Black Beans with Rice

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow or Spanish onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin, ground
1 ½ tsp coriander, ground
1 tsp chili powder, optional
1 10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies, not drained*
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained
1 tsp salt or to taste
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped 
2 cups white long grain rice, uncooked 

*For less spiciness, you may substitute tomatoes with chilies for second can of diced 

Heat oil over medium-high heat in large, nonstick pan. 
Sautee onion and garlic until onions are softened - not caramelized. 
Add cumin, coriander and optional chili powder to onion/garlic mix and stir over heat about 
2 minutes. 
Add cans of tomatoes to onion mix and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes or until 
tomatoes are softened, stirring occasionally. 
Add salt and mix throughout.
Add drained and rinsed black beans and mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer approximately 
15-20 minutes or until beans are tender and/or softened.

Mix in fresh cilantro and simmer about 5 minutes. 

Prepare rice according to instructions. Serve with rice. 

Optional toppings would be a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh tomatoes or 
peppers. Great by itself or served in soft flour tortillas. Serves 4-6 healthy-sized portions.

Enchilada Casserole

This is a tasty and easy quick-meal that even the most inexperienced cook can accomplish.  If you can boil water and operate an oven, you’ve got no problem with this one.  Protein and fiber-rich refried beans & veggie burger crumbles with savory saffron rice layered between soft corn tortillas and topped with cheese, this dish is guaranteed to please kids and grownups alike.  It’s easily converted to a vegan dish with the substitution of vegan cheese for dairy cheese.  Great for a family dinner and keeps for leftovers throughout the week!

Approximately 12 soft corn tortillas
1 – 12 oz package vegetarian or vegan beef-style crumbles (I use Morningstar Farms)
1 – *oz can fat-free/vegetarian refried beans

1 – 10 oz package Mahatma saffron yellow rice
1 – 8 oz can medium-spice enchilada sauce
1 medium-sized green bell pepper, diced and sautéed ‘til softened (optional) 
1 - *oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 - *oz can diced tomatoes (Rotel if you want extra spice), drained
1 - *oz package shredded mixed cheese (may sub with vegan cheese)

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Prepare saffron rice according to instructions on package; should take about 20 minutes.  While rice is cooking, warm the refried beans (add about a tablespoon of water added for extra moisture) on stovetop or in microwave-safe container for about 3 minutes, then set aside.
Line a lightly oiled 9 x 13 glass baking dish with 6 soft corn tortillas until bottom is covered; edges of tortillas may creep up sides and corners.  Spread warmed refried beans on layer of tortillas until surface is covered.  Top beans with evenly spread layer of veggie burger crumbles.  

Next, spread an even layer of rice (mix bell pepper with rice if using) atop beans & veggie burger.  Pour about half the can of enchilada sauce evenly over the rice.  Now add a second layer of soft corn tortillas.  Next, add entire can of drained & rinsed black beans and can of tomatoes and spread evenly over the surface.  

Add remainder of enchilada sauce, poured evenly over the dish.  Top with even layer of shredded mixed cheese.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake about 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake uncovered about 10 minutes or until cheese just begins to toast.  Serve as is or topped with a dollop of sour cream or vegan sour cream-style spread.

Five Bean Harvest Vegetable Soup

Because this is a serious soup I feel like I need to give a brief description/introduction.  This concoction came upon me one day before the weekly grocery trip during a week when time and money were a bit on the short side. Sam requested soup, so I suggested some protein and fiber-rich beans, “maybe a chili?” I suggested.  “Nah…something with vegetables but not thick like a chili but more like a real soup.”  

So I had my challenge - a bean soup with chili flavors and vegetables but more on the soupy side, low in fat but still hearty enough to satisfy.  This is what I came up with; having passed my personal taste test, I dubbed it “Five Bean Harvest Vegetable Soup”.  I feel that its best served in the autumn months, when the weather is still just shy of brisk in the mornings and evenings and the trees are just starting to change their perennial wardrobe.  Oh, and Sam says its even tastier if accompanied by a nice chunk of whole grain bread.  It can be time consuming with all the chopping but it produces a very large and very tasty batch of soup that can feed a modestly sized gathering or a family of two for a few days if kept refrigerated.  Be sure to read the whole recipe because you might want to start chopping before you start cooking.

Phase I:
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium sized onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tsp cumin seeds
2 -14 oz cans diced tomatoes and their juice/water
1½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp paprika
To a large soup pot add onion and garlic to medium-high oil and sauté until onion begins to soften.  Add cumin seeds and allow to fry until slightly browned.  Add tomatoes and their juices (be careful of spatter here!).  Simmer about 10 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften slightly, then add oregano, chili powder and paprika.  Reduce heat to medium. 

Phase II:
1- 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1- 14 oz can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1- 14 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1- 14 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
Add the above four cans of beans to tomato, onion & herb/spice sauté.  Cover and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes.  

Phase III:
1 Tbsp Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce
2-3 Tbps McKay’s chicken style instant broth or vegetable broth* 
*- prepare according to directions on label using water measured for recipe
10-12 cups water (depends on how “soupy” you like your soup)
3 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper or to taste
1 tsp dried basil 
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into ½ cubes
1 carrot, washed, peeled and sliced
3 red potatoes, diced
2 medium yellow squash, diced into ½ inch cubes
2 medium zucchini, diced into ½ inch cubes
1- 14 oz can great northern beans or butter beans, drained and rinsed

Add all of the above ingredients to the soup pot and mix well.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover allowing to simmer about 20 minutes or until veggies are tender, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm, adding extra salt/pepper as desired and enjoy!

Vegetarian German Style Brats with Potatoes and Kraut

One day late in October I got a craving for a good German style dish; something that would really help me capture the essence of Oktoberfest but with a meatless twist.  A little improvisation, toasted Tofurky Beer Brat slices and handy Indian spice mix brought me to this tart and tasty dish which is delicious with a nice chunk of toasted pumpernickel rye.  Tasty German beer is optional, of course.   I successfully wowed my husband with this dish and pleased my own picky palate at the same time.  Easily serves a hungry family of 4-6.

5-7 red potatoes, washed 
1 package of Tofurky Beer Brats, sliced into ½ inch rounds
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil or light vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1 tsp Panch Puran (Indian 5-spice mix available at most Indian groceries) * If Panch Puran is not available use an equal mix of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella (kalonji), and fenugreek seeds.
¼ tsp black mustard seeds
1-15 oz can of sauerkraut
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 450°F.  

To make it quicker and easier, puncture and microwave potatoes about 5 minutes or until slightly softened.  Dice and set aside for later.

On a lightly oiled baking sheet, place lightly oiled Tofurky slices in oven and toast for about 5-10 minutes or until they’re a light brown shade.  Set aside and save for later.  *Its okay if they get a little dry, the kraut will add moisture back to the dish.

In a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until onion becomes softened.  Add Panch Puran or spice mix and mustard seeds and fry with onion until seeds begin to pop.  To this, then add potatoes, mix well and stir fry until potatoes are well seasoned and slightly softened, but not “mushy”.  Reduce heat to medium.
Add can of sauerkraut, vinegar and toasted Tofurky brat slices and mix thoroughly.  Serve warm and savor the flavor!

Sooji Pancakes

This morning I was struck with an epiphany of sorts; it may or may not be an original recipe, but its certainly the first I’ve ever heard of it.  I’m a big fan of Halava, a tasty,  sweet Indian dessert made from semolina grains, and usually mixed fruits and/or nuts.  I’m not necessarily a huge fan of sweets all the time and wondered what else could I do with this lonely bag of sooji (semolina grains), other than making Halava or cream-of-wheat…

So, I did what I usually do when I need inspiration and I went to Google and put “savory sooji recipes”, since it was savory I wanted, not sweet.  I discovered an Indian preparation called ‘chillo’, which turns out is a sort of pancake made from sooji and plain yogurt, and usually mixed with grated vegetables and seasoned with a bit of turmeric, salt, pepper and other spices.  Once again, though, I found myself wanting more.  So, here’s what I came up with; a savory version and a tasty, lightly sweetened version.  Hope you enjoy!

Savory version
1 cup semolina grains
1 cup plain yogurt
Mix thoroughly and rest for about 10-15 minutes. 
Prep the following while this batter rests:
1 medium zucchini, finely grated
1/2 onion, finely chopped/minced
1/8 cup tomato, finely diced
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chili powder

A dash of turmeric
1/2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp salt

Pepper to taste
Water *see below

Mix the above into the semolina & yogurt mixture.  *You’ll need to add a bit of water to this mixture because the batter needs to be pourable; think pancake batter consistency.
Using a non-stick frying pan, put about a teaspoon of light-tasting oil, like canola or vegetable, and bring to medium-high heat.  Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the heated pan and cook about 3 minutes each side, or until golden and firm.

Serve immediately.  Makes about 6-8 medium-sized pancakes.

The Sweet Stuff
1 cup semolina grains
1 cup fruit-flavored yogurt (I like Dannon® All Natural because it’s made with pectin instead of gelatin!)
1 Tsp sugar or equivalent preferred sweetener
Water *see below

Mix thoroughly, let rest about 10-15 minutes.  *Add a bit of water and mix thoroughly to thin out batter to pourable consistency. 

Using a non-stick frying pan, put about a teaspoon of light-tasting oil, like canola or vegetable, and bring to medium-high heat.  Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the heated pan and cook about 3 minutes each side, or until golden and firm. Serve immediately; may top with honey, preferred syrup, or fruit topping.  Makes about 6-8 medium-sized pancakes.

Tangy Tomato, Artichoke & Spinach Soup

As the weather continues to cool I find myself drawn more and more to warm and comfy things.  One of my all time favorite comfy things would be soup.  Only in the past couple of years have I discovered that I can really love tomato soup and I’ve concocted a few on the fly from time to time.  But on this occasion, I wanted a challenge.  I’ve had pasta with vodka sauce and I’ve had spinach & artichoke frequently on pizzas; I thought to myself “How can I have the best of both worlds and altogether in a delicious soup?”  

My newest creation: Tangy Tomato, Artichoke & Spinach Soup.  Its not only warming to the belly but the hint of crushed red pepper spice along with the tangy vodka sauce add a nice little warmth to the tongue.  It isn’t hot enough to make you sweat, but just enough to keep the cold out.  It is a time consuming preparation, but I’ve always said, and I’m sure I’ve heard it a million times elsewhere “good food takes time!”  So, without further ado, I give you a delicious soup fit for all chilly seasons.

p.s. Be sure to try it with a nice loaf of buttery garlic toast! 

1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Tbsp margarine or butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
¼ tsp Italian seasoning 
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ cup heavy cream (or half & half for less fat)
¼ cup vodka (alcohol content cooks out)
2 bay leaves, dried
½ tsp Italian seasoning or ¼ tsp oregano & ¼ tsp basil

1 Tbsp brown or natural cane sugar
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1 Tbsp Braggs liquid aminos or 2 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan or Asiago cheese

6 cups water
2 cups McKay’s chicken style seasoning mixed to broth or 2 cups vegetable broth
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed & coarsely chopped
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
1-8 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
½ tsp dried basil

Heat oil & margarine/butter over medium.  Sautee’ onion & garlic until soft & translucent.  Add 28 oz. can of tomatoes with juices and ¼ tsp Italian seasoning & red pepper.  Bring to boil, reduce to medium-low, cover & simmer for 20-30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and pulpy, stirring occasionally. 

Mash tomatoes with large spoon or spatula to break down a little more; add cream (or half/half) and vodka.  Mix well and simmer for 5 minutes or until creamy consistency.  Add bay leaves, seasoning, sugar, tomato paste, Braggs, white & black peppers & salt.  Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and mix in cheese.  Cover and set aside for later use.

In a large soup pot add 6 cups of water and 2 cups of prepared broth.  Add 2nd 28 oz. can of tomatoes with juices. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  If you have an immersion blender (which I highly recommend) or like a creamier consistency, slightly puree tomato/broth/water mix until lumpy-watery consistency.  

Add chopped spinach & artichokes.  Mix and bring to boil.  Reduce heat, add ½ tsp of dried basil and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in creamy tomato-vodka sauce and mix thoroughly.  Cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve very warm, topped with grated parmesan or Asiago cheese.  Additional salt &/or pepper as needed.


Wasa Nachos

This is a fun little treat I came up with one night when my husband and I had late-night munchies but didn’t want to stray too far from a diet we’d recently embarked upon.  It’s cheesy, crunchy & every bit as tasty as you’d like it to be.  All but one variety (oat) of Wasa crisp breads are vegan, so with the addition of your preferred vegan cheese and sour cream-style spread, this can be a very tempting guilt-free snack.  Best of all, its so easy that pretty much anyone can do it & its even something to get the kids involved with! 

This won’t be a ‘traditional’ recipe, in that it’s a bit of a ‘customizable’ snack.  Just start with some Wasa crisp bread, as many as you’d like.  For just us two we find four wafers to be quite satisfying.  Oh, and if you’re wondering where to find it, our local Walmart carries the multigrain variety, other chain groceries also carry it.  The rest of the recipe is pretty much to your own preference.  

4 slices Multigrain Wasa crisp bread slices 
Enough shredded cheese or imitation cheese shreds to cover surface of bread slices 
Black beans (as many as you need or desire for the amount you're serving) 
Diced tomatoes 
Sliced black olives 
Chopped green onion/scallion

Set oven to ‘broil’, place topped crisp breads on a baking sheet or cookie pan and broil just a few minutes, long enough to get the cheese nice and ‘melty’.
Remove and let cool a couple of minutes; Serve with your choice of salsa and sour cream or vegan alternative. 
Another idea for using Wasa crisp breads is Wasa bruschetta.

Start with as many Wasa crisp bread slices that you desire.  Brush lightly with olive oil and/or pesto sauce.  Top with diced tomatoes, chopped scallions, fresh Italian herbs and shredded mozzarella or vegan alternative.  Broil in oven until cheese is lightly melted & serve alone or with a marinara dip.

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