Favorite black bean soup.

black bean soup gluten free vegan low fat

Around here we make a lot of different meals.  I rarely use the same recipe twice.  Not that the recipes aren’t good, it’s just that I love to try new things.  However, I definitely have a stash of cherished recipes that I have made time and time again.  This black bean soup is one of them.  Flavorful, filling, creamy, and comforting, this soup is a favorite in our house.  It is extremely versatile as well (good on its own, fabulous with all kinds of toppings, leave the beans whole and eat with rice, use in nachos, etc) and keeps in the fridge wonderfully.  It’s just the thing to make on Sunday and eat all week.  The original recipe comes from my beloved Cooks Illustrated and uses a massive ham hock to cook with the beans to impart flavor.  I obviously leave out the meat and taste absolutely does not suffer.  However, since this soup is so simple, it is imperative to only use very fresh and flavorful broth, spices, and vegetables.  Bonus: cooking this will fill your house with a wonderful, subtle scent of cumin and bay leaf.

black bean soup gluten free vegan low fat

Favorite black bean soup

This recipe is cooked in two steps, the beans and the aromatics/soup.

For the beans you will need:

5c water, plus extra as needed

1 lb (2c) dry black beans, rinsed and picked over for debris

2 large bay leaves

1/8t baking soda

1t salt

Place water, beans, bay leaves, and baking soda in a large pot with lid.  Bring to boil over medium high heat.  Stir in the salt, reduce the heat to low.  Cover and simmer briskly until beans are tender, between 1 and 1.5 hours (this depends on how old your dried beans are)  Start checking the beans for doneness at 1 hour and add extra water during this time if necessary to cover the beans.  After they are done discard the bay leaves but DO NOT drain the beans.  Set aside and start the second step: the soup!

For the soup you will need:

3T oil of choice

2 large yellow onions, chopped finely

1 very large carrot, chopped finely

4 celery ribs, chopped finely

1/2t salt

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2t red pepper flakes-

*note: this amount does not make it spicy, it is for flavor only.  I LOVE it spicy but I have small children so I add extra into the adults bowls as needed.  If you like spicy, you may want to either increase the chili flakes, add chopped fresh hot peppers to your aromatics, or add in some canned chipotle chiles.

1.5T good quality ground cumin

6c broth

2T cornstarch

2T water

2T lime juice

Heat oil in your pot/dutch oven until shimmering.  Add in your onions, carrot, celery, and salt and cook until they are soft and very lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low and add your garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the beans, bean cooking liquid, and broth.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes to all the flavors to develop.

Ladle 1.5 cups of beans and 2c of liquid into a blender and puree, then return the puree to the pot.  Stir together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl until combined, then gradually stir half of the mixture into the pot.  Bring the soup to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, to fully thicken.  If the soup is still not sufficiently thickened after boiling, add in the remaining cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil again.  Pull the soup off the heat and stir in the lime juice.  Ladle into bowls and top with any desired toppings.  It will keep in the fridge for about 5 days.

Suggested toppings to pass at the table: (choose as many or as few as you want!)

avocado slices

diced tomato

crumbled tortilla chips

dollops of cashew sour cream

chopped cilantro

thin slices of green onions

diced red onions

diced bell peppers

lime wedges

mango chunks

shredded cabbage

fresh hot tortillas

diced fresh chile peppers

Asparagus with an orange-almond pan sauce.

asparagus orange almond thyme roasted

I dont know about you guys, but I LOVE asparagus.  Locally grown asparagus has a short season around here, so when its available I like to eat it all the time.  Its a great source of Vitamin K, B vitamins, and folate AND its on the clean 15 for pesticide residue.  The way I normally always eat it is oven roasted because its fast and easy and requires minimal cleanup.  But tonight I was craving something a little fancier.  Thumbing through my Cooks Illustrated (did I mention this is the best standard cookbook ever?) I found this little gem: a quick orange-almond pan sauce for steamed asparagus.  Uh, yes please?  This came out so delicious: a little citrusy, a little sweet, and a nice textural crunch. It looked beautiful too- would be great for a dinner party side.

orange almond thyme asparagus cooks illustrated

Pan steamed asparagus with an orange-almond sauce: (serves 4)

You will need:

2.5T olive oil

1/4c sliced almonds

1/2 cup orange juice

zest of one small orange

1T white wine

2t minced fresh thyme

2T minced shallot

1t white vinegar

2 bunches asparagus

salt and pepper, to taste

Drizzle 1T olive oil in a large skillet and heat until oil is shimmering.  Add almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until almonds are golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add orange juice, wine, and 1t thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is slightly thickened, 5-7 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and stir in 2T minced shallot and 1t white vinegar.  Spoon sauce into a bowl and set aside.  Rinse skillet and wipe dry.  Add 1.5T olive oil to skillet and heat until oil is shimmering.  Add half of asparagus to pan and then add the other half, pointing the second halfs spears the opposite way.  This allows the asparagus to cook more evenly.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Remove lid and plate the asparagus.  Spoon the sauce over the asparagus and zest the orange over it.  Sprinkle the rest of the chopped thyme and serve!


Also, my basic everyday recipe for asparagus is below if you’re interested:

Oven-Roasted Asparagus:

Preheat oven to  400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and place washed and trimmed asparagus spears on top.  Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to evenly distribute the oil onto each spear.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, pop in oven and roast for 6-15 minutes, depending on how thick your spears are and how well done you like your asparagus.  Keep checking it and take it out when its to your liking.  I like to squeeze a little lemon on top after its cooked.  Also I sometimes throw a few whole green onions in with the asparagus while it cooks.  They come out a little charred and have a lot of deep flavor.  Cut them all up and toss with some wheat berries or brown rice, avocado, and herbs = a super quick and tasty lunch.

roasted oven asparagus green onion

lemon-lime chia A G U A F R E S C A

chia seed limeade agua fresca natural gatorade

Its been a rough couple of weeks over here, hence the lack of posts.  Storms, eye infections, sprained toes and general want-to-pull-your-hair-out mayhem that comes with having two small children.  This week has been mostly sunny and fairly warm (up to 77 one day!!) and all the fruit trees are budding out.  It seems that spring has come, albeit early.

The warm weather has got me craving a some cool drinks and I have been making a staple of mine- chia limeade.  Chia has so many health benefits (calcium, fiber, omega-3s, antioxidants) and is great to fill you up a little in between meals.  I drink it a lot at work between food breaks.  This drink is easy to make and keeps well in the fridge for a few days.  It is fabulous to take on a hike or run or to drink during/after a workout as it has fiber, water, simple carbs and electrolytes (a great replacement for the artificial gatorade people at the gym like to chug)

chia seed limeade organic natural sugar free gatorade

chia limeade (makes 2 servings, 16 ounces total)Juice of 1 lime + 1 lemon

3 soft medjool dates OR maple syrup to taste, or even splenda to make it sugar-free

2 cups of pure water

pinch of salt, or to taste (optional, this is for electrolyte value if using as a workout recovery drink)

2.5 T chia seeds

1. IF USING DATES, soak them in the water for 5 minutes.  Then pour the dates and the water, plus the citrus juice and salt into a blender and blend thoroughly until smooth.  If you are very picky about texture you may want to strain the resulting mixture.  If your blender is good it should be totally smooth though.  Pour mixture into a mason jar.  IF USING MAPLE SYRUP, simply mix it with the water, juice and salt in a mason jar.

2.  Add the chia seeds to your jar, screw the top on TIGHTLY and shake shake shake shake!  This is crucial to not getting any lumps.  Let it sit for a minute and then shake vigorously again.  Place in the fridge and leave it for at least 30 minutes so the chia seeds can hydrate.

3. ENJOY!  Shake thoroughly before you drink it.  Since it is totally natural the contents will settle to the bottom.

To switch up the flavors:

berry:  blend a handful of berries with the liquid before adding chia.

melon: blend a few chunks of melon with the liquid before adding chia.

coconut: use coco water instead of plain water

hibiscus: brew hibiscus tea, let cool and use instead of water (this makes a lovely pink red color and is full of anti-oxidants, you may be familiar with hibiscus through Starbuck’s ubiquitous passion tea.)

tamarind: add a teaspoon or two of tamarind paste to the liquid and mix thoroughly before adding chia.

Much love,


Black rice and roasted squash salad.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I saw this recipe in the January issue of Bon Appetit and I had to try it!  It looked so bright and colorful.  Grain salads are so satisfying and keep well in the fridge.  I loved how this turned out, it’s definitely a keeper.  I served this with a quick coconut milk-miso-lime butternut squash soup (made from the other half of the squash from the recipe), and my chili roasted brussels.

microgreen black rice salad pomegranate butternut squash honey

Black rice and roasted squash salad. (adapted from Bon Appetit’s January 2014 issue)

2 cups black rice

½ medium butternut squash (or kabocha, or acorn) peeled, seeds removed, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons oil for roasting squash

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey (maple syrup would also work here)

2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 cup pomegranate seeds

1 cup microgreens or sprouts (I used some overgrown spicy microgreens, roughly chopped)

½ cup pistachios, chopped (pepitas or hazelnuts would also go well here)

Preheat the oven to 450.  In a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, add rice and 2.5c stock or water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 45 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, take off lid.  Place kitchen towel (folded in half to fit) over open pot.  Replace lid and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  (This step ensures fluffy, perfect and NOT SOGGY rice every time without a rice cooker.)  Allow rice to cool a little before assembling salad- warm rice is fine, just not hot as it will wilt the fresh produce.

Meanwhile, toss squash with a few tablespoons of oil, and a little salt and pepper.  Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment (for easy cleanup and no sticking) and bake for 30-45 minutes, until squash is  soft, golden and browned around the edges.  Allow squash to cool for 10 minutes before proceeding.

While squash is cooling, mix the oil, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl.

Place rice and squash in a large bowl.  Add pistachios, scallions and pom seeds.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the microgreens and vinaigrette; toss gently.  Serve!

Note:  If you will have leftovers, keep the microgreens separate  otherwise they will go soggy in the fridge which is no fun.


Gingery sesame-soy vinaigrette + a simple salad to serve it on.

asian carrot romaine apple salad sesame gingerI have been craving salad after salad this winter.  I think it is because I crave the vibrant colors and raw textures of summer produce.  Bright and colorful salads are a sweet spot in winter.  Packed with color and therefore nutrition, they are a great way to get your family’s veggies in!  Serve with a simple soup, baked sweet potatoes, or a quinoa dish and you have a complete meal.  This is a simple and quick salad to put together as a side yet it looks beautiful and it is so good!

The dressing is a sweet ginger-soy vinaigrette that keeps well in the fridge.  A few years ago I started making my own salad dressings and I’ve never looked back.  They are SO much more delicious than any store-bought dressing and you know exactly what goes in them!  Pictured below is the leftover dressing I had after using it on 2 adult salads and 1 kid salad.  Probably about a cup leftover.  You could easily double the recipe so you could keep it on hand for future salad-eating.


Sesame-ginger vinaigrette:

1/3c rice vinegar (unseasoned)

1T sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

small piece of ginger, minced (about 1/2-1t, depending on your taste)

1T toasted sesame seeds

2 1/2T soy sauce

1/4c brown sugar

1/3c oil, I used avocado oil

1 thinly sliced green onion

1T fresh orange or tangerine juice (optional-if you dont have any on hand, dont sweat it)

Whisk all ingredients together and pour into a mason jar to store.  Oil will separate so make sure to give it a good shake before you use it otherwise you’ll only be getting oil.

I served this over a simple salad of romaine, sliced rainbow carrots, chopped pink lady apple, and a little thinly sliced red onion.  It would also play well with Napa cabbage, asian pear, tangerines/oranges, cucumber, avocado, or spinach.  Use whatever you have on hand!  The beauty of cooking is in experimenting and making the recipe your own.  Enjoy!

Love, A.

Roasted brussels sprouts with homemade sweet chili sauce.

brussels sprouts roasted sweet chili

Brussels sprouts have been my latest obsession.  They are delicious, healthy and so cute!  There is a booth at my farmers market that sells huge beautiful stalks of them for five dollars.  I have been buying them every week and roasting them with a little oil, salt, and pepper.  So simple yet so delicious.  I love to roast them because it brings out a little sweetness in them and they retain their lovely texture (and nutrients) this way.  My mom used to boil them when I was a kid and I hated them because they were so soggy.

I came across a recipe for sweet chili glazed roasted brussels  over at Bleubirdblog.com and decided I had to try them this way.  They are amazing and a real hit around here with everyone.  I have made them 3 times so far and plan on making more this week.  Sweet, salty, soft but a little crunchy and browned in spots, they are a must try.

Roasted brussels sprouts with sweet chili sauce.

Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half (use however many you’d like- I used about 5 cups)

1-2T oil of choice

Salt and Pepper

2 heaping Tablespoons sweet chili sauce (recipe follows)

2t fish sauce (totally optional, tastes great without it)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (or foil).  Toss brussels sprouts in a large bowl with the oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread brussels sprouts out on the pan and place in oven.  Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the sprouts are browned a little on the edges.

While the sprouts are roasting, make your sweet chili sauce (or use store-bought).  I make it at home because its super easy and I know exactly whats in it.

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

3 Red Fresno chilis (jalapenos work just as well but the sauce wont be red), stems removed and coarsely chopped- remove the seeds if you want it less spicy

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/4c white vinegar

1/2c sugar

3/4c water

1t salt

1T cornstarch

2T water

Blend the chilis, garlic, 3/4c water, sugar, vinegar and salt in a blender, pulsing as you go.  You don’t want it to be totally smooth.  You want little pieces of chili and garlic still intact.  When you have reached the desired consistency, pour it into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes.  Mix the cornstarch and 2T water in a small bowl until fully combined.  Add mixture to the pan and return to a boil, whisking constantly until mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes.   Remove from heat.

Take 2T (heaping) of the sweet chili sauce and mix it withe the fish sauce, if using.  Remove the brussels sprouts from the oven after they are done and toss them with the chili sauce mixture.  Return them to the pan and roast in the oven for another 5 minutes.  Take them out and serve!  I ate mine with a herb and pepitas quinoa and some cucumber and avocado dressed with lime.

roasted brussels sprouts quinoa herb

Mexican style chopped salad (raw vegan)

vegan mexican radish chopped salad

I love chopped salads.  There is something wonderful about the differences of textures and flavors between the ingredients.  This one is Mexican style with cilantro, pepitas, radish, avocado, and a lime vinaigrette.  I’ve made it twice already-once for me and once for family and it is a favorite with all.  Watermelon radish is a mild radish with a green skin and a white and hot pink flesh, hence the name.

watermelon radish

I’ve grown them in my garden this year and they are super easy, just like other radishes.  They only take about 4 weeks to mature and they are a great cover crop.  Easy to grow in pots too!

Radish and orange chopped salad
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

1 avocado, pitted peeled and diced

large handful cilantro, roughly chopped

2 watermelon radishes or 5 red radishes, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds

1/2 a red onion, very thinly sliced (use less if you don’t care for onion)

1 cucumber, quartered and chopped

1/2 a small jicama, peeled and cut into match sticks

3 small to medium oranges, peeled and pith cut away, then cut crosswise into thin slices (take care to remove seeds)

1 small head romaine lettuce, washed dried and chopped

1/4c pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), toasted or kept raw if preferred

juice of 2-3 limes

3T avocado oil or other neutral tasting oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4t salt

Combine lime juice, oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and mix well.  Let sit at least 5 minutes while combining all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour dressing over the salad, mix well, and serve immediately.  I served this with black bean soup and it was perfect together!

Since its Saturday, I’m making my meal plan for the coming week, which includes 5 easy healthy dinners:

1.Tempeh walnut meatballs with zucchini noodles and sautéed thyme mushrooms

2. Sweet and sour pineapple and red bell with cashews and sugar snap peas over coconut rice

3. Burrito bowls: Black beans, rice, guacamole, Pico de gallo, sautéed fajita veggies (red and green bells, red onion), lettuce.

4. Spicy Thai coconut soup with mushrooms and edamame

5. Black eyed pea succotash and sautéed kale.

Love, A.