Black-Eyed Peas with Tamarind and Coconut Milk

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
black eyed peas with tamarind and coconut milk

Perhaps it is the promise of spring and the few days of sunshine that certainly mustn't be taken for granted after such a long and gloomy winter, as I've been inspired of late. Apart from organizing some piles and clutter that have accumulated around the apartment over the months, I've been spending hours focused around the kitchen, developing and testing recipes and attempting to document them in a timely manner here on this space. Mind you, I'm easily distracted at the best of times, and warmer weather isn't going to help that. Documenting my dishes is at times a daily struggle and, with a limited amount of hours in a day, I manage my similarly limited attention span as best I can.

Without further ado, my latest offering is this easy but most flavorful black-eyed pea dish. Cooking doesn't need to be an all-afternoon affair to produce something nourishing and vibrant for dinner. Serve with a simple lemon rice and a side vegetable dish for a meal that will be on the table in hardly anytime at all and devoured in much less time than that, although it really ought to be savored, each delectable bite at a time.

Earthy black-eyed peas are one of my favorite legumes to use in spiced up tomato-based curries. This time however, I was feeding my seemingly insatiable craving for anything coconut, so instead of a predominately tomato-based sauce, here the tomatoes combine with coconut milk and tamarind resulting in a creamy and spicy southern Indian style tamarind gravy that envelops the tender peas in a dynamic embrace.

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Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Gratin with a Dijon Mornay Sauce

Brussels sprouts mushroom gratin

When I consume dairy, I prefer to enjoy it in small portions. Accordingly, I don't often eat cheesy meals, preferring instead to focus on legumes, grains and vegetables as the central components, with maybe just a moderate amount of dairy included. However, sometimes the craving just hits and this rich and creamy Brussels sprouts gratin pleased everyone at the table. As this long winter drags on into April, we all needed some comfort food. You may want to consider serving this as part of your Easter dinner. I assure you, carnivores will NOT be leaving the table hungry after enjoying a portion or two of this dish, especially served alongside some freshly baked biscuits slathered with butter and a side vegetable salad dressed with a light vinaigrette.

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Raw Avocado Coconut Nanaimo Bars

avocado nanaimo bars

There is a new cookbook on my shelf and I'm super excited about it. Rawsome Vegan Baking: An Un-cookbook for Raw, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Beautiful and Sinfully Sweet Cookies, Cakes, Bars & Cupcakes by Emily von Euw is all about sweet treats, all raw, gluten-free and vegan. Covered are old classics ranging from cookies, cakes, bars and cupcakes, pies and tarts, puddings and ice cream with a creative twist. Apart from the stunning and drool inducing photos that adorn each page, I was immediately struck by the unique selections that are essentially guilt-free.

Looking at the photos, you would think eating such decadent looking desserts would lead to a spike in your blood sugar, but in fact, the treats and desserts are actually good for you. Dried and fresh fruits and raw nuts are prominently featured and sweeteners, when they are used, are natural ones, such as maple syrup. Another especially appealing aspect of the book is that pretty much all of the basic ingredients are ones that you are likely to have on hand. No need to hunt around for unfamiliar ingredients that you may only use a few times, leaving them only to languish in the cupboard.

The first recipe I tried was one for raw peanut butter cookies from the multiple ones that I bookmarked. Next up was a this one for raw Nanaimo bars. My usual version of this classic treat is served only rarely on special occasions because they are so decadent. Needless to say, this much healthier version appealed to me. My best friend Basil has been hoping for years that I might come up with a variation that was not so laden with processed sugars, and this was just the right alternative.

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Chickpeas, Mango and Spinach in a Tomato Coconut Gravy

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
chickpea mango and spinach curry

No, those aren't potato pieces you see here in this spiced up dish but instead sweet chunks of fresh tender mango nestling up with buttery chickpeas and earthy green spinach. I never can resist chickpeas. Judging by the number of times in a given month they show up on my table in some shape or form, I suppose if I were pressed to name my favorite legume, then chickpeas it would be. Even those who insist they don't like beans can often be persuaded to try chickpeas. They do lend themselves so well to a variety of preparations and inspiration can be found across the globe.

My latest preparation with these beloved legumes is now a new favorite and — as is typical with me — an Indian curry. It's a gentle dish that nonetheless demands attention. The bouquet of flavors of sweet citrus, zesty tomato, vibrant spicing and bold spinach all come together like one big loving family, despite the unique elements of each of the ingredients. The addition of coconut milk and wilted spinach depart a delightful creaminess to the curry and balance out and blend all of the components and slightly soften the spices. My dinner companions proclaimed it a huge success and seconds were in order, though more for the experience because everyone's tummy was full. Try it and see if you don't elicit a similar response. And don't let the long list of ingredients deter you — most of the items are simply spices to be measured out, and it's actually quite a simple dish to prep and put together.

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