Planning for spice

When planning out our meals for the week, I ususally consult three sources; the internet, my pile of cookbooks, and the scariest of them all, my brain. Once I get my creative dinner juices flowing, I then have to consult our ever important calendar to see what we’ve got going on throughout the week. A lot of times, this then requires me to go back to the drawing board, since I tend to dream up elaborate dinners that just won’t be done before 9pm, causing me to probably gnaw off my arm before then.

It might seem a bit silly to plan my meals in advance, especially when it’s just myself and my fiancé. However, I’m obsessed with planning, which would explain why I have an extremely detailed Google Calendar, personal planner, and am always looking to schedule things in advance and confirm them. My meals seem to be no different; I like to know ahead of time what I’m going to be making when based on my schedule, and more importantly, pick up the necessary ingredients while at the grocery store. I think one of the worst feelings in the world is getting home after having your heart set on a certain food/meal, only to find out you don’t have some of the ingredients. For me, that’s close to heartbreak. So I try to avoid it at all costs by planning!

I snagged a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Robertson a few months ago, and just got around to actually making something from the book. While I’m not a vegan, the simple words fire and spice grabbed my attention. This particular book not only offers recipes with varying levels of heat (marked as one to three chiles), but they’re recipes from all over the world! I love that within one cookbook alone I can find a recipe from Thailand, Mexico, Africa, Morocco, and more, and they’re all spicy!

I had paged through the book marking off things I was interested to try first, so I decided to make the Red Hot White Bean Chili as my first dish. It was easy, spicy, and filling – what more could a girl ask for? Of course I went and completely de-veganized it by throwing regular cheese on top, but other than that and omitting carrots (I didn’t have any) I stayed true to the recipe. I’m really looking forward to making other things from the book – I like fire in my belly!

Red Hot White Bean Chili via Vegan Fire & Spice
– Serves 4-6 –

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano chiles, seeded and minced (I used a jalapeno and habanero)
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
4 1/2 cups cooked or 3 (15.5oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, minced
optional – vegan cheese for garnish 

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, and chiles. Cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Blend in the chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and pepper, and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the beans, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, 45 to 50 minutes. Garnish with minced scallions.  

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