Spicy black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas with mustard greens

One of my favorite restaurants in my hometown of New Orleans is Bennachin. It’s not one of those classic New Orleans Creole or Cajun restaurants–it’s a simple, homey place that serves super-tasty African food. I think it’s really the owner/chef’s home cooking–that’s what it tastes like, anyway, delicious home-cooking. They have a big selection of vegetarian dishes (as well as meat and fish), and it seems that most things come with coconut rice and fried plantains. I’ve found that any meal accompanied by fried plantains is pretty awesome.

They serve this wonderful black-eyed pea dish that I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to reproduce at home. It’s a simple stew with onions, tomatoes and black-eyed peas, but it tastes like much more than that.

The surprising (and revelatory) thing about it, to me, is how tasty black-eyed peas are in a tomato-based stew. As a southerner I’ve eaten my share of black-eyed peas (especially on New Year’s day, when it brings you luck), and we might throw a chopped tomato in when we serve it, but it’s definitely not in a tomato sauce.

My most recent experiment included some garden-variety brown lentils and some split chickpeas. I ventured far from my Proustian memories of Bennachin’s black-eyed peas and into new territory with some Indian spices (and the addition of two other legumes). The split chickpeas are also known as Chana dal, and can be found in any Indian market. If you can’t get them, just use more black-eyed peas.

I usually throw a small piece (1 square inch, roughly) of Kombu/kelp in the pot when I make beans–it helps soften them and mineralizes the dish.

I like things spicy, so if you don’t, cut down on the chili. I encourage you to use the full amount of ginger though–it helps the digestion and really makes the dish tasty! I find that the heat of green chilis here in Boston is unreliable–they often taste like small bell peppers. Serrano chilis are usually pretty hot, and like with all chilis, the seeds are the hottest part. You can test for heat of your chili with a small nibble of the green part, and then decide how many seeds to include. I strongly recommend you do this! When I don’t, my dishes turn out either way to hot or disappointingly mild.

I always want to have something green with every meal, and this time I made mustard greens with onions, mustard seed and hing/asofetida.

Spicy Black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas

1/3 cp split chickpeas (aka Channa Dal, available at Indian markets) or just black-eyed peas
1/2 cp brown lentils
1/2 cp black-eyed peas
1 bay leaf
small piece kombu/kelp
1 onion, chopped
1-2 green chilis, chopped
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil, for sauteing
1 tsp cumin (or more, to taste
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2-1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I use no salt added tomatoes, reduce salt if yours have added salt)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2-3 tbsp lemon juice, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

If you are using the split chickpeas, bring them to a boil in about 4 cups of water, along with the bay leaf, kombu and about 1.5 tsp salt. Reduce fire and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add black-eyed peas and lentils and about 1 more cup of water (if you are not using chickpeas, just bring lentils and black-eyes to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes).

In the meantime, prepare the seasoning: Saute onion, garlic, chilis and ginger until onions soften. Add cumin, cardamom and coriander and briefly saute, making sure not to burn the spices. Add entire can of diced tomatoes (including juice). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add tomato mixture to pot of beans. Simmer on a low fire for at least 20 more minutes or until beans are soft and stew is thick. You might need to add 1-2 more cups of water to keep it from sticking, but finished result should be thick.

Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro and lemon juice, both to taste. Adjust salt and seasonings. Serve on rice.

Seasoned mustard greens

1 small onion or 2 shallots
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
pinch hing/asofetida
1 bunch mustard greens (or any hearty green–kale, collard greens)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion or shallots until they soften and give off some water. Add mustard seeds and continue sauteing until they start to pop. Add the pinch of hing, the greens and some salt. Saute until greens are bright-green and softened (maybe 5 minutes of sauteing). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Quick and easy nut butter chocolate chip cookies

I recently discovered this great recipe for really quick, really easy, and not-too-naughty chocolate chip cookies. It’s quick and easy, and you probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now (doesn’t everyone keep chocolate chips on hand like I do?). I’ve been experimenting with reducing the amount of sugar from the original recipe, and replacing some with a liquid sugar like brown rice syrup. The liquid sweeteners affect the texture, but not in a bad way.

Flourless nut butter cookies

I made mine with almond butter, but you could use any nut butter you like. They tasted better with roasted almond butter than with raw almond butter. The picture above is from The Nourishing Gourmet, a great blog for healthy food ideas.

You can use whatever chocolate chips you like, or cocoa nibs. The nibs are nice. Since they’re not sweetened, they don’t add any sweetness to the recipe. I think of cocoa nibs as a guilt-free way to have chocolate every day. They are just coarsely-ground cocoa beans. There’s no added fat or sugar, as in chocolate bars, so you get the full wallop of antioxidants and nutrients and non of the bad stuff. I like to add them to my breakfast porridges. Chocolate for breakfast–what could be better?

These cookies tend to get crunchy as they cool, but using some liquid sweetener keeps them chewier.

Nut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cp any roasted nut butter
1/2 cp succanat/rapidura sugar
1/4 cp brown rice syrup/honey/maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cp cocoa nibs or chocolate chips
1/4 cp chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.
With an electric mixer, combine nut butter, sweeteners, eggs and vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips/cocoa nibs and pecans. Drop about 1 tbsp of dough for each cookie, leaving some room for them to spread out (about 2 inches).

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Teff, the super grain

I’m a big fan of the high-protein grains quinoa and amaranth. They fill me up and keep my energy steady for hours. I like to cook them together with millet to make a breakfast porridge, and also to use instead of rice in one of my stews or quickie rice/veg/egg lunches.

Teff is another high-protein grain, and one I’ve neglected for far too long. Teff is rich in minerals with a healthy dose of calcium and iron, making it ideal for women (and men, too, of course). It is also gluten-free, making it a nice addition to a gluten-free diet.

Teff flour is used to make injera, an Ethiopian flatbread that is used both as a serving dish and a utensil. If you haven’t eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared to eat with your hands.

Ethiopian feast served on injera

We like Asmara in Cambridge. Addis Red Sea in Boston is also quite good. My Ethiopian patients tell me that Fasika in Somerville is the best place.

I’ve been experimenting with both the grain and the flour this week. Since teff cooks up fairly sticky, like amaranth, I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast. For my most recent pot, I added some chopped sweet potato and cinnamon, and I’ve been reheating it with soy milk, raisins and pecans.

I tried the Bob’s Red Mill Teff Chocolate cake recipe, and while I liked it, it wasn’t chocolaty enough for my taste. I will experiment with it and post an updated version in the future. One great thing about the cake, though, is that it’s very filling (which is a good thing–it’s filling you up with high-quality protein).

One down side to adding teff to your diet is that it’s hard to find it at the store. Whole Foods in Cambridge carries teff flour, but not the grain. I order all of my grains from Bob’s Red Mill, and I think teff is definitely worth the trouble of ordering.

Dutch stamppot

We just returned from a delightful holiday in Holland. The picture below was taken on a cold morning in Amsterdam. The weather was cold and mostly dry, though we did get a bit of snow.

While in Amsterdam, we rented a small apartment so that we could experience the city more as a resident and (a little) less like a tourist. We shopped at the local Albert Heijn market and cooked many of our own meals. I know many people like to get away and leave the kitchen and the dirty dishes behind, but we find it oppressive and expensive to eat out 3 meals a day, every day of our vacation. The apartment helped us avoid this–breakfast at “home” before we set out for the day’s adventures, lunch at a restaurant, and dinner back at “home,” when we just couldn’t walk around any more.

I love visiting grocery stores when I travel to other countries. I love seeing what different types of foods are available and how they’re packaged. Judging by our local Albert Heijn, the Dutch eat a lot of potatoes! They sold bags of partially-cooked, peeled potatoes in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes. The also sold large bags of chopped kale, or “boerenkool.” I was extremely excited to see that kale!

The bags of boerenkool were sold to use for the Dutch comfort food, Stamppot. It’s basically like Irish Colcannon–mashed potatoes with kale (or cabbage) and various seasonings. The Dutch serve it with boiled (!) sausage on the side. It is simple and hearty, a perfect antidote to the cold, damp weather they have in Holland. Oh yeah, and here in Boston, too. Cold, damp–does that sound familiar to anyone?

There are a variety of recipes out there, and it seems like you can really make it any way you like. I think it would be fantastic with some roasted garlic mashed in. It’s a great way to get more kale into your diet.

Here’s one of the recipes that I found on the internet. The original recipe includes sausage, but I’ve removed that. When we made it, we served it with an English lentil roast (a recipe that I will post later).

Stamppot

3 lbs potatoes
2 onions
1 bay leaf
1 lb kale
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

1. Peel and dice potatoes and onions.
2. Clean, trim and slice kale.
3. Add the potatoes, onion, kale, a bay leaf, a pinch of salt and just enough water to cover all in a 3 qrt pan.
4. Cover and boil gently for about 25 minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaf, drain the vegetables, and mash them.
6. Add milk and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Elana’s Pantry Biscuits

Biscuits have always been one of my favorite breakfast foods. I prefer them with just a pat of butter–no jam, nothing fancy.

I haven’t made biscuits in a while–they are a little time-consuming–but I’m excited to try this recipe from Elana’s Pantry.

They’re made of almond flour, so they are much higher protein than your standard white-flour biscuits. I suspect the texture will be quite different, but they do sound tasty

I can’t wait to try them.

You can see Elana’s original post here. I’ve pasted in her recipe below.

Biscuits

2 ½ cups blanched almond flour, plus about 1 cup for dusting the dough
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup earth balance natural buttery spread (soy free)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon agave nectar

1. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.

2. In a large bowl, blend together buttery spread, eggs and agave.

3. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until a nice dough forms. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper to 1 ½ inches thick. Dust dough with extra almond flour if it is sticky and/or misbehaving.

4. Cut the dough into biscuits using a mason jar with a 3-inch wide mouth. Using a spatula, transfer biscuits to a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, until biscuits are browned on the bottom edges.

Yield: 10 biscuits

Chickpea soup with saffron and almonds

As the weather gets cooler, I’m enjoying being in the kitchen again. I love summer so much that I don’t want to spend any time at all inside in the kitchen. When it starts to turn cool (and wet), being in a warm kitchen seems like the most reasonable thing to do.

I’ve been making a lot of soup lately. I’ve been experimenting with making stock, and then using it to create two different soups. This give me leftovers for nice lunches and dinners for the rest of the week.

In the fall and winter it’s especially important to eat warming, cooked foods. Chinese medicine teaches us that when it’s cold out, you should skip raw foods because they cool the body and put the digestive fires out (when it’s cold outside, you need warming inside). Soups are the perfect replacement for the salads of summer–nutritious and hydrating for the dryness that comes with cold air and indoor heating.

I just recently tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for Chickpea Soup with Saffron and Almonds from his book, How to cook everything vegetarian. I followed his recipe almost exactly, and made my own stock. If you don’t have time to make stock, just use whatever stock you like. I often use Imagine Foods No Chicken Stock when I don’t have time to make my own.

The inclusion of coarsly chopped almonds gives this soup and interesting texture. I mashed a few chickpeas to thicken the soup, but left it very brothy overall. Bittman says to mash the chickpeas to whatever consistency you prefer–there’s no wrong way.

Basic stock

1 large onion, with (clean) skin, cut into large chunks
2 medium carrots, cut into quaters
2 stalks celery, cut into quarters
3-6 Whole garlic cloves, with skin on, gently crushed with side of knife
Olive oil, for sauteeing
Stems from dried mushrooms (I used Maitake/Hen of the Woods), optional
2 bay leaves
1 Tsp dried thyme (or several branches of fresh)
6-8 cups of water

Sautee onion in olive oil until it starts to soften a bit (about 5 minutes). Add the carrots, celery and garlic saute until the veggies are slighty browned.

Add bay leaves and thyme and sautee briefly.

Add water and optional mushroom stems, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes, but longer if you have time.

Chickpea soup with saffron and almonds

3/4-1 cp roasted almonds (best with skinned)
2 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans, or cook 1/2 pound dried)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
Olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crumbled saffron, or more, if you like
6 cups vegetable stock or water or combo
1/4 cp chopped parsley

1. Coarsely chop the almonds. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in large soup pot. Sautee onions and garlic with a large pinch of salt and ground black pepper. Cook until onions start to brown, stirring occasionally throughout. Stir in almonds and saffron.
3. Add stock or water and chickpeas. Mash chickpeas to desired consistency with a potato masher or back of a spoon. Gently heat, stirring occasionally until hot. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
4. Serve garnished with parsley.

Almond flour banana blueberry muffins

I recently found Comfy Belly, a blog of healthy recipies for people with different food intolerances. I tried Erica’s Banana Blueberry muffin recipe as was really excited with the results. I did modify her recipe a bit to suit my preferences, but you can see her original post here. This beautiful picture is hers as well.

banana-blueberry-muffins

Here’s my variation:

Banana Blueberry Muffins

1/4 cup of Agave Nectar or Honey
3 tablespoons of coconut oil, olive oil, Earth Balance or butter, melted
2 eggs
2 very ripe bananas
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 cups of almond flour
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3 tbsp. chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup of blueberries (or more)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare muffin pan either with paper cups or by thoroughly greasing each muffin cup (make sure to get the corners). My batch made 12 muffins.

Mix all the wet ingredients (except for the blueberries) together in a bowl until well blended.

Combine baking soda, salt, almond flour, cinnamon and allspice (a whisk gets the job done quickly and thoroughly).

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well again. Add candied ginger and chopped nuts.

Gently fold blueberries in.

Spoon batter into each cup, filling them to just below the tops of the muffin cups.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from a muffin.

Cool and enjoy!

It’s best to store these in the freezer and defrost as you go as they do not hold up well at room temperature. Of course, if your house is like mine, they won’t last long!

Quick and healthy: Poached egg on kale and millet grits

My work as an acupuncturist allows me to have lunch at home several days a week, and it’s something I’ve come to enjoy immensely. I love to cook, but I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble in the middle of the day (too much time, too many dirty dishes), so my challenge is to find something quick and healthy that I can whip up quickly.

Lately, all of my lunches involve eggs in various forms. I never get tired of eating them since you can do so many things with them. Eggs are an excellent source of protein for my mostly vegetarian diet, and pack a whallop of solid nutrition. The whites are almost pure protein, and it is a complete protein with the full compliment of all 8 amino acids. The yoke has gotten a bad rap in the past since it contains most of the fat in the egg, but it turns out that that fat is not so bad for you as they used to think. The yolk also contains most of the other nutrients, including healthy doses of B vitamins and minerals. They have an extremely low glycemic index, a 2 out of 100.

When I eat eggs, I feel comfortably full for longer, with steady-burning energy the whole time.

I feel best when I pair them with a whole grain and something green. Kale is another of my favorite super-foods. It has similar, almost complete amino acid compliment like eggs, along with a host of vitamins and minerals, including a hefty dose of vitamin A. Kale also has a low glycemic index.

I made this dish last week when I had some left over millet grits. Next time I have some of my Millet-Amaranth-Quinoa blend on hand, I think I’ll make this again.

This recipe is for 1 serving, and the quantity of kale is up to you–I like having a lot!

Poached egg on kale and millet grits

Millet grits (or other grain), prepared according to package instructions with small pat of Earth Balance dairy-free “butter” added (or real butter)

1-2 hands full of chopped kale (or any other leafy green)
Chopped garlic, to taste
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 eggs
Sriricha chili-garlic sauce (optional)

Place small pot of water on to boil for poaching your eggs (use a larger pot if you plan to poach more than 1 egg at a time). Add 1 tsp white vinegar to the water (this helps keep the egg together while it poaches).

Saute garlic and kale in a skillet. Season with small pinch of salt. If necessary, add a bit of water to steam the kale a bit until you get a texture that is soft but still toothsome.

In the meantime, poach your egg(s). Poaching instructions can be found here and here. You want to have a nice, runny yolk at the end.

Serve in a bowl large enough for you to stir everything together. Start with your grains, then top with sauteed kale and then your egg. If you like spicy things like I do, garnish with your favorite hot sauce (mine is Sriracha). Stir, making sure to break up the yolk and stir it in.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

Every summer my husband and I seem to need to have at least 1 home-made blueberry pies or we feel like we missed something. The problem is that it’s too hot to want to turn on the oven! I’m also still experimenting with gluten-free crusts, which sometimes feels like a lot of work.

So, because of the heat and the gluten-free challenge, we haven’t had a blueberry pie in 2 years!

I’m taking the week (mostly) off of work to have a mini-vacation while I take the morning intensives in the South Boston Yoga teacher training program. I’m having a great time!

Monday I finally got over the heat/challenge thing and made this superb blueberry pie with almond crust. I found a recipe at Elana’s Pantry for this nice almond-flour crust. Since Elana’s instructions said to pat the crust into the pan rather than roll it out, I knew it would have a crumbly consistency. I decided to double the recipe and use 1/2 of it as a crumble topping, which I added in the last 15 minutes or so of baking.

Make sure you have vanilla ice cream on hand–the first bite makes it clear that you must have it a la mode! I love either Purely Decadent or Cocobliss‘s vanilla coconut milk ice cream for this.

The crust is not as cohesive as a wheat-based crust, but it crumbles charmingly and tastes delicious.

Blueberry pie with almond crust

For the crust and crumble (see Elana’s original posting here):

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp light-flavored healthy oil of your choice (Elana recommends grapeseed)
4 tbsp agave/brown rice syrup/maple syrup/honey
2 tsp vanilla

For the filling:

2 pints fresh blueberries
2 tbsp tapioca flour
1/3-1/2 cp sugar (I used Succanat)
1 tsp cinnamon
butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust and crumble:

Combined almond flour, salt and baking soda in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl combine oil, agave and vanilla.

Stir oil mixture into almond flour mixture, mixing well to combine. Consistency should be fairly crumbly.

Press 1/2 of the almond mixture into a pie plate, reserve rest for topping.

To make filling:

Combine tapioca flour, sugar and cinnamon. Gently fold into blueberries, making sure everything is evenly distributed. If you’re using butter, put small pieces here and there on top of the blueberries.

Put blueberries into prepared pie crust and cover tightly with foil with a few small holes punched to let some steam out.

Bake covered for about 40 minutes. Uncover and distribute reserved crumble topping over pie (don’t touch! It’s hot and sticky).

Return pie to oven, uncovered, and bake for 15-20 minutes longer, until crumble topping is nicely browned.

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

I spend a significant part of my day talking about how important it is to eat a healthy, whole-foods diet. Food is medicine. In Chinese medicine, eating a healthy, balanced diet is often the best way to have good health.

I think too many people think a healthy diet is about self depravation and no enjoyment. They’re totally wrong. My personal approach is to eat the healthiest meals that I can–whole grains, beans, lots of kale and green things, fresh fruit, nuts, all delicious, no depravation–then I’m free to indulge a little every day. It’s totally guiltless, and that lets me enjoy it so much more.

Here’s a recipe for one of my indulgences. These cookies are super rich because they’re mostly hazelnut meal, so don’t overindulge. I think they’d be equally good make with almond flour, but I like the sweetness that hazelnuts add. The thing I love most about these cookies is that there are so many things here that are good for you. That’s my most favorite treat–tasty and healthy. Balanced.

Sadly, I have no pictures of this treat, but I’ll post some next time I make them.

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookies

2 cups hazelnut meal
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (or flour of your choice)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, Earth Balance or coconut oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup agave, honey, maple or a combo
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cp chopped pecans
1/2 cp chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, cover with parchment paper and butter the paper.

Combine hazelnut meal, buckwheat flour, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Whisk together until well blended.

Beat butter/Earth Balance/coconut oil and liquid sweetner until creamy and well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add flour blend in several small quantities, beating after each addition. Dough should be fairly thick, but might still seem very moist. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips

For best results put dough into refrigerator for at least an hour, but as long as 24 hours. You can also bake them right away–they will just spread out more. The rest time lets the buckwheat flour absorb some of the moisture.

Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of cookie batter onto prepared pan, leaving some room for them to spread. Bake for 15 minutes.