Colombian-style Red Beans

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Our effort to cook from a different cookbook every week this year continues. Last night we went to Terry Hope Romero’s Viva Vegan for this Colombian-style Red Beans recipe. It occurred to me that we need to keep this in mind for the summer when we’re getting lots of onions and peppers from our CSA. This dish (and many other Latin recipes) starts with a sofrito, which consists of onions, peppers and garlic cooked long and slow in lots of oil. In addition to the sofrito, these beans were seasoned with cumin, paprika and oregano, and also included a diced plantain and a shredded carrot. Then they were simmered in veggie broth and served with brown rice with some broccoli on the side. I also doused mine with plenty of hot sauce and garnished with fresh oregano.

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Southwest Lentil Stew

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Our seven-year-old loves chili so I make some version of it quite often. I love using our Instant Pot for this type of stew but if you don’t have a pressure cooker this can easily be done on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. It’s tomato season and we’re getting lots of fresh tomatoes (along with onions and peppers) from our CSA but you could use a medium can of tomatoes as well. I pureed the tomatoes in a blender before adding them but it’s not necessary.

What you need:

1 Tbs. olive or canola oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 large bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

6 medium tomatoes, diced

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

2 medium carrots, sliced

1 cup diced seitan

1 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. dried marjoram

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. lime juice

1 cup brown rice

1 cup brown lentils

3 cups water

What you do:

Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add onion and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes then add garlic and cook for another minute. Add remaining ingredients, mix well then cover and bring up to pressure. Cook on high pressure for 22 minutes and allow for a natural release. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simmer over low heat on the stove top, covered, for about an hour. We garnished ours with avocado slices and fresh oregano. Also note that we make these types of meals mild for the kids but feel free to add as much hot sauce as you want either during cooking or when serving.

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Using what you’ve got, Part 1 – Just throw stuff together

While we love thumbing through cookbooks for new recipes to try (or pulling out our old favorites), the reality is that we just don’t have the time to do that very often. We’ll certainly post here about cookbooks or recipes we’ve found that we really like but our day to day meals are often whipped up on the fly with whatever we have on hand. I’ll admit that I tend to be one to cook more from recipes but Darlene is a master of cobbling together whatever we have in the fridge and the pantry and making it into a great meal. She’s taught me that meals don’t have to be elaborate to be satisfying and nutritious. Let’s take a look at a couple of recent examples of what I’m talking about. First up, the bowl (or plate in this case), which generally consists of a grain, a vegetable and some beans or tofu (or both) with a sauce or dressing of some sort.

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Here’s what’s on the plate, along with some ideas for how you could change it up.

  • Brown rice. We often cook a big pot of brown rice on the weekends and use it for a couple of meals during the week but if you haven’t done that and you don’t have the time to cook brown rice, how about quinoa?
  • Black beans. Just plain ‘ol beans that we cooked in our Instant Pot. Don’t have a fancy schmancy pressure cooker? No worries, just open up a can of any beans you have on hand.
  • Tofu, diced and fried in a little olive oil. You could leave this out entirely but if was a nice addition here.
  • Roasted butternut squash. A baked sweet potato would make a fine substitution, or change it up entirely and use steamed broccoli or roasted brussels sprouts or sauteed kale or any other vegetable under the sun. If you’re really in a rush, microwave some frozen broccoli. We almost always keep a bag of frozen broccoli on hand to add to a quick meal and frozen vegetables are still very nutritious.
  • This was all tied together with a ranch style dressing from Terry Hope Romero that Darlene found on-line. We almost always make our own dressings and you should too, if for no other reason than you’ll save money. Dreena Burton has quite a few dressing recipes in her cookbooks, as does Isa. And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of looking for a recipe just whisk together some olive oil, cider vinegar or lemon juice (or both), a bit of prepared mustard and salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s another example of throwing stuff together for a quick, satisfying meal – burritos.

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We almost always have tortillas on hand because the kids love burritos and quesadillas. And while there’s no shortage of burrito recipes available, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a recipe for a burrito. Here we have the black beans and rice again, cooked beforehand and at the ready, along with avocado, mango salsa and cashew sour cream. You could certainly use salsa from a jar and we do so regularly (especially in winter with a dearth of fresh tomatoes), but here Darlene made a nice quick salsa with a small can of diced tomatoes (drained), some frozen diced mango, diced onion, plus a little oil, cider vinegar, oregano and salt. For the “sour cream” we used the Cashew Crema recipe from Viva Vegan! and it’s very similar to this one from Oh She Glows. (One tip on this front: if a recipe calls for soaked cashews but you don’t have any that have been soaking, you can boil them for a few minutes and get similar results.)

Hopefully this post has inspired you to move beyond cooking from a recipe and into whipping up a quick meal with whatever you have on hand! (Just remember to always keep rice in your pantry and you’ll be well on your way.)

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Fried Rice

We wrote about this many times on our previous blog and it’s still a go-to meal when we need something quick and/or when we need to use up some leftovers. In this version I stir-fried onion, carrot, beet greens, tofu, garlic, ginger and cashews, then threw in some roasted asparagus left over from last night’s dinner. Once all that stuff was happy I added about 3 cups of cooked brown rice, then about 2 tsp. of sesame oil and 1/4 c. of soy sauce (we use the Trader Joe’s variety that’s fairly low in sodium). And that’s it. Delicious. The kid ate a big bowl of it too so that’s an added bonus.

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