Tag Archives: beans

Native American Buffet

native american food buffet

The Red Herring recently hosted a buffet featuring vegetarian Native American foods. Of course I forgot the camera, as I’ve been doing a lot lately, so I took this grainy iPod Touch picture. Foods may be tastier than they appear.

From left: wild rice and spinach casserole, spicy seitan strips, succotash, cornbread, squash, black beans, and frybread with tempeh filling. All delicious, and all for a mere $7 ($5 for students and kids).

We learned something too, about the Three Sister: corn, beans, and squash. According to Iroquois legend, corn, beans, and squash are three inseparable sisters who only grow and thrive together. This tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mounds, widespread among Native American farming societies, is a sophisticated, sustainable system that provided long-term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations. (from The Three Sisters Garden)

The Three Sisters are also an important part of a balanced diet, and complement each other nutritionally. Corn provides carbohydrates. Beans are rich in protein, balancing the lack of necessary amino acids found in corn. Finally, squash yields both vitamins from the fruit and healthful, delicious oil from the seeds.

Arroz con Gandules

arroz con gandules

It’s a good sign for me that I’m making the time and effort to take lunches to work again. October’s Vegan MoFo seems like a blur, in which I tried to eat in as many restaurants as I could during the month. This was not kind to my waistline. November was stressful, and when I get stressed I make all the wrong food choices. Again, ditto for the waistline. Now the holiday season and its inevitable splurges are coming, but my body just can’t take this abuse any longer. I feel like I’m walking around half asleep, in a carb-induced state of near-hibernation. I would actually hibernate, except I would miss knitting season and a whole lot of other fun things.

I’d like to be able to say that what I’ve been eating lately is mostly healthy, and it’s just the quantities that need adjustment – but it’s not the case. I’ve been loading up on sugary junk and carbs. It feels like I’m on a moody roller coaster, where the downward swings leave me feeling like no amount of sleep is enough, and the wiry sugared-up feeling doesn’t last nearly long enough. I feel so much better when I’m “high” on the phytochemicals. The solution is probably more kale. When I’m planning meals, I need to think vegetables vegetables vegetables! instead of grains grains grains! this winter.

I’m sure I can shift myself away from these carb cravings with better planning and more fresh vegetable choices ready to go in the refrigerator. It’s like a cycle… I eat carby junk, I get tired all the time, I lose interest in cooking and food preparation, I eat more carby junk that I can grab, lather, rinse, repeat. But I shall break out of this. I will make a date with myself. On this date, I will purchase, clean, and prepare 3 different healthy snacks to have on hand that have vegetables and/or fruit and protein. I will plan meals for the week and lunches to take to work that will fill me up all day.

And if this doesn’t work, you may find me in a nearby tree, sleeping it off until spring.

The picture above is rice with pigeon peas, or arroz con gandules. It’s a Puerto Rican dish I first tried at a Seventh Day Adventist food fair, and I liked it a lot. My version was thrown together on a weeknight after coming home from work AND a trip to the store for groceries, so it’s not as detailed with spices or as authentic as the real thing. Basically, I just used my own Mexican rice recipe, which is probably all sorts of wrong, and added a can of pigeon peas. The real thing calls for flavorful achiote oil, a Puerto Rican staple. It usually contains some green manzanilla olives, but not everyone in my family likes those. I will work on a version that’s closer to the real thing.

 

Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake: A Review

I’m not a huge fan of frozen dinners. But when I saw these Kashi dinners on sale at Meijer for $1.70 each (50% off!), I thought I would give them a try. They’re clearly marked “vegan” too. Thanks Kashi!

The Mayan Harvest Bake is advertised as “plantains, black beans, sweet potato & kale, Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf, amaranth & polenta, and spicy ancho sauce.” There’s a lot going on here. The photo on the front of the box depicts a neatly-arranged square of layered ingredients, but we all know that’s not what reality holds inside the box (see second photo below). There is no such thing as artful presentation when it comes to frozen dinners.

Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake

Despite the conglomerated presentation, I enjoyed the flavors in this dish. I would love to create my own dish with similar ingredients, especially plantains and the enchilada-type sauce. From the top down:

  • plantains: delicious any way you prepare them, really.
  • black beans: see above. Can’t go wrong.
  • sweet potatoes & kale: yes, please.
  • Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf: hearty, grainy. Might be better as a side dish.
  • amaranth polenta: worth making at home, since I love polenta. Yay for new grains!
  • spicy ancho sauce: tasty, reminiscent of the sauce on Amy’s enchiladas.
  • pumpkin seed garnish: very nice.

Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake

The verdict: tasty. Not sure I would purchase this if it had not been on sale. At least I have some new plantain ideas that don’t involve frying! With an apple for dessert, I’m full.

Random Eating: Aug. 28 – Sep. 3

seitan fajitas

Seitan Fajitas: Simple Seitan from Veganomicon (similar recipe on Post Punk Kitchen), sauteed with taco seasonings (chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion, garlic), water, and vinegar. I was going for a chorizo-type flavor. It was very tasty, but I’m not sure about the texture of simmered seitan. I like it more chewy, like what you get from the Julie Hasson steaming method.

peaches and greens smoothie

It was still hot this week (it’s September already!) so I had a few smoothies. This is a Peaches and Greens Smoothie: coconut milk, agave nectar, kale, frozen bananas, frozen peaches.

ukranian borscht and waldorf salad

Lunch at work: red peppers and basic homemade hummus, grapes, waldorf salad (granny smith apples, black raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, low-fat Vegenaise), with Ukranian Borscht from Common Ground Co-Op.

portabella steak dinner

Portabella steak dinner: steak sauce-marinated mushrooms, yellow basmati rice, sauteed zucchini.

zaatar

This week I finally tried Za’atar. I am SO addicted! I’ve seen this many times at World Harvest foods, always sold in what seemed like very large bags, and wondered… who would need that much of a spice? Now I know.

Za’atar is a mixture of thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and other spices that you can mix with olive oil and use as a spread, dip, or condiment. I like it mixed with olive oil on bread. I sprinkled it on some spring mix salad. It’s also good with hummus.  I should make some chapatis for dipping.

channa masala with zaatar

Here is more za’atar, with basmati rice and channa masala.

mobile crockpot unit

Despite the 90 degree heat this week, I made a big hot crock pot of vegan chili to share with colleagues. Everyone liked it. I’ve made chili twice in the last two weeks, and I’m a little tired of it, so I think I’ll freeze the leftovers for later.

“There’s Something About Your Chili”

vegan chili with fried plantainsWe made chili last weekend in two pots: one vegan, and one with beef. Dave tasted both and ate the omni version, but he commented that there was something about the vegan chili that was really good – better than the beef. Neither one of us could pinpoint exactly what it was. I’m going to make a big crock pot of this and take it to work.

The ground coffee and chocolate provide very subtle flavors. You will not taste this chili and say, “ooh, coffee!” but you will taste a certain something something.

This was really yummy with a few fried plantains on the side.

damn good vegan chili

Damn Good Vegan Chili

Ingredients:
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 cup TVP granules
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped *
2 tbsp chili powder (good quality stuff, like Penzeys)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp ground coffee (use a good quality, dark roast, preferably fresh-ground – NOT Folgers!)
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
a few dashes cayenne
1 15 oz can black beans, undrained
1 14.5 oz can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 15 oz can peeled crushed tomatoes
1/2 tbsp jalapeño vinegar – the juice from the jar of pepper rings
1 tsp agave nectar

Directions:
In a bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup, bring broth to a boil. Add liquid smoke and mix well. Add TVP granules and stir until moistened. Cover with plastic wrap or a folded towel and let stand to absorb liquid.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic, coffee, cocoa, salt, cayenne, and TVP mixture. Cook and stir until spices are fragrant, about two minutes.

Add black beans, along with their juice from the can, and both cans of tomatoes. Stir in jalapeño vinegar and agave nectar.

Simmer slowly about 15 minutes. The chili reheats well, and the flavors are even better the next day. It can also be frozen.

Makes 4-6 generous servings.

* What exactly is a medium onion, since “medium” is a relative measurement? Well, the standard medium onion is 1/5 of a pound, and equals about 1/2 cup when chopped. A large onion will yield about 1 cup, and a small onion will yield about 1/3 cup.

P.S. – The non-vegan chili was labeled truthfully to avoid confusion.

chili label

This Week’s Random Food

Here’s another installment of random things I have eaten this week.

vegan curry udon with tofu and vegetablesBest photo first! This is Curry Udon Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables, from Cravings Restaurant in Champaign. “Meat-Free” Mike from Food For Thought suggested this, and it was excellent. I love the shape of the carrots. Thanks, Mike!

vegan macaroni and cheese with beer cheese sauceNext on the carb parade: Macaroni with Beer Cheese Sauce. We made fondue last weekend, and I tossed the leftover vegan beer cheese sauce with some hot pasta and seasoned it with black pepper. The beer cheese sauce is based on Classic Fondue from The Uncheese Cookbook. It was delicious as a fondue, but subbing all beer for the wine in the original recipe meant the beer flavor was a bit too strong. Next time I’ll go with half veg broth and half beer. Very creamy, cheesy, and easy to make in a blender.

vegan tofu, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with olive saladHere’s a version of one of my favorite vegetarian sandwiches, the Tofulatta from Strawberry Fields in Urbana. The original sandwich contains grilled tofu, lettuce, tomato, provolone, and olive salad. No provolone here, but plenty of yummy olive salad. It’s the Tofuletta!

I am thrilled to have successfully grilled tofu. And now I can’t stop eating it. I used an indoor panini maker, and it was fast and easy.

tofu on the grill

The Best Tofu In The World is from the deli case at Common Ground Food Co-Op, sold in bulk. Thank you to Sarah, my vegetarian friend and colleague, for the suggestion. It’s the perfect firmness, and requires very little pressing. I slice it about 1/2 inch thick, press it briefly between towels, spread it out on a plate, and brush it with a soy/garlic marinade, then grill for about 3 minutes. The texture is great for sandwiches: chewy and a little crisp on the edges. I’m working on a post featuring several marinades. I prefer these a lot over vegan deli slices.

vegan smoky white beans and kaleThese smoky white beans and kale were awesome, and so easy to prepare. I started with roughly-torn kale, sauteed in some olive oil, with garlic and black pepper. When the kale was slightly wilted, I added about 2 cups of leftover canellini beans I had slow-cooked earlier this week, and 1/2 cup of vegetable broth with a few drops of liquid smoke mixed in. I also added vegan bacon bits. In about 10-15 minutes, the kale was tender but not completely mushy – just right.

vegan zucchini pasta with white bean basil sauceThis is a weird late-summer combination resulting from excessive heat and too many produce odds and ends.

The corn is topped with mayonnaise and lime juice, like elotes served from a local Mexican food truck. I’m really not a fan of mayonnaise on corn, but at least I tried it. The tomatoes have bacon bits on them, because I really wanted something with tomato and bacon flavors. The zucchini is sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. This is the first time I have tried that, and I found that I liked slicing off the outer part of the zucchini only, just down to the seeds. I sliced the leftover seedy “core” I was left with and saved it for smoothies later. Let no vegetable go to waste, right?

The sauce on the zucchini isn’t very visible, but it’s a leftover white bean and basil dip that I made over the weekend. I will definitely post this recipe later, because it’s AWESOME. I was surprised how well it transformed into a creamy sauce over the warm zucchini. I think serving it over wheat pasta would be too bland, but the zucchini “pasta” really works.

vegan Doodles cup: ramen, tofu, bok choy, marinated carrotsThis cup of noodles is from Doodles in Champaign. It’s a little restaurant on campus serving customized bowls of ramen noodles. You can choose your broth flavor (a few flavors are vegan, most surprisingly the “beef” flavor; must be a hydrolyzed soy-based flavoring) and top it with whatever you want. There are a number of meats, of course, and plenty of vegetable options, including vegetable gyoza (not sure if they’re vegan, though).

Veggie Burgers and Pretz-A-Bagels

I have had mixed experiences with store-bought veggie burgers. Some are tasty, and some try too hard to be meat-like. My favorites are those which have interesting flavors, such as the Gardenburger Original (cheese, rice, and mushrooms), the Morningstar Tomato Basil Pizza Burger (self-explanatory, soy-based), or the Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger (mostly beans and corn). All of these contain cheese and/or eggs, and many other vegetarian burgers contain dairy and egg ingredients.

Why not try to make veggie burgers at home? There are a ton of recipes to be found on the web using easy-to-find ingredients. I picked up The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, an excellent book that’s a virtual world tour in burger form. It’s a complete celebration of the burger, offering plenty of recipes, including buns, condiments, sides, and even homemade bacon bits. Most ingredients are easy to find in supermarkets.

I’ve made other veggie burgers before with great success, and I love that they freeze well for later. Just separate them with waxed paper or parchment, and pop them into a bag or plastic container.

Tonight’s high-energy cooking session produced two patties. First, a Millet and Black Bean Burger recipe from Terry Walters’ book “Clean Food”, spotted last week on the No Meat Athlete blog. These were very good on their own, or eaten in a wrap. I topped mine with cilantro lime mayo, onions, and salsa.

millet black bean burgers

I had to add some extra water and lime salsa to make the mixture stick together, and as the last patties were assembled there seemed to be too much corn left that didn’t stick in the patty. I would use less corn next time.

The Bacon Cheeseburger patties come from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. I didn’t have maple syrup, so I used some unrefined sugar (less than called for) and water. Next time I would eliminate the sugar entirely, and cut back on the peanut butter. They’re a little too “peanutty” for me. We’ll see how they reheat. My barbecue sauce may also have been too sweet. Overall, these are very good, and definitely have a “cheesy” flavor from the nutritional yeast.

bacon cheeseburgers

And they’re really not burned, I swear! I just like them very crispy. I plan to take one or more of these to work, along with these new bun-like things I discovered: Mini Pretz-A-Bagels! They’re like a bagel on the inside, with a chewy, caramelized texture of a soft pretzel on the outside. Lance likes them for sandwiches in his lunch. I like them dipped in hummus.

Pretz-A-Bagel

Quick Polenta with Black Beans and Mole

polenta with black beans and mole

Today’s lunch is brought to you by the secret word: drool.

Here we have a few slices of prepared polenta and black beans, topped with Doña Maria Mole. This prepared mole comes as a sauce that you can use right out of a little square Tetra-Pak, about the size of a juice box. It’s convenient for our family, because I can serve the omni-people their chicken with mole, and save some sauce for topping my veg protein of choice. (I should try it with tempeh.) It all comes together in under 5 minutes, minus cooking the Mexican Rice on the side (which takes about 25 minutes).

I packed up two lunch portions in these Pyrex “frozen dinner”-sized containers. They’re about the same size as one of those overpriced meals you buy out of the freezer. I’ve eaten my share of Healthy Choice, and they never compared to my own leftovers. I’m trying to phase out plastic containers and use more glass for reheating. These containers come with plastic lids which do an adequate job of sealing, except for really juicy foods. When I’m concerned about leakage, I seal the container with plastic wrap under the lid.

Pyrex lunch containers

And… check out my new To-Go Ware utensil set! It’s made from bamboo, and includes chopsticks and a fabric carrying case (not pictured). It fits in my small purse, so it can go to restaurants, or wherever I eat my packed lunches. The sets retail for $12.95 each at the manufacturer’s web site, but Common Ground Food Co-Op has them for only $9.99.

 

A Batch of Breakfast Burritos, and Mexican Rice

breakfast burritos

I made ten breakfast burritos last weekend, which I froze or refrigerated for future grab-and-go breakfasts. Each burrito contains:

  • a flour tortilla
  • a smear of vegetarian refried beans
  • Mexican Rice (see recipe below)
  • basic scrambled tofu
  • breakfast potatoes
  • a little hot sauce (Cholula is good)
a batch of breakfast burritos in a bag
Why not use the tortilla bag to hold them together in the freezer?

The process took about an hour. All components except the refried beans were prepared from scratch. A lot of the time was not hands-on, such as when the rice was simmering. I could have used two separate skillets for potatoes and scrambled tofu and cooked them simultaneously, but I wanted to keep dirty pans to a minimum. I cooked the breakfast potatoes in the skillet, followed by the scrambled tofu.

The breakfast potatoes are simply diced potatoes sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper.

These burritos are very filling. I prefer to let them thaw a little in the refrigerator overnight (or longer) before microwaving. I heat them on medium power to avoid hot ends and a cold middle.

I tossed one in my bag this morning and it was an excellent post-run breakfast.

Mexican Rice

This recipe makes more than double what you need for ten breakfast burritos, but reheats well. Use any type of rice you prefer, including long-grain or basmati. I used a medium-grain rice because that’s what I had on hand.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups medium-grain rice
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce)
  • 2 tsp vegetable stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon is what I use, or substitute 2 cups of broth)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
In a deep saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add rice and stir to coat. Toast rice for a few minutes while preparing liquid mixture, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a 4-cup measuring container, combine tomato sauce, spices, and vegetable stock concentrate or broth. Add enough water to make a total of 4 cups of liquid.

Stir liquid into rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. (Be sure to follow cooking time guidelines for the rice you’re using.)

Uncover rice and remove from heat. Stir to separate grains and let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tip: When reheating rice, it helps to sprinkle a little water on it before microwaving, in a covered dish. It keeps the rice moist.

Vegan Meetup Group: Salads in the Park

refreshing white teaLinda and Rob hosted the Champaign-Urbana Vegan Meetup Group last night at Davidson Park next to their home. It was a nice setting with enjoyable company, an abundance of great food, and slacklining.

I had about 30 seconds to snap some pictures from the time the dishes were unveiled until the feasting commenced. As usual, several dishes showed up later after we had filled our plates, so my apologies to those whose dishes did not get photographed. My favorite not pictured here was a zucchini bread topped with vegan cheese, made by Amelia.

Linda brewed some fragrant white tea in a nifty jar. White tea is great on ice. I think it would taste great over some chunks of frozen fruit.

channa masala and rice

Linda and Rob also made channa masala, with black tea, and no tomatoes. Interesting, and some of the best channa masala I’ve ever had.

tempeh saladThis is a tempeh/garbanzo bean “mock chicken-or-the-egg” salad from Kathryn, a long-time vegetarian, now vegan. She has forgotten what chicken or tuna salad is supposed to taste like. I don’t think that matters, it just tastes like good food to me.

slaw with daikon radishes Dana made a slaw with kohlrabi and daikon radishes. Way to use that CSA produce, Dana. She also brought the sought-after peanut butter cups, which proved too elusive for me to photograph. Or maybe I was too busy eating one.

broccoli salad with grapesI was too full to try this broccoli salad with grapes. It looks like there’s broccoli, celery, carrots, and grapes in here, with a vegan mayonnaise dressing. I see this salad all the time with raisins, but this grape idea has potential.

corn frittersKatie whipped up some delicious gluten-free corn fritters, with a top-notch presentation! I think the black bean spread on the right is also hers. The ceramic bowl containing it is adorable, with its little pocket for the spreader. Aww! Don’t you think these would make a great savory breakfast?

confetti ramen salad with hemp oil dressing closeup

I contributed a Confetti Ramen Slaw with Hemp Dressing.

Other offerings included Jason’s green beans with chili sauce, bread from Pekara, and delicious dessert bars from Robin, which turned out to be strawberry chickpea blondies, I think. (I may have found the recipe.)