The Namaste Counsel


Vegan Holiday Picks

rice and beansIf you know anything about me, you’ll know that I became vegetarian 50 years ago. What my mom said was a “phase” turned into a lifestyle gradually eliminating other foods as I learned more about health and nutrition. Now, I follow a vegan, gluten-free (mostly grain-free), low-glycemic diet. At age 65, I take zero meds and feel stronger and healthier than ever. Of course, it helps that I’m a certified yoga therapist, pilates instructor, and fitness coach. 

Many years ago, when I lived in Miami, I represented a pharmaceutical company that presented us with research about how many pounds the average American gained between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I was floored. As a holistic wellness coach, I formulated a series of workshops in weight management and digestive disorders. One element that is crucial to both is mindful eating. Yet, we live in a society where we pop things in a microwave or head to a drive-thru and eat in our car on the highway.

Holiday meals should focus more on gratitude and sharing time with friends and family. NOT on loading plates and cups with unhealthy choices. We need to keep in mind the slogan, Eat to Live. Not Live to Eat.

Basic Beans  

high protein legumesWhen I contemplated leaving my corporate job, I created an Excel sheet of essential expenses. For food, I based it on rice and beans for the staples. The variety of recipes based on grain and legumes is endless. Moreover, the combo balances all the necessary amino acids for high-quality protein.

With that in mind, consider making beans your holiday star. Following are two recipes that I’ve made for decades.

Mexican Black Bean Soup

On one of my many trips to Mexico, I ate the best black bean soup in a tiny inexpensive open-air coastal restaurant with the menu written on a blackboard. I tried to replicate it the best I could. Like most authentic recipes, this one doesn’t have real measurements. Everything is a dash of this, or “al ojo.” Take my listings with a grain of salt and throw in as much or as little of the spices as you like. While I highly recommend using dry beans, I typically use organic canned beans. 


  • 5 cups of cooked black beans 
  • 4 roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 medium to large cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 chile ancho peppers (whole)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1.5 teaspoons each of salt, pepper, Tajin (brand Mexican seasoning), turmeric, oregano, cumin, and coriander
  • 1/4-1/2 avocado per serving 


  1. In a large pot, heat some olive oil and sauté everything but the beans and avocados.
  2. When onions look transparent, add in the beans and a few cups of water. Let simmer for at least 10-15 minutes. 
  3. Turn off the flame and let the soup cool a bit. Then remove the chili peppers, ladle it, in portions, into a blender until the soup has a nice thick smooth consistency. You may want to add more water.
  4. Put back in the pot with the chili peppers, heat and serve. Top with avocado slices.

Cuban Black Bean Soup

Living in Miami for eight years, as a vegetarian, black beans and white rice were my staples. Now, I avoid rice. You can make the traditional black and white dish, or substitute brown rice. Better yet, use quinoa which is an excellent protein-dense seed, versus a grain.

black beansIngredients

  • 1.5 cups of dry black beans 
  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 medium to large cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 ají (whichever form of spicy pepper you like, or skip it)
  • 1 green pepper, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes
  • a bag of chifles or platanitos  


  1. Place beans and water in a pressure cooker for about 25 minutes.
  2. While beans are cooking, make your sofrito sauteeing the onion, garlic, and peppers. 
  3. When beans are fully cooked, add the sofrito to the pot of beans. Take a potato masher and mash the bean soup to the consistency you like. 
  4. Add in the spices and vinegar, mix, and serve with rice or quinoa. There’s nothing better than Cuban black bean soup with homemade green banana patacones, but you can take a shortcut by buying store-bought chifles or platanitos.

Try one, or both. Let me know your thoughts, or share your favorite bean and rice recipe.

Somehow, in the I me mine world that we live, emotional and physical well being has escaped the vast majority. The Namaste Counsel encourages simple proven practices to live a healthier and happier life. Any time. Any where. By anyone.
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