Better than Salad - Collard Wraps - Recipe

This recipe is basically a continuation of my previous post - the Creamy Maple Tahini Dipping Sauce. I meant to post this two days ago, but sheer laziness --and delight at having a few days off from school --got in the way ;) Although I often vary the seasonings I put in that dressing, I usually always have some version of it when I make collard wraps. I'm a hungry girl - and I love to eat! But, I've found that four or five of these wraps, paired with this rich and creamy dressing make for a gratifying and highly satisfying, healthy meal.

Now, when most people think of a wrap, they probably think of a flour tortilla, perhaps shredded lettuce, cheese and who knows what else. This, however, is a raw food version ("What the Heck is Raw Food" article to appear tomorrow) --and my wrap is made from collard leaves, instead of tortillas (great for gluten free diets). So when I'm sick of salad, but still want to get some fresh veggies onto my plate, these are great because they're basically like a salad - but refined and kicked up a notch.

Growing up, I never would have imagined eating collard greens raw. I didn't even know you could. If any of you come from households where Soul Foods or southern foods are featured prominently, then you know that collard greens - and nearly all vegetables - are cooked until they're soft and falling apart, or "tender" as my grandma likes to call them. Unfortunately, cooking your greens for over an hour destroys so many of the vital enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Although I still love my nana - and her greens, I will only eat them this way on holidays. I've been eating (and juicing) them raw for so long, I can't even fathom ever cooking mine. Of course, I'm not telling you not to cook your greens, but perhaps consider eating them raw sometimes, or if necessary, try to just lightly steam them.

Okay, back to the recipe...This is one of our all time favorite meals - cooked or raw. I highly recommend you give this a try!

Better than Salad - Collard Wraps (Serves 2)

6 collard leaves
1 red bell pepper
1 medium cucumber
1 package sprouts - alfalfa, radish or broccoli will do fine
1/2 carrot
3 Tbs basil - chiffonade or chopped
any other vegetable you like - optional (ex: spring onion, avocado, mint, radish)

To prepare the collard, simply cut along both sides of the stem in order to separate it from the leaves:

Discard the stem (or use for  juicing). De-stem all 6 pieces of collard. You should now have 12 leaves/wraps. Next, julienne the carrot, cucumber and bell pepper. They should be about the size of 3 inch matchsticks.

To roll: Place a collard leaf with the darkest side down and the more veiny side facing up. This is where you will stack the vegetables. On the lower third of the leaf - the part closest to you - start stacking your veggies. Depending on the size of your leaves, place 4-5 pieces of each julienned vegetable on your leaf, leaving a bit hanging over each end. Next, top with a few pieces of the chopped basil and a generous bit of sprouts (Note: I ended up adding twice as many sprouts as what is pictured below).

Tightly, but carefully, roll the bottom flap over the stacked vegetables. Try to roll one side more tightly then the other so that you will get a slightly conical shape  (this will make it easier, i.e., less messy to hold and dip in the sauce when it's time to eat them). Continue rolling all the way to the end of the leaf. Place seam side down on the plate. 

Roll the remaining 11 leaves in the same manner as above. Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: These stay together quite well, considering they are not sealed. Still, I find it best to hold them by the side that is slightly smaller - this prevents veggie matter from coming out of both ends.

Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


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Creamy Maple Tahini Dressing

Looking for an Asian inspired dressing or dipping sauce? Then look no further, cause this one is spicy, sweet, creamy....and good enough to drink!

I use this as a dressing for  hearty salads like romaine mixed with root vegetables (think carrots, beets, radishes). It's also AMAZING as a dip for crudites, veggie wraps, or vegetarian satays.

I really do love making homemade dressings and I hope you'll give this one a try.

Creamy Maple Tahini Dressing - (Makes a lil more than 2 cups)

1/2 cup tahini ( If you use almond or peanut butter, you'll need to increase the water)
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs + 1 tsp sesame oil (I used toasted)
3 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs maple syrup (If you don't have real maple syrup, use honey)
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice (I used a combination)
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 cup water
1/4 cup basil, chopped

Place all ingredients except basil in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add in basil and pulse until blended...leaving a few flecks of green visible. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving - This will allow sauce to thicken and flavors to combine. Enjoy!

Tip 1: I was a bit heavy handed with the soy. I meant to do 2 1/2 Tbs but managed to spill (inside the mix) while I was measuring! : )...I compensated for the extra saltiness by adding more water. Feel free to reduce the amount of soy if salt is a concern for you.

Tip 2: I used a bit of Thai basil in this, but regular basil tastes great too. 

Tip 3: For a variation, try adding 2 Tbs of mint instead of basil, and/or honey instead of maple syrup.


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Tropical Green Nectar - Juice Recipe

                  (If I do say so myself, this pic came out pretty great considering it's  unedited)

I splurged and bought a nice plump guava at my local asian market last week. Since then, it's been hanging out in my fruit bowl, calling my name, begging to be put in a juice. It was also passing the peak of ripeness, with its intoxicating, outrageously sweet fragrance wafting through my living room. I knew it wouldn't last another few days before it went bad.  

I wasn't planning on posting another juice recipe this week, but since this one is SO EASY to make (and so delicious), I figured I'd share. Quite frankly this is delicious as a juice or a smoothie - and I've had it both ways; but be warned: if you don't have a high speed blender (such as the VitaMix - which can crush avocado seeds) you should just have this drink as a juice because guava seeds probably won't be completely pulverized by a regular ol' store-bought blender. Either way, though, this is definitely a recipe for beginners, i.e., those not used to drinking vitamin-rich green drinks. Although there are greens in it, this is not bitter or earthy tasting at all. It's mildly sweet, incredibly fragrant and quite pleasing to the palate. Enjoy!

Tropical Green Nectar

1 1/2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup mango - I used frozen
1 large guava (you'll know they're ripe if they smell like a piece of heaven!)
1 1/2 cups water

Process fruit and veg through juicer. Mix in water. Alternately, place fruit/veg AND water in blender. Strain through fine mesh. Serve on ice.

Tip: This juice is somewhat on the thick, nectar-y side. Because of the amount of fruit and the thickness, I  added a bit more water than I usually do with my drinks. Use your discretion. If you "need" it sweeter, use less water; if you like your juice less sweet,  like me, add up to 2 cups water.


Çoban Salatası (aka Shepherd's Salad)

So this is another very traditional Turkish dish. I love it because it is so simple to make, yet still so delicious. It's a perfect spring or summer dish, pairing cool crunchy cucumbers with sweet and succulent tomatoes. It's so light; so refreshing; and so tasty. The folklore/history behind this dish is that shepherds, while out all day tending their flocks, would pick a bit of this and a bit of that..basically, whatever veggies were available out in the fields, and that's what they would eat while working. And well that's where the name comes from..as shepherd is "Çoban" and Salatası is, you guessed it, salad. There really is no set ingredient amount for this, so I'll just tell you how I made it last night.

Çoban Salatası (aka Shepherd's Salad) - Serves 4

2 cucumbers ( I seeded mine, but I don't usually)
4 roma tomatoes --or 2 large regular tomatoes (Again,  I seeded mine, but I don't usually)
1/4 onion, chopped or minced - I used red -but use whatever you like
3 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup chopped (or minced) parsley
1 garlic clove, minced

Chop cucumbers and tomatoes, mix with remaining ingredients. Let rest at least 15 minutes so flavors combine. Serve.

Tip (1): I always like this dish a little on the lemony side. I've also had it made with more of an accent on the olive oil. So, if you don't want yours as lemony as I like mine, try increasing to 3 Tbs of olive oil.

Tip (2): I was in the mood for a chunkier salad last night. Generally, the veg in this dish are chopped a little finer than what I did. Have fun and play around - and make it however you like. This really is an easy-to-make,  fail proof dish.



I finally have a translator on my website!

Turk ailem icin "Google Translator" mevcuttur. Sayfanin sol ust tarafindan dilinizi seciniz.Umarim isinize yarar. Sevgiler, Toya.

(Thanks to my husband for the updated, better Turkish translation than google was able to give me! lol)

I finally have a language translator on the website. Use the Google Translator logo on the left side of the page to select your language.



Love Your Ovaries (aka Antioxidant Powerhouse) - Juice Recipe

Earlier this month  I saw an episode of a TV show called "The Doctors." The whole show was about 50 Dos and Don'ts for your health - with many alternative, do it yourself, methods for self care. 

The show seems like it's trying to cater to a mainstream, pop culture audience, so I was really excited when they started talking about cures, remedies, and prevention protocols using food! In particular, they cited recent studies which showed that parsley and celery can help in the prevention of ovarian cancer.

Since these are two of my favorite juicing ingredients, this episode inspired me to make a vitamin-packed, ovary friendly, cancer-fighting drink. I rounded out this antioxidant powerhouse by adding other goodies known to help prevent ovarian cancer: blueberries, spinach, collard, and beet.

I talked about the benefits of dark, leafy greens here and beets here. So, now a bit about blueberries.

Blueberries, with their dark, blue-purple color, reportedly have the highest antioxidant (cancer-fighting) capacity of all fresh fruit. Further, a study at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center suggests that blueberries may help reduce belly fat and risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Blueberries have also been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 40 percent in women. Ladies, I think that alone is reason enough to include them in your diet. Plus, they are, of course, amazing tasting on their own but they really give a great taste to drinks --and for whatever reason it's just fun to drink something purple. 

A side note on blueberries: Although I won’t knock anyone who wants the thick creaminess that yogurt gives to a smoothie, if you're including blueberries in your drinks for cancer prevention, there's something you should know. I was really shocked to find that "milk destroys the antioxidant benefits in blueberries!" (See info here.)

The skinny on this juice -  with the exception of the pear (which is great for fiber), all of the ingredients in this juice have been shown to be packed with ovarian cancer fighting nutrients. Of course these fruits and veggies have other health benefits - so guys, you can drink some too - but I think us ladies should definitely take some time out to focus on loving our ovaries. Enjoy!

 Love Your Ovaries - aka - Antioxidant Powerhouse Juice

1 1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen, because that's what I had)
1 pear
1 cup spinach, packed
1 cup collard greens, destemmed, packed
1 cup parsley, packed
3 ribs of celery
1/2 beet
 1 cup water

Run all fruit and  veg through your  juicer and mix with water. If making in blender, place all ingredients in blender, strain through fine mesh and serve!

Tip: I'd classify this as an intermediate juice. For some, it might be getting out of the realm of the familiar, but I think it's quite tasty and refreshing. So if you're adventurous, go ahead and give it a try as is. If you are new to juicing, but still want to get some of the benefits, you might want to decrease the amount of beet to 1/4 and perhaps use only 1/2 cup of collards - this should cut down on the earthiness.

Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman


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Cream Pop Punch - Juice Recipe

I never really liked creamsicles as a child. Yet, like many people, I find my tastes are constantly evolving as I get older. And today, for some strange reason, I found myself craving the taste of a creamsicle ice cream pop. For those who don't know - a creamsicle is a frozen vanilla ice cream bar enrobbed in an orange (juice) flavored shell.  As a kid, there was something about the combination of orange and cream that just felt so wrong, but now it feels oh so right. I won't be going out to buy any real creamsicles anytime soon, but I've recreated my own version with a twist. I'm calling this one Cream Pop Punch. There's orange, a dash of vanilla, and.....bananas to give it a thicker, creamier texture. So, although there's no ice cream or dairy in this version, it's still nice and creamy and oh so dreamy. Enjoy!

Cream Pop Punch

1 1/2 cups dairy free milk (I used rice milk - soy,  almond, or any other dairy free milk will work as well)
2 oranges, peeled
1 banana
dash of vanilla extract
10 pieces ice

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Makes 2 - 3 servings.

Tip: Although the banana is by no means over powering - or the star of this drink, if you want nothing to do with bananas in your cream pop, try eliminating the banana and adding a half cup of yogurt - plain or vanilla flavored.



Green Grape Cooler - Juice Recipe

Those of you who've been following my blog know that I love greens - especially in my juice. I generally don't juice a lot with grapes, but I find that beginners, i.e., people new to juicing, do well with grapes because they're one fruit "normal" people consume on a regular basis. Grape juice is also used quite frequently in most commercial juices and juice blends you buy in the grocery store. For some reason, drinking cucumbers in water has gone more main stream, too, so newbies seem to like these in juice as well. I suppose it's all about familiarity and comfort. 

This recipe isn't necessarily an everyday juice - due to the sweetness factor - but the combination of celery, cucumber, and collard are sure to give your body a healthy dose of minerals, thus refreshing and replenishing you after a workout or a hot day of basking in the sun.

Green Grape Cooler

1 cup green grapes
3 ribs celery
1 medium cucumber
5 large collard leaves - stems removed and discarded
1 cup water.


If there are a lot of seeds in the cucumber, or if they are really large - simply spoon them out and discard -  otherwise, juice the whole cucumber (sometimes really seedy cucumbers can give a bitter taste to juice). 
If using a Juicer: Process all fruit and vegetables through juicer, mix with water and serve.
If using a Blender: Place all ingredients, including water, in the blender. Puree until smooth. Strain juice through a fine mesh strainer - to separate it from the pulp.

Serve on ice. - Enjoy!

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Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman



The Great Vegan Lava Cake Experiment

This year for Valentine's day, I made lava cake for the very first time. I served it with whipped cream, a dusting of powdered sugar and some fresh raspberries. It had to be one of the best desserts I've ever had - ever. It was, however, EXTREMELY rich and sweet! There were 3 eggs, a whole lot of chocolate, and even more butter. Although, I knew I couldn't exactly make a healthy lava cake, I started thinking of how I could cut out at least some of the fat. This led me to the idea of a vegan lava cake. This version I came up with has no eggs and no butter; instead, I opted for pureed fruit (egg substitute) and coconut oil (butter replacement). I cooked it a lot longer then I would a traditional lava cake, baking it 20 minutes instead of  10 minutes, but when I removed it from the oven, it was still quite jiggly and wet inside, yet it was set on top. So we decided to take a quick post-dinner walk while the lava cake cooled. Unfortunately, I left the lava cakes on the sheet pan on top of the still-warm oven, and by the time we came back from our walk, the lava cakes were no longer so lava-y (more fudgey) and had completely set all the way through.

Looking back, I will definitely try this experiment again. Next time I will probably only use one type of fruit and won't let it "cool" on top of a warm stove. This vegan version was still very sweet like the original, but I think I will also reduce the amount of sugar next time since the fruit added a bit more sweetness. That being said, I liked it, but my husband loved it. In his words, the fact that a cake without eggs could taste this good was "revolutionary." While I wouldn't go that far, it was still rather tasty. Enjoy!


The Great Vegan Lava Cake Experiment #1

1 apple, peeled and deseeded
12 de-stemmed strawberries
1/4 cup water
6 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place jar of coconut oil under hot running water - or place jar in bowl filled with hot water. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature - so this will liquefy it.

Place apple, strawberries and water in blender or food processor - and puree until smooth. Strain puree through fine mesh strainer in order to remove strawberry seeds. Set aside.

Put coconut oil and chocolate in large sauce pan. Melt over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Once chocolate is melted, remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and fruit puree. Slowly, whisk dry ingredients into chocolate mixture.

Grease 4 ramekins with coconut oil and place on sheet pan. Ladle mixture into ramekins and place sheet pan into oven. Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from sheet pan and let cool for a few minutes on cooling rack. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar or creme Anglaise.


Orange Spritzer - Recipe

This one is short and simple, just like the Ginger-Aid Soda recipe I posted a few days ago. I decided I should probably call this a spritzer though, since it is nowhere near as syrupy or sweet as a traditional orange soda. I've been wanting to make this drink all week - but we ate all our oranges before I got the chance. I also intended to throw one or two baby carrots in, so the color would be more reminiscent of a Minute Maid or Orange Crush soda, but oh well - I forgot : )

I generally like to keep plain seltzer water in the house to quench our cravings for carbonated beverages, but I thought it would be fun to sweeten it up by adding a bit of fruit. Enjoy!

Orange Spritzer

2 oranges, peeled
1 Tbs honey
Orange zest
Seltzer water

Blend all ingredients in blender - except for the seltzer water. Strain the blended ingredients and discard the pulp. Fill 2 or 3 large glasses with ice. Fill the glasses half way with juice and top them off with seltzer.


Product Review - Imagine's Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

      (FYI -They've recently changed the packaging - so it looks slightly different than this pic)

Today marked yet another wondrous day at the dentist. Although my dentist does actually care when I'm in pain, sometimes it seems like dentists in general forget that your mouth is actually attached to your face. That being said, I'm back to sucking down soups; and as much as I love making my own homemade soups, after 2 hours in the dentist's chair, I'm just too tired to move. So this morning - before my fateful appointment - I stopped by my local market for some of my favorite pre-packaged soup: Imagine's Creamy Butternut Squash Soup. As the name suggests, it's creamy and also, it's oh so delicious. I first tried this soup about 10 years ago, and it's still as good  now as it was then. Although I occasionally spice it up by adding curry or cinnamon, it's one of the few soups that I find perfectly balanced in flavors - so I also like plain, right out of the container.

What I like about it:

First, it's organic, which is always a plus. Second, it only has a handful of ingredients; and better, I recognize and can pronounce them all. There are no weird additives or unidentified who-knows-what lurking in my bowl. There's also only 2 grams of fat and 90 calories per serving. So, if I'm really famished or have to go a whole day without chewing, I can unabashedly knock back the entire 4-serving container, and this would only set me back 360 calories and 8 grams of fat. Not bad for an unassuming (big) bowl of soup.

So, if your looking to try something new - and need a bit of a break from the kitchen - I'd absolutely, 100% recommend you get yourself some of Imagine's Butternut Squash Soup.

Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman

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Fresh Ginger-Aid Soda - Recipe

This past week, I've been busy trying to get a term paper together, healing from multiple dentist appointments, and fighting off allergies and the cold I caught from my husband. My stomach has been growling, out of control, with discomfort for the past couple of days. I have a feeling it's due to the zinc lozenges I've been supplementing with. So, I bought some seltzer/soda water to sip on and figured I'd experiment with a little homemade ginger ale - hoping for a little added relief. I've never made this recipe before and I think I'll tweak it a bit in the future to make it more like store-bought ginger ale. As for it's medicinal usage, I'm sipping on it as I type, so we'll see if it works it's tummy-calming magic in time for class tonight : )

Here goes...

Fresh Ginger-Aid Soda (makes 2 large servings)

1 1/2 cups green grapes
1/4 cup water
pinch of fresh lime zest
juice from 1/2 lime
2 tsp honey
1 inch chunk of fresh ginger
12 oz seltzer water

Blend all ingredients in blender - except for the seltzer water. You will add this later. Strain the blended ingredients and discard the pulp. Fill 2 large glasses with ice. Fill the glasses half way with juice and top them off with seltzer. Sip and wait for some healin'...


Steals & Deals at your local Asian Market

                                                 Produce Bill (partial) for Household of 2

This post is all about the joys of shopping at your local Asian grocery store. Here in the metro DC region, where I live, there are tons of Asian markets around. Large ones, small ones, independent ones and chains. The ones near me also have sizable sections devoted to middle eastern and Latin/Hispanic foods (two communities with a large presence here). The two largest chains (at least in this area) are the Korean-owned "H-Mart"and "Grand Mart". Although I occasionally shop at Grand Mart, H-Mart is where I'm sure to find a large assortment of inexpensive "conventional" produce and other specialty goodies such as seaweeds galore, kimc
hee, burdock root, persimmons, gigantic aloe leaves, sugar cane, durians, jackfruit, lychee, young coconuts, tamarind, multiple types of dates, 3 or 4 varieties of bananas, dragon fruits; the list goes on and on. What's more, a lot of the produce consists of items I've never heard of or tasted - which is exciting to me. So if you're adventurous when it comes to food, an Asian mart is a great place to try lots of interesting new things.

Although I love eating organic (and sometimes do), as an occasionally employed, apartment-dwelling, grad student and housewife, this is not usually an option. So, for the past 5 years or so, most of our fresh food comes from the Asian mart. On average most fruits and vegetables there cost between .50 cents to $1.00 cheaper (per pound) than at say, Giant or Safeway. And when you eat a lot of fruit and veg, these things add up. Although there are a few items that compare within .10 or .20 cents, most items at the Asian mart are significantly cheaper. And cheaper doesn't mean lower quality, either. These aren't second-rate, fallen-off-the-back-of-a-truck vegetables. The majority of them are the same brands, companies and packaging as at a regular grocery store.

To illustrate just how much you can save, check out the graphic above of some of the items I purchased this past week. To compare, I took a little field trip to Giant to see what I would have paid for the same items. I was quite impressed with just how much I'm saving (More than $23 dollars!). Although I bought -and saved - lots more, I chose only to include items that were at least .50 cents cheaper. There was even one item, a young white coconut that was $4 more expensive at Whole Foods than it was at my beloved Asian mart (Giant and Safeway never have young, white coconuts so I couldn't compare this on my chart.). Every week, their deals change, but it's not uncommon to find seasonal specials like .11 cents/lb bananas, or 9 bunches of scallions for $1, or .49 cents/lb apples; the difference is quite staggering when you have a lot of mouths to feed.

The bottom line: Asian marts have a few organic items like sprouts, mushrooms and a few odd grocery items; but if you're looking for organic fruits and vegetables, this is probably not the store for you. I also don't suggest shopping at an Asian mart for things like toiletries or packaged goods, because the regular grocery stores usually have better sales on these items. However, when it comes to fresh produce and specialty items, you can be sure to find a plethora of steals and deals at your local Asian mart. And, even if some of the prices are comparable, I think doing a little price-checking is always worth the field trip.

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Peace and Greens, from the Diary of a Smart Black Woman



Turkish Style Green Beans - Recipe

This is my take on the classic Turkish dish of "Green Beans and Olive Oil". I absolutely love the simple combination of flavors used, and especially dig the addition of chopped tomatoes.  Although I think the way the Turks make it is delicious, I wanted to give my own, slightly healthier spin to it. Traditionally, this dish has quite a lot of olive oil in it, but I've used significantly less. Also, the green beans are generally stewed for an hour, until extremely soft, but I wanted to retain some of the crispness; and so mine are cooked in about half the time. I've also tweaked the recipe by adding a bit of lemon. Hopefully I haven't offended any Turks by messing with their classic ; ) - At least, my husband approved!

Turkish Style Green Beans

About 1 lb Green Beans ( I forgot to weigh them, so this is a guesstimate : )

1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 lemon, for juice and zest
2 large tomatoes
1 cup water
Generous pinch of sugar


Wash green beans and trim the ends. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or pot (Use a pot that has a lid). Saute red onions in olive oil until they soften - about 5 minutes. Toss in green beans, salt, pepper, and garlic. Saute 5 minutes more. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half. Using your fingers (or a tomato shark), pull out the seeds and discard them. Then, chop the tomatoes into chunks.

Stir tomatoes, water and sugar into pot. Then, zest 1/2 to 1 whole lemon into pot (I zested the whole lemon. It was tangy but delicious). Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice from both halves into the pot.  Stir, and cover pot. Simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes or until desired tenderness is reached.

Traditionally, this dish is served cold or at room temperature. Although it's great either way, I like to eat mine hot. Well, here's hoping you'll give it a try. Enjoy!