Bean Day

This is my first post in quite some time due to some medical issues, but I’m back and full of beans, so to speak.

One of the most nutritious and least exBlack and White Beanspensive ingredients, and something I always keep in my pantry, is dried beans.  Canned beans are convenient, but ounce for ounce, dried beans are less expensive and you don’t have to worry about what the can is lined with, or how much salt is in the beans.  So I make beans the old fashioned way, sort, soak and simmer.  It’s not as complicated as you probably think.  About once a month, usually on a weekend, I have Bean Day.   Red and White BeansThe night before I sort through the beans I have on hand:  red kidney, white beans, black beans, pintos or even black eye peas.  I measure out a couple of cups of each, sort and rinse and put into bowls.  Cover the beans with water (about 2 inches over the beans) and soak overnight.

The following morning I set up the slow cookers (I have two) and if needed, the cast iron Dutch oven and/or the stock pot.  I rinse and drain the beans and put them into the pots, separated by type, and throwSoak the Beans in a bay leaf.  NO SALT TIL THE END.           

The hard part is over.  Now you just turn on the cookers and the burners, let them come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and go do something else like work on that novel you’re writing (you could do laundry, but what fun would that be).

Check on the beans periodically to make sure they haven’t boiled dry.  Burnt beans cannot be saved, so pay attention.  It takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours to cook the beans to “just tender” depending on the pot (slow cookers take a lot longer than cast iron).  When the beans have reached the tender stage, add some salt, turn off the pot and let the beans rest for about 15 minutes.  I like to drain off the cooking liquid which I save for soup stock, that way the beans can be used for salads or other side dishes as well as soup.  Portion the cooled beans into labeled quart size freezer bags (for larger families you can use a larger bag).  Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet and put in the freezer for a couple of hours.  At that point you can more easily stack the frozen bags and save freezer space.  For a minimal amount of work you have beans ready to add to any dish, you’ve saved some money and you don’t have to worry about extra unwanted ingredients.

By now you’re starving so here is one of my favorite bean dishes:

Two Bean and Kale Soup

Two Bean and Kale Soup


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (which you can also make and freeze in flat bags)
  • 7 cups stemmed, chopped kale (about 1 bunch from the super market or a frozen bag from last summer’s garden)
  • 2 cups white beans (great northern or cannellini)
  • 2 cups red kidney or black beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or savory


1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté until tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in 3 cups of the vegetable broth and kale. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer until kale is crisp-tender.

2. Place half of the white beans and remaining 1 cup vegetable broth in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Add pureed beans, the remaining white beans, kidney or black beans, and pepper to soup. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the remaining teaspoon salt, or to taste, vinegar, and herbs.

The Glory of Orange Food

These days when I have a meal, I don’t always start with the main course because sometimes the most interesting food on the table is the side dishes. Plant based eating changes your focus and I’m sometimes amazed at the imagination and ingredients that go into all of the foods that accompany the main dish.  No, I’m not talking about garlic mashed potatoes, which I absolutely love, but dishes that stand and shine on their own, and this glorious side does just that. Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Carrots and Ginger is a great idea for Thanksgiving, and a year round favorite at my house.  It’s also an excellent way to coax a picky eater or vegiephobe into eating something that’s good for them.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Carrots and Ginger

Favorite Sweet potato and carrot mash 002


  • 1 orange or red sweet potato
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large shallot or small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Onions and garlic

In a small saucepan, soften the shallot and garlic in a tablespoon of vegetable broth.

Add the sweet potato cubes and carrot with just enough vegetable broth to cover.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until fork tender. Drain.

Sweet potato and carrot mash 011

In a food processor or blender (you could just use a hand masher) combine the sweet potato, carrot, garlic mixture with grated ginger and coconut oil.  You could use butter, but I find that the coconut oil adds a subtle flavor that I really love.  Add a little almond milk or half and half for consistency.  Blend until smooth, add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with cilantro or parsley leaves, or orange zest.

Mash with Black Bean Burger

You could pair it with black bean burgers topped with salsa and some steamed broccoli.  This dish is just the right combination of sweet and savory.  Save the leftovers (if there are any) to make sweet potato quinoa patties, but that’s another story.




Vegetable Pesto and Pasta

Sometimes you just get tired of red sauce and alfredo is more cream and cheese than my arteries can handle.  So, what to do with the fettucine?  The answer is pesto.  Of course sometimes you start out in one direction and end up somewhere else.  At least that happens to me frequently.  Not all pesto has to be made with basil or parsley, which is good because I didn’t have either one.  So what follows is somewhere between pesto and sofrito and it’s amazing on pasta. You can use it as a sauce, a seasoning mix, spread it on bread or put it in the soup.  I love versatile foods, especially the ones that include lots of vegetables, plus it’s a fast weeknight supper.  I also get to use my food processor which is always fun.

Vegetable Pesto

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1-2 cups of greens (I used a combination of chard, beet greens and collard greens)

Chop and place all of the vegetables in the food processor and pulse several times until almost smooth.  Vegetable Pesto II




Pasta wit Veg PestoPour into a skillet with enough olive oil to coat the pan and sweat the mixture on medium heat for about 5-8 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook the fettucine until al dente, drain (reserving some of the cooking liquid) and place in a large bowl or serving dish.  Spoon the pesto over the noodles, adding some of the cooking liquid if needed, and toss until the noodles are coated.  Pasta and Pesto 006Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!



After the Garden

Well, the garden is done and everything has been canned, preserved, frozen, or eaten. Fortunately, broccoli is still in season somewhere, so it’s an inexpensive item in the supermarket. So, the soup this week is broccoli cheese. Now, I usually avoid broccoli cheese soup because it always looks like a few chunks of limp broccoli floating in a sea of mystery cheese. Just too much carb and dairy and too little lovely green stuff. Until Broccoli Cheese Soupnow. Recently, I discovered a recipe, thanks to the Test Kitchen, that does broccoli cheese soup with emphasis on the broccoli and it’s rich as butter without all the fat.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

• 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable broth
• 2 heads (pounds) broccoli, peel and trim the stems and cut in cubes, roughly chop the florets into 1-inch pieces
• 1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
• 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
• 1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard powder
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• salt to taste
• 3–4 cups water
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda (helps get rid of those sulphur containing compounds and brings out the taste of the broccoli)
• 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken)
• 2 cups baby spinach (if using frozen, thaw and squeeze the water out)
• 3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
• 1 ½ ounces Parmesan cheese, grated fine (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
• Ground black pepper

1. Heat oil or broth in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes until fragrant. Add 1 cup water and the baking soda. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring once during cooking.

2. Add broth and 2 cups water and increase heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. You can transfer half of soup to blender, add cheddar and Parmesan, and process until smooth or leave the soup in the pot and use that immersion blender you got for Christmas. Over medium heat, bring to simmer. If the soup seems too thick, adjust consistency by adding up to a cup of water or broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Broccoli Cheese Soup VSprinkle with croutons and grated or shaved Parmesan and serve with some crusty bread.

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