YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Lovely, Lovely Legumes

Many years ago, my then-vegetarian sister had a boyfriend whose mother served her “bean loaf” on her first visit to their home. Its dreadful and unappetizing name was nothing like its fabulous flavor. So we renamed it “chickpea pie,” and it ended up sticking around for much longer than the vegetarianism. And the boyfriend.

We learn a lot of important things in our kitchens and at our tables. Some of these I learned in my own home, and others in the homes of my friends, neighbors, and grandparents:

“Eat your vegetables”
“Chew your food”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”
“Eat slowly”
“Don’t eat standing up”
“Eat close to the garden”
“Don’t buy products whose ingredients you can’t pronounce”
“Don’t buy products with more than four or five ingredients”
“Choose foods that have been through as few machines as possible”
“The more colors on your plate, the better” [my favorite]

All are different ways of saying “Eat food, not manufactured calories.” There’s more to these sayings than meets the eye. We have a lot of innate knowledge about food. Did you know that the lauric acid in chicken fat probably has antiviral properties? That makes so much sense. Everyone knows about drinking chicken soup when you’re sick. It turns out it’s not just about the steam.  

Then there are beans. Beans are the only food high in both protein and fiber at the same time, and that’s what makes them so nutritious and satisfying. Every kid knows that beans are magic, and every culture has a “Jack & the Beanstalk” story. Beans reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. Considering they’re so good for us, however, we don’t eat enough of them. People aren’t sure what to do with them. With the industrialization of the food supply over the past 100 years, a lot of our home-based food wisdom has been lost, and beans have been a major casualty. Beans can be grown, soaked, sprouted, slow-cooked, and dried. 

I’ve collected a few good bean recipes here for you. They all have the same approach, which is to say 1) collect a bunch of ingredients, 2) throw them into a covered pot, and 3) cook them over low heat for a pretty long time. If you want to keep it vegan, that’s great. On the other hand, if  you want to add a meat bone or a piece of flank steak or a few turkey meatballs, then go right ahead. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

1. Black-eyed peas with vegetables and pasta

1/2 lb. black-eyed peas, dry
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 c. tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 c. water
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. elbow macaroni, whole-wheat or black-bean pasta
1 c. chopped cooked spinach or greens
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar.

Boil the black-eyed peas in a large pot for 5 minutes, and drain. Add onion, carrots, pepper, pasta, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, hot pepper and olive oil. Add water to cover ingredients by 2 inches, cover the pot, and place in a 300F oven for 2-3 hours. Stir in the greens and vinegar. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

2. White baked beans

1 heaping c. white navy beans, dry
1/4 c. chick peas, dry
1 large onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced in small rounds
3 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 tbsp. honey
1 t. salt
4-5 c. water
4 whole eggs (raw, still in the shell) 

Start this recipe the night before you plan to eat it, or at least by 8 a.m. if it’s for dinner. Place all the ingredients in a deep casserole dish. Add enough water to cover the ingredients by two or three inches. Cover the pot and place in a 250F oven. After 2-3 hours, reduce heat to 200F.  Check the pot a few times to make sure there is enough water to just barely cover the beans. The eggs absorb the flavor across the shells to become the most amazing hard-boiled eggs you’ve ever eaten. 

3. Exotic white beans (Thank you, Jean!)

1 c. white beans, dry
1 large red onion, chopped
¼ c. sundried tomatoes
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 t. salt
1 Tbsp. thai roasted red chili paste
5 c. water  

Make this recipe just like #2 above, even though Jean said that, somehow, she cooked the beans at 350F for 3 hours, then 250F for 2 more hours, and then accidentally turned off the oven altogether. The beans stayed in the oven overnight, and they turned out soft and delicious anyway. All these recipes are very forgiving.

4. Black beans 

1 c. black beans, dry
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
3 medium-large tomatoes
2 oranges, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
3 tbsp. molasses
1 t. salt
5 c. water

Directions identical to #2.

“We know there is a deep reservoir of food wisdom out there, or else humans would not have survived to the extent we have. Much of this food wisdom is worth preserving and reviving and heeding.”  –Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Creamy Dreamy Hummus

Did you know that chickpeas are a bean? And that edamame, lentils and peanuts are also members of the legume family? It’s not just kidney beans and black beans you’re after, it’s all of them! Remember that variety is an independent value when it comes to nourishing yourself. What’s the best bean? One you haven’t eaten for a while. Continue reading


A Box of Real Food

What to do next when your body still has a strong tendency to store significant amounts of belly fat? This question was put to me twice this week on behalf of two different people. Both eat a nourishing diet rich in whole foods. One runs marathons. And yet… Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Creamy Homespun Hummus

It’s never too early to start collecting recipes for the upcoming end of football season! A plate of this creamy hummus to share, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with spicy paprika, and you will be in seventh heaven, no matter what the score! Continue reading