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Potluck Picnics (and Some Good News about Lectins)

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Earlier this week I began talking about summer salads, and today I offer you this Black Bean Salad with Avocado Dressing for your July 4th celebration and for ongoing summer picnics and potluck events.

In the past my go-to veggies to accompany most any black bean dish would have been red bell peppers and tomatoes, but now I find myself looking for something different.

Some Facts about Nightshades

Since last summer’s wrist fracture that left an inflammatory condition in both my hands, I have carefully restricted myself to an anti-inflammatory diet. For this reason, I’ve denied myself the pleasures of peppers and tomatoes, which are both in the nightshade family.

Besides peppers and tomatoes, other members of the nightshade family include eggplants, white potatoes, and chilies, including both cayenne and paprika. These nightshades all contain a chemical known as alpha-solanine, which triggers inflammation and joint pain in many people. Sadly, if you suffer from chronic pain, particularly arthritis, even if you are (as I am!) a lover of tomatoes or any of the vegetables named here, you may want to consider eliminating these nightshades for a month or two to see if your pain level decreases. It has certainly helped me!

Please, do not let this suggestion spoil your day. I have learned to be ever-more creative with the foods that support my healing process, and I invite you to do the same. Just because I’ve given up nightshades doesn’t mean I’ve sacrificed all things delicious, as today’s recipe will testify.

The Hype about Lectins

Since we are talking about an anti-inflammatory diet, I’d also like to address a claim that has circulated widely on the internet over the past several years regarding legumes and lectins. Lectins are a type of protein that binds to carbohydrates and is found throughout the natural world of plants, animals, and microorganisms. Today, many health practitioners and KETO diet facilitators, in particular, are scaring thousands of people away from eating legumes because they contain carbohydrates and lectins.

Of course, vegans and vegetarians rely on legumes for a protein-rich diet—so this advice might be disturbing if it weren’t so misleading. The legume family includes all beans, lentils, grams (dals), and peanuts. Once legumes have been soaked and cooked, most of the lectins are inactivated. I have this information from many reliable sources, two of which I will cite here: the  The Harvard School of Public Health and Ocean Robbins, founder of the Food Revolution Network.

Legumes have been a primary protein in Asian and Mediterranean cultures for millennia, and they are known to support robust health. Legumes are an excellent source of protein, necessary carbohydrates, and antioxidants—all nutrients that are required for optimal health and energy. (Carbs also get a bad rap, but they are as essential to good health as protein!) People who have participated in our 21-Day Delicious Detox Challenge will tell you that it’s also easy to lose weight and sustain weight loss eating legumes.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of scientific studies have shown that a plant-based diet rich in legumes leads to improved heart, brain, and general physiological functioning. So, rest easy, my friends, if you have been worried about eating legumes!

Relax and enjoy this lovely Black Bean Salad with Avocado Dressing during your summer gatherings with family and friends!

PS Looking for other great potluck recipes? Simple Chickpea Salad, Black-Eyed Pea Salad (Sacred & Delicious, p. 215) Sweet Potato Salad (Sacred & Delicious, p. 220)

Fennel Stalks

BLACK BEAN SALAD WITH AVOCADO DRESSING

Preparation Time: After soaking time, about 45 minutes or longer,
depending on the pot used
Serves 4 to 6

Asafetida powder is made from a resinous gum and is often used in Ayurvedic cooking to help digest hard beans. A little is medicinal; too much can be toxic. So please be careful in using asafetida, and follow these directions as stated. Because asafetida is a gum resin in its natural form, the powdered version is always mixed with another product such as rice or wheat flour, or in some cases, a complementary ground spice such as fenugreek. Many products are not gluten-free. Here’s a link to one that is.

2½ cups dried black beans
1 medium red or Vidalia onion
1 medium to large sweet potato
2 to 3 fennel stalks (or 1 large celery stalk)
2 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
⅛ teaspoon ground asafetida (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2½ teaspoons mineral salt, divided, or more, to taste
1 cup or more of fresh Easy Avocado Salad Dressing

1. Cover the black beans with water and soak them for at least 8 hours. Rinse and strain the beans 3 or 4 times before cooking. Cook in one of these three ways:

  • 1) My own choice is in a pressure cooker, with 7 cups of water. I put it on a high heat until the cooker reaches maximum pressure (which takes about 10 minutes), and then I remove the pot from the heat source and let it cool until the pressure releases naturally, which takes about 15 minutes.
  • Alternatively, you could use an Instant Pot, on the Beans/Chili setting, with 6 cups of water. Here, it will be as long as an hour before the pressure releases.
  • Or you could cook the beans in a standard, covered pot on a stovetop with 6 cups of water. Start with the heat setting at high and, after it comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium. It will take 1½ to 2 hours for the beans to be cooked.Although, if you live at a high altitude, they may not get tender unless cooked in a pressure cooker!

Once the beans are tender, strain them and set them aside.

2. Peel and dice the onion. Slice the fennel stalks into small pieces. Peel and dice the sweet potato into small bite-sized pieces, ¼- to ½-inch square. Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat, add oil and sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cover. After 5 minutes, add the asafetida, cumin, and coriander along with the diced sweet potatoes. Stir well to coat the vegetables with the spices. Cover again for 6 to 8 minutes until the sweet potatoes are just tender. Uncover and add ½ teaspoon salt. Stir gently to mix and turn off the gas or set the pan aside to cool uncovered.

3. Make the Easy Avocado Salad Dressing.

4. After straining the beans, move them to a large mixing bowl and add 1½ teaspoons salt. Combine the vegetable mixture with the beans. Pour ⅓ to ½ cup of the salad dressing into the beans and mix gently. Taste and add more salt or dressing. You can also let your guests add more dressing, to taste. Serve immediately as a stand-alone side dish, over salad greens, or serve warm over rice or quinoa.

Stir in 2 cloves of pressed garlic or 2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger directly into the beans, in addition to the garlicky dressing.

2 Responses

  1. Dia says:

    When I cook 2.5 c dry beans, I get about six cups cooked beans. Are the amounts of sweet potato, etc for 6 c cooked beans or 2.5 cooked beans?

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Dia, Thanks for your questions! The amount specified is for dried beans. I did not measure the amount as cooked. But they may be 5 to 6 cups. When I specify servings, I intend them as a vegan’s full meal. But since the blog is about potlucks, it would have been wise to say it will stretch much further since people generally take just a spoon or two of each dish!