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.

Baked Ziti - Layered or Mixed?

The other day I was having a discussion with my mother about ways to prepared baked ziti. What I like about the dish is that it's the kind of meal that vegetarians and meat eaters can easily share. Even folks who eat meat love baked ziti without any meat in it. My brother and I both make totally different kinds of baked ziti.

He's more old school. With the layering in a long flat pan. First noodles. Then combine with sauce. Then top with ricotta and mozzarella. Very good. Classic application.

I'm more progressive. First I like to add a green, like spinach to the ricotta. If I have the time I like to saute the spinach with slice garlic before letting it chill and then mixing it with the ricotta cheese. I like to assemble the ziit in a more square high sides pot. First I stir together the tomato sauce and pasta. Then I stir in the ricotta and spinach mix. All this stirring creates a creamy tomato sauce flecked with garlicly sauteed spinach. Then I add lots of grated mozzarella and stir yet again until everything is all mixed up together. I also prefer adding some black beans to the mix and topping the whole thing with some panko.

His is a classic recipe that everyone is familiar with. Mine is more modern and outside the box. I don't think one is better than the other. They are both good. They're really quite different in flavor. If you love it one way, you must try it the other.