Foodie Firsts: A Trifecta of Firsts All Wrapped Up In One Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create re-occurring feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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Are you ready for the ultimate Foodie Firsts column?  I managed to hit several firsts for me in a single dish.  I tried new ingredients (two of them!), baked something I’ve never baked before, and ate something I’ve never eaten before.

Wild, right?

What can I say?  I guess sometimes I just like to go big in the kitchen.

ramekins with topping

So I am presenting to you today a simply satisfying and relatively healthy strawberry-rhubarb crisp (gluten free and vegan, of course).  I do realize that such a dish may be considered plain and common, but it may surprise some folks that I had never actually eaten a fruit crisp before.  I swear to this on my favorite wooden spoon.

For many, MANY years of my life, I lived by three food rules:

1)      Nothing that comes from the sea or ocean

2)      No warm beverages

3)      No cooked fruit

You might know me well enough to know by now that #1 still stands (since I’m vegetarian), but #2 and #3 have gone out the window – happily out the window.  I’m not even sure why or when I developed these rules, but we can all see their ridiculousness, right?  How I lasted so many years without coffee is positively baffling.

Fruit in colander

My decision to get over that last rule was only further validated by this crisp.  I knew straightaway that my first crisp should include rhubarb (I’ve extolled its wonderfulness before).  The trick, of course, was that most of my hoarded recipes were not gluten free, so I needed to ensure to find or adapt one for my needs.

Fortunately for me, I case across this recipe on the Gluten Free Goddess’ blog which uses . . . wait for it . . . quinoa flakes in place of more traditional oats.  Now, I can eat gluten free oats, but this substitution was very appealing.  I had procured a package of quinoa flakes a few weeks ago when I spotted them on sale, but hadn’t touched them since placing them in my pantry.  Now, just like that, they had a purpose.

Then, to make things even wilder, I decided to test out stevia as a sweetener – another ingredient I had not used before.

New ingredients.  New dish.  New dietary needs met.

And so, the baking commenced.

ramekins without topping

What resulted was a lovely, simple crisp incorporating a few of my favorite ingredients (rhubarb, hazelnuts, cinnamon), which was perfect for eating straight out of the oven, or topped off with a scoop of ice cream (I like So Delicious French Vanilla Soy Ice Cream).

I will say that, being new to the flavors of stevia, I found it to have just a tad bit of bitterness that I didn’t love and I might consider using half stevia, half other sweetener in the future just to tone that down a bit.  Although the soy ice cream toned that down, too!  The quinoa flakes worked beautifully and I’m most excited to use them again.

ramekin up close

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  If you like a very sweet crisp, this isn’t it – so add additional sweetener prior to baking.  Alternatively, you can also drizzle the cooked crisp with maple syrup or agave – a touch that I found delicious.

Lessons Learned:  Just because a belief or practice has served you well (or at least you think it has) for a number of years, doesn’t mean it will continue to do so.  By letting go of my food rule around cooked fruit (which for so long I thought was shielding me from mushy and unpleasant eats) I have opened the door to dozens of new experiences and flavors for me to try.  I know that they may not all be perfection, but I’m pretty confident that it will pay off with huge, delicious dividends in the long run.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Serves 5-6

Adapted from the Gluten Free Goddess

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries, tops cut off and chopped
  • 3 medium-large stalks of rhubarb, split vertically and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • ¾ cup quinoa flakes
  • ½ cup millet flour
  • ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
  • ½ tspn powdered stevia (or equivalent ½ cup sugar/dry sweetener of preference)
  • ½ tspn cinnamon
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • ½ tspn vanilla extract
  • 3 tblspns coconut oil, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 6 small ramekins or an 8-inch square baking dish by spraying with cooking spray.
  2. Combine chopped fruit in a bowl.  Add agave and toss to coat.  Distribute evenly in ramekins, or spread across your square baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine quinoa flakes, millet flour, hazelnuts, stevia, cinnamon, and salt.  Whisk together.
  4. Add melted coconut oil and vanilla extract to bowl with the quinoa/flour mixture.  Work together (I suggest using your hands), to incorporate the oil and vanilla well.  The mixture should become crumbly and slightly moist.  Distribute this topping over your ramekins or your baking dish evenly.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven.  Eat warm or store in the refrigerator, covered, for a couple of days (rewarming if desired).  Serve as is or with agave, ice cream, yogurt, or coconut cream as possible toppings.

Foodie Firsts: From Contract to Recurring Status (And the Wonder of Garlic Spears)

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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So there is this thing in television that happens when someone goes from contract status to recurring status.  It means that instead of being featured regularly, the character just sort of pops up now and then, whenever the storyline dictates it or just enough to make sure the other characters haven’t forgotten they’re around.

And by television I mean daytime soap operas.

Don’t ask me how I know so much about daytime soap operas.  I will plead the fifth in order to preserve my semi-intellectual reputation.

(But if you ever want to talk about General Hospital, you know where to find me.)

The point is that this column is going from contract to recurring status.  I wanted to kick it off with a weekly edition and have found it to be incredibly fun and a terrific motivator to keep pushing myself culinarily speaking, but rather than continue it as a weekly feature, I’ll be posting Foodie Firsts a bit more sporadically, mixed in with my other regular posts.  A large part of this is due to my continued dietary changes (the whole gluten is poisoning me thing) and spending a good deal of my cooking time sorting that issue out.

Garlic Spears - edited

But, as the last regular Thursday edition, I did want to mention roasted garlic spears.  Because as I learned last week, roasted garlic spears are freaking incredible.

For someone who pretty strongly believes a savory meal can never have too much garlic, I can’t believe I haven’t tried them before.  I hadn’t intended to do a full post on them, so I didn’t take any pictures of them cooked, I just snapped a few raw because they were so pretty to look at it.

I roasted my garlic spears for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven after drizzling them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper.  So simple.  So easy.  So delicious.

I ate them just like that, picking them up with my fingers and biting right in.  The amount of flavor in these spears is impressive and the crispy texture sublime.  The garlic does not overwhelm the tastebuds, as it softens and sweetens through the roasting process, leaving a perfectly palatable and beautiful side dish.

Garlic spears are only in season for a short time, but they are certainly peaking right now.  If you find a batch at your market, snatch it up (or snatch a few up) and roast away.

This is the find of the season for my little kitchen – maybe it can be yours, too.

Foodie Firsts: Drinking Vinegars

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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I’ve been curious about the concept of drinking vinegar since I first spotted a bottle last year.  Given that it’s nearly July, it clearly took me a while to get around to actually trying some.  If you all only knew how many random things I have in my head that I want to try at any given time (things to cook, eat, write, learn, do, read about, etc), you’d understand the delay.

Long delay aside, this week was the week for drinking vinegars.

Exciting, right??

Yeah???

Let’s get crazy.

Pok Pok - edited

Because, honestly, drinking vinegars are a bit crazy if you ask me.  I love vinegar, but the concept of sipping on the stuff, as opposed to enjoying it on my vegetables or in a sauce, seems a bit mad.

The practice of drinking vinegar goes way back.  There are many reported health benefits of vinegar, including detoxification, better digestion, and the delivery of microbial properties to ward off illness, so you can see the potential allure.  Now, many folks choose to simply drink straight apple cider vinegar as part of their regular routine, but the trend of late in the foodie and bar scene has been to experience specially made and flavored drinking vinegars, also called shrubs.  Such drinking vinegars can be tossed back on their own, added to other beverages to make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, or used to dress a salad, for instance.

For my little foray into this food scene, I tested four distinct flavors of drinking vinegar from two different makers.

Bragg makes several varieties that are affordable and fairly easy to find.  I decided to pick up apple-cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and honey, and concord grape-acai.  Then, I splurged on a fancy, artisanal bottle of raspberry drinking vinegar made locally by (now nationally famous) chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok.

bottles on table 3 - edited

First up: a simple sampling.  I wanted to taste each one on its own accord, without influence of other flavors or ingredients.  I’ve got to say, it was more of a pleasant experience than I originally thought it might be.  I was worried the flavors would be too harsh and acidic, but enjoyed the sampling more than I had anticipated.  Here are my thoughts on each flavor:

  1. Apple-Cinnamon – I found this one to be mellow and smooth and very far from what traditional vinegar tastes like.  My instant thought with this one was:  “I don’t really want to drink this, but I totally want to bake with it.”
  2. Apple Cider & Honey – The honey flavor in this was strong and hit me from the second the vinegar touched my tongue.  If you’re a fan of honey, jump on this one.  This also wasn’t one I really wanted to drink alone, but again baking comes to mind (maybe I just really need some muffins right now).  As far as drinking though, I think this would be quite nice for a sore throat – you know the whole honey thing?  Seems appropriate to me for some reason.
  3. Concord Grape-Acai – This was tasty!  Totally reminiscent of grape juice or long lost memories of grape kool-aid (yep, I drank that as a kid).  The flavor was strong and sweet, but not overpowering.  My mind went instantly to a tumbler filled with ice, this vinegar, seltzer water and dry gin or vodka.  Maybe with a squeeze of lemon.  Modern gin and juice, anyone?
  4. Raspberry – Sharp, tart, thick on the tongue, undercut with a sweetness.  I think this is my favorite.  I could down this alone (though in small amounts – it is strong) or dress some spinach with it.  And I most definitely could turn this into a terrific mixed drink.  I bet it would not only taste fantastic, but would be a beautiful cocktail to sip on a warm night.

Next, I tried dressing my nightly salad with a few splashes of the apple cider & honey flavor.  I also drizzled a small amount of hazelnut oil on this salad, with (of course) salt and pepper.  I really loved this combination.  I was pleased by the contrast of the nuttiness from the hazelnut oil with the slight sweet, yet tart, flavor brought by the vinegar.  Not bad.  Not bad at all. I will say my dining companion used olive oil combined with the concord grape-acai vinegar and felt the vinegar got a bit lost, so you may need to play around with the ratios of these ingredients to get it right for you.

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  I definitely think mixed drinks are a way to go here and there are infinite combinations that could be made (for some cordial glasses 3 - editedinspiration, check out this article).  I also suspect that these flavors would be great in sauces and in baking.  I’m thinking of using the apple cinnamon when making muffins or an apple spice cake, for instance.  And, the raspberry seems to be screaming to be heated into a sauce (maybe with some lemon juice or rich sweetener, like dates) for pouring over a (raw, vegan) cheesecake or (non-dairy) ice cream.  I’m totally intrigued by the possibilities.

Lessons Learned:  This is a simple one for me this week: Don’t judge a book by its cover, or more accurately, don’t judge an ingredient by its name.  Just the word vinegar sounds tart, maybe sour, definitely acidic and sharp.  But these drinking vinegars carried a whole range of complex flavors – sweet, smooth, bold, tangy.  I was surprised by this week’s food adventure and was forced to think of something so commonly understood in one way as something totally new, and isn’t that what this is all about?

Foodie Firsts: Mung Beans

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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Another bean is on the agenda this week.  This time I’m talking about mung beans.  Mung beans, from my perspective, are rarely used in American households (they certainly were in mine) and it’s a shame.

A sad, sad shame.

Why?

dry in bowl - edited

Well, mung beans (also called moong beans) are fantastic.  I knew next to nothing about these tiny green/yellow legumes when I set out to cook with them, but I quickly learned that they are incredibly versatile.  Quite frankly, given how many things you can do with them, I’m surprised they are not more of a kitchen staple.  Maybe I need to start a ‘Eat Your Mung Beans’ campaign.

Mung means can be made sweet or savory, cooked whole or broken down, turned into dal or bread, sprouted, or broken down into a paste.  Clearly, they are flexible little things.  I obviously didn’t have time to try all of these manifestations for today’s post, but I did decide to commit to trying mung beans in two different preparations.  I went with a basic savory dish and also tried my hand with bread making in the form of dosas.

I should also mention that mung beans are incredibly healthful.  Like their other various bean cousins, they are a low-glycemic food, are great sources of protein and fiber, and have cancer fighting properties (protease inhibitors).  So, hooray for health!  (I see my campaign coming to life.)

Of the two mung bean dishes I tried, one was successful and one was  . . . not so successful.  Why don’t we start with the good news first?

I decided to combine some of my mung beans with lentils and prepare a dal, as this is one of the most traditional uses of this ingredient.  Also, dal is delicious and I’ll eat it pretty much whenever I can.  So, there’s that.

meal plated 2 - edited

I loved the mung beans this way and found them incredibly easy to work with.  They partnered well with the red lentils and created a tasty and satisfying dinner.  I’ve seen mixed notes on whether or not mung beans need to be soaked overnight (as you might with other dried beans).  I’m sure you could do so, but I will say that I skipped this and they cooked up wonderfully without any soaking whatsoever.

As for the dosas . . . well, I will try them again.  In all honesty, I think the problems I had with them were entirely my fault and not the fault of the recipe or the ingredients.  I had never eaten nor prepared any type of dosa before, so it was a new process.  They actually had good flavor, but the thickness, size, and texture was off.  Dosas are meant to be large, thin discs of bread, but my batter didn’t seem to spread very much and instead of forcing it to, I just went forward and made them thicker than they should have been.  The result was disappointing, as they didn’t fully cook through well and had an undercooked, too doughy consistency in the middle.  In the future, I think thinning the batter a bit with water will be necessary.

Yet another cooking lesson learned, I suppose.

Regardless of my less than stellar dosa making skills, I’m definitely pro-mung bean.  I’ll be adding them into my repertoire and will likely swap them for lentils from time to time to add a bit more variety in my kitchen.

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  I highly recommend going the traditional route and using mung beans to make a dal.  Use your favorite dal recipe dosa - edited(there are plenty out there) or try this one here, which I used as a basis for the one I made.

I also just saw this blog post pop up from Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks and think a mung bean hummus is a wonderful idea.

Get sprouting!  I haven’t sprouted my own beans yet (maybe this is a future endeavor for me), but I know enough to know that it can be done in any home kitchen.  Sprouts are delicious added to salads and wraps and I especially love the crunch they give to a good stir fry or bowl of noodle soup (like pho).

Lessons Learned:  The world of beans is an endless bounty of delicious and nutritious foods.  A different variety exists for even the smallest preferences in color, texture, size, and taste.  I love this.  When I think about how many times, since becoming a vegetarian and switching to a mostly whole foods/minimally processed foods diet, I have read or heard others ask the inevitable questions about my ways of eating (You know the ones:  Where do you get your protein?  What do you possibly eat as a main dish?  Do you just eat salads all day?), I have to laugh and think about things like this.  I understand the questions – really I do.  I would have asked them once, too.  But, it’s funny to me now.  All the foods I have discovered in the last year, the delicious dishes I have savored, and the ingredients I have become infatuated with have only broadened my culinary world – not limited it.

Foodie Firsts: (Delicious) Homemade Stovetop Oatmeal

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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I am fully prepared for you all to think I’m a bit odd to have never had a proper bowl of stove top oatmeal until now.  Odd or not, it’s true.  Oatmeal was never on my radar even at all until the last year or so when I tested out some instant oatmeal with varying results.  Some were edible, others were atrocious.  Either way, I wasn’t jumping up and down clamoring for more.

apricot walnut honey with spoon - edited

On two or three occasions in the last year, though, I did try ordering oatmeal at restaurants.  These experiences were better and opened my mind up to the idea that oatmeal may not be such a bad thing.  Okay, let me back up, I mostly ordered it when it was called porridge.  Because calling it porridge appealed to the total anglophile in me.

Anyway, there was hope on the horizon for this warm cereal-like concoction to actually be worth trying.  But I still wasn’t ready to invest in making it at home.  A couple of things stood in my way.  First: granola.  A formidable foe for oatmeal, because I LOVE granola.  I could (and often do) eat granola every damn day.  Second, I was totally intimidated.

Given the facts that instant oatmeal was generally awful, restaurant oatmeal was (at best) kind of nice, and I had never seen anyone actually make oatmeal on the stove top before, it seemed like it must be really, really difficult.  I imagined it being super-finicky, needing to keep the heat level just perfect, the amount of liquid measured with ultra-precision, and timing it just magically to prevent mush.  (Sort of like the breakfast version of risotto, which is actually kind of funny because I love making risotto and have never found it difficult at all.)  I just couldn’t figure out how it would be worth it to go through all of that for a bowl of oatmeal when there was granola-a-plenty in my pantry.

cinnamon raisin with pistachios - edited

Then came my gluten-free dietary change.  Now, many gluten-sensitive people can’t eat oats, either, but I don’t seem to be one of them.  As long as I buy gluten-free oats, I seem to be okay and I didn’t react to them when my blood was tested, either.  With many of my go-to food options out the window, I need to learn some new tricks.  This is what prompted me to take on homemade stove top oatmeal.

AND I AM SO GLAD I DID.

Sorry for all that yelling.  I just am really excited about this.

Homemade stove top oatmeal is AMAZING!

Frankly, I don’t really understand why no one has told me about this before.  Are there huge numbers of us out there who don’t realize how delicious and easy this meal is??  Or, do those that know keep it a secret so they never have to worry about having to share??  I’m just so shocked it took me until 32 years of age to discover this one.

NEAR FLOWERS - edited

I have Project Grown-Up to thank for providing me the basic instructional information on how to make this oatmeal.  I used this post here as a guide and proceeded to make oatmeal three times in four days because it was so good – each and every time.  It may come as no surprise to you that I absolutely love how versatile it is.  The flavor combinations are virtually limitless and allow me to suit my every whim.  It’s also quick, totally easy to make, and provides such a warm, comforting, healthful way to start my day (or end it, as I did eat this for dinner one night).

So far, my oatmeal expeditions have led to the following bowls of goodness (all prepared with soy or rice milk):

  • Pumpkin Pie Flavored Oatmeal with Figs & Hazelnuts
  • Apricot, Walnut, Honey Oatmeal
  • Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Sprinkled with Pistachios

They have been amazing and I just want to eat oatmeal all the time. All.  The. Time.

As dull as this topic may have seemed before starting it, this might be my favorite Foodie Firsts yet.  Plus, there are so many avenues with which to take this.  I keep seeing recipes for baked oatmeal.  I can only imagine how delicious that will be!

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  While you can certainly go with just a bowl of old fashioned oats or just a bowl of steel cut oats, I have found I like a Bob's Oatsblend of the two.  I use about 2 or 2 ½ parts old fashioned to 1 part steel cut, but I find the little bit of texture variation between the two is quite nice.  Play with contrast in other ways, too.  Top your warm oatmeal with some slices of cool apple.  Cook in some dried fruit to soften it up, but don’t add your nuts until after the oatmeal is done cooking, providing a nice crunch in each bite. Finally, make sure you salt your oatmeal.  This is CRUCIAL to flavor.  CRUCIAL, I say!

Lessons Learned:  This challenge totally taught me to be willing to put aside my pre-conceived notions about common foods.  I THOUGHT I knew what oatmeal was (bland, mushy, sticky) and I was TOTALLY wrong.  It’s good to be humbled sometimes in this way and be willing to allow myself to be wrong in order to discover something wonderful.

Foodie Firsts: Beluga Lentils (With Recipe for Black Lentil and Edamame Patties)

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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You may think that because you’re vegetarian, simply don’t eat seafood, or, you know, not wealthy, that caviar is out of your reach.  But, let me tell you something I recently learned.

It’s not.

It’s not, because you can still have the caviar of lentils!  Yes, I am serious.

in bag 2 - edited

Black lentils, also known as beluga lentils, are called such because they glisten like caviar.  Or so the internet tells me, at least.  I suppose I see it, though I’ve never actually been around caviar up close and personal, so I’ll take the internet’s word for it.

What I do know first hand is that these little legumes are delightful.  Who needs caviar?!  Not I, my friends, not I.

Now, being a HUGE fan of lentils, I have had green lentils, brown lentils, French lentils, and red lentils in a myriad of preparations, but this particular variety was new to me.  I snagged a bag a couple of weeks ago when I saw them on a shelf at a local specialty market and they seemed to call my name.  They were so pretty, so appealing, and just shouted out to come home with me.

So they did.

And a new saga in my lentil love affair was born.

Plated patty 3 = edited

I wasn’t quite sure how to best use them, so I did some perusing to see what others were whipping up with their black lentils.  I found loads of salad recipes, some very tempting braised lentil creations, and a few soups, but when I came across the idea for lentils combined with edamame in a patty, I was sold.

The recipe required me to boil the lentils first, without any seasoning or other elements to start, which was perfect because it gave me a chance to see how they cooked up in their pure state.  I was really VERY pleased with how this process went.  They cooked quickly (20 minutes), but what was most remarkable to me was the final texture of these lentils when they were done.  While red lentils can be quick to sort of fall apart during cooking (making them perfect for dal, in my opinion) and green or brown lentils can appear firm, but actually be a bit mushy to the touch if you don’t watch them carefully, these little gems held their texture amazingly well.  They were still perfectly shaped when I drained them, and when I took a spoonful to taste they seemed to melt in my mouth.  Absolutely dreamy, these lentils are.  The taste sans seasoning was savory and earthy, as a good lentil should be.

cooking in pot 2 - edited

Part of me was quite sad that I was about to toss them into a food processor and obliterate the sublime texture of the belugas. . . but I did it anyway.

As it turns out, they also make a mean patty.  The patties I made held together well, were incredibly easy to prepare, shape, and bake and did a nice job at offering an eating experience that could best be compared to a falafel, I think, just . . . different.  I personally would not call these a burger.  The texture and overall experience is not one of a veggie burger to me, but definitely more of a falafel-like patty.  The seasoning could be changed to suite your desired flavor profile, for sure, and they can be eaten as part of sandwich or wrap (others with me ate them in pitas) or sans bread on top of vegetables (as I did).  And, while they held their shape and consistency really well, they crumble nicely, too, so that’s a whole other world of possibilities.

In this meal the lentils definitely melded into the other ingredients and simply became part of an overall dish, so I am actually looking forward to making them again when they can stand on their own and I can enjoy their nicely cooked texture once again.  I’m thinking served on top of some rice and seasoned generously with spicy flavors.

cooked patties on pan 2 = edited

This was a truly exciting find for me.  While many of the things I have tried so far in my Foodie Firsts adventures will be eaten again from time to time, I foresee these becoming a regular event.

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  As you can likely tell, I recommend the recipe below for black lentil & edamame patties.  In addition to that, though, I really think these would be fantastic boiled for 20 minutes to soften and then added to some sautéed veggies (onion, garlic, peppers, maybe carrot) with some of your favorite herbs & spices tossed in.  This preparation would allow you to experience them in more of a pure state.

Lessons Learned:  I love how just when you’ve think you’ve got something figured out (in this case, the humble lentil), you can always discover there is more to learn.  This week’s venture reminded me that the world of food is truly limitless when it comes to options and varieties.  While I could have happily gone the rest of my days with the standard green, brown, and red lentils filling my plate, discovering this other variety with a personality all its own was a lesson to me to continue looking for new experiences and not to just move through my cooking and eating life with a narrow focus on what I already know.  This is one lesson that I will surely be keeping with me beyond the kitchen as well.

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Black Lentil & Edamame Patties plated patty 4- edited close up

Adapted from Quiche-A-Week

Makes 12 small patties

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of black lentils, cooked and drained (about ¾ cup dry)

1 ½ cups shelled edamame, defrosted

1 cup finely ground corn meal

3 tblspns nutritional yeast

1 ½ tblspn Ener-G egg replacer + 6 tblspns water (or the equivalent egg/egg replacement option for 3 large eggs)

1 tspn chili powder

½ tspn kosher salt

½ tspn onion powder

½ tspn garlic powder

¼ tspn black pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & prepare your baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
  2. Combine cornmeal and nutritional yeast in a small bowl and toss together until well combined.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, prepare your egg replacer and set aside.
  4. In a food processor, combine defrosted edamame, cooked lentils, salt, pepper, chili, onion, and garlic powders.  Pulse until ingredients are broken down and combined.  You can leave some chunks of edamame and lentils if you like them for texture or puree until mostly smooth.
  5. Remove lentil mixture from food processor and combine with the prepared egg replacer in the large bowl.  Work the egg replacer into the mixture with your hands (you could use a spoon, it’s just not quite as efficient).  Then, in batches, pour in the combined cornmeal and nutritional yeast and work that into the mix.  ** I recommend adding this in batches because you may find you don’t need as much of it as I did (it may vary depending how much moisture came out of your lentils and edamame).  Add and incorporate until the moisture is well absorbed and the mixture will hold together.
  6. To form 12 small patties, scoop a ¼ cup of the mix into your hands, squeeze/pat together to form a patty and place onto your prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

**  We ate these with a variety of sauce toppings, too.  I enjoyed Annie’s barbecue sauce, garlic sauce was also a hit, and mustard wasn’t bad, either!

Foodie Firsts: Trying To Catch a Curveball

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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I had a whole Foodie First column planned for today.  I also had a post about creativity and confidence planned for earlier this week.  Neither has happened as planned and I want to explain why.

Life threw me a curveball this week.  A super curvy-curveball that I’ve been fumbling around trying to manage (yes, I did just mix those sports metaphors).  For the past couple of years, I have experienced a variety of health problems that, while not dire or life-threatening, have been persistent, problematic, and caused quite a bit of pain and discomfort.  I’ve gone through a series of frustrating tests and medical consultations without any answers or much concern given by the professionals I’ve seen.  I sought out a new doctor recently (a doctor of Naturopathic medicine) and am starting to get some answers.  They just weren’t the ones I was expecting.

I thought I had a pretty good idea of what might be the culprit and she agreed it was very possible.  In this vain, we decided to do some more tests and she also offered up another possibility that no one else had suggested in my medical visits: a food reactivity test.  I agreed, thinking it would be interesting and potentially helpful, but I didn’t really think it would be quite the game changer that it was.

The results came back on Saturday and they were pretty startling.  In a nutshell, I have been eating foods that my particular body is unable to handle properly, likely resulting in significant inflammation and a wide variety of painful and uncomfortable symptoms.  There are basically two categories that popped up that I have classified as:  The Super Big Bads that I will likely have to remove from my diet pretty much forever, and the Maybe-Possibly Big Bads that are causing reactions for sure (so they are off the table for a month or so) but may be able to be eaten occasionally once I’ve had a chance to get the current inflammatory damage under control.

So I have started an elimination diet.  All the Super Big Bads are gone for good, and the Possibly Big Bads are gone for the time being.  What are these foods?  Why did they completely derail my week and send me into a bit of a tailspin?  Here you go:

Category 1: The Super Big Bads

  • Kamut
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Wheat, Gliadin
  • Wheat, Gluten
  • Wheat, Whole
  • Yeast, Baker’s
  • Yeast, Brewer’s

(I’m still waiting for further tests to determine whether my gluten issue is in the category of gluten-sensitivity or Celiac’s Disease.  Either way, no more gluten for me.)

Category 2:  The Maybe-Possibly Big Bads

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas
  • Coffee Beans
  • Cranberries
  • Eggs
  • Green Peas
  • Milk (Dairy Variety)
  • Pecans
  • Pineapple
  • Sesame Seed
  • Sugar Cane
  • Whey
  • Yogurt (Dairy Variety)

It’s a grim list.  It’s very, very grim.

An example of how grim?

Most mornings this is my breakfast:

  • Two slices Dave’s 21 Grain Killer Bread
  • 1 tablespoon or so almond butter
  • 1 cup organic Greek yogurt
  • Coffee
  • Followed later by a mid-morning snack of a banana.

The rest of my day follows suit.

Since getting this information, I’ve been a bit of a mess.  I’ve had lots of emotions and am basically going through the stages of grief.  To some, this may sound over the top, but to me, it’s not.  As I’ve talked about on this blog, my love of healthy eating, cooking, and baking was only discovered in the last couple of years.  I’ve fallen in love with whole, real foods and finding new ways to prepare them.  I’ve discovered things I had never eaten before and was looking forward to eating lots more of.  Things like spelt muffins and scones (my absolute favorite flour to bake with these days), whole wheat grainy breads and cookies, almonds in just about every way you can imagine (almond butter, almond/fruit snack bars in the afternoons, almond flour, almonds in desserts, almond milk, almond yogurt), hummingbird cake with pineapples, and bananas eaten raw, used as sweetener in baked goods, and combined with dark chocolate.

Now these things are off limits and I don’t really know what to do.  Yes, it’s an opportunity to try more new things and yes, it’s a chance to get even more creative with my cooking, but right now I just want a slice of healthy, grainy toast with almond butter and a good, strong cup of coffee.

I don’t really think that’s too much to ask.

So my last few days have been spent purging my pantry and kitchen, carefully reading ingredient labels, spending hours (and lots of money) at the markets, and just figuring out what is safe and what is not.  Hence, the lack of blogging this week.  Do you have any idea how many foods contain gluten, yeast, and/or almonds?  Forget about the fact that cane sugar is on the list – it’s in nearly everything.

I realize that was a long explanation for my absence and I could have just said ‘sorry’ for dropping the ball this week, but I wanted to share some information about what’s going in.  I’ll be back next week with regular posts and I’ve no doubt that this new part of my life will be included, as it will surely impact those topics that near and dear to me here on this blog: healthy living, running, cooking, and overall brain and body wellness.

Also, in my absence this week, I failed to post that Monday marked my one-year anniversary with this blog.  I was sorry to have missed honoring that day and saying thank you to everyone who has stopped by, tried a recipe, took a running tip, left their own advice and input, and generally joined me in my little space on the Internet.  You all are fantastic and I have loved putting Move Eat Create together over this past year.  I have a lot more planned for year two!