Growing up, Mom was a big fan of green bell peppers. She stuffed them, stir fried them in a beef and rice dish, and added them to her multi-colored garden salads. Of course, I’ve since learned that they come in yellow, orange, and red, with the latter being my favorite.

red bell pepperPeppers are a low-calorie snack food that I love to eat with hummus. They’re flavorful, far less filling than chips or pita bread, and packed with Vitamins A, C, K, and the mineral potassium. The riper the pepper, the greater its nutritional content.

Since starting our cooking adventure, my husband and I have also discovered the joys of roasting bell peppers. They’ve got a delightfully sweet and delicate flavor. You can purchase them ready-made at the store, but they’re not as tasty as a freshly-made batch. And they’re not hard to make!

I start by preheating the oven to 500˚F. (Note: If I’ve a mind to save energy, I use my toaster oven and set the temperature as high as it will go.)

cut and cleaned red pepper
Wash and dry the outside of the pepper. Slice each in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes.
oiled red pepper
Coat each pepper with a light film of olive oil and then place the cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.
blistered red pepper
Roast the peppers in the oven until the skins darken and blister (about 15 minutes).
steam the red pepper
Place the blistered peppers in a bowl. Cover the bowl with foil and crimp to create a tight seal. Let the peppers steam for ~15 minutes.
peel skin from roasted pepper
Peel off the skin; use a paring knife to remove any “stubborn” pieces.
roasted peppers
Slice or dice these red gems as dictated by the recipe!

Roasted peppers are delicious all by themselves; just toss them with olive and chopped fresh basil. I use a colorful mixture of sliced roasted peppers as a garnish for risotto. And they’re absolutely delicious when combined with assorted vegetables in an Italian Marinated Vegetable dish.

Italian-marinated-vegetables

 

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.

forks over knives

In the Forks Over Knives documentary, Dr. T. Collin Campbell, PhD and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, MD make a clear and persuasive case for a whole-foods, plant-based diet. The Forks Over Knives Cookbook helps folks embrace this lifestyle by serving up a variety of recipes featuring fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tubers, and legumes

The first 20ish pages of the book reinforce key messages from the documentary while providing useful tips for outfitting the kitchen. It’s well worth giving this section a close read. Then there are 321 recipes to explore (of which we sampled 241).

Forks Over Knives was the fifth whole-foods, plant-based cookbook that my husband and I explored. It did not turn out to be our favorite. I suspect that in creating such a large compendium, the cookbook was bound to include a lot of recipes that we found less than dazzling. And in fairness, we’ve become far more discerning now that we’ve sampled over 1,200+ recipes on our cooking journey. That being said, we may include 30-40 offerings in our “repeat” file once we stop working our way through cookbooks.

One interesting note: We were tempted to skip the dessert section as we’re watching our waistlines. But we decided to give them a go anyway. It turns out that it’s one of the best sections in the book!

I’m a bit of a hard sell when it comes to breakfasts. I’m quite content with my protein drink, bowl of cold cereal, or hot oatmeal. But it was nice to stretch our palates a bit with these selections.

Fruits and Smoothies

Fruit Salad
Fruit Salad
Mean Green Smoothie and Spicy Tropical Green Smoothie
Mean Green Smoothie and Spicy Tropical Green Smoothie
Very Berry Smoothie and Banana Cranberry Smoothie
Very Berry Smoothie and Banana Cranberry Smoothie
Strawberry Peach Smoothie and Chunky Monkey Smoothie
Strawberry Peach Smoothie and Chunky Monkey Smoothie
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie and Gingerbread Smoothie
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie and Gingerbread Smoothie

Granola and Muesli

Stove Top Granola
Stove Top Granola
Basic Baked Granola
Basic Baked Granola
Banana Almond Granola
Banana Almond Granola
Banana, Date, and Coconut Muesli
Banana, Date, and Coconut Muesli
Apple Cinnamon Muesli
Apple Cinnamon Muesli
Banana Granola Parfait
Banana Granola Parfait
Cherry Pecan Granola Bars
Cherry Pecan Granola Bars

Hot Cereals

Basic Oatmeal
Basic Oatmeal
Slow-Cooked Steel-Cut Oats
Slow-Cooked Steel-Cut Oats
Sweet Potato Pie Oatmeal
Sweet Potato Pie Oatmeal
Breakfast Quinoa with Apple Compote
Breakfast Quinoa with Apple Compote
Congee with Dates and Spices
Congee with Dates and Spices
Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding
Brown Rice Breakfast Pudding
Polenta with Diced Fruit Compote
Polenta with Diced Fruit Compote
Polenta with Pears and Cranberries
Polenta with Pears and Cranberries
Fruited Barley
Fruited Barley

Hearty Breakfasts

 

Breakfast Rancheros
Breakfast Rancheros
Portobello Florentine
Portobello Florentine
Egyptian Breakfast Beans
Ful Medames (Egyptian Breakfast Beans)

Though we generally aren’t big salad eaters, we enjoyed exploring variations on this theme. Our favorites centered around four ingredients: quinoa, black beans, mung bean sprouts (of which I am a recent convert), and leafy greens.

Grain Salads

Curried Rice Salad
Curried Rice Salad
Rice Salad with Fennel, Orange, and Chickpea
Rice Salad with Fennel, Orange, and Chickpea
Quinoa Arugula Salad
Quinoa Arugula Salad
Israeli Quinoa Salad
Israeli Quinoa Salad
Quinoa Tabbouleh
Quinoa Tabbouleh
Spicy Asian Quinoa Salad
Spicy Asian Quinoa Salad
Quinoa, Corn, and Black Bean Salad
Quinoa, Corn, and Black Bean Salad
Lima Bean and Quinoa Salad
Lima Bean and Quinoa Salad
Fruited Millet Salad
Fruited Millet Salad

Bean Salads

Italian-Style Stuffed Tomatoes
Italian-Style Stuffed Tomato
Tomato, Corn, and Bean Salad
Tomato, Corn, and Bean Salad
Mango Black Bean Salad
Mango Black Bean Salad
Grilled Vegetable and Black Bean Salad
Grilled Vegetable and Black Bean Salad
Fava Bean Salad
Fava Bean Salad
Soccotash Salad
Soccotash Salad
Lentil Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs
Lentil Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs
Mung Bean Sprouts and Spinach Salad
Mung Bean Sprouts and Spinach Salad
Chickpea Avocado Salad
Chickpea Avocado Salad
Taco Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing
Taco Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing

Hearty Vegetable Salads

White Bean, Potato, and Asparagus Salad
White Bean, Potato, and Asparagus Salad
Asian Vegetable Salad
Asian Vegetable Salad
Kale Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing
Kale Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing
Autumn Mixed Green Salad
Autumn Mixed Green Salad

This cookbook offers a lot of options for those who enjoy a hot bowl of soup on a cold fall or winter day. Our favorites were Summer Vegetable Soup, Tomato and Red Pepper Soup, Thai Vegetable Soup, and Thai Hot-and-Sour Soup.

Singles Soup
Singles’ Soup
White Bean Gazpacho
White Bean Gazpacho
Summer Vegetable Soup
Summer Vegetable Soup
Potato, Corn, and Bean Soup
Potato, Corn, and Bean Soup
Tomato and Red Pepper Soup
Tomato and Red Pepper Soup
Minestrone
Minestrone
Creamy Asparagus Soup
Creamy Asparagus Soup
Spinach Vichyssoise
Spinach Vichyssoise
Zucchini Bisque
Zucchini Bisque
Cream of Broccoli Soup
Cream of Broccoli Soup
Curried Cauliflower Bisque
Curried Cauliflower Bisque
Curried Potato Soup with Corn and Red Pepper
Curried Potato Soup with Corn and Red Pepper
Corn Chowder
Corn Chowder
Lotsa Vegetable Chowder
Lotsa Vegetable Chowder
Fall Harvest Vegetable Chowder
Fall Harvest Vegetable Chowder
Sweet Potato Bisque
Sweet Potato Bisque
Savory Squash Soup
Savory Squash Soup
Curried Squash and Apple Soup
Curried Squash and Apple Soup
Chestnut Soup
Chestnut Soup
Mushroom Barley Soup
Mushroom Barley Soup
Chipotle Black Bean Soup
Chipotle Black Bean Soup
Split Pea Soup
Split Pea Soup
Lentil Soup with Cauliflower, Potatoes, and Squash
Lentil Soup with Cauliflower, Potatoes, and Squash
Egyptian Fava Bean Soup
Ful Nabed (Egyptian Fava Bean Soup)
Miso Soup
Miso Soup
Thai Vegetable Soup
Thai Vegetable Soup
Thai Hot-and-Sour Soup
Tom Yum Goong (Thai Hot-and-Sour Soup)

There are few things better than a hot stew on a cold and rainy Oregon day. Our favorite recipes in this cookbook were the Lentil Chili and the Bean & Mushroom Chili.

Quick and Easy Thai Vegetable Stew
Quick and Easy Thai Vegetable Stew
Spicy Thai Sweet Potato Stew
Spicy Thai Sweet Potato Stew
Adzuki Bean Stew with Miso
Adzuki Bean Stew with Miso
Chilean Bean Stew
Chilean Bean Stew
Spanish Chickpea Stew
Spanish Chickpea Stew
Indian Zuppa with Tomatoes and Fava Beans
Indian Zuppa with Tomatoes and Fava Beans
Pinto Bean Stew with Hominy and Spicy Cilantro Pesto
Pinto Bean Stew with Hominy and Spicy Cilantro Pesto
Lima Bean Stew
Lima Bean Stew
Pumpkin and Anasazi Bean Stew
Pumpkin and Anasazi Bean Stew
Tzimmes
Tzimmes
Millet Stew
Millet Stew
Ethiopian Lentil Stew
Ethiopian Lentil Stew
Autumn Vegetable Stew with North African Spices
Autumn Vegetable Stew with North African Spices
Lentil Stew with Avocado Salsa
Lentil Stew with Avocado Salsa
Lentil Chili
Lentil Chili
Bean and Mushroom Chili
Bean and Mushroom Chili

We sampled a few of the recipes in this section (and several similar recipes in other cookbooks). Bottom line: We just don’t like wraps enough to make them a staple in our diet.

Lettuce Wraps

Hummus and Tabbouleh Wrap
Hummus and Tabbouleh Wrap
Stir-Fried Lettuce Wrap with Hummus and Fresh Herbs
Stir-Fried Lettuce Wrap with Hummus and Fresh Herbs
Portobello Wraps
Portobello Wraps
Thai Portobello Wraps
Thai Portobello Wraps

Tortilla Wraps

 

Portobello Mushroom Tacos
Portobello Mushroom Tacos
Veggie Fajitas
Veggie Fajitas

We prepared a smidge over half of the available recipes in this section. The stand-outs include: Spring Pasta Salad, Macaroni Salad, Penne with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, and Peanut Noodles with Broccoli. That being said, many of the dishes were a bit pasta- or noodle-heavy for our taste.

Pasta and Noodle Salads

Spring Pasta Salad
Spring Pasta Salad
Macaroni Salad
Macaroni Salad
Ponzu Noodle Salad
Ponzu Noodle Salad
Indonesian Noodle Salad
Indonesian Noodle Salad
Mango Pasta Salad
Mango Pasta Salad
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad with Pineapple Chutney
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad with Pineapple Chutney

Warm Pasta Dishes

Spaghetti with No-Cook Tomato Sauce
Spaghetti with No-Cook Tomato Sauce
Penne with Chickpeas and Spinach
Penne with Chickpeas and Spinach
Penne with Broccoli Rabe
Penne with Broccoli Rabe
Pesto Pasta with White Beans
Pesto Pasta with White Beans
Rigatoni Antipasta
Rigatoni Antipasta
Penne with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Penne with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Penne with Spicy Eggplant
Penne with Spicy Eggplant
Mushroom Stroganoff
Mushroom Stroganoff
Pasta with Peas and Curried Cream Sauce
Pasta with Peas and Curried Cream Sauce
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and “Meatballs”

Warm Noodle Dishes

Stir-Fried Noodles with Spring Vegetable
Stir-Fried Noodles with Spring Vegetables
Udon Noodles in Kombu Broth
Udon Noodles in Kombu Broth
Peanut Noodles with Broccoli
Peanut Noodles with Broccoli
Udon Noodle Stir-Fry
Udon Noodle Stir-Fry

We sampled most of the vegetable recipes and found that our tastes tended toward simpler fare –Basic Vegetable Stir-Fry and grilled vegetables. We also liked the Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard; it’s a tasty way to take in some leafy greens.

Stir-Fried, Grilled, and Hashed Vegetables

Basic Vegetable Stir-Fry
Basic Vegetable Stir-Fry
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Miso and Sake
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Miso and Sake
Miso-Glazed Squash with Spinach
Miso-Glazed Squash with Spinach
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Grilled Cauliflower Steak with Spicy Lentil Sauce
Grilled Cauliflower “Steaks” with Spicy Lentil Sauce
Grilled Eggplant Steaks
Grilled Eggplant “Steaks”
Ratatouille
Ratatouille
Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Eqqplant
Spicy Sweet-and-Sour Eqqplant
Eggplant Dengaku Stir-Fry
Eggplant Dengaku Stir-Fry
Indian Spiced Eggplant
Indian Spiced Eggplant
Spiced Green Peas and Yams
Spiced Green Peas and Yams
Braised Red Cabbage with Beans
Braised Red Cabbage with Beans
Mixed Winter Vegetables with Spicy Poppy Seed Sauce
Mixed Winter Vegetables with Spicy Poppy Seed Sauce

Stuffed and Baked Vegetables

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard
Baked Spaghetti Squash with Swiss Chard
Baked Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Lentil Sauce
Baked Spaghetti Squash with Spicy Lentil Sauce
Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes with Spicy Cilantro Pesto
Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes with Spicy Cilantro Pesto
Poblano Pepper with Chipotle Black Bean Sauce
Poblano Pepper with Chipotle Black Bean Sauce
Southwestern Twice-Baked Potatoes
Southwestern Twice-Baked Potatoes
Millet-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Millet-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Asian Stuffed Mushrooms
Asian Stuffed Mushrooms
Stuffed Eggplant
Stuffed Eggplant