January 30, 2014

Pin it Party!

I've rounded up some recent favorites to take part in the Lean Green Bean Pin it Party. Thanks for your support, you harried parents (and non!) who make dinner materialize every night, because it matters. Pin, pin, pin!

January 26, 2014

Sprouted Grain Pizza Valentines

Darwin and I are food shopping. He's buckled into the cart, and I hand him things to drop in: a pound of carrots, a bunch of rappini, a bag of dried beans, sprouted grain English muffins, and a few oranges. I give him a knot of ginger and he inhales the scent, deeply. Things are going pretty well.

Enter Bunny Cookies. They're small and chocolate or honey or some other sugar-attracted flavor and neither of us has ever eaten one, or seen someone else eat one, or gotten a look at one out of the box, but it doesn't matter. Darwin wants Bunny Cookies, and strains against the buckles to point. "I want to buy them!"

OK, I've got this. "Those cookies aren't very healthy for our bodies. I'll make us some bunny cookies at home." Then I let him pick out a special fruit instead. Thank you, universe, for my usually-not-tantrum-prone child.

Now, of course, Darwin often reminds me how I promised to summon a hopping army of healthy bunnies from our oven. The whole experience drives home how influential cool shapes are, whether we're serving broccoli trees or sweet potato stars or strawberry Santas or those bunny cookies I'll get around to eventually.

In the meantime, as I wait for bunny inspiration to strike (got any?), I'm making my little boy Valentine these sprouted grain English muffin pizzas, cut simply into hearts for the season...

Kids can spread and sprinkle the toppings themselves, and the mini pizzas have the hand-held appeal of the classic English muffin pizza...

Look for a marinara sauce that has five or fewer grams of sugar per serving, and extra virgin olive oil instead of soybean or canola oil. Choose whole milk mozzarella for healthy fats, and grate it at home for the best taste. Top with herbs and veggies like chopped basil, red onions, olives, mushrooms, and bell peppers.


Sprouted Grain Pizza Valentines
Makes 4 little pizzas (2-4 servings)

2 sprouted grain English muffins (we use Ezekial brand)
1/2 cup good quality marinara sauce
1 cup freshly-shredded mozzarella
optional toppings: chopped basil, onions, olives, mushrooms, and bell peppers

Defrost muffins and cut them in half.

Cut a v-shaped divot into each muffin, then slice from the sides and top to make a heart shape. Save the scraps for breadcrumbs, or to dip separately in marinara.

Spread sauce and sprinkle cheese and veggies as you like, then toast. We made some "upside down" so the red sauce really popped.

January 19, 2014

Quintessential Lentils

A long time ago, I tackled lentils as a matter of parent-preparedness. Our recipe collection needed a great lentil stew, I reasoned, so Darwin could hold onto something earthy and sweet, humble and harmonious as he grew up and ventured into the world.

I launched the search unnecessarily early. I imagine (remember?) poking my big belly against the kitchen counter to chop celery and fill pots with practice-stews. Here's another likely beginning: the astonishing day Darwin's dimpled hand swiped at solid food for the first time.

I scoured every book and blog I could find, tested recipes, and reported back to Scott: "It's pretty good, but it's not going to be our stew." The right one was still out there, somewhere.

Lentils enthuse me for good reason. Rich in protein, iron, fiber, folate, and B-vitamins, these disc-shaped legumes have a way of combining the big and little things of the world: they're ordinary and inexpensive, but they link us to people across oceans and continents and even to our neolithic ancestors(!)

Here in our kitchen, the magic of discovering the perfect recipe arrived like the meal itself, as a slow, subtle unfolding, a gradual deepening. I tested and tweaked for months, over- and under-complicating techniques and ingredients, until one day, almost when I'd stopped paying attention...



Quintessential Lentils
Serves 6 or more

1 lb lentils, rinsed, drained, and sorted
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled
3 celery stalks, chopped or sliced
1/2 cup (uncooked) short-grain brown rice, well-rinsed and drained
8oz tomato sauce (we like Muir Glen brand)
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1 Tbls. unsulfured molasses
juice from half a lemon
a swirl of olive oil, for sauteing
1 tsp. sea salt

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, saute onion, carrot, and celery heat until translucent, about ten minutes.

Add lentils, basil, thyme, sage, and seven cups of water. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce heat to low, just the barest simmer. Set a timer for 15 minutes.

When the timer dings, add the rice and bring back to a simmer. Cover, and set the timer again for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and gently, adding a little extra water if the lentils are starting to breech the surface. (Don't exceed 1 cup extra water)

When the timer dings, add the tomato sauce and molasses. Set the timer for fifteen minutes.

When the timer dings, turn off the heat, and stir in salt and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings before ladling into bowls.

January 12, 2014

Garlicky Romaine Chop

A new friend at a dinner party casually snagged a leaf out of the salad bowl, crunched it between her teeth, and did a double-take."Woah. What did you do to this?"

It was the same question I'd asked my dad a few nights earlier, my speech garbled by a mouthful of romaine. He'd told me how my grandmother (who's about to turn 91) used to rub a cut garlic clove around the inside of a salad bowl before adding the greens: an old French trick. Now my father puts the good stuff where it counts, crushed directly into a ramekin of peppery extra virgin olive oil. The garlicky oil glistens and marinates on the counter for half an hour before it's time to toss the salad.

Outrageously, there's only one more ingredient: salt, which transforms this into one of the best green salads I have had in years. Trust me on the omission of vinegar. The salad is punchy and complex all by itself.

As you chop and toss, think the perfect partner to a cheese omelet. Think spicy, cancer-preventing garlic. Think a resemblance to the Italian appetizer pinzimonio, which marries colorful crudites with a strong, salted olive oil. Think cold-pressed olive oil for a healthy heart. Think an elegant side salad that takes five minutes to make.

As for Darwin, he still confuses "Romaine" with "The Ramones." He's a salad lover in training. I always, always put a few leaves on his plate, and he usually munches one or two, wanly interested. His favorite salad remains our mayo-free coleslaw.

He'll come around.


Garlicky Romaine Chop
Serves 4 or more

1 small head of fresh, crisp romaine
1/4 cup peppery extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
sea salt, to taste

Pour olive oil into a small bowl, and crush the garlic cloves directly into it. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.

Wash and thoroughly dry romaine, and chop into one-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, toss the chopped romaine with the garlicky oil until the oil coats each piece. Taste a leaf, and drizzle in extra oil from the bottle if needed. (Don't worry, it won't dilute the garlicky goodness.)

Sprinkle sea salt on the lettuce to taste, and serve immediately.

January 5, 2014

Whole Wheat Pomegranate Pancakes

Happy 2014! It's January, which means we grapple with big plans and questions, like, is it time for healthy change to the way my family eats? Or is it time for luscious pancakes?

This recipe says, Here. Have Both. These pancakes are powerful. A bite may compel you to your recipe box or bookmarks to toss or delete whatever refined-flour recipe you used to make. They move me, too: picture me dashing across the street in my pajamas to borrow an egg from my neighbor so I can mix up a batch. (In gratitude, I bring her a pancake hot from the skillet.)

Yes, that's cream making them magically rich (and providing healthy saturated fats for growing brains.) Those are sweet fried bananas belying the need for syrup. A little hit of vinegar lifts them up like a summer breeze.

And they positively sparkle...

Coarse flour, with visible bits of bran and germ, digests slowly and prevent insulin spikes. Use stone-ground whole wheat flour for the best nutrition. Then pair the pom pancakes with freshly steamed broccoli, because broccoli belongs at breakfast.

Pomegranates are fresh and beautiful at the markets right now here in New York. If you're reading this off-season, the recipe is equally enjoyable with a variety of fruits. In the summer, I top the pancakes with juicy sloops of white nectarine. 

Looking for more healthy pancakes? WHY? (Just kidding. Here.)


Whole Wheat Pomegranate Pancakes
Makes 10 pancakes

1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
1 cup half & half
1 egg
1 Tbls. cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbls. virgin coconut oil, melted
pinch salt
butter, for frying
1 large banana
1 pomegranate, arils extracted and rinsed

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cream, egg and vinegar, and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Into the "wet" bowl, add coconut oil and vanilla.

Pour dry ingredients into the wet ones, stirring and folding to combine. Do not overmix.

Let batter rest for a few moments while you heat a pat of butter in a large nonstick pan (we like ceramic) over medium heat.

Ladle batter into the buttered pan, 2-3 cakes at a time, and top each cake with sliced banana and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. Cook until popped bubbles leave little craters in the top of the pancakes, then flip and cook until golden brown, a few minutes more.

Serve pancakes hot, topped with more pomegranate seeds and fresh bananas or a little real maple syrup if you wish.