I am always trying to weasel my way into people’s hearts through their stomachs. That is particularly the case with Ricky. While not particularly fussy or fancy, he loves good hearty food. Recently, I was thinking about how to approach making more make dinners at home that are healthy, satisfying, plant-based and not that complicated. Out of no where I was struck by a bolt of lighting that chili (one of my usual easy go-tos) and baked oil-free french fries (another favourite at our house) would make a great combination. I pulled the two together and Ricky suggested that we pile everything into a dish and add some of the vegan cheese I had left in the fridge. A few bites in and we both realized that the combo was a serious winner – healthy chili cheese fries on a weeknight? Don’t mind if I do!I have never really been a big fan of junk food, because I hate that gross heavy feeling that comes with eating food that is too oily or refined. Even now when I eat too much rich, high fat vegan food I find that I feel slow and sluggish, and my digestion gets super messed up. That said, I will always be a food lover and an ex chubby kid, so when presented with an opportunity to eat a healthy, lightened-up version of something that is normally really junky, I’m all over it. These chili cheese fries are a perfect example. Even though they look and taste like the original, they are totally oil-free and full of fiber, veggies and complex carbs to keep you feeling happy and satisfied.
This recipe is also a perfect option if you’re looking for something to show friends and family just how delicious plant-based healthy eating can be. Over the last few years, I have found that the best way to encourage healthy habits in my loved ones is to show them how tasty and easy it can be. I went through a period of time back in the day where I would tell people what they could do to be healthier, or why they shouldn’t eat animal products (more on that here). A few strained relationships later, I realized that leading by example is so much more effective than preaching at someone about what they should or shouldn’t do. There really is nothing like sitting down to eat a big bowl of banana ice cream for breakfast, or chili cheese fries for dinner and having people look at you like “THAT is what you eat every day?? It actually looks really good!!”On a totally unrelated note, I’ve decided to try my hand at doing 30 days of Rawtill4. “WTF is that?!” you ask? It’s a pretty simple concept, really. The idea is that you eat only raw fruits and veggies until dinner time. That means tons of smoothies, banana ice cream, salads or “mono-meals” – a big meal of all the same fruit. For dinner you can have either a raw vegan meal (like a giant salad, zoodles etc) or low fat cooked vegan food, such as baked potatoes, soup, rice, curry, pasta, burritos blah blah blah etc. I’ve been familiar with this concept for a while, and it’s actually what encouraged me to start eating only fruit and/or smoothies for breakfast, which majorly helped me with my ongoing skin and tummy troubles. That said, I have never really contemplated completely embracing that way of eating until, the other day when I came across Andrea of earthyandy.com.
On her site, Andy describes her personal experience solving a host of digestive issues, ongoing fatigue and various adrenal and hormonal problems by adopting the lifestyle. She initially decided to go cold-turkey for 30 days, and felt so amazing she decided to adapt her 30 day “diet” into a full time lifestyle. I was so struck by her health story and hearing about her initial 30 day challenge – she made the whole thing sound so manageable! I read through her entire website twice, and ultimately decided that I would give the her 30 day challenge a try, and see how it goes. I am not sure how my body will respond, but I do know that I love fruit and won’t have any issue filling up on tons of fresh food!
Needless to say, you may have a few more smoothie and salad recipes coming your way. Don’t worry though, I’ll make sure they still taste great even if they’re a little weirder and wackier than usual.
- 2 lbs of yellow or russet potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced (2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 4 large cloves)
- 1 cup finely chopped celery (about 2 stalks)*
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed well
- 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 4-5 leaves of kale, de-stalked and chopped
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
- 2 jalapeños, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 bag vegan cheese shreds (Daiya is my favourite - it melts really well)
- 1½ cups raw cashews
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- Hot water
- Pre-heat the oven to bake at 375 degrees.
- Steam the chopped potatoes in a bamboo steamer or steaming basket until soft (around 10-12 minutes).
- In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in water over medium heat until translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the jalapeños and bell pepper, and sauté for another 5 minutes or so, until soft.
- Now add the can of diced tomatoes (with the juice) and the tomato paste, beans, chickpeas and kale, as well as the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Stir to combine.
- Simmer uncovered on medium-high until thickened (about 10-15 minutes).
- While your chili is simmering, remove the potatoes from the steamer and place on a medium sized baking sheet, covered with either a non-stick silicon baking mat or parchment paper. Bake your potatoes until lightly browned and crispy (around 10-15 minutes)
- If you are using them, add the salt, cayenne and hot sauce to the chili. Taste and season with additional salt or spices if desired.
- If making queso, add raw cashews to a food processor and process, scraping down the sides as needed. Add in spices and chipotle pepper and mix well. Slowly add very hot water a little at a time and whisk until pourable.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and place in a small oven-proof dish. Top with a few scoops of chili as well as queso or cheese and broil at 450 until melted and delicious (5 more minutes)