Category Archives: Frugal Feasting

Cooking Dried Beans in Your Crockpot.

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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.

The Really Big Salad or, Plants are Effing Amazing!

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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.

My Creamy Dill and Chickpea Half-Pasta Salad (low fat vegan).

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My creamy chickpea half pasta salad.

My creamy chickpea half pasta salad.

I “invented” this great dish which I call “Half-Pasta Salad” a couple of years back, when I started being more aware of what I eat. I call this “Half-Pasta Salad” because it’s quite literally half pasta, and half salad. I used to serve this with a mayo-based dressing, but now that I’m more cautious about the amount of oil/fat I consume I invented this terrific chickpea based creamy dressing. The dressing is really easy to adapt to your own needs and tweaking the herbs etc is a great way to make this a more flexible, appealing dish. I also love this dressing as a sandwich spread, veggie dip etc.

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup cooked chick peas
  • rice wine vinegar or lemon juice (enough to ensure the chickpeas blend nicely – adjust amounts for taste and texture)
  • a splash of oil if you wish
  • tamari to taste
  • 1 tbsp grainy or dill Dijon
  • 1 clove or more fresh garlic
  • fresh or dried dill
  • freshly ground pepper to taste (I like the blend of pink, white and black peppercorns)
  1. Chop garlic into smallish pieces
  2. Toss all ingredients into your blender and blend until it creates a sauce with a creamy sort of mayonnaise-like consistancy
  3. Set aside.

Salad:

  1. Chop 4 cups of your favourite veggies into small pieces. Place in a bowl with 1-2 cups chickpeas .
  2. Mix dressing into the bowl with the veggies and set aside
  3. Cook 4 cups of your favourite pasta , drain and cool completely under cold water.
  4. Mix the cooked and drained cool pasta into the bowl with your veggies, chickpeas and dressing
  5. Serve and enjoy.

Note: If you are not serving this salad immediately after making it, give it a good stir prior to serving to “re-activate” the creamy texture.

Vegan Oatmeal Pancakes With Sautéed Fruit

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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.

 

Vegan Black Bean Burgers, Gardening and Thinking About GMOs.

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Nothing is quite as awesome as leftover homemade black bean burgers!

Nothing is quite as awesome as leftover homemade black bean burgers!

We (my mom and I) spent most of the day putting in our garden. It’s just a small one, but heck do we ever get a ton of pleasure out of it! This year we planted pumpkins, zucchini, sugar snap peas, green and yellow beans,beets, parsnips, carrots, tomatoes, and watermelon. I’m working on digging up a big patch in the back so I can plant some wild blue sage, dill, mint, and basil as well. I normally just grow a planter of fresh herbs in my kitchen, but I feel like it’s time to commit a bit more and actually start a real herb garden. I just can’t seem to grow enough sage or dill in pots or planters as I’m a HUGE fan of both. Nothing quite beats making MASSIVE pots of super dilly beet borscht with garden fresh ingredients when our chilly Canadian Autumn hits.

Doing the gardening and yard work today, combined with yesterday’s local March on Monsanto rally has really got me thinking about how simple and affordable it really is to eat mostly organic and GMO free. I live on under 600.00 a month (including my half of the mortgage and bills) a lot of the year, and I’m able to eat really well on that so long as I keep my eating habits very rustic and simple.

Simply put, if one is willing to eat the same way most of the less developed world does, it’s dirt cheap.

I buy organic non-gmo brown rice at a local Japanese market (Japanese markets are awesome sorces of organic whole foods if you know a bit about macrobiotics and you’re comfortable asking questions). They keep their prices nice and low by buying bulk, and dividing the rice etc into different sized bags for resale. It’s always super high quality and super fresh.  One of my other major staples is beans. Most of the time I buy bulk dried beans, cook them up in my crock pot and divide them into single serving freezer bags and thaw them as needed.

Even on my tiny budget I’m able to eat abundant amounts of organic produce because I’m saving so much money by not buying many pre-packaged foods and household supplies. Realistically, the fewer “packaged” foods you eat, the fewer of your staples will be genetically modified. You just need to learn how to shop smart, and to do your best to avoid purchasing many food items which require an ingredient list. Hell, at one popular burger joint, even the salt packets have three ingredients listed.

It does take some time to get used to creating routines like cooking ahead, and keeping your pantry stocked with whole foods, and it also takes some effort to get your taste buds acclimated to the earthier flavour profiles.

Today I made a double batch of The Veganomicon’s black bean burgers, so I’ll have quick meals in my fridge and freezer for nights when I’m too tired, or too busy to prepare anything fancy. Pre-cooking things like veggie burgers, brown rice, beans, millet etc and storing them for busy days really does make living this way seem pretty simple. I do of course have some simple frozen packaged food around, but for the most part I’ve got this whole home-cooking thing down to an art-form. It’s easy enough and economical enough that anyone can do it.

Most of us have been brainwashed into thinking that food has to be decadent and easy (and full of animal products)and truthfully, there’s no good reason why we in the industrialized world should be eating such nutritionally deficient,genetically modified, and energetically dead food. True abundance doesn’t look much like the Standard American Diet, or our current “civilized” lifestyle. Less industrialized countries have many really valuable lessons to teach us. If we were to fall in line with what the rest of the world is eating, we’d have plentiful resources to SHARE with our fellow Earthlings.