Chocolate chip banana nut muffins

We’ve had a lot of snow over the past week here in Boston so like many others I’ve been doing a lot of cooking (and eating! too much eating!).

One of the best things I’ve made during the past week is these muffins (or cupcakes). I modified a cake recipe from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam to create these muffin/cupcakes.

I say they’re muffin/cupcakes because they feel more like a treat than muffins, but I choose not to make any frosting, so that makes their status as “cupcakes” questionable. For me, the chocolate chips make frosting unnecessary.

Like most things I bake these straddle the line between “treat” and “sustenance.” They’re made of high-protein almond flour, so they’re filling in a way your standard muffin isn’t.

I have been experimenting with using coconut oil in place of other oils and have discovered something interesting. Unrefined coconut oil is not supposed to be heated above 280 degrees (or something like that), so it shouldn’t be good for baking muffins cooked at 350 degrees. Except that it is! I’ve made this recipe with both unrefined and refined coconut oil (expeller pressed only please) and I find the unrefined coconut oil makes a richer more luscious muffin. The refined coconut oil is really good too, but it has a slightly less luscious result.

I recommend using the best quality dark chocolate chips you can find. Using good chocolate here really elevates this simple treat into something special. I try to get chips that are at least 70% dark chocolate when I can. You can also chop up a couple of nice chocolate bars to mix in with whatever chips you use–even a small amount of high-quality chocolate makes a difference here.

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Muffins

3 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cp coconut oil, melted (or any other light oil or melted butter)
1/4 cp maple syrup (or any liquid sweetener)
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cp mashed ripe bananas (2-3)
1 cup dark chocolate chips (or chopped up chocolate bars)
1/2 cp chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a muffin pan with paper baking cups.

In large bowl combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.

In a separate bowl combine the oil, liquid sweetener, eggs and vanilla. Stir into the almond flour mixture. Add mashed bananas, chocolate chips and pecans and stir to thoroughly combine.

Scoop into prepared muffin pan, bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out dry.

It must be summer because it’s Farmer’s Market time (plus sauteed Kale)

It’s farmer’s market season in Boston and I couldn’t be happier. I am fortunate enough to shop at the markets in Central Square and Davis Square (which is located directly behind my office!).

I have found that produce from the markets is fresher and tastier than anything in the stores. The prices work out to be more or less the same (or slightly cheaper, depending), but you get bigger bunches of things for the money. The markets have also turned me into a tomato snob–I never buy them from the grocery store because they are mealy and flavorless. I actually have a tomato problem in the summer–once they start appearing in the market I find myself buying so many that we have a hard time eating them all (a happy difficulty to have!).There are markets all over town, all week long. Check out the Federation of Massachusetts Farmer’s Markets to find one near you.

I always visit the Enterprise Farm stand in Davis Square to buy my greens. They’re an organic farm, and I like to try to buy as much organic produce as possible. They grow multiple varieties of my favorite vegetable, Kale, along with delicious salad greens, tomatoes and many other organic green things.

The Kimball Farm is at both of my markets and they have the biggest selection at both markets. They are not organic, but “low spray,” which means they only spray when they have to. They have expanded their “no spray” produce, making them a good alternative if you can’t find what you want at the organic stands.

I’m addicted to the berries from the Bug Hill Farm stand. They overfill their containers, and their berries are consistently sweet and delectable.

In the fall some stands have fresh foraged Maitake, or Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. I try to buy as many of these as possible. Maitake have fantastic health benefits, are extremely tasty and versatile to cook with, and include woody stems that I save in the freezer to add to vegetable stocks. Check out this post from Drweil.com about the health benefits of Maitake and other mushrooms like Shiitake.

Both of my markets have a variety of naturally-raised meat available, and now both have fresh fish vendors! In Davis Square, the Globe Fish Company offers super-fresh, never frozen fish from their family-run business. We have a new fish vendor in Central, C&C Lobsters and fish, which seems to also be a small, family-run business. They have a nice variety of local fish and also lobsters–either live for you to take home to cook, or, if you order ahead, steamed and ready to eat.

Aside from all the beautiful produce, farmer’s markets are a community gathering opportunity. I often run into people that I know and maybe don’t see too often at the markets, and it’s like we’re all giddy with joy–it’s just so delightful to be surrounded by beautiful produce and happy people!

One thing I buy every week is kale. I love Enterprise Farm’s organic tuscan kale (also known as black, lacinato or dinosaur kale), as well as their green and purple kale. Kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. I think I tell at least one patient every day that they should include kale in their diet.

The problem is that no one knows how to cook it! We almost always prepare it as a simple saute with some garlic and salt. Easy, fast, delicious–what else do you need in a vegetable dish?

I hesitate to post this as a “recipe” because there’s really nothing to it:

-Chop the Kale (cut the leaves off of the thick, woody stems first)
-chop a clove of garlic
-saute the garlic briefly in a large frying pan with some olive oil (less than a tablespoon should do)
-add the kale and saute. It’s good if there’s a bit of water left on your kale from washing –that water helps steam the kale as it’s cooking.

Add salt (be judicious–kale doesn’t seem to need much salt) and enjoy!

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are relatively new on the health food market, and I’ve been experimenting with them in a lot of my baked goods. They are a complete protein, and are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They also have a decent amount of vitamins and minerals. They also pack a good amount of fiber, too. Click here for the nutrition data breakdown.

Chia seeds have a unique ability to absorb large amounts of liquids, opening interesting possibilities for consumption. They become thick and gelatinous when soaked in liquid, and can be consumed as a beverage (a chunky beverage, which is better than it sounds), or made into a nutrious gel that you can eat with a spoon. I have been using ground chia seeds in all of my gluten-free baking because they help things stick together.

It’s a nice travel food for those with food sensitivities–easy to pack, and when mixed with any liquid it becomes a nourishing and filling food source. I’ve been seeing juices on the market with chia seeds floating in them–just make your own by adding some to your favorite juice.

One of the tastiest ways I’ve been enjoying them is as a pudding. It’s easy and fast, involves no cooking (and few dishes), and is open to infinite variables. I don’t have a picture of it for you, though, but at the request of my patients I wanted to get the recipe up (and maybe I’ll add a picture later). It’s a bit like tapioca pudding, but it’s healthy instead of starchy.

I enjoy it both as a post dinner snack (it’s a great ice cream substitute). Depending on how much sweetener (and what type) you use, it can be a nice breakfast too (maybe with some granola or nuts stirred in).

It’s hard to call this a recipe, it’s really a ratio: 1/2 cup chia seeds to roughly 2-3 cups of liquid. I used coconut milk the last time I made it, but you can use any tasty, creamy base that you like.

The infinite variety come in with how you choose to flavor the liquid. Vanilla or almond extract? Chocolate? Warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves? All are nice, so it’s up to you. If you are using whole spices like cinnamon stick, cardamom pods or cloves, you’ll get a richer flavor if you gently heat the base for a few minutes, and then leave the spices to steep (and then remove before you add the chia seeds).

Here is a rough sketch for a vanilla pudding and a chocolate:

Chia Seed Pudding

1/2 cp Chia seeds
2-3 cups coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk or whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
2-4 tbsp of your favorite sweetner (I use 1/2 palm sugar, 1/2 maple syrup)

Combine all ingredients and stir with a wire whisk. Let chia seeds soak for at least 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to prevent clumping. Start with less liquid, adding more to achieve your desired consistency. You can also add more chia seeds if it’s too liquid-y

It’s ready to eat as is, or you can chill it for a while.

To make this chocolate, add 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, and maybe use the larger amount of sugar.

Taste for sweetner, add a bit more if you need it.

A quick-and-dirty chocolate chia pudding can be had by mixing your chia seeds into chocolate soy milk (or whatever chocolate milk makes you happy).

New Orleans round up

My husband and I just returned from a wonderful week in New Orleans. Visiting New Orleans means you’re going to eat well and have a great time.

We definitely ate well on this trip, though I suspect I consumed more butter in 5 days than I do in five months. New Orleans cuisine is far from dietetic or healthy, but just fine for vacation indulgence. Until recently, New Orleans was a difficult place to have any dietary restrictions. Vegetarians are relegated to ethnic restaurants and salads. There seemed to be little awareness of food allergies or restrictions in wait staff.

I’ve been puzzled by the ignorance about food sensitivities–New Orleans’ only real industry is tourism, and people with food sensitivities travel. When I was researching places to eat for this trip I was pleasantly surprised by a reasonably long list of gluten-free friendly restaurants. I think it’s safe to assume that any restaurant that is taking steps to protect it’s gluten-free customers will also do a good job with other sensitivities.

We enjoyed several meals at Drago’s, whose main claim to fame is charbroiled oysters.
charbroiled oysters
Oysters are every day food in New Orleans, and they’re eaten raw or cooked. Drago’s invented charbroiled oysters, and now they’re available all over the city. I’ve eaten them in a variety of restaurants and I have to say that Drago’s might be the best. They are extremely rich, and though we don’t usually eat such rich food, I think we had charbroiled oysters almost every day of our trip.

Drago’s has a gluten-free menu, and the waitstaff at their riverside location was knowledgable and helpful. If you are gluten-free and want to try the charbroiled oysters, make sure to order them without the bread.

We also had a delightful and low-key meal at Carmo’s. Carmo’s calls itself a “tropical cafe,” and their menu includes things like plantains and quinoa. Their menu indicates which items are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. This is definitely not classic New Orleans cuisine, but a refreshing, light break from all the butter and cream sauces. I enjoyed their nourishing Esmeralda salad, made of black beans and quinoa.

No trip to New Orleans would be complete without fried seafood at Casamento’s and West African cuisine at Bennachin, which I’ve blogged about before. Bennachin doesn’t seem to have a web page, but they are on facebook. It’s a great restaurant for vegetarians and people with food sensitivities, and it’s a nice break from heavy New Orleans cuisine for everyone else.

crawfishCrawfish season is in full swing right now, so we did our part to eat as many as possible. One of our best meals on this trip was boiled crawfish and shrimp (along with some potatoes boiled in the spicy crawfish boil). We picked them up at Big Fisherman seafood on Magazine St., and took them to the riverside park that the locals call “the Fly.” for a wonderful and messy picnic.

We tried to do enough walking to balance out all the rich foods, but I also made sure to get a yoga class in at Reyn Studios in the CBD/Warehouse district. It’s reasonably close to many of the major hotels, so it’s easy to get your yoga fix if you’re vacationing there. The space is beautiful, and the owner, Reyn, taught a great class.

I found several other restaurants that either had gluten-free menus or knowledgeable staff, but didn’t make it on this trip. Here’s a list of them–perhaps you can check them out yourself and let me know what you think:

The Palace Cafe, a fine dining restaurant with a separate gluten-free menu.
The Wandering Buddha–has a vegan and gluten free menu
Satsuma Cafe–a small cafe with experience serving GF customers.
Truburgers, which offers a GF bun for it’s burgers.
La Petite Grocery, like many nice restaurants, is said to have a knowledgeable staff to assist diners with food sensitivities.

Crawfish photo CC licensed by adie reed.

Oysters photo CC licensed by  K Tao.

Eggs poached in stock with spinach and buckwheat

I made a lot of soup this winter and came to appreciate the joy of home-made stock. With just a little extra work, you can get a stock pot going and then forget about it for at least 45 minutes. Strain it and you have a flexible base for a lot of good meals. It freezes beautifully, so make more than you need and bank some in the freezer for a future meal.

Spring allergy season has begun early in Boston. It’s predicted to be an especially bad year because of our mild winter. It’s also several weeks early.

We felt particularly under the weather last weekend, so I decided to cash in two jars of stock from the freezer stash. A quick and healthy meal can be had with two eggs, some pre-made stock, some leftover cooked grains and a handful of something leafy and green. Enhance the flavor as you time an inclination permits. If we’re feeling really under the weather, I add a few cloves of garlic to the stock and boil for at least 15-20 minutes. This time I sauteed some sliced garlic in olive oil and added it at the end, along with some chopped green onions. I had leftover cooked buckwheat in the fridge, but really any grain would do. I especially enjoy small round grains like quinoa and millet.

Eggs poached in stock with spinach and buckwheat

3 cups stock
4 eggs
1 cup cooked grains (give or take), preheated
a few handfuls of baby spinach
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 green onions, sliced

Bring stock to a boil, taste for seasoning. Crack eggs into 4 small bowls (like ramekins). To poach eggs, bring bowl very close to the boiling stock and gently tip in. Repeat with other 3 eggs, giving each egg a little room. Gently boil for about 3 minutes.

While eggs are cooking, saute garlic in some olive oil, taking care not to let it brown.

Divid preheated grains between two large soup bowls. Top with a generous handful of baby spinach (you can use a lot here–it will reduce down to nothing once the soup hits it.

Stir sauteed garlic into broth, taking care not to break the eggs. Gently spoon 2 eggs into each bowl and divide the stock evenly between the two bowls. Top with sliced green onions.

Serves 2.

Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust (with bonus shortbread cookies)

I’ve always loved treats with an almond flavor or filling. Now that I’m doing almost all of my baking with almond flour, it’s easier to make healthy treats that satisfy my almond-loving palate.

I’ve been experimenting with my gluten-free pie crust recipe, and recently tried it out in an Apple Frangipane tart. Frangipane is a filling made of ground almonds, butter, sugar and eggs. Not all Frangipane recipes call for almond extract, but I like to include it to enhance the natural almond flavor. You can bake Frangipane in a variety of pie and tart pastries, often with fruit on top, or perhaps a layer of jam below.

Apple Frangipane tart is a classic French pastry. A sweet tart crust is filled with frangipane, topped with apples and baked. This recipe uses a gluten-free crust, but you could use whatever sweet crust you prefer. This recipe is a work-in-progress, and I think that pre-baking the crust for about 5 minutes would be a good thing, but I have not tested this theory yet (we can only eat so many sweets!), so I have listed the recipe just as I made it.

Bonus Shortbread Cookies: This crust recipe makes more than you’ll need for a standard tart pan (7-9″ diameter), so roll the leftovers into a log and refrigerate until firm, slice into cookies, and bake at 350 for 7-12 minutes for a delicious gluten-free shortbread cookie.

I used granular palm sugar/coconut sugar in my frangipane. Palm/coconut sugar has a low glycemic index (35), tastes delicious and behaves almost exactly like sugar. As a bonus, it contains some B vitamins and a generous amount of minerals like potassium and iron. It does not taste as sweet as refined sugar, but it brings a richer flavor to the finished product. You can find palm/coconut sugar in asian markets, packaged as a solid, hard-to-use lump (which is often combined with refined white sugar). I’ve also seen round shaker-type container of coconut sugar at my local Whole Foods Market, but it was outrageously expensive. I’ve been buying a nice, reasonably-priced granular palm sugar from Nutsonline.com, which is also where I buy my almond flour and many other wonderful things. Their palm sugar isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper than what you might find at your market. Since it feels so much better in my body than refined sugar, I see it as a worthwhile investment in my health.

Apple frangipane tart with almond and hazelnut crust

Almond and hazelnut crust

1.5 cps almond meal/flour
1 cp hazelnut meal
1 tbsp ground chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cp melted coconut oil or fat of your choosing
5 tbsp liquid sweetener (honey, maple, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.)
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg

Combine almond flour, hazelnut meal, chia seeds, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a big wire whisk (or any spoon, really) until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, liquid sweetener, almond extract and egg. Beat with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined.

Stir wet ingredients into dry, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is blended.

Put crust mixture into refrigerator to firm up a bit while you prepare the rest.

Fragipane

1/2 cp almond meal
1 tbsp flour (buckwheat is good, but any will do)
1/4 cp palm sugar (or regular sugar)
3 tbsp butter
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt

Combine almond meal, flour and palm sugar in a food processer, pulsing a couple of times to blend. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth paste is formed, pausing to scrape down the sides to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.

Putting it all together

2-3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375. Thoroughly grease your tart pan, making sure to get to each nook and cranny.

Press about 2/3-3/4 of the pie crust mixture into the tart pan, making sure it is even on the bottom and sides. This is easier if it is a bit stiff and cold. Take extra care with the bottom edge, making sure that it is not too thick.

Pour frangipane into the crust and spread it evenly. Arrange apple slices on top, arranging them in a pretty pattern.

Bake at 375 for 40-60 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Store in refrigerator.

Easy herb and grain salads

My patients have been requesting that I post recipes that are quick and healthy, and I can’t think of anything easier than a whole-grain salad made with some leftovers and a few things you probably have on hand already.

I almost always have some odd bits of left over brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat lingering in the fridge. I like to use it to whip up a salad as either a quick meal (made more filling with some canned beans), or a side dish to go with a piece of fish. It’s also a great way to put those bits of cilantro and parsley to use when you have just a little leftover from something else you’ve recently made.

I don’t really follow a recipe–I just use whatever is on hand, and dress it with olive oil and lemon juice (or vinegar).

Things that are nice to include:

* raisins
* nuts (pecans, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, toasted if you have the time)
* olives
* chopped fresh herbs if you have them (dried if you don’t)
* roasted red peppers
* capers
* beans (chickpeas are my favorite)
* cheese
* steamed veggies
* onions/scallions
* sprouts
* cucumbers
* tomatoes

For the dressing, think about combining 3 parts olive oil with 1 part vinegar/lemon juice. Add salt and pepper and any other seasonings to taste. You can also add 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard. It’s best to mix the dressing in a separate container, beat it with a fork and taste to see if you need to add any more of anything.

When you put it together, the grain should be the predominant item in your salad. Add as much or as little of the other ingredients as you like.

Mix everything together and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes (assuming you have that kind of time–otherwise just eat it right away).

The picture above comes from this nice blog I recently discovered, Tale of Two Vegans. Check it out!

Montreal and a quick egg recipe

Every few years my husband and I trek to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival has changed a lot since our first trip their. On this trip we realized that instead of going to mostly listen to music, we were going to mostly enjoy some favorite things about Montreal, and then listen to a little al fresco music in the evening. It was one of our best trips yet.

Community garden in Montreal

We rented a small apartment near the Atwater market and the Lachine Canal, two of the highlights of our trip. The lovely community garden pictured above was next to the apartment, and it was pure joy to walk past it several times a day and see gardeners tending their tidy plots.

Farm stand at Atwater Market

The Atwater Market was a delight for me–a permanent farmer’s market with a wide variety of small local vendors. Quebec is a bit behind Boston in their season, so they still had strawberries and asparagus. Both were delicious and so simple to enjoy in our our little kitchen. We also bought some delicious local goat and sheep’s milk cheese, some maple syrup and La Messagere, a wonderful Quebec-made gluten-free beer.

The Lachine Canal (with access conveniently located right behind the market) is an amazing urban park, perfect for biking. It was originally built as an industrial canal, and spurred development in that parts of Montreal that it traversed. Biking along it is fascinating–a range of historic stone buildings, modern buildings and infrastructure, crumbling factories, and luxury condos line the path. There’s even one section that travels parallel (and within a visible, but safely distant) section of a major highway. Despite all of this human-made scenery, sections of it are lush with greenery and overall it was a peaceful ride.

Our bike journeys were made possible by the BIXI bike share program that’s like the one we’re getting here in Boston. It was a great service and I’m so excited to have something similar in Boston.

Kusmi Tea store

We also found a shop dedicated to selling our favorite tea, Kusmi Tea. It’s Russian-via-Paris, expensive, decadent and totally worth every penny.

Most of our meals were simply prepared dishes with loot from the farmer’s market (like the egg, potato and asparagus recipe that follows), but I have to mention the fantastic vegetarian restaurant we visited in the Plateau neighborhood, Aux Vivres. They serve a nice variety of interesting and healthy vegetarian fare, including several gluten-free items.

I’ve found that one of the easiest and healthiest foods a vegetarian can prepare when you’re traveling is eggs.

They’re versatile–on recent trips I’ve made omlettes and fritattas, hard-boiled, scrambled and poached in spicy tomato sauce–all with minimal equipment and seasonings.
They’re healthy–the white is almost pure protein, providing slow-burning fuel. Eggs are also an important source of B vitamins for vegetarians, something in short supply in the vegetable kingdom.
They’re filling–perfect to fuel a morning or afternoon of walking around or biking (or after, to refuel for the next adventure).
They cook up fast! Perfect for a quick lunch after a morning of exploring

They’re also available everywhere, maybe one of their best features.

Taking advantage of the delicious local asparagus and some nice new potatoes, I made this “hash” for lunch after one of our bike rides. It’s so simple it’s hard to call this a “recipe.” If you can use real butter, I encourage you to do it tastes great! If butter is not you’re friend, use your favorite butter substitute.

Eggs with potato and asparagus hash

For 2

4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are, beaten
8 small, 2-3 medium or 1 large potato
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces.
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
butter
Salt, pepper
Optional additions: crumbled goat cheese (or any cheese), tabasco, avocado, chopped fresh herbs

Cut potatoes into a 1/2 inch dice. Boil until just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).
To prepare asparagus, either add to potatoes in the last minute of cooking, or parboil or steam them separately until bright green and just tender.

Heat butter in a large frying pan. Saute onion or shallots until soft. Add potatoes and allow them to gently brown in the butter (but don’t burn the butter!). Add asparagus, stir to coat with butter.

Push veggies to the side of pan, add a bit more butter and pour eggs into the empty 1/2 of the pan. Scramble until mostly cooked, then stir veggies and finish cooking the whole process should take about 5 minutes, depending on how well you like your scrambled eggs to be done). Salt and pepper to taste

Served topped with any of the optional additions you’d like.

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.

One stock, two dinners: Celery Root Gratin, Lentil Soup

It’s cold here and Boston, and I’m suddenly, happily, more interested in spending time in the kitchen. Summer cooking is a challenge–the farmer’s markets are brimming with beautiful veg, but I want to spend my time lollygagging on the patio, not sweating in the kitchen. So, while the cold weather has it’s challenges, it makes me want to cook.

I’ve been making a lot of soup lately. I think of soup as a perfect food–I pack them with veggies, and usually include some type of bean and serve it with brown rice or quinoa. I’ve also been making my own stock lately, which makes a huge difference in the quality of the soup.

Stock always seems like a lot of work, certainly harder than using a bouillion cube or opening a carton of your favorite store-bought stock. It really isn’t, though. Coarsely chop some veggies (with skins intact for extra flavor), saute them in some olive oil, add water and some herbs and leave it to simmer on the stove while you do other things.

My current approach is to make a big pot of stock, and then use it as a basis for two different recipes. I also try to freeze some for some future time when I don’t have time to make stock. It doesn’t feel like that much work when you can use a pot of stock to make a couple of dishes.

This week I make Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone“>Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone mushroom stock using my favorite dried mushrooms, Maitake/Hen of the Woods and a few shiitake.

Maitake/Hen of the woods (pictured above) are super-delicious mushrooms with wonderful health benefits. They helps strengthen the immune system and have anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Research has also shown that they have tumor-fighting properties and can help regulate blood sugar. I buy dried Maitake from Mountain Rose Herbs and use them almost every time I make stock.

Shiitake (pictured above, growing on logs) have similar immune-stimulating, anti-tumor and anti-bacterial effects. They’re easily found at any Japanese market and most Asian markets. Mountain Rose Herbs also carries dried Shiitake. I buy them fresh at my local Whole Foods Market, as well.

Fresh Maitake and Shiitake are quite expensive, but a little goes a long way. Dried mushrooms tend to be less expensive and are almost as nice as the fresh, depending on how you prepare them.

With cold season upon us, it make sense to use as many maitake and shiitake as possible.

This batch of Mushroom Stock went towards making a Celery root/brown rice gratin (also from Deborah Madison’s book) and a pot of lentil soup (recipe to follow later). These two dishes gave us several lunches and a dinner–a great reward for the work. The original gratin recipe called for wild rice, but my husband doesn’t think wild rice is good for eating, so I made it with brown rice. The added step of making the bechamel sounds like a lot of work, but once you throw it together it’s not hard to keep 1/2 an eye on it while you do other things. Just keep the fire low and remember to stir. Or use a double-boiler.

Mushroom Stock

1/2-1 oz dried mushrooms–maitake, shiitake, porcini, or combination
1 1/2 tbst olive oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters, skin on (remove any dirty layers)
2 carrots, quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered
4-8 oz white mushrooms, quartered or coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped leek greens (save whites for lentil soup, recipe to follow)
1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, optional
2 garlic cloves, skin on, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
8 springs parsley
2 small bay leaves
2 tsp salt

1. Clean any dirt from dried mushrooms. Soak in hot water while you prepare everything else.
2. heat oil in a soup pot, add onion, carrots and celery. Saute over medium-high heat until the onion is browned, about 15 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and their soaking liquid along with the remaining ingredients.
4. Add about 9 cups of water and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes.
6. Strain

Vegan brown rice and celery root gratin

Bechamel (made with mushroom stock, recipe to follow)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small celery roots, peeled and grated
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups cooked brown rice (or wild rice)
1/2 cup pecans
ground hazelnuts to sprinkle on top, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Oil 9×13 baking dish (or anything large enough to hold about 5 cups)
3. Make bechamel.
4. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add celery root with lemon jice, garlic and 2 tbsp parsley. Cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Combine rice, celery root, pecans and bechamel. Spread into prepared baking dish. Bake for about 20 minutes. Top with grated hazelnuts and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

Mushroom bechamel

1/4 cp minced shallot or onion
3 tbst olive oli
2 tbsp flour (use white or brown rice flour for gluten-free version)
1 1/2 cups hot mushroom stock
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook shallots/onions in olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat for about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes more. Whisk in the stock all at once, then cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or in a double-boiler for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lentil soup with leeks and mushroom stock