Vegetarian Culinarian

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

Tag: recipes

Foods for Fasting

People have fasted for centuries for many different reasons. As a Baha’i, I participate in the fasting tradition, and abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset between March 2nd and March 20th. In addition to reminding us that we are truly spiritual beings, fasting can help us regain balance in our eating habits. It forces us to eat purposefully, and to choose what we eat wisely. My first fast over 15 years ago didn’t go well because I didn’t fast practically – I thought that spiritual help would come and I wouldn’t have to pay attention to what I ate before the sun came up and after it went down. I’ve realized by now that we are given intellect for a reason! In addition to using prayer, meditation, and yoga to refocus spiritually, I regain balance in my eating habits through purposeful choices, as well.

Here is what I do:

*Remember that because calorie intake is reduced, all calories count. Cut out all empty calories during the fasting period. This includes processed foods (like soda and frozen dinners) and high glycemic index foods (like white bread), which don’t provide a lot of nutrients for the calories you’re eating and don’t last as long in your body as low glycemic foods (e.g. whole grains). Click on the glycemic index link above for more information.

*Hydrate wisely. Because of its high caffeine content, coffee dehydrates your body. If you’re one of those whose only liquid in the morning is in the form of coffee, you should probably consider rethinking this habit during the fasting period. I love coffee, but can get too dependent on the caffeine, and my yearly fast helps me break that caffeine addiction. Each morning I drink a few cups of tea, water, and Gatorade. Gatorade (or any other drink with elecrtolytes) helps my body stay hydrated throughout the day, which greatly reduces dehydration headaches.

*Include whole grains and fiber in your breakfast. Whole grains take longer to break down, and therefore keep you feeling full longer. Oatmeal (whole oats – not instant) is a great breakfast for the fasting period. I’ll microwave half a cup of oats, 1 cup of water, and a quarter cup of raisins and pecans at 50% power for five or six minutes, then stir and add a bit of honey and sea salt.

*Include protein in your breakfast.  I am sure to include lots of protein for breakfast to keep up my energy supply for the day. I’ll have a soy sausage patty, eggs, yogurt, bean burrito, chocolate soy milk, or soy protein shake in addition to a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and nuts.

*Break your fast slowly. When the sun goes down, I purposefully break my fast with water or tea, instead of gorging (as my hunger sometimes urges me to do!) on whatever is to be had. Friends of mine break their fast with broth or juice. Rehydrate with fluids, and then go ahead with your meal.

*Plan ahead. I try to plan out a few meals that will be quick to prepare and ensure I have the ingredients on hand. If I don’t do this, then I end up eating whatever junk can be had at the end of the day. Here are some quick meals I make during the fasting period that are packed with nutrients, fiber, and whole grain:

Bean Burritos – vegan: Saute onion in olive oil until translucent, then add a few cloves of chopped garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Stir in either chopped green chile or dried red chile flakes, to taste. If you can’t get find good green chile (not canned!) I would go with the dried red chile flakes, which are easier to find. At this point, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll add two or three cups of prepared beans, either from the crock-pot or canned. If I have a bit more time, I’ll add in some other vegetables I have on hand in with the onions, such as zucchini, summer squash, corn, and tomatoes. Saute until zucchini is crisp-tender, then add in the beans. Stir to heat through, then remove from heat. Salt to taste, then wrap in whole wheat tortillas. If you’re not vegan, you can top with sour cream, yogurt, or cheddar cheese.

Egg Fried Rice – can be vegan (substitute egg beaters for egg): Prepare a cup of basmati, jasmine, or brown rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few diced carrots and peas, and a handful of edamame, saute a few minutes more. Add in sliced mushrooms, then the rice. You may need to add a bit more oil at this stage. After everything is stirred through, make a well in the center of the rice, and break in one or two eggs. Scramble quickly, breaking the egg up into small bits, and then incorporate in with the rest of the rice. Remove from heat. Sprinkle over with sesame oil and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and top with sliced green onion.

Pilau -vegan – Prepare a cup of basmati rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a handful of raisins and/or chopped dates, and a handful of chopped nuts such as almonds or pecans. Saute through, and sprinkle with sea salt, a 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp clove, 1/4 tsp cardamom, and a 1/4 tsp cumin. Stir in the rice, adding oil if necessary. Taste, and adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary, and increasing other spices to your liking. Set aside. Saute cubed extra-firm tofu in vegetable oil until golden on all sides. Drain and sprinkle with salt. Add to the rice. Eat with flatbread and a garden salad.

Quelites (beans and spinach) – vegan: Chop an onion and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Add in a few cups of prepared pinto or red kidney beans, either from a can (in this case, use two cans) or homemade. Stir through to heat, and add a few teaspoons of dried red chile flakes (to taste) and a bag of fresh spinach. Heat through just until the spinach wilts. Eat with whole grain tortillas or flatbread.

Whole Wheat Penne Pasta – vegan: Saute a diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Dice up a few cups (total) of whatever vegetables are in season where you are. For me this includes summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots. Saute the vegetables in with the onion and garlic, adding olive oil if necessary. Set aside. Add in a rinsed can of beans of your choice, or chop extra-firm tofu into 1-inch cubes, then saute in oil until browned on all sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Prepare whole wheat penne according to package directions. When drained, add the pasta to the vegetables and beans or tofu. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste, then squeeze over with lemon juice and add in either fresh chopped rosemary or fresh basil or red chile flakes.

Do you fast? If so, do you fast for a cause or a religious tradition or health? Do you have special meals that cleanse or sustain? I’d love for you to share!

Photo Credits: lobster20 at


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: 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


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