If you are a vegan, new or old or contemplating dabbling in vegan cuisine, I highly recommend reading this book: Vegan for Life.
Like right now.
I mentioned basic vegan nutrition in my earlier post, but this book is chock-full of advice navigating the murky scientific waters of vegan nutrition. Vitamin B12 supplementation should be old news but what about calcium, iron and zinc? Essential fatty acids?
Of course, then there’s the never-ending protein question. (Love this video, by the way)
Beyond, where do you get your protein but how much do you really need. I used to aim for the prototypical 0.4g of protein per pound of body weight, so around 50g for a 120lb woman. Brendan Brazier’s books were also instrumental in highlighting the importance of the ratio of protein to carbs, as well, when exercising.
While I stagger my meals and snacks to support my exercise, I have never really considered myself an athlete. I am not a bodybuilder but I do lift weights twice a week. I have cycled really, really long distances (over 350km in 2 days kind of a lot). Although it seems like such a distant memory right now. Even though I tucked my bike away for the winter, just last month, I was cycling a minimum of 1.5 hours each day for commuting alone. It makes me tired just thinking about it. I have so much more energy now.
My co-worker would (lovingly) heckle me, telling me I wasn’t eating enough protein as a vegan, especially with all my cycling. I reassured him I was ok, 50g is enough. I eat my beans. Vegan for Life has me re-evaluating my base protein needs. Strength and endurance athletes (and pregnant people- not any kind of hint, by the way) seem to require more protein although how much is debatable. It could be up to 0.8g/lb for weight lifters. If you interested, this is a good read, too. I strive for 25% protein in my meals, so I think my new protein goal is be achievable. Especially since I love beans.
The benefit of beans and legumes were highlighted not only for their high protein content but also their amino acid profile, compared to other vegan protein sources (vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains). They are a good source of lysine, a particular amino acid that is not as easily found in other vegetarian foods.
So.. the moral of the story? Take charge of your nutrition. And eat more beans.
Even within the legume family, there is a lot of variety. Lentils and chickpeas are my go-to beans, but they all have their own merits. Pick up a new bean and get creative.
Have some split peas but don’t know what to do? Try this soup. I really like split peas, but less eager to cook with them due to their long cooking time. Even with soaking (or not), I find they take a while to cook, sometimes longer than an hour and a half.
It is worth it, though.
I prefer yellow split peas, which have a milder pea flavour. The split peas thicken this soup spiced with ginger and coriander. Filling and hearty yet light at the same time from the lemon. The lemon zest really brought this up a notch. It also packs a protein punch: 20g when serving 3. Serve with a salad to get some greens.
Looking for other ways to eat split peas? Try these:
Smoky Split Pea Soup with Roasted Garlic and Sage
Finnish Double Pea Stew with Apples
Iraqi Eggplant and Seitan Stew
Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime
Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha)
Ethiopian Split Pea and Squash Stew with Collard Greens
Swedish Yellow Split Pea Soup with Dill at Power Hungry
Curried Squash and Split Pea Soup at Choosing Raw
Sunshine Curried Split Pea Soup at G Living
Yellow Split Peas with Garlic, Ginger and Cilantro at Kalyn’s Kitchen
Yellow Split Pea Soup with Smoked Paprika and Crisped Leeks at Not Eating Out in New York
Polish Split Peas and Cabbage at About.com
Have I hooked you onto Ethiopian food yet? If you like Indian curries, you’ll also likely really enjoy Ethiopian cuisine with its spicy, saucy stews (known as wats). Making it at home means you can vary the level of spice to your own palate. However, not all Ethiopian foods are melting from hot spices. Not everything has berbere in it.
As I said, when I tried a platter of assorted Ethiopian dishes, I was immediately enamored with the creamy split pea puree, also known as kik alicha. It was calm and comforting; soothing with its use of savoury spices. It contrasted well against the fiery hot wats and faux meats. Ethiopian food is usually very affordable, but I knew I could make a bean dish like this easily at home. I just needed a recipe.
I originally made the kik alicha from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food but found it too savoury with its use of cinnamon, etc. Not that it was bad, it just wasn’t the dish from the restaurant that I was pining. Next, I tried the version from Olive Trees and Honey which had simpler ingredients: split peas, onion, garlic, and oil. It also called for a chile and I obliged by using one green chile. With the bountiful onions and garlic, this was flavourful, and not spicy at all with only one green chile. Mild, but not distracting. Creamy yet not oily. This was how it was meant to be. To make it even more luscious, puree the dish or partially mash.
Guess who biked to work yesterday? With highs of 18C, a nice rain on Monday to get rid of the salt, I was almost feverish in excitement to finally start biking to work!
I know it is only a teaser, though… Warmer weather alone does not make spring. Especially if it only lasts a week.
There are many ingredients I associate with spring: Baby greens. Arugula. Asparagus. Carrots. And peas.
Since the fresh, local produce hasn’t made its way to the forefront just yet, you can approximate springtime with this hybrid of a stew adapted from Love Soup: Finnish Double Pea Soup with Apples (original recipe here). It is a wonderful merriment of a hearty stick-in-your-ribs winter split pea stew combined with a sprinkling of spring with fresh (or in my case, frozen) peas (I used the sweeter petit pois from President’s Choice). Apples also add a hit of sweetness without being too discernible. The vinegar and mustard temper and balance the soup extremely well along with a whiff of nutmeg and coriander. The flavours are not over-the-top but they marry very well.
This is my submission to this month’s My Kitchen, My World featuring dishes from Finland, to This Week’s Cravings (Green), to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s Gimme Green event and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
Just when it seemed like Rob and I had finally settled into our new place, unpacked all our stuff, got rid of the mattress in the dining room, we found out we would be moving again.
While we haven’t found a new place to live yet, I am hoping to stay in the same neighbourhood, which I have grown to love. It is a lovely working class residential neighbourhood with some positive gems – a summer Farmer’s Market, a simple unassuming health store filled with bulk and organic ingredients, and oodles of ethnic grocers along Danforth. Our specific area is kind of a hodge podge of cultures: Ethiopian stores can be found next to Bengali supermarkets, but that is what I love. Before one of our Ethiopian fests, Rob went out to try to find some injera and instead came home with roti. All the injera was sold out, explaining how he ended up in Little India instead.
I have only recently discovered a love for Ethiopian food as I know it can be deathly spicy. I was converted after a glorious visit to a vegan Ethiopian resto, M&B Yummy, again quite an unassuming hole-in-wall kind of place, where you can get a huge meal for two under $30 including $2 Mill St Organic beers and $3 tofu cheesecakes from Sweets from the Earth. The vegetarian platter, served overtop a lovely sour injera pancake, includes berbere-spiced faux meat, spicy red lentil stews (or wats), as well as not as the milder collard greens, split pea puree, carrot and green bean dish and a lettuce salad. Sadly, we haven’t been able to try the chickpea scramble, butucha, as they’ve always been out.
My two favourite dishes from this platter are the split pea puree (kik alicha) and green bean and carrot dish (fasoulia). Both were the least spicy of the dishes and work well adjacent to the spicy lentil purees and faux meats. I have duplicated both recipes, and will share them eventually.
In the meantime, I have brought together most of the traditional elements of Ethiopian cuisine into one dish. Split peas. Berbere. Collard greens. Kabocha squash, too. In a one-pot meal. Boo-yah! I originally spotted this on Ainslie’s blog and my curiosity was piqued with the sweet split peas contrasting with the spicy berbere. She suggests serving this overtop kale, which was just the invitation I needed to throw collards into the stew as well. The result is a hearty stew, creamy and sweet from the split peas and squash, with a touch of bitterness from the collards and enough heat you can tolerate from the berbere. Rob and I scored a hefty sample of berbere from a nearby store and I was pleasantly surprised that it was more flavourful than spicy. It definitely helps to experiment with the blends from different stores as well as different recipes.
This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring hot spices, to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Heather. For Lisa’s complete birthday menu, (since I haven’t shared my other Ethiopian favourites yet), I’d serve it with fun Moroccan Vegetable Phyllo Rolls with Balsamic Maple Sauce and finish it off with a Moroccan Orange Cinnamon Salad and Raw Mango Paradise Bars for a decadent birthday treat.
I will admit that when I mentioned my pee turns red after consuming red beets, I thought I was in the majority.
When asking someone about their bloody urine as a doctor, the first thing is to rule out causes that are not bloody (like eating beets).
It happens to me on occasion (red urine from beets) and as such, I thought it was pretty common.
Then I decided to do a very quick literature search.
Not that I delved into the primary studies, but apparently beeturia (what you call red urine from beets) is only present in 10-15% of people. It is caused by the increased absorption and then excretion of betalaine, the reddish pigment found in red beets.
Delving into its chemistry, it turns out that because betalaine will be protected by reducing agents like oxalates, consuming foods high in oxalates like spinach and rhubarb will enhance beeturia. Furthermore, it is decolorized by ferric ions, colonic bacteria and stomach acids (hydrochloric acid). As such, if you don’t consume enough iron, you may get beeturia. Same thing if your stomach acid is out of whack, say from pernicious anemia.
Anyways, I thought 10-15% of people was pretty low. I decided to do an informal poll. Beeturia sufferers=4. No beeturia=2. Do not consume beets=4. Both of my no beeturia friends mentioned they get red poo, though (although I didn’t ask my other friends).
I kind of want to do a scientific study, actually. Give a specific amount of beets to a bunch of people and ask them for their urine to see if it is red (hmm, maybe I would need a pre-beet control urine sample, too). It sounds gross, I know, but my curiosity is piqued.
Not everyone enjoys beets, but let me share with you yet another great beet recipe. I am totally biased, since I love all colour of beets, in many different forms. But really, this is a great soup. And it isn’t borscht.
I originally spotted this Iraqi Pomegranate Stew on Julia’s blog. I am always thrilled to find new ways to add pomegranate molasses to my meals, and I was tickled pink when I saw it had many of my other favourite ingredients- beets, spinach, split peas, lime juice, cinnamon, cilantro and even mint! (Aside, can you see how different my tastes are from Rob’s coconut-tamarind-chile love trifecta? Although I love tamarind, too).
The flavours of stew combine the salty, sweet, and savoury perfectly. It helped that I followed Julia’s recommendation of adding more split peas and rice, and removing the sugar altogether. The pomegranate molasses gives this a nice sweet tang all by its lonesome.
This also produces a glorious red soup, speckled with the green spinach and herbs. What better way to say you love someone, then by making them a gloriously delicious healthy red soup. Except, it might make you pee red, too.
So tell me, if you dare, do you get beeturia?
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Wellness Weekend, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Vanessa and to My Kitchen, My World for Iraq.
Returning from vacation the day before you return to work is not a good idea. Jet-lag was one reason it took me so long to get back into the groove after returning from Iceland.
Thankfully, I was forward-thinking and froze a bunch of meals before we left. I had dal bhat waiting for me upon my return as well as this delicious Iraqi-Inspired Eggplant and Seitan Stew from Susan at Fat Free Vegan.
Just like dal bhat, this was a savoury, comforting stew. Filled with warming spices like nutmeg, smoked paprika, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin and cardamom, you have a winning combination with silky yellow split peas and chunks of seitan in a pomegranate-infused sauce. I modified it only slightly by using liquid smoke and substituting Aleppo chili flakes for the larger chilies.
I have made seitan, or wheat meat, once before as chorizo sausages. This recipe is neat because you make a batch of seitan specifically for this recipe. The results are chewy nuggets admixed within the cooked eggplant and split peas. A nice play of textures with a definite protein boost.
This was a delicious stew to return home to, especially since it was so cold upon our return. Curl up with a bowl of stew any day you need some a virtual warm hug from a bowl.
Let me tell you what not to bring to a potluck.
Unless you are armed with extra lemons.
I waiver between trying new and old recipes for unsuspecting guests at potlucks. This time, I tried a new recipe.
Well, it could. And it went wrong twice.
The soup, as written, was bland. To zip it up, I added more fresh lemon juice and lots of fresh pepper. Now I was content, this soup was nice! Since soups always taste better after mellowing a few hours, I figured this was going to be a winner.
Got to my potluck, opened my soup, warmed it up…. and did the taste test.
Oh no! It went back to its bland self and I had a sorry soup to serve.
Most of my meals taste great (even if Rob doesn’t agree), but here I was, speechless, with a so-so soup. And no lemon to perk it up again.
I don’t really mind when recipes are lackluster, but when I serve it to guests, that’s when I cringe. But I swear, it tastes great fresh and a little more fresh lemon juice was probably what the leftovers needed. Moral of the story: Don’t leave home without your lemon.
If you could pick only 4 dried spices to have your kitchen, what would they be?
I know, it is a tough question…
For me, perhaps cumin, cinnamon, Aleppo chili flakes and bay leaves.
I use these ingredients a lot and feel out of place if I have to work in a kitchen without them. Funnily enough, they aren’t your typical spices found in a North American kitchen.
My friend recently visited and requested that we cook together. She wanted to learn how to cook more like me, ie, more healthy, vegetarian cooking. Of course, I can easily whip up healthy recipes with my own pantry staples, but I wanted to work with what she had in her kitchen.
I immediately wanted to know what kind of equipment she had. No food processor nor spice grinder, but she thinks she has a Magic bullet. Next, I needed to know what spices she had.
She had to get back to me, she couldn’t remember.
Turns out, she had four: cumin, turmeric, bay leaves and curry powder.
Of all the spices, what a wonderful selection! I could breathe more easily.. I could whip out my cumin recipes! And bean recipes!
I gave her a menu, with a multitude of possibilities that worked within her kitchen constraints as well as her own prep constraints. She told me she didn’t want to do a lot of chopping, not a lot of prep time, focusing on hearty dishes with beans and root vegetables, and she likes zucchini and eggplant.
Turns out I had made a killer dal recipe earlier that week from Julia’s Vegan Kitchen (adapted from Indian Home Cooking‘s recipe), so I was tickled pink when she picked it as the meal she wanted to make together.
While I originally made this simple dal with split yellow peas, red lentils are better for quick meals. Red lentils are a great choice for bean newbies since they don’t need any pre-soaking and cook up in under half an hour. Therefore, I used red lentils with my friend.
Despite a seemingly short ingredient list, this is a really flavourful dal. With the right cooking techniques, you can make the flavours pop. The trick is the heighten the flavour with a little simmering of the spices in oil that you add at the end of cooking.
While you get the lentils simmering and the rice is cooking, you heat up some garlic, ginger, cumin and chili flakes in a bit of oil. When the lentils are finished, you add the spice mixture along with fresh lime juice. It is that simple, yet so good. I cannot stress how important it is to use fresh ingredients, as its flavours are heightened when heated in the oil. The fresh lime juice adds an element of brightness, tempering the dish in all the right ways. Personally, I preferred this dal with the yellow split peas, as they were deceptively sweet. I have had a hard time finding a split pea soup I like, so I was surprised at how much I loved this. It was a bit more soupy when fresh, but firms up nicely as leftovers (see the above picture!)
In fact, everyone was smitten by how easy, flavourful and healthy this meal was. It will definitely be added to our regular rotation of no-think, pantry-friendly recipes.
Here were some other dishes on my friend’s menu:
Ever So Nice Rice and Beans from The Two-Week Wellness Solution
Coconut Curried Lentils with Basmati Rice from Supermarket Vegan
Easy Curried Chickpeas and Quinoa from Fat Free Vegan
Ginger Red Lentils with Garlic from 660 Curries
What are your your favourite no-think quick, healthy vegan recipes?