Category Archives: Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday: Veggie Chili

Let’s go in reverse chronological order. I’m sitting in my parents’ family room with my parents, my grandma, and my cousin. We’re watching Monday Night Football. Well, they are.

Before this, I took a long, luxurious nap.

Before that, I ate a bean, cheese, rice and salsa burrito from my favorite Mexican place, Las Golondrinas.

Before that, I went on a hot, quite uphill 5-mile hike with my dad and cousin at Caspers Wilderness Park off the Ortega Highway.

About a week before that, I made vegetarian chili.

I improvised this one. Let me share it with you.

  • 1 can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 can veggie broth (I know, I’m sorry. But more than this and it’ll be too soupy. Maybe you can leave it out.)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 8 button, cremini, or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 or 2 tsp cumin, depending on your tastes
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T Olive oil
Coat skillet with olive oil. Cook onion and garlic on medium high heat until onions are translucent. Add bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms, cook 3 more minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, tomato paste, mix and cook for 1 minute. Add beans and corn so they can heat up a little. Add tomatoes and the half can of veggie broth [hey! Maybe you can try beer. That might be good!]. Bring that up to a good boil, let boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for 15 more minutes. Serve with crusty bread and cheese. 
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Meatless Monday: The Poor Girl’s Marinara Sauce

I tutor at an after-school learning center for students from different schools around Santa Ana. I work with kids in grades 1-5 in groups of 2 to 6. We are crammed into a little Sunday school classroom in the basement of an old church downtown.

Some days go like this:

Six kids make a beeline for my table. “Miss Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeigh!” They throw their backpacks on the ground excitedly. Sometimes I get hugs. They tell me about their days. On a good day, they do this while taking out their homework.

Then it begins. “Miss Leigh, I need help!” They all need help with their math homework. This is usually the most difficult subject, and we encourage them to do the hardest work first. They are from different schools and are in different grades, so they don’t have the same assignment. “OK, I’m going to help [student 1] first, so do you have other homework you can work on until I get to you?” I ask. One student will usually protest, saying, “But mine’s the hardest! UUUUGH!” I usually ignore it. From here, it’s an hour of dodging over tiny-chair-and-backpack landmines while I work my way around the table, helping them dissect each word problem or set of directions while they tune me out. (Therein lie the deeper problems of needing to improve literacy and fluency. And motivation. And focus.) When they’re done, I’ll have to do it all again for the next group of kids.

When I’m done, I’m done. I’ve mentally checked out. I’m dreaming of a mixing bowl full of spaghetti, a movie, a dark room, and a big glass of wine.

Enter cheap marinara. I hate most jarred pasta sauces, so I decided to make my own.

To continue the educational theme, let’s learn a little bit about the origins of marinara sauce from The Italian Chef: “Marinara derives from the Italian word for sailor, marinaro. Due to these origins I have seen many people say that marinara sauce must contain something from the sea, usually anchovies. Actually this is not the case, the origins of marinara sauce are that it is the sauce that they made in Naples for the sailors when they returned from the sea.”

  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (I use a teaspoon of the jarred type)
  • 2 cans diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • splash of whatever wine you’re drinking
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
Cook onion and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, herbs, wine and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. I usually cook the pasta at this point. Add salt/pepper to taste. Makes 4-6 servings. Or 2, if you’re me (half for now, half for lunches and dinners later).
It tastes better in a dark room with wine and a Hayao Miyazaki movie.

Meatless Monday: Summer Vegetable Tian

I hope you all had good weekends. On Friday I hung out with my mom and (as usual) we went to Grammy’s house for dinner (shrimp louie salad – one of my favorites). On Saturday morning I went to Macy’s to find a shirt to wear under my suit for my interview that’s coming up this week. Luckily, I found something quickly. My idea of shopping is getting what I want and leaving, much to the chagrin of many of my female friends and relatives. Later on I headed over to Riverside to see the Great Picture Exhibit at the UC Riverside art gallery with 8 of my SJSU friends.

It was mildly disappointing. The process of how they took the picture was pretty amazing, but the product itself (a negative captured on a huge canvas covered in some photographic emulsion that looked like gray paint) was not what we expected. We could barely make out a few palm trees and an air traffic control tower in the roughly-textured emulsion. Oh, well. In the end, I’m glad I got to see it in person.

After that, we had lunch at Simple Simon’s and walked around the Mission Inn. I was mesmerized by the macaws, Napoleon and Joseph, who were eating nuts and cherries for lunch outside the lobby. So mesmerized that I forgot to take a picture. Please use your imagination.

Last Monday, I made summer vegetable tian using a fantastic recipe from Budget Bytes. The only change I’d make is zapping the potatoes in the microwave for a little bit or parboiling them – they take way longer to cook through than tomatoes, squash, and zucchini. I should have gone with my instincts on that one.

Beautiful! If you ignore the side where I stuffed extra vegetables.

Vegan cheese! Vegan cheese! Vegan cheese! (Veggie Shreds, mozzarella flavor)

My dad, who is not very adventurous as far as hippie food goes, loved the vegan cheese. Ha! Good. Because I’m making something with tempeh tonight if I can get my hands on some.

Meatless Monday: Peach and Cashew Salad

This weekend was nice. I spent some time organizing and cleaning (surprise!) and running errands on Friday. On Saturday I had a good workout and went with friends to Stone Brewery in Escondido. My friend Ryan and I managed to snag spots for the 7pm tour. After the guys got their growlers filled with the ’09 Double Bastard, we ate dinner out on the patio. We got home around 1AM. I was exhausted on Sunday so I decided to stay in my pajamas, organize photos on my computer, and tweak my blog layout.

Last Monday I managed to screw up stir fry. Anyone who’s made stir fry before knows it’s pretty hard to screw up stir fry. I blame myself for not checking to see if the veggies we had were good. It was just…bad. I’d rather not discuss it. We ended up getting burgers from In-N-Out instead.

The next day I made myself a pretty great salad for lunch. Spring mix + peaches + cashews + Makoto ginger/carrot dressing. It was nothing extraordinary but it sure was tasty.

I’m looking forward to making more interesting veggie dishes. Salad is way too easy!

Meatless Monday: Golden Lentil Soup

How was your weekend? Mine was exhausting! On Friday I took my 6- and 9-year-old cousins and their neighbor friend to Chuck E. Cheese for the afternoon. We ate pizza and I let them run wild while I finished reading The Help. Shortly after bringing them home my aunt relieved me of my duties and I went to my grandma’s house for our regular Friday night dinner. After dinner I rushed off to meet my cousin Shannon to see Crazy Stupid Love. It was lighthearted and cute, which was exactly what I needed that night.

On Saturday night I said goodbye to RX Bandits, the band that had the biggest influence on me as a teenager and opened me up to all kinds of different music genres. They played the second-to-last show of their farewell tour at the Glass House in Pomona with Zechs Marquise (they were really good) and The Hot Toddies (we missed them, unfortunately). Almost all of my friends who also grew up with their music were there so it was a sentimental night. And in addition to their playing most of my favorites, Matt Embree covered one of my favorite Sam Cooke songs. My ears are happy forever!

My friend Ryan and me at an RXB show in 2005. I've been going to their Southern California shows for nine years!

Sunday was a little more relaxing. I met a librarian friend briefly in the afternoon and then went to the Gypsy Den for book club to discuss The Irregulars (which I could not bring myself to finish).

So that was my weekend!

For this installment of Meatless Monday, I made Zov’s Golden Lentil Soup. I tried to do it all in the crock pot, but it didn’t work out quite as well as I’d hoped. Next time I’ll just stick to making it all at once like I usually do. In any case, I highly recommend this recipe. You probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry. It’s vegan, totally fat free, flavorful, and makes great leftovers.

Look! Pita wings! Golden lentil snitch soup!

Meatless Mondays: Lentil Sloppy Joes

A couple Mondays ago, my mom told me she was tired of eating meat all the time. She wanted us to branch out from the usual rotation of recipes and takeout while also meeting my brother’s and my dietary needs (my brother and I are both living at home right now). I was elated. I love meat, but I love “rabbit food” just a little bit more. So we have instituted Meatless Mondays in our home and I am determined to see it through as long as I live here.

One thing that has made this transition easy so far (I know, it’s just one meal a week, but my parents are born-and-bred-meat-and-potatoes people) is that I help out with the cooking a lot as is. Now the extra authority is mine for the taking. Another thing that’s helped is that it’s summer, and to say my parents have green thumbs is an understatement (my dad’s a nurseryman, my mom is a natural gardener and a California native plant enthusiast). They grow tomatoes every summer along with a rotation of other fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes are my life force in the summer: I love tomato sandwiches for any meal (toast bread, spread mayo, add tomato, sprinkle with salt and pepper). And the tomatoes from our backyard are just large and gnarly enough so that one slice can cover a whole slice of bread.

But man cannot not rely on tomato sandwiches alone. So last week some friends pointed me to numerous vegan/veggie blogs and recipes. For my first official Meatless Monday meal, I made lentil sloppy joes from Post Punk Kitchen:

They were great! The next day after I came home from my internship, I microwaved the leftovers with some rice from Sunday night and it tasted even better.

Tonight, I’m making Golden Lentil Soup (with green lentils left over from sloppy joe ingredients) from Zov’s cookbook (Zov is one of our hometown celebrities here in Tustin). I’ve made this soup many times before, but never in a Crock Pot. Crossing my fingers that it goes well.

Last weekend:

Reeling from a phone call inviting me for a job interview!! + Talking about books with friends on shady patios + Pliny the Elder on tap at TBC + Veggie nachos + Malbec + Pretty sunsets + Coffee on rainy mornings + Finishing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban + Experimenting with quinoa