Category Archives: Nutrition

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash 101 – The Basics


About Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a winter squash with orange-flesh and a sweet flavor. It’s commonly treated as a vegetable, but technically, it’s a fruit since it contains seeds. Butternut squash is very versatile with many culinary uses from both sweet to savory dishes. It is a popular winter squash featuring a large bell-shaped bottom section and a slimmer, tapering neck. It’s often recognized by its tannish colored skin.

Butternut squash, like other squash varieties belongs to the Cucurbitaceae plant family. This family contains a lot of foods many people enjoy regularly, such as watermelons and other melons, and even cucumbers.

Winter squashes and related plants appear to be native to Central and South America. Not surprisingly, such foods have been an important part of the diet of the indigenous people for thousands of years. Since they are rich in nutrients and they store well in cooler temperatures, winter squashes were nutrient-rich foods that helped to nourish ancient people through the colder months when such foods were not in season.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is an excellent source of Vitamin A from its carotenoid content. It also provides plenty of Vitamins C, B6, B2, B3, and K, along with fiber, manganese, copper, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and magnesium. Enjoy the seeds for a good supply of Vitamin E. One cup of cooked, mashed butternut squash has a mere 82 calories.

The bright orange color of butternut squash is a clear indication that it is packed with carotenoids, Vitamin A precursors. This makes them powerful antioxidant foods, protecting eye, skin and cardiovascular health, as well as warding off cancer.

Despite the fact that some people consider winter squash to be high-carbohydrate foods, winter squash is considered to be low on the glycemic index, with a rating of 55. Winter squash has been found to steady the release of sugars in the digestive tract, lowering the glycemic response to meals.

How to Select a Butternut Squash
Choose a butternut squash that is free of blemishes or decay, and feels firm and heavy for its size.

How to Store Butternut Squash
Butternut squash will keep well in a cool, dry, dark place. The ideal storage temperature is 50 to 68°F. Freshly picked squash have been stored in these conditions for up to 6 months. Most should store well for 1 to 3 months.

If mold appears on your squash, the molded area should be cut away and the remaining parts of the squash that are still good should be used immediately. Sometimes, commercial growers wax the squashes to prolong their shelf life and deter mold. If yours was not waxed and you want to extend the shelf life, you could oil the squash yourself. Wash the squash well to remove any dirt. Dry it well…make sure it is completely dry before proceeding or moisture left on it may invite decay. Place a small amount of food-grade oil of your choice on a paper towel or cloth, and wipe the entire surface of the squash, spreading a thin layer of oil all over. Be sure you get oil in all cracks and crevices of the squash. Buff off any excess oil. The surface should be shiny, but not oily to the touch. Store it in a cool, dry, dark place.

Once your squash has been cut, it should be tightly wrapped or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than a week. Cooked butternut squash should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and used within 3 to 5 days.

Cooked butternut squash may be frozen in an airtight container. It will keep well for 10 to 12 months. Beyond that, the quality may decline, but it will still be safe to eat.

How to Prepare a Butternut Squash
First remove any label that was placed on your squash at the store. Then rinse the squash with water to clean it off. Butternut squash does not need to be peeled before being cooked, but you can peel it, if desired or if a recipe calls for peeling it first. The peel is tough, but they can be peeled with a vegetable peeler or a knife.

When cutting butternut squash, it’s easiest to cut it in half, separating the neck from the bulb end. Then the seeds need to be removed from the bulb end. They can be removed by scooping them out with a spoon, or by first cutting the bulb in half from top to bottom, then scraping the seeds out with a spoon. The stem end can then be cut off the top of the neck end. The neck end can then be stood upright to remove the peel, then the flesh can be cubed. Or the neck end can be cut in half lengthwise for roasting or cooking in another method.

Roasted Butternut Squash. Butternut squash can be roasted different ways. The squash may be cut into four large pieces (cutting the bulb end from the stem end, then cutting both the bulb and stem ends in half lengthwise) and removing the seeds as described above. Place all pieces, peel side up, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roasting it at 375°F or 400°F until a sharp knife can easily be inserted through the pieces. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the squash to cool enough to be handled. Scrape the flesh from the peel with a spoon and use accordingly in your recipe.

This method can be simplified by placing your entire uncut, washed squash on a baking sheet and roasting it until a knife can easily pierce through its thickest part. Remove it from the oven, allow it to cool enough to be handled, then cut it, removing seeds, stem end, and scraping off the flesh to be used as needed.

Butternut cubes can also be roasted by first cutting the squash in half, separating the bulb end from the neck. Then trim off the stem end, stand the squash piece upright and remove the peel with a knife or vegetable peeler. Then slice the flesh into cubes. Most recipes for roasted butternut squash cubes call for placing the cubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and coating the cubes with oil, then sprinkling them with salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 400°F or 425°F about 20 to 30 minutes, until fork-tender.

Steamed Butternut Squash. Place medium size chunks of peeled and seeded butternut squash in a steamer basket. Add water to the pot, but not so much that the squash pieces sit in water. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring the water to boil. Steam for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the squash pieces are fork-tender. Remove the squash pieces to a bowl and proceed with desired recipe.

Sautéed Butternut Squash. Peeled, seeded butternut squash cubes may be sautéed in oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. First, warm the fat in the skillet, add the squash cubes, then stir frequently and sauté until lightly browned and caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes.

How to Freeze Butternut Squash
Cooked, pureed and frozen butternut squash is ready to be used in pies, soups, baked goods or in any recipe calling for pureed pumpkin or other winter squash. Simply wash the squash, cut it as desired, and cook it in whatever way you prefer…roasted with or without oil, steamed, or boiled. Scrape off the pulp from the peel, and puree the pulp in a food processor. Pureeing the pulp is not mandatory, but makes it much easier to work with when it’s time to use it. Place your pureed pulp in a freezer bag or container (leave about one inch of headspace). Label it with the date and store it in the freezer. Frozen pureed butternut squash will keep for 10 to 12 months. It is safe to use beyond that, but the quality may deteriorate.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Butternut Squash
* To make butternut squash easier to peel before cooking it, microwave it for 2 or 3 minutes first.

* The peel of butternut squash is edible, but tough. If you want to eat the peel, slow roast the squash and the peel will get softer as it roasts.

* For something different, try butternut squash fries instead of potato fries.

* Top salads with cubes of roasted butternut squash.

* Add chunks of butternut squash to stews.

* Stuff a roasted butternut squash half with a mixture of cooked grains and vegetables for a delicious and filling dish.

* Add roasted butternut squash to breakfast for something different.

* Add thin slices of raw butternut squash to salads for added flavor and texture.

* Enjoy roasted butternut squash in place of potatoes, pumpkin, or sweet potato.

* Mash cooked butternut squash with a little milk of choice and cinnamon and serve it instead of mashed potatoes.

* Use pureed butternut squash in place of pumpkin when making pies and tarts.

* Add cooked butternut squash to pasta dishes, or puree it and make an interesting pasta sauce.

* Combine pureed butternut squash with coconut milk for a creamy squash soup.

* Butternut squash seeds are edible! They can be saved and roasted as you would pumpkin seeds. Once scooped out, separate the seeds from the stringy pulp, and rinse them well. Coat the seeds with a little oil, and season them as desired. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet and roast them at 225°F for about 15 minutes until the seeds start to pop. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet before serving.

* Do you want to enjoy pureed squash, but are not sure how to flavor it? Try topping pureed butternut squash with cinnamon and maple syrup.

* For an interesting side dish, steam cubes of butternut squash. Then toss with a little olive oil, soy sauce, and ginger. Sprinkle with toasted squash seeds for a little added crunch.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Butternut Squash
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, paprika (smoked)

Foods That Go Well with Butternut Squash
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (i.e. adzuki, lima, pinto, white), chicken, chickpeas, eggs, lamb, nuts (esp. almonds, pecans, walnuts), pork, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tahini, tofu

Vegetables: Artichokes (Jerusalem), arugula, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chiles, fennel, greens, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onions, shallots, spinach, tomatoes

Fruits: Apples, berries, coconut, cranberries, dates, lemon, lime, orange, pears, pomegranate seeds, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur (wheat), corn, couscous, farro, millet, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, browned butter, cheese (esp. cheddar, Parmesan, ricotta), coconut milk, cream, milk (dairy and non-dairy), yogurt

Other Foods: Miso, oil, sugar (esp. brown), stock (mushroom), tamari, vinegar (esp. balsamic), wine (esp. dry white)

Butternut squash has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e. muffins), casseroles, gratins, pasta (i.e. gnocchi, lasagna, ravioli), pizza, purees, risottos, soups and bisques, stews, succotash, tarts

Suggested Flavor and Food Combos Using Butternut Squash
Add butternut squash to any of the following combinations…

Allspice + cinnamon + cloves + maple syrup + vanilla
Apples + cinnamon + ginger + maple syrup + walnuts
Apples + cheese + honey
Apples + nuts
Balsamic vinegar + mushrooms + pasta
Browned butter + pine nuts + sage + pasta
Fruit (cranberries, dates) + nuts (pecans, pistachios)
Ginger + tamari + tofu
Orange + sage
Quinoa + walnuts
Rosemary + tomatoes + white beans
Sage + walnuts

Recipe Links
Roasted Butternut Squash (No Oil) (Judi in the Kitchen video)

Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples (Judi in the Kitchen video)

Roasted Butternut Squash

Sautéed Butternut Squash

Side Dish Recipe for Roast Chicken—Pan-Seared Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Parmigiano Shards

Sautéed Butternut Squash with Garlic, Ginger, and Spices

Sautéed Butternut Squash

Caramelized Browned Butter Butternut Squash

26 Delicious Butternut Squash Recipes to Make This Fall

33 Butternut Squash Recipes We Love

55 Best Butternut Squash Recipes Everyone in Your Family will Enjoy

10 Things to do With Butternut Squash

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner on a Sheet Pan

Crock Pot Steel Cut Oats with Butternut Squash

Roasted Butternut Chickpea Hummus Wraps

Golden Squash Soup

Steamed Butternut Squash with Almond Sauce

Steamed Butternut Squash with Red Chili Sauce


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.



Fruits and Vegetables

Easy Ways to Add More Fruits and Veggies to Your Day

We all know we need to eat more plant foods…more fruits and vegetables, in particular. Most Americans don’t eat the recommended number of servings of these important foods yet they know they should. If you’re among that crowd and are looking for ways to include more plant foods into your day, I have some easy ideas for you to try.

Effective Way to Make Changes
First, remember that long-time habits cannot all be changed overnight (at least not permanently). The easiest way to make permanent change is to do it a little at a time. (Remember the saying, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch; yard by yard, it’s hard.”) Pick something that’s do-able for you (such as always adding some type of fruit to your breakfast), make the change, and stick with it until it becomes second-nature to you…until you do it without thinking about it, and then you’re there! You’ve achieved that goal!

Next, keep that new habit and find something else to change in a positive way. Maybe find another way to add a vegetable to your lunch or to a snack food. Repeat the same process. Keep moving forward with this tactic, adding new changes when the others become a habit to you and they are “automatic.” Over time you’ll find that you’ve transformed your life (or at least your diet) for the good. Here are some ideas for adding more fruits and vegetables to your foods…

* Add fruit to cereal.

* Add fruit to yogurt and make it part of your breakfast.

* Add vegetables to an omelet. Mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, shredded carrots, greens (like kale), and tomatoes all blend well with eggs.

* Add fruit and greens (such as spinach) to a breakfast smoothie.

* Try a savory vegetable pancake. Sauté onions, carrots, spinach, and even mushrooms, then add them to a savory (not sweet) pancake batter. Cook as usual and enjoy (without the maple syrup). If you really want a topping, try unsweetened applesauce.

* Add diced apple to hot oatmeal or other porridge.

* Make a 100% fruit puree in advance to have available in the refrigerator. Top morning oatmeal with it.

* Is your morning time short? Try overnight oats with added berries. Add other fruits in the morning and you’ll have breakfast in no time.

* Try a loaded sweet potato for breakfast. Bake or boil it in advance, then warm it on the stove or in the microwave. Or, if time allows, pierce it and microwave it until it’s soft. Split it and fill the cavity with chopped nuts or your favorite nut butter and chopped fruit.

* Or fill a cooked sweet potato with scrambled eggs cooked with veggies such as sautéed onions, carrots, and chopped spinach.

* Sauté assorted vegetables such as kale, carrots, broccoli florets, mushrooms, and butternut squash. Add some beans, or top them with a soft-boiled egg. Have some toast, a side of cooked grain or even oatmeal.

* Add some sautéed vegetables to a breakfast burrito.

Lunch or Supper
* Enjoy a vegetable salad with your lunch (or supper), or as the whole meal. Add some fruit for sweetness, flavor and variety.

* Add as many vegetables as you can to a lunchtime sandwich. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, avocado, and spinach would all work well.

* Have some veggie sticks with or without dip on the side. Jicama, carrots, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, grape tomatoes, radishes, and even sugar snap peas and snow peas. Most offer great crunch and chewing experience while the dip can add variety in flavors. This is a healthful alternative to chips.

* Enjoy a piece of fresh fruit for dessert.

* Top meat, chicken or fish with a salsa of choice.

* Add shredded carrots, zucchini, or yellow squash to meatloaf, casseroles, and burgers (both meat and meatless).

* Add shredded vegetables to pasta sauce as it cooks. Carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and yellow squash all blend well in tomato sauce.

* Add vegetables as toppings to your pizza.

* If you’re a meat eater, plan a meatless meal for one or two days a week. Plan a meal around a vegetable-based soup, stir-fry, or casserole. Add beans or legumes of choice for added protein.

* Use fresh vegetable or fruit slices as a garnish on your plate. Make a point of eating them rather than just enjoying their looks next to other foods.

* Stuff acorn (or other) squash, bell peppers, hollowed out zucchini, or spaghetti squash with a vegetable-bean mixture and enjoy that for supper. Be sure to eat the “bowl” along with the stuffing!

* Add vegetables to lasagna layers. Fresh spinach, finely shredded carrot, thinly sliced yellow squash or zucchini, and finely chopped steamed kale would all work well.

* When cooking rice or another grain for a side dish, add some frozen peas and even finely shredded carrots during the last few minutes of cooking time. Your grain will be embellished with vegetables for added color, nutrition and flavor. Not a fan of peas? Try finely shredded kale or spinach or something else that sounds good to you.

* Need a meal in a hurry? Make a quick quesadilla by stir-steaming or stir-frying some veggies (use a pack of assorted frozen (and thawed in a colander under running water) vegetables to make it even faster). Add in a handful of cooked beans, if desired. Place them on a tortilla and sprinkle with cheese of choice. Fold the tortilla, heat the tortilla on a frying pan to crisp it up some, and enjoy!

* Try cauliflower rice as a way to add more veggies to your meal. We’re not knocking rice here, just adding veggies. If you want the real thing (rice, that is), you could make a mixture of half rice and half cauliflower rice.

* Add finely chopped vegetables to polenta.

* If you’re not a huge fan of vegetables, yet want to add more to your meals, try dressing them up with your favorite salsa, glaze or sauce.

* Add pureed cauliflower, winter squash, sweet potato, or even bell peppers into sauces, mashed potatoes and even pot pies for added flavor, nutrition, and color.

* Try thickening soups and stews with vegetables instead of cornstarch. Okra will thicken, as will starchy vegetables like potatoes. Blended corn, mashed white or sweet potatoes, and pureed cooked root vegetables such as carrots may also do the trick. Although not “vegetables,” pureed beans in liquid can also be used to thicken soups. Blend equal parts of beans and soup broth. Add the slurry back to the pot and your soup should thicken.

* Try adding mashed, roasted cauliflower to mashed potatoes. This will make the potatoes healthier and creamier.

* Try a lettuce wrap. Make your usual taco, tortilla, or sandwich filling (but of course, with added veggies), then wrap it in a stack of lettuce leaves instead. Or take it one step further and try large collard green leaves, turnip green leaves, or flat-leaf kale leaves. Yet another way to add more veggies to your meal!

* Try a fish-less sushi. Use mushrooms, cucumbers, and avocado along with the sticky rice.

* Add some finely chopped spinach to your favorite risotto. Add it toward the end of cooking time since spinach cooks really fast.

* On a cold winter day, start your meal with a small warm bowl of vegetable soup as an appetizer. You’ll get veggies in and also curb your appetite so you don’t overeat.

* On a warm summer day, start your meal with a side salad or veggies and dip. Like with the soup, you’ll get more veggies in and curb your appetite a bit.

* Add vegetables to tuna, chicken, meat, or bean salads. Tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, onions, would all work well. Serve on a bed of lettuce or spinach (and EAT the greens!).

* Include a green salad as a side dish with lunch and/or supper. Eat this, in addition to your “side” vegetable.

* Add variety to green salads by adding other vegetables such as red or green cabbage, spinach, carrots, green peas (frozen, thawed), mushrooms, celery, radishes, cucumbers, yellow squash or zucchini, broccoli and/or cauliflower, sprouts, sugar snap peas, snow peas, bell peppers, cooked green beans, scallions, tomatoes, radicchio, or any other vegetable you want.

* For a little sweetness, add some fruit to your green salads, such as pineapple, orange slices, grapes, berries of any sort, diced apples, diced pears, diced peaches, or mango cubes.

* Embrace “slaws.” Cole slaw doesn’t have to be limited to cabbage and mayonnaise. Red cabbage, green cabbage, shredded Brussels sprouts, grated kohlrabi, grated carrots, pineapple tidbits, grated apple, peanuts, hazelnuts, dried cranberries, raisins, celery root, beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, and even citrus fruits can all be incorporated into assorted vegetable slaws. Experiment and get creative with this one!

* Don’t get stuck in a rut with your salads. Vary your greens. There are plenty to choose from: iceberg, romaine, green leafy lettuce, red leaf lettuce, specialty lettuces, spring mix, baby green mixes, spinach, kale, shredded cabbage, even shredded collard greens…explore what’s available in your local store or farm market!

* Don’t just vary your bed of greens, but vary your toppings too! There are lots of possibilities including tomatoes, shredded carrots, celery, bell peppers, broccoli pieces, cauliflower pieces, cucumbers, cooked green beans, frozen (and thawed) green peas, sliced olives, raw yellow squash or zucchini slices, beet slices (pickled, steamed, or raw), asparagus (raw, steamed or sautéed), parsnips (raw, steamed or sautéed), roasted Brussels sprouts (or even raw), corn (canned, raw, frozen and thawed, steamed or boiled), shaved kohlrabi, jicama, shaved celery root, natural sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables (homemade is mild tasting and less pungent than the canned variety), onions (all varieties), butternut squash (raw, cubed and roasted, steamed, or sautéed).

* Don’t toss the broccoli stems! They’re perfectly edible. If the outer layer is too tough for you, shave it off with a vegetable peeler and save it for vegetable broth. Slice the remaining stalk into your salad for an added vegetable. They are crunchy but not tough, and taste like broccoli. Why toss them???

* Try making a vegetable salad without the greens, just for something different. Load it with tomatoes, shredded carrots, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, sugar snap peas for sweetness, and any other veggies you want. Top it with your favorite dressing and enjoy!

Snacks and Other Foods
* Have some fruits and/or vegetable pieces available to snack on whenever you have a hunger urge. Sliced bell peppers, carrot and celery sticks, sliced radishes, sliced jicama, broccoli or cauliflower florets, whole cherry or grape tomatoes, raw sugar snap peas, raw snow peas, and sliced yellow squash or zucchini would all work well. Include some whole baby cucumbers for an easy grab and go, crunchy snack. For fruit, peeled Clementine oranges, grapes, apples, pears, sliced kiwi, cubed mango, diced pineapple, strawberries, plums, peaches, cherries (when they’re in season), and bananas would all work well for a quick and handy snack. On the run? Pack them in a to-go bag and you’ll have them whenever your “snack-attack” hits you.

* Boil a whole sweet potato with the peel on. Allow it to cool then store it in the refrigerator. When hungry, cut off a slice or two and enjoy it just as it is…plain and simple. When you get used to eating foods without added sugars, a boiled sweet potato will actually taste sweet to you.

* Add shredded fruits and vegetables to baked goods like quick breads and muffins. Shredded apples, carrots, yellow squash, and zucchini would all work well.

* Use a fruit puree as a dip on a fruit and cheese tray. Pureed raspberries and/or pineapple would be good.

* Use a vegetable puree as a dip on a vegetable tray. (Example: Roasted red bell peppers blended with a little balsamic vinegar.)

* Spread your favorite nut butter on apple or pear slices for a delicious, satisfying snack.

* Add mixed berries to some vanilla yogurt for a filling snack.

* Stuff celery sticks with your favorite nut butter.

* Enjoy a slice of cantaloupe topped with cashew cream or yogurt.

* Try spreading a tortilla or flatbread with your favorite nut butter, top it with thinly sliced banana and a few raisins. Roll it up and enjoy it right away, or wrap it for a to-go snack.

* Add fresh vegetable/fruit juice to your day, not as a meal replacer, but as a supplement.

* Instead of making overly sweetened desserts like pie, cake and cookies, enjoy a piece of fresh fruit for dessert. When your taste buds get used to not being overrun with excess sugars, a piece of fruit will actually be refreshing and taste sweet.

* Puree fresh fruit to use as a dressing over another dessert such as cake, pie, pudding, and ice cream.

* Include fruit pieces or fruit puree into desserts like parfaits and puddings.

* Stew or poach pears with a little sweetener (sugar, honey, or maple syrup) and spice (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise) for an elegant dessert.

* Try banana “nice cream” by blending a frozen (peeled) banana. Period. It’s delicious as it is, but can be embellished any way you want. When blending, add in a little vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or another fruit. It can be sweetened with whatever you want, if desired. Top it with chopped nuts, dried coconut, chocolate chips or your favorite fruit puree and you have a delicious, healthy, fruity dessert ready in very little time.

* For a refreshing dessert on a hot day, swirl a freshly made fruit puree of your choice into your favorite yogurt. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

* Make a parfait layering pudding or yogurt with 100% fruit puree, chopped fresh fruit of choice, and granola.

* Top your favorite pudding with a fruit puree (unsweetened, of course!), or small chunks of fresh fruit of choice.

* Make a refreshing fruit salad with whatever fruit you have available. Add a topping of 100% fruit puree, or stir in some pineapple tidbits with juice, then sprinkle with unsweetened coconut.

Plan Ahead
* If you know your time will be short during the work week, take some time on the weekend or one evening to prepare some fruits and veggies in advance. For instance, salad greens can be washed, spun dry, chopped, and stored in the refrigerator, ready for fast salad assembly any time you need it. Other salad vegetables may also be chopped in advance and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for faster salad making.

* On a day off, make a large pot of soup that’s loaded with assorted vegetables. In fact, double the veggies (or at least increase the amount) called for in the recipe (if possible). This will increase the “hearty factor” of the soup along with the nutritional punch. Divide it into containers for grab-and-go lunches for the week, or for quick suppers when time is short.

* “Ditto” the above suggestion for making a large casserole with extra veggies on a day off. You’ll have lunches (or easy suppers) ready to go for the week.

* If you’re cooking something in the oven and have space, add some sweet potatoes wherever there’s room so they can bake at the same time. Enjoy them with meals during the week, or save them for special, sweet and satisfying snacks when needed.

* Keep frozen vegetables in the freezer. They can be ready at a moment’s notice to be used in a number of ways. Add them to soups, casseroles, stir-fries, quiches, pasta dishes, and rice or grain dishes. Thaw frozen vegetables like peas and carrots and add them to a green salad for extra nutrients, flavor, and variety.

* When grocery shopping, look for something new that you haven’t tried before in the produce isle. Make a point of including that in at least one dish during the coming week.

* Keep frozen assorted fruit in the freezer. This is handy especially when they’re out of season or you don’t have time to get to the store. They can be included in smoothies, blended into desserts, or thawed and used in whatever way needed.

* If you’ll be going off somewhere for the day, pack ready-to-go snack bags of easy to munch on veggies, like baby carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices or baby whole cucumbers, sugar snap peas, snow peas, celery sticks, bell pepper strips, and maybe some easy to eat fruit like grapes, a plum, or a banana.

With all the suggestions above, I hope this gives you some ideas as to what will work for you in adding more fruits and vegetables to your day. If you have suggestions not mentioned above, please feel free to share them below! I’d love to hear from you!


About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Lettuce 101 – The Basics

Lettuce is a leafy green vegetable that we’re all familiar with. Many of us eat lettuce every day, whether it’s in a salad or included in a sandwich of some sort. It’s simply everyday fare. Yet, it’s a vegetable we can do more with than we think, and it often has more nutritional value than we give it credit for. I invite you to explore the possibilities of what you can do with lettuce and use more of it where you can. It’s more than just water packed in a green leaf! Check out the information below to learn more about this humble, noteworthy leafy vegetable!


About Lettuce
Lettuce is an annual leaf vegetable of the aster family, Asteraceae. There are four varieties that are commonly grown: (1) asparagus lettuce with narrow leaves and a thick stem (i.e. celtuce, popular in China), (2) head or cabbage lettuce with leaves folded into a compact round head (i.e. iceberg), (3) leaf or curled lettuce, with leaves that are loose, curled and smooth-edged or oak-leaf in shape (i.e. green leaf), and (4) cos with smooth leaves that form a tall, oblong, loose head (i.e. romaine).

There are two classes of head lettuce: (1) Butterhead types (i.e. Boston and Bibb lettuces) with soft, large leaves that separate easily from the base of the stem, and (2) crispy types (i.e. iceberg lettuce), with crispy leaves that form hard, compact heads. Lettuces can have colors ranging from different shades of green to deep red and purple. Some newer varieties have variegated colors. The crisp head varieties are very popular in the United States.

Lettuce is by far the world’s most popular salad vegetable. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and western Asia. Lettuce was first cultivated by ancient Egyptians who transformed the plant from a weed with seeds used to produce oil, to a food grown for its leaves and seeds. The plant was introduced to Greeks and Romans, who gave it the name “lactuca” where the name “lettuce” came from. The plants eventually made their way around the world, where different varieties were eventually developed and cultivated, especially in Holland. People in most countries eat lettuce raw, whereas celtuce lettuce is often cooked in China. Most lettuce eaten in the United States is grown in California.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Lettuce
Lettuce is one food you can eat without guilt, with only 11 to 20 calories in 2 cups, depending upon the variety. It has extremely little fat, little carbohydrate and protein. However, the nutrient content starts to pick up with fiber, having about 2 grams in 2 cups, depending upon the variety. When comparing nutrient value of assorted types of lettuce, romaine lettuce often tops the list with higher levels of specific vitamins and minerals, while iceberg is often toward the bottom. Nevertheless, iceberg lettuce does have nutritional value.

Romaine is the lettuce to choose when shopping for the most nutrient-dense lettuce. It supplies good amounts of Vitamin A (carotenoids), Vitamin K, folate, molybdenum, dietary fiber, manganese, potassium, biotin, Vitamin B1, iron, copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin B2, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6, phosphorus, chromium, magnesium, calcium, and pantothenic acid. Despite its high water and low calorie content, that’s a lot to be said for romaine lettuce!

Heart Health. Considering the wide range of nutrients provided by romaine lettuce, this lettuce in particular, can be considered a heart-healthy food. The Vitamin C and beta-carotene work together to help prevent oxidation of cholesterol, which would cause it to become sticky and cling to arterial walls forming plaque. The fiber in romaine lettuce helps to remove bile from the body, forcing the production of more bile. This in turn, lowers blood cholesterol. The folate in romaine helps to keep the amino acid homocysteine in check, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, the potassium in romaine helps to keep blood pressure in check. There’s plenty of reason to opt for romaine lettuce when you can!

How to Select Lettuce
No matter what type of lettuce you’re buying, you want your lettuce to be as fresh as possible. Look for brightly colored leaves that appear crisp, not wilted, and are free of blemishes. If possible, choose heads with stems that are not browning from the base.

How to Store Lettuce
To stay crisp and fresh, lettuce needs moisture and air. Here are the steps to keeping lettuce fresh and crisp, according to

Loose Leaf Lettuce. Remove any damaged leaves, then wash your lettuce. Dry it in a salad spinner or on paper towels. Wrap the lettuce in dry paper towels or a clean cloth and place it in a rigid storage container with a lid. The towel will absorb any excess water while helping to maintain a humid environment. It’s helpful to store the washed lettuce in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for proper temperature during storage. If not possible, store them toward the bottom of the refrigerator and try to keep the container from resting against the back of the refrigerator where the lettuce might freeze. Replace the paper towel or cloth when it feels wet. Check the lettuce every day or two and remove any leaves that are not at their best. Use loose leaf lettuce within 7 to 10 days for best quality.

Head Lettuce (Unwashed).  Remove any outer leaves that are wilted or damaged. Leave the heads intact and do not wash them until you are ready to use the lettuce. Store the head of lettuce wrapped in paper towels or a clean cloth in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Replace the towels when they appear wet. Head lettuce can last from one to three weeks when stored like this. If the outer leaves start to look bad, remove and discard them until you reach inner leaves that look good. Use them as soon as possible.

Storing Washed and Cut Lettuce. Wash and spin dry cut lettuce. If you do not have a salad spinner, allow the lettuce to air dry on paper towels or a clean cloth towel. Wrap your washed/dried lettuce in a dry paper or cloth towel and place it in a rigid covered container. A plastic bag may be used, but they may keep better in a covered container since that will protect them from getting bumped and bruised. Store it in the crisper drawer if possible, for optimal temperature. Replace the towel if it gets wet, and remove any damaged/aging leaves for optimal storage life.

Tips for Lettuce Storage. (1) Lettuce bruises or gets damaged easily. So, try not to shove other foods or containers against your lettuce in the refrigerator. That’s why storing lettuce in a container can be helpful. (2) Try not to push your lettuce to the back of the refrigerator, where it might freeze. If this happens, it will not be good for salads, as freezing lettuce makes it mushy. (3) If you’re slow to eat your lettuce, choose romaine or iceberg, which seem to keep the longest.

Reviving Wilted Lettuce. If your lettuce starts to wilt, revive it by placing it in a bowl of ice water for a few minutes before you use it. Dry the soaked lettuce, then use it as planned.

When to Discard Lettuce. If your lettuce starts to look slimy, brown, moldy, and/or develops a bad odor, it’s time to toss it out.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Lettuce
* Add lettuce of any type to your sandwiches, burgers, or wraps for added crunch, flavor and a little nutrient boost.

* Just about everything goes with lettuce. When making a meal salad, get creative! Add a variety of your favorite foods from different categories…proteins, fruits, other vegetables, grains, dairy and non-dairy. Add your favorite dressing and enjoy! Change it up as often as you can for variety and nutrient balance.

* Enjoy a lettuce wrap with your favorite foods. Use large lettuce leaves, and double or triple them for strength if needed. Fill with your favorite sandwich, taco or burrito filling, wrap and enjoy!

* Years ago, lettuce was always cooked…mostly in soups. If you’re really looking for something different to try, add some lettuce to a vegetable soup at the end of cooking! The heat will wilt the lettuce while it still maintains some of its crunch. The same thing can be done with arugula and spinach.

* If you’re concerned about bacteria or other microbes on your food, opt for whole heads of lettuce (those with leaves still attached to the base). Researchers have found that whole heads of lettuce had FAR less bacteria on them than the cut, bagged varieties. This is true, even for those labeled as being “triple washed” and “ready to eat.”

* Lettuce can bruise easily. When washing/cutting lettuce in advance to be stored in the refrigerator, either tear the lettuce or cut it with a plastic lettuce knife (rather than a metal knife). Cutting lettuce in advance with a metal knife can bruise the lettuce, causing brown edges on the leaves where it was cut. This is not a problem if you will be eating your lettuce right away, but may be noticeable for stored prepared lettuce.

* When storing lettuce, keep it away from ethylene-producing fruit, which would cause the lettuce to age prematurely. Such fruit includes apples, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, kiwi fruit, and cantaloupe. [Note that this is not an all-inclusive list.]

* Lettuce contains a lot of water. Why not add some to your next smoothie?

* Try adding some shredded crisp lettuce to your next vegetable stir-fry!

* Next time you grill something, take a head of lettuce like iceberg or radicchio, slice it in half through the core, and grill it, cut side down. It will have grill marks, and a hint of smokiness what will add an interesting flavor twist to your next salad.

* When you’re braising something, try adding some crispy romaine along with or instead of cabbage. Lettuce absorbs other flavors readily, so this should enhance the flavor of your dish.

* When you want a quick snack, top some crispy lettuce leaves with your favorite cracker topping, like nut butter and fruit, hummus, egg salad, chickpea salad, refried beans, cheese, or anything like that.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Lettuce
Basil, capers, cayenne, chervil, cilantro, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, lovage, mint, mustard, parsley, pepper (black, white), salt, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Lettuce
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans, beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, seafood, seeds (i.e. pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), tahini, tempeh, tofu, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, beets, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chayote, chiles, chives, cucumbers, fennel, greens (baby and other salad greens), jicama, leeks, mushrooms, nori, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radicchio, radishes, scallions, shallots, sprouts, squash (summer and winter), sugar snap peas, tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Apples, avocados, citrus fruits (lemons, lime, grapefruit, oranges, tangerines), cranberries (dried), mangoes, olives, pears, pomegranates, persimmons, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur, corn, corn chips, corn tortillas, croutons, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Buttermilk, cheese (dairy and nondairy), crème fraiche, yogurt

Other Foods: Honey, mayonnaise, miso, oil, soy sauce, tamari, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce

Lettuce has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Lettuce wraps, salads, sandwiches, soups

Suggested Flavor or Food Combos Using Lettuce
Use lettuce with any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Avocado + Carrots + Smoked Tofu + Tomatoes
Almonds + Jicama + Orange
Apples + Celery + Lime + Raisins + Walnuts
Avocado + Grapefruit + Pecans + Radicchio
Carrots + Cucumbers + Dill + Feta Cheese
Chickpeas + Cucumbers + Feta Cheese + Olives + Red Onions + Tomatoes
Dill + Garlic + Lemon + Scallions
Dijon Mustard + Lemon + Olive Oil + Scallions
Fennel + Grapefruit
Figs + Goat Cheese + Tarragon
Gorgonzola Cheese + Hazelnuts + Lemon + Olives
Pears + Sherry Vinegar + Walnuts

Recipe Links
Stir-Fry Lettuce

Thai Basil Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Classic Wedge Salad

Stir-Fried Garlic Lettuce (vegan)

Strawberry, Blueberry & Greens Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

Parmesan Crusted Romaine and Chicken

Lettuce Salad with Tomato and Cucumber

38 Recipes using Salad Greens

Orange Romaine Salad

Roasted Lettuce, Radicchio, and Endive

Strawberry and Feta Salad

Holiday Lettuce Salad

40 Lettuce Recipes You Can Get Excited About

Cranberry Almond Lettuce Salad


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Lima Beans

Lima Beans 101 – The Basics

About Lima Beans
Lima beans, often called butter beans because of their buttery texture, are thought to have originated in South America. Early European explorers first discovered them in Lima, Peru. With that, their name as “lima beans” was established. It is believed that the beans have been cultivated in Peru for over 7,000 years. They were carried around the world by explorers and have since become an important crop in Africa and Asia. In the United States, most commercial production is in California.

There are many types of lima beans, with the most popular in the United States being the Fordhook (also known as the butter bean), and the baby lima bean. The pod is flat, oblong, slightly curved, and usually about three inches long. The pods often contain two to four seeds that have come to be known as lima beans. The seeds are usually a cream to green color. However, some varieties can have white, red, purple, brown or even black seeds. Limas have a starchy, potato-like flavor and a grainy yet slightly buttery texture.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Lima Beans
Lima beans are an excellent source of molybdenum, with one cup providing 313% of our daily needs of this important trace mineral. Limas are a very good source of dietary fiber, copper and manganese. They are also a good source of folate, phosphorus, protein, potassium, Vitamin B1, iron, magnesium and Vitamin B6. One cup of cooked lima beans has 216 calories, 13 grams of fiber, and almost 15 grams of protein. They have very little fat, zero cholesterol, and are very low in sodium.

Caution. Lima beans should never be eaten raw. This includes grinding them for flour, which should not be done. They contain compounds that, when damaged, can release cyanide. To destroy the enzymes that release these compounds, it is extremely important to soak and completely cook your lima beans before eating them. Once this is done, they can be a very beneficial addition to a healthy diet.

Iron. One cup of cooked lima beans provides about 25% of our Daily Value of iron. This can be important, especially if you have low iron levels. Serve your lima beans with a Vitamin C-rich food (such as bell peppers or citrus fruits) in the same meal and your iron absorption will be increased.

Heart Health. Lima beans are rich in fiber, folate, potassium, and magnesium, all of which contribute in unique ways to improve and maintain heart health. Limas are rich in soluble dietary fiber which helps to remove cholesterol from the body, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. Folate, which is plentiful in lima beans, is known to help keep homocysteine levels in check, thereby helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. Limas are rich in potassium and magnesium. These are important in helping blood vessels to relax, maintaining proper blood pressure.

Free Radical Protection. Limas are a very good source of manganese. This mineral is a key factor in antioxidant compounds that seek out and destroy harmful molecules in the body, reducing oxidative stress. This helps the immune system to function at its best warding off disease and helping to prevent various health conditions.

Sulfite Sensitivity. Lima beans are an excellent source of molybdenum, a trace mineral that is part of the enzyme that metabolizes sulfites. Sulfites are added to many foods and even medications as preservatives. Yet, some people are sensitive to sulfites, causing a rapid heartbeat, headache and disorientation. Those who react to sulfites may be deficient in molybdenum. If this is the case, lima beans may help alleviate that problem.

How to Select and Store Lima Beans
Fresh Lima Beans. Fresh lima beans are not easily found, and are usually sold in specialty markets or farmer’s markets where they are locally grown. If you find fresh lima beans, look for ones that are firm, dark green and glossy, and without blemishes, wrinkling or yellowing. They are extremely perishable, so if they are shelled, examine them closely for mold or decay.

Fresh lima beans in their pods should be refrigerated and used within a few days. For optimal storage, shell the beans, blanch them, then freeze or dehydrate them. Frozen lima beans do not need to be thawed before being cooked. Once cooked, they should be used quickly as they will only keep refrigerated (in a covered container) for 3 to 4 days.

Dried Lima Beans. Many grocery stores carry dried lima beans, as prepackaged or in bulk bins. Make sure there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage. Store your dried lima beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place, where they will keep at good quality for 2 to 3 years. However, when stored properly, they will be safe to eat well beyond that.

Canned Lima Beans. Most grocery stores stock canned lima beans, and they are usually stamped with a “best by” date. For long-term storage, look for a stamped date as far in the future as you can find. Read ingredient labels, as some canned lima beans may contain additives that you may or may not want. Salt, coloring agents, firming agents, and flavorings may be added. Organic lima beans may not have coloring or firming agents, but still may have some flavorings added, so it’s important to read the ingredients list to be sure the contents will meet your needs. Also, some canned foods still contain liners made with BPA (Bisphenol-A), an anticorrosive agent, whereas others are not. If BPA is a concern to you, be sure to read the label carefully and also check for information stamped on either end of the can itself. If there is no mention of BPA anywhere on the can, it most likely has a liner that contains BPA.

Canned lima beans should be stored in a cool, dry place. If you notice rust, leaking, extreme damage to the can, or bulging, discard the can. The contents may not be safe to eat. If your canned beans have an off odor, flavor or appearance, or if there is mold in them, they should be discarded. Unopened, properly stored cans of lima beans will maintain a good quality for 3 to 5 years, but will be safe to eat beyond that, even if it is beyond the “best by” date. Note that over time, even though the beans will be safe to eat, the flavor, texture and color may change.

Once opened, canned lima beans should be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container and used within 3 to 4 days. If you cannot use them within that time, simply place the lima beans in a covered, airtight container and store them in the freezer. They will maintain their best quality for 2 months, but will be safe to eat beyond that.

Frozen vs Canned vs Dried Lima Beans
Cost. When comparing the cost per serving, there were a number of options to compare: frozen limas in steamable packaging, frozen limas in non-steamable packaging, dried lima beans (baby and large), and canned lima beans (non-organic (baby and large), organic, and seasoned). There was a wide swing in price per serving based on prices I found at the moment and the type of bean, brand, vendor and organic vs non-organic options available. Because prices can vary so much considering all the variables, the best way to find the cheapest price per serving would be to carry a calculator to the store with you and compare among what is available at the time. However, here are my findings that could very likely apply to most scenarios.

Cost per 1/2 cup serving:
$0.13 Baby dried lima beans (generic brand) at $1.72 per 16 oz bag
$0.17 Large dried lima beans (generic brand) at $2.22 per 16 oz bag
$0.27 Frozen lima beans (generic brand) in regular packaging at $1.34 per 16 oz bag
$0.27 Canned large butter beans (Bush’s) at $0.94 per 16 oz can
$0.33 Canned seasoned lima beans (Margaret Holmes) at $1.16 per 15 oz can
$0.34 Frozen lima beans (generic brand) in steamable packaging at $1.34 per 12 oz bag
$0.67 Canned organic butter beans (Eden brand) at $2.34 per 15 oz can

Overall, the dried lima beans were the cheapest per serving, with BABY limas, generic brand, at a large discount store being the cheapest at $0.13 per serving. Considering the difference in cost per serving between the dried lima beans and the next in line with respect to cost, it seems safe to assume that dried lima beans are your cheapest option. Even when considering the cost of electricity or gas and water to prepare the beans, the dried beans will probably still be your least costly.

When comparing canned vs frozen lima beans, the frozen generic brand in regular (not steamable) packaging tied in price per serving with Bush’s brand canned large butter beans. This was an interesting discovery and makes some brands of canned beans worth adding to your pantry for an emergency food or when time for food preparation is short.

Price per serving increased with specialty packaging (steamable) or treatment of the beans (seasoned or organic). So, it’s helpful to have this knowledge when shopping for lima beans, understanding which would be your least expensive per serving, and knowing that you’ll pay more per serving for specific options, especially organic.

Overall winner = Dried baby lima beans

Convenience. Needless to say, canned beans are more convenient than dried beans, and even frozen lima beans since they still need to be cooked. You simply open the can, rinse and drain the beans, and they’re ready to use. The canned beans are an excellent choice if you’re always short on time and can’t (or don’t want to) take the time to cook dried beans. However, it does not take a lot of time to prepare frozen lima beans. They usually cook in about 15 minutes. They can be put on the stove first to cook as other foods are being prepared. So, they are a close second to canned beans with regard to convenience. With that being said, canned beans should be a staple item kept in your pantry in case of an emergency. If the power goes out or if you temporarily lose your water supply, canned beans can be eaten straight from the can (where frozen or dried beans cannot be eaten without being cooked first). Canned beans can be a lifesaving source of food when there is no way to cook. It’s better to be prepared, and not need it, then need it and not be prepared!

Many people believe cooking dried beans is a big ordeal. However, when considering “hands on” time, it’s actually very little. It takes little time to sort and rinse the beans then cover them with water in a pot. After being soaked, it takes little time to drain them then refill the pot with water. The cooking process pretty much takes care of itself. Then draining them takes little time, again. So, it’s really not hard nor time-consuming to cook dried beans when considering actual hands-on time. Furthermore, they can be cooked in a slow cooker or pressure cooker to make things a little simpler.

Overall winner = Canned lima beans

Nutritional Value. The nutritional value of canned or frozen lima beans is about the same as cooked dried lima beans. Either way, the beans need to be cooked completely before being eaten or canned, so they should have about the same nutrient content. So, this factor should not be a determinant when considering which form of lima bean to buy.

Overall winner = Three-way tie

Additives. If you want to avoid any additives in your foods, cooking dried or frozen lima beans is an excellent option. In this case, you can control what is added to the beans. Canned beans may have added salt and other ingredients as firming or color retention agents. Organic canned beans will not have firming or color retention agents, but still may have added salt. Some beans are canned without salt, so read the label to be sure. So, organic beans may be a good choice for you. Otherwise, cooking dried beans gives you complete control as to what is added to your beans. Frozen lima beans usually do not have any additives in them, so they are another excellent option if you’re avoiding additives of any sort. When in doubt, read the label to be sure.

Overall winner = Tie between dried and frozen lima beans

BPA. BPA (bisphenol-A) is an anticorrosive agent that has been used in can linings and other applications such as water bottles, bottle caps, water supply lines and even dental sealants. Research has found that this agent may cause harmful effects such as increased blood pressure and damage to unborn fetuses and young children. If you’re concerned about the possible harmful effects of BPA, it’s wise to look for cans labeled as BPA-free. Progressively, more manufacturers are using BPA-free cans, but not all. So, it pays to read the label or the information that was stamped on the end of the can. To avoid BPA from cans, cooking dried or frozen beans ensures you’re not ingesting any of the chemical.

Overall winner = Tie between dried and frozen lima beans

Flavor and Texture. Taste perception is subjective and differs from person to person. However, the overall consensus is that cooked dried beans taste better than canned beans. I agree with that statement (in my humble opinion). When adding frozen lima beans to the comparison test, I personally find the flavor of frozen lima beans to be the best among the three options (canned, frozen, dried and cooked). If flavor is a big factor for you, then cooking frozen lima beans may be your best option, followed by cooked dried, then canned. The advantage of cooking your own frozen or dried beans gives you the opportunity to flavor them to your liking. Adding onions, garlic, and/or herbs during the cooking process allows flavors to infuse in the beans that would not otherwise happen. If you still need the convenience of canned beans, adding them to soups, stews or other dishes where they will be combined with a lot of other foods, may mask the flavor difference of canned beans.

Overall winner = Frozen lima beans

How to Prepare Dried Lima Beans
First sort through your dried beans to remove any stones, debris, or damaged beans. Then give them a good rinse, and drain the beans. Then they need to be soaked. There are two ways to soak your dried lima beans…

Long Soaking Method. Simply place your sorted and rinsed beans in a large pot with a lid. Cover them with at least two inches of water and allow them to sit in the covered pot for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Drain the water and cover them by at least one inch of fresh water. Cook as directed below.

Quick Soaking Method. Place your sorted and rinsed beans in a large pot with a lid. Cover them with at least two inches of water and bring them to a boil. Boil the beans for two minutes, then remove the pot from the heat. Cover the pot with its lid, then allow them to sit for two hours. Drain the water and cover them by at least one inch of fresh water. Cook as directed below.

Cooking Your Soaked Beans. Bring your soaked beans that have been covered with fresh water to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and tilt the lid on the pot. Allow them to simmer slowly until the beans are tender. This will usually take about 45 minutes. Skim off any foam that forms as they are cooking.

Important! Do not add any salty or acidic ingredients to your beans as they are cooking. This will cause them to become firm and will be hard to cook properly. If seasoning is desired, add any salty or acidic ingredients toward the end of cooking time. If desired, aromatic ingredients such as onions, garlic, and herbs may be added at the start of cooking to flavor your lima beans.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Lima Beans
* Try a succotash burrito or taco filling. Combine cooked lima beans with corn, chopped tomatoes and scallions. Top with diced avocado, cilantro, and a little hot pepper if desired. Enjoy!

* Blend cooked lima beans and sweet potatoes together. Serve with your favorite grain and vegetable.

* Add lima beans to your favorite vegetable soup.

* Lima beans are very versatile. Use them as a main dish, a side dish, in soups, stews, and curries, and even in salads. Get creative!

* Try roasted lima beans! Dry cooked lima beans on a cloth or paper towel. Transfer them to a bowl, coat them with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, lime juice, and some cayenne powder or paprika. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 425F until they are slightly browned. Watch carefully, as they can burn easily. Enjoy them hot or at room temperature. Store extras in the refrigerator to enjoy later.

* For easy and flavorful lima beans, cook a pack of frozen lima beans in stock or broth of your choice. Add in a little onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and you’re done!

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Lima Beans
Basil, bay leaf, chervil, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, dill, fennel seeds, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, pepper (black), rosemary, sage, salt, sorrel, sumac, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Lima Beans
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beans (green), chicken, ham, pork, seafood

Vegetables: Bell peppers, carrots, chives, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, scallions, spinach, squash (winter and summer), tomatoes and tomato paste

Fruits: Lemon, olives

Grains and Grain Products: Corn, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, buttermilk, cheese (esp. cheddar, feta, Parmesan), cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Molasses, oil (esp. olive), tamari, vinegar (esp. cider, red wine), wine (dry white)

Lima Beans have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Casseroles, dips, purees, salad (i.e. three bean), soups, Southern (U.S.) cuisine, spreads, stews, succotash

Suggested Flavor or Food Combos Using Lima Beans
Add lima beans to any of the following combinations…

Chili pepper flakes + garlic + lemon juice + olive oil
Corn + tomatoes (succotash)
Corn + garlic + rosemary + tomatoes (succotash)
Fennel + garlic
Feta cheese + olives + tomatoes
Feta cheese + spinach
Garlic + lemon + olive oil + oregano
Garlic + onions
Scallions + yogurt

Recipe Links
Corn and Lima Bean Salad

Garlicky Lima Bean Spread

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken with Basil Lima Beans

Herbed Lima Bean Hummus

Southern Lima Beans with Rice

Baby Lima Beans (Butterbeans)

Lemon Salmon with Lima Beans

Lima Bean Tahini Dip

Farmer’s Caviar

Butterbeans with Butter, Mint, and Lime

Greek Style Baked Lima Beans


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Cumin Seeds

Cumin 101 – The Basics

Here’s a comprehensive article all about the spice cumin. If you need to know a little something about this highly prized spice that has been enjoyed throughout history, you should find your answer below. From what it is, the history of cumin, its nutritional aspects, and how to use it, is all covered, and more!


Cumin 101 – The Basics

About Cumin
The spice cumin is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been cultivated in the Middle East, India, China, and Mediterranean countries for thousands of years. Throughout history, cumin has played an important part in the cuisines and medicine of the region. During Biblical times, cumin was used as a spice in soup and bread, and also as a currency to pay tithes to priests. Ancient Egyptians used cumin in the mummification process of pharaohs.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used cumin as a culinary spice, especially since it was readily available. It was often used as a substitute for black pepper, which was very expensive and hard to obtain at the time.

Cumin was commonly used in Europe during the Middle Ages. It became known as a symbol of love and fidelity. People often carried cumin seeds with them when attending weddings, and wives often sent loaves of cumin bread with husbands who were going off to war.

Cumin seeds look similar to caraway seeds. They are yellow-brown, and oblong with longitudinal ridges. Cumin belongs to the same botanical family (Umbelliferae) as caraway, parsley, and dill. It has a strong, earthy flavor that can be described as peppery with slight citrus undertones. Cumin is available in both whole seeds and a ground powder. Cumin is the world’s second most popular spice, second to black pepper. The seeds come in brown, black and white colors.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Cumin
Cumin in an excellent source of iron, and has appreciable amounts of manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and Vitamin B1.

Cumin has some important health benefits, as follows…

Iron. Cumin is an excellent source of iron. Since iron is a vital part of hemoglobin in our blood, it plays a key role in transporting oxygen from the lungs to all cells of the body. Iron is also necessary for proper energy metabolism through its role in specific enzymes in the production of energy. Iron is also used in keeping the immune system healthy by being a key component in the reproduction and maturation of immune cells, especially lymphocytes. Two teaspoons of cumin seeds provide almost 3 mg of iron, or about 16 percent of our Daily Value of iron. That’s impressive!

Digestion. Traditionally, cumin seeds have been used to help promote healthy digestion. Recent research has backed that up by finding that cumin promotes the release of pancreatic enzymes which are critical for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.

Cancer prevention. Cumin seeds may also have anticancer properties. Research has shown that cumin protected laboratory animals from stomach and liver tumors. This anticancer effect may be due to cumin’s ability to enhance liver detoxification enzymes in addition to its powerful free radical scavenging properties. Researchers speculate these properties alone may give cumin health-promoting effects yet to be identified.

How to Select Cumin
For the longest shelf-life, select whole cumin seeds. The ground powder is convenient, but tends to lose its flavor quickly. Cumin seeds can be used whole, or ground to a powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

How to Store
Cumin seeds and powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dry, and dark place. Ground cumin keeps well for about six months. Whole seeds will stay fresh for about one year. To extend the life of whole cumin seeds, they may be kept tightly wrapped in the freezer.

How to Prepare Cumin
Whole seeds and ground cumin can be used straight from the jar. However, lightly toasting the seeds before being used brings out their full aroma and flavor.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Cumin
* Cumin is often combined with black pepper and honey in middle Eastern countries. This combination is often used to flavor vegetables, chicken and fish dishes.

* A warming cup of cumin tea can be made by bringing seeds to a boil in water, then letting them steep for 8 to 10 minutes. This can help reduce bloating and intestinal gas.

* Cumin is often used to flavor lentils, chickpeas, and black beans. The flavor of cumin blends well with legumes, so remember that as a flavor option the next time you cook beans.

* Flavor up rice by adding toasted cumin seeds, dried apricots, and almonds.

* Cumin goes well with just about any grain. If you want to add a little flavor, sprinkle on a little ground cumin.

* Give vegetables a North African flavor twist by adding a little cumin.

* The flavor of cumin is very strong. If you’re not sure, just sprinkle a little on your food, then taste it, and go from there.

* Whole cumin seeds can be lightly toasted in a hot, dry skillet for 5 minutes. This step intensifies the flavor, giving them a deep, smoky flavor. Keep the seeds moving in the pan so they don’t burn. Add toasted cumin seeds to salads, roasted potatoes or other vegetables, bread doughs, and soups.

* For the best flavor, toast cumin seeds before grinding them into powder.

* Tempering cumin seeds with other spices is a common technique used in Indian cooking. This step releases flavors and aromas from the spices before adding other ingredients. Simply fry them in oil briefly until they are aromatic and start to pop, then add other ingredients. This will infuse the entire dish with the cumin flavor.

* Sprinkle ground toasted cumin on avocado toast.

* Add cumin to pork and lamb dishes.

* Sprinkle a little ground cumin over a boiled egg, along with a little salt.

* Sprinkle a little cumin onto a cheese omelet as it finishes cooking.

* Add whole cumin seeds early in cooking to allow time for the flavors to be released.

* The flavor of ground cumin is more concentrated that that of the whole seeds. When switching one for the other, use less of the ground spice than the whole seed.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Cumin
Cardamom, cayenne, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, curry powder, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, pepper, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Cumin
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (in general), beef, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, lamb, lentils, peas, seafood, sesame seeds, walnuts

Vegetables: Bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, chiles, chives, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, sauerkraut, squash (i.e. kabocha), tomatoes and tomato sauce, vegetables (root)

Fruits: Avocados, lemon, lime, tamarind

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur, grains (in general), rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e. cheddar, Swiss), yogurt

Other Foods: Cocoa

Cumin has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
North African cuisines, baba ghanoush, baked goods (i.e. breads), burritos, chili, Cuban cuisine, curries, dals, enchiladas, Greek cuisine, hummus, Indian cuisine, kebabs, Latin American cuisines, marinades, Mediterranean cuisines, Mexican cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisines, Moroccan cuisine, purees, salad dressings, salads (i.e. bean, rice), salsas, sauces (i.e. tomato), soups, Southeast Asian cuisines, Spanish cuisine, stews, tacos, Tex-Mex cuisine, Turkish cuisine

Suggested Flavor Combos Using Cumin
Add cumin to any of the following combinations…

Avocado + black beans + lime + tomatoes
Black beans + cilantro + garlic
Cilantro + curry spices
Garlic + Potatoes
Paprika + tomatoes

Recipe Links
Curried Cumin Potatoes

Boilermaker Tailgate Chili

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers

Refried Beans without the Refry

Vegan Black Bean Soup

Fish Tacos with Honey-Cumin Cilantro Slaw and Chipotle Mayo

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

Wilted Cabbage with Toasted Cumin

Chickpea Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

Barbecue-Rubbed Pork Chops

Chickpea Falafels

Black Beans and Rice

Cauliflower Tacos with Cashew Crema

Vegetarian Taco Bowls

Mixed Bean and Avocado Salad


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Black Beans

Black Beans 101 – The Basics

Black beans are a popular and extremely health-promoting legume to include in your meals whenever you can. If you’re wondering about the health benefits of black beans or are looking for ideas on what to do with them, such as what foods, herbs, or spices go well with black beans, you’re in the right place! I’ve answered those questions and a lot more! Read onward for a comprehensive review of black beans.


Black Beans 101 – The Basics

About Black Beans
Black beans are native to North, South and Central America. They date as far back as 7,000 years ago when they were a staple food for Central and South Americans. Black beans are about one-half inch long with a shape similar to a pinto bean. They are members of the plant family Phaseolus vulgaris, along with navy, kidney, and pinto beans. Black beans are sometimes referred to as turtle beans or black turtle beans. Today, black beans are grown worldwide and are enjoyed in many cuisines. Cooked black beans are soft in texture with a mild, but slightly sweet flavor.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Black Beans
Black beans are an excellent source of molybdenum. This trace mineral is critical in the formation of enzymes used in a variety of essential functions including carbohydrate metabolism. They also contain a lot of folate, fiber, copper, manganese, Vitamin B1, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Furthermore, a one cup serving of black beans provides about 15 grams of protein (about one-third of the day’s needs), 15 grams of fiber, and about 180 mg of alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). That’s impressive!

Blood Sugar Control and Resistant Starch. The high fiber content of black beans coupled with the high protein content makes them an excellent food for helping to control blood sugar levels. Both fiber and protein help to regulate the passage of food through the gastrointestinal tract, reducing spikes in blood sugar from absorbed carbohydrates. This property gives black beans (and other legumes) a low rating on the glycemic index.

Also, recent studies have shown that black beans have specific peptides (types of proteins) that inhibit the formation of glucose transport molecules. This further inhibits glucose absorption from the digestive tract, also helping to keep blood sugars level. This can help in the management of blood sugar issues, especially Type 2 diabetes.

In addition to the high fiber content of black beans, much of their carbohydrate content consists of resistant starch. Resistant starch is not easily broken down in the upper digestive tract. Instead, it is carried to the large intestines where bacteria feed on the starch, breaking it down into short chain fatty acids. The fatty acids become fuel for our intestinal cells and may play a key role in the prevention of metabolic syndrome, bowel disorders, and some cancers. Short chain fatty acids have been found to aid in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and antibiotic-associated diarrhea. These properties help to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer in those who regularly eat black beans and other legumes.

Phytonutrient Content: Black beans are an outstanding source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids. Many of these compounds contribute to the rich, dark color of black beans. Anthocyanins acts as antioxidants, fighting harmful molecules in the body. They may provide anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits as well.

A 2010 report published in Nutrition Reviews found that anthocyanins may help to protect heart health by improving cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels, in addition to fighting oxidative stress. All of these factors contribute to heart disease. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that anthocyanins may help to prevent high blood pressure, further protecting our heart health.

Dried vs Canned Black Beans
Dried Black Beans. Dried black beans should first be soaked, rinsed and drained, then cooked before being eaten. This takes some time and may not be feasible for all cooks. However, the nutrient content of dried, soaked and cooked beans is a little higher than that of the canned variety. Dried black beans are cheaper to buy when considering the amount of cooked beans you get from a one-pound bag vs the amount in one can of beans. If the cost factor is important to you, dried beans are the best option.

Storing Dried Black Beans. Store dried black beans in a cool, dry area in a sealed container. When properly stored, they should stay fresh for 2 to 3 years, although they are usually safe to eat beyond that. If you open a container of dried black beans and do not use them all, return the remaining unused beans to an airtight, sealed container stored in a cool, dry place. Dried beans are usually safe to eat beyond their ‘best by” date, although the quality may decline over time. If your dried beans develop an “off” odor or appearance, or show signs of mold or insect infestation, it’s time to discard them.

Canned Black Beans. Canned black beans are a convenient staple food to have in the pantry, and can be found in just about any grocery store. They should be rinsed and drained before eating. Since they are fully cooked, canned black beans can be eaten cold, cooked, pureed, or baked.

The nutrient content of canned black beans is slightly less than that of their dried counterparts, but not so much that they should be avoided. They are typically sorted before processing, as you would dry beans. The beans are then pre-hydrated before being cooked in their sealed cans. Some varieties of canned black beans have added salt and/or calcium chloride to maintain firmness. If you want to avoid those additives, organic and no salt added varieties of canned black beans are available at many grocery stores. The processing of canned black beans is relatively low when compared with other foods, and are considered to be a healthy alternative to dried black beans.

Storing Canned Black Beans. The quality of unopened cans of black beans can be good for 3 to 5 years if kept in a cool, dry place. They are usually safe to eat beyond that, but the quality may decline. Canned black beans usually have a “best by” date stamped on the can. If kept properly, the beans should be safe to eat beyond that day, but the quality may decline. If you notice a bad odor, off appearance or flavor, or mold, the beans should certainly be discarded. If any canned items are leaking, rusting, bulging, or severely dented, they should be discarded.

[On a personal note…When I was young, my parents had a pantry room off the kitchen where they stored canned foods. Apparently, they didn’t check them routinely. One day, a large can of fruit cocktail exploded in the room. It was everywhere! We did the best we could with clean-up, but that room smelled like old fruit cocktail for a VERY long time after that. So…lesson learned: Monitor your canned goods to be sure they are not bulging and use them within a reasonable amount of time!]

How to Prepare Dried Black Beans
Black beans should be soaked before being cooked. This makes them more tender, reduces cooking time, and also reduces their gas-producing tendencies when eaten. Preparing dried black beans is not hard, but does take some time.

First, place your dried beans in your cooking pot. Sort through them to remove any stones or other debris that may be in the bag, and any beans that don’t look good. Then rinse the beans and drain the water. Next, cover the beans with fresh water by at least two inches. There are two methods of soaking to choose from at this point…

Overnight method. Cover the pot and allow the beans to soak overnight or for at least 6 hours. Drain the water and cover the beans with fresh water by at least two inches. Cook your beans (see directions below).

Quick soak method. Cover your rinsed and drained beans in your cooking pot with fresh water. Place the lid on the pot and bring them to a boil. Boil them for two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow them to rest in the covered pot for two hours. Drain the water, then fill the pot with fresh water. Cook your beans (see directions below).

Cooking your soaked beans. Place your pot filled with water and soaked beans on the stove. Cover the pot and bring them to a boil, then lower the heat. Tilt the lid on the pot and allow the beans to simmer until they are soft. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending upon how fast they are cooked and how long they soaked. Stir them occasionally. Be sure they remain submerged. If needed, add more hot water to the pot. Do NOT add salt or acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice to the water at first. This will cause the beans to be tough and will make them hard to cook. If salted or flavored water is desired, add flavorings when they are close to being done. When they are soft, drain the water and use them as desired. Soaked dried beans may also be cooked in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Black Beans
* To have a supply of freshly cooked black beans readily available, cook a pound or two of dried beans. Cool them down in cold water, drain well, then transfer them to freezer bags or containers and store them in the freezer. You’ll have plenty of cooked black beans ready when you need them.

* Make a simple salad by combining black beans with celery, bell peppers, tomatoes and your favorite spicy dressing. Serve this on its own, on a bed of greens, or with a cooked grain of your choice.

* Make a quick taco by filling shells with cooked black beans, greens of choice, chopped tomatoes, avocado slices, onions and any other veggies you want. Top with chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of cheese, a drizzle of lime juice, and a dollop of sour cream or cashew cream.

* Make a black bean hummus by blending a can of black beans with tahini or avocado, lime, chili powder, and garlic to taste.

* Add cooked blacked beans to a stuffed baked potato.

* Use black beans in a burrito in place of refried beans.

* Make an easy dip by layering black beans with guacamole, diced tomatoes, onions, and chopped cilantro.

* Make a black bean salsa by combining black beans with diced tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, and chopped cilantro. Add lime juice and salt to taste. Let rest for 20 minutes for flavors to blend, then serve with tortilla chips.

* Stuff baked sweet potatoes with a mixture of black beans, chopped onions, corn, diced tomatoes, all flavored with cumin, chili powder, cilantro and lime juice. Place the mixture in the baked sweet potato and top with cheddar cheese and a dollop of plain yogurt, sour cream or cashew cream.

* Try a black bean and walnut lettuce wrap. In a bowl, combine black beans, chopped walnuts, paprika, chili powder, cumin, chopped onion, diced tomatoes and any other vegetables you want, some lime juice, a little cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and/or salsa. Spoon the filling into large lettuce leaves, wrap and enjoy!

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Black Beans
Basil, bay leaf, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, mint, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, savory, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Black Beans
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beef, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, pork, seafood, tempeh

Vegetables: Bell peppers, carrots, celery, chiles, chives, cucumbers, jicama, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, spinach, squash (winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes

Fruits: Avocado, citrus fruits (esp. lemon, lime, orange), mangoes, olives, plantains

Grains and Grain Products: Corn, grains (in general), quinoa, rice, tortillas

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese, sour cream

Other Foods: Chocolate, coffee, liquid smoke, miso, oil, sherry (dry), soy sauce, stock (vegetable), vinegar

Black beans have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Black bean cakes, Brazilian cuisine, burritos, Caribbean cuisine, casseroles, Central American cuisines, chili (vegetarian), Cuban cuisine, dips, empanadas, enchiladas, Jamaican cuisine, Latin American cuisines, Mexican cuisine, nachos, pates, Puerto Rican cuisine, purees, quesadillas, refried beans, salads, soups, South American cuisines, Southwestern (U.S.) cuisine, spreads, stews, tacos, Tex-Mex cuisine, tostadas, veggie burgers

Suggested Flavor Combos Using Black Beans
Add black beans to any of the following combinations…

Avocado + cilantro + corn + lime juice
Avocado + cilantro + onions + rice
Bell peppers + corn + lettuce + scallions
Bell peppers + garlic + onions
Brown rice + salsa + tomatoes
Cheddar cheese + chickpeas + corn + green onions
Chiles + cilantro + coriander + cumin + lime + scallions
Cilantro + lime + oregano + red onions
Cilantro + orange
Coriander + cumin + ginger
Garlic + thyme
Kale + sweet potatoes
Mango + quinoa
Salsa + sweet potatoes + tortillas

Recipe Links
Black Bean and Rice Salad

Crock Pot Black Bean Chili

Easy Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salad

Quick and Easy Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

Grilled Bean Burgers

Texas Black Bean Soup

Black Bean and Corn Quinoa

Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas

Slow Cooked Stuffed Peppers

Taco Lasagna

Chili Tortilla Bake

15-Minute Black Bean Salad

Mexican Black Bean Wrap with Avocado and Tri-Colored Slaw

Veggie Burrito Bowls


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Ways to Reduce Your Salt Intake

The current 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2300 mg of sodium a day. That equates to less than one teaspoon of salt. Yet, many Americans still consume a lot more than that. Furthermore, recommendations are moving toward reducing that amount even more, to 1500 mg per day (about 2/3 of a teaspoon of salt, and this does not account for naturally-occurring sodium in our food). Where does all this sodium come from? In the average American diet, about 77% comes from processed foods or foods prepared outside the home (such as restaurant meals), 12% comes from natural sources (naturally occurring sodium in foods), 6% from salt added at the table while eating, and 5% added while cooking. When examining those percentages, it’s clear that most of the sodium in our diet comes from foods that we did not prepare ourselves.

We do need some sodium for our bodies to function normally, but the amount is far less than we consume. A mere 186 mg of sodium per day is all that’s truly needed, and that small amount can be found naturally occurring in whole, unadulterated foods. Furthermore, consuming whole, unadulterated plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, provides an abundance of potassium, helping to balance the potassium to sodium ratio in the body.

Many people need (or want) to slash their salt intake for numerous reasons and struggle to do so. The following are some suggestions on how to reduce your sodium intake, balance the sodium to potassium ratio, and yet still enjoy the flavor of our foods.

Prepare Your Own Foods at Home
This may hard to do all the time, especially if you travel a lot in your career, have odd working hours or a lot of responsibilities with little time to spend in the kitchen. You’re forgiven! However, it’s up to you to work out a way to squeeze a little valuable time for yourself to prepare some of your own foods to take along with you so you can reduce your need for restaurant foods.

Here are some ideas for easy food preparation at home…
* Try overnight oats for a ready-to-go breakfast in the morning. Recipes are all over the internet!

* Take time on a day off to prepare foods ahead for the coming week. Many people spend time on the weekend making a lot of food for the coming week’s lunches. Pack them in individual serving containers so you can just grab one and put it into a travel bag with an ice pack on your way out the door. It’ll be ready when you are. If need be, they could be stored in the freezer and placed in the refrigerator the night before you need it so it can thaw safely.

* Plan on having a large salad once a day, or at least as often as you can. Lettuce can be washed in advanced, drained, and then stored in the refrigerator in a covered container between layers of paper towels. It will stay crisp and will be ready when needed. Other vegetables can also be washed and cut in advance and stored in a similar way. Just be sure they’re not stored overly wet, or sitting in a puddle of water, which could cause them to spoil.

* Make a large pot of soup on a day off. Chill it down well, then store it in the refrigerator, either in a large container, or in individual containers. It can also be frozen in individual serving size containers for an easy lunch or supper when needed. If you remember, transfer a container (for the next day) in the refrigerator the night before so it can thaw (or at least start to thaw). Warm the soup on the stove or in the microwave for a fast meal.

* Make sandwich filling of some sort on a day off. Homemade hummus, nut butter and fruit spread, or (if you’re an omnivore) cooked meat or a meat combo if you prefer, are all possible sandwich fillings where you can control what’s in them. Store the filling in a covered container in the refrigerator and sandwiches will be easy to make when you need them.

* Make a large casserole on your day off. Like the soup, salads, and sandwich fillings, making a large casserole ahead of time gives you a nice option of your own foods made to your liking that you can enjoy during the week and have ready when you are. Individual portions can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen until needed. Warming it in a microwave or even toaster oven is an option, as long as your container is appropriate for those methods.

* Put supper in the crock pot/slow cooker in the morning before you leave for work. This may not work for everyone, since it involves extra time in the morning. But if you can get up a little earlier or work it out, a nice, hot, homemade supper will be ready for you when you get home. How convenient is that?

Season Foods with Herbs or Spices Instead of Salt
Sometimes a little added salt goes a long way in making food palatable, and that should be OK as long as we don’t overdo it (or have a medical issue requiring a salt-free diet). However, seasoning our own food with plenty of herbs and spices can reduce our need for added salt. Try some of the following options to flavor your foods instead of salt…

Proteins, Beans, Legumes, and Marinades: Basil, chiles/cayenne, chives, cilantro, coriander, dill (weed), ginger, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, pepper, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Vegetables, Stir-Fries, Salads: Basil, chiles/cayenne, chives, cinnamon, cilantro, coriander, dill (weed), ginger, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, pepper, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Fruits: Cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, mint, nutmeg, pepper, rosemary, tarragon (esp. with lemon), thyme (esp. with citrus)

Grains, Grain Products, and Grain Dishes: Basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, chiles/cayenne, coriander, ginger, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cardamom, chives, dill (weed), mint, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, thyme (esp. with cheese)

Casseroles, Sauces, Soups, Stews: Basil, cardamom, chiles/cayenne, chives, cinnamon, cilantro, coriander, dill (weed), ginger, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, pepper, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

About some specific herbs/spices used to replace salt…
* Basil. Basil is sweet yet peppery. Fresh basil has more flavor than that of dried. Basil is excellent in pesto, marinades, dressings, sauces, sandwiches, soups, and salads. It is often used in Mediterranean dishes, especially tomato-based sauces and pizzas. There are different varieties of basil, giving different flavors to this herb.

* Cardamom. Cardamom is a warm, aromatic spice. Whole cardamom pods can be used, or the seeds (which are inside the pods) can be used whole or ground. Cardamom is commonly added to Asian spice mixes and curry pastes. It works well in baked goods and sweet breads along with cloves and cinnamon.

* Chiles/Cayenne. Chile peppers vary a lot in their heat, so always add a little at first if you’re not sure. Cayenne is a specific type of Chile pepper. Chile peppers are available fresh, dried, flaked, ground into powder, and made into hot sauce. Hot sauce may be high in sugar and/or salt, so do read labels if you’re on a salt-restricted plan. Opting for fresh hot peppers gives you more control over the sodium content of your food. Chiles work well in most foods, including vegetable and seafood dishes. A pinch of chili pepper with mustard can help you reduce the amount of cheese needed in a cheese sauce (thereby reducing sodium in the sauce, since cheese is high in sodium). Chiles combine well with cumin, coriander seeds, and turmeric. Cayenne pairs well with meats, grains, soups, and vegetables.

* Chives. Chives have an onion-like flavor but are milder than onions. Add chives to hot dishes at the end of cooking to preserve the flavor. Chives are excellent in mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, casseroles, salads, cream cheese, fish and poultry.

* Cinnamon. Cinnamon is most often used in sweet treats and baked goods like cakes, quick breads, and fruit crisps. But cinnamon also works in some savory dishes too. In Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines, cinnamon is used to flavor chicken and lamb. It can also be used to add a special flavor to curries, tagines, casseroles, roast vegetables, Bolognese sauce, and stewed fruit.

* Coriander/Cilantro. In the United States, we refer to the seeds of this plant as coriander, whereas the leaves are called cilantro. The cilantro leaves have an earthy yet citrusy flavor. The coriander seeds have a warm, spicy, citrus flavor. Cilantro can be used raw or added to hot foods at the end of cooking time to preserve their flavor. The leaves are excellent in salads, soups (esp. carrot and coriander soup), salsas, curries, fish, and chicken dishes. It is often combined with lime and chiles in stir-fry dishes. Coriander seeds are commonly used in Indian cuisine.

* Cumin. The flavor of cumin is earthy and smoky. Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world (whereas black pepper is the first). Cumin pairs well with many foods, but especially chicken, beef, lamb, game, beans and rice. For a Mexican flare, combine cumin with oregano and chili. For a taste of India, combine cumin with cardamom, coriander, and turmeric.

* Dill. Dill seeds and dill weed (the leaves) are both used in a variety of dishes. Their flavor is very different. Dill seeds have a flavor of fennel, star anise, and celery combined. They are what gives dill pickles their characteristic flavor. The leaves (dill weed) have a fresh, bright flavor that add hints of lemon anise. Dill weed blends well with cottage cheese, cream cheese, omelets, seafood, steak, potato salad, and cucumber salads.

* Ginger. Ginger has a sharp aroma and flavor of pepper and lemon. It can be purchased fresh or dried and ground. Ginger enhances both sweet and savory dishes. Grated fresh ginger can be added to stir-fries, rice, curries, and meats. It can be added to salad dressings and even stewed fruit.

* Mint. This refreshing herb works well in both sweet and savory dishes. Try this with salads, pasta or couscous. Mint also goes well with carrots, cucumber, rice, melon, tomato, yogurt, and peas.

* Nutmeg. Nutmeg is sweet yet pungent at the same time. Most people prefer the flavor of freshly grated nutmeg rather than that of dried nutmeg, but use whatever you have on-hand. It works well in baked goods with cinnamon and cloves. Nutmeg plus black pepper complement each other in white sauces and cheese sauces. Nutmeg also adds a natural “warmth” when added to homemade potato, cauliflower, and cabbage soups.

* Oregano. Oregano has a warm, aromatic, and slightly bitter flavor with a strong aroma. It is commonly used in Greek and Mediterranean cuisines. It can be used in meat, poultry and seafood marinades. Use it also in egg dishes, breads, casseroles, and salads. It’s an essential ingredient in spaghetti sauce and gives pizza its classic flavor.

* Paprika. Paprika is made from dried and ground sweet peppers and hot peppers. It is milder and sweeter than cayenne pepper. Paprika can be paired with caraway, coriander, cinnamon and dill for a Hungarian flare. Combine paprika with garlic for a Spanish twist. Paprika also goes well with chicken, lamb and fish, on baked sweet potatoes, in beans, and with scrambled eggs.

* Parsley. Parsley has a mildly bitter, grassy flavor that blends well with other flavors, but does not overpower them. Flat-leaf parsley is preferred by chefs because its flavor holds up well when heated. Curly parsley is often used as a garnish. Parsley goes well with roast lamb, grilled steak, fish, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, omelets, stuffing, soft cheese, marinades, dressing, sauces and soups.

* Peppercorns. Peppercorns are not only the common black variety, but can also be red, green, yellow, and white. Each color has its own flavor. Some are sweet, some are bitter, while others are hot. Try a blend of different colored peppercorns for a warm flavor twist to your dishes.

* Rosemary. Rosemary is an aromatic herb with a pine-like fragrance. Use rosemary sparingly, as it can overpower other flavors. Use rosemary fresh or dried, but crush the dried rosemary first to release its essential oils and flavors. Rosemary can be added to meats, breads, pizza, tomato sauce, beans, potatoes and egg dishes. Roast whole springs of fresh rosemary with root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.

* Sage. Sage is similar in flavor to rosemary, but with more lemon and eucalyptus flavor. Sage retains its flavor with prolonged cooking, which is unlike many herbs. Sage is often used in Italian and French cuisines where it is added to meats, poultry, and stuffing. Chopped sage is often added to pasta and gnocchi.

* Spice/herb blends. There are a number of spice/herb blends on the market that have no salt added to them. These can make cooking easy for you if you’re in a hurry or don’t want to spend time researching what to season a food with. When shopping for a spice blend, look for “Salt-Free” on the label, or carefully read the ingredients list to be sure there is no added salt in the mix.

* Tarragon. Tarragon has a distinct licorice-like flavor with a star anise aroma. To preserve its flavor, add it near the end of cooking time. Tarragon is often used in French cuisine and goes well with fish, poultry, eggs, beef, and vegetable soups. It can also be added to salad dressings.

* Thyme. Thyme has a strong earthy, slightly minty flavor. Unlike many herbs, the flavor of thyme improves and is released with prolonged cooking. Whole thyme sprigs are often added to dishes early on to release their full flavor. Whole sprigs are often added to slow-cooked meals and casseroles, and removed at the end. Thyme pairs well with rosemary, parsley, sage, savory and oregano. It is used to flavor meats, chicken, game, and roasted vegetables. Thyme pairs well with paprika, oregano, and cayenne in Cajun cuisine. It also pairs well with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper in Caribbean cuisine. Lemon thyme goes well in soups and vegetable dishes.

* Turmeric. Turmeric is a common ingredient in curry and is often used in South Asian dishes. North Africans often use turmeric with ginger in flavoring meats, vegetables, and rice. A little turmeric goes a long way, as its flavor intensifies with cooking.

Foods That Can be Used to Season Dishes Without Added Salt
In addition to specific herbs and spices being used to replace added salt, some foods can be used as ingredients to replace added salt by adding another flavor dimension to a dish. Here are some examples…

Proteins, Beans, Legumes, and Marinades: Balsamic vinegar, beverages (beer, wine, coffee), celery, garlic, kelp granules, lemon, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, onions, salsa/chutney, vinegar (in general)

Vegetables, Stir-Fries, Salads: Balsamic vinegar, celery, garlic, kelp granules, lemon, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, onions, salsa/chutney, vinegar (in general)

Fruits: Balsamic vinegar, celery, lemon, vinegar (in general)

Grains, Grain Products, and Grain Dishes: Balsamic vinegar, celery, garlic, kelp granules, lemon, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, onions, salsa/chutney, vinegar (in general)

Dairy, Non-Dairy, Cheese: Balsamic vinegar, celery, lemon, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, onions, salsa/chutney

Casseroles, Sauces, Soups, Stews: Balsamic vinegar, beverages (beer, wine, coffee), celery, garlic, kelp granules, lemon, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, onions, vinegar (in general)

More about specific foods used to replace salt…
* Balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar can be used far beyond salads. It comes in a variety of flavors that helps it to pair well with many foods. Some balsamic flavors include lemon, cherry, espresso, chocolate, garlic, apple, and more. The flavors enable balsamic vinegar to pair with many foods. It can add a sweet, fruity flavor to ice cream, yogurt, and beverages. It can be used to marinade red meats. Garlic and lemon balsamic vinegars can be used to flavor poultry, seafood and vegetables.

* Beverages (esp. beer, wine, coffee). Assorted beverages have been used to flavor foods in lieu of salt. Beer, wine, and even coffee have been used to flavor stews, soups, chili, pasta sauces, and braised dishes. These liquids can be used on their own or combined with broth. [Note! Beware of commercially prepared broth, as it may be high in sodium. Read the label to be sure it meets your needs regarding sodium intake.]

* Celery. For someone on a highly sodium-restricted diet, eating celery may be questionable. But for the rest of us, the unique flavor of celery can add a salty flare to otherwise bland foods. One stalk of celery naturally contains 32 mg of sodium, which is not a lot. But, since celery is mostly water, that sodium flavor seems to be accentuated in celery. So if you’re mixing up some food of whatever sort and you are missing a salty component, rather than reaching for the salt shaker, try adding a stalk or two of celery. Hopefully it will do the trick.

* Garlic. Garlic is an excellent alternative to salt. We’re all familiar with it and most likely have some in the kitchen, whether fresh or dried. Raw garlic adds a pungent zest to foods while roasted garlic adds a delicious sweet, nutty flavor. Add garlic to chicken, fish, meats, vegetables, salads, breads, and stir-fries…almost anything!

* Kelp granules. This option may be new to some people even though kelp has been available as a food for quite a white. Kelp granules are what they say…dried granules of kelp. It is salt-free, but NOT sodium-free. Along with other nutrients, kelp does contain iodine, a needed element that is added to table salt. Kelp granules do contain some naturally-occurring sodium from growing in the salty sea water. (One teaspoon generally contains about 100 mg of sodium.) However, it is far less than what you would find in table salt. (One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium.) This can serve as a good food source of iodine if you’re on a low-sodium or salt-restricted diet. However, it’s important to read the nutrition facts label first to be sure it meets your needs regarding sodium restriction. Also, don’t overdose on kelp because that could lead to an iodine overload!

* Lemon zest/lemon juice (or any citrus zest/juice). Lemon (or any citrus fruit) brightens flavors and pairs with most foods, from appetizers, to main dishes and vegetables, to salads, breads, and desserts. It can be added to marinades to bring flavor to foods without a lot of salt. The zest of the fruit brings out an even stronger flavor than the juice, so add it when you want a more pronounced citrus flavor to foods.

* Mushrooms. Mushrooms can add a subtle umami flavor to foods without adding extra salt to the dish. A mixture of caramelized onions, garlic, and mushrooms with a dash of balsamic vinegar may be all you need to flavor a specific food.

* Nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is deactivated (killed) yeast that comes in powder or flakes. It is an excellent source of an array of vitamins and minerals, with only 5 mg of sodium in two tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes. It is described as having a nutty, cheesy, savory flavor. Nutritional yeast is often used as a vegan cheese substitute. If you’re not used to eating nutritional yeast, it’s best to slowly add it to your diet. Adding it too quickly may cause some unpleasant side effects. (1) Nutritional yeast has a lot of fiber, with about 5 grams in just 2 tablespoons. Adding too much too fast may cause gas, cramps, or even diarrhea. Drinking plenty of liquids with nutritional yeast may help to prevent this. (2) Some yeast products may trigger migraine headaches in some people. This is due to tyramine, a compound the body makes from the amino acid tyrosine contained in yeast products. (3) Nutritional yeast contains high amounts of the B-vitamin niacin, which can cause a flushing reaction in some people. This is like a facial to full-body hot flash, with reddening of the skin followed by burning and itching. It can last for ten to twenty minutes. The condition is uncomfortable, but not harmful. (4) Some individuals with irritable bowel disease are sensitive to yeast products. Nutritional yeast may trigger an immune response, worsening symptoms in some individuals with such conditions.

* Onions. Onions add a deep umami flavor to foods, especially when paired with garlic. Onions are used to flavor many foods including stews, soups, any braised or roasted dish, tomato based sauces, burgers, meatloaf, casseroles, pizza, salads, and more. When caramelized, onions add a sweetness to many foods including vegetarian and vegan dishes.

* Salsa and chutney. Salsas and chutneys add a fresh flavor to meats, fish, omelets, vegan/vegetarian dishes, appetizers, cheeses, chips and crudités. Homemade versions would be ideal for those on a reduced salt plan since you can control the ingredients. When purchasing store-bought varieties, read the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list to be sure it meets your needs.

* Vinegar (in general). When the flavor of a dish seems “flat” and bland, add a touch of acid to brighten it up. Vinegar (or even citrus juice) will enhance the flavors in sauces, salads, green vegetables, marinades, salsas, and chutney. There are many flavors of vinegars which vary from extremely to mildly acidic and very sour to sweet, so experiment with enhancing the flavors of foods with different vinegars rather than added salt.

Foods to Avoid When on a Low-Sodium Diet
* Canned soups. Canned soups are usually very high in salt content, so avoid them if you are on a reduced sodium diet. If you see a low-sodium option, also read the label before purchasing it to be sure it meets your needs, because they may also have too much sodium for some people.

* Bouillon cubes and commercially made broths. Traditional bouillon cubes and prepared broths can be extremely high in added salt. Be sure to read the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list, even if it is labeled as low-sodium. It still may have too much sodium for some people who are on a sodium-restricted diet.

* Chips and salted snacks. This one almost goes without saying. Commercially prepared chips and salted snacks like nuts, pretzels, popcorn, and pork rinds are laden with added salt. If you’re on a salt-restricted plan, such items will be off your list unless you opt for an unsalted or low-sodium version. (They ARE out there!) Always check the label first.

* Milk and cheese products. Cow’s milk has some naturally-occurring sodium (about 105 mg per cup). When milk is made into cheese, the sodium content is concentrated, resulting in products that are often higher in sodium. Furthermore, most cheeses are high in sodium since salt is added during the cheese-making process. Therefore, cheese may be off your list if you’re on a low-sodium diet. Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts panel on all milk products to be sure they meet your needs.

* Salted butter and margarines. These foods can be a source of sodium that we often don’t think about, but when combined with the sodium in other foods, it can add up. Opt for unsalted or low-salt versions when possible.

* Flavorings and condiments with added salt. The list can be long here, but this includes all herb/spice blends with added salt, such as garlic salt, celery salt, onion salt, and seasoning salt. Meat tenderizers, barbeque sauce, soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, teriyaki sauce, oyster sauce, salad dressings, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, pickles and pickle relish, sauerkraut, bacon bits, and even croutons will likely contain added salt. When in doubt, read the label!

* Food mixes. Prepared food mixes are often high in added salt. Such items include gravy mixes, boxed pasta/vegetable/rice mixes with seasonings, instant pudding mixes, Ramen noodles and other instant soups, and all other instant or convenience foods. Even dried bean mixes with seasoning packets are something to beware of when on a sodium-restricted plan. Always check the label to be sure it meets your needs.

* Frozen dinners and prepared frozen foods. These foods are usually laden with added salt used as a flavoring and even preservative. This also includes frozen pizzas. When in doubt, read the label for the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts panel to see if it meets your needs.

* Processed meats. Processed meats such as bacon, lunchmeats, ham, corned beef, hot dogs, salt pork, and sausages, are often very high in salt content. Avoid these unless they are a low-sodium option that actually meets your nutritional needs (check the label).

* Poultry. Many poultry items (such as Thanksgiving turkeys) are injected with broth for moisture and flavoring. This can greatly increase the sodium content of these foods, possibly raising it above your limits. Check the label or ask the meat department manager in your store about the sodium content of what you’re considering.

* Some bread products. Salt is normally added to yeast bread dough because it helps to control the growth of the yeast during the bread baking process. Read the label to be sure any bread you purchase meets your needs.

* Some canned foods. When on a reduced-sodium diet, another way to lower sodium intake is to choose salt-free canned foods rather than “regular” canned options. This includes canned vegetables, beans, sauces, gravies, salsa, and soups. More and more foods are being packed with salt-free options, so the choices are increasing. When on a sodium-restricted plan, reading canned food labels is a must-do.

* Bottled vegetable juice. Many tomato-based vegetable juices are high in sodium. However, some varieties are labeled as being “reduced-sodium.” Read the Nutrition Facts panel to be sure it meets your needs.

* Restaurant foods. Many of these same principles apply when dining at a restaurant. When in doubt, ask the server which menu options are low-sodium.

* Beware of softened water. Softened water is “softened” with added sodium. This should be avoided when on a sodium-restricted plan. Softened water should not be used for food preparation nor drinking when sodium intake needs to be low.


Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Lentils 101 – The Basics

The whole-foods, plant-based diet is increasing in popularity. So, lentils, beans, and seeds are being enjoyed by many. Even if you’re a meat eater, having a meatless meal at least once a week is encouraged. Lentils have been around for thousands of years and many people enjoy them. Yet, many others are new to lentils and just aren’t sure what to do with them. Here’s some help for you. Below is a lot of basic information about lentils, covering what they are, the various types of lentils, the nutritional and health benefits of lentils, how to flavor them and what other foods pair well with them, recipe suggestions, and more! Let me know if you need further information about lentils and I’ll do my best to help!


Lentils 101 – The Basics

About Lentils
Lentils are in the legume family. They are actually pulses, which are the edible seeds that grow in pods containing only one or two seeds per pod. They are believed to have originated in central Asia, and have been eaten since prehistoric times. They are one of the first foods be cultivated. Lentil seeds dating back 8000 years have been found at archeological sites in the Middle East. Today, most lentils are grown in India, Turkey, Canada, China and Syria. There are many varieties with the most common types in American grocery stores being brown, green and red (but actually more orange in color). There are also yellow, black, and puy lentils.

The brown lentils are the variety most commonly found in American grocery stores. They have a mild, earthy flavor, and hold their shape well when cooked. Brown lentils are “universal” in the lentil family as they can be used in whatever recipe that calls for lentils. They can be mashed and used in meatless burgers, blended into soups, used in salads, and used in casseroles and literally any recipe calling for lentils. They pair well with grains.

Green lentils have a bit of a peppery flavor. This makes them particularly suitable to add to salads or any dish where a pepper flavor is welcome. They take a little longer to cook then the brown variety, but still hold their shape well while maintaining a little firmness. This type of lentil is not as commonly found in American stores as the brown lentils, and can be a little more costly.

Red lentils have a sweet, nutty flavor. They cook up faster than other varieties because they are actually split and the seed coat has been removed. This makes them soft and mushy when cooked, making them a natural thickening agent for soups, purees, and stews.

Yellow lentils are split like red lentils. They have a sweet-nutty flavor, like their red counterpart. Since they are split, they also cook up quicker than brown or green lentils, in 15 or 20 minutes. Yellow lentils are commonly used in Indian cuisine.

Black lentils are also called beluga lentils. These are the most flavorful lentils. They have a somewhat thicker skin than brown lentils, so if you want them tender, they may need to cook a little longer like the green lentils, perhaps up to 40 minutes. If you want to maintain some of their crispness, cook them for less time, about 30 minutes.

Puy (pronounced pwee) lentils come from the French region of Le Puy. They look like green lentils, but are smaller and have a peppery flavor.

Nutrition Tidbits
Lentils are an excellent source of molybdenum and folate, and a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus and manganese. Also, they are a good source of iron, protein, Vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, zinc, potassium and Vitamin B6. Lentils contain no fat. One cup of cooked lentils provides about 1/3 of our daily protein needs (18 grams) and 230 calories.

Lentils are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber helps to keep our cholesterol in check (by binding with bile in the digestive tract, removing it from the body and forcing the body to use cholesterol in the system to make more bile). The insoluble fiber in lentils helps to prevent constipation while reducing the risk of irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

The fiber in lentils not only helps to regulate cholesterol levels, but also regulates blood sugar. This helps in controlling diabetes, insulin resistance and hypoglycemia. Research has confirmed that eating lentils as part of a high fiber diet helps to release energy slowly and steadily, showing dramatic effects in diabetics by controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels.

The fiber content, combined with its folate and magnesium content, works wonders in helping to lower the risk of heart disease by lowering homocysteine levels and improving blood flow around the body. Homocysteine is an important amino acid needed in certain metabolic reactions. When our folate level is low, homocysteine levels increase, causing damage to arterial walls and raising our risk for heart disease.

Lentils are also a good source of iron, with one cup of cooked lentils providing over a third of our daily needs. Iron is critical for carrying oxygen throughout the body in the bloodstream. Eating lentils on a regular basis can help keep our energy levels up and prevent iron deficiency.

How to Select Lentils
Most lentils available today are either found in bulk bins or are prepackaged. When buying lentils, make sure there is no sign of moisture or insect damage. Look for ones that are whole and not cracked.

How to Store Lentils
Store lentils in an airtight container in a dry, cool, dark place. They should keep for about a year.

How to Preserve Lentils
Once cooked, lentils will keep in the refrigerator for about one week. Cooked lentils can be frozen and should be used within three months.

How to Prepare Lentils
Compared to other beans or legumes, lentils are very easy to prepare since they need no presoaking. Before cooking them, check them for stones or debris and remove anything as needed. Place the dry lentils in a strainer and rinse them under cold water, then cook as desired.

How to Cook Lentils
When boiling lentils, use one part lentils to three parts water. It is not mandatory, but bringing the water to a boil first before placing the lentils in the water helps to make them more digestible. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes until tender. Brown lentils usually take about 30 minutes to cook. Red lentils take about 20 minutes, and black lentils may take up to 45 minutes to cook. Some recipes call for slightly more firm lentils, requiring a little less cooking time, while other recipes call for very soft lentils, requiring a little more cooking time.

Some suggested ways to use lentils:
* Try mixing lentils with rice or another grain. The combination will make a complete and very digestible protein. Vegetables can be added to make a simple meal. Suggested vegetables include dark leafy greens like kale or spinach, or crunch vegetables like carrots or bell peppers.

* Add cooked lentils to stir-fries or casseroles.

* Use pureed cooked lentils in hummus.

* Cook lentils in your favorite broth to add more flavor to them. Add some herbs to flavor them to your liking.

* Add lentils to soups and stews for a protein boost.

* Use lentils in a curry served over rice.

* Serve chili-spiced lentils with cheese and nacho chips or use them as a taco filling.

* Stuff sweet potatoes with your favorite cooked lentils. Top with cheese.

* Try a creamy red lentil soup.

* Try a lentil salad. Many can be served warm, room temperature or cold…a perfect addition to a summer gathering (or any time for that matter!).

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Lentils
Bay leaf, cardamom, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry, garam masala, garlic, ginger, mint, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Other Foods That Go Well with Lentils
Meats and other proteins: Beef, eggs, fish, lamb, sausage

Grains: Rice, pasta and any just about any grains or grain product

Vegetables: Carrots, celery, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes

Dairy: Cheese

Recipe Links
Lentils with Mushrooms and Carrots

Sweet and Savory Lentils

Lentils with Vegetables over Spaghetti Squash and

Mexican Lentils and Rice

Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Crispy Lentils

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Lentils and Quinoa

Instant Pot Lentils Braised with Beets and Red Wine

Shrimp with White Wine, Lentils and Tomatoes

Quick Pasta with Lentils

25 Ways to Turn Lentils into Dinner

10 Delicious Ways to Eat Lentils

Warm Winter Greens with Balsamic Lentils and Roasted Pears

8 Surprisingly Fast and Delicious Lentil Recipes

25 Creative Lentil Recipes That Go Way Beyond Soup

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Curry

15 Best Lentil Recipes

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

Greek Lentil Salad

Sexy Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

Lentil and Rice Salad

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.



Garlic Powder vs Fresh Garlic

Fresh Garlic vs Garlic Powder

Most people have a jar of garlic powder somewhere in their kitchen arsenal of flavorings. It is simply ground up dehydrated garlic. Garlic powder has a somewhat different, milder flavor than its fresh counterpart. It is often called for marinades and dips since it disburses well in liquids and imparts a mild garlic flavor. Even though fresh garlic is called for in many recipes, we’ll sometimes opt for the powdered version depending on the time we have available, the desired outcome, or even our mood at the moment. So, the question came up…what’s the difference between the two? Does garlic powder have the same health properties as fresh garlic?

Garlic powder contains many of the same nutrients found in fresh garlic, but in lesser amounts. This is to be expected since processing food usually decreases nutrients to some degree.

While garlic powder does contain alliin and allinase, the components found in fresh garlic that produce the valuable compound allicin, allicin itself if not found in garlic powder. Allicin is produced when fresh garlic is crushed or finely chopped and allowed to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes before being used. It has antimicrobial benefits, reduces inflammation and is an antioxidant that can help fight heart disease.

In an experiment conducted at, researchers learned that allicin can be produced in garlic powder (and thereby giving the powder a better garlic flavor and the health properties of allicin) by first hydrating the garlic powder in an equal amount of water before being used (ie place ½ teaspoon of garlic powder in ½ teaspoon of water and allow the powder to hydrate or soak up water before using it). This allowed time for allicin to be produced and the flavor of the powder to be more like that of fresh garlic.

Despite the processing needed to produce garlic powder, the powdered version seems to still help to regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels including reducing plaque buildup in arteries, benefit the immune system, lower some cancer risks and help with digestion. To get the most health benefits from your garlic powder, hydrate it first in an equal amount of water and allow it to rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow allicin to develop. So, although fresh seems to be best, garlic powder appears to be a very close second in terms of health benefits.

To see my video on this subject, click the video below…

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.


Making Kombucha with Less Sugar

I have made fermented food products for many years, especially yogurt. I raised my children on homemade yogurt and the whole family ate it on a regular basis. So, I’m familiar with culturing foods.

I recently got introduced to kombucha and have realized the value in it for its probiotic qualities. I purchased a scoby and my kombucha has been thriving for a good while now and I’ve been drinking it everyday! Yum!

I’ve seen many posts online with the question about making kombucha with less sugar. Those questions are usually answered with scaled down recipes, but still calling for the same ratio of water to sugar to tea bags. To me, that’s not answering the question. Well…here’s your answer!

Since I drink it daily (maybe about a cup to 1-1/2 cups a day), I thought I’d try less sugar. It always seemed to me that 1 cup of sugar per gallon of water (the standard recipe) was more sugar than would be truly needed. NOTE that the standard recipe may be right IF your gallon batch of kombucha lasts a month or more, without fresh tea being added, as in a continual brew. 

So…to my continual brew of kombucha (this is plain kombucha, not the soda pop type with fruit juice added) I started using HALF the amount of sugar that the original recipe calls for. I’ve been doing this now for a couple weeks and my scobies (note that’s plural) are multiplying and thriving in my jar. Even the original scoby is still alive and thriving. They seem to be extremely happy, even though the sugar content of the brew has been reduced. My kombucha tastes perfectly fine to me and I feel good that it has less sugar in it.

I am adding freshly made tea/sugar mixture to the jar as needed, maybe 4 cups every few days with the reduced sugar and I have noticed nothing negative happening in the jar. The taste is the same, the scobies are multiplying and thriving, and all is well.

SO…For those of you who want to subject yourself to less sugar in your kombucha, it appears that HALF the recommended amount of sugar is fine as long as you continue to add to the batch as you drink it. Note that this recommendation is for plain kombucha. It is not the brewed drink made with fruit juice and double fermented, yielding a soda pop-like beverage. I suspect it may work well with that recipe too since fruit juice has naturally occurring sugar in it, but I have not tried it, so I cannot guarantee it will work.

Here is the ratio of ingredients that I now use:

1 gallon (16 cups ) filtered water : 8 black tea bags : 1/2 cup sugar
8 cups filtered water : 4 black tea bags : 1/4 cup sugar
4 cups filtered water : 2 black tea bags : 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups filtered water : 1 black tea bag : 1 tablespoon sugar

I am not including the complete directions here on how to make kombucha. I’m assuming the reader already knows how to brew it. If not, please just do an internet search for how to make kombucha and you’ll find countless sites with complete directions online. Simply cut the recommended amount of sugar in half and your brew should be just fine and you’ll consume less sugar along the way. YES, the sugar is needed for the culture, but the ratio of 1 cup per gallon is more than is needed for the culture to thrive.

Happy kombucha making!