Category Archives: Basics

Cooking Dried Beans in Your Crockpot.

Standard
Simple, delicious and cost-effective.

Simple, delicious and cost-effective.

Buying dried organic beans and cooking them in a crock pot is a super cost efficient way to ensure that you’re meeting your need for overt proteins without spending a ton on fancy schmancy, overly processed and packaging heavy “fake meats”. Don’t get me wrong: Tofurky, Field Roast,  and Gardien products all have their place in my heart, but they are really not suited to being a daily part of my life.

I make my beans in HUGE batches and then I cool them and store them in single portions in freezer bags and store them in my freezer for future use. This takes a little more effort than just opening a package, but if you plan well you will only have to do it once a month or so. I have a batch of great white beans in my crockpot right now, will be cooking a pot of black beans tomorrow, and one of chick peas the following day, because I had gotten out of the habit of cooking my own beans, and am just now swinging back into production.

I’m eating mainly really simple meals of cooked whole grains with steam fried veggies and beans these days as I’m cycling back to eating “mostly macrobiotic”. There are tons of amazing things you can do with a good sized stash of beans in your freezer. I use mine for things like hummus, re”fried” beans, chickpea cutlets, black bean burgers, bean-based salads, soups, stews, pasta dishes, bean balls, chili, and well, almost any meal you can imagine really.

This is the “recipe” I’ve been using for years, although I do add a piece of wakame to my soak water to speed up cooking a bit:

A Year of Slow Cooking: Cooking Dried Beans in the Slow Cooker. (source article)

-bag of black beans (or other beans. but remember that kidney beans have that freaky toxin ––  see note below.)
–water
crockpot (4 quarts and up)

The Directions.

Pour the entire bag of dried beans into a colander and rinse under cold water. If you see any beans that have broken in half, or skin that floats to the surface, get rid of it. Also pick out any beans that look shriveled and gross.

Dump all the beans into your crockpot. Add enough water to cover all the beans and an additional 2 inches.

Cover. Do not turn on. Let the beans soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight. If you live in a very warm area, and the crockpot won’t be in a room that is climate-controlled, put the stoneware in the fridge. You don’t want bacteria to have the opportunity to grow.

In the morning, dump the water, and rinse your beans. The water will be bean-colored.

(NOTE: if you are using red or kidney beans, you need to boil your beans rapidly on the stove for at least 10 minutes to kill a possible toxin lurking in the beans. It’s better to be safe than sorry!)

Put the beans back into your crockpot and cover with enough fresh water to completely cover the beans with an extra 2-3 inches.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

The beans are done when they are bite-tender. Don’t worry if the water hasn’t all absorbed. You’re going to dump it, anyway.

Drain the beans.

When cool, put 1 2/3 cups of beans into storage containers or freezer bags (you’re adding this amount because you aren’t adding filler-liquid like the cans have). The beans will store nicely in the refrigerator for 1 week, or in the freezer for 6 months.

Use as you would canned beans in your favorite recipe.

Avocados and Road Bikes.

Standard
The sky on my bike ride home last night was incredible.

The sky on my bike ride home last night was incredible.

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.

If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,

the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.”
Rumi

I’m still really loving biking to and from work both for the physical work out as well as for the HUGE spiritual lift which it gives me. I arrive both at work and at home feeling invigorated and full of energy, which is certainly not how I felt when I was busing or getting a ride to work. It’s as if the mere act of getting my adrenaline pumping just lifts the stress right out of me and blows it away in the wind.

I am intending to upgrade my bike when fall hits and get a road bike with really good treads for snow-biking. I tried to bike through last winter but I gave up in early December. This year I intend to make sure I’m prepared enough that I have no excuses. I am getting much better at not making excuses, and at just being free to enjoy things without dragging my heels and complaining. Being unapologetically alive feels pretty darn good.

I’m still in a super busy stage in my life and as a results my meals are pretty simple and straight-forward these days. Meals are things like organic corn chips with organic refried beans, and piles of fresh salsa, or toast smeared with avocado and topped with homegrown sprouts. These meals aren’t very exciting to blog about, but I think I’ll start doing so anyway, as I need to keep carrying my whole foods, plant-based message, and showing how simple it can be is an asset for sure.

Avocado toast for supper.

Avocado toast for supper.

The Really Big Salad or, Plants are Effing Amazing!

Standard
Salads should always be bigger than my entire head.

Salads should always be bigger than my entire head.

When the weather gets hot my eating habits tend to wander into the realm of being mainly raw, which for me means, green smoothies, king-sized salads and huge amounts of fresh fruit. I do include cooked, marinaded beans as well as grains and pasta in my salads (also occasional raw seeds, nuts or sprouts) quite regularly and I often eat oatmeal or homemade muesli in the morning, so I would say my hot weather eating habits are about 80% raw. I bulk up my calorie intake on busy days with bananas and dates, because well, they’re calorie dense and high carb (which is a good thing in my world) and yummy as all heck. Also, they make my brain stick this song on auto-repeat, which is always fun:

I’m not a big salad dressing person, but I do occasionally make a marinade or dressing for my salads (the rest of the time I use a squeeze of lemon, or a splash of rice wine or balsamic vinegar). Today’s dressing is a splash of vinegar, tossed in the blender with a handful of sundried tomatoes and some fresh garlic, rather than dressing my salad with this, I marinaded some beans in it and mixed those in.

Todays salad:

  • Organic “super greens” salad green mix
  • Sundried tomato marinaded  6 bean blend
  • Cherry tomato halves
  • Green onion
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber and zucchini chunks
  • A big handful of fine cut flat leaf parsley
  • A big handful of sugar snap peas

I just tossed all of this yum into a big bowl and violently attacked it with a fork and my terrifying canine teeth. Those poor defenseless plants still don’t know what hit them. What can I say, I’m a garden’s worth nightmare. I don’t really have any salad rules, I try to throw as many colours and textures into the bowl as I can, and I always try to add a big handful of fresh herbs or bitter greens, but really salads are just a fun, refreshing sort of free-form event for me.

Huge salads are a pretty affordable way to fill your nutritional needs and remind you how amazing it is that plants provide such an incredible variety of food options. People who’ve never incorporated plant-based meals into their lives really are missing out.

Vegan Oatmeal Pancakes With Sautéed Fruit

Standard
Oatmeal pancakes with peanut butter and stewed fruit.

Oatmeal pancakes with peanut butter and sautéed fruit.

 

Pancakes are the perfect “brunch” Item for someone like myself who has a bicycle commute between home and work. I bulked these up a bit by adding half a cup of oatmeal, some extra brown rice milk, a splash of apple cider vinegar to my usual Vegan Banana Pancake Recipe and then smearing a tablespoon or so of peanut butter on under the sautéed fruit prior to serving.

How to Make My Fruit Topping:

This is such a great way to use up fruit which is needing to be used up quickly. Today I had four apples which were just verging on being over-ripe, so I decided to mix them into a pancake topping.

What you need:

  • 1-2 cups of fresh fruit  and 1/2- 1 cup of frozen berries
  • 1/8 cup water
  • Agave nectar to your taste (you can use whatever sweetener you usually use, or even add a spoonful of jam or skip the extra sweetener)
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • A splash of lemon juice
  1. Chop your fruit up and throw it in a small saucepan with the water and other ingredients.
  2. Cook over medium high heat until the fruit is cooked to your liking
  3. Enjoy over top of pancakes, waffles, vegan ice-cream, stir it into your coconut yogurt, toss it into muffin batter, dump it in your oatmeal etc (the possibilities are endless)

This is a painfully simple way to save a few dollars by using what you have for a purpose other that what you bought it for. I so often buy more fruit than I can eat and I really dislike throwing food into the compost bin if I can avoid it.

 

A Return to Balance and a Big Bowl of Brown Rice.

Image

Well, the time has come for me to get back into cooking the way I normally do for myself when I’m on track and balanced. I mainly focus my meals around whole grains (primarily brown, long grain rice), with a strong emphasis on vegetables, and a small amount of simple protein (beans, tofu, seeds, nuts, seitan) and some fermented/pickled foods to act as condiments. Basically, my usual diet is pretty heavily influenced by Asian style cooking (from all parts of Asia) and has a pretty firm leaning toward macrobiotic style eating. I find that when I follow many of the basic macrobiotic principals I  have very few cravings for sweets or fats, and that my blood sugar stays pretty much in the perfect range (I have type two diabetes).

My meals had to change a fair bit while my ex and I were living together as he didn’t feel comfortable cooking here, and he certainly didn’t have much of a palette for whole foods or many of my staple ingredients and flavor profiles. He was pretty open to trying new things, but I found the whole process of feeding him to be pretty stressful and it kind of crushed my interest in doing much in the way of savory dishes.

Anyway, tonight marks my first day of officially being back on track with my menus, and I thought I’d share some pictures and information with you as I’m preparing my evening meal.

Tonight I’m serving a simple vegetable stir fry with extra firm organic tofu in a spicy peanut sauce, served on a bed of steamed millet. I’ve doubled my tofu portion as my mother has asked to join me (she hates cooking, but she enjoys eating) and I’m hoping to have a few leftovers for my lunch tomorrow.

Toasting My Millet.

Toasting My Millet.

 

My High Tech Tofu Press (plate, cloth napkin, tofu, cutting board, cans of beans, and a rock).

My High Tech Tofu Press (plate, cloth napkin, tofu, cutting board, cans of beans, and a rock).

Pressed Tofu Marinating in Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Pressed Tofu Marinating in Spicy Peanut Sauce.

 

Everything Waiting to Come Together. (I do pre-steam my broccoli slightly as I find it is better to stir fry it a shorter time to avoid mushiness).

Everything Waiting to Come Together. (I do pre-steam my broccoli slightly as I find it is better to stir fry it a shorter time to avoid mushiness).

 

The real trick to making a decent stir-fry is to add your ingredients starting with the longest cooking ones, and working your way down to the shortest cooking ones. You can manipulate this a fair bit by adjusting the size to which you cut things (thinner slicing equals shorter length of cooking time needed).

I serve my stir-fry on a pile of rice/millet/soba/quinoa/whatever, and top with some gomasio (ground, toasted sesame and sea salt). It’s a pretty simple way to cook and eat, but it can be profoundly satisfying and affordable, both of which are big selling points for me.

fini

My Favourite VEGAN Pancake Recipe and, My Best Friend.

Standard
Why yes, I AM THE Banana King!

Why yes, I AM THE Banana King!

So, one of the very first things I learned how to make vegan was these simple, yummy whole wheat (I’ve made these with lots of different types of flour with decent success) banana pancakes. I was absolutely blown away by how light, fluffy and simple these were to make, and how much better they are than any of the omni whole wheat pancakes I’d tried in the past. These are so tasty, that I usually have to make extra, or my mom will eat my share too.

Fluffy Vegan Banana (optional) Pancakes.

(People will NOT guess that these are vegan).

  • 1 cup flour (I use whole wheat most of the time, but sometimes buckwheat ).
  • 2 tsp baking powder.
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (normal salt will do, but I don’t use it often).
  •  1/2 tsp cinnamon.
  • 1 tbsp sweetener of choice (original recipe called for 3 tbsp, but that was overkill for me).
  • 1 tsp vanilla.
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I make my own brown rice milk, or almond milk usually, but in a pinch I use my mom’s soy).
  • 1/2 large ripe banana or one whole small mashed banana (you can substitute *flax or chia gel here if you hate bananas).
  1. Combine all dry ingredients well in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Pour all wet ingredients (including banana) in your blender and blend for 15-25 seconds.
  3. Pour all wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and combine just enough to moisten.
  4. Cook in a frying pan, as you would cook any pancakes (I use an unoiled Teflon one)
  5. Serve and enjoy

(Makes 4-6 standard pancakes)

To make a chia “egg” just soak 1 tbsp of chia seed in 3 tbsp of water, to make a flax “egg” just soak 1 tbsp ground flax in 3 tbsp of water.

I often poke berries or apples, or even vegan chocolate chips into each pancake while cooking them (prior to turning over) and also often serve them with steam sautéed fruit in place of syrup, but basically, these are really good served any way you like them, don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with personalizing this recipe.

The little monster at the top of the page is my 13 year old dachshund, Bjorn who is basically the coolest person I know.