Butternut lentil soup

Fast-cook dry beans

Dry Lentil-Pea MixI keep a jar of fast-cook dry beans handy for impromptu meals.  “Fast-cook” dry beans, like lentils, mung, green split peas, black-eyed peas, are a great start to the day, nutritionally speaking, and they are perfect for the spur of the moment because they do not require a long period of soaking.  After rinsing them thoroughly, you can bring them to a rapid boil, and leave them boiling for about five minutes, then turn the heat to a medium setting and let them cook for about 20 minutes, and they’re ready to eat.

Typically, Saturdays and Sundays, especially at breakfast, lend themselves to breakaway opportunities, when I don’t have to rush out the door to fight the commuter traffic.  And, this is where the “fast-cook” dry beans really become a good thing to have around the kitchen.

This is a soup that is ready to put together at a moment’s notice that takes only 30 or 40 minutes to prepare and cook, enough time to do the other morning routines while you wait.  My dogs need at least that much time just to say hello in the mornings and get all their begging for attention done!

For this recipe, I used some butternut squash from my own garden I had frozen last year, along with a bean mix of lentils and split peas.  Often, I will combine “fast-cook” beans when I’m running low on certain varieties.

Mung bean sproutsButternut lentil soup

Ingredients:

1/3 cup of lentil-split pea dry bean mix
1 large clove fresh garlic, sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup bean sprouts (mung is what I used) for topping

Instructions:

Place all ingredients, except the bean sprouts, in a pot.  Add enough water to cover the mix and to leave a soup when it’s done.  I usually add enough water to double the depth of the beans (one inch of beans in the pot, add two inches of water).  This will absorb and boil down, so you are left with a hearty soup.  Bring ingredients to a rapid boil for about five minutes, cover, and adjust the setting to medium-low.  Cook for about 20 minutes.  Test the beans for softness, and adjust cooking times to your preference.  Add the bean sprouts, and you’re ready to chow down on a delicious soup for the day.

Makes 20 ounces, so you can share, if you want.

Butternut Lentil Soup

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Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad Dressing

This one is flavor-filled, slightly tangy, and has a beautiful color!

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad DressingTurmeric and black pepper

With this dressing I bring back one of my favorite spices, turmeric, paired with black pepper to maximize the anti-inflammatory benefits of this deliciously pungent spice (see links below for more info on the nutritional value of turmeric and black pepper.).  Turmeric is also responsible for the orangey color!  Warning: If you’re a nail model, be careful using this spice without wearing gloves.  It could be a career-ender!  Also, be careful not to stain your countertop, your hands, and whatever else matters.  I guess it would be fine to let it touch carrots, huh?

Another tofu dressing

As the story goes, if you’ve read my other posts about salad dressings, I am on the Eat To Live nutritional program, and I am especially interested in the anti-inflammatory benefits of the plan due to my psoriasis and the psoriatic arthritis that had started to show its monstrous head a year or so after getting off-plan two years ago!  No doubt the plan helped me with this condition, and I should have known better than to leave it in the first place, especially since the food is all homemade and tastes so good.

Dr. Fuhrman’s mantra (Eat To Live) is “the salad is the main course!”  And, truthfully, without great salad dressings, many people are apt to give up on receiving the great health benefits available to them through Eat To Live, because the plan does not allow added oils or salts to the diet.  Further, ETL’ers have to search for salad dressings that do not have sodium or oils.  It’s so much easier, and far tastier, to make them at home.

Silken tofu is the perfect medium for creating creamy dressings similar in appearance and flavor to the ones I used to eat when I didn’t have a care in the world about my health.  In a blender, the tofu combines easily with other ingredients, and it can be kept for at least a week in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed jar, without losing any of its flavor.  (See my other tofu salad dressing recipes here.)

Other food uses

Like all of my homemade dressings, this one works great as a vegetable topping.  When I made this dressing, I was also roasting some plain slices of eggplant for use in another recipe, so when the eggplant was done, I nabbed a couple of slices off the roasting rack and put them in a saucer, covering them with the new dressing!  Finger-lickin’ good!

Of course, it’s great on a lettuce and tomato salad, just to stay with the salad dressing theme, right?

tomato3

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

28 oz can of “no salt added” crushed tomatoes with basil
1 pkg silken tofu
1 level tbsp of turmeric powder (a little less would be fine, if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy it.  Turmeric is about as subtle as this guy!)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 of roasted sweet bell pepper, sliced (I use yellow or orange ones to keep the color them going…and I like them better!)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup of your favorite vinegar (I used raw coconut vinegar I bought at Sprouts.)

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until the dressing is creamy in appearance, like this:

tomato2

The dressing recipe takes about 15 minutes to put together, once you have roasted the sweet bell pepper, and that can be done anytime you are roasting anything, just to have it handy for later.  It makes about 32 oz, if I can keep from tasting it a dozen times while I’m making it.

There you have it!  A perfect, rich dressing for a “no salt added” and “no oil added” diet!

Further reading:

Dr. Weil’s take on turmeric
Why Pepper Boosts Turmeric Blood Levels, Dr. Michael Greger
Turmeric and Black Pepper Fight Cancer Stem Cells, Anticancer: A New Way of Life

Eggplant Stuffed Pepper

One night this past week, I was trying to create a recipe that would use my aging eggplant and bell pepper I had bought a few days before.  My Mediterranean food cravings having taken full charge of my senses, this is what I came up with, and it is definitely repeatable.  (No pictures this time, unfortunately.  Next time.)

1 medium-size eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 bell pepper (I used an orange one)
1 medium-size onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp tahini paste
1 small lemon
1/4 cup of freshly minced parsley
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Blanch whole bell pepper for a minute or two to soften the outer skin, then place the whole pepper into the oven at 375 for about fifteen minutes.  The pepper should still have enough structure to allow for the stuffing.  Allow pepper to cool.  Cut pepper in half crosswise, and clean pulp out, if desired.  Trim stem of pepper so that the top will lie flat in the baking dish when stuffed.

Add remaining ingredients, except the lemon, to a blender, and run the blender at a medium speed until the texture is to your liking.  I kept mine slightly rough in texture.  Pour mixture into each half of the bell pepper, and add a slice of lemon to the top of each half.  Place halves into a baking dish, cover and bake for about 45 minutes at 380.

After taking the peppers out of the oven, remove cover and squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon onto each half.

Serves 2