Food Columnist Judi Leaming provides a few recipes she picked up during a recent meeting of “The Lunch Bunch,” which is hosted and led by Julianna Pax.

I was reluctant to leave Cambridge for our visit to the family in Savannah and our escape onward to Florida until after the January meeting of "The Lunch Bunch," which is hosted and led by Julianna Pax.

Julie is a food science nutritionist who retired from full-time teaching in Montgomery County but who still offers classes on nutritional eating at Chesapeake College and she spends a lot of time leading programs at the Adkins Arboretum AND she teaches line-dancing at the YMCA. Julie clearly practices what she "preaches" about maintaining a healthy body.

In advance of each Lunch Bunch meeting, we are provided with the menu for that month which Julie has researched and developed. This season she is concentrating on the foods that might have been used by the Native Americans who occupied our area so long ago. I confess that normally Julie uses recipes with foods and combinations of spices that I would not normally try … but I've learned a lot and discovered some great and healthy recipes thanks to Julie.

This column features three of January's recipes and I can sincerely recommend all of them to you. The nuts that you might think are just a garnish for the soup really are an important ingredient that gives you a very pleasant texture contrast so don't ignore them. Think of the Kale, Corn and Beans as either a salad or a side dish – just try it! And, of course, you'll want to make the cookies. Trust me, you will LOVE them!

To contact Judi Leaming, email

Pumpkin Soup Northeastern

1 (29-ounce) can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)

4 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice OR 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon OR 1/2 teaspoon of each

8 tablespoons chopped walnuts or slivered almonds

Place pumpkin in a stockpot and whisk in chicken broth to blend. Stir in maple syrup (or honey) and seasonings. Simmer for about 5 minutes and garnish each of 8 bowls with 1 tablespoon of the nuts of your choice. Do not omit the nuts because these add an outstanding texture contrast. Serves 6 to 8. (102 Calories per serving.)

Kale, Corn and Beans

6 cups chopped kale (1/2 pound)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup diced onion

1 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced into small pieces

1/2 cup water or chicken broth

1 cup frozen yellow corn kernels

1 (15.5-ounce) can garbanzo or black beans, rinsed well and drained

1 tablespoon fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried oregano)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Fresh lemon juice, rice vinegar or hot sauce

Wash kale and remove any large stalks. Discard stalks. Stack and slice leaves into bite-size pieces; set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet that has a tight-fitting lid. (A glass lid is nice because you can watch what is going on without lifting the lid.) Add onion and potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring several times. Add water (broth); cover and simmer for 10 minutes just until potatoes are tender. Add kale then add corn, drained beans and seasonings. Cover and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes until kale just turn a bright green – watch carefully and do not overcook. Serve warm or at room temperature and offer lemon juice, rice vinegar or hot sauce to season to taste. Serves 8. (178 calories per serving)

Mexican Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

5-ounces unsweetened Bakers baking chocolate

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose enriched flour

1/4 cup baking cocoa powder

3 large eggs

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Place unwrapped chocolate into a 4-cup glass measuring cup or large bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes and stir (should be completely melted). Add sugar, butter, oil and vanilla extract. Stir, Microwave for 30 seconds and stir again. (You just want the sugar to start melting but do not allow to boil). In a larger bowl combine the flour, baking cocoa and baking powder. Stir with a fork to mix. Add the chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon. One at a time, add the eggs to the batter beating with a spoon to fully incorporate each egg. Batter will be very stiff but keep beating until well incorporated. Shape batter into 2 logs, each about 12 inches long. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes until the dough is firm to the touch. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread half of the confectioners sugar onto a plate. Slice each log into 12 pieces and roll each slice into the sugar, coating both sides. Cut each slice in half and place each half onto the prepared baking sheets. (Cookies will spread so leave room.) Bake for 10 minutes until they are still moist inside. They will not look baked. Remove from oven and flatten each one using the bottom of a glass that you dip into the remaining confectioners' sugar. Confectioners sugar will start to melt and partially form a glaze. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for about 30 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack. Baked cookies can be frozen in an air-tight container OR store one of the rolls in the refrigerator without baking for up to one week. Each cookie contains 66 calories. These taste so good that you'll probably need to keep them frozen so that you don't eat the entire batch all at once.