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

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bisque

Yesterday I thought it would be a great idea to do a post for the last official day of Summer. I decided early in the morning that living for the last day of Summer (preferably outside) would be better than sitting inside the house lamenting about its passing. It was a beautiful weekend with high temperatures and the sun shining brightly. I started making soup and then decided that while my place was still full of light I’d ring in Fall with a soup post.

Saturday was spent at the local farmer’s market and I picked up tons of fresh produce including some gorgeous sweet potatoes. I should have taken a picture or two to share with you but deciding to make the post was so late minute. Basically I prepped all the veggies and started cooking and realized I should have taken pictures. I tried to convince myself this soup wouldn’t be blog-worthy but I was wrong. It turned out fantastic and I had to share.

Sweet Potato Carrot Bisque

Usually bisques have tons of cream and shellfish that produce a extremely flavourful complex and creamy soup. To get the same texture but made vegan and healthier,  I sautéed local onions and celery in olive oil with cumin and cinnamon and added in organic baby carrots and gorgeous sweet potatoes. I simmered it all in organic vegetable broth until everything was tender then whizzed it all up with almond-coconut milk and tahini paste which made it extra smooth and creamy.This spicy sweet, thick and creamy soup is perfect match for the first day of Fall. In case you are like me and watching what you eat you’ll be happy to know that this soup makes four servings at about 205 calories per serving. To me that means I can have my soup and drink wine too. Enjoy!

Smooth and Delicious

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bisque

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • chili flakes to taste (optional)
  • 2 cups of baby carrots (12 oz/345g)
  • 3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 a small jalapeno, cut into pieces
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 4 cups (1 container) of organic vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond (coconut or soy) milk
  • 1+1/2-2 tbs of tahini paste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

Peel onions and roughly chop. Wash and trim celery and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Heat a 4 quart stock pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil, onions and celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with cumin, cinnamon and a pinch of chili flakes, cook until the onions begin to brown and the spices start to stick to the bottom. Add in the peeled and washed baby carrots and stir well. Season with salt and pepper and let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add in sweet potatoes, garlic and jalapeno and cover with vegetable stock.

Bring the soup to a boil and cook over medium high heat until the carrots and potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and add the almond milk and tahini paste and puree using a blender/hand blender until completely smooth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Dig in

Q is for…

This week on What’s the Word? Wednesday, Q stands for the epitome of a complete food. It’s to grains what kale is to vegetables. If you haven’t guessed already Q is for Quinoa!

Q is for QuinoaFirst thing is first, pronunciation! You will never be able to find the stuff if you can’t pronounce it. Quinoa actually sounds like “keen-wah”, not “quinn-no-ah” which most people (including myself) started off calling it.  Quinoa is a complete protein and even though it’s a grain it’s closely related to beetroots and spinach (thank you wikipedia!).

What is it?

Quinoa is an ancient grain originally sourced from South America, usually traced back to the Andes (source). It’s the most nutrient-dense grain available often considered a complete protein and whole food. Quinoa comes in a  few different colors ranging from pale yellow to a rusty-red. Quinoa is one of the few grains that is still (mostly) harvested by hand, even for commercial production.

What does it taste like?

Regardless of the colour quinoa tastes the same, slightly nutty but similar to couscous in flavour. The individual grains are bigger than traditional couscous (not the Israeli kind you can find which are big pearls) and have a bit of texture to them (a snap if you will) even when cooked properly.

Where do I use it?

Quiona can be used as a substitute for any grain you can imagine. It makes a great substitute for your morning oatmeal, meat replacement in chili or shepherd’s pie, you can add it to soups to add texture and bulk. You can swap out your usually rice or potato sides, it makes a great base for a cold salad. Because of its new found popularity over the last few years, you can find quinoa in a raw/dry state as well as popped similar to puffed rice. This popped quinoa (see how to make your own here) can be eaten like popcorn (it’s teeny-tiny) or added to your homemade granola, protein bars or dessert like peanut butter balls, marshmellow-y type squares (marshmallow confections are not typicall vegetarian/vegan but there are recipes around the web if you have such a craving) or chocolate bark etc. Quinoa is also ground down to make flour, and can be used in conjunctions with other nut/grain flours to prepare gluten-free baked goods.

White Bean and Quinoa ChiliWhat are the health benefits?

Where do I start? There is so much good to say about quinoa, it contains heart-healthy fats, it’s a vegetarian source of protein, fibre and B vitamins. It’s super high in manganese, typtophan, magnesium, folate and phosphorus making it an ideal choice for women’s health in particular (source). It’s known mostly for being anti-inflammatory food choice and contains a good proportion of vitamin E which is good for you skin, hair and nails among other things. Oddly enough it’s one food that doesn’t have a drastic drop in nutrients once it’s cooked, so start subbing your grains with quinoa today! It’s primarily gluten-free only people with severe gluten allergies may have difficulties with some quinoa depending on how it was processed. For more information on how it may affect you if you are gluten-intolerant please check out this article.

V- Spot Recipes using Quinoa:

Quinoa Inspiration around the web:

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.

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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

Tomato Olive Bruschetta for One

Hey Guys!

It’s been awhile, I know. I’ve missed you. I have been living a plain-jane life, eating very clean and healthy and running with my dogs.

I finally have my camera battery replaced and sunlight is back in my life (Nova Scotia had some tiresome rainy cold days last month) so I figured I would end the hiatus with a super simple open-faced sandwich for one.

The thing I love about Italian food is that they let the ingredients speak for themselves. While you don’t need a lot of anything one thing for this recipe, the quality of the ingredients matter.

Basil

I used a French bakery ‘belge’ which is really great for toast and sandwiches as its super crusty on the outside but mildly sour and really chewy on the inside. When toasted it’s very crisp and can stand up to the weight of the tomatoes.

I used a local tomato, imported black olives, locally grown basil and a good olive oil and vinegar. Simple stuff.

Eating this open-faced tomato sandwich and calling it bruschetta for one, seems as elegant as a perfect summers day. Fancify your life. Serves one.

Tomato Olive Bruschetta

Tomato Olive Bruschetta for One

  • 1 medium-sized ripe tomato, seeded and diced
  • 3-4 black olives pitted and diced
  • a few leaves of basil, torn
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 slice of crust white bread, toasted

Method

Wash, seed and dice the tomato and place in a small bowl. Pit and dice the olives and add to the tomatoes.

Trio

Stem and then tear the basil into smaller pieces, adding to the bowl with balsamic and olive oil. Toss and season with salt and pepper.

Dressed to Impress

Peel a garlic clove and cut off the top of it so it has a flat edge. Toast the bread and once it’s well toasted, rub the raw garlic over the top of the bread.

Toast and Raw Garlic

Pile the bruschetta onto the toast. Serve immediately with a glass of white wine.

Styling and Profiling