Archive for ‘vegetarian’

September 14, 2011

Soaking Nuts

Yes, this title made me laugh too . . . but there’s really no better description for what I have to share with you.  My mother-in-law had a mason jar full of walnuts sitting on her breakfast table.  I have a great affinity for walnuts, so I took a few.  After eating the first nut, I was confused.  This walnut was different.  It didn’t leave a gritty feeling on my teeth and tongue.  Just the slightest taste of being roasted.  A hint of salt.  Then she revealed her secret … she had soaked the nuts!  Now I love them even more.

For those of you who have never heard of this or don’t understand why one would do this, let me enlighten you. Nuts have a little thing called phytic acid on their outer layer. Phytic acid can combine with minerals in the intestinal tract and prevent the body from absorbing them. Soaking helps reduce or eliminate the phytic acid on the outer layer. Nuts can also be an enzyme inhibitor … meaning your digestive and metabolic enzymes may be prevented from working properly. Soaking also reduces these enzyme enemies in nuts. Overall, soaking aids your body in digesting nuts and getting the full benefit that nuts offer. More vitamins and minerals, less acids and inhibitors. Plus, it’s really simple and they taste amazing!

Gather your nuts … I chose walnuts, pecans, and almonds. Mmmmm. It doesn’t really matter how much you do at once, but take into consideration that you will need oven and pan space to spread these puppies out when they go in for their drying session. I probably did a few too many, but I dried them in cycles.

The first step is to soak them overnight in water, at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Make sure they are completely covered in water the entire time.  Add 1 tsp. of salt for every 1/2 gallon of water.

After soaking, you will see how murky the water gets.  Drain off the water and rinse the nuts.

Then lay out the nuts on paper towels to pat dry.

Some of the almonds lost their coating altogether after soaking. 

After hand drying some, spread the nuts onto a cookie sheet and place in the oven at the lowest temperature that your oven will go.  For me, that was 175.  Take time to stir them every 4 hours or so.  The nuts will take varying amounts of time to dry out.  It also depends on how crowded your pan is … for me, the walnuts were done first, which I soaked the least of.  Then the pecans, and lastly the almonds. 

The only way easiest way to know if they’re done is to try one.  When they’re crunchy again, they’re done.  Be careful to keep from overbaking them.  Then place them in a container for easy munching access!

July 19, 2011

Beans :: The Magical Fruit

The more you eat, the more you toot fluffer!  Sorry … couldn’t resist.  Did I mention that I live with Levi Howard? Although this catchy saying may not attract you to eat beans, you really should consider including them a larger part of your diet.  Beans are low in fat, high in protein and full of fiber and antioxidants.  They cost next to nothing (especially if you buy in bulk) and they can be worked into meals in so many different ways.

Obviously, we have jumped on the bandwagon.  We make a weekly batch of pintos to take for lunch.  Rice is the perfect accompaniment to beans because together they form a perfect protein.  The two together contain all of the amino acids that a person needs.  Let’s face it though … just rice and beans can get old really fast.  So I’ll list some other ideas below of ways you can mix up some recipes to include this wonderful food, that is beans.

I was curious about what pintos looked like as they grow.  Mainly because I’m obsessed with getting a garden started, especially after receiving this wonderful book (thanks Bran!) as a housewarming gift!  I can’t wait to start composting and planning out our garden for next Spring. Just look at that cute pod.  

Since this is a weekly process at our home, I thought our process of cooking the pintos would be useful for those of you interested. We utilize the crockpot.. It’s so easy and the beans come out perfect every time. The first step is to wash and sort the beans. Sometimes you will find a rock or two in the batch you’re making, so it’s best to take the beans in your hand to inspect for unwanted pieces before tossing them into the colander to wash. After rinsing the beans, put them in the crockpot (or a stock pot if you prefer). At this point, you have two options depending on how much time you have. To soak, or not to soak. Soaking the beans in water overnight speeds up the cooking process. By speeding it up, I mean cutting the time in half. If you choose to soak, make sure the beans are completely covered in water with around 4 inches of extra water on top because the beans will expand. Half-soaked half-dried beans are no bueno. We normally don’t soak because I normally start them in the morning and they are done by dinnertime in the crockpot.

After rinsing, put the sorted beans into your pot of choice.

At this point you can add whatever spices or extra vegetables suit your fancy. I normally add some chopped onion and a chicken builloin for good measure. Chopped jalepeño and garlic are also known to make it in the pot.

After adding these extras, give the beans a good dose of salt. This not only aids in the cooking process, but allows the salt to soak into the beans instead of just the broth (if you add it after cooking). Add water to the pot until the beans and extras are covered plus around 4 inches, as mentioned above.

Place the lid on the pot and let those babies simmer. If you are cooking in a crockpot, it’s best to turn the crock on high for an hour or so and then down to low for 6 – 7 hours. On the stove, I would recommend soaking the beans ahead of time so that your cooking time is 2 – 3 hours. It’s important to turn the beans down after boiling for around 30 minutes because you don’t want them to turn to mush.

To spice your recipes up, these are some of our go-to bean-inclusive meals.

Rice & Beans : Cook your rice (preferably brown = more fiber) according to the instructions, then season with dried/fresh cilantro, olive oil and garlic salt. Perfect. Protein. Diced chicken on top is pretty tasty too. Add some BBQ sauce for a twist.

Refried Beans : Purée beans in the food processor until smooth, then add a little olive oil and water to increase the liquidity. You can add some chopped jalapeño or garlic to spice the beans up here as well. Serve with enchiladas or make a bean and cheese taco on a flour tortilla.

Texas Caviar : Mix the pintos with cooked black beans and garbanzos. Add canned/steamed corn, chopped tomato, avocado, onion, fresh cilantro and jalapeño. Mix well and season with garlic salt and lime juice. Serve with taco salad or chips.


January 26, 2011

Stir Fry for an Asian Craving

There are some days that I just really want Asian food.  There’s just something about the salty, savory goodness that is Asian cuisine – and nothing else can satisfy it for me.  Stir fry meals are fast, easy, and can be healthy if you limit the amount of oil you use.  Plus, it’s a great way to incorporate lots of different vegetables.  Although I didn’t have them on hand, snow peas would obviously take this stir fry to the next level.

This particular stir fry is vegetarian – but don’t let that turn off you meat-eaters out there.  You could very easily throw in some sautéed chicken or beef to get your meat-fix.  Here we go…

:: You will need ::

1/2 sweet or white onion

1 tbsp. sesame oil

4 eggs

2 celery stalks

2 cups fresh broccoli (or frozen, chopped)

2 cups cooked rice

braggs liquid aminos* or low sodium soy sauce

:: Let’s get going ::

(1) Heat your skillet or wok to medium-high heat and add about a tbsp. of sesame oil.  If you don’t have sesame oil on hand, substitute canola oil, safflower oil or some other high heat oil (not olive oil).  Slice the onion and then cut the slices in half.  This will leave the onions a little larger than if you had chopped them, giving the stir fry more texture.  Sauté in the pan until the onions begin to become transparent.

(2)  While the onions are sautéing, let’s get the eggs ready.  We are going to use 2 full eggs and 2 egg whites to cut down on the fat content.  Although egg yolks are good for you and contain lots of necessary nutrients (calcium, folate, vitamin D), they also contain a large amount of fat.  The egg whites on the other hand are fat free, but still offer a punch of protein.  In a bowl, separate the 2 egg whites first and discard the yolks (or store for use in another recipe).  Then add the remaining 2 eggs, whites and yolks.  Whisk until blended and season with salt and pepper.  Turn the pan down to medium-low and pour the eggs over the onions in the pan.  Let the eggs firm up a bit, as if you were making an omelette.  As the eggs begin to firm up around the edges, take the spatula around the pan to loosen the eggs.  Try to flip the eggs over (this will be difficult if you are using a larger sauté pan); if you flip it in pieces, that’s fine – the goal here is to make sure the eggs are cooked through.

(3) While the eggs are cooking, chop the celery stalks and broccoli.  I think slicing the vegetables at an angle gives them a little more character and pizzaz, but that’s totally up to you.  Set the sliced veggies aside.

(4) After the egg-onion mixture is done, remove it from the pan to a cutting board.  Let it cool slightly and then slice it into strips.

(5)  To use the same skillet that the eggs were in, take your spatula and scrape free all of the excess egg/onion left in the pan.  Wipe it clean with a dry paper towel; be careful it will still-be-hot.  Place back on the burner at medium-high and add another tbsp. of oil.  Throw the broccoli and sauté until it turns a bright green (or is defrosted, if you are using frozen).  Add the cooked rice on top of the broccoli and let it sit for a few minutes.

(6)  Add the sliced celery and egg-onion mixture to the saute pan, mix well.  On top of the mixture, add 1/8 cup of braggs or low sodium soy sauce.  Sauté for another 5 minutes and your dinner is ready to eat!

*Bragg liquid aminos (otherwise known as, braggs) is an alternative to soy sauce.  Braggs are made from soybeans and contain 16 amino acids.  It is made without chemicals or preservatives and is also great for marinating or salad dressing.  Braggs can be found at Central Market, Whole Foods, The Sunflower Shoppe, or other health food stores.

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