A Veg Chili, An Easy Pudding, A Book Club

Greetings Quarantine Friends. Yesterday, I went for a run, made a batch of pudding, walked the dogs at Rockefeller State Park, and spent an hour re-reading the vegetarian cookbook I’ve been writing. It was like finding an artifact on an archeological dig, written in a language I only partly understood. (Good thing I have some time to work on that.) My kids started online classes; Phoebe went for an 8-mile walk while listening to the last few episodes of The Daily, including yesterday’s interview with Gov. Cuomo. OK, onward. Today’s Pantry, Project, Purpose…

Pantry: Chili with Beyond Meat (or not)

Believe it or not, the first of many things in my life to be canceled was a veggie burger Taste Test I was organizing for Cup of Jo. We had assembled a group of experts to judge the new generation of those plant-based meats you find in the refrigerated section, like Impossible, Beyond, Lightlife, etc. (and still plan to do this — and have the general fake meat discussion — when life gets back to normal). Needless to say, though, right now I have enough fake meat in my freezer to feed the neighborhood. So the other night, Andy dipped into the stash, thawed two Beyond patties, and tossed it into a veggie chili. You can, of course, skip the fake meat, and swap in another can of beans, any kind.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (unless you like garlic more than us, in which case another clove)
dash red pepper flakes (optional or to taste)
4 tablespoons oil (olive, canola, whatever)
1 ½ cups (1 15-ounce can) cooked pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups (1 15-ounce can) cooked black beans, drained and rinsed (you can drain and rinse all beans in same colander)
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 ounce dark chocolate (optional, but I find this adds a depth you’d normally get from animal fat)
2 teaspoons oregano
1 bay leaf
pinch cinnamon
Enough plant-based meat to make about two regular patties (if you omit, add another can of beans)

Suggested toppings: sour cream, shredded cheddar, hot sauce.

Saute onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in 3 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat, until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add beans and chili powder, turn heat to medium-high, and cook until spices get sizzly.

Add tomatoes, chocolate, and remaining spices and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet. Add vegetarian “meat” and a little more salt, breaking up with a fork and cooking until it gets as crispy as possible. Stir into chili before serving with desired toppings.

Project: Easy Vanilla Pudding

Another recipe where the humblest pantry ingredients can be turned into something heavenly. I only worry that it’s too easy and it takes only a few minutes to make on a day where you have hours to kill. You’ll forgive me when you taste it, though. Make it in the afternoon so it’s chilled in time for dessert after dinner. Makes 4 small bowls.

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
2 cups whole milk
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Suggested toppings: crumbled Nilla Wafers or gingerbread cookies, bananas, whipped cream, berries

Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Pour 1/4 cup of the milk into the sugar mixture, stirring to form a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk and the egg yolks. Cook the pudding mixture over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until thickened, about 15 minutes. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Scrape the pudding into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the surface to make an airtight seal. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

Purpose: A Book Club

Cup of Jo launched an online book club, which feels exactly right. Head over there to see the memoir you need to read and discuss with friends by April 14!

And for locals: South Church in Dobbs Ferry (343 Broadway) is collecting sandwiches for Midnight Run, the organization that delivers food to the homeless and poor in New York City. Collection is tomorrow (Friday, March 20) between 8:00 and 10:30 am. Here is a guide for sandwich making.

See you tomorrow.

The goal of the Project, Pantry, Purpose series to keep us sane, distracted, and connected. Please continue to comment below with suggestions for recipes, projects (for kids and adults), good deeds, donation ideas, stories, movies, games, puzzles. Or just tell me how you’re doing, what you’re up to, and how DALS can help you or people in your community. You can also email me directly at jenny@dinneralovestory.com.

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Katie Larissa

I had been all about baking and cooking with eggs, but now they’ve rationed the eggs at the grocery store, and I don’t have easy access to them! It’s kind of depressing. A good reminder of how lucky I am to not normally have to worry about things like where my eggs are going to come from. I know so many don’t have that luxury. Maybe I’m going to invest in chickens before this is all over. Haha

Mom of Boys

If we were neighbors I’d swap you eggs for some milk! We’d feel like Lucy and Ethel living in the same apartment building.

Our CSA box did not arrive as scheduled. I’m distracted hoping any rumble outside is the sound of the box arriving. This morning we had frozen fruit smoothies with yogurt–a sunny way to start any day. And tonight we have leftovers. Tomorrow is Friday and I find myself looking forward to my weekly cocktail a little too much!

Thanks again Jenny and all. And Katie, I really wish we could swap!


It’s not just you! No eggs to be found here in my neighbour hood in Belgium. I have been researching old ww2 rationing recipes. I didn’t know the ration was one egg per adult per week back then!

Sonya Terjanian

Locals interested in the Midnight Run collection – they’re asking for brown bags containing one sandwich, 2 hard boiled eggs, and some cookies. Bonus points for kid-decorated bags.


I am so looking forward to your vegetarian cookbook! I was a vegetarian for 10 years, then took a hiatus when I was pregnant and for some time after (MAJOR anemia, plus the red meat sounded so good). I am back on the train for good now, and feel much healthier. I typically don’t eat meat substitutes because of the sodium content; as I get older I just am really starting to notice the effect on my body, almost immediately! That being said, I am eager to read about your taste test- I imagine once this is all over and life resumes in some sort of normalcy, a “burger” on a sunny summer day will sound so lovely.

Funnily enough, I’m making a chili tonight, and using the Trader Joe’s soyrizo for the first time! I’ve heard good things, and since I am now single AND in quarantine, no one will notice if the sodium makes me swell up 🙂


Any thoughts on how to make this pudding without the egg yolks (due to egg allergy). I feel like a flax seed “egg” won’t work here.


Hello Suzane,

I cook vegan recipes a lot and you can perfectly cook Vanilla pudding without egg yolks. The trick is to add more cornstarch (I live in Europe so I can tell you in grams but not in spoons, sorry) : 25 grams. I also add one more spoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of curcuma (if you have it) to put some yellow color. Hope you’ll enjoy it !
This quarantine time is a chance to try vegan recipes 🙂


I’ve been a reader and fan many years. Just sending another plug to keep this up–it’s providing me with daily inspiration. Made a riff on your lentil soup last night and just made the M&M cookies with my daughter. I remember them from long ago!


Thank you for these posts, I am really enjoying them. The chilli sounds delicious, I don’t have any fake meat (or real meat!) but will give it a try with extra beans!


Well, in between conference calls for work….i’m currently waiting for the 2nd rise of my 2nd loaf of no-knead bread….made your risotto last night, with sausage crumbles and green peas (yum!)…still reading Dr. Zhivago (week 3)…wrangling my 12 year old, who isn’t into social distancing…walking my boston terrier who doesn’t particularly like being walked….and going to take in the Cherry Blossoms tomorrow, to be followed by homemade DALS pizza.


Thank you for this light space on the Internet. I’ve been in the quarantine for almost two full weeks (!) and I’m slowly losing my mind because we’re really, really discouraged to go outside unless it’s neccessary (this is in Serbia). Still, your suggestions have been so heartwarming. I made the pound cake you wrote about the other day and shared it with my parents! And now I’m hearing about the Cup of Jo Book Club I could have accidentally missed! Thank you, thank you so much.


I also thought Cuomo was amazing on the Daily. It is so unusual for a politician in 2020 to say things people don’t want to hear – hard truths – that surpass political correctness, sugar coating etc. super refreshing. Really glad to have you posting sailor right now. Loving the ideas. Can’t get flour here in Waco TX but I keep checking and waiting.

Deborah Kim

I cannot thank you enough for your measured, cheerful, calm response to all of this. I’m a physician, and it feels like we’re all up to our eyeballs in this, 24 hours a day. Food blogs are like a nice oasis.

As far as what DALS/your readers can do….:

– I’m sure this is preaching to the choir but STAY HOME. Only go to the ER or the doctor’s office if you have shortness of breath, very high fever, severe cough, severe nausea, etc. If you have mild symptoms, please don’t come in, and please don’t ask to be tested. Even if you’re positive, it doesn’t change much – if you’re not that sick, you will not be kept in the hospital, and you will just be asked to self-quarantine at home for 2 weeks. The problem is, if you come in to be tested, we have to gown up like we’re treating a patient with Ebola. We have to wear special masks (N95), face shields, goggles, and a “disposable gown.” Disposable is in quotes because….we’re all running short. We’re reusing equipment because we have a limited supply and cannot get more for several weeks. Some physician/nurse friends of mine have said that they don’t have any more protective equipment at all, and are driving around to all the local hardware stores to try and get gloves and aprons there. I know several nurse friends who are trying to buy their own masks off Ebay. This is sad, and embarrassing, that we’re resorting to reusing equipment like a 1980s Soviet hospital, but that’s where it stands. The fewer “mildly sick” patients that we have, the less equipment we have to use.

– Please don’t panic. The president announced today that Plaquenil MIGHT help cure patients with coronavirus. Several pharmacist friends have said that they can’t order Plaquenil; all the bulk suppliers sold out within hours of his announcement. Now, patients who really need Plaquenil (patients with lupus and other diseases like that) can’t get it. Don’t buy Plaquenil; it won’t do you any good, especially if you don’t have coronavirus. Stay home, stay calm, and eat some vanilla pudding.


Thank you for this, Deborah, and for going to work every day in these conditions. If you can think of anything the general public can do to help with medical equipment, please let us know.


Want to chime in with another thank you, Jenny, for your daily posts. They’re a bright spot in my day, as they’ve been for years, but now especially appreciated. In northern Oregon, we’re enjoying beautiful spring weather, for which I’m even more grateful than usual, and getting outside to walk the dog multiple times each day. I’m setting myself the challenge of using up everything in our freezer and fridge before venturing out for groceries. As others have said, it’s like a protracted version of “Chopped!”


Thanks for doing this Jenny. It helps to have this little part of the web to look forward to every day 🙂


I “hosted” my book group last night using Zoom. It was great to “see” friends and the first real laughs I’ve had in days. We plan to use Zoom just to catch up. Hey….it’s Friday! A Zoom “happy hour”???


Hey everyone,
Two things:

1. Jenny please pinky promise that you won’t stop posting these daily. It feel absurd to admit home comforting/helpful it is.

2. Other readers/commenters- YOU TOO!
Keep sharing ideas! We are employing them. Over here, doing a one sentence journal daily has helped to me keep my bearings and document our experience…
Deep breaths.
Listening to books on tape with my kiddo.


I made the chili the same day you published the recipe, and it was fantastic! Bonus- my three carnivorous teenagers all loved it.


Making sandwiches for Midnight Run is a great activity for kids. The kids from our church like to add little handwritten notes to include in the sandwich bags.


Any suggestions of what to do with the egg whites left from the pudding? I dislike meringues and omelettes, which I think are the usual go-tos.