Tag Archives: beans

Roasted Beet Hummus With Walnuts and Goat Cheese

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An old Ukranian proverb forewarns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.”  As a big beet fan, I’d like to think that a tale that begins with a beet will end with deliciousness.

My cooking style has changed considerably since my baby boy arrived in November.  Meals are simple, quick, freezable, and lunch-packable.  Sundays are filled with food prep to make the work-and-baby-filled weeks a little easier.  This Sunday I prepped muesli for breakfasts, grains, tofu, and greens for lunches, and snacks for the whole week.  As a nursing mom, I need to make sure I’m eating small, healthy snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and hummus is a clear winner.  Hummus is packed with protein and fiber, easy to make, and endlessly versatile (spread on crackers or in a sandwich, use as a dip with carrot sticks or sugar snap peas or put a dollop on a grain salad).  Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with a basic hummus recipe but last month’s Cooking Light magazine inspired me to get a little crazy with my hummus and the results were great. Continue reading

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili with Chipotle

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili with Chipotle

Some things from my childhood have stuck with me and a love of chili with cornbread is one of those things.  I fondly remember the big pots of chili my step dad would make when I was a kid.  The soup was always served with a skillet of cornbread and it was always nice and spicy.  When I commented/complained about the heat, my step dad ribbed me, telling me that the heat would burn the germs from my intestines.  It’s a disturbing image but it was the start of my love affair with spicy foods, if not for the medicinal qualities, then for the taste.  

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Six Bean Soup With Butternut Squash and Farro

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Soup season has arrived, folks.  You’ll be seeing many soups posted on this blog over the next several months, a testimony to my efforts to survive another cold and dark Michigan winter.  The leaves on the trees are nearly gone (please hang on while I wipe the tear that is rolling down my cheek…sniffle), the lawn furniture looks eerily out of place and begs to be put away, Halloween is over and talk of the holidays creeps into conversation.  We’ve already got a game plan for Thanksgiving dinner (my first time hosting!) and my mind is focused on developing recipes for healthy Thanksgiving sides for my next cooking class.  The sun sets at around five o’clock and I’m still considering bucking the trend and ignoring daylight savings time (who’s with me?).  The space heater is fully broken in and we are ready to hunker down under afghans for the next five months.  For those of you who do not live in a similar climate, this is serious stuff, folks.  A true test of resilience or sisu, as my mom would say.  Sisu is the Finnish word for strength in the face of adversity…my mom would say, “you’ve got sisu, girl!”

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Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Charred Red Onion Tacos

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I’ve always envied those that are able to do what they love for their livelihood.  Although there are certainly downsides to it (as most authors, musicians, and artists know), there is great appeal to this lifestyle.  My sweetie is able to do what he loves, playing music and building instruments, and usually makes ends meet with the modest income that comes in.  It may not be all roses all the time, but there is something to be said about being able to have the time to spend on developing specialized skills and enjoying one’s passion.

Over the last few weeks Drew has been working long hours in the woodshop building a gourd banjo.  As a luthier (a beautiful way to say “builder of stringed instruments”) and newly learned clawhammer banjo player, he was intrigued when he heard Bob Lucas play a gourd banjo at a symposium called Common Ground on the Hill earlier this summer.  A couple of months later, he began to study plans of existing gourd banjos and set about building one himself.  After hours (and hours..and hours) of reading, planning and ordering supplies, and just a few weeks after the inaugural cutting of one large gourd, shipped from California, he sits playing his beautiful gourd banjo in the kitchen.

I am amazed that building a gourd banjo went from an idea of his to now, a few weeks later, a reality.  I do not have the skills required to build a musical instrument or the passion to do so myself but I most certainly am in awe of this beautiful instrument created by his hands.

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I do like my job and find excitement and satisfaction from it at times.  But as grateful for it as I am (and grateful for steady employment that affords us a comfortable home and meets all of our basic needs) I cannot honestly say it is my life’s passion.  Luckily, I get to spend time with my true passion from time to time and sometimes I even get to share it with others.  Tonight I volunteer taught a cooking class at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (a wonderful cancer and grief support clubhouse) and I got that feeling that I think Drew must feel when he is working on building a banjo or a guitar.  I felt like I was doing something that I could do forever.  I was completely relaxed, had fun, and felt so passionate about sharing my love for cooking with a great group of women.

Because I cook so much (daily), I sometimes take for granted the skills that I’ve acquired in the kitchen.  I’m just a simple home cook when it comes down to it but I am surprised when I show a class how to do something and they are excited and delighted by it.  Tonight I showed the women how to make a Mexican meal using butternut squash and black beans.  We made butternut squash and black bean chili and these butternut squash, black bean, and charred onion tacos.  At various points in the class I became animated and excited to show random little tips as they popped into my head.  How to slice an avocado in its peel.  How to peel and cut a butternut squash.  That you can eat the skin of a delicata squash.  That you can boil apple cider down into a glaze.  That you can warm and char a tortilla directly on the flame of a gas stove.  That you don’t have to measure everything exactly.  That a little chocolate in chili adds depth and richness.  Usually these little joys of the kitchen stay with me.  I am usually pretty quiet in the kitchen at home, choosing silence over music, focusing on the meditative act of chopping vegetables and washing dishes.  I usually take the little aha moments with cooking for granted or I assume that they will not delight anyone other than myself.  It was brilliant fun tonight to not only share my love for cooking but to have fourteen women clap, smile, and say mmmmmm along with me while I cooked, learned (yup–still learning!), and dished up samples of our fall fiesta.

I do hope you try these tacos.  They are a unique way to use my favorite fall vegetable, butternut squash.  They are filling and hearty, aromatic and flavorful.  It’s really a compliment when someone who loves meat tacos deems these an A++ (thanks, hon!).  Needless to say, if I ever have a restaurant, these are making the menu.

And whatever your passion, I hope you get to spend a few moments with it today.

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Butternut Squash Tacos with Charred Red Onion and Black Beans (and a bunch of yummy toppings!)

Tacos:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup black beans, dried and cooked, or canned is fine too—be sure to drain well
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 12 corn tortillas

For topping:

  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, washed and stems removed
  • ½ cup queso fresco (Mexican crumbling cheese)
  • ½ cup lowfat sour cream
  • 1 scallion (green onion), thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
  • Sriracha (garlic-chili hot sauce, a.k.a. “Rooster Sauce”)
  1.  Preheat oven to 375°.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with 1 teaspoon oil.
  2. Prepare the squash:  Cut the bottom off of the butternut squash to create a flat surface and stand squash on its end.  Cut the squash down the middle, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard (or…as reader Natashia suggests, you can clean and roast them, spreading out on a baking sheet as if you were roasting pumpkin seeds–takes about 20 minutes).  Peel the outside of the squash with a knife, taking care to always have a flat surface for stability.  Slice the squash into ½ inch slices.  Cut the slices into ½ inch diameter matchsticks, about 5 inches long.
  3. Place the squash sticks onto the oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Don’t crowd the pan—use two pans if needed.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes.  Poke with a  fork to test for doneness—the fork should easily pierce the squash and the squash should still hold its shape.  Remove from the oven when done.
  4. In the meantime, heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil on medium high in a cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet and add the onions and garlic along with a sprinkle of salt.  Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have browned and softened slightly.  Add the beans to the pan along with the cumin and stir for a moment until heated through.
  5. Heat a small skillet over high heat and add tortillas to the pan, one at a time, turning until they are heated and a little crisp.  Once all tortillas are heated, add a few sticks of squash to each, a large spoonful of the onion and bean mixture, and any toppings you like (from the toppings listed above).  Squeeze a wedge of lime over each and serve with Sriracha or another hot sauce on the side.

Makes 12 tacos

Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Bean, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing

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Wow wow wow….this summer is flying by!  July is drawing to a close and I have barely caught my breath.  But it’s been such a good summer…I dare say the it may be best I’ve had.  I’ve gone for many summer walks, the temperatures have been wonderful other than one intense week of 90’s, my pears are growing like crazy on the tree in my yard, we’ve gone trout fishing (catch and release) in some gorgeous Michigan rivers, and we have had some wonderful dinners with friends.  It’s pretty magical to sit outside on the patio until the sky is dark and the fireflies come out.

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It has been a summer of music!  We’ve taken the ferry to Manitowac, WI for Acoustic Fest (photos above!) and enjoyed Buttermilk Jamboree, NorEaster Festival, and Roots on the River.  I have met so many incredible people at these festivals and feel so invigorated by these new friendships.

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My work has begun to feel more routine and I really enjoy getting to know my coworkers.  I’ve flown around on the corporate plane doing research in stores in Indianapolis, Michigan, and Ohio and feel like I’m making a difference for a company I believe in.  Yes, things are turning up.

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I’m really excited to share the good news that Grand Rapids Magazine plans to publish an article about me in their October issue this year.  I’ve been interviewed for content and in two days a great local photographer is going to do a photo shoot with me!  I can’t tell you how excited I am!  I’ve never had a photo shoot before!  Wish me luck!

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A couple of weeks ago, I whipped up this quinoa salad after having one at our friend’s camp, the Tosebo Camp For Boys, over the fourth of July weekend.  The salad is very healthy and has the perfect combination of textures and flavors; crunchy, soft, sweet, and spicy.  It was the perfect meal for hot days when I stayed far, far away from the stove.  This is a great dish for potlucks, one dish dinners, and lunch and is easily adaptable to your taste preferences.  Enjoy!

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Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Beans, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing; Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup multi-colored quinoa (red, black, white)–or any color
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.5 cups black beans (I cook my own but you can use canned)
  • 1.5 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped (or you may use red onion, finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put quinoa and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Immediately turn down to a low simmer and cover.  Simmer the quinoa in the water until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  I’d check it as it cooks–sometimes I feel that the water absorbs better than other times and I’ve burnt it from time to time!
  2. Mix the quinoa, black beans, corn, red pepper, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the oil, lime juice, chipotle, adobo sauce, cumin, agave nectar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.  Serve topped with more cilantro and cubed avocado.

 

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Well, it’s been a little while!  I’ve been busy, busy, busy.  This past weekend I had a Dinner With Aura booth at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Green Market Expo.  It was so much fun!  I sold some granola and biscotti, raffled off Super Natural Everyday, and met so many awesome people who were interested in eating healthier.  Several folks mentioned that they were simply trying to reduce the amount of meat they ate, replacing a few meals a week with vegetarian options.  That got me so excited.  I truly believe that small changes add up.  It can be really intimidating to be expected to change everything about your eating habits.  Eating is such a personal and habitual experience so I believe that tackling one change at a time is the key to long-lasting change.  I met a lovely woman who wanted to start by eating vegan three days a week.  I’m so excited to hear how that goes for her and excited to see what new foods she will discover in the process.

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I’ve also been busy moving my honey into my house.  Having lived alone for three and a half years, this has been a big change!  We are in the process of merging our things and getting into a routine.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.

This weekend was so busy that I just ate really simple dishes.  I was cooking for myself this weekend so things were back to my usual one person meals, quinoa with sauteed kale, zucchini, carrots, etc.  I really don’t mind eating like that most of the time but it is fun to have someone to cook for and I tend to make more substantial meals when I’m not on my own.

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Today, I was so happy that at about 7:00 I finally had time to cook up the recipe for the Food Matters Project.  I was even more happy that it is finally spring and we have daylight at 7:00!  This dish was so easy to put together and so tasty.  All I can say is thank you for the awesome pick, Jess!  Once again, I had a hard time imagining what this salad would end up looking and tasting like.  The result was such a pleasant surprise.  It had so many flavors I love all in one bowl.  I modified the dish somewhat, adding quinoa, radishes, and peanut to the mix.  The chickpeas and quinoa provide protein and the nuts provide healthy fats.  This salad is a great main dish meal.  If you are looking for something a little different and very, very easy, try this!  You won’t be disappointed.  If you want the original recipe, head over to Jess’s site.  And to see the variations everyone came up with, head over to the FMP website.

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Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney;adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 small dried hot red chile or ¼ tsp of red chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup cashews (raw are fine)
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
  • 1 and ½ cups quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mangoes (can also use apricots)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  1. To make chutney:  In a small, dry skillet, combine cumin seeds, chili, cashews, and peanuts. Heat over medium heat, shaking pan frequently for 3 to 5 minutes or until everything colors slightly and becomes fragrant.
  2. Transfer to blender or food processor. Add garlic and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Process, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary, until finely ground but not as smooth as peanut butter.
  3. To assemble salad: In a salad bowl, toss chickpeas, quinoa, and fruit with chutney. Add lime juice and a little oil if needed to help bring everything together. Stir in cilantro and radishes. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.  Enjoy!!!

Lubia Chalow–Afghan Lemony Kidney Beans

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I’m happy to be hosting the Food Matters Project this week.  This was the perfect dish to make this Saturday on what was yet another rainy, cold April day in Michigan.  I have become accustomed over the last two months to the shared misery of a cold and rainy spring here (I have to remind myself that I am not alone in hoping for spring, lamenting every snow flake that falls–yup, we even got snow yesterday on April 14).  There is a sense of solidarity here in Michigan–we are in this together!  Because of this shared empathy about the weather, I kind of forgot that a lot of other areas of the country are having splendid spring weather, almost summery in fact.  So, here is to hoping that this dish is as satisfying in the warmer regions as it was here in the land of rain and snow.

I chose this dish for this week’s Food Matters Project because it is something that I normally might not make and I was really curious about it.  Bittman called it “Super Lemony Kidney Beans” and it sounded like it could either be really bad or really good.  Thank goodness it is the latter because this one, although requiring little hands-on time, takes a good chunk of time in the oven.  One thing that is really interesting about The Food Matters Project cookbook is that there are no photos so every recipe is kind of a surprise.  While I can usually imagine what the dish will taste like, I have a hard time imagining what it will look like.  This dish is based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow and the best way to describe it is a bean stew with preserved lemons and plenty of spices (spicy-flavorful, not spicy-hot).  Having never cooked anything from Afghan cuisine, I was excited to try.  It used a lot of the same spices that I love to use in my cooking…cardamom, mustard seeds (I could write a blog post on how many ways I use mustard seeds in my cooking!), cumin seeds, cinnamon, chile, and garlic.

Spices for Lubia Chalow

It resembles a big pot of chili with the exception that rather than simmering slowly on the stove, it spends a couple of hours in the oven.  You’ll need a nice, heavy pot or Dutch oven–I used a Martha Stewart enameled cast iron Dutch oven.  A thinner pot might burn the food on the bottom in the oven.

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I am staying at my friend, June’s, beautiful little house in the country.  It is so cozy in her house and, having been a little damp and cold after running through pouring rain into the house, I decided to plant my chair right by the oven and work on my computer in the warmth.  I also took some breaks to take some photos of the birds (through the window, of course)! 

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After smelling cardamom, cumin, and cinnamon wafting through the air for the better part of two hours I could hardly wait to try this.  It was satisfying and very unique with the preserved lemons.  Oh, one thing I should note is that the recipe for the lemons makes a ton of preserved lemons (about 3 cups or so).  You can easily halve the recipe for the lemons and have enough for this dish with a little leftover.  Oh, and be sure to stop on by and see what everyone else on the Food Matters Project ended up creating here.

And just so you don’t think it’s all gloom and doom here, the sun finally came out Sunday (after the snow, sleet, and rain had made their point during the morning and early afternoon).  I finally got out for a walk with the pup.  It felt wonderful to get outside, breath in the fresh air, pick some daffodils, and stretch our legs.  I think my dog sums up perfectly how I felt yesterday–no words needed.

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Enjoy this dish and enjoy the springtime, wherever you are.

Lubia Chalow--Afghan Kidney Bean Stew

Lubia Chalow (Super-Lemony Kidney Beans); from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook

Serves 6 to 8; Takes about 3 hours, largely unattended

Based on an Afghan dish called lubia chalow, this soupy bean stew begins with quick preserved lemons, a staple of Middle Eastern cooking.  Usually the lemons are left whole or halved, heavily salted, and set aside to cure in a mixture of spices and their own juice.  Chopping the fruit helps speed the process considerably with delicious (if not entirely authentic) results.  Six lemons are enough so that you can use some of the mixture for the beans and store the rest in a jar in the fridge for later.  (They get better and better with age.)  These beans are good served over Basmati or jasmine rice with a dollop of yogurt.

  • 6 lemons
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I reduced to about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 4 cardamom pods (I did not have cardamom pods so I added 1 tablespoon cardamom–I love cardamom though–if you aren’t sure, you may want to add a teaspoon, then adjust at the end of cooking)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried mild chile (I used ancho)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound dried kidney beans, rinsed and picked over; don’t bother to soak them (I used cranberry beans, which are very similar)
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, for garnish (I used cilantro)
  1. Heat the oven to 325°.  Trim the ends from 4 of the lemons; quarter them, remove the seeds, and put them (rind included) in a food processor.  Add the juice of the remaining 2 lemos to the food processor (again, without the seeds) along with 2 teaspoons salt.  Pulse several times to chop the lemons into bits but don’t puree.  Put the mixture in a jar and leave it on the counter while you cook the beans; shake it every once in a while.
  2. Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for about a minute more. Stir in the cumin, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, and dried chile; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds or so.  Stir in the tomato paste.
  3. Add the kidney beans and water to cover by about 3 inches.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and bake for 90 minutes (you can ignore the beans this whole time).  After 90 minutes, stir the beans and check to see if they are tender.  If they are, add water if necessary to keep the beans covered by about 1 inch and stir in 1/2 cup of the pickled lemons. Cover and continue baking for another 30 minutes.  If the beans are not yet tender, make sure they are covered by about 2 inches water and don’t add the lemons yet.  Cover the pot and check again in 30 minutes; repeat this step as necessary until the beans are tender enough to add the lemons.
  4. When the beans are completely tender and the liquid has thickened, fish out the cinnamon stick and chile if you like (and the cardamom pods if you can find them easily).  Then taste and adjust the seasonings, adding pepper and some more of the lemons if you like.  Serve, garnished with the mint (you can make the beans ahead and refrigerate them for up to several days; gently reheat before serving.

Lentil “Sloppy Joes” and Food Bloggers Against Hunger

Welcome to a very special Monday!  Today 200 food bloggers will dedicate their posts to raising awareness about hunger.  I am so happy to be participating in this great cause.  In addition to providing some information about hunger and links for more information, we will all post budget friendly recipes on our blogs today.

Hunger is a close personal issue to me.  My family was very low income and had to scrape to get by many weeks.  We had a very large vegetable garden that helped a great deal (and 5 kids to provide all the labor!).  If we ran out of groceries before the next paycheck came, we would eat big bowls of popcorn for dinner.  Us kids didn’t care–popcorn nights were the best!  But as an adult, I can now see and understand the worry my mom and stepdad faced week to week, paycheck to paycheck.  I still remember the embarrassment on my moms face when I blurted out that we sold our horses so we could buy winter boots.  My mom had to be pretty savvy about cooking on a limited budget.  One of her go-to recipes was lentil sloppy joes.  With this recipe, you can feed a family of four for less than $1.50 per person (this amount figures in pantry staples as well as fresh ingredients)!  Not only is it budget-friendly, this recipe is very healthy to boot and is comprised primarily of pantry staples.

I call attention to the amount spent per person for the lentil sloppy joe recipe because this figure is very important to many families, especially those who participate in SNAP, the nation’s food stamp program.  The Giving Table (organizer of the Food Bloggers Against Hunger) states that SNAP recipients are limited to an average of $3-$4 per person each day to supplement their food budget.  Additionally, the government subsidizes products like soy beans, wheat, and corn instead of fresh produce, so the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest.  Furthermore, 1 in 4 families are skipping healthy food purchases often or always due to price (click here for more info).  Overall, more than 50 million Americans face food insecurity.  In a nation of such abundance, this sad fact is difficult to believe and even more difficult to ignore.

The issue of hunger among children is especially heartwrenching.  Children who do not get the proper nutrition are not as healthy as other children (see here) and have lower academic performance.  When you are thinking about how hungry you are, it is difficult to focus on school work.  Much has been done in schools to ease this issue.  Free lunches are provided to children who qualify based on income.  Our family received free school lunches, which we took advantage of several days a week.  Despite measures being taken to provide school lunches to all children in need, this does not address the issue of children showing up to school hungry or going home to a house with limited food.  3 out of 5 teachers say they have children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry (from the Hunger In Our Schools Study).  Many teachers bring food to school to help children who arrive hungry to school in order to help them concentrate through the morning.  If you want to help protect funding for federal nutrition programs, click here.

Fresh foods are often more expensive than processed foods, preventing some families from buying fresh produce.  Organic produce is even more expensive.  I have hope that this issue can be eased.  In fact, in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live, I’ve seen progress toward this issue.  The Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is one place of progressive change.  They offer the Double Up Food Bucks program.  When a person eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) uses his or her SNAP Bridge Card to shop for food at a farmers’ market, the amount of money that he or she spends is matched with Double Up Food Bucks bonus tokens. The tokens can then be exchanged for Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.  For more information on this wonderful program, click here.

Shoppers who do not have a farmer’s market or a program like Double Up Food Bucks, can still take advantage of lower-cost produce.  With some tasty recipes, a home cook can transform inexpensive produce and pantry staples into fabulous meals.  There are several budget-friendly dishes that you can find on my blog; several can be made for $4!  For example, for just $4, a family can dig into this silky, gingery cabbage dish.  For just $4, you can also make these lentil-rice stuffed collard greens.  This red lentil dal is another quick and inexpensive recipe, relying primarily on pantry ingredients.  Finally, my favorite!  Polenta is a cheap, filling, and healthy meal base.  Serve with oven roasted vegetables and you have an inexpensive, healthy, and filling meal.  Click here for my polenta with roasted vegetables en papillote recipe.

So what can you do?  

  1. Please join the No Kid Hungry campaign in standing up for kids in need. Urge your members of Congress to protect federal nutrition programs that feed our nation’s hungry kids.  Just click here to get started.  It only takes a minute at most.
  2. Head over to the No Kid Hungry website to donate or to find local and national organizations in your area.  These organizations are always looking for helping hands.
  3. Watch A Place At The Table to understand more about our nations food crisis.
  4. Try to live off of $4 for one day to put yourself in the shoes of a food insecure person.
  5. Make the lentil sloppy joe recipe below!  I think it is way better than “real” sloppy joes.  I promise–you won’t miss the meat.

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Lentil “Sloppy Joes”

  • 1 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider is best)
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns, split (preferably whole wheat)
  1. Put lentils and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender.  This will take about 30 minutes.  
  2. While lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skilled over medium heat.  When hot, add onions and green pepper and cook until the onions have softened somewhat, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard powder, chili powder, molasses, and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Turn heat to lowest setting and simmer 10 minutes until thickened.
  3. Stir cooked lentils into sauce mixture.  Serve on toasted buns.  This recipe is vegan as-is but you can add a slice of cheese to the top of the mixture on the bun and melt it under the broiler if you are not vegan.
  4. Serves 4.

Indian Cooking At Home: Easy Red Lentil Dal

Red Lentil and Vegetable Dal

Welcome to another Food Matters Project/Meatless Monday!  Today, Anita from Cooking Poetry chose Dal With Lots of Vegetables from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook.  I love making a quick and easy dal and have been meaning for some time to show everyone what I typically do for a quick and easy weeknight supper.  You can add whatever vegetables you want.  Today I kept it simple, adding just carrots and onions.  Cauliflower, eggplant, tomato, potato all work well in this dish also.  You can fiddle with the combination of spices to find something that you like and that works with your current pantry contents.  I served mine with whole wheat naan and basmati rice. This dish is hard to mess up so have fun with it and enjoy!

To see the other FMP cooks’ takes on this dish, head over to The Food Matters Project website.

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Easy Vegetable and Red Lentil Dal adapted from Mark Bittman The Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 tbsp butter, ghee, or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into little chunks
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 dried mild chilis
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar, optional
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  1.  Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, and carrots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the cardamom, cumin, mustard seeds, garam masala, cinnamon, and chilis and stir until the spices are fragrant but not burning, just a minute.
  2. Add the lentils and cover with water by about 1 inches. Cook until lentils and vegetables are tender and the mixture is thick, about 35-45 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve.

Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers With Homemade Sriracha Mayo

Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers

March 11.  Daylight savings time has passed.  Another cold and dreary day in Grand Rapids but despite the weather, I have hope!  Hope that spring will be here soon.  Hope that if I keep putting one foot in front of the other I will trudge to happy destiny.  On days like today, I love being able to turn my attention to cooking.  Cooking is the ultimate form of creativity for me.  It calms my mind and turns a bright light on inside of me.  I get so excited to see how things will turn out but the process is, in an of itself, often enough for me.

Today happened to be Food Matters Project Monday.  Evi and Sam from Fifth Floor Kitchen chose the recipe for us this week…brown rice and lamb burgers with spinach.  As you know, I’m not a huge fan of cooking with meat so I opted to make lentil and brown rice burgers with lots of veggies.  I already had a pot of lentils cooked up for who-knows-what-I-would-want-to-do-with-them.  I always have a use for lentils and have a deep fondness for them.  I also happened to have cooked brown rice on hand, having cooked it for quick weekend meals.  Score!

Next came the bit where I decided how I wanted to flavor these bad boys.  I sautéed diced onions, celery, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, a couple of leaves of shredded collard greens, and some fresh parsley with some olive oil and salt.  When they were cooked up I tossed in a handful of sunflower seeds for crunch.

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Next, I blended some lentils with some rice and two eggs in my Breville blender (you may need to use a food processor if you don’t have a heavy-duty blender).  After that, I mixed the lentil-rice-egg mixture with the vegetables, stirred in some miso paste for flavor and some brown rice flour for texture and holding power.  The result was a flavorful, healthy patty with just the right texture and really nice umami flavors.

This recipe made about 15 small patties (I’m trying to remember how many I ate and how many I started with….hmmmm).  I made them small because my buns were small but you can make these any size you want.  I experimented with baking vs. pan-cooking and I found that cooking these in the pan were easier because they stuck to the baking sheet for me a little bit.  Next time, if I chose to bake them, I would use my silicone baking liner and that method would work out just fine.

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These measurements are not exact…and you can add the seasonings you want if you don’t have some of the things I added.  No biggie.  Just make sure you can form these into patties and that they hold together and you are good to go!

I served mine on a wheat bun with sliced avocado, thinly sliced onion, swiss cheese, and homemade sriracha mayo.  I cannot WAIT to post about the sriracha.  I am highly recommending you all try to make it at home–it’s easy and delicious and tastes even better than the store-bought kind.

To see what the other creative takes the Food Matters Project cooks came up with, head over to the website.

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Brown Rice and Lentil Burgers with Homemade Sriracha Mayo

Makes about 15 small patties

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 5-6 mushrooms, diced into small bits
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 leaves of collard greens, chopped into small pieces (you can substitute any green)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • Small handful of sunflower seeds (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups cooked brown lentils
  • 1 and ¼ cup cooked rice, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping Tbsp miso paste
  • about 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  1. Heat olive oil in a pan and add all of the ingredients through parsley.  Saute for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently.  When vegetables soften, turn off heat and add sunflower seeds.  Transfer to large bowl.
  2. Put lentils, 1 cup rice, 2 eggs, salt, and miso paste into a blender or food processor and pulse until combined.
  3. Pour lentil-rice-egg mixture onto the vegetable mixture along with the remaining 1/4 cup of rice and combine thoroughly.  Add flour until the mixture is thick enough to form into patties that hold their shape.
  4. Heat one teaspoon oil in a non-stick skillet and add patties to the pan, cooking in batches on low heat until the patties are browned lightly on the bottom, about 5-7 minutes.  Flip and cook on the other side for about 5 minutes until browned.  Transfer to a plate and cook the rest of the patties in batches.
  5. Serve on a bun with any toppings you would like!  I love avocado, lettuce, onion, dijon mustard, sriracha mayo, cheeses….mmmmm….I think I might have another!

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