Side dish: Green beans in a tomato sauce

These green beans are so good! I learned how to make them when I first started cooking, because this was one of my favorite appetizers growing up. It reminds me of hot summers spent in Turkey by the Aegean Sea and eating a light, refreshing lunch in the shade.  The  tomato, onion, and garlic sauce complements the green beans perfectly.  Cooking tomatoes increases the available lycopene in them, a potent antioxidant which may help with macular degeneration and heart disease. Tomatoes are also a good source of Vitamin C, A, and iron. Garlic and onion are a great source of antioxidants as well. Garlic lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Check out this website for more information on garlic.

Servings: 6

Time: 15 minutes of prep, 30 minutes of cooking

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans, ends cut

1 large or 2 medium onions, processed into a thick sauce or minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tomatoes

1 cup of water

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons raw sugar

1 teaspoon each salt and pepper or to taste

Directions:

1. Heat half of olive oil and all of the onions and garlic on medium heat, cooking until onions turn opaque.

2. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, tossing occasionally.

3. Add green beans, rest of olive oil, water, sugar, and salt and pepper. Heat to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until the green beans become soft.

This dish is traditionally served at room temperature, but we like it warm too.

Stuffed bell peppers

A classic Mediterranean dish, this version is vegan (duh) and delicious!  You can do all sorts of variations.  For example, add Gardein beefless ground to get a meaty texture.  I used barley to add protein and fiber, but the typical version uses rice.  Barley is a whole grain, which means it’s great for your heart and blood vessels. Studies have found that eating whole grains every day lowers systolic blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and could therefore reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Whole grains such as barley also decrease risk of type 2 diabetes and improve colon health. Bell peppers have vitamin C and antioxidant properties. Red bell peppers are actually more active against oxidation than green peppers. The currants could actually stop the progression of glaucoma and are also rich in antioxidants.

Tighe P, Duthie G, Vaughan N, Brittenden J, Simpson WG, Duthie S, Mutch W, Wahle K, Horgan G, Thies F. Effect of increased consumption of whole-grain foods on blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk markers in healthy middle-aged persons: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Oct;92(4):733-40.

Sun Q, Spiegelman D, van Dam RM, Holmes MD, Malik VS, Willett WC, Hu FB. White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jun 14;170(11):961-9.

H. Ohguro, I. Ohguro, M. Katai, S. Tanaka. Two-year randomized, placebo-controlled study of black currant anthocyanins on visual field in glaucoma. Ophthalmologica. 2012 228(1):26 – 35.

Serves: 4

Time: 45 minutes to cook barley, 15 minutes to make stuffing, 30 minutes in oven = 90 minutes (mostly waiting, not very labor intensive)

4-6 green bell peppers, sliced width-wise at the top to create a “hat”, and seeds and white parts removed on inside

1 cup barley, cooked in 3 cups water for 45 minutes (yields about 3 1/2 cups of barley)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 red onion, chopped into small bits

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup black currants

1 tomato, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon allspice

2-3 pinches each salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cook the barley until just finished, remove from heat before it gets soft

2. In a pan, combine olive oil and onions, and saute for 5 minutes or until onions turn opaque.

3. Add pine nuts, saute for another minute, then add barley and tomatoes.

4. Add cinnamon and allspice, cook for another couple of minutes, then add the mint, salt and pepper, and toss.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large oven pan, fill with water about an inch.

6. Stuff the peppers with the filling. Using a dessert spoon, put spoonfuls of the filling in and then pat down, to ensure that all the spaces are filled. Put the tops on.

7. Put peppers upright with tops on in the pan. Heat at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the color of the peppers has darkened.

8. Remove from oven and serve.

In Turkey, they also serve this dish room temperature or cold, and drizzle olive oil and lemon on it. The choice is yours!

Once again, thanks to www.nutritionfacts.org for the helpful nutritional information!

Chickpea and veggie couscous

I wrote about the incredible health benefits of legumes before: http://shemakeswaves.com/2015/06/linguine-with-lentils/

Here are even more reasons to eat them.

Chickpeas have been used by the Uygur people of China to treat hypertension and diabetes for 2500 years, and the science explains why they work. They are higher in fiber than wheat and have saponins that bind cholesterol in the gut, explaining why they are so effective at lowering blood cholesterol levels. Their starches are relatively resistant to breakdown in the small intestine, which leads to lower blood glucose levels and decreased insulin resistance. Therefore, they can decrease the onset and severity of type 2 diabetes.  Chickpeas contain phytosterols, which lower blood pressure. Finally, they contain B vitamins, including thiamine and folate; calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. In summary, chickpeas are beneficial to health and help treat our most common ailments, and I would recommend everyone add them to their diet to reap the rewards.

A. K. Jukanti, P. M. Gaur, C. L. L. Gowda, R. N. Chibbar. Nutritional quality and health benefits of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.): A review. Br. J. Nutr. 2012 108 – Suppl – 1:S11 – 26.

Mushrooms are used in this recipe, and they have great fighting power against breast cancer, the most common cancer affecting women throughout the world. They work by inhibiting the enzyme aromatase, the key enzyme that synthesizes the estrogens that feed breast cancer growth. Just an average of five mushrooms a day can inhibit breast cancer.

Grube BJ, Eng ET, Kao YC, Kwon A, Chen S. White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr. 2001 Dec;131(12):3288-93.

Chen S, Oh SR, Phung S, Hur G, Ye JJ, Kwok SL, Shrode GE, Belury M, Adams LS, Williams D. Anti-aromatase activity of phytochemicals in white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus). Cancer Res. 2006 Dec 15;66(24):12026-34.

This is a simple, tasty, and filling couscous. The cornerstone is the chickpea.  For the first time, I used dry beans, which tasted fresher than the canned version.  Using dry beans requires a little planning – you have to soak them for 6-8 hours in water before you cook them. I soaked them in the morning, and then cooked them for dinner. Of course, you can still use canned beans.

Dried garbanzo beans instructions:

Soak 2 1/2 cups dry beans in 6-8 cups of drinking water for 6-8 hours.

At the end of the 6-8 hours, drain and rinse in cold water.

Bring 6-8 cups of water and garbanzo beans to a boil. Then reduce heat, and with lid partially open, simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

While the garbanzo beans were cooking, I proceeded with the rest of the recipe.

Serves 6

Time: 1 hour

Vegetables:

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 large zucchini, processed into slices

1 large yellow squash, processed into slices

2 cups of mushrooms, processed into slices

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided in half

2 teaspoons each: ground coriander, oregano, and tarragon, divided into 2

1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley

1 teaspoon pepper or to taste

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat version).

Couscous: cook according to package instructions while cooking the vegetables. If no instructions, do the following: boil 1 1/4 cup of water, add 1 cup couscous, bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed.

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat for about a minute, then add the chopped garlic.

2. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, and mushrooms.

3. Add half the spices and the parsley. Saute ingredients for 5-10 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.

4. Add the cooked garbanzo beans, the rest of the spices and olive oil, and then saute for a few more minutes.

5. Add the cooked couscous and stir together. Serve.

DSC_0387

DSC_0380

DSC_0393

DSC_0398

As always, thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for the helpful information!

Linguine with Lentils

DSC_0363

This dish is based on a Tuscan-style pasta I loved at a restaurant.  Think of it as “spaghetti Bolognese” but substitute lentils for meat to make it healthy and hearty, without the deleterious impacts of animal products.

Lentils (and other beans) are really good for you.  They lower the glycemic index of other foods you eat them with, and keep working for hours afterward.  That means that your blood sugar won’t spike if you eat a healthy serving of lentils with your pasta.  Legumes lessen blood sugar spikes by stimulating your good gut bacteria to produce a hormone that slows the rate at which your stomach empties the food out into the intestines to get absorbed.

(T. M. Wolever, D. J. Jenkins, A. M. Ocana, V. A. Rao, G. R. Collier. Second-meal effect: Low-glycemic-index foods eaten at dinner improve subsequent breakfast glycemic response. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1988 48(4):1041 – 1047)

 Legumes have also shown to improve people’s lifespan.  In cultures where legumes are consumed frequently – Japan (soy, tofu, miso), the Mediterranean region (garbanzo, white beans), Sweden (brown beans, peas) – longevity is increased with increased intake in legumes. (Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217-20 ). A study of nearly 6000 people in Taiwan showed that not eating legumes was associated with increased risk of mortality in women due to increased metabolic syndrome (the precursor to Diabetes and heart disease).  Increased risk of metabolic syndrome was seen in both women and men. (Public Health Nutr. 2012 Apr;15(4):663-72.)

What nutritional value do legumes provide?  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Beans and peas are excellent sources of protein. They also provide other nutrients, such as iron and zing, similar to seafood, meat, and poultry. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as potassium and folate, which are also found in other vegetables.”  (http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf)

So, you can count legumes as both a vegetable and a protein source!  Score!

I made the tomato sauce with an onion/garlic base, foods which are the best at fighting the growth of many different types of cancers (see my leek soup post). Tomatoes, which are among the richest vegetable/plant sources of potassium (NOT bananas, by the way, which rank 50th!), reduce the risk of vascular diseases, therefore reducing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.

(D’Elia L, Barba G, Cappuccio FP, Strazzullo P. Potassium intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease a meta-analysis of prospective studies. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Mar 8;57(10):1210-9.)

Spaghetti with Lentils

Servings: 6-8

Time: 1 hour

Lentils:

1 cup of lentils

2.5 cups water

1 vegetable buillon cube

1 bay leaf

Combine lentils and above ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low, covered, until water is absorbed (30-45 minutes) and/or lentils are medium soft.

Combine the lentils with the sauce in the last step, below.

The sauce:

3 tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

1 cup of strained tomatoes

4 tablespoons tomato paste

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1-2 cups of loose basil, then chopped roughly

1-2 cups of loose parsley, then chopped roughly

1 teaspoon sage

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the onion, saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, saute together until the onions become opaque.

2. Add the tomato paste, strained tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and sage. Turn heat down to medium-low, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Try not to let the mixture come to a complete boil.

3. After 10-15 minutes, add the parsley and basil. Continue to cook until the parsley and basil have wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. When the lentils are cooked, pour them into the sauce. Cook together on low heat, covered, for 5 minutes.

DSC_0349

Pasta: There are all sorts of pastas out there.  You can use whole wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, or whatever else you prefer.  I ended up using the pasta I already had on hand. A spaghetti or linguine works best.  I cooked enough pasta for 8 servings, al dente, according to the instructions on the box.

The finished product:

DSC_0367

Thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for providing helpful nutritional information!

Leek cauliflower potato soup

When I first started cooking, soups were a total mystery to me.  I knew that I loved them, but making them seemed complicated, so I left that to my mom and restaurants.  But actually, making soups is really easy!  You should try it!

This soup is especially easy, and it’s super nutritious. There aren’t a lot of ingredients, and it turns out with a pleasant, mild taste.  I incorporated cauliflower because it’s super nutritious: packed with most of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals.  Additionally, cruciferous vegetables (like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts) activate immune cells in the gut during eating via a receptor (AhR).  They are also some of the most active anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer vegetables out there.  http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-broccoli-receptor-our-first-line-of-defense-2/

Leeks are also super nutritious. They are part of the allium family of vegetables which includes garlic and onions. Leeks have a milder taste than onion. They are also one of the top most potent inhibitors of cancer growth (stomach, brain, kidney, pancreatic cancers), along with the rest of the allium family.

http://growyourownhealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/anticancer.pdf

Finally, potatoes aren’t very nutritious, but you can add them for the taste and the familiarity. Or you can choose to omit them and add another head of cauliflower. If omitting the potatoes, another delicious option is to add a can of coconut milk to the soup instead of 1 of the cups of water; coconut milk makes the soup sweeter and a bit fattier.

Almond milk adds protein, and if buying from a store, is usually fortified with calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12.

Prep time: 15-20 minutes  Cook time: 1:15 total  Serves: 8

Ingredients:

2 medium to large leeks – chop them into small pieces

1-2 heads of cauliflower – chopped into small pieces

3 Yukon Gold potatoes (optional) – mostly peeled, chopped into small pieces

4 tablespoons extra virgin first cold press olive oil

2 tablespoons vegan butter

4 cups of water and 1 vegan bouillon cube or 4 cups of vegetable broth (if doing the coconut milk option, 1 can of coconut milk and 3 cups of water or vegetable broth)

2 cups non-sweetened, non-flavor-added almond milk

Herbs: 2 teaspoons each of tarragon, thyme, and parsley

Salt: 2 teaspoons or to taste

Pepper: 1 teaspoon or to taste

Directions:

Put a large saucepan on the stove over low to medium heat. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and leeks. Saute for 10-15 minutes, until leeks get soft.

IMG_5422

IMG_5425

Add the cauliflower and saute an additional 5 minutes. Now add the potatoes, water, almond milk, bouillon, herbs, and vegan butter (or coconut milk, if using that) and bring to a boil.

IMG_5428

Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until the cauliflowers and potatoes soften. Stir intermittently, every 10 minutes or so. Take off the heat and allow to cool. In batches, put soup into blender and liquefy. Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can add a bit of parsley on top to make it pretty.

IMG_5435

Thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for the nutrition information!

A child’s perspective

I was walking through the grocery store the other day, when I saw an eye-opening interaction between a child, who appeared to be about four years old, and his father.  They were standing next to the fish display, and the child was staring at the rows of marine life organized on the ice. It went something like this:

Child: Daddy, why are all of those fish dead?

Dad: The fishermen killed them.

Child: Why did they do that?

Dad: Um… I don’t know…

Son: But they didn’t have to kill them, right, Dad?

Dad: They killed them so we can eat them.

Son: But killing is wrong.

Dad then steered his son away from the fish display.

This interaction reminded me of the simple purity of a child’s thoughts.  I’ve loved animals since I was little.  My first books all featured animals of various sorts, and I loved those characters; loving those characters in turn encouraged me to learn how to read.  Whenever I saw a real, live animal, it was a magical experience.  I wanted to get to know them, to touch their fur, to interact with them.  I had respect for them.

And yet, somehow, meatballs in soup with carrots and potatoes, chicken with rice, and various other animal-based meals appeared in front of me.  I was urged to eat them because eating them would make me stronger and help me grow.  The connection between loving animals and then turning around and eating them, was, I am sure, quickly reasoned to be just a matter of fact.  The conversations likely went something like, “Where does this meat come from? A cow? But I like cows. It was born and grew up to become meat for me to eat? I have to eat it or I won’t grow? Okay…”

I don’t blame anyone for conditioning me to eat meat.  I don’t blame people who are conditioned to eat meat for doing so.  However, we have options now.  I encourage you to think about what, or who, you are really eating.  When I started to do this, it felt like such a relief, to be rid of the dissonance between loving and respecting animals’ lives, and eating them too.

A cute video touched me recently.  I highly recommend watching it: