YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Slow And Steady Wins the Race (2 vegan, 1 turkey)

Now that the cold weather has moved in, I thought it would be nice to talk about slow oven cooking. As often happens when food cooks overnight in my oven, its extraordinary fragrance awakens me periodically throughout the night. You have to try it to believe it; the smell is amazing. It’s impossible to go wrong with slow oven cooking. The flavors caramelize and blend to become complex and satisfying. Although it is true that eating well takes more planning, it does not take more time. In the case of slow oven cooking, it actually takes less, and all these recipes can also be made in a crockpot set to low. 

Here are three slow recipes, just for you. Let’s start with lentils in tomato sauce. One thing about cooking lentils in a slow oven is that they don’t break apart when you cook them. Even the small, fragile red lentils remain intact when you cook them in a slow oven. That’s because, for the most part, slow oven cooking keeps them still, hardly moving. Cooking on the stove, on the other hand, puts the lentils in constant motion, and the turbulence breaks them up. 

To make the lentil recipe, fill a soup pot with 1 cup dry brown lentils, a large can of crushed or pureed tomatoes, an equal-sized can full of water, 2 sliced onions, 2 sliced stalks of celery, 2 sliced carrots, 2 Tbsp. honey, 2 tsp. cumin, 2 tsp. curry, 1 tsp. turmeric, plus salt and pepper to taste. Add water to cover the lentils and vegetables by approximately 3 inches, and simply leave it to cook all night in a covered pot at 225F. This will make a great lunch the next day, and, yes, a great breakfast, too. There is no reason at all to wait til lunch to eat it, especially when it smells so great in the morning.

You can also made slow-cooked turkey stock, and then turn the stock into soup with the leftover turkey bits and some vegetables. Place an entire turkey carcass (what’s left after leftovers) into a soup pot, add 1 tsp. white or apple cider vinegar, and fill it halfway with water (approx. 2 quarts). Place the covered pot in the oven, and set the temperature to 225F to cook all night long. Chicken carcasses also happen to make good stock.

In the morning, turn off the oven and leave the stock to cool. A few hours later, once the stock has had some time to cool, you can prepare to drain it. Set a colander in the kitchen sink above a large, clean pot, and line the colander with either an old dishtowel, a few layers of cheesecloth, or a few paper towels. Then slowly pour the liquid with bones into the colander, and allow the liquid to drain, adding more as necessary to keep the liquid in the colander below the edges of the cloth. The resulting stock will be clear, caramel-colored, and fragrant. Divide the stock among a few glass jars (2-4 cups each), each jar no more than 2/3 full. Label and date them, and then freeze them on the diagonal for future use.

If you are inclined, you can divide up the bones and bits into three piles: meat, bones, and other (like cartilage). The meat goes into one container of stock, the bones go into the trash, and the other stuff goes in the dog bowl. Or you can just throw the whole mess away.

To make turkey soup, add one jar of stock to the soup pot along with any salvaged turkey meat, two thinly sliced onions, 2 diced sweet potatoes, ½ cup dry white beans, 2-3 garlic cloves (peeled), and 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Place the covered pot in the oven at 225F, and it will be ready in the morning. Be prepared for it to wake you several times through the night. 

Finally, you can make black bean soup, which takes a full day to make (you’ll want to start the night before it will be served) but is worth every minute. This recipe serves 12-15, so you should have plenty to freeze for later. Remember: slow cooking takes some planning, but it doesn’t actually take more time.  

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs. dry black beans, rinsed and sorted
1 large onion, quartered
1 large green pepper, seeded and quartered
4 garlic cloves, slit lengthwise down the middle
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
3+3 bay leaves
***********************
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 large green pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cumin

#1 Evening
Add beans to a large soup pot along with 1 onion (quartered), 1 green pepper (seeded and quartered), 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. Kosher salt, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil, 3 bay leaves, and 4 large peeled garlic cloves, each slit lengthwise down the middle. [Note that some of the vegetables are being saved for a later step.] Add water to cover the beans by 4 inches. Cover the pot, and place in a 225F oven to cook all night.

#2 Morning
In the morning, skim and discard any foam, and add more water if necessary to keep the level 2 inches above the beans. Cook uncovered for 2-3 hours more. Discard the first set of bay leaves. Using a stick blender, puree the vegetables partially, leaving plenty of whole beans and pieces of veggies. If you don’t have a stick blender, ladle half the soup into a blender or food processor, puree, and then return it to the pot. Now add three new bay leaves, plus more black pepper to taste. Cover the pot again and return to the oven to continue cooking at 225F.

#3 Afternoon
About one to two hours before mealtime, peel and dice 4 garlic cloves. Warm 1/4 cup olive oil on low heat, and add the garlic. Stir gently for a few seconds, add the diced onion, and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until glassy and tender. Add the diced green pepper, and cook until soft. Add 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp. cumin, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper to the vegetables. Stir once, and then add the contents of the pan to the bean pot. Cover, and continue to cook for 1-2 hrs more.

Serve with any combination of hot sauce, cilantro, plain yogurt or sour cream (vegan or dairy), and/or grated cheddar.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: White Beans with Roasted Tomatoes

This recipe makes a simple and lovely meal that could not be more delicious or satisfying! Like many recipes whose featured ingredient is one or more types of beans, it still tastes wonderful even if you fiddle with the ingredients a little. The name of the game is flexibility. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Yellow Squash Crockpot Soup

This soup, perfect for fall days and nights, cooks up beautifully in a crock pot. If you put together all the ingredients in the morning, the house will smell heavenly all day, and the soup will be ready to eat when dinnertime comes. On the other hand, if evening time works better for prepping the ingredients, the house will smell heavenly when you wake up, and the soup will be ready at lunchtime and also keep til dinnertime. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Summer’s Caramelized Corn Salad

This beautiful and elegant recipe, with its mix of so many different colors and flavors, will certainly make your tastebuds sing! The sweetness from the pepper, sour from the lime, heat from the Sriracha, brightness from the parsley, all come together to form an absolute culinary orchestra. And sauteing the corn in olive oil? Well that’s what gives it that little bit of sweetly caramelized late summer magic. Enjoy! Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Golden Gazpacho Soup

You can think of gazpacho as soup and salad, both, at the same time. It will make a great first course at a nice dinner, but you can also take it to work for lunch (maybe with Mary’s Gone Crackers or a slice of toasted whole-grain bread). It would also make a scrumptiously satisfying mid-afternoon snack. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Joe’s Sassiest Asian Slaw Ever

My buddy and longtime fan Joe Gardewin has come up with what he calls “the very best and sassiest Asian slaw ever.” He says it’s great on turkey tacos but you should also feel free to eat it plain, right out of the bowl, if you want! His list of veggies is somewhat flexible, but includes cabbage, daikon radish, and hot peppers at the very least, and he is proud to say that he is a legit food snob since he hand-cuts his slaw. Go, Joe! Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Chocolate-Pecan Bars (df, gf, vegan, no bake)

My friend Lia brought these to book club a couple weeks ago. OMG. You should make them. Technically they are meant to be dessert, but they would be great for breakfast, too. I would bring them to folks young and old. A reunion of friends. A picnic. A gathering of neighbors. A special meal. An ordinary one.

Food like this creates all kinds of moments, like moments in time and moments of gratitude. It’s a personal reminder that food is meant to nourish not just the body, but the heart and soul as well. And the best is when our food does all three at the same time. Thank you, Lia.

Date-Pecan Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted, natural almond butter
  • 1 ½ cups unsalted pecan halves, divided
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 5-7 pitted Medjool dates (1/2 cup packed)

Chocolate Layer

  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp. natural almond butter, unsalted

Topping

  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped

Directions

  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, greased foil, or wax paper. Set aside.
  2. To prepare the date-pecan layer, add dates and almond butter to a food processor. Blend approx. one minute until sticky and crumbly, like chunks of wet sand or dough. Scrape down the sides of the processor intermittently, as needed, between processing.
  3. Add 1 cup pecans, vanilla, and salt to food processor. Blend continuously until pecans are fully incorporated and mixture is soft and crumbly. When the mixture holds together when pinched, it’s ready. Add remaining pecans, and pulse only a few times until pecans are just barely incorporated, with medium-small pieces still visible.
  4. Pour the contents into the prepared baking pan. Press gently with a spatula, and smooth into an even, tightly-packed layer.
  5. To prepare the chocolate mixture, add chocolate chips and (¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp.) of almond butter to the top of a double boiler, or heat in a microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 20-second increments until soft and melted. Stir until smooth.
  6. Pour chocolate mixture over date-pecan layer. Smooth into an even layer using a rubber spatula. Sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans, and press gently into the chocolate.
  7. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and slice into 16 generous bars or 20 bite-size pieces.

Thank you to Beaming Baker for a prior version of this recipe.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Grilled Tofu & Cucumber Salad

Grilling season—yeah! Here’s something so delicious you’ll probably want to make it even if you aren’t vegan! Of course, if you do want to make something special because your favorite vegan happens to be coming for dinner, then this really yummy recipe is a great choice! And you should plan to make enough for everybody, just in case. The warm and cold; soft and crunchy; sweet, sour and heat all add up to a very pleasing set of contrasts.  Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Two Parsley Salads For You

There is a warm and cozy spot in my heart where the parsley goes. Parsley doesn’t usually get people riled up in the same way as basil, thyme, and oregano, but that’s about to change! What’s great about these recipes is that parsley is not the garnish but the main event. It’s the green, the herb, the everything. No competition, no second fiddle. It’s not a decoration, it’s just the parsley, and it’s definitely meant to be eaten this way. Continue reading


Fourth of July Celebration (almost)!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite posts, reposted from July 4, 2010:
It’s the fourth of July today, and my sibs and I have converged on the family home for the great annual bash. On and off since yesterday evening, five strapping grandsons have been carrying cartons of beer, wine, soda, water, and iced tea up to the deck, where great drums of ice stand ready to receive them all. Continue reading