The Good Dirt

September 15th, 2014

As fall approaches, summer salads give way to hearty cooked dishes. This bean and kale dish, served over a bed of warm polenta, is just the thing to serve for supper as cooler weather moves in. This recipe comes to us from Patrice of Circle B Kitchen.

Serves 4-5

For the Beans and Kale:

  • 1 3/4 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white beans (such as Cannellini or Great Northerns)
  • 4 cups packed kale leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 ¾ cups canned crushed,  peeled tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon each, leaf thyme, leaf oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Bring water to a boil in a large pot, then add beans. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, then add 2 cups of the kale, tomatoes and bay leaf. Continue to simmer, covered, for another half hour.

Meanwhile, heat oil and saute onion, pepper and garlic in it with thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes. After the beans have simmered 30 minutes, stir in sauteed vegetables. Add salt and balsamic vinegar. Cover and cook for another hour, adding water if needed, or if the sauce seems too thin, leave the lid off to thicken the sauce.  Cook until beans are tender and the sauce is the desired consistency.  Adjust seasonings and add the remaining 2 cups of chopped kale.  Simmer another 5 minutes and serve over creamy polenta and topped with grated parmesan cheese.

For the Polenta:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Italian cheese blend (usually a mixture of asiago, provolone, fontina and parmesan)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely sliced chives or finely chopped basil

Heat the olive oil in a 2-qt sauce pan over medium-low heat and add the minced garlic. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, kosher salt and milk, and bring to a boil over medium high heat.   Reduce the heat and slowly pour the cornmeal into the hot liquid, whisking to prevent lumps. 

Lower the heat to cook the mixture at a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cornmeal is creamy, about 20 to 30 minutes. The more you stir, the creamier it will be.  Remove the polenta from the heat and stir the cheese, butter, and the herbs.  Cover and keep warm. 

September 8th, 2014

Spinach is wilted with a hot vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, rice vinegar and honey. Sesame oil brings its smoky flavor to the dressing as crisp red onion and toasted almonds lend their quintessential crunch to round out this satisfying salad.This recipe comes to us from Donna of Fab Frugal Food.

Serves 8

  • 1/2 red onion, outer peel removed
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups spinach, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup almonds, sliced and toasted
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced*


Cut the onion into paper-thin slices about 2 inches long. Place the onion slices in a bowl of ice water and let them soak while preparing the rest of the dish.

Place the canola oil and the sesame oil in a small saucepan over high heat. Mix the mustard, vinegar, honey and salt together and add the vinegar mixture to the pan. Whisk to combine and bring the sesame vinaigrette to a boil.

Roughly chop the spinach into bite sized pieces. Place in a large serving bowl and pour the hot sesame vinaigrette over the spinach. Immediately toss the spinach to ensure all leaves are coated and slightly wilted.

Serve equal portions of the wilted spinach onto each plate. Drain the onions and place them on top of the spinach. Sprinkle each plate with the almonds, sesame seeds and egg slices if using, and enjoy.

September 8th, 2014

Red and yellow cherry tomatoes are roasted spicy-sweet with garlic, balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes. Fresh oregano, parsley and basil brighten the roasted cherry tomatoes and hearty whole wheat rotini, while toasted pine nuts give this dish a rich finish. This recipe comes to us from Valerie of More Than Burnt Toast.

Serves 8

  • 1 pound red cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, slivered
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup basil, cut into chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 pound whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces low fat ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • pecorino cheese*, to taste


Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove over medium-high heat.

Place the tomatoes inside a large baking dish. Toss the tomatoes with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 40-45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and toss with the basil, parsley and oregano.

When the water boils, cook the rotini according to package directions, or until the pasta is al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Toss the pasta with the olive oil, add the tomatoes with their juices and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until pasta and tomatoes are heated through.

Add the ricotta cheese and cook, stirring for about 1 minute, or until the ricotta melts. Remove from heat, divide into 6 portions, sprinkle with pine nuts and pecorino cheese, if using, and enjoy!

September 8th, 2014

This satisfying dinner comes together quickly, so it’s great for busy weeknights. Soy chorizo lends flavor and heartiness to the dish, while onions and peppers provide a hefty dose of veggies. This recipe comes to us from Monica of the blog Run Eat Repeat.

Serves 2

  • 2/3 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 package of soy chorizo
  • chopped onions and bell peppers, to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • cheese, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa*


Make the brown rice and set it aside.

Brown the onions and soften the bell peppers in olive oil.

Once they are tender, add the chorizo.

Add the rice to the chorizo pan and heat through. Finally crack the eggs straight into the pan and cook. Top with cheese. You can stir it in to melt or use it as a garnish.

Served with salad, beans and guacamole. Ole!

September 8th, 2014

Avocados make a great cream cheese substitute, because they bring a smooth consistency in addition to a healthy dose of fiber, potassium and vitamin B. Give your breakfast a boost by spreading avocado on toast then topping it with sautéed tomatoes and onions as well as fresh chives garnished with chive blossoms.  This recipe comes to us from Melissa of

Serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, sliced
  • 15 grape tomatoes, halved
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 springs chives, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chive blossoms*

*optional. Chives are easily homegrown and produce beautiful edible blossoms, so try picking some up at your local farmer’s market or growing them in your own backyard.

Place the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Combine the onions and tomatoes in the skillet and sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Toast the bread to preference.

Evenly smear avocado onto each slice of toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Top the avocado evenly with the sautéed onion tomato mixture.

Garnish the toast with fresh chives and their blossoms if using.

September 1st, 2014

Sweet corn, bell pepper and tomatoes show off summer in this surprisingly hearty salad of wheat berries and white beans. A mustard lemon sherry vinaigrette adds a sophisticated touch to this chilled entrée which requires almost no stove time. This recipe comes to us from Kimberly of Flavorista.

Serves 4

For the dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

To complete the summer corn wheat berry salad:

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup wheat berries, soaked overnight or quick-soaked
  • 1 cup corn off the cob, freshly cooked
  • or
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • or
  • 1 cup dried white beans, cooked
  • ½ orange bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

To make the dressing:

In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.

To complete the summer corn wheat berry salad:

Bring the water, salt and pre-soaked wheat berries to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Turn heat down to low and simmer, uncovered, for 50-60 minutes, or until the wheat berries puff up a bit and become tender. Drain and rinse with cool water.

In a large bowl combine the cooked wheat berries, corn, white beans, bell pepper, red onion, parsley, lemon zest and tomatoes.

Drizzle the salad with the dressing and toss to combine. Top the salad with the crumbled feta and enjoy.

September 1st, 2014

Sweetened naturally with peach slices and orange juice, this smoothie is a refreshing way to start your day. Fragrant vanilla pairs perfectly with the seasonal fruit in this yogurt blend. This recipe comes to us from Chaya of My Sweet and Savory.

Serves 4

  • 1 1/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 cups frozen unsweetened peach slices
  • or
  • 2 cups peaches, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place 4 glasses in the refrigerator to chill.

Place the milk, yogurt, peach slices, orange juice and vanilla extract together in a blender. Pour 4 portions into the chilled glasses and enjoy.

September 1st, 2014

Zucchini sticks are tossed with light panko breadcrumbs and then baked in the oven. Try these healthy “fries” dipped in creamy Greek yogurt seasoned with parsley and lemon. This recipe comes to us from Elizabeth of Sophisticated Pie.

Serves 10

For the baked zucchini fries:

  • a little olive oil, for preparing the sheet pan
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat milk
  • 2 large zucchinis, cut into 4-inch sticks
  • 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs*
  • ½ cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the yogurt dipping sauce:

  • 1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 scallion, chopped

*Japanese panko breadcrumbs are thinner and lighter than traditional breadcrumbs. They can be found near the standard breadcrumbs or in the Asian food section of most grocery stores.

To bake the zucchini fries:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a large sheet pan with olive oil.

Lightly beat the eggs and milk together in a medium bowl.

In a separate medium bowl, stir the panko breadcrumbs and cheese together.

Dip zucchini sticks in the egg mixture, making sure to coat them well. Dip the egg coated zucchini into the panko mixture.

Spread out the coated zucchini pieces onto the prepared sheet pan. Season generously with salt and pepper and bake for about 15 minutes. Flip the zucchini sticks over with a spatula and bake for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

To complete the dish:

Mix the Greek yogurt, chopped parsley and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped scallion on top.

Serve the yogurt sauce alongside the fries, for optional dipping. Enjoy!

September 1st, 2014

Tikka masala is a dish made with a spicy yogurt sauce and most often served with chunks of chicken and vegetables, but this version is all veg, all the time. Grilling the vegetables gives the dish a char traditionally achieved in a tandoor oven. This recipe comes to us from Sonal of SimplyVegetarian777 and appears in The Mushroom Channel‘s new free meatless e-cookbook.

Serves 4

  • 20 small or 10 large, halved button mushrooms, washed and cleaned of any dirt with a wet towel
  • 20 pieces of onion, same size as mushrooms
  • 20 pieces of green bell pepper, same size as mushrooms
  • 20 pieces of tomato without pulp, same size as mushrooms
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt (Greek or thick)
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, freshly grated
  • 1 tbsp of garlic, freshly grated
  • 1 tbsp, of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of chickpea flour/Besan
  • 1 tbsp or to taste of Garam Masala
  • 3/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of paprika (non-spicy) or Kashmiri red pep­per powder for color
  • 1 tbsp of oil to brush the skewers while grilling
  • For side: lemon slices, julienned onions and tomatoes slices
  • Bamboo skewers

Soak bamboo skewers in water for 2 hours.

Take a bowl, add yogurt and chickpea flour, mix well with a fork or whisk. Add garlic, ginger, lemon juice, salt, garam masala, red pepper powder. Mix well with the fork. Your basic marinade is ready.

Add washed and cleaned mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and tomato pieces to marinade. Mix with a light hand so every piece is coated well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Take marinade out and rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Start skewering the bamboo with vegetable pieces. Gently start with mushrooms as they are tender and then bell pepper, onion and tomato. Repeat to fill the skewer with all the vegetables.

Heat the grill or pan to high. Brush the grill with oil and place the skewers on the grill.

Once the skewers are placed, cover with foil to steam cook first for 8 minutes, so the yogurt and chickpea flour gets cooked initially.

Remove the foil. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side, flipping them as needed. Serve.

Serving suggestions:

-You may enjoy them as is.
-Stuff your pita bread, flat bread, big sandwich bread/roll, thin naan, chapati/roti, with mushroom tikka masala and add some shredded cabbage, onions, cucumber and tomato slices, a dash of lemon and tzatziki.
-Serve them over a bed of any kind of pilaf or rice.
-You may serve these as main course or grill them in smaller cocktail skewers and serve as appetizers.

August 25th, 2014

Frozen corn is a convenient addition to these Southwestern  burritos, but if you have access to a local farmers market, August is prime season to swap in fresh sweet corn instead. Two medium ears of corn will give you the 1 1/4 cups this recipe requires. This recipe comes to us from our friends at The Heart Truth®.

Serves 12

  • 1/4 cup scallions (green onions), rinsed and sliced into ¼-inch wide circles, including green tops
  • 1/4 cup celery, rinsed and finely diced
  • 1 1/4 cup frozen yellow corn
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped (or substitute 2 tsp dried coriander)
  • 1 can (15 1/2 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup salsa or taco sauce (look for lowest sodium version)
  • 12 (9-inch) whole-wheat tortillas

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Combine scallions, celery, and corn in a small saucepan. Add just enough water to cover.

Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes, until vegetables soften. Drain vegetables. Set aside to cool.

Combine avocado, cilantro, and beans in a large mixing bowl. Add cheese and salsa, and mix.

When corn mixture has cooled slightly, add to avocado mixture.

In a large nonstick pan over medium heat, warm each tortilla about 15 seconds on each side. Place each tortilla on a flat surface. Spoon ⅓ cup of the mixture into the center of the tortilla. Fold the top and bottom of the tortilla over the filling. Fold in the sides to make a closed packet.

Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

When all tortillas are wrapped, continue heating in the oven 5 minutes, until all are warm and cheese is melted.

Source: National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

The Heart Truth is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

August 25th, 2014

Corn is grilled and seasoned with green onions and cayenne sauce in these tasty spiced flapjacks. The grilled corn fritters make an ideal base to this salad stacked with alternating layers of tomato slices and arugula dressed in a red wine vinaigrette. This recipe comes to us from Donna of Apron Strings.

Serves 4

For the corn fritters:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 cobs corn, grilled
  • 1/3 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce
  • a little oil or nonstick cooking spray, for preparing the skillet

For the red wine vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To complete the Corn Fritter Salad Stack:

  • 8 cups arugula
  • 4 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

To make the corn fritters:

Cut the grilled corn kernels off of the cob to make about 1 1/2 cups grilled corn kernels. Set aside.

Place the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the milk, egg, corn kernels and green onion. Season with the hot sauce and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Prepare a large skillet with a light layer of oil or nonstick cooking spray. Drop 1/4 inch mounds of batter into the pan and flatter into 1/2 inch thick cakes. Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side, or until bubbles begin to form. Flip and cook for 1 minute more on the other side, or until the corn fritter has cooked through. Set aside and repeat until you are out of batter.

To make the vinaigrette:


Whisk the red wine vinegar and the olive oil together in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


To complete the Corn Fritter Salad Stack:

Place 4 corn fritters on 4 plates. Top with layers of tomato and dressed arugula. Repeat with alternating layers of fritters, tomato slices and arugula. Enjoy!

August 25th, 2014

Pecans are toasted to intensify their earthy flavor which contrasts with sweet summertime peaches. These nutritionally diverse muffins are a great source of fiber and whole grains, and can keep up to a month in the freezer. This recipe comes to us from our friends at

Serves 24

  • a little oil or cooking spray, for preparing the muffin tins
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 ¾ cups regular oats, uncooked
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peach nectar*
  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 5 cups wheat bran cereal
  • 1/3 cup dried peaches, chopped

*bottled peach nectar can be found in the specialty juice section of most grocery stores, but if time allows, we suggest making your own.

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with a light layer of oil or cooking spray.

In a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pecans, stirring often, for about 2-4 minutes, or until they are colored and fragrant.

Process the oats in a food processor or blender for about 45 seconds, or until they are finely ground.

In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and oil together with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

In a small bowl, combine the ground oats, flour, baking soda and salt.

In a separate small bowl, stir together the peach nectar and buttermilk.

Alternate adding the oat mixture and the peach mixture to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with oat mixture. After each addition, stir until blended.

Gently fold the bran flakes, dried peaches and toasted pecans into the batter. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin cups, filling 3/4ths full.

Bake muffins for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

August 25th, 2014

In Spain, adventurous young chefs have been playing with novel fruit combinations: gazpacho made with melon and tomato, salads of melon and tomato or peach and tomato. It is fun to try these new pairings, but be sure to taste the fruit before you dress the salad. You’ll have leftover citrus and black pepper dressing to dress future salads. This recipe comes to us from Joyce Goldstein, author of Mediterranean Fresh.

Serves 6

For the citrus and black pepper dressing:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Sea salt

For the Peach Tomato Salad:

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into large dice
  • 2 large peaches, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 1/2 a small red onion, finely minced or cut into thin slivers
  • About 1/3 cup citrus and black pepper dressing (page 295)
  • 3 tablespoons thinly slivered fresh mint or basil, for garnish

To make the Citrus and Black Pepper Dressing:

Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl.

To complete the Peach Tomato Salad:

Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl and gently toss with the dressing. Garnish with the mint and serve.

Reprinted from Mediterranean Fresh: A Compendium of One-Plate Salad Meals and Mix-and-Match Dressings by Joyce Goldstein. Copyright © 2008 by Joyce Goldstein. Photographs copyright © by Andre Baranowski. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

August 18th, 2014

Fresh mangos are puréed with orange juice and then topped with cucumber, bell pepper, jalapeño and lime juice for a spicy crunch. Your choice of fresh basil, parsley or cilantro brings a refreshing herbal finish to this tropical fruit spin on chilled soup. This recipe comes to us from Amber of Howard Payne, Texas.

Serves 6

  • 2 cups fresh mangos, diced
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 seedless cucumber, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño*, seeded and minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, basil or cilantro, chopped



Place the mangos, orange juice and olive oil into a blender or food processor. Blend or pulse until pureed.

Transfer the mango orange puree to a medium bowl. Add the diced cucumbers, bell pepper, onion, garlic, lime juice and jalapeño, if using. Mix to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Sprinkle the parsley, basil or cilantro over the gazpacho just before serving.

August 18th, 2014

In this riff on the tart tomatillo salsa, zucchini, onions and peppers are blackened on the grill, then seasoned with lime juice, cayenne and a touch of honey. This hot sauce is perfect for barbeques and ideal for topping your favorite tacos, bean burgers or sandwiches. This recipe comes to us from Donna of Fab Frugal Food.

Serves 20

  • a little canola oil, to prepare the vegetables
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 sweet onion, cut into wedges
  • 4 tomatillos, paper skin removed and halved
  • 3 large jalapeños peppers, halved with seeds and pulp removed
  • 2 large poblano peppers, halved with seeds and pulp removed
  • zest and juice from 2 limes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce
  • a little honey*, to taste
  • *optional

Lightly spray zucchini, onion, tomatillos, jalapeños and poblanos with canola oil. Place over a hot grill for 5-7 minutes, flip and cook another 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetable skins begin to char and vegetables are cooked through.

Place charred zucchini, onion, tomatillos, jalapeños, poblanos, lime juice and zest, salt and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Process until very smooth.

Taste and add honey if desired. Best served at room temperature.