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.

Zesty Lentils and Barley

I like lentils and pearl barley because they both cook quickly. Convenience is a factor in an diet. What's great about beans is you can add most any flavor to them and they will taste like it. Add italian dressing and that's what you taste. All thousand island, same thing. Beans, espcially lentils soak up flavors.

For optimum flavor cook your dry beans in vegetable broth. This will add a rich, deep flavor that cooking in water cannot replicate. What you add beyond that is entirely up to your taste, but here is my favorite vegan lentil recipe so far.

1 can vegetable broth
1/3 dry lentils
1/3 cup dry pearl barley
7 cloves garlic
half a medium white onion
1/4 cup red peppers
1/3 cup maple grove farms fat free caesar dressing (or similar animal free salad dressing)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbls dijon mustard
1/2 cup mustard greens
1/2 cup cauliflower/broccoli
1 tsp honey
basilm paprika and garlic powder to season

first, i know that honey isn't technically vegan, but i have to take exception. i don't believe bees can suffer. the hive causes more bee suffering than humans. second caesar dressing isn't normally vegan. however i've discovered that maple grove farms fat free caesar has no relation to actual caesar dressing. in fact it pretty much an apple cider vinegar vinegrette.

Begin with a large sauce pan. Add broth, lentils, barley, mustard, honey, oil, dressing to pot. Cover and bring to a boil Then lower heat to a simmer.

After 10 minutes add cauliflower, broccoli, greens, and onions and continue cooking at a simmer.

After 5 more minutes add garlic, peppers and spices.

Simmer 5 minutes more. Taste lentils and barley to make sure they are done. If not soft enough add a little more dressing or water and cook five minutes more.

Sprinkle with additional spices at end of cooking process. Cover and let sit on warm burner for at least 3 minutes longer.

Serve now or store. Tastes delicious chilled in the fridged or warmed in the microwave. Though the microwave does sap some of the taste. Best to eat it warm from the pot or cool from the fridge after that.