4 bean salad (vegan)

It seems about right that I am making one of our favorite summer salads in September. I am not quite sure where it went! But both boys are back to school, with Alec at college for almost a month now and Avery having started his senior year of high school this past week. One more year until empty nest!! 😆

His last first day pic.

We are getting back into the groove of quick weeknight meals between hockey and other school activities. My weekends are spent preparing things ahead so anyone can grab and eat whenever.

Honestly this 4 bean salad fits that criteria which is why it’s a church picnic staple in Minnesota. You can throw in any beans you have on hand–I happened to use kidney and great northern. Most of the time it’s all canned beans too.

But this week at the Farmer’s Market the yellow wax beans and green beans were just fantastic! That’s actually what inspired me to make this salad, along with grabbing about 5 pounds of tomatoes to turn into roasted tomato pasta sauce. (I wish I would have snapped a pic of the golden raspberries I bought too–but they were eaten within hours along with a pint of red ones. Still Avery’s favorite!)

Also on tap this week is beef stew for Matt’s birthday with mashed potatoes and an apple tart….chili and coconut tomato soup and a cauliflower curry….maybe fall isn’t so bad. But I still hate winter. One more.

4 bean salad (vegan)

    1 cup each yellow wax beans and green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
    1/4 small red onion, diced
    1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
    1/2c vegetable oil
    1/4c red wine vinegar
    2 tsp agave
    1/4c chopped fresh herbs–parsley and oregano
    2 stalks celery, diced

Steam green and yellow beans until tender about 5 minutes. Cool quickly in ice water.

Drain and rinse canned beans. Combine all beans together.

Soak red onion for about 10 minutes in cool water (takes away some of the bite). Dice.

Dice celery.

Mix the oil and vinegar and add herbs, salt and pepper and agave (sugar is fine if that’s what you’ve got).

Combine all ingredients together and let sit for an hour to marinate.

Healthy holiday eating weeknight Mediterranean (vegan)

Let’s be honest: This time of year is so hard to eat healthy. The average American gains just over a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which doesn’t sound like a lot.

But as I get older (sigh–closer to 50 than 40 this year), it gets harder and harder to maintain let alone lose weight. But more than anything, when I gain weight I really feel it. Even in the magical elastic jeans that stretch. I hate that feeling physically.

Going Vegan has made that so much easier. I recently learned through my work project that’s in the Type 2 Diabetes space something about new science–calories in, calories out is old thinking. Huh, good to know!

The new research shows that it’s both easier and more complicated than that…the quality, timing and frequency matter. (Especially for diabetics).

Every person metabolizes calories differently. Therefore different foods and even eating foods in a specific sequence can make a difference. For anyone watching blood sugars exercise also matters, with something as simple as taking a walk after a meal to help stabilize blood sugar. (**This is when I say that I am not a doctor and not giving medical advice!**)

So basically I am learning to stop tracking my food–which is a habit built over the last 5 years–and learning to fast (16 hours off and 8 on). I am also watching my reaction to exercise as it relates to meal timing. I feel best when I exercise midstream during my “on” timeframe.

This fasting process tricks your body into burning fat. It’s working for me slowly and without a ton of effort. It’s not really that difficult since I generally dislike breakfast and black coffee doesn’t count (really).

During the 8 hours on, I feel good about eating whatever fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, limited healthy whole grains, non-meat protein I want. And it’s also easier to not have to track things in detail but know that I have good meal quality generally by being vegan.

As always when it comes to food that fuels my body, I try to let go of the good/bad labels that come with “dieting” and in fact don’t see it as a diet but just the way I like to eat because it feels good.

I also enjoy the creative process of putting a meal together, which can be a challenge in a time starved world. This easy Mediterranean dinner is a good break from heavy holiday foods, and it’s simple to prep ahead for dinner on the table in 5 minutes.

Wishing you health and balance this holiday season!

Mediterranean salad

  • 1 English cucumber, skinned and sliced into half rounds
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Hummus
  • Package tabbouleh
  • 1/2cup chopped parsley
  • 1 can garbanzo beans drained
  • Naan

Prepare tabbouleh according to package. Add most of parsley and juice of 1/2 lemon. Refrigerate for an hour or more. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. Seed and dice tomatoes, peel and chop cucumbers, adding remaining juice of 1/2 lemon. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Allow to marinate preferably overnight. Assemble salad by putting hummus in center, surrounding with tabbouleh, beans, and cucumber/tomato salad. Sprinkle remaining parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with naan.

Roasted chickpeas (vegan)

Yum. I am simply in love with roasted chickpeas. They’re high in fiber and a good source of protein for a vegan diet.

Aka garbanzo beans, most people have had these in the canned variety and may think of them as mushy or mealy, and literally beige boring in color. But when roasted, they take on a nice crunch and beautiful color.

They’re common in middle eastern food, including serving as the base for hummus and falafel, another couple of my favorites.

But they’re more versatile than that and we’ve had them recently at a nice Italian restaurant that serves them as an amuse bouche to start dinner, and on a vegan avocado breakfast toast at one of the fancy local bakeries, Rose Street/Patisserie 46.

I plan to eat them as snacks, throw on salads and my morning avocado toast for a nice pop of texture.

I foresee experiments with other seasoning combos too. Enjoy!

Roasted chickpeas

  • 2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Rinse, drain and dry beans thoroughly on paper towels. Mix together seasonings and olive oil, toss to coat. Spread evenly on baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Storing them exposed to air vs in a container keeps them crunchier.

Shrimp quinoa bowls (a “recipe”)


Does boiling water count as cooking? I’m not sure, so I decided to call this a “recipe”. Since only the quinoa needs to be cooked, everything else is just throwing it into the bowl. I mean extra credit if you place it in the bowl to make it look pretty 😉

Perhaps I am being too hard on myself, since really there aren’t many truly new recipes, but just tweaks on old ones. 

Maybe a new combination or delivery method (ie the bowl trend right now, which drops the calorie-laden tortilla in many cases). But most things are familiar. Familiar is good. Easy is good.

Heck, you could even buy pre-cooked quinoa and then there’s really no cooking involved in this recipe. It’s brilliantly efficient and open to any tweaks of your own that make it an entirely new recipe!

Ps The boys love saying keen-wa. 

Shrimp quinoa bowls

  • 1 lb cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes 
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Olive oil

Cook the quinoa according to package. I sprinkled the shrimp with cajun seasoning, leave it plain or choose a spice you like (paprika, cumin, cayenne are some ideas). Divide among 4 bowls. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over all ingredients.

Robin’s killer summer salsa

Thank you to my dear friend Robin for this recipe 🙂

I plan on making a double batch next week for healthy snacking over July 4th!

Summer black bean and corn salsa

  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 ears corn on the cob, kernels cut off (do not need to cook)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (leave the seeds if you like spice!)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2c red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 jicama, diced (I used kohlrabi this week from our CSA share)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt

Serve with tortilla chips.

Other recipes this week to use CSA vegetables (spinach, green onions, turnips):

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School’s out!

SLP is finally out of school! We’re celebrating this week with summertime favorites. Some recipes, honestly, that are more work than I normally put in, but I want the boys to feel as excited about summer as I am 😉

  1. BBQ Ribs with Calico Beans, cole slaw and corn on the cob. Straight up: Ribs because they take 2 hours to cook are more work than I consider weeknight worthy. The beans are a Jennings family summer “expectation”…great for the 4th of July! **This is an extra credit for mom meal**
  2. Chicken enchiladas
  3. Burgers and leftover beans, plus orzo pasta salad. Use whatever accessories you like in the salad. It’s the base dressing that makes this salad “solid”. Of course fresh herbs! (I used basil, mint, oregano, dill, parsley, chives). I also just grab a few artichoke hearts, kalamatas and sundried tomatoes from the olive bar to make it easy to put together.
  4. Salad with strawberries, mint and gorgonzola. Throw together an entree salad with whatever protein you like, plus fresh berries and cheese (gorgonzola, feta, blue, goat all work. Add a raspberry or balsamic vinaigrette–easy peasy!)
  5. Salmon with bacon lentils and dill yogurt sauce. There used to be a recipe associated with this, but I can’t find it anymore and have adjusted it so much, I guess it’s now an original! 🙂
    1. Mix container of plain greek yogurt with juice from 1/2 lemon, dill, salt and pepper.
    2. Glaze salmon with honey, dijon mustard, crushed red pepper, thyme/dill, salt and pepper. Grill or bake skin side down (roughly 10 min @ 400 degrees).
    3. Boil lentils about 30 min (tender but not mushy). In separate pan, add chopped 1/2lb bacon, sautee until browned, remove all but 2tbsp fat from pan, add 2 cloves chopped garlic, 4 chopped green onions (or chives or regular onions)–watch this step, it goes fast! 30 sec–add drained lentils to bacon pan, throw in some whole grain mustard and season with salt and pepper/olive oil to moisten as needed. Add fresh herbs as you want — parsley, dill are great.

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Everyone’s favorite salads

This week is a crazy week for us. Not a single weeknight for dinner together. We will all be eating on the go 😦

To keep us eating healthy vs stopping for unfulfilling junk, I prepped ahead everyone’s favorite salads on Sunday night. I simply grilled off a whole cutup chicken using the easiest ever salt n pepper chicken technique –some of it got eaten that night and others got used in salads.

  • Pasta with chicken, tarragon and grapes (unique lower-fat tangy dressing: 1/2 c buttermilk, 1/2c yogurt, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 c mayo, 1 tbsp tarragon, salt+pep).
  • Asian sesame chicken salad (make the dressing ahead and cut up vegs)
  • Egg salad for wraps (Matt’s favorite — add dill!)
  • 5 bean salad (I use this recipe as the base, but add green beans, wax beans, small white beans, garbanzo and light red kidneys)
  • Grilled vegetable salad (side dish for the grilled chicken the first night, great leftover!)

Fresh herbs really make these salads pop.

I am thankful too for grill night at baseball 🙂

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