As a vegetarian, beans are one of my favorite staples. I was recently in the grocery store looking to stock up on canned beans to have in the pantry. I wanted to season them myself, so I was looking for plain beans. I thought to check the ingredient label just to be sure, and boy am I glad I did! Guess what ingredient I found in a can of plain kidney beans. HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Are you kidding me?!?! I was in shock and immediately headed for the dried beans. "I'll make them myself," I thought. And so I did.  


1 lb. dried black beans
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups chopped red onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
In a large bowl, add the dried beans and cover with water, 6-8 cups. Let soak over night. In the morning, rinse the beans and add to your cooking pot. I used a Dutch oven, but any large, heavy bottomed pan will do.

Add the beans, onion, garlic, cilantro, and 6 cups of water.
Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, and cover. After 1 hour, add 1 teaspoon of salt, stir, and simmer uncovered until water is just below the beans.
Remove cilantro and readjust salt. I used kosher salt as well as onion salt and garlic salt. When the beans have cooled, you can portion them out to freeze for later. The one pound bag of beans that I paid less than $1 for produced about 3.5 times what you’d get in a can of processed beans! I love saving money and getting a better final product.

This recipe comes from our mates at Catchware.

When it comes to comfort food i believe in two very distinct categories, the sinfully delicious and the sacred. when seasons change or I'm feeling run down, or having overdone it on the sinful stuff, I crave the sacred.
Perfect for right now is mung beans & brown basmati rice. It is easy to prepare, nourishing, incredibly satisfying, and gentle and healing on the digestive system and really delicious. This dish is also, gluten free, lactose free & vegetarian.
You can easily tweak this recipe to taste: you can leave out the tomato, use less (or no) chilies, substitute a sweeter pepper and if you don't have coriander, no worries. cilantro may be substituted with parsley, and a buttery olive oil instead of ghee, tho' I highly recommend the ghee!
Brown basmati rice is my favorite with this preparation, tho you can use plain brown rice, or white basmati. 
Mung Beans
1 cup of whole dry mung beans
3 cups of water
1/4 of ghee or oil, or a combination of butter and sesame oil
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 - 2 teaspoons of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped
3 - 4 jalapenos or hot chilies, finely chopped
1 medium-large tomato, finely diced
1 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh cilantro

Soak the mung beans in the water overnight. 

Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and stir and fry for a minute or two. Next, add the ground spices, stir for about 15 seconds, and then add the onion, ginger and hot chillies to the pan. Fry until the onion wilts and begins to brown. 

Add the mung beans and their soaking liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered until the beans are just tender - about 20 - 35 minutes. Add more water if necessary just to keep the bean covered. 

Now add the chopped tomato to the beans, along with the salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir in the parsley near the end of the cooking time.

I've been cooking brown rice for years, only recently have I fallen on the surest, quickest cooking method. The result is a slightly chewy rice. For softer rice add 1/4c. more water per cup of rice.

1. Wash rice until water runs clear and nothing floats to the top.

2.Put brown rice and water together in a pot with a lid.  Use the ratio of 1.5 cups water to 1 cup rice.  3c rice with 4.5c water for a single batch. makes a nice batch.
3. Set the heat to maximum, and bring the rice/water to a boil uncovered.  Then put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low/simmer.  If your lid has a steam valve, keep it closed.  Let the rice simmer for 20 minutes.
4.Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the covered pot for another 10 minutes.  It’s OK if you let the rice sit longer than 10 minutes (20 or 30 minutes is fine too), but don’t let it go any less. 

I like to make extra, it keeps for a few days. 
The best way to re-heat, place in fine strainer over boiling water, steam till heated through.

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Tonight’s dinner was a veggie version of my Easy Chicken Enchiladas. I love eating healthy and nutritious veggies, but sometimes you’ve gotta add saucy goodness and cheesy deliciousness, right? But don’t feel guilty – it’s full of veggies. It’s all about balance!
6 (8-10 inch) tortillas (I like Rudi’s 7 Grain with Flax Wraps)**
16 oz. jar salsa
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese
16 oz. sliced button mushrooms
1 can black beans, drained
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

**I like bigger enchiladas, so I usually get about 6. Add less filling to make 7 or 8.**
Preheat oven to 375˚ F. In a medium sized bowl, mix the heavy cream with the salsa. Set aside. Make sure that you get your spinach as dry as possible. It’s not an easy job, but I use my hands. You wouldn’t believe how much water little spinach leaves can hold!
In a large skillet, add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
Cook until softened then add spinach and black beans. Stir to heat through. Add garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant. Season to taste and remove from heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large baking dish, spray with cooking spray then add 1/2 cup of the salsa mixture.
Add 1/2 cup of the salsa mixture to the veggie mixture, along with 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Lay a tortilla flat on a cutting board. Add 3/4 cup of filling (to make 6) or less if you like, to the middle of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla over away from yourself, then wrap the back towards the front, folding in the sides.
Place the enchiladas seam side down in the baking dish.
Cover with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake approximately 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. ENJOY!
I have made mushroom cakes in the past, but almost 5 months into my weight loss journey, I want to lighten up the calorie load on some of my favorite recipes. I’ve been on a mushroom kick lately and I was in the mood for something hearty and filling tonight. That’s just what I got.
This recipe makes 2 large (burger sized) cakes.

12 oz. mushrooms, roughly chopped (any variety will do)
1 shallot, diced
1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add shallots and cook 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add mushrooms and season with salt. Cook another 4-5 minutes until veggies have softened.

In a food processor, add mushroom/shallot mixture, parmesan, and panko. Pulse until well mixed but not mushy. Taste for seasoning purposes and season if needed. Form into 2 patties. They may feel crumbly, but once you get them in the pan, they will crisp up and stay together.

Back in the nonstick pan (no need to mess up another pan!) add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add patties and cook 4-5 minutes on each side, until edges are crispy and browned.

Plate up and enjoy! We enjoyed our mushroom cakes with a spinach salad and some roasted squash and zucchini. YUM!
I’m always looking for healthy alternatives to my favorite not-so-healthy foods. Quinoa and black beans are two of my favorite healthy ingredients and I knew they’d make the perfect veggie burger.
This recipe has few ingredients, it’s quick, AND easy!

Makes 2 patties.

1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1/2 cup seasoned black beans, drained ( NOT RINSED )
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
kosher salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Add all ingredients together in a food processor. Process until smooth. The mixture will not be a paste. The quinoa will keep it’s shape but the beans will get smashed up to hold the mixture together. I’ll admit it’s not the prettiest looking mixture, but it sure it tasty!
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Form mixture into two patties and place in the pan. Cook 4-5 minutes each side, until golden brown and crispy around the edges.

I made these burgers up with cheese, spinach, red onion, and sweet potato fries. I think next time I’ll slice up some avocado. Yum!
 (serves 6)
1 Tbspn butter or butter (or both)
1 1/2 cups of mixed mushrooms (brown, button, portabello,porcini etc)
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
small bunch of thyme, chopped
1 pound (500gm) fresh green beans (or frozen or canned as last resort)
1 can best mushroom soup (I use Campbell's Portabello Mushroom and Madeira Bisque)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
100gms (4 oz) fried onion pieces (I use Trader Joe's)

Heat butter and oil in large frypan and saute onion, garlic, thyme and mushrooms til golden and cooked (about 10 mins).  Meanwhile steam beans in a separate pot til just tender.  Add beans to mushroom mix in frypan then pour over soup and mix well.
Pour the lot into a medium sized casserole dish and top with grated parmesan and fried onion pieces.  Bake for 15 - 20 mins until golden and cheese is bubbling.
Serve with large bird and 50 sides...HAPPY THANKGIVING xx

This is what the top of my stove looks like...a lot.  We love mushrooms and use them as a filler at least every other night.  Spray a pan with olive oil, pop in half a chopped onion and half a package of mushrooms, cover, come back in a few minutes and they are perfect and a side that my whole family will eat on top of or next to almost anything.

XO  Martha

Here in the south, we love okra! I think of it as a southern food, generally fried. The hubby and I were in Tennessee for Labor Day weekend and we stopped at a little BBQ restaurant on our way back. When I think of a BBQ joint - I think obviously pulled pork, plus all the fix in's: hushpuppies, fries, slaw, baked beans, mac & cheese, and so on. One of the first things I noticed on the menu - NO fries, NO hushpuppies. How odd! However, I did smell the delicious aroma of a wood burning grill. It turns out - this place doesn't have any fryers, but all the veggie sides are instead grilled! There it was on the menu - grilled okra. I'd never heard of such a thing! The man behind the counter promised me I'd love it and boy, was he right! I've been craving it ever since, so tonight I decided to give it a try. 

To serve 4 as a side dish, you will need:

1 pound of okra pods
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
Cut off the stems, and toss with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat. 
Once the grill pan is heated, lay the okra out on the grill pan evenly. Cook, turning after 2-3 minutes, until softened, and you see nice grill marks. 
Plate the babies up and enjoy! They are crunchy yet soft, and so delicious. Add this healthy side dish to your meal tonight! 
Our frites come to us as a big beautiful white potato.  First they age for a few days, allowing some of the sugars to break down.  Then they are cut.  We use a frites press, of course, as we go through five million potatoes a week….(er, okay not five million, a girl can dream can’t she?).  After the potatoes have been cut they are soaked to be prepared for the par fry.  To “par” anything is to pre cook it slightly, so that you can more quickly get that item from an order to a table.  Although, in the case of the frites, it’s more about the process.  The proper Belgian style frites is fried twice.   We could fry a fry in a short enough amount of time, but a frites needs to be fried once, and then again to achieve the perfect “crispy on the outside, light in the center consistency”.  After their first dunk in the fryer, they are stored in the walk in cooler until they are ordered.   Once fried a second time, for an order, they are sprinkled with Kosher salt and served.  No ingredients other than potatoes, salt, and a high grade soybean oil are used.  

It is a process, it takes a couple of days, but it's worth it.  Frites shown here with a Fine Line Cheeseburger   

You can serve these at home if you're equipped with a deep fryer, following the steps already outlined.  You'll want to par fry at 325, and finish fry at 350, use nothing but kosher salt to season.  

I love the Barefoot Contessa Parties! cookbook.  The recipes are made to keep the cook in the party and not slaving over the stove! I remember every Thanksgiving growing up, we had sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows - so sweet!  Nothing wrong with tradition but here's a twist that substitutes carmelized apples for the marshmallows which adds a nice tartness. 

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples  Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! 
4 lbs sweet potatoes
1/2 c OJ (she calls for freshly squeezed, but I won't tell if you buy it!)
1/2 c heavy cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1/4 c light brown sugar
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper 
Preheat oven to 375.   Scrub potatos, prick a few times with fork and bake for 1 hour until soft.
Scoop out insides (when cool enough to handle).
Put sweet potato meat in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and add OJ, cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
Mix until combined but not smooth and pour into baking dish.  

3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 McIntosh or Macoun apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
3 tbsp light brown sugar 

Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add apples and brown sugar and cook about 5-10 minutes until lightly browned.  Put on top of sweet potatoes.  Bake potatoes and apples for 20-30 minutes until heated through.