Vegan

Gluten and Dairy-Free Irish Soda Bread

Back-story to this recipe: In a few weeks I’ll be hosting my annual St. Patrick’s Day party.  It started several years ago, when my boyfriend-at-the-time-now-best-friend moved in with me in Queens.  He’s from an Irish family (Ruark Michael Downey – you don’t get more Irish than that!) and I’d been to Ireland several times at that point.  What naturally followed was a succession of parties where we’d bring in a keg of Guinness, bottles of whiskey and Irish cream, and I’d make a full boiled dinner.  The second year I made lamb stew and corned beef and cabbage.  Subsequent years brought us to the point where we were making 9 corned beefs and I was whipping up car-bomb cupcakes by the several dozen.  We needed nothing more than good food, good booze and the company of our lovely friends.

This year I’m doing a bit of experimenting with gluten-and-dairy-free recipes to include with the traditional ones I’ll be presenting.  For this  I found the most traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe I could find, having discarded anything fancy and landing on one with thorough directions and a bit of history.

So, the Irish are famous for soda bread for two reasons: the abundance of soft wheat with a lower gluten content and the availability of fuel for home fires and therefore the ability to bake bread at whim.  Simple ingredients (flour, milk, salt and baking soda) create a quick bread that’s delicious with a bowl of thick stew or layered around cold meat.  Since you don’t want the gluten to develop (as you would with a harder wheat and yeast combo), this makes this bread perfect for a gluten-free version.  I tried to approximate the taste of flour I remember from my glutenous soda-bread days, so threw in some oat and quinoa flour with the bulky rice flour and starches.  And I soured unsweetened almond milk, hoping that the vinegar would produce the proper chemical reaction with the baking soda.

The result?  This bread is delicious!  Deceptively sweet, especially as it contains NO SUGAR.  And popping warm, it’s perfect with a touch of Irish butter.  I gave some to my friend Lynn and her boyfriend Griff, who’s from Ireland.  His response: “this is a very close approximation of the bread of my people”.  They gobbled them up.

For this go around I made 8 mini loafs from the recipe to cut down the baking time dramatically.  For St. Pat’s I’ll be making two full loaves along with a wheat-flour version.  I have a feeling the recipe is equally successful either way.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free whole-grain oat flour
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour / starch
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot starch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (optional – I did not use)
  • 8-10 oz buttermilk or soured milk of choice at room temperature (directions below)
  • 1/2 cup dried currants (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 45o degrees.  It should be fully preheated and nice and hot before you put the bread in.
  • Lightly flour a heavy baking sheet with gluten-free flour.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flours, salt, sugar and baking soda.  Gather and sift again, so that the baking soda is fully dispersed.  Make a well in the center.
  • If using regular milk or milk alternative: measure one Tbsp white or red wine vinegar in a 2-cup measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 10 oz.  Use a fork to mix thoroughly.
  • Slowly pour about 8 oz of the milk into the well of flour, and quickly start blending with fork until it starts to pull together.  The mixture should be rather lumpy and on the drier side, but pulled together.  Add currants and fold in gently.  If too dry, add remaining milk until mixture pulls together.
  • Turn onto a slightly floured board and knead just until the dough is one, about 15 seconds / 6 kneads.  Don’t over knead.
  • Break dough into 8 balls, and press into slightly flat disks.  Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in each loaf about 1/3 into the dough.
  • Place in hot oven and bake 13 minutes, or until the tops are slightly brown.  If you tap on the bottom of  a loaf, it should sound hollow.  The dough in the center should be slightly soft though.
  • Cool before eating or enjoy warm with melted butter.

One-loaf Option: Shape into one loaf, slice the cross in, and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees, then decrease heat to 400 degrees and bake for 25 minutes longer or until crisp on top and sounding hollow with a tap on the bottom.

Note: This recipe is dedicated to my lovely roommate, Erika.  She’s been working so much lately that she hasn’t been able to (in her opinion) contribute to the upkeep of our generally clean apartment.  So she paid someone to come in and wash and scrub everything, and we lounged in our immaculate living room, catching up.  And less than an hour later, I was in the kitchen… and it got a bit dusty.

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On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup

It has come – that time in February when my body just won’t let my brain ignore it.  As anyone with a chronic illness can attest, there are some times of the year that you go into bracing yourself, no matter the positive attitude you live by nor the years of knowledge you’ve accumulated to date.  That time for me is now, when my body screams “hibernate!”

Lily and I backstage for FALL OF HEAVEN

Last year at this time I was in Cincinnati, Ohio working at the Cincinnati Playhouse on the premiere of Walter Mosely’s FALL OF HEAVEN, directed by the incomparable Marion McClinton and featuring a cast of some of the loveliest people I have had the privilege to work with.  I did stage-crew for this show, meaning every night at about 10 minutes to curtain I threw on what we called “The Liza Minnelli Choir for the God of Smurfs” costume.  Or some variation on that combination of ideas.  The pants were puffy and brown, covered in glitter.  Over that was a soft, sky-blue choir robe, hemmed above the knee, with bell sleeves and a darker blue hood, also covered in glitter.  Very comfy and warm!  My partner Lily and I would do one onstage costume-change with an actor, then spent the rest of the show moving set pieces, holding curtains during entrances / exits and sitting behind the scrim reading books and drinking tea, our blackberries on the table in front of us.  I haven’t done crew for a show in years, but didn’t mind it one bit.  In fact, I had a whole 25 minutes in the first act when I’d go to my dressing room and either nap under my dressing table or watch 90210 on my computer (the original, on DVD, courtesy of Lily).

Why relay these (somewhat shameful) tales?  Because being part of this company gave me a whole new group of people to meet and adore.  And to bake for.  It was cold in Cincinnati, horribly cold.  So only rarely would we go out after shows for a drink, as was the norm with other casts.  I was only working on this show, whereas throughout the rest of the year I’d be memorizing lines for one show while rehearsing or performing in another.  So I had my days free to huddle in bed, my space heater nearby, and, well, hibernate.

Along with black bean brownies and cinnamon pan bars, I made a lot of soup during this time.  I needed to get nutrients without much food, because when I’m run down my body doesn’t seem to want to eat.  So this soup recipe, now lovingly titled “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever Soup”, was the perfect answer to this need.  It contains edamame for protein, peas for vitamins, a good veggie stock for all things that are good, and seaweed for nutrients.  It’s both light and filling.  And I utilized the amazing frozen vegetable and stock selection that my neighborhood Kroger was stellar in supplying, so there was no chopping or lengthy simmering.  And this soup is simple enough that it can be sipped from a mug, backstage, with footlights blaring while you read Julia Child’s memoirs and an audience sits enthralled on the other side of a scrim.

Enjoy.

Clear Day Soup

In a large, cast iron pot combine:

  • 1 pint good, clear vegetable stock
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup frozen edamame (shelled, obviously)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 Tbsp. wakame seaweed
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Bring up to a boil, then turn to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the edamame is soft.  Season with black pepper to taste.  I poured this over rice noodles for a heartier version.

Sweet and Savory Sprouts (of the Brussels Persuasion)

Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad rep and that makes me cranky.  They are, without a doubt, my favorite vegetable.  I roast the dickens out of them with whatever other veggies I have around, doused in olive oil and salt.  I saute them with bacon or in duck fat.  I even nuke frozen ones and toss them with ghee and spices when I’m lazy and needing something cleansing.  So I’m serious, here, people.

For Christmas my mother gave me a Cuisinart food processor, the kind that’s compact and also a blender – which in itself is a blessing for small NYC apartments that are already overstuffed with cooking equipment.  The addition of a crazy-awesome slicer into my kitchen has made me a little slicing-crazy, so the other night I decided it was time for the tiny organic Brussels sprouts I had picked up after my restorative yoga class (om, delicious) to face the wrath of my new friend.

The convenient thing about shredding sprouts is that they cook relatively faster and you can get a nice even coating of flavor.  They also crisp better, and while I love the texture of a crispy outside and soft inside of a sprout cooked whole, this is a delectable contrast.

Now I kept this batch rather middling on the whole savory-vs-sweet line.  I didn’t want too much maple flavor – that I reserve for Thanksgiving when all hands are on deck.  This was meant to be a healthy side that would taste great with my soup that night and my eggs the next morning.  And I’m trying to cut back on my salt intake – I usually pour that glorious stuff with abandon, as I have really low blood pressure and it helps curb induced headaches.  But I’m definitely not getting any younger and will take anything that will help me feel less puffy, so salt is simmering in quantity in my kitchen.

The result?  My favorite veggie just topped itself as my “ultimate, never-to-be-beaten, will-write-love-sonnets-to-them” veggie.  For these Brussels sprouts I would become a poet.

Oh, and in writing this entry I went back to my fridge and proceeded to heat and eat the last of the bunch – though I ate my second portion with lunch not an hour before.  Well played, watering mouth, well played.

Ingredients

  • 20-25 small Brussels sprouts, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces (I recommend naturally-dried fruits without sulfates)
  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted walnuts, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup pure Maple syrup (please don’t hurt your sprouts’ feelings by using pancake syrup)
  • sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Directions

  • Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large saute pan
  • Meanwhile, run the sprouts through your slicer / shredder, or shred by hand if necessary
  • Add to pan and stir thoroughly to coat with oil, than cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts soften.
  • Add salt to taste (this will pull a little moisture out, which you want at this point)
  • Turn heat up to high and quickly stir until sprouts are browned.
  • Turn heat to low and add apricots, nuts and then maple syrup, and stir thoroughly to coat.
  • Cook for five to ten minutes more on low until at desired softness.  Adjust salt and add pepper to taste.

Vegan Barbecue Soup

I think I’m coming down with something.  My body’s hot, my brain is cloudy, and I have a certain feeling of existential bewilderment that usually comes before a cold / flu / general feeling of nastiness.  I shake my fist to the universe – “what’s the point of anything?  Why should I cook?  Why wake up early for an audition tomorrow?  Who really cares?!?!”

Then I cook myself some soup, staple my resume to my headshot, and grab my computer.  As Sam the Eagle of the Muppet persuasion says, “It is the American way”.

Now this picture does NOT justify the deliciousness of this soup.  It’s adapted from the recipe Lemon and Lima Bean Soup I got from Bloodroot restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut – a vegetarian joint that’s been around since the 70s and serves up some of the most scrumptious, natural food I’ve ever had in a wonderfully women-centric environment.  I tend to use a bit more liquid and seasonings and a dash of something more to get the flavor I want, but their original recipe and cookbooks are highly recommended.

The first time I had this soup I was BLOWN away and ate up two servings of it with gusto.  So I HAD to buy the book, and have often made this soup when feeling a bit run down but wanting something more substantial than my ol’ veggie medley soup.

Have fun with the amount of flavors.  I like to call it Barbecue soup because the combination of tamari and tomato paste tastes like the best part of a bbq to my happy tastebuds.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of baby dry baby lima beans, picked through
  • 2 large red onions, sliced thin
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Marsala wine
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more to taste
  • 4 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter) (optional)
  • roasted walnuts (optional)

Directions

  • Soak the lima beans overnight or for at least 6 hours.  Drain and rinse thoroughly, then place in a large (preferably cast iron) pot and cover with water at least 3 inches higher than beans.  Add about 2 tsp salt.  Bring up to a boil, low to medium heat and cook until soft, about 2 hours.
  • After the beans have been cooking for about an hour, heat oil in a large skillet and cook onions and garlic on low until soft, about 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Season onions with salt and pepper, add Marsala wine.
  • When beans are soft, remove about 1/3 into saucepan.
  • With a hand blender, blend the remaining beans with their broth until smooth.
  • Add onion / garlic mix with beans into large pot, add tamari, lemon juice and tomato paste.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and olive oil or ghee if desired.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Serve with swirls of olive oil and toasted walnuts.

Makes four servings.

Tempeh Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Tempeh Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I’ve been so enamored by meat the past few years that I had forgotten how much I loved cooking vegetarian food.  I still cook tempeh rather often, but usually utilize it in the same way repeatedly without branching out.  I also never cook with mushrooms, having had a phobia of them since being diagnosed with Lyme Disease as a child, where you’re taught to avoid foods grown underground or with high contents of mold.  Mushrooms being a mold, these were off-limits.

But in my attempt to add some variety in moderation to my diet, and to appease my once-vegetarian boyfriend, AND because I saw a great stuffed mushroom recipe on Saveur that I played with for a New Years gathering, I grabbed some portabellas and got to cooking.

Quick notes: I made breadcrumbs by toasting 2 slices of gluten-free bread, letting them sit while I prepped, and then ran them through the food processor.  Tempeh is easily found at most health food stores and some major grocers.  Marsala wine is a salty cooking wine that can be found in the vinegar section of most stores. Make sure to rub your mushrooms clean and not rinse them, as they easily absorb unwanted moisture.

Ingredients:

  • 3 portabella mushrooms, stems and insides removed
  • 12 white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 package of tempeh, cut into cubes
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced thin
  • 2 slices of bread, toasted and processed into coarse crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. Marsala cooking wine
  • 3 tbsp. tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • olive oil – virgin or extra virgin
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Place mushrooms, cap down, on tray.
  • Heat a large stainless steel skillet on medium heat, add about 3 rounds of olive oil (about 4 tbsp), and bring up to heat.
  • Add mushrooms and slices onion, turn heat to medium/low, and cook until softened, stirring occasionally and setting heat to low if necessary (depending on your range, you’ll want them to sweat and soften, not brown).
  • When soft, add Marsala wine and mix in thoroughly.  Cook until the wine is absorbed.  Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
  • Return pan to heat and add another 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Add tempeh and turn heat to medium.  Cook tempeh, turning constantly, until brown on all sides.
  • Add tamari and cook until absorbed, turning constantly.
  • Add tamari to bowl and mix with mushroom mixture.
  • Add breadcrumbs and vinegar and mix thoroughly, add salt and pepper as desired (the wine and tamari make this somewhat salty, so taste and add sparingly)
  • Fill into mushroom caps, bake for 15 minutes or until portabellas are soft.

I served this with shaved Brussels sprouts cooked with a little vinegar and sesame seeds, and quinoa.  They’d also be great with a big salad or a side of mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower.

Kitchen-Sink Soup – Kale and Carrot with White Beans

Kale and Carrot Soup with White Beans

I can always feel February coming because my green Le Creuset pot calls my name, asking me to fill it with, well, anything, really.  The holidays are a distant memory, and desperate yearnings for Spring aren’t making it come any faster.  Especially this winter, when we’ve been hit with storm after storm after storm, my kitchen and body and soul crave… soup.

Kitchen-Sink Soup is just that – anything that I have on hand or have miraculously thought to buy preemptively goes into my pot with broth and seasonings, then gets hand-blended into creamy perfection.  Soup is one of the easiest things to make well without a recipe.  All it takes are the tastiest and most natural of ingredients – vegetables, chicken or veggie stock, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and a protein such as beans, lentils or meat.  The simpler, in a way, the better.

But if you want a delectable recipe, follow this one, for Kale and Carrot Soup with White Beans.  For this soup I had picked up a few things: a bunch of carrots with the greens, as carrot greens are good for you and provide a rich carrot smell more than the carrots themselves, 2 cans of Cannelli beans, and a big bunch of green kale.  The rest I had around, and peeled and threw in for fun.

The result?  A blend of sweet (from the parsnips, sweet potato and carrots) and bitter (from the kale), made hearty from the white beans.  Easy to prepare, and it’s provided me with about 6 healthy servings to get through a week of working from home.

Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch of carrots (about 8 small carrots), scrubbed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of carrot greens, thoroughly washed, and chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 pint of clear vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 cups of water
  • I bunch of Kale, chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cans of white Canelli beans
  • olive oil to taste

Directions

  • Place the carrots, greens, parsnips, onion, sweet potato, broth and water in a medium pot (preferably cast iron), and bring up to a boil.
  • Lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 1/2 hour or until vegetables are almost cooked through.
  • Add kale and season with salt and pepper, cook for another 15 minutes until kale is soft.
  • With a hand blender or standing blender, blend soup until smooth.
  • Add Cannelli beans and cook until warmed through.
  • Add olive oil to taste when serving.

Super Bowl Chili

Full disclosure – I have no idea who is in the Super Bowl this year.  I rarely ever know who’s playing. I don’t quite understand football.  I mean, I get it, I understand the rules and all.  But huge men running at each other, the purpose to either knock another down, not get knocked down, or catch a ball without getting piled upon?  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m 5′ 2″.  I can hardly see on top of my fridge.  When I’m around big men I suddenly feel like my neck is really thin.  Just saying.

But, I LOVE the Super Bowl!  Why?  Because it’s the one day a year I make Super Bowl Chili.  Literally, I don’t let myself make it any other time.  It’s a recipe I’ve adapted from a friend, and it’s delicious.  Warm, filling, gluten-free and vegetarian-optional.

I don’t have a picture of it, but you know what chili looks like, right?

Go team.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 lbs. sirloin steak, cubed (to make vegetarian, cube 4 packages of tempeh and follow directions as if cooking steak)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 green zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1 lb plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp each cumin, basil, paprika, chili powder and oregano
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can dark kidney beans
  • 1 can dried chickpeas
  • 1 can white beans
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Chopped scallions, greens and whites
  • hard bread of choice
  • shredded Manchego cheese

Directions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large (preferably cast iron) pot, add onions and garlic, cook for 4 minutes
  • Add steak and saute till browned on all sides
  • Add zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, all fresh and dried seasonings.  Cook for at least 30 minutes.
  • Add beans and lemon juice.  Cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Keep on low until ready to serve.
  • Serve with chopped scallions, shredded cheese, hard bread or sour cream if desired.

Buck Up with Buckwheat!

It’s cold in New York City.  I sit at the computer, writing away at articles for my job, gobbling hot tea constantly.  And as I puttered around the kitchen this morning, I realized my normal breakfast of eggs and veggies wasn’t gonna cut it. I need something warm, filling and slightly sweet.

Enter BUCKWHEAT.

buckwheat kernals

This gluten-free grain is often overlooked when compared with its massively produced cousin, Oatmeal, but it’s now readily available in health food stores large and small.  It’s not actually a grain, but a seed somewhat related to rhubarb.  It cooks very similarly to oatmeal, though, is as deliciously versatile and is wonderfully filling on mornings when there’s a lot of day to face.  It’s completely gluten-free and a very healthy-happy food.

Healthy-Happy Buckwheat!

  • Completely gluten-free as it’s a seed, so it’s digestible for those with celiac and gluten sensitivities
  • Contains a very high level of magnesium, which relaxes blood vessels and therefore contributes to healthy blood flow and is good for the heart
  • Lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol (that’s a good thing…)
  • Helps lower and regulate blood-sugar levels by containing chiro-inositol.  Researchers are not sure why this does what it does quite yet, but in humans and animals alike, whole grains containing this compound lowered blood-sugar levels by 12-19% when compared with those given a placebo (check it out at WHFoods)
  • Generally high in antioxidants, so is generally an on-your-side superfood

Let’s Cook It!

Some cook buckwheat as an alternative to rice.  I prefer it as a porridge, all gooey and slightly sweet.  Below is my recipe for a coconut-buckwheat cereal.  Alternatives would be to cook with water or an animal milk, then add any variety of vanilla extract, cinnamon, dried or fresh fruits, carob powder, fresh nutmeg, chai… the list goes on.  I prefer coconut milk on some mornings because it makes the porridge thicker and naturally sweet and creamy.  I pressure cook my morning grains normally, as it adds to the digestion ease and also makes the grains that much more moist and fluffy.  Toasting them for a few minutes on dry heat before adding the liquid increases their digestibility.  Directions for pressure-cooking and stove top cooking are below.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of buckwheat
  • 2 cups of liquid – I used a can of light coconut milk and then topped off the rest with water
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (per serving)
  • dried cranberries, golden raisins or blueberries (preferably sugar and nitrate-free)
  • raw or toasted nuts (I used pecans, but hazelnuts or almonds would also be delightful)

Directions:

  1. Pressure Cook Grains: Add grains and liquid into a pressure cooker, bring up to full heat (you’ll know because it’ll be sizzling away, making lots of noise and releasing some steam), cook for 12 minutes, then turn off the heat and let pressure release naturally.
  2. Stove-top Cooking Grains:  Toast the grains in a dry pot on medium heat, stirring continually, until they become nutty and fragrant.  Add the liquid, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.   Cook about 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Serve with 1 tsp of maple syrup per serving, and a small handful of raw nuts and dried fruit.

Note: Adding a non-animal protein such as nut-butter or eggs is a great way to make this breakfast a perfect protein and aid digestion.  I actually rarely do such heavy grains first thing in the morning as I can’t digest nuts well in the early day, but as a sweet-treat and with some extra digestive boosting supplements, it’s a great way to face the rain.

How to make this a dessert? Simmer about 2 1/2 cups coconut milk on the stove, adding 4 tablespoons maple syrup, 2+ teaspoons each of vanilla extract and cinnamon and, if you want to live dangerously, a little dark rum.  Add grains and cook on low until thick and sweet.  Whip a whole egg and add in just before the grains are fully cooked, stirring thoroughly.  Taste and add seasonings to your preference.  Remove to a wide pan and refrigerate until cold.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, raisins and (if desired) a little more agave.

Spanish Butter Bean Salad

Butter Bean Tapas and Green Salad

Butter Bean Tapas and Green Salad

There’s a market in Astoria, Queens that has a delightful variety of imported Spanish goods, and butter beans are one of my favorites.  So one night I had a friend over for a Spanish gastronomical excursion, and figured I’d highlight these delicious beans.  This recipe is super-simple and SO tasty. And very good for diabetics and hypoglycemics (read below).

Health Benefits:

Butter Beans (also called Lima Beans) are rich in dietary fiber and, when paired with a grain, are a perfect protein that’s very low in fat.  I could retype in my own words, but this information from World’s Healthiest Foods just says it so well.  Lima beans, like other beans, are rich in dietary fiber. For this reason, lima beans and other beans are useful foods for people with irregular glucose metabolism, such as diabetics and those with hypoglycemia, because beans have a low glycemic index rating. This means that blood glucose (blood sugar) does not rise as high after eating beans as it does when compared to many other foods. This beneficial effect is probably due to two factors: the presence of higher amounts of absorption-slowing protein in the beans, and their high soluble fiber content. Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach forming a gel that slows down the metabolism of the bean’s carbohydrates. The presence of fiber is also the primary factor in the cholesterol-lowering power of beans. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol. Fiber isn’t absorbed, so when it exits the body in the feces, it takes the bile acids with it. As a result, the body may end up with less cholesterol. Lima beans also contain insoluble fiber, which research studies have shown not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. Just one cup of lima beans will give you 65.8% of the daily value for fiber.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried Spanish Butter Beans or large lima beans, dry
  • 2 Tablespoons of particularly delicious and organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 of a lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh cilantro
  • sea salt to taste

Directions:

  • Soak the butter beans for AT LEAST 24 hours.  The longer you soak them, the more tender they’ll be.  I only soaked mine for about 18 hours and had to cook them longer.
  • Cook the beans in about 3 cups of water in a nice boil for about an hour.  Start checking them around 40 minutes – the longer you soak them the softer they’ll get.  When I made them into soup, I wanted them to be so soft they’d puree well.  This time I wanted them to have some firmness to them.  You want some ‘al dente’.
  • Strain the beans and place in a small bowl.  Add the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar, and season with salt to taste.
  • Stir in the cilantro and squeeze the juice of the half lemon over everything.
  • Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy!  My buddy Jonathan and I decided that was one of our favorite parts of our meal.  The recipe feeds two people comfortably as a side dish.  And tastes just as good the next day.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding

It’s freezing in New York City.  By the time this is posted, the snow will be falling once again and NYC will have gotten more snow in January than any January in history.

Which is why this weekend I’ll be grabbing the ingredients for this warm and filling dessert that I made up last year while similarly freezing in Cincinnati.  It’s not too sweet, and a delicious dairy-free alternative to that gorgeous pudding that too often stares at me from behind the windows at Italian and Portuguese restaurants, eying me up and down as I sip my espresso.

Health notes: This recipe contains coconut milk (with medium-chained fatty acids, it’s very anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, and helps build strong bones), and cinnamon (which helps to regulate blood sugar, has been shown to help arthritis symptoms and has a whole load of other health properties).

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup long grain or basmati rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk with 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 additional cups coconut milk
  • golden raisins / sultanas (about 1/2 cup but to taste)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ground cinnamon to taste
  • fresh nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • your favorite sweetener to taste

Directions:

  • Cook the rice in your favorite form (stove top, pressure cooker, rice cooker etc.) with the 1 cup coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups water and raisins until all liquids are absorbed, the rice is soft and the raisins are plumped.
  • Add the extra 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, cinnamon stick, lemon rind, and vanilla and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • When the liquid has reduced by half, add about 2 tablespoons of sweetener, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and about 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and taste.  Add more sweetener as desired.
  • Simmer until the liquid is absorbed to almost an oatmeal-like consistency.  Any further and it will dry out before being served.
  • Serve warm or chilled, with additional cinnamon on top or with sprinkled raisins or coconut.
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