Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Comfort food for a dreary evening

One thing I've loved about this New Year's Day is that I managed to get a few things done and also had time for a cozy afternoon of reading on the Nook I got for Christmas (Steve always gives great gifts!).  The current selection: Dr. Colin Campbell's The China Study.  Having been vegetarian for two years now and vegan for one, I find it amazing that I'm still learning things from this book even though, with me, he's preaching to the choir.  I'm also dismayed that so few people know of the evidence presented in the book that a plant-based diet is far more effective at preventing and reversing chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.) than any of the medical or surgical interventions that people think are an inevitability once they're diagnosed.  If you haven't done so already, do yourself a giant favor and read it!

As stated in the title of this post, this was a rather dreary (and rainy, for a short while) New Year's Day - perfect for cozying up with a book and a cute kitty and then making comfort food for dinner.  Like with lunch, I just used what was on hand because I haven't been shopping in a few days and didn't care to leave the house once we got back from out of town.  Normally I like to garnish this cassoulet dish with some fresh parsley, but I was fresh out.  No worries - cooking the dark green parts of the leeks, an idea shunned by many American cooks even though they taste fine cooked, provided ample greenery.  I also normally serve this by itself as a one-dish meal, but tonight I also roasted some red potatoes just because I felt like it.

Cannellini bean cassoulet:
2 tbsp Earth Balance
3 ribs celery, chopped
5 skinny carrots, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
2 leeks, sliced (light and dark green parts)
2 cups black-eyed pea cooking liquid from lunch (veggie broth is good too)
2 cans cannellini beans with their liquid
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

In a wide saucepan, heat Earth Balance over medium heat.  Add celery and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  (Somehow, celery always takes longer for me than carrots.)  Add carrots and cook another 3-5 minutes.  Add leeks and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add broth or bean liquid, plus cannellini beans and their liquid, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until carrots have softened and liquid has reduced by a third, another 5-7 minutes.  Stir in nutritional yeast until dissolved, then add breadcrumbs and stir well.  (You may only want to use 1/2 to 3/4 cup to achieve desired consistency.)  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Roasted red potatoes:
10-11 small red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp regular salt or salt substitute (I used NoSalt)
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tsp dried Italian herbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and set down potatoes.  Add olive oil and toss potatoes in the pan with your hands.  Sprinkle on salt, pepper and herbs and toss with hands again.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and serve.

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