Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili

quinoa chili

For obvious reasons, winter has never really been my favorite. And by obvious reasons, I just mean, well, the cold. And the short, dark days. And the dry, chapped hands. The slippery roads. The salt that is copiously strewed over every business’ sidewalk, which stains my boots and requires my dog to wear boots because it stings his paws. That’s what I’m referring to when I say “obvious.”

But then there are days like the one I had last Sunday — days that remind me of winter’s virtues. Here’s a little bit how it went down: with my slippers and pajamas on, I snuggled with my dog and binge-watched Friends on Netflix while the smell of chili simmering in the slow cooker permeated my comfortably warm old home, enough that I wasn’t even thinking about the dropping temperatures outside.

While the slow cooker has long been touted as a working woman’s (or man’s) greatest asset for having ready-to-eat meals available upon walking in the door, I have long loved the slow cooker for its equally important role in helping me facilitate a day of doing absolutely nothing. And by nothing, I mean binge-watching Netflix shows.

Read More »


Vegan Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup (Vegan)People tend to say many different things when you tell them you’re from Detroit. Often, adjectives and descriptive phrases come to mind. Usually, “Vegan Haven” isn’t one of them. In fact, I doubt anyone has ever used that term to describe the city of Detroit and its surrounding areas. And there’s probably fair reasons for that. But I’d venture to say it would come as a surprise to most people that Detroit as a whole — the “food desert” pockets of Detroit make for a different story, entirely — does not exactly present a dearth of vegan options, either. While not New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, Detroit has plenty to boast about in the world of plant-based cuisine. Without getting too ahead of myself, it’s difficult for me to not be optimistic when I look at the upswing of vegan options in this city since I moved back 3 years ago.

Not only are there two exclusively vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of my house in Royal Oak, but another mostly vegetarian and Macrobiotic restaurant is no more than a 7 minute drive away. All offer many vegan options. And that’s not even considering downtown Detroit, where things are getting even more exciting. Since I moved back to the area, a longtime favorite vegetarian restaurant out of Ann Arbor, MI opened a second outpost near Woodward avenue in downtown Detroit. Then recently, an entirely vegan soul food restaurant made its mark on the city. Not to mention that Whole Foods Market famously opened its first location in the city, also right off of Woodward. I’ve been there several times since it opened, and love reporting that it seems to be enjoying continued success. I’m so excited about the growing number of vegetarian and vegan options around here that I’ve long been considering doing an entire blog post with reviews in the near future. So stay tuned!

Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup

But that’s not even where I’m going with this post. See, I told you I can get a bit excited. Hence, my tangent. No, the real point of this post is that in addition to the many exclusively vegetarian and vegan restaurants, there are also many non-veg restaurants in the area that have begun catering to us vegans, including local pizza places offering vegan (and sometimes gluten-free and vegan) pizzas, vegan sushi options popping up at Japanese restaurants (and not just the usual asparagus or avocado rolls) and make-your-own kale bowls topped with veggies and Daiya cheese with Shiitake bacon at the latest local “it” spot.

Read More »


Low-Fat Lentil-Quinoa Chili

Lentil-Quinoa chiliI feel like I’ve just recently discovered lentils. Not that I didn’t know what they were. Of course I did. It’s just that, until recently, I’ve had a bag of bulk lentils sitting in my pantry for what seems like forever, almost quite literally collecting dust. In my mind, they were probably destined to one day become part of some boring lentil soup. And I could always think of something just a little bit more exciting than lentil soup to make for dinner on any given night. So they sat there. Unused. Unwanted.

That all changed when I decided, once again, to try and tackle an old nemesis and vegan classic: The Lentil Loaf. After a few tries and a successful Thanksgiving entree on my hands, the bag of lentils that sat reliably in my pantry for months on end was gone. And I suddenly felt an emptiness without them there. So I bought some more, this time purchasing a few varieties. And just to give them the respect they deserve, I reorganized my pantry so that now my lentils — and all grains, nuts and legumes, for that matter — are proudly displayed in clear cannisters, beckoning me to put them to use.

Then, my purchase of Isa Does It solidified lentil’s place in my long-term dinner plans. Like, for life. Dear Lentil, I will never forget about your possibilities again. Isa uses lentils in tacos, pasta sauces and even blended into a gravy. Not to mention in the lentil-quinoa stew which inspired this dish. Isa’s stew is sort of a take on traditional lentil soup, except with the addition of quinoa (plus lots of kale), which I found ingenious.

My take on Isa’s stew became a chili, because the only person who loves bold flavors, spice and heat more than myself is my husband. And I think the two of us would agree that chili-spiked anything trumps non-chili-spiked anything ten out of ten times in our house. And so, this chili was born.

I did not add any other beans in this dish. I wanted to lentil and quinoa to be the stars. But that doesn’t mean that other items couldn’t easily be added into the mix. I think corn and black beans would be particularly good in this, as would other veggies such as zucchini, carrot or celery. Of course, a thick slice of cornbread or gluten-free toast is a must, while a nice big salad would round out the meal nicely. I used small brown lentils for this dish (they’re called different things depending on where you find them). Aside from some initial chopping and sporadic stovetop monitoring, this chili requires surprisingly little effort.

Update: I entered this Chili into Ricki Heller’s Wellness Weekend, where you can find other amazing vegan, sugar-free and whole foods recipes.

Lentil-Quinoa Chili:

Yield: 4-6 servings, depending on size


1 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced (about 1 small to medium onion)

5 3/4 cups vegetable broth (divided)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well (I used red quinoa for this recipe and like the texture it provides)

1 cup small brown lentils (uncooked)

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (plus more to taste)

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice

1 4-0z. can fire-roasted green chilis

salt to taste

hot sauce for serving (optional)


1. Add onions and 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth to a large soup pot or Dutch Oven and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions start to become translucent. Add garlic and saute another minute.

2. Add lentils, quinoa, red pepper, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and 3 cups of the vegetable broth to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed.

3. Add remaining ingredients, including remaining 2 cups vegetable broth to pot. Stir well. Return to a simmer and simmer, covered, for another 15 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Add salt or more cayenne pepper to taste. Serve with hot sauce if desired.


Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup

In my last post, I discussed the power of food in healing. This post is centered around the healing power of spices, which have long been considered medical powerhouses in their own right. This soup utilizes several Indian spices, including the powerful Turmeric. Turmeric has been widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties — I have even taken its active ingredient, Curcumin, in capsule form to help deal with the muscle spasms and neck stiffness associated with Lyme. Similarly, Turmeric is also a good choice for those suffering from other inflammatory conditions and diseases such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is also believed to have anti-cancer and detoxifying effects.

Combine the power of turmeric with the antioxidant-heavy cumin and the cardiovascular (and other) benefits of cayenne, and you have one spicy, healing soup. I also happen to believe that the warming, comforting act of eating a bowl of spicy soup is healing in itself. One cannot eat a hot bowl of soup hurriedly. The necessary slowing down to sip and savor is food meditation at its core.

I got the idea for this soup from this recipe on Food 52, which is equally delicious, albeit much more subtly flavored (i.e. no spice mix — just cauliflower, olive oil, onions, water and salt). When Gennaro’s cousin made the original version for a family Christmas Eve dinner, I lapped up several helpings (hey, benefits of being vegan – we can do stuff like that) and begged for the recipe. Over time, that soup evolved into this one as I worked on creating ways to incorporate more healing spices into my diet. This soup is spicy, indeed, so be sure to adjust to taste if you’re spice-adverse. In our house, we’re spice lovers, so I actually add several dashes of cayenne to the finished product for a spicy finish.

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup:
Adapted from Food 52

Yield: 4-6 Servings

Note: you will need an immersion blender for this dish. If you do not have an immersion blender, you may try to blend small batches in a regular blender, but be very careful not to blend too much at a time using this method and try to let the soup cool first.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, sliced

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, sliced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 medium head cauliflower, chopped

5 cups water, divided

Spice Mix:

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1 dash cayenne pepper, or to taste


1. Add olive oil and onions to a large soup pot/Dutch Oven and saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until browned and very soft. In the last couple minutes of cooking, add the garlic and ginger and saute with the onions.

2. Once onions have softened, add spice mixture and sea salt. Stir to coat. Add cauliflower and 1 cup water and mix well. Cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and stew cauliflower and onions for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is beginning to fall apart.

3. Add remaining 4 cups water. Stir. Increase to medium heat and heat until water just begins to simmer. Reduce heat and puree soup in an immersion blender until smooth. Heat on low for another five minutes, or until soup reaches desired consistency (it will thicken the longer it cooks. If the soup becomes too thick, you may add another 1/2 cup of water).

4. Serve soup as is, or with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper or sprinkle of cayenne pepper on top.


Red Lentil Dahl

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Vegucated giveaway contest! The winners were lucky commenters #7 and 8, which were chosen at random, funnily enough. I hope Melanie and Ashley enjoy Vegucated as much as I did and share their newfound knowledge with many others.

I also so much appreciated everyone’s comments. I considered responding to a few individually, but decided to hold off and address a multitude of your thoughts, stories and concerns in this post.

I would first like to say that in reading many of the comments, I recognized so many of my own thoughts when I was first considering a vegan diet — words like “scary,” “life changing” and “restrictive” floated around in my head on a constant basis. For awhile it was all I thought about. I would jealously ogle meat-eating restaurant patrons as I gazed into crowded restaurant dining rooms, street after street. I imagined I would  never get to be “one of them” again. I watched Top Chef on repeat just to get it “out of my system” (or is that just because Bravo happened to always run Top Chef marathons when there was never anything else on?) I passed the cheese section at Whole Foods for weeks on end, guiltily taking whiffs of the delicious Parmesano-Reggiano air. If I told people I was going vegan, there was no turning back, I thought. I would get called out for simply being found in the cheese section, let alone eating the stuff. I would be crucified if one night I “slipped” and caved to my seemingly endless sushi cravings. If I go vegan, I thought, it’s all or nothing.

Read More »


Vegan Chorizo Chili and Giveaway

* Scroll down to see giveaway info.

By now I’m sure it’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Marisa Miller Wolfson and everything she does for the vegan (and non-vegan, and animal, and environmentalist) community. I first heard of Marisa when she a guest speaker at my law school for my animal law course (a life-changing class, indeed). My peers and I were honored with the privilege of being able to watch clips of her new documentary, Vegucated, years (OK, a year and half, to be sort of exact) prior to its initial release. As militant as I may have become over the course of my own “vegucation” (and inherent transformation), it’s always refreshing to see a film or read a book that is informative without being preachy; disturbingly real while still providing comic relief. Vegucated is just that and more.*

Well, it’s been over a year and a half since I watched my first clips from Vegucated, and since then I’ve gone vegan and gotten my parents on board as well (they saw Vegucated at the Vegetarian Summerfest in July and were big fans). I am noting all of this because today marks the official launch of the Vegucated DVD. Whoo!

In honor of its launch, I’m doing a giveaway with two prizes. One will be a copy of the DVD, of course. The other will be an amazing “Get Vegucated” t-shirt**, as I was so proud to model after getting one myself (my newly vegucated parents couldn’t resist the Vegfest souvenir).

Read More »


3-Bean and Mushroom Veggie Chili

Vegetarian chili comes to mind when I consider the ubiquitous vegetarian menu items of the world, right along with tofu scrambles and veggie burgers (both of which I have on this site). That doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing. Or eating. I was a huge fan of Whole Foods’ vegetarian chili long before I went vegan. Same goes for Curly’s tofu scramble, which I used to order with their vegan pancakes (also wheat-free) when I went for brunch, because I couldn’t decide which I wanted more. Who said vegans can’t enjoy a good brunch? (Oh wait, I think I said that at some point on this blog….and I maintain that it’s true in most eating out situations, when forced to venture into non-veg friendly territory).

In fact, vegetarian chili is such a no-brainer go-to dinner, I should be making it more often. The problem is, much like muffins, I have this “thing” with chili. I can never really get it just right. I’ve made dozens I’d hoped would eventually become part of the Delectably Free family. And most of the time, when I’m making something destined for this site, I don’t stop until I’ve gotten it right (often to the detriment of my loved ones, who have to endure days on end of semi-edible versions of the same dinner or dessert). The problem with chili, though, is that one batch pretty much lasts multiple days — sometimes a week, even — and by the time it’s over the thought of making yet another batch of chili is simply incomprehensible and utterly scary (there are only so many times we can blame the curious odor in the room on the dog). So, usually, I leave it at that.

But, after two years of intermittent trial and error, my mental list of do’s and don’ts finally yielded a blog-worthy recipe. I’m not usually one to praise my own food. Perhaps out of fear or maybe even pride, I usually wait and let others’ reactions dictate whether I am going to post something or not. I rarely declare something “a winner” without a vote of confidence from my taste-testers. But after tinkering with and tweaking this latest batch, I made sure to tell everyone in the family that I had hit on something “really good,” without really caring what anyone else said. But just for the record, I’ll have you know what everyone else in my family liked it, too.

Serves: 8-10

3-Bean and Mushroom Chili:

Don’t be discouraged by the long ingredient list. I promise, most of these are pantry items, with the exception of maybe the mushrooms and the bell pepper. I used Bionaturae jarred strained tomatoes for the “strained tomatoes,” though I’m sure crushed tomatoes would work here as well. When I was younger, my mom used to make chili often and we’d serve it over elbow noodles. I love chili with cornbread (the classic combo), but decided to serve gluten-free noodles with this version and encourage you to do so as well. It’s really good! Finally, the 6-cups of baby bellas will cook down to what seems like a piddily amount, so definitely add the full amount — it really makes a difference in the overall taste.

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 cups baby bellas, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup strained tomatoes, no salt added (see note, above)*

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice

½ cup water

1 15 0z. can black beans, not drained

1 15 oz. can aduki beans, not drained

1 29-oz. can white cannellini beans, drained

4 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon agave nectar (any other syrupy sweetener would also do)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar


1. To a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, add onion, pepper, garlic, mushrooms, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Toss to coat with oil. Cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes, or until juices release and onions become translucent.

2. Add remaining ingredients, beginning with the diced tomatoes, strained tomatoes and water and finishing with the agave, olive oil and cider vinegar, plus the additional teaspoon of salt, or enough salt to taste. Make sure not to strain the aduki or black beans, as the juices add flavor to the dish. But do drain the Cannellini beans. Partially cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer on medium-high for about 15-20 minutes to let flavors develop. Serve warm with gluten-free noodles, corn chips or cornbread. Enjoy!

* If you can’t find salt-free strained tomatoes, instead of adding the second teaspoon of salt simply add enough to taste.


Vegan Corn and Potato Chowder

Summer is the time in Michigan when us Michiganders are especially proud of what our state has to offer. Not that we’re not otherwise a proud group of folks (just ask a Detroiter what they thought of the Eminem/Chrysler Super Bowl ad last year), but during the summer, it’s perhaps even easier for anyone not from around here to see why. I would list my favorite Michigan things, but that would be a bit lengthy of a tangent (I could devote a whole blog post to Michigan’s amazing lakes and sand dunes alone).

I will say that since moving back to Michigan, I’ve rediscovered why Detroit’s Eastern Market is one of my favorite iconic Detroit destinations. I went there as a kid with my parents, and I attribute many of my good food habits today to the fact that my parents instilled in me from a young age that the best meals are often created from fresh, local farmers market foods.

A recent development at the market has been the rise of Detroit Urban farming. One might not think of Detroit and immediate think “right, vegetable gardens…” but that’s exactly what’s going on in more than a few vacant lots in this city. The salad below is made almost entirely from greens, sprouts and herbs that were grown in the city of Detroit. Pretty amazing, huh?

This chowder represents a broader portrait of Michigan produce. Still, nearly all of the vegetables were fresh from the Farmer’s Market. Michigan-grown corn, potatoes, bell peppers and poblanos provided the base for this creation. The corn, especially, benefits from being so fresh in this dish. I’m convinced this dish would not be the same with frozen or canned corn (though that’s not to say it’s not worth a try when corn is no longer in season).

This dish is also notable for the absence of heavy, fattening ingredients (with the exception of a teaspoon of Earth Balance). It’s amazing how creamy the broth can get without any cream.

Summer Corn and Potato Chowder:

2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced

1 red, green or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 medium-sized red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon Earth Balance buttery spread

4 cups red or yellow-skinned potatoes, diced (about 4 medium potatoes)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup water

1 tablespoon brown rice flour*

3 cups packed fresh corn kernels (equal to about 5-6 ears of corn)

2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk

1/2 teaspoon paprika


1. To a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, add peppers, onion, garlic, potato, Earth Balance and salt. Turn heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until Earth Balance is melted and vegetables release their juices and begin to soften slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk or stir together brown rice flour and water until it is dissolved into the water. Then add to vegetables (it will not cover all of the vegetables; this is o.k.). Bring water to a boil.

2. Once water is boiling, add the remaining ingredients. Stir together. Partially cover and bring soup to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer on low, partially covered, for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are soft and desired thickness is reached. You may add a bit more salt to taste, if desired (fore reference purposes: I have never had to add more).

* If you’re not gluten-free/gluten-intolerant, any type of regular all-purpose flour will do.


Asian Vegetable-Noodle Soup

I have to admit, I’ve not always been the biggest soup person. That’s not to say I don’t love certain (indeed, many) soups — crushed lentil, gazpacho and Tom Yum come to mind — it’s just that old standards like chicken noodle, lentil or potato-leek never really did much for me. My slight apathy toward certain soups gained momentum when I started eating a vegan diet. Vegetable stock necessarily replaced chicken as a base, and I was immediately disappointed with how inadequate a substitute it could be in certain applications. Take, for example, an Asian broth. Something about a backdrop of celery, turmeric and onion — three ingredients nearly always going into a traditional vegetable stock — just doesn’t balance with the salty, subtle, umami-like taste of most Asian soups.

Enter this homemade broth. Inspired by my recipe for vegetarian pho (an excpetion to the vegetable-stock-is-no-good rule), I decided to infuse my own broth with ginger and garlic, then add soy sauce for a salty, Asian flavor. A hint of sesame oil adds a bit of nuttiness and added flavor.

If you commit this recipe to memory, my guess is you’ll be rewarded when cold and flu season hits. In my experience, an easy, light and subtle hot broth is as much a required remedy as zinc, vitamin C and rest. You can omit the noodles if you choose, swap out certain veggies (though the baby bok choy seems to me to be a must here), and add some red chile flakes for spiciness if you’d like.

Serves: about 4

Soy-Ginger Broth:

6 cups water

1 large bulb ginger, washed and chopped into 4-5 pieces

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed but left intact

2 tablespoons wheat-free tamari sauce

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

salt to taste


3 bunches baby bok choy, washed and chopped

1/2 block extra firm tofu, diced

1 carrot, peeled and sliced

rice noodles (cooked according to package directions)

chopped scallions (optional)


1. Add water, garlic, ginger and soy sauce to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove garlic and ginger from broth using a strainer. Add vegetables and simmer until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add tofu and heat through.

2. Remove soup from heat and stir in sesame oil. If necessary, add a little salt to taste. Ladle broth and vegetables over prepared rice noodles and serve immediately.


Tahini-Carrot Soup

When I joined the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of unemployed law grads across the country, I had several expectations. I would, of course, be relentless in my job search. I would have time to work out several days a week, maybe even start a yoga routine. I would have time to test all the thousands of recipe ideas I wanted to test. I would be able to finally paint the bathroom, which had been stripped of its wallpaper well over two years ago (and which Gennaro once affectionately referrred to as “the crackhouse”). Once the bathroom was tackled, I could get started with the bedroom. And where would I start? The stain-ridden, wallpapered ceilings (yes, I said wallpapered ceilings…not to mention closets, shelves…)? The rest of the walls? The floor-to-ceiling wooden shades that are badly in need of a paint job themselves? Oh, and I could finish all my wedding thank-you notes. I could even volunteer somewhere — perhaps some pro bono work on the side?

In my mind, I was on course to becoming the most productive unemployed person that ever lived. But as you may have suspected, reality has robbed me of such lofty ambitions. The job search has yielded less-than-stellar prospects (is it possible to spend 4 hours a day searching every job site imaginable only to find maybe one entry-level attorney position?). The recipe-testing came with seemingly incessant kitchen cleaning and food shopping, which, of course, cut into my workout time. The thank-you notes are still not done. The bedroom? Hah, please…The bathroom was only just tackled last weekend. And there’s Woodley. He needs two long walks a day. Then there’s the weekly allergy shots (which I have been getting for 4 years now and somehow manage to continue on a weekly schedule. grrrrr), the daily errands and chores, the new health insurance, the joining of the bank accounts…all the little things I had somehow overlooked a few months back.

And no, I haven’t started volunteering anywhere, either. So when I found myself looking forward to a much needed vacation down to Miami to visit a friend this weekend, I couldn’t help but feel a bit ashamed. Do I really need a vacation from my “vacation”? And with that, I was also a bit distraught to realize that almost a week had passed since I made anything worth posting here. It’s been more like passable efforts, at best.

This all led me to my photo archives, where I found this carrot-tahini soup, and remembered how much I had enjoyed it months ago. So why was it never shared? Well, maybe it’s just me, but I sort of felt like I would be a fraud if I posted it — a recipe I copied almost exactly from one in the New York Times. Not that I wouldn’t, of course, give credit. And not that I don’t usually find inspiration from another recipe. And it’s not like sites I love — like Smitten Kitchen, for example — remake other people’s recipes all the time. But with this one, I didnt’ even try to change much of anything. And I had no step-by-step pictures like Smitten Kitchen, no compelling story for what this dish meant to me. Nothing new, really. Just a soup that I enjoyed. A lot.  

But isn’t there a place for this kind of sharing? A place for an endorsement of a great, naturally vegan and gluten-free meal? A place for a little “I substituted this and took out that and it was still very good”? Well, for this soup at least, I’ll make this place a place for all that. And by next week, hopefully I’ll have some good, original recipes perfected. Who knows, maybe I’ll even finish my thank-you notes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Carrot-Tahini Soup:

I made everything from the original recipe in the New York Times the same except: 1) I used a small, yellow onion instead of leeks, 2) I used cumin in place of the turmeric, and 3) I used raw tahini. I topped the soup with cilantro and some scallions and served it alongside some toasted, homemade focaccia, which I used in place of the pita chips.