Archive forSeptember, 2008

Grandmother’s Chili Con Carne

I felt like veganizing another old recipe tonight. This is my grandmother’s recipe for Chili Con Carne, which I picked out because I thought topping it with one of the new Cheezly flavors that arrived Friday would be a good way to test the cheese out. I often find myself wishing I had discovered my interest in cooking long before I did so that I could have apprenticed myself under my grandmother before she died, or better, that she had lived longer. I’m positive she would have happily helped me make vegetarian meals. Here’s the original, rather vague recipe:

Cook ground beef, 2 onions, and pepper until brown. Add 1 can tomatoes and 1 can kidney beans. (Pour broth off kidney beans before adding.) Combine 3 Tbsp. vinegar, 2 tsp. salt, 3 Tbsp. Chili powder, and dash red pepper. Simmer 40 minutes.

So I set about looking for beef substitutes. First I thought of TVP, which would have also been good for nostalgic purposes, reminding me of all the times my college roommate and I made huge pots of Fantastic’s Chili, but I discovered I had less than a cup of TVP. Next I thought of bulgur, which is a great texture for chili, but I had even less bulgur. But I probably had enough of both combined, so that’s what I did. You could use one instead of the other and still have great results, although you may have to adjust the amount of water. Bulgur requires more water than TVP, so just keep that in mind.

Grandmother’s Chili Con Carne

1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1 can kidney beans, rinsed
4 cups vegetable or vegan “beef” broth
1/2 cup bulgur
3/4 cup TVP
3 Tbsp vinegar (I used white wine; apple cider would have been good too)
3 Tbsp chili powder
minced hot pepper or hot sauce to taste (reduce the amount of vinegar if you use a vinegar-based hot sauce)

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, then add a small amount of oil. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the green pepper and cook for another 2 minutes.

Rinse the beans …

… then add to the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, …

… reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, until the bulgur is soft and the chili is as thick as you desire.

If you like, top with shredded vegan cheese and/or vegan sour cream.

The Nacho-flavored Cheezly was really good, both by itself and on the chili. I love Cheezly. As for the chili, it was good. I will definitely make it again. It was simple, easy, and very fast: a great weekday meal.

As Tigger and I were busy in the kitchen prepping the chili, I heard thundering cat paws in the living room. Quickly and quietly, I grabbed my camera and tip-toed into the room, viewfinder to eyeball and finger on shutter. Despite my stealth, Brachtune, who had been enjoying a Tigger-free reprieve and batting around one of the Cat Toys For Cats, heard me approaching and immediately stopped playing and started walking towards me. It’s so impossible to catch her playing; she always abandons her games and approaches me looking for love.

Then she gets her face so close to the camera, I can’t focus.

It’s much easier when she’s half asleep.

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I had a specific request for a bagel tutorial, from Fortinbras for his mother. So here you go! This is from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which I really must insist you buy.

Makes 12 large or 24 mini bagels


1 tsp (0.11 oz) instant yeast
4 cups (18 oz) high-gluten or bread flour
2 1/2 cups (20 oz) water, at room temperature


1/2 tsp (0.055 oz) instant yeast
3 3/4 cups (17 oz) high-gluten or bread flour
2 3/4 tsp (0.7 oz) salt
2 tsp (0.33 oz) malt powder OR 1 Tbsp (0.5 oz) dark or light malt syrup, agave nectar or brown sugar

To Finish

1 Tbsp baking soda
cornmeal or semolina for dusting
toppings (optional)

To make the sponge, add all of the ingredients to a large bowl, or the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, and stir until combined.

Cover and let sit for two hours or until it has risen to twice its size and is very bubbly.

To make the dough, add the yeast to the sponge and stir.

Add the salt, malt powder or sweetener, and 3 cups of the flour, and mix until it forms a ball. Slowly add the remaining 3/4 cup flour. Bagel dough is pretty stiff and especially if you are making a full recipe, you may find this easier to do in an electric mixer. However, my Kitchen Aid can’t handle kneading a full batch, so what I do is after adding the initial 3 cups of flour, I put bowl on the mixer with the dough hook and add the remaining flour as it mixes at speed one. It can handle this initial mixing phase. Once all of the dough is incorporated and the mixture is an admittedly somewhat shaggy ball …

… I remove it and cut it in half.

Then I use the dough hook to knead each half on speed 2 for about 6 minutes. When both halves are kneaded, I combine them on my workspace and hand knead to combine them for about a minute. If you are not using a mixer, hand knead the entire dough for at least 10 minutes.

Scale the dough into 4.5 ounce pieces for standard-sized bagels or smaller for mini bagels.

If you are into baking at all, a kitchen scale is really indispensable – and you really should use the measurements by weight above, not by volume – but if you don’t have a scale yet, try to divide the dough as evenly as possible so the bagels bake evenly later. I was so proud of myself yesterday because for the first time, I ended up with 12 bagels that each weighed exactly 4.5 ounces! Usually the 12th or 13th bagel is a little runt. This time it was perfect! Here are my 12 4.5 ounce dough pieces:

Round each dough piece. To do this, cup one of your hands around it and with the other, spin it around, forming a tight ball. I’m not very good at explaining this, which is why you should buy The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and learn from the master.

Cover the balls with a damp towel and let rest for 20 minutes.

Prepare two half-sheet pans by lining with parchment and misting lightly with spray oil. (Don’t omit the misting: I forgot to do so yesterday and my bagels were stuck the parchment this morning and I therefore ended up with a few misshapen bagels after prying them off.) Use your thumb to poke a hole in one of the rounds.

Gently use your thumbs to embiggen (what? it’s a perfectly cromulent word!) the hole to a diameter of about 2 1/2 inches, while keeping the the dough as even as possible on all sides. This one isn’t exactly a great example; try to do better.

Place each shaped bagel on one of the pans; you can fit 6 on each half-sheet pan

We have a small dorm-sized refrigerator in our basement, originally purchased as back-up beer storage for parties, but I’ve commandeered it as a proofing fridge during non-party times. I can’t fit half-sheet pans in it, so I use quarter sheet pans. I don’t know what I’d do without my proofing fridge, although I wish it were full-size!

Wrap the pans tightly in plastic wrap. I don’t like using all this plastic wrap and I’m trying to think of alternative but haven’t come up with much yet. The issue is you don’t want any air getting to the bagels.

Let the bagels sit out for 20 minutes, then retard in the refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot – the widest you have – of water to a boil, then add the baking soda.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator …

… and add only as many as you comfortably can to the pot of water. Don’t allow them to touch, and realize they will embiggen somewhat in the water. Boil for one minute …

… then flip over and boil for another minute. Peter says you can boil for as long as two minutes on each side if you like chewy bagels and although I do like chewy bagels, I have found that one minute per side works best for me.

Remove with a slotted spoon and place back on the sheet pan, which you have sprinkled lightly with cornmeal or semolina. Immediately after placing on the pan, sprinkle with your desired toppings. I almost always make “everything” bagels, a mixture of sesame, poppy, caraway, and dill seeds and salt.

Bake for 5 minutes at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, then rotate the pan 180 degrees, reduce heat to 450 degrees, and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until light brown. If you are baking on two shelves, switch the pans as well when you rotate them; I bake one pan at a time because I’ve found they come out more evenly that way.

Let cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

I forgot to take a picture of one when I served them, so admire this second cooling shot in lieu of the usual “plated” photo, or see my earlier Entertaining the Vegetable-Hating Aussie post, which has a shot of a bagel in Tofutti and jalapeno jelly topped action.

In Tigger news, I stopped by Petco today to get some kitty litter and looked at the kitty toys while I was there. Tigger’s favorite color is red, so I always look for red toys for him. He goes bonkers for red toys. They happened to have cute little red cherry and strawberry catnip toys, so I got him a couple. I thought the packaging was funny:

Cat Toy…For Cats!

Tigger loved them. He loved them before I even removed the cardboard.

I love that cats always rub their heads on things they like. (Tigger often rubs his head on me, which is how I know he loves me.)

Silly kitty.

Of course, he even rubbed his head on the empty cardboard, so I don’t know why I bother seeking out particular toys for him.

Ah, we’ll be hearing the thunder of cat paws running up and down the hallway later tonight…

Until he at long last captures his prey.

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