Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chana Dal

On this fabulous rainy day in Portland I decided to warm up with some Indian spice. I purchased a bag of Chana Dal from work not to long ago, and it has been sitting in my pantry screaming at me to use it. Chana Dal is sort of like a small chickpea. Actually it is a black chickpea with the skin removed, then split. They look like yellow split peas, but have the texture of a chickpea. Unlike split peas, this legume does not boil down to mush, which is why I like them so much. Chana Dal does stay whole after fully cooked, but releases starches that thicken the soup.
Chana Dal beans take from 20 minutes to an hour to cook, depending on if you soak them beforehand. They are available wherever Bob's Red Mill products are sold, as well as at Indian groceries. You may also find them in many stores bulk bins. They have a whopping 17 grams of fiber per serving and not to mention 19 grams of protein. They are high in complex carbohydrates, calcium and vitamin C. For all you diabetics, Chana Dal has a very low glycemic index too, considering how many complex carbohydrates and grams of protein they have. Check out this guys diabetic story. Why wouldn't you want to eat these lucious legumes.
To cook Chana Dal I started by measuring out my spices. This consisted of black mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, salt and cayenne. With coconut oil hot and ready in the pot, I added the mustard seeds and let them start popping. No they don't make popcorn, but they do sound like it. Mustard seeds must pop to release their delicious flavors and aroma. After they stopped popping I added the rest of the spices then the beans. Stir, stir, stir. Then I submerged them in water and let it all boil and come together. After about an hour, give or take, I lifted the lid of the pot and was amazed at the color and aroma. MMmm smelled so good. To accompany my Chana Dal I made Saffron Brown Basmati Rice with Green Peas. Lastly, I topped the two with chopped tomatoes and onions. This was very comforting on this dreary rainy day. Hope you all have a great day and see you in the kitchen!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Balsamic Quinoa, Black Olives, Italian Kale, Toasted Salty Pepitas and Coarse Ground Pepper

Yes it's been a while and I'm sure y'all are sick of looking at that damn Beet Carpaccio. I have been making recipes, just haven't found the time to post them. Here are two other blogs I am contributing to: The Foodie Foursome and Bob's Red Mill Bakery Blog. I hope you enjoy them all! Here is a dish I enjoyed the other night while watching the pouring rain from inside, where I was cozzily wrapped in my faux fur blanket.
It all started with a cold walk to the store to pick up some black olives. I knew I wanted something with Mediterranean flavors, as well as, some protein fortified quinoa. Why not cook my quinoa with tangy balsamic! I cooked 2 cups dry quinoa with 1 3/4 cups water, 1/4 cup balsamic vineagar and about two tablespoons olive oil. Cooked for 20 minutes, just like rice, and there it was fluffy and oh so fragrant! I then steamed the kale and prepared my other ingredients. A bed of steaming quinoa topped with ground pepper, a bit of salt, kale, black olives and lastly, salty pepitas! If you haven't tried quinoa yet, I highly suggest you do. Let me know if you need any suggestions on ways to prepare it. See you in the kitchen!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I feel like an old woman saying this, but I cannot believe the price of food these days. I almost always buy organic and am just appalled by how much a crown of broccoli or a head of lettuce cost. It is understood that once the demand for organic produce goes up there will be more supply, making it easier on our wallets. I repeatedly tell myself that I am doing a good thing by purchasing organic for the earth and for my body. I want to be part of the "change" that is evolving. I definitely would rather fill my body with naturally grown produce, then pesticide laden fare anyways. Even if you wash a piece of fruit the influence of the chemicals is still prevalent in the fruit and the toll it took on the dirt. So as I sit on my couch devising my dinner menu for the next 2 weeks, I ensue the idea of a food budget as well. I have always heard, "write a list", and yes this is important. More often then not you will buy significantly less if you have that god forsaken list handy while shopping. I also like to shop with a calculator. My love of numbers combined with my love of food makes a trip to the market quite fun. I find myself punching in the $11.00 bottle of wine, then biting my lip and sighing and simply putting it back. When you see the whole picture/total bill you might think twice about those un-needed items. I'm not saying give up on all your loves, whether it is chocolate, wine or for me, olives. All I am saying is that your afternoon glass of vino will taste just as good the next day, if not better, if you moderate your intake. It goes hand and hand with weight loss, a chocolate brownie fudge sundae will taste just as good if you eat it once a week, rather than daily. The impulse and spontaneity naturally excites us humans, but to survive you have to learn to moderate.
Right now is a good time to learn to budget your food with the price of food expected to soar another 5% by next year. Plant a garden, go to the farmer's market, buy local, stock up on dry goods, cut coupons, look at ads, go where the sales are and don't forget your list! I want all to recognize that buying local or organic is the way to go. When you think about it, what sense does it make flying food hundreds or thousands of miles to get to us. We need farms surrounding citites and the people of the city supporting the farms. Though organic and local foods are not considered the cheapest, if you take part in this food revolution that is happening today, then maybe they won't be. Another idea for lowering your food cost is to simply put your portion size in check. It is loudly known that America has giant portions. Sometimes I get a bit irritated by this stereotype, but it is what we make it. Food is our nourishment, it was made to support our bodies and give us the vitality we need to live. So when you are planning a meal think of that. A classic example is the food pyramid. Remember, serving sizes are the size of your fist, not your plate. Check this: a serving of whole grains is equal to one slice of bread of a 1/2 cup of pasta. You might not need as much grub as you think. If you are overweight think of how much your food bill is and slash it by a 1/3 and thats what it would be like if you were a couple pounds lighter. Dr. Oz just had an episode showing how expensive it is to be overweight. Just based on the food intake and medical bills due to illness connected with obesity.
Lastly, I must say something about the price of meat. Vegan shopping is much cheaper than omnivore shopping. I have forgotten what the cost of a brick of cheese is, let alone the unknown price of a T-bone or a pound of chicken breast. I've looked and know that those items wouldn't fit into my budget. When you buy whole foods such as brown rice, french lentils or pinto beans you open up many possibilities and save a lot of money on your protein. Dried legumes also have a very long shelf life. I have also found buying some vegetables frozen, particulary ones that are not in season, can lower your bill too! Not only are they cheap and offered in organic, but are often found to be more nutritious. I can proudly say our 2-week grocery bill for 2 was just $98.00. We shopped around and even bought beer!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beet Carpaccio

Carpaccio(kahr-PAH-chee-oh) is an Italian originated appetizer usually consisting of thinly sliced raw beef filet and dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. So, naturally I cheated and used a vegetable, such as beets, that looked sort of like the traditional dish. It's normally plated on a larger plate, layered and all spread out. Instead using small plates, I constructed it a bit taller. I figure I am already offending the Italians by using beets, so might as well make it look completely different. Anyways, I love the rich color and distinct flavor of beets. Many say that they taste like dirt and I might have to agree with them, but I must just love dirt flavor. My favorite way to eat them is pickled with olive oil and salt. For the Carpaccio, I par-cooked one giant beet bulb in a blend of pickling spice and lemon rind. I then drained the liquid and cooled the beet quickly with cold water and ice. Thinly sliced and layered with a sprinkle of kosher salt, a drizzle of olive oil and finished with finely zested orange and lime rind. Served up as part of the salad course, this Beet Carpaccio is sure to impress. I even got Jonathan(once a beet hater) to eat it and even tell me he that he enjoyed it. I followed this dish with a Mixed Green Balsamic Salad, then an entree of Coconut Walnut Crusted Tofu with Brown Basmati Coconut Rice and Braised Baby Bok Choy and ended with a delicious dessert of Chocolate Raspberry Coconut Ice Cream.