the crock pot.  I put 3 cups of frozen black beans that I had cooked on Thursday, and I added 1 poblano pepper, chopped to the crock pot.
I also added a cup or so of a black bean/corn/bell pepper frozen vegetable blend and a third of a bag of vegan crumbles that I had in the freezer after I added the broth to the crock pot.
Since the beans are already cooked, I figured I didn't need to let the chili cook as long as it would have needed to for uncooked black beans.  I put the chili on high and let it cook about 4 hours.  I will be eating mine with a little avocado and a teaspoon of Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream.  If it's not quite zippy enough, I'll add a little Cholula Hot Sauce, chipolte flavor.  Here is the recipe as I made it.

Addendum:  The chili is da bomb!  I didn't add any avocado (due to laziness), but I did add 1 teaspoon of Tofutti Sour Cream and a couple of dashes of Cholula Chipolte Hot Sauce.  This chili rocks.  I'll definitely (A) be freezing some portions for future meals, and (B) be making this again during the winter season.  Next time, I need to make some rocking cornbread to accompany it.  Tonight, I'm just satisfied with the chili. :)

Black Bean and Mushroom Slow Cooker Chili

3 cups black beans, cooked*
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1 cup corn (or corn/black bean/bell pepper blend)
1/3 package of vegan crumbles (my best guess is 1 to 1½ cups)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon medium hot chili powder (Penzey's)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
4 oz. tomatillos, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
8 oz. sliced mushrooms (I used button)
1 carton (32 oz.) Imagine Organic No-Chicken Broth
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
2 chipolte peppers in adobe sauce, minced**

Chop poblano pepper and add it to crock pot with black beans, corn, and vegan crumbles.

Roast spices (mustard seeds through cardamom) in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 30 seconds to a minute (mine were popping all over, so I don't think I did this for even 30 seconds).  Add tomatillos, onions, and mushrooms with 1/4 cup of water and saute/simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes until the mushrooms have released their water and the mixture is starting to dry.  Add broth, tomato paste, and chipolte peppers.  Cook another 5 minutes or so until the broth is heated through.

Add broth mixture to crock pot.  Cook on high 3 to 4 hours or on low for 5 or 6 hours.  Serve with avocado slices, Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, and Cholula Chipolte Hot Sauce.

*  Can use two (2) 15 ounce cans of black beans.  If using canned, rinse beans well to remove excess sodium.
** I froze the rest of the chipolte peppers in an ice cube tray.  I put one pepper per ice cube portion and evenly distributed the remaining adobe sauce.  After the peppers and sauce were frozen into cubes, I dumped them all into a ziploc bag and threw them back in the freezer.   I had 10 portions left over.
Happy Halloween!  Here are pictures of the girls in their Halloween costumes.  Seeing as they are both named after great basketball players, what better costume could there be, but to have them wear the basketball jersey for their respective player.  Kobe's jersey is left over from when my sons were young and my oldest first started loving Kobe Bryant.  This is back in the day when Kobe Bryant wore #8.  Jordan is in a Michael Jordan jersey, #23, his most famous number.  Don't they both look thrilled?
It's a really nice day here in Chicago.  The girls are much happier looking out the back screen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Butter Chick'n and the CUTEST Apron!

I've been cooking the past few weeks, but not as much as I should have. Today, I decided to use my crock pot.  I have MANY things I could be cooking in it, I just needed to pick a recipe and do it.
I chose Butter Chick'n out of Kathy Hester's The Vegan Slow Cooker.  It's tofu (cubed) slow cooked in a curry sauce.  I've seen recipes for Butter Chicken, but when I was a carnivore, I never tried it.  Now, I want to try it. It's currently in my crock pot.
I'll be having it over brown rice (mixed variety) and roasting some Brussels sprouts for my side dish.  Can't wait until dinner! :)
Also, I'd like to share a website with you. It's a mother/daughter business based in Iowa.  They make aprons, and they are very CUTE aprons, if I say so myself. (I did!)  The aprons are 100% USA made.  It's called J & J Inspirations - Fancy Aprons & Custom Creations.  I learned about this website from The Iowa Housewife blog (not a vegan blog, but still a great blog).  It took me a month to order one and by the time I got around to it, the one I wanted, For the Dogs, was sold out.  :::boo hoo!:::  I emailed the site and Janelle immediately responded to me.

Needless to say (because you can see in my picture), Janelle and her Mom (who does all of the sewing) made more For the Dogs aprons and I got mine!  This site has a lovely collection of aprons.  I have my eye on Turquoise Stripes and Flowers (there's just something about that apron that speaks to me).  :::smile:::  So, if you are looking for a unique gift or just a cute apron for yourself so you don't splash ingredients on your favorite shirt (I swear, it only happens when I am cooking something with tomatoes in it), check out J & J Inspirations.