Posts Tagged vegan option

Quinoa – Learning to Love It

    Quinoa (kee-nwa) was an ancient food of the Incas – it was considered sacred and referred to as ‘mother of all grains’. Although no longer widely known or used it is gaining in popularity due to its nutritional qualities and versatility.

    Unlike most other grains and seeds quinoa contains all of the amino acids needed for humans to assimilate as a high-value protein. In addition to being gluten-free and easy to digest it is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.

    The quinoa seeds, as harvested, have a somewhat soapy and slightly bitter coating of saponins that discourage birds from consuming the seeds. Most quinoa available at your local grocers has been pre-soaked and rinsed to remove this coating. I always soak and rinse my quinoa whether it is presented in bulk or packaged and labeled as pre-rinsed. This insures that the seeds are clean, tender, and ready to accept the seasonings in your recipes be they sweet or savory.  Evidently a short-lived experiment in raising quinoa without the saponins coating resulted in birds consuming most of the harvest. And so I soak  . . . .

1) Measure out the quinoa and add enough water so that the mixture is slushy when stirred.

Quinoa Seeds Soaking

Quinoa Seeds Soaking

2) Pour the slush into a mesh strainer and thoroughly rinse. If the soaking water is only slightly hazy when stirring then 15-20 minutes is probably enough. These pictures are of bulk quinoa that needed about an hour of soaking and a change of water to clear.

Draining the Soaked Quinoa

Draining the Soaked Quinoa

3) Dump the soaked quinoa into your pan and cover with water. Turn the heat on medium until the mixture starts to bubble. Then turn the heat down low and put on the lid. Watch it very carefully until it settles down to a steady simmer because like oatmeal or pasta it will make fierce bubbles that climb the pot walls and boil over onto the stove.

Turning Up the Heat

Turning Up the Heat

4) The quinoa is done when it looks something like a sand dune on top with minor dips and valleys that are no longer moving. There should be no liquid visible when you take a spoon and check the bottom of the pot.

This Batch Is Fully Cooked

This Batch Is Fully Cooked

    Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking pasta in that you may prefer it very tender or ‘al dente’. You may pre-cook it for a recipe or add it directly to liquids in the recipe. It has the capacity to absorb an amazing amount of flavor from added ingredients. I pre-cook it over low heat for 15-45 minutes; then turn off the heat and let it cool slowly on the burner. The longer it was soaked the shorter the cooking time. Also, if there is still water and it is cooked as long as you like then just drain of the excess water. If you cook it without salt or seasoning then you can use a portion of it in a sweet recipe and the remainder in a savory dish like this one.

    This basic recipe was served at a potluck lunch meeting and received very favorable comments. It was prepared with a large, sweet onion and two fresh tomatoes. I included some ground turkey breast to make it a main dish meal.

    When I make it for Rita, who is currently avoiding nightshade plants I use washed and chopped zucchini in place of the tomatoes. The resulting texture is very similar. I also add a small carrot cut in bits to provide some color,

Savory Quinoa Casserole
Ingredients:
1 cup of dry quinoa cooked with 2 total cups of liquid = 2-2.5 cups cooked quinoa
(If a can of organic diced tomatoes is used for part of the liquid then omit the fresh, sliced tomatoes.)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard (French’s yellow mustard works – it is gluten-free)
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional, see above, or zucchini))
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Directions:
    Heat the oil on medium or medium high  in a large skillet that has a lid.  Add your mustard and bay leaf to the oil and let it sizzle. Stir while adding your cumin and wait a few seconds before adding the onion.
    Sauté the onion until it starts to soften and turn brown. Add ginger, tomatoes (or zucchini/carrot), and turmeric. Let soften and then add your quinoa, stirring it in gently and sprinkling with salt. Reduce heat and cover, cooking for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir once, sprinkle with cilantro, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.
    If you add meat, tofu, or beans then include it already prepared along with the quinoa. This is a good recipe to extend leftovers from another meal. And any local vegetables in season are excellent options.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

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Pork & Beans in Pumpkin Sauce

    Rita is a full-time student this semester and Mom is in the background supporting her efforts as best I can. It is most important these days to keep up the nutrition and avoid the gluten. Many of the new gluten-free products becoming available are still in the fast-food, empty-calorie, snack-food category that we try to avoid. And so we cook.

    This started out as a hearty chili recipe tailored to eliminate some of the elements that Rita is trying to avoid in addition to the gluten. One of those is all nightshade foods, especially tomatoes. The initial recipe caught my eye because the tomato in the recipe was replaced by pumpkin. We are both fans of all things pumpkin so we were very enthusiastic about the possibilities. The lean white pork also met with our approval although it can be substituted with a vegan option or eliminated entirely.

    I printed out a starter recipe and carefully noted every little change as I went along. The seasoning changes strayed so far from the original recipe that it had me quite anxious about the final result. Toward the end I emailed Rita what I had done so far and asked for her input on the choice of beans to be added. She chose navy beans but any favorite bean can be substituted.

    The result is something that I think is very tasty. Rita admitted to me that she liked it so well that she was having a bowl for breakfast as well as for dinner. So I am hoping that this is useful for all the nightshade-challenged individuals trying to stay healthy!

Pork & Beans in Pumpkin Sauce
Ingredients:
1/2 pound navy beans, soaked overnight, and cooked until tender
1 pound lean white pork, bite-size diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
14 oz. water
1 15 oz. can pumpkin

1/3-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Process:
    Put the beans on to soak a day ahead of time so they can be cooking while you prepare the sauce. Drain, rinse and add enough water to cover and cook the beans in a 2-quart saucepan. Do not add salt as this can cause the beans to be tough. Cook gently on the lowest heat necessary to keep the water bubbling. When they are tender remove the lid and leave on low heat. Reduce the liquid to retain the nutrients without excess liquid when you add the beans to the remainder of the recipe.

    Use a 4-quart, heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven to prepare the sauce. Add the olive oil to the pan and sauté the pork (or substitute) over medium high heat until it is lightly browned. Stir in the onion and celery. Cook and stir for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

    Stir in the cumin, coriander, garlic powder, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, savory, and marjoram. Also add the water and pumpkin. Bring the heat up slowly and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the pork is tender.

    When you taste the sauce it will seem very flat. This is where the cider vinegar comes in. It adds the sweetness and tang that you are looking for in a chili. Start with 1/3 cup and taste to see if you want a bit more. The difference is quite amazing. Add the beans. Simmer for another few minutes. Top with the fresh cilantro if you are using it.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

PS – There were no pictures. I was too anxious to remember while in process and it went directly into the freezer until I was able to get it to Rita.

    However, here is a picture of my breakfast this morning. Ricki Heller at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs  is writing a new cookbook centered on gluten-free breakfast dishes for those battling Candida infections. This was SO yummy – flavor, texture, and nutrition all wrapped up in one bowl of hot cereal!

Blended Cereal with a Boost

Blended Cereal with a Boost

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Tastier Than That Canned Pasta

   It was a novelty when first introduced and kids loved it – they still do. Something about canned pasta and tomato sauce appeals to kids and many grown-ups still choose it. It is one of the categories that we keep stocked at the local food pantry.
   One day I was thinking about how many children are affected by gluten issues and how easy it is now to prepare gluten-free pasta and that led to ‘how could you make this at home?’ Mentally scanning the pantry I realized all of the makings were right there.
   Thinking in the vegan mode I was going to use lentils (which I have loved ever since Mom’s lentil soup). But it became a meat based version once Don realized that I was preparing pasta. His culinary base is pasta, or as he refers to it, ‘the world’s major vegetable’ so it was prepared to be appealing to his taste as well as mine. Tinkyada pasta is so good that he always wants some of it.
   Isn’t this the gold-standard for gluten-free options? Something that is so good that nobody asks “where’s the gluten?”

Pasta About to Happen

Pasta About to Happen

Easy Gluten-Free Pasta and Sauce
Sauce:
1 medium onion, about 1/2 – 3/4 inch dice
1 Tblsp. olive oil for sautéing
Sprinkle of sea salt
12-oz can of tomato sauce (Hunt’s)
1/2 tsp. each of dry ground oregano and thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
2-3 Tbsp. gluten-free barbeque sauce (Kansas City Classic™)

Protein Option:
3/4 – 1 lb. ground meat
Or:
1 cup dry lentils, cooked until tender

Pasta:
1/2 lb. dry whole grain gluten-free pasta (Tinkyada)

    Prepare the sauce by first sautéing the onion (and ground meat if preparing that option) in the olive oil. Add the seasonings and sauces. Cattleman’s Kansas City Classic™ sauce is gluten-free  and it is an optional, although wonderful, sweet-smoky addition. It does contain corn syrup, high fructose and regular, so some folks may reject it for that reason. I can easily rationalize its use by thinking of it as a flavor element – it’s not like we are slugging down shots of sauce.
    While the sauce is simmering gently prepare the pasta. One of the things I love about Tinkyada pasta, aside from the excellent taste and texture, is the absolute ease of preparation  . When ready just drain (no rinsing), add the sauce containing your choice of protein, combine and serve. Make a double batch if there are more than two of you because leftovers are just as good if not better than freshly prepared!

Gretchen (Mom)

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