Friday, January 15, 2010

Recipe to Warm Your Heart and Soul and Belly

Heather's Amazing Vegan Chili

I like recipes you can fudge. (I also like recipes FOR fudge, but that's a different matter entirely.) The thing about chili is that everyone makes it differently. Some people think it's essential to make it with beans. Others think meat is a key ingredient. I've seen it made without either. To me, chili isn’t chili without beans and tomato sauce. But if the beans and tomato sauce are the heart of the chili, then the spices, veggies and herbs are the soul. I hope you enjoy my chili recipe – but remember, this is just a framework – modify at will and make it your own!

Margarine/cooking oil – a tablespoon or two
1 chopped red onion (Tonight I only used 1/4 onion, as it was all I had. Still good. See? Wiggle room.)
4 cloves fresh garlic – chopped (I’m a garlic purist – that minced sh*t from the jar is just gross)
1 can whole pinto beans, drained
1 can whole black beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained
2 Mexican grey squash, washed, halved, and sliced – so cut into half-moon shapes
(Also good in addition or instead: bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash, yellow crookneck squash.)
Fresh organic oregano leaves (from my garden!)
1 large can plain tomato sauce
1 can plain (unseasoned) diced tomatoes
Half a small package of frozen corn
A good shaking of Tapatio sauce
A generous sprinkling of garlic salt
Black pepper / fresh ground peppercorns
A couple sliced fresh jalapenos, or if you're a Gringa cheater like me, one or two tablespoons of sliced jalapenos from the jar. And IF you ARE a Gringa cheater like me, go ahead and add in a dash of the juice from the jalapeno jar. ;)
1 package Mexican flavor Smart Ground (fake ground beef)
A dash of smoked paprika (Sounds all fancy, right? I bought a small can for a couple bucks at the Co-Op. No big deal, but super good!)
Fresh cut organic garlic chives (from my garden!)

Heat oil or margarine in a large frying pan over medium heat.
Brown onions, garlic, and squash (or other veggies, except corn).
In a large stock pot, heat the tomato sauce and tomatoes over low heat.
Add oregano and all beans to the frying pan, and allow them to cook for a few minutes over medium heat, absorbing the flavor of the onions, garlic and oregano.
While beans are browning, add corn, Tapatio, garlic salt, pepper and jalapenos / jalapeno juice to the tomatoes.
After beans are heated through, add them to the tomato sauce mixture. Stir. Cook, covered on low for a few minutes.
Add in the corn. Cook, covered, a few more minutes, until the corn is getting all hot and bothered.
Add in the Mexican flavor Smart Ground. (I wait to add it in until later because it gets mooshy if cooked too long.) Cook on low for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the Smart Ground is making beautiful steamy love to the chili beans, add in the dash of smoked paprika and the garlic chives. (I add them in juuuust before taking the chili off so as not to mess with their delicate texture and flavor.)
Stir it all up again! Top with deliciousness below, and serve with pipin’ hot cornbread. Voila!

IMPORTANT: You may like thick chili or thinner chili. Thin it down as you cook by adding proportionally more tomato sauce or even a little water. Thicken it up by letting it simmer a little longer with the lid off. After adding the smoked paprika and stirring well to mix the flavors up, taste the chili to make sure you like it, and adjust the spicing as necessary.

Top with the following suggestions of deliciousness:
~ Black olives
~ Cheese – I prefer Spring Hill garlic cheese curds. Nom nom nom!! Cheddar or jalapeno jack also work well.
~ Onions
~ Fresh cut garlic chives or plain ol’ chivey chives
~ Sour cream
~ Whatever floats yer boat!

I love to make a big pot of chili and put it in Tupperware and freeze it for lunches and dinners! I even add cheese and olives on top inside the containers so each one is ready to take to work and pop in the microwave!

I had it tonight with cornbread, made from the recipe from the back of the Quaker corn meal container. You can get that recipe yourself so I won't post it here, but the bread was fabulously moist! Next time I make it, I'm going to try adding jalapenos to the corn bread it for extra kick!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can One Be Taught to Write?

Teaching Writing

To sum up a note I recently received, I was asked whether writing is something that can be taught to anyone. The inquirer is a musician, who stated that he tries to imagine how he could teach music to another person. He mentioned that it feels like an intrinsic talent/passion to him, and wondered whether it's the same with writing. He said he's always loved to read, but he thinks that reading and writing are two completely different things.

My reply:


I ask you this: Are appreciating music and making it so different? Or do they feed off one another? That's how I look at writing. I've become acutely aware of this recently, as I haven't been reading as much as I usually do lately. I can tell it's taken a toll on my drive to write, my creativity, my self-discipline, and even my vocabulary/ability to express myself. So while reading and writing are completely different, I do believe one must have a love of reading to truly be a great writer. Otherwise, one just comes off as self-absorbed, boring, vapid, banal. In my ever-so-humble opinion, that is. ;)

To answer your question about whether one can be taught to write... well, I suppose I'd have to say both yes and no. There are techniques; styles; mechanics; grammar; spelling; and formulas that can be taught. There are masters and mistresses of the craft of the word who can help a person find her or his own voice.

But I think it's more a question of whether a person WANTS to write, and whether that is how one chooses to express herself or himself. Some people have a creative force, or perhaps an idea that can't properly be expressed in any other way aside from explicit use of words. If that person, who is a medium for that idea or that creative force, chooses to discipline and dedicate himself or herself to the craft of writing, and to seek knowledge about how to improve her or his craft, then, yes. One can be taught to write.

But if a person does not give a flying F about expressing the self or the idea through words, then, no. One cannot be taught to write.

But now I've gone on long enough. What do you think?

~ Heather

PS - I don't always speak in such an erudite manner. I promise, dude. ;)

What are your thoughts, Reader?