I grew up in a meat and potatoes kind of family. It wasn't until I met Dan that I realized I could eat meatless meals.
When I first got to know him, I went to his house for breakfast with some fellow workers from our local watering hole, Bear's Place. He had made delicious biscuits and gravy, an Indiana breakfast staple packed with sausage. It was only much later that I learned the whole purpose of the breakfast was to prove to our mutual friend Forest that he could make good biscuits and gravy with vegetarian sausage. (He used Gimme Lean, by the way.)
Now, we rarely eat meat substitutes, except for breakfast "sausage" -- the Morningstar Farm patties are really good -- and of course veggie burgers and veggie hot dogs. But we eat vegetarian dinners about four times a week.
When my parents come to visit -- and they're here right now -- I try to make vegetarian meals that I think they will really enjoy. So last night I stuck to a favorite, from my book Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. It's a little bit spicy, and we all added extra hot sauce to it in our bowls. We also dunked warm sourdough bread into it.
Spicy white bean and sweet potato stew with collards (serves 4 to 6)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small hot red pepper, seeded and minced (I used a habanero)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
a 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
two 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon light brown sugar or other natural sweetener (I used sucanat)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
3 cups veggie stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped collard greens, simmered in water until tender and drained
1.) Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, covered, until soft, about 5 minutes.
2.) Transfer that to the slow cooker. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the collards, and cook on low for 4-6 hours.
3.) Stir in the collards just before serving. Remove the bay leaves before serving.