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Here’s what I learned yesterday.

If you have guests coming and no food except for a bag of chips of some kind, you can still make a marvelous dip for those chips in under five minutes. Oh, and you can utilize leftovers, while doing it!

Throw a can of beans of any kind ( I used black beans) into the food processor, add a handful of nuts (I used walnuts,) a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and paper and a bit of water and process until smooth.If you want, you can add parsley or cilantro and/or some onion and garlic. My guests loved the dip! and my kids loved it for lunch the next day.

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I was browsing through some blogs last night and stumbled upon a post about a really delicious, easy and healthy bean spread. Oh,and the spread is supposed to be placed on a sandwich with some kale on top. I was hooked. First of all, I am all about quick and easy, healthy cooking. Secondly, I could feed this spread to my twin babies, who’d love a little extra protein, so that they can finally grow up and take their toys back from their big brother. Thirdly, I could feed the kale to my oldest, who thinks that eating kale makes you grow big enough to drive a real car ( ok, I taught him that.)

I tripled the bean spread recipe and we had the leftovers for lunch today. The babies had the spread with some celery sticks and avocado chunks and we had  baked potatoes with bean spread, avocado , kale and chives. 

After playing with the  original recipe a bit, here’s the spread and the sandwich:

 

 

Rustic White Bean Spread

  • 1 can of white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 heaping cup of cooked beans)
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs tahini
  • 1 Tbs water (or more for desired consistency)
  • 2Tbs olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Process everything until smooth.

 Kale

 Heat a bit of olive oil and water in a frying pan. Add a small garlic clove, minced, stirring a minute until fragrant. Add 1-2 tbsp. of Bragg’s amino acid sauce. Toss in a couple handfuls of kale (stems removed, chopped). Sautee until wilted. Add a few drops of tobasco, if desired.

Sandwich

 Place a generous dollop of warmed white bean spread over two pieces of toast. Top with cooked kale. Squeeze a splash of lemon over everything and put a slice of lemon on top (optional). I also put a tomato slice on top.

 

This is my favorite soup. Warm, hearty, full of spices and veggies, it can heat up a cold winter night and add substance to summer lunch. If you add a couple of pieces of toast to a bowl of this soup, you have a nice meal right there. Croutons work, too. You can also have a small bowl of this soup as an appetizer. When selecting vegetables for the soup, keep the red/green balance in mind. The vegetable mixture  has to be about 50% red and 50% green. In this recipe, I put things like broccoli and sweet potatoes. There is also nothing wrong with string beans and squash: be creative, but keep the red/green balance!

The yield for this recipe is a large soup pot, for about 6-7 people.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup broccoli  florets

1/2 cup kale leaves, separated from the stalks

1/2 cup carrots, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup cup celery, chopped

2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped

1/4 cup parsley, diced

1/2 cup whole wheat penne pasta or uncooked buckwheat

1/2-3/4 can garbanzo beans

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt, paprika to taste

2 tbsp. curry powder

3 garlic cloves, pressed

7 cups of water

Put the carrots and the sweet potatoes in the water and bring to a boil. Add the rest of the vegetables, cover and let simmer for 3 minutes. Add the garbanzo beans, the pasta or the grain and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes (taste the pasta or the grain for readiness.) Add olive oil and the spices and simmer for a minute or two. Let the soup stand for 20 minutes before serving.

 

Hummus is a chickpea-sesame dip that works really well on a  sandwich or with veggies.  It is also a good source of  vegetarian protein and fiber. It is rich in monounsaturated fat,  if  made with olive oil.  Hummus also contains calcium, iron,  magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and a few other trace minerals. It  contains a little of the B vitamins, including a good  amount of folic acid and a little vitamin A.

Most people buy hummus in the store and get a bunch of preservatives and artificial ingredients with their chickpea dip. I  make my hummus myself, since I spent quite a few years in Israel, where hummus is eaten every day and the standards for hummus are quite high.  Very few recipes are as easy as the homemade hummus one.

My hummus can be fed to babies, because its protein will help them grow and all of its ingredients are completely natural.  Older children love dipping veggie sticks and crackers into the hummus. You can cook your chickpeas or use canned ones, if pressed for time. You can add things to hummus to keep the dip new and exciting every day: adding whole chickpeas to the finished hummus gives it an interesting texture, cilantro or parsley or chives or garlic or even curry or paprika or pesto sauce change its flavor. Mashed carrots or sweet potatoes add sweetness, while avocado makes it more subtle-tasting. You can even be as adventurous as I am sometimes, making this hummus into a completely different dish altogether, using white beans, instead of chickpeas.

Ingredients:

2 cups of cooked or canned chickpeas

1/3 cup tahini paste

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4- 1/3 cup of olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Process everything in a blender until smooth and taste. Some people like their hummus to have a more pronounced sesame flavor (add tahini) and some want its consistency to be more liquid ( add 1/4 cup warm water.) Add the spices I mentioned above if you feel like it and serve on a plate with some more olive oil, poured on top (but not mixed in.) You can also serve it with a pinch of paprika on top. Hummus can stay fresh in the fridge for about 4 days.

 

Sorry, I haven’t been able to post for a few days. We went to Asheville, NC for a few days, and the house we rented had internet  troubles. On the more positive note, Asheville is home to my favorite vegetarian restaurant in the country. I’ve been to  the Millennium in San Francisco, I’ve been to Angelica’s in NYC. I also visited countless veggie spots around the country. Still, the clean,  spacious and delicious Laughing Seed Cafe in Asheville cannot be beat. It gets the highest marks in my book both for its food (they  have daily veggie specials to die for) and its service ( they brought organic veggies, cut into bite-size chunks for my babies when I foolishly left  the baby food bag in the car.) And they actually have healthy food on their kid’s menu!

……………….

When I was in my early twenties, studying at NYU, taking yoga classes at Jivamukti, living alone in NYC , I never cooked anything, because my apartment’s  kitchen was barely large enough to accommodate a teapot, forget about the actual cook (me.) I loved going to Angelica’s Kitchen restaurant and ordering a Dragon Bowl. The simplicity of this perfectly balanced vegetarian dish reminded me of home-cooking. That, and it was superhealthy and inexpensive. The Dragon Bowl was an example of a perfect equilibrium in food: bitter, but also sweet, healthy, but filling. It tasted like home, yet I ate it in a restaurant. “The Bowl” also fit nicely into a “One Bowl,” which was a nutrition book I  followed for a while.

Some years later, in Asheville, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a Harmony Bowl on the Laughing Seed Cafe’s menu. It was very much like my old Dragon Bowl! I was feeling like I was twenty again as I devoured it. The next day, I came back and ordered another one.  And two days later, I made one at home. The simplicity and versatility of this dish are overwhelming: you can use any grain, bean or vegetable you have. Here’s the Bowl, in a nutshell.

Cooked brown rice

Cooked black beans

Steamed Veggies

Sauce

Optional: Tofu

Pick a nice-size bowl, suitable for one person. Put some cooked brown rice (or other grain) on the bottom of it. Put black beans on top of the rice. Put tofu on top, if using it. Put the veggies over everything and pour the sauce over the veggies.

When picking the vegetables, try to cover many flavors: squash or carrots for sweetness, kale for bitterness… Don’t forget green staples, like zucchini or broccoli.

The dish at this point is rather bland. The sauce is what really makes The Bowl sparkle. My two absolutely favorite sauces for the Harmony Bowl are carrot/ginger or tahini.

I didn’t list any proportions or amounts here on purpose: the bowl is an individual dish, so make it your own by playing an experimenting. You can make it pretty, or you can make it simple. Busy parents:  don’t be afraid to use canned beans.

 

photo: Piyachok Thawornmat

I love this green, low-calorie, nutrient-packed soup. If you don’t like tofu, you don’t have to put it in. You can also add potatoes, whole wheat pasta or beans of any kind. You can season the soup with some curry for a more of an exotic twist. Yo u can even add some brown rice or buckwheat!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 9 cups water
  • 7 cubes vegetable bouillon
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 block of tofu, cubed
  • 1 bunch of broccoli, separated into florets
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large  pot. Cook the onion and garlic until soft. Stir in the kale and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in all other ingredients, except for the green onions. Simmer on medium heat for about 2o minutes. Add more water if needed. Add the green onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The original Paradise Casserole from Candle Cafe has ingredients like millet, miso and beans one needs to slowly cook. I like quinoa better than millet, as far as flavor and as far as being a complete protein. As a busy mama, I also don’t have more than 20 minutes to cook, but still want my family dinner to be healthy and delicious.

I like to assemble this dish, stick it in the oven and do bath time. By the time we are done (30-40 mins,) the dinner is ready. The sweet potato and the quinoa layers can also be prepared two-three days ahead, making it an excellent dish to creatively utilize leftovers. Serve the casserole with kale chips or a simple salad, topped with roasted pumpkin seeds for an extra-nutritional punch.

Ingredients:

4 Large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

2 cans of spicy  black beans

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup  olive oil
3 cups cooked quinoa (see package instructions.)

Oil for pan

8 inch square glass pan, or equivalent volume baking pan.

Preheat oven to 350F.

For the sweet potato layer: Put the sweet potatoes in a pot, cover with water and let simmer until they get soft (test with a fork.) Strain the water.  Mash in a mixing bowl, adding  1/4 cup of olive oil. Season lightly with salt, if desired.

For the bean layer: Heat the remaining olive oil  in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion. Sautee for three minutes, then add the black beans. Cover and let simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from heat.


Assembling the dish:

Oil baking dish of your choosing. Place quinoa in the bottom of dish, packing it tightly in a uniform layer. Spoon the black beans over the quinoa. Top with the mashed sweet potatoes, smoothing the top with the back of a spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Let stand 10-20 minutes before serving.

image: cameraphone vegan

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