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“.

 

A New Book About Beans

Last week, Husband was driving home and heard a radio show on NPR all about beans. Naturally, he called me on his cell phone to alert me!

The show that he happened to catch was “On Point With Tom Ashbrook”. Mr. Ashbrook’s guest was cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon (if you want to know how she got that name, you can read about it here). She has a new book out called Bean By Bean: A Cookbook: More than 200 Recipes for Fresh Beans, Dried Beans, Cool Beans, Hot Beans, Savory Beans…Even Sweet Beans!
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Bean by Bean By Crescent Dragonwagon

I didn’t hear the show on the radio, but I did download the podcast. You can listen to the show or download the podcast by clicking here. Mr. Ashbrook started with the premise that beans are the food “meant for this moment”; they are good for the planet, good for your wallet and good for you. Mr. Ashbrook and Ms. Dragonwagon had a 45 minute conversation all about beans. It was very interesting! Give it a listen.

Naturally my next step was to try and find her book. My local Barnes and Noble didn’t have it on the shelf but I was able to purchase it online from Amazon for my Kindle. You can also, of course, order an actual printed copy of the book.

Ms. Dragonwagon is a James Beard Award-winning author. I have owned one other cookbook by her, Passionate Vegetarian. So I was already somewhat familiar with her work. Her writing tends to be very exuberant and upbeat. Bean by Bean is no exception.

In Bean by Bean, Ms. Dragonwagon includes recipes for bean appetizers, salads, soups, stews, chili, skillets and even desserts. She has one whole chapter devoted to the pairing of beans and grains, which she refers to as “soul mates”. There is a mountain of information on beans. She seems to really know her stuff.

Her style is very chatty and fun to read. The book has a lot of cute little illustrations. Some of the recipes have long ingredient lists, but most of the ingredients are things that you can easily get a hold of.  Most of the recipes can be prepared either with meat, vegetarian or vegan. She makes those options easy. Many of the recipes show other possible variations. There is a great deal to choose from here.

It’s a big book at 400 pages and it is available in paperback. I use the Kindle addition on my iPad. The publisher has included lots of touch screen options to navigate through the book.

I haven’t cooked anything from the book yet, but I have already bookmarked several recipes that I am anxious to make. I am very excited to have a cookbook completely devoted to the subject of beans. I never get tired of beans!

 

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!

 

Round Up: Eight Weeks of Beans and Grains

I have been cooking a pot of beans and a pot of grains every week for eight weeks now. What have I learned?

I guess the hardest part is organizing my thoughts about how to prepare and serve the beans and grains that I have on hand. So here is a framework to help think it through. Here are some categories of things that can be done with most varieties of bean or grain:

Beans

  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Casserole or gratin
  • Fritter or patty
  • Side dish
  • Dip or spread

Grains

  • Soups
  • Salad
  • Casserole or gratin
  • Pilaf
  • Fritter, croquet or cake
  • Side dish
  • Dip or spread
  • Breakfast

You can see that there is a lot of overlap there. And a lot of opportunities.  So where do you find inspiration?

Cookbooks – I own dozens of cookbooks and I pull out several each week to try and get some new ideas.  I have several all purpose cookbooks, like Joy of Cooking and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I have lots of ethnic cookbooks with recipes from all over the world.  And of course, I have lots of vegetarian cookbooks.  One of my main criteria for a good cookbook is that it has to have a good, detailed index. You want to be able to look in the index and find recipes according to ingredients.  If you don’t have a pile of cookbooks, go to your local library. You’ll probably find a great selection there.

The Internet – I do a lot of searches on the Internet for bean and grain recipe ideas. I do find lots of good ideas. I also find some clunkers. Look for websites that have recipe reviews. That may help you determine if other people have had success with that recipe. Also go to sites that have professional chefs and properly test their recipes.

Food Magazines – I am a magazine junky. I read three or four food magazines every month. I started a file of bean recipes and a file of grain recipes. Whenever I see a recipe that interests me, I tear it out and put it in my file. That gives me a ready cache of ideas.

 

Some Random Thoughts

You can probably tell by now that I love to cook. I spend a lot of time thinking about, reading about and eating food.

I almost never follow a recipe exactly. I always tell Husband that I have never found a recipe that I can’t improve. That’s not because I think I know more than the professional who wrote the book. It’s because I know my own tastes. The only time I follow a recipe exactly is if it is ingredients that I am not familiar with or if it is a baked good, like a cake or cookies.

When I tell you my cooking ideas it is really just an overview, not a recipe. You should be prepared to modify that to your own preferences. Or look for a similar recipe in a cookbook that you trust. Or look for similar recipes on the Internet.

It has become  clear to me that the fact that I am a vegetarian seriously effects my ability to think about beans and grains in conjunction with meat. When I do think about meat, it’s an afterthought. I see many bean and grain recipes that include meat. If you are a meat eater, I am sure that some animal protein would be a terrific enhancement to these dishes.

Some weeks I have felt that a single pot of beans and a single pot of grains is limiting. There are times that I am tired of the bean or grain before I get to the end of the pot. For me, I think it might be better to plan on having two smaller pots of different types of beans or grains…just for variety.

And one last thought, it isn’t necessary to change the bean and grain every week. I have been experimenting with that so that I could taste a wide variety and then settle in on the things that I enjoy. You may have a only three or four different beans and grains that you cycle through, because those are the ones that you like.

This is a learning experience. I am going to change things up a little bit and see where that takes us. I know that I am eating a more beans and grains. I know that I have sampled a wide variety. I have been pleasantly surprised by some. For me, this has been a great program, and now it is time to customize it a bit to my needs.

Week Seven – Navy Beans and Steel Cut Oats (and some rice for good measure)

After a Thanksgiving week full of fattening, but delicious foods, I was ready to get back on the beans and grains bandwagon. On Sunday I cooked a half pound of navy beans and a pot of steel cut oats. I also made a pot of rice that we could use for dinners. I just couldn’t see us eating oatmeal any other time than breakfast.

As I was getting my navy beans ready to cook, I started wondering how they are different from great northern beans, which I cooked a few weeks back. Navy beans are a little bit smaller and I think they hold together better when they are cooked. As far as their flavor, they are quite similar. I think they could be easily interchanged in recipes.

Great Northern Beans (left); Navy Beans (right)

I cooked a pot of McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.

I used Martha Stewart’s overnight method. To have my oatmeal ready on Monday morning, I started on Sunday night. I brought two and a half cups of water to a boil. I added 2/3 cup of steel cut oats (not the quick cooking kind). Gave that a stir, let it cool and then stuck it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, I put the pot back on the stove, brought it to a boil and simmered for about 12 minutes.  Martha Stewart calls that two servings. I call it three.

 

A Pot of Steel Cut Oats

 

I also made a pot of rice. I used Ming Tsai’s brown and white rice mix. I soaked a cup of brown rice in water for a couple of hours, then drain. Mix the soaked brown rice with a cup of white rice, and three cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

So we had a whole lot of beans and grains on hand to start the week. Get busy eating!

Day One- Senate Bean Soup. This famous soup  is served every day in the US Congressional dining area. That is a tradition that dates back to the early 20th century. The recipe and the beans vary. But the traditionally, they use navy beans. I used the recipe found in the Joy of Cooking.  You can find lots of recipes online as well.  I used about 2 cups of cooked beans and all of the bean broth. I added some finely diced celery and onion, a bay leaf, a little bit of smoked paprika, and a cup of diced potatoes. I had some little Yukon Gold potatoes on hand, butI think Russet Potatoes are more traditional. I cooked this in my small crock pot. I added some water to the mixture as well. I cooked all this until the potatoes were not just tender, but falling apart. I put about half of the soup into the blender and pureed it (Be careful with hot soup in a blender!). I  added the pureed soup back to the pot.

 

Senate Bean Soup

 

This was really good. I have never cooked this before because the recipe calls for a ham hock. I was afraid that without the ham this soup wouldn’t have much going for it. But it was great. The paprika added a nice color and a smoky flavor. I served the soup with salad and a loaf of homemade bread.  Husband and I both loved this.

Day Two, Three and Four – Oatmeal for Breakfast. My partially prepared oatmeal had been sitting in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning I finished the preparation and had a nice bowl of oatmeal. I added some vanilla almond milk to it. And topped that off with chopped dried apricots, banana and some slivered almonds. I used agave syrup as a sweetner. But honey or brown sugar would have been every bit as good.

I had plenty of oatmeal for three breakfasts. I tried to change up the toppings each day so that I would have some variety. I found a link to a segment Mark Bittman did on the Today Show called “Five Ways to Jazz Up Your Oatmeal“.  Following his advice, on the second oatmeal morning, I added peanut butter and bananas to my bowl of steel cut oats.  And the next day I added coconut and raisins. I was sorry when my oatmeal was all gone! Oatmeal is a nice way to start the day.

One last thought about oatmeal. I found several websites that sang the praises of savory oatmeal. You could eat savory oatmeal for breakfast or for any other meal of the day. I was interested in that idea, but most of the recipes called for cheese, bacon, an over-easy egg, or some combination of those things. Runny eggs turn me off. But I am interested in the savory oatmeal idea. I just need a little more time to wrap my head around it. Check out this website for some savory oatmeal ideas and some gorgeous photos.

Day Three – Stir Fry and Fried Rice. I wanted a nice stir fry for dinner and Husband wanted fried rice. I am sure that you have noticed that Husband and I often eat different dinners. We have been doing that for years and it is a result of our different diets and preferences. He eats fish and fowl. And I don’t. There are many nights when we each cook up a separate meal. But we always cook together. And we always sit down and eat together. It works for us.

Anyway, on Day Three, I cooked for both of us. Our meals were similar enough that it was easy for me to do. I stir fried broccoli, mushrooms, onions, carrots, sugar snap peas. When the vegetables were crisp tender, I added some pineapple chunks to the wok. I made a quick sauce of soy sauce, juice from the pineapple and some chili paste.

For the fried rice I used the same vegetables but cut them up a little smaller. Stir fried those, added a couple of cups of cold cooked rice to the pan. Stir fried that a bit. Then created a well in the middle of the rice and added a beaten egg. When the egg had set up, I stirred it into the other ingredients. I seasoned all that with soy sauce and topped it with some cilantro and chopped peanuts. Husband added some chopped up, left over turkey to his fried rice.

Day Four – Three Bean Salad. Husband had a turkey burger for dinner and I had a veggie burger. We made some oven fried potatoes. And I put together a nice three bean salad using the cooked navy beans. I used a cup of navy beans and about a half cup each of canned green beans and canned kidney beans.  I added chopped red onion and celery. I made a dressing for the salad with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and a little bit of honey for sweetness. The beans and dressing marinated together for about an hour in the refrigerator. A very nice side dish.

Day Five – White Bean Spread with Pita Chips. This is a recipe that I got from a cookbook written by Heidi Swanson. It’s a great book with lots of recipes for beans and grains. The book is called Super Natural Every Day.

I put to tablespoons of good olive oil in a small saucepan. I added a garlic clove, cut in half and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Rosemary grows like a weed in South Texas. I have several plants growing in my front yard.  Heat the olive oil to infuse it with the garlic and rosemary. Remove the garlic clove and the rosemary stem.

In my food processor I combined a cup of drained navy beans, about 2/3 of the infused olive oil, a healthy squeeze of lemon, a small handful of slivered almonds.  Process that to a smooth consistency. You may need to add a little bit of water to get it just right.

Put the dip in a small serving dish. Top with remaining oil and some slivered almonds. Serve with pita chips. It was a great afternoon snack. I only wish that I had made it earlier in the week so that I could have been snacking on it all along.

Day Six – Cauliflower Biryani. Biryani is an South Asian rice dish. I am certain that I didn’t make a traditional biryani. But that’s what I am calling it. I sliced up some cauliflower, sprayed it with olive oil and put it in a hot oven to roast for about 12 minutes. Meanwhile I browned some onions in a skillet. Then added some chopped tomato and chopped cilantro to the skillet. When the tomatoes were softened I added a little bit of curry powder and let the spices bloom for a minute or so. I added some of my navy beans and some kidney beans as well.  I added the roasted cauliflower and a cup of rice. This was a very nice lunch dish. If I had had some chutney it would have been perfect!

My so-called biryani served in a tiffin dish

Post Mortem on the Navy Beans and Steel Cut Oats – I am going to start making those steel cut oats every week! It is a great breakfast. And as we learned from Mark Bittman, it can be dolled up in lots of different ways. The Senate Bean Soup was delicious. Next time I will make a bigger batch so that I can have leftovers. The navy beans were easy to cook.  They are mild tasting so they are extremely versatile. I also had a pot of rice. Because I limited my oatmeal to breakfast…that seemed to be a nice addition. This was a great bean and grain week.