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.

Update on Writing Short Scenes to Rebuild My Writing Muscles


Friday: I did my first small bite today during my lunch break.  It was a short scene, a foot chase through traffic, not even 200 words. My focus was imagery and sensory detail:  getting just a little poetic while keeping the prose fast-paced and breezy. 

It was good,  for what it was. I enjoyed writing it, I got a short writing  workout,  and I think I even succeeded in my goals. 

Life is good

Monday:  I did my second one today, again during my lunch break. This one was only 149 words,  but I’m actually far Moore echoed about it than about Friday’s.

It’s a short,  descriptive scene of a woman emerging from dense underbrush in a dark forest and seeing a wide open view of fields and his leading down to the sea. 

But something about it really grabbed my attention. I want to know what happened,  how she got there,  and what happens next. 

I may end up writing more about her. 

Again, life is good.    

Integrating Characters with Disabilities into Adventure Fiction

…isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to balance the kinetic pace and movement requirements of adventure fiction with accurate, non-condescending representation. 

If you give a disabled character a fantastical ability that effectively takes away the disability, is that cool or condescending? Ask ten people, get ten answers. So, how do you feel about Daredevil?

What about characters with disabilities who have other abilities that doubt cancel their disabilities, but make them very useful our powerful in other ways? 

The cliche is the psychic our hacker with a mobility disability,  usually one that requires the use of a wheelchair. 

It’s a cliche, but I’ve also heard of a hacker (DC’s Oracle, Barbara Gordon) being called inspirational. Maybe it’s because she worked to learn those skills and keep fighting crime even after she list the use of her legs. 

I’ve never heard the psychic “Disability superpower” coming off that way. Who finds Professor X inspirational?  Maybe someone out there? Maybe not. 

If a story requires a lot of kinetic non-vehicular movement, a character with a serious mobility disability can’t really be the lead, or even “in the party” for those parts.

That doesn’t mean such a character can’t be an important character in other parts of the story. 

And it doesn’t mean that other disabilities can’t be represented. Deaf characters, or characters with partial hearing loss and/ serious tinnitus can bee featured.  

Characters can still be quite mobile with missing or less than fully functional limbs. Hypertrichosis and alopecia universalis, facial deformities/ significant scarring, even albinism can have real effects on a person’s life without preventing them from running, climbing, and jumping. 

This is especially important in nonviolent adventure fiction, where you can’t just have the group’s tough guy fight the bad guys to protect the character with the mobility disability … And that’s kind of crummy even it’s own way because the character with the disability becomes dependent upon the tough guy in a way that feels kind of like “damseling.”

There is inherent value in representation.  People with disabilities can feel invisible in real life. There is no reason to “vanish” them in fiction as well. 

Pray for Louisiana. Help if You Can.


Louisiana is facing some of its worst flooding since hurricane Katrina. 13 are dead, and thousands are homeless

Though some are beginning to return to their homes,  the damage it’s widespread and profound. 

I don’t live in Louisiana any more,  but I have friends and family that do. They’re safe, but many more are not. 

If you can,  please donate. I’ve linked to a couple of reputable ones below.

Lutheran Church Charities

Red Cross of Louisiana

Audio-Visual Comfort Food

There is something comforting about going back to the old familiar.
Walking among the trees you climbed as a child
Holding a favorite childhood stuffed animal
Smelling a blanket or quilt your grandmother made
Tasting a favorite food from long ago

And so it is no wonder that so much of what we watch is old
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, Sherlock, Elementary
Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, and Superheroes by the score
Jane Austin remade, remixed, even reimagined with zombies
Ponies and Transformers and Jedi, oh my!

This is an appalling display of unoriginality
This is also what we want. It’s what I want.
I don’t want the stories I grew up with to lie in their graves
Even if some of them were so bad that’s all they deserve
Even if their remakes are nothing short of abysmal.
Would I rather have Zach Snyder’s Randian pukestorm,
Or have Superman be forgotten?
If those are my choices, I’d rather see the red S fly.
Even if I don’t bother seeing the movie
Of course, I’d rather the remake be good.

Jane Austen fans usually get their wish on that front
Not just quality film adaptations
But expansions and reimaginings
Austenland, Lost in Austen, Death Comes to Pemberly
Even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
But their day is coming, too
Just wait til they unleash Michael Bay on the Austenverse
Then they’ll know how the rest of us feel:
Persuasion will be the name of the gun
Emma uses to blow up Mansfield Park
Okay, maybe Dannie’s right.
Maybe these are “horrific money-grabs”
A lot of them are definitely “weaksauce storytelling”
And maybe I’ll never see good versions of my childhood favorites
On the big screen.
But we 80’s kids can hope, can’t we?


Ruining My Childhood! Updating White Male “Franchises,” Part 3

Friday’s post about updating all-white, all-male franchises left one major, legitimate question unaddressed:

Why change existing franchises? Why not just make some new characters?

The answer is pretty simple:

These are the cornerstones of our popular culture, and right now they are all white or all male or both.

Think about it: Superman, The Avengers, James Bond, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and many others are white male territory. To be sure, there are exceptions, but they tend to either be niche products or come from the mind and estate of Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek, Andromeda, etc.).

Any new, diverse properties will be competing against these titans for a spot in the pop cultural pantheon.

And we’ve seen how that turns out for the “comic girls.” They’re seen as lesser, also-ran versions or sidekicks. As good as the new Supergirl tv series is, there’s no question that she’s a knock-off of Superman. And Batgirl is in many ways a sidekick character, at least in mass media (comics, alas, are no longer truly “mass” in the sense that tv and movies are).

And look at She-Hulk, as awesome a character as she is (civil rights lawyer, cosmopolitan fun-loving single woman, Avenger, Fantastic Four member, and fourth-wall breaker long before Deadpool was a twinkle in Deathstroke’s eye patch). She’s never seen on tv or movies, and on the rare occasion she ends up in so much as a cartoon, she gets demoted to a disgruntled “living greenscreen” stunt double.

But if the baton is passed in some way in a major mass media production, the popular culture is changed to better reflect the reality of the world it both represents and influences.

Star Wars: the Force Awakens added a new generation of leads: Rey, a woman, Poe, a Latino man, and Finn, a black man. It expanded the franchise, and certainly served as a refreshing counterpart to the tin-eared racism of the prequels.

For ensembles or teams like the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers, this is easy. As the original (white, male) actors rotate off, bring a more diverse group of characters to the forefront. Marvel’s already starting to do this, with Black Panther and Captain Marvel movies already in various stages of pre-production, and with the addition of Scarlet Witch and Black Panther to the cast of Captain America: Civil War.

James Bond replaces its lead actor every decade or so anyway. Give Idris Elba a turn and see how it goes. If you want someone younger, try  It can’t be worse than the last half of Pierce Brosnan’s run.

Doctor Who has the same situation, with the Doctor’s regenerations. It’s easy enough to cast a woman, and/or a person of color.It isn’t hard to do. Some franchises are already doing it. It just requires the will to make it happen. And maybe if enough of us ask, it will start to happen. It’s already starting. The momentum might be unstoppable. I surely hope it is.Or we could just watch another 10,000 shows about white male antiheroes. Blech.

Meat-Free Monday: Simpler Food

(Video warning: harsh language)

Well, one good thing about going vegan, is that I am immune from the worst of it: pink slime, McNuggets, whatever’s in hot dogs. I get a bit queasy thinking about how many of those I ate over the course of the last 40 years.

But I’m sure I’m still taking in a lot of frankenfood. I never knew that about orange juice.

So I’m working to make some gradual changes in a more “whole foodsy” direction.

  • Eating oatmeal for breakfast more often
  • (As opposed to peanut butter and bagels, or prepared cereals)
  • Topping my salads with homemade vinegar dressings, not pre-bottled one
  • Eating even more raw fruits and vegetables than I do now
  • Chilling and eating dates for dessert more often, instead of more processed options
  • Eventually getting a juicer and making my own juice

This will hopefully be better for me, both for long-term health and short-term digestion. My weight may even settle in a little lower, but I’m much more concerned with blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and so on.