Hot Spicy Black Bean Soup for a Cold Day

Black beans

Black beans

Fresh cilantro

Fresh cilantro

Blood oranges

Blood oranges


I have written, before, about the fabulous home-smoked chipotle peppers given to me by a friend and grown by another friend in Truro. These babies pack a powerful supply of heat, so much that one teeny pepper, soaked in hot water (the smoking process turns a fresh jalapeno pepper into a dried pepper) AND with the seeds removed, brought heat to a whole big pot of soup! But luckily for those of you who might make this soup, the available canned chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, while still scorching hot, don’t get me wrong, might not be as hot as these. Still, start with only one to see….
I added blood orange segments as a nod to the original Brazilian Black Bean Soup I used to make from Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, (hers had oranges in it) plus to tone down the heat. It came out delicious.

This recipe just happens to be vegan and Gluten free. It’s funny that most things I make are gluten-free, without even trying, except when it comes to baking, but that’s a story for another day.

I made this soup a couple weekends ago on a very cold day, and I couldn’t remember whether I used roasted diced sweet potato or roasted butternut squash! So I went back to my photos and pictures of both were in close proximity to my soup photos. Are you kidding? Well, I determined that one could use either and either would be fine, although I did use the butternut squash. I think.

Vegan Hot Black Bean Soup
3-4 Cups cooked black beans*

1 T grapeseed oil

1 medium Onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves or more

1 T cumin seeds

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, diced into cubes, and roasted** (or a large sweet potato, peeled and diced and roasted or steamed would be totally delish too!)

1 dried chipotle pepper, soaked in hot hot (or boiling) water for about 20 min, then seeds removed OR one small chiptole pepper in adobo sauce (use the sauce! it’s a great flavor)
several blood oranges, peeled, the white pith removed somewhat (don’t stress over this; it doesn’t really matter!)

stock or the cooking liquid from the black beans, about 4 cups (one container full of vegetable stock from Trader Joe’s could work if you buy canned beans instead of cooking the beans from dry.)

chopped cilantro, about 1/2 to 1 cup, depending on how much you like it!

I soaked a whole mess of black beans overnight and then drained, rinsed and added a few cups of water (more than enough to cover the beans), brought that to a boil and then covered and simmered for a few hours. I added a piece of Kombu (seaweed) for flavor but mostly it’s supposed to help the beans be more digestible and produce less gas and PLUS it’s a superfood in itself, full of minerals we don’t get elsewhere.

So, if you aren’t up for cooking your own beans and want to buy organic canned beans, that is perfectly fine; personally, I drain and rinse canned beans so I can better adjust the salt content myself.

After the beans are cooked, I drained them but preserved the cooking liquid to add as stock to the soup. Saute the chopped onion in grapeseed oil (or other neutral cold-pressed vegetable oil) with the whole cumin seeds and the garlic, peeled and chopped. When the onions are cooked through, add them to a blender with about 2/3 of the cooked beans and the chipotle pepper and about 2 cups of the stock (or cooking liquid) and then pour all of that back into the soup pot, adding the rest of the whole cooked beans and the roasted butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. add the orange sections about 30 minutes or so before serving.

**for the butternut squash, you can soak the whole thing in hot water for a while (20 minutes to hours) and then it makes the peeling easier. Peel, discard seeds and chop into bite-sized pieces and place on a pan with some melted coconut oil (I add 1-2 Tablespoons of coconut oil to a jellyroll pan, stick it in the oven that’s been preheated to 350 degrees, and let it melt; it takes minutes.) Then you can roll the squash pieces in the oil to coat and place back in the oven. Turn after 20 minutes for a total of about 45 minutes cooking time. Roasting the squash can be done in advance and even the day before or earlier in the day.

This soup pairs nicely with a green salad with watercress or arugula or some other strong green, plus, of course, a nice crusty bread.


Culling Cookbooks, saying Farewell

I never thought of myself as someone who finds “good-byes” hard, but I do find change difficult, and aren’t they really the same thing?  Moving from a place of comfort to something new and unknown is just like saying good bye.  So instead, Farewell seems more palatable (excusing the pun.)

Because my three sons span a gap of 29 years, I always thought I would not be one of “those” mothers who cried at their youngest one’s graduation or who couldn’t bear the transition of having him leave home. I’ve been doing it full time for almost 30 years, so I am so ready to be free of full-time mothering!! or so I thought…

Recently I got maudlin sorting through (and weeding out) old cookbooks. Gone are the days of the “feeding 5 in under 30 minutes” and shortcut desserts. Now I am a integrative nutritionist: a healthy eating maven and plant-based whole foods clean eating cook; I no longer use any processed “shortcut” foods.

Still, with a mild sadness and sense of loss that I suspect is connected to my youngest son preparing to leave for college, I tried to weed out those old cookbooks. I own quite a large collection of baking cookbooks, quite a few devoted entirely to cookies, to chocolate, to biscotti, pies and tarts; I even have a dessert-only cookbook from the legendary Olives of Boston, now closed.

These sweet-based cookbooks could present a challenge for me, to avoid sugar and perform a makeover of some of the recipes but instead I am mourning the lost innocence I had when I used to regularly make cookies and cakes with white sugar and flour and butter.

It’s not like I ever thought these treats were “healthy”; it’s just that I didn’t realize how bad they were. I have to say goodbye to that lost innocence even if I occasionally bake that way again. (Homemade treats that aren’t healthy are still better than a store-bought unknown-ingredient-laced bakery item.)

It was simply more fun when sugar didn’t symbolize an inflammatory-causing food for me.

Kudos to the old saying, “you can’t go back again”. Innocence lost cannot be regained, just as grown children, my 6’2″ tall youngest son, cannot reasonably ever be my baby again. When I see school buses picking up youngsters waiting with their parents, I get a profound jolt, a mix of sadness and joy.

My kids will never be there again, and neither will I.

My mantra is often to stay in the present, and yet, change and loss gets foisted on us even as we live in the moment. I believe that learning to accept change, to embrace the new even with its accompanying loss is, in fact, one of the keys to happiness.    Yogic wisdom asks that we discontinue yearning for what might be or has been or could be and accept, even Love, what is.

So with all that said, I might add, for those who missed me, that I wrote this a few months ago hoping to come up with the perfect makeover recipe my youngest sweet-loving son would happily embrace.  I even made homemade peanut butter balls with honey and coconut flour coated in chocolate he thought were disgusting.

Truth be told, my children don’t embrace the healthier snacks and treats.  After all, they weren’t raised on them!

So here’s one, adapted from Vegetarian Times, that we adults enjoy.  I might as well embrace the empty nest…

Oat and Almond Balls (raw and gluten free and vegan)

oat almond balls

oat almond balls

2 1/2 Cups rolled oats (can be regular or quick-cooking.) Gluten free if necessary…

1/2 Cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 Cup raw cacao nibs (if you don’t want to splurge on nibs, just use 1/2 Cup raisins as per the original recipe)

2 Tbs, raw sunflower seeds

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 Cup almond butter

1/3 plus 1 Tablespoon raw honey

2 Tbs. sweet brown rice syrup or barley malt syrup

1 tsp. vanilla extract

optional : 4 squares of dark chocolate at least 70%)

1. Grind 1/2 Cup oats and 1/4 Cup pumpkin seeds with or without the chocolate in a food processor until a powder forms.  Transfer to a flat bowl and set aside.

2. Combine the remaining 2 cups oats, the remaining pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, raisins, and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Then, add the almond butter along with the honey, syrup, and vanilla, Mix well until a dough forms.

3.  Get your hands wet and keep a moist towel nearby (it’s sticky!!) and roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Coat each ball in the oat-pumpkin seed (and maybe chocolate) powder.  Place in freezer for 20 minutes to set and then serve or store in the refridgerator.

Adapted from Vegetarian Times Oct. 1, 2005


Green Sunflower Seed Pate

Isn’t cooking really the most fun when not following a recipe?  It’s more creative and liberating to use your intuition to blend new flavors and have them coalesce into something delicious and extraordinary.   But, then again, not everyone has that intuitive sense  and sometimes my own fails me.

One of the food items popular in the health food world and which I resisted for a long time, besides chia seeds (weren’t they pet plants a few years ago?) was the kind of cheese substitutes made by soaking cashews or almonds. Not because they are bad for you; I believe if you want to be vegan, they (real whole nuts) are a hell of a lot better for you than anything  called a food “product” you can buy as a cheese substitute. But, I digress…I felt like they were too much work; who wants to expend time and energy soaking stuff instead of grating a bit of cheese into it?

Now I’ve come around to the belief that nuts and seeds (especially sunflower seeds which are naturally high in Vitamin E and easier to digest than nuts) are just cleaner food than cheese is. They are full of protein, have fat that is good because it’s high in Omega-3 heart-healthy fatty acids and the biggest plus for any food: they taste damn good! Soaking nuts or seeds makes them easier to digest, so that this recipe could be included in your spring cleanse ritual, if you are into that sort of thing: Plant-based, heart-healthy, clean and delish!


This sunflower seed pate is a fun little spread I originally made as part of collard wraps; they were the main filling along with avocado and shredded carrots. I got the idea from Replenish PDX and  Whole Life Nutrition website.

I recently made the same concoction with about 1/2 the amount of sunflower seeds and twice as much fresh organic cilantro. Cilantro is the number one detoxify-er food for ridding the body of heavy metals like mercury.

It came out green and wonderful and my husband (the Texan meat-eater) loved it! Even though he hadn’t really liked the collard wraps and he does love collards except I have to admit his idea of collards might involve bacon. So, the recipe is already on my website under recipes/savory snacks which you can find HERE (in case you misplace this blog)

all the add insWellfleet sea salt

1/2 Cup sunflower seeds, soaked for 2-4 hours or even overnight; just add water and walk around doing whatever you do: go to sleep, go to work, etc.

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 clove of garlic, chopped

juice of one lime

1-2 Tablespoons chopped red onion

1/4 t fine sea salt

optional: one or 1/2 fresh chopped jalepeno, without adding in the seeds. ​

Whir all the ingredients together until smooth.  I put mine in a halved avocado and topped it with my favorite carrot ginger salad dressing from The Smitten Kitchen .  I first read about this dressing on Goop which is Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog.

When I ate it the next day (yes!) with my hubby, we just dipped pita chips or other cracker-type things into it. Good both ways.

READY TO BLENDGreen sunflower pate