Beans for da Bowl? 2 hearty recipes that will also help take the chill off

marcy jiminez, mackenzie williams, lima bean festival, brownies

People come up with some amazing ideas using beans at the annual Lima Bean Festival. Marcy Jimenez and Mackenzie Willkins created brownies. (Want more bean ideas? Contact the San Dieguito Heritage Museum.) (Photo by Laura Groch)

Gray day in SoCal today, so in solidarity with our East Coast br-r-r-ethren, I think some warming foods are in order. Here are a couple of winners from the 2014 Lima Bean festival, held in September at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum in Encinitas. For the past several years, I’ve been honored to help with the judging (yes, I work cheap) of this boisterous, fun event.

Both recipes are hearty enough for chilly weather, and both would make fine additions to your Super Bowl table (you are planning more than chips and dip, right?).

BTW, if you’ve never visited the museum, or attended the festival, I can Continue reading


A chili without tomato totality (just in time for the Super Bowl)


I love tomatoes, but the totality of tomato in most chilis is too much for me. Here’s a chili recipe that tones down the tomato factor. (Photo copyright Laura Groch 2015)

Super Bowl season brings up visions of other ‘super’ bowls — hearty soups, stews, chilis and gumbos that can be left in a slow cooker for dishing out at halftime and beyond.

I’m not a fan in general of most chilis, finding them way too-tomatoey, which tends to knock out most of the other flavors. But hey, that’s me. My husband, on the other hand, enjoys chili with plenty of tomatoes.

What to do to keep us both happy? Well, I recently adapted a recipe that makes Continue reading

Creamy (and low-fat!) ranch-style dressing, with a surprise ingredient

Low-fat and loving it: Creamy faux-ranch dressing recipe from the NYTimes uses beans, yogurt and in this version, garlic. I loved it!

Low-fat and loving it: Creamy faux-ranch dressing recipe from the NYTimes uses beans, yogurt and in this version, garlic.

If I told you I’d found a creamy, ranch-style dressing with LOTS less fat than the original, perhaps you would be more inclined to give those healthful salads a chance.
Well, since my last post on the topic of eating more healthfully, I’ve experimented with a neat salad dressing recipe seen in The New York Times that fits the bill.
It’s a creamy ranch-style dressing made with white beans and yogurt. The Continue reading

Do yourself a fava


My British pal Daphne and I were chatting in our local produce market recently when she spotted a display of bright green fava bean pods. “Oh! I must get some of these. They’re wonderful. We call them broad beans, you know. You must get some; this is a terrific price.” (It was — only 49 cents a pound.) I had to agree, and scooped up several handfuls myself.

Fava beans are showing ever-so-fleetingly in the farmers markets these days. If your only encounter with the fava bean is the Hannibal Lecter quote from “Silence of the Lambs,” well, it’s time to reset the brain banks.

Buy yourself a bagful of the oversized bean pods — you’ll need more than you think, as each pod holds only a few beans. But the beans are large, so they add up. As you can see in the photo attached, the beans are well cushioned in the pods, which almost look like styrofoam stuffing on the inside.

As you also should be able to see, the beans are kind of a two-stage process: You have to get them out of the pods, then cook them briefly, then shell them again! They have a protective skin that must be removed before they are edible. (They’re kind of like artichokes in that you end up with way more green leavings than what you started with.)

So shell them, drop them briefly into boiling water (about 30 seconds, or until you can see bright green shading through the “second” skin), then drain and rinse in cold water. To remove the skins, which will now have some slack on them, my method is to pierce or tear it with a thumbnail, then push or squeeze the bean out (faster than trying to peel it). The two bright-green beans at the bottom of the photo are what you’ll end up with (the skins are above them).

Though they are a bit of trouble, favas are tasty — not mealy like legumes, but more like fresh peas, with a touch of bitterness. I like them best just added to a salad. If you can shell enough of them to make a side dish, they’d also be good simply cooked and buttered.  Try them in soup, mash them into hummus — just be sure to grab some as soon as you spot them!