Recipe: Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (and a confession)

I have something very important to own up to here today.

Are you ready for it?

I don’t understand the full-on pumpkin obsession that is happening right now.

I just don’t.

in skillet with handle - edited

As a foodie, a blogger, and a huge fan of fall, I feel a little bad about this.  I mean, anyone who has browsed through a blogroll lately, walked past a bakery or coffee shop, or even taken a trip to the grocery store has surely seen the pumpkin explosion that is taking over the food world.

Pumpkin is a big deal, y’all.  And, I just don’t get it.

It’s fine, I guess.  It’s alright. It’s O.K.   But, honestly, it’s not a flavor that I get excited about.  I think my pumpkin gene never fully developed.  I get excited about other fall flavors, namely apple, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon.  I go nuts for steaming bowls of soup, rich broths, and earthy aromas.  I’m crazy about casseroles, root vegetables, and pots of warm chili.  But, pumpkin?

Eh.

I could take it or leave it.

cooking - edited

I realize I probably just lost a lot of cred with you all, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I felt it needed to be said.

In that vain, I hope you enjoy this dish.  It is perfect for a chilly autumn evening, eaten in a setting where you feel comfortable and cozy, in the company of those you’re most at home with.  And with nary a pumpkin in sight.

For those who are disappointed with me and think I’m missing out, don’t worry . . . I’ll probably cave in and bake some pumpkin bread soon.

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Vegan Shepherd’s Pie bowl - edited

Tweaked just a smidge from the wonderful Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  •  2 lbs potatoes (I used red), cubed (peeled or unpeeled – it’s up to you)
  • ½ cup soy milk creamer
  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (or oil or butter)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups green beans, chopped into ½ inch pieces (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups packed spinach, chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tblspn Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (could sub soy sauce or tamari)
  • 1 tblspn red miso
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tblspn fresh rosemary, minced (or 1 tspn dried)
  • 1 tspn fresh oregano (or ½ tspn dried)
  • ¼ tspn dried, ground sage
  • 1 1/2 tblspns corn starch
  • 2 tblspns water
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Prepare the potatoes by boiling them in a large pot of salted water until tender, about 15 minutes.  When tender, drain and toss into a large bowl (if using a hand mixer/masher) or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add soy milk and Earth Balance and sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Mix/mash until soft and creamy.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spray a large cast iron skillet or large sauté pan with cooking spray and warm over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until they are soft and begin to brown.  Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes longer.
  3. Next, add the vegetable broth, Bragg’s, miso, kidney beans, green beans, and herbs.  Bring the broth up to a low boil and then reduce heat.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender and cooked through.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and mix well.  Let the spinach wilt over the heat for 2-3 minutes.  Finally, mix together the corn starch with the 2 tablespoons water until smooth and stir into the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes longer, until the sauce has thickened up a bit.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from heat and turn on your broiler to high.  If you used a cast iron skillet, leave the vegetables in the skillet at this point and spoon the mashed potatoes evenly onto the top.  If you used another sauté pan, transfer the vegetables into an oven-safe baking dish and then continue on by spooning the mashed potatoes onto the top.    Place skillet or dish under the broiler for approximately 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Recipe: My Victory Loaf

Do you know what victory looks like?  If you’re not sure, I’ll show you.

Meet my Victory Loaf.

with end cut off

Besides finishing my first marathon, I can’t think of another victory I’ve had anytime recently that has felt this sweet.

Prior to finding out that I’m gluten-sensitive/intolerant, I ate a lot of bread and bread products.  Granted, I was almost exclusively eating whole grain, healthier bread varieties, but bread was a staple in my dietary routine.  Since having to give up gluten that has obviously changed.  For those of you are about to say, “Wait!  There are several gluten-free options available these days – eat those!”, please allow me to remind you that I am also supposed to be avoiding yeast, eggs, and dairy.

That eliminates most all the prepared bread and bread dough products I have been able to find in stores or online.

This has been one of the most discouraging parts of my gluten-sensitive diagnosis.  And, just to be clear, it’s not just about bread.  It’s really about having things that have traditionally brought me pleasure and comfort all of a sudden turn into things that harm me.  It’s about being excluded from social situations because I can no longer join in with the group in quite the same way.  It’s about feeling tense and afraid that I’m going to sick anytime I’m eating something I haven’t prepared with my own hands.  It’s about activities (baking/cooking) that I grew so used to turning to for relaxation and joy all of a sudden being fraught with stress and unease.  It’s about loss and grief and life changes that are at times complex, sad, empowering, challenging, freeing, and frustrating all at once.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a bigger picture here, People.  And all of this is why this bread, this Victory Loaf, left me standing over my kitchen counter shedding a few little tears of joy.

collage

I have tried gluten free, yeast free baking a few times since my diagnosis (most of what I baked before was vegan, so that part wasn’t so tricky to adapt to), and it never turned out very well.  Some items went straight into the garbage.  Others got nibbled at with desperate hopefulness and then found their way to the trash, too.  While a couple of items got eaten entirely, it was with some sense of disappointment because they still weren’t quite up to my standards.  All of this was done by strictly following recipes.  I had lost trust in myself.  Not yet feeling any level of confidence with the new flours and gums and grains that have taken over my pantry, I was hesitant to stray at all from recipes and followed them all to sub-par results.  I don’t know if I was just selecting bad recipes or if I was executing them poorly (maybe a combination of the two), but I was more than a little discouraged.

Until I decided to give myself a chance.

Drawing upon what I had learned about the new ingredients available to me and the kitchen skills I have gained over the last few years, I put together my own recipe.  I knew that it could fail miserably, but at least I was prepared to do so on my own terms.

But, it didn’t.

It didn’t!

with bowl of soup

In fact, it went better in so many ways than any gluten free baking I had done.  It was incredible.

I made bread that looked like bread, tasted like bread, and exuded nothing less than absolute delight when I took my first bite.

It was pure victory.

I ate my Victory Loaf dry, with Earth Balance*, with jam, with sunflower seed butter, with peanut butter, dipped into soup, and with edamame hummus.  I ate it every way that I could.  I ate it with joy, with pleasure, with feelings of empowerment, with smiles, with fervor, with delight, and with relief.

And every time it felt like a little victory all over again.

*This was my favorite pairing.

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Victory Loaf

A Move Eat Create original recipe

Makes 1 standard loaf

** Note:  You should note that this bread does taste of buckwheat and dark grains.  If you’re looking for a soft, white bread, this is nowhere near that.  But, if you like whole grains, dark breads, and buckwheat, then this just might work for you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour torn slice
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 2 ¼ cups room temperature water
  • 1 tblspn molasses
  • 2 tspns salt
  • 1 tspn baking soda
  • 1 tspn fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tblspns shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 tblspn millet

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a loaf pan by coating with cooking spray.
  2. Combine flours and salt in large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Add water and molasses to the flour mixture and stir until just combined
  4. In a small bowl, combine baking soda with lemon juice and whisk together.  It will bubble/foam (this is the yeast replacement and will help create a similar rise effect).  Quickly pour into the rest of the batter and stir all ingredients until well incorporated.  There is no need to mix aggressively or to knead this dough.
  5. Pour batter into loaf pan and gently pick up the pan an inch or two and drop it on the counter in order to settle the dough and get it to level out.
  6. Lastly, combine the sunflower seeds and millet together and sprinkle on top of the batter for a seeded crust.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Savor every bite.

Recipe: Iron Boosting Spinach Pesto Rice with Navy Beans

I have an iron deficiency.  Have I mentioned that?

One of those pesky side effects of the gluten-damaged system that I am still healing is a lack of nutrient absorption.  Combine that with all the running I do and it adds up to a significant lack of iron in my body.

mixed up in pan

Iron deficiency is no joke, as it results in poor oxygen delivery throughout your system and can leave you feeling weak, tired, and cranky.  And, really, who wants that?

While taking iron supplements is great for getting that very low level up initially, I don’t want to have to rely on supplements forever.  I’d prefer to get as many of my nutrients from food as possible, and as such, I offer this dish here – brimming with iron boosting ingredients.

Spinach is a favorite of mine, anyway, and I don’t need any extra excuse to eat it.  But it certainly is a bonus that is so iron rich.  One cup of spinach has just as much iron as 3 ounces of chicken.  So, for all my fellow vegetarians and vegans out there, feel free to fire that fact back at those who think iron has to come from animal products.  It’s just not so.

Continuing to up the iron ante in this dish, I’ve included navy beans (which, seriously, are just like overflowing with the stuff), the bell pepper (one standard green pepper has the same amount of iron as the aforementioned cup of spinach), and pine nuts.  To top it all off, I’ve included lemon juice.

Why is the lemon juice important, you may ask?

plated

Well, besides the fact that it’s delicious, consuming vitamin C (as is found in citrus) with iron increases your body’s absorption rate.

How ‘bout that?!

So if you’re looking to address an iron deficiency of your own, I highly recommend this meal.  It will have you covered, nutritionally speaking, and will certainly be more satisfying than popping a supplement.

If your iron levels are just fine and where they’re supposed to be, I still highly recommend this meal.

It’s delicious.  And nourishing.  And simple to prepare.  And, did I say delicious?

Iron or not, that’s a winning combination.

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Iron Boosting Spinach Pesto Rice with Navy Beans

Serves 6

Ingredients:  Vegetables cooking

** For the pesto (makes about 1 cup):

  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 tblspn fresh oregano
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme
  •  ½ tspn black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tblspns vegetable broth
  • 2 tblspns lemon juice
  • ½ tspn salt
  • 2 tblspns olive oil

The rest:

  • 2 tblspns vegetable broth
  • ¼ of a large white onion, minced
  • 3 small carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into strips about ½ inch long
  • 2 cups cooked navy beans
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into half moons
  • 1 cup of spinach pesto (recipe above), divided in two
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (about 1 ½ cups dry)

Directions:

  1. First, prepare the pesto.  Place all pesto ingredients, except olive oil, into a food processor and pulse a few times to chop ingredients.  Then, let food processor run while you slowly pour in the olive oil.  Continue to process until ingredients are well chopped and combined.  Set aside.
  2. Warm large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add vegetable broth first, then add onion, pepper, and carrots.  Saute vegetables in the broth for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables have softened.
  3. Add beans and zucchini to the pan and continue to cook all ingredients, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add cooked rice and ½ cup of spinach pesto.  Stir all ingredients together and mix well over heat.  Let all ingredients cook for 3-4 minutes, to warm everything through and combine.  Serve immediately with the remaining ½ cup pesto to be drizzled onto individual servings as desired.

Recipe: Vegetable Marinara Pasta Bake with Popped Amaranth Top Crust

I don’t know that I’ve ever really declared this here on my blog, but I’m pretty much a geek in a lot of ways.

Ready to go in the oven

I’m a running geek who eagerly awaits her issues of Runner’s World and Running Times each month – then immersing myself in training methods, splits, and gear.

I’m a pop culture geek who can spend days philosophizing about the socially important messages and critiques in a single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and who counts the regeneration of The Doctor as a significant stressor in her life.

I’m a HUGE literary geek.  Tired of being around me?  Just shove me in a bookstore or library and I’ll be entirely happy on my own until I realize I haven’t eaten in days.

And, of course, I’m a kitchen geek.  I get excited about kitchen gadgets and culinary ephemera.  An orderly mise en place sets my world on fire and learning a new cooking technique is an exciting adventure.

Noodles and Veggies

So when I learned about how amaranth (a nutritious, tasty, and gluten free grain that I can safely eat!) can be popped like popcorn on the stovetop, I KNEW it was something I had to try.  I got excited about this.  Like REALLY excited.

My excitement only grew throughout the process of popping the amaranth and making this dish.  I ended up with amaranth all over my kitchen because I got a little over excited and didn’t cover it well at first, but it was worth it.  This was fun and totally delighted my inner-culinary geek who marveled at watching this mighty little grain go!

If you’re hesitant to try this technique or just don’t have access to amaranth, you can certainly make this dish with a traditional breadcrumb topping or no topping at all.  But, if you’re feeling adventurous – find some amaranth and get ready to have some fun in your kitchen – just keep a broom handy for the errant traveling seeds you’ll find later!

Plated

**Note: As is the case with so many meals, feel free to customize this dish with your favorite vegetables or what you have on hand.  I like this combination of mushrooms, onion, pepper, and spinach for the complimentary mix of tastes, colors, and nutritional benefits, but you could certainly swap other veggies to suit your needs.

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Vegetable Marinara Bake with Popped Amaranth Top Crust

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe  Olive oil

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz gluten free penne (or pasta of choice)
  • ¼ cup amaranth
  • 3 tblspns vegan Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh basil
  • 1 ½ tblspn olive oil, divided
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 ½ cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • ¼ tspn ground fennel
  • ½ tspn crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tblspn nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 25-26 oz jar of marinara sauce (or equivalent of homemade)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare an 11 x 7 baking pan by coating with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta noodles to just al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Prepare the ingredients that will be the topping for the pasta bake.  To pop the amaranth, warm a dry pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop.  When heated, add 1 tablespoon of amaranth at a time to the pan.  If you have one, cover with a splatter screen.  The amaranth will begin to pop like popcorn.  Agitate the amaranth in the pan until most has popped.  Transfer popped amaranth to a bowl and repeat until all amaranth has been popped.  Be especially careful, as the amaranth can burn if it is not kept almost constantly agitated by shaking the pan or stirring.  The amaranth will pop quickly.  Once all amaranth has been popped, add vegan Parmesan, chopped basil, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to it and mix well to combine and coat ingredients with the olive oil.  Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining ½ tablespoon oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, and pepper, along with a pinch of salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
  5. Add chopped mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add fennel, red pepper flakes, nutritional yeast, and chopped spinach to pan.  Mix well and cook just 1-2 minutes until spinach starts to wilt.  Turn off heat and add cooked pasta noodles to the pan, stirring well to combine all ingredients.
  7. Line bottom of prepared baking pan with a light layer of the marinara sauce.  Pour noodles and vegetables on top of sauce and spread evenly.  Pour remaining marinara sauce onto top of noodle/vegetable mixture evenly.  Finally, sprinkle prepared topping across the entire casserole.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degree.  Uncover and continue to bake for 10 more minutes.  Serve with additional salt, pepper, and vegan Parmesan to taste.

Recipe: Spicy Potatoes and Cabbage in Herby Tomatoes

Have you ever eaten a meal that is so humble it takes you by surprise?

potatoes and cabbage plated - edited

There are no big super foods here.  No crazy punch of unusual or particularly bold seasoning.  No exotic ingredient, rare or peculiar.

What we have here are the basics – potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage.  Staples.  Hearty, strong ingredients that have fed people for centuries.  Nothing in this dish screams of specialness or excitement, but in my mind, that’s precisely what makes it so good.  My first bites of this meal were taken with a lack of enthusiasm.  I expected nourishment, but nothing to get worked up about.  As I continued to eat it, though, working my way through my plate, then seconds, and then leftovers the next two days, I fell in love with this humble meal.

potatoes and cabbage - close up in bowl edited

While I’ve called this dish simple, I don’t mean it as a slight.  It’s a compliment.  Hearty vegetables dressed up with aromatics and emboldened with a bit of peppery-heat make for a dish that feels like the best kind of old friend – familiar and warm, but still able to catch you by surprise.

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Spicy Potatoes and Cabbage in Herby Tomatoes

Adapted from Vegetarian Times

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 small-medium head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 lbs potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 ½ tblspns tomato paste
  • 1 tspn agave
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tspn dried oregano
  • ½ tspn ground cumin
  • 5 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, minced (optional, depending on your heat preference/tolerance)
  • 3 tblspns lime juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Hearty sprinklings of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Submerge chopped cabbage in water and blanch for 5-6 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Return pot of water to stove and return to a boil.  Add chopped potatoes and boil 5-7 minutes, until tender.  Drain potatoes, reserving ¾ cup of the cooking water, and set aside.
  3. Add tomato paste and agave into reserved cooking water, stir to combine, and set aside.
  4. Warm oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  When warm, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes until vegetables soften.
  5. Add tomatoes, chiles, tomato paste/water mixture, oregano, and cumin to the pot.  Continue to cook for 5-6 more minutes.
  6. Add cabbage and potatoes to the pot.  Add a hearty sprinkling of salt and pepper, too.  Stir to combine all ingredients and let cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, just to get everything combined and warmed back up.
  7. Turn off heat, add lime juice and cilantro, and stir to combine.  Taste and add extra salt and pepper if needed.
  8. Serve over rice or quinoa, or with warm tortillas.

Recipe: Broccoli and Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is an easy, cheap version of therapy for me.  Well, I should clarify that cooking risotto is an easy, cheap version of therapy for me.

risotto on plate 6 - edited

Eating it is good, too.  I’ll never forget my first taste of risotto (made by a professional chef – not by own hands).  The experience stunned me.  That creamy, rich and bright delicious first bite ranks high amongst my greatest food experiences.

But cooking risotto is even better.

People say it’s difficult.  They say it’s tricky or precarious or too easy to ruin.

I say: Bah!

risoto with vegetables 2 - edited

None of that is true in my own experience.  Risotto takes more attention than a casserole or a soup, maybe, but it is attention that I’m glad to give.  The slow, deliberate process behind a good risotto is better than meditation or a good sleep for calming any negative energy or frayed nerves that I my be harboring.  I’m drawn to the smell of the dry rice toasting up before any liquid is added.  Then I am soothed by swirling the small batches of broth into the pan, time and time again.

The gentle stirring is like a lullaby and the scents like the very best aromatherapy.

Plus, I am continually fascinated by the transformation of a small pile of dry rice into a heaping mound of creamy, rich risotto.

It’s pure culinary brilliance.

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Broccoli and Mushroom Risotto

A Move Eat Create Original Recipe, inspired by countless recipes viewed over time

Serves 4-6

Feel free to use this recipe as a guideline for quantities and method.  If broccoli isn’t your thing, you could easily sub asparagus, for instance.  No mushrooms on hand?  Try zucchini or yellow squash.  The vegetables, as well as the herbs, can easily be adapted to your preference and pantry staples.

Ingredients: risotto cooking 6 - edited

  • 2 cups mushrooms, diced (I used a mixture of portobello and white button)
  • 7 cups vegetable broth (consider making your own)
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 tspn salt
  • ½ tspn black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups (about 1 small head) broccoli, chopped finely
  • 1 tblspn Earth Balance (may sub butter or other butter substitute)
  • 1 tblspn nutritional yeast (can sub Parmesan if not vegan)
  • 1 tblspn fresh marjoram, chopped
  • 1 tblspn fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

  1. Pre-cook your mushrooms by tossing them into a large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, until they shrink in size a bit and start to brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, pour your vegetable broth into a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  You’ll want to keep the broth warm through the cooking process, as it should not be added to the rice cold.
  3. Add oil to the pan.  Once warmed, add shallot and garlic.  Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until they are translucent and fragrant.
  4. Toss your rice, salt, and pepper into the pan with the shallot and garlic.  Toast the rice briefly, about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Increase heat slightly, then add wine.  Mix ingredients together and let the wine deglaze the pan and cook off for 1-2 minutes.  Once the wine has cooked down, lower heat again to just below medium.
  5. Begin to add your warm broth in ½ cup increments.  Between each addition, stir rice frequently, mixing the broth into the ingredients slowly and deliberately.  When most of the broth is absorbed, add the next ½ cup full.  Continue this process until all but 1 cup of the broth is used and rice has become soft and very plump.  This process should take somewhere around 30 minutes.
  6. When its time to add in the second to last ½ cup of broth, add broccoli to the pan.  Stir together broccoli, rice, and broth.
  7. With the last ½ cup of broth, add pre-cooked mushrooms.  Stir mushrooms and final batch of broth into the rice.  When all broth has been absorbed, turn off heat.
  8. Add Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, and fresh herbs to the pan and stir gently to incorporate all ingredients together.  The heat from the risotto will melt the Earth Balance and help blend all ingredients together.  Serve immediately.

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.