“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau
In preparing for the Thanksgiving week of feasting, I recently found an absolutely addictive and delicious vegan version of a white bean, kale and sausage soup recipe from Veggie Society using puréed acorn squash and leek as the broth base, and I have happily made four times already! Like me, most people are familiar with sweet roasted butternut squash tossed with fall spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but to my surprise the acorn squash purées into a very smooth and surprisingly buttery soup base with a mild sweetness which pairs really nicely with fresh Italian spices like rosemary and thyme. I love the simplicity of cooking with ten ingredients or less, and I especially love a good soup to stock up the fridge all week, and this is one is going to be my new standby this year!
- 1 acorn squash, seeded and diced into chunks
- 1 bag or bunch of Tuscan kale, chopped
- 15 oz can Cannellini beans, extra can if you like it chunkier
- 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
- 1 package of any vegetarian Italian sausage (we prefer Trader Joe’s brand but also enjoy Lightlife brand), sliced
- 2 TB Better Than Bouillon soup base OR 10 cups vegetable broth
- 1 TB fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 TB olive oil
Sauté leeks with olive oil and garlic in a soup pot on medium heat until wilted and started to caramelize. Toss in acorn squash along with rosemary, thyme and bay leaves then add vegetable broth or 10 cups water with Better Than Bouillon and stir everything together. Once boiling, turn down to simmer and let cook for 25 minutes, or until squash is soft. Remove bay leaves then use hand blender to purée everything into a very smooth thick consistency. Stir in the beans, sausage and kale, then let simmer for another 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. According to original recipe your can also add lemon, red pepper or liquid smoke for additional flavor. So easy!
With the recent elections and shift to crisp, fall weather, our family jumped right into hot soup season and what better dish than this hearty and healthy Senate Bean Soup!
One popular story claims the history of this dish goes back to World War II when the country was under rationing and the US government kitchen staff had to come up with creative ways to bulk up their lunch options. But another story contends it goes back at least 100 years and was simply a favorite amongst senators. Whatever the origination, it is a popular dish and has been served in the dining room of the Senate every day since, hence its name. The original recipe used a mashed potato base with ham, which I replaced with leeks and topped it off at the end with some crispy, pan-fried vegan Benevolent Bacon which added a nice smoky flavor to the soup once stirred through.
Made with just a few easy ingredients, this thick and buttery dish was scrumptious served with some toasted sourdough and was a big hit with kids and adults alike. The key elements in the prep were using dry navy beans and puréeing about 1/3 of the soup after it was all cooked down to create a thick soup base while still retaining much of the chunky beans and vegetables.
- 2 cups dry navy beans
- 2 leeks, trimmed and slivered
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Benevolent Bacon, diced and pan fried
Soak navy beans 6-8 hours, then drain and rinse. In large soup pot heat up olive oil then cook garlic and leeks until translucent, about 3-5minutes. Add carrots, celery, beans, thyme and vegetable broth and cook on medium for 45 minutes, stirring constantly, until beans are soft. Remove 1/3 of soup and purée in blender then add back to soup. Or use a hand blender and purée briefly enough to thicken the broth but not break down all the beans. In a separate pan, add additional 1-2 TB olive oil and fry the bacon until it starts to darken. Set aside for 1 minute to cool, then serve fresh with each serving of soup. Salt and pepper to taste.
I’ve been making winter bean chili for years with the same tired ingredients. It was SO refreshing to enjoy a summer chili with white beans and butternut squash! The cornmeal added some mild thickness and texture to the broth. Surprisingly this was not a sweet dish, and it paired perfectly with some white wine while sitting on the porch. Bam! Summer.
- 2 red bell peppers, cut into chunks
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
- 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes, undrained and chopped
- 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Add oil to pan and swirl to coat, with pan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion, cook 5 minutes. Stir in dry spices and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add bell peppers, broth, squash, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cornmeal and beans; simmer 25 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with green onions.
A few weeks ago I found out about Cowboy Caviar after I had made a simple bean salad that was reminiscent to someone of this recipe which they shared with me. Not only do I love the name, but I also love it’s simplicity and subtle different flavors that really make this recipe shine. The spicy base of black-eyed peas, avocado, corn and tomatoes combined with the red wine vinegar hot sauce is simply dynamite on a bed of romaine lettuce with crumbled tortilla chips on top – and it didn’t even need additional dressing.
The good news is that black-eyed peas are cheap, high in protein, and low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat. They also have a good amount of potassium and iron. If you are concerned about iron intake on a vegetarian diet, beans and dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots) will more than compensate what you don’t get from red meat. Additionally, eating foods high in vitamin C will actually increase iron absorption in the body. So enjoy this salad with a handful of dried fruit for a healthy, nutritious meal!
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 firm-ripe avocado (about 10 oz.)
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
1 can (11 oz.) corn kernels
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
In a large bowl, mix vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic, and pepper. Cut avocado into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to vinegar mixture and mix gently to coat.
Drain and rinse peas and corn. Add peas, corn, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes to avocado; mix gently to coat. Add salt to taste.
There’s nothing like the jarring sound of a screaming toddler at 4:55am. For the past few months, our 18-month old son Everett has been waking up like clockwork, no matter what time we put him down the night before. We’ve tried 8:00pm, 7:00pm, and 6:30pm. And what makes it worse is that he doesn’t want to nap longer than 40 minutes during the day. We used to do two naps, now he’s down to one shimmering moment of time after lunch. I hate parenting books. And now Asher has started napping at preschool. Long, refreshing naps that keep him running around until 9:30pm.
What I’m trying to say is that we’ve implemented family dinner at 6:00pm and we needed something quick and easy. These Tostada Mexican Pizzas are deliciously satisfying, and the components stemming from the standard “7-layer dip” cross over as toddler finger foods! Obviously you need a beer pairing to get through the kids post-dinner bath time, we opted for Revolution Anti-Hero.
TOSTADA MEXICAN PIZZA
Whole wheat enchilada wraps
Sliced black olives
15-oz can refried pinto beans
1 avocado, mashed
Green onions, chopped
Turn on broiler and place wraps on baking sheet on top shelf in oven for 2-3 minutes per side. You want them crunchy and a bit charred, but watch they don’t smoke and burn! Smear layer of refried pinto beans, followed by smashed avocado. Top with veggie toppings and salsa. Better than nachos!
I haven’t been on a vacation since before my kids were born. Sure we’ve had a weeknight away here and there for sanity breaks, but my passport has sat untouched since 2008. Ever since eagerly planning for the family reunion in the Bahamas a few months ago, the word “vacation” has become a verb, noun and adjective in our household. A Holy Grail even. We’re going “On Vacation.” We put our pants on and acting like a good boy “To Vacation.” We are going to have a great “Vacation Day.” So naturally the trip had to start off with tears at the airport because mommy didn’t properly arrange for passports for the boys and after all that packing and planning and Asher screaming “I WANNA GO ON THE AIRPLANE WAAAAAH” in his Panama hat we ended up going home instead. Then mommy flew out for vacation with her overseas family while daddy stayed with the boys and applied for passports in Chicago for three days and never slept. But as most things that seem too perfect in the beginning go, the kinks and stress paid off in the end because it helped me value even more what we had gained at the end of the journey.
There is nothing like not knowing what time it is and, more poignantly, not caring what time it is. The Bahamas is a magical place frozen in time full of warm sea water, white squishy sand, coconut trees growing wild, and a general sense of peace and pleasure. Nestled into the quiet nook of Lyford Cay on the island of Nassau is a private little bay and a gorgeous villa where you can literally walk out your bedroom door and follow the manta rays that stalk the shore at dawn. Where tiny little hermit crabs are the same shade of white as the sand, and where night herons screech and dance amongst the palms. A place where the 1940’s polo-themed living room with no walls opens to a plantation style porch on one side and a peach travertine pillared courtyard that welcomes the Caribbean rain water on the other. Where the turquoise water is so shallow and calm that a baby can sit there for hours. Where toddlers develop a general sense adventure, jumping into swimming pools, wading through the Caribbean Sea, sleeping in a Queen size bed. Even one day in this island haven makes the effort with two young children worthwhile. Sigh.
I was in the mood to continue to the fiesta when I returned home – hence today’s recipe for Enchilada Casserole. The bean salad from the recipes makes the perfect side dish for a BBQ or can be the stuffing for peppers or enchiladas, but I opted for the Enchilada Casserole because it is makes a hearty dish that you can serve with fresh avocado and cilantro. And margaritas.
12 corn tortillas
3 zucchini, diced
1 can black beans, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small can sliced black olives
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
30 oz can red enchilada sauce
1 bunch of cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large pan, add olive oil and fry the zucchini for 7 to 8 minutes on medium heat, until translucent. Stir in the chili powder and cumin, then mix in the corn, beans and olives. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Arrange 6 corn tortillas on the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Top with half the bean mixture then pour half the enchilada sauce over the mixture. Add another layer of 6 corn tortillas, then top with the remaining bean mixture. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the top layer. Top with cheese or soy cheese, then bake for 40 minutes.
This weekend I took Asher to Pickles Playroom to enjoy the madness of too many unsupervised children barreling over each other as disinterested parents and disgruntled nannies looked on from the nearby cafe. Pickles recently reorganized their space, and apparently they believe that removing the parent seating from inside the play area was actually a stroke of genius. I, along with maybe two other mothers, actually ran after our kids and played Let’s Cook Dinner in the Fake Kitchen or Time to Answer the Phone at the Office while the other children yanked trains from each others arms in tears while rubbing their drooling noses. When it was lunch time, I ate an over-priced and poorly prepared Greek salad from their cafe and Asher chomped on a grilled cheese sandwich with plastic – I mean Kraft. And that’s when it happened. Asher reached over, picked up a piece of lettuce, gave me a sly smile, declared he was going to eat my salad and then did it. He ate my salad. I was speechless. I was proud. And I thought, well that’s motivation to keep cooking.
And so today I share a recipe for a really delicious and intriguing dish – Green Olive, Cauliflower, Chickpea Couscous. It’s salty olives mixed with the sweet roasted cauliflower and bitter chopped parsley make it a delightful dish either on it’s own or as a side.
GREEN OLIVE, CAULIFLOWER, CHICKPEA COUSCOUS
1 cup Isreali couscous, uncooked
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
20 green pimento olives, sliced into thirds
1 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 head cauliflower
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut cauliflower head into quarters and then separate the florets into smaller pieces with a large knife. Toss cauliflower florets with salt and olive oil and bake on baking sheet for 20 minutes. Boil 1 1/3 cup water in small pot. Add Israeli couscous and turn down to simmer with lid on for 8-10 minutes. Fluff with fork and remove from heat to cool. Add sliced green olives, parsley, garbanzo beans, and lemon juice to the couscous. When cauliflower has browned remove from oven and mix into the couscous mixture. A vegan feast!
Trader Joe’s has the most amazing selection of vegetarian “meat” products. Their meatless beef crumbles are a steal at $2.99, the Soyrizo is heavenly, and I also favor their Italian Vegetarian Sausages over any other brand. This week I was craving some sweet and salty roasted brussel sprouts and have heard of a meat-lovers Italian dish with which I decided to make vegetarian. It LITERALLY couldn’t have been easier. This was a big hit as a summer lunch that cost around $10 to make, but I will definitely be making it as a Thanksgiving side dish this year too!
BRUSSEL SPROUTS, WHITE BEANS AND SAUSAGE
2 lbs brussel sprouts
1 can cannellini beans
1 package of Trader Joe’s vegetarian Italian Sausage (4 large links)
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut each sprout cut in half and toss on ungreased baking pan. Cut Italian sausages on an angle into 1/4” slices and add to the baking pan. Pour olives oil over the mixture then toss with your hands. Season with some salt and pepper, then bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Drain can of cannellini beans and add to the brussel sprout mixture in a large bowl. Add some freshly shaved Parmesan before serving.