“Superior” Veggie Burgers

I used to eat a lot of store bought name brand veggie burgers. I had one particular brand that I ate at least once a week. But then I started thinking about the long list of mysterious ingredients on the box. It concerned me so I gave those up pretty quickly.

Since then I have been searching for a recipe for homemade veggie burgers that suits me. Some were OK, but the biggest problem I found with my homemade veggie burgers was the texture. These recipes almost all rely on some combo of beans and grains (Hey perfect for a website such as this) and the result is a texture that tends to be mushy or crumbly. I’ve tried many, many recipes and have not been bowled over by any of them.

Last week I came across the “Superiority Burger” named for the Superiority Burger restaurant in New York City. I found an adapted recipe for their burger in the Washington Post. The recipe is vegan and is based on quinoa and chickpeas and it’s a superior veggie burger with superior texture AND taste.

I like this one! The texture is pretty good. Mine had a bit of a crunch on the outside and were moist and flavorful on the inside. My carnivore husband took a taste and even he thought it was tasty.

The ingredients list is rather long and the recipe takes a while to pull together. I probably worked on these for an hour or more.

Here is a link to the Washington Post Recipe:

Superiority Burgers, Washington Post Adaptation

I’m sure the recipe is great as written but, as is my normal routine… I did make a few small changes:

  1. I didn’t have a lemon on hand so I used a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  2. I used two tablespoons of ground flax seed with 4 tablespoons of water rather than the potato starch as a binder.
  3. Instead of making 8 large patties, I made 15 small patties. I formed my patties with the ring from the lid of a small mouth Mason Jar so that they are fairly uniform. I plan on freezing most of the patties for later use.
  4. I baked my burgers instead of pan frying. That seemed easier for 15 burgers. I baked them at 425 degrees on a parchment paper lined sheet pan for 15 minutes on each side.

And here is a picture of my burger, ready to eat (lots of pickle!)

Gotta say – veggie burgers just aren’t that pretty!

And finally, here is a link to the cookbook, Superiority Burgers by Brooks Headley, which has lots of great vegan sandwich recipes as well as delicious looking sides and desserts!

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Tabbouleh and Hummus

OK – this is the last Cookbook Challenge recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I had a huge bunch of parsley that needed to be used up so tabbouleh seemed like the perfect choice. And what better to go with tabbouleh than hummus with some warm pitas. That makes a nice meal.

I usually think of tabbouleh as a grain salad because it is made with bulgur wheat. While it does have bulgur in it, it is really an herb salad; lots and lots of herbs, a few vegetables and some bulgur to go along with.

I followed the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian recipe (more or less) exactly – with one glaring exception. I was a little short of mint. My mint plant was not as prolific as it needed  to be. I only had about a quarter cup of mint.

Ingredients for tabbouleh

So here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh parsley
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup scallion
  • 1 really good tomato

I used Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur. I cooked the bulgur according to package directions, and I actually cooked some extra because I had another use for it. Bulgur is a terrific whole grain because it cooks very quickly. With a ratio of 1 part grain to 2 parts water, the bulgur was cooked in about 15 minutes.

Once the bulgur was cooked and slightly cooled it was time to start chopping. Roughly chop the parsley and mint. Chop the scallion and tomato. The tomato is optional. You can skip it if you don’t have a really delicious one on hand.

In a large bowl add the cooked bulgur (about a cup and a half), herbs, tomato, scallion, olive oil and lemon juice.

Tabbouleh ingredients, chopped

Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beautiful Bowl of Tabbouleh

This tabbouleh is gorgeous. It looks so fresh and flavorful!

Next up, I prepared the hummus. Earlier in the day I had cooked a pot of chickpeas. I used Rancho Gordo chickpeas.

In my small crock pot I cooked about a cup of chickpeas with 4 cups of water. I let them cook all day as the recipe calls for them to be well cooked.

Ingredients for Hummus – except for the lemon!

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 cups well-cooked, drained chickpeas (reserve the cooking liquid)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 peeled cloves of garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon cumin or paprika (and a little more for garnish)
  • salt and pepper

Tahini is a sesame paste. It looks like peanut butter. Most stores carry it. You may find it in the peanut butter aisle. Or it might be in the Kosher section. It will keep for a long time in the refrigerator.

Hummus ingredients – ready to process

Put chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon, paprika in a food processor. I have two food processors and I always use the larger, more powerful one for hummus so that I end up with a smoother result.  Turn on the processor. Add cooking liquid as needed (in small amounts) to get a smooth puree.

Dinner

For dinner I served the hummus and tabbouleh with some warm pita bread. I used Ezekiel pocket breads. They are made from whole grains and they don’t have any weird ingredients. You can find those in the freezer section of well stocked stores.  served a yogurts sauce that I made using Greek yogurt, lemon juice and some spicy chili paste, like Srirachi. And I chopped up some cucumbers, red pepper and romaine lettuce.

The Verdict: This was a fantastic dinner. The tabbouleh was just perfect. It was so fresh tasting. It had a lot of lemon so it was very bright. The bulgur gave the salad a nice nutty quality. That was great. I am in love with that recipe. I have eaten lots of tabbouleh in my day and this was the best. Husband ate seconds and thirds of this salad.

The hummus was delicious also. I make hummus from time to time and we aren’t usually all that thrilled with the outcome. But this hummus was great. It was balanced. Not too tart. Not too garlicky. It was just right. Husband was very impressed too.

We made pita sandwiches with hummus and lots of vegetables. The tabbouleh tasted great as a side dish but it was also terrific tucked into the pita sandwich.

I loved both of these recipes and I will definitely make them again. This is the only hummus recipe that I will use in the future. Delicious!

 

 

 

Colorado Beans and Grains

As noted in my last post, Husband and I are on an extended vacation in Durango, Colorado. We are staying in our 27′ travel trailer in the beautiful Haviland Lake National Forest Campground.

One thing that I have recently learned is that we are in close proximity to the “Pinto Bean Capital of the World”. Yup, Dove Creek, Colorado, a mere 80 miles from where we are staying is the self-proclaimed Pinto Bean Capital of the World. In addition to pinto beans, we have found a wide variety of unusual and interesting beans grown in these environs.

Last week we made a quick stop at the Durango natural food store, Nature’s Oasis. They had in stock three very interesting beans varieties grown on local farm, La Paloma Dove Creek Bean Company LLC.

We found a bag of Cranberry Beans.

Cranberry Beans

A bag of Zuni Gold, a variety I have not heard of.

Zuni Gold

Last, but certainly not least, a bag of Mortgage Lifter beans.

Mortgage Lifter Beans

These beans were well priced at $1.95 a pound. La Paloma does not have a website. You can order directly from the owner, Mike Coffey, 970-677-2445, PO Box 552, Dove Creek CO, 81324. They grow 10 different varieties of heirloom and antique beans.

A few words about the beans I purchased: Zuni Gold beans are originally from Mexico and are now uniquely grown in the Four Corners region. Apparently they are somewhat rare and hard to find. Lucky me! The cranberry beans are originally from Columbia. They get their name from the cranberry colored markings on the skin. They look a lot like a pinto bean. And now the Mortgage Lifter, you just have to love that name! This is a gigantic white bean. Supposedly it has a very meaty taste and is good in soups and stews. It is said that the name comes from a farmer who was about to lose his land, but an unusually good crop of this bean saved him and thus lifted the mortgage.

Adobe Milling is a large producer of beans and other Southwest goodies. They are also located in Dove Creek CO.  In the local Durango grocery store I found several beans produced and packaged by Adobe Milling.

Adobe Milling Beans

I bought a bag of Pinto Beans. As this is the Pinto Bean Capital I felt that I certainly must sample some! According to the bag, Anasazi beans were one of the few crops cultivated by the Anasazi Indians. The Anasazi Indians are known for their cliff dwellings which they inhabited as early as 130 A.D. Wow! The Anasazi bean has a slightly sweet flavor and is good with all kinds of Mexican food. And finally, the Bolita bean is originally from Mexico from New Mexico, brought there by the Spanish. They are a little sweeter than a pinto bean and have a quicker cooking time. Again, I learned this from the Adobe Milling package. Can’t wait to try them for myself.

I now have eight pounds of beans to haul back to Texas. That’s OK. I can never get enough beans!  Husband is very patient with my extensive bean shopping.

What about the grains? I did find some locally milled flours. But my big grain find was a bag of dried posole, packaged by the Fernandez Chile Company of Alamosa. CO.

Fernandez Posole

Posole is a very large white kernel-ed corn that has been soaked in a lime solution and then dried. Posole has a long history in Mexico. I am familiar with it from the fantastic restaurants in Santa Fe NM that serve it as a side dish cooked with lots of red chili. Posole is like hominy but it is generally purchased dried or frozen.

I am planning to cook this posole while we are on vacation. I have read that I should soak it over night. Then I will put it in my little slow cooker with a ton of New Mexico red chili. That should make a gorgeous soupy dish that I will serve with grated cheese, sliced radishes and finely chopped ice berg lettuce. I’ll let you know how that goes!

Of course, we have been eating lots of beans and grains. Yesterday we stopped and got burritos at Zia Taqueria here in Durango. I love this place. They actually have three types of beans you can get on tacos or burritos; pinto beans, black beans and refried pinto beans. All three are vegetarian and all are locally grown.

Last night I made a farro salad for dinner. I had quick cooking farro. It only took 10 minutes to prepare. To the cooked farro I added chopped red bell pepper’ green onions, celery, carrots, some lightly steamed broccoli, olive oil and vinegar. At the end I decided to throw in some canned, drained chickpeas. This made a great light supper. And I have left overs to eat as a side dish. Very good!

Farro Salad

 

 

Chickpea Tagine and the Best Whole Wheat Couscous Ever!

A tagine is a Moroccan dish that is named after the clay pot that it is cooked in, which is also called a tagine. It comes from a Berber tradition and similar dishes can be found throughout North Africa. Tagines dishes are usually made with some kind of meat, an exotic mix of spices, vegetables and often, some kind of fruit. Traditionally the dish would be cooked over hot coals. This cooking method was popular because it required very little water as a small amount of moisture would create condensation which would then collect in the top of the tagine and then roll back down the sides of the conical-shaped lid.

My Tagine - You Can See Why I Had to Have It!

 

Several years ago I bought a glazed, ceramic tagine. I felt like I had to own it because it was beautiful and I could imagine all sorts of wonderful, exotic meals prepared in it.

Two or three times a year I haul out my tagine and make my version of a Moroccan meal. Last weekend, the mood struck me, and I made a chickpea and butternut squash tagine. I cooked a Moroccan spiced chicken for Husband.  I served that along with some whole wheat couscous.I recently learned the secret to making really good couscous – and I am going to share that with you!

So let me start with the tagine.You don’t have to own a tagine to make this meal. A good Dutch oven will work just as well.  I looked at a number of recipes for tagines and then decided to make up my own, taking a little inspiration from all of them.

I made a spice blend using the following:

  • 1 Tbs. Paprika
  • 1/2 Tbs. Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbs. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 Tbs. Ground Coriander
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon

Tagine Ingredients

 

Earlier in the day I cooked 3/4 cups of dried garbanzo beans. To the tagine pot I added the drained cooked garbanzo beans, 3 cups of cubed butternut squash, a can of Rotel (any diced tomato would work), chopped garlic, chopped dried apricot, lemon peel, a boquet of cilantro and parsley (to be pulled out later), and a healthy dose of the spice blend. I like things to be highly spiced – but you should use your own judgement on that. I added some of the garbanzo bean cooking liquid so that the mixture looked moist.

Tagine Assembled and Ready to Cook

 

My tagine was ready for the oven.

I wanted to make this a meal that Husband would also enjoy. He likes a little more protein with his meal. So I cooked a Moroccan spiced chicken for him. I am a vegetarian so handling a chicken is a problem for me. Husband helped with the prep. He put several cloves of peeled garlic, slices of lemons and oranges into the cavity of the chicken. He put the chicken into my Royal VKB Slowcooker.  We used the Moroccan spice blend as a rub on the outside of the chicken.

Chicken Ready to Cook

 

This cooking dish has a terracotta lid that has to be soaked in water for a few minutes before cooking. We placed the well soaked lid on top and then both the tagine and the chicken were ready for the oven.

 

A Busy Day for my Oven - Tagine and Chicken

 

I put both dishes into a cold oven and turned the temperature to 400 degrees. The pot that the chicken was cooking in cannot go into a hot oven. I figured that would work OK for the tagine as well. I let both the tagine and the chicken cook for an 75 minutes. They both came out looking great.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken

 

I finished the tagine with some grated lemon zest, chopped green olives and some raw cashews that I had toasted.Traditional Moroccan cuisine would use preserved lemons rather than lemon zest. I wish that I had some of those preserved lemons!

Tagine Just Out of the Oven

 

I let the chicken and the tagine rest for a few minutes while I prepared the couscous.Couscous is not technically a grain. It is actually a small pasta. But in this case it was made from whole wheat – so let’s call it a grain! I have never really been crazy about couscous because it always seems a little gummy to me. I’ve never been able to prepare it so that it is delicious and fluffy.  But this is really a great recipe. I saw this on America’s Test Kitchen and now I feel like I have the cracked the couscous problem.

The first thing you need to know is that you should ignore the directions on the couscous box – it calls for too much water. I used RiceSelect While Wheat Couscous.

I finely chopped about a half of an onion. America’s Test Kitchen suggested using a shallot, but I didn’t have one. I sauteed the onion in a little bit of butter and olive oil until it was soft. Then I added one cup of couscous to the pan and toasted that for about 5 minutes. At first it looks like nothing is happening – and then it happens very quickly. So keep an eye on it at this stage. Add one cup of water to the pot (the package directions call for a cup and a quarter).  I added a couple of tablespoons of raisins at this point. Quickly bring the water to a boil. Cover the pot. Remove from heat and let sit for 7 minutes. Perfect, fluffy couscous. Tasted delicious!

Best Couscous Ever!

 

We got some whole wheat flat bread at the store to serve along with this meal. You can see the whole grain stamp on the front of this package.  I heated up our outdoor grill and toasted the flat bread then I brushed it with some good olive oil. The flat bread was tasty – but the list of ingredients was bothersomely long.

Store Bought Flatbread - Notice the Whole Grain Stamp

 

Well – as you can imagine I went to quite a lot of trouble to make this meal. I am sure there are easier ways to get all this done. But sometimes I enjoy the labor of putting together an unusual meal. Since I had gone to all this trouble I decided to go all out and set a romantic table. Serve a nice bottle of wine.  Make it special.

Do It Up Right - Set a Romantic Table!

 

So how was it?  Well – it all tasted really good. I will say that somehow the vegetarian tagine never quite lives up to my expectation. I think that when you slow cook a meat tagine it somehow ends up with a certain richness and body. I’ve never eaten a meat tagine – so that’s just a guess. But my vegetarian version, while very flavorful, seems to lack that unctuousness that I am looking for. I will keep working on that! I am thinking that perhaps the addition of some potatoes would help because they would give off starch and perhaps create a more cohesive sauce.

Finally - Dinner!

 

Husband enjoyed the chicken.

And seriously, that couscous is a winner. I will never follow the package directions again. It was wonderful. That’s the only way to go!

Let me make a few points about the tagine pot. I love my tagine. I think it is gorgeous. But it is a little hard to deal with because it is so tall. I have to put my oven rack on the lowest rung. Also, my tagine cannot go on the stove top. Well maybe it could but I don’t want to risk breaking it. If I had it to do over again, I would buy the Le Creuset Enameled Tagine.

Because it is enameled cast-iron, it can sit directly on the stove top so that you can sautee onions, brown meat, etc. before you put the tagine in the oven. That seems like a plus to me. The one drawback of the Le Creuset is that it is pretty heavy.

There are a lot of interesting websites about tagines and Moroccan food. Here are a few links if you want to learn more:

tagines. com

taginecooking.org

friendsofmorocco.org

And finally, here are some Moroccan cookbooks that I own and enjoy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mourad: New Moroccan – This is a beautiful book with lots of color photos. Some of the recipes are complicated. I would call this a new take on an ancient cuisine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon – Another beautiful book. Lots of great recipes, many that are fairly simple.

 

 

 

 

 

The Vegetarian Table: North Africa (Vegetarian Table Series , Vol 4) – color photos and lots of exotic meatless options.

 

 

Bean and Grain Burgers in the New York Times

Last week I posted about making bean and grain burgers. I adapted my recipe from several several recipes that I had seen by Mark Bittman. As it turns out,at about the time that I was posting, The New York Times was running an article on the same subject; meatless burgers made out of beans, grains and vegetables.

The article was contributed by Martha Rose Schulman, a regular columnist in the food section of The Times. She writes an article called “Recipes for Health”. Her interest is in serving delicious, healthy, seasonal foods. She is an award winning cookbook author (Books By This Author), celebrity chef, educator and food consultant.

On March 26 her article, titled “Tasty Burgers Without the Meat” is not only interesting but gives 4 recipes for meatless burgers.  She likes to serve her burgers as a stand alone item (without the bun). Her recipes sound terrific and are all accompanied by a photo.

Her recipes have the same basic ingredients as the burgers I presented last week – but they have some interesting flavor combinations that I am sure are great.The recipes in The Times are for:

  • Mushroom and Grain Burgers (barley and chickpeas)
  • Quinoa and Greens Burger with Asian Flavors (quinoa and white beans)
  • Curried Lentil, Rice and Carrot Burgers (rice and lentils)
  • Beet, Rice and Goat Cheese Burgers (rice and white beans)

In her article she recommeds a book by Lukas Volger, “Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful and Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Burgers – Plus Toppings, Sides, Buns and More“.

 

Bean Dips, Spreads and Purees: The World Tour

 

Bean dip. Most of us think of this little pop-top can when we think of bean dip. But interestingly, you can find homemade bean dips, spreads and purees in cultures all over the world.  And you can reproduce them at home to good effect. The bean dishes you make at home will be healthier, fresher and certainly more interesting than what you find in a can.

Husband and I recently took the opportunity to cook up and sample a world tour of bean dips, spreads and purees.

Puree de Lentilles au Celeri – first stop, France, for puree of lentils with celery. I found this recipe in “Provence: the Beautiful Cookbook ” by Richard Olney. I used the little green lentils from France called Lentil du Puy. I bought mine at Whole Foods in the bulk section, but you can certainly get them online . These lentils are small, round and speckled. They are supposed to hold their shape very well when cooked. As I was making a puree, that was not a big consideration!

Lentils du Puy

I cooked the lentils in a pot with thyme, bay leaf, two garlic cloves and a large chunk each of celery and carrot. When the lentils were very tender, I fished out the vegetables and aromatics. I pureed the lentil in my food processor until they were quite smooth. I put the lentil puree back in the pot to heat through, then moved it to a serving dish where I topped it with chopped fresh celery, chopped parsley and a chunk of butter. The butter added richness and the celery gave it a nice fresh crunch.

Lentil Puree with Celery

I served that with a homemade seeded ciabatta. That and a tart green salad and we had dinner! Husband actually liked this quite well, to his surprise. He doesn’t generally like lentils.

 Bessara – Berber bean puree from Morocco. This recipe came from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks “Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas” by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Making the dip was a snap. The side dishes I made were a different matter!

To make the bean puree, I cooked a half cup of small red beans  and two large garlic cloves in my little crock pot until the beans were tender.  I put the cooled beans and garlic into my food processor along with dried red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, a good squeeze of lemon and salt to taste.

To accompany the bessara, I made the North African spice blend, harissa. In my mortar and pestle, I ground up a teaspoon each of lightly dry-roasted coriander seeds, caraway seeds and cumin seeds. Then I added two cloves of garlic and a good handful of reconstituted dried red chili arbol. I pounded away until that was a coarse paste. I added olive oil and pounded some more until I had a smooth paste. Making a paste in your mortar and pestle is HARD WORK. No one ever tells you that!

Mortar and Pestle - grinding spices for harissa

I made a loaf of the traditional Moroccan anise bread, ksra, to serve as well. You can find that recipe in Flatbreads and Flavors. Husband doesn’t usually like things that have an anise or licorice flavor, but he did like this bread pretty well.

Ksra; anise bread ready for the oven

I served the bean puree, ksra and harissa with some pickled vegetables. We ate this as dinner. Husband had some roasted chicken as well. The anise bread was good, but you could certainly serve this delicious puree with store bought pita.

Berber bean puree, harissa and ksra

 

Hummus – The Middle East. Ten years ago, who even knew what hummus was? Now it is so common that you can find several brands and several varieties in any grocery store, no matter how remote. Store-bought hummus is pretty good, but I set out to make a better one. And I think I succeeded.

Several years ago, Husband, Daughter and I spent Christmas in London. We had several fantastic meals at a restaurant called Sofra. They started every meal with the best hummus we have ever had. It was extremely flavorful and had a smooth, creamy texture. I wanted to see if I could duplicate that.

I started off with a hummus recipe from the cookbook “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi. I cooked 1/2 cup of chickpeas until they were tender. After letting them cool, I drained the chickpeas and reserved the cooking liquid. Then I pulled the skin off of each and every chickpea. It’s not hard to do. It just takes some patience and some organizational skills.

I put the skinned chickpeas into the food processor along with two heaping tablespoons of tahini, a good squeeze of lemon, one clove of minced garlic and salt to taste. I whizzed that around for a bit and then checked the texture. I added the reserved cooking liquid a tablespoon at a time until I got it to the exact texture I wanted. Husband describes that as the texture of melted peanut butter.

This was excellent hummus. I think the secret is skinning those chickpeas!

Hummus with crispy pita

 

Frijoles Refritos – classic Mexican refried beans. For this recipe I referred to the cookbook, “Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen“. I cooked a half cup of pinto beans. When they were tender, I put a large skillet on medium heat and sauteed a half of a small onion, finely chopped in olive oil. When the onions were soft and starting to brown I added two cloves of chopped garlic and let that cook for a minute or two. Then I add the drained pinto beans along with enough of their liquid to keep things moist. I also added a little bit of chile powder for flavor and kick. Let that cook together for a few minutes.

Put the whole mixture in the food processor and pulse until you reach the desired consistency. I like my refried beans to be quite smooth, you may prefer more texture. Put the mixture back in the skillet to heat through. When you are ready to serve, top it with some grated cheese.

I served the refritos with guacamole, homemade fresh salsa and tortilla chips. This is my kind of food! I could eat this every day. Rick Bayless’s refried beans were ever so much better than the canned variety!

Frijoles refritos, salsa and guacamole

 

Dal and Chapati – India. The way that I understand dal, it is a thick soupy bean dish that would be served every day in an Indian household. The dish “dal” is made with beans called “dal”. There is a huge variety of dal beans. And there is a huge variety in the way that the dal dish can be prepared. I think that it can be served in a thinner version that would be more soup-like, or it can be served in a thicker version that would be be eaten in a scooped up fashion using a flat bread as a utensil. Sort of like a dip…that’s what I was going for here!

I heard once that the trick to dal is to cook the beans until they are tender. Then you cook up all the seasonings in a separate skillet and add that to the beans. So I hunted down a recipe that used that technique. In the end I sort of used an amalgam of several recipes.

I used a cup of masoor dal. I bought this at The Middle Eastern market in my town. They had dozens of kinds of dal. They were quite affordable. Masoor dal looks like little red lentils. I cooked the beans in a pot with water, a little bit of turmeric and some cayenne pepper. The beans started breaking down very quickly, but I cooked them for about 45 minutes.

In a small skillet, I heated some canola oil, sauteed an onion.  When the onion was soft I added turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and grated ginger and let that bloom for a minute.  I put the onion mixture into the blender with a half cup of the cooked dal and pureed. I put the puree in the pot with the remainder of the dal. I added some finely chopped tomato and finely chopped serrano pepper. Then I just let it cook down until it reached a very thick texture. I put in a bit of coconut milk and a squeeze of lime and it was ready to go.

Dal and Chapati

I made some chapatis, an Indian flatbread,  to go with this. But I have to tell you, they didn’t turn out all that great. Mine turned out leathery and flavorless. I think that may require a little practice. Serve yours with some of that good-looking store bought naan bread, and you’ll be in business!

The Bean Dip World Tour – what did I learn? Once I started doing some research on this, I was really surprised by all the kinds of bean puree to be had. I’ve listed five varieties here, and I have barely scratched the surface.

All of these bean dishes are great used as a dip or topping. But they would also be great as a spread for a sandwich or wrap. They make a great side dish for any meal. You can use them for snacks.

They were all pretty easy to make. The ingredients are humble, easy to find and inexpensive. When you have a pot of beans in the refrigerator, turn a portion of them into a dip. I am guessing that you could freeze all of these dips, spreads and purees.

This has been an interesting way to expand my repertoire of bean recipes!

Snacking on Beans and Grains

Here are some ideas how you can power up your daily snacks using beans and grains. Because beans and grains are naturally low in fat and calories, high in fiber and nutrients, adding them to your regular snack repertoire just makes sense.

Muesli and Fruit

Great for breakfast, but also makes a good daytime snack. Not a bad stand-in for dessert.

Muesli with raspberries and blueberries

Mix a quarter cup plain non-fat yogurt, a quarter cup low fat milk or milk substitute and quarter cup of rolled oats. Add either vanilla or cinnamon to season. Sweeten with a teaspoon or so of honey or agave syrup, to taste. Cover the mixture and stick in the refrigerator for at least an hour but over night is OK too. The mixture will thicken and the oats will soften.

I use Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats.  You can’t use steel cut oats here because there is no cooking involved. The steel cut oats won’t soften adequately.

When the mixture has softened, serve in a pretty bowl topped with fruit of your choice. Berries, bananas, pineapple, mango are all good. Top with slivered almonds. This recipe makes a single serving but can easily be doubled, quadrupled etc.

To take this as a snack to work or school, consider using  frozen fruit.  The frozen fruit will keep your muesli cold for a couple of hours and when the fruit has thawed it will make a good mid-morning snack. I particularly like frozen cherries!

 

Edamame – The Easiest Snack Imaginable!

Edamame is immature soybeans still in the pod. This is a popular appetizer to order at sushi restaurants. At my store I can buy frozen edamame in a bag that is microwave safe. You just throw the whole bag in the microwave for a few minutes, open and drain. Then toss the edamame in a bowl with a little bit of sea salt.

Frozen edamame in a microwaveable bag

This is a great snack because you basically have to shell the edamame. The best way to do that is with your teeth. It’s a tasty snack that takes a little bit of work. It slows you down a bit!

Edamame with a bit of sea salt

At the sushi restaurant we go to regularly, they serve a spicy edamame. They toss the cooked edamame in a mixture that I would guess is soy sauce and chili paste. They are messy to eat but still quite good.

 

Roasted Chickpeas

You can serve roasted chickpeas in a bowl, just like you would serve nuts. They are crunchy and salty like nuts. The bonus? Chickpeas have fiber whereas nuts do not!

Chili Roasted Chickpeas

You will need two cups of cooked chickpeas. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Using a clean kitchen towel, get the chickpeas dry as possible. In a large bowl toss the chickpeas with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil. I season this mixture with chili powder but here are some other ideas:

  • a simple sprinkle of sea salt
  • Old Bay
  • curry powder
  • Tabasco
  • any favorite spice rub or blend

Put the seasoned chickpeas on a foil (or Silpat Mat ) lined baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Using a large spoon, stir the mixture once or twice during baking. Let cool slightly before eating or cool completely and store in an air tight container for a couple of days.

These are great as a snack but also make a tasty, crunchy salad topping.

 

And Don’t Forget the Popcorn!

Yes my friends, popcorn is a whole grain. Don’t get the microwave kind. It has too many weird additives. Just buy plain old, simple popcorn. I buy Bob’s Red Mill Premium Popcorn but you can get whatever you find on the shelf in your store.

And here is a simple way to cook it in your microwave. In a large glass, microwave safe bowl, combine 1/4 cup popcorn and a splash of canola or other vegetable oil (leave out the oil if you want it to be fat-free). Cover the glass container with a microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 2 to 4 minutes until there are 1 or 2 seconds between pops. Remove the top carefully so that you don’t get a face full of steam. Your microwave may take more or less time, so don’t walk away from it.

Now I am going to give you some of the best advice you will ever receive. When making microwave popcorn stop the microwave cooking sooner rather than later. You may think “Hey I want every last kernel popped” but don’t do it. Burnt popcorn is awful. It will make your house smell. It will leave a bad taste in your mouth. So sacrifice those last few kernels. Popcorn goes from perfect to awful in the blink of an eye!

You can top your popcorn with a drizzle of butter or olive oil. And be creative with your seasonings. Yes a little salt is good. But try some chili powder or some grated Parmesan. Or give it a dash of curry powder for a real twist! A quarter cup of unpopped popcorn yields about 3 cups popped.

 

 

 

Beans and Grains – I got some for Christmas!

I have a really terrific family. In their effort to be supportive of my blogging, my Sister and my Husband gave me some some great beans and grains gifts for Christmas. I was really excited about the neat things that they found.

My Sister gave me a gorgeous basket that she got at World Market. She packed it full of wonderful and exotic food gifts that she picked out for me. I love getting food gifts! And Sister is excellent at picking out the most interesting items.

The basket had an Asian theme. So the first grain that I received was soba noodles.

Soba Noodles - good and good for you!

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat. They are lower in carbs and calories than regular pasta. And they have a great nutty flavor. Terrific for a Japanese noodle dish. I’ll be looking for some interesting recipes for my soba noodles. If you can’t find these in your store you can purchase them at Amazon: JFC Buckwheat Noodles

Sister also gave me these two interesting spice packs made especially to season chickpeas and kidney beans. You cook your own pot of beans and then add the spice packet along with a few other simple ingredients.

Spice Packet for Chickpeas

Spice Packet for Kidney Beans

These are made by Arora Creations. I checked out their website. They have all kinds of interesting products. I haven’t ever seen these spice packets in my store. I can’t wait to try them out. I see a big pot of chickpeas in my future!

Husband and I didn’t exchange gifts this year. We are going on a big vacation in January and we are calling that our gift to one another. However, we did do stocking stuffers. He found some interesting ways to get beans and grains into my stocking!

He gave me a bag of Smokey Southwest Chili mix. It has both kidney beans and pinto beans and a spice pack. He got this at World Market I think this will be a winner on Super Bowl Sunday!

Chili for Super Bowl Sunday

He also gave me a bag of Whole Grain Quinoa Blend from Urbane Grains. Again, this is a product I have never seen before. The blend he gave me is Thai Red Curry. According to their website they have lots of other flavor blends to choose from and they have a list of retailers where you can find their product. I may have this for dinner tonight. I was thinking of making a Thai style soup for dinner. This would be a good side dish.

Thai Red Curry Quinoa Blend

Last but not least, Husband gave me the most beautiful cookbook called Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. This is a vegetarian cookbook.  The recipes sound fantastic and the color photos make me want to run right into the kitchen and start cooking. This book is absolutely incredible.

The Week Before Christmas – 3 Different Soups

Three Soups and a Christmas Tree

As we were heading into the last few days before Christmas, I had the brilliant idea to make three different types of bean and grain soups. This way I would have my refrigerator loaded with healthy choices. At meal times when we are frazzled and tired, rather than snack on Christmas cookies or order pizza out, we’ll have three healthy soups that just need to be heated up. I am sure that we’ll eat more than our fair share of junk, but at least we have an easy option!

On Sunday I got out my trusty Fagor Pressure Cooker and settled in for a marathon soup-making session. Daughter is at home for the week so I am cooking for three people and I want to make things that will appeal to her too.

Garbanzo Beans and Bulgur Wheat Soup – This soup was easy to make but the garbanzo beans take a little extra time to get tender.  I didn’t soak that garbanzo beans. After picking over the beans and giving them a quick rinse, I put a cup of beans in my pressure cooker with 4 cups of water. I cooked them on high pressure for one hour. They were just barely tender after an hour. To the pressure cooker I added a cup of crushed tomato, chopped onion, celery and carrot, chopped cabbage, a quarter cup of bulgur wheat and some frozen spinach. For spices, I added a bay leaf, paprika and oregano. I got the pot back up to high pressure and cooked for another 20 minutes. At the end of that time, the garbanzo beans were quite tender and the bulgur still had a little bit of chewiness.

Garbanzo Bean and Bulgur Soup

You could make this soup on the stovetop, no pressure cooker needed, but plan on a good long cooking time for the the garbanzos. Just as  above, get the beans almost tender and then add the remaining ingredients.

My recipe yielded about six cups of soup.

I rinsed out my pressure cooker and started on Soup #2

Split Pea Soup – I love split pea soup but Husband and Daughter won’t touch it. I think that I will freeze half of it…save it for later.

To my pressure cooker I added one cup of green split peas, about 2/3 cup of potatoes in small dice, chopped carrots, celery and onion. I put is some thyme and a bit of smoky paprika. I added four cups of water and set my pressure cooker on high for 45 minutes. That was probably longer than it actually needed, but I like my split peas and potatoes to be really broken down.

Split Pea Soup

The soup was a little thick for my taste. And it will thicken up more in the refrigerator. Rather than thin it down right away I decided that I would just add water as needed when I was heating the soup to eat. My recipe yielded about 5 cups of soup.

I serve this with a lemon wedge and some pumpernickel bread. It is so flavorful. It seems very substantial. It is an excellent meal, lunch or dinner. I just wish I could convince Family of that!

Once again I rinsed out the pressure cooker and got started on Soup #3.

Pinto Bean Soup – this is one of my favorite soups of all times. I follow Deborah Madison’s recipe from her book Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
(one of my favorite cookbooks!).

To my pressure cooker I added 1 cup of pinto beans, 2 dried New Mexico chilies, seeded and stemmed, chopped onion and a clove of garlic, minced. I set the pressure cooker on high for one hour. At the end of the hour, I put a cup or so of the cooked beans and the chilies into the blender and pureed, along with 3 tablespoons of masa harina. I added the puree back to the pot, brought the soup to a boil (not under pressure) and cooked for about 10 minutes. The masa harina acts as a thickener and gives it that good corn-tortilla flavor. If you don’t have masa harina, just leave it out and the soup will still taste great.

The chilies that I added were not particularly hot. They added flavor but not too much heat. When I don’t have New Mexico chilies on hand I use chili powder. I would like to experiment with lot of different chilies – maybe chipotles would be good in this.

I made some Cajun Country Popcorn Rice to serve with this. The package directions called for 1 cup rice and 2 cups water. The rice ended up a little bit mushy. Next time I will cut back on the water.

Cajun Popcorn Rice

I serve the pinto bean soup over rice with grated cheese and salsa.

Pinto Bean Soup

How did my soup plan work out? I am not going to tell you that we didn’t eat some junk this week, but I will say that it was really handy to have all this soup ready in the refrigerator ready to eat.

Daughter really liked the garbanzo/bulgur soup. I served that to her a couple of times for a quick lunch along with some crackers and fresh fruit. All three of us liked the pinto bean soup. It made a quick, satisfying meal on more than one occasion. I was the sole enjoyer of the split pea soup, and I enjoyed it a lot. I still have a half batch in the freezer for next week, which will no doubt be busy too.

It took about 5 hours to get all three soups cooked, cooled and put in the refrigerator (though much of that time did not require my attention). When it was time to eat, any of the three soups could be heated up in just a few minutes either in the microwave or on the stove top.

The soup recipes could easily be doubled or halved depending on the number of people that need to be fed and their enthusiasm for soup. Using the pressure cooker cut down on the time needed for each soup but if you did it on the stove top, all three soups could cook concurrently.

All three of the soups had very different flavors. So outside of the fact that they were all “soup” they didn’t seem repititious. I think that with some imagination you could make three soups with flavors that are even more diverse. You could have a dal with Indian flavors, garbanzo beans with a North African twist, and black beans with a Caribbean taste.  The sky’s the limit.

Here is one last bonus to the bean and grain soup idea: If you have even  small bowl of one of these soups before you head out to a cocktail party or a family gathering, you will be much less likely to overindulge. These soups are so filling and good for you, you’ll be more likely to say “no thanks” when the bowl of queso is put in front of you!