Category Archives: Bean Mausoleum

Years ago I decided I needed more beans in my life. I dutiful stored them in matching Tupperware containers (which, BTW, makes my heart go pitter-patter) and there they say. My vegetarian system nicknamed my storage system “the bean mausoleum.” These days I’m much better at buying and actually cooking the beans.

Caramelized Onion, Rice and Lentil Pilaf

Garnish with flat leaf parsley or scallions

Last month I committed to provide some menu items for my Vegetarian Sister (VS) while she was in town visiting. She and I had discussed how some vegetarian dishes (created by carnivore-types) are just lazy variations of non-veg dishes that omit the meat or are overly cheesy to make up for the lack of meat. My goal was to find new recipes she would enjoy that we could cook together; thus creating some sister bonding time and expanding both our culinary horizons.

Score one for Kat! This dish was so good that everyone at the dinner table, including the meat eaters, raved over it. Seriously, though, what is not to love about any recipe that features onions slow roasted until their natural sugars caramelize? Sadly, that means this dish does take a bit of time and forethought to put it together. I prepared it in stages, though, so the last warming-through came together in a snap.

The biggest time commitment of this dish is caramelizing the onions. It pays to take the time to do this properly. Fortunately, although onions take an hour or more to do their thing, caramelizing them is mainly unattended. In my “go big or go home” mentality I believe that if you’re going to devote the time it takes, you should caramelize as many onions as possible. I sliced and cooked the four pounds I had in my cupboard at the time which was more than we needed for this dish. Cooked onions store nicely in the fridge and can also be frozen.

It’s typical of this Middle Eastern dish (called Mujadarra) to be served with a side of plain yogurt or hummus and pita wedges. We served it along side my mother’s roasted pork. I thought it was a combination made in heaven. Of course, my sister passed on the pork but she was happy nonetheless!


  • 3 pounds of onions, caramelized (see Kat’s tip below if you’re unfamiliar with how to do this).
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice (I prefer brown)
  • 1.5 cups cooked lentils (use brown or green lentils; not the French ones)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Flat leaf parsley or minced scallions for garnish


  1. Caramelize the onions
  2. Cook rice on stove top or in rice cooker
  3. Cook lentils separately by bringing three to four cups of water in a pan to a boil. Add lentils and cook about 30 minutes until they are chewy but not falling apart.
  4. Drain lentils. Return pan to oven and melt butter over medium heat. Add olive oil and spices. Stir until fragrant.
  5. Add lentils, rice and half of onion mixture back to the same pan. Stir until combined and heated thoroughly.
  6. Garnish with remaining caramelized onions and diced greens (either parsley or green onions).

Kat’s tip: How to caramelize onions

Onions after 15 minutes

I once tried to caramelize onions in the oven. We’ll just chalk it up to an epic failure. Not only did the onions never brown (even after 3 hours in the oven at 400°) but I burned myself twice in the process. Ouch! I’m forevermore sold on the stove top method using a non stick pan.

  • Remove root ends and thinly slice 3 to 5 pounds of onions. I use my Pampered Chef Ultimate Mandolin to make uniform slices so the onions cook evenly. Sprinkle sliced onions liberally with about one tablespoon of salt and toss to coat.
  • Coat the bottom of a large non-stick skillet with equal parts of butter and olive oil (about one teaspoon per onion.)
  • Cook onions on medium heat stirring about every ten minutes.
  • After about 15 to 30 minutes the onions will start to turn color
  • Continue cooking on medium to medium low for another 15 to 30 minutes until they reach a nice brown color. Monitor them a little closer in the end and be careful not to let them burn.

Yield: This dish makes a hearty amount. We had 9 at the table last night. VS ate her fill as a main meal and the rest of us had it as a side dish and there were still leftovers.

Inspiration: Mujadara

Tutorial: Caramelizing Onions


Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Bean Mausoleum, Brown rice, Grains, Low fat, Vegetarian


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Kat’s Easiest White Bean Chili Ever

White bean chicken chili topped with chopped cilantro

I commented before how I had three or four different recipes for butternut squash soup. Turns out I have even more versions of white bean/chicken chili. You may wonder why I’m posting about chicken while the rest of the world is already talking turkey. The answer is that I still have some cooked chicken on hand from my marathon soup weekend. I guess I could freeze the chicken and save it for later. But truthfully, I’m just not ready to talk turkey yet. I already have my T-day menu planned out and its fairly simple. After Thanksgiving, turkey leftovers will be abounding and I’m sure I’ll be up to my eyes in turkey soup. My guess is you’ll be hearing a lot more about turkey then.

In the meantime, the recipe I am posting today reportedly was one of the top ten recipes from the Seattle Times in 1994. Unlike some of the other versions I have, it honestly doesn’t get any easier than this. If you have cooked chicken (or turkey leftovers) on hand, you could be eating dinner in under 30 minutes. I normally don’t go for canned beans. Even if I did, I certainly would always rinse away the extra sodium. However, this recipe calls for dumping in the entire can; beans, juice and all, which gives you a head start on a thicker chili and cuts cooking time.

If you’re in a hurry for dinner some night, this recipe could be the ticket.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion — peel/chop fine
  • 2 medium garlic clove — peeled/chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper — chopped fine
  • 30 ounces white beans, canned — undrained (two 15 oz. cans)
  • 4 ounces green chiles — canned/diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 14 1/2 ounces chicken broth — canned, low sodium
  • 8 to 12 ounces roasted chicken breast meat — cut in 1/2 in. cubes
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro — minced
  • 6 tablespoons salsa — optional


  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper and sauté 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the white beans, chiles, cumin, chili powder and broth.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the chicken and simmer 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the lime juice and top with chopped cilantro.

Use a tablespoon of salsa to garnish each serving of chili, if desired.

Serves 6

Nutritional information: assumes 12 ounces cooked chicken

Calories 201.4 Total Fat 3.3 g Cholesterol 32.9 mg Sodium 42.6 mg Potassium 630.5 mg Total Carbohydrate 23.0 g Protein 20.0 g

Recipe By : Seattle Times – Best 10 Recipes of 1994


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Chicken and Lentil Stew

Ingredients for chicken and lentil stew, check!

Watch out world, Kat is about to add another bean under her belt! Remember the bean mausoleum? Somewhere on the back of that shelf, there is a Tupperware container of dried lentils that is about to see the light of day. This is momentous because I don’t really cook with lentils. Now that I think about it, even though I almost always have them on hand, I don’t recall actually adding them to a recipe. Until now.

On a separate note, while much of the blogosphere is busy posting T-day recipes and tips, I am busy trying to use the last of the cooked chicken from the two batches of soup I made for the germ ridden people I know. Each cooked chicken yields about 24 oz of meat. Harkening back to my Weight Watcher days, and depending on how much protein I want in my dish, that is enough chicken to make two or three recipes with four servings each which I can store in the freezer. Multiply that by two chickens and I’ll have a pretty healthy stockpile to choose from. Which is good because December is a busy month and I operate much better when I can throw a pre-cooked meal in the microwave. Otherwise, historically I end up subsisting on Christmas cookies and wine.

P.S. I’m giving myself bonus points for finding another way to use up some of the kale that I bought.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large celery stalk
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 to 12 ounces cooked chicken, diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup dried lentils, picked through
  • 4 cups kale, ribs and stems removed


  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onions are soft.
  • Add the carrots and celery. Continue cooking about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the mushrooms and cook another two to three minutes.
  • Add the chicken, lentils, thyme, oregano and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.
  • Drop the chopped kale on top of the stew. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the kale softens.
  • Stir through and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serves four
Nutritional info:
Calories 214.0  Total Fat 5.0 g  Cholesterol 32.9 mg  Sodium 93.7 mg  Potassium 835.6 mg Total Carbohydrate 23.4 g  Protein 21.3 g

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Minestrone – The Mix and Match Soup

Minestrone with tomatoes and chicken

An Italian peasant dish, the name minestrone roughly translates as “the big soup.” With humble origins that date back to the Roman Empire, there is no true recipe for minestrone. This means there is no right or wrong way to make it; don’t you just love recipes with versatility?? Across Italy, even to this day, minestrone will vary from region to region. Although traditionally a vegetable based soup using seasonal crops, you’ll often find the additional of beans, rice and pasta. To me, minestrone isn’t minestrone unless it has tomatoes in it (interestingly, according to Wikipedia, this is a totally American custom).

A hearty dish, minestrone takes on an “everything but the kitchen sink” quality because you can literally use anything that appeals to you at the moment. Vegetables that are at their tipping point in the crisper drawer, along with leftover rice, pasta or beans, can frequently be salvaged by throwing them in the pot. Need more protein on a given day? Toss in some diced chicken or Italian sausage. The sky is the limit.

Legend has it that minestrone tastes better the next day. Being cooked ahead of time and gently reheated allows the flavors to meld. As my Grannie used to say, “Mangia!”

Kat’s Totally American Minestrone 


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked white beans (or one can beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil or one teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta (like orzo) or rice
  • Diced chicken or sausage (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add the onion and celery; sauté a few minutes until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for about two minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients up to the pasta. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat back to medium low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add in the rice or pasta. If adding cooked meat, add this now.
  6. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through.
  7. Divide into soup bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese

Serves four for a main meal

Kat’s tip: Orzo will soak up the liquid from the soup if stored together. If you’re not planning on eating this all in one sitting then I recommend leaving the orzo out. You can add 1/2 cup of orzo to each serving as you reheat it. The orzo can be stored in the fridge in either ziplock baggies or plasticware. It can also be frozen until ready to use.

Kat’s Second Tip: I keep a bag of frozen mixed soup veggies on hand for times when I want soup in a hurry. For a single serving or quick version of this I’ll heat up 2 cups of chicken broth with the mixed veggies, some diced chicken, brown rice and white beans.

Nutritional information (without meat):

Calories 398.6  Total Fat 9.4 g  Cholesterol 0.0 mg  Sodium 605.6 mg  Potassium 782.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 63.5 g  Protein 12.7 g

Nutritional information (with 8 oz cooked chicken)

Calories 460.9  Total Fat 10.1 g  Cholesterol 32.9.0 mg  Sodium 642 mg  Potassium 926.9 mg  Total Carbohydrate 63.5 g  Protein 25.7 g


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Black Bean, Butternut Squash Chili with Sausage

Fall flavors come alive in this easy to prepare dish

Fall is finally in the air in Phoenix. My body, perhaps registering bio rhythms from previous climates I’ve lived in where its not still 100 degrees in October, started craving hearty fall/winter food weeks ago. I just had to wait for the weather here in the desert to cooperate. It probably doesn’t help my food envy that I follow quite a few bloggers who are already experiencing cooler fall temperatures and posting yummy recipes.

For me, fall means soups, stews and chili. Honestly if it wasn’t like a bazillion degrees here in the summer I could really eat soup year round. However, I think I’m most excited about chili.

Inspired by other said fabulous food bloggers, I’m also trying to embrace more seasonal foods. So, I’m flipping my meal planning strategy around. My standard M.O. usually is “what recipe do I want to cook?” Then I go out and spend a fortune on out of seasonal produce which has been trucked and flown across continents. Although said produce usually looks pretty, its probably no longer really all that fresh. Plus, odds are always good that life will get in the way and I may not cook at all. Then said expensive, albeit pretty, produce will go bad in the fridge and I’ll be pissed at myself for wasting scads of money. Let’s face it, life sucks when you spend $1.50 on a red bell pepper and it turns gray and moldy in the produce drawer.

My new goal is to see what produce is in season and find great recipes to incorporate it. The benefits to cooking like this are many. First eating seasonal food should help my budget. Second, shopping locally for food that is in season is really much healthier for you. Now the pretty produce contains far less chemicals than growers normally have to use to keep it looking fresher longer.

With all that (and a whole lot more) in mind, I bring you a recipe that I cobbled together when I started craving fall food. I already had roasted butternut squash cut up and cubed in the freezer. I also had black beans pre-cooked and frozen too. I’m not sure where the inspiration for this pairing came from but once it was in my head, I was slightly obsessed with the combination. Since I wanted to use what I already had in the house, I morphed this chili recipe from several other I’ve seen and/or cooked. Once you add the bones of beans, veggies, diced chilis and tomatoes, chili kind of cooks itself.

I could have kept this a vegetarian recipe but since I’m not a vegetarian and I had this awesome chicken sausage (140 calories per link) in my fridge, I added two links for flavor. You can buy pre-cut and cubed butternut squash in the produce section of larger markets this time of year but its just as easy to roast it yourself.


  • Two links chicken or turkey sausage, grilled or sauteed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup black beans (approximately one can, rinsed)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (or one can, with juice)
  • 1 4 oz can diced green chili
  • 1 cup corn kernels (I throw mine in still frozen)
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cooked and cubed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp thyme


  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large/deep skillet
  2. Add onion and garlic; saute over medium heat until the onions are translucent
  3. Add remaining ingredients, through corn, and stir
  4. Increase heat to medium high until mixture begins to boil
  5. Add cooked butternut squash and spices
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes or until flavors have melded and sauce thickens a bit
  7. Garnish with sour cream or crumbled cheese

Kat’s tip:

If you’re using uncooked butternut squash, add it with the rest of the ingredients in step 3. I waited to add mine because it was already cooked and soft.

Serves four

Nutritional information – values are approximate per serving

Calories 233, Total Fat 7.9 g, Cholesterol 37.5 mg, Sodium 402.8 mg, Potassium 430.0, Total Carbohydrate 29.1 g, Protein 13.5 g

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Bean Mausoleum, Chili fest


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Hummus and Adventures in Tahini

I love hummus. Probably this is because I love chick peas. I have been known to eat chick peas straight out of the can. Now that I’m on my scratch cooking/bean kick, hummus seems like a natural thing for me to try at home. Processed hummus that you buy at the grocery store is pretty tasty and somewhat low cal. So why, try this at home?

Well, first would be all the extras they add into store bought stuff. Since I’m “unprocessed girl” these days, I opt for making this at home. Second, hummus is sinfully easy to make and really impresses people (especially non cooking types) when you say you made it yourself. Third, and most important, like anything else you make from scratch it just tastes better.

But, like sometimes happens, my plans didn’t unroll exactly as I would have liked. Once I decided to make hummus and googled about a bazillion recipes, I realized I was going to need tahini (sesame seed paste). Crap! Last time I bought tahini it took two grocery clerks at Safeway to find it and it cost $10 for a 6 oz jar. To add insult to injury, I only used two tablespoons and threw the rest away after it got lost in my fridge for an undetermined amount of time.

Hmmm. I’m Scratch-cooking Girl so I consider making the tahini at home too.* I had toasted sesame seeds in a zip lock bag in my freezer and I had both sesame and olive oil. Let me fast forward to the lesson I learned. Do not try to make tahini at home. I whizzed the sesame seeds and oil in my food processor but unless you are making cups of this stuff there isn’t enough volume. The paste ended up under the blade of the food processor and splattered along the wall of the bowl. Next I tried my immersion blender. The paste ended up caked inside the umbrella-cup thingy which protects the blade. Sigh! Last, I transferred the whole mixture to my food mill (aka Krupps coffee grinder). This mixture, although starting to look a little more paste like just got gummed up around the blade.

Crap! I scratch the whole tahini thing off my list. I regroup with a hummus recipe that uses roasted garlic in place of the tahini. I don’t actually have roasted garlic on hand but I do have several heads of garlic so things are looking up. I blend up the roasted garlic hummus and bring it to a friend’s house. She and the other guests are suitably impressed. Hooray!

That would be the end of the story had I not found the tahini pictured at Sprouts. At roughly $4.00 a jar its a much better bargain that the stupid Peloponnese brand. I figure the holidays are coming so homemade hummus is going to be my new thing.

So, here you have it. Kat’s favorite hummus recipe; try making one batch with tahini and one without. Try them both and let me know which you like better!

Roasted Garlic Hummus


  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans or 1 cup cooked
  • 2 to 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste


  1. If using canned beans, drain and rinse them in cool water to reduce the sodium
  2. Add all ingredients to a food process and blend until you get the desired consistency. Scrape down the sides so everything blends evenly
  3. If the hummus is too thick, continue adding olive oil in one teaspoon increments.
  4. Canned chick peas with have a more salty flavor than ones you rehydrate yourself. Go easy on the salt until you’ve tasted the hummus.
  5. Scoop out and serve with pita bread, chips or cut vegetables
  6. Optional: sprinkle the hummus with paprika, chopped parsley, oregano or rosemary

Kat’s Tip:

In retrospect I realize I really could have made sesame seed paste using my food mill. Instead of trying to blend the seeds and oil together, I might have been able to grind the seeds first, transfer them to a bowl and slowly add oil until I had a paste. Oh well. If I’m ever in a tahini bind again I’ll try to remember this.


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Healthy Rice and Beans

Can you say Olé's a Mexican Food Fiesta!

Rice and beans are a natural pairing and an integral part of my “Mexican Food Fiesta.” This recipe brings me back to my days of living in Guadalajara as an exchange student. I *loved* the frijoles. Here in the States we lump all kinds of beans under the name “refried beans.” Although in some regions and restaurants, cooked beans are actually fried or baked in lard, that adds way too much work and too many calories for me. Now that my Hispanic roommate has shared with me how easy these dishes are to prepare, I’m hooked (again).

Of course, having lived in New Orleans for years where cajun-style red beans and rice is a staple on Mondays, I am familiar with how to cook beans. Aside from the time I accidentally bought red beans (instead of pinto beans) that never did break apart and get creamy, I’ve been making beans successfully for years. Mexican-style beans cook up just the same but with different spices.

This recipes is time consuming and takes a advance preparation but most of the time is unattended. With a little planning you can pull this off with very little effort.

Thick and creamy frijoles (the un-refried version)


  • two tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon grease
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • two or three cloves garlic, minced
  • one jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • one bag dried pinto beans
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pre-soak beans overnight. I throw mine in a big bowl, cover them with water and stick them in the fridge.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans. After soaking the beans, always start with fresh water.
  3. In a Dutch oven or large stock pot, heat the oil or bacon grease until hot but not smoking.
  4. Saute the onion and garlic two to three minutes until the onion is translucent
  5. Add the jalapeno and the beans
  6. Add six cups of cold water
  7. Bring the mixture to a boil
  8. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for several hours
  9. After about two hours on the stovetop, lightly mash the beans with a masher or large wooden spoon. Breaking them up creates the gravy.
  10. Continue cooking until the consistency is thick and creamy.

Spanish Rice:

Find El Pato sauce in the Latin food aisle at your local grocery store

Spanish rice is cooked up much the same as regular rice. One part rice to two parts liquid. For Spanish rice, part of the liquid is replaced with a combination of regular tomato sauce and Mexican hot tomato sauce.


  • Two tablespoons vegetable oil
  • One onion, diced
  • Two or three cloves of garlic, minced
  • Two cups uncooked white rice
  • 1/2 can El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce
  • One 8-oz can regular tomato sauce


  1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil until hot but not smoking
  2. Add onions and garlic and saute until onions are soft
  3. Add rice and stir to glaze the rice
  4. Pour the two tomato sauces into a four-cup measuring cup
  5. Add enough water so the liquid equals four cups (remember one part rice to two parts liquid)
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil
  7. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is incorporated and the rice is fully cooked

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