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.

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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!

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.

Yellow-Eyed Pea Salad with Springtime Herbs

canada geese

I spotted this family of Canada geese one evening on my walk. It looked like they were going to play a pickup game of soccer!

I realized after I swapped out my winter wardrobe for my springtime clothes that Old Man Winter was not kind to me this year. Given the bitter cold we had, I found myself exercising less and eating (and drinking) more. So given this latest turn of events, I’ve really turned to looking at my diet. I’m even joining two friends in a cleanse in a few weeks; no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, meat, dairy, and only whole wheat products; a vegan diet for two weeks. Which has led me to look at past recipes (I found some here and here) and to start creating delicious meals in preparation!

I’ve been wanting to make a nice bean salad after seeing the cover of the most recent Eating Well magazine. I had some dried yellow-eyed peas I bought earlier in the winter to make baked beans, but decided these would work just as well for a salad. Add my usual vinaigrette and some spring herbs with radishes for crunch, this was light and tasty. Even the Eater of the House liked it! I served it along an argula salad with toasted almonds and olive oil and lemon, but it would be equally delicious as a side dish with a nice piece of fish or lean chicken.

I’ve never seen these peas in a can like their black-eyed relatives; if you want to forgo the soaking and cooking, you can substitute a can of Great Northern or cannellini beans. And a spritz of lemon juice on top before serving adds just a little more brightness to the dish!

bean saladYellow-Eyed Pea Salad with Springtime Herbs
I find this salad is best the day you make it; the radishes become a little soggy when left overnight.  

3 cups yellow-eyed peas
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 chopped TBS each: chives, basil, Italian flat parsley-or a combination of other herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice (optional)

1. In a large bowl, add the beans and radishes.

2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Add to the beans and toss. Add the herbs and top with a spritz of lemon juice, if desired.

(Photo courtesy Burlington Farmer's Market)

(Photo courtesy Burlington Farmer’s Market)

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Visit your local farmer’s market!

It is finally the season for farmer’s markets! By the middle of May my favorite market moves from inside to outside, with early greens and vegetables available for purchase.

This great article from cookinglight.com offers the best farmer’s market from each state, plus a recipe to try with fresh produce! While my local farmer’s market didn’t make the top of Vermont’s list, the recipe looks divine!

You can check out all the farmer’s markets and to see if yours made the list by clicking here.

Yellow Bean Salad

Even though fall is one of my favorite seasons, I am not ready to give up summer yet, so I’m extending it as long as I can. I turn an eye when I see a swath of golden leaves, I ignore the winter squash I see overtaking the zucchini at the farmer’s market, and I pay no attention to flicking on the lights when I get up in the morning. Still, the sign for the apple orchard is now up, it’s nearly dark when I get home around 7:30, and I’ve pulled out my knitting for future winter projects. But I’m still going to do what I can to extend summer just a little bit longer. And when I received this recipe in my email a few weeks ago, I knew it was just the tonic.

Heidi Swanson began her blog, 101cookbooks.com, a few years back, which in turn has become two cookbooks, Super Natural Every Day and Super Natural Cooking. Her photographs are beautiful and her recipes are healthy, easy, and exotic but without the fuss. When I read through the recipe, I had my doubts as to how the flavors would meld together, but there was no need for worry; the garlic, cilantro, and coconut milk mixed together blend well with the yellow beans and tofu. There seemed to be a shortage of yellow beans in the past few weeks, but I luckily found some at the last vendor I checked at the farmer’s market. Try making this with the last round of this season’s yellow beans, or save the recipe for next August. It will be worth the wait!

Yellow Bean Salad
From Heidi Swanson’s, 101cookbooks.com

1 pound yellow beans
1 serrano chili pepper
5 green onions, green parts reserved
A big handful of cilantro
1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
¾ tsp. sea salt
1 TBS sunflower oil
1 c. coconut milk
1 ½ TBS lemon juice
½ c. toasted pepitas
1 ½ c. tiny pan-fried tofu

1. Cut the beans into 1 inch segments on the bias. Add to boiling water and cook for 30 seconds. Run under cold water, drain, and shake off all excess water.

2. Place the chili pepper, onions, cilantro, garlic, salt, and oil in the blender and chop. Add the coconut milk and lemon juice to taste.

3. Place beans in a bowl with tofu. Toss with the dressing. Sprinkle with the reserved green onions.

Cook’s Notes:
• 
I left out the pepitas and it was still tasty.
• Instead of a serrano chili, I used a jalapeno, which gave it a bit more heat and zip.
• This is one of those instances where less is more; I had a lot of leftover dressing for another use. Just a little bit over the beans and tofu was perfect.
• I was told by the eater of the house that the beans were too “raw.” They didn’t bother me, but if you want them a bit on the soft side, but boil them longer than 30 seconds. A minute or two should do it.
• And of course, if you have tofu-loathing people at your table, you can always serve it on the side, or not at all.