Tag Archives: beans

Garlic Shrimp and White Beans (and the Best Kale Ever)

The past couple weeks have been full of exciting discoveries.  I figured out how to replace a headlight (a tricky thing with a Mazda), which completely trumped my sense of accomplishment regarding the back light replacement.  Because my car repair self-efficacy is fairly low, I recruited my brother-in-law for moral support, but really, I did it myself.

Even more exciting, and more relevant here, I found out that our big cast iron skillet fits in the broiler of our oven, and I found my new favorite kale recipe.  I’m guessing you’re more interested in hearing about these things.


The cast iron skillet discovery came in handy for this Bon Appetit recipe for Garlic Shrimp and White Beans.  I followed the recipe almost exactly, but I do have a few comments (don’t I always?)

  • I used a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes rather than fresh chopped tomatoes.  Who wants to buy fresh tomatoes in February?  This did make it a little more liquidy, but this wasn’t a problem with me since I had some delicious sourdough bread to soak it up.
  • Next time I think I would squeeze a little lemon juice over the shrimp just before serving.  It could use a little citrus-y brightness.
  • I don’t think the last two tablespoons of olive oil (drizzled on the shrimp after broiling) are really necessary.  (Although if you had a citrus-infused olive oil, that might work well instead of just using lemon juice).

Generally, this was a really tasty recipe that came together easily and quickly, and reheated well for lunch.


And now, the kale.  This is ridiculously simple, and not that different from how I have cooked it in the past, but this particular formula seems to be magical in creating a pile of greens that I would never tire of.  It is fully endorsed by Nick, too.  Thank you, Alice Waters.


Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Vinegar (from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters; serves 4-6)

2 bunches kale (about 2 pounds), torn and washed (drained, but no need to spin dry)

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 or 2 tbsp red wine vinegar


Heat a large saute pan and add olive oil and just enough kale to cover the bottom of the pan.  Allow these greens to wilt down before adding more.  When all the kale has been added, season with salt, stir in garlic, and cover the pan.  The greens will take anywhere from just a few minutes to 15 minutes to cook, depending on their maturity.  When they are tender, remove the lid and allow any excess water to cook away.  Turn of the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Note: The recipe mentions that most leafy greens can be cooked using this method.  I’ve cooked Swiss chard like this, and indeed, it’s excellent.


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Sometimes You Have to Be Flexible: White Bean and Farro Salad

I love working with preschoolers. One minute you’re listening to a five-year-old answer a question, demonstrating a shockingly advanced level of metacognition that a lot of adults probably don’t possess.  The next minute, another child is telling you about how they learned that some beetles poop when they get angry. And then a third child solemnly informs you that she owns a sword. A real sword.

It’s seriously like being in one of those AT&T commercials.

The weird, funny things the kids say are certainly part of the fun. But what I really love is those moments when a preschooler says something that is amazingly insightful or thoughtful.

We’ve been asking kids about how they would solve different problems by giving them hypothetical scenarios. We’re interested in how they adapt when they encounter obstacles to completing a goal. When you ask preschoolers to explain their problem solving strategies, you get a lot of “I don’t know” and “Because it would work.”  But sometimes they surprise you, like this five-year-old the other day who explained to me, “Sometimes you have to be flexible.”  She elaborated with examples showing that she was not just repeating something she heard – this is something she is fully aware of.  Impressive.

So maybe you’re thinking, “Um, Sarah?  This is some awfully research-y talk for a blog that claims to avoid such discussions….”

Be patient. I have a point.

She’s right.  Sometimes you have to be flexible.

Like when Matilda wants to wear a fancy hat, but realizes she doesn’t own a fancy hat.  She might have to adapt her definition of a fancy hat to include “sparkly cat toy”.


Or like the other day, when I was craving my favorite lentil and Israeli couscous salad.  I went to Trader Joe’s to buy some steamed lentils, because they are way better than any lentils that I have ever cooked.  I’d pick them up, go home and make the salad, and healthy lunches for the rest of the week. And they were completely sold out.

I was really tempted to just throw up my hands and grab a burrito bowl at Chipotle for lunch.

But I’m trying to eat more healthy meals, and I had spinach and tomatoes at home needing to be used up. So I had to be flexible, and buy a can of cannellini beans instead. Since I was changing the recipe anyway, I used farro instead of couscous (or a blend of the two).

Sometimes, being flexible works out pretty well.



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White Bean Gratin and a Wild Salmon Chase

I’ve been experiencing a bit of a cooking rut, at least in terms of being inspired to test out some new recipes worth sharing. But finally I found some inspiration when browsing The Food Matters Cookbook yesterday. I have to admit that at first, “White Bean Gratin with Sliced Salmon and Dill” sounded kind of odd. In my mind, “gratin” means potatoes and cream and lots of cheese, and it was tough to see how that could translate to a dish with beans and zucchini and absolutely no dairy to be found.

But I was intrigued and up for the challenge, and the idea of a one-dish dinner with lots of fiber, protein, and healthy fats was too good to pass up.

But first I had to find salmon.

After rounding up the rest of the necessary ingredients at the grocery store, I drove a couple blocks down the road to the awesome seafood market where they check your ID before letting you through the gate. As I started to pull my driver’s license out of my wallet, the security guard glared at me and said, “They’re closed. It’s after five.” It was 5:01.  Seriously? All I wanted to do was run in, get 8 ounces of wild Alaskan salmon, and go home.

While I awkwardly three-point-turned my car away from the gate, I contemplated my options. I could drive past my home and continue on to the next town where there’s a seafood market.  In rush hour, from the point where I was, that would probably take at least thirty minutes.  Or, I could go to the supermarket and get some salmon that is always oddly mushy and smells more like an aquarium than fresh fish.

So I sat in rush hour traffic to get to this second seafood market. I finally get there, look in their display case, and discover that all they had was farm-raised Atlantic salmon.  At that point, in defeat, I said a silent apology to the sustainable seafood gods, and ordered a half pound of the salmon.  Yes, I could have considered alternatives for dinner, but I was in too deep (as in I was excited about cooking this recipe) to back down.  I told myself that this one time wouldn’t hurt.  But when I was eating dinner later (which was delicious) I still felt guilty. Lesson learned: if I want to adhere to the guidelines for responsible seafood consumption, I should start grocery shopping a little earlier in the day.

And that’s a good lesson to keep in mind, since I loved this and will be cooking it again in the future.

I followed the recipe directly, and overall I was happy with it, but I think next time I might mix in just a little grated onion or garlic with the zucchini, so you might want to consider trying that as well.

White Bean Gratin with Sliced Salmon and Dill (from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman)

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil

3 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained, liquid reserved

2 zucchini, grated

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Salt and black pepper

8 ounces salmon fillet, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped dill, for garnish

Lemon wedges

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tbsp olive oil. Combine the beans, zucchini, and lemon zest in the baking dish, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon juice and a little of the reserved bean liquid. Cover with foil and bake until zucchini is tender and releasing juices, about 20 minutes.

Uncover gratin and continue baking until it is nearly dry, about 25-30 minutes more. Remove from the oven.  Turn on the broiler on medium-high, with the rack as close to the heat as possible.

Top the gratin with the salmon slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp olive oil. Broil until salmon is just done. (This only takes a few minutes, so watch it closely!) Garnish with dill, and serve with lemon wedges.


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Last Night’s Dinner: Black Beans and Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Apple Salsa

When you decide you are going to be selective about what you eat and avoid foods that are overly processed, contaminated with pesticides, or grown with antibiotics and hormones, you have to be flexible.  There are going to be times that you need to adapt a recipe you had in mind to fit with the ingredients available to you.

Perfect example… I had my eye on a recipe for black beans and rice, topped with shredded rotisserie chicken.  The problem?  The organic market I go to doesn’t sell rotisserie chicken.  And I don’t think I can eat non-organic chicken anymore.  Not a big deal though.  I’d just pick up some chicken breasts and cook them myself.  But when I got to the market I remembered that they get their chicken delivered every Thursday, so by Wednesdays they are pretty much wiped out.  Ditto for pork and steak.

Time to improvise….  How about… sweet potatoes?  Yes, I know: sweet potatoes are nothing like chicken.  But I had some at home already, and it seemed like they would go well with everything else.  I also was eager to use the sweet potatoes before a certain little girl cat discovered my new hiding place for them.  Because a couple nights ago just as I was falling asleep, I heard a THUD in the dining room and walked out to find Matilda on the counter, staring down at a sweet potato on the floor.  A sweet potato with some little teeth marks in it, that is.  I’m impressed- she somehow managed to get it out of a basket and then knock it onto the floor.

Anyway… this was very close to being vegan, except that I didn’t have vegetable broth at home, so I had to use chicken broth.  But that could easily be changed if you want it to be vegan.  Or, if you’re wanting meat, check out the original recipe from Bon Appetit: Black Beans and Rice with Chicken and Apple Salsa.

Apples might seem strange with this, but the tartness and crispy texture add a completely different dimension to familiar Mexican flavors.  I look forward to trying this again in the future with chicken, but even without, it was yummy and very filling.

Black Beans and Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Apple Salsa (serves 4-6, adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2012)

Cook enough brown rice to yield 4 cups, cooked, according to package directions.

In the mean time…

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel two sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks.  Place sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ground coriander.  Season with salt.  Roast until tender, turning occasionally, about 20-25 minutes.

Peel and chop one Granny Smith apple.  In a small bowl, toss with about 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and one teaspoon fresh lime juice.  The original recipe also calls for two tablespoons chopped red onion.  I won’t lie- I looked at that salsa and pictured how it would pop with some red onion in there.  But I left it out.  For Nick.  That’s love.

Heat two tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook 1/4 cup chopped onion and 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped until soft, about 6-7 minutes.  Add three minced garlic cloves, one teaspoon ground coriander, 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in three cups chicken broth and two 15-oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to medium heat.  Smash some of the beans with the spoon.  Stir until sauce thickens, about 8-10 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper, and lime juice.

Divide rice and beans among bowls.  Top with sweet potatoes and apple salsa.  Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.


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Today’s Lunch: Chickpea and Brown Rice Burgers

I’m not usually a big fan of burgers that aren’t made of beef because, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like it when vegetarian foods try to masquerade as meat products.  Do you remember the scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding where Julia Roberts breaks the news to Cameron Diaz? “Creme brulee could never be Jell-O.  You could never be Jell-O.”  Same deal.  Tofu, I hate to break it to you, but you’re never gonna be a burger. Same goes for you, mushrooms.  And you, legumes.

The other part of the dilemma is that the only synonym I can think of is “patty” and I hate the word “patty.”  Why?  I don’t know, but it causes the same cringing as when I hear “hubby.”  Maybe I don’t like words that end in “y”… except I like the word bunny.  And puppy.  Having such a strong negative reaction towards seemingly neutral words is a strange thing.

So, given that it is the lesser of two evils, I see no better option than referring to this recipe as a burger.  But please, do not assume, even for a second, that I am trying to kid myself into believing I’m eating a hamburger.  Nor am I trying to present this to you as an acceptable substitute for a burger.  There is no such thing.  I only use the word burger because it is what most closely resembles what this is.*  (Other than the “p” word, which will no longer be discussed.)

Anyway, the first day of Week Three: introducing gluten-free oats and brown rice back into my diet.  Today’s lunch was a chickpea and brown rice burger.  It took some time to prepare since it calls for cooked rice.  But it makes four, so you can get almost a week’s worth of lunches knocked out  in one sitting.  I also just realized I forgot to mix an egg in with the burgers, as the recipe calls for.  Hm.  Well, I thought it was great without it so if you somehow happen to make the same mistake, don’t freak out.  Or I suppose if you want to make it vegan, it’s good to know you can just leave out the egg.  If you make it and include the egg, tell me how it is.

One more thing.  The original recipe calls for roasted red pepper.  I almost left this off because I’m still not crazy about red peppers, but decided to go for it since part of this cleanse is trying new foods.  In a twist of fate, the roasted red peppers in our fridge looked rather old, so I used some sun-dried tomatoes instead.  Yeah, I know… sun-dried tomatoes are so 1996.  But just like the Spice Girls, in small quantities, sun-dried tomatoes can add a little zest to your meal.

Chickpea & Brown Rice Burger (serves 4, adapted from Whole Living)

2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas

1 cup cooked brown rice

1 minced shallot

1 minced garlic clove

2 tbsp chopped parsley

1 egg, whisked (evidently the egg is optional)

2 tbsp olive oil


Red onion slices

Sun-dried tomatoes (or roasted red peppers)

Green-leaf lettuce leaves

Mash together chickpeas and brown rice until they form a thick paste.  Stir in shallot, garlic, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the egg (if you’re using it).

Form into four 1/2-inch-thick burgers.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add burgers and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Top burgers with mustard, red onion, and sun-dried tomatoes and wrap in lettuce leaves.

*I had a great metaphor for this: “Like how you might refer to a giant panda as a “bear” if you didn’t know the word panda.  It resembles a bear, but it really isn’t one.”  But then I remembered genetic studies have confirmed that pandas actually are bears.  I sat here for a good 10 minutes trying to come up with another metaphor, but I’m stumped.


Filed under Cooking, The Cleanse

The Cleanse: Week Two Highlights

I am officially (almost) through two-thirds of the cleanse!  At this point, I’m feeling good.  I’m looking forward to enjoying some chocolate in another week, but I think my sugar cravings have subsided enough that I’m not worried about immediately going on a cookie binge.  I’m enjoying that over half of my grocery list is produce… I want to keep that going beyond the cleanse.  And I’m pretty sure my jeans are starting to fit a little better, which is always nice.

I wasn’t quite as excited about a lot of the Week Two recipes, but there are a couple I’d like to share:

Kale Salad with Pomegranate and Walnuts (serves 4; adapted from Whole Living)

And to think… six months ago, I hated kale.  Or I thought I did.  Now I’m eating it raw?  Crazy.  I love using lime juice in this- a nice change from using lemon or vinegar in salad dressings.  I’m not a huge fan of fresh ginger- actually, that’s not true.  I don’t have anything against fresh ginger, I just hate grating fresh ginger.  So I sprinkled a little bit of ground ginger in the dressing instead.

Whisk together two tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon lime juice with a dash of ground ginger (if you are a fresh ginger snob, use 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger instead).  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, tear one bunch of kale into pieces.  Pour dressing over kale and toss to coat evenly.

Add 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (what you would get from 1/2 fruit), two tablespoons chopped red onion, and 1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts.

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Cannellini Beans (serves 4, adapted from Whole Living)

Things I like about this recipe: the balsamic vinegar is different from how I usually season roasted veggies, and I never would have thought about throwing cannellini beans in for some protein.  Things I don’t like about this recipe: it only calls for 8 Brussels sprouts for 4 servings.  Only two sprouts per person?  I upped it.  Also, I’m terrible at estimating how long various vegetables will take to cook.   If you’re just roasting one vegetable, it’s no big deal to just poke them periodically until they’re tender.  But Brussels sprouts, unless they are huge, are going to turn to mush before all the root vegetables get tender, unless you chop them super-tiny.  So it would be awesome if the recipe was more specific about what size  to chop everything.  I obsessively cooked this three times this week trying to perfect it, and I’ve yet to get everything to the level of doneness I would want.  I thought about adding the sprouts and leeks later on, but I didn’t know how far in to add them, and I didn’t want to have to remove all the chopped up root vegetables while those were still cooking.  If anyone has any suggestions, I welcome them.

Sorry for the rant.  Why I am sharing this if I had difficulties with it?  Well, I still thought it tasted really good, even if some things were more or less cooked than I’d like.  And I’d like to think that maybe this is just my weird thing, like how I seem to be unable to cook dried beans.  Maybe it will work better for you, or you know something I don’t.  It’s worth a try.

1 large leek, sliced

5 garlic cloves, peeled (or use a couple shallots… I think they taste better and add even more color to the plate)

1/2 small rutabaga, peeled and chopped (this seems to take the longest to cook, so I recommend chopping it smaller than everything else)

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped

8 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (I suggest using at least 12)

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, plus 1 teaspoon for drizzling

1 1/2 cups cooked and drained cannellini beans

Heat oven to 425. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss leek, garlic (or shallots), rutabaga, parnsips, carrots, sweet potato, and Brussels sprouts with olive oil and one tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast, tossing once, until golden brown and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.  (If you have my luck, you might want to pull the Brussels sprouts out after 15 or 20 minutes.)

Remove from oven and stir in cannellini beans. Roast until beans are crisped, about 5 minutes. Toss with one teaspoon balsamic vinegar and drizzle with olive oil.

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Last Night’s Dinner: Veggie Burrito Bowls

When I’m not obsessing over decadent restaurant menus or baking desserts to accompany Nick’s indulgent dinners, I’m usually trying to compensate by eating healthy dinners.  When I’m just feeding myself, it’s no big deal- I’m happy with whatever combination of vegetables, whole grains, and protein I can come up with.  But when Nick is home, I feel obligated to come up with something slightly more interesting.  (In no way does Nick demand this… but if he is willing to go along with my attempts at healthy eating, the least I can do is make it somewhat exciting.)

One of my favorite recent creations is my version of a burrito bowl.  I’d like to think it’s more nutritious and fewer calories than what you find at Chipotle.  If nothing else, it’s a lot easier to resist the giant mounds of sour cream, cheese, and guacamole if you don’t give yourself the options, or at least control the amount you put on.

This meal also happens to be an important milestone for me- this is the first time I have defied my own rule against soy products masquerading as meat.  Nick suggested we throw in some Lightlife Smart Ground, Mexican Style and he must have caught me at a weak moment, because I agreed.  And it wasn’t bad once it was mixed in with all the other stuff.  I have to admit- 70 calories, 0 grams of fat with lots of protein and a decent amount of iron is hard to argue against, especially when it’s surprisingly low in sodium, as far as pre-seasoned foods go.

Slight tangent: I do want to note – and this applies to a lot of my Last Night’s Dinner entries – that I’m not intending to present this as a recipe that should be followed closely.  When I’m thinking about things to cook for weeknight dinners, I want inspiration for using things in my pantry, doing something a little different than what I’ve done 20 times before, in a way that works for me.  That’s what I intend for these entries to be.

Veggie Burrito Bowls

Start the rice an hour before you want to eat.  Then you have about 30 minutes before you need to start prepping the rest, so you can go watch an episode of 30 Rock on syndication, or clean up the kitchen from last night’s dinner, if you live like I do.

Bring two cups of water and one cup of short grain brown rice to a boil.  Stir, cover, and simmer for 50 minutes.

Prep while rice is cooking: Slice an onion and two or three bell peppers (I love a combination of green and yellow, but the yellow peppers were selling for $6/pound (?!!) so we just used green this past time).  Core and slice a jalapeno pepper.  (Jalapeno is optional, but wearing gloves is not, if you do choose to use it.)  Chop up a handful of fresh cilantro.  Grate one lime’s-worth of zest into a small bowl and then add the lime juice to the bowl.

When the rice has simmered for 50 minutes, remove from heat and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes.  Heat some oil (olive or safflower work nicely) in one large skillet and two medium skillets, all over medium-high heat.  Add the bell peppers and onions to the large skillet and saute until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  In the mean time, add one can of black beans (drained and rinsed) to one of the medium skillets and season with salt and ground cumin.  In the last skillet, add half a package of Mexican-style Smart Ground.  Heat both the beans and fake beef until heated through, stirring occasionally (about 6 minutes).

Fluff the rice with a fork and stir in the lime zest and juice.

Divide rice among bowls.  Top with peppers and onions, beans, and fake beef.  Squeeze some more lime juice on top, if desired.  Add any combination of the following- jalapeno slices, Tabasco sauce, sour cream (Greek yogurt works, too), grated cheese, chopped cilantro, avocado, salsa.


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