Smoky Black Bean Quinoa Salad

9 Dec

I recently started volunteering at the Sustainable Food Center.  My first major task was helping with a project to test several recipes for the revision of the Happy Kitchen cookbook, and important part of the SFC’s Happy Kitchen cooking class program.  I picked Smoky Black Bean Salad and Cranberry Sauce.  I had a lot of fun doing this and testing the recipes with different groups to get their feedback.  This particular recipe I’ve made my own, by upping the chipotle and cilantro, and adding some more color with the carrot and red bell pepper.  The salad makes for a really nice, light meal paired with some soup or a vegetable dish, or by itself.  Last night I ate a plate of this salad with some roasted acorn squash I had left over with some honey drizzled over the top.  Yum!  Healthy dinner after a nice run. 


1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

2 cups cooked black beans, or 1 can, drained and rinsed

3-4 green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 medium carrot, grated with a box grater or finely chopped

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped

1 tsp adobo sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp fine sea salt


First, rinse and drain the quinoa.  Bring the water and salt to a boil.  Add the quinoa, lower the heat to medium or medium low.  Cover and cook for approximately 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.  Remove the pan from the heat, and allow the quinoa to cool completely before proceeding with the remainder of the recipe.  If you use hot quinoa to make the salad, the texture becomes mushy. 

Place the quinoa in a large bowl suitable for mixing.  Add the black beans, green onions, carrot, red bell pepper, and cilantro.

Next, make the dressing.  Combine the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin, and salt in a small bowl.  Whisk together until everything is well combined.  Add to the quinoa mixture and stir to mix until the dressing is well distributed.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  Use the salad within a week of making it.


The CSA Challenge Part III: Peppers

23 Nov

Here are a few recipes to show some examples of how I’ve used the peppers I got in my CSA box a few weeks ago (yes, I still have some of the veggies, but they’re almost gone!).  Besides these recipes, I’ve also used the serrano and Anaheim peppers for the following:

  • 1 chopped Anaheim pepper to mix with my cornbread batter
  • 2 serranos for a batch of refried pinto beans
  • 1 chopped Anaheim pepper for a raw collards salad

Roasted Pepper Hummus


1 Anaheim pepper

1 bell pepper or other mild pepper (mine was an Italian Ringo pepper, an oblong yellow sweet pepper)

2 T olive oil, plus more for brushing the peppers

2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 can, drained and rinsed is good too)

Large handful cilantro (no need to chop, the food processor will take care of that)

2 whole peeled garlic cloves

2 T tahini

1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste if necessary


Heat oven to 400.  Brush peppers with olive oil, and place on cookie sheet.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the peppers are cooked and brown, like this:

Let peppers cool completely before using in the hummus.  Remove stems and seeds.  Combine all ingredients in the food processor, and whirl until everything is well combined, scraping the sides once or twice if needed.  Serve on bread, on sandwiches, or as a dip for crudite.

Salsa Verde

This green salsa was inspired by Kippy Nigh’s recipe in her cookbook A Taste of Mexico.  The salsa was fantastic with some molletes (toasted bread slathered with refried beans, salsa, and cashew/tofu cream) and the seitan tacos I made a few weeks ago.  Though I used the serrano peppers I got in my CSA share for this, I also found some tomatillos at my local farmers market, so this was a mostly local salsa! 


3-4 tomatillos, peeled

2 serrano or 1 jalapeno pepper

1 clove garlic

1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped

1/2 tsp sea salt

About 1.5 cups water

Handful of cilantro


Place all ingredients except the cilantro in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down to medium high heat and cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the tomatillos are cooked (they’ll be tender instead of firm as when they are fresh).  Once done, place the pan contents in a food processor along with the cilantro, and whirl until you have salsa.  Add water if you want a thinner consistency.

Baking with Vegetables: Pumpkin Muffins and Sweet Potato Brownies

21 Nov

My original thought for making a vegetable-added brownie was to make a beet brownie.  I eventually will, but I had a sweet potato to use.
Sweet potatoes in particular add sweetness to the brownies such that less sugar is necessary.  I also had to make pumpkin muffins because I had yet to make them this fall, though they are one of the things I most look forward to making in the fall and winter.  The pumpkin muffins are inspired by the Yammy Muffins recipe from the Sustainable Food Center’s The Happy Kitchen cookbook, which I’m currently doing some recipe testing for.  I changed up that recipe quite a bit, reducing the amount of sugar, increasing the pumpkin, eliminating the oil, and using pumpkin in place of sweet potato.  Overall, using vegetables in baking adds moisture so that less oil and eggs are necessary, and in the case of beets and sweet potatoes, adds sweetness so that you don’t need to add so much sugar.  Of course, there’s also the added nutrition factor.

Pumpkin Muffins


1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinammon

1/2 cup barley malt syrup

1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk will do)

1 15-oz. can pumpkin

2 T ground flax mixed with 6 T water, or 2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 400.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with papers, or dab some vegetable oil or butter in the cups to keep the muffins from sticking.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In another smaller bowl combine the pumpkin, flax mixture or eggs, vanilla, barley malt, and almond milk.  Then, mix the dry and wet ingredients together, until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Evenly distribute muffin batter in the muffin pan.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

Sweet Potato Brownies


4 T (1/2 stick) butter or non-hydrogenated margarine (I think coconut oil would be good here too, though I haven’t tried it yet.)

1  4-ounce bar of 100% cacao chocolate (I used Ghiradelli brand)

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

About 1 cup mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)

1 T ground flax mixed with 3 T water, or 1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract


Peel the sweet potato, cut into chunks, and boil until tender.  (Another alternative is to cut a few slits in the potato and microwave until it’s cooked, usually about 10 minutes.)  Mash in a medium bowl.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Melt the butter with the chocolate bar in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium low heat until completely melted.  Stir during the process to facilitate the combining of the butter and chocolate.

Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and salt) together in a small bowl.  Mix the flax mixture or egg with the sweet potato, vanilla, and sugar.  Add the chocolate mixture, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Place in a square 8×8 pan, or a loaf pan for thicker brownies (that’s what I did).  Bake for about 25 minutes.  The brownies will be very fudgy, not cakey.

The CSA Challenge, Part II: Eggplant

14 Nov

I used to really dislike eggplant, despite my wish to really like it.  Part of my dislike had to do with only being exposed to store-bought eggplant, which is often large and bitter (the larger your eggplant, the more bitter it will be.)  Also, enjoying eggplant really depends on how you prepare it.  My conclusion after trying various ways of preparing eggplant is that it’s got to be roasted/baked into oblivion.  My favorite eggplant dishes include Imam bayildi, a typical Turkish dish of very soft roasted eggplant stuffed with vegetables and doused in olive oil, baba ganoush, eggplant parmesan, and ratatouille.  All of these involve oven roasting your eggplant until very soft.  With eggplant I got in my CSA box, I made two dishes:  baba ganoush and a vegan eggplant parmesan.  The baba ganoush recipe is my own, the eggplant parmesan is adapted from a recipe on the Fat Free Vegan website (link provided).  I changed up some of the ingredients and rewrote the instructions according to how I actually made the dish. I used the lighter colored eggplant for the baba ganoush, and the darker for the eggplant parmesan, though these are certainly interchangeable.

Recipe #1:  Baba Ganoush

Aside from eating spoonfuls of this magical, addictive dip, my favorite way to eat this is on toasted whole grain bread with plenty of seeds. 


1 large eggplant or 2 medium (I used one medium and 2 small)

Olive oil for brushing the eggplant, plus 3 T as an ingredient for the dip

2 cloves garlic, peeled

Juice of one lemon

2 T tahini

Handful (about 1/3 cup) fresh parsley

1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste


First, cook the eggplant.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  While the oven heats, place the eggplants on a cookie sheet or glass baking dish.  Split the eggplants down the middle, both vertically and horizontally.  Brush the eggplant with olive oil, on all sides.  When the oven is heated, bake the eggplant for about 30 minutes, until very soft.

Next, scrape the flesh out of the skins using a spoon.  I ended up with about one cup of flesh.

Now, you are ready to make the final product.  Place the eggplant and the remaining ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Taste, and add additional salt if necessary.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups of baba ganoush.

Recipe #2:  Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

Note: This recipe says to salt the eggplant.  I skipped this step because my eggplants were smaller and I knew they were unlikely to be bitter.  If you use a large eggplant, particularly store-bought eggplant, slice the eggplant, salt it, put it in a colander and place over a larger bowl or in the sink.  The salt extracts the eggplant’s liquid, and thereby helps eliminate the bitterness many eggplants have.


1 large eggplant, or 2 medium

1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs

Olive oil for brushing the eggplant before broiling

Tomato sauce

1 medium onion, chopped

1 T olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with basil (or plain, adding 1 tsp dried basil to the sauce)

1/2 cup vegetable broth (I dissolved one cube of Rapunzel vegetable bouillon in 1 cup water in a small sauce pan over medium heat)

2 T tomato paste

Salt and pepper to taste

“Cheese” sauce

1/2 cup silken tofu (I used the boxed variety)

1/2 cup almond milk, or other non-dairy milk

1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 T cashews

1 tsp onion powder

3 T nutritional yeast (I upped this amount because I wanted a cheesier flavor)

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 or 3 twists of freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp corn starch


Turn on your oven’s broiler.  Remove the eggplant stems and slice into 1/4-1/2 slices.  Place on a cookie sheet, and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Place the eggplant under the broiler for about 3 or 4 minutes, until it starts to brown, as shown below.  Remove from the oven.

Next, prepare the tomato sauce.  Heat 1 T olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  When heated, add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, sauteing for another minute or two.  Add the remaining sauce ingredients, stir until combined, and cook over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce.  Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until completely smooth.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  While the oven  heats, assemble the dish.  Use a medium-sized glass baking dish (mine was 8×11 inches).  Place half the eggplant slices in the bottom of the pan.  Top with half the bread crumbs, evenly coating the eggplant layer.  Next, spread half the tomato sauce over the eggplant and bread crumbs.  Pour over half the cheese sauce.

Repeat these layer once more, reserving some of the bread crumbs to top the eggplant parmesan.  Bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes, until the top is a bit browned.  Allow to cool about 10 minutes and serve.

The CSA Challenge, Part I

12 Nov

That is my giant tabby Helios in the background of this picture about to gnaw on some spinach.  He’s inspecting the half bushel of vegetables I earned by working for a half day at Johnson’s Backyard Garden just south of Austin.  I volunteered with my friend Lindy, and we spent five hours spraying clean boxes of bok choy, weighing and bagging green beans for the farmers market, washing and wiping off butternut squashes, and packing CSA boxes.  It was a great way to spend a Friday (yes, I took off time from work to do this…) and in exchange for my effort I received a CSA share, filled with a variety of beautiful organic vegetables.  The concept of my next few posts will be the following:

What on earth do you do with all those veggies?  For me, the question is also, how do I eat all these vegetables before they go bad?  I cook only for myself and always have to be aware of how much food I’m buying at once so I don’t over buy and end up with some sad-looking cilantro.  The CSA box challenges me on both the quantity aspect, as well as the unknown vegetable aspect.  Actually, the only vegetable I had never cooked with before is the kohlrabi.  However, I know that many people just don’t know what to do with kale, spinach, cabbage, 2 lbs of green beans, and the list goes on.  So, I’m photographing and writing down recipes to show what I did with my cornucopia of vegetables.  First up, the dinosaur kale, kohlrabi greens (I’ve left the purple bulbs for another dish, another day), lavender bell pepper, hot Anaheim pepper, cucumbers, radishes, and green onions.

Dinosaur kale (aka lacinato kale):

Kohlrabi greens:

Peppers (all the peppers are together here, but I just used one of the red and the purple bell):



And, finally, green onions:

I made two separate dishes using these particular vegetables.  Soup is one good way to use the kale, since the sturdy leaves hold up to the heat.  I made a soup that is by no means the most attractive looking soup I’ve ever made, but it was tasty and filling.  I had a few lentils and some millet lying around, and beyond that I used an onion and some sweet potatoes I needed to use up.  Simple soup, and made a nice dinner several nights this week.

Recipe #1:  Kale-Sweet Potato Soup with Lentils and Millet


1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped

2 T olive oil

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks

2/3 cup brown lentils

1/2 cup millet

2-3 cubes vegetable bouillon (I used Rapunzel brand)

5 or 6 cups water

1 tsp salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bunch dinosaur kale, leaves torn from the stalks, washed, and chopped


Wash, peel, and chop all your vegetables.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot suitable for making soup (i.e., a deep pot), and saute the onion for about 5 minutes.  Add the sweet potato, stir, and cook for a few minutes.  Add the lentils, millet, bouillon cubes, and water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, lower heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.  Then, uncover and add the chopped kale and salt.  Stir to evenly distribute the kale, and allow to simmer about 5 minutes to cook the kale.  Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

Recipe #2:  Raw Kohlrabi Greens Salad


Greens from one bunch of kohlrabi (in my case, greens from two roots), washed and chopped (best to do this in a salad spinner–you don’t want wet greens)

4 or 5 radishes, thinly sliced

3 green onions, washed and chopped (including white and green parts)

1 Anaheim pepper, seeds removed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1 lavender bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cucumber, chopped (I didn’t peel mine because it’s organic and not waxed!)

Handful chopped walnuts

Handful golden raisins

2 T extra virgin olive oil

Juice of one lemon

1/2 tsp sea salt

A few twists of freshly ground black pepper


Place the washed and chopped kohlrabi greens in a large salad-worthy bowl.  Toss in the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.  Massage the greens for about one minute, until softened.  Add the remaining vegetables, raisins, and nuts.  Add the pepper.  Toss, taste, and add more salt if necessary.  You may also add more lemon juice if you like, or some red wine or white wine vinegar.

Much more to come!  Stay tuned for dishes using eggplant, green beans, peppers, cabbage, kohlrabi, and all the rest.

Raw Lemon Coconut Bars

11 Nov

I really love raw desserts.  They satisfy my sweet tooth without making me crave more.  I’m not sure how that works, but it’s one reason I’ve started experimenting with raw dessert recipes.  This recipe for lemon coconut bars is adapted from the Lemon Coconut Bars recipe in Ani Phyo’s Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen.  There’s no baking, no white sugar, no flour, and they literally take about 5 minutes to make.  I think a raspberry or cranberry sauce would be a nice accompaniment to these bars, but maybe I’ll try that next time.


1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

1 to 1 1/2 cups pitted dates (I recommend buying dates with the pits, and removing them yourself.  Dates already pitted tend to be on the dry side.)

1 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla extract, though the original recipe calls for a vanilla bean)

1/2 tsp sea salt

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon, or about 2 tablespoons

1 cup shredded dried coconut, plus some for garnishing the bars


First, place the walnuts and almonds in a food processor.  Pulse until the nuts are chopped.    Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor, and process until you have a paste you can press into a pie plate or 9-inch square baking pan. Press the dough into the pan, and sprinkle with shredded coconut.  Refrigerate for at least a few hours before serving.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

6 Nov

This recipe is adapted from the Peanut Butter Cookies in The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld.  I love that these cookies are made with an “alternative” flour–chickpea, not wheat.  These cookies are great to freeze.  Just microwave them for about 30-45 seconds when ready to eat.


1/2 cup softened butter or vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)

1/4 cup barley malt syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup organic peanut butter (chunky or smooth

1 egg (if you want to make these vegan, you can leave out the egg without any problem)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chickpea flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips (I used Sunspire brand)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  Cream the butter, sugar, and barley malt together with a mixer until fluffy (2-3 minutes was enough for me).  Add the peanut butter and mix for another minute.  Beat in the egg and vanilla just until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together.  Mix the dry ingredients together into the wet in three batches, mixing until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets, with about 2 inches of space in between.  Bake 12-14 minutes, until the bottoms are golden.