Black Beans & Quinoa ‘Casserole’

I’ve got a ‘thing’ for black beans lately. Maybe it’s simply because they seem to be in vogue at the moment, but what I keep thinking of is their colour: it’s almost a nutritional fact that the richest, deepest coloured plant foods seem to be the most nutrient dense. Also known as turtle beans, they’re a ridiculously good source of protein, fibre, some vitamins & minerals. So I have a very large jar of them in my pantry. Because I don’t buy tinned products, I don’t even know if you can get these fellas pre-cooked in Australian supermarkets; I mean, I’ve never looked. I prefer to DIY. Y’know, prepare ‘from scratch’.Food Fervour

Because they’re a relatively new to my repertoire, I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Mexican predominantly comes to mind when I’m pondering what to make, but I often just throw them into salads as well. This time however, I wanted warm comfort food …and quinoa. I’d noticed a few black-bean-and-quinoa recipes floating around the net in the past, so I was confident I’d find something I wanted. And I did: three recipes, all quite similar… so I literally flipped between windows/tabs during the cook.

Having previously soaked, then slow cooked (overnight) the black beans, they were now ready to go. (Unfortunately I can’t recall the dry weight I began with, however I was lucky enough to have the exact quantity required for the recipe(s!) ….250gms.

This makes an absolute tonne, so as a single person I got about 4-5 meals out of it… and it tastes great cold so you don’t need to reheat it every time you want some. I should imagine it would freeze well too if you’d prefer to do that.

The ingredients I used were as follows:
a good dollop of EVOO, 1 diced onion, 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves, ¾ cup (well) rinsed quinoa, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder, 1½ cups vege stock, black pepper & salt to taste, corn kernels (I used frozen) 250gm pre-soaked & cooked black beans, 200gm baby spinach.

In a large saucepan (over medium heat) add the oil then the onion and garlic, cooking for about 3 minutes or until the onion softens.

Add the quinoa, blending with the oil, onion & garlic, then add the cumin, chili powder, vegetable stock and black pepper. Give it a mix, increase the heat and once it has come to a boil, drop the heat back to low, pop on the lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Give it an occasional stir (mainly to loosen anything sticking to the saucepan base).

Finally, add the corn, beans and baby spinach, stirring gently then covering again for about 5-10 minutes …however long it takes to warm the beans, wilt the spinach and thaw the corn (if using frozen, like me).

Food FervourTo serve, use your imagination! You could easily just hoe in as it is, but I like to add more nutrients, so I went with a ‘warm salad’ theme and topped my serve with chopped avocado, fresh chopped tomato and crumbled feta. For a Mexican feel you could substitute my idea with (home made!) guacamole, (homemade!) tomato salsa and grated cheese ….as well as bit of sour cream (oooh! I just realised this would make a delicious vegetarian nachos topping!)

The next day I ate a serve cold, topped with freshly steamed broccoli, more feta (!) and a boiled egg for extra protein (pictured above). Go crazy …and don’t forget to let me know what you create. 😉

 

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Mushroom & Lentil Bolognaise Stew

With Winter smacking us in the face this week, I felt the need for a nice thick, warming stew. But having had (what I considered to be) too much meat for some days prior, I wanted something plant-based… that would satisfy me.

Knowing how damned good legumes are for us (very high fibre and plant-based protein) and having a bag of mushrooms in the fridge that I knew needed to be used up, I began the search for a recipe but as usual, nothing I found comprised a vast array of veggies. So, true to form, I ended up adapting; fusing two different recipes together: one Thermomix Lentil & Veg Stew with a Mushroom & Lentil Bolognaise recipe on taste.com.au.

While I chose to make this using my Thermomix, it could be easily replicated by non-Thermie cooks because it’s a one-pot recipe. But a word of warning to Thermomix users: the quantities I used brought the bowl contents right up to the maximum (2 litres) so if you’re a little reticent, perhaps halve the quantities. It will still result in a decent amount of stew.food fervour

Grab the following:

35ml extra virgin olive oil, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 large carrot, 1 stalk celery, 2 potatoes, 170gm uncooked brown lentils, 200gm button mushrooms, 2 tablespoons Thermomix vegetable stock paste + 600gm water (non-Thermies use 700-800ml vegetable stock), 2 bay leaves, 400gm passata (or entire contents of a 400gm tin of tomatoes)

Thermomixers: Add the onion (quartered) garlic cloves, roughly chopped carrot and celery to the bowl and chop for 5 seconds @ Speed 5. Scrape down sides then cook for 3mins @ 100ºC on reverse Speed 1. Meanwhile, dice the potatoes and roughly chop the mushrooms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the potatoes, mushrooms, lentils, stock paste, water, bay leaves and passata (or tomatoes). Stir gently before locking the lid in place and cooking for 45 minutes @ 100ºC on reverse Speed ‘Stir’, with the MC off and the basket (or a light dishcloth draped) over the top to catch splatters.

Stovetop Cooks: Finely chop the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, then warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the veg and cook for 3-5 minutes (until onion has softened) stirring occasionally while you dice the potatoes & roughly chop the mushrooms. Add the potatoes, mushrooms, lentils, stock, bay leaves and passata (or tomatoes) to the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil before reducing to a simmer, partially covered for approximately 40 minutes.

Allow the stew to rest for at least 5 minutes (ThermoServers are the perfect receptacle) before serving so that the some fluid may be further absorbed by the lentils. It’s a perfect meal on its own, or with spiralised zucchini noodles, but you could add some pasta if you feel that you need “carbo-loading” 😉

Asparagus & Sprouted Lentils with Avocado Sauerkraut Mash

The key to healthy eating is experimentation. Really, it’s not that hard, with the bottomless supply of information available at your fingertips on the net. I reckon I search for recipes (food ideas) pretty much every day of the week.

Today’s lunch was no exception. I checked out what I had in the fridge – paying particular attention to the veggies that needed to be used up first – and dived right into Google (the best thing since sliced bread….if you want to call that the best thing…)

Asparagus and sprouted lentils were first up. I found an appealing recipe (5th from the top of the first results page). But my (OCD!?) desire for nutrient density meant I had to search further. So I entered avocado & sauerkraut (just getting into sauerkraut for the first time in my life, so am kind of at a loss as to what to do with it) and found this interesting little recipe…

Envisaging how the two separate dishes may just compliment each other, I set to work, and produced this:food fervour

So, what’s in it? And in particular, what the hell is that stuff on top? It kinda looks like refried-beans-but-not? It’s actually avocado & sauerkraut.

I found the Sprouted Lentils with Asparagus recipe here, on the blog ‘My Own Private Kitchen’ and I altered very little: apart from the amounts (I’m ONE person) I omitted the basil, lemon juice, salt & pepper and I cooked in coconut oil instead. Oh yeah… and a lazy thing: I caramelised the onions in my Thermomix, per a recipe in Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking cookbook (making extra for later use, coz I LOVE caramelised onions).

The Avocado Sauerkraut Mash – on the website purelytwins.com – intrigued me. It’s so simple …but I found it needed something extra, and that extra was a dash of apple cider vinegar (lemon or lime juice might also do) for more, slightly sweeter, acidity. (I might’ve needed the added ‘oomph’ because my sauerkraut is homemade so could taste completely different – milder – than the stuff the twins use/d.)

To describe the processes super-briefly (for those who can’t be bothered visiting the links) here’s how it all came together:

Firstly I set the Thermomix to work on caramelising the onions for me (this takes about 20 minutes, the same amount of time as doing it yourself in a frypan) so I had time to prep my capsicum & asparagus. Frying them in coconut oil, over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, gave me time to make the ago mash simultaneously: halving an avocado, mashing & mixing it with 2 heaped tablespoons of sauerkraut. I pulled the veggies off the heat (leaving them in the frypan to ‘rest’) then mixed the (dash of) apple cider vinegar through the mash mixture and laid the bed of baby spinach on my plate. I added ½ cup of sprouted lentils straight into the frypan with the cooked capsicum & asparagus and stirred them through to warm. When the onions were done, I added about ¼ cup of them to the frypan, again mixing up the contents before placing them on top of the baby spinach. I scraped out every last bit of the avo sauerkraut mash from the mixing bowl and sat it on top of the lot.

It creates a visual feast, but you have to mix it all through when it’s time to consume: the sweetness of the onions and the capsicum counters & compliments the tang of the mash and there’s definitely one helluva lot of texture in the meal. You could also add a drizzle of olive oil and/or lemon juice if you prefer more moistness.

Watercress & Cashew Dip

Out with the kale, and in with the watercress! I have to admit I am a bit of a trendite when it comes to nutrition, but my motives are pure; I simply try to consume the most nutrient-dense foods I can. And I don’t think it’s such a bad habit, training myself to include as many “super foods” in my diet as possible.

It was this chart on David Gillespie’s “Sweet Poison” Facebook page that changed my mind:

A Life in Words(David Gillespie sourced this from the following website: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still eat kale. But I’m quite happy that my preferred leafy green – spinach – ranks higher in value!

But the fanatic I am, well, I HAVE to include it if it tops the list! So at the very next farmers market, I sought out a bunch of watercress… without considering exactly what I’d do with it. I’m not really into plain old sandwiches per se, and I’ve really only thrown it into green smoothies in the past. So I Googled. But the results were quite uninspiring.

It was while I was entertaining a couple of my closest girlfriends on the following weekend that the idea came to me: Dip! Surely if spinach and basil make decent ‘dip heroes’, why not watercress? As far as I could see, it was the best way to use a tonne of the stuff quickly. And since it’s quite fibrous, pulverising it in a powerful blender or Thermomix is ideal (as in green smoothies) because you can use more of the plant (stems etc). MORE fibre, less waste.food fervour

So I created a dip from the first spinach & cashew recipe I came across in a Google search. Watercress has a bitterness to it but also seems to leave your palate refreshed and I found that the cashews complimented it perfectly: countering the bitterness with their natural sweetness, without destroying the herb’s ‘freshness’.

It’s also dead easy: simply blend ⅓ cup cashews, 1 firmly packed cup of watercress (or a big handful!), ¼ cup olive oil, a decent dash of Himalayan salt & 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice (to taste) until smooth. This may require a few pauses to scrape down the sides of the blender (or bowl if you use a Thermomix).

It also makes a great sandwich spread, and I even made a salad dressing of it by mixing in a little extra lemon juice & oil. What better way to pump up the nutritional value of other meals?

Turmeric Egg on Toast

I just rushed in from a resistance training session, and had to rush out again in minutes, so how was I going to re-fuel? Since it’s winter here, I’m loathe to make a protein smoothie in my Thermomix because it’ll chill me from within.

The quickest, warmest, high protein, healthy fats replacement is a boiled egg on toast. I boiled the jug ala Jamie Oliver style, popped the egg and water in a small saucepan and let the stovetop catch up while I pulled out an avocado and the frozen (gluten free) bread slice ….when I saw it. The frozen Turmeric bulb. How would that go with egg? Turns out: ….brilliantly.food fervour

I smashed half an avocado on the toast, spread the egg over the top, then finely grated turmeric over all of that. With some Himalayan salt (I love salty eggs) & the slimmest drizzle of olive oil, it tasted DIVINE. And I just upped the nutrient density and anti-inflammatory properties of my post-training fuel, with minimal effort.

Up there for thinkin’, down there for dancin’!

 

Kangaroo Bolognese

Some people can’t understand how I (or anyone) can eat our ‘national emblem’. The vegetarians’ and vegans’ opinions are justified but any other carnivore (or omnivore, for that matter) cannot complain about me eating ‘Skippy’ if they don’t think twice about eating ‘Daisy’, ‘Babe’ or Nemo!

Kangaroo meat is higher in protein than beef, naturally lower in fat as well, and provides the haem iron I choose to include in my diet. Added to the fact that it is considered ‘Game’ (wild caught) and therefore likely to be a much ‘cleaner’ source of animal protein to consume than the chemical-laden animals being farmed for bulk consumption.

From an anthropological perspective, humans evolved thanks to these kinds of meats: hunters (physically active people) originally had to chase down highly active creatures in order to eat. Daisy wasn’t docilely ‘grazing in the fields’ back then. It was suggested by one of my favourite fitness/nutrition/neuroscience gurus Paul Taylor that “you are the animal you eat”…

On with the story…

I picked up a kilo of kangaroo mince on sale and since I find the ‘mini-chore’ of divvying up individual portions kind of onerous, I decided to create something immediately to lighten my workload. I’m not usually a pasta fan, but somewhere along the line I’d bought some gluten free macaroni and since I’ve been trying to get rid of it (and cannot simply throw it out – wastage is a Sin!) for a while, “spag bol” came to mind.

Straight to the Thermie. Too. Easy. I literally walked in the door at 1:15pm and was eating by 2pm.food fervour

I threw 1 garlic clove, a roughly chopped brown onion, carrot & celery stem in the bowl and almost pulverised them (which ultimately resulted in a very smooth bolognese consistency) for 8 seconds on Speed 7. Then I threw in 20gm of olive oil, the 400gms of Skippy mince (instead of ‘Daisy’ & ‘Babe’) and various herbs (basil, nutmeg, parsley & a bay leaf) and set it on to cook for 10 minutes @ 100ºC, Reverse Speed 1.

In this time I apportioned the remaining kangaroo mince, put away the rest of the groceries and the already-used-ingredients, and pulled out the ones I had yet to use: red wine, tomato paste, tamari, the gluten free macaroni and parmesan cheese. And a zucchini, which I chopped up finely. (My usual bolognese recipe includes more vege – like capsicum & mushrooms – but I didn’t have my Thinking Cap on today. I was more interested in Time-Saving.)

food fervour

While the bolognese simmers away in the Thermomix, the Magic Bullet pulverises the parmesan…

Finally, I added the zucchini, 80gm red wine, 60gms water, 2 tspns tamari & about 300gm tomato paste, set the time to 16 minutes, again @ 100ºC, Reverse Speed 1 then set to work on the other elements:

Since I’m not yet an expert at multi-skilling with my Thermomix alone, I prepared the pasta to cook on the stovetop, boiling the electric jug first (ala Jamie Oliver-style) not just to speed up the process but also to minimise electricity usage a tad. Once the GF macaroni was bubbling away, I pulled out my handy little Magic Bullet, threw a chunk of parmesan in and grated that up in seconds. Everything was ready. I had time to begin the clean-up!

The alarm for my pasta went off literally seconds after the Thermie signalled she was done. Perfect timing. A heavy-duty meal – enough to feed four – complete within 45 minutes… Brilliant!

 

 

Quick Warm Salad with Avocado & Sautéed Bacon

food fervour

I wanted avocado but I wanted something warm. And of course I wanted a variety of veggies. But what protein?

I’m over throwing feta into everything. And then I remembered I had bacon in the freezer. Now I rarely touch cured meats because of the nitrates in them, but I always have some chopped up and stored in the freezer for the (very) rare occasion I feel like fried rice. Or a soup…or something. Like Matriciana.

Not that I’m into pasta either (especially since I went gluten free, and beyond that, choosing to avoid processed foods) but I know of that dish and know that bacon and chilli go well together. Oh, look at that! There’s some chillis in the freezer too, right under the bacon! With the frozen ginger and turmeric. “Right!” I think, “this will show you, Head Cold.”

Chilli likes broccoli too. And so do I. So it was all too simple.

food fervourI threw a de-seeded red chilli, a clove of garlic, a piece of turmeric and a piece of garlic in the Thermomix and chopped them up, then added the bacon and about 20gms olive oil and sautéed all that for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I filled up & turned on the kettle, chopped up some broccoli and snow peas, then blanched them in a saucepan with the kettle’s boiling contents. I dissected and scooped out my avocado halves, chopped up some cherry tomatoes & a shallot, then drained the broccoli & snow peas and threw them on top of the rocket bed. I placed the avocado halves in the centre and scattered the cherry tomatoes around. The sautéed bacon & spices smothered the avocado and I sprinkled the shallots over the top. A decent hand-squeeze of half a bush lemon finished it off.

It took me less than 15 minutes to make, it tasted great and guess what? My nose has stopped running 🙂