Pinto and Green Bean Fry with Millet

Pinto and Greem Bean Stir-fry

In my opinion, millet is an under-appreciated grain. Lately, I have been guilty of neglecting this nutty-tasting grain that resembles couscous but is packed with more nutrients and flavor. Here it comes together in a simple and zesty Mexican-style stir-fry that is well-balanced with the addition of pinto beans, crunchy green beans and sweet corn.

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No Croutons Vegetarian Soup and Salad Roundup - May 2014

I'm a bit late with the No Croutons Required roundup for May this month, but better late than never. NCR is a vegetarian soup and salad challenge, alternately hosted by myself and my dear friend Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes. Each month we ask fellow bloggers to submit a favorite soup or salad that has appeared on their table during the month of the challenge. Thanks as always to all who took the time to send in their mouthwatering dishes.

Now settle in and see what's on the menu this month.

kale salad
Recipe: Jewelled Winter Kale Salad

Chef: Erica
Blog: Healthy Life Lessons
Location: Ontario, Canada

Winter may finally be over, but that is no reason to ignore the goodness of kale. This gem of a salad featuring that treasured leafy green combines here with sweet potato, hemp and pomegranate seeds, and then is lovingly smothered with a warm blueberry balsamic dressing. I'd serve this any season of the year, no matter the temperature outside, for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Erica is right that cooking fresh doesn't have to be complicated, and it is indeed a creative outlet.

carrot salad
Recipe: Moroccan Carrot Salad

Chef: Kellie
Blog: Food to Glow
Location: Scotland, UK

Sweet, savory and delicious and a feast for the eyes, this carrot salad is another one to grace dinner tables anytime of year. This orange powerhouse of a vegetable meets dates and toasted seeds and then is all dressed up with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, pomegranate molasses and a bit of spice and herbs. The possibilities are endless as are the serving pairings. The idea of serving it with hummus-smeared flatbread sounds mighty fine to me as do Kellie's other suggestions.

enoki salad
Recipe: Enoki Mushroom and Mache Salad

Chef: Mayuri
Blog: Mayuri's Jikoni
Location: Kenya

Mushrooms always get my attention so I was intrigued by this salad that includes not only enokis but mache, which I am unfamiliar with. Turns out Mayuri was too as she asked her husband to bring back greens and he brought back mache. It is a leafy green that looks like spinach with a nutty taste that is commonly used in French cuisine. Sounds like a fine pairing with the mushrooms, onions and grapes dressed with a yogurt and orange dressing. I'm intrigued by this creative salad with a medley of distinct flavors.

macedonia salad
Recipe: Macedonia with Apple Blossom and Mint

Chef: Galina
Blog: Chez Maximka
Location: UK

A summery fruit salad is a most refreshing way to finish off a satisfying meal. This gorgeous bowl combines mango, banana, apple, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, grapes, apple blossoms, a bit of sugar and some fresh lemon juice. That is one fine way to load up on the goodness of fruit, and it is easy to prepare besides and a feast for the eyes and palate.

celery soup
Recipe: Year Old Celery and Oregano Soup

Chef: Dom
Blog: Belleau Kitchen
Location: UK

If the title of Dom's recipe isn't intriguing enough, the recipe is even more so. Celery planted a year ago and nearly faded away is remembered and transformed into this gorgeous bowl of bliss. The subtle flavor of celery gets a boost here with the addition of onions, carrots, garlic, peas and lots of fresh oregano that go into the soup along with plenty of butter and olive oil. This is a fine way to rescue any celery that might be languishing in the crisper and make it shine.

green soup
Recipe: 5 Minute Green Smoothie Soup

Chef: Jacqueline
Blog: Tinned Tomatoes
Location: Scotland, UK

In an attempt to make room in her freezer, my co-host Jac decided some frozen broccoli and cauliflower should make their way into a deliciously green soup. Packed with nutrients and economical too, there is no chopping or prep required. The vegetables, including frozen peas and spinach, are whizzed together with hot stock and in hardly anytime at all, a delicious bowl of soup is born. This is one to be remembered when you don't have much time to fuss over dinner yet don't want to sacrifice flavor.

Indian-style coleslaw
Recipe: Indian-Style Coleslaw

Chef: Lisa
Blog: Lisa's Kitchen
Location: Ontario, Canada

My own contribution this month is a spiced up coleslaw. In an attempt to use up some leftover cabbage, I mixed it up with some carrot, red pepper, cucumber and green onions and then dressed it up with a spicy and tangy yogurt-based dressing. It proved to be a perfect accompaniment to an Indian-themed meal I had planned. Crisp and refreshing, this twist on traditional coleslaw is now a new favorite.

thai chickpea salad
Recipe: Thai Chickpea & Kale Salad Rolls with Peanut Dressing

Chef: Janet
Blog: The Taste Space
Location: US

Janet never fails to impress me with her creative dishes, and here chickpeas and earthy kale are given the Thai treatment in this gorgeous salad. Red peppers and carrots add some contrast and everything is dressed with a peanut dressing. Best of all, the dish was transformed the next day and turned into rice paper wraps — leftovers never need be boring. Enjoyed either way, this salad is sure to please and satisfy.

mushroom soup
Recipe: Cream of Mushroom Soup

Chef: Dena
Blog: Oh! You Cook!
Location: US

A classic for sure, mushroom soup is something I never tire of. This earthy, lightly pureed soup with button mushrooms is seasoned with rosemary, thyme, chives, onion, garlic and filled out with some evaporated milk and some sherry. Dena is quite correct when she notes that once you enjoy homemade, you won't be wanting the condensed version again. Simply lovely and easy too.

taco salad
Recipe: Raw Vegan Taco Salad

Chef: Juliane
Blog: Style Nectar
Location: Unknown

Bursting with flavor and nutrients, this salad is sure to impress. The taco "meat" is made up of nuts and spice, and is served over a salad base consisting of lettuce, red pepper, tomato, cucumber, red onion and avocado. All of this goodness is drizzled with a creamy hemp seed dressing. What a wonderful alternative to traditional tacos and one to be enjoyed anytime of year no doubt.

corn bhel
Recipe: Corn Bhel

Chef: Sweatha
Blog: Tasty Curry Leaf
Location: India

Surely a perfect summer snack, steamed corn features here with tomatoes, onion, mango, potatoes and sprouts. This refreshing combination of vegetables is spiced with chat masala, chili powder and cumin, and then tossed with fresh lemon juice. A very filling and nourishing salad that would work well as a side as well as a snack. The idea of serving it with various chutneys is a very appealing one as well.

And that concludes the May 2014 edition of No Croutons Required. Jacqueline will be hosting the June edition, so be sure to stop by her blog at the beginning of the month for the announcement.

Spicy Sour Chickpea Masala

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
spicy sour chickpeas

This is a slight variation on one of the earliest recipes featured here on Lisa's Kitchen. That was back in March of 2007, the very first day my blog went live. Yes, I have been sharing my kitchen experiments for over 7 years now.

Why do I continue to do so? I'm certainly not getting rich from it, except if you consider many of the lovely folks I have met through my ventures here. The food — that's what it is all about. Of course, I don't make something different each time I cook, but starting Lisa's Kitchen certainly expanded my horizons. So while pursing my passion for cooking I am able to share with others who also believe a healthy vegetarian diet is important, but it has to be delicious too.

spicy sour chickpea masala

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Classic Spices Poster and a Giveaway

I'm delighted to offer a copy of the classic SPICES poster designed by Chef and Spice Master Tim Ziegler and Tea King Brian Keating. The second edition of the SPICES full-color poster, measuring 24" x 36", illustrating 189 spices, herbs, capsicums and seeds, is now available through The good news for my readers is that one lucky winner residing in either Canada or the US has a chance to win a copy that normally retails at $19.99.

This would be an ideal gift for the upcoming Father's Day for those special dads who love to cook and explore a variety of spices and herbs in the kitchen. Many of you have likely seen this poster displayed around restaurants, kitchens and culinary schools around the world. Now you have a chance to get a copy for your own reference or as a special gift for the culinary inspired one in your life. It's designed for professionals and experienced home cooks and beginners too. It's an excellent resource.

And it is gorgeous in addition to having instructional and inspirational value. Just have a look. Think of that as a poster to adorn your kitchen.

Spice poster

To enter, readers only need to leave a comment on this post indicating their favorite herb or spice, or a combination if you choose. PLEASE DO LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS ATTACHED TO YOUR COMMENT SO THAT I CONTACT YOU SHOULD YOU NOT HAVE A BLOG OR WEBSITE WITH ONE ASSOCIATED WITH IT. The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada and will run until Sunday, June 8th, 2014. At the end of the giveaway, I will choose a random winner and contact them for their mailing details.

It would also be appreciated if you followed my page on Facebook and Twitter, but that is not necessary to enter for a chance to win.

Full disclosure: I have no affiliation with the company and was contacted to see if I would be interested in offering a giveaway to my readers. Apart from a complimentary poster for myself, I am receiving no monetary compensation for writing this post. The opinions here, as always, are my own.

Italian Lemon Cornmeal Shortbread

lemony cornmeal shortbread

These little delights were part of a Mediterranean themed multi-course meal served up with some twists to celebrate a visit from a friend of mine who was visiting recently from New Zealand. This cherished friend of mine I have known for 20 years, and now I am pleased to have met his charming wife and, on this recent journey, his handsome and inquisitive young son. It was a bittersweet visit as oceans separate us physically now that they have returned home. All things sweet must come to an end, until another day.

Much like biscotti, only less sweet and softer, the cornmeal imparts a pleasant grainy texture to this shortbread and each lemony bite literally melts in your mouth. Very easy to prepare with little fuss or mess, they are a wonderful way to cleanse your palate after a rich meal with a myriad of taste sensations.

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Gently Simmered Cauliflower in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
indian-style cauliflower in tomato gravy

After deciding between a craving for broccoli or cauliflower, I settled on the subtler tasting cauliflower as I wanted a curry too and this vegetable is a perfect vehicle to carry a spicy bouquet. I've certainly been making a more concerted effort of late to come up with fancier vegetable sides to go along with meals needing an extra dose of veg. The advantage of this one is it comes together in hardly anytime at all once your prep is done. And it adds elegance and flare to the dinner table.

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Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Sun-dried Tomatoes

It is really not surprising that I adore Mexican-style dishes because I like to spice up the dining experience. As the weather gets warmer, finally, it is not so desirable to spend hours hovering over a hot stove. Accordingly, for my weekly weekend dinner feature, I served up some of my favorite food combinations that required little fuss with a Mexican theme.

mushroom quesadillas filling

Earthy browned mushrooms, creamy goat cheese, melted Fontina cheese and rich sun-dried tomatoes make up the filling for these golden brown tortilla appetizers.

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Italian-Style Tomato and Herb Gigantes

braised tomato gigantes

For years I'd convinced myself of an intense dislike for lima beans — a dislike that was at odds with my fondness for pretty much every other kind of bean on the planet, but a dislike that I now think must have originated with the clammy blandness of canned lima beans that somehow manage to integrate their blandness into what would otherwise be tasty bean salads.

But that all changed with my introduction to "gigantes" several years ago at a Greek restaurant. A traditional Greek dish of giant lima beans (the "gigantes") baked in a rich herbed and seasoned tomato sauce, I've fallen in love with both the bean and the dish and have experimented with several versions since, both baked and stove-top.

The craving hit again recently, and this time I've transported the gigantes across the Mediterranean by simmering them on the stove-top in a rich and zesty herbed Italian tomato sauce. The basil, oregano and thyme tomato sauce is delicious enough to serve as a pasta sauce as well, but the light buttery taste of dried and cooked lima beans makes the two a perfect fit, and the lovely plump shapes of the lima beans look wonderful floating in the rich red sauce topped with some plump salty Kalamata olives.

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Chickpeas in a Creamy Coconut Tamarind Gravy

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
chickpeas in a creamy coconut tamarind gravy

I suppose it is an obsession of sorts, but coconut in some form or other has been making it into plenty of both sweet and savory creations lately. Coconut milk in particular muscles into a number of curries lately, so that my pantry shelves are in constant need of replenishment. The creaminess, richness and slight sweetness it imparts to gravies and sauces is not to be matched and one that vegans may want to pay special attention to as it closely mimics the texture of yogurt and truly shines in its own right.

Here coconut partners up with plump, tender and buttery chickpeas and tamarind. The use of tamarind here might be considered optional, but I find it gives a unique sweet and sour citrus flavor to the curry. You can add some freshly squeezed lime juice at the ending of the cooking time if you don't have tamarind on hand or just want to skip a step. The richness and fullness of tart, sour and bittersweet tamarind, however, contributes to the whole culinary experience.

This is also my contribution to My Legume Love Affair, a monthly event started by lovely Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook celebrating the goodness of all things legumes, now administered by me and kindly hosted this month by Sowmya.

tamarind chickpeas over rice noodles

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Moist Chocolate Date Cake

Moist Chocolate Date Cake

Dense, yet very moist and almost molten-like, the sweetness of this chocolatey, buttery and none-too-sweet simple loaf cake comes from puréed dried dates and cherries … oh, and a really nice bar of good quality high-cocoa dark chocolate. The dark cocoa chocolate ensures that the sweetness from the dates and cherries shines through. Health-conscious diners can be forgiven for thinking that there must be added refined sugars in the cake, but you'll be happy to let them know that it's a perfect and almost guilt-free dessert … a little good dark chocolate never hurt anyone!

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Homemade Guacamole

Homemade Guacamole

To celebrate Cinco De Mayo, a Mexican holiday that is celebrated worldwide, especially in North America, I was recently treated to a lovely package that included some wonderful avocados, a beautiful silver serving bowl, and all kinds of other kitchen goodies. I'm not Mexican myself, but to celebrate this package I made — what else? — homemade guacamole. Every one loves it when I make this luscious dip, and it disappears in hardly more time than it takes to set out the bowl. It's excellent served with homemade quesadillas and tortilla chips or any other little bites asking for some creamy avocado goodness. Best to double the quantity here if a number of guests are expected and it keeps well for a few days besides.

Because you can never have enough guacamole in my opinion, I'm sharing this recipe again with updated photos.

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Cuban-Inspired Black Beans

Cuban Black Beans

Bold is the word that immediately comes to mind when I think of this vegan version of "frijoles negros". This hearty stew, or chili if you please, featuring black beans dressed up with vibrant spices is just the dish to bridge the gap between 6 months of intensely unpleasant Canadian temperatures and a summer that hopefully will shine upon us unfortunate freezing northern souls sooner than later.

I'll be making this hearty dish again in future. It is certainly an ideal way to showcase the assertive character of black beans that are complemented here by vibrant chilies and spices and, yes, some fine quality beer. You won't need a whole can or bottle, but if you like beer, then that won't pose a problem as you prepare the beans. I should note that you really can't detect the beer, though it does add further depth to this flavorful creation that is a complete taste sensation for the palate. Coconut milk is, in my opinion, also essential because of the delightful creaminess it imparts to the broth.

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Creamy Lentil, Barley and Mushroom Soup

creamy lentil, barley and mushroom soup

On a quest to satisfy my frequent craving for mushrooms, I wanted something earthy and balanced, all in one bowl. Another requirement was quick and easy. This bowl satisfied all of the above. Although more salads have been appearing on the menu lately, this spring has been a cold one and even if you happen to live in warmer climes, do give this a try because soups are not just for chilly times, but comforting all year round, especially so when you serve them with some homemade biscuits.

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Indian-Style Coleslaw

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian Coleslaw

Although I enjoy cabbage, I do find that one head is often more than I really need for my immediate menu plans unless I want to serve cabbage for an entire week or longer — and usually that's not the case, as I desire a wide variety of foods. Thankfully, cabbage keeps well, so it's not often that it goes to waste. I can't always say the same for the head that rests upon my shoulders.

This refreshing salad addressed just that problem after I had over half a head left after making a mixed vegetable and avocado salad with almond herbed flatbreads. It so happened that I was serving an Indian-themed meal not too long after and wanted an additional vegetable component. My cabbage was still crisp and inviting. Perhaps not exactly what you might think of when the subject of coleslaw comes up, this Indian influenced preparation features plenty of crisp vegetables and a creamy yogurt dressing with some complimentary heat and tang. This twist on an old classic didn't last long enough for me to tire of. Not at all.

This is my contribution to No Croutons Required. I am hosting this month. Submissions are excepted until the 20th of May.

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No Croutons Required - Calling out for Vegetarian Soups and Salads

No Croutons Required Logo

It's my turn to host No Croutons Required this month. For those that haven't been following along, this event focuses on soups and salads that are suitable for vegetarians. When Jacqueline and I started this event many years ago, we chose a theme each month to challenge our fellow cooks. Beginning this year however, we have generalized the event to embrace vegetarian soups and salads without a specific theme to make it easier for bloggers to showcase a favorite from their kitchens. This certainly encourages our fellow bloggers around the world to share a cherished creation each month. We appreciate the contributions over the years that have made this event an ongoing success.

To participate:

Make a soup or salad that is suitable for vegetarians and showcase it on your blog.

Link back to this announcement and my blog as I am the host for May.

Add your post using the linky tool at the end of this post by the 20th of this month. Only one entry per blogger please.

The roundup will be posted at the end of the month.