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.

Vegan Risotto with Avocado Pesto

Risotto doesn't really require any adjustments to be vegan. Rice is already vegan. Just use vegetable broth instead of animal broth. One thing to keep in mind though, is that vegetable broth tends to have a stronger flavor than chicken broth. It's best to use a some broth/some water approach when cooking risotto with veggie broth.

Ingredients for the Risotto:

1 1/2 cups arborrio rice
1 can vegetable broth (room temperature)
1 broth can worth of water
1 Tbl vegan margarine
1 Tbl olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 a medium onion diced
4 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen red/green bell peppers
1/2 cup frozen mustard greens
basil and pepper to season

In a large, high sides frying pan heat olive and butter. When it just starts to make noise add onions and saute for two minutes. Add greens and peppers and saute two minutes more. Add garlic and dry rice. Cook two more minutes to toast the rice.

Risotto purists suggest heating your broth/wine/water in a sauce pan before adding any to your rice. I have tried it both ways and can discern no difference. Just don't use cold liquids and you'll be fine. We're not running a four star restaurant here. We just want our risotto to taste good and it will.

Add 1/3 of the can of broth. Stir often and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue in this fashion for the remainder of the broth. When most of that liquid is gone add all your wine and 1/2 your water.

When that too is mostly absorbed taste the rice to determine if it needs more liquid/cooking time. When done risotto should be kinda soft and creamy. If not done add a little more wine or water and test often for doneness.

Keep in mind if you're going to eat the risotto right away you'll want it done all the way through. However, if you're cooking it in advance and plan on storing it in the fridge for a while, you should leave it slightly underdone with a little bit of liquid still left. This will absorb as it sits in the fridge.

Once your risotto is finished cooking, kill the heat, but keep the pan on the hot burner. Add your peas and stir to combine. The residual heat with defrost the peas so they are still firm and not mushy.

Finally add your basil and pepper to your taste.

Now for the coup de gras. We will top our lovely risotto dish with an avacado pesto style sauce.

Avacado Pesto Ingredients:

1 avocado
zest and juice of one lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
basil, salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except oil. Whisk, blend or process until you have a smooth paste. Slowly whisk/blend in olive oil until you get your desired consistency. The consistency is really a matter of preference. But if you want it to mix well through the warm risotto aim for a fairly dense viscosity. It will thin out some when warmed.

To serve top a bowl/plate full of risotto with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of avacado sauce and stir until evenly distributed.