Legume therapy.

October 16, 2009

Whatever vague borderline sickness I’ve been fighting off for the last week or so hit me in the face yesterday morning, and I was in bed all day, with a really limited appetite. It was unnatural, basically.

By the time dinner rolled around, I felt like I really needed to eat something, so I went for the simplest thing I could think of: rice and beans. I tried to spice them up a little bit with what we had around.

rice and beans with cheese and guacamole

rice and beans with cheese and guacamole

I used some leftover brown rice with red beans and red peppers, punched up with some chipotle puree. The guacamole is kind of an accident – I wanted to slice some avocados on top, but the ones we had were overripe so I just mashed them up with some lemon juice.

Tonight I was still feeling kind of rough, so I needed something warm and comforting.

split pea dal

split pea dal

Dal is always comforting, but especially when it’s accompanied by little chickpea pancakes and yogurt to balance out the accidental overdose of cumin seeds and red pepper flakes.

From the amount of coughing and sneezing I did after eating it, I think it might have been just the remedy I needed.


Parting words of wisdom.

July 6, 2009

If anyone ever asked me about my cooking process (which no one ever has, so consider this a bonus), I think I’d explain it like this:

  1. Start cooking a grain.
  2. Stand in front of the refrigerator.
  3. Find quick-cooking proteins that are or used to be beans.
  4. Look for vegetables justthisclose to going bad.
  5. Heat some oil in a skillet.
  6. Add garlic to it. No matter what.
  7. Chop vegetables. Put them in the skillet.
  8. Add enough ground cumin that everything gets a little bit brown and there’s cumin crust in the pan.
  9. Add the protein(s).
  10. Stir. Add more cumin. Let it cook until it looks kind of gross.
  11. Put the cooked grains in a bowl. Scoop some of the vegetable mixture on top.
  12. Add cheese.
  13. And maybe salsa.
  14. Eat dessert.
  15. Play Boggle.
  16. Go on vacation.
rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

Don’t miss me too much.

Hue-faux rancheros

June 29, 2009

One of the gifts I got in my birthday package from my in-laws was an issue of Eating Well magazine, which had a “fast weeknight dinners” section. I’m a sucker for a fast weeknight dinner, and I had a bag of pinto beans to cook, so their recipe for huevos rancheros caught my eye. The only issue for me with huevos rancheros is that I hate hate hate fried eggs. They gross me out beyond explanation. But, I’m good with eggs in many other forms, so I subbed in scrambled. An abomination? Maybe. Delicious? Yes.

the colors in this picture are kind of insane

the colors in this picture are kind of insane

Besides the different style of eggs and the use of red salsa in place of green, I didn’t do much to modify their recipe. I even dutifully served it with rice and avocado, as suggested.

the breakdown

1.5 cups of pinto beans (@ .99/lb dried) = $.25
8 sprouted corn tortillas = $2.46
1/2 jar salsa = $1.35
4 large eggs = $.83
sharp cheddar cheese = $.20
cilantro = $.10
1 cup rice = $.74
1/2 avocado = $.65

grand total= $6.58

A semi-respectable $1.65 for each of the four servings. Interestingly, more than they indicate it should be. It must be those sprouted corn tortillas. On the pricey side, but they just crisp up so nicely.

Double dinners

June 24, 2009

By some scheduling accidents of my own doing, I am working from 8am to 8pm tomorrow. Which means that tonight I made two dinners. I wanted to make some peanut sesame noodles that we could eat both tonight and tomorrow, but I misjudged my supply of soba noodles and it turns out that I was wrong. So I was left with a fully prepared meal that I didn’t want to eat yet and half a block of tofu.

Ever since we thawed out our wedding cake (which was, miraculously, still delicious; that’s the beauty of peanut butter and jelly cake with buttercream frosting), I have been feeling this compulsion to clean out the rest of the freezer. Since I had this half block of tofu, I rooted around and found a bag of frozen “stir fry vegetables” that we were going to use for pasta salad or something, but I made the executive decision to actually use them as they were intended: in stir fry. For frozen vegetables, they actually turned out fairly well, although the picture on the bag was a total lie. It looked like a balanced mix of green things and carrots, red peppers, and mushrooms. There were literally two mushrooms in there, and I only saw one pepper. But, whatever, if you stir fry anything in sesame oil and douse it with a soy sauce/rice vingegar/ginger/garlic/crushed red pepper sauce, it tastes fine.

do you see any red peppers? no. i didn't think so.

do you see any red peppers? no. i didn't think so.

This was cheap, too. Cheap cheap. Especially compared to those frozen bags of “stir fry” that are supposed to be a complete meal so they cost $5.99 or something. If I’d been really smart I would have added the half bag of “peppers and onions mix” that I have taking up space in the freezer. More peppers in the meal and more space in there for beans and chocolate. But I guess I’m not really smart.

the breakdown

1 bag of “stir fry vegetables” = $1.00
1/2 block extra firm tofu at $2.69/block = $1.35
1 cup short grain brown rice = $1.00
1T sesame oil= $.40 (this is really a pantry staple but it’s much more expensive that oils I usually use, so I feel like I should count it separately)
and some pantry staples (crushed red pepper, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, ground ginger)

grand total = $3.75

That’s $.94 a serving. Which is cheap. Also, did I mention that I can actually see the bottom of one of the shelves in the freezer. That’s worth something.

New legume experiment, take 1: split peas.

May 11, 2009

Nothing to report from tonight, because we had taco salads and there was absolutely nothing remarkable about it. I was going to try to replicate this cilantro-lime vinaigrette that I like at Texas Star, but after going through the trouble of finding all of the pieces to the mini food-processor and cleaning each one lovingly, I threw the cilantro in there and started the process of processing only to remember that, oh yeah, the reason the pieces are all over the kitchen is that it doesn’t work.

So, ultimately, that was a bust. But the cilantro added a nice kick to the salad, anyway.

Last night, I had an event at work that started at 9pm. Which, as we all know, is my usual bedtime. So, I had to figure something out for dinner that 1) involved some of the beans I just bought because we don’t have room for them in the kitchen and 2) would hold me over much longer than usual. Enter Indian lemon rice and roasted curry cauliflower.

lemon rice and roasted cauliflower

and it was all yellow

We had a chili cookoff at work a few weeks or months ago, and one of the dishes that was entered in the contest was this awesome rice with yellow split peas and turmeric and peanuts. I picked up some split peas on a whim on Saturday, so I decided to go for it. It turned out well, though it wasn’t nearly as delicious as the original, so there’s some tweaking that needs to be done. I did some research and sort of based this on this recipe, but mostly I used it as inspiration because I lacked a number of the ingredients and had to make do. Although I’m thinking maybe it was the mustard seed that was missing.

Lemon Rice


  • olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/3 cup dried yellow split peas (channa dal), rinsed and picked over for stones and gross bits
  • 1/4 cup of peanuts or cashews (peanuts are cheaper, but, obviously, they’ve been implicated in a number of disgusting salmonella incidents, so, take your pick)
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 t cumin
  • 1/4 t curry powder


  1. Cook rice according to package directions. I used Lundberg Farms California Brown Basmati, which is probably the best brown rice I’ve ever had. Against all odds, it has flavor.
  2. Cook split peas at a low simmer with at least three times as much water for 45 minutes. Drain.
  3. When rice is done, chop peanuts or cashews and toast them in a dry pan over medium heat. When they’re fragrant, stir them into the rice.
  4. Add oil to the pan and crank up the heat to medium-high. Add the split peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until they get crispy. Don’t stir too often or they’ll get mushy. After about five minutes in the pan, add the spices and continue to cook until everything has a nice crust.
  5. Combine rice and split peas. Stir a few times, but again, not too much. Because then the rice gets sticky.
  6. Add about 1/3 cup of lemon juice. Stir again. Remove from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes or so.

I think I’m going to try the mustard seeds next time. I remember the one I tried having little seeds in it. I guess I could ask the person who made it, but where’s the challenge in that?

I just can’t get enough of this dal

May 4, 2009

I try to limit my posts about repeat meals (which, honestly, is increasingly difficult now that every meal I eat is some kind of variation of rice and beans), but this dal is just so good I had to make it again. Fortunately, this coincided with May’s Hobo Monday over at Thursday Night Smackdown (fyi: I wouldn’t click on that right now if your boss can see your computer. Or your ten year old daughter who is really good at spelling.).  And, what do you know, this week’s featured ingredient is chickpeas. How could I make anything else?

I mean, this is seriously good

I mean, this is seriously good

I did a few things differently this time. For instance, I actually followed the recipe a little more closely and threw the onion and ginger into the food processor for a few seconds. I thought, why not? It requires very little effort on my part, really. I had to chop the onion less, which means less crying, and Matt does the dishes so I don’t have to worry about that. It also made the whole thing a little saucier, which I liked.

I have a lingering fear of putting something red in the food processor and having it explode all over the kitchen. And you know it’s carpeted in there for no reason that I can even begin to comprehend, and I think that a giant red stain would pretty much guarantee that we wouldn’t get our security deposit back.

Which is to say, I still used crushed tomatoes instead of processing them.

Okay, in order to be eligible for Hobo Monday, this meal has to serve 2 people for under $5 or 4 for under $10. This made 4 servings, so I’ll say it served 4, but all 4 of them are the 2 of us: 2 of us today for dinner and 2 of us tomorrow for lunch. Got it? ETA: Okay, it actually made 3 servings. What can I say? We like to eat a lot. I think that technically gives me $7.50 to work with.

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (I know, I know, it would have been cheaper to use dried; I did cut myself on one of the cans so I’ve been punished) 2 x $1.15 = $2.30
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes $.79
  • 1 yellow onion $1.00 (I forgot to look at this but I think this is a solid, if conservative, estimate)
  • I cup of brown basmati rice (1/5 of a bag) .2 x $3.69 = $.74
  • 1 T Patak’s mild curry paste  .0625 x $5.99 = $.37
  • pantry staples (ground ginger and olive oil)

Total: $5.20

Unfortunately, I can’t find the receipt from last week’s grocery shop, and the Dillons website is all but worthless, so I’m going to have to update this later with actual prices. I feel pretty confident that it’s going to come in under budget, though.

After reading the post in which I chronicled my first experience making this recipe, I realized that I made this on a Monday last time, too. There’s something about kickboxing class and the imaginary punching and the oddly incongruous aerobics-y grapevines that makes me want to eat this.

I used it as a reward this time. I was so against going to the gym, but in the end I couldn’t think of a really good excuse. My RA isn’t flaring up, I got more than 5 hours of sleep, my gym bag was packed and in the car, Terminator 2 isn’t coming from Netflix for 3-5 days. Plus, the rage has to go somewhere. And Matt really prefers if it doesn’t go home.

Suffering succotash

April 19, 2009

This week was a little too heavy on the pain and fatigue for my taste, but I’m pretty proud of myself for actually managing to cook some easy meals that were healthy, too. It’s easy for me to lose focus when I’m fatigued, to go out to eat (usually not something balanced or even healthy) or to just eat peanut butter and ice cream for dinner because it’s so easy (and, let’s face it, delicious). But I try to remind myself that eating real meals with actual vegetables and proteins and  grains is almost guaranteed to make me feel better, even if it takes effort.

orzo succotash

orzo succotash salad

The “succotash” is kind of controversial because I used black beans instead of limas, but, what can I say? I like to think outside the box. And we didn’t have limas. And I wanted it to be kind of Mexican themed. I made this Wednesday night, which was probably the peak of my fatigue, when I came home and sat down and didn’t think I’d be able to get up again, ever. There may have been some tears of frustration. But I’m strong-willed, so I pushed myself up and made this dinner in about 7 minutes. All I did was cook 1/2 cup of orzo and then add it to a can of black beans, a can of corn (both drained and rinsed), and a half a pint of grape tomatoes, which I quartered. I wanted to make a nice lime dressing for it, but the bottled lime juice I had is past its date. So I tried to just spice it up with some cumin and cayenne, but it was still bland  and emotionally unfulfilling. I had to follow it up with a bowl of cereal.

stir fry salad

stir fry salad

This one was inspired by a wakame rice salad recipe from Clean Eating. But that one takes two hours, and requires wakame. This one took about 20 minutes and required whatever I had on hand. Basically just brown rice mixed with stir fried tofu and veggies (peppers, onions, carrots, mushrooms) and dressed with a tasty soy sauce/rice vinegar/oil/ginger combo, the only part of the recipe I actually followed.

Last night we got ice cream at the campus dairy bar at 5:30 and when I was finally hungry again, all I wanted were sweet potatoes, so dinner ended up being peppermint ice cream, roasted sweet potatoes, and some random roasted tomatoes. Very fancy.

Tonight, I made something else from the Tropical Vegan Kitchen.

spicy bolivian-style lentils over quinoa

spicy bolivian-style lentils over quinoa

It was supposed to be over rice, but, as you know, we just had rice. And I like to shake things up.

This meal took a little longer, but I had some energy from the gym so I went for it. Totally worth it. What makes the lentils “Bolivian-style”? Chipotle puree! This was so easy. All you do is take a 7 oz can of chipotles in adobo and puree them in the food processor until smooth. I only used a teaspoon of puree here, but it was enough to add a ton of awesome flavor and smokiness to the whole dish. And I have a ziploc bag full of it in the refrigerator, so I need to brainstorm other uses. Any ideas?

We hit up the Tulip Festival in Wamego today, so I think I’m going to go enjoy some of the cookies and wine we brought back. Dessert of champions.