Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas, a week early...

Zeke is ready for Christmas!

Despite a little bit of asynchrony at the beginning, our Christmas Party went exceptionally well. The conversation was lively, the ornaments were sparkling, and the food was delicious!

The big hit of the night appeared to be the chili. My vegan chili recipe came directly from me not knowing anything other than the fact that I like chili, but I like it to be healthy. I also like colorful foods. The chili is all of the above! Plus it's easy to expand to serve as many people as you like....provided you have enough pots and pans to cook it in...

Ren's Vegan Chili
for every six servings you need:
2 teaspoons margarine
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper chopped (I start with a green, and then add yellow, orange, and finally red if I'm going from 6 to 12 to 18 to 24 servings)
1 19oz can of diced, unsalted tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
1 can black beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
cayenne, salt, and black pepper to taste

In a medium-sized pot or dutch oven, melt the margarine. Sautee the onions, garlic, and pepper until carmelized. Add the tomatoes, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the tomatoes simmer, drain and rinse the beans. This is critical, as kidney beans in particular come packed in corn syrup, and nobody needs that sugar!

Once the beans are rinsed and drained, stir them into the pot, followed by the chili powder. Season otherwise to taste. Allow to simmer for a minimum 15-20 minutes before serving. As most things of this nature go, the chili is best made a day ahead. Serve over crumbled corn muffins with cheese and sour cream. (Which, by the way, I completely forgot to put out for the party! Remember that out-of-whack start? Yeah...)

Cheddar broccoli soup had also been on my mind these past few weeks, however, when I went to buy the broccoli, there was none to be had. Briefly I converted my plan to a cauliflower carrot soup, but held out hope for broccoli to magically appear -- and sure enough it did!

This recipe is similar to my earlier recipe for cheese soup, however this time I substituted some Fat Free evaporated milk for some of the skim milk, to add some richness.

Ren's Reduced Fat Rich Cheese and Broccoli Soup

6 cans of evaporated milk, heated but not simmering
1 quart skim milk
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1.5 lbs of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tossed with 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 bags of frozen broccoli florets
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Blend the milks in a saucepan, and heat over medium-low until steam just rises from the top. Increase the heat to medium, and whisk in the mustard and shredded cheese.

**Space-saver/dish-saver TIP! Buy the pre-shredded cheese, and add the flour directly to the zipper bags. Shake to coat evenly, and then pour right into the pot!

Once the cheese has melted, add the broccoli, and return to medium-low, stirring periodically, and watching to ensure the soup does not boil. This transfers extremely well to a crock pot on low once the cheese has been melted in. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Allow to cook until broccoli is tender -- roughly 40 minutes. Serve with crackers or breadsticks.

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