Black Lentil and Bulgur Salad with Carrot Greens Pesto

Even with its unbearable heat waves, summer is a luxurious time of year. I wish I could grab it by its tail, harness it and slow it down. I love the flowers in every yard, walkway and park. The plants bearing fruits and vegetables, and the farmers bringing their best to the market.

With July gone, we are down to August and September, and then is winter. Unless we get a long enough fall to drown our sorrows before the snow stars to pile. I shouldn’t be thinking about winter and should just enjoy the present, the hot weather, and the abundance from the land.

My new weekly ritual includes a trip to the Union Station Farmers Market, which is proving educational. We’ve had markets in Denver on previous years, but none that accumulated the quantity and quality of locally grown produce that this, new to the city, market is bringing.

For years, I envied the Boulder and Longmont markets, and traveled at last once a month during the summer to indulge on buying produce grown just a few miles away; now they travel every Saturday to bring their produce to us in Denver.

union station farmers market denver

Many meals and cooking ideas spring every week based on what’s available, a concept I didn’t follow particularly close before I challenged myself to cook the majority of our meals using only seasonal produce. By seasonal, I mean whatever is in season around me, or at least in the United States especially during the winter months, not including Hawaii, I haven’t bought a pineapple in years, and not including snow and sticks from our Colorado winter harvest.

Some meals are simple variations using, for example, different types of cucumbers {which just this year, after 15 years in the U.S. and 13 of those in the kitchen I found they are nicknamed “cukes”} like lemon cucumbers in a cucumber-tomato salad dressed with carrot greens pesto.

lemon cucumbers

Other meals, like this Bulgur and Lentil Salad, are born out of the necessity for an easy to take lunch that’s nutritious and simple to make, all while providing a punch of flavor to keep me from stopping at the burrito place nearby for a second snack. Continue reading Black Lentil and Bulgur Salad with Carrot Greens Pesto

Curried-Yellow Pea “Hummus”

For 25 years I have cooked pulses {dried beans, peas and lentils} and yet, I still find road blocks from time to time, this time it was of the yellow pea kind.

After soaking the peas for a few hours, I proceeded to cook them as always. They cooked, and they cooked, and hours past, and they kept on cooking, never getting beyond “al dente”.

“What happened to the peas?” asked my husband,
“They toughened up and formed a conspiracy against me,” I replied.

Left with a pot of yellow peas, with a personality disorder that gave them the texture of a raw jicama, posed two possible outcomes:

1- Compost them and forget the incident ever happened, after all I have to protect my reputation

2- Puree them into a hummus-like spread and pretend it was intentional

And so, Curried-Yellow Pea hummus was born.

peahummus

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Leaf + Fruit + Root : Salad

Two weeks down and it’s just hitting me that I’m a teacher. The hours seem longer when I stand in front of students glaring at me as I float through words as if it were a dream. I enter panic mode when I run out of material but not of time, and make up conversation trying to shake the lethargic crowd from their modern 10 minute attention span daze.

“Any questions or thoughts on today’s lecture?” I ask
“…” crickets, and the look my dog gives me when he’s misbehaved.

I must say, teaching is as much of a learning experience for me as for my students. One thing is to know the subject one is teaching, and another is to know how to teach it. The first week, I rambled through lecture so fast, as if it were some prep I had to finish as quick as possible, and ran out of material before my time was up. Happy students, they were, getting out early on the first day of class.

On week two I brought TedTalks, videos, quotes, articles, and every imaginable trick to stretch the class and keep my subjects alive. Lecture slides finished, time left 1 hour! At least I didn’t bore them to death.

So my new goal is to work hard at the art of s-l-o-w-i-n-g-d-o-w-n. Taking my time. Looking at the world. Pacing life. Enjoying every bite.

citrus

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Black Beans and Farro Tacos, to celebrate The International Year of Pulses

The United Nations declared 2016 “The International Year of Pulses“, and I learned that dried beans, peas and lentils are called pulses.

Beans, peas and lentils are the back bone of a Colombian diet. Each of my aunts and my mother have claimed fame to one of them as the best lentil maker, or the best pinto bean maker, in the family. I learned to make lentil soup from my mother, as she was crowned queen of lentils long before I could walk.

So, it was only fair that I carried that with me into my married life, something my anglo-saxon husband hesitated to accept the first time I cooked lentils. “Lentils? why?” was his reaction, all I could think was “who doesn’t like lentils?” A similar question when I bought our first pressure cooker, “What for?” he asked, “For beans to cook quicker?” For me, it was incomprehensible a kitchen without one, a pressure cooker that is.

The choo choo of a pressure cooker meant a kitchen in action. Yes, I did eventually break my cooker and used canned beans for years. To my defense, I was trying not to be “too Colombian” on my poor boy. Unfortunately, some things never change and the pressure cooker is back in the kitchen. A new version {a bit fancy, I must admit} I’m still trying to figure out.

The vast variety of pulses found at the food store is more than I’d ever seen, even my mother was astounded when I took her there and showed her mung beans, adzuki beans, black “caviar” lentils, and more, much more.

vegetarian bean and farro tacos

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Rainbow Chard and Root Vegetable Salad – The Road to Recovery

I can still hear my mother shout from the kitchen “Comete las acelgas!” eat your chard. The edges of the plate crowded with leaves the color of canned green beans. Tears, rolling down my pale cheeks.

Much of my culinary scars come from early experiences of not-the-right-cooking-method syndrome. I can attest to have company on this recovery journey. A friend once told me “I never knew asparagus had crunch!”

winter salad

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Sprouted Bean and Farro Chili, To Warm Up my Colombian Bones

Winter is when the tag “Made in Colombia” sticks up from my back, even after 15 years living in Colorado, the frigid temperatures make me wheeze, my bones ache, and all I want to do is eat.

vegetarian chili high protein

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Vegetarian Lentil Soup and Lentil Salad

Lentils are, and have been, one of my favorite foods since I was a little girl. The smell of lentils cooking brings back many memories of home and family gatherings, and the same recipe has been part of my family for generations, a way to teach the young their first cooking lessons. Lentils have an invaluable nutritional make up: high in protein, fiber and iron, and low in sugars and fat.lentils

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Black-eyed Pea and Swiss Chard Vegan Minestrone

Paging the latest issue of Food and Wine magazine I stumbled upon a recipe for minestrone, which reminded me how much I love this hearty bean soup. Many variations use some sort of meat like sausage, bacon, pancetta or ham, but I wanted a vegetarian {vegan actually} version of it.

Since I have been trying my luck with black eyed peas lately, it seemed like a great recipe to use them. I didn’t grow up eating this dalmatian looking legume and didn’t know what to expect the first few times I cooked it, but they are easy to manage, hold their shape well while cooking and have a subtle earthy flavor. It’s said that this cowpea – as it’s also known- originated in North Africa and was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish settlers becoming a favorite in the south.

Black eyed peas cook fast if they have been soaked over night, and cook even faster in a pressure cooker. I grew up cooking with a pressure cooker and was one of my first acquisitions in my married life here in the states, but after working my inexpensively made cooker to death I fell into the hands of convenience and began using canned beans {which are good to have for on the fly meals, but don’t taste as good and cost more than the dried counter parts.}

vegetables for vegan minestrone

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Yellow Peas with Wild Rice Pilaf

“Looking at the world from other species point of view is a cure for the disease of human self-importance.”
Michael Pollan

The rain has fallen for days on end. The chewy moisture in the air tastes of minerals and earth, and it smells like a morning on a camping trip to the mountains. 

The grass is taller than the hungry bunnies frolicking around it, and the garden blossoms one sprout at the time. mr bunnyPea plants stretch their skinny fingers in search of new legs to lean on. Arugula with its spicy personality grows an inch a day, keeping up with my clippers and my winter-tired appetite. Reddish buttons peek from the dirt announcing the soon to come radishes, and the chives are ready to welcome the bees with their lavender-colored puff of hair.

Spring has held its promise of wild change. From snow, to hail, to endless rain.

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