Variations on a Theme

I was two dollars over my food budget this week (mostly because it was my turn to buy olive oil and dish soap for the house), and I couldn’t stop beating myself up for it. Oh well.

I managed to keep everything else pretty simple, though. The key ingredients this week were beans (pinto and red were leftover in my pantry, black and white that I bought) and canned tomatoes. I made both three-bean chili and marinara sauce, which ended up having almost exactly the same ingredients in each; the spices were what made them different. Amazingly, aside from the tomatoes and fresh veggies that went into these, I was able to use mostly pantry staples. Hooray! I love not having to buy a big bottle of [insert ingredient here] every time I go to the store– it’s nice to have commonly used non-perishables well-stocked.

Three Bean Chili (roughly based on the recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian):
about a pound of mixed beans, soaked
one medium onion, chopped
three or four smallish carrots, chopped
three stalks of celery, chopped
three or four (or five) cloves of garlic, smushed
one 28 oz can of fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed
one 28 oz can of water (heh, a good way to get the last of the tomato out!)
chili powder to taste (I ground up three dried chiles de árbol)
three tablespoons of molasses
2 oz or so of chopped chocolate (60% dark or higher)
one cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste

1. Sautée the vegetables (less the tomatoes) until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown. Quite honestly, I just throw ’em all in together, and they seem to come out fine (though cookbooks will tell you to *first* brown the onions, *then* add the garlic, *then* add the carrots and celery). Add the chili powder (you can always add more later), molasses, and chocolate.
2. Add can of tomatoes and another can-full of water. Add cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil; add beans and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer until the beans are soft (about 45 min- 1 hour or so, depending on how long you soaked them and how old they were to begin with).
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese (or not, if you’re vegan).

•••

Marinara sauce (which I served with polenta and white beans and chard. Mmm.):
about a pound of white beans, soaked
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
one bunch of chopped chard, kale, or collard greens

one medium onion, chopped
three or four smallish carrots, chopped
three stalks of celery, chopped
three or four (or five) cloves of garlic, smushed
one 28 oz can of tomatoes, crushed
1 tbs dried sweet basil
1/2 tbs dried thyme
1/2 tbs oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil water. Add beans. Cook until soft. (45 min.)
2. Sautée the vegetables (less the tomatoes) until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown. Quite honestly, I just throw ’em all in together, and they seem to come out fine (though cookbooks will tell you to *first* brown the onions, *then* add the garlic, *then* add the carrots and celery) –> hmm, this looks familiar.
3. Add can of tomatoes, and maybe a tiny, tiny bit of water (depending on how thick you like your sauce) and the herbs. Simmer on super-duper low (barely even on) heat.
4. While the the previous two things are simmering, sautée up the chard with some olive oil. (5 min, tops).
5. Boil 2 cups of water and 1/4 cup of milk for every cup of polenta (cornmeal) you’re going to use. Add cornmeal to water/milk while stirring briskly with a wisk. Simmer gently until thick (5 min, tops).
6. To assemble: put a little of each (polenta, beans, chard, sauce) in a bowl. Shred lots of parmesan or asiago cheese over the top. Stir. Mmm.

Note: you can also use garbanzo bean flour instead of polenta, for a slightly creamier base. I just tried it– it’s pretty tasty.

•••

In other news:

I made some delicious granola bars. They’re a tad crumbly, though (I think I needed more coconut oil, molasses, and maple syrup. Next time).

Still no caffeine. Boo-ya. 🙂

If you want to follow my new (ahem) “training”, you can check out the motivational genius that is Dailymile, complete with colorful graphs!
View my training on dailymile.com

There was something else I wanted to say, but now I forget.

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1 Response to “Variations on a Theme”


  1. 1 Doc January 23, 2009 at 10:02 am

    It’s nice to have non-perishables stocked… but when you don’t, ugh. Expensive 😛 I’d like to increase my flour stocks but first I need to figure out which ones can be frozen.

    I’m having my leftover french toast for breakfast 🙂


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