Cooking Tips and Recipes

Here is a sampler of our favorite dishes.  As you will see, a low fat whole foods vegetarian diet does not mean only "celery and carrot sticks".  Our goal is to present a few wonderful recipes, and intoduce you to healthful vegetarian cooking.  Explore the different foods, and have fun. 


Great Grains Breakfast Cereal (or our "morning groats").  I like to begin cooking this on a Sunday night, and then enjoy our groats for breakfast every morning of the week.  It's nutritionally packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals- not to mention that it tastes just great and stays with you all morning.

  • 2 cups - Uncooked grains (we prefer oat groats, barley, wheat berries, and quinoa.  Also try brown rice, millet, spelt, kamut, or bulgur.
  • 8 cups - Water (we use filtered).
  • 1/2 tsp - Salt.
  • 1-2 cups - Fruit (we use organic rasins, sliced apples and pears, and figs.  Also enjoy prunes, dates, apricots, or any dried fruit).
  • 1 cup - Milk (we use soy milk, though you could use skim).

Rinse the grains with a sieve.  Do an extra good job with quinoa or it can taste bitter.  Combine grains, water, and salt in a crock-pot and cook "low" overnight for 8 hrs. till the water has been absorbed.  Then add you preferred mix of chopped up fruits with the milk, and cook for another 1/2 hour plus.  We store this in the refrigerator for the coming week, and then warm up our "morning groats" in the microwave using milk over the top.  (Brenda Davis shared this recipe at the Dean Ornish retreat I attended).

Nutrition:  approximately 250 calories per serving with 6 grams protein, 2 grams fat, 54 grams carbohydrate, and 5 grams fiber.    


Willie's Porridge.  Here's another great breakfast cereal that uses a number of whole grains.  One of our sons requests it every morning.  You can see that it offers so much more than the usual breakfast!

  • 1 cup -  Wheat berries
  • 1 cup - Wild rice
  • 1/2 cup - Oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup - Mixed dry fruit (we like cranberries).

Rinse the two grains and cook them separately.  Bring water (3 cups for wild rice, 4 cups for wheat berries) and grain to a boil, and then simmer each for 60 minutes till water is gone.  We then store each separately in the refrigerator.  Each morning we then make oatmeal, add the other two grains, microwave briefly and add dried fruit with skim milk/soy milk.  Simple.


Vegetarian Chili.  This is great, and is even better reheated the following days.  Easy to bring to work for lunch.  Serve the chili with brown rice.  Very easy, and we typically make a double batch.

  • 2 cups - Sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup - Diced onion
  • 1/2 cup - Diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup - diced green bell pepper
  • 1 cup - Diced yellow summer squash
  • 2-4 tbsps - Chili powder
  • one can (15 oz) -  kidney beans
  • 2 cups - marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup - bulgar

Combine in a large pot the mushrooms, onion, squash, bell peppers, chili powder, and 1/4 cup water.  Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and continue until the vegetebles are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Add kidney beans with their liquid and marinara sauce.  Bring to a simmer and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add bulgar and cook, stirring often, until grains are tender, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste.  (You can find this and many more wonderful ideas in "Everyday Cooking with Dean Ornish.")

Nutrition:  230 calories per serving, with 1.4 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 13 grams protein, 47 grams carbohydrate.


Pumpkin Bars.  These cake-like bars are just great.  The kids love them and each bar has no cholesterol and only 100 mg fat.

  • 1 cup - Egg whites (~8 large eggs)
  • 1 cup - Unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups - granulated sugar
  • 2 cups - canned unsweetened pumpkin
  • 2 cups - unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp - baking powder
  • 1 tsp - baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp - salt
  • 2 tsp - ground cinnamon
  • 1/2-1 tsp - ground ginger (fresh grated works well)
  • 1/4 tsp - ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp - ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Nonstick spray a 12 by 18 by 1-inch pan.  In a large bowel wisk egg whites, applesauce, sugar, and pumpkin.  Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Gently fold the dry ingredients into pumpkin mix.  Then spread the mixture in pan.  Bake until firm to the touch and lightly browned, approx. 20-25 minutes.  Let cool, and then cut into bars.  (Find this in "Everyday Cooking with Dean Ornish").


Onion and Winter Squash Soup.  We all enjoy this alot.

  • 1 tbsp - olive oil
  • 2 large onions - halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 15 oz cans - vegetable broth
  • 1 cup - hot water
  • 1 small - butternut squash
  • 1/2 tsp -  ground ginger
  • salt and fresh pepper - to taste

Heat oil in a large, wide saucepan.  Add onions and saute over medium heat for approx. 4 minutes.  Add broth and hot water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Cook over low heat for 7 minutes.  Meanwhile halve the squash, and microwave covered in a safe dish for 7 minutes (until tender).  Remove seeds, and scoop out the soft flesh.  Add squash and ginger to soup.  Cook over low heat 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Season and serve hot.  (find this and many quick meal ideas in "30 Low-Fat Meals in 30 Minutes").


Mushroom Stroganoff.  This is a favorite meatless meal served over whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or other grains.

  • 6 (2.5 oz) - Boca Burger patties
  • 1 cup - chopped onion
  • 1 tsp - minced garlic
  • 1 tsp - soy sauce
  • 4 cups - sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups - vegetable broth
  • 2 cups - nonfat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp - cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup - minced parsley

Cook Boca Burgers as directed.  Chop into 3/4 inch dice.  In a large nonstick pan combine onion, garlic, soy suce, and 1/4 cup water.  Bring to a simmer over moderate heat until liquid evaporates and onions are translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Add mushrooms, stock, and Boca Burger.  Simmer until mushrooms are cooked, about 15-20 minutes.  Stir in the sour cream and bring mixture to a simmer.  In a small bowl whisk together cornstarch and 2 tbsp cold water until smooth.  Add this to sauce, whisking it well.  Simmer until thickened, another 3 minutes.  Stir in half the parsley and season with salt and pepper.  Ladle the mushroom stroganoff over noodles, and top with remaining minced parsley.

Nutrition: Each serving contains 550 calories, with 0 mg cholesterol, 2.5 mg fat, 22 grams protein, and 124 grams carbohydrate.  (Find this recipe in "Everyday Cooking with Dean Ornish").


Leek and Bean Soup.  This is a family favorite.  We rarely have left-overs because the kids always ask for seconds.  The leeks add a creamy taste and texture when blended with beans.  Wonderful.

  • 3 - leeks, white parts only, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups - canned vegetable broth
  • 1 cup - freshly cooked navy beans or Great Northern beans
  • 1/2 cup - bean liquid or water
  • 1 tbsp - fresh chopped or dried basil
  • 1 tbsp - fresh chopped or dried thyme
  • 1 cup - firmly packed rinsed spinach, stemmed
  • 2 tbsp - olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp - black mustard seeds
  •  1 cup - thinly slivered onion
  • salt - to taste

Bring leeks and broth to a boil in a soup kettle.  Reduce heat and cook covered until leeks are tender (5-7 minutes).  Remove 2 tbsp of leeks and reserve with 2 tbsp beans.  Process the contents of the soup kettle, the beans and bean liquid, in batches, in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Add water as needed.  Return the puree and the reserved leeks/beans to the kettle.  Add basil, thyme, and spinach.  Bring to a simmer over low heat for a few minutes until spinach is tender.  In a small skillet heat olive oil, and saute mustard seeds (covered) until they pop.  Add onion and saute until brown, stirring 7-10 minutes.  Pour this mixture into the soup.  Serve. Then have the kids clean up the mess!  (Find this great recipe in The Bold Vegetarian, by Bharti Kirchner). 


Cuban Black Beans and Rice.  This recipe is a frequent request of our kids- delicious.  We use our pressure cooker to prepare this and many other bean/vegetable meals to save time.

  • 1 1/2 cups - dried black beans, first rinsed and then soaked overnight
  • 1 tbsp - olive oil
  • 2 tsps - minced garlic
  • 1 cup - coarsely chopped white onions
  • 2 cups - boiling water
  • 1 large - red and green bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long
  • 2 large - bay leaves
  • 2 tsps - dried oregano leaves
  • 2-3 tsps - red wine vinegar
  • salt - to taste

Drain and rinse the soaked beans.  Set aside.  Heat the oil in the pressure cooker, then cook the garlic over medium heat, stirring until light brown.  Add onions and continue to cook while stirring for one minute.  Add the beans, just enough boiling water to cover (stand back to avoid sputtering oil), and the red and green bell peppers, bay leaf, and oregano.  Then lock the lid in place.  Over high heat, bring to high pressure.  Lower heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 12 minutes.  Allow the pressure to come down naturally or use a quick release method.  Remove lid, tilting it away from you to avoid any steam.  If the beans are not quite tender, replace the lid (don't lock) and simmer until tender.  Remove the bay leaf and stir in the vinegar and salt.  If the mixture is too soupy either let it sit in the cooker for about 2 hours, or better yet transfer about a cupful of the beans to a food processor or blender, and puree.  Then stir the puree back into the beans to create a thick sauce.  Reheat if necessary.  Serve over brown rice.

Find this and other reciepes in Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, by Lorna Sass.  It took us awhile, but now our pressure cooker is a key item in the kitchen.  A rice cooker has been a huge time saver for us over the years too!


Black Bean and Barley Salsa Salad.  This is superb, and you can enjoy it for days.

  • 2 cups - water
  • 1 cup - uncooked quick-cooling barley
  • 1 cup - fresh or frozen whole-kernel corn
  • 1 cup - chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup - minced fresh cilantro (or more per taste)
  • 1/3 cup - diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  • 1/4 cup minced green onions
  • 1 (15 oz) can - black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/4 cup - fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp - jalapeno hot sauce (or more)
  • 1 tsp olive oil (or more)
  • dashes - salt, ground cumin, and pepper

Boil water and add barley.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 8 minutes.  Add corn and cover (do not stir).  Cook 6 minutes or until barley is tender.  Remove fron heat and let stand 5 minutes.  Then combine lemon juice and tomato and next 5 ingredients- through beans.  Combine lemon juice and remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Finally pour this mixture over the salad and toss.  Makes 4 servings of about 1 1/2 cup each.  (This great recipe comes from a good friend.  It looks and tastes wonderful).


Quick Home-made Flaxseed Oil Salad Dressing.  Dijon mustard/flax oil

  • 2/3 cup - olive oil (always cold pressed extra virgin)
  • 2 tbsps - flaxseed oil
  • 1 tbsp - white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp - Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp - sugar

Whisk together and pour over romaine lettuce/salad, add pepper.... and enjoy.


Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove - garlic
  • 1 tbsp - Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsps - balsamic vinegar
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup flaxseed oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper - to taste

Add finely minced or crushed garlic to the combination of the above.  Whisk together, and then add salt and pepper to taste.  Simple!


Diane's Tennis Team Salad  - obviously a big hit at group pot-lucks.

  • 1 1/2 cups - salted cashews
  • 1 1/2 cups - craisons
  • 1 - apple (pear optional) cubed
  • 2 bags - Romaine
  • 8 oz - grated swiss cheese

To this salad add the dressing consisting of :

  • 1/2 cup - sugar (certainly can reduce)
  • 1/3 cup - lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp - salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp - Dijom
  • 2/3 cup - olive oil
  • 1 tbsp - poppy seeds


Southwestern Wild Rice Salad.  This is an absolute favorite.  We always make a double batch- it goes in a hurry.

  • 2 cups - cooked brown rice
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 12 oz - marinated artichoke hearts, drained and halved
  • 8 oz - sliced waterchestnuts, drained and chopped
  • 11 oz - mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 cup - celery, sliced
  • 3/4 cup - toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup - raisins
  • 1/2 cup - green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup - salsa
  • 1/4 cup - orange juice
  • 1/4 cup - canola oil
  • 2 tsps  - grated orange peel

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the salad ingredients and mix well.  In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients (salsa through orange peel).  Toss together and refrigerate.  The flavors blend together and this salad taste better the next day.  Serves eight.

Nutrition:  330 calories, 14 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrate, 0 mg cholesterol.


Cooking Grains

You can cook grains by simmering them in liquid, using a pressure cooker or microwave, or even by baking them.  Whichever you chose, plan on your grains expanding to 2-4 times their original size- so pick a big enough pot!  If you are in a hurry small grains such as quinoa and whole wheat couscous can be prepared in less than 15 minutes.  For larger grains (brown rice, rye, wheat berries, spelt, kamut, oat groats, barley, etc) presoaking will cut the time in half.  We typically use a rice cooker for quick preparation of brown rice, which is a household staple.  A rice cooker is indispensible.

To cook grains first rinse them in a strainer (especially quinoa - to remove bitter resin).  Then you add a variable amount of water, cover and bring to a rapid boil.  Then stir, cover and reduce heat to a simmer for the grain specific recommended time.  That's it. 

Brown barley requires 3-4 cups water/ 1 cup grain, for 50-55 minutes.  Quinoa requires 2 cups water/ 1 cup grain , for 15-20 minutes.  Wild rice requires 3 cups water/ 1 cup grain, for 60 minutes.  And so on.....  You certainly can find this information in a standard cookbook.  "Becoming Vegetarian" is a great resource.


Cooking with Legumes

Since most beans require lengthy cooking times, plan ahead and make some to freeze for the future.  It is important to make cooking/serving legumes as simple as possible to ensure that you will take advantage of these most healthful foods.  Legumes are equivelent to meat as a protein source, plus are loaded with healthful phytochemicals (not to mention, devoid of saturated fat and cholesterol!).  First, soak your chosen bean overnight in three times the volume of water.  Discard the water and then rinse the beans.  Cover the beans with three inches of unsalted fresh water, and boil for one minute.  Cover and simmer for 1-3 hours, dependent on the type of bean.  Cook till the bean is very soft- so that you can mash the bean easily with your tongue against the roof of your mouth.  (Check your cookbook for the estimated simmering time for your legume.  "Becoming Vegetarian" is again an excellent resource). 

To avoid the one main bean side-effect, flatus, there are a few tips.

1.  Soak and rinse beans thoroughly to remove the indigestible sugars legumes contain.  These very carbohydrates are the cause of this gaseous social problem.  Bean carbohydrate is leached out into water when soaking, and therefore there is less for our intestines to handle.  Any of the remaining indigestible sugar is eventually "eaten as fuel" by our intestine's friendly bacteria, and gas is given off for us to cope with!  Remember that even rinsing canned beans before warming them up will help.

2.  Cook the beans thoroughly, rather than eating them al dente.  Undercooked beans are a preferred meal for our intestine's bacteria.

3.  Begin by adding legumes to your diet slowly.  It typically takes a month or so to adjust to a new way fo eating.

4.  "Beano" does work well to cut down on gas.  It is an alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme that digests gas-promoting sugars found in legumes, wheat products, oat bran, and foods from the cabbage family.  Take in pill or liquid form with your first spoonful of food.  Beano is tasteless and does take the wind out of gassy foods.  Enjoy!  Keep in mind that flatus is not a sign of disease or that something is wrong.  A healthful diet high in fiber will cause you to have more flatus, typically odorless.