Skip It


A couple of weeks ago I told you about a recipe for Spring Green Risotto and said  you could skip the step of heating your broth and that you did not need to babysit or stir the risotto quite as much as suggested.  It occurred to me that there are other recipes that allow you to skip a step or two to make preparation easier or get the meal on the table a bit faster.  Here are two that I made recently:

  • One Pot Pasta
  • Refried Beans Without the Refry

One Pot Pasta

My husband loves pasta and makes it often on those occasions when he cooks for himself.  I have told him over and again that he does it wrong but he doesn’t listen and doesn’t complain about the results.  Turns out I should have cut him some slack.

I’ve seen several of these One Pot Pasta recipes lately and it’s not so much a recipe as a technique.  You can use whatever ingredients you like. Mine contained:

  • 1/2 cup canned or frozen artichoke hearts (thawed), quartered
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup black or kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (I used a special pasta blend)
  • 4  cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 oz. whole wheat spaghetti noodles, broken in to short pieces

In a large pan over medium high heat, add onion and artichoke hearts to the pan with a little of the vegetable broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes until onion softens.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed.  You may need to add more broth or water if the pan gets dry before the pasta is finished cooking.  I added a little baby spinach just at the end and stirred it through to wilt.

One pot pasta onepot pasta cooked II

Getting all of your ingredients organized and ready ahead of time is a great time saver in the kitchen. The French call this “mise en place” (mees on plahs). Don’t skip this step!

mis en place

Refried Beans Without the Refry

I cook a lot of beans. My usual method requires some planning. It starts with soaking the dry beans for 6-8 hours prior to cooking, which may take an additional 1 1/2 – 2 hours.  Turns out you can skip the soaking if you turn to your trusty slow cooker.  This may not work for all types of beans, and in fact I have read that it is better to soak kidney beans because they contain a compound that is more apt to cause digestive upset.

This recipe for Refried Beans Without the Refry comes from  It uses no added fats. I increased the vegetable content and heat a bit by using the whole jalapeno plus 2  banana peppers and one Poblano pepper. Important note: the original recipe called for 5 teaspoons of salt.  This is a big pot of beans but that is a lot of salt!  I was happy with 2 teaspoons.

refried beans pre

Refried beans are great for nachos, tacos, burritos, etc.  I am using them this week in a wrap for lunch.  Here is my whole wheat tortilla filled with refried beans, 1/2 an avocado, and a cup of baby kale.


Watch for more posts like this in the next few week as I follow “Skip It” with “Stick It”, “Shred It”, and “Stuff It”.

Better for Your Buns

Many people would agree that few things smell better than a beef burger sizzling on the grill.  That being said, there are those of us who would prefer not to eat red meat as frequently.  We still want our burgers though!  Here are a few great tasting alternatives to put on a bun:

  • Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burger
  • Grillable Veggie Burgers
  • Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers:

I’ve also used ground chicken for this burger recipe I found at  I usually skip the cheese and dress this burger with veggies like sliced tomato and avocado.

Here’s a tip: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce can be found in the Hispanic section of most grocery stores.  There are several in a can; I sometimes freeze the leftover ones.  The sauce in the can is also great for flavoring mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc.  Here’s what you’re looking for:


Grillable Veggie Burgers

I was so excited to find this recipe from The Minimalist Baker for a grillable vegetarian burger.  I’ve made vegetarian burger patties in the past from beans, rice, quinoa, etc. They are usually quite fragile and tend to fall apart in the fry pan.  I’ve never attempted to put one on the grill because of that.

These had a meaty, dense texture and the spice combination along with the barbecue sauce made them mighty tasty. Here are my ingredients prior to mixing and my finished burger.

veggieburgermix veggieburgerpatty

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms:

I am perfectly happy to brush a little olive oil on a big portobello mushroom, season it with salt and pepper, grill it and slap it on a bun but I saw this recipe for an enhanced version called Grilled Portobello Magic Mushrooms and had to try it.  These were very good although I’m not sure why they are called “magic” mushrooms.  I mean they made me happy, but not in an out of body kind of way.


So the next time you are grilling, think outside the beef and try one of these healthier option. Let me know what you think!




Season’s Eating

I try to eat seasonally most of the time. That means using fruits and vegetables that are in season but it also means that my cooking methods differ.  In cooler weather I use the oven more while warmer weather means more stove top cooking or dishes that involve little or no cooking at all.  (Of course we also do a lot more grilling in warmer weather but that will be the subject of many posts to come!)

Here are three recipes that fit the bill. They include peas and/or asparagus which are both in season right now and use only the stove top for preparation:

  • Snow Pea Salad
  • Spring Green Risotto
  • Wheat Berry and Asparagus Salad

Snow Pea Salad

This salad from Food and Wine features two different varieties of peas; snow peas are the flat variety that you often see in Chinese cuisine and English peas or garden peas are the shelled variety. I used frozen sweet peas for the garden pea portion.  The salad has an interesting garlic, mustard, and maple syrup dressing that I really enjoyed.  Peas are a good source of protein in and of themselves but when I ate this I added some brown rice to increase the protein content a bit more. Here is a picture before the rice:

pea salad

Spring Green Risotto

I am kind of a chef groupie and one of my favorite television chefs is Ina Garten, also known as The Barefoot Contessa.  Her food is elegant and classic without being too fussy. Risottos seem like a lot of work but I have found that you don’t necessarily have to dirty another pan to “simmer” your broth or baby sit the process as much the recipe says.  For a home chef who just wants to get a meal on the table it is sufficient to use room temperature broth and stir occasionally.  This Spring Green Risotto recipe from Ina includes leeks and fennel which you may not have used much but are available in most grocery stores.  Leeks look like a gigantic green onion and have a mild onion flavor. The greens are tough so you use just the white and light green parts. Fennel is a bulb that tastes of licorice.  The feathery tops are very flavorful and make a pretty garnish.  If you really like the flavor you can stir more of them in right at the end of cooking.  (You could substitute celery in place of the fennel but why not give it a try?)

leek fennel Spring Green Risotto

Wheat Berry and Asparagus Salad

Ahhhh….asparagus! One of my favorite vegetables.  And I had wheat berries in the freezer that needed to be used up. I saw this recipe in the Penzey’s spice catalog but I modified it for simpler preparation.

A wheat berry is actually an entire wheat kernel with the hull removed. If you like a chewier texture in your grains you will love them. And, although this is called a salad I ate it warm and it tasted great.  Can’t wait to try the chilled leftover for my supper tonight. Here are the wheat berries before cooking and my finished salad; recipe follows:

wheat berries wheat berry asparagus salad

Wheat berries take a while to cook but you can prepare the dressing and vegetable components of this dish while waiting:

Wheat Berries

1 cup hard red wheat berries

2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Rinse your wheat berries and add them to large saucepan with broth, turmeric and red pepper flakes.  Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook 1 ½ – 2 hours or until desired firmness.  You may need to add more liquid.  When the wheat berries have reached desired consistency remove lid and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated; watching closely so they don’t burn and stick to bottom of the pan.


4 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoon olive oil (I used sunflower oil)

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon Greek seasoning (if you don’t have this you can substitute an additional teaspoon of oregano)

Combine dressing ingredients in blender and blend until emulsified.  (I used the small cup of my Ninja.) Set aside.


1 onion, thinly sliced

4-5 cups washed and finely chopped hearty greens (I used lacinato kale but you could use regular kale, spinach, or Swiss chard as well)

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch chunks

When wheat berries are done cooking stir in two tablespoons of your dressing and transfer them to a serving bowl.  Wash or wipe out the pot and return it to the stove over medium heat.  Add a couple of tablespoons of oil or broth to the pot and saute the onions for couple of minutes.  Add the asparagus and continue stirring and cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add the greens to the pot and stir to combine.  Cover and allow greens to steam for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the remaining dressing and combine with wheat berries in serving dish.  Serve warm or chill.


If you are not a fan of dill you may want to stop reading.  I saw fresh dill at the grocery store this week and knew I had been saving a couple of recipes that used it.  It goes really well with so many vegetables.


  • Potato and Mushroom Soup
  • Spinach Rice
  • Steamed Carrots with Maple and Dill


Potato and Mushroom Soup

Will spring ever really get here?  The recent cold weather means that I am still making things like this Russian Potato and Mushroom Soup from It’s a hearty combination and I made it more so by stirring in some chopped fresh kale at the end.  Here’s a healthy cooking tip that I learned from Ann and Ruth Esselstyn who co-wrote the “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” cookbook.  Skip the butter and saute your onions in a little bit of the broth.  The other changes I made were  vegetable broth instead of chicken and cashew milk in place of the cream to make this a vegetarian soup.  I used fresh dill in the soup and to garnish.  The soup was wonderful but my picture didn’t turn out well so I’m borrowing this one from Allrecipes.

Potato and Mushroom Soup



Spinach Rice (Spanakorizo)

This Greek side dish can easily be made into a meal by adding some beans – garbanzo beans would be great.  The combination of rice and the beans gives you all the protein you need. A full 8 cups of baby spinach provides some of the liquid and the dill and lemon flavor everything nicely.

  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (divided)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped and divided
  • A few grinds freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice from one lemon
  1. Heat a few tablespoons of the vegetable broth in a medium pan with a tightly fitting cover over medium high heat. Sauté onions in broth until translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add garlic and sauté for another minute.
  2. Add the lemon zest and spinach and cover the pan. Cook until the spinach wilts down (about 3-5 minutes).
  3. Stir the rice, vegetable stock, 2 tablespoons of the dill, salt and pepper into the spinach mixture and stir to combine. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer, replacing the lid on the pan, and cook until the rice is tender (about 30 to 35 minutes for brown rice –follow your rice’s package instructions).
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and the remaining fresh dill before serving.


Makes 4 servings.



Steamed Carrots w/ Maple Syrup and Dill

I have a few “old school” tools that I find indispensable and one of them is my steamer basket. It is compact, expands to fit most any size saucepan, and can go in the dishwasher to clean. (If you look closely at the first picture you can see that it also makes a pretty darn good little mirror!)  I use mine at least once a week; last night to steam the carrots for this very simple recipe:


  1. Clean and cut carrots into bite size pieces.  I leave the skins on to preserve nutrients and increase fiber – which also saves time and food waste!
  2. Add about ½ inch of water to saucepan, insert the steamer basket and bring water to a simmer (not boiling).
  3. Add carrots to basket, cover pan with a tight fitting lid and cook for about 10 minutes (more or less depending on size of your pieces and whether you like your carrots a little firmer or softer.)
  4. Drain water and toss the hot carrots with just a Tablespoon of butter and another Tablespoon of real maple syrup and sprinkled the dill on top.


I may have overdone the dill a bit but it was just me and the hubby for dinner and there weren’t any leftovers.




Eschew the Fat

Fat seems to be in fashion.  I’m not talking about the kind that pads our middles. It’s the stuff we eat. Foods like bacon, coconut oil, and avocadoes, have legions of followers who proliferate the pages of social media with recipes and lists of purported health benefits. That does not necessarily mean we should be eating more of it.

The American Heart Association endorses the idea of a healthy diet consisting of up to 30% of daily calories coming from fat.  If you eat 2000 calories a day, which is reasonable for many people, then you may theoretically consume 600 calories of fat each day.

What does 600 calories of fat look like?  One fast food meal can get you there.  A quarter pounder with cheese and bacon, large fries, and vanilla shake contains 621 calories from fat (1630 calories total for the meal).

Significant amounts of fat are prevalent in many of the foods that Americans typically consume: things like beef, poultry skin, fried foods, and dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream, butter). By including other fat sources like salad dressings, cooking oils, nuts and nut butters, etc. you can see that it would be very easy to consume more than 30% of your daily calories in the form of fat.

But, is the American Heart Association too generous in its fat allowance?  Some health experts are advocating diets with much less. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic has had success in treating people with existing heart disease using a whole foods, plant based diet. He recommends little or no added fats (including oils, nuts, and avocado).  Most of his patients have actually experienced a reversal of symptoms by following this program. In fact a whole food, plant based diet is the only eating pattern that has been proven to do so.

“Don’t we need some fat in our diet?” you may be asking.  Yes, but we don’t need much.  Some fat is needed to absorb certain nutrients in foods, particularly vitamins A, D, E, and K. But keep this in mind. Many foods inherently contain fat. Whole grains are a good example.  One cup of cooked brown rice has about 2 grams of fat, ½ cup of oats (uncooked) about 3 grams, one cup of cooked quinoa about 4 grams.  Green leafy vegetables like kale and romaine contain a little fat.  Even fruits contain a little fat, especially if the seed is consumed (think strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.)

If you are watching your weight and concerned about your heart health you may want to consider much less fat in your diet. Build your meals around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and a few nuts and seeds to do so.