Never Stop Improving: “Chorizo” Beans

“Chorizo” Beans

My approach to a healthy lifestyle is to never stop improving. I developed this recipe while making my Vegetable Paella. We had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant in the Poconos over the weekend. Ohhhhh, they had Paella Mariscada on the menu. It stirred up memories that I couldn’t get out of my head. I used to order paella every time I went to a Spanish restaurant. Paella is such a special and impressive dish that I came up with my own version some time ago. My original recipe included rice, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, red peppers and peas. What’s missing is the flavor of chorizo, a spicy Spanish-style sausage made with pork. My plan today was just to add some type of large bean to the paella. Luckily I had a bag of large lima beans on hand. I thought I would cook the beans with some garlic, but then my imagination ran wild. Could I infuse the beans with the flavor of chorizo? I looked up a recipe for real chorizo to see what other seasonings go into it. Oregano, thyme, allspice and cloves. I added crushed red pepper, black pepper, brown sugar and vinegar to the mix. After quick soaking the beans, I placed them in a pressure cooker with all the seasonings. They were done in five minutes. I boosted the chorizo flavor by reducing the excess liquid. Oh, boy! These came out tastier than I expected. These “Chorizo” Beans are tasty enough to eat right out of the pot but they were destined to join the party going on in my paella pan. I added the beans at the point in the recipe when the mushrooms, peppers, artichokes and peas are arranged on top of the rice. Do they taste like chorizo? It’s hard for me to say since I used to eat chorizo only when I ordered paella and that was over five years ago. What I can say is that they are deliciously different than any other bean dish I’ve had. If you’re not up for making paella you can try smashing them into a crusty Italian roll, include them in a burrito or serve with rice. Try these “Chorizo” Beans on their own or add them to my improved Vegetable Paella and make it a Vegi-curious day.

Paella with “Chorizo” Beans

“Chorizo” Beans

The recipe is intended to be included in the paella, you might want to double or triple the ingredients if you want to enjoy the “Chorizo” Beans on their own.

1 cup dried large lima beans, soaked

6 oz. water
4 garlic cloves, whole
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of ground cloves

Drain beans. Add the beans and remaining ingredients to pressure cooker. Cook on high for 5 minutes and quick release pressure. When safe, remove lid. If you have an Instant Pot, you can set it to “saute” and reduce any excess liquid. If using a stove-top pressure cooker reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid has cooked down. You can make these without a pressure cooker, just allow additional time for the beans to cook. Enjoy as is or add to Vegetable Paella.



18 Oct 2017

Any Given Sunday: Burritos & Much More

Black Bean Burrito

In the late 1990’s there was a movie titled, “Any Given Sunday” that was about football. The title was derived from a line in the movie said by the team’s coach that any team could win or lose “on any given Sunday.” That term has a different meaning for me. Through the years, on any given Sunday, my family would be gathered in the kitchen, some of us cooking and others amusing us with stories. Any given Sunday was both a big deal and just a regular day in our home. Nobody went to work and the stores were all closed. We had nothing to do except cook a big meal and enjoy the company of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. After dinner, the men would play pinochle and the ladies and kids would play Pokeno. Now, on any given Sunday, you can still find me in the kitchen working on a new recipe or just getting a head start on some meal preparation for the week. Even though our Sunday’s don’t revolve around football, I thought today’s meal would make a fun game-day spread. I set up my electric rice cooker with some brown rice. While the rice was cooking, I worked on the peppers and black beans. I sauteed three bell peppers and two large onions in a non-stick skillet without any oil. There are a few ways to do the black beans. You can just use them straight from the can, make these smoky black beans ahead of time, or pull something (maybe 3-bean chili) out of the freezer that you squirreled away for an occasion like this. If you want to throw together something fast, you can just add some liquid smoke, cumin powder, salsa and cilantro to a few cans of beans. When everything is cooked, your guests can build their own burritos by layering whatever they like on a flour tortilla and top it off with guacamole and salsa. Not in the mood for Mexican? You can use the peppers and onions to make Philly Steak Sandwiches instead. All you have to do is grill some portobello mushrooms, layer with the peppers and onions on a roll, then top it off with a few slices of non-dairy cheese, like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. (I make my own cheddar using a recipe from The Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook.) If you have any peppers and onions left over, you can add them to a tofu scramble for breakfast or add some soy sauce and serve over rice for lunch the next day. On any given Sunday, your team may win or lose, but you’ll always come out ahead sharing healthy and tasty food with your family and friends. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Philly Steak Sandwich

Peppers & Onions

Easy Black Beans

17 Jan 2017

A Little Plate of Heaven: Vegetable Fricassee

Vegetable Fricasee

Vegetable Fricassee

I remember hearing about chicken fricassee when I was a young girl. It sounded silly (actually, it was referenced in a Foghorn Leghorn cartoon) and fancy all at the same time. Many years later I had my first taste of fricassee, appropriately at a fancy restaurant. It was not the traditional creamy chicken stew, just a vegetable side dish made with julienned zucchini, carrots and onions and cooked with butter and cream. It was heaven on a plate. I don’t even remember what else it was served with (maybe fish or chicken), but the fricassee is what I remember most about that meal. So I thought about how to pull off a plant-based version that didn’t use non-dairy butter or a soy-based cream that contains oil. Lately, I’ve been using a combination of soy or almond milk yogurt and cashew cream in my recipes, so I figured I’d play around with that some more. (I like this combination because cashew cream, when used on it’s own, has a tendency to dry up. The addition of the non-dairy yogurt helps keep it fluid.) The recipe came together quite easily. The vegetables are sauteed, seasoned with herbs then finished off with the “cream”. As an afterthought, I might add a splash of dry white wine before mixing in the cream. I served the fricassee over a whole grain medley (half quinoa, half Trader Joe’s brown rice-black barley-daikon seed medley), but you could also toss it with a small pasta like orzo or gemelli. Whip up a dish of Vegetable Fricassee and get yourself a little plate of heaven. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Vegetable Fricassee

½ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
½ cup non-dairy yogurt
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (optional)

vegetable broth
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, julienned
1 small zucchini, julienned
1 small yellow squash, julienned

Dried tarragon or other herb, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cooked grains or pasta

Drain and rinse cashews. Add to blender container and add enough water to barely cover them. Process on high until smooth and creamy. Add yogurt and nutritional yeast and set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of broth in non-stick skillet. Add onions and carrots and cook for about two minutes. Add zucchini and yellow squash and continue to cook until softened, stirring frequently. Add tarragon, salt and pepper and cook another 30 seconds. Add cashew cream-yogurt mixture and simmer until sauce thickens.

Serve over your choice of grains or pasta.




09 Nov 2016

Cooking Class: Vegetable Paella

img_4279Before adopting this plant-based style of living, I considered myself a pretty good cook. I never had any formal chef’s training, but I didn’t let that get in the way of a culinary challenge. I always got great pleasure from sharing a meal with family and friends. Most times, the meals were just wholesome, everyday dishes handed down from my mom and grandmother. And once in a while, the meals were “epic”. Lately, I’ve been in the mood for something delicious and different. An image of Paella must have crossed my laptop because this is what I’ve been dwelling on. I recall making a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated magazine many years ago that falls under the “epic” category. I made this one time when my parents came to visit and I still get a warm feeling remembering how much they enjoyed it. I decided to borrow the Cook’s Illustrated technique and added a few tricks of my own. The basic preparation is to make a “sofrito” of onions, garlic, and tomatoes; add rice, stock, wine, red bell peppers and other vegetables. The sofrito is cooked on the stove, then the rest of the ingredients are added and cooked in the oven. I chose to use artichoke hearts, cremini mushrooms and peas as my add-ins. What’s nice about this recipe is that it is versatile. You can keep it simple by just making rice, bell peppers and peas; or you can experiment with different vegetables.  A popular version of paella is made with seafood, so I might use oyster mushrooms or king oyster mushrooms and add some nori seaweed dust for a little taste of the sea. Chickpeas or fava beans would make a nice addition as well. Whether you consider yourself a novice or an accomplished cook, this recipe for Vegetable Paella is within your reach. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Paella Vegetables

Paella Vegetables

Vegi-curious Paella

Olive oil, as needed (optional – see note)
1 can whole artichoke heart
Smoked paprika
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into ½” slices
8 oz. white button or cremini mushrooms, cut in half
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained and minced
2 cups medium grain rice (Valencia, Goya, Canilla)
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
3 cups light vegetable broth (or Better Than Bouillon No-Chicken stock)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 dried bay leaf
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
Salt to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F.

Drain artichoke hearts and cut into halves or quarters. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and set aside.

Lightly coat a Dutch oven with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally until skin begins to get charred (about 3 to 4 minutes).Transfer to baking sheet along with artichokes.

Re-coat Dutch oven with oil if desired and add the mushrooms. Cook on medium-high, stirring often. You want to cook just long enough to brown the exterior of the mushrooms but not cook them completely (about 3 minutes).Transfer to baking sheet along with artichokes and peppers.

Re-coat Dutch oven with oil if desired and add onions. Cook over medium-high heat until softened; add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in tomatoes and continue cooking until tomatoes start to darken and thicken, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir until grains are well coated. Add broth, wine, bay leaf and salt and bring to boil. Cover Dutch oven and place on rack in the lower third of the oven. Cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Scatter peas on top of rice; then arrange pepper strips, artichoke hearts and mushrooms on top of peas. Cover and return to oven for another 10 minutes.

*Note: you can omit the oil and cook the vegetables using water, about 2 tablespoons at a time.

If “soccarat”, the browned rice on the bottom of the pan, is desired, place Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot for even browning. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

25 Oct 2016

Power of Pretty: Portabello-Pepper “Steak”

Portabella-Pepper Steak

Portabello-Pepper Steak

Presentation is a key ingredient in my recipes. It doesn’t matter how tasty or nourishing a dish is, if it doesn’t look appetizing I might not want to eat it. It’s what I call the “power of pretty.” I’ve been getting a few bell peppers in our CSA share just about every week. Our produce overflow goes into a fridge in the basement, which can become somewhat of a black hole. (I didn’t realize the value of a second refrigerator until I started my plant-based style of living. A few bags of kale and a bushel of apples from an apple-picking adventure sure do take up a lot of real estate.) So I unearthed a supply of red, green and yellow peppers today and thought I’d try my hand at making Pepper “Steak”. Since I’m not a fan of seitan I resorted to my trusty friend, the mighty, meaty portabello mushroom. The thing about cooking mushrooms is that they can hold a lot of water which can lead the rest of the ingredients down a path of murkiness. My solution for this recipe was to grill the mushrooms and stir them in during the last minute of cooking. The portabello strips had a nice bite to them and allowed the other ingredients to show their colors (and flavors). Pretty as a picture, almost too pretty to eat . . . almost. Pick up some portabellos and peppers and experience the power of pretty with this Portabello-Pepper “Steak”. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Portabello Strips

Portabello Strips


Grilled Portabello Strips

Grilled Portabello Strips

Portabello Pepper “Steak”

2 portabello caps, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon corn starch

2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 large bell peppers (red, green and yellow), thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

Rice for serving

Heat a large non-stick skillet or electric griddle on high. Place portobello slices (one layer at a time so as not to overlap the slices) in skillet and brown on both sides. Remove from skillet and place on a plate. Repeat with remaining portabello slices.

Measure vegetable broth in a one cup liquid measuring cup. Add soy sauce and corn starch and whisk thoroughly. Set aside.

Lightly coat non-stick skillet with oil and heat on medium-high heat. (Alternately, you can heat 2 tablespoons of water in skillet to eliminate the oil.) Add garlic and saute until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and set aside. Add peppers and onions and stir fry until browned and crisp –tender, adding water one tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking. Return garlic to skillet and vegetable broth mixture and stir to coat. Cook on medium heat until sauce thickens. You can add part or all of the broth depending on how much sauce you prefer. Add more soy sauce to taste. Add portabello slices and lightly stir. Remove from heat and serve over rice.


09 Oct 2016

Growing on Me: Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

Sometimes I wonder why I do the things I do. For instance, I planted a row of Swiss chard again this year. As much as I want to love eating greens, I’ve never been a big fan unless they were swimming in a sea of olive oil. I guess I keep planting them in the hopes that they’ll start to grow on me, OR, that I’ll find a way to prepare them that will make me love them. I’ve been adding a handful of spinach to my Thai Curry Red Lentils. It’s been a nice addition, so I figured I’d try some chard with it. Since I have lots of chard, I gave it a bigger presence in the stew. I usually serve this stew over rice, but I wanted to introduce a different starch to the dish and added some potatoes. I replaced the Thai curry paste with cumin, chili powder, turmeric and cinnamon for more of an Indian influence. I can’t say enough about this stew. It’s colorful, creamy, savory, spicy and exotic. It’s hearty enough to eat on it’s own, but feel free to serve it with some rice so you can spread the love even further. If you like to garden, try planting this perpetual Swiss chard. It’s resistant to bolting so you can enjoy it all summer long and even into late fall. Even if you don’t grow your own Swiss chard, this stew is bound to grow on you. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Perpetual Swiss Chard

Perpetual Swiss Chard

Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried red lentils
3 small sweet potatoes cut into 1″ chunks (about 4 cups)
12 oz. Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut crosswise into strips
1 cup lite coconut milk
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Cooked rice (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of water in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to color. Stir in ginger, garlic and seasonings. Cook one minute, stirring constantly. Add broth, curry paste, lentils and potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and lentils are soft. Add chard and coconut milk and cook another five minutes. Serve over rice if desired.

03 Oct 2016

I’m in the Mood for Thai: Green Curry Noodle Bowl

Thai Green Curry Noodle Bowl

Thai Green Curry Noodle Bowl

When we’re in the mood for Thai food, Bruce and I like to dine at Soybean Asian Grille.  The last time we were there I ordered a Green Curry Noodle Bowl from their special menu. It had tofu, baby bok choy, bell peppers, green beans and noodles with a “curry-ish” sauce. I say “curry-ish” because the dish was flavored with green curry paste and just a hint of coconut milk. Thai curries are usually insanely hot and contain a lot of rich (i.e. high-fat) coconut milk. It was this dish that motivated me to get off my tukhus and make the no-salt-added green Thai curry paste that I wrote about last week. My curry noodle bowl is a simple stir-fry kicked up a notch with the addition of green curry paste and a bit of light coconut milk. You can use any Thai curry paste (red, green, Massaman), either store-bought or made from one of my no-salt-added recipes. Mix up a batch of curry paste today, then stir things up a bit tomorrow with a bowl of Thai Green Curry Noodles. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Green Thai Curry Noddle Bowl

1 large yellow onion, sliced
8 oz. green beans, trimmed & cut into 1-1/2” pieces
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-1/2” strips
3 baby bok choy, sliced into 1” pieces (including leaves)
16 oz. extra firm tofu, cut into 1” pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons green Thai curry paste
½ can (about 1 cup) Thai coconut milk

Noodles (about 1 lb. dry) or rice (3 cups cooked) for serving

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water and onions. Saute until onions start to brown. Add green beans and more water if necessary and saute until they start to brown. Cover skillet and cook until beans start to soften, then add peppers and bok choy. Continue cooking until peppers and bok choy start to soften. Add tofu, curry paste and coconut milk and cook for a few minutes to allow sauce to thicken and get infused into the tofu.
Serve over choice of noodles or rice.

29 Sep 2016

Tasty Thai Curry Red Lentils

Thai Curry Red Lentils

Thai Curry Red Lentils

Don’t judge a lentil by its color. Every time I make red lentils they come out with a greenish hue making them look like every other lentil dish ever made. But once you close your eyes and taste the exotic flavors of Thai Curry Red Lentils you’ll see past its color. The ingredient list for this recipe looks a little daunting, but it’s really not a lot of work once you have the Red Thai Curry Paste done. In fact, the curry paste is so potent that you could probably skip the ginger, onions and garlic. You could certainly use a store-bought curry paste if you like. Thai curry paste is available in green, yellow (Massaman), panang and red. Have some fun and try using a different one each time you make this recipe and see which one you like the most. I like lentils that have the consistency of porridge, but you can add more water to make lentil soup. The lentils cook in about 20 minutes, so this is perfect for a weeknight dinner with plenty of leftovers. I served it over fresh baby spinach and Jasmine rice. These spicy and flavorful lentils are certainly an eye-opener. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Thai Curry Red Lentils

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon  minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon curry paste
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, not split lentils
  • 1 cup lite coconut milk
  • fresh spinach for serving
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Cooked rice (optional)

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to color, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Stir in ginger and garlic. Cook one minute, then add curry paste, stirring constantly. Add broth, curry paste and lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer about 20 minutes until lentils are soft. Add coconut milk and cook another five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Place a handful of spinach in bottom of soup bowl, then place a ladle-full of lentils on top. Garnish with cilantro, if desired. If you opt to serve the lentils with rice, place a spoonful of rice in bowl, then the spinach and lentils.


24 Apr 2016

Arroz Rapido: Fast-Track Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

A Cuban, a Puerto Rican and a Dominican walk into an office . . . Many years ago I learned how to make recaito, a green Puerto Rican seasoning base used to make Spanish rice. The recipe was based on the recipes from several co-workers of mine. While they came from different backgrounds, they had similar methods for making Spanish rice and they all used some version of recaito. It’s quite a production — cilantro, recao leaves, bell peppers, onions, garlic and aijes dulces. I usually make a big batch and freeze it small containers. How is it possible that I couldn’t find one small container today? No big deal. I had some of the ingredients on hand and went ahead with a scaled-down version: cilantro, garlic, onion and bell pepper. The measurements are an approximation as I just threw the ingredients in my mini-chopper. You can season the rice with store-bought Sazon, but since I’m trying to cut back on our sodium intake I make my own blend. To make your own salt-free Sazon seasoning, process one tablespoon each of cumin, coriander, garlic powder and annato in a coffee grinder. My three friends also agreed on another important aspect of making Spanish rice and that is getting the bottom layer of rice browned and stuck to the bottom of the pot. This lends a nutty, caramelized flavor to the rice. It’s a delicate balance between browning and burning the rice and it took me awhile to get it down. To brown, or not to brown; either way you’ll have Spanish rice that’s fast and flavorful. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fast Track Spanish Rice

Makes 3 cups


  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onions
  • 1 garlic clove


  • ¼ cup chopped tomato
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1-1/4 water
  • ½ teaspoon Sazon seasoning

Prepare the recaito: In mini chopper, process cilantro, bell pepper, onion and garlic until a chunky paste is formed.

Set Instant Pot to saute and brown the recaito for about one minute. Add tomato and stir for about 30 seconds, then add rice, water and Sazon. Cover and cook on high pressure for 3 minutes. Use instant release then remove cover when pressure is completely released. Set pot to saute and let bottom layer of rice brown slightly, about 1 minute. Re-cover and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Stovetop Method:

Brown recaito ingredients in sauce pot (you may need a little oil to do this), adding tomato and rice as above using 2 cups of water and cooking for 15 minutes.

18 Feb 2016

Not-So-Fat Tuesday Gumbo

February 17th is Fat Tuesday. So what do Gumbo 002Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras and New Orleans have in common you might ask? Gumbo! Most varieties of gumbo are seasoned with the “holy trilogy” of onions, bell pepper and celery. Most people are familiar with seafood gumbo and chicken and sausage gumbo. (I leave them out and use liquid smoke and seaweed dust as my Gumbo Essence.) A roux is traditionally used as a thickener. Filé, which is ground sassafras, is generally not added until after the Gumbo has finished cooking. The use of filé is optional. The use of okra and tomato is an influence of the Creole (although the tomato was introduced by French chefs in the 19th Century). The length of cooking time determines the final flavor and texture. The longer the roux is cooked before being added to the gumbo, the darker it becomes and the more prevalent the roux flavor will be. However the more the roux is darkened the less thickening power it will have. Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. This recipe for Gumbo is so full of goodness you can feast on it any day of the year. Thanks for being Vegi-curious!

Vegi-curious Gumbo

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons flour

2 green bell peppers, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 quart vegetable broth
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” Base (optional)
2 – 3 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 teaspoons seaweed dust (optional)

1/2 lb. sliced okra, frozen or fresh
1 – 2 tablespoons Gumbo file

For the roux, heat oil in large Dutch oven until almost smoking. Add flour and stir until dark reddish-brown and is of the consistency of tomato paste.

Add peppers, celery and onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and scraping bottom of pot. Mix in bay leaves, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper. Add broth, tomatoes, liquid smoke and seaweed dust. Boil for 15 minutes. Add okra reduce heat and simmer until okra is tender, about 15 minutes. Add in Gumbo file (start with 2 teaspoons and add more to achieve desired thickness) and continue cooking until juices are thickened. Ladle over white or brown rice.

Note: To make seaweed dust, grind 1/2 sheet of Nori seaweed in spice or coffee mill.


14 Feb 2015

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