Thursday, February 16, 2012

Poached Veggies with Lemon Vinaigrette (GF and V)

I saw a beautiful photo in the new Vegetarian Times magazine.  Lots of yummy veggies and a mound of barley all on a plate with a lemon.  Looked so good.  But when I read the recipe, it turned out to be a cold salad on romaine lettuce.  I live in Iowa and it's February and it's cold.  I need a hot supper.  So I revamped it just a touch and served up a hot dish for my family. 

As you are buying the veggies for this, it does seem like you are buying a lot and you'll never eat them all.  It was a lot, but I steamed the extra veggies the next night on the side with grilled portabellas. Plan accordingly.

When poaching veggies, be sure to have all your food prepped first.  Have your pans ready, your veggies cleaned and cut and your steamer hot.  Have your tongs and spoons ready to go and your vinaigrette whisked up and ready to drizzle. Once you start cooking, it goes very quickly.

Poaching vegetables is easy.  The trick is to start the "tough" ones first, then add in the quicker cooking ones later.  Simply use salted water kept at a slight simmer/boil.  Small bubbles should be around the edges of the pan, but no big bubbles coming from the flat bottom of the pan.  Keep it quick, too, so you don't end up with mush.  You want some texture left in your veggies.  Just soften them a touch, and make sure they are warmed through.  That's it.  Poaching is really fast--2-6 minutes tops even for bigger veggies.

Prep your barley first by cooking it according to the directions on the box.  I cooked mine in some veggie broth with a little thyme.  Nothing fancy. While it sat it's needed 10 minutes, I poached and steamed the veggies.

My list of veggies for the night was fennel (cleaned and quartered), carrots (cleaned and halved lengthwise), zucchini (cut into sticks), asparagus and sugar snap peas.  Served it up on a bed of steamed kale with a scoop of barley to boot.

I poached the fennel first for about 2 minutes.  Added carrots for 2 minutes.  Then added everything except the kale for 2 minutes.  I steamed the kale while the others poached and then served everything on top of it.

My lemon vinaigrette was a simple mix of olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, a little sugar, white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  I also sprinkled a little crushed red pepper on mine.

Very simple and fash and healthful and yummy.  Hope you enjoy!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Veggie Container

I have a very large container that I use for veggies.  I fill it up one to two times a week and we eat off of it for lunches and supper as our favorite side dish.  My kids love "MUNCHIE LUNCHIES" where we have veggies and popcorn and cut-up fruit to eat with colored toothpicks.  We all sit around the ottoman or the kitchen bar and munch together.  Every time I get this container out, my daycare kids gather up and start digging in.  I use a huge variety of veggies based on what's available, but I always try to keep it colorful.  I also try to mix it up each week so it isn't the same old carrots and celery. And I don't really mind if they fill up on veggies.  It's a great option for all of us.  I put this out as I'm cooking, beside meals, or just set in on the table for snack time with some wheat crackers or peanut butter for dipping.  I also use it if I need a veggie to add to soups or dishes.

Our veggie container is 12" across and 5" deep.  Biggest one I could find.
This week we had grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas, purple cauliflower (orange is fun, too), zucchini strips and baby sweet peppers. I also have a container of cut celery and carrots in addition to this, but I keep those in a small amount of water to keep them from shriveling up. This container plus the carrots and celery will last just under a week.

The comment I hear most from non-vegans is how expensive health food is to feed a hungry family.  Yes, veggies cost money.  But think about what you're getting for the price--better health.  In the long run, NOT paying for a hospital stay, surgery, days off of work, etc. etc. are well worth the price.  And, even though I buy a lot of veggies, my grocery bill is still FAR FAR lower than it's ever been.  When you eat whole-grains and whole-foods and fruits and veggies you stay fuller longer on less food.  I don't mind spending money on veggies (or vegan milks or nuts or fresh fruits or other health food items) because I know the savings I earn in good health.  Some things are worth the cost. 

Using Dried Beans and Recipe for Navy Beans (GF and V)

I found a bag of dried white beans as I was rummaging through the pantry yesterday.  I was actually looking for hidden chocolate that we might have forgotten, but I found beans instead. Sounds disappointing, but turned out to be a really good, comfort food kind of supper.

I could eat beans and rice every day.  I love them. And there are so many varieties. Choose a bean and then pick a type of seasoning.  The same ol' beans and rice turn into a brand new dish.

Back beans--add in Citrus or Mexican seasonings
Red beans--add in Chili, Cajun or BBQ seasoning
White beans--add in Italian seasoning
Mixed beans--go crazy!

If you haven't used dried beans before, I would really recommend giving it a try.  I use canned beans all the time because it's quick and easy.  But dried beans really have a great texture and better flavor.  And you can control the sodium content much better.  Dried beans are cheap and easy.  Give it a try.

I'll give you a few hints and notes on dried beans. Some beans require soaking, others do not.  This is a general idea as to how to cook most any dried bean.  Then use them however you like.  My recipe for Navy Beans and Rice is below.  We had a simple supper of rice and beans (in a bowl) with freshly chopped veggies on the side.

1.  Dried beans expand by about 2.5 times when cooked.  So 1 cup of dried equals about 2.5 cups cooked.  

2.  Be sure to look through your dried beans and pull out any that look suspicious (way off color or shape) and double check there's no stones or other natural debris in your beans.  Rinse them a few times and look through them before placing in a bowl to soak.

3.  Soaking dried beans overnight helps to eliminate some of that unwanted "gas factor" often experienced with beans.

4.  Place cleaned beans in a large bowl covered with a lot of cold water (use about 3-4 cups of water for every cup of beans).  Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight (at least--can be left for a couple days if you want).  NOT ALL DRIED BEANS NEED SOAKING.  So just check the bag when you buy them to see if they need it or not.

5.  After soaking, rinse and drain your beans again a few times until the water off of them is clear.

6.  DO NOT ADD SALT until your beans are done cooking.  The salt prevents the beans from soaking up the water and they won't cook as well.  Cook and then season.

7.  Place the beans in a large pot, cover with broth or water and cook on a low boil/simmer for 60-90 minutes or until desired consistency.  Some beans are bigger and require more time, some are smaller and cook faster. I like my beans with a little texture to them, so I go a shorter time.  If you like them softer, cook a little longer.  Just bite into one and see how they are.

8.  Some beans will have a foam on the top of the water while cooking.  Skim it off or it will boil over and make a mess.

9.  Cooked beans freeze well.  Drain and put in baggies making sure to eliminate any extra air.

1 lb. dried white beans
6 cups water and/or veggie broth
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
Crushed red pepper (optional) to taste

Clean, rinse and soak beans overnight as directed on package.  Rinse and drain.  Place beans in large soup pot and cover with water/broth mixture.  Add in onion, garlic, bay leaf and Italian seasoning.  Simmer uncovered about 90 minutes until beans are desired consistency.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed, so the beans and broth will end up the consistency of stew.  If it is thickening too quickly, add in water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Squeeze in fresh lemon juice and stir in parsley.  Serve over brown or white rice.   

Monday, February 6, 2012

No-Bake Cocoa Drop Cookies

Not necessarily a healthy choice, but a good sweet treat for a night hanging with friends and kids.  The trick is to buy a good, quality cocoa.  I get mine at a chocolaterie in Ames. Well worth the extra price.  I'm sorry I don't have a photo for this one, but my guests the other night ate them all before I could get one!

1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup vegan butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put sugar, soy milk, vegan butter and cocoa powder in saucepan and bring to boil while stirring constantly.  When it reaches a full boil, let it boil for 90 seconds.  Turn off heat.  Stir in peanut butter, oats and vanilla.  Drop onto wax paper or cookie sheet and let cool completely.