Recipe: Using Beans in Green Salads

Winter Green Salad with Cumin Dressing

Winter Green Salad with Red Beans

Red beans add a delicious warmth to this salad. Note that I substituted yellow corn chips since I had no corn in my freezer pantry.

This salad was inspired by Nava Atlas’ Vegetarian Express cookbook, which features a number of salads using canned and frozen mix-ins.  While Nava uses these convenient foods to quickly perk up a salad, they’re also great for adding color, texture and heartiness to salads in the winter months, when tomatoes, cucumbers and other common salad standbys are out of season (and are therefore quite expensive and not very tasty.)

For the Salad

I’m just giving an ingredient listing; use amounts that best suit your household size and tastes.

  • Lettuce and/or spinach
  • Canned tomatoes, diced (or reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thinly)
  • Frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • Olives, black or green, sliced thinly
  • Red Beans, well drained
  • Cilantro, chopped, if desired for garnish

Notes 

  1. Lettuce:  A sturdier green, like Romaine, green leaf lettuce or bunch spinach will do the best job of holding up the heavier mix-ins.
  2. Canned Tomatoes:  As always, use a high-quality brand for best flavor, like Muir Glen.  So they don’t make the salad soggy, dice them, remove seeds and then drain well in a colander before adding to the salad.  Fire-roasted tomatoes are a nice addition.
  3. Corn:  For best results, remove from the freezer in the morning and thaw in the frig in a colander all day.  Otherwise, just microwave 1-2 minutes and drain, or place in a colander, rinse with hot water and drain well before adding to salad.
  4. Rice:  For a heartier salad yet, add a little warm brown rice.

For the Dressing

Fast Version:  Simply add the cumin and chili flakes (noted below) to 1/4 to 1/2 cup readymade Italian dressing.

Homemade Version:  Combine in the order given in a small, lidded jar.  Shake well to combine.  Allow to sit for at least 10-15 minutes for flavors to meld.

  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
  • 4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. chili flakes (more or less, to taste) or black pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste
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6 Reasons to Love Tupperware Cupboard Organizers

Why Make the Plunge and Invest Now

Reason 1 : If you’re interested in healthy eating, Tupperware makes it a lot easier.  That statement may sound pretty far-fetched.  I certainly wouldn’t have bought into it–until I got Tupper-ized 20 years ago!

Whole Grain Brown Rice

Whole grains, like this brown rice, are one of the healthful foods experts recommend

Think about it:  What do all the experts tell us to eat for good health?  Fruits and vegetables  get top billing, but close behind are whole grains, legumes and nuts and seeds.  And how are we advised to flavor our foods?  With healthful, no-calorie herbs and spices instead of overly sugary, salty and fatty flavorings.

I took this advice seriously and used all these ingredients while feeding my two pre-toddler children many years ago.  But what a pain in the neck!  Little paper bags of herbs and spices stuffed in a drawer.  Ten unmarked  jars of grains stuffed into a top cupboard shelf alongside seven types of flour.  Flimsy bags of nuts and seeds, stuffed into a bottom cupboard.  Beans in more jars in another cupboard.  Each meal, I could spend five to ten precious minutes searching for things, with hungry kids nipping at my heels!

Then I met “Tupperware lady” Donna Davis, and discovered why Modular Mates are perfect for storing healthy foods, explained below.

Reason 2: Modular Mates’ design makes everything readily and quickly available while maximizing cupboard space. Unlike other containers, Modular Mates provide “front-to-back” rather than  “top to bottom” storage.  That means everything can be accessed from the front of the cupboard, so there’s no digging for containers, bags and boxes that get stashed and shoved

Tupperware's Front to Back Design

Note how Modular Mates utilize the entire cupboard depth, from front to back.

to the back of a cupboard.  It also means every square inch of air space gets used, from the bottom clear to the top.  And with units available in 2″, 4″, 6″ and 8″ heights, there is a space-maximizing container for whatever quantity you buy.

Reason 3: Modular Mates keep freshness in and unwanted visitors out. Things like nuts, seeds and whole  grains and flours are attractive targets for bugs and small critters.  Modular Mates are virtually air tight, however, so they can’t be invaded by outside pests, and the contents inside stay fresh.  (And if bugs should come home with you from the grocery store, at least they will be trapped in one container rather than spreading throughout the kitchen. )

Reason 4: Modular Mates are convenient time savers. Label containers if you can’t readily identify the contents and get top seals with flip up lids for anything that can be poured, like grains and beans.  Then, it’s a snap to find just the ingredient you need and measure them out.

Labeled Tupperware

Take a couple minutes to label containers for easy recognition.

Reason 5: Modular Mates are a life long investment. In my work as a professional kitchen organizer, I’ve found most kitchens could benefit from a Modular Mate investment.  I use the word “investment” deliberately because Tupperware, which lasts for life, should be viewed as a lifelong purchase rather than a consumable or passing fad.

I remember feeling completely ridiculous spending $500 to outfit my kitchen.  But that was 20 years ago and honestly speaking, that purchase has repaid me every time I cook. That means I really bought time savings plus a tremendous amount of convenience for 7,300 days, at a cost of 7 cents per day.  That is the kind of long-term investment thinking we need to get good meals on the table despite our busy and hectic lives.

Flimsy Bags of Beans

Is this what you're facing to make a healthful meal? Time for organization!

Reason 6: Modular Mates are on sale! This could be the best motivator of all.  From January 15 to February 11, 2011, Modular Mates are 40% off.  So take a look around your kitchen.  Could you make better and more frequent use of healthful ingredients if they could be found and pulled out quickly and without a hassle?  Then take some action!

Need some help deciding what to do about your kitchen, where Modular Mates could be of benefit, which containers would be best,  and so on?  Give a call for a kitchen coaching session with Mary Collette Rogers.  Or check out Mary’s book, Take Control of Your Kitchen, the guide to organized, manageable and stress-free meal making.

Ready to order?  Donna Davis has retired after many years as a top salesperson.  But her supervisor, Joannie Flynn, continues in the business after 49 years!  Just email her:  joannie818  @  yahoo.com (without spaces), and she will take care of your order and answer any questions you might have.

Superfood Parsley Pesto: Go-To Sauce for Winter Cooking

Yesterday’s post talked about parsley’s superfood status and why that should come as no surprise since all real foods are good for us.  Start getting more of parsley’s goodness into your diet with this quick and versatile pesto that tastes great on everything from spaghetti squash and salmon to white fish, chicken and pasta.  Because it doesn’t rely on warm weather basil, it’s affordable and easy to make in winter, when its luscious green is a welcome sight.

Pesto Parsley

  • 3 cups loosely packed parsley (stems included)
  • 3 cups loosely packed cilantro (stems included)
  • 2 med. cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. minced jalapeno pepper (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1 large lime)
  • 1-2 tsp. red wine vinegar, to taste
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 large orange, skin and membranes removed, diced to ¼”

Combine everything but orange pieces in food processor and pulse three or four times until fairly well blended, but not mushy.  Pour into a small serving bowl and stir in orange pieces.  Taste and add more jalapeno, lime, vinegar and/or salt and pepper, to taste.

Officially End of Summer Dishes

Two Farewell Dishes to the Late-Summer/Early Autumn Vegetables

A few yellow summer squash are still dribbling in from my garden.   The previous post’s “vegetables-as-afterthought” approach would have us serving them sauteed.  Period.  Too bad.  Just a little extra effort could turn them into something so much more satisfying.  Check out two ideas that employ the simple power of high-quality dried herbs and an herb blend to punch up ordinary vegetables:

Yellow Squash with Tomatoes, Peppers and Oregano

  1. Beautiful End of Summer VegetablesSaute 1 medium green pepper (cut in 1/2″ squares) in good olive oil,  over medium-high heat, for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add 2 medium-sized yellow summer squash cut in half moons and continue sauteing 4-5 more minutes, being sure to season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add 2-3 medium tomatoes, cut roughly into 1″ cubes and cook another 4-5 more minutes, until peppers and squash are cooked to taste and tomatoes are just beginning to soften and release their juices.
  4. “Crush and Sprinkle” 1-2 tsp. dried leaf oregano (the Greek version if you can find it) over the dish (as directed in previous article) and stir in.  Cook another minute to allow flavors to meld, then taste and add more salt and pepper and even a pinch of sugar if dish tastes too acidic.
  5. Serve and enjoy the lovely combination of yellow, green and red.

Yellow Squash with Arugula, Bacon and Herbes de Provence

Besides spice blends, bacon is another lazy cook’s trick for adding instant flavor to dishes.  Although it has earned a reputation as a nutritional bad boy, just one or two slices are enough to jazz up this dish.  What’s more, no additional fat is needed to sauté the vegetables.  Finally, since so little is needed, it can be affordable to use bacon from humanely-raised pigs made with nothing other than pork, spices and sugar (no nitrates or other chemicals needed for great flavor.)  Note how the yellow summer squash in this dish is paired with cool weather arugula for a stunning color combination.

  1. Fry 2 slices of lean bacon, cut in 1/2″ pieces.  When lightly crisp, remove to a plate.
  2. In the rendered fat, fry 2 medium-sized yellow summer squash cut in half moons, for about 4-5 minutes, being sure to season with salt and pepper.
  3. When squash are just beginning to brown, add 1 bunch arugula, stems removed and leaves cut roughly into 1-2″ pieces.  Cook just long enough to wilt arugula.
  4. “Crush and Sprinkle” 1-2 tsp. Herbes de Provence over the dish (as directed in previous article) and stir in, along with cooked bacon.  Cook another minute to allow flavors to meld.  Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.

Option:  Saute an onion diced to 1/2″ before the summer squash.

Want to know more about how to saute vegetables flavorfully, what it means to “wilt” arugula, how to make foods sing with spices and, most importantly, how to make meals healthfully but also deliciously and quickly?  Join us for a Whole Kitchen cooking class:  hands on cooking instruction + a whole lot more.

Women, Weight and Protein

Canned Chicken to the Rescue!

Did you know there’s a connection between what’s in your pantry and what’s on your thighs?  It’s true, so pay attention to this often overlooked part of the kitchen–not only to what’s there, but also to what’s not there–like high-quality canned chicken that can stave off a hunger attack in a hurry.

Weight loss is a perpetual issue among us, sadly.  Eating loses so much of its fun when accompanied by worries about weight.  So can I share a trick that helped me break out of the

I just discovered Shelton's brand but assume it will be good, as I've always been impressed by their products.

perpetual eating cycle that was threatening to turn me into a weight worrier?

Protein Balance It’s nothing new and it’s very simple, as with everything else about healthy weight eating.  And I know it works.  Just yesterday, I was on the road and had breakfast at a Whole Foods:  roasted veggies, roasted beets and yummy chicken curry salad.  I was amazed when lunchtime rolled around and I hadn’t even registered a blip on the hunger meter.

So if it’s simple and effective, what’s the catch?  As always, implementation.  For me, carbs like bread, cereal, tortillas, bagels, muffins, pretzels, chips and crackers were always easy things to have on hand.  And they were easy to grab quickly to stave off hunger.  Proteins, on the other hand, were far more problematic.  I cooked animal protein only rarely, and it was rarer still that I had any leftovers.  Plus, animal proteins have to be refrigerated, are messier to eat, and just didn’t hold the satisfying appeal of, say, a muffin.

Pantry Stockers for Healthy Weight Meal Making So it was with delight that I discovered canned chicken, but not the miserable, indescribable stuff swimming in salt water that’s sold at drug stores.  No, a can of Valley Fresh Organic Chicken is packed with clearly identifiable, very moist pieces of breast meat in a tasty broth (which can be used as a cooking element of its own as explained in the Bits and Pieces article.)  Would I serve canned chicken as a main dish for dinner?  Of course not.  But is it perfect for adding a hit or protein to a salad I’m throwing together for lunch?  You bet, and here’s a recipe where I used it:  Green Salad with Chicken plus Fresh Fruit and Herb Dressing.

Now, About the Cost. Valley Fresh is more expensive than vapid drug store chicken because of a time-honored principle we all know:  “You get what you pay for.”   Pay $1.79 and you get barely a serving of chicken that tastes like nothing, is mostly water and grosses you out.  Or pay $3.69 and get a can of chicken that makes two, really tasty protein servings and is not contributing to environmental degradation.  Make it even cheaper with a 10% case discount at Vitamin Cottage–and then you always have something on hand that can turn off the perpetual hunger machine–and help you return to a place of eating joy.

Learn more about how to stock the pantry to make healthy weight meal making easy in the Whole Kitchen Way to Wholesome Meal Making.

Looking for a Quick Lunch?

Green Salad with Chicken plus Fresh Fruit and Herb Dressing

Think you can’t cook?  This recipe’s great flavor comes not from fancy cooking skills but simply from good ingredients.  Stellar ingredients make a cook’s life easy!  So be sure to read the Buying Notes for each ingredient to help you get the best.

Making the Strawberry Apricot Dressing

The combination of apricots and basil is as lovely to look at as it is to eat.

Step 1  Make the Dressing

If you can dump things into a blender and push a button, you can make this dressing:

  • 3/4 cup fresh apricot-strawberry puree (from about 3 apricots and 6-8 small strawberries)
  • 2 Tbsp. walnut oil (or high quality olive oil)
  • 1 Tbsp. brown rice vinegar (if you don’t have some, it’s worth stocking)
  • Double handful of fresh basil leaves (see picture)
  • Single handful of fresh parsley (see picture)
  • Just a small spoonful of fresh tarragon leaves (they are a lot stronger than basil and parsley)
  • Sea salt (start with 1/4 tsp.)
  • Freshly ground pepper (start with 1/8 tsp.)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar

Directions Combine everything in the cup of an


A double handful of basil

immersion blender (or food processor or blender) and process for just 20-30 seconds to combine.  Now comes the most critical step:  TASTE.  For ANY recipe, there is a 90% chance that the flavors need to be adjusted to suit your taste buds.  So pour the dressing into a small bowl, dip a piece of lettuce into it and taste.  Stir in more salt and pepper first, then more chopped basil, parsley or vinegar to find a taste that is good to you.  Always go slowly and taste after each addition.

Serve dressing at room temperature.  To my taste buds, fruits taste better when they aren’t chilled.

Buying Notes Flavor-less fruit = flavor-less dressing.  For fruit that taste like fruit not

A single handful of parsley

cardboard, head straight to the source:  the grower, usually an organic one.  Next, taste before buying very much.  If the grower doesn’t offer samples, buy just one piece and taste.  Once home, let stone fruits like apricots and peaches ripen.  Doing so in paper bags is often recommended.  Let the fruit get pretty soft, since that point, just before it goes overboard, yields flavor most reminiscent of heaven.  Keep a close eye on the fruit (especially if it’s hidden in paper bags!) and keep tasting each day, watching for optimal flavor.

Variations Could be equally good with whatever fruit is in season: sweet cherries and apricots, peaches and raspberries, or pears and raspberries.

A Double Handful of Basil

A small spoonful of tarragon leaves

Step 2   Make the Green Salad

  • 4-6 cups very fresh lettuce, washed and torn (or cut with a serrated knife if you’re in a hurry)
  • 1-2 med. carrots, grated finely

Directions Nothing too complicated about this step, although it does help to wash the lettuce in a good salad spinner, so you end up with crispy, not soggy lettuce.  Another trick:  Wash the lettuce the night before.  Place in salad storer, cover with a clean, folded tea towel, then seal and refrigerate until the next day.  The tea towel extracts excess water, leaving the lettuce crispy and light.

For the carrots, grate using the fine hole on your box grater for something different.

Buying Notes A salad is only as good as its greens.  They need to taste fairly good on their own, so the dressing is just enhancing flavor, not making up for an absence thereof.   Good lettuce is where local farmer’s markets shine, since lettuce is a crop that really tastes best when fresh picked–so good you barely even need dressing, if you can believe it.

In mid-summer, finding good lettuce can be tricky, since it’s is a cool weather crop.  I always taste a bit before investing in a bag to make sure it’s not bitter.  Also look for farmers who have taken steps to work around the heat issue, like Oxford Gardens at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, where owner Peter Volz sells a heat-tolerant variety that is quite good.  Abbondanza, also at the Boulder Market, seems to have perfected a technique for hot-weather lettuce growing as I’ve gotten great lettuce there even in July and August.

Step 3  Add Chicken to the Salad

  • 1-2 cups chicken, shredded or cut into small pieces

Buying Notes Again, this is another simple step with finding good chicken being the only tricky part , since not all store chickens are not created equally.  Again, it is usually local and/or organic birds that have more flavor.  This salad is a great way to use of leftover bits and pieces.  If you don’t have any however, then try canned chicken for a highly convenient option.  Before you blanch at the thought of canned bird, read the next blog entry on two, surprisingly taste brands I’ve recently discovered.

Want to learn more about the little tricks and tips that make everyday good meal making natural, stress-free and even a little creative?  Join Mary Collette in one of her Whole Kitchen Way to Wholesome Meal Making classes.

Green Kitchen Tip: Use Citrus Bags for Herb Washing

Keep those yellow, green and red mesh bags that lemons and limes come in.  They are perfect for washing herbs and, more importantly, spinning them dry.  Surely you’ve attempted to chop washed herbs that haven’t been spun dry.  The waterlogged mass turns into a mess of green slush.

Of course if you are on top of things, you wash the herbs the night or morning before they’re needed, in which case they’re nicely dried.  Chopping them is easy and the end result is a fluffy halo of green garnish on a finished dish.

But in case there’s a day when you’re not exactly on top of things, here’s a pretty good option: Use a saved citrus bag as a makeshift spinner.  Cut off any tags, then close one end with a bag closer or simple knot.  Pop the herbs inside, then:

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Step 1: Wash herbs under spraying water, separating and shaking to loosen dirt.

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Step 2. Head outside and, holding the open end tightly, fling the bag up an down several times.

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In the End: Herbs that are washed but dry and perfect for chopping.

I got this idea from the Veggie Scrub, reviewed in yesterday’s post.  This handy invention does a great job scrubbing vegetables and can also be used as an herb washer/spinner–for small amounts.  however, when I’m washing large bunches (e.g., for pestos, pistous and salsas), a large citrus bag does a more effective job of both washing and drying.

While you likely need only a couple citrus bags for herb washing, you needn’t pitch all the others that find their way into you kitchen.  They are perfect for bagging onions, garlic, potatoes and fruit at the grocery store, sparing the earth a couple more plastic bags.  (FYI:  Each year, 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide.  Each American uses between 300 and 700 plastic bags each year.  This tip can reduce that annual figure to  just 299, or 298 or 297 . . . .)

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