Meat-Free Monday: Vegan Chili that’s Actually Good

We threw a surprise birthday party for my boss, because she is awesome, and because she is always watching out for us. And those of you who have worked for someone else can attest to how rare and valuable that is.

The theme of the party was Autumn Adventure.  We had hot mulled cider, apple slices with caramel for dipping, and,  for the main course, chili.

Our resident foodie brought white chicken chili,  and I’m told it was good. I brought veggie chili. I felt a lot of pressure, since If never cooked veggie chili before and it had to be good enough for non-vegans AND “birthday party good.”

I spent several days researching my recipe. I  must have read 15 or more vegan chili recipes, looking for trends, commonalities,  and ingredients that would fit our southern palates.

It was a success! I made a spicy chili and a mild chili, and the spicy chili really had that traditional red chili taste. By the end of the party, the spicy chili was gone.

I also received several compliments and requests for the recipe, which I’ll also share here:

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large stalk celery
  • 1/2 (15 ounce) can corn kernels
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced chilis
  • 1 each (15 ounce) can white beans, black beans, pintp beans
  • 2 packets McCormick mild chili seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • Chili powder
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Paprika
  • Tobasco pepper sauce
  • Optional: cumin
  • Optional: masa flour

For mild chili, omit the diced chilis and use only 1 packet of mild chili seasoning.


  1. Dice all the vegetables, including the garlic
  2. Sautee the vegetables on medium heat in olive oil 5 to 10 minutes to release their flavor.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce, chilis, seasoning packets, and 1 tablespoon Tobasco
  4. Stir in corn kernels and beans
  5. Simmer 30 minutes, tasting regularly and adding seasonings to taste. I added quite a lot of chili powder, Tobasco, and crushed red pepper. Your mileage may vary.

You can top it off you want,  and the leftovers make a good burrito filling … if you have any leftovers.

Election Forecast: Russian Roulette

Five Thirty Eight,  Nate Silver’s political polling and statistics site, gives Hillary Clinton an 85% chance of winning the U.S. Presidential election, about a 5 in 6 chance.

That leaves Donald Trump with about 15%, or 1 in 6, chance.

The same odds as Russian Roulette. Lovely. 

And the same outcome, at least for some people. Remember,  you’re voting for a man who’s promised to commit war crimes, intentionally target civilians, assassinate, and even torture the families of suspected terrorists, without trial.

Remember the 1990’s? Maybe it’s time to bring back the old bracelets & slogan: “What Would Jesus Do?”

NaNoWriMo 2016 Preparations

I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo this year,  and like my Disney trip,  I’m starting to prepare for it ahead of time. Here are a few of my preparations: 

Going to bed earlier (by 11). I have such limited time and energy after work and after we’ve had family time and put the little one to bed, I know I’ll have to do a lot of my writing before work. I’m not a morning person by nature,  but I will be by necessity. 

Reading novels to help get my mind ready to write, and to surround myself with positive writing influences of the type of writing I’ll be doing. Good movies may help the general narrative sense, but only novels are novels. 

Writing scenes as exercises to get myself used to writing fiction again. 

Reading a few books on writing craft, so my results will hopefully be better. 

Watching nature documentaries, because I get inspired by cool landscapes and wildlife. River Monsters with Jeremy Wade is my favorite. 

I’m also trying to get ahead on my blog posts so I can focus more on fiction during November. 

Temporary Schedule Change Due to NaNoWriMo

I’m going to do NaNoWriMo this year,  and that’s going to take just about all of my creative and writing energy for the month of November. 

I’m not shutting my blog down for a month! No way! But I will be going to a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule of posting starting tomorrow and continuing through the month of November.

If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it’s an event in which participants try to write 50,000 words in a month. 50,000 words is technically a novel by itself,  though most novels run closer to 100,000 words. 

Writing 50,000 words a month means 1,667 per day,  which is possible,  but not easy,  especially when you have a full time job and a kiddo. That’s why assign event like NaNoWriMo is so helpful. We get encouragement and solidarity with the other people who are doing it. 

Meat-Free Monday: Why Not Eat Vegan? 

There are a few reasons beyond just the obvious one: it’s a big adjustment to your life and can be quite inconvenient and difficult if you don’t live a bigger city.

And some people have been burned by self-righteous vegans who treated them like garbage and turned them off to the possibilities altogether.  

Now, I’ve experienced great support from family, friends, and co-workers as I’ve gone fully plant-based. They’ve been encouraging and accommodating, and it warms my heart.

But why do so many people go for   crash diets or even gastric surgery without ever trying a plant based diet? Surely that adjustment is far more inconvenient than going vegan. 

I think an answer may come from moral foundations theory.

Most of us approach vegetarianism and/or veganism from the moral foundation of  care. We see the videos of animal abuse inherent in factory farming,  and we want to change,  to prevent that suffering,  even if just for the few animals per year who suffer and die for our consumption.

Sometimes it’s a fairness issue. I have no problems with my grandparents’ past cattle farming, just like I had no problem with them using leaded gasoline in their cars.

I had no problem with my ancient ancestors’ hunting and herding. 

But this isn’t 1940, or 1423, or 3000 BCE.  We don’t need to do that to live,  and our methods for raising and killing animals have grown far crueler and more wasteful since then,  due to industrialized agriculture and maximized profits.

We don’t have to do that any more, so I don’t.

But a lot of people don’t solely operate from care and fairness. A lot of people also care about the moral foundations of authority,  in-group loyalty, and sanctity. 

So how might these moral foundations make a person more resistant to going plant based? 

Authority (tradition) 

We are taught throughout school that cow’s milk “does a body good,” that we have to drink plenty or our bikes won’t grow strong. 

We are taught to eat meat,  too, though somewhat less directly. 

Also,  vegetarianism and especially veganism are strange,  and strangeness and eccentricity are actively devalued by the authority mindset.  

Why?  Because going against the grain small matters prepares you to go against the grain in large matters. 

In group loyalty

Meat is the American way, at least according to the beef industry’s ads. BBQ’s are patriotic, and refusing the celebratory meat is tantamount to disloyalty. This sounds silly,  but don’t most of our patriotic holidays involve a barbecue?


Somehow,  despite being purer in the senses of cruelty, bacterial contamination, and  actual contents, many vegan protein sources sound strange, fake, or otherwise suspect.  

In American culture, plant based proteins are ritually, or at least metaphorically, unclean. I’ve seen this reaction, but I can’t explain it. 

So there you go: a few reasons people might openly object to veganism or vegetarianism. 

Just because something doesn’t make sense to me,  doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense from the other person’s perspective. 

Life isn’t always logical, but it always has a logic of its own

An Underrated Gem: Atlantis:  the Lost Empire


I think this is by far the most underrated Disney film,  and the best of the “forgotten pantheon” (Treasure Planet,  Hercules,  the Black Cauldron,  etc.) by far. 

It had a diverse cast of memorable characters,  all well-acted, great visuals,  good music, an original storyline, and a visual style unlike anything else I’ve seen from Disney. 

The voice cast included Michael J. Fox, Cree Summer,  Claudia Christian, James Garner,  Jim Varney, and Leonard Nimoy! You can’t go wrong with that kind off talent. 

Seriously,  check it out. It’s on Netflix and YouTube.

Here are some more snippets,  just to whet your appetite: 

Disney Trip Reflections

Just a few things I noticed about taking a week long Disney vacation: 

Either stay at a place with a microwave or commit to spending big for every meal (big by Mississippi standards, at least). 

Disney table service restaurants that take reservations are worth it, especially for vegans. They’re more money, but the food is really good, many have characters for your kids to meet, and they’ll take care of any allergies or restrictions. 

The quick service places are less money,  but the vegan options are often quite meh., and small to boot. If I’m eating a shredded cabbage and edamame sandwich, which had very few calories, doesn’t it stand to reason that I’ll at least need a decent-sized sandwich?

Pack less.

Always bring a portable charger for your cell phones. We used this Moko charger, and it was great. It does passthrough charging and can charge two devices at once. 

Bring good shoes. It won’t be enough to keep the pain away, but it will make it manageable. 

Take a day off in the middle. Swim at the hotel’s pool.  Take in a movie. Sleep late. Heal. This is the one thing we should have file,  but didn’t. 

I’ll write more about this later, I’m sure,  but that’s enough for now. 

Eating Vegan on the Road:  Moe’s Southwest 

Burrito joints like Qdoba or Izzo’s are usually a good bet for vegans seeking big, filling meals on the road. 

But Sunday, I  got to eat at the king of them all (so far): Moe’s.

Most of the places just have beans as a protein option.  Moe’s also has tofu. Also, both kinds of beans are vegan, and you can get tofu and beans on the same burrito! 

Moe’s offers several different kinds and heat levels of homemade salsa, and they were all great. 

And, to top it off,  they’re very generous with their chips, their guac is good, and they have a wonderful proprietary peach vanilla soda. 

Just what I needed for a long drive home from Florida. 

Meat-Free Monday: Will Somebody Please Make Size 16 Office/Formal “Vegan” Shoes?

Okay,  this could be a tweet,  because the title sums it up.  I’m still wearing leather shoes because the “vegan” shoes that look acceptable for professional office spaces don’t come in giant sizes. 

If any readers know a good option that I’ve missed for big and tall vegans,  please comment and let new know. 

I’d much prefer to move away from wearing animal products, but I can’t wear neon green sandals to work.