What’s Cookin’ in Kelli’s Kitchen

  • 2022-03-13, 11:32 AM (update 2022-03-13, 11:40 AM)
  • Kelli Kelly
What’s Cookin’ in Kelli’s Kitchen

Years ago, when I was in college for the first time circa 1996, I decided that I was going to become a vegetarian. There is a myriad of reasons why people eliminate different food items from their diet (allergies, health, political, etc.) just as there are many different trendy diet fads. The most important factor that informs these decisions should be an assessment of the healthfulness of the choice. Regardless of how you get there, our diet needs to include a variety of micronutrients and amino acids for our bodies to function properly. So, when you remove a nutrient-rich food source, it is vital to consider how you are going to replace what has been lost. This is a key understanding that my 20-year-old self would have benefitted from knowing when I stopped eating meat. Instead, I just started consuming more veggies, opted for salads instead of burgers, and didn’t spend a hot second thinking about how to eat a balanced diet or consider the long-term implications of missing out on key vitamins and minerals.  As it turned out, the long-term implication piece was moot considering my vegetarian diet went out the window after about 6 months and an insatiable craving for a ribeye.

What my 40-ish-year-old self understands is that there are plant-based food combinations that work in concert to provide all of the nutrients that we need to keep our bodies happy and healthy.  These delicious and nutritious dishes involve ingredients that are significantly less expensive than animal-derived meats and contain all of the essential amino acids to make a complete protein. The best part is I get to talk more about beans.

Here’s a quick refresh from high school science or nutrition class. Protein is made up of 20 amino acids. Our bodies make 11 of those acids so, to be healthy, we need to get the other 9 amino acids from our food. When an ingredient contains all 9 amino acids, it is called a “complete protein.” Animal products are complete proteins including meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, and milk. There are a couple of plant-based sources of all 9 amino acids as well: hempseed, blue-green algae, quinoa, and soybeans to name a few. But my favorite nutrition hack involves combining incomplete proteins in one dish, specifically legumes, and grains. Anytime a dish includes two ingredients from those categories you sneak a little more protein into your diet.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to give these dishes a try. Is your growing teenage son eating you out of house and home? Sneak in a protein. Do you find yourself getting hangry mid-afternoon? Sneak in a protein. Do you want to reduce your grocery bill? Sneak in a protein. Do you just really love beans and rice? Sneak in a protein.


Farro Salad with Lentils, Beans, and Veggies

By Deborah Mele



2 Medium zucchini, Cut Into 1-inch Dice, About 4 cups

2 Japanese Eggplants, Cut Into 1-inch Dice, About 4 Cups

1 Sweet Red Pepper, Cored and Seeded, Cut Into 1-inch Dice, About 1 1/2 Cups

1 Yellow Pepper, Cored and Seeded, Cut Into 1-inch Dice, About 1 1/2 Cups

2 Medium Sweet Onions, Cut Into 1-inch Dice, About 2 Cups

3 Medium Cloves Garlic, Minced (About 1 Tablespoon)

3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Divided

1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano

Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

8 cups Cooked, Cooled Farro

2 cups Cooked, Cooled Lentils

2 cups Cooked Small White Beans, (Or One 15-ounce Can, Drained and Rinsed)

1/2 cup Fresh Parsley Leaves, Finely Chopped

1 cup Chopped Fresh Greens (Such as Celery Leaves or Arugula)

1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar



  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the zucchini, eggplant, red and yellow peppers, onion, garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.  Spread the vegetables out onto two large foil-lined baking sheets and roast until soft and lightly browned, stirring every so often as they cook, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
  3. In a large bowl, add the farro, lentils, beans (if using), parsley, celery leaves, and cooled vegetables. Toss to mix well. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil and mix well. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Kelli Kelly -Slinger of Produce. Slurper of Dumplings. Person of the Bean.



Kelli Kelly



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