YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Sweet Potato Brownies

I’ve heard of black bean brownies before, and I have even made them on occasion, but I had never heard of sweet potato brownies until a couple of weeks ago. This recipe comes from Katherine, a newly arrived co-worker who is committed to good health, running in the sunshine, and preparing delicious, nutritious food. Lucky for us! The amount of sweetness in this recipe makes it perfect for a special dessert, though I wouldn’t hesitate to eat it for breakfast, either. 

2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 cup smooth peanut (or almond) butter
1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips (dairy-free)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a small cake pan with a bit of olive oil on your finger.

Warm the maple syrup in a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat. Add peanut (or almond) butter, stirring until the nut mixture begins to take on a toasted smell. Turn off the heat, add sweet potato and cocoa powder, and mix until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the mixture to the cake pan, spread evenly, and bake for 20 minutes. Do not use a cake tester — you want it to still be very slightly damp. Allow to cool completely prior to cutting.

Yield: 9 squares


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Red Lentils & Sweet Potatoes

I’m on a kick here. I think it might be the spinach. Or maybe the garam masala. It might be the orange vegetables and their phytonutrients. This recipe is slightly simpler than the chickpea-spinach curry one I posted a few weeks ago, but it’s also out of this world. The leftovers are so fantastic that you may decide to eat them for breakfast AND lunch, both.

1 small-medium sweet potato, peeled
1 small-medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp. if they aren’t super fresh)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups fresh spinach
a pinch of salt

  1. Dice sweet potato into ½-inch cubes, and set aside.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup water plus 1 tsp. olive oil, and sauté onions and garlic for one minute.
  3. Add red pepper flakes and continue to cook until all the water has boiled off. Add turmeric and garam masala, and stir well.
  4. Add broth and sweet potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low, cover pot, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add red lentils, and simmer 7-10 min until lentils and sweet potatoes are both fully cooked. Add additional water as needed to keep ingredients moist.
  6. Add spinach and stir until soft.
  7. Add salt to taste and serve.

Serves 2.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Cherry-Chocolate Mousse

Looking for something cool to serve in small, elegant glasses on a warm evening? This lovely mix of fruits, almond and chocolate will make your heart sing and your eyes flutter. Promise.

1 small banana
12 ounces frozen cherries
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 oz. dark chocolate (70%), finely chopped

Combine the banana, cherries and almond butter in a food processor or high-speed blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chocolate, and spoon into bowls.

If you would like to try making a firm ice cream, freeze 2-3 hours, and then serve with a proper ice-cream scoop.

Serves 4.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Spinach & Chickpea Curry

Let this list of spices inspire you! Sure, you can reach for the curry powder in the spice cabinet, but wait! Don’t! You are not going to believe the difference between THAT and THIS. It’s diamonds vs. paste. Top shelf vs. moonshine. Everything you’ve ever wanted vs. anything you’ve ever settled for. You will be so grateful, and your tastebuds will, too.

If you’d like, you can serve this beautiful curry with a bowl of rice and a plateful of cucumber slices. The original recipe comes from So Vegan. So check it out.

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
4  large tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. hot chili powder
3 1/2 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup coconut cream
3 cups raw spinach
1 handful fresh coriander leaves
pinch of salt
1/2 fresh lemon
1 tsp. coconut oil for frying
sliced cucumber for garnish

1. Add onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes to a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Crush the mustard seeds and coriander seeds until fine, either with the side of a knife blade or a mortar & pestle.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
4. Fry the cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, mustard seeds, and chili powder for 2 min.
5. Add the onion and tomato mixture, stir well, and simmer on low heat for 20 min.
6. Add coconut cream and chickpeas, stir well, and heat for 3-5 min.
7. Add a pinch of salt, a drizzle of lemon juice, and a small handful of coriander.
8. Add all the spinach, and stir briefly until wilted.

Serves four.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Simplest Salad

I’ve been making this salad for breakfast, yes breakfast, for months now. I know it’s a bit unconventional in the U.S. to eat salad for breakfast (though not in Europe and the Middle East), but it’s such a great way to start the day. Its success is built on simplicity. My strategy remains similar, week in and week out. It is never quite the same, and always delicious. Thank you to Alice Waters for teaching me to eat simply. This salad makes one single serving, but is infinitely flexible if you’d like to invite a friend or an army to your table to share a meal.

1 medium white potato (organic), cooked
2 small (pickling) cucumbers (approx 4 inches long)
8 grape or cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. sunflower seeds
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
a small handful of fresh herbs (choose from among chives, basil, mint, thyme, oregano)

Dice the potato into 1/2 inch cubes, and add to a bowl.
Halve the cucumbers the long way, and slice into thin half-moons.
Slice each tomato in half.

Mix together the vegetables, and add the herbs. Sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt. Mix well.
Sprinkle the top with sunflower seeds just before serving.

Thank you, Alice Waters.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Beautifully Red Cabbage Salad

Welcome to lunch for a week with spicy, crunchy, sour power! When I saw this recipe I knew right away that it had a future in my kitchen! Even still, cabbage is one of those foods that is highly underrated — especially the red kind. But go ahead and make some for you, your gang, and your co-workers! You’ll be very happy you did.

1 small head of red cabbage, cored
2 bunches flat-leaf Italian parsley, rinsed well and chopped finely
1 bunch scallions (white and green parts), rinsed well and sliced thinly
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh is best, but not essential)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped (separate whites & yolks if you’re inclined)
1/2 cup roasted almonds, chopped coarsely
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

1. Cut the cabbage into small chunks, and process in small batches in a food processor (short, quick pulses) just a few times until chopped roughly. Avoid overprocessing or you will have raw cabbage soup.
2. Empty chopped cabbage into a large bowl, and mix in parsley and onions.
3. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the cabbage mixture. Toss thoroughly.
4. Sprinkle with nuts and chopped eggs. Serves 4-6.

Thank you to the incomparable Blender Girl for a prior version of this recipe.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Lebanese Potato Kugel

Once again, my dear friend and talented cook Judith has outdone herself. Potato kugel (translated loosely as “pudding,” but much more Yorkshire than chocolate), was a mainstay of my childhood. Last weekend she completely surprised (!) me, creating her own version of this recipe that is so familiar and dear to me, and which I grew up eating on many holidays and other special occasions. My Grandma Rosie had her own special way of making potato kugel; she taught my mom to make it, and that’s how I learned. Grandma Rosie’s version would have you heating the oil in a square glass Pyrex pan in the oven, carefully pouring the potato batter directly into the hot pan with spitting hot olive oil, and then sprinkling a little more oil on top prior to cooking it, but Judith’s version gives you a little more control over the crust.

This is one of those recipes whose flavor creates a memory that stays with you for years. As my grandma Rosie would have put it, it takes a little bit of potchky-ing (fussing) but, as Judith puts it, it’s “A labor of love you won’t regret.”

3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, shredded
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/3 cup garbanzo or fava bean flour
1/2 cup cilantro (plus more for garnish if desired), chopped coarsely
1/2 cup green onion, finely sliced
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
water to mix

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, except the water.
2. Add water as needed to absorb chick pea flour, so that the mixture is wet but sticks together (fairly solid). Too wet is better than too dry, fyi, so if you are unsure, err on the side of more water.
3. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add a generous slick of olive oil (approx 2 Tbsp.), and spoon potato mixture into the pan, spreading it into an even layer. Allow to cook 3-4 minutes, reduce flame to medium, and allow to brown.
4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Once the sides of the kugel begin to crisp, slide a knife around the edge of the skillet to loosen, reduce the flame to low, and allow to cook 10-15 minutes more. This time, slide a sharp spatula under and around the edges to loosen it from the pan.
5. Flip the kugel by placing a serving plate atop the skillet, and then flipping so the cooked side faces up. Return empty skillet to the fire, turn up heat to medium-high. Add remaining olive oil, allow to heat thoroughly, and slide kugel, now raw side down, back into the skillet. Allow to cook over medium heat for 4 minutes, and
6. Transfer the entire skillet to the preheated oven. Cook 15-20 minutes until done. Use a sharp knife to check the center of the kugel for doneness.
7. Flip the kugel onto a cutting board or platter, and slice into 8 or more wedges. Serve with a few slices of brisket, a squeeze of lime, more fresh chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of salt, a crumble of queso fresca, a drizzle of Mexican crema, or straight up. Your choice.

Thank you, Judith. Hearty appetite!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Feminista White Beans

Here’s a recipe served throughout the Middle East by families, the families who love them, and the families who love to feed them. All kinds of families.

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, peeled & minced (approx. 1 med-large onion)
  • 1/2 cup celery, rinsed & minced (approx. 2 medium stalks)
  • 16-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 3 cups canned white beans (navy beans or cannellini), drained and rinsed well
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil

Heat olive oil to medium-high in a large, deep skillet. Add onion and celery, lower heat to medium, and sauté until translucent and turning golden.

Add crushed tomatoes, honey, and paprika to the skillet, and stir gently until mixed. Continue to heat until mixture is simmering. Stir in the beans. Add a pinch or two of salt and a few shakes (or grinds) of black pepper.

Cover and simmer over very low heat for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and basil just before serving. Serves 6-8 hungry feminists (and their families).

A prior version of this recipe was published at www.vegkitchen.com. Thanks!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Momofuku’s Soy-Sauce-Soaked Eggs

This recipe is in honor of our seventeen lovely new chicks, who arrived in November and moved out to the big-girl coop this past weekend to join the gold-laced Wyandottes who’ve been with us for about three years now. The little girls won’t be laying for a little while yet, but their pale pink combs are starting to color and fill out! Once they begin to lay, we’ll have dozens and dozens of eggs!

Every once in a while you come across an amazing, new recipe, something you’ve never heard of before but which sounds extraordinarily wonderful. This is one of those recipes, and you can thank the wonderful food blog, food52, for a prior version of this recipe.

To quote the author, “What I like best is that these eggs can be used in a thousand different ways: They are perfect for breakfast, for a midafternoon snack, sliced onto an English muffin or a plate of arugula, and more.”

To quote me, “Oh come on, you know you’re just gonna open that jar, slip out a gorgeous egg, and nibble it right down to your fingers!” Yes, I know this recipe has sugar, but I didn’t want to substitute honey in case it affects its 4-week refrigerator life. If, on the other hand, you plan to eat them all within a few days, then go ahead and try it with the substitution.

6 large eggs
6 tbsp. warm water
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar into the water until completely dissolved. Stir in the sherry vinegar and tamari.

Set a large pot of water up to boil. Carefully lower the eggs into the pot, and cook for exactly 6 minutes and 50 seconds, stirring slowly for the first 90 seconds to distribute the heat evenly.

Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with cold water and ice. At the end of the cooking time, transfer the eggs as quickly as possible into the ice bath. Once they are cool, peel them under the water. This should help to keep the outsides perfectly smooth.

Place the eggs in a bowl or jar filled with the soy sauce, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 6 hours. To make sure the eggs remain completely submerged, you may need to cover the bowl with a small plate if necessary. Remove the eggs from the marinade, and serve.

Two interesting facts: #1 As long as you keep them refrigerated in a tightly sealed container, the eggs will keep for up to 4 weeks. #2 You can save the soy sauce for a second batch of eggs.

To serve, cut the eggs in half lengthwise and season lightly with fresh black pepper. Bon appetit!


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Golden Beets

Last week we went to the West Side Market and brought home a big fat bunch of gorgeous golden beets. I was so pleased with how they turned out. We had a great big bowl full of golden beets, and they lasted four days while we ate them with everything! That’s because this recipe goes great with roasted chicken, thick tangy yogurt, scrambled eggs, a bowl of lentil soup, or greens sauteed in olive oil. Basically, everything. 

3-4 medium beets
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (yes, I like more)
2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
scant 1/4 cup white vinegar

Boil freshly scrubbed beets until you can slide a cake tester in and out with just about no resistance. Turn off the heat, and allow the pot to cool completely.

Peel cool beets with your fingers under running water. The peels should mostly slide off easily, and then scrape off any stubborn remaining bits with the edge of a sharp knife. Slice off the ends, and cut up the beets into 1/2-inch cubes.

Using a whisk or fork, mix together the vinegar, pepper, salt, and honey until the honey is completely dissolved. Pour over the beets, and stir well. Makes 6-8 servings.