Isa Does It (yes, she does) & day one of vegan recipe challenge

My friend Laura gave me one of the greatest gifts possible this year:


Hands down – vegan/nonvegan – one of the best cookbooks out there. This may be a premature post, but I like to think that after batting 10 for 10 from a random assortment of recipes, it’s a winner.

I plugged a movement cleverly named Veganuary on Facebook this week. The motivation behind this campaign is simple: take the pledge to try vegan this January (aka in 8 days). Why? A whole host of reasons:

  • Honor the lives of other creatures (aka animals)
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Reduce your cholesterol
  • Seek out new foods to entice your palatte
  • Support sustainable agriculture
  • Reduce air and water pollution
  • Lose weight
  • and more!

A few friends mentioned that they would try it – even for a few days. And I say:

heck to the yes!

Even adopting a plant-based lifestyle for three days can have positive impact. It’s not about doing a 180 of your life overnight. That’s not practical or likely to stick. Instead, I encourage people to start small. Swap out your milk to a non-dairy alternative. Pick up vegetables at the local farmer’s market.

And, when you need help, ask a vegan friend for some recipes. So, this brings me back to Isa.

I (ahem) am going to make an effort to post a recipe each day from now until the end of January that I have: 1) made; and 2) enjoyed. One of the challenges of any cooking experience is (especially from those tantalizing Pinterest recipes) – what if it’s terrible? And there are some bland, boring, duds out there on the Internet (and no, I’m not talking about

So, first up for today:

Smoky Incan Stew 2

Smoky Incan Stew (serves 6 to 8)
total time: 45 minutes – active time: 20 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped chipotles in adobo sauce, seeded
3/4 cup quinoa (red quinoa looks prettiest)
4 cups vegetable broth
Freshly ground black pepper
1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1.5 cups corn kernels (preferably fresh but frozen is okay)
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and juice reserved, tomatoes crushed into pieces (see note)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (1.5 cups)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, chopped

Pre-heat a 4-quart pot over medium heat and add the oil. Saute the onion in the oil with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chipotles, quinoa, broth, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Let boil for 7 minutes, until the quinoa is almost ready.

Lower the heat to a simmer and add the sweet potatoes. Cover the pot and simmer for about 12 minutes. the sweet potatoes should be tender and the quinoa fully cooked. Add the corn, tomatoes, black beans, and cilantro, and simmer for about 7 minutes, just until everything is heated through. It tastes best if you let it sit for a few minutes before serving, allowing the flavors to marry. You may need to add some of the reserved tomato juice to thin it out to your liking. Serve hot.


  • The recipe calls for a can of whole tomatoes, but only the tomatoes are used at first. The juice in the can may be used to thicken the stew, or maybe you want to make a Bloody Mary or something? For prepping the tomatoes, you can just crush them with your hands. I do this right over the pot when it comes time to add them. Just grab one out of the can and squeeze between your fingers. It’s messy fun! Fresh tomatoes may be subbed, but add them along with the quinoa so that they have time to break down. About 1.5 cups chopped fresh tomatoes ought to do it.
  • One more ting: Touching hot peppers can really burn you, so handle them briefly and carefully, and wash your hands with soapy water immediately after. You can even wear rubber gloves if you want to be extra careful.
  • What to do with those extra chipotles? You can store them in a plastic bag in the fridge and use within a week, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be using chipotles twice in one week. What I like to do is store them in plastic and freeze.

Nom nom nom. Enjoy!

Smoky Incan Stew_1



  1. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe…it was so tasty! I wasn’t able to get out all the seeds (at least half though) and I used three chipotle peppers and the heat was just right for me. I also forgot to add the cilantro, but looking forward to trying it with some tomorrow.


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