Category: beans

Habichuelas Con Dulce

A taste of the CaribBEAN. (Yes. I am punny.)

Being vegetarian often encourages me to explore new flavours, new textures, and new colour combinations. I’m inspired by exotic dishes, and I love to try new things. If I see a vegetable, a grain, a bean or a fruit that I’ve never tasted, I’m likely to bring it home and experiment. The same goes for interesting, out-of-the-ordinary recipes. For those of you with a limited food-comfort zone, I encourage you to step outside of the box for a few moments and open up your palates to this amazing dessert. The flavours sound unusual, but that is exactly what drew me to it.

My interest in this dish came earlier this week, when a challenge was posted in one of the Facebook groups that I belong to. The moderator suggested that during the month of March, members should each cook some type of Caribbean style food, and should share pictures and recipes with the group. As the week unfolded, I watched as members shared photos of some really interesting creations, from drinks to starters to mains. That’s when I decided to hop on board the bandwagon and make something of my own.

Being a pastry chef, I immediately began researching desserts. Because I mean, what’s a meal without a proper dessert, amirite? I stumbled upon a site where someone listed their ten favourite Caribbean treats, Habichuelas Con Dulce being one of them. “Sweet beans?” I thought. Sweet! Beans!

I just happened to have some cooked kidney beans leftover from earlier this week, as well as some left over coconut milk in the fridge. Perfect! A way to try something new and use up my scraps. So, let’s get onto it, shall we? Oh, for the record, the original recipes that I searched up all call for condensed milk, or evaporated milk mixed with coconut milk. I decided instead to use only the coconut milk, making this recipe completely vegan, and completely delicious.

Habichuelas Con Dulce
an original vegan recipe by allison sklar. inspired by El Mejornido.

ingredients 
1 1/2 cups cooked (or canned, rinsed) red kidney beans
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped (about 1 medium sweet potato)
3 cups water
1 tsp cinnamon or 1 small cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
3 cloves (or 1/4 tsp ground)
250 ml full fat coconut milk
2 tsp coconut oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raisins

method
Bring water with cinnamon stick, cloves and anise to a boil.
Add sweet potato, cooking 10 to 15 minutes or until tender.
Remove cinnamon stick, cloves and anise. (Very important!!!)
Transfer liquid and potatoes to blender, add beans. (Keep saucepan aside)
Purée mixture until completely smooth.
In saucepan, add raisins, coconut oil, coconut milk and sugar. Bring to a simmer on medium heat, whisking frequently. Slowly incorporate bean and potato mixture into milk. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is homogenous and raisins are plump.

Serve with shredded coconut and bananas if desired.
Enjoy hot or cold!

Spice Up Your Life (Spicy Lentil Stew)

So I’ve had this can of chiles that’s been sitting in my pantry since Thanksgiving weekend. “Use us! Use us,” They would chirp every once in a while, while I re-arranged my cabinets. I bought them on a whim, not quite sure what I was going to use them for, nor quite sure what they would even taste like. They’ve made the move from shelf to shelf, to the front, to the back, to the left… alright, before I get all Beyonce up in here… they’ve basically been the most challenging food item I’ve ever bought.

But why? I love the addition of chile peppers in soups, stews, and especially in Indian meals, which I’ve grown an intense fondness for in recent months. So what was holding me back from tossing the contents of this little can into my own cooking? I’ll never really know. Perhaps it was fear that they would be too… (insert unpleasantry here). Too hot. Too bland. Too processed. Too tinny. Too salty. However, much to my delight, they aren’t any of those things! These little babies are the secret ingredient in the best-lentils-I’ve-ever-made, and they will possibly serve as the hidden gem in the meals I’ll be making in the chilly days to come.

So, without further adieu, here’s a dish that will warm you on a wintery evening: a combination of hearty lentils to fill you up, sweet bell peppers and earthy greens to add some balance, and smoky heat to warm your soul. Pairs perfectly with a pint of stout, dark or amber ale, or, compliment it nicely by sipping on some smoky whiskey between bites.

(Best Ever) Spicy Lentil Stew
oh hey! it’s vegan! – an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
2 whole chiles in adobo sauce, diced
1 tsp of adobo sauce ( ^ from can)
1 cup brown lentils, soaked (not canned)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 cup spinach*, chopped
3/4 cup vegetable broth (or ale)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt

*note: you may substitute kale or collard greens for a more earthy flavour.

how to do it
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine lentils, spinach, cilantro and bell pepper in a casserole dish. Toss with spices and adobo sauce. Pour broth over the entire mixture. Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring once, about half way. Best served over cooked basmati rice with a dollop of yogourt. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a pinch of smoked paprika.

The Un-Burger (Roasted Portobello Burger with Sprouted Seeds & Avocado)

Summertime – a season that is synonymous with renewal and resetting. School is out, and, if you’re lucky, work has slowed down. The sun shines more often, casting an upbeat vibe that engulfs the entire city. The winter doldrums have passed, and it is time to come out of hibernation and dive into new ventures and discoveries. Days are longer, skirts are shorter, smiles are wider. Tucked away is the crock-pot, and rolled out is the Barbecue. Food is lighter, and refreshment is at the top of the priority list. What better way to refresh and renew than to eat live, raw vegan food? Now, I’m not talking about a 100% raw diet. While that might appeal to some, it is certainly not for all (for many different reasons that I won’t get into here.) However, incorporating more raw vegan components into your daily diet is almost certain to make you feel pretty darn good.

Eating live food is a stepping stone to hitting that refresh button on your body. Some benefits of eating raw: raw food is cool. Not hipster-cool, but literally cool – temperature wise! Eating cool foods more often is said to reduce inflammation in the body and reduce stomach irritations. Furthermore, many raw foods are known to contain certain good-for-you enzymes that are lost in cooking. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about raw diets, and a lot of bias, as there often is in the agricultural industry. However, as with anything, in moderation, there are definitely benefits to eating this way.

My first experience with full-out raw vegan was at a restaurant earlier this week called Crudessence. What intrigues and attracts me the most to this dietary choice is the incredible creativity that goes into preparing such meals. For example, I went in asking myself, what would a “wrap” possibly be made out of? Seaweed and rice paper! Well of COURSE that stuff is raw – but I never thought of it that way before. This experienced opened me up to trying even more new things. I started sprouting my own seeds. I tasted nutritional yeast (surprisingly delicious, slightly reminiscent of tempura flakes). And, I made quite a few rice paper and seaweed wraps.

And then, I made this: The Un-burger. Now, it is not completely raw, as I roasted the mushrooms. (Portobellos should not really be eaten raw due to possible carcinogens that are killed in the cooking process. Which brings me back to the point of how a 100% raw diet is not ideal.) In making this, I found a place to incorporate both my sprouted beans AND my nutritional yeast. Ok, and I added some Veganase. So I guess this isn’t REALLY all that raw at all… BUT it is vegan. And it is DE-LI-CIOUS.
Make it and see for yourself!

Roasted Portobello Burger with Sprouted Seeds & Avocado
note: I sprouted my own seeds for this. Very easy, and very tasty. So much fresher than the sprouts that come already packaged at the store! I use the hemp sprouting bag as I find it’s the quickest method, and it yields the best results. For more information about sprouting, visit Sproutman’s website, full of useful tips and tricks! 

what you’ll need
for the burgers:
2 portobello caps
2 tsp grapeseed or olive oil
pinch salt, freshly ground pepper
for the topping:
1 avocado, cubed
1 cup arugula (aka roquette/rocket)
2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional, but delicious!)
1/4 cup sprouted seeds/beans
2 tbsp Vegenaise or mayonaise

how to do it
Preheat oven to 350F. Rub portobellos with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap in parchment (creating a papillote) and place in shallow baking dish. Cook for approximately 20 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached. Toss beans, avocado and nutritional yeast together. Divide greens over two plates and place burgers on top. Spread each burger with Vegenaise/mayo and top with mixture.
Eat and enjoy!

The WhatTheHellAreYouEating Sandwich (Avocado & Beans)


Sometimes, the best tasting foods are the messiest ugliest most aesthetically unappealing ones. Prime example: Sloppy Joes. Visually, Sloppy Joes resemble a bread bun that’s regurgitated a hamburger onto itself. And, living well up to their name, these babies will dribble down your chin, pour down your wrists, and splash all over your brand new cream coloured pants. But, there is a reason why these greasy, juicy open-face sandwiches continue to be a comfort food for North Americans – because they’re absolutely delicious!

Though I do often love a beautifully presented meal, lately I’ve had a tendency to just slop a bunch of stuff together and dig right in. My recent meal choices have often come hand in hand with my host family making funny faces at me and often uttering the phrase “what are you eating now?!” Today was no different. I decided that I wanted to eat some leftover beans for lunch, and I felt like they’d go well with some avocado.

Fajitas perhaps? No desire to clean a frying pan.
Burritos? No tortillas.
Makeshift-whatever’s-in-the-fridge-tex-mex sandwich? Done.

Super hearty. Super healthy. Super delicious.


Bean & Avocado Sandwich
original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
note: quantities are for 1 sandwich. multiply to your liking.
two slices toasted bread (of your choice)
1 tbsp hummus
1 avocado
2 tbsp cup red kidney beans
1 tbsp chickpeas
2 tbsp corn kernels
1 tsp garlic powder
1 sprinkle salt
1 dash lime juice (optional)

how to do it
In a small bowl, mash avocado with garlic, salt and lime. Toss with beans, chickpeas and corn. Spread hot toast with hummus on both sides. Top each toast with avocado mixture. Garnish with sour cream and fresh sprouts. Eat open face.

Eat Your Veggies (and your burgers, too!)

Veggie burgers are not hamburger substitutes, I don’t care what any restaurant claims. You can fire grill it, BBQ it, smother it with ketchup until you can barely taste it, but in the end, it’s just not a beef patty. It’s a veggie patty. Now, to my knowledge, chicken burgers do not try to be beef burgers and broccoli doesn’t attempt to replace steak. So I must ask then, why do so many ground soy products strive to be “just like beef?” When I eat veggie burgers, I do so because I enjoy the burger itself. I do not eat them in order to replace a hamburger. If I wanted a hamburger, I’d eat a hamburger. A major factor that sent me on the path to vegetarianism was that I did not enjoy the taste nor the texture of meat – so why on earth would I want to eat a highly processed product that was masquerading around, pretending to be that demon that I tried so hard to avoid?

That being said, let me tell you something about veggie burgers – some of them, and I emphasize some, are really quite delicious. It’s when people begin to expect that their veggie burger should taste like meat that they are disappointed, and all possibilities of enjoyment are thrown out the window. The thing that makes veggie burgers fun is that there are so many different varieties that can be prepared.  My all time favorite vegetarian burger was one made of lentils. I feasted on this fantastic creation at a trendy comfort-chic spot in Montreal – a place where you can order a 20$ hamburger alongside a glass of Dom Perignon, all off of a menu that’s written on a chalkboard.
I really love this city.

Today, inspired by my “buy-nothing” week, a long and deep stare into my kitchen pantry brought me to the conclusion that I stock a lot of beans and legumes, but I rarely eat them. I decided it was time to change that. A little inspiration from the January issue of Chatelaine is allowing me to present to you, the superfantastic Pinto & Black Bean Burger! At about 150 calories each, chock full of fibre, and of course, filled with the antioxidant power of black beans, you’ll wonder how on earth something that is so good for you can be so delicious!

GLUTEN FREE NOTE: You can make this gluten free by omitting the breadcrumbs and substituting a few crushed gluten-free crackers instead. 

Two Bean Burger
adapted from Chatelaine magazine
what you’ll need
1/2 cup uncooked short pasta
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 of a 540 mL can pinto beans, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1/2 of a 540 mL can black beans, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1/4 cup ketchup or bbq sauce, or both
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (more if batter is too sticky).
2 tbsp oil (for cooking)
how to do it
Cook pasta in until very soft, 15 min.  Drain cooked pasta and rinse under cold running water. Dry pasta with paper towels, soaking up as much water as possible. Place pasta, onion, pinto beans, ketchup, cilantro, garlic, juice and salt in a large food processor. Pulse until smooth. Stir in black beans and breadcrumbs. Shape into patties. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium. Add 1 tbsp oil, then 3 patties. Cook for 3 min, then flip patties and cook until firm, about 3 more min. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve on a bun, or with a sauce or gravy on top!

Good For The Heart

Many of you might recall a little jingle from childhood, you know, the one that relates beans with flatulence a certain bodily function that shall remain nameless. Well, that little ditty also suggested that beans are good for your heart – and that was smack on! While it is widely known that beans are chock full of fibre, making them your digestive track’s most powerful alli, a lesser known fact is that beans are also loaded with unique phytochemicals that protect against certain cancers as well as heart disesase. Oh, and they’re yummy. Especially when you make them into this deliciously refreshing salad!

Before you go on and read the recipe, I must let you know – it really is the cilantro that gives it a the perfect little kick of Mexicana, and makes it reminiscent of an authentic salsa.  So for all of you cilantro haters out there? I sympathize. I really do. I used to be one of you. Then, something changed inside of me. It began one faithful evening, while I was out with a few of my girls, dining at a local mexican resto that I’d been wanting to try.  I requested that they omit the cilantro on my dish, however, to my horror, the dish came to me brimming with the evil green leaf. The little piles seemed like mountains, mountains of cilantro that I would never be able to conquer. But, being a pushover extremely polite, I will very rarely send anything back at a restaurant. I decided at that moment that I was just going to have to bite the bullet and eat it. I told myself, hey, it’s meant to be prepared this way, right? And I came here for the experience of authentic cooking afterall, right? So I’ll eat it this exactly how it’s supposed to be eaten! Right.

And then something really weird happened. I. Liked. Cilantro.

So go ahead, be brave, try it for yourself, because it really does make this dish what it is. Replace it with flat leaf parsely if you must, or omit it alltogether, but definitely do make this bean salad.
Your heart will thank you.

Black Bean Salsa Salad
an original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
1 cup of canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small italian tomato, diced
½ an avocado, cut into cubes
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp hot sauce (I used Frank’s)
1 tsp lime juice
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground cumin

how to do it
Combine salad ingredients. Toss with hot sauce, lime juice and seasonings, just until coated. Serve immediately. Keeps well in the fridge for two days. Serves 1, adjust quantities depending on the number of servings you desire.