all about the beans

Sometimes I just want a big bowl of hummus.

I’m aware that this isn’t entirely normal, and that most people who experience any sort of food craving won’t usually find themselves craving mashed-up beans of any sort.

“Quick!  Run to the supermarket!  I need my bean fix!”

Or…

“You know, I always stash a couple of extra beans in my purse.  You just never know when that urge will strike.”

You see?  Totally not normal.

I’m not trying to exaggerate my craving.  Because, really, when I want a big bowl of hummus, I want a big bowl of hummus.  This is serious stuff.  And so, tonight, when I found myself with such a craving—and no cans of chickpeas in sight!!!-–I needed to improvise.  White beans, I decided, would do just fine.  I added a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of zingy red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of rosemary to pull it all together.

It’s that simple.  It’s that delicious.  And it’s how my dinner became my dinner.

Anyways.  Continuing on with the bean theme…

I found this bag of “Beanitos” at the grocery store the other day and simply had to purchase them.  It’s nice to see a corn-free version of tortilla chips, especially when it revolves around black beans!

Love the ingredient list…

Love the nutrition facts…

Low salt!  High fiber!  Protein!

(Love those beans!)

Love that flavah and c-r-u-n-c-h!

A big ol’ scoop of the white bean dip found its way onto my roasted vegetable salad.

Dinner was simple.  Dinner was fabulous.  Simply fabulous.

Sometimes it’s all about the beans.

White Bean Dip

Beans are loaded with fiber, protein and nutrients.  They’re also loaded with flavor and they can be incredibly versatile.  Try whipping this quick dip together and make a veggie sandwich out of it.  Or serve over a couple of crunchy crackers.  Add it to a platter of veggie sticks for an easy appetizer.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 1 15-oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. rosemary
  • pepper to taste
  1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients until smooth and creamy.  Enjoy on your favorite crackers, salads, flat wraps, etc!
QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of bean and what is your favorite way to eat them?

a favorite kind of soup.

There are many recipes that I just don’t blog about.  Recipes that simply feel too…well…simple.  Overused and much overdone.

Like oatmeal.  Or hummus veggie sandwiches.

Or my daily consumption of peanut butter.  (Besides, I’d hate to think that I might scare you away.)

Soup is a pretty regular thing in my kitchen too.  Sadly, many of these recipes flitter and float around but never really get spoken of.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy them.  Or that I want to ignore them.  It’s just that.  Well.  They’re just nothing special (ouch!)

However, this recipe made me very, very happy.

And for that reason alone, I am blogging about it.  Because I think you’ll feel delightfully happy and content with it as well.  And that’s a feeling worth sharing.

Bountiful Black Bean Soup—as seen on the back of the package of Bob’s Red Mill Black Beans

This soup pairs perfectly with homemade corn bread or cheese quesadillas.  You could tweak it and make it your own by adding spinach, mushrooms, and other such veggies as well.  Or, spice it up with some cayenne or red pepper.  I absolutely love this soup and I almost always double the batch so that I can have some for lunch during the week.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2 cups roasted corn (roast frozen corn in 350 oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, including leaves, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 package of Bob’s Red Mill black bean soup mix (or about 1-1/2 to 2 cups dry black beans)
  • 1-28 oz. can tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cut into large, bite sized cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; add onions and celery.  Saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and saute for one more minute.
  3. Carefully pour in stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits.  Stir in black beans and tomatoes.  Add butternut squash and roasted corn.  Add herbs, stir and bring to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 1-1/2 hours, stirring every 1/2 hr.  Add more stock or water if beans and squash absorb too much liquid.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of soup?

for the love of kale

For some strange reason, I could not get the idea of eating kale out of my head.

Maybe this stems from the past weekend, having been filled with pies and burgers and sweet, heavenly pancakes.  Or maybe its the warmer spring weather.  The long pre-dinner walks.  The feeling of a summer-to-be and all the freshness that comes along with.  Maybe it’s a subconscious craving for the extra dose of nutrients.  Maybe.

Or maybe I just wanted something green and curly and surprisingly delicious.

Kale has long been one of my favorite foods, but it didn’t really start out that way.

There was, for example, the one time that I decided a kale smoothie sounded about right.  Zwirrrpp…in the blender.   With milk and a carrot and a packet of Amazing Meal.  It was as delicious as it sounds, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

And then there was the time that I thought eating it plain and raw with olive oil and parmesan sounded nice. It really wasn’t.

So the road has been a bumpy one.  But the end results were worth it, as I finally fell in love with the bright green vegetable.  I learned that:

(1) There are several varieties of kale, some being more suiting for soups and stews, and some being more suiting for sauteeing, stir frying, baking.  Some even do indeed taste good raw, but I wouldn’t personally recommend the curly kale in this approach.
(2)  Kale can be bitter and the ingredients that are added need to counteract this somehow.  I find that even a sweet, grated carrot acts as a beautiful counterbalance.  As does a little lemon juice, a little soy sauce, some diced tomatoes, et cetera.
(3) Kale needs to cook and soften.  Let it wilt as you would let spinach wilt.

Last night I finally had my fill of kale for dinner.  It was ridiculously simple.  Which is just one more thing I love about a curly bunch of kale.

Kale and Tofu Saute

(Serves 1)

This is a simple, satisfying meal that is perfect for a busy weeknight.  Pair with a slice of your favorite bread and dinner is on.  Enjoy!

  • 1/2 bunch of kale, shredded into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • splash of lemon juice
  • garlic powder
  • 1/4 block of tofu
  • 1/4 avocado
  1. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium heat.  Add kale and cook until beginning to wilt.  Reduce heat to medium-low.
  2. Add carrot and lemon juice, and garlic powder.  Stir well and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Meanwhile, spray a nonstick pan with cooking spray.  Cut tofu into 1/2 inch blocks and cook until browned on each side.
  4. Transfer kale to a bowl, topping with cooked tofu and avocado.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of leafy green?  Swiss chard?  Lettuce?  Kale?  Spinach?

a handful of green

I’ve been a little MIA this past week, in more areas than one.

I haven’t so much as touched the book that I’ve chosen to read during the month of March.  Aside from wearing a green scarf, I completely forgot about St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ve been living off of hummus and swiss cheese sandwiches for lunch, with raw veggies, fruit and almonds for snacks.

In other words, I’ve been kind of busy.  And I really miss my kitchen.  And I think my kitchen kind of misses me.

So as soon as the day was officially “complete,” as soon as it was over, I decided to stop off at Whole Foods and see what I could conjure up for dinner.  I felt the need for something…something…

…something green.

If you’ve ever seen a bunch of bright green garden cress at the supermarket, but you’ve  had no idea what it was or what you could do with it, you are not alone.  The flavors were a complete mystery to me until today.  I had no idea how I would use the little green leaves.  If I would use the little green leaves (!?!)

But the bright, cheery little bunch was a mere $1.00.  I’ll try anything for $1.00.  Especially if it’s bright and sunny and it makes me smile.

The sign at Whole Foods explained the leaves as being smooth, soft, bright, tangy and peppery.

“Perfect for sandwiches and soups and salads,” it said.

Perfect for tonight.

The cress bared a faint resemblance to arugula, without being over the top or in your face about it.  It’s a little more subtle.

Light and soft and elegant.

And it really does lend the most wonderful, rustic charm to a hot bowl of Mushroom Soup.  I simply chopped it up and sprinkle it on top for a deliciously healthy garnish.

You could also let it wilt by throwing in a handful or two at the end of the soup’s cooking time.  It would also pair lovely with a hummus wrap and a slice of sharp cheddar.

It felt really nice to be back in the kitchen, tonight.  Chopping and dicing and stirring and eating.  Yes.  It felt good to unwind.

Have a happy Friday!

a taste of home

Oops.

(source)

My motto this week has (very fittingly) been “don’t cry over spilled milk.”  From poster mishaps to broken glass to flat tires.  I’ve convinced myself that none of these things really matter.

What matters is Pepere coming to the rescue, and having him tell me to call him anytime in such “emergencies.”  What matters is sitting down to a bowl of split pea soup at the end of a long day, with the family and the muffled sounds of country music playing over the radio.  Yes.  What matters is family.  What matters is laughing and being silly and embracing each moment as it comes, day by day.  Moment by moment.

What matters is having fun in the kitchen, cooking for the people I love the most.  That is what matters.

And so, tonight I decided to make a big batch of split pea soup.

Split pea soup has long been a favorite of mine.  It all started on a chilly winter’s night over my sister’s house.  Nicole had just moved into her new place and called me over for dinner, dessert and a movie.

She whisked around the kitchen—talking with her usual enthusiasm and spice—serving her husband and I big round bowls of the soup with hunks of warm foccaccia bread.  “Wait!”  I stammered, my mouth still full with soup.  Nicole paused mid-sentence before asking, “is it okay?”  “Oh my word,” I stammered.  “This is amazing!”  She smiled.  She popped dessert in the oven.  And then we kept on chattering, as we always do when there’s dinner, dessert and shopping involved.

Ever since, I have had quite the little love affair with split pea soup.  I don’t admit this to many people.  Split pea soup, as you know, has horrible connotations.

“This weather is as thick as pea soup!”

“The color looks like pea soup!” <—and this is really not a good thing, in case you were ever wondering

And yet, when I want to taste “home,” I want to taste split pea soup.  I find the texture to be absolutely irresistible, and I find the flavors to be so simple but grand all at the same time.  It’s not at all a show off like some of those other soups out there.  It carries a level of quiet confidence.

Split pea soup is humble and mellow and really quite simple.  I like that about split pea soup.

Split Pea Soup—as seen in Moosewood Cookbook and on this website

There are all kinds of split pea soups out there.  Many call for ham.  Some call for bacon.  I’ve even seen some include such ingredients as sweet potatoes, raisins, and parsnips.  But when it comes right down to it, I like to keep things pure and simple.

There’s nothing fancy about this recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook, but that’s what makes it so special.  You can cook a batch any time you please.  It freezes well, makes an ideal sandwich companion at lunch, and is super healthy to boot.  What’s not to love?

  • 3 cups dry split peas
  • 7 cups water or veggie stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 cups minced onion
  • 4-5 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced or diced
  • 1 small potato, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp salt
  • lots of fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3-4 Tbls red wine vinegar
  1. Place split peas, water or stock, bay leaf and dry mustard in a large soup kettle.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting, and simmer for about 20 minutes, partially covered.
  2. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and potato. Partially cover and simmer for an additional 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add pepper, vinegar, and salt if desired. Serve topped with fresh tomato and/or minced parsley.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of soup?

 

 

a childhood flashback

It all started when I posted this picture over the weekend.

Childhood artwork, circa 1990’s

Normally, I can’t stand the thought of mushy spaghetti and meatballs being stored in a shelf stable can.  Really now, who had the imagination to come up with the idea of storing spaghetti in a can??  A can! Not to mention the mystery meat.

But this silly little drawing left me smiling.  It also left me in the mood for tomato smothered noodles.  And soup too.  I’m not sure if Chef Boyardee has come up with this sort of thing yet (spaghetti & meatball soup?) but this recipe from Moosewood Restaurant’s Cookbook brought me instantly back to my childhood.

You know.  In a totally delicious, non-canned, sort of way.

I like to think this is the grown up, healthified, adult version of an old childhood favorite.

Only there’s more vegetables.  No mystery meat.  Much less salt.  And a lot more flavor.

I think you’ll enjoy it. 😀

Moosewood’s Eastern European Minestrone—as seen on this website.

Minestrone soups will always leave you with countless options, and you can change the ingredients to fit your own personal taste preferences.  Broccoli would make a nice addition, as would water chestnuts, asparagus tips, and/or beets.  Use whatever your kitchen happens to have on hand, and you really can’t go wrong.

I highly recommend doubling this recipe, as it freezes well and can be used for lunches throughout the week.  Serve with a warm, crusty hunk of bread and enjoy! 😀

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 1 cup diced  carrots
  • 3/4 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced peeled turnips
  • 3/4 cup diced red pepper
  • 1 15-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 quart (4 cups) water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, broken into 1-inch long pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  1. In a large soup pot on medium heat, cook the onions, garlic, and celery in the olive oil for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the paprika and caraway, and stir for a minute.
  2. Add the carrots, green beans, turnips and bell peppers, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the white beans, tomatoes, water, lemon juice, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in the pasta pieces, cover and simmer on medium heat until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir in the dill.  ENJOY! 😀

Question: What were some of your favorite school lunches when you were small?  Do you still enjoy them or have your tastebuds changed over the years?

a plate of cabbage and kale

We are officially snowed in!!!

In case you were wondering, yoga in the living room was my workout choice this morning, vs. going out for a walk.  I decided that listening to the radio while doing downward dogs and sun salutations in my pajamas sounded just about right for such a morning. 😉

But I still pulled on my boots and went outside to enjoy a bit of snow.  Which, by the way, is already up to my knees—and still climbing.  There’s at least 18 inches out there.  Maybe more! 

All I can say is, thank goodness today was my day off.

And thank goodness Dad didn’t mind going out and snowblowing the driveway in order to bury us out of the driveway for tomorrow’s commute (thanks dad!)

Yoga + shoveling + plowing my way through snow = fabulous workout.

I decided that today was a good day to clean out the fridge, while putting any and all of those lingering ingredients to good use. 

I bought a head of organic purple kale last week at the supermarket, just because I thought it looked too pretty to turn down.  It’s absolutely brimming with antioxidants and nutrients.  I couldn’t bare to walk past it, and so it ended up in my cart.  And in my fridge.  Until today, of course.

Also in the fridge, I had a couple of carrots and some onions (there are always onions!), along with a thick slab of tofu and a lemon.  Off to the side—on the kitchen counter—there were some tomatoes.  I’m pretty sure that if kitchens could talk, mine would have been screaming—demanding?—at me to make a warm kale salad. 

It was very much meant to be.

I’m pretty sure that people get the wrong idea when it comes to things like kale and tofu.  If it sounds a little hippy—a little too “far out” for both your mind and your kitchen—then you simply must rethink these things and move on.  Daring to try something new.

Kale, when it’s made just right, is earthy and sweet.  Tender but firm.  It will take on a whole new dimension, as it soaks up the olive oil that is lightly drizzled on top.  And in the end, it will practically beg you to add just a splash or two of lemon juice.  Finally—at last—the warmed kale salad will reward your tastebuds with a delicious flavor that’s both simple and complex, making you forget all of those silly little things that you ever had to say about kale.

Tofu is another thing altogether.

Thankfully, just like kale, tofu has the possibility of rewarding you with a depth of flavor and a delightful texture as well. 

The preparation of tofu is key, I think.  More specifically, the pressing

Getting rid of every last bit of liquid that you possibly can, so that the texture becomes nice and firm.  So that it can soak up every bit of sauce or liquid that you decide to add to it.  So that it can brown and crisp at the touch of a hot nonstick pan.  Yes.  The art of tofu is in the pressing.

Side Dish: Roasted Cabbage

A delightfully warm meal to warm up with after trudging through the snow. 😀

I hope you’re all staying warm and safe today!!!

Warm Kale Salad

This makes for a delightful side dish to any entree, but it can also serve as a main dish in and of itself.  Pine nuts, walnuts, and beans would make for a nice addition as well.  This dish is simple but satisfying, perfect for a chilly winter afternoon. 

  • 1 head of kale
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • garlic powder
  • lemon juice
  1. In a medium sized pan, heat 1 T. olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add kale, stir, and lower heat to medium low.  Continue cooking until kale is tender but still slightly firm.  Add tomatoes, carrot, garlic powder to taste, and a few liberal splashes of lemon juice.  Lower heat to low and continue cooking until heated thorough.
  3. ENJOY! 😀

Simply Pan Fried Tofu

This is as simple as simple gets.  You can use any sauce that suits your fancy.  I’ve used peanut sauces, bbq sauce, and homemade thai sauces as well.  I’ve got to say though, soy sauce and garlic are one of my most favorite of combinations.  Sometimes you can’t mess with simple.

  • 1/4 a block of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed well
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • garlic powder
  • red pepper flakes
  1. Blot tofu well with paper towels to remove any lingering liquids. 
  2. In a small bowl, mix together soy sauce, garlic powder and red pepper flakes.  Place tofu in bowl, flip over and let it sit in fridge at least 1 hr.
  3. Heat a nonstick cooking pan over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray, place tofu in pan, and cook until browned and crisp.  Flip and continue cooking until browned on other side as well.
  4. Serve and ENJOY! 😀

Roasted Cabbage

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare any and all of my vegetables.  Cabbage is no exception.  Enjoy!

  • 1/2 a head of cabbage
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat oven to 425. 
  2. Spray baking sheet with spray and set aside.  Slice cabbage into 1/2 inch slices and place in single layers on baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through.  ENJOY!

Question: Do you eat anything now that you never in a million years would have thought you would *ever* enjoy?