Tag Archives: Beans/Legumes

Chili for Justice

Today was the annual Equal Justice Foundation Chili Cook-off at my home-away-from-home, the Boyd Law Building.  Because I am an ardent supporter of law students doing public interest work, as well as any event that allows me to bring a kitchen appliance to school, I made a batch of chili.

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Alas, it was not the winning entry, but it’s still good, I promise!  See—these ladies thought so:

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There was some excellent competition–check out this line-up:

When looking for a recipe to start from, I went straight to the ultimate online emporium of deliciousness, the Whole Foods website.  I used one of their veggie chili recipes for inspiration, but modified it because it involved eggplant, and I thought eggplant in chili sounded a little sketchy.  I used acorn squash instead—roasted at 400 for about 30 minutes.

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I drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, put a bit of water in the bottom of the pan, and covered with foil before roasting.  Because that’s what my mom does, and that’s a good enough reason for anything, I think.

Saute  the onion, garlic, corn kernels, and jalapeno in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for about 5 minutes, and then add the spices.

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Then add the beans, tomatoes, and veggie stock and simmer until your chili intuition tells you you’re on the home stretch.  (I’d say I let it go for about 20 minutes.)  Add the acorn squash (just scrape it out of the skin and break it up in the chili as you stir) for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.  Finally, add the lime zest and juice just before serving and stir.

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Acorn Chili

  • 1 c. frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds scraped out, and roasted until tender
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large onion, diced (or one small)
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds and ribs included for spice)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can tomatoes (the fire-roasted kind are the best, I think)
  • 2 cups veggie stock/broth (add more towards the end if you’d like thinner chili)
  • zest and juice of one lime

Saute the onion, corn kernels, minced garlic, and jalapeno until softened and fragrant (5 minutes or so).  Add the spices and stir.  Next, add the beans, tomatoes, and veggie stock and simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Scoop the flesh of the roasted acorn squash into the chili and simmer for another 10 minutes, breaking up the squash as you stir.  Add the lime zest and juice just before serving.



Due to the set-up of my class schedule this semester, Thursday is usually the day when I can take a little break from reading, hit the grocery store, and restock my fridge with home-spun healthy eats.  After finishing class today, I picked up some staples and got to work.  I didn’t use any recipes, but ended up with some good stuff!  First up: a beans-and-veggies salad.  Ingredient round-up:

All you need to do here is drain and rinse the beans and dice the veggies…

…whisk together the dressing,

…stir to combine everything,

…and say hello to lunch!

Lemon-Tahini Two-Bean Salad

  • 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • about 3/4 c. diced sugar snap peas
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 diced avocado


  • 2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Drain and rinse the beans, and combine them with the diced veggies.  Add the dressing, stir to coat, taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Next, I wanted to make some granola bars.  I often get snacky during long days of class, and I hate buying packaged stuff at the cafe in the law building or from the vending machine.  I’m sort of a processed food snob–I like making things myself so I know what’s in them.  As Cher says in Clueless (albeit while referring to a very different topic), “You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet.”  I don’t like ingesting mystery ingredients, and so a new recipe was born!

First, I toasted the dry ingredients in the oven.

I found some recipes online that included wheat germ, but I didn’t have any of that so I used ground flax instead.  It’s great to keep around for making fake “eggs” for vegan baking, putting in smoothies, sprinkling on oatmeal, etc.  Keep it in the freezer for longer shelf life (with your popsicles, of course).

While the dry ingredients were toasting, I cooked the wet ingredients (or, what I like to refer to as “the goo factor”) until the sugar was dissolved, and then assembled everything.

I combined everything, pressed it into an 8×8 pan, and baked.  Then, I tried to get one out to see if this was going to be a granola bar success story, and it was not a bar.  It was a pile.

BUT–I went to pout (actually, to do some reading), and when I came back later, they were completely cooled and held together just fine.  I really need to learn some kitchen patience.

White Chocolate Banana Granola Bars (makes 12)

  • 2 c. oats
  • 1/2 c. ground flax
  • 3/4 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/2 c. millet
  • 4 tbsp Earth Balance or butter
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar (I used a very scant 1/4 c.)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 of an overripe-ish banana
  • 1/2 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the oats, almonds, flax, and millet on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally (the almonds should turn a light golden brown).  Cook the butter, honey, and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat just until the sugar is dissolved.  Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Add the sugar mixture to the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the 1/2 banana, sliced very thin, and the white chocolate chips.  Stir to coat all the dry ingredients, and press the mixture firmly into a greased 8×8 pan.  Lower the oven temperature to 300, and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool completely, and then cut into 12 squares.

I’m the kind of dork that gets really excited about new recipes, and I think these are particularly exciting because they’re sort of “choose your adventure” recipes.  You could switch up the ingredients in all kinds of different ways: different beans and veggies in the salad, or different flavors in the dressing, and different add-ins for the granola bars.  Oh, the possibilities!  Next Thursday can’t come soon enough.

Green Week

Classes, man.  They really cut into my time for making food and taking pictures of it.  But—it’s great to be back in Iowa City, once again learning the laws and hanging out with my wonderful friends/colleagues.

After making it through the first week of the new semester, we had a birthday party for a certain dear friend and faithful blog reader, and the decorating committee decided to replace all of the light bulbs in the party venue with green ones.

Ever since then, everything seems to have a bit of a greenish tinge.  So, I just ran with it and made some green food.

Trader Joe’s (which has recently opened a new location in Des Moines, making my life at least 5% more joyous than it already was) sells edamame hummus.  I thought this was a pretty ingenious idea when I saw it, and figured I should try to replicate it at home with my trusty food processor.  The result was very tasty, if I do say so myself, and the ingredient list is simple and short.  Here’s most of what you need:

Throw all of the ingredients except the olive oil in the food processor and turn it on.  While it runs, pour olive oil through the spout until it reaches a creamy consistency.  I’m guessing I used about 2 tablespoons.  Stop the processor and taste for seasoning (carrot optional).

I decided it needed a little heat, so a threw in a couple shakes of these…

…and that was it! A full week’s supply of hummus—always a good feeling.

Edamame Hummus

  • 1.5 cups cooked shelled edamame (I used a bag of frozen edamame, defrosted in the fridge.)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons (approximately) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

I immediately slathered some of this in a pita pocket with some chopped scallion and snap peas…it was a monochromatic luncheon masterpiece.

Kale is another green thing I’ve been loving lately.  I’m trying to branch out from spinach and try other greens, so I’ve been eating kale raw in salads and sautéed as a side dish.  Here’s the thing about the salads: kale is kind of a high-maintenance vegetable in that it doesn’t taste very good raw unless you massage it with some sort of dressing in order to take away the bitterness.  No, I’m not kidding—google “massaged kale salad” and you will see that I’m not just making this up.  There are plenty of recipes for dressing out there, but basically you just need some sort of acid and a little oil.  Try putting your desired amount of chopped kale in a salad bowl, squeezing some lemon juice over it, and drizzling on a half-teaspoon or so of tahini (olive oil would be another good candidate).  Then just get your hands in there and massage it around—it’ll be messy but worth it. *  Make sure all of the leaves are coated.

*If I may digress for a moment (if you are not familiar with The Office you can skip this part)—it is surprisingly difficult to write a blog about cooking and eating things without numerous “That’s what she said” sentences.  I think I’m just going to stop trying.

Anyhoo—if you’d rather not massage your kale, you can sautee it.  Tear the leaves of one bunch of kale off the tough stalks, chop them into 1-inch ribbons, wash and pat dry.

Then heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a frying pan and very briefly sautee 2 cloves of chopped garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Then add the kale and gently stir to incorporate the garlic and olive oil.  You may have to pile it on, like so…

…but it’ll wilt down as it cooks.  Sautee over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender.  I cooked this batch for about ten minutes.  Feel free to sprinkle a little water over the leaves if the pan gets dry, and season with salt and pepper as you cook.

This is a great side with my current favorite easy-cooking go-to dinner: a diced and roasted sweet potato with black beans, sprinkled with a little ground ginger when I’m feeling fancy (which is usually).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta get back to work.  No time for shenanigans when school is in session….

No recipes, no resolutions

So, I love trying new recipes (as you may have guessed).  But sometimes recipes can be so….bossy.  Sometimes I just want to throw things together and not measure anything.  So today, I present to you three sort-of-recipes–blueprints, if you will–using two old favorite ingredients and one superstar newcomer to my kitchen.

Ingredient #1: Wheatberries

These are available in the bulk bins or packaged (I usually buy the Bob’s Red Mill brand) in what my family affectionately refers to as the “nature foods aisle.”  They have a great chewy texture and lots of super-duper nutritional qualities.  I’ve made several variations on wheatberry salads–all you need to do is cook them according to the package directions, chop up some fruits/veggies/nuts/whatever you have on hand, whisk together a little bit of simple dressing, and toss everything together.  Let your creativity run wild, my friends!  Here’s what I came up with for my latest variation:

That would be chopped pistachios, arugula, celery, scallions, and pomegranate seeds in the middle.  Pretty, eh?  I tossed all of those ingredients with the cooked wheatberries and then dressed the salad with a drizzle of my standard vinaigrette (1/2 c. olive oil, 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp. honey, salt and pepper).  How’s that for some Suddenly Salad?

Ingredient #2: Chickpeas

In my younger days, chickpeas were just those unappetizing beige things that always showed up on salad bars.  But then I pretty much stopped eating meat and looked into other ways to get some protein and now I use them for hummus, salads, veggie burgers, etc.  Hummus sort of makes my world go ’round, but I’ve already discussed it here, so let’s talk about a way to let the humble little chickpea shine all on its own.  First, drain yourself a can of ‘em, rinse off the icky liquid that comes with, and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.

Preheat your oven to 425 and put the chickpeas on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Then drizzle with a couple tablespoons of your oil of choice, maybe a tablespoon of vinegar, and sprinkle on some seasoning.  The possibilities here are endless…check out this link for some more ideas.  Here’s what I used:

I roasted them at 425 for 30 minutes, stirring twice along the way.  When they’re done, they make a great crunchy salad topper or simple snack on their own.

Ingredient #3: Kefir

If you google “health benefits of kefir” it seems that the only thing this stuff won’t do for you is balance your checkbook.  It’s a fermented milk product (OK, that sounds gross, but stick with me) that’s like either really thick milk or really thin yogurt.  I tried it for the first time yesterday and have already decided it’s going to be a staple in my smoothie toolkit.

I blended 1/2 c. kefir with half a banana and 1/3 c. blueberries.  It was absolutely, probiotic-ly delicious!  It reminded me of when I boycotted yogurt for awhile as a child because one of my brothers (or perhaps both working in concert) told me that the “active cultures” label meant that there were live junebugs in every carton.  Good thing I’m all grown-up and smart now.

I hope these no-recipe recipes will inspire you to some healthy cooking in the New Year!  And, speaking of the New Year: I’m pretty excited about it.  This was the first year in as long as I can remember that I didn’t start off by resolving to lose 10 pounds or stay under 1200 calories or something gloomy like that, and I must say, it’s been a great one.  I stopped eating Lean Cuisines and 100-calorie packs and being all neurotic about my stupid bathroom scale. I decided instead I would just enjoy cooking real food and exercising how I wanted to.  And thanks to this new philosophy, I’m a both a little bit lighter (literally) and a whole lot lighter (figuratively).  So make your resolutions if you want–I’ll be making some because I love fresh starts and self-improvement and all that Oprah/kumbaya kind of stuff.  But be nice to yourself when you do, mmmkay?  Cheers, everybody!


Things have been a bit off lately in my little piece of the Hawkeye State.  Calling what has been going on this week a “curse” is perhaps (OK, definitely) being melodramtic.  I mean, everyone is still alive, in one piece, not in jail, etc.  But–my friendship family has just been having a small streak of bad luck.  We’ve had some minor medical, veterinary, and technological issues.  I dropped several eggs onto the floor instead of into a mixing bowl while attempting a routine muffin recipe.  And THEN–this happened back at my parents’ homestead:

Yikes.  It was a little windy.

Now, as Michael G. Scott once said, “I’m not superstitious…but I’m a little stitious.”  I decided it couldn’t hurt, in terms of putting the universe right again, to make some comfort food and lay low for awhile.  First offering to the forces of evil that have been conspiring against my loved ones: pumpkin butter.  Here’s what you need (plus some brown sugar and nutmeg):

This week definitely called for no-fail recipes, and that’s what this is.  Here’s the link–I followed all of the measurements except I only used 2/3 c. sugar.  Just put everything except the lemon juice into a sauce pan and cook and stir occasionally until it thickens up to suit your preference.  You can just hang out near the stove reading a good book and occasionally remarking on how good this stuff smells.  Or I suppose you could multitask, if you’re into that.  When it’s done, take it off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

I cooked this batch for about 20 minutes.  The link above has instructions for preserving the pumpkin butter, but I just let it cool slightly and put it in jars to keep in the refrigerator and give away to some folks so it’ll get used up soon.  I love Ball jars…and I can’t resist putting ribbon around them, either.

What can you do with this stuff?  Well, I’ll tell you: mix it with yogurt and sprinkle some granola on top.  Spread it on toast and top with banana slices.  Try it in a more savory application like this.  Or maybe just eat it with a spoon–who am I to judge?

Cozy/comforting/cursebusting recipe #2: vegetarian Snobby Joes.  These are like Sloppy Joes, but they look down their noses at meat-based sandwiches and probably lecture them at parties about animal suffering and global warming.    I generally don’t crave meat or miss eating it regularly, but I do have fond memories of my mom making what we always called “Maid-rites” with ground beef and Cookies brand barbecue sauce on cold nights.  These have that same feel, and they’re made with lentils, which are dirt cheap and therefore ideal for students like me.  Ingredient round-up:

There are quite a few versions of this recipe around the world wide web.  This was just sort of an improvisation based on several of them.

Snobby Joes (originally–I think–from the Veganomicon cookbook)

  • 1 c. lentils
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 c. grated carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar (the more standard choice here would be maple syrup, or you could try honey)
  • 1 tbsp. yellow mustard

Boil the lentils in about 4 cups of water for approximately 20 minutes.  While they’re boiling, grate the carrots, chop the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and saute in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.

When the lentils are aaaaalmost tender enough (they’ll cook a little more in the sauce), add them to the veggies.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer everything together for about 10 minutes.

This is a meal to eat while watching the World Series and hiding out for awhile.

Then, theoretically, you could cap off the night with a little vanilla ice cream topped with pumpkin butter and declare the curse broken.  Not bad for a day’s “work,” I’d say.

Undercover brownies

Tomorrow is half marathon day!  I’m back in Des Moines, hydrating  like a champion and baking to avoid being scared.  Now, I know this sounds weird…but here’s today’s featured recipe:

Black Bean Brownies:

  • 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. coffee granules
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips

Put all of that business (except the chocolate chips) into a food processor.  (A blender might also work, if you don’t have a food processor.)

Process for awhile, scrape down the sides, and process again until it looks gooooood and smooth.  (I would surmise that chunks of black bean in a brownie would not be pleasant.)  Pour the batter into a greased 8×8 pan, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Finished product:

Verdict: I’m a fan!  But, because I kind of like weird, healthy food, I passed one off on my unsuspecting padre when he wandered through the kitchen.  Although he guessed there was something “healthy” in there, he gave them two thumbs up as well and was impressed when the secret ingredient was revealed.   My Grandma Neva has a spice cake recipe that involves a can of Van de Kamp’s Pork and Beans, so I guess I’m in good company.

Speaking of my Grandma Neva, I spent about an hour today looking through her old binders of recipe columns clipped from my hometown newspaper.  These things go back to the sixties, and they’re fabulous!  Here’s the column from the week she was the “featured chef”:

At the end, it says, “Neva thoroughly enjoys cooking, and her daughter does too–which makes for some happy times in the kitchen for the two of them.”  AWWW.  I’m so glad she saved these.

In other news, I can’t stop eating butternut squash lately.  I may actually be taking on a sort of orange-y glow.  Here’s my favorite lunch-y creation of the past few weeks:

I would highly recommend making your own salad dressing, if you’ve never tried it before.  It doesn’t take long, it keeps in the refrigerator for a week or so, and salad dressing from the store has some weirdo ingredients that you can avoid by just blending up your own.  Here are the ingredients for the dressing on that delish fall salad pictured above:

Honey-balsamic vinaigrette:

  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and let it run until everything is combined.  The last batch of dressing I made was particularly good because I used an apple-flavored balsamic vinegar.  (I have far more varieties of vinegar than a young lady of my station in life really ought to have.)  To recreate the salad above, pour a bit of the dressing over greens, cubes of roasted butternut squash, and sliced pear.  Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds (or walnuts, or pecans, or anything fall-ish and crunchy), and chow down.

Send good vibes my way tomorrow morning, faithful recipe readers!  If I survive all 13.1 miles, I’ll be back soon with a recap.