Category Archives: Vegetarian

Bean Prep: Sorting and Rinsing

Beans seem to be a recurring topic here, but why not?  They’re frugal, nutritious, and so versatile.  And they can even be sprouted for more nutrition – but that’s another post.  Today I just want to talk about the prep work involved BEFORE the cooking starts.

 

For my non-bean-converted friends: are you intimidated by the steps involved in preparing beans?  Or do you just think you don’t like the taste? 

 

I wish I had some great segue here, but I don’t – I really just hope to remove the intimidation.  I’ve loved beans ever since I can remember, so I can only urge you to keep trying them different ways.  Baked beans, chicken tortilla soup, and white chili are some ideas to get you started.  And you already like hummus, right?

 

If you’re new to using dried beans, sorting might be the most confusing step.  It doesn’t take long, and it can be kinda fun (especially if you have some OCD tendencies.)  There are many ways you can do this, but here are some methods I’ve used in the past:

 

– Take small handfuls and inspect carefully

 

– Spread the beans out in one layer on the counter or in a large flat pan with sides (like a jelly roll pan) so you can see all the beans (and any foreign objects) all at once

 

– If you’re using a slow cooker, you can pour the beans onto the clear glass lid and spot the misfits pretty easily (although you can’t tell in this picture):

 

lid-with-beans

 

Here are a few things I sorted out of some pintos awhile back:

 

beans-and-pebbles1

 

Those black pebbles are commonly found in a lot of beans, but you DEFINITELY want to fish them out – the one time I didn’t sort my beans, I ended up with a really gritty-tasting soup because those pebbles are concentrated field dirt.  I usually find more in black beans than any other type of bean – maybe they’re sorted with optical scanning equipment so they get by because they appear to be beans?  That’s my theory anyway.

 

I also look for beans that are small and shriveled, excessively dirty (like a black spot covering a whole side of a white bean), or otherwise look old and mishandled.  Beans that are old won’t cook as well and won’t taste as good.

 

The next step – rinsing – is fairly straight forward.  You can put the beans into a large sieve or colander and run under the tap to clean them well.  This is not optional, unless you’re cool with consuming a nice layer of “field dust,” which could include insect droppings, dirt, etc.  A good rinse will remove a lot of this, and the next step should remove the rest.

 

Soaking — the final step — is also easy, but requires a little more forethought.  It becomes mindless pretty quickly, though, once you work all of this into your  weekly kitchen routine.  I will discuss this in more detail in another post.

 

Do you have a favorite bean recipe?  I’m always looking for new ones!

Advertisements

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Pepper

cauli-cu

 

Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, you name it – just about any vegetable is great roasted.  In The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters sings the praises of roasted vegetables when she explains her guests’ astonishment that all she did was “toss them with a bit of oil and salt and throw them in the oven.”

 

A couple years ago, Husband and I ate dinner at some friends’ house we had just met (shout out to JW!).  I was pregnant with my son, and they made Indian food – a reliable indicator that we would get along well.  Roasted cauliflower was one of the side dishes, and it made such an impression that now my preferred method of preparing cauliflower is roasting.  I wish I could remember how theirs was seasoned, but (unfortunately) the pregnancy fog takes over from there.  Some kind of curry?  I wonder if she remembers. J

 

I usually go Alice Waters’ route when roasting vegetables – tossing them in olive oil and seasoning with sea salt.  Really, it’s a foolproof method for veggie success.  Tonight I mixed things up a bit with fresh lemon and pepper, but this is still so simple that I shouldn’t even be calling it a recipe.  If you try it, though, you will enjoy it.  Because roasting is the formula for gustatory awesomeness.

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Pepper

 

1 head of cauliflower, washed

Olive oil to coat

Lemon wedges

Freshly ground pepper

Sea salt

 

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop the cauliflower into equal bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl.  Toss in enough olive oil to coat, but not so much that it pools up at the bottom.  Squeeze a couple of lemon wedges on the cauliflower, add in some freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste, and toss again.

 

2. Spread the cauliflower out on a baking sheet and roast until the edges start browning (20 minutes? I’m terrible about timing).

 

3.  Serve as a side dish with salmon and millet pilaf if your toddler doesn’t eat it all first!

 

cauli-w-dinner

 

Part of Fight Back Fridays and the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Buckwheat Pancakes

buckwheat-pancake-cu

 

Alas, the long-awaited buckwheat pancake recipe!  I really wanted to post a gluten-free pancake recipe, but this is all I’ve got.  Maybe next time I’ll try coconut flour instead, since I’ve had good results with it so far.  Meanwhile, no pancakes for me. L

 

The flour is soaked overnight with milk, sweetener, and yeast to form a sponge.  We had this batch for dinner, though, so it only sat around for about six hours.  Strangely enough, we usually only have pancakes at dinner.  Do you love breakfast for dinner as much as I do?

 

Buckwheat Pancakes

 

Start with the sponge:

 

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 cups warm milk (I used almond milk)

1 tsp sucanat or honey

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups freshly ground wheat flour (I used hard white)

1 cup buckwheat flour

 

1.  Pour ½ cup of milk into a cup and stir in yeast and sweetener.  Let stand until it is foamy (about 15 minutes). 

 

2.  Combine the yeast mixture, the remaining 1 ½ cups of milk, salt, and flours in a large bowl until everything is well-mixed.  It should look like this:

 

buckwheat-pancake-presoak1

 

Let sit on the counter overnight for breakfast, or start the sponge first thing in the morning to have for dinner.  You want it to look sort of like this:

 

after-rise

 

3.  When it’s time to eat, add to the sponge:

 

2 tbsp sucanat or honey

3 tbsp melted coconut oil or butter

2 eggs

½ tsp baking soda

 

Here’s my little tip: melt the coconut oil in the skillet you plan on using, then pour it into the batter.  This way, you’ve already greased your pan!  Now you’re ready to make the pancakes.  You already know how to make pancakes, right?  Just in case you don’t…

 

4.  Pour a full ladle of batter in the center of a hot skillet.  (The heat, however, should be at medium.)  Turn when it’s nice and bubbly and cook until slightly crispy on the other side.  Enjoy with your favorite toppings!  We’re simple maple syrup or fruit kind of people.

 

buckwheat-pancakes

 

And do you see those blueberries in the picture?  Those are the VERY LAST of my freezer stash.  I’m pretty sure I said I was using these up like a month ago, but I love my blueberries, so I held onto them as long as possible.  I guess I’ll have to wait 3-4 months to get some more!

 

Do you have a favorite pancake recipe?  If it’s gluten-free, please share!

Pasta e Fagioli

We’re eating from the cupboards this week, and pasta e fagioli is right in line with that! 

 

Traditionally a peasant food, this soup is always made with pasta and beans (hence the literal translation of the name).  I’m not a huge pasta fan – mainly a textural issue, and it’s also pretty nutritionally devoid – but I had some leftover macaroni from my Christmas mac and cheese side dish contribution, and this is the only thing I could stomach it in.  The combination of ingredients here is very flexible and reflects what I had in the house today.

 

The pasta overtook the dish, but I promise there are lots of little white beans in there!

The pasta overtook the dish, but I promise there are lots of little white beans in there!

 

 

Pasta e Fagioli

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tsp of your favorite Italian seasonings (I used a combination of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, and basil)

2 bay leaves

2 quarts (8 cups) beef bone broth

1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 cup macaroni (or other small pasta)

1 can diced tomatoes

½ cup green beans (from freezer)

Freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste

 

1. Heat oil in a large pot until it is very hot but not smoking.  Add onions and carrots (you should hear a loud sizzle!), sautéing until soft.  Then add garlic and all the aromatics, sautéing for just a couple more minutes.  I don’t add salt and pepper until later since it interferes with cooking the beans.

 

2.  Add broth and bring to a boil, then add beans and cook until soft.  This step will take the longest – an hour or two, depending on the age and quality of the beans.  This step can be shortened by using pre-cooked beans, but I didn’t have any on hand.

 

3.  When beans are almost soft enough to eat, add pasta to the pot.  You can also add salt and pepper at this step.  If everything is timed well, the pasta and beans should be done about the same time.  Then add tomatoes and green beans to heat through (I don’t like them to be overcooked).

 

4.  Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, a dollop of crème fraîche, or eat it simply by itself.

 

Enjoy this inexpensive yet filling dinner!

 

Part of the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Mardi Gras

Hopefully that title didn’t make you think I was posting about king cakes – if so, sorry.  Today is Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras), and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.  I’ve decided to give up chocolate this year, which means I won’t be able to indulge in my beloved chocolate milk, so why not go out with a bang and post my chocolate syrup recipe?

 

This chocolate syrup is no different than any other one you’ll find out there, except that I’ve made substitutions on the sugar.  Most recipes call for white sugar, but I used half sucanat and half dark muscovado sugar.  The muscovado is new to me, so by all means substitute brown sugar instead or use mostly sucanat and add a small amount of maple syrup or molasses.  I’ve heard that sucanat can be used in place of both brown sugar and white sugar, but I find that it needs a tiny bit more molasses to be substituted with conventional brown.  You’ll have to play with it anyway to get it just to your taste, but it’s nearly impossible to make a bad batch – you just add more of whatever is lacking.  And do not omit the salt – it just won’t taste right.

 

Why the unrefined sugars?  Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with blood sugar issues.  Sucanat and muscovado sugar won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar like the refined ones do, plus they’re loaded with vitamins.  Who knew sugar could kind of, sort of be good for you?

 

One last note – this is not supposed to be a thick sauce.  This is best in milk or coffee, and maybe on ice cream, but don’t expect a fudgy sauce.

 

Chocolate Syrup

 

¼ cup cocoa

¼ cup sucanat

¼ cup dark muscovado sugar, tightly packed

A couple pinches of finely ground sea salt

½ cup water

Dash of pure vanilla extract

 

1. Measure out the first four ingredients and mix together well.  These are things that like to get clumped together, so break up the clumps as well as you can.

 

choc-syrup-1

 

2. Add the water and put on the stove at medium heat.  I like to work out any remaining clumpiness at this step, too.

 

choc-syrup-2

 

3. Bring to a boil, and let it stay there for a minute.  Then turn off the heat and pour the syrup into a liquid measuring cup.  After it’s cooled a bit – like when it’s not too hot to touch – add the vanilla and stir.  It is now ready to serve, or you can wait until it cools to room temperature.  Enjoy it with a glass of raw milk or some almond milk.

 

choc-syrup-3

 

If you’re in possession of self-control, you can make a larger batch and keep it in a squeeze bottle in the refrigerator.  I, however, am a profligate chocoholic and can’t handle having too much of this around at one time.

Chocolate Chili: Second Attempt

choc-chili

 

Our first attempt was this recipe, which was totally inedible to us.  But now, Husband and I have come to the consensus that we just don’t like chocolate in our chili.  The recipe we tried tonight was from my friend Heidi, who is an excellent cook, so at least we could eat our dinner this time.  The complex sweetness of the cocoa and molasses is countered a bit by the chili powder and other savory flavors, so I’m sure there are others out there who would enjoy this.  For instance, if you like the Mexican dish mole, you would really enjoy this chili.  (We’re not into mole!  But I know lots of people who are.)

 

Here is Heidi’s recipe; we used a pound of dried beans (mixture of pinto, black, and kidney instead of canned beans:

 

Vegan Chocolate Chili

 

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

5 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons chili power

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon cumin

1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 14 ounce can of tomatoes with green chiles, or tomatoes with jalapenos if you want it spicier

3 tablespoons molasses

3 tablespoons of cocoa powder

2 14 ounce cans of kidney beans

1 14 ounce can of pinto beans

1 14 ounce can of black beans

 

Sauté the onions and peppers in the olive oil in a large pot, covered on low-medium for about 10 minutes or until a bit soft and browned.  Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.  Add the spices and cook for another minute then add the tomatoes, molasses, cocoa powder, and beans and cook on low-medium heat for about 20 minutes.  If it looks too thick you can add a can of tomato sauce or some water. Turn off heat and serve after about 10 minutes.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Just so you know, this is one of my all-time favorite soups.  It can be modified to be completely vegan (although I prefer it with cheese on top) or loaded with lots of chicken.  I will start with a recipe for how I made mine last night, detailing other substitutions I’ve made below.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced (seeds = heat, so remove seeds if you don’t like it hot)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tsp chili powder

2 quarts vegetable broth

2 cups crushed tomatoes

3 cups black beans, cooked

1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded

2 cups corn, frozen (use fresh when in season)

¼ cup fresh cilantro

 

Suggested toppings:

 

Tortilla chips

Grated cheese (I like pepper jack – adds even more spice!) or crème fraîche

Sliced avocado

Chopped scallions

 

1.  In a dutch oven/stock pot/whatever you make soup in, heat the olive oil on medium.  When hot, add onion and jalapeno, sautéing until onion changes color.  Add garlic and sauté a little longer, being sure not to burn garlic.  Then add broth and crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.

 

2.  Once it comes to a boil, add beans, chicken, corn and cilantro and heat through.  Since I used precooked ingredients (all leftovers!), this was all quick and easy.

 

3.  Top with your choice of toppings and serve!

 

tortilla-soup

 

This batch is on the brothier side because I don’t measure.

 

Now here are my copious notes – I have been making this for a long time, so I kind of have a lot to say. J

 

         I make at least one large batch of beans every week for various meals.  Often I have a little more than I need, so I freeze the cooked beans in three cup portions so I can just thaw them in the refrigerator as needed.  You could also use canned beans or turn this into a slow cooker meal to cook it from dried beans and uncooked chicken.  Just don’t add the corn until close to the end or it will get mushy.

 

         I’ve made this using boneless, skinless breasts before, but it’s more expensive that way – which is why I just cook a whole chicken now and portion out the meat.  Just sauté the chicken with the onion and jalapeno if using uncooked chicken.

 

         Fire-roasted corn is great in here, too.  Many months from now, when fresh corn is easy to come by locally, just roast some on your grill and cut it off the cob to add in.

 

         For a milder flavor, use a milder pepper than the jalapeno.  Or use a 4 ounce can of chopped green chiles.

 

         For a beanier soup, omit the chicken and substitute the chicken for some pinto beans.  I would switch to bone broth for more nutrition, too.

 

         In the summer, roasted red bell peppers are a great addition, too.

 

I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll have to add to it later.  Let me know if you make any fun substitutions!

 

This recipe was submitted to the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.