Simple Spicy Green Beans and Tofu

Two  months ago, Steven and I bought a house. We’d been looking for for something old, with lots of character, in the country(ish).

We bought an early ’70s midcentury-inspired, contemporary-as-all-heck house in the suburbs. And we love it.

What I love perhaps most of all is having a beautiful backyard where I can garden and my pups can hang out. My wonderful parents came down to help us move, and my dad built us two raised garden beds. He also brought plants galore and taught me all about the best ways to transplant various little plantlings. (It pays to have a master gardener who spends most of his free time at a greenhouse for a dad!) We planted relatively late in the season and had a little deer-eating-all-the-baby-tomatoes incident, but things are finally starting to pick up out there. I have more basil than I know what to do with, and everything is coming in beautifully. I love it. Just look at these sweet filius blue peppers — aren’t they cute?!

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Cutest lil peppers that you ever did see.

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I also love living a mile from a wonderful weekend farmers’ market. On Saturday mornings, I walk over to the market to stock up on lush fresh veg and fruit, then treat myself to a cold-brew coffee from Brewing Good Coffee Co., a local craft coffee roaster that just happens to be run by vegans. (Their motto is “Drink coffee. Save animals.” Done.) By the time I get home, I’m extra sweaty from being weighed down by all that veggie goodness, but at least I’m caffeinated!

This Saturday, I picked up a big ol’ carton of green beans and knew I had to gobble them up right away. They starred in a spicy dish alongside some tofu and hot peppers from the garden (not the ones in the photo above). I finished everything off with a nice spicy sauce and served over brown rice. Yes, this recipe is super simple — in fact, it’s barely a recipe at all. But this time of year, when all this gorgeous produce is in its prime, I like meals that are simple enough to let the veggies shine. Plus, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when the sun is shining and you’ve got a backyard calling your name?! :)

Green beans and tofu star in this simple, spicy vegan dinner.

Simple Spicy Green Beans & Tofu
Serves 2-3

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small purple cayenne hot peppers, diced OR 1-2 t dried red pepper flakes*
  • 2 T low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 lb green beans, chopped or snapped into roughly 1″ pieces

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the ginger, garlic, and pepper/pepper flakes. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic starts to brown, then add the tofu.

Cook the tofu over medium-low for 7-10 minutes, turning every few minutes, until the cubes start to get crispy and golden. Keep the heat on medium-low so the tofu doesn’t burn.

Add the green beans to the saucepan and cover. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Remove the lid and pour in the sauce. Stir to coat, and cook for another minute or two until the sauce is absorbed. Serve immediately over brown rice.

*You can really use any fresh hot pepper you’d like — I just happened to have two of these little guys ripe and ready to go.

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What’s your favorite easy summer veg-forward dinner?

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies.

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

It’s one of the great thrills of my life to hear someone (usually S!) exclaim “Mmm!” after biting into something I’ve made from an original recipe. (Cue the jokes about my boring life.) Truly, though, the sensation of pride and pleasure I feel when I’m feeding someone delicious animal-free food is a unique delight. Last week, I made this amazing pumpkin bundt cake for a coworker’s birthday celebration, and I reveled in the sighs of happiness I heard from my well-fed coworkers. And tonight, when S gave a loud and enthusiastic “Mmm!” after trying this cheesy, tomato-y sandwich, I was similarly pleased.

I’ve been mulling over the idea of a thick, bean-based cheesy sandwich spread for a few weeks. Happy Herbivore has a cheesy spread that makes a decent grilled cheese, but it’s not particularly filling. I wanted to create something with a little more nutritional oomph. Enter the beans! This sandwich combines the classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup into a thick, savory spread that doesn’t taste at all beany. I love it on sourdough, but you can use your favorite sandwich bread.

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich
Serves 3 or 4, depending on your spread thickness preferences!

  • 15 oz. Great Northern beans
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 slices bread per sandwich

In a blender or food processor, combine the beans, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste until the beans are pureed and spreadable. Add the remaining ingredients and continue processing or blending until you have a thick, uniform spread.

Transfer the spread to a small saucepot and heat on low. In the meantime, prepare the bread the way you like it best. I like to butter it on both sides and toast it in a pan, but you can also use a toaster or toaster oven. Once the spread is heated through and the bread is toasted, add a few tablespoons of spread to the bread, make the sandwich, and enjoy!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge tomato soup fan, but as part of a cheesy sandwich spread? I dig it!

What’s your favorite sandwich spread or grilled “cheese” recipe?

Three-Bean Millet Chili

Certain dishes are tied to very specific times in my life. Brown rice with pesto? College, eating at the dining hall, not caring for any of the veg options, and making a meal from the a la carte items. Celeste frozen pizzas? Kindergarten and the first few years of elementary school, when my mom ran an in-home daycare and would occasionally let us sit on blankets in the basement eating pizza and watching Star Wars. Popcorn with loads of different topping options? My first year in Madison, when my roommate Kristina and I would set up a “popcorn bar” and watch countless episodes of The Office.

Some dishes, though, are constants, growing up right along with me. My mom has made apple crisp with fresh-picked apples every autumn I can remember, only now she uses Earth Balance instead of butter. And my dad has always, always been able to whip up a mean batch of chili. It was kind of his thing when we were young; everyone knew Mitch would bring a delicious spicy chili to family parties. These days, he foregoes the ground beef and makes them plant-based instead. (I’m told he made a killer mushroom-based faux-meat filling this summer, but I didn’t get to try it!)

When S and I started dating, S wasn’t quite as facile in the kitchen as I was (not to mention that he ate meat at that point!). But he could do one thing I couldn’t: he could make a kick-ass chili. Once when my parents visited me in Madison, I made chili for lunch, but it was watery, bland, and generally an embarrassment compared to the chilis my dad makes. He very diplomatically did not call out my subpar chili-making abilities, but I felt ashamed nonetheless. So the next time S made chili, I watched him and learned his secrets for making a thick, filling chili: Don’t add water or vegetable broth. Use tomato paste. Add a little brown sugar or molasses. Brilliant. My chilis have never been the same.

And of course, once you know the rules, you can break them! This three-bean chili totally ignores the no-water rule, but only because the addition of uncooked millet necessitates adding a little more liquid for the millet to soak up as it cooks. You could, of course, eschew the millet and its attendant water and go for a more traditional chili. But then you’d lose out on the 21 grams of protein and hefty dose of iron that the 3/4 cup of millet adds to this dish… and you’d lose out on a unique spin on traditional chili.

Three-Bean Millet Chili

Three-Bean Millet Chili
Serves eight

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red or yellow onion, diced (reserve about 1/4 cup for serving)
  • 1 poblano pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (reserve about 1/4 cup for serving)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (or more, depending on your tastes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano (but you can probably use regular oregano just fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Dash allspice
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 15-oz cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted if you have ’em!)
  • 15 oz water
  • 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup dried millet
  • 15 oz dark red kidney beans
  • 15 oz pinto beans
  • 15 oz black beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Scallions for serving (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the two diced peppers. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the spices. Stir to coat the vegetables, then mix in the roasted red peppers and the tomato paste. Add the diced tomatoes, water, coffee (if using), sugar, and millet and turn up to medium heat. Bring to a low boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until the millet is soft. Add the beans and simmer for another 15 minutes with the cover off to help any excess liquid evaporate. Like most chilis, this one benefits from as much simmering time as you can give it!

When you’re ready to serve, top each bowl with a sprinkle of diced onions, green peppers, and sliced scallions.

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When S tried his first bite, he exclaimed, “Mmm, this is good!” Dad, I think even you’d approve of this one!

What’s your favorite chili recipe?

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies.

Kale and White Bean Soup

LVV MoFo 2014 main

Years and years before kale was thrust into the spotlight by foodies in search of the next food superstar, my mama started making a kale soup that my entire family loved. I thought of that soup today, the first chilly day of the year, and knew I needed to make it. Kale soup, of course, is nothing new, and I do feel silly posting a recipe for something that’s as simple as simple can be. But if you have yet to discover the combination of kale and white beans, this soup is for you.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves six

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, diced
  • 3 medium-sized yellow potatoes, diced (about 1/4″ cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • Dash cloves
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 10-12 oz. curly kale, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 cups navy beans (or other white beans)
  • 4-5 cups water (or additional vegetable broth)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds, then add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and spices and give everything a big stir. Add the vegetable broth and turn up the heat to medium. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the water or additional broth Add a big scoop of kale and stir it in; after it wilts a bit, add another big scoop. Repeat until you’ve added all the kale. (Or you can just add it all in at once if your stockpot is big enough!). Add the beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is as tender as you like it. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Kale and White Bean Soup

My version of Mom’s kale soup uses a spice blend similar to that you’d find in chorizo, giving it a smoky, spicy flavor. But you can switch up the spices based your tastes. Like most soups, this one is endlessly versatile. You can also add and remove many of the ancillary ingredients. No celery? No problem. Feel like adding some bulk? Throw in some orzo or quinoa. In a rush? Use Trader Joe’s bagged kale; just pull off the larger stem bits. You could even reduce the spices and add some soyrizo.

Mom’s kale soup is, unsurprisingly, ridiculously healthy. A serving gives you 17 grams of protein, 18% of your recommended daily value of calcium, and 29% of your RDV of iron. You’ll also get lots of vitamin A and vitamin C. Thanks, Mom!

What’s your favorite soup?