roasted veggiesOur Winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has helped us get in the habit of eating vegetables that are in season. As a result, we find ourselves feasting on Roasted Vegetables quite often. While the basic preparation stays the same, the contents vary as a function of what our wonderful farmers harvest. This week featured boro beets, satina potatoes, and delicata squash with the nutritional dense outer rind left on.

I’ll confess that to make things interesting, I like to make a tasty squash to pour over our vegetables. Homemade curry tops my list.

Ingredients:

Olive oil
2 large red peppers (or a red and an orange one) diced
2-6 jalapeño peppers diced, to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
2 or more tablespoons grated fresh ginger
6 or more garlic cloves finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground caraway seed
1 can (13½ ounce) unsweetened coconut milk
Cayenne pepper and salt

Directions:

  1. Heat some oil in a large skillet; add the peppers, chilies, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add vegetable broth, as needed, to moisten the pan.
  2. Add the ginger, garlic, and spices and sauté for about 5 minutes. Then add the remaining vegetable broth and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Decant the curry into a blender and puree until smooth. Add the coconut milk and blend everything together.

roasted veggiesI typically microwave some broccoli and/or cauliflower to go along with the roasted vegetables. I like them al dente, and roasting often makes them too mushy while the other vegetables cook through. (Yes, I could add them to the roasting pan after the other vegetables have cooked for a while, but it’s just easier to do it my way!) Anyway, I assemble my meal by lining the bottom of the bowl with broccoli and/or cauliflower, followed by the roasted vegetables, and then covered in curry. Delicious!

Today’s lunch required a measure of culinary creativity, a skill that I’d like to cultivate. I found myself with two small, rapidly-aging heads of bok choy and some comparably geriatric broccoli crowns. As I keep tempeh on hand, I thought the three ingredients ought to get acquainted.

stir fried tempeh, broccoli, and bok choyI started by creating a marinade with the following ingredients:

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
6 smallish cloves garlic, also minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil

I chopped an onion and sautéed it in extra virgin olive oil with broken-up pieces from a package of tempeh. After about 5 minutes, I added the broccoli crowns and some of the marinade to the mix. After another 5-10 minutes, I added the boy choy and the remaining marinade and continued to stir fry the concoction until everything was cooked through.

The resulting dish packs a punch nutritionally. As a soy product, tempeh is a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids. Broccoli is a rich source of vitamins C and K and contains moderate amounts of several B vitamins and the dietary mineral manganese. Bok choy is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K and contains respectable amounts of folate, vitamin B6, and calcium.

Best yet: This dish only dirties one pan and a cutting board. Fast clean up!

As a general rule, I really enjoy cooking. It’s especially gratifying when I can invite friends over and share fellowship over a delicious meal. But now that we’ve been in COVID-19 quarantine for 7 months, my enthusiasm for this activity has waned. So, I’ve looked for ways to create an easy-peasy, healthy meal that gives me a break from kitchen duty. A quesadilla with a side of fresh veggies does the trick!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 package of tortillas: Use gluten-free if you’re gluten-sensitive. I generally use a corn-flour blend.
  • 1 can refried beans: We use either the Wild Harvest organic vegetarian refried beans or their organic refried black beans.)
  • 1 package of shredded cheese: We use Miyoko’s Creamery Pepper Jack cultured vegan cheese; it’s the tastiest of the vegan cheese that we’ve sampled. (Check out nutritionfacts.org and search for “dairy” to see why we prefer vegan over dairy cheese.)
  • Broccoli florets
  • Salsa
refried bean quesadilla
Ready to go into the microwave.
refried bean quesadilla
Ready to eat with steamed broccoli and salsa.

Place the broccoli in a glass container with  a small amount of water on the bottom. Cover and cook in the microwave for ~3-4 minutes until just cooked. You may need to experiment with timing on your microwave to vary cooking time based on the quantity of broccoli you’re cooking and the relative strength of your microwave. You want your al dente broccoli, not mushy broccoli. Set aside when finished.

While the broccoli is cooking, lay your tortilla flat on a microwave-proof plate and spread 1/4 can of the refried beans on the top. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Microwave until the cheese melts. (It takes about a minute in our microwave.)

Add a little salsa to the cooked quesadilla and fold it in half. (Note: If the salsa has been in the refrigerator, add some to the quesadilla about halfway through cooking to heat it up.) Place some broccoli florets on the side and add some salsa to the top of the quesadilla and broccoli.

Enjoy!

fava beans in the podMy husband and I signed up for a share in Love Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program this Spring. Every Monday afternoon from June through mid-October, this share entitles us to receive 8-10 servings of farm-fresh vegetables. Of course, week-to-week, we never quite know what we’re going to get.

Fava beans arrived a couple of weeks ago. Until Dr. Hannibal Lector’s infamous line in The Silence of the Lambs (i.e., “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”), I’d never even heard of them. I’ve since made a few recipes with dried fava beans, but I’d never had my hands on the real deal right off the vine… until now.

I was smart enough to know that the beans had to be liberated from their pods. Then, I consulted good old Google. I learned that I needed to drop the little darlings into boiling, salty water for one minute. Then, I drained the hot water and put the beans in ice water to stop the cooking process. Finally, I removed the tough outer skin to reveal the vibrant green beans. Yep – it’s a bit time-consuming, but you can always check out The Silence of the Lambs while doing it!

fava beans
Fava beans right out of the pod.
fava beans
Fava beans after they’ve been boiled and peeled.

Now I was ready to actually make something! Here are the details:

Make a Smoky-Maple Sauce in a small bowl using 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup vegetable broth, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon lemon (or lime) juice, 1 tablespoon tomato paste (or Thai Red Curry paste), and 3-4 cloves finely chopped garlic, and set it aside. (Note: If you really like the sauce, you can up the recipe by 50%.)

fava beans in the podChop an onion and sauté in oil until translucent, about 5-8 minutes.

Add boiled, peeled fava beans and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes. Pour in the Smoky-Maple Sauce.

Add 1 good-sized bunch of fresh kale with ribs removed and leaves torn into small pieces. Continue cooking until the leaves wilt.

Serve immediately.

The resulting dish is high in nutritional content and quite delicious!

I love to eat a great, big salad for lunch. It’s a great opportunity to score a good chunk of my daily 5-7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables while keeping me sated throughout the long afternoon.

healthy saladWhile I don’t follow a specific recipe, I choose vegetables with vibrant colors – e.g., diced bell peppers (usually red, yellow, or orange), shredded carrots, shredded purple cabbage, multi-colored kale pieces, and chopped tomatoes. If I’ve got them, I’ll add blueberries to the mix. Bright colors signal the presence of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals like carotenes, polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanidins. These ingredients are also jam-packed with insoluble fiber that helps food move through the digestive track.

I typically use beans as a protein source, though I’ll add whole grains if I have leftovers with no other use. Beyond their gaggle of nutrients, these items provide soluble fiber that supports healthy digestion and feeds the good bacteria in the gut.

If I haven’t had my tablespoon of ground flax seeds in my morning oatmeal, I’ll add it to the salad. Flax seeds are a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that aid in the absorption of vitamins A, D, and E, all essential for immune health.

I make my own salad dressing. It takes very little time and avoids ingestion of all the chemicals, sugar, and fat that the commercial brands contain. Again, I don’t really follow a recipe other than to combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a generous squirt of brown spicy mustard, and a splash of agave nectar. We lean a little heavily on the balsamic vinegar to provide ample coverage without adding calories.

By including a wide variety of plant foods in my salad, I’ve bolstered my immune system’s ability to respond to viruses and other pathogens that seek to make a home in my body. And, of course, I’ve delighted my taste buds while I’m at it!

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.