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Black Bean-Sweet Potato Chili

This is one of my favorite winter comfort recipes:

Black Bean-Sweet Potato Chili

It has lots of good antioxidants and garlic to chase the sparkly vampires nasty flu bugs away.  I made this for dinner last week, shared some with my parents, had some for lunch the next day, and froze the rest.  It will make for easy school-night meals as the semester picks up.  Instead of using canned beans, I cooked a pound of dried beans in the crock pot early in the morning.

ImageBeans a-soaking: Cooking your own will cost about 1/4 as much as using canned beans.

Then I added the other ingredients:



…and cooked for on high 6 more hours.


1 medium red onion, chopped: $0.79
1 red pepper, chopped: $1.43
4 garlic cloves, minced: $0.20
1 large sweet potato: $0.49
2 limes: $0.50
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes: $1.99
1 pound dried black beans: $1.29
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper: $0.05
1 tablespoon cumin: $0.05
1 tablespoon chili powder: $0.05
1 tablespoon cocoa powder $0.05


/8 servings = $0.86/serving!

That’s really cheap, even for me.  And thank goodness.  Adjuncts don’t get paid in January.  However, planning ahead a little bit means that I’m not stuck with ramen.  Not that there’s anything wrong with ramen.  But variety is the spice of life.

Lovely Luau

My awesome and amazing girlfriends threw me a luau-themed birthday party!  This was a perfect way to forget the dreary January weather and post-Christmas blues.

It’s not a luau without cheesy tropical drinks.  I made 2 pitchers of Bahama Mamas using orange juice, pineapple juice, Sierra Mist, sliced oranges, lemons, and limes.  I added Malibu coconut rum to one pitcher; the other pitcher remained Virgin Mamas.  I bet you can guess which pitcher was more popular.

My favorite Bahama Mama helped me garnish each drink with an orange slice, a maraschino cherry, and a drink umbrella!


My friend Matt is a very talented self-taught vegan chef, and he made carrot-ginger soup!  He said he found it on a Hawaiian lady’s blog.  I’ll have to ask him for the link.  It was full of warming spices, perfect for a winter’s eve luau.  We had that with some King’s Hawaiian rolls, provided by Kate.  I love those.

I hate to say this, but it wouldn’t be a Hawaiian party without some Spam.  Thanks to Sara and Marc for balancing out the vegan offerings!

I made some Hawaiian Fried Rice.


Jenny made me a heavenly glazed mango-coconut-macadmia loaf:

And Sara made a decadent chocolate-macadamia pie.  So, yeah, my friends rock.  I couldn’t be luckier.  And now they all have birthdays coming up, so it’s time to start planning!

“I’m Tiki Man, and I approve this fried rice.”


1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil: $0.04
canola oil: $0.06
1 lb firm tofu, diced $1.99
1 medium red onion, finely chopped: $0.79
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped: $1.43
1 small yellow bell pepper, fine chopped: $1.43
1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped: $1.19
1 medium carrot, finely chopped: $0.08
5 cups cooked jasmine rice: $2.33 (I used the frozen kind from Trader Joe’s; would have been a lot cheaper to cook it the old-fashioned way)
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce: $0.05
2 tablespoons oyster sauce: $0.30
1 tablespoon sambal oelek: $0.12
1 cup diced pineapple: $3.49 (I used more than a cup, and it was the fresh stuff, already cut.  It would probably be cheaper to use canned OR hack up a pineapple yourself.)
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped: (I omitted these to keep it cheap)

= $13.30 for a HUGE wok-ful!

/12 servings



Holiday Gatherings

In honor of the holidays, my ladies and I recently had a potluck where the theme was red foods.  This was Jenny’s idea, and I thought it was really cute.  Plus, I’ve been looking for an excuse to try this Beet Hummus recipe that I found on Pinterest (minus the optional yogurt).


It was a beautiful color and had a sweet, earthy flavor that we really enjoyed.

Jenny brought delicious caprese salad from Cupini’s, our favorite little Italian cafe.


Sara brought good crusty bread and a wonderful pasta dish:


Kate provided the wine…very important!

And for dessert I made a red velvet cake, dyed naturally with beet powder!  Of course, I kind of ruined the natural dye effect by adding some red icing and crushed candy canes.  I’m not completely opposed to artificial dyes, though.  I just didn’t want to use 2 whole bottles because it tastes kind of bitter.


I did use the eggs in the recipe, but I replaced the milk with soy milk and the cream cheese with Trader Joe’s soy cream cheese.

Later that week I went to an annual ugly sweater party, and I made a gingerbread cake with an ugly sweater!  It got a little smooshed on the way there, but I like to think that that just made it even uglier.


For this one I used the same soy cream cheese frosting, the gingerbread mix from Trader Joe’s, and a TON of artificially dyed icing.  It was a hit.  One of my friends asked me if my boyfriend has taught me a lot about baking (he’s an awesome chef, as I’ve pointed out here before).  I didn’t tell her that it was a mix.  But I guess that’s public knowledge now!

Happy Holidays!  Eat lots of good food!

Thanksgiving 2012

It was good to have the family together after too many years and to celebrate with some flexibility in my eating habits.  😉

For breakfast I made pumpkin-cranberry scones from a mix from Trader Joe’s (had to get some pumpkin in somewhere)

My Dad made a ham, so I tried to think of hearty vegetarian entrees that would complement that.  I decided that pineapple would go well with sweet potatoes (much better than the classic/gross marshmallow topping) and then found this lovely recipe for pineapple upside down sweet potatoes.  It was wonderful!


I also made my Nine a Day Salad, which is always a hit. 

and some collard greens with pecans



some simple garlic mashed potatoes (made with soy milk)

cornbread stuffing mix from Trader Joe’s to which I added sauteed onions and celery + corn kernels

My sister made the classic/delicious green bean casserole: a huge crowd pleaser.  My Mom made Pilsbury crescent rolls and 2 pies: apple and pecan.

Everything was absolutely delicious!  I was thankful for an abundance of good food and family.

Pumpkin Fanatic

When I was a kid we had a cat named Dusty II who would go to great lengths to get my Mom’s homemade pumpkin pie.  She would climb on top of the fridge, chew through saran wrap, get lids off with her paws, etc.  When autumn rolls around, I AM Dusty.  I can’t get enough pumpkin soy lattes, pumpkin sweets, pumpkin-scented candles, and even savory pumpkin entrees.  I would like to think that it’s due to some kind of seasonal vitamin A deficiency, but I’m pretty sure it’s all about mental comfort.  There ARE worse dependencies, though, right?

Cartoon Found on Pinterest

Anyway, when I saw Amber Shea’s Creamy Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal on Almost Vegan, I HAD to try it!  I modified it for the microwave because I hate washing dishes.  I just mixed the following in a bowl:

  • 1/4 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sweetener of choice (I used a drizzle of agave nectar)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pecans

Then I microwaved it for about a minute and then let it sit for about a minute.  It was like pumpkin pie for breakfast: sooooo delicious!

  • 1/4 cup quick oats: $0.02
  • 1/4 cup soy milk: $0.05
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin purée: $0.20
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon: $0.03
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract: $0.05
  • Sweetener of choice (I used a drizzle of agave nectar): $0.02
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pecans: $0.05

=$0.42 for a perfect breakfast!

Also recently I made some pumpkin cupcakes for a friend’s birthday party.  I used the easiest recipe in history.  Just mix:

  • 1 box of spice cake mix
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Spoon into 12 muffin cups, then bake at 350 for 22 to 24 minutes.

These come out fluffy, moist, and super low in fat!

In keeping with the whole low-fat thing, I decided to frost them with a healthy chocolate-pumpkin frosting.  Just mix:

  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract

This stuff tasted good.  I liked that it wasn’t too sweet.  BUT I was really disappointed with the consistency.  The picture on the Web site has a perfectly piped petal pattern, but my frosting was gloppy, runny, and ugly.  No problem.  I spooned a SMALL amount on each cupcake and then ran to the corner store for some sprinkles.  When I got to the party, the frosting was pretty smooshed, but sprinkles hide all decorating sins.

People said they liked the cupcakes, including one guy who normally doesn’t like pumpkin.

  • 1 box of spice cake mix: $1.29
  • 1 can of pumpkin: $1.79
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract: $0.10
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin: $0.40
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder: $0.36
  • 1/4 c. honey: $0.75
1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce: $0.17

=$4.86 for a dozen cupcakes or $0.41 each

I won’t give up on my pumpkin obsession until after Christmas.



Edamame Dip

There’s a local company that makes a really delicious edamame dip.  I love to support local businesses but at $5 for an 8-ounce tub, it’s hard for me to justify buying the stuff very often.  What’s a thrifty blogger to do?  Craft her own copycat version, of course!

I started with about half a bag of frozen shelled edamame, which I thawed in the microwave and then dumped into my food processor.  Then I added 2 cloves roasted garlic, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, and a good drizzle of sriracha sauce.  I blended that, scraping the sides once in a while, until it was nice and smooth.  I found that it took longer to blend than hummus.  Patience is a virtue here.  You don’t want grainy edamame dip.

Then I topped it with more sriracha (I can’t get enough of that stuff lately) and served it with dried peas.  Once you try this stuff, you’ll be putting it on everything: sandwiches, baked potatoes, salads.  You won’t feel bad about it either, because edamame is super nutritious and a cheap source of protein!

  • 1/2 bag edamame: $0.85
  • 2 cloves garlic: $0.10
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar: $0.03
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce: $0.03
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil: $0.26
  • about a tablespoon of sriracha: $0.06

=$1.33 for a little less than 2 cups of edamame dip!

So this was less than 1/3 the cost of buying a tub at the store and yielded a little bit more.  And it was super EASY to make!  Maybe next time I’ll share.

The Burrito Before Christmas

All week I’ve been looking forward to a fun fall night with my ladies.

First we went to the grand opening of Freebirds World Burrito in my neighborhood.

This California-based chain is a lot of fun!  The staff was super friendly and funny, the food was delicious, and the prices were reasonable.  For about 6 bucks I got a burrito, chips with guacamole, and a drink.  They also have a rewards card that makes every 10th entree free.

The food is very similar to Chipotle BUT with a lot more options.  I LOVE that they have four different burrito sizes.  I went with the Hybrid (small), and it was just about perfect.  They also have different tortilla flavors.  I tried the cayenne, which is their most popular, and it was actually pretty spicy!  The kicker for me was the nice sticky rice: much more delicious than Chipotle’s.  I chose the black beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, roasted peppers and onions, corn, fresh jalapenos, and medium salsa, but my favorite part by far was the ROASTED GARLIC!  YUM!

I will definitely be coming back here.

Next we went over to Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse for a screening of one of my favorite holiday movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas.  It was a lot of fun.  They even made Jack Skellington cupcakes for the occasion:

I enjoyed one of those adorable cupcakes with a London Fog (Earl Grey tea with steamed soy milk).  They asked me if I want it “smogged.”  I hadn’t heard that term yet, but apparently that’s when you sprinkle cocoa powder on top.  Delightful!

Enjoy your Halloween weekend, everybody!