While we don’t eat beef often, this recipe has been in our “standard rotation” of dinners for years. It’s delicious and ridiculously easy to make. The secret to success entails getting a really good piece of meat – preferably one with a bit of marbling to ensure the end result is tender and juicy.

Pot Roast1 (2½- to 3-pound) boneless beef roast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer or apple juice
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (16-ounce) jar Pace mild salsa
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced (optional)

  1. Trim visible fat away from roast. Place it in a crock pot. Add beer (or apple juice), sugar, and salsa.
  2. Cook and cover on high 3 to 4 hours. Add potatoes during last 90 minutes of cooking.
  3. Remove beef from pot and let stand for ~5-10 minutes before carving.
  4. Serve beef with potatoes and generous helping of sauce.

Here’s another one of our favorite recipes to serve for dinner guests. It’s takes very little preparation, tastes absolutely delicious, and cooks in one pot!

Asian Shrimp Pasta1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons hot chili oil
3/4 pound thin spaghetti
1/2 pound green beans, stem ends and strings removed
1 pound (51 to 60 per pound) fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

  1. Pour 2½ to 3 quarts water into a stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by mixing soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and chili oil.
  3. When water boils, stir in pasta. Cook, uncovered, 6-7 minutes.  Stir in green beans and shrimp.  Cook until pasta is just tender to bite and shrimp are pink, about 1-2 minutes longer.  Drain well.
  4. Return pasta mixture to pot. Add dressing, cilantro, and green onions and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with nuts.  Serves 4-5.

Pork Loin with Peanut SauceHere’s one of our favorite recipes to serve for dinner guests. It’s takes very little preparation and tastes absolutely delicious.

1 fat-trimmed center-cut pork loin (about 2½ pound)
1-1/3 cups apple cider
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp hot chili flakes
2 cloves garlic

  1. On the night before or morning of your dinner party, cut 1/2-inch-deep slits all over pork; place meat in a large plastic food bag.
  2. In a blender, combine cider, soy sauce, peanut butter, thyme, chili flakes, and garlic. Blend thoroughly.
  3. Pour cider marinade over pork, seal bag, turn to coat, then set in pan. Chill, turning occasionally, for several hours, up to a day.
  4. Lift meat from marinade and set on a rack in a 9- by 13-inch pan. Reserve marinade.
  5. Bake pork at 350° oven until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches ~170° (roughly an hour). After 30 minutes, baste with reserved marinade.
  6. Transfer pork to a platter and let stand 5 to 10 minutes in a warm place. As pork rests, pour remaining marinade into pan with pork juices (excluding burned parts). Stir over high heat until the sauce is reduced to ~1 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour into a gravy boat.
  7. Slice the pork and accompany with sauce.

As one who pursues a predominantly whole-foods, plant-based diet, I like to experiment with different types of beans and different ways of preparing them. My latest adventure features black-eyed peas.

Black-Eyed PeasI lived in the South for well over a decade and noshed on my fair share of black-eyed peas. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year. By tradition, the peas are cooked with bacon, hambones, or hog jowls along with diced onion and hot sauce (or pepper-flavored vinegar). It’s served with collard, turnip, or mustard greens and ham. The plumped-up peas symbolize growth; greens symbolize money. And because pigs root forward when foraging, their presence suggests positive motion. But since I generally steer clear of meat, I need an alternative treatment.

As luck would have it, black-eyed peas were first domesticated in West Africa. It’s an everyday, year-round staple over there. They eat them fresh, ground, and dried. So I opted to prepare a vegetarian version of the Ghanaian Red Red Stew.

1 pound dried beans
1/2 cup healthy cooking oil
Red Red Stew1 medium-to-large onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (or to taste)
2 teaspoons kelp granules
1/4 teaspoons chili powder
2-3 cups vegetable stock
3-6 green onions, chopped

Directions:

  1. Pick through the black-eyed peas and discard any foreign objects (e.g., small pebbles). Rinse the beans and place them in a large pot submerged under 3-4 inches of water. Cover and let sit overnight.
  2. Drain the soaked beans, rinse them, and place them in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 40-60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not mushy. (Note: If you prefer using a pressure cooker, cooking time general runs 8-12 minutes.) Drain the beans and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, paprika, smoked paprika, kelp granules, and chili powder. Cook while stirring for an additional minute. (Note: Add a little vegetable stock to the pan if the ingredients start sticking.)
  4. Add the beans, green onions, and the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. (Note: You only want to add just enough stock to create the consistency of a hearty stew, not a watery soup.)
  5. Sample the stew and add smoked paprika as needed to make the dish more flavorful.

Ghanaians generally use crayfish in lieu of smoked paprika and kelp granules to produce that salty, smoky flavor. If that’s your preference, use about 1/3 cup of crayfish with or without the smoked paprika and kelp granules. If you like it “hot-ish,” add a whole habanero pepper with the rest of the spices.

Whatever your pleasure, you’ll enjoy a delicious stew while doing your body a big favor. One cup of cooked black-eyed peas contains a mere 200 calories but packs 13 g of protein and 11 g of dietary fiber. It also provides a gaggle of vital micronutrients, notably folate (89% RDA), manganese (41% RDA), phosphorus (27% RDA), iron (24% RDA), thiamine (23% RDA), magnesium (23% RDA), copper (23% RDA), zinc (15% RDA), potassium (14% RDA), and others.

Here’s another recipe that Spike and I have been making for a long, long time. I don’t remember the original source for this dish, but it always delights our palates and our company whenever we make it.

2 cups dried black beans
Vegetable cooking spray
1 chopped onion
Black Bean Chili4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce canned tomatoes
7 ounce can chopped green chilies
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 medium, peeled, finely chopped green apples
6 cups cooked long grain brown rice

Place dried black beans in medium saucepan covered in 2” water. Bring to boil and cook 2 minutes. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain beans. Add 6+ cups water. Simmer 1-2 hours. Drain and set aside.

Coat medium skillet with cooking spray. Sauté onion and garlic until tender (~8-10 minutes). Add tomatoes, chilies, raisins and spices. Simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Add cooked beans and apples to mixture; add beef-flavored water if the mixture looks dry. [I usually add 1-2 cups.] Cook 10 minutes. Serve over rice.

I’ve tried several lentil soup recipes since our cooking adventure began. My favorite remains a recipe that we’ve been making for years. Simple and delicious!

1 teaspoon olive oil
Lentil Stew1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 to 2 cups water
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup dried lentils
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cup cubed potatoes
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Coat a large pot with cooking spray; add olive oil and place over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender (about 8-10 minutes). Add water, 1 cup beef broth, lentils, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add cubed potatoes and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Combine cornstarch and remaining ½ cup beef broth; add to stew, stirring well. Bring mixture to a boil and cook 1 minute.

Note: I generally double the recipe and either freeze the leftovers or use them for lunches. We never tire of this stew!

We love hummus., and we have wonderful grocery stores that carry a variety of delicious hummus spreads. The offerings from a vendor at our farmer’s market also delight our palates. Unfortunately, our local recycling centers won’t take the plastic containers in which these delicious spreads are packaged. So I decided to create my own concoction.

Here’s what I use:

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Kalamata Olive Hummus1/3 cup tahini paste (or creamy almond or peanut butter)

1/4 cup Kalamata olive juice (or reserve juice from the can of chickpeas)

1 large (or 2 small) cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large lemon, juiced and zested

1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped (optional)

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped

Combine the chickpeas, tahini paste, Kalamata olive juice, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and parsley in a food processor and puree until smooth. Fold in the Kalamata olives or add to food processor and pulse a few times.

If you like your hummus a bit runnier, add more Kalamata olive juice or reserve liquid from the garbanzo beans.

I’ve been making roasted vegetables for years. They’re really easy to prepare, adjust to whatever quantity I like, and provide a lot of delicious leftovers.

I vary the vegetables included in the mix based on whatever I happen to have on hand. Here’s what I included in this batch:

1 red onion sliced vertically
I medium eggplant cubed
2 carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal
1 broccoli crown cut into florets
I red bell pepper cut into ~1” pieces
2 small zucchini, halved vertically and sliced

These quantities typically fill my 9”x11” casserole dish.

roasted vegetables
Ready for the oven.
roasted vegetables
Ready to serve.

I mix up the veggies and then coat them with olive oil and Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper seasoning blend. I roasted them in the oven for 45 minutes at 425°, giving them a stir halfway through. I know they’re done when a knife glides easily through them.

Your oven settings may vary a bit from mine. So you may need to experiment with the timing and temperature to get your roasted vegetables to turn out just right!

In an earlier post, I served up my go-to recipe for a chocolate protein shake. I’ve since conjured up another lunchtime offering that favors nutritional value over tastiness… hence the name Astronaut Soup. While it doesn’t delight my sweet tooth, it still satisfies the palate.

Here are the ingredients that I whip up in a blender:

ingredients for a healthy chocolate1 cup bone broth (see earlier post)

.5-1 cup of coconut milk or goat milk kefir
(Note: Kefir is a natural source of probiotics)

1 scoop of unflavored plant-based protein powder

1 generous fistful of fresh spinach

1-2 carrots

2-3 celery stalks

1 small avocado

A splash or two of apple cider vinegar to taste

ingredients for a healthy chocolateWhile the addition of an avocado may raise eyebrows due to its high fat content, it has several beneficial health effects. As a substitute for saturated animal fats, avocados have been shown to reduce triglycerides and cholesterol, especially the worst of the LDLs. They have been shown to have cancer-fighting properties as well as reduce the risk of leaky gut. They contribute a host of essential vitamins as well as dietary fiber. And, of course, it makes the soup a lot more savory.

For best results, serve at room temperature.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about dietary and lifestyle practices for optimal health. Bone broth features prominently in several authors’ writings. Here are a few of its benefits:

  • As a natural, easily-absorbed source of collagen, bone broth helps stem the tide of age-related joint cartilage degradation. It also promotes skin elasticity and moisture.
  • It strengthens the gut lining and supports growth of probiotics (i.e., good bacteria). A healthy gut contributes to proper immune system functioning.
  • Bone broth promotes cellular and liver detoxification. It helps eliminate heavy metal toxins while contributing to absorption of essential nutrients.

Here’s how I make it:

beef bones
Step 1: I purchase bones from a local rancher who raises healthy, grass fed beef and pork. I start by roasting the bones for 45 minutes at 350° to enhance flavor and get rid of some of the fat.
bone broth in crock pot
Step 2: I place the roasted bones in a crock pot with 9-10 cups of water, a sliced onion, 1-2 carrots, 2-3 celery stalks, and crushed garlic (with skins). I cook the broth for at least 24 hours on low.
bone broth
Step 3: After the mixture cools a bit, I pour it through a strainer into a large bowl and discard the bones and vegetables. When the broth reaches room temperature, I place it in the refrigerator for several hours.
bone broth
Step 4: The fat rises to the top and congeals. The oil residue in beef broth snaps into pieces for easy removal. The oil residue in pork broth has a creamy consistency that can be scraped off with a spatula.
bone broth
Step 5: I decant the fat-free broth into smaller containers for storage in the refrigerator or freezer.

For chicken bone broth, I start by roasting an organic, free-range chicken and serve it for dinner. We collect the bones from the meat we eat and de-bone the leftovers. A full set of chicken bones plus 8 cups of water, a sliced onion, 1-2 carrots, 2-3 celery stalks, and crushed garlic (with skins) yields a tasty broth after 24 hours of simmering.

While I generally use bone broth when making soup, it can be consumed as a hot drink. I find beef and chicken broth more flavorful than pork broth, although the latter tends to be more collagen-rich.