Sweet and Spicy Tomato and Kidney Bean Salad

One of the best things about not eating meat is that you can make meals without having to actually cook anything. Just cut, combine and stir. Whether you're in a hurry, feeling lazy or just want that fresh crunch, a plant based diet gives you the freedom to cook without literally cooking. 

Especially as the weather gets warmer, it's convenient to just cut and combine. It's also surprisingly tasty to keep those fresh ingredients in their natural state. 

The textures and flavors are vibrant and exciting. 

A little salt, a little acid, some  fat, a spice or two and you're all set with a delicious meal. 

1 can dark red kidney beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 poblano pepper, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 long hot pepper, diced
1 serrano, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls olive oil
2 1/2 tsps salt
1 1/2 tsps crushed pepper flakes
1 tsp black pepper

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. 

That's it. You're done. Enjoy your not so hard work.

Hungarian Lentils Risotto and Barley

Something different is always nice. To break from my mostly Italian influenced low fat recipes I give you this vegetarian delight.

Ingredients

3/4 cup arborrio rice
1/2 pearl barley
1/2 lentils
3 cups vegetable broth (room temp or warmed)
1 cup water
1 medium red onion diced
1/3 cup frozen red and green peppers diced
1/3 cup frozen broccoli cauliflower mix
1/2 cup frozen spinach
2 tsps butter (smart balance or the like)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder and basil to season

Begin by heating a large skillet with the olive oil on medium high heat. When pan is hot add diced onions. Stir. Cook for 2 minutes then add butter and a few sprinkles of black pepper.

Saute onion for 3 minutes and then add barley, lentils and arborrio. Toast grains and bean for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup broth.

Stir. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add broccoli/cauliflower mix. 1 cup more of broth. Stir. Cover and let simmer 3 minutes more.

Add peppers and spinach and last cup of broth. Stir. Cover and let simmer 3 minutes more.

Add water. Stir. Let simmer uncovered for 5 minutes more.

Taste each grain. Barley, lentils and risotto to determine how done they are. Continue simmering, tasting and adding water as needed until each is al dente. They will soften slightly more upon sitting before serving. If not eating now, cook less. All will soften even more with an overnight stay in the fridge.

When grains are nearly done add all spices. Add lots of paprika and black pepper. A little bit of garlic powder and chili powder. Just a hint of basil. There's no need to add salt. Broth has lots of salt already in it. Taste often to determine preferable flavors.

Cook 1 minute more. Remove to cool burner. Let sit 3 minutes. Taste. Add a few more of the spices according to your preference. Stir. Let sit 1 minute. Serve as is or store for later.

Alternatively you can also add a can of petite cut unseasoned tomatoes when you add your water. Cut back your water to compensate for the added tomato juice.