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Good-for-You Carb Comfort Foods

Vegan or not, try these meatless recipes for a change

This week I'm sharing a few of my new favorite cool-weather dishes. The nip in the air signals chili season, but instead of the usual rich meat stews, I'm offering hearty, healthy carbs — inspired, in part, by my daughter, Maggy.

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Like a lot of young people, at age 12 Maggy wanted to become vegetarian. This was 18 years ago, and I wasn't ready to eat that way, nor was I willing to prepare two meals — one for her and another for the rest of us. So we worked out a compromise: I wouldn't make her eat lamb, pork or beef if she'd eat poultry and fish. That was the way it worked until she left for college.

Later, after she married an Englishman, she developed a taste for lamb, and also started eating pork again (though she still didn't eat much of either). Then, about five years ago, everyone in our family decided to change our eating habits, agreeing to consume only well-raised (ethically and environmentally) meat, poultry and seafood. That meant buying less meat so we could afford the good stuff.

That wasn't the end of it. Recently Maggy, who's now 30, announced her decision to eat vegan. Thinking it might be a passing phase, I kept quiet, but a few weeks later she said her vegan diet makes her feel good, and that it might become permanent. "Ugh!" I thought. "Why would she want to cut herself off from all meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy?"

It was time for nearly the same conversation we'd had 18 years ago, and again we reached a compromise: When she's at our home, I'll do my best to accommodate her, serving no meat-centric meals. In return she'll eat eggs, light cheeses and a little meat as flavoring.

Maggy and her husband, Andy, were with us this weekend, and they raved over these three almost-vegetarian dishes I served. My husband, David, and I savored them too. My daughter has always been the forward-thinker in our family, always willing to try something new. She's a good influence on the rest of us.

Black Bean Corn Chili, Good For You Carb Dishes

Black beans are fiber-rich, low in fat, and cholesterol-free, making this black bean and corn chili dish a healthful delight.

Black Bean and Corn Chili

Serves 8

Serve with all your favorite chili toppings

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into medium dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons each: smoked paprika and cumin
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 4 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
  • 4 cans (15 to 16 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion, white and green part, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a soup kettle over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, paprika and cumin; sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add broth, tomatoes and coconut milk; bring to a simmer. Add corn and beans; continue to simmer, partially covered, until flavors blend, about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in scallions and cilantro; let stand to blend flavors, a few minutes longer. Serve, garnishing with extra scallions and cilantro.

Sweet Potato Topped With Curried Spinach And Chickpeas, Good For You Carb Dishes

Adding color and flavor to a vegan recipe, curry and turmeric are bursting with anti-inflammatory properties, which might help ease conditions such as arthritis.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes With Chickpea-Spinach Curry

Serves 4 to 8

This chickpea curry would be equally satisfying spooned over a baked potato (as opposed to sweet) or rice.

  • 4 medium-large sweet potatoes, pricked with a fork
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into medium dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon each: garam masala and Thai red curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin and turmeric
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans (15 to 16 ounces each) chickpeas, drained
  • 1 bag (16 ounces) frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes on a large foil-lined baking sheet and bake until fork-tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in a soup kettle or Dutch oven. Add onions; sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeño and ginger; sauté until fragrant, about a minute longer. Add garam masala, curry paste, cumin and turmeric; continue to cook until fragrant, just a few seconds. Add broth, tomatoes and chickpeas; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer to reduce to thick stew consistency, about 15 minutes longer. Stir in spinach and cilantro; cook to heat through.

To serve, halve each potato and scoop out the flesh, leaving shell intact. Add some of the curry to the potato and stir to combine. Return sauced flesh to the potato shell, and spoon a generous portion of curry over each potato. Top with a portion of yogurt and sprinkle with a little more cilantro. Serve.

White Bean Burgundy Soup, Good For You Carb Dishes

High in both protein and fiber, white beans make a healthful, main ingredient to a comforting bowl of soup.

White Bean Burgundy

Serves 6

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 package (10 ounces) baby bella mushrooms, quartered if medium, cut into sixths if large
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, minced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, burgundy or merlot
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 cans white beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large soup kettle over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to brown, seasoning with salt and pepper toward the end of cooking, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and onion; saute until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes, adding prosciutto, garlic, thyme and bay leaves about halfway through.

Stir in flour and then whisk in wine, broth and beans; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low; cover and simmer to develop flavors, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and serve.

AARP food expert Pam Anderson is a best-selling cookbook author and blogger at

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