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The Best Way to Grow Food in Your Kitchen

7 Mar

A sprouting glass jar with mung beans sproutin...

I’ve had grand aspirations to grow my own vegetables.  As a hungry vegan, growing my own would make eating my veggies that much more attainable and satisfying.  Homegrown veg are local (obviously) and can be organic. You have control over the process from start to finish and you reap the reward!

But, life can move fast.  We have priorities.  And if becoming a small-scale farmer isn’t a priority to you, it helps to take little steps without getting overwhelmed.  In this consumer culture it gives me peace of mind to do something, no matter how small, to create.

Enter sprouts!  Remember those cute little chia pets?  That green stuff was sprouted seeds!  Remember when you could go to any grocery store and get alfalfa?  Not so much any more due to e. coli health scares.  Know what’s easier than sprouts at the store that could contain e. coli?  Sprouts that took you a few days to grow on your kitchen counter for a fraction of the cost.  Sprouts are full of micronutrients (more than a mature plant!) – all the things the little plant would need to grow after germinating are most available for your body to absorb.

You can find instructions on many websites for sprouting, or you could buy a little sprouting container, but I’ll let you know how I do it.  It’s the easiest way and fun!

Materials:
– any wide mouthed glass jar (like a mason jar)
– cheesecloth (can get it at the dollar store)
– rubber band
– a packet of sprouting seeds (I get them at a health food store, or you can just use some organic lentils if you have them at home)

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These are the seeds I used. I think there was red clover, mung bean, radish seeds, and something else.

Steps:

1) Fill jar about 1/4 full with the seeds.  Put the piece of cheesecloth over the top to cover and secure with a rubber band.
Rinse and drain the seeds through the cloth.  Fill the jar again with cool water to soak the seeds.  Probably 6-12 hours.  Overnight works.

2) Drain water when soaking is done.  Then rinse and drain the water this time.  Put the jar somewhere out of direct light, upside-down and on an angle to let excess water drain off (pictured below).

3) Repeat step 2 twice daily for 2-6 days, until sprout is as long as the seed or grain it came from, or when the tiny seeds have broken away from their hull.  Basically they will look like sprouts and will not be difficult to chew.

Here are my sprouts (after soaking) on day 1 and 3:

Day 1 after soaking (top) and Day 3 (bottom)

Day 1 after soaking (top) and Day 3 (bottom)

I ate them yesterday as part of a salad but didn’t take a picture of the salad.  It looked a bit like the one below.

Organic Quinoa Salad

Organic Quinoa Salad (Photo credit: uwenna)

I also made a simple dressing by squeezing half a lemon over the quinoa then adding about a teaspoon each of flax oil and olive oil.  I also put in a little salt and pepper and a pinch of cumin to take it up a notch.

Usually I would make more than just this little bit of sprouts but I only had about a tablespoon left in the package.  You can eat sprouts in salads, on sandwiches, or just eat them as a snack if you’re that hardcore.  It’s an easy way to add nutrition to your diet, with minimal effort and without spending a lot of money.  Awesome!

So many seeds are suitable for sprouting!  What have you tired to sprout?

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Cool Beans

5 Mar

If there’s one thing we love as a society, it’s getting more for less.  That’s how I roll when it comes to beans.  Some food preparations of the not-so-distant past seem daunting to us.  Cooking your own beans from the dried form is one of these processes – and it isn’t as hard as it seems!  I have started cooking my own dried black beans, and now that I’m on this vegan kick I feel it’s time to share my enthusiasm for my old style food prep.

Black beans are my fave.  Not only are they delicious, did you know they have the most antioxidants of any legume?  In case you didn’t know, antioxidants do important things for our bodies.  They help our cells stay healthy and function well.  They prevent diseases.  If you’re worried about embarrassing gases, don’t fear!  I’ll fill you in on tactics to prevent “…the more you toot” part of that song.  If you’re sensitive to soy there are many other nutritious legume substitutes that, in combo with other foods (like rice and veg) give you all the amino acid/protein and other vitamins you need when you aren’t eating animal products. What’s not to love?

Now that I’ve convinced you that beans are cool, I will tell you how I cook them.

First, it’s important to soak the beans.  I put about 2-3 cups in a big glass bowl and cover it with fresh water – just fill the bowl right up.  The tricky part is remembering to do this the night before you plan on cooking the beans (or in the morning if you’re cooking ’em at night).  Let the beans soak for 8 – 12 hours.  That’s really the hardest part.  Just be patient, ya’ll.  A watched bean pool never boils, or something like that.

After the beans are good and soaked, the water will look all ugly, and almost black.

Next, drain and rinse those babies.  The rinsing is key to getting rid of the gas-y stuff.  Throw the beans in a big ol’ pot and cover with fresh water.  They need some room.

Boil the beans for 60-90 min. depending on how soft you want them.  I boiled mine for too long because I was talking to my mom on the phone (multi-tasking!), but that’s okay because I needed soft beans.

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When they’re done, drain and rinse again (for even less toot).  And now you’re done!  You’ll have like 10 times the beans you would’ve gotten in that little can, for maybe twice the price.  You can freeze the beans and then just throw them in soups or chilies when the mood strikes.  The fresh beans can be used as is in salads or tossed into anything from pastas to the blender for bean dip!  The best part is that now you have so many more beans for so little money, a lot of inactive wait time, and really not very much actual active cooking time.

I made re-fried beans with a bunch of mine and turned them into burritos with veggies I had kicking around in the fridge (including some leftover roasted potatoes).

Here’s a recipe for re-fried beans you can try that is very flexible to your tastes.  Just add or take away spices to your mouth’s content.  🙂

Simple Re-fried Beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 smallish onion (diced)
1/2 tsp each cumin, chill powder, and coriander
1-2 cloves garlie (minced or pressed)
cayenne pepper or chilli flakes (or both!), optional or to taste – start with 1/4 tsp
2 cups cooked black beans (can sub pinto beans)
3-4 tbsp of veg stock for added flavour and moisture
 1tsp salt
squeeze of lemon or lime (optional, but recommended)

Method
Heat the oil in a pot or skillet.  Add the onion and the first 3 spices and cook until onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and the other spice if using.  Cook for 1 min-ish.

Add beans, stock, and salt and cook until heated.  Use a slotted spoon or other utensil to help smash the beans as they’re cooking.

When they are heated, mash some more or blend for smooth beans.  You can add the citrus now if you like.  You might need to heat it up again but I’m not bothered.

Serve with nacho chips and salsa, use in taco salad, or make a burrito and enjoy!

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You Put a Carrot Where?!

4 Mar

This weekend was a fun one, but tiring.  I had an amazing time on Friday with a bunch of friends at a favourite local bar, Imbibe.  They have some great craft beers which are different all the time.   There aren’t a lot of vegan food choices, but I made do (salad and a stack of tofu, anyone?).

Saturday was actually pretty relaxing, and after a short hike on a nearby trial with my beau, we were off to uptown for a coffee and lunch.  We tried a new place, “Zoup!“.  I had a 7 bean soup and a vegetarian sandwich with hummus, hold the cheese.  It was pretty tasty and soup-er satisfying.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures since I have a very old non-smart phone and didn’t have my camera.

This Sunday I got up to some light cooking and had a delicious lunch of soup (again with the soup!) and sandwich.  I had some pureed squash/pumpkin in the freezer that I cooked up back in the fall.  With a diced onion, some grated fresh ginger, a few spices and a can of coconut milk I was on my way.

The coconut cream I saved from making the soup.

The coconut cream I saved from making the soup.

The best vegan "cheese" I've tried.

The best vegan “cheese” I’ve tried.

I was craving a grilled cheese.  “How does one make a vegan grilled cheese?” you ask?  I used a vegan shredded “cheese” available at many supermarkets near you.  Besides being dairy free, it’s also casein, soy, and gluten free, and made with non-gmo expeller-pressed oils (which is good).  It’s not health food by any means, but if you’re hankering hard for some cheese, then all (vegan) things in moderation.  The brand, Daiya (pictured right), is gaining popularity with dairy-free eaters everywhere.

But where does the carrot come in, you ask?  The carrots in the grilled cheese idea came from Candice, The Edgy Veg.  I’ve been following her youtube videos for a while and haven’t tried too many recipes yet.  However, this grilled cheese has become a new favourite.  It’s made like a standard grilled cheese, but using vegan buttery spread, Daiya, and roasted carrots.

I can’t get enough of the carrots.

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It seems odd, I know.  Carrots in a grilled cheese?  But the roasty/sweet flavour and firm texture just adds a little something extra.  Try it.  I dare you.

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Cocounut Pumpkin/Squash Soup

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