Monday, November 8, 2010

Meatless Thanksgiving

What meatless dishes grace your Thanksgiving table?

A few months before Thanksgiving, I start paying attention to interesting recipes and make a list. That way, when Thanksgiving week comes, I won't draw a blank when deciding what to make.

This year I'm leaning towards roasted pumpkin seeds with paprika, homemade cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and quinoa with roasted corn and lentils I'll marinate ahead of time in seasonal spices and oil. For dessert there will be real whipped cream atop brown sugar pumpkin pie, baked pears with cardamom crumble topping, and my own recipe of butter Thanksgiving-themed cutout cookies with seasonal spices.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eggplant Chili

For this week's lunches, I made a pot of chili.

I have made chili a 1000 ways, like most people, but this is my all-time favorite.

I start out with a box of Shelby's chili mix. I'm not a fan of mixes but this is an exception. If I try to get the same flavor on my own, it falls short. They've got just the right seasoning mix for my taste buds.

Instead of the ground beef, I brown finely diced eggplant in peanut oil along with diced onions. When good and brown, I add the rest of the ingredients per the box instructions, plus black beans.

I eat it with a hunk of whole grain bread and some New York white cheddar cheese. Mmmm....can't wait for today's lunch!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Easy Black Bean Soup

I pureed fresh lime juice, oil, onion, chile, and cooked black beans for a delicious soup that literally took me 10 minutes to make. So delicious, healthy, and fast!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Old Fashioned Dishes

While eating an absolutely delicious plate of portobello parmesan at Delmonico's Restaurant, I began to wonder if there were other traditional favorites I could make over to be vegetarian.

I decided to try making Tofu Francaise.  I think I'll make it with vegetable broth and extra firm tofu.

I'm taking the long weekend off from's Columbus I'll be back to post pics later on.

Felice lunedì senza carne!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans)

No September is complete without a giant pot of this comfort food.

Generally I try to stick to whole wheat pasta, but there was no whole grain option in the shape I prefer, and I just couldn't bear to substitute.  It wouldn't be the same!

And then for some reason I had no hesitance to throw a collection of random leftover vegetables in the pot.  Or to substitute regular vegetable broth for the mushroom broth I usually use.  It's different, and yet...the same.   Ahhhh....Pasta e Fagioli.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fast food

I neglected my grocery shopping and cooking this week, so by mid-week, I found myself in serious need of a fast and healthy lunch.

I found a few frozen cheese ravioli in the freezer, frozen chopped broccoli, a little leftover cooked kale, tomato broth, and cooked pinto beans.  I threw it all together and viola, a nice hearty soup for lunches.

Although I'm admittedly disappointed to have soup weather this early in the season, my lunch was fantastic and deliciously easy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Harvest

We have had so little sun this summer. :( 

I finally harvested the rest of my pintos.  I didn't get much--maybe a cup or so.  My fault--I should have put them in a sunnier spot.

Meanwhile, other beans are sprouting up.  I think they're the chic peas.  I'm really looking forward to eating fresh chic peas for the first time.  I'll cross my fingers.

Quinoa, Pinto, and Spinach Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing

This week I'm a bit behind on my cooking, but not too late for Meatless Monday!  Usually I cook my food for the week's lunches on Sundays, but I was a bit under the weather so I put it off.

I'm planning on making this salad this week.  Epicurios has never failed to deliver an awesome recipe, so I have high hopes.

The recipe calls for spinach and cooked quinoa topped with lots of mint, feta, and a smoked paprika vinaigrette.  I'm not a fan of mint--unless it's in ice cream with chocolate chips ;)--so I'm going to skip that.  I happen to have some pintos I need to cook up--from my harvest, yay!!--so I'm going to use those in favor of the chic peas.

Edited to add a pic.  I used strips of roasted eggplant, which was just phenomenal.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day!

I don't have any pics for you today, but here are some ideas for a Meatless Monday grill.

If you love burgers, there are endless varieties of bean-based burgers you can make.  Generally, you need a solids, spices, and binders.  Pick one or more from the following lists, mixing until you get a "burger-ish" consistency.

Black beans
Textured vegetable protein
Pinto beans
Very finely chopped mushrooms

Ground hot pepper (I like chipotle because they are smoked and lend a nice BBQ flavor.)
Creole spice mix
Italian spice mix (if you like your burgers to have a meatball-like flavor)
BBQ sauce
Jerk seasoning

Bread crumbs
Cracker crumbs
Fresh bread
Pureed cooked pasta

Fry, grill, or broil your burgers.  Sometimes veggie burgers are more delicate than meat burgers, so be careful when flipping.  Serve as you would any burger--with lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Roasted Italian Green Beans

Happy Meatless Monday!

We're in the midst of the annual giant harvest of Italian green beans.  I don't know about you, but I tend to get tired of these beans really easily if all I do is steam them.  Bo-ring.

Today I decided to try roasting them.  I've never heard of eating them roasted, but I figured, what doesn't taste awesome roasted with salt, pepper, and olive oil?

I had a zucchini that had seen better days, so I threw that in there too, along with some leftover red onion from my freezer.  I roasted it all with a clove of garlic.

I am really impressed--it's very tasty!

I think we've all forgotten how to make vegetables taste good.  Take, for example, my sauteed chic peas.  How do we make meat taste good?  We all know--grill, roast, or fry, and add some oil and spices, right?  Why don't we think to do the same for beans?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Meatless Mondays Movement

Have you heard of this?  It's a public health movement with a "goal of reducing meat consumption by 15% to improve personal health and the health of our planet".  Check out all the organizations and municipalities that have taken the Meatless Mondays Pledge!

The Meatless Mondays website has free posters, recipes, and a weekly e-newsletter with innovative ideas.  I have been a subscriber for a long time and I highly recommend it.

The Audrey Bean blog has joined the Meatless Mondays Movement too.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Food memories

Last September I was in Sicily for a few weeks.  One of my favorite dishes was so simple and delicious--I find myself craving it as the tomato harvest approaches.

My hostess simply took a large sauce pan, heated some fresh olive oil, and mashed a number of overripe plum tomatoes in it until hot.  One day I added a few beans--cannelini or chic peas, I can't remember which.  It was such a treat when served over hot rigatoni.  I can still remember my hostess's look of confusion, wondering why I was so fascinated with such a simple dish!

Counting down the days until the plum tomato glut, when the farmer's market vendors are practically paying the customers to haul them away!

Do you have any special food memories?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hummus Conspiracies

The other night after work, I was looking for a quick and delicious pre-made snack for dinner.

I was shocked to see the hummus selection at my local grocery store.  The store has recently been bought by a new company and, as far as I can tell, has significantly downsized its inventory.  Yet here they are with a full case of various flavors and brands of hummus--no less than 20 choices!

The one I bought was pine nut.  It was an extremely creamy hummus with pine nuts and oil on top, with a small amount of chopped sun dried tomatoes as a garnish.

I was wondering why it tastes so much creamier than the hummus I usually eat.  Ah.  Turns out it's because it's made mostly of soybean oil.  The nutritional content was poor when I compared the two--a third of the protein and fiber, almost no vitamins, and a lot more calories and fat. 

Word to the wise:  Store-bought hummus is not health food!  It's probably healthier than cheese dip or something like that, but definitely not a healthy vegetarian main dish staple.

I did a little research and found out some companies have put baking soda in their hummus.  Apparently it makes the product extremely smooth, but it's frowned upon because it robs the vitamins.

I'm going to stick to my brand, but I'm probably going to add more olive oil when I make it.  I like the creaminess and need the good fats anyway.  I'm also thinking about blending in some pureed spinach, artichokes, roasted peppers, or sun dried tomatoes.

I also made Zaa'tar to sprinkle on top, without the sumac.  Haven't tried it yet.  I just might pick some sumac berries to try, though.   Hmmm...another adventure.


I made this traditional Greek pie and substituted mashed cannelini beans for some of the cheese and vegetables.  It really tasted awesome, and still very rich.

I put too much dill in it though.  Turns out I misread the recipe.

How *not* to eat breakfast

With the surplus of one of my favorite foods--nectarines--I thought I'd be innovative and make a sweet bean dish for breakfast.  I drained and rinsed a can of chic peas, fried them in Olivio, flavored them with cloves and cinnamon, and ate them with chopped nectarines.

One word:  YUCK.

Chic peas are versatile and can be delicious in sweet dishes.  (Just wait until Christmas--maybe I'll make my chic pea chocolate cookies from a very old Italian recipe.)  What I failed to realize in this dish was there was not enough sweet to cancel out all the salt used in canned beans.  It just doesn't work.  I'll bet if I had cooked my own, without salt, it would have been great.

Beanstalk update!

I ended up with 3 viable beanstalks.  One ended up dying, though I'm not surprised because we had terribly oppressive weather--too much rain and heat. 

They've been pretty much care free in this climate because we get plenty of rain.  I just check them every few days to make sure they're not leaning on the dirt (so they don't rot) and the vine is going where I want it to (not strangling my strawberry plants).

So now I've got 2 left, and they're already producing beans.  I wasn't sure if they were the chic peas or the pintos.  Last night I picked the ones that are ready, and it turns out they're pintos.  They're a little more mottled than their parents--I wonder if that's a good thing or a bad thing?

 Some beans dry on the vine--that's when you know to harvest them.  Others you eat fresh, like green beans.  Apparently pintos dry on the vine.

I've only got 5 beans so far.  Once (if!) I get enough, I'll try making a dish with just the home grown ones to see if there is a difference.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Instant black beans

I tried Fantastic World Foods Instant Black Beans yesterday.  Pretty good!
If you're not into cooking your own dried black beans, this is a safer alternative too canned goods, which may contain carcinogens like BPA.

The directions say to just add hot water.  I found the need to put the mixture into the microwave briefly to get the mix to absorb the water.  I didn't add any spices--the mixture is well spiced and flavorful on its own.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grilled tofu and tofu crepes

Emeril's Korean Barbecue Tofu - Planet Green

This dish was featured just now on the TV show Emeril Green. It looks really good, so I thought I'd share it!

He made tofu crepes for dessert.  Before you cringe, check it out.  I've made desserts with soft tofu and you would not believe how good they are.  Remember, tofu has little flavor on its own, so when you add citrus or vanilla, the flavorings are clear and intense.  I am a bit skeptical of the crepes themselves--I like my traditional crepe recipe--but Emeril shares a vegan crepe recipe here.

Emeril's Orange Crepes--with video

The key to enjoying tofu is to not expect it to "taste just like cheese" or "taste just like chicken breast".  It doesn't (although it can be pretty close).  If you approach tofu dishes thinking you're going to have an identical substitute, you're going to gross yourself out.  Let the tofu be what it is, in its own way, and you'll love it.

Have trouble grilling grill tofu?  Here are some techniques:
  • Buy extra firm tofu and drain very well.  For some brands, that's enough for you to be able to grill it, as long as you're gentle and don't try to flip it and move it around more than twice.  If that doesn't work...
  • Try slicing it after you drain it, and freeze it.  It will be very dry, so this method is suited to sauced dishes.  This does work--the tofu doesn't fall apart.
Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fried chic peas--sublime, yet simple

Here is a fast meal I make when I'm pressed for time, or just lazy. ;) 

It's appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack.  A whole can makes leftovers, which taste just as good when reheated.

Simply open a can of chic peas (ceci or garbanzos) and drain really, really well.

Heat up a skillet with a little olive oil.  Once it's hot, add the beans and saute until lightly browned.  They will shrink a bit while you're cooking, but don't worry--that just concentrates the good flavor.

I don't feel they need any seasoning at all, but if you must, you could try cinnamon, cloves, oregano, basil, cumin, curry--the possibilities are endless.

Here is my meal with fruit, fresh vegetables, and artisan whole grain bread:

Here's a close-up of the beans:

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I couldn't figure out if I had to buy a certain type of seed in order to grow my own beans.  Some said yes, others said no.

I couldn't find seeds to my liking, so I decided to try sprouting a few dried pinto beans from the market.  I put them in a little soil and covered them with plastic.  They sprouted within 24 hours and are now several inches high.


OK, capers aren't technically beans, but they deserve some attention.

Capers grow wild in the Mediterranean in warmer areas.  They are a sprawling bush-like plant that prefers to grow between rocks in hot, dry, sunny areas.  Like my front porch, where nothing else grows because it's too hot and sunny.

I love capers.  If you've never had them, they taste kind of like a cross between green olives and mild green peppercorns.  They're great in a salad.

I ordered some seed on the Internet, put them in a zip-sealed bag with a damp paper towel, and set them in a warm, semi-sunny spot.  And waited.  And waited.  And waited.

A few weeks later, they had begun to sprout.  I transferred them to a pot with a mixture of organic potting soil and sand, because I figured they'd prefer that--it's closer to the way they grow wild.  I added some pebbles on top and put them in the sun.

I had seeds left over, so I put some of my soil-sand mix on top of a few large rocks lying around my yard, surrounded them with a few other rocks to prevent the soil from washing away, planted the seeds, and sheltered it with a flat rock.

I am really hopeful I'll have a few plants this summer.  The package says they survive up to -20 degrees F.  I'm not sure they'll like my humidity though.

Refried beans (refritos)

Here are my refried beans.  The photo is totally unappetizing, I know, but they're just not known for their beauty, so get over it. ;)

I soak pinto beans overnight, drain, and replace the liquid with a beer and some water.  I add spices--use whatever you like--and then cook them in my pressure cooker for half an hour or so.

I LOVE onions--don't we all--but I don't like having onion breath for the next day or three.  I've struck upon a compromise that keeps my taste buds and my coworkers happy.  I cook half an onion in the pressure cooker and then discard it after cooking.  This way I have some flavor but am not eating chunks of onions.

The beer is an absolute requirement in my book.  If you are serving this to children or don't drink alcohol yourself--and no, it does not cook out--try a non-alcoholic beer instead.  I've done that and it tastes just as good.

I eat these with a fried egg on top and a warmed tortilla, or in a wrap with some melted extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Sicilian-style falafel, a.k.a. panelle

Here's a little experiment I tried today.  If I do say so myself, it turned out awesome awesome awesome.  (!!1!)

I took some garbanzo bean flour (also called besan, gram or chickpea flour) and made a sort of polenta with it.  I soaked it briefly in water and some olive oil.  I added a whole bunch of spices, figuring it would be really bland without them, and I was right.

I whisked it constantly on the stove until it thickened, then cooled and sliced it--just like polenta.  With me so far?

Then I fried it in a frying pan with maybe half an inch of oil.  "Mmmm" does not adequately describe this dish.  It's SO tasty.  It has the perfect texture we all aspire to in fried foods--creamy inside and crunchy outside.

I found I didn't need any extra salt after frying, and the cucumber basil sauce I made as an accompaniment took away from the fritters' sublime goodness.

Here they are.  I've read Sicilians eat them on a sandwich bun.  Unfortunately, when I was in Sicily recently, no one I talked to had ever heard of them.  I suppose I was either talking to the wrong people, or it was just one of those American myths of what Italy is really like.

Either way, these are REALLY good.

Lupini beans

I've been hearing about these elusive beans for years and was beginning to think they were myths, like Zeus, Xenu, homoepathy, and Rush Limbaugh's college education.

And then I found them in my beloved market--Wegmans.

I had read they needed to be heavily salted in the cooking process, and man, that was the understatement of the century.  It was like a salt lick!

I rinsed the beans a number of times with filtered water.  I added a garlic clove, a few slices of lemon and some fennel fronds, then let them marinate for a few weeks in the fridge.  Much better.  They are pretty tasty and crunchy.  I know "crunchy" usually is an insult when it comes to a bean dish, but in this case, it's intentional.

You have to peel them, which makes a mess, so this is not a good first date food--but worth a try.

Kumquats remake two sublime treats

I saw some organic kumquats in the market yesterday.  I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I bought them anyway, as I often do.  I like adventures. ;)

I had a plain one and it was way too tart on its own, even for me, a lover of tartness.

So....I squeezed one over a scoop of Haagen Dazs vanilla bean ice cream.

I took another, broke it in half, and squeezed it into my espresso.  Another foodgasm.  (Kids, if you're going to try this at home, you should probably be sure to not add the kumquat until after you've mixed your cream in well.  Otherwise it might curdle.)

Making over two treats that are already perfect on their own--awesomeness. ;)