Maria’s Curried Red Lentils and Greens Soup

2 + 1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, use less if you want less spice
2 cups, about 1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
Sweet potato, peeled and diced, optional
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, I prefer these taste-test award winning organic bpa free tomatoes
6 cups of water (decrease to 5 cup if you prefer it thicker like a stew. If adding the sweet potato use 6 cups)
1 can coconut milk, low fat or reduced fat
3 packed cups of Swiss chard or kale, stems removed, leaves chopped or spinach, chopped
1 teaspoon of salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
If desired, finely chopped cilantro to garnish

Put the lentils in a colander under running water and check them for any debris and make sure they’re rinsed and clean.

Grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric and cayenne pepper together with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

In a soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil on medium heat. Add the ground spice mixture to the oil and fry for about 1 minute, mixing continuously with a spoon. They will become very fragrant. Be sure not to burn.

Add the onions, carrots, garlic, and ginger and sweet potato if using. Cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add another tablespoon of oil if the bottom of the pot gets dry.

Add the lentils, tomatoes, water, salt and fresh pepper as well. Cover, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for about 20 minutes. The time will depend. The easiest way is to check on your lentils as you cook them. Cooking times vary depending on how large the pan and simply the size of lentils themselves. Simply have a taste and judge the cooking time accordingly

Add the coconut milk, the Swiss chard, kale or spinach and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.

Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve with freshly chopped cilantro, if desired  Serves 6.


How to Get Enough Protein if You Are a Vegetarian

Adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get about 46 to 55 grams of protein for women, and 56 to 66 grams of protein for men per day.

Those who are strength training need to calculate their protein needs according to this: 1.2 g/kg body weight per day for advanced and 1.5–1.7 g/kg body weight per day for novice. So for a 130 pound person who does advanced strength training, they need 59 grams of protein.

Keep in mind that plant sources of protein are incomplete (they do not have all the essential amino acids), with the exception of soybeans and quinoa. If a vegetarian has a limited diet, they can potentially not be getting their daily protein needs met. They must be careful to eat a wide a variety of protein rich plant foods.

See here for more information on getting adequate protein.

For those eating meat, 1 ounce of protein provides about 7 grams of protein. But for the vegetarian, these options offer a meatless alternative for 1 ounce of protein or 7 grams of protein.

½ cup cooked chickpeas, black beans, edamame or lentils

1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds

¼ cup tofu

2 tablespoons hummus

1 cup cooked bulgur or quinoa

12 raw almonds

1 tablespoon peanut butter

2 slices of bread

1 to 1.5 cups cereal

3 ½ cups vegetables

One large egg

One cup milk


Maria Faires’ Slow Cooker Crock Pot Beans

beansHow to Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker Crockpot

I have been making beans for years trying to come up with a recipe that would result in a flavorful satisfying dish. I think I have found it! These are full of flavor! The long, slow cooking method imparts a deep flavorful essence into the beans.

And being a dietitian, I am a huge fan of beans for their wealth of nutrients, antioxidants and value in a weight loss program since they are so filling.

And this method is the easiest I have ever tried. When beans are cooked in the slow cooker, pre-soaking them overnight is not important, so this method saves a step. The long, slow cooking process will soften them without the need to presoak.

The first time or two that you cook beans in the slow cooker, it’s best if you can be around to check on them toward the end of cooking. Some slow cookers and some beans will cook more quickly or slowly than others. Until you’re familiar with how long beans typically take in your slow cooker, start checking them around 4 and a half hours and then every 15 minutes or so after that until they’re done.

You may be wondering when you read the recipe what I mean by “aromatics”. Aromatics are ingredients like herbs, spices and vegetables (and sometimes meat) that are a base for the flavor of a dish. Cooking the aromatics slowly helps to release their flavors and aromas, creating a deep flavor foundation for dishes such as soups, stews, sauces, meat fillings, etc. Ever sautéed garlic in olive oil? That’s an example of using aromatics.

Different countries’ regional cuisines have a traditional combination of aromatics. In French cooking, the combination is the classic mirepoix: onions, carrots and celery and supplemented with the herbs parsley, thyme, bay leaves, herbes de provence. In Spain: onions, bell peppers and tomatoes, garlic, chilies, bay leaves, cumin, paprika, cilantro, ham or chorizo. Meanwhile, Cajun uses onion, celery, green peppers, garlic, parsley, shallots and paprika. And Indian regions use onion, garlic, chilies, ginger, tomatoes and various Indian spices.

Knowing the regional variations, after you get proficient with making beans in the slow cooker, you can experiment with different aromatic ingredients to flavor your beans.

To make, read through the general directions and then see my sample recipe for exact measurements.

General Detailed Instructions 

Ingredients Any amount of dried beans (other than lentils) 1 ¼  teaspoons salt (divided) per pound of beans, aromatics, like a bay leaf, peeled garlic, minced onion, or dried herbs. OPTIONAL: Smoked meat, like ham hock, ham chorizo, smoked turkey leg

Equipment 3 to 4 quart or smaller slow cooker for 1 pound of beans or less OR 5-6 quart or larger slow cooker for 2 pounds of beans or more

Pick through the beans: pour them into a long, flat container and pick through them, looking for stones, and dried, withered and discolored, then discard. Now rinse the beans in a colander.

Transfer the beans to the slow cooker.

Add aromatics such as bay leaves, chopped onion, chopped garlic or any dried herbs.

Add smoked meat if using.

Cover with water: Pour enough water over the beans to cover them by about 4 inches. Add ¾  teaspoon of salt for one pound of beans and stir.

Cook on low for 5 to 7 hours: Cover the pot and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. When the beans are soft but still a little more firm than you’d like, add a half teaspoon of salt for one pound and continue cooking until done.

NOTE: The first time or two that you cook beans in the slow cooker, it’s best if you can be around to check on them toward the end of cooking. Some slow cookers and some beans will cook more quickly or slowly than others. Until you’re familiar with how long beans typically take in your slow cooker, start checking them around 4 and a half hours and then every 15 minutes or so after that until they’re done.

Cool and store: Cool the beans and then store them in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Here is exactly what I did so that perhaps your first time cooking beans in the slow-cooker you can copy mine.

My Favorite Smoky Pinto Beans

I followed the above instructions and I used 1 pound of pinto beans, 6 cups water, 2 bay leaves, 1 ¼  teaspoons salt total,1 chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves and 2 slices of raw bacon chopped.

I used a 5 quart slow cooker.

I did not soak the beans.

My pinto beans were soft in 4 hours 45 minutes.

For additional smoky flavor add some smoked paprika.

**See above for full detailed instructions.

Great Northern Beans

When I used Great White Northern Beans they cooked in about 3.5 hours.

Small Lima Beans

When I used small lima beans it took 5 hours to cook.