There is a quiet Saturday morning space that I’ve discovered. I find it in the alcoves of the sun trying to push its way through the slatted blinds on a cold winter morning. The house is asleep; the neighborhood farm animals are tucked into the cozy spaces, and aside from the humming of the heater as it takes the chill out of the house, there is absence of sound.
At a glance it might seem like an unremarkable Saturday about to ignite, but it is absolute perfection. I am trying to slow things down, to feel time and not its absence. I am looking for those signs of life and health that are around me, that so easily escape me in the flurry of business. And it is in this quiet and peaceful time, this purposeful slowing of pace that has brought me back here to write, and I feel as if I am with an old familiar friend.
I’ve been challenged to make it to the gym since November, not for the usual reasons, yes the holidays were busy but we’ve discussed that in detail; but because I managed to fracture my rib…not once, but twice. #Painful! >Now that I am past it, I can discuss it, the monster is out of the bag.< As I wrapped up a simple workout at the gym this week, I felt grateful. I was so very happy to have that carefree experience – music pumping through my headphones, my legs allowed me to quickly flit down the stairs, hair in ponytail swinging, and a corresponding smile on my face because for the first time in a long time I wasn’t in pain. Perhaps it was the coveted endorphin rush, post-workout, that left me with a sense of calm despite the stresses of the week. Not sure I know what helped me arrive in this mental state of being, but as I reflected on it there was no hiding that I was happy to have this carefree experience.
This last week had its very stressful moments, but somehow I felt there was a potentially important shift, the stress wasn’t job related. A shift that I’ve been praying for on the work front seems to be unfolding like a well-timed story. There have been small signs that things were moving in the right direction, but the signs have started to increase in frequency and significance. This coupled with the request to ‘Step Up’ felt like someone had offered me a hand-up and a space to spread my wings; an open invitation to have some fun doing what I love to do when I am not creating in the kitchen. There was time to think and to enjoy productive conversations…time to grow. And time to appreciate those around me; a great group of smart and savvy business individuals.
Most all of 2017, I struggled to find time to cook. Yet these personal tectonic shifts that have started to reveal themselves also granted me the time and space to focus more on my physical and mental well-being. While I refuse to ‘diet’ in January, I do typically do a type of mindful eating exercise. Not a cleanse in the true sense, I just start stripping things out of the diet. First to go on my list of healthfulness is refined sugar, then gluten, nightshades, dairy and well…I could go on.
With my food intentions in mind, opportunity knocked, and I had the chance to create a vegetarian chili for dinner this week. I was beyond pleased with the result. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t focusing on it being vegetarian. Since I hadn’t had time to go to the grocery store in days I wanted to have some substantial comfort food with little effort. A classic cold-weather dish, served vegan-style, practically created itself from available fridge and pantry items. This chili is prepared with seasoned tomatoes, black beans, bell peppers, and sweet Delicata squash simmered in a savory veggie broth.
Sweet & Spicy Simple Vegan Chili
1 1/2 TBS vegetable oil
1 can black beans, rinsed and strained
3/4 cup canned seasoned ground tomatoes
1/2 tsps Chili powder
1 vegetable bouillon
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped 1/2 –inch pieces
3/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped 1/2 -inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
cilantro, to taste
1-2 small Delicata Squash, washed, seeds removed and cubed 1/2-inch pieces
cooked rice or quinoa (optional), prepared according to package directions
Heat 1 1/2 TBS cooking oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add yellow onions, and garlic, cook stirring regularly until onions are soft and translucent. Slightly lower heat and add in bell peppers, and squash to hot pot. Season with salt, pepper, and 2 1/2 tsps of the chili powder spice blend. Stir. Cook 4-5 minutes, or until veggies are softened, stirring occasionally.
Add beans and 2 cups water to pot with veggies. Crumble vegetable bouillon over pot; stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover pot with lid and simmer. Cook 30 minutes, or until squash are mostly tender, stirring occasionally.
Add seasoned ground tomatoes to pot with beans and veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Stir. Re-cover. Cook (covered) 5-8 minutes, or until flavors meld, stirring occasionally.
Note: If a thicker chili is desired, remove lid about halfway through cook time and allow liquid to reduce to desired thickness.
De-stem cilantro; roughly chop leaves.
Ladle chili between bowls and sprinkle with cilantro. Crumble a few chips over top, if desired. Also delicious served over cooked rice or quinoa.