Tag Archives: chipotle

October Unprocessed: An Update

22 Oct

Time is flying by, and I wanted to do an update of this unprocessed-foods challenge I’m doing for the month of October.

The basics

Overall, it’s going well. For the most part, it’s really not that hard, though it’s making me spend significantly more time in the kitchen. To compensate, I’m often eating much more simply than I normally would. Friday night I took leftover roasted broccoli and sweet potato, added some pinto beans and chopped fresh tomato from the CSA, splashed on my new favorite hot sauce (purchased at Sugarpill Apothecary), topped it with chopped avocado, and that was dinner. No multistage cooking; no custom blend of herbs and spices, freshly ground in a mortar; no multiple dishes–just a melange of stuff heated up and thrown in a bowl. And it was good!

I do miss having so many options of places to eat out–or variety of dishes I can choose from the menus of vegan restaurants–but thanks to Thrive, Chaco Canyon, Veggie Grill and Whole Foods I haven’t had to rely entirely on my own cooking and could have some very tasty food prepared by others now and then. Jud has (as usual!) been quite supportive and flexible with where we eat, and has even forgone some processed foods in my presence in solidarity. And my awesome friends brought lots of unprocessed food to eat at a potluck brunch I hosted, so there was plenty of variety then.

I’ve definitely embraced some routines for the sake of time and simplicity: breakfast is very often a rice cake topped with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter, along with an apple or banana. Could I make a rice cake in my kitchen? Absolutely not. But when the only ingredients are whole grain rice and air, I’d say that counts as unprocessed. Lunches are often brown rice + beans + broccoli + oil/vinegar/spices, if I don’t have leftovers from dinner to heat up.

In general, I’m eating far fewer grains because it’s so much less convenient to grab ready-made stuff or make pasta the center of a meal, but since I know grains and grain-like seeds have a lot of valuable nutrients, I’m making a point not to get too skimpy on them. I’m eating a ton of nuts and seeds, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Although I am “allowing” oil in this challenge, I’m being more judicious with it than I normally am, and trying to get my fats from less-processed sources. For example, instead of a standard vinaigrette, I’ve been dressing salads and vegetables with lemon-tahini dressing and sauce.

The low points

For the first two weeks I actually felt pretty lousy. I had a stomach ache almost all the time. I honestly don’t know how much of that–if any–had to do with the dietary change. I’m sure there was some adjustment to the extra fiber I was consuming, but both generally and in this particular case I’m quite skeptical of things like “detoxing,” so I don’t attribute it to that. It’s also fair to say there has been plenty of stress in my life recently, which frequently manifests itself in the form of stomach upset. So there’s that. A bummer, but it’s better now.

Also, it seems I may be more sensitive to soy in certain forms than I’d previously thought, so I’m steering clear of soy milk for now, and when I do eat soy it’s usually as tempeh. I figure that’s one of the least-processed forms of soy anyway.


Freshly made almond milk is fantastically delicious. If you’ve only had the stuff in boxes, I highly recommend trying it freshly made. I’ve been working on a couple experimental recipes to use the pulp from my current batch of milk, and I’ll post soon with the results! I also tried making hazelnut milk–and made hot chocolate with it using roasted-and-ground cacao nibs, cinnamon and vanilla. It was a little more textured than I would have liked, but quite tasty nonetheless. I’d also like to try roasting the hazelnuts first rather than using them raw.

There are some nice chocolate bars out there that arguably fit the unprocessed guidelines–and some that I really don’t like at all. Stirs the Soul makes a line that is not cheap, but in some cases is quite tasty. I particularly recommend the orange goji-berry (even though I’m not particularly fond of goji berries) and the mint. I was much less impressed with the cayenne-cinnamon and the currant-chai flavors, which seemed not sweet enough (all are lightly sweetened only with whole dates) and with poorly balanced flavors. If I’m going to splurge on expensive, raw chocolate, I want it to really satisfy that chocolate craving. Speaking of expensive chocolate, I picked up one of these at Thrive, and it was very, very tasty. This Hibiscus-Ginger chocolate, on the other hand, I didn’t like at all. I might try other flavors from that line, but the tartness of the hibiscus did not work for me in this bar.

I’ve become pretty well hooked on Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar (overlooking the agar, it’s remarkably unprocessed), and today I tried an herb-cashew cheese from Punk Rawk Labs, which was just as delicious as it was expensive ($10 for a 5-oz. tin–ouch!). At the same time I picked up the smoked cashew variety, which I haven’t yet tried. At that price, I can’t see those cheeses becoming a regular item in my fridge, but they sure would be nice for an occasional splurge.

Some things I’ve been eating for dinner

Tabbouli with homegrown parsley and mint, plus homemade hummus and carrots (yes, they’re supposed to be yellow rather than orange!)

A small-plate-style dinner after a late lunch: Rice cake and Triscuit-type crackers with Heidi Ho Veganics Chipotle Cheddar, pickled asparagus and pepper, and an heirloom-tomato-avocado salad with smoked salt

Mexican-inspired dinner of polenta, pinto beans cooked with zucchini and tomato, raw heirloom tomatoes, avocado, pepitas and cilantro

Barbecue Sliders with Coleslaw

20 Feb

Friday night I went to a Meet-up hosted by Anika, of Seattle Vegan Score (which blog, by the way, was a primary inspiration for starting Northwest Herbivore, and if you’re not following it I can’t imagine why not). It was a gathering of local vegan food bloggers–most of whom I’d never met, at least in person. I settled on taking BBQ sliders made with Soy Curls, even though I’d a) never cooked with Soy Curls b) never made sliders c) to the best of my recollection never eaten a slider.

But I wanted to eat a slider, and this is how my brain works. Despite the apparent lack of wisdom in not making a favorite, practiced dish when short on time (and perhaps trying to impress some new acquaintances), I rarely make the same thing twice and rarely follow recipes, so I often look at situations like this as a chance to push myself a bit more and try something that inspires me rather than something that feels familiar. This time it worked out; other times it totally flops, but I always learn a lot.

So. Here’s my learn-as-I-went version of Barbecue Sliders with Coleslaw (with just the one picture since I was running late enough as it was!). They went over really well with the group, and although a bit time-consuming, you could easily split up the work to make them easy for a party or other gathering.

If you’re doing this all at once, start with the buns. Normally I’d make buns from scratch (there’s a great sandwich bun recipe in The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook), but with all the other stuff to do and limited time I just used blobs of pizza dough out of the Whole Foods refrigerated section, and they worked great.

Slider buns (Makes 32 buns about 1-1/2″ across)

2 11-oz. packages refrigerated pizza dough (I used whole wheat from Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s makes several delicious vegan pizza doughs that are cheaper and would work just as well here). If you use frozen, you’ll need to thaw it well in advance, per package instructions.
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (Optional. I used half white and half black.)

Take the dough out of the packages and knead briefly to mix in any dry areas or sticky spots. The Whole Foods dough didn’t need any flour on the surface for this; Trader Joe’s dough is stickier and definitely would need some flour. With a dough scraper or sharp knife, cut each ball of dough into 16 pieces, as equally sized as you can. If you want slightly larger buns, you might try dividing into 12 instead. Cover dough pieces with plastic wrap (or a clean towel or an overturned bowl) and let it warm up to room temp (this would be a good time to make the coleslaw).

Roll/pat/stretch each small piece of dough into a disc about 2″ across and 1/4″ thick. Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet. These actually pull in a bit as they bake and rise into more of a ball shape, so you can put them very close together. Brush tops with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds (if the dough is somewhat sticky when you’re shaping it, you can do what I did and just dip the shaped pieces into a little bowl of seeds before putting on the tray).

At this point, preheat the oven to 450 F.

Let sit in a warm place until the oven preheats, or at least 10 minutes. Bake on the bottom rack about 10 minutes, or until puffed up into little balls and golden brown. Cool before slicing most of the way through each bun with a bread knife.

Barbecue Soy Curls

1 large onion, diced (I used a sweet white one)
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 package Soy Curls
16 oz. barbecue sauce (I used my own Chipotle-Peach Barbecue Sauce that I canned this summer.)
Extra seasonings to taste, which will depend on your sauce. I used a couple tablespoons each of soy sauce, cider vinegar and unsalted tomato paste, a teaspoon or so of smoked salt, and maybe 1/2 tsp. powdered chipotle.

In a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, cook the onion in the oil until very soft and starting to brown. While that’s cooking, soak the Soy Curls. I used very hot (almost boiling) water and soaked them longer than you normally should, which produced very soft curls that worked well for this dish. When they’re as soft as you want them, drain thoroughly and then chop coarsely to get the long strips down to something that will fit on a slider.

When the onions start to brown, add the Soy Curls to the pan. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently, to evaporate some of the liquid that remains after draining. Add the barbecue sauce and stir well. Cook another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and taste to adjust the seasonings. By the time it’s done, it should be very moist but not have liquid spots in the mixture, so it will hold together on the buns without immediately making them soggy.

I’m thinking this would work great in a slow cooker, which could also really manage the prep time needed before serving, and you could use the cooker to keep the mixture hot on the table.


1/2 head cabbage, cored and quartered (Purple makes for some nicely festive slaw, or you could do a mix of purple and green. Savoy would work, too.)
1 medium carrot, scrubbed and trimmed
1/4 of a large, sweet onion
1/3 to 1/2 cup Vegenaise
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2-1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. whole celery seed
1/8 tsp. salt

Shred the vegetables (I used the grating blade of my 7-cup food processor, which was a bit too fine for my taste, but it certainly did the job quickly and easily) and mix with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste and keep chilled until serving.


Put a tablespoon or so of barbecue on a bun, top with a teaspoon or two of coleslaw, and pin it together with a party frill or just shove it in your mouth.

Chipotle-Peach Barbecue Sauce

7 Oct

Last summer, just as I maxed out my patience and storage space for canning, I threw together some produce I had for dinner into a chunky peach barbecue sauce, baked onto tempeh. It was so good I vowed to make and preserve a regular batch this season, and last week I did just that. The recipe below shows what I put in. Adjust to your taste–and what you have on hand–but this should point you in the right direction.

Ingredients mostly ready to go. Because I was making the recipe up as I went, not everything here made it in, and the agave nectar isn’t pictured. But you get the idea.

Chipotle-Peach Barbecue Sauce

1-2 Tbsp. oil, optional
2-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (one large onion)
1/4 cup chopped garlic (I used four huge cloves of my favorite garlic.)
1 Tbsp. cumin, whole
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard seed, whole
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns, whole
1 tsp. smoked paprika (use more to sub for chipotle if you want smoky flavor without heat)
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
3 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, adjusted to taste (I’m a spice wuss, so I seeded my peppers and wound up with roughly a 2.5- or 3-star sauce on a scale to 5.)
2 tsp. celery salt
5 lbs. peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes (using canned tomatoes would save a lot of time and often a bit of money, unless of course you grow your own tomatoes or have access to others for free or cheap)
2 lbs. peaches, (be sure to get freestone ones, or you’ll go nuts getting the pits out) peeled and chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup or more roasted sweet peppers, any color, seeded and chopped (I used these from a jar)
3/4 cup agave nectar
3 Tbsp. molasses

Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a large, nonreactive pot (I used my 7-quart enameled Dutch oven). Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, translucent, and just starting to color. Meanwhile, grind the whole spices finely in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. When the onions are ready, add the garlic and spices (including the powdered ones and the whole chipotles) to the pot. Cook another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, to bring out the flavor in the spices. If you skip the oil and saute the onion and garlic in water instead, dry-toast the spices in a small pan before grinding and adding to the recipe to maximize their flavor.

Onions, garlic and spices. My kitchen smelled so good at this point!

Skinned yellow peaches, ready for pitting and chopping.

I decided to go for it and use only fresh Romas from Alvarez Farm, skipping the fire-roasted canned tomatoes I’d gotten as a back-up. Skinning and seeding tomatoes takes a fair bit of commotion and time. You can do whatever you’d prefer.

Add the tomatoes, peaches, roasted sweet peppers, vinegar, molasses and most of the agave nectar. Hold back maybe 1/4 cup in case you want your sauce less sweet than mine.

Getting saucy. Everything’s in; it’s time to cook, cook and cook some more.

Now is when you realize, if you’re me, that you should have started this process sooner. Or taken shortcuts. Or done this project on a Saturday. All that delicious juice from the tomatoes and peaches needs to be cooked down so the sauce is nice and thick. Keeping the heat relatively low to avoid scorching the bottom, and stirring now and then, cook for a couple hours, until most of the liquid is cooked down. At some point you need to blend the mixture (unless you want chunky sauce, which is tasty also), and it’s best to do this as late in the process as possible to keep the spattering to a minimum. If you have a spatter guard, you should use it with this recipe. If you don’t, this recipe will inspire you to buy one, and meanwhile you want to wear an oven mitt and long sleeves when stirring the pot.

When you think the sauce is about as thick as you want it (probably in 2-3 hours), purée it with an immersion blender or by pouring batches into an upright blender, being careful to vent the top of the blender jar to allow steam to escape when you run it. Once blended, check and adjust seasonings, and check the consistency. If needed, cook a bit more to achieve a nice, thick sauce that holds its shape at least a bit when you stir it.

If it hadn’t already been so far past bedtime, I would have cooked this a bit longer and blended it a bit smoother before processing.

While the sauce is cooking down, prepare your canning jars. This batch made just over 12 half-pints. Sterilize the jars, and heat the lids in a pan of water. Also bring your canner of water to a boil near the end of the cooking. When the sauce is ready, fill the jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.

Almost ready to process.

Clean rims and threads, add lids, and screw on rings finger-tight. Process 20 minutes; once cooled, check for good seals and remove rings for storage.

A dozen jars of spicy, tangy, sweet goodness, ready for grilling or for gifts.


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