Catching the pulse of beans and lentils

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An opening haiku to celebrate this International event:

Pulsing energy,
rich nutrients of the earth,
Lentils and beans dance.


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is celebrating  pulses this year. Pulses are dried beans and peas, such as kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, split peas, fava beans, and black-eyed peas.

So what?  What’s the big deal about beans? 

Ο they are nutritious, high in protein, fiber, and minerals; low in fat and gluten free.

Ο they are friends of sustainable farming, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides–for example, with the aid of certain bacteria they restore soil by taking nitrogen from the air and adding it to the soil (called ‘nitrogen fixing’). 

Ο as cover crops they prevent water and wind erosion, and restore soil nutrients.

Ο climate resilient strains are potential food sources as global warming brings hotter growing conditions.

Ο bean crops offer solutions for hunger and poverty–they store well, can be processed locally, and yield more income than cereals alone (and rotating cereal and bean crops keeps the soil healthy).

The following bean quotes are excerpted from some of my favourite cookbooks:

There are basically five different kinds of meat and poultry, but 40-50 different kinds of commonly eaten vegetables, 24 different kinds of peas, beans, and lentils, 20 different fruits, 12 different nuts, and nine grains. The variety of flavor, of texture and of color lies obviously in the plant world…

Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet, 1975, Ballantine Books, New York, p.63


Cooking vegetarian book

Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.   Albert Einstein

As quoted by Carollyne Conlinn, Past President (1995) Canadian Dietetic Association in Foreword to Cooking Vegetarian, by Vesanto Melina and Joseph Forest, 1996, Macmillan Canada, p. vii


Does cooking beans from scratch sound time-consuming? Well, they pretty much cook themselves!  You just soak them overnight, change the water, and boil them until very soft, generally 1 to 3 hours, depending on the variety. You may also wish to keep some canned beans on hand, as they are convenient and ready anytime the mood strikes you.  Just be sure to rinse them—rinsing canned beans reduces sodium by one-third…

Neal Barnard, MD and Robyn Webb, The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook, 2010, Da Capo Press, PA, p. 44

Some more cooking tips:

  • You can cook beans overnight in a slow cooker—some chefs use a pressure cooker for faster results.
  •  Lentils cook fairly quickly.
  • Rinsing canned beans removes not only salt but also a foamy liquid that promotes flatulence.
  • When cooking beans, skim off any foam.
  •  For ultimate gas reduction, soak overnight, bring to a boil in cold water, rinse, then re-cover with fresh water and cook until tender.


Beans can be appropriate to every course in the meal, as evidenced by their international popularity in soups, dips, stews, casseroles, fritters, salads, and even sweet bean pies for dessert.

Nikki and David Goldbeck’s American Wholefoods Cuisine, Over 1300 Meatless Wholesome Recipes From Short Order to Gourmet, 1983, New American Library, p.12.

My current bean and lentil recipe favourites include:

  • Hummus (chickpea dip: available at the grocery store with other dips, or make at home using a food processor);
  • Fiesta Bean Dip (baked bean and  melted cheese dip, a hit at family gatherings–as home cooks usually do, I  modify the recipe, using meat-free maple beans, marble cheddar for the grated cheeses, and home-blended taco seasoning);
  • Summer bean salads such as Black-eyed pea salad;
  • Baked beans or lentils for winter and summer (slow cooker or oven baked);
  • Rice or quinoa and beans such as Red Beans and Quinoa ; and
  • Veggie burgers such as Mushroom and Lentil Sliders.


Nourished blood pulses,
 with rich earth nutrient beat,
Lentil and bean dance.


Thank you to What the Ducks! and Palm Rae Urban Potager for hosting Blogger Action Day in celebration of  ‘Year of the Bean’, February 17, 2016.

As this is Wednesday, I am also linking this post to Writer’s Quote Wednesday at Silver Threading. If you enjoy reading quotes, I suggest a visit to  SilverThreading for Colleen Chesebro’s weekly quote post and links to posts by other participants.


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Curried chickpea menu ideas

I became a vegetarian after having been  exposed to vegetarian East Indian cuisine.  After a meal, I always felt energized rather than weighed down by my food.  I’ve always attributed the sensation to the vegetables and  spices.  Indian cooking requires a few more ingredients than usual–such as garlic, onions, tumeric, cumin, coriander, and chili powder, but the final blend of flavours is well worth the effort.

A recent blog by Veggie Grettie  offers a Channa Masala recipe which is a spicy (not necessarily hot) stew of chickpeas, onions, and tomatoes.  This recipe inspired me to cook chickpeas and complementary foods for this upcoming Meatless Monday.

Chickpeas, spices, and other ingredients, ready for cooking

Channa Masala and similar recipes can be eaten with traditional chapati, tortillas, pita breads, brown rice, or basmati rice–whatever grain product is available or preferred.

A related chickpea dish is West Indian roti filled with chickpeas, with or without white or sweet potatoes, spinach or squash.  Making rotis is an art best learned from a skilled roti maker, but if you like making  flat breads, give this recipe a try:  Rotis Stuffed with Curried Chickpeas Filling.  I’ll be making the filling and eating it in a tortilla or pita.  If you’ve never had a real vegetarian roti, visit a  West Indian roti shop for a taste of the “real thing”.

Complementary Dishes–What else might you eat with spicy chickpeas, besides bread or rice?  Hot sauce goes well.  A green lettuce or spinach salad,  or cucumber slices would be refreshing.  Other possibilities are  cooked spinach, asparagus, or green beans.  Here are some more recipe links I have dug up:

Indian Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Carrots, Green Peas, and Potatoes.


Beans and grains for spring and summer menus


There has been a lot of chilly wet weather lately –I found myself cooking minestrone soup with beans and pasta the other day.  Today I decided to make Vegetarian Molasses Baked Beans in the slow cooker–it’s cooking as I write.  Baked beans can be served hot or cold as a main or side dish.  For Meatless Monday,  I’ll serve the beans with a spinach salad or hot greens, and perhaps some toast–I might also make some brown rice.

Another food that I’ve talked about in other posts is quinoa–it’s great in raw or grilled vegetable salads.  I’ve run out of quinoa so won’t be cooking with it next week, but I just want to mention again that it’s a great, satisfying food–high in protein, fibre, and minerals.  It’s also a gluten-free grain (technically not a grain, but it’s grain-like)–important for those who have a gluten sensitivity or allergy.  Quinoa recipes can be made using brown rice— brown rice and quinoa are interchangeable in many dishes.  Canadian Living Magazine offers a few quinoa recipes, such as:

Black and White Bean and Quinoa Salad,

Gluten-free Quinoa and Lentil Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing, and

Grilled Vegetable Quinoa Salad–featuring quinoa, grilled vegetables and feta cheese.

Vegetarian potluck ideas

Fast  Mexican Lasagna

Eating lower on the food chain conserves land, water, and crops—one of the reasons why eating less meat has been added to lists of eco-friendly things to do, and one of the rationales behind Meatless Monday A holiday weekend often involves family potlucks, and other gatherings—so why not grace one of your occasions with a meatless offering?

Feature Recipe: Fast Mexican Lasagna

This week I tested Fast Mexican Lasagna.  I would call this dish “Mexican Tortilla Casserole” as it’s made of tortillas and other  ingredients you would use in quesadillas (the subject of my last food post).  The casserole has four layers of  soft 8¨ tortillas covered with refried beans, salsa, grated cheese, and roasted red peppers.

The recipe says that the yield is 6 servings.  For a family potluck, I’ll be cutting my dish into slivers as a side for other dishes on the table.  A few tips:

  • Making refried beans from scratch isn’t difficult if you have the time.  Once you prepare them a few times, no recipe will be needed.  Try this one:  refried beans.
  • Cooking beans from scratch allows you to reduce the gas factor. To reduce gas, soak the beans  overnight and/or bring them to a boil, skim off the foam, rinse, and cook in a fresh batch of water.
  • Red peppers can be “roasted” in a  microwave rather than using more electricity in an oven.

More Recipe Ideas for Weekend Celebrations

Vegetarian Nachos—I recently layered baked tortilla chips, with salsa, chopped green onion, chopped cooked asparagus, artichoke slices, and shredded cheese on a cookie sheet and baked it in the oven at 375 degrees F  for just over 10 minutes.  A heartier version could include refried beans.

Vegetarian Burritos or Quesadillas–offer as full servings, or cut into snack-sized pieces

Vegetable Lasagna

Enjoy!  Let me know if you have some vegetarian successes this weekend.

Burritos Refried Beans Vegetarian Sandwich Spreads

 Meatless Monday is on its way.  Here are some ideas for lunch and dinner.  I’ll be having veggie pate sandwiches for lunch and refried bean burritos for dinner.

Vegetarian Bean Burritos are great for lunch or dinner, hot or cold.  A hot variation is refried beans and brown rice.

For lunch, make burritos at home or purchase premade frozen bean burritos–it won’t be as hearty as what you’d make at home, but sometimes there isn’t enough time to make everything.  For homemade burritos, the basic ingredients are:

  1. tortilla wraps
  2. refried beans or other filling
  3. “fixings”, such as grated cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and chopped green onions
  4. condiments–perhaps salsa and sour cream.

For a Vegweb recipe,  click Refried Beans.  This recipe includes tomatoes–which could be optional—in the past I haven’t used tomatoes–the key ingredients are pre-cooked beans fried with lots of garlic, onions,  hot or sweet pepper,  and seasonings, such as oregano and cumin.  The beans are partly mashed as they fry and taste best the next day when the flavours have deepened.

For instructions on how to roll a tortilla, take a look at “How to Make Bean Burrito Bites” a video by Expertvillage.  Burrito bites are a cold variation that are presented as an appetizer, but also would work for lunch.  The burritos are spread with cream cheese and filled with refried beans,  chopped cilantro,  raw pepper slices, and cucumber strips.

More Lunch Ideas

 In a previous blog I introduced the idea of buying or making  vegetarian pate for sandwiches.   Since then I made the Vegweb veggie pate  recipe, as I was unable to find a premade version in the store.  It was fairly easy to make, once the ingredients were assembled (as is often the case). 

The pate consists of ground nuts, grated raw vegetables, oil, soy sauce, nutritional yeast and other seasonings.  A coffee grinder is handy for grinding the nuts.  Nutritional yeast adds flavour and texture.  The mixture is spread in a large baking dish and baked in the oven.  The result is delicious hot or cold.

I experimented with a variation of the recipe, accidentally and on purpose.  I used only ground sunflower seeds and now realize that the recipe also calls for ground sesame.   The recipe uses shredded carrots, beets, and zucchini.  I used shredded carrots, mushrooms, and bok choy stems—what I had on hand.

Another quicker idea for a luncheon spread is to mix tahini (or another favourite seed or nut spread) with grated carrots, nutritional yeast, mayo, and chopped green onions.  For proportions, take a look at “Vegan Sandwich Recipes” on  the Toronto Vegetarian Association website.  As usual, improvising is the way to go.  If you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, try a small amount of soy sauce and reduce the mayo.

Nutritional  yeast is  sometimes referred to in recipes as brewer’s yeast, torula yeast or engevita yeast—it’s not an active yeast that would be used in bread making.  I used “debittered” brewer’s yeast from a local natural food store. Yeast deepens flavours for spreads, soups, stews, and sauces etc.–it also has nutritional qualities as a source of protein, iron, and vitamin B.   I’ve tried it on popcorn with spices, instead of butter and salt.

Enjoy your vegetarian meals for Meatless Monday–experiment with new foods, but keep it simple!

Falafels and Eggplant Ratatouille

This weekend I’m pulling out an old favourite cookbook, Nikki & David Goldbeck’s American Wholefoods Cuisine.  I have the first edition, which came out in 1983, but the book is still on the market and came out in a second edition in 2006.

This is a useful book to have on hand, not only because of its complete collection of vegetarian recipes, but also because of its extra features, such as cooking techniques, vegetable chopping tips, and kitchen math information.  It also strives to be healthy—going for high fiber, low fat, low sugar, and low salt concoctions.

Another feature is that each recipe comes with menu suggestions.

What am I Cooking this Weekend?

I cook in advance on the weekend for Monday, for two reasons–I have time to cook on the weekend and  hydro rates are cheapest.  Usually I have leftovers for the rest of the week as well, which is wonderful!

Falafels (chick pea balls) served in pitas, with tahini sauce, and chopped lettuce.  I will be baking and briefly broiling, rather than deep frying the falafels.  The falafels can be made a number of ways:  with canned chickpeas aka garbanzo beans, from scratch with dried chickpeas,  or from a falafel mix.

To go with the falafels, I’ll follow the cookbook menu suggestion, and serve “Israeli Salad”, consisting  of chopped greens, green pepper, green onions, and tomato with a lemony olive oil dressing, and a sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese on top.

For dinner, I’ll cook Eggplant Ratatouille, Brown Rice, and Gomasio.  I may also serve some baked beans as a side.  The Ratatouille is a baked vegetable dish with cheese.   Gomasio, ground sesame seeds with salt, can be sprinkled on the rice for additional flavour, protein, and other nutrients.

Other Sources

Falafels, ratatouille, and gomasio are basic recipes with many versions.  To find vegetarian and vegan recipes, look at these websites:  and


Power Foods: Green Kale and Orange Vegetables (Ontheland photo)

Minestrone Soup and Bean Spreads

    This photo is from a vegetarian meal we had last Monday–it shows black bean stew, red cabbage with walnuts, rice noodles with peanut sauce, and Mexican brown rice. All of the recipes, except the noodles, are from Cooking Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina and Joseph Forest.  It was an impromptu photo, so the balance is not “perfect” but the meal was good.
Here are my cooking plans for next Monday:
Minestrone Soup with Chickpeas or Kidney Beans
A Bean Spread, such as Hummous or a Northern Bean Spread
Steamed Kale with Red Pepper, oil, vinegar, and Sesame (or Sunflower) Seeds
I am using the cookbook I noted above as my guide, but I am sure similar recipes can be found elsewhere on the web.
Just as I did last week, I’ll cook up this chow on the weekend.  On Monday we’ll have lots of vegetarian food for lunch and dinner.  For breakfast we’ll have our usual tahini (sesame seed butter) or peanut butter and toast.
Vegetarian Thought for the Day:  Spreads are great for toast, crackers, sandwiches, condiments, and dips.  My favourites are nut or seed butters, particularly tahini (sesame seeds) and sunflower seed butter. Other options are almond butter and pumpkin seed butter.  Vegetarians also enjoy hummous and other bean spreads, which typically have a lower fat content.