Slow-cooker Chickpea Curry

Happy December first! I hope all my American readers have survived Thanksgiving and black Friday with full bellies and empty wallets. No matter where you are, I hope you are all out enjoying the crisp air outside or are at least tucked away inside cozy and warm. The dogs and I were out for a good 7 km hike this afternoon and I came in craving warm ginger molasses cookies and stew; I think Winter is coming.

photoWith the weather is slowly getting cooler, we have had a few days of mild flurries that have melted before collecting into any discernible snowfall. The holidays are fast approaching and I don’t have anything decorated, or any presents bought, and as always, minimal holiday cheer.  What I can get down for right this minute is easy-peasy recipes that produce comforting, delicious and spicy meals I can eat all week for lunches.

This first recipe I published on V-Spot was a quick and easy recipe for channa masala using canned chickpeas and a skillet. I love healthy one-pot recipes you can make up in a few minutes and I always wanted to revisit that recipe that started this blog. This time I’ve really improved on an old favorite, making it lazy weekend friendly this time it with a slow-cooker.

Slow Cooker Chickpea CurrySlow-cooker Chickpea Curry

  • 2 cups dried organic chickpeas, washed, sorted and topped with 3 inches of water left in the fridge to soak overnight
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 stalk of celery, trimmed and diced
  • 1 small red/orange pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, peeled trimmed and diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 inch piece if ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 tsp-1/2 tsp of chili flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds toasted before veggies or 1 tsp ground while sauteing
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 heaping tbs of PC Tandoori spice; it’s a mild one made mainly of paprika, coriander, ginger, onion and garlic powder and a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 a 5.5oz/75ml can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbs Patak’s Hot Curry paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups of water (1 cup is added to the pan before adding to the crock-pot)

Method

The night before rinse and pick through 2 cups of dried organic chickpeas. Place in a large bowl and cover with about 3 inches of cool water. Store in the fridge overnight. The chickpeas should double in size.

When you are ready to cook in the next day, drain the chickpeas and pour into the ceramic portion of the crock-pot.

Soaked and Drained ChickpeasClean, trim and finely dice a stalk of celery, a medium large onion and a red/orange pepper set aside. Mince garlic and ginger and set aside together.

DicedHeat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. If you are using cumin seeds, add them when the pan comes to temperature and toast until they start to pop. If you are using ground cumin skip this step and add onions and celery to cook for about 3-4 minutes.

Add diced red/orange pepper, chili flakes, cumin and garlic salt, tandoori spice mix and cinnamon and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring continuously for an additional minute.

Lower the heat to medium and stir in 1/2 can of organic tomato paste and curry paste and stir well. Make sure everything is well combined the tomato paste will start to stick to the bottom of pan but continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Spicy SauteeOnce all the vegetables are tender and everything is well incorporated taste for seasoning. Adjust with salt and pepper, remember it should be pretty concentrated as you are using it as your flavour base for the chickpeas.

Chickpeas and Spice PasteScrape as much as you can into the crock-pot with the chickpeas. Return the skillet to the burner and add 1 cup of cool water to get the remaining bits from the pan. Pour the seasoned water into the crock pot with the spice paste and chickpeas and stir until everything is incorporated. Add two more cups of water to the crock pot, cover and turn on high. Cook on high for about 3.5 hours until the chickpeas are tender-firm.

Before Slow- to PerfectionAs the chickpeas cool the sauce will naturally thicken some. Like all curries and stews they are always tastier the next day. Serve over brown rice, or with buttered naan bread.

Spoonfull

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P is for…

I’ve been trying to write this What’s the Word? Wednesday post for months now. Ever since I started the series I have known what P was going to stand for. How did I know? Well, almost every time you tell someone you are a vegetarian (or vegan) you eventually come to this question in the conversation:

But how do you get enough protein?

With this installment of What’s the Word? Wednesday, P is for Protein!

(Heads up seven up!: my regular form of question and answer is going to be altered for this post as there is too much to be said to divide it out the way I normally do.)

Vega Sport Vegan Protein Supplement

I can say without hesitation that for the majority of my vegetarian life, protein has not been a factor. What most people don’t realize is that there are proteins in vegetables and your body makes a good deal of the protein you need, provided you are eating well. Another thing no one seems to consider is that most of the animals meat-eaters consume, are vegetarian. They may eat meat for a multitude of reasons but ask anyone of them what are the health benefits and you are going to hear…’protein’. Where do animals get their protein? From their diets of course, which is primarily or wholly vegetation!

About a month ago I starting tracking my food and activity (I used MyFitnessPal) to see the bigger picture of what I was eating. After the first week of analysis I thought I was lacking in protein. When I saw my numbers in a pie chart across the screen of my phone, I believed it should be taking up more of my diet, This is most likely due to the fitness trend of pushing too much protein, which (double) unfortunately people interpret as ‘eat more meat’. After loads of research, I’ve found the average person should consume about 15% of their daily calories from protein sources. Most sources recommend between 10%-30% with 30% being very-active men. I was getting an average of about 12% without any diet alterations when I started. After continuous monitoring and studying my own trends, as well as comparing it to what was recommended for women my age (and my activity level) I decided I wanted to increase my amount of protein I consumed to be between 15%-20%.

I observed that trying to stay within a specific calorie allotment makes meeting your percentage goals a little more difficult, which previously had not occurred to me. I determined that this is mostly because my favorite vegetarian protein sources seem comparably higher in fat or carbohydrates (nuts, avocados, beans). As I’ve not been eating meat for more than half my life, I’d be interested if this is more of a concern for vegetarians/vegan than omnivores? Obviously peanut butter per ounce has more fat in it than let’s say halibut, but if anyone has done more research let me know in the comments below.

Chickpea Bulgur Burgers

What’s the big idea about incomplete and complete proteins?

When I became a vegetarian in 1997 I remember the big thing everyone kept telling me is that I had to combine foods in order to make sure I got proper nutrition. If I was eating beans, I had to include rice with the meal, or peanut butter on whole grain toast, or pasta and cheese etc. This theory of having to combine two ‘incomplete’ proteins to form a ‘complete’ protein is largely outdated. It’s just not thinking of the big picture of how our body actually works.

Essentially, ‘complete’ proteins are foods that contain 9 essential types of amino acids (source). Our body actually produces 13 amino acids on its own, provided you eat regularly and healthy. Aminos come from protein sources, and most adults need about 22 circulating, doing their work in your body like rebuilding muscle tissue. The reason why nutritionists call out 9 of them as essential, is because our bodies either can’t make enough of those 9 types of aminos, or make them at all. Therefore it’s up to us to get them from food sources.

edit7.jpg

Vegetable sources of protein sometimes (this does not mean always) have lower levels of amino acids, or more often, lower levels of lysine, methionine and threonine (3 of the 9 essential aminos). However, eating a balanced diet of whole grains, healthy fats and loads of fruits and vegetables is what rounds out the essential aminos you need. To directly quote Wikipedia (source):

“Nearly all foods contain all twenty amino acids in some quantity, and nearly all of them contain the essential amino acids in sufficient quantity. Proportions vary, however, and some foods are deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids. Though some vegetable sources of protein contain sufficient values of all essential amino acids, many are lower in one or more essential amino acids than animal sources, especially lysine, and to a lesser extent methionine and threonine.[6]

Consuming a mixture of plant-based protein sources can increase the biological value of food. For example, to obtain 25 grams of complete protein from canned pinto beans requires consuming 492 grams (423 kcal); however, only 364 g of pinto beans (391 kcal) are required if they are combined with 12 grams of Brazil nuts.[7] Complementary proteins need not be eaten at the same meal for your body to use them together. Studies now show that your body can combine complementary proteins that are eaten within 24 hours.[8]

According to Dr. John A. McDougall, “any single one or combination of these plant foods provides amino acid intakes in excess of the recommended requirements…it is impossible to design an amino acid–deficient diet based on the amounts of unprocessed starches and vegetables sufficient to meet the calorie needs of humans. Furthermore, mixing foods to make a complementary amino acid composition is unnecessary.”[9]

Now that we have the low down on complete/incomplete proteins and aminos let’s talk about sources. As quoted in the article above, all vegetation contains proteins, below are just food with higher sources:

Walnuts Pre-toasting

Protein Sources

Note: I have bolded anything that is widely considered a complete protein. Some soy products and meat substitutes, as well as, most vegan and vegetarian protein powders are considered complete proteins check the packaging information for nutritional details.

Vegetarian

  • Free-ranged eggs
  • Dairy products (cheese, yoghurt, kefir, milk)
  • Whey (dairy) based protein powders, be careful a lot of them contain animal by-products such as animal hormones, thickeners like gelatin, flavor aids like castoreum (anal secretions from beavers) or red food dye called carmine (really just ground up cochineal insects).

Vegetarian and Vegan

  • Whole grains (quinoa, bulgur, wheat, barley, amaranth)
  • Nuts (coconut, almonds, brazil nuts, nut butters etc)
  • Seeds (flax, chia, hemp)
  • Legumes ( lentils, beans, peanuts)
  • Soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso)
  • ‘Meat-substitutes’ (commercial or home-made: seitan, textured vegetable protein, quorn)
  • Food additives (nutritional yeast aka nooch, bee pollen, spirulina and wild blue algae)
  • Vegan protein powders ( hemp, brown rice, pea, etc)
  • Goji berries

Granola Protein Bites

Protein full recipes from V-Spot

Protein-full recipes from around the Web

Baked Faux-fish Sticks

Growing up in the Maritimes, fishing is a huge part of our culture. I was raised on fresh mussels and stream caught trout, Atlantic salmon, lobster, fried clams and butter sautéed scallops. That being said, I strongly believe in conservation and I believe the meat-eating culture is destroying our environment. We rely so heavily on the sea for oxygen, climate control, and it’s creatures are part of the greater food chain. In short, fishing hurts our oceans (therefore our ecosystem), it tips the scales of natural balance of the creatures who eat the things we eat, as well as kills other species by proxy of fishing that can’t be sold as food and are therefore wasted. It increases pollution directly through fishing, transporting the fish, as well as indirectly, through oil spills and even garbage/waste of the crew. If you would like to learn more about the environmental impact of fishing please visit these links:

For the reasons above and a few others, I choose not to eat fish of any kind including any by-products. That  doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. Frankly, I used to love the taste of fish and shellfish and there are not a lot of ‘fishy’ alternatives when you are a vegan/vegetarian.

Faux Fish Sticks

When I get a craving for tuna, I can easily reproduce it by mashing up some chickpeas with other goodies and be completely satisfied with a healthy lunch full of protein and fibre. But, when I get a craving for pan-fried or battered fish, I hit a road block. The texture of fish is likely going to be the thing you can’t really reproduce, but the flavour and nostalgia from biting into your first fish stick can, and should totally be, re-created.

I found a recipe on Vegan Dad’s website for Tofu Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce that seemed pretty convincing. I got myself all geared up with ingredients but forgot one main one, nori. Nori, for those of you who may not know is toasted seaweed formed into rectangular sheets. It has a mild seaweed taste, kind of salty, kind of toasty and very thin and dry. They most often use nori when making sushi but can also be used to give a ‘fishy’ taste to whatever you prepare it with. The Vegan Dad uses nori to make a marinade for the tofu, but as I forgot to pick up some, I used Shichimi Togarashi spice by President’s Choice which contains ‘hot red chili flakes, black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, orange zest, wasabi and nori seaweed’.

Shichimi Togarashi

If you cannot obtain this spice blend I would follow the instructions on Vegan Dad’s recipe for the marinade adding Old Bay seasoning and double the Old Bay seasoning for the breading in my recipe. These faux-fish sticks are slightly spicy, really crunchy, amazingly satisfying and make a perfect complement to my dill tartar sauce I’ll be posting next. My recipe makes about 12 – 15 faux-fish sticks.

Baked Faux-fish Sticks

adapted from Vegan Dad’s recipe 

  • 1 package low-fat extra firm tofu, rinsed, cut into sticks and patted dry

marinade

  • 1 tbs shichimi togarashi spice 
  • 1 tbs coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
  • juice from half of one lemon (about 2 tbs)
  • 1/4 cup of water 

breading

  • 1/2 cup of white flour
  • 1/4 cup of coarse ground cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp shichimi togarashi spice
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

3 tbs of olive oil for baking

Method

Rinse tofu and cut into sticks. With the tofu laying flat, slide the knife through the middle so you have split the width in half. From the top cut into sticks; the wide of the tofu is the length of the faux-fish stick. Pat all side dry with paper towel or a clean dish towel.

In a shallow pan, mix water, lemon juice,sea salt and spice blend or nori. It will only be enough marinade to cover one side of the tofu, toss well and store int he fridge for 2-3 hours, turning every 30-45 minutes.

Tofu and Marinade

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a shallow pan mix the breading and set aside.

Four's a Crowd of Delicious

Remove the tofu from the fridge, turn each cube in marinade before dreading in the dry breading, return each stick to the marinade, and then to the breading once more before placing on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat until all the tofu sticks are coated.

Dredged and Ready to Bake

Drizzle tofu with half of the olive oil and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn each stick, drizzle with oil again and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The coating should be crispy and golden brown on all sides.

Faux Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce

Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before digging in as they will be very hot. Serve with tartar sauce and a light beer. Enjoy!

Stout Lentil Loaf

Whoa it’s mid-March, I’ve yet to do a March post which seem unreal and a little unfair. You need new recipes as much as I do right now.  I have enthusiastically fallen into a routine eating pattern that hasn’t involved much creativity. I’ve been focusing on clean eating for energy and health, as the winter has left me lethargic and grumpy.

I still have yet to replace my camera battery charger but luckily I still have a bit of a battery life, at least for now.  On a positive note, this slower blog pace means I have a ton to talk about, so pardon my monologue . I just celebrated three years with my significant other (yay!), it always amazes me how I feel like I’ve know him longer than three years but still feel the freshness of love. 

Garrison Stout

This weekend I went to the market and it hit me, it’s verging on Spring! Field greens, basil and fresh herbs lined the shelves, even so, things were kind of empty. In the coming weeks asparagus and brussels will be studding the empty spaces and in general the market will yield more produce. There were beets everywhere, I like beets enough, especially if they are roasted, but I didn’t feel like having pink hands all weekend.

Spring ahead, and hello time change, see what I did there? I’m excited for the longer days but I sure was sleepy this Monday morning, and my dogs are still very confused. Their yawning bodies and squinting eyes meandered into the kitchen and sat spent, like wilted tulips until they were hinged to their respective leashes. The clank of hooking their collars was like doggy coffee, then they proceeded to waste my precious morning time sniffing lackadaisically instead of doing their ‘bidness’.

Martello Stout

I’m now addicted to Downton Abbey, I may have spent about 12-13 hours watching ti this weekend. Mind you I fit it into my morning cleaning time of the kitchen; I have never washed the dishes so slow in my life.

Ready for food yet? Me too. In honor of St. Patrick’s day I wanted to make something with stout beer and I couldn’t be happier with my experiment. This lentil loaf is not just stout in stature, it’s filled with the hoppy smooth flavour of local craft beer. The stout adds color and depth of flavour to the lentils which are mixed in with other seeds, grains and oats making this an extremely filling and chocked full of protein meal. I added some heat with jalapenos and sriracha then mixed up a sweet and spicy glaze to top it off. Speaking of which, I encourage you to triple or quadruple the glaze recipe for extra dipping. This loaf isn’t vegan as I’ve added an egg to help bind the mixture together but if you use a food processor to grind up the oats and lentils separately I think it would hold together just as well. If you are vegan and try something similar let me know how it works out!

Stout Lentil Loaf

Stout Lentil Loaf

stout lentils

  • 2/3 cup of yellow split peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 500ml bottle of stout minus a few sips (I used Martello Stout by Garrison)
  • 1 cups of water
  • 1 tbs sriracha
  • 1/3 cup of red lentils (plus 2/3-1 cup of water)

sauteed onions

  • 1 tbs of oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 tbs poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbs Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper

completing the loaf

  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup of large flakes of oats
  • 2 tbs of nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbs flax seed
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, whisked

glaze

  • 2 tbs ketchup
  • 1 tbs brown miso paste
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar
  • garlic salt

Method

Cook the quinoa according to package direction and set aside. You could cook the quinoa in vegetable broth but since I was cooking turnip at the same time, I used the water from the cooked turnip to gently flavour the quinoa.

Stout and Lentils

Rinse and pick through the split peas, add to a medium-sized pot with the stout beer, one cup of water and sriracha. Boil until the split peas are softened, about 20-25 minutes. Add in rinsed red lentils and another 2/3-1 cup of water, cook for about 10 more minutes. When red lentils are cooked through reduce heat until most of the water has been spent, leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

Dice the onions, mince the jalapenos and garlic and set aside. To a fry pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add onions and season with poultry seasoning, garlic salt, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add jalapenos and garlic stirring frequently for about 2-3 more minutes. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl add cooled lentils, sauteed onions and jalapenos, cooked quinoa, sunflower seeds, oats, nutritional yeast, flax seeds, Dijon mustard. Check for seasoning and then add in the whisked egg. Mix until everything is even and combined.

You've been Loafed

Pre-heat the oven at 350. Prepare a loaf pan with cooking spray and parchment.

Add contents to loaf pan and smooth over the top. Bake for 10 minutes, and while the loaf is in the oven prepare the glaze by adding all ingredients and mixing until smooth.

Getting Saucy

Remove the loaf from the oven and smooth all the glaze unto the loaf. Bake for another 35-40 minutes.

Spice and Stout Lentil Loaf

Remove from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes or more before slicing. Serve with turnip, mashed potatoes or roasted cauliflower and extra glaze.

Cut and Serve

New England Style Baked Beans

I think I’m recovered from my trip. I’ve accepted all the lost items, they are just things that can be replaced and simultaneously I’ve embraced the chaos that is replacing all of my stuff.

Last weekend I wanted to get rolling on blog stuff because I knew my camera battery would probably run out in a week or so and I wouldn’t be able to replace the battery charger until I bought most of my basics back. I was, of course craving comfort foods, its cold out, I wanted to something to take me back to my childhood. My solution was ‘baked’ beans.

My father was from Massachusetts. My mother from Nova Scotia and when she was little, she grew on a farm. Folk from both of those cultural canons, made baked beans. Hearty, satisfying, warm and stick to your ribs, beans. Traditional New England baked beans are made with molasses and salt pork or pork belly. Obviously the pork aspect doesn’t fly with me or my blog so I needed to recreate a flavour profile to mimic the smoky, salty, umami flavour. I really think I did a great job using a few oddities, in respect to traditional New England baked beans. 

While I don’t claim this recipe follow any sort of tradition in its preparation; it’s simmered in a crock pot, it’s vegetarian and can be made vegan. It sure does recreate memories for me of the baked beans I remember from my childhood. I use both chili flakes and sriracha in this recipe but these are not spicy beans, the flavour is what I wanted. If you want spicy, increase the amounts to at least triple what I have listed. Makes about 8 servings.

New England Style Baked Beans

New England (Style) Baked Beans 

  • 1 pound / bag of navy beans (rinsed, picked through and soaked overnight)
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 small onion peeled, trimmed and  left whole
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of liquid smoke
  • 2 tsps of garlic salt
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves of garlic peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup (or substitute molasses)
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar (use vegan sugar as a substitute)
  • 2-3 tbs of dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tsp of sriracha
  • 1 +1/2 tbs of dark miso
  • 1 tbs of apple cider vinegar

Method

Rinse and pick through the beans, add to a large bowl and cover with water.  Store in the fridge overnight or at least 8 hours.

The next day, get your crock pot ready and rinse, drain then add the beans to it. Peel and trim the small onion and add to crock pot at the bottom.

Hide Away

Dice the medium onion and saute in olive oil over medium heat. Season with pepper, chili pepper flakes, half of the garlic salt and salt. The idea is to caramelize and over season the onions as their flavour is to replace the salt pork/bacon. Cook for about 5 minutes than add minced garlic, saute for an additional 3-5 minutes until everything is brown and caramelized. Turn off heat, removed the pan from the burner and add some liquid smoke. Mix everything together and set aside.

Smoky Caramelized Onions

Prepare the sauce. In a bowl, add maple syrup, brown sugardijon mustardsirachamiso paste and apple cider vinegar. Mix well and pour over the beans in the crock pot., Add to it, the onion mixture and stir.

Flavour Base

Cover beans with about 4-5 cups of water, the liquid should completely cover the beans. Cook on low for about 10 hours, I found mine could have went longer so after 8 hours on low I turned mine on high for about 1 hour and they were ready. When they are cooked the beans will be tender but the sauce will not thicken up until they start to cool.

Boston Baked Beans

I like beans better the next day, they will keep in your fridge for about a week. Season with extra pepper and serve with oatmeal brown bread. If you don’t have a great recipe, I’ll be posting mine in the next few days!