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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Curried Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew

I feel like I'm supposed to post something Thanksgiving-y, but I got nothing. Only this amazing stew from Bon Appetit. This is a really good, spicy, rainy day stew. The flavors meld together so nicely, the stew is so thick you could eat it on a plate, and it warms you up as the weather gets colder. Perhaps you could make this after Thanksgiving to take a break from having the same leftovers. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare this stew, so it's nice and quick. It pairs well with a thick slice of hearty whole grain bread.

You can use any kind of lentil, really, but the recipe calls for red. Regular lentils are the cheapest (around $1/lb), next are French lentils (more than $1/lb), and red is the most expensive (just over $2/lb). If you use regular lentils, just be sure to simmer them for about double the time or more. Red lentils cook in about 10 minutes, but regular lentils could take 20-25 minutes. Just test them. If they're tender, they're done.

For the garnish, use plain, low-fat Greek yogurt or plain, low-fat regular yogurt. Don't skip it, because it really completes the soup! The cool, thick yogurt cuts the heat nicely and brings a rich creaminess to this dish. I use regular yogurt and strain it in a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl for 2-3 hours. The stew makes good leftovers warmed up in a pita. Hope you like it, let me know how it turns out!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Black beans and chocolate, you ask? Oh, yes. It is, in fact, a nice combination. Other cultures have been using beans and sweets together for a long time (think red bean ice cream), and we Americans are just beginning to catch on. This recipe is gluten-free and potentially dairy-free. The black beans are a stand-in for the high amounts of butter that are usually found in brownies, and they also add some extra protein and fiber to these dense little treats. For the best flavor, use high quality cocoa powder that hasn't been sitting in your cupboard for a year. If you prefer more cake-like brownies, you can add half a cup of whole wheat flour. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that you just throw everything in the blender or food processor and then pour it into the baking dish. I usually love to add walnuts, but I wanted to focus more on the fudgy texture of these brownies. However, if you have to have nuts, go ahead and add them. They won't ruin the final product. Enjoy these much-more-healthy-than-the-original brownies!

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

15 oz. rinsed black beans
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons plain, low-fat yogurt (or low-fat sour cream, canola oil, or butter)
1 teaspoon instant powdered coffee
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup chopped semi-sweet or dark chocolate

Put everything except the chocolate chunks in a blender or food processor. Blend until the beans are pureed. Add the chocolate chunks (and nuts, if you want them), and pulse a couple of times until it's incorporated. Pour into a greased 8 x 8 square glass baking dish, and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean. Let cool for a bit, and cut into 16 small squares.

Nutrition Information: Calories - 100; Fat - 3.6g; Saturated Fat - 1.6g; Trans Fat - 0g; Cholesterol - 40.5mg; Sodium - 58mg; Carbohydrates - 16.9g; Fiber - 2g; Sugar - 12.4g; Protein - 2.9g.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Rosemary Kale Soup

This is, in my opinion, the very best way to eat kale. I love this soup. And it has kale in it! Who would have thought? Greens are really good when you know how to prepare them. Thank you, Justin, for discovering this recipe. By the way, I'm really into vegetable broth. Some day I'd like to make my own, but for now my favorite is the Rapunzel brand of vegetable bouillon cubes from Whole Foods. Sure, chicken broth has its place, but vegetable broth is perfect in certain soups. In this Kale Soup, it shines.

I just have to tell you about some of the wonderful health benefits of this soup. (It's tasty, too, so don't be fooled by the healthiness of it).

Kale: High in fiber, Vitamin A, Calcium, and beta-carotene (an anti-oxididant that may help prevent cancer and heart disease).

Cannellini Beans: High in fiber, protein, loaded with thiamine (good for your brain), iron (good for your blood), and folate (keeps your arteries clear).

Chickpeas (aka Garbanzo Beans): High in fiber, protein, folic acid (helps your red blood cells), and manganese (does a lot of good things!).

Rosemary: May have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Garlic and Onions: Oh, what an amazing combination. There are just too many good things about them to name but they are tasty and good for you.

A note about complete proteins - although Cannellini beans, chickpeas, and many other beans and legumes are high in protein, they don't make complete proteins like meat and dairy do. In order to get a complete protein, you need to pair them with whole grains. You probably already do this without realizing: beans and toast, peanut butter sandwich, hummus and pita bread, etc. Match this soup with a fresh batch of Rosemary Parmesan Foccacia, and there you go - a complete meal.

I got this recipe from Cooking Light Magazine, and the only changes I made were to substitute the black beans with chickpeas, use less cannellini beans, and double the rosemary. I felt that chickpeas are a better match with Cannellini beans and kale. The recipe list may look long, but this is a quick soup to make (30 minutes, says the magazine), so it's good for weeknights. Fresh rosemary is best (so fragrant and tasty!) but if you use dried, use half as much and add it earlier in the recipe. As a general rule, add dried herbs early, and fresh herbs last.