A love affair with leafy greens (ii)

In which there is actually a recipe.

Warm greens* salad

*you can use kale, (swiss) chard, collard greens, beet greens, and/or spinach

Ingredients:

+ quinoa or rice or pearl barley or whole grain pasta or a baked or roasted potato or skip this ingredient altogether

+ cooking oil

+ garlic (a clove or two, pressed/crushed/minced)

+ onion (chopped/sliced/whatever– preferably red, but shallots or any cooking onion will do)

+ veggies: any appealing-to-you greens, or combination thereof [kale, beet greens, chard, collard greens, spinach], carrots, parsnips, beets, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli. I shred the greens by hand, shave the carrots and/or parsnips with a peeler for quick cooking, and I usually boil/roast the beets all at once when I first get them so I can add them at the end just to heat them up.

+ optionally: (if you feel fancy) goats cheese (without cheese, this is a vegan dish, by most definitions) &/or frozen or fresh raspberries or blueberries (a handful or two, squished), balsamic vinegar, and olive/sunflower/grapeseed oil for a vinaigrette (1 part vinaigrette to 3 parts oil)

Make:

1. rinse and scrub the quinoa in a fine sieve, put it in a pot with water (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa; add a stock cube if you desire) on high heat, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes/until there’s no excess water. I find 1/4 to 1/3 cup of quinoa is a good single portion. (the veggies also works well with a baked potato, or on their own)

2. while you’re letting the quinoa go, heat up cooking oil in a pan on medium heat, and throw in the garlic, cook for 30 seconds to a min.

3. add the onion and cook for a few minutes

4. add other veggies before the onion gets translucent: carrots, parsnips, pre-cooked beets, whatever (I sometimes add a little water and cover the pan to cook the veggies faster)

5. cook your greens! you can (1) add your greens to the pan with a little water and cover up the pan to steam them for a minute or two, or (2) add your greens to the quinoa while there is still a bit of water in the pot, or (3) stem the greens in a colander over the pot with the cooking quinoa, or (4) pour a little boiling water over the greens in a strainer/colander to cook them instantly

6. mix all the veggies together with the quinoa and serve warm (with goats cheese and/or berry vinaigrette on top)

alternatively, you can roast any good roasting veggies (several whole garlic cloves, onion, carrot, parsnip, beets, cauliflower) tossed with oil, salt and pepper in a baking dish in the oven at 250˚ or so, adding mushrooms and greens towards the end, and mixing the quinoa in at the end. However, this might take a little longer (45 min to an hour)

a lot of beets in this version

a lot of beets in this version – eat them! they’re good for you.

peanut stew

Giving the peanut stew recipe from the Vegan Stoner a whirl:

1. chop half an onion & cook in pot

2. add a can of stewed tomatoes, a half cup of crunchy peanut butter, & a half can of garbanzo beans [chickpeas]

3. chop a potato & add to pot* with a sprinkling of thyme

4. cover pot and cook on low heat for 20 minutes

5. serve on rice

6. munch

* may want to parboil the potato first, or ensure you cut very small pieces so they cook through

I’ve never bought or cooked with stewed tomatoes before and at first I wasn’t so sure about the peanut butter. I like peanut butter, but I am not much in the habit of cooking with it; my mum is very allergic to nuts, so I never ate them growing up. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, but, oh! I tell you: when I moved out and discovered I could buy and eat all the Nutella I wanted … that was a wonderful and a dangerous day.

I digress.

why this recipe is cool

Like many Vegan Stoner recipes, it calls for a bunch of non-perishable and inexpensive food items. (Dried thyme is an exception to “inexpensive”, and I’m using posh all-natural peanut butter because I got it on the cheap at an army surplus store in Kamloops. I’m not even kidding.)

Food waste is something I’m pretty concerned about, so I try to be mindful of how much fresh stuff I buy, but cooking for one presents some challenges: fresh stuff often comes in rather massive bundles. It’s always a song and dance trying to make sure things get used up before they rot or trying to work out clever things to do with food items that are fast approaching the end of their fridge-lives.

Trying to buy less but shop more often is something I’m working on, but sometimes time is tight because I planned poorly and I just can’t swing a shopping trip. In such cases, how marvelous to be able to put together a whole meal from things in the cupboard.*

making stew!

I prepared all the ingredients and added some extras, seeing the excellent opportunity provided by a stew to deal with some fridgy** items. Some beet greens, some red pepper, an already-opened can of chickpeas. I also added a spoonful of tomato paste because I like tomato-y things.

Easy peasy: set the rice on in one pot, throw the ingredients in the other pot.

the result

A delicious, nutritious, hearty dinner. I’d not hesitate to make this again for myself, or for nut-eating friends 🙂

–x–

*Now that I’ve written this, I see the irony of and the privilege in my enthusiasm over tinned food. I’ve little to complain about in life if I’ve always enjoyed meals made from fresh ingredients, and making things from cans is a novel experience…

**My mother uses this word to describe the way things smell when they’ve been in the fridge too long. Highly accurate, worth bringing into the general lexicon.

If life gives you lemons, make lemon curd with berries

A couple weekends ago my lovely friend Emily came to visit. She endured a long and arduous bus ride and yet still arrived bearing key ingredients for a delicious summer dessert.

–x–

Armed with

+ 6 eggs, separated (this recipe calls for 6 yolks and 2 egg whites; we saved the remaining whites in a little container for future low-cholesterol baking endeavours, or Sunday morning pancakes)

+ 3 lemons (zested and squeezed for ½ cup of juice)

+ ¾ cup sugar

+ ½ cup butter

+ A few cups of mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)

+ Something on which to pour the curd and berries (tarts, pieces of sweet bread, or scones, or croissants. Emily had brought yummy homemade raisin scones, which worked wonderfully.)

and Emily’s mum’s lemon curd recipe, we made one of the best Saturday evening meals in recent memory.

Yes, we made lemon curd and berries for dinner. We were going to have healthy dinner food, too, but when it came down to it we realised we weren’t that hungry, and as we say in my family: life is short, eat desert first.

This is what we did:

Melt the butter in a pot on low-to-medium heat. Whisk in the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and the lemony pulp lemon-juicing by-product. Whisk and whisk and whisk on medium heat for 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool. Place tart/scone/dessert foundation of choice in a bowl and ladle on curd and berries. Eat!

our thickened lemon curd

–x–

This was quite simple to make, and a good team-effort sort of recipe what with the repetitive actions of zesting and squeezing lemons (for which I was thrilled to be able to use the 25-year-old juicer gifted to me by my parents), and whisking.

A super delicious, lemony, summer dessert!

hand-me-down retro hand-juicer

dinner

Ta-BOO-lee

How’s this for point/counterpoint: Amy is making wonderful-looking no-knead bread while I am thinking about:

Things ‘gluten-free’

(Disclaimer: my information comes from talking to people with opinions, reading food labels, and doing some random internet searching. Therefore, please read with grain of salt in hand.)

Lately there is a lot of fuss about gluten-free food and gluten-free diets. As with any (food) trend, there are a couple of vocal camps; in this case, the ‘gluten is bad for you! live a healthier life by going gluten-free!’ camp, and the ‘those crazy people on their gluten-free diets have no idea what they’re talking about and the whole thing is a load of BS’ camp.

Then there’s this other camp of folks who are forgotten in all the buzz: those who actually really can’t eat gluten or else bad things happen to their bodies, i.e. folks with Celiac disease. The bodies of people with Celiac disease cannot process gluten. It jams up intestines and prevents absorption of other nutrients, which is very, very not good, and which can (and does) make folks feel very, very, very ill. For a person with Celiac, not eating gluten is a good way to fix this and restore digestive health.

Ok, wait: what is gluten? Basically gluten is a thing found in wheat and barley and rye. It is in flour, in bread, in pasta, in beer, and shows up in a lot of processed foods as a filler and additive. Gluten is NOT in things like rice, (wheat-free) oats, potato flour, quinoa, and polenta (cornmeal). Things gluten free (e.g. bread, tortilla wraps, &c.) are becoming easier and easier to find in mainstream Canadian grocery stores. The Canadian Celiac Association outlines a gluten free diet.

I don’t know enough about the reasons for and against opt-in gluten-free diets (as opposed to necessary-to-digestive-health gluten-free diets), so will not weigh in on that particular food trend debate. What I do know is that some people think that eczema can be worsened by gluten. Because I sometimes have to deal with eczema, I experimented for several months with cutting gluten. I learned that, for me, stress is a greater irritant than gluten, so cutting gluten didn’t directly help in my case. However, I liked a lot of the food I was making, and, unsurprisingly, eating a lot of bread and pasta, and drinking a lot of beer make me feel not very nice, so I continue to pursue alternatives, like…

Gluten-free Tabbouleh!

(I checked with my friend Emily: at least by white people in Canada, tabbouleh is pronounced ‘ta-BOO-lee’.)

This recipe is adapted from Julie Van Rosendaal (see this post) and the recipe on the back of my bag of chia seeds.

½ cup quinoa (brought to a boil in 1 cup of water, then reduced to simmer for 15 minutes; it’s cooked when the little white coils around the quinoa start to come off)

½ can chickpeas (optional, though a delicious addition)

¼ cup chia seeds (optional)

2 tomatoes, chopped finely

2 cups chopped fresh parsley

a few green onions (or a small red onion, chopped finely)

⅓ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Cook the quinoa. Chop things. Mix the lemon juice and olive oil in a little bowl. (In the last minute or two of cook time for the quinoa, I like to throw in the chickpeas to soften them a bit.) When the quinoa is done, stir everything together in a bowl and pop it in the fridge for a bit so all the flavours blend. Eat!

–x–

This was so delicious! So quick to make, meets tricky dietary requirements (it is gluten-free AND vegan), and is such a lovely, light, hot weather food. I divided it up into Ziploc containers took them to work for lunch (leaving these in the fridge for another day or two had the added bonus of making it even more flavourful).

Kate’s parsley plant: parsley is one of the main ingredients in tabbouleh

Squash and Bean Stew!

Like many recent university graduates, I live at home with my parents. Please don’t ask how “recent.” I use the word loosely.

I mention this because I prepare most of my meals with my mom. In February my mom suggested we start eating vegetarian. This was something I did at school (for economic and environmental reasons), but we definitely needed a few new recipes. Let’s face it, fried tofu and a sleeve of soda crackers is not an appropriate dinner for nonstudent adults. We have slowly been increasing our menu repertoire which now includes a few favourites. When we find something we really like, however, we get into a groove (I prefer this word to “rut”). Right now we are in a squash stew groove!

This recipe is really simple and makes enough that two people can have it for dinner and enjoy leftovers for lunch…for several days. What I particularly enjoy is that the vegetables stay slightly crisp and distinct from each other even after reheating.

Tools you need:

–          Cutting board

–          Knife

–          Big pot (I love that you only use one pot!)

Ingredients:

–          1 tablespoon olive oil

–          1 large onion, chopped

–          2 garlic cloves, minced

–          1 tablespoon chili powder

–          1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

–          1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

–          2 pounds butternut squash cut into 1-inch pieces

–          4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces

–          1 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained

–          1 tablespoon minced, seeded jalapeño pepper

–          1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Unless I am baking, I generally use recipe measurements as guidelines and ingredients as suggestions. So if you want to substitute different veggies depending on availability, go for it! If you don’t like heat, omit the jalapeño. Hate cilantro? Try parsley instead. But I find a fresh herb is needed to brighten it up a bit. Add whatever herb just before serving.

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and golden.
  2.  Add garlic, chili powder and cumin and stir until garlic is soft. This will take about a minute.
  3. Add tomatoes with juices; bring to boil.
  4.  Stir in squash and green beans. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until vegetables are almost tender. You can prick them with a fork to check. If you like really crisp green beans, add them a few minutes after the squash.
  5. Stir in black beans and jalapeño. Cover and simmer for a few more minutes (5 or so).
  6. Stir in cilantro.
  7. Eat it! (Remember to share).

Recipe originally from epicurious.

No-Need-to-Knead Bread

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard.

So I finally baked the no-knead bread!

It turned out well…the second time. The first time that I made the dough I added too much water. The dough was really wet and glue-like rather than slightly sticky to touch and shaggy looking. It is really humid where I live, especially this time of year. So my flour may contain quite a bit of moisture already. Trying it a second time, I found that I did not need the full 1 and 5/8th cups of water. I think I likely used somewhere between 1 and ½ cups to 1 and 2/3 cups. Once I figured this out, manipulating the dough was super easy.

Another challenge I had was finding the right time to make the dough so that it would have long enough to rise and be ready at a time that was convenient for me to bake ( not the middle of the night or while I am at work). I wanted to follow the recipe as closely as possible – at least the first time – to test my success. I followed the directions for a 12 – 18 hour rise and a 2 hour proof strictly. I decided before hand that a weekend would be best for this. I made the dough shortly after getting home from work on Friday night. This is how everything went down:

Time Bread Schedule My Schedule
6 pm – 6:05 pm Friday Dough creation. Ditto
6 pm Friday to 9 am Saturday (16 hours) Bed time: Rested in a bowl on top of the microwave covered with cling film. Had dinner, painted my nails, watched a movie, and then slept.Other things that can (hypothetically) be done while the dough rises: drive-in movie viewing, essay writing, pub crawling, ball room dancing, hiking through the woods, speed dating, sky diving, debate club…ing, browsing Pinterest for hours, etc.
9 – 9:15 am Massage: Folding. Folded dough over 3 times, and then left it to rest on the counter for 15 minutes.
9:15 – 11:15 am Knap time: Resting and leavening on counter. Shaped dough into a ball, sprinkled it with wheat bran and wrapped it in a tea-towel.Then I went for a nice jog, showered, made tea.
11:30 am – 12:30 pm Sauna: baked in a steamy pot in the oven.At the 30 minute mark I took the lid off of the pot to find that the bread was already golden brown. I left the lid off and turned the oven off to let the residual heat finish the baking. Drank tea, ate breakfast, browsed Pinterest, showered and dressed.
12:30 pm Met untimely demise. Ate lots of bread!

Bottom right: the heavy, green enamel pot I found for $35 at a discount kitchen supply store. It worked very well!

Recipe (from the New York Times)

By Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan, New York.

–          3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting

–          ¼ teaspoon instant yeast

–          1¼ teaspoons salt

–          Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 and 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover with cling film. Let dough rest for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature (22 degrees C).

2. After resting 12 to 18 hours, the dough surface will be dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton tea towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Thoughts:

Now that I know that the dough comes together very quickly and that the bread bakes in less than an hour, I might try making the dough before I leave for work (around 7 am) and then proofing after 12 hours. If all goes to plan the bread can go into the oven at 9 pm and be out by 10 pm. I may even see what happens if I make the dough one evening and bake it another. I don’t know if 24 hours (as opposed to 18) is really going to make or break (punny!) this bread.

I would also like to try the bread with whole wheat flour next time and then possibly with rye or whole grains. I have read that the grain in the whole wheat can shred the gluten molecules, making the bread tougher. But there are plenty of recipes and blog posts with advice on how to mitigate this. I anticipate that whole grains would be even trickier. I think the whole wheat will be a great, manageable next step.

Steamy Kitchen has a great photo step-by-step that I found helpful and provides proof that four-year old can make this bread!

Vegan-easy

A lot of people might think that being a vegan, or cooking vegan meals, or baking vegan treats could be really intimidating. Like it might possibly involve a lot of strange and exotic ingredients, and kitchen acrobatics.

What is a vegan? What is a vegan meal?

A vegan is a human who chooses not to consume any animal products or by-products such as meat, cheese, eggs, dairy, butter, gelatin (sometimes in yogurt, licorise allsorts), fast food french fries (can be deep fried in animal fats), honey (made by bees), &c. It might also involve wearing clothes and shoes made only from plant-derived or synthetic materials (no leather or wool). Folks do this for political, ethical, dietary, religious, and/or health reasons. (This list, I recognise, fails to do justice to the myriad reasons which inspire and motivate people to become vegans, but which must suffice for the sake of brevity. If you know things about being a vegan/eating vegan, please share your thoughts! Teach me things!)

There are varying degrees of veganism. For example, some vegans may go so far as to avoid refined sugar, because sometimes animal charcoal is used in the refining process. A cool lady I knew, Steph, was a vegan for dietary and health reasons (for her, the ethical implications were an awesome bonus), and she owned and wore a kickass pair of leather boots. To each her own.

In short, vegan meals are meals that do not include any meat or animal byproducts. Making a vegan meal might sound challenging. ‘But what would you even put in a vegan meal?!’ one might ask.

the answer

The Vegan Stoner is here to prove that you can make delicious, nutritious, über-cheap, easy-peasy vegan meals with 6 readily-available ingredients in 6 steps! It is even illustrated!! Look:

I’m a big fan of these recipes because they are so basic, they don’t require that you have expensive kitchen tools or know fancy cooking techniques, and while some recipes call for an obscure vegan substitute, they are not all heavily soy dependent. (Soapbox aside: I tend to think an over-dependence on soy products is not terribly good for your body, or the earth. Maybe I’ll write about this another day.)

Since I am not vegan myself, I am ok with substituting cow’s milk yogurt for soy yogurt, and I am ok with using honey instead of agave syrup. (Though if you are looking for something a bit easier to come by than agave syrup, which is a cactus-plant-derived sweetener, you can opt for maple syrup, a tree-sap-derived sweetener.)

Have a go! I think you’ll like it: The Vegan Stoner.