All posts by Dana

Sardinian Minestrone


James and I spent ten days in the Ogliastra region of Sardegna (sardinia), Italy.  We traveled in a little convertible, black Fiat through the most rugged terrain, visiting villages nestled on the side of the mountains where people lived to be over 100 years old without disease.  Yes, no cancer, no diabetes, no dementia, and no heart problems.  Often times we arrived in mid-day to find the streets deserted, but late afternoons, the streets came alive, and in the evening, there would be dancing and laughter and liters of cannonau wine.

This area of Sardinia is known as one of the Blue Zone areas, an area in the world where people live a quality life well into their nineties and one hundred years old.  Typically, the Sardinian diet consists of fava beans and chickpeas, fennel, goats milk and goats cheese, tomatoes , almonds, milk thistle, and cannonau wine.  The soup I’m sharing today, celebrates these ingredients.  The world’s longest living family from Sardegna eats a similar minestrone soup almost every day.


To start, I soak 16 ounces of beans in water.  I use a combination of any three beans.  Today I’m using lima beans, chickpeas, and azuko beans.  The Sardinians almost always use a type of fava beans or chickpeas.  Those two beans are the toughest to cook and seem to go along with the ruggedness of the Sardinian Mountains.  I cook the beans first, usually after rinsing and draining, and then simmering for a couple of hours.  Recently, my girl, Molly Kennamer, introduced me to her Tupperware pressure cooker.  This cut my cooking time by two hours. A great little kitchen appliance! 

The freshest of vegetables is what gives this soup its flavor and nutrition.  The Sardinians change their soup weekly, depending on what is available from the garden.


After adding the beans into a huge stock pot, I add a vegetable broth (or water), onion, fennel, carrots, celery, garlic, barley and a can of crushed tomatoes. 

The onion and fennel must be minced well.  My new chopper gadget from Tupperware makes this job a breeze.  One onion turns into tiny choppings with just three “fun” pulls:

Step 1:



Step 2:


And the fennel:


Give it a stir and add salt and pepper and little kick of cayenne.  I chop a little flat leaf Italian parsley and grate some pecorino cheese to top it off before we eat.



This is a staple at my house.  I make it in many different variations.  I hope you enjoy!

Sardinian Minestrone, Longevity Soup
This is a hearty soup eaten by the worlds longest living people. My family says its the best soup I make. It's best served with a slice of sourdough bread, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and a splash of Italian Parsley.
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2798 calories
411 g
236 g
69 g
151 g
40 g
2735 g
7245 g
28 g
0 g
23 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 2798
Calories from Fat 603
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 69g
Saturated Fat 40g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 19g
Cholesterol 236mg
Sodium 7245mg
Total Carbohydrates 411g
Dietary Fiber 89g
Sugars 28g
Protein 151g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 16 oz beans: I use three different types - lima (or fava), azuko (or red beans), and chickpeas
  2. 1 large onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 bulb of fennel, finely chopped
  4. 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  5. 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  6. 3 carrots, chopped
  7. 3 medium potatoes (or four), I like the yellow type
  8. 2/3 cups of barley (small pasta can be used)
  9. 2 cups of broth (water can be used)
  10. 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  11. 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or more)
  12. 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  13. a splash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  14. chopped Italian parsley
  15. grated pecorino cheese or freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. 1. Cook dry beans until tender. You can use cans if you have little time. Or, use a pressure cooker. Sometimes I use a crock pot.
  2. 2. Add beans to a stock pot.
  3. 3. Add all other vegetables.
  4. 4. After vegetables become tender, add the crushed tomatoes.
  5. 5. Cook until everything is tender.
  6. 6. Serve in a small bowl, top with parsley and cheese.
  7. 7. Add a slice of sourdough bread and enjoy.
  1. The nutritional information provided by this recipe card inaccurate. I will correct the glitch as soon as I can, but for now, you can be assured there is NO SUGAR added to this recipe.
Adapted from Blue Zones Solutions
Adapted from Blue Zones Solutions
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Black Bean Southwest Salad Bowl

Black Bean Southwest Salad Bowl 2Black Beans, White Beans, Red Beans, I like ’em all.  People ask me all the time how I stand to eat beans almost every day.  What can I say? I guess I am just a creative cook: Bean burgers, bean smash, bean dips, hummus, pintos and cornbread, lima beans and cabbage, read beans and rice, chickpea stir fry, and white bean chili or roasted tomato chili.  Sometimes just beans and sometimes a southwest dish like this.  A southwest salad with guacamole and sour cream (okay, not really, but read on to find out something I use that is just as good).

After studying the longest living, healthiest people in the world, I found that all of them enjoy a serving of beans every day.  We spent almost two weeks in the mountainous OGLIASTRA REGION in SARDINIA.  Met many centenarians and found that their bean of choice happens to be the fava bean(a pain to prepare) and chickpeas.  Favas are delicious with fennel and tomatoes, and of course chickpeas are wonderful in stews, soups, stir fries and spreads.  I have many recipes for those, too; however, my bean of choice today is the black bean.  It is my favorite!

I have to show you some my bean collection. I have ten canisters of assorted beans sitting on my counter top to remind me to prepare a crock pot of health every morning before work.

Beans in Cannisters

To make this salad, you will need these ingredients:

Black Bean Southwest Salad Bowl Ingredients

My sister, Kayla, inspired this salad.  She adds brown rice to hers. I prefer mine without it.  I have thought about trying quinoa, but it’s so darn delicious the way it is that I hate to try it any other way. This salad is so moist and saucy that it requires no salad dressing.  The white glob of sour cream-looking stuff is really plain Greek yogurt.  Of course, if you can stand the extra calories, go ahead with your sour cream, but I can’t tell the difference so I use yogurt. The avocados are smashed down to create my special guacamole with jalapenos. The recipe is on my blog if you’re interested in making your own.  Or, you could just buy already made quac to save time.  We do that with the Salsa.  It is from a jar.  We like the Chili’s brand, but you can make your own.  You can also save even more time if you open a can of black beans instead of dry beans.

Start with a bed of cut romaine.  I like to chop it up in bite sizes.  Grill the onions and yellow bell peppers in a skillet with olive oil.  Toss those onto the lettuce, add a spoonful of warm black beans, a dollop of Greek Yogurt, and huge dollop of guacamole and salsa. Sprinkle on a few green onions if you like.  I use the fresh tomatoes in my guacamole, but if you use store bought, I would add a few and throw in a little extra finely chopped jalapeno.  This seems too simple to be this good, but believe me, you will not leave one bit in your salad bowl.  You may even lick it clean!

Black Bean Southwest Salad Bowl

Black Bean Southwest Salad Bowl
Recipe type: salad
Cuisine: Southwest
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 bowls
A delicious bowl of romaine lettuce topped with grilled onion, peppers, fresh black beans, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.
  • 1 head of Romaine lettuce (chopped into bit sized pieces)
  • 2 cups Black beans (16 oz can)
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt (or use sour cream)
  • ¾ cup of guacamole (my recipe on this blog)
  • ¾ cup of medium or mild salsa (I use Chili's from a jar)
  • ¾ cup grape tomatoes, sliced (optional if you use my guac)
  • sprinkle of green onions or cilantro (optional)
  1. Chop romaine lettuce
  2. Spread on the grilled red onion and bell pepper
  3. Add a large scoop of warm black beans.
  4. Add a spoon full of yogurt or sour cream
  5. Add a heaping spoon of guacamole (I like a lot)
  6. Add a heaping spoon of salsa (James likes a lot)
  7. Sprinkle with cilantro or green onions (optional)
  8. Enjoy


Continue reading Black Bean Southwest Salad Bowl

The Best Black Bean Burger Around

Black Bean Burger 2When Daddy says it’s better than a ground beef patty, it’s got to be good.  Daddy, the barely-living heart patient, is definitely a dedicated carnivore who listens to no one when it comes to modifying his diet.  But, I keep trying.  What can I say?  I am a hard-headed, persistent, never-give-up kind of gal. I keep inviting him over for scrumptious vegetarian lasagna, bok choy and walnut stir-fry, black bean taco salad, and the best darn chili you’ll ever eat.

He eats every bit of it, smacks his lips, swears it is the most delicious food he’s ever eaten. I think I have him convinced.  I send him home with new recipes, a link to my blog, and big hug.  I am so happy, and I just know I have converted him to my way of eating. I call the next day to check on his progress.  Nope!  (Me: a very sad face)  He’s browning meat for a gravy.  I can just see that animal fat dripping down the sides of his lips.  The thing is: Daddy is just has hard-headed as me!  UGH!!

It is true that Daddy does love all my vegetarian dishes; however, he just doesn’t love them as much as he loves meat, but with this burger, he can pretend he’s eating fresh ground sirloin. This burger reminds him of a “real” meat hamburger.  After his first bite, I can tell that I have his attention because he does his little “umgh”…that’s the “darn!., this tastes sooo good groan”.  I feel very hopeful this time.

The next day I make the usual call…  Yes!!!  Daddy is cooking black beans, and he has my brother trucking to the grocery store to pick up the quinoa!  Of course, I find out later, he had to put his own twist to the recipe (a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce), and according to him, his black bean burgers are better than mine.  He thinks he is a better cook than me, and for his honor, I will leave that ingredient in my recipe.

So, enjoy my delicious black bean burger recipe with Daddy’s splash of Worcestershire sauce.

NOTE: enjoy the pics or scroll to the bottom for the recipe print out.

Start with this:

Black Bean Burger Ingredients

Mix it up until it looks like this:

Black Bean Burger blendedAdd this:

Black Bean Burger sauteed onion

Make patties and cook them like this:

Black Bean Burger pan

Slice some of these:

Black Bean Burger lettuce tomato

And dress it up like this:

Black Bean Burger Open-faced

Fold it over like this:

Black Bean Burger close

Don’t forget to bake healthy oven fries with spicy cayenne pepper like this:

Black bean burger best

Here’s the recipe:

4.0 from 1 reviews
The Best Black Bean Burger Ever
Recipe type: Burgers
Cuisine: Vegetarian Dishes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
This is an easy, delicious black bean burger that tastes just as good a real burger. It is packed with protein and doesn't skimp on flavor. You will never go for that nasty ground beef again.
  • 2 cups black beans (I cook organic dry beans, but a 16 oz can will work, especially in a hurry)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (use more or less to get the correct consistency)
  • 1-2 eggs, enough to hold the ingredients together
  • ½ cup sauteed onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves sauteed garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • dressing:
  • mayonnaise or very ripe creamed avocado (I stir a little olive oil with ¼ of an avocado)
  • dijon mustard
  • fixings:
  • red onion, sliced
  • ripe tomato
  • romaine lettuce
  • Serve with oven baked fries!
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add cooked black beans and cooked quinoa. Mix thoroughly and mash with a fork until mushy. Most of the time I use a food processor for this step. Just pulse until blended.
  2. Fold in the bread crumbs and egg. If it isn't yet the consistency of ground beef, let it stand a few minutes to allow the bread crumbs to soak in the extra juice. After five minutes, add more breadcrumbs if necessary.
  3. Add the cooked onions, garlic, and seasonings. Mix until well blended.
  4. Scoop up a handful of mixture and form into patties.
  5. In a skillet, cook the bean burger patties on medium heat.
  6. Cook until it is slightly hard on top and held together. Be careful not to cook too long. Bean burgers do not take as long as beef burgers.
  7. Slice red onion, tomatoes, and tear romaine lettuce.
  8. Toast the buns side down on a hot skillet.
  9. Smear on the dressing and add the fixings and enjoy!


Fresh Guacamole with Tomatoes

guacamole dip
This is the best guacamole you’ll ever eat.  It’s spicy, chunky, and full of freshness.  Even the “guac-haters” love it.   It’s great with chips, on salads, or on a big bowl of black beans and salsa, and James just eats it with a spoon.

Guacamole dip and chipIt’s really simple to make and the secret is all in the mixing so pay close attention to the sequence and method of chopping.

Start with a ripe avocado (should be dark in color and be able to slightly press your thumb into the sides).  Make sure you have a juicy lime, a nice red onion, fresh jalapeno, and cherry tomatoes.  If you are a lover of cilantro, make sure to have some of that, too.  For the spices: have salt, cumin, cayenne pepper, and a little garlic.

guacamole ingredientsI finely chop about a fourth of the red onion and half of a large jalapeno.  It blends so well when the pieces are very small.

Stab the avocado seed with a knife to twist it out.  Then, slice the avocado inside the peelings before spooning it out. Guacamole dip stab


guacamole avocado choppedIn a bowl squeeze the juice of one lime.  Stir in the salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic. Spoon out the avocado and add it to the bowl.  Stir in the onion and jalapeno.   Add the sliced cherry tomatoes and some roughly chopped cilantro.  Stir this together with a fork, but just slightly.  I like it chunky and not slimy.  If it seems a little dry squeeze a little more lime juice on the top.  Taste it one last time to adjust it for your families taste buds. guacamole cilantroGuacamole dip and chip 2This is so delicious, filling and healthy.

guacamole closeguacamole closer

Fresh Guacamole with Tomatoes
Recipe type: Dip
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 large ripe avocado
  • 2 large juicy limes (may need more if lime isn't juicy)
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ large red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¾ large fresh jalapeno, thinly sliced without the seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro (optional), roughly chopped
  • ¼ salt (add salt to taste)
  • Sprinkle of cumin (an ⅛ teaspoon or less)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (we add a couple of dashes because we like the spicy punch)
  • Dash of garlic powder
  1. Squeeze two limes into a small bowl. Stir in the salt, cumin, pepper, and garlic.
  2. Slice the avocado in half, remove the seed and slice into small chunks within the peelings.
  3. Spoon it out into the bowl of liquid. Rough chop it into the liquid using a fork.
  4. Slice the onion very thinly and fold it into the bowl of avocado.
  5. Slice the jalapeno very thinly, make sure to remove the seeds, and fold it into the bowl of avocado.
  6. With a fork mix in the cilantro, roughly chopping and blending. Be careful not to stir too much or it will become very creamy. This is a chunky version of guacamole so there is no need to excessively stir it.
  7. Add a little more lime or salt if necessary. Garnish with a twig of cilantro.



Delicious Creamy Vegan White Sauce

Creamy White SauceThis sauce is absolutely delicious and can transform any vegetable into an irresistible dish. Others will think you spent hours in the kitchen preparing it.  It’s easy and it’s guilt free.  It has a butter flavor without any butter.  It It looks creamy, but there is no cream, no cheese, and no milk.  It’s all organic and super healthy.  I use this sauce to make creamy collards, guilt-free broccoli casserole, Alfredo fettuccine, healthy mac and cheese, potato soup, and so much more.  I’ll post all of these recipes eventually, but today I’m putting it over quinoa pasta and sauteed spinach with roasted bell peppers. Continue reading Delicious Creamy Vegan White Sauce

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Pecans

Brussels Sprouts Dish Brussels sprouts caramelized with red onion and roasted pecans is a popular dish in my house.  It amazes me that I once despised this cute little cabbage-looking vegetable.  My mom loved to boil them just like she did cabbage, and insist I eat every one of them that she put on my plate. I hated the bitter taste. They were on my “hate-list” along with beets and turnips.  So, when she wasn’t looking, I would spit them in my napkin and throw them away just like I did with my beets and turnips.  She insisted that I would created a “taste” for them if I kept eating them.  I did finally create a taste for all of my “hate-list” vegetables, but it was only when I learned to cook them properly that my taste buds changed.  It was their health benefits that persuaded me to give these super foods another chance. Continue reading Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Pecans

Creamy Zucchini Immunity Soup

Immunity SoupI don’t know why I fret over the names of my soups, but naming my soups are so hard.  I name them, rename them, and then I forget what I named them.  For instance, the other day my mother-in-law asked for some of my delicious immunity soup (meaning this one), but I made her my cream of mushroom soup that I also once called immunity soup.  She was so confused because it wasn’t the soup she asked for…I forgot to tell her I rename soup often.  So, I’ve made new rules and my new rules are this:  when it goes on the bog, the name is official. This soup has been called zucchini and kale soup, creamy vegetable soup, and anti-cancer soup, but from this day forward, it will be called “Creamy Zucchini Immunity Soup” even though it has lots of kale in it.  And split peas, lentils, leeks, carrot juice and even celery.  I can’t include all that in the name.  I named it because I like the long “e” sound at the end of the first three words.  I guess it’s the poet in me.

Continue reading Creamy Zucchini Immunity Soup

Beans and Greens Soup


Beans and Greens SoupIt’s soup time at the Garner house.  When the weather gets cold, we always make a huge pot of Sunday soup.  Today, I made a pot of my healthy beans and greens soup. This soup is packed with nutrition.  There are three types of beans: black beans, kidney beans, and cannellini beans.  We all know that silly song that we used to sing as kids…”beans, beans, they’re good for your heart…” Well, I’ll stop there, but the truth is: it’s true.  Beans are good for your heart.  Actually, just a half of cup of beans per day has been found to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease.  Continue reading Beans and Greens Soup