Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vegan Jambalaya

It seems like as North Americans rates of obesity and chronic disease increase, so does our obsession with grotesquely over-the-top, unhealthy delicacies (i.e. double bacon cheese burgers with a fried egg sandwiched between two maple bacon donuts).

I think this comes from two places: (1) the natural tendency humans have to rebel against restraint/rules, and (2) the downturn in the economy which has meant fewer people are able to splurge on expensive big ticket items like holidays, cars, etc., and therefore are turning to more affordable ways to "treat" themselves.

I have a problem with both of these issues.  First off, rebelling against recommendations to live a healthy lifestyle is stupid because you only hurt yourself, and second, healthy eating is delicious, exciting and enjoyable and can be just as much a treat as any artery clogging dish you can think of. 

Now there are many systemic issues that make it difficult for some people to make healthy choices (cost and availability of healthy foods, poverty, fraudulent food marketers, etc.), and I'm not talking about that here.  I am talking about well-off folks who roll their eyes over the idea of healthy eating, assuming it's just for tree-huggers, and seem to think "extreme" eating of the Paula Deen ilk is cool.  Personally, I think eating deep-fried, battered pound cake with whipped cream on top is not only yucky, but it's about as cool as smoking cigarettes.  I roll my eyes at people who roll their eyes at healthy eating, because anyone who believes healthy food is boring and tasteless is completely misinformed. 
Besides, fat-, sugar-, and refined flour-laden foods are pretty ubiquitous in our society, so not particularly unique or interesting.  I think it's far more interesting (and delicious) to create recipes using the bounty of wonderful, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains that are increasingly available to us.

Now that I have finished my diatribe, I will present you with a delicious and healthy recipe which would likely make celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse pee his pants.  His outrageous cooking preceded Paula Deen's but his cooking philosophy: PORK FAT RULES! is almost as bad as hers, which I guess I would describe as: how can I take ordinary crap food and make it over-the-top disgusting?

Well BAM Emeril, go change your diapers, because some of us actually care about our health and know that delicious, satisfying food does not require pork fat!  And unhealthy behaviours are NOT cool.

Jambalaya is traditionally made with chicken, shrimp, and/or sausage, but I've used red kidney beans as the protein here instead.  You still get a satisfying, flavourful main dish that even uses Emeril's "Essence" that he loves to "BAM" with (i.e. creole seasoning).

I used my Hamilton Beach skillet/griddle combo to make this and just wanted to share that this is one of my favorite kitchen appliances.  I use the griddle for pancakes, French toast, etc. and the skillet for curries, stews, chilis, etc.  It's a great, relatively inexpensive item that both very useful, and very easy to clean.

Vegan Jambalaya

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tbls creole seasoning (recipe below)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters and then strips cut into thirds
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup vegetable stock or water
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet or pot set over medium heat (high heat if using the Hamilton Beach skillet!), saute onion in oil until softened.  Add garlic and seasoning, being careful it doesn't burn.  Add remaining vegetables and stir frequently until well coated with onions and seasonings.  Add beans, tomatoes and rice to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add in stock or water, cover pot and turn heat down to med-low.  Allow to simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed and rice is cooked (about 45-60 minutes).  Adjust seasoning, to taste.

Emeril's Creole Seasoning*

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

*Note: Despite the amount of cayenne pepper in this blend, I found the Jambalaya wasn't spicy enough for me, so next time I would add additional cayenne.

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