Vegan Cajun Red Beans & Rice

Red Beans and Rice, a humble, healthy, easy dish, high in protein, fiber, and iron–a perfectly satisfying meatless meal.

(Rachel, the daughter)

I used to be a firm believer that I needed a little meat, or at the least some cheese or an egg, at every meal to keep from getting the shakes and a headache. I’m sometimes still surprised that this wasn’t actually true. I obviously still need protein, but it turns out, my body happily accepts plant-based protein, like from legumes, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and occasional unprocessed soy (like organic tofu or edamame).

For most of my young adult life I battled headaches almost daily. Recently, it dawned on me that I very rarely get headaches now, like maybe once every two to three months. I wonder if my old diet high in animal protein could have actually been causing it, rather than helping it. Hmmm… I don’t know. But you know what else dawned on me? I don’t have my old built-in excuse for getting out of certain activities anymore.

“Sorry, I have a headache,” can get you out of watching a loud shoot-em-up-bang-em-up boy movie, cooking dinner, going to your husband’s work banquet, paying the bills, and well, you can probably think of a laundry list of other things.

Because I genuinely did have a headache so often, I could pretty much throw it out there on any given day and it was believable. Who was to say just how severe my headache was? Now, I would probably have to put on a bit of a production to sell that excuse. I might have to throw myself on the bed with a damp towel over my head and moan and groan for awhile, stay off my computer (read: facebook), and go to bed early. It’s really more trouble than it’s worth.

Thank goodness, there’s always the go-to “Sorry, I’m so tired” excuse. Who’s going to question that from the mother of a baby?

This recipe for cajun red beans and rice, very high in plant-based protein (and fiber and iron!), is truly easy enough that you won’t need to come up with an excuse to get out of cooking dinner. It only takes about 10 minutes to make, but does need a couple of hours to simmer. With almost 20 grams of protein, 30% of your daily iron needs, 16 grams of fiber, and only 3 grams of fat, you might even feel energetic enough that you want to tackle that laundry list of to-dos.

Rachel’s Vegan Cajun Red Beans & Rice

Serves 6


1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves (I used 1 very large clove)
2 jalapeno or serrano peppers
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped (could sub dry parsley)
2 t. smoked paprika
3 dashes liquid smoke
2 t. salt-free cajun seasoning (if yours has salt, add this at the end–salt can make beans tough)
1/2 t. brown sugar
1 lb dried kidney beans, sorted and rinsed (no pre-soak required*)
8 c. water
2 t. salt (use 1/2 smoked salt if you have it)
1 t. pepper
1/4 t. cayenne (optional–adds spice)

1 1/4 c. brown Rice & 3/4 c. wild rice, cooked per package instructions or in a rice maker**


In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil on medium heat, add onions, garlic, peppers (whole), and saute until onions are soft. Add parsley, smoked paprika, liquid smoke, cajun seasoning, and brown sugar. Stir for one minute. Add kidney beans, stir. Add water, stir, cover, bring to low boil, then reduce heat to med-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until kidney beans are cooked through. You can remove the lid for the last 15 minutes or so to thicken up the juices if you like. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne if desired. (I removed some beans for the little one before adding the cayenne.)

Slow Cooker: Saute onions, garlic, peppers, parsley and spices in a skillet as above. (You can do this the night before and just keep in the refrigerator until morning.) Put onion spice mixture, kidney beans, and hot water to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. When you get home or the beans are cooked to your liking, season with salt, tilt the lid open and turn crockpot to high heat to let some of the liquid evaporate while you get the rest of dinner ready.

Serve over cooked rice.

*No presoak is required, though it could shorten your cooking time if you do. Some beans can be difficult to digest without a presoak and rinse. I’ve eaten two bowls today and have had no, ahem…flatulence or difficulty digesting. More than you wanted to know, right?!

**I combine the wild and brown rice together and cook in the rice maker with a little extra water and about a teaspoon of olive oil. Comes out perfect every time.

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Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa brings a nice touch of color, a punch of flavor, and a boost of nutrition to any meal.

This week I made a plan, a very purposeful plan. I decided that if I really wanted to make room in my life for God, fitness, writing, cooking, my husband, and my son, then I needed to live every day intentionally. Sunday morning I made charts and printed off calendars and posted them on the refrigerator door. I was even planning on attempting to skip my beloved morning coffee. I’d just take Jackson for a brisk walk instead.

As life goes, after church Sunday evening Jackson started running his first ever fever and was up most of the night. Then Monday morning at 7:50 am, my door bell rang. I hurried out of my pjs and into a t-shirt and sweats and threw my wild morning curls into a bun. I carried Jackson, still in his pjs, with me to the door, and we were greeted by a girl in her young 20s who looked like her morning routine had closely resembled mine, except she’d thrown on some scrubs instead of sweats.

“I’m here to give you your physical for the life insurance policy,” she said.

My husband had attempted to postpone this appointment, since he realized last minute he couldn’t be there. Apparently they didn’t get the memo. So there I was left alone to answer 4,000 questions about what disease I may or may not have contracted, pee in a cup (I wonder how many times can I talk about peeing on our food blog!), and have my blood drawn as I tried to keep Jackson entertained and contained.

The visit couldn’t have been less pleasant or less awkward. Taking my blood took two tries, leaving one arm bruised and still sore three days later. Apparently, you don’t need any social skills, hygiene, or experience with needles to be an in-home nurse for this company.

My actual plan for the day had included creating a menu for the week and going grocery shopping. With a feverish baby and one immobile arm, I decided productivity was going to have to wait. Which meant whipping up something for dinner out of a few staples in the kitchen. I usually have a block of tofu (I’m not crazy for tofu, so it’s always waiting for me as I get down to the last of my groceries), some sort of veggies left in the crisper, a jar of roasted red peppers, and a box of pre-rinsed quinoa (pronounced keen-wah).

So I made Everything Tofu (tofu coated in sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion flakes, and garlic powder) topped with a chive Tofutti cream cheese sauce, a simple side of steamed broccoli, and my latest go-to side dish, roasted red pepper quinoa. It’s so easy and with my rice maker it basically cooks itself while I get the rest of dinner made.

The tofu was actually pretty good, but a lot of work. I would have been just as happy with a whole plate of this quinoa and a little broccoli. I immediately regretted not making more (so I’ve doubled the recipe for you guys!)

Tuesday, after another rough night with Jackson, I woke to a clogged milk duct along with a side of fever. Thankfully, we were back to our healthy selves by Wednesday. There is nothing like feeling sick and sleep deprived to make me thankful for a decent night’s rest and my good health. Maybe I’ll even get back to my plan tomorrow, but I may have lost my willpower to forgo coffee. Have any of you successfully quit coffee? Was it really hard?  Did you feel better without it?

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa

Serves 4


1 cup onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 T. olive oil

2 cups quinoa (rinsed if the package doesn’t say it’s already pre-rinsed)

3 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup of juice from a jar of roasted red peppers

1 t. salt

1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped


With a Rice Maker:

In a skillet, saute onions in the olive oil until soft, add the garlic and saute a few minutes longer. Transfer the onions and garlic and any remaining oil into the rice maker, add the quinoa, water, salt, and red pepper juice and cover and start the rice cooker. When the rice maker goes off, add in the chopped roasted red peppers.

Note: If your rice maker has a tendency to stick, add about a teaspoon of extra oil & stir the ingredients before cooking.

Without a Rice Maker:

In a medium sauce pan, saute onions in the olive oil until soft, add the garlic and saute a few minutes longer. Add the quinoa, water, red pepper juice, & salt to the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook until all the liquid is absorbed (about 15-20 minutes). When the rice maker goes off, add in the chopped roasted red pepper

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Sesame Broccoli Slaw

Today, a new mom friend asked when she would ever feel like herself again after quitting her job and becoming a mother full time. At first I chuckled and thought about saying, “I think it will be about 30 years from now!” Then I recalled there was a moment after Jackson was born, when I first felt like my old self again.

He was about three months old and Jared and I were desperate for a night to ourselves. Money was tight, though, now that I wasn’t working and bills for the two day hospital visit were piling up. The amount we owed to doctors was growing faster than Jackson was! Despite our empty bank account, we called the grandparents and asked if they could watch Jackson for the evening. They happily obliged.

We couldn’t afford to go out to eat, but with the few groceries we had on hand and a little creativity I planned to turn our patio into the finest bistro in town. (The competition isn’t too steep in Small Town, Texas!) Before we dropped Jackson off, Jared and I prepped all the food, cleaned the house, hid all the baby gear away, and set up a table on the back patio. I got dolled up, putting on a dress and heels for the first time in months, thrilled to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes.

When we returned to our home “bistro,”  all was ready for wining and dining. It was a perfect fall evening with just the slightest chill in the air. A bowl of delicious homemade vegetable soup and a bottle of Pinot Noir kept us plenty warm while we chatted the night away.

I remember stopping mid-sentence and saying to Jared, “We are talking, like really talking, and I’m actually able to focus on what we are saying!” The newborn haze had lifted for at least an evening and I felt like my old self again. I’d forgotten how much I loved spending the day in the kitchen, and evenings together, with the first love in my life. It was in that moment I realized though motherhood will forever change me, and in ways I’m really grateful for, I still need to make room in my life for the things that inspire and energize me. I’ll be a better mother for it.

One of my favorite creations from our romantic evening was an Asian-inspired Sesame Broccoli Slaw I served as our appetizer salad. It was crunchy, tangy, sweet, and easy to make ahead so it was waiting for us when we arrived at The Back Porch Bistro.

Sesame Broccoli Slaw

Serves 2 as a side salad or appetizer, probably up to 4 as a side dish.


2 cups Broccoli, thinly sliced into ribbons
2 cups Carrots, thinly sliced into ribbons
4 tbs Rice Vinegar
2 tbs Olive Oil
2 tbs Organic Sugar
2 tbs Sesame Seeds
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Salt


Slice the broccoli and carrots into ribbons as thin as you can. (A vegetable peeler works great to “cut” the carrots really thin. Just start about half way up the carrot and peel, peel, peel lovely little ribbons. Then start over with the upper half of the carrot.) In a bowl, add all of the ingredients and toss. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors mingle and the carrots and broccoli soften up. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

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Refreshing “Lemon Drop” Berries, Walnut & Greens Salad

Not long ago, I enthusiastically wound up my Cuisinart salad spinner, a gift from my efficient salad-loving daughter. What I did not do was read the instructions, which I’m now guessing said something like, “Wait until the inner whirling colander comes to a complete halt before removing the lid.” If you remove the lid early in the spinning process, I can testify that you will immediately give your entire kitchen, including ceiling and floor, a certain lettuce-based Rain Forest look. However, if you use it correctly, a salad spinner is quite the nifty item to dry the lettuce mix for this recipe below, one of my favorite salads.

The “dressing” is mixed as you toss the salad, no need for a separate bowl.

Refreshing “Lemon Drop” Berries, Walnut & Greens Salad

Serves 4


4 to 6 cups of early spring mix lettuce (rinsed, patted, or spun dry)
½ c. toasted walnuts or pecans

1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. sliced fresh strawberries
Juice of one small lemon or ½ large lemon
Olive oil (about 2 T. or to taste)
Sea salt (to taste)
Organic sugar (to taste)
(Blue cheese , feta, goat cheese or  Gorgonzola crumbles can also be added if you want a heartier salad.)


In a large salad bowl place the greens, berries and toasted nuts. Squeeze juice of one small lemon over all. Toss. Sprinkle the leaves with sea salt and sugar to taste.  (Hint from professional chefs: salad always tastes better and you use less dressing if you lightly salt the greens just before serving.) Toss. Finally squiggle about 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil. (My good friend Lucille gave me a bottle of Meyer Lemon Olive Oil featured in the picture- so good in this recipe!) Toss gently again. This is a taste-as-you-go salad. The dressing should taste sweet & sour — like lemonade or “lemon drops” — with just enough salt and olive oil to make it savory.

This salad is a light go-to side dish that goes especially well with heavier main dishes. Once you get the method down, it is also one of the fastest, easiest salads you can throw together – and everyone loves it!  Try using sliced green or red apples or sliced peaches in place place of berries, for a salad that refreshes in all seasons.

I made a huge version of this salad on a big oval platter fothe holiday. Not a drop of salad left, and it was so beautiful. Looked like a Spring garden! Added some goat cheese to this version. Yum!

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Smoky Garlic Lemon Kale

The first time I tasted kale, I must admit, I spit it out and threw it away.

But my vegan daughter continued to wax eloquent about the virtues of kale: its texture, its taste, its nutrition!   Then one day I tasted a bite of kale, cooked right. I was an instant Kale Convert.  Now I also say, “All hail to kale!” It keeps a nice, un-mushy texture in soups and stews and I love the little bit of chewiness.  Like spinach that never turns to slime.

Recently Rachel snapped this picture of her baby, Jackson, overjoyed with his fist full of kale. If this face doesn’t convince you to try it,  I’m pretty sure nothing will.

Kale Baby! "Mmmmm...."

This recipe is a wonderful side dish that I like so much, I could honestly eat the whole bunch for lunch.  (And in fact, I just did.)  It reminds me of the southern-style greens from my childhood that were cooked all day with bacon.  But this recipe adds smoky flavor without bacon, richness without added fat, and only takes about ten minutes to whip up.


Smokey Garlic Lemon Kale


1/2 c. water
1 1/2 t. vinegar
1 bunch kale
2 cloves garlic
1/4 t. smoked paprika (see picture below)
1 t. olive oil
1/2 t. brown sugar
1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste


Tear stems from kale, then rinse and rough chop into about one inch pieces.  “Massage” these pieces with your hands for about five seconds to tenderize them.

Into a skillet put: water, vinegar and 2 peeled cloves of garlic, chopped into about four to six slices each. Boil this mixture and then add the kale.  Turn heat down to medium and simmer for about 7 minutes.  Check it about 1/2 through cooking to make sure there is enough liquid in the pot to keep the kale from burning.  The tricky part is to babysit the kale so that the kale itself absorbs as much liquid as possible, without going dry and burning.

When kale is tender, add olive oil, juice from one half a lemon, and brown sugar.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.  Serves about 4 people, unless you are me, and ravenous, then it only serves one.

Rachel introduced me to smoked paprika, essential for this dish. Adds a wonderful smoked flavor to veggies, beans or meats.

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