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I'm Crystal Vaughn

a classically trained chef taking holistic plant-based nutrition on a grand adventure through North America. When I’m not creating in our traveling kitchen, you can usually find me on my yoga mat or a hiking trail.

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Feb 10, 2015

Mardi Gras Festivities have begun and Fat Tuesday is only a week away!  This is the perfect time for you to cook up a big batch of gumbo to share with friends and family.

Growing up I loved my dad's gumbo but as my dietary choices have changed I've said goodbye to some old favorites.  When it gets cold out I love to warm up with a nice big bowl of soup or stew.  About a month ago I found myself craving gumbo.  A dish I hadn't had in way too long.  Now we have been eating this dish once a week so I could fine tune the recipe.  I think you are really going to enjoy it!  

A friend of mine had gifted me some heirloom beans (obviously, he gets me.  If you are reading this, thanks Asa!) and I knew this was the dish I wanted to try them in.  This specialty bean is called Good Mother Stallard from Rancho Gordo (you can purchase them here).  You can also use dried kidney or pinto beans.  I have even used canned for a quicker version (I often forget to soak my beans).  I definitely recommend you take the time to cook your own beans because then you can use the wonderful bean broth (pot liquor) in the gumbo.  


Serves 4 to 6


1 cup dried kidney beans (or two cans)

1 cup long grain brown rice

1 piece kombu (optional)

1 onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 celery stalks, diced

3 medium carrots, cut into rounds

8 oz. of mushrooms (crimini, shitake or button), sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp brown rice flour (or other preferred flour)

2 tbsp olive or sesame oil

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

4 cups of bean broth and/or vegetable stock


2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp dried thyme

pinch to 1/4 tsp cayenne (depending on desired heat level)


1. Beans:  soak overnight, drain, fill with water covering the beans by two inches, add kombu (if using), bring to a boil, cover, lower heat and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes.  Once tender, remove from heat and strain, reserving liquid.

2. Cook rice according to package directions.

3. In a large dutch oven or pot add the onion with a couple tablespoons of water.  After a couple minutes add the green bell pepper, celery and carrot.  Sauté for about 5 minutes.  Then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the pan starts to get dry add a little more water.

4. Once the vegetables are sautéed nicely and there is no water left in the pan add the flour and oil.  Stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to make the roux.

5. Add the spices, tomatoes, beans and vegetable stock or bean broth to the pot.  

6. Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

7.  Serve with rice.

Notes: *You can use 1 heaping tablespoon of cajun seasoning in place of the spices. **When I use bean broth I often throw in a vegetable bouillon cube for some extra depth of flavor.

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Last week my lovely future mother-in-law, Lynn, asked me to make Mark (my future father-in-law) a nice meal for their anniversary since she couldn’t be here.   She suggested possibly a Mexican theme and so I got to thinking.  In the past the most excited he ever got about something I made was Polenta “Cakes” (kind of like cornbread) that I served with a veggie chili.  I decided to try to integrate this into something that would be easily reheated.


This is a great make-a-head meal.  It can be prepped and ready to go in the fridge for 2 to 3 days and then all you have to do is pop it in the oven and you’ve got dinner without a fuss in 30 minutes.  It could probably even be made in the crock pot if you are into that sort of thing.  

This is actually a pretty great template recipe.  Just switch up the beans, veggies and spices and you could have a completely different meal.  For instance, use red beans and some Cajun seasonings and you’ve got a great New Orleans inspired dish or cannellini beans with Italian seasonings can transport you to Northern Italy (well, not really but you get the point).  So many possibilities! 


Please let me know if you try this recipe out!  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.  As always, feel to contact me with suggestions or if you have a dish you would like me to vegify!

Happy cooking,

Crystal  xoxo

P.S.  A very happy 30th birthday to my wonderful fiancé, Dallas!!  


Mexican Black Bean & Cilantro Polenta Bake
Serves 4


1 onion, cut in thin slices

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 jalapeno or serrano pepper (optional), diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground coriander

pinch of cinnamon

2 cans of black beans, no salt added and BPA-free can

1 cup of organic corn, fresh or frozen

3 cups of water

1 cup polenta

1/4 cup oat milk or non-dairy milk of choice

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste


1. Sauté the onion in 2 tbsp of water in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes.

2. Once onions start to soften add the red bell pepper and jalapeno and sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes.  If the pan starts getting dry add a little more water.

3. Add minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, coriander,  cinnamon and salt and sauté for about 2 minutes.

4. Add black beans with the liquid (also known as pot liquor) and the corn.  Stir well to combine all the flavors and remove from heat.

5. In a medium sauce pan bring 3 cups of water to a boil.  Very slowly add the polenta to the water while whisking constantly.  Turn heat to low.

6. Whisk frequently for 5 minutes.  

7.  Remove from heat and stir in oat milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Once everything is combined fold in cilantro.  

8.  In an oven proof casserole dish (either 9x9 or 9 inch round) pour the bean mixture into the dish.  Spread the polenta evenly over the beans.

9.  Bake in the oven at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until starting to brown on top.  

Note:  If you want to serve this as a make ahead meal follow steps 1-8 and then store in the refrigerator.  When you are ready to eat it cook in the oven at 400° for around 30 to 35 minutes.   

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My generation (along with others) often think our food comes from the grocery store.  Sometimes we are so far removed from our food it is hard to understand it comes from the earth.  I think it is an exciting challenge to work on cutting out as many middle-men as possible.  For instance, buying at the farmers market, directly from the farmer is only one degree of separation.  If you then, take a look at the supermarket you have no idea how many hands your food has gone through.  You don’t even know how long ago it was picked from the ground to start its long journey.  Another method of attaining food is wild foraging*.  These lovely Chanterelle mushrooms were foraged by a friend and given to us. 

I first fell in love with Chanterelle mushrooms while I was on an extended stay in France.  Many of the restaurants would serve them up in delicious dishes and they always had this slightly sweet taste which makes them so unique.  The mushroom lady at the Cours Saleya (the large open air market in Nice, France) would often have large piles of this apricot scented mushroom.  In France, they are known as Girolles so it took me a while to figure out they were indeed the same as the Chanterelles we find in this country. 

With these Chanterelles I knew I wanted to make something special.  Something reminiscent of my time in France.  The dish I came up with is perfectly rich and creamy but with these healthy swaps it still feels rather light.  The Fricassée I made here is a white wine cream sauce with stewed mushrooms.  It gets its creaminess from cashews and it is well worth a try. 

If you have a hard time finding Chanterelles in your area you can always swap them for whatever mushroom you have on hand.  Portobellos, criminis, shitakes or even button mushrooms would work in this dish.  If you choose not to cook with wine you could use vegetable stock instead.  I chose to use quinoa noodles in this dish but use whatever pasta you prefer.  Brown rice pasta is another good gluten-free option.

*Always do proper research before eating foraged foods.  Make sure you know they are safe.

Fricassée de Chatarelles
Serves 2


2 tbsp sesame oil, separated

2 to 3 cups of Chantarelle Mushrooms

8 oz. gluten-free fettucine (I used Ancient Harvest Quinoa Noodles)

1 onion, sliced in half moons

3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 cup white wine

1 tsp fresh thyme, rough chop

1 tsp fresh oregano, rough chop

3/4 cup cashews, soaked 4 to 12 hours

Water, as need

Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Wash and soak the Chatarelles for 30 minutes.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions.

3. Drain cashews and add them to a blender or food processor with 4 tbsp of water.  Blend together and slowly add more water as needed.  Stop when a smooth creamy consistency has been reached.  Set aside.

4. In a large skillet heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until soft and starting to brown.  Around 4 to 5 minutes.

5. Add garlic and sauté for another minute.

6.  Gently add the white wine to the pan and bring it to a boil.  Cook until liquid is reduced by half.  About 4 to 5 minutes.

7. Chop the mushrooms into large pieces (if needed) and add to the pan with 1 tbsp of sesame oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softening and lightly golden.  About 5 minutes.

8.  Stir in the cashew cream, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until everything is combined and heated through.

9.  Serve over pasta. 

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