Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

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Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

This recipe started out as a dip.  It was so popular and well liked it turned into a main mix for a few different Mexican style dishes.  It has evolved a little over the years, but always starts with the same foundation.  It is a very versatile mix that can go a lot of different ways depending on what you have on hand, what ingredients are in season or what your preferences are. We use it for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and as an ever popular dip for parties and potlucks. This recipe definitely has increased our use of black beans.

Black beans and all legumes are nutrition powerhouses.  They are a good source or protein, iron, and other nutrients and a very good source of fibre and folate. In addition black beans (along with other pulses) provide exceptional support for blood sugar balance and blood sugar regulation due to their protein plus fibre combination. Although all beans and lentils are very healthy,  there are unique properties to black beans. Current research is showing they may have particular benefits in preventing colon cancer as they support a very helpful bacteria in the lower colon.   Here are a couple more recipes using black beans.  Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies (with black beans) and  Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Ancient Grains Salad.

If you need taco inspiration, you have come to the right place. This month Recipe Redux challenge is to make a taco that is healthy and creative. Look for the link at the bottom of the post to take you to all the wonderful ideas from the members of The Recipe Redux team. You can probably make a different recipe for Taco Tuesday for at least a year! I’m looking forward to checking them out.

This recipe is very easy, quick, healthy, and creative.  It takes only about 15 minutes to prepare.  It doubles well to make extra to freeze for another day. Simply defrost in the fridge, reheat and serve. For another easy pulse based taco filling see my very popular recipe for Lentil Tacos.

Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Tacos

Makes 8

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp chipotle powder or 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 1/2 tsp cumin

3/4 cup strained pureed tomatoes

1 3/4 cup cooked (or canned) black beans

1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Taco shells

Toppings such as chopped avocado, grated cheese (or vegan cheese), chopped tomato, lettuce, salsa, lime wedges

Directions:  Add olive oil to medium saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Add spices and heat until they are fragrant (a few more minutes).  Add tomato, black beans and corn.  Cook until filling is heated through (about 10 minutes). Top with freshly chopped cilantro and serve.

While taco filling is cooking prepare taco shells.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Place taco shells on cookie sheet and heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.

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Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Summertime…when the living is easy.  Salads like this and summer meals in general often come together almost intuitively, simply by picking what is fresh, ripe, colourful, and appealing.  There is nothing quite like the taste of a tomato or peach or English pea that is picked at its peak, bursting with luscious flavours.  Summer is for savouring these tastes that we have waited a long time to taste again.  It’s all about summertime in the July Canadian Food Creatives #cdnfoodcreatives event.  This hashtag on Instagram or Twitter will quickly help you find all the recipes and posts that are part of this special event, featuring fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables. Thanks to Cassie from Crumb Kitchen for putting this together this month.

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad
Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Combining beautiful ingredients could not be easier in this flexible summer salad. Zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and the first of the new red onions are combined with briny kalamata olives and salty, creamy feta all dressed in a delicious lemony dressing made with fresh oregano. Add some hummus and pita to the table and it is a terrific lunch.  This colourful plate  would look terrific as part of a BBQ spread or any summertime event.

Grilling the zucchini is easy. Trim the stem and ends and cut into half lengthwise, then cut each half into 4 long wedge shaped strips.  I like to brush the grill with oil and place the zucchini on top.  Grill on medium for about 3 minutes for each side, rotating the strips to get impressive looking grill marks on all three sides of the wedges. Remove and let cool.

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad

Serves 6

2 medium zucchini, grilled and cut into small bite size pieces.

3 small bell peppers, cut into bite size pieces ( I like to use one of each colour)

4 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 pieces

1/2 cup kalamata olives

1/2 cup cubed feta cheese

1/4 cup red onion, diced small

Dressing

1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, packed

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh chives

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions:

Make the dressing first so the flavours will blend.  Add everything to a small food processor or blender and blend until herbs are finely chopped and all the ingredients are combined.  Set aside.

Combine grilled zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and red onion and gently toss to combine.  Add dressing and gently mix to coat the vegetables.  Pour onto a serving plate or bowl and top with feta and olives.

10 Garden Fresh Summer Dishes
10 Garden Fresh Summer Dishes

 

Lentil Amaranth Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This recipe for stuffed portobello mushrooms is elegant and completely delicious.  Using both lentils and amaranth, these are a  great source of plant based protein and packed with many valuable nutrients.  Adding roasted peppers compliments the meaty flavour and texture of the portobellos and the tangy, creamy goat cheese brightens the dish.  To make this meal vegan, pine nuts would be a suitable substitute.

Cooking Lentils
Cooking Lentils with Aromatics

Cook the lentils and grains first, using water or stock for extra flavour.  I think I first learned to cook lentils many years ago from Deborah Madison’s excellent cookbook “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” where she adds flavourings to the cooking water. Adding aromatics to the lentils really supplements their flavour.  Seasonings like parsley, thyme, summer savoury, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, bay leaf in whatever combination you have around work well with lentils.  Wash lentils, heat along with plenty of water and add aromatics.  Heat on medium until the water comes to a boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes or until cooked. Drain and remove aromatics.

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Lentil Amaranth Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

In this recipe I used amaranth.  Amaranth is an ancient grain that is naturally gluten free.  It is also a very good source of good quality protein and has a light nutty taste.  Studies show that the quality of protein in amaranth is on par with the quality of animal based protein.  Cooking amaranth is easy as it cooks in only 20 minutes.  It is a good addition to your morning oatmeal or mixed with rice or other grains to add variety and boost the nutritional profile. For more information on amaranth seek out a reliable source such as The Whole Grains Council. 

Lentil and Amaranth Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese

Serves 6

2 cups cooked lentils

1 cup cooked amaranth, quinoa, or other grain

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped green onions

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

1/4 tsp salt

fresh ground pepper

6 portobello mushrooms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together lentils and amaranth.  Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, herbs and mix well.  Gently stir in roasted red pepper, saving a few for the top to add visible colour.

Brush mushrooms to clean or wipe with a damp towel.  Remove stem and gently brush inside of cap with olive oil.  Fill mushrooms with approximately 1/2 cup filling, dot tops with remaining roasted red pepper, goat cheese, a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley and place on roasting pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool a little in pan before removing and plating.

 

 

Whole Bowls by Allison Day

 

Whole Bowls Cookbook by Allison Day

I was pretty excited to review “Whole Bowls” by Allison Day. As a nutritionist I tend to seek out other nutritionists or dietitians or those with a strong health focus. It is just my natural affinity.  I enjoy her blog, Yummy Beet, which is fun and friendly and has terrific recipes, all written with her easy going style.

Whole Bowls focuses on gluten-free vegetarian recipes, and many recipes are vegan. Included early in the book is a pantry guide, which includes information about the nutrition and benefits of many unique grains and seeds. The book offers ideas that any diet could include. I love how balanced the recipes are, with a strong focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.

I found the recipes easy to follow, such as Eat Your Greens Salad with Chickpea Croutons and Green Goddess Dressing, shown below.  It is an example of the many recipes within recipes, such as various salad dressings, pesto (Cherry Hazelnut pesto anyone?) and hummus (with green peas!).  I appreciate that many recipes use everyday ingredients, which makes it easy and approachable for every kitchen. For this salad, I simply gathered various herbs and greens that were ready in my garden.

 

Eat your Greens Salad with Chickpea Croutons and Green Goddess Dressing
Eat Your Greens Salad with Chickpea Croutons and Green Goddess Croutons

Whole Bowls is beautifully photographed.  Each recipe includes a photo which makes it a lovely book to peruse and also gives you an idea of what the recipe (might) look like once made.  The photographs echo the theme of the book: lots of variety, colour, texture and flavour.  The writing is fun, with playful descriptions that will put a smile on your face — “lime kissed”, “kale is the belle of the ball”, “embrace your inner tree hugger”, or “this bowl will make you want to hippy hippy shake”.
Reading Whole Bowls is inspiring me to compose my own special bowls. Thanks to Foodie Pages for sending me a copy of this gorgeous book.  I am enjoying it and would not hesitate to recommend it.  Although I was given a copy, all opinions are my own.

Edamame Hemp Heart Hummus (Edamammus)

 

Edamame Hemp Heart Hummus (Edamammus) edamame, hemp hearts, olive oil (or avocado), garlic, lemon juice, salt, paprika or smoked paprika
Edamame Hemp Heart Hummus (Edamammus)

Quick, easy, simple, delicious, healthy; this hummus is a must try.  Smooth and creamy like you expect hummus to be yet has the light mild flavour of edamame. Adding protein rich hemp hearts in place of tahini, boosts the protein and adds healthy omega 3 and 6 fats.  This mixture needs a little extra processing time to smooth out the hemp hearts but the result is smooth and creamy. It is perfect as a spread on crackers, pita or in a sandwich.

Edamame, fresh young soybeans are a popular appetizer served in Japanese restaurants.  As an appetizer or snack they are usually served in the pod after being lightly heated with a little water or blanched and sprinkled with sea salt.  They are also terrific shelled into salads or added to a stir fry or as an easy healthy snack.   They are a very good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans or anyone wanting a lean source of plant based protein. They have many other health benefits and are important sources of fiber, folate, iron, calcium and other vitamins and minerals. They have a rich and creamy texture that is appealing and also makes a terrific dip, spread or (as my husband calls it) edamammus.

I made a further version of this recipe and will include the variation below.  Instead of adding oil, use 1/2 or more of a fresh, ripe avocado.  It is equally delicious and very creamy.  It will darken (like all recipes using fresh avocado) after 3-4 hours so this variation is best used when you are serving the recipe right away.  The darkening is a chemical reaction between an enzyme in the avocado and the oxygen in the air. It is perfectly safe to eat and will not affect the flavour, however some people are put off by the brown colour and find it less appetizing.

Edamame Hemp Heart Hummus (Edamammus)

1 1/2 cup cooked edamame

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or more, to taste)

1/4 tsp salt (or more, to taste)

1/4 cup hemp hearts

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons good quality olive oil (or 1/2-whole avocado, peeled)

Shake of paprika or smoked paprika

Combine everything into food processor and process until smooth, scraping down a few times.  It may take more time than usually to smooth the hemp hearts.  Scoop into a bowl and garnish with olive oil and a good shake or paprika or smoked paprika.  Makes approx 2 1/4 cups. Serve with fresh vegetables, whole grain crackers, or pita.

This recipe was inspired by a few different sources.  I saw the idea of using edamame in hummus first in the grocery store and started thinking about combinations and fiddling around with ideas.

Thai Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry

A bowl of Thai Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry with 2 wedges of fresh lime
Thai Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry
The other day my sister showed up with a bag of unique ingredients and a magazine I had never heard of. Some people bring flowers or chocolates or wine; my family brings me ingredients. They know me so well!  It was the perfect gift.
The magazine is Arabia Food and Travel. It has a picture on the cover of a gorgeous Pumpkin and Coconut Laksa. In the bag were some of the more exotic and interesting ingredients I needed to make it, and I could not wait to see what I could come up with.  Although my recipe is quite different from the original, it definitely provided inspiration.  
The curry paste is strong and spicy with lots of lemon grass and ginger and just enough heat that everyone in the family will enjoy it. The fresh turmeric, ginger, chili peppers and cilantro give it an extra brightness. Make the curry paste first and the rest comes together quickly.
This soup is truly delicious. The fresh lime leaves elevate this lovely curry so that it saturates your taste buds with sweet, spicy, sour and salty components. It is almost like a health tonic and perfect for giving the immune system a boost to stave off a cold or flu.  A great winter lunch or dinner.
Thai Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry
Curry Paste
3 stalks lemon grass, chopped, outer tough leaves and ends trimmed
1 1/2 fresh small red Thai chilis deseeded (or more for extra heat)
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled
3 inch piece of fresh young ginger, washed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro
5 small fingers of turmeric (about 5 inches) washed and trimmed and roughly chopped
Pinch salt
water
Directions:  Place lemon grass in small bowl of food processor along with 1/4 cup water.  Process, stopping regularly to scrape down the bowl until it is a paste.  (This will take a little time) Add everything else and process until everything is  mixed well.  Add more water if necessary.  You will not need all of the paste for this recipe. It is a wonderful curry paste to have on hand and you will find all kinds of ways to use it.
Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced small
1/3  cup curry paste
1 liter vegetable stock
1 small can (160ml) coconut milk 
6 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup yellow lentils (toor dal)
4 lime leaves
Directions:  In a large saucepan, heat coconut oil.  Add onion and cook a few minutes.  Add curry paste and cook until fragrant.  Add vegetable stock, coconut milk, lime leaves, sweet potatoes and lentils and cook until sweet potatoes are tender and the lentils are cooked, about 25-30 minutes.  Remove lime leaves and serve. Garnish with minced fresh red chili peppers, coconut butter, cilantro,and lime wedges. Serve with rice, other grain or noodles.

 


 

Pear Cardamom Granola with Pecans

Bowl of granola with pears, pecans and cranberries, large container of granola in background
Pear Cardamom Granola with Pecans

There is something about cardamom that is hard to describe.  At first it is a spicy peppery taste that makes me think of savoury dishes, but then there is a hint of sweet and a nut taste too.  It is a unique powerful spice that is very aromatic.  I love it.  I keep finding more and more ways to use it.  Cardamom is delicious in coffee, hot chocolate, warm milk or of course chai tea.  It is wonderful in combination with apples, pears and oranges and it goes very well with ginger and cinnamon.  Much more commonly used outside of North America in India, Asia, Sweden and Finland, it isn’t a spice I know very well, but I am looking forward to trying more recipes with cardamom as it makes dishes extra special.

This granola is extra special.  Spicy, sweet, crunchy, nutty; it is one terrific bowl of cereal that is hearty and satisfying.  Perfect for busy mornings, it provides a nutritious breakfast that is completely delicious.  Filled with toasty oats, coconut, pecans, just enough sweetness and lovely warm spice from cardamom, cinnamon and ginger it is great for cold winter mornings. I usually make a batch on the weekend to last for a couple of breakfasts throughout the next week or so.

Speaking of batch cooking and planning ahead, that is my January project. There is something about the New Year that makes me want to get organized.  Determined to do meal plans, cook ahead, and organize the kitchen it helps us to save money and time, reduce our food waste, plan to include lots of colours and increase variety in our diets. Make ahead breakfasts, crock pot dinners, batch cooking – it all just helps so much to reduce stress and provide healthy food for our busy family even on the most hectic of days.

Pear Cardamom Granola with Pecans 

Makes 12 servings (1/2 cup)

4 cups oats (Large Flake or Old Fashioned Oats) *

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup pecans

1 cup pear sauce (or apple sauce)*

2 tablespoons oil

1/3 cup brown sugar*

1 tsp ground cardamom

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees and prepare cooking pans by lining them with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, mix together oats, coconut and pecans and set aside.  In a small saucepan mix together pear sauce, oil, brown sugar, spices and salt.  Heat over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Pour sauce mixture into oats and stir well.  Spread out onto prepared pans.  Bake for approx 45 minutes until toasty.  Stir every 15 minutes and add the dried cranberries during the last 10 minutes of baking.  Let cool completely and store in a jar. Makes approx 6 cups granola.

*To make gluten free ensure gluten free oats are used.

*To make pear sauce, wash pears, core and chop.  Add to small saucepan with a little water and cook on low until tender.  Mash or blend.

*Substitute 1/4 cup honey or 1/4 cup maple syrup if desired.