The Lentil Tacos with Carrot-Jicama Slaw and Sweet Potato, Squash, and Black Bean Enchiladas have already found their places in our regular rotation of favorites. Delish!

Black Bean Torta with Coconut Chipotle Mayo
Black Bean Torta with Coconut Chipotle Mayo
Lentil Tacos with Carrot-Jicama Slaw
Lentil Tacos with Carrot-Jicama Slaw
Vegetable Pad Thai with Dry-Fried Tofu
Vegetable Pad Thai with Dry-Fried Tofu
Sweet Potato, Squash, and Black Bean Enchiladas
Sweet Potato, Squash, and Black Bean Enchiladas
Mango Curry
Mango Curry
Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burrito
Roasted Chickpea and Broccoli Burrito
Quick Lime and Cilantro Slaw
Quick Lime and Cilantro Slaw
Tempeh Peanut Noodles with Blanched Kale
Tempeh Peanut Noodles with Blanched Kale
Root Veggie Fries
Root Veggie Fries
BBQ Bean Burritos with Grilled Peach Salsa
BBQ Bean Burritos with Grilled Peach Salsa

beets with greensI’ve been a fan of beets for as long as I can remember. Mom used to cut off the greens, wash the skins thoroughly, and then simmer the roots for 20-25 minutes. (A large beet may take up to 45 minutes.) Once the little darlings softened up, she’d gently peel the outer skins off, slice the red juicy flesh, and add a little butter for extra flavor. (Note: They’re so sweet that they don’t need much of anything to increase their deliciousness!)

Beets are rich in Folate, Potassium, and Manganese along with a respectable amount of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorous, and Copper. Beet greens serve up more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than the beet root and are lower in calories, fat, and sugar. So, I make a point of eating the greens and the roots.

If you don’t mind getting red dye all over your fingers, go ahead and dive right in! Otherwise, wear gloves or buy the orange beets instead of the red ones. They’re just as tasty.

Here’s what I do:

  1. beets with greensCut off the beet tops and wash them thoroughly. Get rid of the center spine and slice into strips.
  2. Wash the beet roots and simmer them on the stove top until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool briefly and then remove the outer skin and slice.
  3. As the beet roots near the end of their cooking time, stir fry the beet greens in oil or vegetable broth until they wilt.
  4. Place the beet greens and sliced roots on the plate and drizzle with an oil, vinegar, and spicy brown mustard salad dressing.

Yum!

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!

laurels kitchen

Laurel’s Kitchen made its debut in 1976 as a hand-bound publication from three dedicated foodies who were as concerned about the health of their patrons as the health of the planet. The diet they support protects against cancer, diabetes, diverticulitis, obesity, tooth decay, and osteoporosis. It does not harm animals, birds, or fish. And it focuses on whole, unprocessed foods.

By 1986, the book had made its way into a publishing house with support by a broad network of enthusiasts. That edition includes a gaggle of scientific data on nutrition, detailed information on the ingredients (e.g., vegetables, grains, legumes) and how they’re prepared, and some delightful essays on embracing a lifestyle that extols the value and sacredness of kitchen work.

The recipes come from daily living. We sampled about a quarter of them, largely in deference to my dairy and gluten sensitivities. We found them to be less complex than ones we sampled in other cookbooks, but that’s a good thing if you’re a cook who wants to master the basics. If you work through this cookbook systematically, you’ll learn to prepare delicious foods without having to refer to a collection of recipes.

The food guidelines that underscore all of their recipes include:

  • Reduce or eliminate meat, processed foods, and fried foods. Focus on whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Explore ways to flavor food without fat: parsley, lemon juice, exotic vinegars, citrus peel, yogurt, cottage cheese, shoyu, herbs, horseradish, spices. When planning dinner, allow for 2 teaspoons of oil or equivalent per person maximum.
  • Choose lower-fat milk products, and substitute them for higher fat ones in cooking.
  • Make your own salad dressings. (It’s not hard!) Commercial options are loaded with fat and chemicals.
  • Reinvent sandwiches by using bean and pea spreads instead of mayonnaise, cheese, and nut butters. They’re delicious with fresh or grilled vegetables.
  • When planning a meal, aim for balance. If you want to serve a rich dish, make the rest of the items on the menu especially low in fat.

Sandwiches have been the mainstay of American lunches for as long as I can remember. However, they tend to carry a lot of calories in excess fat (butter, mayonnaise, cheese) and marginally nutritious breads. Laurel and friends opt for bean spreads and fresh vegetables. For the sake of convenience, I simply used crackers and celery sticks.

Soy Spread with Crackers
Soy Spread with Crackers
Garbanzo Spread on Celery
Garbanzo Spread on Celery
Refrito Spread
Refrito Spread
Soy Pate with Crackers
Soy Pate with Crackers
Tempeh Bars
Tempeh Bars
Avocado Spread with Crackers
Avocado Spread with Crackers

I love eating salads but rarely get around to making them. So I’m grateful when my romp through a cookbook affords the opportunity to experiment with some new recipes. The clear winner was the Disappearing Carrot Salad, a delicious concoction of carrots, apples, currants, and walnuts with a ginger-citrus dressing.

Astonishing Salad
Astonishing Salad
Greek Salad
Greek Salad
Ceci Salad
Ceci Salad
Mexican Salad Bowl
Mexican Salad Bowl
California Tossed Salad
California Tossed Salad
Spinach and Mushroom Salad
Spinach and Mushroom Salad
Roasted Red Peppers
Roasted Red Peppers
Slaw Chez Nous
Slaw Chez Nous
Red Rogue's Delight
Red Rogue’s Delight
Carrot Salad
Carrot Salad
Disappearing Carrot Salad
Disappearing Carrot Salad
Winter Salad
Winter Salad

I’ve continued my love affair with soups. They’ve moved from a Fall/Winter lunchtime favorite to a year-round thing. Favorites from this cookbook include Whole Beet Borscht, Minestrone, and Fresh Corn & Tomato Soup.

P.S. I’d serve Early Autumn Fruit Soup as a refreshing summer meal starter!

Whole Beet Borscht
Whole Beet Borscht
Minestrone
Minestrone
Old Favorite Green Soup
Old Favorite Green Soup
New Favorite Green Soup
New Favorite Green Soup
Asparagus Soup
Asparagus Soup
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Carrot Soup
Carrot Soup
Kale-Potato Soup
Kale-Potato Soup
Corn Chowder
Corn Chowder
Gingery Tomato Soup
Gingery Tomato Soup
Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup
Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup
Hearty Pea Soup
Hearty Pea Soup
Black Bean Soup
Black Bean Soup
Early Autumn Fruit Soup
Early Autumn Fruit Soup

“Soon after people become vegetarians, they are likely to make a marvelous discovery: vegetables.”

How true! If you’ve grown up on the Standard American Diet, vegetables were a condiment relegated to a tiny space on the outer edge of the plate. Now they’re front and center in meal planning. By way of introduction, Laurel’s Kitchen provides a lot of helpful information about vegetables in addition to some suggestions on how to prepare them.

Artichokes Tellicherry
Artichokes Tellicherry
Chinese Asparagus
Chinese Asparagus
Green Beans Hellenika
Green Beans Hellenika
Spicy Green Beans
Spicy Green Beans
Whole Golden Beets
Whole Golden Beets
King Cole Curry
King Cole Curry
Brussel Sprouts-Squash Casserole
Brussel Sprouts-Squash Casserole
Brussel Sprouts and Bell Peppers
Brussel Sprouts and Bell Peppers
Bubble and Squeak
Bubble and Squeak
Greek Cauliflower
Greek Cauliflower
Tomato Kale
Tomato Kale
Crumbly Greens
Crumbly Greens
Sesame-Glazed Parsnips
Sesame-Glazed Parsnips
Zucchini Provencal
Zucchini Provencal
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Stuffed Acorn Squash

As folks who eat a lot of grains and beans, we’re always open to new ways to prepare them. This cookbook did not disappoint. The rice and quinoa recipes were quite satisfying. We loved the Tomale Pie, and the Chili con Elote, Black Eyed Peas Virginia Style, and Boston Baked Beans were quite tasty and easy to prepare.

Confetti Quinoa
Confetti Quinoa
Spanish Rice
Spanish Rice
Teresa's Spanish Rice
Teresa’s Spanish Rice
Wild Rice
Wild Rice
Tempeh a la King
Tempeh a la King
Tempeh Cacciatore
Tempeh Cacciatore
Tempeh a l'Orange
Tempeh a l’Orange
Tomale Pie
Tomale Pie
Chili con Elote
Chili con Elote
Boston Baked Beans
Boston Baked Beans
Black-Eyed Peas Virginia Style
Black-Eyed Peas Virginia Style