Jun 30, 2012

Beans, beans, they're good for you heart!

If you are thinking about switching, or trying, a whole foods, plant based vegan diet, one thing you might consider is how you will get your protein. All vegetables and fruits have some protein content (it's science: all living things are made of cells and all cells contain protein) and you can fulfill you daily requirements by eating a plant based diet. As I mentioned before, local produce is scarce in Florida during the summer. Mike and I rely more on dried (see side note about canned) legumes/rice for meals, than fresh vegetables. If you can, I recommend you buy from the bulk bins: you can buy only what you need, it's cheaper (when you compare versus pre-packaged), and, if your lucky, you can  find organic selections. I buy all my dried items from bulk bins at Whole Foods; it ends up being much cheaper than the organic packaged counterparts. Right now I have a supply of brown rice, black beans, pinto beans, great white northern beans, red lentils, green split peas, and quinoa (all organic).

*Side note: We avoid canned goods at all costs (and we use glass containers for storing food that will need to be re-heated) because of the BPA risks. Especially now since *spoiler alert* Mike and I will be trying to conceive come August!

Working with dried beans may seem like a big task. The main issue in working with dried is that you can't decide at 6pm that you want beans at 6:30pm. Planning is necessary, but not more than 24 hours of planning! I use two methods for incorporating beans/legumes into my meals.

Method 1 (same day method): If you decide you want black beans and rice tonight, you can still make it as long as you have about 2-3 hours. You can call this a "quick soak method". Fill a pot with the amount of beans you need for the recipe. Cover beans with 3 inches of water. Bring to boil, uncovered. Once they have reached a boil, cover and reduce to simmer. Allow beans to simmer for about 60 minutes. At that time check to see how soft they have become (they won't feel like they have been cooked, but won't be super hard). If they are still very hard (which may happen with larger beans), allow to simmer for about 30-60 minutes more. If they are beginning to soften, turn off the heat, leaving the pot on the burner, and let the beans stand in the water until you need them in the evening for the recipe (you can even do this in the morning and let them sit all day). You will still need to cook the beans (at least 30-40 minutes) to get them to soften all the way. For this method, I will some times add a little flavoring to the soak water: veggie stock, bay leaves, salt, etc.

Method 2 (the most awesome method): This is the plan ahead method which I use more for the days I am working. The night before, I decide what beans I want to use and allow them to soak in water overnight. I also prep all my other necessary ingredients the night before (i.e.: chop any onions, set out the spices). In the morning before I leave for work, I drain the beans, add them to my crock pot with the other ingredients called for by the bean recipe. Then just flip the crock pot to low and, when you get home at night (yes the house will smell like beans), you will have perfectly cooked beans that can be added to any recipe. Most recipes for beans in the crock pot call for about 8 hours of time, but if you leave if for more it is fine. For example, I start mine at 7:15am in the morning and I won't be home until 6:30pm and everything is fine.

Here are two of my favorite bean recipes for the crock pot:
Black Beans - for this one, I like to add chopped jalapeno
Pinto Beans - for this one I used banana pepper instead of green pepper because that's what I had

I am still looking for some good crock pot recipes for lentils and split peas; I will let you know when I find some good ones!

Alright, this has probably been too much talking for you. Here is a picture:
Not the prettiest picture, but it's stuffed green peppers. I sort of made the recipe up. Cooked rice and great white northern beans make up the filling and it is all topped with a homemade tomato sauce. A very filling vegan meal.

And another picture:
Look at those cute little carrots! These pre-roasted carrots came from our garden and Magnolia Organics from sometime back in May. They are simply roasted at 425 degrees after being sprinkled with a little salt. We paired them with a vegan okra gumbo (make completely from local, organic veggies from Magnolia):
I never thought I would like okra, but I was forced to find recipes for it when they appeared in our harvest boxes. Okra really is not that bad. Unfortunately, I cannot find the recipe I used for the okra gumbo.

That's all I got for today! Until next time, enjoy another picture of my babies:

Jun 29, 2012

Sad News

This is sort of old news, but Magnolia Organics is no more :(
It took a while for it to sink in. It really hit me when I went to pick up my last harvest box about 3 weeks ago. Tears started creeping into my eyes as I drove down the sand/dirt road from the farm back to the main road. It was very bittersweet (and I had just discovered a awesome local bagel shop near the farm!). Not only is our local veggie supply cut off for the summer, but now for good! Mike and I had visited a CSA named Sweetwater Organic Farm once before we discovered Magnolia, but decided not to join because Magnolia was better deal (and closer). Well guess who now has a full membership for this coming fall? So we will still be able to get local produce in the fall but in a slightly different manner (if you are curious as to what a CSA is, click on the link for Sweetwater above).


It has been the year for new electronics (Mike gifted me a nook color for my birthday back in August, I purchased an iPhone 4s back in November, and Mike bought me a new Sony Vaio laptop for our 1 year wedding anniversary last week). One thing I finally got around to doing was uploading some pictures from my iPhone. When our turnips were doing really good back in January, we needed to pick some to make room for more to grow. Happy Mike with his harvest:
If you look in his left hand you can see a radish. Our radish had legs!!!
I don't remember what we made from these, but all I remember was that by the time turnip season was done, I was pretty sick of turnips. I hope next year I can find some recipes that make me love and crave turnips (if you know of any, let me know!!!).

Jump forward to Memorial Day,  classic grilling holiday, the unofficial start to summer. Of course we don't eat meat, but we can still use a grill!
The ultimate grilled vegan meal! We grilled up some zucchini and yellow squash from Magnolia and organic corn from another local farm (I forgot the farm name, but we purchased it at the local Whole Foods). There was still some dough left from when we made naan, so we decided to grill it as well.
Ta da! Doesn't that look heavenly? My mouth is watering looking at this while I write. Here is the recipe for the naan/flat-bread. It is a general, all purpose, no knead recipe. Every Sunday Mike and I whip up a batch. We used half of it to make a simple loaf of white bread. The remaining dough is divided and packaged for the fridge to be pulled out during the week as we need it to make flat-breads, naan, etc. It is really an excellent recipe.

Finally, today. The only local, organic produce I can find at Whole Foods is yellow squash and zucchini (the potatoes in this recipe were a guilty splurge), so I modified this recipe for Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte, I didn't use cheese (for obvious reasons) and used fresh rosemary in place of thyme because that is what I had. As for the the green onions, I had frozen some from the last big harvest I received from Magnolia Organics. 
You really won't miss the cheese in the recipe. But without the cheese, it turns into more of a bake than a torte that holds together when you try and lift it from the pan. It would be a nice side dish for some steamed greens.

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of my baby Pineapple with her Christmas gift from one of my brothers, Christopher:

Jun 1, 2012

A little harvest

I had the pleasure of traveling the 25 miles to Magnolia Organics this morning to pick up our weekly harvest box, but I found out a sad truth: next week is going to be the last week of the harvest boxes for the season. Just as Ohio's (and most of the north) farmers markets are starting up, ours in Florida are closing down. Because of the increased heat and moisture, pests become a problem for organic/sustainable farmers in Florida. The head farmer at Magnolia was telling me the herbal oils they use for pest control will burn the plants in the hot, summer, Florida sun. Even though we will have to wait until September, I am grateful for all the wonderful food Magnolia has provided us with.

Speaking of harvests, this photo was taken after we returned home from our vacation back in January:
Okay....I don't know why the photo is sideways...its normal on my computer...anyway, what we have here are some jalapenos, a green pepper, some oranges, some radishes, and some turnips. I was excited to see everything had survived while we were gone for 3 weeks! I don't remember what I made with all this, but I am sure it was good :)

Now something delicious:

This is a vegan vanilla cake with vegan cashew frosting. Who says vegans can't have sweet treats!! This was really good and a great way to introduce people to vegan baking. The frosting has a slightly different texture than store bought stuff, but it tastes the same (not like cashews!). The cake is good for a day you want a sweet treat, but don't have eggs or milk (you don't have to say it's vegan!).

That's all I have for today :( 
Until next time, enjoy this photo of Pineapple with her cone....so sad!