Vegetarian Culinarian

Recipes and resources for food lovers going green, local, and compassionate.

Oprah’s Vegan Week & A Recipe for Moong Dhal

Watch Oprah’s show about thinking about what you eat and where it comes from here:

Although I was glad that Oprah did this show, and I appreciated Michael Pollan’s contributions, I was not happy with the way vegan eating was represented. The whole aura of the show was “doing without” and making substitutions. It looked and felt like everyone was on a strict diet. They seemed to view it this way, as well.

Our society is most familiar with a meat/starch/vegetable format for meals. Instead of looking at other meal formats, the vegan representative took one of Oprah’s producers on a grocery run which included only highly processed meat and dairy substitutes, and instructed the producer to cook what she normally would using these processed substitutes. If you are going to examine what you eat and where it comes from, you can’t simply raise your head enough to make substitutions and then stop there. There are meat substitutes that I enjoy and cook with – in moderation. You can’t, however, take the meat/starch/vegetable eating habits of our society and simply throw in a meat substitute and make a vegan. The reason everyone on the show was floundering is because of the way our society views meals and food. What can you make instead of your chicken dinner with peas and mashed potatoes? Interchange the chicken with a chicken-like soy product and use soy milk and butter-substitute in the mashed potatoes? Ugh. Please. You simply can’t live off of processed substitutes any more than you can live off any other processed food.

Ours is an animal-based eating format. To continue eating in this format without animal products is strict and diet-ish. No wonder everyone felt deprived. If you see the need to be cognizant of what you are putting in your body and where it comes from, you need to take the extra step and look at other eating formats the world over. You need to educate yourself and experiment with a variety of nutrient sources. Meat and dairy are two, out of hundreds, of nutrient sources on this earth. Consider that there are over 65 types of leafy greens, over 29 types of legumes, 15 types of sea vegetables, and over 50 types of root tubers – I’m not even getting into seeds and grains – each teeming with nutrients. To eliminate meat from your diet, you need to take a look at other meal formats.

My favorite eating format is Indian, which includes a wealth of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Although some Indian cuisine features animal products, the Indian eating format is not animal-centric. To illustrate, in most cities in India, a restaurant will advertise that it is “non-vegetarian” – if it doesn’t specify, then it is assumed to be vegetarian, which is the norm.

I spent my high school years in Tanzania, which has a large Indian population. I was often at friends’ houses, watching their mothers make whole grain chapatis and moong dhal. Dhal is a sort of thick soup made of lentils, beans, or peas. There are as many recipes for dhal as there are households. Mung beans are highly prized in Ayurvedic cooking and are often used to make khichari, a nourishing dish for those who are ill.

When I make moong dhal, I eat it with quinoa, which is a high-protein grain. Each grain is smaller than a grain of rice, and round instead of oblong. Its taste is mild, like rice, but slightly nuttier. I cook mine in the rice cooker, using one cup quinoa to one cup water. Use the quinoa link above for cooking instructions on the stove top and quinoa recipes.

Moong Dhal Recipe


1 cup mung beans, rinsed well

2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder (or more, to taste)

1 tsp red chile flakes

2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil



If using garlic cloves, peel, smash, and dice the garlic, and saute in olive oil or coconut oil briefly over medium high heat. Add the chile flakes and turmeric, and heat for half a minute or so. If using garlic powder, add all spices at once to the oil and heat briefly. Add your mung beans, stir a bit, and then add 3 cups of water. When the water boils, lower heat to medium and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes, adding in your salt about half way through. You may need to add more water throughout the cooking time, so keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally. The beans should be quite soft when done, having absorbed all of the cooking liquid. I prefer mine this way, mostly whole, but partially smashed due to the stirring. Others like to place the beans in a processor, so that the dhal has a smooth consistency similar to split pea soup. Taste your dhal, then adjust seasonings as necessary.

Photo Credits: Photo by Dan at


Recipe: White “Sausage” Gravy from The Grit Restaurant

(Before you read this post….Yes, I believe in whole, fresh food – mostly raw and green. But the half of me that is not Tongan is deeply southern. Sometimes I need some soul food. Biscuits and gravy are my guilty pleasure…)

The next time you are in Athens, Georgia, you need to experience The Grit. The first time I opened the menu at this edgy-yet-homey, art-filled vegetarian & vegan restaurant, I was daunted by the idea that I could order anything off of it. (So used to scanning a menu to find what is vegetarian and then choosing between two or three options…) This is true, down-home, southern cooking that happens to be vegetarian/vegan. I thought I’d forever given up my grandmother’s biscuits and gravy – but I experienced a version no meat-eater could turn away at The Grit. The Reuben Sandwich (on their homemade Ted Bread) gave me chills. It was at The Grit that I discovered I could actually love tofu. I now cook it the Grit-way (which involves breading with nutritional yeast) at home at least three times a week. They serve up everything from southern Collard Greens to southwestern Roasted Corn and Zucchini Quesadilla to Coconut Ginger Curry.  About half of their items are vegan, including their homemade Famous Vegan Ranch Dressing. All of these recipes (130 in total) are published in The Grit Cookbook, which I was lucky enough to receive for my birthday last year. 🙂 I love that it includes recipes for staples, like hummus, breads, dressings, stocks, pie crusts, tofu, and seitan, as well as recipes for dishes, like  Sunday Miracle BBQ Sandwich, and desserts, like their vegan Crumble-Top Apple Pie. Here is their recipe for White “Sausage” Gravy. If you were raised by a southern family, you know what to do with this. Slather it over fluffy biscuits and escape into heaven. The only question: After cutting your biscuit in half, do you place the fluffy, just-cut halves of the biscuit down on the plate, or face up? My mom and I argue about this. I side with my grandmother, who hailed from Tennessee: fluffy side up. And so, lucky you, on to the recipe:

The Grit White “Sausage” Gravy

Ingredients [Note: The butter and milk links take you to the Living Cruelty Free page which discusses dairy farm certification]

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter

8 breakfast link vegetarian “sausages” such as Morningstar Farms, frozen

1/2 scant cup all-purpose flour

4 cups whole milk [Note: I haven’t yet tried this with soy milk…if you do, let me know how it turns out!]

2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce [Note: the non-vegan sauce contains fish]

1 1/2 teaspoon salt [Note: I like sea salt]

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 scant teaspoon ground sage

1/2 scant teaspoon dried rosemary

Directions: [Note: These directions are my sum-up of what the cookbook says…]

Melt butter in skillet and fry frozen “sausages” until thawed. Either remove from skillet, chop up, and return to skillet, or do it the lazy-Sunday way and mush them into pieces with your bamboo spatula right in the skillet. Set aside.

In a saucepan or large skillet, melt butter, then stir in flour.  Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has bubbled for 4 minutes. Gradually add milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly all the while. I sometimes use a whisk for this. What happens is that what you have in the pan is a nice, thick, gravy already, but once you add milk, it thins out. Whisking it ensures that the milk blends evenly with the gravy. Stir it longer, over heat, and your thin gravy thickens up again. If you get impatient and add the milk all at once, your gravy may not thicken up at all…. so be sure to let it thicken up between additions of milk. Add the Worcestershire sauce and spices with the last addition of milk. Continue stirring until your gravy thickens up again, then add the cooked “sausage”. Remove from heat and allow to sit five to ten minutes before serving.


In ’09 I quit my teaching job and took out what little retirement I’d accumulated so that I could live in the South Pacific. I spent six months in the island nation, teaching at a local school, biking to work, walking to the open-air market. It was especially fulfilling for me because I am half Tongan. I was surrounded by family I’d never met, including my grandmother. I would spend afternoons learning how to shred a coconut, or being taught by my artist-aunt how to paint tapa (pounded bark of the mulberry tree) using paints made of earth. My nephew spent patient hours teaching me to say, “Malo e lelei.” Afternoons kayaking. Evenings in candlelight, the guitar being passed around. I met some amazing people. Fellow Americans Kristen and Chris lent a touch of sanity and generosity to my life. I experienced my first earthquake, volcano, tsunami warning, and hurricane. Memories are more vivid even than these pictures, and it tore my heart out to leave. 

Green Your Home With These Green Cleaners

Sensitive skin runs in my family. Any kind of harsh cleaners (read: Clorox) make my skin turn red and peel. I used to have to wear gloves to wash dishes or clean the kitchen or bathroom, until I found out that homemade cleaners cleanse just as well without all of the skin-stripping chemicals. Not only are they so much better for my hands, lungs, and eyes, but they are better for the environment, because chemicals aren’t being washed down the drain. As an added bonus, they are inexpensive to make.

Before you start:

*Don’t use old cleaner bottles to store or mix your green cleaners. You don’t want any nasty chemical reactions.

*Use containers with tight-fitting lids, and label and date.

*I absolutely love liquid castile soap. You can use it to hand wash clothes, dishes, or your skin. It is a gentle, truly all-purpose cleaner. I carry a small bottle with me on trips to wash my To Go-Ware® and delicates, and to use as a body wash. I often mix baking soda with castile soap for a gentle scrub for dishes, sinks, and my face. 🙂 Find out more at Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (fair trade!).

Other recipes:

All Purpose Cleaner:

Makes 10 oz. (296 mL)

1 tsp borax

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbsp lemon juice

8 oz. (237 mL) hot water

Note: I don’t always have borax on hand. Often times I’ll mix up a bit of baking soda with lemon juice or vinegar to scrub the sink or stove, and it works fine.

Glass Cleaner:

Makes 24 oz. (709 mL)

8 oz. (237 mL) rubbing alcohol

8 oz. (237 mL) white vinegar

8 oz. (237 mL) water

Note: For some reason, wiping the glass with newspaper instead of paper towel or cloth leaves windows and mirrors streak-free.

Furniture Polish:

Makes 12 oz.

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

Fabric Softener:

Add 1/4 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle

Microwave Cleaner:

2 tbsp lemon juice or baking soda

1 cup water

Mix in microwave-safe bowl, place in microwave, and heat 5 minutes or until liquid boils and condensation forms on interior of microwave. Wipe clean.

Chrome, Silver, and Jewelry Cleaner:


Linoleum Cleaner:

Club soda

Recipes courtesy Tupperware®.

Photo Credits: Mantas Ruzvelta

Get Your Yum On: Internet Resources

Gems that shine in the world of online vegetarian/vegan cuisine:

This is not a mishmash of every veggie site  I could find online…only the ones I know well and use often. If you know of any greats that I’ve missed, please post a link in the comments section! 🙂

  • 101 Cookbooks – Breathtakingly beautiful photography, delicious, all-natural vegetarian and vegan recipes – this site is a calming, inspiring oasis in the midst of internet clatter.
  • Care2 is a great resource for food articles and recipes. Read an awesome article on quinoa, a delicious, high-protein grain that is a must-have for vegetarians!
  • Cooking Light offers wonderful vegetarian articles and recipes. Try the Fiery Tomato Chutney or the Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Pizza.
  • Manjula’s Kitchen – Indian food is one of my absolute favorites. Reading through her site brings back so many memories! Most of her recipes are demonstrated with a video, which is extremely helpful when learning how to cook Indian food. I feel as though I’m back at my friends’ houses, watching their mothers make puri.
  • Moosewood – Have you discovered this amazing cookbook series yet? The website will give you a sampling of recipes from the group’s many cookbooks (I have three of them myself). I love the Quinoa Stuffed Peppers and the Spinach Lasagna.
  • Nava Atlas Vegan Recipes – Nava Atlas has written several cookbooks and articles about vegetarian and vegan cooking. Find everything from Buddhist’s Delight Stew to Avocado Quesadillas. I especially love her article on how to pack nutritious, waste-free lunches.
  • Sprouted Kitchen – The photography is stunning. Hugh could take photographs of absolutely anything and make it arrestingly beautiful. It is another, like 101cookbooks, that is an inspiring oasis. Recipes like Pear and Buckwheat pancakes… beautiful, delicious. Another for my bookmarks bar.
  • Tal Ronnen This vegan chef’s website provides only a few of his delectable recipes, but the few he provides are amazing. You have to try the cashew cream…it is a must-have basic staple for vegans who still want creaminess and protein in their dishes! For more Tal Ronnen recipes, the conscious cook is a great investment!
  • Vegan Chef This is the website of Chef Beverly Lynn Bennett, who wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Cooking, and Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles. Through her site you can access these books as well as a plethora of recipes – everything from Eggplant Poor Boys to Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake (all vegan, of course).
  • Vegetarian Resource Group There are all kinds of vegetarian recipes on this site, but my favorite are the Indian and Egyptian dishes.
  • Whole Foods This Whole Foods Market site is continuously posting healthful new recipes.
  • Yoga Journal Love, love, love this site. It is essentially my second home. In addition to food articles focused on health, healing, and nurturing the body, it provides a wealth of recipes for such foods as Dairy-Free Chocolate Truffles and White Bean and Kale Soup. (P.S. This is owned by the same company as Vegetarian Times, another great site for recipes.)

Photo Credits: Carlos Porto (of course!) Find more of his photos at

Recipe: Blue Corn Honey Face Scrub

Save money and packaging, and avoid chemical additives, by making your own face scrub!

Blue Corn Honey Face Scrub


Equal parts honey and yogurt (about 1 tbsp each will do for one or two scrubs)

Ground Blue Corn


Mix the yogurt and honey, then add in the blue cornmeal a bit at a time until you have a soft paste. Smooth onto your face in a circular motion, and then let sit five minutes. Rinse off with warm water, then splash with cool water.

Photo Credits: Me! I took this photo walking home from the market in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.

Recipe: So Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce

The key to good, whole food is good, whole ingredients. I grew up thinking I hated apples, because all I’d ever been exposed to were the grocery store wax-coated mostly-tasteless “red” or “green”. However, I absolutely loved (and still love) spinach, because my grandfather grew it in his garden. Only years later, when I first tasted an apple off an orchard tree, did it all click for me. I realized I actually do like apples. A lot. Only they have to be real.  I immediately had to go out and try all of the fruits and vegetables I thought I didn’t like – only I had to try them fresh from someone’s garden, or from a farmers’ market. Turns out I adore brussels sprouts, eggplant, red bell peppers, and kale. I think it works the same way with pasta sauce. It’s best if you make the sauce from garden tomatoes. Lacking those, grocery store tomatoes will do. Anything is better than canned sauce, chock- full of salt, sugar, and chemicals. Simple is best. This is more of a recipe guideline – you’ll notice no measurements and a range of optional ingredients. It’s how I learned to cook – all of my grandmother’s “recipes” were handed down to me as lists of ingredients. Frameworks, really. Pasta sauce then becomes more of a celebration of whatever is on hand, whatever is in season, in whatever amount you have it.

Create Your Own So Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce Fast

Basic Ingredients:

Tomatoes, garlic, sea salt, basil or oregano, olive oil

Basic Sauce: To make the basic sauce, peel a few cloves of garlic (more or less according to your taste), and smash them or push them through a garlic press. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, and add the garlic. After a minute, add 2 or 3 cups of chopped tomato. This can be around three to seven tomatoes, depending on tomato size (I use however many I have on hand). Add a few teaspoons of basil or oregano (or more if using chopped fresh herbs), and then about a teaspoon of salt. Stir for a minute or so, then taste and adjust seasoning – you may want to add salt or more herbs. Heat a few more minutes, so that the tomatoes begin to break down but are still chunky and defined. Viola! Fresh sauce.

Optional Ingredients:

Onion, carrots, celery, eggplant and/or broccoli (really, any vegetable you like will do)

Sauce With Added Veggies: If using any optional ingredients, begin with them FIRST, as they will need to cook longer. The beauty of making your own basic tomato sauce is that you can use any vegetables you like. The only things to remember are to dice your veggies so they are small, and to saute your vegetables in order of cooking time – vegetables that take longest should go in first. Dice an onion, carrot, and a few celery stalks. If using eggplant, dice about half a medium-sized eggplant. It seems like a lot at first, but shrinks as it cooks. If using broccoli, dice enough for half a cup or so (or to your liking).  Saute the onions in oil over high heat until almost translucent, then add the garlic, carrot, and celery. Saute a few minutes. Add the garlic. If using eggplant, add a bit more oil and then the eggplant. Eggplant absorbs a lot of liquid, so you may need to add more oil or some water. Saute several minutes until the eggplant is translucent, then add the broccoli. Saute a bit longer – only a minute or two, because you want your broccoli to be bright green and still crisp, not the sort of mush-green broccoli you’d get at a cafeteria – and then add in your tomatoes. Season with salt, basil, and/or oregano. (Try a few teaspoons of basil and oregano first, and then add more if you need to. If using fresh herbs, add a few tablespoons, then add more if you need to.) Cook a few minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. You may need more salt or herbs. Cook down until sauce is combined but still chunky and fresh.

Photo Credits: Simon Howden

Recipe: Quick Mediterranean Flatbread

About a decade ago, I did my student teaching at a school lucky enough to be chosen for a new program our school district was piloting called ‘Cooking with Kids‘. Its purpose was to introduce cheap, whole food alternatives to the packaged, refined foods students regularly ate. Volunteers came into the classroom and taught the students how to cook a few simple basics, such as bread and salad. The students loved it, and the recipes were amazing. I have been making this delicious, whole wheat flatbread (or a version thereof) ever since. It is something I make and use at least weekly. It is a yeast bread that doesn’t require rising time, and it is incredibly versatile. Skip the za’atar topping, and use the bread to scoop up hummus. Wrap beans in it for a burrito, or use it as a falafel wrap. It is great to snack on during road trips. Or use it as pizza dough: my apartment overseas didn’t have a reliable oven, and I used this flatbread to create individual stovetop pizzas. Cook the flatbread on one side briefly, flip, and top with cheese, olives, tomatoes, etc. Cover the pan with a lid so that the steam will help melt the cheese. One last note: the students who learned how to make this flatbread were Kindergarteners, so you know it’s easy!

Mediterranean Flatbread

Makes 12.

1 ½ C warm water

1 tsp yeast

1 C whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt (if not using za’atar, increase this)

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 ½ C white flour

Combine warm water and yeast. (Ensure that the warm water is not so hot that you cannot leave your finger in it; if it is, it will kill the yeast.) Allow the yeast to sit for five to ten minutes. Then add the oil, salt, and whole wheat flour. Add the remaining white flour in a bit at a time, stirring after each addition. Once the dough comes together loosely, sprinkle flour on a board and knead until you have a smooth ball (about five minutes). Cover and let the dough sit for ten minutes. Alternately, you can cover and refrigerate up to two days at this point. Divide the dough into twelve balls, and roll each ball into a circle. Cook in a skillet on medium high to high heat, covered, about one minute on each side. Covering allows the steam to help cook the flatbread, which aids in keeping the bread supple. However, sometimes I don’t cover, and it still works.

Za’atar Topping:

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

½ tsp dried thyme

¼ tsp salt

Combine the sesame seeds, dried thyme, and salt. Brush each flatbread with olive oil, and sprinkle with za’atar.

Photo Credits: Graeme Weatherston

Buying From Bulk Bins

What is buying in bulk?

Buying bulk in the grocery store doesn’t mean buying a lot – it means buying ingredients from large bins – the bulk bins. Each bin has a scoop. Scoop the desired amount into a bag (they are provided or you can bring your own), and write the PLU number (from the bin) onto the provided tag. Tie your bag with the PLU tag. I also write the specific type of rice, flour, or bean on the tag, as well.  The cashier will weigh your bags at checkout. When you get home, store your rice, beans, flour, or spices in airtight containers to ensure they stay dry and clean.

Why buy in bulk?

1. It is an easy way to green your life – no wasteful packaging!

2. Variety – There are so many more types of rice, beans, lentils, flours, nuts, and spices available in the bulk bins. Because there is no packaging, you can buy a small amount of something new to try. If you like it, come back for more. If you don’t, you haven’t wasted any money, and there isn’t a whole package of it slowly spoiling in your cupboards. I was first introduced to many new grains when I discovered 101cookbooks. The beautiful photographs and inspiring, all-natural recipes prompted me to try such grains as millet, quinoa, and wheat berries. I headed straight to the bulk bins, and bought just enough for each recipe.

3. Freshness – Ingredients in bins are usually replenished often. I especially love buying spices from bulk bins. They are SO much fresher than bottled spices. When I first smelled turmeric in a bulk bin, it changed the way I cooked with it. I had no idea what its subtleties really were. Bottled spices are so much flatter, older, dustier.

Where can I buy in bulk?

Not all grocery stores have bulk bin sections. Some bulk bin sections only offer candies and snacks. Whole Foods Market has a great bulk bins section. There are local natural food stores in many areas, as well, like La Montañita Co-Op in Albuquerque, that have great flour, bean, and spice selections.

Where can I find cooking instructions for beans and grains?

The only problem with buying in bulk is that if there is no packaging, there are no cooking instructions. Some grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market, provide free booklets with cooking instructions and grain-to-water ratios for this purpose. Some cookbooks, like Better Homes and Gardens, provide cooking information and instructions for the basic (but not all) types of rice and beans. Don’t let that deter you! I will post information about cooking different types of rice, beans, and grains on this blog. Look for them soon in the Rice, Grain, Bean Info & Cooking Charts category.

Photo Credits: Another beautiful photo from Carlos Porto. Find more of his work at


Beans are a great food for vegetarians and vegans. High in fiber, folic acid, iron, and protein, beans are very inexpensive and store well in the pantry. If you buy your beans in bulk, store them in an airtight container like Tupperware®, and use them within six months.

Three Methods of Cooking

The three basic methods of cooking beans, from fastest to slowest, are using a pressure cooker, boiling on the stovetop, or using a Crock-Pot®. I’ve never used a pressure cooker, but the link above will take you to instructions. The stovetop method requires a soak and then a slow simmer in water on the stove. The Crock-Pot® method requires dumping in one or two cups of beans, filling the Crock-Pot® with water, and turning it on (although if you want to soak beans ahead of time, it will cut cooking time in the Crock-Pot®).


1 cup dry beans yields 2 to 3 cups cooked beans


Soaking helps create evenly-cooked, tender beans. After sorting through your beans and picking out stones, discolored beans, or beans that aren’t smooth and firm, cover beans in cool water, and let soak for four to twelve hours before cooking. Alternately, quick-soak your beans by covering beans with two inches of water and boiling for 2 minutes.

Stovetop Cooking Times by Bean Types

After soaking, rinse beans in a colander. Put beans in a large pot. Add 3 to 4 cups of water for every cup of dry beans you use. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for the recommended cooking times listed below. Keep in mind that cooking times vary widely depending on soaking time, bean type, bean age, and cooking method. The times below are approximate. It is a good idea to start checking for doneness a half hour to an hour before the recommended cooking time is complete. I check for doneness by tasting one of the beans. Also keep in mind that if you are going to use the cooked beans in a recipe that will further cook the beans (as in Iranian Rice with Beans and Dill), it’s best to leave the beans a tad firm to ensure they don’t get mushy by the end. You can access a photo and nutritional info from Something Better Natural Foods by clicking on the links following simmer times.

Adzuki – Simmer 1/2 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Adzuki Beans

Baby Lima Beans – Simmer 1 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Lima Beans

Black Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Black Beans

Black-Eyed Peas – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Black-Eyed Peas

Cannellini Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Cannellini Beans

Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) – Simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Chickpeas

Cranberry Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Cranberry Beans

Fava Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Fava Beans

Great Northern Beans – Simmer 1 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Great Northern Beans

Mung Beans – Simmer 1 1/4 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Mung Beans

Navy Beans – Simmer 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Navy Beans

Pinto Beans – Simmer 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Pinto Beans

Red Beans – Simmer 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Red Beans

Red Kidney Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Kidney Beans

Soy Beans – Simmer 3 to 4 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Soy Beans

Sources for Stovetop Cooking Times by Bean Types: Buying In Bulk by Whole Foods, Something Better Natural Foods

Crock-Pot® Method

I usually use a Crock-Pot. You don’t need to soak (although if you do, it will cut cooking time) – just sort through your beans (pick out stones, discolored beans, and beans that aren’t smooth and firm) then rinse your beans in a colander, add the desired amount of beans to the Crock-Pot® (1 cup dried beans yields 2 to 3 cups cooked beans), and fill the Crock-Pot with water. Filling with water will ensure that as the beans absorb the fluid, the Crock-Pot interior doesn’t dry out. I have a small Crock-Pot (1.5 quart – it was about $10 at Target), and I start with 1 1/2 cups of dried pinto, kidney, lima, black, or cannellini beans and end up with about 3 cups cooked beans. Add salt to the water as you would when boiling pasta. This lengthens cooking time a bit, but if you salt after the beans are finished, it won’t be as effective. If you are around to add the salt halfway through cooking time, this is best. Also, if you are following a recipe that calls for adding tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, or any other type of acid, don’t add it until the beans are fully cooked. The acid will prevent the beans from softening as they cook. It generally takes 4 to 5 hours on high, or 6 to 7 on low, for beans to cook in a slow cooker without a presoak, but they are done to perfection, and if you put the beans in the Crock-Pot® before leaving for work, they are done when you get home. Alternately, put the beans in the slow cooker in the evening, and they’ll be done when you get up in the morning. So convenient! Keep in mind that actual cooking times for beans vary widely – not just by bean type, but also by bean age. It’s a good idea to start checking for doneness an hour to a half hour before the recommended cooking time is complete. I check for doneness by tasting one of the beans. Also keep in mind that if you are going to use the cooked beans in a recipe that will further cook the beans (as in Iranian Rice with Beans and Dill), it’s best to leave the beans a tad firm to ensure they don’t get mushy by the end.

Recipe Links for Beans:

BLACK BEANS: I absolutely love these Black Bean Brownies. I am an ardent follower of 101cookbooks, and this recipe is one of the reasons why! If you love chocolate, you will love these!

BUTTER BEANS: I grew up in a community with many Persians, and some of my favorite memories are of potluck tables and platters heaped with Persian rice dishes. Even though my best friend is Persian, I have been slow at learning the dishes. Except for this one, which turns out amazing every time: Iranian Rice with Butter Beans and Dill

CHICKPEAS (GARBANZO BEANS): Hummus is a staple at my house, and this recipe for Hummus bi Tahina by Emeril Lagasse is great. Instead of the canned chickpeas, though, cook your own. So much fresher and cheaper that way!

WHITE BEANS: Another great 101cookbooks entry, Carrot, Dill & White Bean Salad is wonderful! Also, check out Bruschetta with White Bean Puree by Michael Chiarello for the Cooking Channel.

ALL BEANS: You will never want to leave this site – check out all of the bean recipes at 101cookbooks. Find a wealth of recipes at Savvy Vegetarian. Find international bean recipes (such as various types of Indian dhal) contributed by members of the International Vegetarian Union. You can find reader recipes organized by bean type at Veg Web.

Photo Credits: Another great one by Carlos Porto