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.

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.

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.