The Tale of Ethiopia and the bland vegetables

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This is the kind of thing I fear when eating out-whether travelling abroad or staying near home: vegetarian vegetable victimization. I was subjected to oversalted overcooked vegetables prepared without imagination at the Wendogenet resort in southern Ethiopia.

I was hungry and captive at an isolated resort without any other dining option. My power bar wasn’t going to cut it-besides I was saving it as my long haul flight appetizer.

The limited menu had the usual suspects of vegetarian options: mixed salad; tomato or lentil soup; spaghetti with tomato sauce and fasting food*.

*Meatless Monday – Abysinnia

The mixed salad was out. A cardinal rule for travellers is to usually avoid uncooked vegetables in countries that do not follow Health and Safety Standards for food preparation. Vegetable soups are often disguised as vegetarian so this is a dubious option at best. Chicken or beef stock is often used to make the soup. Try asking the waiter this when he knows only a few words of English and you know nothing of his language.

Pasta with sauce and fasting food didn’t appeal so I requested a plate of cooked vegetables with some bread. The spiral white dinner rolls arrived on its own plate. They were hard and crusty-most likely leftover from a previous meal setting and one had an interloper on it i.e. insect. I tried to salvage what was edible and ate around the hard spots. Then there was the plate of vegetables.

Half of the plate was filled with potatoes while cabbage, spinach, well-cooked onion and a few sparse carrots made up the rest. It was obvious these veggies were bathed in oil, what kind I’m not sure, then cooked into submission. Perhaps they too were leftover from another meal, or another person’s plate the night before.

The potatoes were o.k. but then they usually are when soaked and cooked in copious amounts of fat. The cabbage was extremely salty. It was as though they took an entire salt shaker, removed the lid and dumped the contents onto the cabbage while cooking. The crunchy grain texture wasn’t there but the saline taste surely was.

Quick tips to avoid vegetarian vegetable victimization:

  • Steam most vegetables to retain nutrients.
  • Lightly sauté with fresh herbs for flavour.
  • Roast with a little bit of oil and seasonings to concentrate taste.
  • Or simply eat them raw with a plant-based dip e.g. puréed nuts, nutritional yeast and spices.

 

 

Meatless Monday – Soy-prise!

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Contrary to popular belief, not all vegetarians/vegans like tofu! This includes me. However, my craving of the month interestingly enough is tofu. This Meatless Monday post gives the lowdown on tofu.

Tofu is made from soybeans which also produce the following items:

tempeh, tofu, soy sauce, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy milk, edamame, miso

Tofu comes in two basic types: firm and silken. You can also find extra-firm and silken that has already been flavoured. When buying tofu make sure it is organic and non-GMO. Store tofu in the fridge and place unused portions in some liquid in an air-tight container. Before using, squeeze out excess water by using a tofu press or wrapping in paper/kitchen towel with heavy weight on top. Chop into desired shape and size and marinate or rub to impart some flavour. Bake and add to desired dish.

Note:
*It is advised that people with hypothyroidism and/or are prone to estrogen dependent cancers avoid the consumption of soy.
*There is controversy as to whether soybeans can be properly digested. Fermentation is said to help in this respect so products such as tempeh and miso are considered better options.
Is Soy Bad For You, or Good?

Nutrition:

Tofu is a great source of calcium and good source for manganese, copper, selenium and protein. It also contains iron, omega 3 fats, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B1. This low-glycemic index food can be used in a variety of ways, both sweet and savoury.

The World’s Healthiest Foods – Tofu

Suggestions for Use:

  • Crumble some firm tofu and mix with onion and sweet peppers to make scrambled tofu.
  • Crumble firm tofu and mix with a mayonnaise type condiment to make sandwich filling.
  • Bake cubes of firm tofu with curry spices and add to an Indian flavoured curry dish.
  • Add plain cubes to a stir-fry.
  • Use the silken tofu to make chocolate mousse or pudding

Simple recipe for baked tofu
Whisk together 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil, ½ teaspoon of nutritional yeast and a shake of salt and pepper. Toss a handful of tofu cubes in the mixture to coat and bake them for about 30 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven. Flip them over halfway through baking time for even browning on both sides. Eat plain, with dipping sauce or as an accompaniment to your main meal.

 

 

Busy Bea Baking…Bread for the masses

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Sourdough Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Sourdough
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Asiago Black Pepper Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Asiago Black Pepper
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Turkish flat bread Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Turkish flat bread
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

IMG-20150411-00373 In the homestretch! Only one more class to go in my whole grains bread course. Then I am free to take what I’ve learned and create!

Behold what has kept me busy these last few months.

Note: All breads are made with whole grain flour except the sourdough. The chef didn’t think we were busy enough so he had us make this extra bread to practice our shaping techniques.

Bread, like life, is a work in progress. You have a recipe but don’t get too stuck on it. Weather, ingredients and planetary alignment can wreak havoc with your creations.


“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

~John Lennon~

And so it is with artisan bread.

Finnish rye rounds and pita Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Finnish rye rounds and pita
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Whole grain buns Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Whole grain buns
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Anise bread (white crackly top) and whole grain football bread Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Anise bread (white crackly top) and whole grain football bread
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Oat loaf, potato rosemary round and whole grain batard Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Oat loaf, potato rosemary round and whole grain batard
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Baguettes Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Baguettes
Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Forbidden Fruits

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Psst! There may be illicit substances lurking in your pantry: hemp, poppy seeds and Coca-Cola.

Hemp
Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant Cannabis Sativa. One is legal and one is not. Both contain cannabinoids, chemical compounds indigenous to this plant. Hemp has a higher content of CBD (cannabidiol) while marijuana contains significant levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). It is the THC that has the psychoactive effect while the CBD inhibits this effect.

Edible hemp comes in three forms: oil, seeds (known as ‘hearts’) and powder. Hemp seeds generally do not contain THC while the oil may contain negligible amounts.

Dietary hemp has a number of nutritional benefits. The oil is rich in essential fatty acids and contains an ideal ratio of Omega 3 and 6. Hemp is one of the few plants complete in essential amino acids which makes it a good protein source for vegetarians/vegans. Hemp also contains fibre and minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron. Suggestions for use:

  • Use the oil in a homemade salad dressing.
  • Use the powder in energy snacks and brownies (yes ole time hippies, just brownies).
  • Add the seeds to a veggie burger or casserole for a little bit of texture.

Poppy Seeds
Papaver somniferum is the Latin name for the opium poppy. This plant contains alkaloids such as codeine and morphine and the seeds are the very same that sit atop your bagel, are mixed with lemon and cake batter and get stuck between your teeth. Other derivatives of the poppy plant include heroin and opium. Though the seeds are not meant to contain alkaloids, poor harvesting and damage to part of the plant from insects may cause some alkaloids to leach onto the seeds.

Poppy profile

Opium the drug

Coca-Cola
What do these 3 things have in common? Cocaine, Coca-Cola, a remedy for altitude sickness.

The coca leaf. This plant has been altered to produce an illegal drug, an ingredient in a popular soft drink and a remedy in the Peruvian Andes to combat mountain sickness, an illness resulting from lack of oxygen at high altitudes (i.e. from 8000 feet/2500 M and up).

Cocaine is still illegal, the aptly name Coke used coca leaves and kola nuts (hence the name) in its original formulation and coca tea is still reportedly used for altitude sickness in parts of South America.

Meatless Monday – The way of the chickpea

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The best thing since sliced bread, chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are the feature of this Meatless Monday post. Originating in the Middle East and now found throughout the world, chickpeas provide fiber, protein, iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium to all those who consume them. But apart from hummus, what else does one do with chickpeas?

  • Smash chickpeas and mix with mayo, celery, onion and other seasonings to make chickpea ‘tuna salad’. Add some dulse, or other edible seaweed, to give it an ‘ocean’ flavour. Use the same mixture to mix with noodles, peas and cashew cream and bake a chickpea ‘tuna’ casserole.
  • Use chickpea flour in gluten-free baking or make Indian style rotis with it. Also called gram or besan flour.
  • Make veggie bean burgers. Popular combinations: spinach and chickpeas; potato and chickpeas.
  • Add chickpeas to salsa.
  • Mix chickpeas with some spices and oil and roast in the oven to make a crunchy snack.
  • Make a chickpea curry in a bath of tomato sauce, coconut cream and curry spices.
  • Make a Moroccan Harira soup.
  • Purée chickpeas with some cocoa powder and sweetener to make a dessert hummus.
  • Add to salads.
  • Mix vegetables and couscous with chickpeas for a complete meal.
  • Make vegan meringue! The following are pictures of my vegan meringue experiment.

In trolling the internet for vegan recipes, I came across several posts citing the magic of chickpea brine in making meringue. I was skeptical at first but tried it and it worked!

Simply drain a can of chickpeas (I like the Eden Foods brand as their can linings are BPA-free) catching the brine in a bowl. Put in mixer and whisk on high until it becomes white, fluffy and airy. Slowly pour in fine sugar (i.e. caster sugar or fruit sugar) while mixer is still whisking. Then put in a splash of vanilla and continue to whisk until it reaches the stiff peak* stage and turns glossy. You can either mix with almond meal to make macarons or simply pipe the mixture you have to make meringue cookies or pavlova.

Just like egg white meringues, chickpea meringues are very fussy and delicate. They should be baked in a low oven (200-250°F) for a minimum of 30 minutes. Do not open the oven during baking (I did-oops)! Leave them in the oven with the heat off before removing them to cool completely and harden up.

Due to my faux-pas of peeking, the meringues lost the air whipped into them and flattened out. Some kept their shape and ended up being crunchy but were hollow inside. I did not store them properly and the crispness I had achieved with the survivors was gone the next day. They had turned into sticky chewy marshmallow pancakes.

I have purposely left out times and amounts as I have not yet perfected this recipe. I used just over 1/2 cup of brine with about 1/3 cup sugar and a drop of vanilla extract. Total whisking time was about 10 minutes. I’ve got another can of chickpeas and some leftover sugar so I shall be trying this again. Stay tuned…

*Stiff peak
No this was not a t.v. show from the nineties. It is a baking term to denote the look and texture of meringue. When held at the tip of the whisk, the meringue should form a conical shape and not flop over. The flopping is known as a soft peak. Stiff peaks are needed for meringues, pavlova and macarons.

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

Photo by Kimberley (c)2015

 Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) – The World’s Healthiest Foods

TNEL – Lent in Reverse

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Forbidden foods

Leading up to Easter is Lent, a time where fasting is observed. Passover, which coincides with the timing of Easter, does not allow chametz foods (i.e. fermented grains) to be eaten during this 8 day Jewish holiday.

Battle of the Indulge – Showdown with the (chocolate) Easter bunny

I did the reverse of Lent and went from feasting to fasting. I believe in eating seasonally and this time of year saw many reasons to indulge in unprocessed sugar and treats:

Participating in the vegan bake-off; my birthday; long-drawn out winter blues and its accompanying carb cravings

Easter is a moveable feast meaning it doesn’t have a fixed date. It falls on the first Sunday post first full moon of spring in the northern hemisphere. While some are feasting at the end of Lent I shall be observing spring cleaning as it pertains to diet.

Spring signifies new beginnings and the move from heavy to light fare and the consumption of more raw food with less emphasis on cooked. To help the natural cleansing mechanisms of your body, try incorporating the following into your diet:

  • drink lots of water with lemon
  • eat salad made with baby greens e.g. arugula, kale, spinach etc.
  • eat seasonal fruits and vegetables e.g. berries, asparagus
  • have light soups e.g. miso with vegetables and seaweed
  • reduce sugar consumption
  • increase probiotics in your diet by eating fermented foods (eek that means chametz!)
  • replace comfort foods with healthier choices e.g. instead of a chocolate doughnut, have homemade nutella on a rice cake

 

Healthy Eating Tips for the Holidays

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Lent has come to a close and the Passover Seder has begun which means lots of goodies to eat. Pigging out during the holidays is as much a tradition as the food so feel free to indulge and follow these tips to help mitigate the bloating during these holy-days:

  • Add a little bit of apple cider vinegar to your drinking water to help stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid (needed for digestion).
  • Supplement with digestive enzyme tablets.
  • Eat a salad full of raw vegetables to obtain digestive enzymes naturally.
  • Ensure you have a healthy dose of probiotics (i.e. through yoghurt, kefir, supplements) in your diet to encourage healthy intestinal flora.
  • Eat when calm. Stress inhibits digestion.
  • Take the time to chew your food slowly; it helps digestive enzymes do their work more effectively.
  • Avoid drinking water with meals; it dilutes the digestive enzymes which can lead to indigestion and bloating.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day instead of pigging out all at once. For the ‘big meal’ keep portions small so that you can enjoy a bit of everything.
  • Wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds (assuming there will be food left in 20 minutes time) to make sure your brain has time to give you the message that you are full.