Getting More Beans Into Your Diet

Get to Know Them Gradually is Key

The last post on cooking tips for beans got me going on a bean theme.  So you’ll be seeing several quick posts on beans.  The timing is actually quite good, as it’s winter here in Colorado and the cold always stirs a desire for comfort food. While most people consider things like mashed potatoes and mac ‘n cheese to be the ultimate comfort foods, beans are right up there in terms of a food that soothes, warms and comforts.

Asparagus Soup with Black Beans

Beans add delightful contrast dishes. Here, a plain asparagus puree gets highlighted with black beans.

Granted, many view beans as “desert island” food, as in, something reserved for when they are stranded on a desert island.  But those in the know see gold in a batch of colorful beans.  In case you’ve yet to discover this treasure, read through this series for know-how and insights to help unlock the incredible, comforting goodness hidden within the humble bean.

Practical Tips

Willing to try?  Then to begin with, don’t look at beans as a substitute for meat, especially if you’re a meat lover.  They are two completely different foods and aren’t meant for comparison.

Butternut Squash and Potato Hash

Ditto for this butternut squash and potato hash. It tasted fine without beans, but why not add a little color and extra nutrition?

Next, get to know beans gradually–good advice whenever you’re getting to know a new food.  You wouldn’t get to know a new friend by climbing in the car for a 5-day road trip.  You’d chat at a party, go on a group hike, meet at the movies.  Similarly, don’t make a big bean casserole as your first foray into the wonderful world of beans.  Start instead by just throwing a few into already-familiar dishes, enhancing them with the color, texture and substance of beans.  See the pictures for some examples.

Finally, beans don’t have to preclude a steak or any other meat.  Go ahead and have it, but maybe not quite as big a piece.  This hearty salad (see recipe) on the side will make up for a smaller portion.

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The Beauty of Relishes

Want a Good Way to Save Time, Money and Stress?  Relishes Make for Easy Meals and Great Taste

I’ve been wanting to experiment with relishes ever since reading A Thousand Acres, a novel profiling the lives of  several Iowa farm familyies.  While the novel itself was pretty unsettling (although masterfully so), the summer harvest always brings to mind its description of Iowa food preservation rituals.  It puts my paltry canning efforts completely to shame.  The novel’s women didn’t settle for putting up a few jars of plain old tomatoes and peaches.  They preserved almost everything from their gardens–much of it in the form of interesting sauces and relishes.

I remember thinking that seemed like a ridiculous lot of work!  But as the months and years passed, I realized those Iowa gals may well have something on us.  Sure they worked hard for a couple of months each summer, but think of the benefits their investments yielded:

  • Mealtime Speed  Need dinner in a hurry?  Fry up pork chops and top with a flavorful relish.  With the relish providing the pizzazz, side dishes can be super simple.  Get a totally satisfying meal together in practically no time.
  • Stress-Relief  No need to worry all day about what to make for dinner.  Just pull a relish from the shelf, mix ‘n match with different meats, sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc.
  • Affordability  We all know that seasonal produce is the best in terms of taste–but its also very reasonably priced.  So preserve those savings for year-round enjoyment.

It took a couple years, but this summer I dug up some of the relish recipes I’ve been saving and took the plunge, making a gingery beet relish.  I feel like I struck gold!  Beets are so plentiful and cheap right now.  Make up a batch and it stores for a couple months.  Pull it out and use with abandon on meats, sandwiches, salads, rice dishes–you name it.  Get not only color and flavor but a valuable nutritional boost.

I’m excited to share the many joys of relish with you–and to relish some as well.  Join us for one of our Farmers’ Market classes this week to, cook, learn, taste and chat relishes.

Best Practice Secrets of Good Every Day Cooks

What Good Everyday Cooks Know that Struggling Cooks Don’t

Picking Up Barbeque Sauce from Honeysuckle

Exploring the Louisville Farmers’ Market at our first Market Morning.  Here, Kristen Hall talks about  she is reformulating all her sauces to use real ingredients–like what you’d have in our own pantry.

For a recent magazine article, Martha Stewart was asked how often she orders take out.  Her response was something like a couple times over the last 15 years.

How many people are in the “0-5” range for takeout during the last 15 years?  Initially, Martha’s response made me wonder whether she is some kind of freak.  But then it struck me:  I haven’t ordered takeout more than a couple times in the last 15 years either!

Fact is, there are people “out there” who make healthy, good-tasting meals night after night like it’s no big deal.  What do they know that most people don’t?

Here’s one big secret:  They know the difference between healthy and unhealthy convenience foods, and they know how to use healthy convenience to make good meals manageable.  Case in point:  The Honeysuckle Gourmet’s Black Jack Barbecue Sauce we discovered at our first Market Morning in Louisville.

Barbecue Sauce

Kristen’s Black Jack Natural uses her homemade ketchup to avoid unhealthful ingredients.

How did we know it was healthy?  At our Market tour, we got to chat with Honeysuckle’s Kristen Hall.  She explained how she is painstakingly reformulating each of her sauces to use all “real” ingredients, i.e., the same stuff you’d find in your own pantry.  If you could replicate a sauce yourself, you’ve got a healthy time saver.  You’re just paying to have someone else mix all the ingredients.

What about the cost?  At $7.00 a jar, it’s tempting to write off the sauce as “too expensive.”  But as FORK owner and class participant Christine pointed out, our group of 8 used only a quarter of the jar!  That means I’ve got at least 4 to 6 more meals in that jar for my husband and I.  Which brings us to the third point:

How do I use the rest of the sauce to make great meals, manageably?  This is the key to making condiments cost effective, i.e., finding ways to use them rather than having them waste away on the refrigerator door.  In addition to using the sauce to top sautéed chicken breasts at our class, I’ve found two other easy ideas:

Fast Recipe 1–Slow Cooker Chicken Legs  In need of a fast meal that could be prepared in advance, I skinned a couple chicken thighs and legs and plopped them into the slow cooker with 1/2 cup of sauce.  Eight hours later, I had melt-in-your mouth pulled chicken and sauce that went perfectly over warmed up leftover rice and broccoli.  Fast food couldn’t be faster!

Fast Recipe 2–Barbeque Chicken Soup  A couple days later, the leftover chicken and sauce became the flavor base for a quick, light summer soup with leftover broccoli, potatoes, new carrots from the garden and onion and garlic, of course.  I used another 1/4 cup of sauce + a little hot sauce for flavor.  Again, faster than fast food–and I still have half a jar of sauce.

So that’s how good every day cooks make good meals manageable–and delicious.  Learn more:  Join one of the everyday meal making classes with The New Kitchen Cooking School.

More on How “Food Is Good for You”

Food Is Good For You BannerRemember last month’s article, “Food Is Good for You?”   We’re always surprised to hear about the nutritional marvels of, e.g., blueberries or grass-fed beef, or tofu or squash.  But honestly have you ever heard of a real food that doesn’t contain vital nutrients?  This is exactly the takeaway you get from a blurb in the Denver Post listing several popular foods and their popular nutrients:

  • Salmon, tilapia and tofu:  Omega 3
  • Milk, cheese, broccoli:     Calcium
  • Bananas, shellfish, cucumbers:     Potassium
  • Red meat, citrus fruits, apples:     Magnesium
  • Eggs:    Vitamin D
  • Yogurt, Scallops:  Vitamin B-12
  • Spinach, liver, grapefruit:    Folic Acid
  • Cinnamon, pecans, cranberries:    Antioxidants

Amazed at what you can get from plain old, unsexy food?  Turns out even cucumbers are a good nutrient source, even though they seem like nothing more than water in a green skin!  No doubt this is why many doctors and nutritionists  are recommending that we get our nutrients from foods.  In fact, the Post’s blurb was titled  “Why Bother With a Pill?”    Indeed.

“Good Eating.  It’s Easier Than You Think.”

Come discover how to make luscious meals from real, whole, nutritious foods–a treat for taste buds as well as your body.  Check out the next Whole Kitchen cooking classes.

Reference:

“Why bother With a Pill?” FitFinds, The Denver Post, February 1, 2010, p. 2C

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.

Parsley Is the New Superfood? No Surprise There

Week after week, headlines roll, announcing with great flourish how different foods are good for us:  Acai berries!  Kale!  Blueberries!  Quinoa!   I just read an article from the Land Animal blog, describing  the many nutritional benefits of parsley.  Yes, you read that right.  Even lowly parsley has now been recognized as a nutritional powerhouse.  That’s what got me thinking there should be an article with this headline:

Sound odd and surprising?  It really isn’t.  Why wouldn’t all the fruits of the earth be good for us?  They were all designed to be our nurture and nourishment, and our bodies were designed to put them all to good use.  Just like every other critter on the planet, we’ve been given a perfect food source.

What’s actually odd and surprising is how impressed and awed we are when a “scientific study” discovers the obvious.  Equally odd and surprising is that despite the obvious rightness of real foods, we knowingly feed ourselves food-grade  factory products that bear no resemblance to what the earth gladly supplies us.

Parsley is just one more example in a long string of evidence that the earth will gladly take care of us.  All we have to do is eat what the earth gives us instead of sugar-laden, fat-filled, over-salted, additive-addled factory products.   With all due respect to all the scientific studies, healthful eating  just isn’t as hard as we’ve been led to believe.

Parsley Bouquet

More parsley benefits: It's always cheap and always available. Keep some on hand and store in a vase so it can double as nice winter greenery.

Another interesting thing happens as you begin eating consistently from the seasonal fruits of the earth:  When a study comes out proclaiming the benefits of, say, beets, or celery, or millet or grassfed beef, the chances are good that you’re already eating the latest miracle food!  You don’t have to run out to the store and e.g., buy a bushel of parsley then gag it down in smoothies.  Instead, you’ve already been buying parsley every week or two, sprinkling it over casseroles for color, adding it to salads for flavor, or turning it into pestos (like the one in the next post.)

Shopping Tip:  If you’re ready to start weaving parsley into your diet, try the flat-leafed, or Italian, variety (pictured to the right.)  I prefer it’s taste to curly-leafed parsley, the other main variety available in stores.

Cooking Tips: Wash parsley well in advance of using so it can dry completely.  (I wash right when I get it home from the store, then let it dry in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour before bagging and refrigerating.)    Also, don’t throw out the stems.  See how they are used in Parsley Pesto.

Come find out more about how easy it can be to eat in rhythm with nature, which is healthful automatically.  Whole Kitchen Cooking Classes are all about learning to easily cook and enjoy the cornucopia of food the earth supplies us:  from fruits, vegetables and grains to proteins, nuts, beans and all sorts of herbs, spices and flavorings–like parsley!  Next session begins Thursday, January 13.

Whole Grain Pasta: New Food for a New Year

New Pastas Pass the Taste Test

The new year is a good time to try new things–especially if they’re healthy and not hard at all.  Here’s a great idea from Lauren and Pete, recent Whole Kitchen participants:

The next time you’re buying pasta, STOP.  Instead of automatically grabbing the spaghetti or penne you always buy, take a few seconds to peruse labels and muster up some courage.  How about introducing your family to whole grain pastas, which have a lot more nutrients than traditional pastas.   There are lots of alternatives at the store these days, like those made with brown rice flour, and they easily pass the taste test, even when presented to picky eaters.

Pete is experimenting with the Barilla brand of whole grain pastas.  The company offers one that is 51% whole wheat, as well as the new Barilla PLUS® line, a multigrain pasta with ALA Omega-3.  The whole wheat option is “a little heavier and more chewy than plain white pasta,” said Pete, but it offers a healthy 6 grams of fiber. For a sauce, he “doctors up” Prego Heart Healthy sauce or uses the organic Cabernet Marinara sauce by Muir Glenn.

Barilla PLUS® is an interesting blend of semolina, lentils, chickpeas, flaxseed, barley, spelt and oats. It has almost twice the fiber of traditional pasta as well as 10 grams of protein.  Pete likes the Barilla PLUS® because it doesn’t seem as “heavy” as the whole wheat option.  In fact, most guests “don’t even notice the difference between Barilla PLUS® and normal plain pasta,” he discovered.

Lauren recently took the pasta challenge, experimenting with a pasta bar that had a couple new sauces alongside two or three different choices of pastas, just to prove there isn’t anything too out of the ordinary with pasta that has a little color or a slightly different texture.  Her “bar” turned out to be a good way to elicit comments and start a conversation about the benefits of eating complete grains and other types of flour.  She shares one additional piece of advice:  Be strategic and limit choices to healthy options. When white pasta is available, those looking for the familiar may gravitate to that choice. When it’s not an option, it won’t even be missed.  Remember how our taste buds can happily adapt to healthier foods.

Lauren's Pasta Bar

Pasta Fun! Lauren's Pasta Bar

Want more new for the new year?  Try our Whole Kitchen cooking classes and discover new flavors, new foods, new recipes, new ideas and a whole new way to get great, wholesome meals on the table, everyday.  Next session starts January 13.

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