Category Archives: legumes

Curried Carrot Sprout Salad

In the tastes-better-than-the-picture category we have today’s lunch offering.  A conversation earlier in the day with my friend Blujay about ways to use sprouts brought up the idea of putting them into a curried carrot salad.  

Salads are so wonderful in the warmer months, keeping a couple on hand in the fridge means you always have something for lunch or dinner.  I love the idea of assembling a bunch of different salads for a composed plate as a refreshing way to make a meal.  If you don’t happen to have fresh sprouts on hand you many grocery stores now carry them although they’re certainly easy to make and I think it’s better to get them fresh, it’s certainly easy to do.

Curried Carrot Sprout Salad

6 large carrots, topped and shredded
1 C. fresh bean sprouts
1/4 C. dried currants
1/4 C. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 C. chopped walnuts
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1 t. curry powder
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together
Let sit in fridge for at least two hours to chill and for flavor to settle

Bean sprouts are very healthy.  The act of sprouting forces the bean to convert some of it’s starches, this makes it more easily digestible.  Many of the nutrients are increased by sprouting as well, especially vitamin A, vitamin C and some of the B vitamins.  They can be made year round using very simple equipment, just a pot, a sieve and an insulated space.

I use mine in salads, green smoothies, blended into soups and sometimes just as a snack.  They are delicious

Homemade Bean Sprouts

1/2 C. assorted dried beans (I like adzuki, mung, lentil and black beans)
Sort through beans and rinse
Put in a metal pot, cover with water and set in the oven overnight (oven is off)
In the morning drain and rinse the beans well
Return to the oven
Repeat until beans have 1/2″ long tails

Rinse and eat
May be stored in the fridge but make sure they are fully dry before you do that to avoid spoilage

Note:  when making your sprouts it is helpful to put a note stating “sprouts” on the oven door so that people don’t preheat the oven without looking and accidentally cook your sprouts.  Just saying…

Luscious Limas

Recently we had a our friend Eric over for dinner. As part of the meal we served this lima bean dish which is one that everyone likes. Eric not only had seconds, he asked for the recipe. I figure anytime you have a teenaged boy willingly eating lima beans and asking for more you’ve got a recipe that is a definite keeper.

A great source of fiber, lima beans are also a fabulous source of iron with just 1 C. providing almost 25% of your daily value; they also provide good levels of folate and potassium. Frequently paired with corn to make succotash or added to soups lima beans are tasty and work well as a a dressed up side dish.
Luscious Limas
1 med. red onion diced
2 ribs celery diced
2 C. lima beans
1/2 C. vegetable broth
olive oil
1 t. nutritional yeast
salt and pepper
saute the onion in the olive oil until just starting to soften
add the celery and saute 2 more minutes
add the lima beans and vegetable and cook on med-low until limas are cooked through
add extra broth if needed
sprinkle with nutritional yeast
add salt and pepper to taste
photo courtesy of: Albert Cahalan | Wikimedia Commons
Tuscan Lentil Stew

Tuscan Lentil Stew

I love lentils

This recipe is one that I created as sort of an Italian style ratatouille, a French peasant stew. I substituted the lentils for the eggplant to give a protein boost and it’s a great variation. Served over polenta with a side of spinach sauteed with garlic, lemon and Italian spices it makes a fabulous meal. So I’ve decided to call it Tuscan Lentil Stew. Whatever you call it, it sure is delicious! And the leftovers, if there are any, are even better than the original because the flavors continue to mellow and combine even after cooking.

Lentil nutrition

Lentils referred to in Indian cuisine as daal, come in a number of different colors/types. There are the traditional brown lentils that most of us see at the grocery store. You can however also buy red lentils, which have less fiber, the dark French green ones, a yellow lentil, and a type called Masoor which are brown on the outside but red on the inside. When combining lentils with a grain, such as rice, you get a complete protein as all of the essential amino acids are present.

Lentils are tasty little legumes which pack a powerful nutrition punch. High in fiber, protein, folate, iron, potassium, folate, and manganese, they are quick-cooking and easy to use in a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. They don’t require lots of soaking and can be quickly prepared and ready for a dish without too much effort.

Tuscan Lentil Stew
  1. 1 C. lentils rinsed and picked over
  2. 1 onion chopped small
  3. 3 cloves garlic minced
  4. 3 zucchini cut into 1/2" slices
  5. 1 bell pepper diced
  6. 3 tomatoes diced
  7. 1 1/2 t. Italian herbs
  8. 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  9. 2 T. olive oil
  10. 2 1/2 C. vegetable stock
  1. In a stockpot heat olive oil and saute onion and garlic until onion is starting to soften
  2. Add the herbs and bell pepper and saute one more minute
  3. Add remaining ingredients and simmer on med-low until lentils are done, about 30 minutes
  4. You may need another 1/2 C. of stock
  5. Salt to taste
  1. Delicious served over polenta and topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Easy Polenta
  1. 1 C. cornmeal (I prefer fresh ground but you can use store bought, be sure it's organic corn)
  2. 1 tsp. salt
  3. 3 C. water
  1. Bring water and salt to a boil
  2. Reduce water to a simmer
  3. Very slowly add cornmeal (this is important to avoid lumps)
  4. Cook approximately 20 minutes until mixture thickens
  5. Remove from heat and pour into a pie plate (for triangles) or a cake pan (for squares)
  6. Let polenta set for 10-15 minutes
  7. cut and serve
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Updates for Tuscan Lentil Stew

This continues to be one of my most popular recipes. I love when I hear back from readers who make my recipes.  Here are some of the comments I’ve received
Claire writes, “Tonight I invited my girl friend over for dinner and used your recipe to cook the lentil dish . I added a lot of Italian seasoning and ground basil and the aroma when the stew was simmering was just fantastic. Both my friend and I enjoyed the flavor as well. She needed to add some salt to it as I didn’t put salt. But for me this dish is so flavorful, even without salt I didn’t feel like it was missing anything (plus the chicken stock already contains sodium). I like the combination of the colors, textures, and flavors of the Italian seasoning, tomatoes, onions, and lentils, which really works! We served it over brown rice and it was great!

Thanks for your creativity & recipe. I have always enjoyed reading your posting about nutrition and yummy recipes. Keep up the great work!

Carol wrote in and shared a number of wonderful thoughts:
  • Her method for making polenta “I put the mixture into the top of a double boiler and then don’t need to keep stirring or even to check it, until it is about ready and it does not scorch if I don’t check right on time.” – This is a great idea and I plan to try the double boiler method the next time I make polenta. One of the things that I like most about this method is that it removes the possibility of scorching which can be a problem.
  • “I don’t have any “Italian spice” mix but assume that it would include basil, oregano, parsley and perhaps a bay leaf and or some rosemary I’m really looking forward to trying, tasting then relishing this dish this evening.” – My personal mix, which I use for an Italian style seasoning if I happen to be out of my favorite Penzey’s Italian Herb Mix, is 1 tsp oregano + 1 tsp basil + 1/2 tsp thyme + 1/2 tsp rosemary (crushed in a mortar and pestle) + 2 tsp parsley. This makes more than you need for the Tuscan Lentil Stew recipe but is delicious on a lot of things.
    I’m eating the stew right now; it is delicious. The lentils (which are a small dark variety) cooked up fine in the half-hour with just a prior rinsing, no soaking needed. I cubed a ball of buffalo mozzarella into the polenta after it cooled for 10 minutes, before transferring it to a round pan to firm up. Now, with the hot stew on top, the cheese melted into the wedge and the topping of freshly grated Parmesan on top give it all an extra, rich fillip. Thank you for sharing this recipe.“ – I love the idea of cubing some mozzarella into the recipe and can see how that would add a tasty texture to the polenta. 
If you’re looking for more delicious recipes using lentils:
photo courtesy of Claire Wang

No-knead Mesquite Bread

Those inventive folks over at have come up with a new twist on the, by now, ubiquitous no-knead bread. Laura, one of the Editorial Assistants, found my post about mesquite flour and emailed me to let me know about this really fun article on how to harvest and process mesquite to make the flour. It includes a recipe for No-Knead Mesquite Bread which they said I could share with all of you. Living here in Texas I know we have mesquite, but there isn’t any in my area. I’m going to have to learn to identify it though so that if I find any in my travels I can harvest the pods.

No Knead Mesquite Bread Recipe

3 cups white flour
3 tbls mesquite flour
½ tsp yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups of water

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
Add water and mix
Stir with fork (mix will be sticky)
Cover in a bowl, let sit overnight
Place bread dough on cutting board covered with towel for 2 hours
In metal bowl bake in sun oven @ 350 for 1 hour

photo courtesy of: Wendy Tremayne

How To Eat Beans

My friend Sam writes, “Do you have some tricks to help me to eat beans? Me who HATES the texture of beans or anything remotely chalky. We do like Mexican but I won’t touch re-fried unless they are buried under cheese. I don’t like lentils in any way, shape or form.”


Beans are a great; high in fiber, B vitamins and protein they are an excellent food to add to the diet. Different beans have different micronutrients so varying the types of beans that you eat is a good nutritional choice. Right now beans are available fresh from the farmer’s markets. They are very tasty, not chalky and make a great addition to a lot of different dishes such as my peas-y peas and celery.


Another great way to eat beans is to use them to make a spread like hummus. Hummus is made from chickpeas, but you can make something similar with other beans. Add spices and herbs to flavor it anyway you want; this makes a great dip for veggies, pita bread, or crackers.


One of my favorite ways to eat beans is to take cooked beans (although canned beans are fine too), mash them up with sauteed minced onion and garlic, add some chopped parsley and curry powder and make patties out of it. Pan fry the patties, stuff them into a pita with frisee lettuce, chopped tomato, and a delicious sauce (suggestions include tahini, spicy yogurt, or a falafel sauce) and you’ve got a great meal with beans.


A third suggestion would be to take dried beans, grind them into a flour (a grain mill works best for this although there is a KitchenAid attachment that will also do the job) and then add that to a tomato sauce for casserole dishes or put the flour into baked goods. You’ll still get the protein and nutrients from the beans but they won’t be so obvious in your food.


As the saying goes, beans are good for your heart. Eat some today.


photo courtesy of

Peas-y Peas And Celery

A recent trip to the farmer’s market introduced me to a new pea I had never tasted before, purple hull peas.  Related to black eyed peas, they are both cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) which are very common in the Southern part of the United States.  They are sometimes also called field peas.
I was familiar with black eyed peas but had only ever eaten them after they had been dried and needed rehydration.   These were fresh and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them.  
After browsing cook books and the internet and finally decided to use them in a family favorite, peas and celery.  Turns out they fit right in and made this tasty dish even better.  The fresh purple hull peas were absolutely amazing.  They were creamy and tasty; now our new family favorite is…

peas-y peas and celery
serves 4

1 1/2 T. vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 C. vegetable broth
1 C. fresh purple hull peas
1 C. green peas
1 stalk celery, diced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 t. butter

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion begins to soften
Add broth and vegetables and bring to a low boil
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until beans are just tender
Drain liquid, toss vegetables with butter, salt and pepper

I’m sure you’ll like them too.  So much that I’m sharing this recipe from the farmer’s market for their summer succotash.  As the farmer points out, if you can’t get purple hull peas you can always substitute fresh baby lima beans, fresh cranberry beans, or fresh black-eyed peas.

photo courtesy of

Mesquite Flour

My friend Misty asked me “What do you know about mesquite flour?”  Mesquite (genus Prosopis) is a deciduous, leguminous tree that grows quite well in Texas and Mexico and has a range that goes as far north as Kansas and westward to southern California.  Most people use the wood to create a flavorful smoke that imparts a fabulous taste to barbequed meats.  But mesquite also has another purpose.

I had heard of people using mesquite flour before I moved to Texas, a high protein legume that was high in fiber and originally part of the Native American diet for Southwestern tribes.

Researching it further I have discovered that it apparently also has a good profile for calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, and is high in the amino acid lysine.  Because of it’s high soluble fiber content and low glycemic index, in spite of a reported sweet flavor, mesquite flour is believed to be a good choice for diabetics.  

Mesquite flour was traditionally consumed by Pima Indians.  With the advent of a modern diet many of them have developed diabetes; this seems to be attributed to their decline in consumption of mesquite flour.  According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition “the slow digestion and absorption of starch in traditional foods was a factor that helped protect susceptible populations from developing diabetes.”  These traditional foods included corn, lima beans, white and yellow teparies, mesquite, and acorns.  Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology highlighted an ethnobotanical study in Israel which researched plants used for the treatment of diabetes; one of the plants included was mesquite.

Because mesquite is a legume I am assuming that it has a non-glutinous profile making it best suited for quick breads, cakes, and muffins or cookies rather than for a yeasted bread.  

Mesquite also has another use, the flowers are attractive to bees and I have heard that mesquite honey is quite flavorful.  You can purchase mesquite honey on the internet as well as mesquite flour. There are also recipes available that call for mesquite flour.  All in all it seems like it might be somewhat similar to another legume flour, carob, which I wrote about here and here. Both are sweet, high in fiber and provide a good protein content.

photo courtesy of

Carob Update

I wrote a previous post about using carob as a sweetener.  Since it really is more than just a sweetener I thought I would share a little more information about this amazing legume.

Carob is currently being examined as a protein source.  Research indicates that the flour made from the germ of carob has a high protein content, 46%.  By isolating the germ further, protein content percentages, in a laboratory setting, have reached as high as 95% according to studies currently being done at the Universidad de Sevilla, Instituta de la Grassia.  This isolate is of interest because it would offer an alternative to soy or dairy proteins for protein shake formulas created for athletes and for diabetics.  
In addition to the higher levels of protein, the germ flour also yields higher levels of arginine, an essential amino acid that is important for healing wounds, immune function, and hormone release among other physiological functions.  
Carob flour and carob bean gum are also useful for people with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance as carob contains no gluten.
Another health benefit is the effect of carob fiber, taken from the pulp of the fruit, in lowering cholesterol.  According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition “Daily consumption of food products enriched with carob fibre shows beneficial effects on human blood lipid profile and may be effective in prevention and treatment of hypercholesterolemia.”  The fiber is also high in phenolic antioxidant substances and there are studies underway looking into the chemopreventive qualities of carob.
To rephrase all of that in a less confusing way carob is great as a sweetener substitute, it is high in protein and will probably be coming soon to a protein supplement near you.  Useful for people who can not ingest gluten, it is also showing promise as a functional food that may help lower cholesterol and help prevent oxidative cell damage.  
Consider adding carob to your diet but please remember to read the labels.  If you start seeing wonderful health claims that’s fine but always check what other ingredients are in your food before you unthinkingly purchase something because of the marketing on the package.
Be well.,,

Beans and grains for amino acids

What You Need To Know About Amino Acids

Amino Acids Are The Building Blocks

We don’t often think about the amino acids in our food and their impact on our health. But they play a really crucial part to health. This post addresses the important thing that we need to know about amino acids and shares on of my favorite recipes.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are twenty altogether. Eight of the twenty are considered “essential amino acids” because we require them but our body cannot manufacture them so we must get them from our food. These eight are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, and lysine.
Animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, contain all eight. But different foods such as legumes, seeds, and grains do not.  Therefore they must be combined to create a complete protein. Legumes are high in the essential amino acid lysine, but they are low in methionine grains have both methionine and cysteine but are low in lysine.  Combining them allows you to get a high-quality protein with all of the essential amino acids. 

Going meatless

There’s a lot of media attention to the idea of reducing how much meat we’re eating. Including a suggestion for ditching the meat at least one day a week and switching to Meatless Mondays

If you are a meat eater who is simply trying to eat less meat, incorporating a vegetarian plan one day a week can be a great way to get started. But it’s important that you don’t become a carbotarian and simply add lots of pasta or simple carbohydrates for your meatless meals. While getting proper nutrition from vegetarian meals requires a little more thought and effort, it is not difficult.

Amino Acid Food Combinations 

In many cultures there are a lot of recipes that call for a mixture of legumes and grains that then create a complete protein. 
  • a Korean dish called Kong bap is a mixture of seven grains and four beans.  Because this dish contains beans (adzuki beans and green peas) and grains (barley, rice, Job’s tears, sorghum, and corn) it provides all of the essential amino acids.  This dish also has soybeans which are considered to be a complete protein by themselves. 
  • South and Central America have many dishes that call for a combination of beans with corn
  • In the Middle East, there is hummus or falafel (made from chickpeas) and whole wheat pita as a common option
  • India brings us dal (lentils) and rice 
Grains and legumes are not the only combinations that make a complete protein.  Nuts and seeds can also be combined with either grains or legumes as a good source of protein.  
The idea is to ensure that if you are not eating meat that you are not simply adding legumes to your diet but that you are adding them with whole grains and/or seeds to get proper nutrition.

Delicious lentils for dinner

One of our favorite dinners is a curried crockpot lentil and rice dish.  This recipe originally came from a Lebanese friend of mine and is called M’judra, I’ve modified it a little over the years and it’s one of our regular choices. Especially because the crockpot makes this an easy option.
This pairs really well with an Indian spinach dish called Palak and a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers with a spice called Chat Masala.  It’s a tasty, healthy and satisfying meal.  I make it with a fair amount of curry powder because that’s how we like it, if you need to reduce the curry powder it will still be delicious.
Curried Crockpot Lentils and Rice
  1. 1/2 C. rinsed lentils
  2. 1 C. rinsed red rice (can use brown rice if you prefer)
  3. 1 green pepper, diced
  4. 1 onion, diced
  5. 2 T. curry powder
  6. 1 T. nutritional yeast
  7. 1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
  8. 3 1/2 C. vegetable broth
  9. 1 T. olive oil
  1. Saute the pepper and onions in the olive oil until just starting to soften
  2. Place all dry ingredients into the crockpot
  3. Add broth and stir well
  4. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours (check at 4.5 hours to see if you need a little more water)
  5. Add salt to taste after done cooking
  1. Note:  Don't add the salt while cooking because it will delay the lentils from softening
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Check out my other recipes using lentils:


Image by carlo sardena from Pixabay 

Creamer And Meatless Meals

My friend Karen recently asked me what she could use for a substitute for vanilla cinnamon Coffeemate creamer.  She would like to give up the artificial ingredients in the creamer.  The best substitute that I can think of is to flavor a half pint of light cream with the amount of vanilla and fresh ground cinnamon (which will be stronger than the already ground stuff).  Mix it all together and keep in the fridge until you need it.  A half pint is 8 ounces and should remain good for approximately 10 days.  The cream really is not that bad for you if you are simply using a small amount for flavor and smoothness.  Of course if you are one of those people who take a little coffee with your cream this is not going to work.

Another question was what is a legume and how can she incorporate more meatless meals into the family diet.  First the definition of a legume:  Legume refers to plants or their fruit of the leguminosae family.  The simple answer is lentils, beans, peas and peanuts.  There are others such as alfalfa, carob, etc but let’s stick with the first four.
Making meatless meals is very easy, just substitute a bean or lentil for the meat in a recipe and you’re good to go.  In one of my previous posts I mentioned our favorite vegetarian shepherd’s pie which is an excellent and tasty dish for a meatless dinner.  We also make taco salad substituting black beans for the meat with taco seasoning, crush tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl and everyone dresses their own salad with diced tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa; it’s a very tasty dinner.  Another great choice is a baked potato bar, I prefer to use sweet potatoes, with broccoli, beans, other vegetables and sauces to taste.  
Of course if you are looking for new recipes rather than converting recipes you already have there are some great resources on the web.  These can be found at:

  • AllRecipes twenty-for-twenty – a great list of 20 ingredients that combined create 20 dinners
  • Vegetarian Times – a neat feature here is the ability to use checkboxes to define your search by season, cuisine, meal-type, appliance and more
  • Recipe Source – formerly the SOAR, this is a list of the vegetarian recipes in the archive
  • I’m sure there are many others but these are the ones that I like the most.