No Croutons Required - the Winner for March

The theme for March was to come up with a dish containing either mung beans or adzuki beans. The entries we received were all tempting and it was tough to make a choice, but the most popular recipe this month was this mouthwatering and creative Sprouts Paratha from Harini of Sugar 'n' Spice. Congratulations to Harini! I am excited to try this recipe.

Jacqueline will be hosting the April edition of No Croutons Required. The challenge for April is to come up with a soup or salad from past themes. Choose one that was featured on the month of your birthday.

Mesopotamian Barley, Chickpea, Lentil, Tahini Soup

Here is yet another recipe from Silk Road Cooking. I simply cannot resist the array of offerings contained in this book. A perfectly balanced meal in a bowl, as we have legumes and also a grain; in this case, pearl barley, lentils, chickpeas and veggies. For dessert, I served some rather savory jam filled buns. Certainly a good way to warm up on a cold day and it yields a good amount, so you can share with your friends. I received rave reviews and my sweetie will have lunch to take to work so he can avoid crappy coffee shop offerings.
The nutty flavor goes oh so well with the earthiness of the grain and legumes.

This is my submission to this month's My Legume Love Affair, a popular event started by lovely Susan and hosted this month by Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen.

Mesopotamian Barley, Chickpea, Lentil, Tahini Soup

2 tablespoons of butter, ghee, or oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped (both green and white parts)
a generous handful of fresh green chilies, sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of chickpeas, soaked overnight in enough water to cover and drained
12 cups of vegetable stock or water
1 cup of pearl barley, rinsed
1/2 cup of lentils (I used puy lentils), well rinsed and free of debris
3 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly ground cracked black pepper
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of turmeric
dash of asafetida
dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 cups of kale, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup of tahini
juice from one fresh lemon or two limes

In a large soup pot, heat the butter, oil or ghee over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, leeks, chilies and garlic. Stir and fry for 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the chickpeas to the pot, along with the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Now add the barley, lentils, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Again, reduce the heat to medium low and cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, fresh herbs, kale, turmeric, cayenne, asafetida, cumin and coriander. Simmer over low heat for another 30 - 40 minutes. Add more stock if necessary.

Stir in the tahini and lemon or lime juice and partially blend the soup with a hand blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Add more salt and pepper and garnish with parsley, dill and strips of hot chilies.

Serves 6 - 8
More Middle Eastern recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Marinated Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus with Olives
Middle Eastern Chickpea and Olive Salad

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

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Carrot Sambar

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
The food is flying out of my kitchen lately, which means I have been able to treat friends and family to some of my dishes. It is also a good idea to cook at home in a sanitary kitchen with fresh ingredients rather than running the perils of eating out or ordering in. Much cheaper too and you can control your own spicing.

One of my latest creations is this warming carrot sambar that also has a cooling effect, if that makes sense. Sambars are popular in South India and most typically served with rice. A wide variety of vegetables can be used, and often toor dal and tamarind is a common addition, along with a delightful array of spices. Usually thick and fiery, sambars are often the first course for a South Indian full course meal. Do consider making your own sambar powder, as this is an essential ingredient and as I have noted before, fresh spice blends made in your own kitchen are far superior to store bought blends, and so easy to make if you have a coffee grinder to whiz it all up.

Carrot Sambhar

1/2 cup of toor dal or lentils, well rinsed
4 cups of water
1 teaspoon of turmeric

2 tablespoons of butter or ghee or oil
2 whole dried chili peppers, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon of asafoetida,
a generous handful of dried curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons of urad dal, well rinsed

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1 cup of carrots, washed and sliced
2 teaspoons of sambar powder
1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste
1/2 cup of tomato paste
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 cup of fresh coriander or parsley, chopped

In a medium - large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the toor dal or lentils along with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder. Reduce the heat to medium - low and simmer, uncovered, for roughly 30 minutes, or until the dal is creamy. Add more water if necessary. Set aside.

Heat the butter or ghee or oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the hot peppers, asafoetida, curry leaves, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and urad dal. Stir and fry until the mustard seeds begin to splutter and pop.

Now add the onion and tomatoes and another 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and stir and fry for 5 minutes. Toss in the carrots, sambar powder, tamarind paste, tomato paste and sea salt. Cook, covered, over medium - low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the toor dal, along with the remaining cooking liquid, and 2 cups of water and the parsley or coriander. Add more water as desired.

More sambars you may enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Black-Eyed Pea Sambar
Butternut Squash Sambar

On the top of the reading stack: How to tell fortunes with cards

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Sun Chlorella Giveaway

I am pleased to offer my readers another giveaway. I was recently treated to some revitalizing natural products from Sun Chlorella, located in the US. Included in the package, Sun Chlorella A tablets, Sun Chlorella Granules, a moisturizing cream that I truly think is one of the best I have ever used because it keeps your face happy all day long without any greasiness, a few samples of Wild Sun Eleuthero Tea and Wild Sun Eleuthero.

Rich in chlorophyll, chlorella is a purifying agent that is sure to give a boost to your nutrient levels and general well-being. This freshwater green algae is a superfood indeed, as it contains 60 % protein, 18 amino acids, along with vitamins and minerals such as potassium, all of the B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and iron, and also beta carotene and lutein. The benefit of the granules is that those of us who have trouble swallowing supplements can simply add the mixture to a glass of water or smoothie and enjoy. I found the granules did not really add any extra taste to the water, but are packed full of goodness.

Eleuthero is an adaptogenic herb that provides an extra boost at the same time as a relaxing alternative to coffee or sugar. Now that I do not indulge in coffee, I was delighted to receive this product that helps to relieve stress and provide some additional energy.

I also can't but help to rave about the Sun Chlorella Cream that contains natural ingredients such as grapefruit seed extract, clove extract and chlorophyll. Purifying and refreshing for your skin, you can expect a process of skin renewal.

The random giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US. The offering is some Chlorella Tablets and Granules. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post for a chance to win. I will run the contest until April 7th. If you don't have a blog, please do include your email address in the comment section so I can contact you should you be the lucky winner.

For additional information, do visit the newsroom where you will also find some tempting recipes.

No Croutons Required - Aduki Beans and Mung Beans

The challenge for March was to come up with a recipe featuring either mung beans or aduki beans. As usual, we have received some lovely and healthy entries. Please do cast your vote in the comment section or via email. Also note that my entry is not eligible for voting.

Our first entry this month is from Harini of Sugar 'n' Spice. She submits this most delightful recipe for Stuffed Sprouts Paratha. Sprouted mung beans are here combined with wheat flour, Parantha masala, mango powder, turmeric, green chillies and cilantro. This mouthwatering bread would be a ideal accompaniment to any Indian meal. (USA)

Our next submission is from Michelle of Food, Football and a Baby. More sprouts and how could we resist Grandma's Spiced Sprouted Mung Beans?. Longevity is so charming and precious and what better way to celebrate than to make this wholesome dish? Spicy with a hint of sweetness, sprouted mung beans come together with curry leaves, coconut, onion and fresh lime juice along with a masala consisting of red chilies, onion, garlic, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, turmeric and tamarind. Sounds delicious! (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Janet of Taste Space is up next with this tempting and hearty Adzuki Bean Soup. Vegetable broth, adzuki beans, shiitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, soy sauce, agave nectar, kombu and toasted almonds are featured here. Easy to make and a fine accompaniment to any grain dish. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Mango Cheeks of Allotment 2 Kitchen enters a balanced and nourishing Aduki Bean and Mung Bean Brown Rice Salad. Adzuki beans, mung beans, brown basmati rice, celery and spring onions are dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic and mustard powder. This dish should surely be a staple on the menu. (West of Scotland, UK)

From Adam and Theresa of Yogi Kitchen we are treated to this Four Bean Indian Salad that is inspired by one of their favorite cooks who has a cookbook we are told is a must have. Green beans, fresh dill, toor dhal, mung beans (both sprouted and whole) and red bell pepper are tempered with black mustard seeds, red chilies, asafetida and coconut. This fine dish will be served in my kitchen soon. (Tarifa, Andalucia in Spain)

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe serves up an Adzuki Bean Soup that she was inspired to make after I announced the challenge for March. Adzuki beans are whizzed up with onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, tomato paste, leeks, celery, carrot, paprika, veggie stock, parsley and yogurt. Sounds like a delightful soup that would be sure to please legume fans. (Melbourne, Australia)

Rachel of Rachel's Bite enters this nutrient packed Miso Udon Stir-Fry with Greens and Beans that she says tastes even better than it looks, though the picture has my mouth watering. Broccoli, brown rice udon noodles, garlic, swiss chard, green onions, adzuki beans, miso, toasted sesame seeds and Sriracha hot sauce all come together for a most delightful meal. Good for you and your tummy will be happy. (Chicago, Illinois, USA)

My submission this month is an Adzuki Bean Casserole. These delightful little red beans are baked with carrots, green beans, onion, pumpkin puree, sweet potato, kale, corn, peas, dried mushrooms, tomatoes (fresh and sun-dried), oats, cayenne, paprika, thyme, fresh dill, miso, tamari, extra old cheddar cheese and some Parmesan. My friends were certainly pleased with the results and the addition of olives, red chili flakes, saffron and sour cream the next day was a tasty twist. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Our next entry is from Valerie of City Life Eats. This gluten-free Roasted Onion Quinoa Azuki Salad is sure to please hungry tummies. East to prepare, Valerie made this up for several people. Roasted onion, quinoa, lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, aduki beans, carrots, parsley and scallions make a fine salad indeed. (Washington, DC, USA)

Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf cooks up a Cold Roasted Mung Broth - Uppa Hesaru that she says is perfect for summer months, though it can be served with warm gravy and rice on chilly nights. Roasted and mashed mung beans come together with roasted red chilies and garlic and the dish is tempered with mustard seeds, dried red chili, curry leaves and asafoetida. Add some fresh lemon juice if desired. This interesting preparation has my tummy growling. (Bangalore, India)

Caffettiera of La Caffettiera Rosa enters the fray with this heavenly Sprouted Mung Bean Curry. I can certainly appreciate a fellow spice lovers addiction to spices! This dish is made up of sprouted mung beans, brown mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, coriander seeds, dried red chilies, turmeric, asafoetida, onion, coconut and garnished with fresh cilantro and lime juice. I would be happy to have this dish on the menu regularly. (Germany)

Heather of Gluten-Free Cat, who won the challenge last month, is back again with a gluten-free Adzuki Bean and Swiss Chard Skillet (or soup / stew). The goodness of adzuki beans come together with swiss chard, mushrooms, fresh basil, coconut, ground mustard, turmeric, cumin, garlic and veggie broth. Served over Jasmine rice, you are in for a real treat. (Nashville, Tennessee, USA)

Last, but not least, from Torwen we have an appetizing Japanese Azuki Soup-Karee. A good choice for vegetarians and vegans, this soup is made with onions, ginger, chili flakes, curry powder, a laurel leaf, hokkaido squash, vegetable broth, adzuki beans, and soy milk. Served with brown rice, this soup is surely most satisfying. (Heidelberg, Germany)

Jacqueline will be hosting the April edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of the month for the theme.

Scottish Oat Scones ( "Horse Treats" )

Scottish Oat Scones

Samuel Johnson used to say that oats are "a grain used in England to feed horses and in Scotland to feed the populace." As a wonderful source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, fiber and B vitamins, this may explain why there were so many splendid specimens of English horses and Scots. As with the Scots, we Canadians must suffer a miserable climate for several months a year, so these “horse treats” ought to do as well for us as for them. Easy to make, these sturdy oat scones are warming, filling, and just slightly sweet — and they’re just wonderful with butter and jam spread over them.

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Azuki Bean Casserole

Azuki Bean Casserole

One-dish meals are always a blessing for cooks on the go who want good nourishment for their family. Packed full of beans, vegetables and herbs, along with some oats, miso and cheese, your diners will be asking for seconds. The small red beans known as "azuki" or "adzuki" are filling and high in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, and iron. Any seasonal selection of vegetables are worth considering for this casserole. If you don't have azuki beans on hand, whole mung beans would be a good alternative. Kidney beans are also to be considered, along with a bit more spice.

The next evening I reheated the casserole and added some chopped pitted black olives, a few dollops of sour cream, more grated cheddar cheese, finely chopped seeded hot chilies, a sprinkling of saffron and a dash of red pepper flakes. Much like soups, this casserole tastes better the day after. The smell is heavenly when reheating, just as it was when I cooked it to begin with.

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Cocoa Nut Butter No-Bake Fudge

One of my favorite food bloggers is Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe. Recently, she posted a no bake fudge that had my mouth watering and of course I just had to try it, though I generally prefer savory treats. The addition of maple syrup, nut butter and pistachios really make this a rather almost healthy sweet. Easy to prepare and oh so addictive, this is a must try recipe for sure. My friends were most happy with this fudge and they could not stop munching on it, despite a full tummy after dinner.

no bake chocolate nut butter fudge

Cocoa Nut Butter No-Bake FudgeCocoa Nut Butter No-Bake Fudge
Recipe by
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Published on March 15, 2011

Simple but heavenly and guilt-free no-bake cocoa fudge with nut butter

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 1/2 cup nut butter (I used almond butter)
  • 3/4 cup melted butter or coconut oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup maple syrup, to taste
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • pinch of chili powder
  • 1/3 cup raw pistachios, crushed into pieces
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the nut butter and melted butter or coconut oil. Stir in the maple syrup and cocoa. Stir in the salt and spices and fold in the pistachios.

  • Line a 5 or 6 inch glass or metal pan with parchment paper and transfer the mixture, taking care to spread evenly. Freeze until the fudge is firm, cut into small squares, and store any leftovers in the freezer.

Makes 9 to 12 small fudge squares
Cocoa Nut Butter No-Bake Fudge

More chocolate treats from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Cocoa Fruit Treats
Chocolate Cocoa Brownies with Dried Cranberries and Chickpea Flour
Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chocolate Icing
Peanut Butter Chocolate Squares

On the top of the reading stack: Food and Drink

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Giveaway from Lisa's Kitchen

I am delighted to offer another giveaway to my readers. This time, a random draw will be held for this charming broccoli necklace made by Fingerfood Jewelry located in Australia. All of their pieces are handmade, without molds, so the winner will be receiving a unique adornment that will be sure to impress your friends and family.

This contest is open to residents worldwide. All you need to do is leave a comment including the words "I heart Broccoli" before the 26th of March for a chance to win. If you don't have a blog, please do include your email address so I can contact you.

Madras-Style Red Lentil Soup

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Madras-Style Red Lentil Soup

As much as I prefer whole beans, I never can resist lentils. They are especially handy when you don't think to soak beans the night before dinner service. Wishing to incorporate more vegetables into my diet, soups are the perfect solution. Spicy, hearty and earthy, this soup will not fail to please. Served with a grain, you are in for one fine meal.

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Tomato Cornmeal Muffins with Cheddar Cheese

As I prefer savory baked treats, I typically turn to quick breads that go well with lunch or dinner or as a snack. The following recipe is adapted from The Best Quick Breads by Beth Hensperger which is an essential book for those bakers that adore baking easy breads. There are roughly 150 recipes for muffins, loaves, gingerbreads, cornbreads, coffee cakes, pancakes and crepes, waffles, popovers and oven pancakes, dumplings, scones, soda breads, biscuits, shortcakes and lots of helpful hints and tips. Here, cheddar cheese chunks are inserted into the middle of the muffin and melt during the baking process for a unique culinary experience. Any sharp cheese can be used instead of the cheddar. These muffins would be a most pleasant surprise for dinner guests.

Tomato Cornmeal Muffins with Cheddar Cheese

3/4 cups of unbleached white flour
1/2 cup of cornmeal
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped
3 - 4 sun dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained and finely chopped
1 cup of milk
2 large eggs
1 heaping teaspoon of honey
1/4 cup of olive oil
roughly 4 ounces of extra old cheddar cheese, cut into inch cubes

Grease 9 standard sized muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the tomatoes, making sure the mixture is distributed evenly and well combined. Make a well in the center.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, honey and olive oil. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Fill the prepared cups half full of batter and then push a cube of cheese into the center. Fill the cups with the remaining batter and bake in a preheat 375 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown. Let sit in the pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 - 15 minutes. Serve warm or cool.

Makes 9 large muffins.

More muffin recipes from Lisa's Kitchen you will be sure to enjoy:
Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins
Cornmeal Honey Muffins
Spicy Baked Egg Muffins
Savory Dill Ricotta Muffins

On the top of the reading stack: Healthy South Indian Cooking

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Herbed Cannellini and Artichokes with Fennel and Parsley Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash and Herbed Cannellini and Artichokes with Fennel and Parsley Salad

Making a healthy vegetarian entrée look like a gourmet dish isn't the result of elaborate and technical procedures. Rather, it's the product of quality ingredients, simple but appealing food combinations, and inviting contrasts in color and texture, all assembled with care, attention, creativity and a love for food. Of course, a fancy menu-style name might impress your guests as well!

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Tamarind and Coconut Pulao Rice

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
More silk road cooking. My current offering is this spicy, sour rice dish that will not fail to please. I don't often cook with raisins, but in this case, they complimented the cashews and the rice perfectly. Serve with a vegetable soup, such as this Indian Tamarind, Carrot and Coconut Soup and your diners won't ask for much more, except for maybe a piece of fine dark chocolate for dessert.

Tamarind and Coconut Pulao Rice
Adapted from Silk Road Cooking

1 cup of basmati rice
2 tablespoons of peanut oil
1/2 cup of raw, unsalted, cashew nuts, broken into bits
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida powder
1 teaspoon of brown or black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of mixed pepper corns
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
3 hot green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
2 - 3 tablespoons of tamarind paste
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2/3 cup of coconut flakes or powder (or a combination of both)
1 cup of fresh parsley, or cilantro, chopped

Rinse the rice well in a strainer. Transfer to a bowl and soak for at least an hour. Drain and air dry for 20 - 30 minutes. In a medium pot, bring the rice to a boil with 2 cups of water. Reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or medium heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When hot, add the cashews and raisins and stir and fry for a few minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat. When hot, add the asafetida, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, fenugreek seeds and sesame seeds, and stir and fry for 30 seconds - 1 minute. Add the chopped chilies and stir and fry for another 30 seconds.

Now add the tamarind paste, sugar, sea salt and stir well to combine. Add the cooked rice, along with the coconut and stir to combine. Cover and gently cook for another 5 minutes. Toss in the nut mixture and parsley or cilantro and gently fluff with a fork. Serve hot.

Serves 4 - 6

More rice dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Curried Rice and Fruit Salad with Fresh Mango Dressing
Wild Rice Chowder with Fresh Coconut and Mushrooms
Arborio Rice Pudding
Black Mustard Seed Rice

On the top of the reading stack: Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours

Audio Accompaniment: a meowing cat

Jam Filled Buns

Wanting something extra to go with a grain, legume and vegetable soup, I made up a batch of these pretty buns (or if you prefer, biscuits) to go along with dinner. They are a perfect dessert as well, and not too sweet, assuming you use a jam that doesn't have sweetener added. I really liked the grainy texture that results from using spelt flour. It has a slight grittiness which reminds me of cornmeal. The dough was easy to work with and the buns came together in hardly anytime at all. Quick breads are a perfect addition to any meal, especially when you have guests coming over for dinner.

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