Thursday, May 28, 2020

Frijoles Negros (The Best Ever Seasoned Black Beans)

Frijoles Negros or Seasoned Black Beans are amazingly delicious; just a handful of ingredients produce lip smackingly yummy beans! With a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot, cooking beans becomes so easy and quick. Do try to cook the beans if possible rather than using canned for the wonderful and rich taste. See Ode to Beans or Basic Black Beans for more ideas on cooking beans. Any leftovers maybe used as filling for tacos/burritos/tostadas etc. or in the delicious Black Bean and Corn Casserole, BurgersCuban Black Bean Soup, or Casamiento

Black Beans belong to the superfood family of legumes; they are typically served as part of meals in Mexican, Central & South American, and other cuisines. Cooking beans is quite simple and very cost effective. Similar to most beans, black beans have negligible amounts of fat. They are a great source of protein, fiber, and thiamin. Black beans are loaded with anthocyanins and also contain good amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, manganese and folate.

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect food than beans. One cooked cupful can provide as much as 17 g fiber, which is something most people do not get very much in a typical diet in most developed countries. Beans are packed with protein and dozens of key nutrients, including calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Studies tie beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many cancers. The latest dietary guidelines from World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research recommend that we make whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans the major part of the diet to prevent many types of cancer as well as other diseases. So do enjoy delicious and diverse vareities of beans: pintos, mung, black, white, kidney, lentils, and numerous other ones. Use them in snacks, starters, soups/stews, casseroles, salads, as topings for baked potatoes, and for sandwich spreads.

Served with rice and/or warm corn tortillas, a bit of salsa and one's favorite hot sauce, Frijoles Negros makes a comforting and hearty meal. Besides being wonderful served simply, black beans are delicious in may recipes. The beauty of beans is that they freeze well also. Freeze the cooled beans in freezer containers for up to 3 months.


Chile Morita (smoked dried jalapeño chile) adds a lovely deep and smoky flavor to the beans.

Soaking is not a prerequisite; but soaked beans do cook faster and I find them tastier.

If you don't have the Mexican Seasoning Mix, a chili spice mix maybe used instead. If using a purchased spice mix, you may need to add more cumin and oregano to taste.

12 servings


1 lb Black Beans
Salt for soaking
1 Chile Morita (optional)
1 Bay Leaf
1 small Onion, finely diced
1-2 Green Bell Pepper, finely diced
3-4 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp EACH, dried Oregano and ground Cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped
3-4 Green Onions, finely sliced
Lime Cilantro Rice or Plain rice to serve


Sort the beans for debris; rinse well, add 2 tsp of salt, and soak in plenty of water to cover for a few hours. 

Drain the soaked beans and place in a large pot with the bay leaf and morita chile if using. Add water to cover them; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered until very soft. Remove and discard the chile if you wish; I mash it into the beans.

Alternately, pressure cook the beans, usually they are done in less than 20 minutes using a pressure cooker or the Instant Pot!

Cook the onion, bell pepper, garlic with a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of water until the vegetables are softened.

Stir in the spices and herbs along with the beans and cooking liquid.

Mash the beans slightly with the back of the spoon and cook for a few minutes stirring often until slightly thickened.

Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cilantro and green onions.

Serve hot with the Lime Cilantro, plain rice, or warm tortillas.

Buen Provecho!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hidden Gems Buckwheat Pancakes Kerala Style with Blueberry Coulis (Geetha's Pazham Pori)

Hidden Gem Buckwheat Pancakes With Blueberry Coulis are delightfully tasty and fun with the hidden slices of fruit! They are the easy and healthy version of the fritters known as Pazham Pori, immensely popular in Kerala. Pazham Pori, typically enjoyed as tea time snacks, are made with ripe plantains dipped in batter and deep fried. I have made them as pancakes for a healthier option. These special pancakes are not only oil free, they are also naturally dairy and gluten free!

Hidden Gems Buckwheat Pancakes maybe prepared with either the plantains or regular bananas. I like adding round slices of the plantain/banana in the pancackes instead of the traditional longitudinal slices; pancakes maybe prepared with long slices if preferred. The ripe fruit adds to the sweetness and along with the coulis and the whipped topping, could very well be a dessert! This fun and great tasting recipe is perfect for a special occasion breakfast, brunch, or snack.


Do keep the batter slightly on the thick side to coat the fruit well. But, if unavoidably made thin, pancakes maybe folded or rolled up with the fruit inside. These pancakes taste absolutely fabulous either way.

Apples, pears, or another fruit maybe substituted for the bananas in the pancakes. Instead of the blueberries, another fruit maybe used to prepare a coulis.

Leftover pancakes maybe stored in the fridge or frozen for longer storage. Pancakes maybe reheated in the skillet or oven.

About 6 pancakes
2 Servings


1 Cup Blueberries
1 Tbsp Lime/Lemon Juice
1 pinch Salt
2-3 Tbsp Maple Syrup/Coconut Sugar


1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup Non-dairy Milk
1 Tbsp Cconut Sugar or other sweetener
3/4 cup Buckwheat flour
1 Tbsp Flaxseed meal
1 pinch Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 ripe Plantain OR Banana, sliced

Powdered sugar for serving
Maple Syrup for serving
Non-dairy Whipped Topping



Wash and drain the berries. Reserve a few for garnishing. Dice the rest of the berries and place them in a bowl. Mash slightly with a fork and stir in the salt, maple syrup/sugar and lemon. Mix well and if made ahead, reserve in the fridge.


Whisk together the vinegar, milk and coconut sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, flax seed meal, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt together in a mixing bowl.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and gently stir together just until combined to get a thick but pourable batter. Let the batter rest for about 10-15 minutes. If batter is very thick, a little more milk or water maybe added.

Lightly coat a non-stick skillet with a little oil using a paper towel. Heat the skillet over low-medium heat.

Prepare pancakes by pouring a little less than 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet; you can quickly spread the batter gently in a swirling motion with the back of  a spoon to desired thickness.

Place 4-5 slices of the plantain/banana quickly on top of the pancake and add a little batter to cover the fruit. It is fine if the fruit is not completely covered since this side is usually not seen when served.

Cook until bubbles appear and edges of the pancake are a little dry. Flip the pancakes and cook for another minute or so. Remove the pancake from skillet and place on platter.

Continue cooking the pancakes until all the batter is used up stacking the pancakes as they are cooked.

Plate the pancakes while still hot with some of the coulis on top. Dust the pancakes with powdered sugar and a little drizzle of maple syrup if desired. Add a dollop of whipped topping.

Serve immediately and eat.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lettuce Wraps W/Spiced Tofu

Lettuce Wraps W/Spiced Tofu are irresistible and make a lovely light meal or starter. The fresh crisp lettuce and pickled vegetable topping add freshness to the slightly sweet but savory filling. Be warned - one taste and you'd want to make a meal of the wraps!

Lettuce Wraps with Spiced Tofu
The tofu filling, pickled carrots and daikon, and the lettuce wraps maybe prepared a day ahead and the filling reheated before serving.
While any regular mushrooms maybe used, fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms are lovely. If using dried shiitake, soak in a little water for about 20 minutes to soften.
I use cauliflower rice (chopped cauliflower) as I don't always have access to water chestnuts.
1/3 cup Hoisin Sauce maybe used instead of the cooking sauce; please be sure to check the ingredients in the sauce as not all hoisin sauces are gluten free. 

Picked Carrots & Daikon Radish
1 large Carrot, cut in fine match sticks
1 medium Daikon Radish, cut in fine match sticks
1 pinch Salt
2 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar


Cooking sauce
1 Tbsp Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp Water
1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
2-3 Tbsp Tamari/Coconut Aminos/Soy Sauce (gf)
1-3 Tbsp Coconut Or Brown Sugar

1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 block Firn or extra-firm Tofu, finely diced/shredded
1/2 cup Mushrooms, minced
1-2 Tbsp Ginger, grated
1 Serrano or Thai Chile, cored and minced
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 small Carrot, shredded
1/2 cup Water Chestnuts, chopped OR Cauliflower rice
2 Tbsp toasted Sesame seeds
1/2 cup Green Onions, thinly sliced

For Serving:
1-2 Heads Butter/Romaine lettuce
Cilantro sprigs
Green Onions, thinly sliced diagonally


Pickled Carrots & Daikon
Prepare the pickled carrots and daikon at least a couple of hours ahead of serving so that the veggies have a chance to marinate; they maybe prepared a day or two ahead. Combine the veggies, salt and vinegar in a container and mix well. Reserve in the fridge until ready to serve.

Lettuce Wraps
Separate the inner leaves of the lettuces carefully, wash and drain thorougly. This maybe done a day ahead and carefully stored in the fridge until needed.

Tofu Filling
Combine all the ingredients under cooking sauce in a bowl.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. 

Add the tofu, onion and ginger and cook for about 3-4 minutes stirring to keep things from sticking or burning. 

When tofu begins to brown a little, stir in the mushrooms, chile, bell pepper, garlic, carrot, water chestnuts, and the cooking sauce; cook until all the liquids evaporate or are absorbed - abouit 3-4 minutes or so. 

Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. Stir in the sesame seeds, cilantro and green onions. 

Taste and adjust the seasonings. If made ahead, cool and chill. Reheat until warm just before serving.

Place about 1-2 Tbsp of the warm filling on the leaves, sprinkle with cilantro and green onions. 

Pass the bowl of pickled carrots and daikon to top the wraps as desired.

Eat right away while the lettuce is crisp and the filling warm.


Friday, May 15, 2020

Everyday Lentil Soup

We love all things lentils and this Everyday Lentil Soup is a favorite! Lentil soup can serve as a main dish, light meal/snack, or starter. This luscious soup enriched with the trio of onions, garlic, and carrots can stand alone or served with grains or bread. According to Hema, this soup is based on Mauritian recipe where Indian and local ingredients are combined to produce the unique dishes reminiscent of Indian cuisine.

The soup begins with preparing a flavorful basic seasoning of toasted cumin seeds, onions and garlic common to most dals along with carrots which add color, texture, and sweetness plus tomato for a little tang. I like to cook the lentils by themselves and add them to the soup after the seasonings are ready. Then the soup is simmered with fragrant thyme and finished with a sprinkle of parsley or cilantro. 

Leftovers are fabulous for about a week in the fridge or maybe frozen for up to 3 months. Or, turn the delicious leftovers into a yummy casserole: stir the soup into cooked grains and bake under a light blanket of your favorite vegan cheese and/or a sprinkle of seasoned regular/gluten-free bread or cracker crumbs until heated through and the crumbs are golden and crisp.


Parsnips maybe subbed for some or all of the carrots. Celery is another great addition. 

8 Servings


2 cups Lentils, soaked for 30 minutes and rinsed
1 medium Onion, finely diced
1 large Carrot, finely diced
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 or 2 Tomatoes, diced
2-3 Tbsp fresh Thyme, finely chopped (or 1-2 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/8 - 1/2 tsp Cayenne 
4-5 cups water or as needed
1 large handful Flatleaf Parsley/Cilantro, finely chopped
Lime/Lemon wedges to serve (optional)


Sort, rinse and soak the lentils in lots of water to cover for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain soaking water and rinse.

Cook the lentils until quite tender in enough fresh water to cover. Cooking maybe done using a regular pot, a pressure cooker or an instant pot. Lentils maybe cooked a day or two ahead and reserved in the fridge until ready to prepare the soup.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. 

Add  the cumin seeds, and when they begin to change color and begin to be fragrant, add onion with a pinch of salt, and cook covered until soft but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes over low heat. Sprinkle a little water if the onions dry out.

Stir in the garlic and carrot and cook covered, stirring occasionally for a few seconds.

Add the tomato into the onion mixture and cook for a minute or two, stirring well until hot and well mixed.

Add the thyme, turmeric, and cayenne if using, cooked lentils with the cooking broth, salt, and freshly ground pepper.

Stir in extra boiling water as needed to get the right consistency. Bring the soup to a boil. 

When the soup comes a boil, lower the heat, and simmer partially covered for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. 

Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, cover, and let rest for 5-10 minutes. 

Taste the soup and add more seasonings if needed. Add the parsley or cilantro.

Serve hot by itself or over freshly cooked rice or other grains and pass lemon wedges if desired.


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Light & Easy Buckwheat Pancakes With Strawberry Coulis

These Buckwheat Pancakes With Strawberry Coulis are light and easy; they are naturally dairy, gluten and oil free! These delicious buckwheat pancakes make any breakfast truly special. This great tasting recipe is perfect for a special occasion breakfast or brunch for company as well as the family.


Purchased or homemade buckwheat flour maybe used. 

Depending on the amount of liquid added to the batter, the pancakes maybe thick or thin; if thick they maybe served in a stack. If made thin, they maybe rolled up with the coulis inside. The pancakes taste absolutely fabulous either way. 

Apples, pears, bananas, or blueberries maybe added to the batter just before preparing the pancakes. Instead of the strawberries, other fruit maybe prepared as a coulis.

Leftover pancakes maybe stored in the fridge or frozen for longer storage. Pancakes maybe reheated in the skillet or oven.

Buckwheat pancakes 
About 12 pancakes
3-4 Servings


2 cups Straberries
2-3 Tbsp Maple Sugar/Syrup
1 pinch Sea Salt
1 squeeze Lemon juice (1 tsp)

1 1/2 cups Buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp ground Flax seeds
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 -2 cups unsweetened Nondairy Milk 
1 tsp Vanilla extract
3 tbsp Coconut Sugar/Maple syrup

Powdered sugar for serving
Maple Syrup for serving



Wash and drain the strawberries. Reserve a few for garnishing. Dice the rest of the berries and place them in a bowl. Mash slightly with a fork and stir in the salt, maple sugar/syrup and lemon. Mix well and reserve.


Whisk together the lemon juice, 1 cup of milk, vanilla and coconut sugar or maple syrup in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, flax seeds, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl. 

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and gently stir together just until combined adding the rest of the milk as needed to get a thick but pourable batter. Let the batter rest for about 10-15 minutes. If batter is very thick, a little more milk or water maybe added.

Lightly coat a non-stick skillet with a little oil using a paper towel. Heat the skillet over medium heat.

Prepare pancakes by pouring about 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet; you can quickly spread the batter gently in a swirling motion with the back of  a spoon to desired thickness.

Cook until bubbles appear and burst all over each pancake and the edges lift up slightly. Flip the pancakes and cook for another minute. Remove the pancake from skillet and place on platter.

Continue cooking the pancakes until all the batter is used stacking the pancakes as they are cooked.

Serve the pancakes hot with some of the coulis on top. Dust with powdered sugar. Drizzle a little maple syrup over the pancakes.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Mushroom Fazzoletti With Soft Creamy Polenta

Mushroom Fazzoletti is delicious over polenta, pasta, toast, or other grains. This recipe is my recreation of a lovely dish made with trumpet mushrooms we enjoyed in a lovely vegan restaurant in Washington DC. Although it is delicious served over any pasta or purchased/homemade regular polenta, we particularly enjoy it served over soft creamy polenta. I make the polenta in the Instant Pot which makes it a breeze to have everything ready in record time without undue attention or stirring; plenta could be made in a regular pressure cooker as well.

While the commonly available mushrooms work fine, other flavorful mushrooms would be awsome additions if you can get them. Fresh herbs and tomatoes are important for Fazzoletti, as they lend a more delicate flavor than dried or canned.

If you are serving over pasta, you can use the water in which it was cooked as needed to finish the sauce for a velvety finish.

4 Servings


2 lbs Mushrooms - Baby Bella, Cremini, etc thinly sliced
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
1 cup fresh Basil Leaves, chopped finely
Salt and Freshly ground Pepper
1 cup Vegetable Stock (or purchased)
2 heaping cups Grape, Cherry or Plum Tomatoes, diced

Soft Creamy Polenta  1 recipe to Serve
1/4 cup Vegan Parmesan or Toasted coarsely ground Almonds
Basil sprigs for garnish


Prepare the polenta and keep warm. 

Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic and stir for about 30-40 seconds. 

Stir in the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and pepper; they will exude a lot of moisture. Keep cooking until the juices evaporate and the mushrooms start to brown a little.

Stir in the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until they soften and get juicy. 

Stir in the basil and the veggie stock and cook until hot. Add a little water (or pasta water if making pasta) as needed so that the mushrooms are coated and there is some sauce.

Divide the hot polenta among 4 wide bowls and top each the mushroom fazzoletti.

Sprinkle the vegan Parmesan or toasted Almonds and garnish with the basil.

Serve immediately. 


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Stress-free Soft Creamy Polenta

Soft Creamy Polenta is very similar to soft Indian Upma and one of the untlimate comfort foods! Instead of slaving over the stove trying to stir the thickening polenta which bubbles and spits blobs of boiling hot stuff everywhere including the chef, just pop it in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker and... Et Viola! Delicious Polenta without stress!

Baked polenta is an alternative to this recipe; it works well but requires 1.5 hours of baking time and needs a little more oversight. 

Top warm polenta with your favorite Indian curries or Italian ragus and you will have a sumptuous dinner. Try Pepperonata, Mushroom Ragu or Borlotti Bolognese over piping hot creamy polenta for a hearty warming meal.


Adjust the amount of water to make the polenta firmer or softer.

The cooked polenta solidifies when cold. It maybe warmed with a small amount of water or sliced and pan-toasted and served with your favorite toppings.

Fresh or reheated polenta sprinkled with sweet spices, toasted nuts, and fresh or dried fruit makes a fantastic breakfast/brunch treat.

4 Servings


1 cup dry Polenta (coarse cornmeal)
1 tsp Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
3-4 cups boiling water
3-4 Tbsp Fresh Herbs (Sage and Basil)
2 Tbsp Vegan Butter Sub or Olive Oil (optional)
2-4 oz Vegan Parmesan (optional)


Place polenta in the Instant Pot bowl. Add salt and a generous amount of pepper. 

Stir in the boiling water and whisk thoroughly to combine.

Follow manufacturer's directions to cook the polenta for 9 minutes at high pressure in the Instant Pot. When timer goes off, allow the pressure to decrease naturally and completely before opening. Alternately, use a regular pressure cooker for 9 minutes after pressurizing according to manufacturer's directions. 

Stir in the fresh herbs and any of the optional ingredients into the hot polenta. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve hot with additional pepper and your favorite toppings of stews or sauces.