Looking for a quick and easy, budget-friendly power meal? Look no further than Chana Masala. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

I think I’ve finally gotten over my holiday baking mode and am back to reality. Sort of. For the next several weeks, I plan to pepper my column (and my own life) with more healthy choices including vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Don’t worry though, I won’t completely leave out more decadent offerings. I’m just looking for a good balance to get us all through the winter.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at iwrite33@comcast.net.

Let’s kick off this plan with a version of Chana Masala that’s not only quick, easy and inexpensive to make but deserves a permanent place in your meal rotation.

I usually serve this concoction over basmati rice or with naan, but it’s also delicious on its own, nestled into roasted acorn squash halves or spooned over baked potatoes.

Although the instructions say you can cook the chana for just 10 minutes and be done with it, I consider that to be the express version. The dish is even better if you allow it to simmer on the lowest heat for half an hour or so. Cooking it in the morning or even a day ahead to allow time for those delicious spices to totally integrate with the chickpeas and sauce is another option.

Don’t let the array of spices in these recipes intimidate you. Ditto for the nutritional yeast and nuts. Find everything at your local health food store, where all these items are sold in bulk, and purchase just what you need.


One last tip: This recipe goes together quickly, so measure all the spices and do your chopping before you turn that stove burner on.

Believe it or not, these roasted veggies are a favorite after-school snack for the teens in my life. It also makes a great complement to the masala main dish.

Spicy Glazed Walnuts are a terrific snack (and a stellar brain food) for whenever you need a little lift. A handful of these provides just the right amount of sweet, spice and guilt-free pleasure. They also are a lovely gift for a friend, so you may want to make a double batch.

Chana Masala

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 green serrano chili pepper, seeded if preferred, and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (28-ounce can) chickpeas or 3 cups cooked chickpeas
Fresh lemon slices, for garnish
Cilantro, for garnish

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles when hitting the pan, reduce heat to medium-low and add cumin seeds. Stir and toast for a minute or two until fragrant.

Raise the heat to medium and stir in onion, garlic, ginger and serrano. Cook for a few minutes then stir in garam masala, coriander, turmeric, salt and cayenne (if using). Cook for 2 minutes more.


Add tomatoes. Raise heat to medium-high and add chickpeas. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Garnish with lemon slices and chopped cilantro. Yield: 4 servings

Crispy Broccoli & Cauliflower with Cashew Drizzle

1 small head cauliflower
1 head broccoli
2 tablespoons canola, grapeseed or avocado oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, mix oil, nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cut cauliflower and broccoli into small florets. Add to the bowl and toss to coat.

Place the florets on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time.

Meanwhile, put cashews and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor and pulse a few times. With the processor running, add water and blend until the mixture is the consistency of a thin creamy soup. Drizzle over vegetables when serving. Yield: 4 servings

Spicy Glazed Walnuts

1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup raw honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coconut oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with coconut oil. In a medium bowl, combine honey, cinnamon, sea salt and cayenne. Add walnuts and stir until well-coated. Spread walnuts on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield: 4 servings

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