Friday, March 8, 2013

Greens & Beans

Would you rather eat a fresh spring roll or a rice cake? By now your new year’s resolutions to eat healthier may have hit the wall. Lose weight? Lower blood pressure? Hoping to get back on the tennis court this summer? But here it is March and you can’t face another rice cake.

I have a simple proposal: if it doesn’t taste good, don’t eat it. Eating healthy does not mean eating bland or gritty. It doesn’t mean spending big bucks on supplements because the food you eat is empty calories; even if they are few calories. You do don’t have to perform diet accountancy where you replace this thing here for that thing there. You don’t have to fill yourself with chemicals. You don’t have to live in perpetual food penance.

How about we eat healthy and well? Begin by eating your vegetables.

    Here are the guidelines, in order of volume:
  • Green leafy vegetables – Turnip greens, collards, kale, spinach, broccoli.
  • Vibrantly colored vegetables – Green peppers, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes.
  • Vegetables that make life worth living – Onions, garlic, mushrooms, celery.
  • Beans & legumes – lentils chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans.
  • Fruits
  • Starchy vegetables (whole grain when possible) – rice, oatmeal, pastas, potatoes, sobo noodles, corn tortillas.
  • Dairy (but not much)
  • Meats & poultry
  • Sweets (when fruits are not enough)

Now, let’s put it all together in a recipe.

Taco Loco

(Because it is crazy good)

1 lb. Ground turkey
1 clove Garlic, minced (or 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, not garlic salt)
2 Tbl Ground cumin
2 Tbl Chili powder, more if needed
1   Onion, chopped
1   Green pepper, cored & chopped
1   Red pepper, cored & chopped
OR if you can find a package of red, orange and yellow peppers, then one half of each, cored & chopped
1 can (7oz.) Chipotle salsa
1 can (10oz.) Black beans, rinsed
1 can (10oz.) Diced tomato
1lb. pkg Frozen mustard greens, turnip greens and/or collard greens
OR ½lb bag of fresh kale
1 pkg (12) corn tortillas.


  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Wooden spoon
  • Dutch oven
  • Oven-proof dish
  • Can opener
  • Strainer
  • Tea towel


  1. In a dutch oven, over medium high heat, brown the ground turkey. With the spoon, chop it up into chunks the size of your thumbnail.
  2. While the turkey is browning, chop the onion and the peppers into dices the size of your thumbnail.
  3. When the turkey is no longer pink, reduce the heat to medium. Add garlic. Stir. Allow to cook for thirty seconds or until you can smell the garlic.
  4. Add the cumin and the chili powder. If you are using garlic powder, add it also. Stir.
  5. Place corn tortillas in an oven-proof dish, cover and heat in the oven. Heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Or cover and microwave for three minutes. Turn off the oven. (If heating less than a dozen, separate and place three on a plate, one tortilla thick. Microwave for one minute. Flip over and they are ready to use.)
  6. Add the chipotle salsa, black beans and the tomatoes.
  7. Heat through.
  8. Add the greens.
  9. If you are using frozen greens, cook until well heated. You may have to bring the heat up to medium high again.
  10. If you are using fresh kale, a half-pound will fill the dutch oven. Don’t worry, it will reduce. Cook until kale is wilted and reduces in volume, but do not overcook to the point where the kale becomes mushy. If it is dark green and you can still see the curl, it is good.
  11. Add more chili powder to taste. Be careful, the chipotle salsa will make it hot.
  12. Remove tortillas from the oven, cover with a clean tea towel.
  13. Place one spoonful of taco mixture in the lower half of the tortilla. Fold. Eat.

Makes four generous servings. Have extra tortillas.

Freezes well. I keep one serving containers for when I just don’t want to cook.

These tacos are good enough that you don’t need cheese or lettuce or sour cream or anything else that isn’t as healthy. Of course if you want them, go for it.

Note on turkey: This can be made with ground beef, but I think that the turkey tastes better as well as being healthier. Look for one pound frozen ground turkey roll in the freezer section. Make sure that it is thawed before you begin.

Note on tomatoes:You can use fresh tomatoes, but why? If you have home grown tomatoes, safe them for eating, not a meal where they are second playing second banana (Fried plantains may be good with this). Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables that I recommend using the canned version. Diced canned tomatoes have calcium citrate, which means the tomatoes won’t go mushy.

Note on black beans (also known as turtle beans): You can use one cup of dried beans that have soaked overnight then cooked for an hour until soft. It will certainly taste better, but not substantially better enough to add all that work.

Note on the chipotle salsa: It is in the Mexican food aisle. It is a small can, but it packs a wallop. When you open the can, it looks like tomato sauce. It is worth looking for, I have tried other hot sauces and none of them work as well. This is something you will want to stock up on. If you absolutely cannot find it, take a can of chipotle peppers and run them through a blender until smooth. It is good but it will burn your insides. Pick out the chipotle pepper seeds to make it a little less hot.

Note on greens: Non-traditional, but oh, so good. I first made this with mustard greens – loved it! Again, you can use the fresh greens, but why? Rinse, rinse again, cut? Don’t bother if you can find them in the frozen food section. They are probably fresher there anyway. I found bagged, fresh kale that is already cleaned and cut, much easier.

Note on corn tortillas: I shouldn’t have to tell you not to use wheat tortillas. I have been warning against them every chance that I get. They are made with lard. They can be as much as three hundred calories each. All those people who think that eating a wrap is healthier than a sandwich would be much better off with fluffy bread than a wheat tortilla. Also, the combination of black beans and corn tortilla give you complete amino acids, so you don’t even need the turkey.

Vegetarian variation: Substitute a large can of chickpeas, rinsed, for the turkey. You don’t have to brown them, just heat them through with two tablespoons of olive oil. Mash them with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Don’t mash them too much, you don’t want a puree, you want chunks – yes – the size of your thumbnail.

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