Grilled Salmon with White Beans and Arugula Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I don’t have much to say about this recipe except it is absolutely perfect for this time of year! Salmon almost begs to be grilled and with a quick side salad, it’s fancy enough to serve to guests and is a superfast meal you can make in 20 minutes!

Since you already have some greens, you could serve some warmed bread as a side or some freshly sliced tomatoes with some torn fresh basil and a dribble of olive oil and your favorite vinegar. Dessert can be some fresh berries with cream.

Can you tell I love cooking and eating this time of year? 🙂

salmon

Grilled Salmon with White Beans and Arugula Salad
This recipe first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 tablespoon chopped capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
Cooking spray
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups loosely packed arugula
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1. Whisk together capers, rind, juice, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, and red pepper in a bowl.

2. Place beans in a bowl; drizzle with 2 tablespoons caper mixture.

3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Coat salmon with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Add salmon to pan, skin side down; cook 6 minutes. Turn salmon over; cook 1 minute or until done. Keep warm.

4. Add arugula and onion to bowl with beans. Drizzle with remaining caper mixture; toss. Divide salad among 4 plates; top each serving with 1 fillet. Serve immediately.

peaches

(Photo by Andar Sawyers for the New York Times)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: When is Peach Season?
I read this recent article in the New York Times with interest. Peaches are one of my favorite summertime fruits, along with red raspberries and local strawberries, but often I find they are either mealy or just never ripen. A good peach is hard to find! The article discusses the fruit’s season with experts and clears up the mystery a little bit. (Psst, for those of us in the Northeast, buy and eat them after July 4th!)

 

Summertime Holiday Dishes Plus MVK’s Food News of the Week

Note, apologies for the advance unedited piece you may have received on Monday; I’ve been having some troubles with my host and it sent instead of saved!  

I wish every morning this could be my view at breakfast.

I wish this could be my view at breakfast every morning! My view from the top of Mount Abraham.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky.”

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

The first two lines of this old chestnut have been an earworm for the past two weeks or so. Long sunny days with the light going well past nine, and starting around 4:30 a.m., have me out and about well before my usual early rising time and sometimes well past my bedtime. No matter, this time is fleeting and I know in just a few short weeks I’ll start to notice the time change and that it’s no longer a bright light that wakens me.

That said, it’s almost Fourth of July weekend, which for some marks the start of summer. This is one of those golden years where the holiday is bumped with a weekend, so we don’t have the odd middle-of-the-week day off. I always find this time of year as one with family and friend gatherings, summer guests, picnics, and lots of opportunity to feed a crowd. So this week I’m recycling a favorite idea and bringing you some past suggestions for summer eating and hosting!

index

Miscellaneous and Appetizers

Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins
If you have some fresh blueberries, these are delicious and easy.

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco
I took this once to a dinner party and I ended up eating most of it! It’s SO good!

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise
I’m not one for summer soups, but I do love this one.

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
Eggs are a real lifesaver for dinner on summer evenings.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
These are great hot off the grill or cold.

Marinated London Broil
Mmm…

Salads

Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
A fun spin on an old favorite.

MVK’s Nicoise Salad
My take on this classic French summer meal.

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

Red White and Blue Salad
A fun salad for the holiday!

Asian Green Bean Salad 
A great vegetarian dish with an Asian twist.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives
A delicious heart-healthy pasta salad.

Desserts

Strawberry Shortcake
It’s not summer without having this for dinner one night.

Old Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
A Vermont spin on an old fashioned favorite.

pepsiMVK’s Food News of the Week: This is How Much Celebrities are Paid to Endorse Unhealthy Foods
I recently read this article about how much celebrities are paid to endorse certain foods, mainly soda and fast food. I was surprised and also saddened. If you can believe it (I can’t), Beyoncé was paid $50 million (yes, you read correctly) to promote Pepsi products! You can read the article by clicking here.

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It was a picture perfect morning for an early kayak ride!

It was a beautiful morning for an early kayak ride!

‘Tis the season of temperatures in the 80s and the sunset being around 8:30 p.m. Which means I want to take advantage of every second I can when I get out of work to be outdoors. And which also means dinners are late. Very late. While exercising, I create recipes in my head with items I have in the fridge and the cupboards so I can make a quick meal because I’ll be famished when I walk in the door. (This is how I get through a hike–thinking of food!) This salad is one such creation; I wanted something healthy, of course tasty, but one that I call a “dump it” salad, throw everything in a big bowl, toss and serve.

I’m a big advocate for canned beans, especially this time of year. Even though I prefer to cook my own dried beans, it’s definitely less expensive but more time-consuming, I find I don’t spend as much time in the kitchen as I do in the winter; having a few cans on hand for quick meals like this are a life saver. I measured out two cups of frozen corn to defrost for a couple of hours. When I got home, I took my big mixing bowl and started to add what I had in the fridge and cupboard. I didn’t have enough lime for a quarter cup, so I added some lemon juice. If you don’t have both herbs, you can use just one. And of course, there are substitutes galore: red pepper in place of the tomatoes, scallions in place of the red onion, cucumber in place of zucchini. Or add some protein; I was thinking cooked chicken or grilled shrimp would be good, or even some quinoa or another grain. I served it with grilled chicken sausages and it was fantastic. And of course, if your palate isn’t one for spicy foods, omit the cayenne entirely; just a tiny bit goes a really long way!

This dish makes close to four cups, which I thought was plenty enough for dinner for two and at least lunch the next day. Until I heard the Eater of the House, who went for seconds (or was it thirds?) ask if he could have the rest of the salad! “I wouldn’t eat so much if your food wasn’t so good!” I guess that’s a rousing endorsement for this recipe!

black bean sal 

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad
This recipe can easily be doubled for a summertime potluck!

2 cups, defrosted corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoon diced red onion or shallots
1 small zucchini, diced
Chopped fresh basil and cilantro (2 Tablespoons each)
½ avocado, diced
¼ cup fresh lime juice or lime and lemon juice
A dash of cayenne or a bit of chopped jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In advance of cooking, defrost the corn until thawed (at least two hours). Add to large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients (through lime juice). Add cayenne, if using, and salt and pepper.

coloring bookkMVK’s *Like* of the Week: A Coloring Book for People Who Like Food
The biggest things these days in bookshops aren’t the books themselves, it is coloring books for adults! While I myself haven’t gotten into this craze (I like to read too much to spend time coloring), this one did spark my interest, a book for people who like food! Edible Paradise is just that, pictures of lots of fruits and vegetables that you color! I don’t know if this will make me put my book down and pick up a coloring pencil or pen, but it might! You can read more about it here.

From the Archives: Comforting Winter Fare Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Christmas Eve's sunset in Vermont's capital city.

Christmas Eve’s sunset in Vermont’s capital city.

Happy 2016! I hope your year has started on the right foot! Winter has begun in earnest here in Vermont; with a Christmas Eve high of nearly 70 degrees (yes, you read that correctly!), we now have a little bit of snow on the ground and it’s finally beginning to look like January. While disliking winter weather, I have to admit I have a special fondness for this time of year; the holidays are over, the light is slowly coming back, and when it’s snowing I don’t feel guilty about staying home for the day to cook and read. It’s time to roast root veggies in the oven, make a pot of farro to add to salads, and re-read Sense and Sensibility.

Since I am going into the fifth(!) year of My Vermont Kitchen, I decided to take a trip through the archives to find some warm and comforting recipes to start the year off a healthy foot. Such is the time for warm soups and stews, roasts, casseroles, and all of these recipes are some of my favorites that I make throughout the cold months; they’re healthy, delicious, and perfect to make when the weather outside is frightful. And most of these are either vegetarian and/or can be made vegetarian!

Turnip, Leek, and Wild Rice Soup
The underused turnip shines in this cream-based soup with leeks and wild rice.

Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley
I find lentils and mushrooms cooked together with a little bit of barley to be very cozy. If you want to go the gluten-free route, omit the barley and pump up the lentils.

Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic
If you feel a cold coming on, make this soup STAT! Spicy with lots of garlic, it will keep those germs at bay!

Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits
Warm chicken stew topped with homemade biscuits isn’t as hard to make as you think!

Braised White Beans with Garlic and Rosemary
A misread on a recipe turned into a happy mistake that I’ve made again and again!

Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Beans
With the addition of a little bit of bacon and shallots, this dish is easy to make with lots of flavor to warm you on a chilly night.

Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
With an early morning prep, this dinner can come together quickly after a long day.

Spicy and Creamy Pasta
Pasta, sausage, veggies, and a little bit of cream, you’ll think you died and went to heaven!

Roast Chicken
Roasted chicken is my go-to comfort dinner and one bird can make several dinners plus soup!

Barley, Corn, and Provolone Bake
A combination of easy to find ingredients makes for a delicious and nutritious casserole.

(Photo Faith Durand)

(Photo © Faith Durand)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 13 Things for Your Grocery List This Month
Along my reasons for liking this time of year (see above), I also love reading articles that highlight how to start the year off right. Here is a great list of things to add to your grocery cart this month. Grapefruits, Cuties, and coconut milk–yes!

You can read the entire list by clicking here.

End (or Begin) the Year on a Healthy Note: Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

spoon
I can’t believe we are at the end of the year! Last New Year’s is still so vivid in my mind, but now we’re saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016! This year brought challenges and opportunities (making a pie for a movie!), crossing Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store off my bucket list, and learning more and more about food, nutrition, and cooking. I’m ready to see what the new year will bring.

And no doubt it will bring more healthy cooking and eating. After a few days of out of the ordinary food, I really wanted a healthy salad. And I hit the jackpot with this one: kale, white beans, a flavorful vinaigrette. It was perfect!

This salad would be perfect on its own as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but will work equally well as a side dish at dinner. Easy to assemble, you can serve it warm (which I did) or chilled (like I had for leftovers) and both are equally tasty. If you wanted to add a little grated cheese or a few pieces of chicken, the salad will only get better.

The Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale at the coop was flimsy and had about three stalks in each bunch, so I decided to go with plain curly, and chopped, you’ll never know the difference. And instead of cannellini beans, I opted for the nondescript “small white beans,” that were just right.

New Year’s will of course include my Good Luck Peas for lunch, with hopes that it brings good luck for the coming year. And as we close the year, my fourth as the author of this blog, I will raise my glass to my readers from near and far tomorrow evening and bid you a Happy New Year! May you find light and love in the coming year!

Happy Cooking!

salad
Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad
This recipe first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. 

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups thinly sliced Lacinato kale
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 30 seconds. Add beans to pan; cook 1 minute.

2. Combine remaining 7 teaspoons oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over kale mixture. Serve warm or chilled.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 15 Ways to Shop Smarter

shoppingI am always looking for ways to save money on food for my household, as it is one of the largest bills each month. Thekitchen.com created this list of past articles that is a great start for your new year! You can read the article by clicking here. Happy Savings!

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I couldn't resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light was just perfect reflecting off the orange leaves!

I couldn’t resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light on the orange and red leaves made the colors pop out!

Chili is one of those meals that is so easy to make that you can fix it on a weeknight without a recipe and it can be ready to eat in well under an hour. A little bit of beef with some small beans, onions, garlic, and spices, you can throw everything in a pot and it will always be delicious. But my veggie chilis in the past have been less than mediocre, lacking in flavor and texture. Besides some beans and vegetables, I’ve never been able to make a decent pot. But this is one veggie chili I can believe in! Seasoned with lots of spices, with beans and wheat berries as a “meat replacement,” this chili is one for the books and has convinced me that you can make a good veggie chili at home!

Although the ingredient list is long, you definitely can make this on a weeknight, just don’t do like I did and postpone cooking by 30 minutes because you forgot a critical ingredient and had to run out to the store! The veggies can be prepped in advance and the wheat berries can be cooked early, too. The only change was I substituted one tablespoon of tamari in place of the amino acids, since I didn’t have a bottle on hand.

I noticed the “(Meat) Eater of the House” had seconds so I take that as a resounding thumbs up! Topped with a little bit of cheddar, avocado, red onion, and sour cream, it made excellent leftovers for lunch, and enough to pop in the freezer for another meal!

chili

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili
This recipe first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups chili, 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 4 teaspoons onion, and 2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peeled carrot
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
1 cup lower-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
1 cup water
1 cup lager beer (such as Budweiser)
2 tablespoons liquid aminos (such as Bragg)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes in the can into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 cups water, vegetable juice, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.

2. Combine wheat berries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add wheat berries, beer, aminos, and beans to chili; cook 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, red onion, and sour cream.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Candy Corn Cookies
I thought with Halloween just a few days away, I would bring to you one of the most popular recipes I ever posted on my blog for any new readers: candy corn cookies! These tiny sugar cookies are about an inch high in height and are adorable and make lots to share!

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Yup. That's snow. In October!

Yup. That’s snow. In October!

After what may have been one of the warmest Septembers on record, it’s finally getting cold here in Vermont! (And as I write this, it’s snowing rather hard outside!) Which means all I can think about is making soups, stews, bread, anything that will warm the kitchen and my soul.

With this in mind, I started creating a recipe for dinner in my head during the week: a braised chicken dish with tomatoes, white beans, lots of garlic, a touch of cinnamon, and tangy Kalamata olives; also something that could be slow cooked so I wasn’t hovering over the stove for the entire evening, too. I set to work one night as we were watching the movie “Love and Mercy,” which is fantastic movie if you haven’t seen it!

When The Eater of the House asked what was for dinner earlier in the day, I didn’t have the recipe completely sorted out so I described this dish as “sort of a chicken cacciatore.” “With pasta?!” he asked excitedly. “Um, no.” He frowned. I think serving pasta when you already have beans in a dish is odd because that gives you two carbohydrates. But of course, you can serve this with pasta, rice, or just on its own like I did.

I think Chicken thighs are the most forgiving piece of meat out there; you can cook as long as you like and it almost never dries out. Braised with the tomatoes and beans, I was able to go back and watch the movie while dinner simmered on the stove.

This dish turned out just like I had hoped it would; warm and spicy beans with lots of garlic, tender chicken, and briny olives. Plus it’s all cooked in one pan! If you find you have leftover beans but no chicken, just add a little cheese and warm for lunch the next day. It will be delicious!

chicen and white beans
Braised Chicken with White Beans and Olives

4 skinless chicken thighs
5 large cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup red onion, diced (or half of a large onion)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup small white beans (I used navy)
¼ cup Kalamata olives, halved
Chopped parsley (optional)

1. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil, When it gets shimmery, add the chicken and cook until is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes each side. (Note: The chicken won’t be fully cooked.) Place on a plate to rest.

2. There should be some olive oil and fat left over from the chicken in the skillet, but if there isn’t, add a little bit more oil. Add the onions and garlic, cook at medium heat until they are translucent. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, and cinnamon. Add the rested chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add the olives, and let everything simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Top with chopped parsley, if you have some on hand.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Oprah Now Part Owner of Weight Watchers!
Imagine my surprise the other morning as I’m on www.weightwatchers.com and see a photo of Oprah. I just happened to go to the website when the company made their biggest announcement in years: Oprah has joined forces with the company, purchasing a 10 percent stake and serving as a Board member! The company has been faltering financially in the last year and they’ve decided to bring in the big guns.

As a WW graduate, I think this is phenomenal news; just like she did for books, my hope is having the Oprah name will encourage people to join and get healthy. The company said while it will continue to focus on weight loss, its mission also will focus on an all-around healthy and happy life.

You can read more about the deal here.

Roasted BBQ Drumsticks and Cowboy Beans Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The leaves are finally beginning to turn!

The leaves are finally beginning to turn!

Before turning my cooking attention to warm stews, squashes, and gingerbready sorts of treats for fall, being it is the end of September, I thought I would bring you one last blast of summer this morning! Although, since this recipe is roasted in the oven, you could bring summer to the dinner table any time of the year!

Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients; it’s just some measuring, placing in a bowl, and giving a stir. The cowboy beans were so delicious and flavorful, just the right balance of sweet, spicy, and a little tangy. They’ll definitely make my meal rotation when I’m looking for something different to accompany chicken or pork or just on their own as a vegetarian meal with a salad. I used smoked paprika to give it a little extra kick of heat.

This is another one of those quick dinners you can easily make on a weeknight. If you have time in the morning, you can prep the onion and red pepper, and mix the ketchup mixture for the beans, so it’s all set to go when you’re ready to cook. I served this with the last of the summer’s corn on the cob and it was delicious. It was even better for lunch the next day!


cowboy chicken
Roasted BBQ Drumsticks with Cowboy Beans
This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 2 drumsticks and about 1/2 cup bean mixture)

8 skinless chicken drumsticks (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup unsalted ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Place drumsticks on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; bake at 450° for 20 minutes. Combine tomato paste, soy sauce, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl. Brush half of soy sauce mixture over chicken; bake at 450° for 10 minutes. Turn, brush with remaining soy sauce mixture, and bake at 450° for 5 minutes or until chicken is done.

3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and bell pepper; sauté 6 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ketchup, and next 6 ingredients (through paprika); bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add beans; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Serve with drumsticks.

(Image: POPSUGAR Photography)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Want to Lose Weight? Keep These 10 Foods in Your Fridge
Even if you don’t need to lose weight or just want to eat more healthfully, I always find it a good reminder to read articles such as this one from Pop Sugar for a reality check. And it’s a good reminder when you’re writing your grocery list! Check it out!

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

A few weeks back The Eater of the House and myself were invited to a dinner party and the request was to bring either an appetizer or dessert. Since I had the time and the urge to cook a little bit, I made some chocolate chip cookies with coconut, but wasn’t really sure what to make for an appetizer. Be forewarned, if I am cooking for a group of people either at my home or for a potluck, I almost always try something new. Certainly not the wisest of decisions (the rational voice in my head is always questioning why?!), but I love trying something new to me and introducing it to guests. And I truly hit the jackpot with this dip.

This incredibly flavorful black bean dip has a little bit of heat, a hint of garlic and crunchy onion, and a combination of lime juice and red wine vinegar that is so good that after one bite I moved the plate closer to me with the hope the other guests wouldn’t notice. It was so delicious, I made it the next day just for myself!

I searched high and low in the grocery store and couldn’t find queso fresco cheese, so I used feta in place and it was just as good. This appetizer will make vegans and those who don’t eat dairy happy if you leave off the cheese as well as those who are looking for a healthy, flavorful dip that isn’t terribly heavy or rich. I thought it would be terrific as a vegetarian burrito filling or as an accompaniment for eggs!

black bean dip
Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco

This recipe first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Can’t find queso fresco? Crumbled feta cheese can certainly be substituted, or if looking for a dairy-free version, just add extra onion and cilantro. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to make it more dip-like as I found it a little dry without it.

1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons queso fresco
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine tahini, lime juice, olive oil, beans, salt, water, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar, cumin, and crushed red pepper to food processor with black bean mixture; process until smooth. Top with queso fresco, onion, and cilantro.

onionsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pickled Onions
This is more like my love of the week. Or month. Or year. I decided at the beginning of the summer to make some pickled onions to go with the burritos I was making. O. M. G. They are the best (and easiest) thing you can make to add flavor to your food! I take 3/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and add some diced red onion. They last forever and are so good! I’m a big onion fan, so this just adds enhanced flavor with a little bit of a zing. I especially like putting them on a warmed corn tortilla with melted cheese, a scrambled egg, and some avocado for a really tasty breakfast!

I found this article, which gives great instruction on how to make quick pickled onions or you can do what I do. Either way, I hope you find a new delicious food accompaniment!

Italian Chickpea Salad Plus the Endorsement of the Week

Don’t have time to make dinner? Too hot outside? All of the above? This recipe will fit both of these scenarios. All you need is a can of beans, some veggies, olives, basil, and some dressing and you are well on your way to supper! And trust me, this takes about 15 minutes to put together!

I play trivia every Tuesday night (don’t ask how my team “Loose Lips” does; while we are usually at the bottom of the leader board, we always have lots of fun) and on these evenings, if I don’t eat in town, I end up eating when I get home close to 9 p.m. And even I don’t want to fix something for dinner that late, so it tends to be an egg, some cereal, or a glass of milk before I head up to bed. A couple of weeks ago, I started to feel this was bad nutrition; I really needed to eat a light dinner. I had in my mind a bean salad with a tangy vinaigrette would be a simple and healthy dish to serve on top of some greens. So before I headed out the door, I created this dish that was ready to eat when I got home!

Leaving it in the fridge for an hour or two to let the flavors marry is perfect, but you can also eat it right away. If you serve later, add the basil right before serving. I’ve made this with sweet onions in place of the shallots, and black olives in place of kalamatas, it’s all good. Whatever you have on hand (or don’t) will work. Add extra cucumber if you don’t have the tomatoes, or vice versa. And if you don’t have basil, fresh oregano would be a lovely alternative. Substitute white beans or another light bean if that’s what you have in the cupboard. And while this salad is vegan and gluten-free, I don’t think adding some tuna packed in olive oil is such a bad idea. Or some crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese. It will all taste delicious!

Happy Eating!

italian beanItalian Chickpea Salad

I realized after I started working on the ingredients for this salad that it is reminiscent to one I posted last summer, Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas, with a few additions and subtractions. Either salad is a quick and nutritious meal, whether it’s for lunch or dinner!

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or roughly 2 ½ cups
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, cut horizontally, seeded, and roughly chopped
¼ cup chopped kalamata olives
1-2 TBS finely chopped fresh basil

Dressing

1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, mustard, and shallots. Add to the chickpea mixture and toss gently. Add the basil before serving if you’re letting it sit for a couple of hours. Or eat immediately.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

provenceIn 2011, it was just dumb luck that I came across Elizabeth Bard’s first food memoir, Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes, while I was perusing the food memoir section at a bookstore. A story of living in Paris, meeting the man of your dreams, it was a truly fun story and one of the better food memoirs I’ve read. So imagine my delight when I was in the same section of the same bookstore (the Northshire in Manchester, Vermont. It has the BEST food memoir selection I’ve ever seen!) to find that Bard has continued writing and has moved to Provence!

Picnic in Provence, a Memoir in Recipes is a true delight. Now married to Gwendal and in tow with tiny Alexandre, Bard retells the story of finding the small town of Céreste in the heart of Provence, where she and her family move into the home of poet René Charr. Now she’s not a visitor, she is entrenched in day-to-day village life. And what I liked about this is Bard shows us life in another country as well as her vulnerable side; as a new mother, she writes about her questions and fears with her son when it appears he prefers his father to her. The back and forth of should she give up her U.S. citizenship to become a French citizen? (She does.) What it’s like to be an American living in a country where there is a certain “style,” ie. French women don’t get fat. One of my favorite chapters was when her friend, Courtney, visited. A woman who suffered from bulimia and binge-eating, Bard turns to look at her own eating habits and those of France vs. the U. S. “A French diet is a balancing act. If you eat a little extra dessert at dinner, you have a bowl of soup or a plate of steamed vegetables the next day for lunch. I call it the quiet diet. It’s nobody’s business but mine.”

Throughout it all, Bard gives us mouth-watering recipes and food descriptions. “There’s something a little greedy about roasted tomatoes. Slick with olive oil and mellowed with garlic, pulpy like a supermarket romance novel, they are my attempt at pleasure hoarding. I want to be able to peek into the freezer in December and know I can use this spark of sunshine to light up a winter pasta sauce or guarantee a sensational base for braised veal shank or white beans.” (I’ll be doing that this summer.) French cooking isn’t about fancy cooking with sauces, most of it is simple, local, fresh food since you go to the market regularly throughout the week. White Beans with Tomatoes and Herbs, Zucchini Gratin, Lentil and Sausage Stew, Arugula Salad with Chicken, Fresh Figs, and Avocado, Mulled Wine Roasted Plums. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

I won’t spoil the ending for you like the book jacket did for me (grrr), but I have a feeling in the next few years I will find yet another chapter in Bard’s food life on the shelf of a bookstore. If I’m lucky enough.