Bean Can Man to the Rescue!

Another exciting installment in the life of Bean Can Man

I came home from the gym…starving. BUT I wanted exactly what I wanted, which was a taco salad. I wanted crunchy, creamy, chewy. Anyway. I started with Vertical Paradise baby greens.

taco salad 001

Talk about Paradise! It’s February in Michigan and I can get my hands on this stuff. We’re working on YOU getting your hands on this stuff. Come to next week’s supper club and lobby Tim Sharer, owner of Vertical Paradise Farms. Here’s Tim (holding his stash).

farmlink chowder tuna salad 002

Back to the salad. I chopped up peppers and onions, heated a little water in a non-stick pan and sauteed them. After a couple of minutes, I sprinkled on some chili pepper and cumin. Another minute went by and I tossed in two small zucchini (diced), some frozen corn and a half a cup of salsa. I gave it all a stir, turned the pan to low and my attention to the dressing. Into my blender went a half a box of tofu (silken lite firm tofu), 1/2 of a big–ripe, people!–avocado, juice of one half lime, 2-3 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (you could use water) and whir away until it is perfectly smooth. I wanted to add just a little salt, but when I tipped my jar of himalayan sea salt, a big chunk fell out into the blender. Drat! I tasted it. Like the rim of a margarita. What to do?

As I was sitting there, fretting, apron over my head, a can of Eden Organic No Salt Black Beans fell into my lap.

Bean Can Man with his faithful sidekick, Lime Boy

Bean Can Man with his faithful sidekick, Lime Boy

“Trouble, young lady?”
“Oh Bean Can Man, I am so SO sad. I just put too much salt in my creamy dressing.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head. Why not offset too much salt with my salt-free black beans? I assume I was destined to make it into your salad anyway.”

Yes, he was. So I mixed the dressing with the beans, which I had rinsed and drained. I chopped the lettuce and put on a layer of creamy beans, topped that with some sauteed veggies, another dollop of creamy beans and salsa. Looked like this:

taco salad 003

How do you say Yum! in Spanish? Add some super-thin and crispy Xochitli chips and you are fueled to save the world–one can at a time! Thank you Bean Can Man.

xo chips


Can’t Stop the Chop!

food 009

Okay, I am in love with chopped salads. I have dabbled before, but this time I’ve fallen hard. These are the salads for people who don’t think salads are hearty enough to be the centerpiece of the meal (a.k.a. the former me). These are salads that seem gourmet and take minutes, miraculously transform your leftovers and make your life easier. They might even pay your bills if you let them.

You need a few simple tools: a large tree stump (or a v. big cutting board); a sharp knife and a pancake turner. I will provide you with my very favorite and oft-requested dressing recipe, the technique and some suggestions to set the salad artiste in you free. You must go boldly beyond and send me photographs for my facebook page (stirthepotgr…of course).

Chopped Salad with Peppercorn Dijon Dressing

Mixed greens to equal 10 cups, washed, dried and roughly chopped
Roughly chopped vegetables to equal 6 cups (celery, carrots, broccoli)
½ can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Fun add-ins, to include: sunflower seeds, shelled pistachios, hearts of palm, tart apple, jicama, leftover grains or vegetables or beans or seeds or nuts–nothing too mushy. Use your imagination!

Using the biggest cutting board surface you can find, begin chopping the greens and vegetables together. Continue to toss the ingredients from the outer edges into the center. Your goal is to fully incorporate the ingredients and chop the vegetables into small pieces. But not to make a mash! After a few minutes, add blobs of dressing onto your pile and begin to incorporate. Add the chickpeas and other add-ins. Keep chopping and rearranging until your salad is of uniform consistency.

There’s something about all this chopping that gets the men to volunteer. Here, Brian Doane demonstrates technique at a recent dinner party.



Peppercorn Dijon Dressing
(serves 2, double for a party)

1/3 cup plain unsweetened soymilk
1 T lemon juice
1 T nutritional yeast
¼ cup almond meal, pre-ground or make your own by whirling whole nuts in a spice grinder
½ tsp. coarse salt
several grinds of pepper
1 T chia seeds
1 T whole grain mustard

Curdle the soymilk by combining with the lemon juice. Let rest for about five minutes. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Let rest another five minutes to meld and thicken. Best to put this in a jelly jar and shake it until your arm starts to vibrate on its own–this will ensure that the almond meal is fully incorporated. it will really thicken if you can put it in the fridge for a half hour or so.

At a recent cooking class, Joe and Gary took over and were very proud of their results.

meijer class and fresh produce 1-15-13 036

meijer class and fresh produce 1-15-13 037

Sadly, we didn’t have enough dressing for this 24 person salad. That is a shame, because it’s just not good without a lot of delicious dressing…and the dressing doesn’t have to be caloric, either.

Here’s an example of where you can take this. I used peppery baby greens, leftover falafel and tahini dressing (that will be another post…promise!) It looked like this in the beginning…

more chopped 002

Don’t forget the dressing (and plenty of it).

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Two minutes later… I call it lunch.

more chopped 004

Comfort Soup

Sue’s Very Veggie, Cold-Annihilating Comfort Soup
(a.k.a. chicken-free, gluten-free, chicken noodle soup to cure what ails you)

You can do so many things with this soup. Basically, you want a broth that is seasoned with traditional chicken soup seasonings to give you that wonderful aroma that you remember from childhood. You can make your own from one of my very favorite cookbook authors, Bryanna Clark Grogan here, OR you can buy a packaged seasoning like this one that I got a Country Life Naturals in Pullman, Michigan.

Most importantly, you should be able to understand every ingredient on a seasoning package. MSG lurks in disguise in phrases like ‘autolyzed yeast extract.’ You don’t want or need to put that stuff in your body and it’s in most soup seasonings and bouillon cubes. Take care. All the products I’ve mentioned here have been scrutinized by me with my reading glasses on.

Comfort Soup
10 cups water, divided
¼ cup La Chikky Seasoning (or vegan, chicken seasoning of your choice)* (save 1T for seasoning soy curls, if using)
2 vegan chicken bouillon cubes**
1 ½ cups Butler soy curls or other chicken substitute, optional (more on this below).
8 cups mixed veggies, divided into two piles 1) veggies to sauté like onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, mushroom; and 2) veggies to simmer, such as celery root, carrot, turnip, cauliflower
2 big handfuls ban pho-style rice noodles***
1 tsp. to 1 T chili powder, optional
¼ cup chopped parsley

Heat ½ cup water in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Toss in all the sauté veggies and steam sauté until they begin to soften 5-8 minutes.

Add 7 ½ cups of water, the chicken seasoning and bouillon cubes and simmer veggies. Bring to a low boil and simmer 15 minutes.

In the meantime, rehydrate Butler Soy Curls, if using (directions below)

Toss in the ban-pho rice noodles and simmer another 6-8 minutes.

Taste your seasonings. You may want to add salt, black pepper or more chili powder. That really helps clear sinuses. Take advantage of aromatherapy.

Turn off the heat and add the soy curls, give a good stir and sprinkle with parsley.

By this time, everyone is in the kitchen wanting some soup!

Rehydrating Soy Curls
Heat water just two boiling and stir in a tablespoon of seasoning powder. Press the curls under the water and let stand ten minutes. When water is cool enough for you to handle, squeeze soy curls dry and put remaining water into your soup. Whirl the soy curls in your food processor until they achieve a shredded chicken-like consistency. I purchase my soy curls at Country Life Naturals. Butler Soy Curls are a really fun addition to a vegan cook’s repertoire. I’ll write about them separately later. They are not highly processed and they use the entire soybean. So basically, they are cooked, dehydrated non-GMO soybeans. If you’re not avoiding soy, you should try them. They don’t have a long shelf life, so must be refrigerated or frozen. They look fantastic, have a good health profile but I find their texture a little rubbery if they are not wrung completely dry from the soaking water and then chopped up in my food processor. My husband, Roger, doesn’t think they are necessary (I like them!). You can also use another chicken substitute for a chewy texture, like seitan or a commercial product—though these tend to be highly processed with a lot of yuk! and often egg whites. I do not recommend Quorn brand, which is made from a fungus.

I served my soup to two ailing friends and one ailing husband. It was a good RX, served alongside Indian and Italian-inspired farinata

* Vegetarian Express makes La Chikky Seasoning. It is located in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. Support Michigan businesses! I purchase mine at Country Life Naturals in Pullman, Michigan.
** I used CelefibR from Harvest Health
*** I bought my ban pho noodles at Asian Delight.

Here’s Your Super Chili Bowl

Without beans, meat or heat my chili can still beat up your chili! Okay, okay, that’s a juvenile statement and I used black-eyed peas, which are technically legumes, like beans, but they are also known to cause less flatulence than other beans. It’s true! Here’s the controlled study. And for reasons too numerous to mention, in this recipe heat was out, discomfort was out and meat is always out at stirthepot, so it was a bit of a challenge. But nothing is too daunting! My memories of chili are ‘meaty,’ ‘saucy,’ and ‘spicy.’ How could I retain all these good qualities? 

Bulgur wheat, and sautéed ground mushrooms stand in for the ground beef; imperial stout, ground tomatoes and tomato paste supply the base for the saucy; and cumin, coriander and mild ancho chili powder lend a spicy flavor.

To begin, you want four cups of chopped vegetables. Yes, you can use base chop, but make sure the pieces are small. You want them all to mingle. For this chili, I used onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, red pepper, zucchini and corn. I cracked open a bottle of imperial stout and poured few ounces ina rounded sauté pan. According to the internet, stout makes beef taste beefier, so who knows?  Maybe it makes bulgur wheat taste beefier, too.

I sautéed the first four on the list in the stout until soft, then transferred them to the slow cooker. Next I sautéed the red pepper, zucchini and corn in a little more stout and tossed those in the slow cooker. Finally, I sautéed a package of baby Portobello mushrooms. When all the liquid had been absorbed, I put them in my food processor and pulsed maybe 6 or 7 times. This is what they looked like.

They went into the slow cooker, too. I washed and dried the sauté pan and put in 1 ½ T ground cumin and ½ T ground coriander and a tablespoon of mild ancho chili powder. I stirred these over medium heat for a minute before adding 1 cup medium grind bulgur wheat to the pan. This I toasted for about three minutes. You will know when the spices and bulgur are toasted because the pan will begin to smoke and you will smell the difference. The bulgur went in the slow cooker.

Two and a half cups of ground tomatoes, the rest of the stout and one and a half cups of water later, it was beginning to look a lot like chili. (I’m not going to mention the part where I  freaked out because the stout taste was so strong. It does cook off without discernible notice, but consider yourself warned. You can always add more water.) It was time to add a can of black-eyed peas, stir and let the slow cooker do its magic for an hour or two.

After the bulgur had a chance to fully cook, I tasted the chili and decided to add 1 ½ T of tomato paste, ½ tsp. liquid smoke, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. granulated garlic.  In the end, you may choose to add more salt or load on the hot sauce (as I am intending to).  But whatever you do, the result is not only substantial, but delicious and perfect with corn muffins! That’s tomorrow’s post.

Meal Four with the Base Chop: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

Here is a dish you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next two days and not get tired of it!  Okay, grab two cups of the base chop and toss it in Grandma’s cooking pot.  Ours belonged to Roger’s grandmother.

What liquid to saute with?  Well, as you’ll see I’m going for a kinda Caribbean balance of sweet and tangy.  So perfect use for that apple wine we didn’t really enjoy drinking but is fun to cook with…

This morning I peeled about 8 sweet potatoes, cubed them, spritzed them with olive oil and tossed them with chili powder (to taste), 2 tsp. kosher salt and 2 tsp. black pepper.  Then I dumped the whole thing onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stuck it in the oven for about thirty minutes, until the cubes were soft and nicely browned.  I’m thinking you can also simmer the sweet potatoes after you’ve sauteed the veggies in about four cups of water (but I didn’t do it this way.)

Once your veggies have softened, add four cups of water, three cups of ground peeled tomatoes (you can use one can, but I wouldn’t use as much as two), a can of rinsed black beans and the juice of three oranges. I also tossed in about a tablespoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon orange zest and a heaping tsp. of fresh ginger.  In addition, I put in 1/2 cup ‘tropical fire’ sauce, which I’ll be writing about in another post.  You can mimic this for the time being by adding chopped hot peppers or chili powder and something sweet–some chopped mango or pineapple, or even some agave nectar.  You are trying to balance the sweet/spiciness of the dish.  Simmer for a minute or two and taste, adjusting the seasonings.

Rinse 3/4 cup quinoa in a sieve and toss this in.  The quinoa will expand and your stew (which may be a little soupy now) will thicken up considerably.  Simmer this for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa has softened.  Ladle into bowls and serve.  I didn’t put much salt in this dish (it comes with the tomatoes and the beans), so I like topping the stew with chopped roasted peanuts and toasted coconut.  You decide. The crunchy texture is really nice.

Black bean and sweet potato stew

Meal Two with the Base Chop: Lentil Soup

Okay, I admit it. I’m a lentil snob. I favor the French du puy lentils over the more traditional brown lentils. Yes, they cost a little bit more, but they have the most delicious flavor. You can buy them in bulk for $3.19 a pound at Nourish Market on Wealthy. They are also sold in bulk at Harvest Health.

So, began by putting 1 and 1/2 cups of rinsed lentils into about six cups of water and heating it to a boil. Then, in a non-stick stir fry pan, I threw in about two cups of veggies from the base chop and I was amazed at how many were left! I think I have two more days of meals here. We will see.

I steam-sauteed these veggies with red wine to give them more body. I also added a vegetable stock base to the lentils. ‘Better than bouillon’ is my favorite.

For the lentil soup, I used the vegetable base. Once the veggies had softened, I added about four cloves of chopped garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I sauteed that for two minutes more before adding the vegetables to the soup. After fifteen minutes of a low boil, I had a luscious soup (note fresh celery leaves on top).

My husband, Roger, likes a brothy soup, so that’s what we’ve got here. To us, the perfect accompaniment (though not exactly health food) is Jim Lahey’s overnight bread made with King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour.


Meal One with the Base Chop: Bulgur Mexicana

Here is meal #1 with the ‘base chop‘ vegetables.

2 cups chopped veggies (onions, green and red pepper, carrot, celery, etc.)
2 1/2 cups vegetable bouillon
1 T cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup medium bulgur wheat (the kind typically sold in grocery stores)

Place two cups of veggies into a non-stick stir fry pan.

You could argue that i crowded the pan...

Steam fry for eight or so minutes over medium heat. This means add very small amount of vegetable stock to the pan of sizzling veggies while stirring to keep them from sticking. Once the vegetables have softened, add the spices (my stock has salt, so I don’t add extra). The pan will look and feel dry. That’s okay! Add the bulgur wheat and keep it all moving around for another two minutes. You are toasting the bulgur and this brings a wonderfully nutty taste to the dish. Once you can see the bulgur change color and smell toasty, add the rest of the stock, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Let it simmer for another ten minutes over low heat until all the water is absorbed.

In the meantime, make some avocado cream!

Avocado cream

2 tsp. fresh lime juice (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
6 oz. firm ‘mori-nu’ style tofu (the kind that comes in a box)
1 medium avocado

You can put this in a small blender or food processor or whip it with an emulsion blender until smooth and creamy. Yum! Serve with crunchy toppings like radishes and jicama, salsa, hot sauce.

We had leftover hashbrowns. I threw them in with the stock. We also had a nice black bean and corn salsa left over from another meal. We ate that, too. And some leftover tortillas (though you don’t really need them). It was delicious and the meal took about 20 minutes to prepare with my pre-chopped veggies.

I should also note that these beautiful bowls are handmade for me by my dear friend, Judy Elsley, a wonderful potter, fabric artist and literature professor who lives in Ogden, Utah. Thank you for more bowls for Christmas, Judy!

Judy at an award ceremony at Weber State University where she was honored