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Beans & Legumes!

Third part of the veggie protein series, te presente a los beans and legumes!

If you have a crock pot and access to tap water, these are by far the best bang for your buck.  Dry beans are extremely cheap, easy to cook, and pretty darn nutritious.  If you’re not sure how long to cook a particular type of bean, crock pot it up for a couple of hours, and then taste test it at intervals until done.  You’ll want to make sure they’re cooked till nice and soft; impatience only leads to gas.  There is a reason it’s called Bean-o, you know!

Okay, enough about farts.  Let’s get cooking on the recipes I want to share today:  black bean burgers, hummus, and chana masala.

Black Bean Burgers

1 can (14 oz.) black beans
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic (crushed)-substitute appx. 1/4 tsp. garlic powder or minced garlic if desired
2 tsp. cajun seasoning
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup egg substitute (or one whole egg)
Place onion and garlic in food processor and process until fine.  If you want to add other ingredients, like perhaps a little bit of carrot or green onion, this is the place to add it in.  Just keep in mind the more you add, the more difficult it is to keep the patty sticking together.Add well drained black beans and process until evenly mashed. 

Place in medium mixing bowl, add cajun seasoning, bread crumbs and egg substitute.

Mix thoroughly and shape into 4 patties.

Grill on a well-oiled grill for 5 minutes per side, or broil in the oven- 10-12 minutes each side, on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil, and sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray.


This one is easy!  In a blender, add the following:

1 can cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas) with 1/2 the liquid or the equivalent amount of homecooked beans and liquid + salt to taste

3/4 tsp additional salt

4 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp tahini (a sesame paste found at health stores and larger grocery stores, sometimes in the vicinity of the peanut butter)

Blend and chill.  Enjoy as a sandwich spread or dip for things like pita bread, wheat crackers, corn tortilla chips, celery sticks, carrot sticks, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes.  If served as a dip, garnish with olive oil and feta cheese, or a few kalamata olives or slices of red bell pepper.

Chana Masala

This is a wonderfully fragrant Indian dish that’s spicy without being too hot.  It’s also a great one for when you’re in the mood to turn on the music and cook.  After you’ve made it once, you should never follow the recipe again, just go by taste and smell.  Believe it or not, this is a simplified version of the recipe, but still a very good one.  Here ya go.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 15oz can chickpeas or equivalent amount of homecooked chickpeas
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/2 fresh green chili, minced

In a heavy pot with a lid heat oil to medium and add onions & garlic. Cook, stirring regularly for 5 minutes or so. You want the garlic and onions to actually start to brown.

Turn heat to medium low and add ground cumin, turmeric, cumin seeds, curry powder, coriander, paprika and salt. Stir for a minute or two, until the spices are fragrant, then add the tomato and cook for another couple minutes stirring regularly.  Add chickpeas and water and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add chili and ginger, stir for another 30 seconds and serve hot with rice or naan.

This recipe keeps well in the fridge and is a great filling for a wrap the next day. Try adding fresh spinach, cilantro and a bit of Greek yogurt to a wrap along with a scoop of chana masala.


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The second great source of plant protein in my ongoing vege-series (what? if there’s one thing all vegetarians are sure of, it’s that ‘vege’ can be appended to any other word) is quinoa.  Having discussed this wonder grain pretty thoroughly in a post not too far back (“Consternation, and How to Cook Quinoa”), I’m not going to repeat any of that.  I’ll just give you a recipe that calls for cooked quinoa, and if you want cooking instructions or general info about it, you can refer to my prior quinoa post.

I really cannot overstate how great this stuff is though, with terrific taste, texture, and nutrition in one pretty amazing little grain.  This recipe is a spin-off of good old beans and rice, and can be adapted in a lot of different ways.  For lack of a better name, I shall call it:

Quinoa Pile Up

For a meal for 1 person, you’ll need:

1 cup cooked quinoa, salted to taste

1/2 cup black beans (cooked)

1 handful shredded dark green leaf lettuce

1/4 cup mango salsa

sprinkle of shredded mild cheese (optional)

1 avocado (optional)

Assembly:  On a plate, make a little nest of the quinoa, and layer the rest of the ingredients in it.  Enjoy with a side of tortilla chips.

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A Dispatch from the Field

I found this blog from a Japanese ADRA aide worker currently working on the relief project that our meals for Japan money went toward.  This is today’s update.

We’ve Started Our Work in a New Area

We offer you our heartfelt thanks for your help.

We, ADRA Japan, have been supporting the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami damaged areas at 2 shelters in the Wakabayashi District of Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture until April 3, 2011, participating in the soup kitchen and so forth.
Moreover, we have supported 5 welfare facilities for the elderly as well as daytime-care facilities in the Wakabayashi District of Sendai City, Higashi-Matsushima City, and Tome city, distributing diapers, consumables, food, fuel, and so forth. It has been very difficult for them to get these necessities themselves because the earthquake and tsunami paralyzed distribution.

We have moved to the new area of Yamamoto Town in Watari County, Miyagi Prefecture as of April 6. This is because there are still many people suffering in this dire situation, although management of shelters by the local people and survivors are starting to move along the right lines in the weeks since the earthquake and tsunami struck the area.

Yamamoto Town is about 30 km away from Sendai City and between the Ohu Mountains and the Pacific. The coastal residential area was seriously damaged by the tsunami. In addition, the roads were fractured by the earthquake and completely washed away in some areas struck by the tsunami. Yamamoto Town needs long-running support.

As of April 7, we have started a soup kitchen for the staff of the town hall that worked for the survivors. Interference with the reconstruction work being done by the staff caused the soup kitchen to also be necessary for staff use alongside the survivors. They have worked very hard towards rebuilding the town and have suffered for 4 weeks. They are very tired mentally and physically.

We will continue to support the town hall staff in order to allow them to devote themselves to rebuilding the town.

We appreciate your continuous support and assistance to the people affected by the disaster.
You can also support by donating to ADRA through credit cards, bank transfer and postal transfer.

Prior to the work listed above, they were distributing emergency food/water/medicine packages and sheltering displaced people in the Tokyo SDA church.  They have since established actual shelters, and the work goes on.  If you’d like to read more of this blog, you can find it here  To read more about ADRA or make a donation, go here

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It’s the first installment of recipe posts regarding the 6 Plant Sources of Protein previously discussed!  Today’s topic will be soybeans.  Aside from the actual beans, there are also a big variety of soy products, including but not limited to soymilk, edamame snacks, tempeh, miso, tofu, Morningstar Farms and similar products, texturized vegetable protein, and the list goes on and on.  Since most people find soy to be a bit alien, I suppose it behooves me to give it a proper introduction.

Soybeans grow all over the globe (okay, not on the blue parts, but still).  North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia all grow a lot of soy.  The US of A produces a whopping 35% of the world’s total soy crops.  This naturally brought a question into my mind, since I never seem to see a lot of other people shopping in the soybean section.  Who is eating it?

Turns out, 85% of the U.S.. soy crop ends up as either vegetable oil or soy meal byproduct.  Byproduct is then used in pre-packaged processed foods, catfish feed, and el cheapo dog food.  Whoa, you might be thinking, this stuff is in my Lean Cuisine?  No, you’re safe.  As far as human consumption goes, they only put it in the super low grade food fillers we feed to our prisoners and public school students.  The previous sentence is not a joke.  If you are uncomfortable with our kids eating the same junk we feed our catfish, prisoners, and dogs, you can visit Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution website to learn more about improving the quality of school lunches in general, and sign a petition to that effect.

Okay, little rant aside, where else do our amber waves of soy end up?  Soy oil is used in about a dozen different ways in industry and as biodiesel fuel.  That explains why we grow so much of it and still see so few people chowing down the tofu.

Well, we’ve covered byproducts and industrial uses, which I’m not sure was the best way to open this blog post, considering prevailing mindsets about soy foods.  What’s the good stuff?  Let’s get straight to the part you’re actually going to want to eat.  I’ll give you recipes and finish with a little nugget of nutrition information.

Silken Tofu Summer Smoothie

Blend together all items, and drink!

1 package silken tofu*

Handful ice cubes

Handful strawberries

1 banana

1/2 fresh mango

100% orange juice or your favorite fruit juice (amount depends on how thick or thin you like it)

*A note on silken tofu:  It comes in a square package, refrigerated, probably in the freaky-deaky health food section next to a miniscule array of disgusting fake cheeses.  It’s not the same thing as soft tofu.  (There is soft, silken tofu, but not all soft tofu is silken).  Any tofu will work, but the texture of silken is just perfect for smoothies.  Tofu does add a mild but distinctive flavor to the smoothie, and probably not want you want to be noticing a lot.  So use it with your own favorite fruit combinations, but make sure to put in at least one flavor-packed ingredient, like peaches or berries.  That will ensure it won’t taste beany at all.

This is one protein-packed smoothie, which means it’s great for breakfast fueling up.  High on protein, low on fat and carbs, for those who are concerned about that kind of thing.  Personally, I think carbs are getting a bad rap right now.  Whole grain carbs are so good for you!  Well, fat was the villain in the 90’s, now it’s carbs.  I guess next decade fat and carbohydrates will be good and we’ll all be anti-protein.  Better eat these smoothies while we still can!

Okay, here’s another recipe.

Chik’n Veggie Wraps

You may or may not be able to tell that my kitchen island is an ironing board


Wheat tortilla shells (large size)

Your selection of veggies (I like lettuce, tomato, sprouts, baby spinach, and cucumbers, but really I just use whatever I’ve got handy)

A slice of cheese per wrap

Salad dressing of choice (Ranch or Asian sesame or French work well)

Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik’n Strips, 2-3 per wrap, (freezer section, in a bag, pictured, you just nuke ’em following instructions on the package)

The trick when assembling these suckers is they’re about exactly as healthful as you make them.  If you load ’em up with cheese and salad dressing, they’re going to be fatty.  If you consider cheese and dressing as condiments rather than ingredients, and pile on the veggies, these wraps will be pretty darn good for you.  Carbs from the tortilla notwithstanding.

I really like these Morningstar Farms chik’n strips (and, son, I have hacked the heads off a lot of fake chickens in my day!) as well as the griller crumblers in the same section, which can be used in place of hamburger meat in any recipe except for actual hamburgers.  They don’t taste like any sort of reasonable equivalent to the animals they are named after, which is good to know up front the first time you try them.  If you’re thinking, “this is a plant-based protein” rather than “this is like chicken,” you will probably survive the ordeal.  Ha ha.

If you’re new to soy-based meat substitutes, Morningstar Farms is a good brand (just stay away from the fake bacon strips, really).  It’s available everywhere, not too pricey, and easy to prepare in the microwave, stovetop, or oven.  They have tons more recipes on their website here

I also like a lot of the Quorn and Gardein brand products, but sample a few different ones before you decide on a brand loyalty (or generalized hatred of all things vege-).

Okay, I’m going to leave you with a reason (because, if you ever do taste these, you might feel that you need one) to substitute soy, especially in the form of tofu, for some of your meat.  And here it is, from the reliable folk over there at

Tofu is low in calories for the protein it packs in. Here’s how it compares to a few other foods. For each 100 calorie serving, tofu contains 11 grams of protein. By comparison, 100 calories of ground beef provides 8.9 grams of protein, and a 100 calorie serving of cheese contains 6.2 grams.
One half-cup serving of raw firm tofu contains 5 grams of fat. Low fat tofu is also commercially available, and contains 1.5 grams of fat per serving. 4 oz of beef packs a whopping 15 grams of fat, and one egg contains 5.5 grams of fat. Tofu is a cholesterol-free food , as are all plant-based foods. By comparison, a half-cup of 2% milk contains 9 mg of cholesterol, 4 oz of fish contains 75-100 mg of cholesterol and 4 oz ground beef contains about 113 mg cholesterol.

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Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart

Fresh off the press in Rodale News!*

This article tells us why plant-based protein is better for your body than animal-based protein, and lists the top 6 food sources of veggie protein.  In case you are too lazy to click on the link (in which case, your health concerns may be more extensive than this article covers anyway), I will list the 6 for you.  If you want to see appealing photos and read the details though, you still have to click on the link.

Six Good Sources of Vegetarian Protein



Beans and legumes

Green Vegetables



In case you are thinking, wait a minute, they’re just listing the same things over and over again, I’ll let you know that peanuts and soybeans are rightfully unique from the “beans and legumes” category based on their botanical classifications.  Nutritionally, they all fit in the same category though.  You know, the one that we all learned on that food pyramid in school, where there were pictures of three little grayish beans underneath large colorful photos of animal proteins.  You know, the food pyramid helpfully drawn up for us by the meat and dairy industry.


But the Good Thing About The Old Food Pyramid Was, You Could Eat All the White Bread You Wanted

Despite a lot of marketing to the contrary, you actually can get plenty of protein from plant sources, and you don’t need meat or dairy or eggs at all.  If you do incorporate animal proteins (I eat dairy and eggs, but not a lot, and the rare but occasional hapless chicken) it is still a good idea to get as much of your protein as possible from plants.  In addition to the reasons listed in the Rodale article, it’s a general rule that plant proteins tend to come accompanied by way less fat than animal ones, and no cholesterol.

So, what I’m going to do is this.  Over the next few days, I am going to give you a recipe for each of the six types of plant proteins.  I’m not writing one today, because I want to put some thought into my recipe choices and bring you only the very best!  Today will be for research.  Tomorrow we will start on…soybeans!  I can see how excited you are about that.  Stay posted!


*Rodale is the publisher who puts out a lot of the magazines we all see on the newsstand and pass up in favor of the ones whose covers show cleavage and don’t make us feel guilty for being a little fattish.  Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Prevention, Running, Runners, Bicycling, and Gardening magazine — all Rodale.  They also publish books on wellness and such.  I think they generally do a good job of vetting their articles, and I tend to trust the research they publish.

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A Brief Erroneous History of Molecular Gastronomy

Anybody else out there find all the new techie cookery techniques endlessly fascinating?  Was anybody else drooling in Season 3 of Top Chef when twirpy, weird-haired little chef Marcel constructed his endless tiny saffron science experiments week after week?  I love watching this stuff!  And when they start explaining what they are doing?  Oh, the chemistry!  The physics!  This is just all so exciting.

If you disagreed with the above paragraph, and would just like to eat your macaroni and cheese in peace, unaware of the ideal heat transfer techniques involved in melting the cheese, then you really won’t want to read this book.


It’s a combination of recipes and essays on the hows and whys of food science.  Here is a link to a 2-page review in Slate magazine.

And here is a mini-excerpt from the review:  ‘When writing about egg-white foams like meringues, for example, they say fats “are like kryptonite for the egg whites, rapidly causing them to lose strength. Fats work by destroying the surface tension of the liquid which is necessary for the stability of the foam matrix.”‘  Surface tension!  Foam matrix!  This cooking stuff is high tech, clearly not just anyone can do it.  Oh, wait, pretty much anyone can.  You don’t have to understand the science to memorize recipes or figure out what tastes good and when it’s done cooking.  But what fun if you can!

Although proponents are touting it as completely novel, I’m fairly sure Marcel was not the first person to determine that he could use a methods and materials approach to cooking.  If I were, you know, a real writer, I would have to look up a bunch of facts, make a little timeline, and bore you to tears with that.  But I’m not, and I refuse to.  Instead, I am going to swipe a few photos off google images and share a few somewhat related factoids I already know.  Take that, Professor Haluska!*

Swiped Google Image #1


Do you recognize the lovely lady brewing coffee with her lab equipment circa 1946?  Probably not.  Neither ovarian cancer nor history were very kind to her.  If you remember Rosalind Franklin at all (and I hope you do, ’cause she’s rad) it is probably from an Intro to Biology class, where she may or may not have been mentioned as the physicist who did the X-ray crystallography work that revealed the structure of the DNA molecule, thus allowing us to learn how heredity works.  Thus also making biology students ever after study a lot harder than those ever before.  And thus also paving the way for Watson and Crick to steal her pictures of the molecule, and even though they didn’t even know how she had developed the technology to take a picture of DNA, to construct a model of it and get a Nobel Prize.  In fairness to the Nobel Committee, Rosalind passed away of the aforementioned ovarian cancer before the prize was awarded, and I like to think they would have given her one, too (or, instead) had she survived.  What you may not have learned in biology is that she also did research on fuels that helped the allies win the second world war.  Rosalind Franklin is hereby included in the history of molecular gastronomy because I like her and because from the picture you can see that she was clearly a fore-mother of the genre.

Hm, let’s see, who else should I include?

Swiped Google Image #2


Ever had a delicious crème brûlée?  I just think this is a wonderful invention because it is made in a dish called a ramekin (I got a set of 6 for my wedding.  I only use them for chips and salsa.), and the final step in the recipe ( is….

Swiped Google Image #3


That’s right, folks!  You scorch that yummy sugar crust on the top of this sucker with a blowtorch!  The French have been doing this since, well, way before Marcel (who is NOT French, despite his name, superiority complex, and slight resemblance to Napoleon) ever took a tiny glass tube and blew sugar goop through it.

And that about brings us to the present, a time when you can google “molecular gastronomy kit” and purchase an outrageously priced set of little metal doodads and chemical reagents to go home and make your own tiny, beautiful and delicious creation.  It’s the Jello and Play-doh playfulness of childhood eerily combined with the strictly grown-up capacity to take ourselves way too seriously.  Imagination and Perfectionism’s bastard child.  Strange.

Swiped Google Image #4

I wondered, as I watched Marcel in Season 3 desperately trying to expound upon the worthiness and intellectualism of his chosen methods, whether any of these food gastronomists realize how ridiculous they look to everyone else.  Their food is tiny, brightly colored, and mostly congealed into globules.  They hunch over their little edible precariously stacked birds’ nests and furrow their brows as if they are making, you know, actual art rather than something that will be gone in three bites.  Maybe they really believe it.

Ah, but I began this history raving about the subject.  Have I talked myself out of liking it?  No.  I don’t think I am predisposed to like food gastronomists, as a group, but the subject is incredibly interesting.  I will never make little bright colored globule meals.  But I do like to understand how things work, especially something that I do every single day of my life and that directly affects my health and well-being.  Food.  It’s simple; it’s complex.  I want to know, when I cook my vegetables, whether the temperature I’m heating them to is going to kill the enzymes present in the plant matter.  I want to know, if I’m baking seven-grain bread and I need the dough to stick together a little better, which of those seven grains has the gluten content to do the trick.  I want to know exactly how warm and how long to saute a white wine sauce for the alcohol to burn off while retaining the flavor.  I think the beauty of molecular gastronomy lies not in the weird little plasticky looking sculptures that pass as cuisine, but in the way that, after the fad passes, it will have improved our everyday cooking.

Viva la gastronomie!



*Professor Haluska is only the best English composition and literature teacher ever, and it’s because of him that I actually know how to write properly.  Even when I choose not to.

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“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~ Ed Abbey

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