Sunday, January 3, 2010

Announcing...Striving Bean

Dear Friends - it's with great pleasure that I announce my new blog for a new year:

Striving Bean -

Striving Bean is also on Twitter -

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know about our Bean Challenge.  I've decided to expand on this idea:


Striving Bean – Helping you incorporate beans into your child’s diet.


  • I’ll try new bean recipes for my family and report the findings (the good and the bad); and…
  • I’ll offer tips & tricks you can use to encourage your children to eat beans

Why would anyone write a blog about eating beans?

I started writing this blog because I’ve discovered over the years that beans are fantastic food – and a bit neglected in the American diet. And I’ve  wondered – why aren’t families eating more beans?
As part of my recent efforts to make strides toward living a more “green” lifestyle, I started making bean-centered dinners one time a week – known in my family as our “Bean Challenge“.

I got creative in terms of variety – testing out which bean-centric meals my kids would eat – and discovering which ones they would outright reject!  With experience and continued recipe testing and tweaking, I’ve learned creative ways to incorporate beans onto our family’s plates. 

I hope you'll visit me at!  As for Striving Green - I'll pause this blog for a while.  My sincere thanks for your support!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Coming Soon

Hello all - If you're wondering where I've been...I'm working on a new project that I'm really excited about. I hope to unveil it at the beginning of 2010.

Stay tuned for further details!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Soup Recipe: Pinto Bean & Roasted Garlic - Bean Challenge

This weekend I made a soup recipe: Pinto Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup. I backed off from my Bean Challenge "beans as a main dish" declaration and decided to make a bean soup this week.  I thought this would be a good way to continue finding interesting ways to  incorporate beans into our family's diet. Thanks to What's Cooking for this delicious recipe!

This soup was absolutely divine.

Anything with roasted garlic gets a huge thumbs up from me.  For all you garlic fans out there, take a gander at the 2 garlic heads, pre-roasting phase. Yummm....

If you haven't tried roasting garlic, it's very easy.  Follow the Roasted Garlic Recipe from Simply Recipes.

Here's a photo of the final product.  My photo doesn't do it justice.  If you want to see a much prettier picture, go to What's Cooking.

A few modifications:  I didn't have onions or avocado due to a grocery order mishap (I ordered delivery for the wrong day!)  I topped my soup with some dried parsley (compliments of this past season's garden).  Lucky for me, I saved the broth from my latest bean batch (see my How to Cook Beans video).  This soup tasted great!

This bean soup was creamy, satisfying - sooo good.  How did the kids gauge it?

4 year old - "This is the best soup ever!" I'm guessing this bold declaration was because he helped me blend it. Then he mostly didn't eat it - lots of coaxing did the trick for more spoonfuls.

6 year old - "This tastes terrible!  Why did you have to make soup?" I told her she had to eat 6 spoonfuls.

Husband was at work, so he'll have left-overs.  We talked about the soup on the phone.  Someday they'll appreciate their mother's cooking, I said.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I Have to Tell You About this Chocolate

Lucky me! I was the recent recipient of some unique and delicious hand-crafted chocolate, made by an award winning local Chocolatier B.T. McElrath.  The gift:  Salty Dog Chocolate bar (70% dark chocolate with sea salt and butter toffee) and B.T. Berry Poinsettias.

Let me read to you the back of the Salty Dog box:

You have a choice.  Eat our Salty Dog Bar salt-side up and you're invited into its rich, dark chocolate charms, only to discover the spiky crunch of toffee and sea salt.  Eat it salt-side down and feel how the sharp pop of salt ushers in the notes of chocolate and caramel.  So what's it gonna be:  mellow or bold?  Or both?

Who writes this stuff?  They need a raise.

And another "green bonus": packages produced from Sustainable Forestry Initiative materials, which is a certified chain of custody promoting sustainable forest management.

Quick - order it now from (click on products link, then click on the chocolate images).  Here's the Christmas shipping info:

Holiday Shipping
To receive chocolates by Christmas Eve Day, please order by noon CST Fri. Dec. 18 (regular shipping) or noon CST Tues. Dec. 22 (rush shipping)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bean Challenge (again) - 1 Dinner a Week

Our Bean Challenge has restarted!  Yet again, we are going to have one dinner a week that centers around beans.  I hope this post will help you learn how to cook black beans.

On Saturday we had Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos, and WOW they were great.  Our youngest enjoyed it, our eldest said it was "OK". Many thanks to Sarah from At Sarah's Table for taking the time to send me the recipe for this and many other great bean-centric dinners.

So, true to my recent form, I created a video on How To Cook Beans - Quick Soak
Description: Learn to cook dried black beans with the quick soak method. No pressure cooker needed! Step-by-step. Be sure to rinse and sort through beans first (check for debris) before quick soak. 

Sound effects and everything folks!  Hope you enjoy.

Here is the recipe for Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos from the cookbook Simply In Season:

2 cups/750ml sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)
1/2 onion (chopped)
2 cups/500ml cooked black beans
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add and cook until heated through.

8 flour tortillas
1 1/2  / 375ml cups cheddar cheese (shredded)

Divide bean mixture and cheese among the tortillas and roll up.  Place in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  Lightly spray with olive oil if desired.  cover pan with foil and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes.  Garnish with sour cream, salsa, and fresh cilantro.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Green Black Friday (Without the Preachiness)

Since Black Friday is approaching, I've been kicking around a few suggestions about how to "green" Black Friday shopping without sounding preachy. Yes, many love to shop on Black Friday. I get it - I've done it too and got some great bargains. Here are some things to think about before you venture out:

  • Treat your home to Energy Star appliances
    If you can get them at a locally owned appliance store, that's even better.

  • Bring reusable bags
    Check out the huge and convenient IKEA shopping bags for 59 cents and use them during your shopping spree. I've got 3 of these and have used them over and over again.

  • Shop locally
    If you usually shop at big box stores, try at least one stop at a locally owned store. You will likely be amazed at the selection that you can't get in any big box location.

    Some of my Twin Cities local favorites are: Patina, Nokomis Shoes, Bibelot, Electric Fetus, Cooks of Crocus Hill and Creative Kids Stuff. Be sure to check their sites - some have online deals if you can't shop in person.

  • Look for local discounts
    Check out for Twin Cities local merchant & green money-saving deals before you head out.

  • Buy consignment & reused
    Turn Style and Half Price Books are great places to browse and pick up something for yourself too.

  • Skip the drive-through
    Eat at at a locally owned restaurant after you've shopped. Buy some gift certificates for your friends and family if you like the place.

  • Buy original art as gifts
    Artists will appreciate your business and you'll give something unique to the person who has everything.

  • Give the gift of a cultural experience
    A gift certificate to a world cuisine restaurant or tickets to a cultural event that heightens your interest. If you don't know where to start, check out event schedules from local colleges and universities.

  • Invest in rechargable batteries
    We haven't done this might be the right year!

  • Order online
    My favorite way to shop - saves gas and time. FedEx & UPS know the most fuel efficient routes - much better than we do.

  • Think about last year
    How did you handle Black Friday last year? Did you like your choices? Or did it make you want to cringe? Remember what you liked and didn't like and set some green improvement goals. Here are some thoughts from last year's shopping.
Last and most importantly - if you dare to go shopping this Friday:
  • Be kind to others
  • Be polite to the store staff, and
  • Give a smile to those around you.
All those sappy things. A little kindness goes a long way.

And hopefully that last bit of advice wasn't too preachy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Two Simple Foods

I got to try 2 simple foods I've never had before until this weekend:
  • Urban Eggs (straight from the hen - no middle man)
  • Juice with Pomegranate & Acai
Urban Eggs:
Now THIS is local food. My co-worker raises hens - in the city. Lucky for me and other fortunate office-mates , she brought some eggs from her backyard hens.

The eggs were delicious - bright orange yolks and very fresh. Plus - such pretty colors!

Interested in raising hens? There are lots of on-line resources for raising hens, and co-ops hold seminars to get more in-depth urban chicken information. Did you know? Martha Stewart has been raising hens for a long time!

Juice with Pomegranate & Acai
I've had pomegranate juice before, but never with the much touted acai berry. The Lakewood Pomegranate with Acai juice was an impulse buy from my local co-op. Positioned on the end cap, ripe for impulse buying. It's organic, lots of vitamin C, has anti-oxidants, and it's 100% juice. It even has Omega oils. That's a lot for one modest size bottle of juice. The taste is sweet and a little tart. The texture - full bodied and thick. A great impulse buy. Amazon sells a 6 pack case if you're really into it.