Adding Protein

Tonight I had some fun trying some new things and it all involved some beans. But beans with pizza? Beans with mashed potatoes? Yes, believe it or not, and it all started with my desire to add some protein to some items in a way that may not be too noticeable.

Gotta love the healthy disclaimer!

So tonight I started with these “Great Northern Beans”.  Beans are a pretty good source of plant protein – – 7gm per 1/2 cup serving – –  and along with that they are pretty much fat-free, pack just as much fiber (7gm/serving) and give 8% iron, 4% calcium, and a couple other nutrients – while being void of saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar. While this canned variety did have some sodium in them I drained and rinsed them so that reduced the sodium but still left some flavor.

Then I put the rinsed beans in my food processor along with a couple good dashes of garlic powder and pureed the heck out of them. I also added a touch of olive oil to add a bit of moisture. These awaited my potatoes to boil and my pizza crust to pre-bake (this too I whipped up in my food processor).

Beans have now been pureed.

Once the potatoes were cooked and drained I added about 3/4 of the bean-garlic puree along with some butter, a splash of milk and a bunch of chopped fresh cilantro. They tasted great, and my son approved of the flavor too!  He knew I had pureed up the beans but didn’t really know I added them to the potatoes.  I don’t think he minded since he was liking the flavor. Usually he’s not a big fan of any bean but these were mixed in well. The result – good tasting with a protein bonus!

Yummy protein potatoes!

Now on to pizza – I par-baked the dough for 6 minutes then took it out and added the remaining garlic-bean puree to the top of the crust. If you look closely at the picture below you can see it on the crust – it blended in quite nicely and added a nice garlic flavor.

Look again, there's beans here!

Then on top of that came all the veggie toppings and cheese – yum.

The pizza was quite tasty and there really was no indication there were beans on this pizza except for the garlic taste that was added when I pureed them. I’m glad I tried these ideas out!

Tofu: A First

Today in cooking lab for the course I’m taking we applied the concepts of sauteing, making a slurry (thin mix of liquid and starch) and deglazing by route of the lovely stir fry.  The class made a chicken stir fry but our fabulous instructor Julie brought in tofu for those of us who wanted to cook meatless.  I’ve never cooked with tofu so I was glad to be given the opportunity.  It’s a great plant-based protein source which also includes many other healthful nutrients.

Working with tofu - a first!

We got to pick lots of vegetables: red pepper, scallions, fresh garlic, green beans, pea pods and something new for me: bok choy (I figured, why not try it while I have an opportunity in this class). It’s like celery in the stalk, romaine for the leaves.  Upon further research I found that it’s a great source of Vitamins A, C, K and folate along with other nutrients. As with fresh vegetables: more color, more nutrients.

Bok Choy - another first!

We also got to grate fresh ginger – another first for me. Some tips I learned: peel with the back of your knife or a spoon and then cover the grater with a piece of plastic to ease the gathering and cleanup of ginger. Smelled great!

Grating fresh ginger

We got our ingredients all ready and the sauté was ready to get started. The key is to start with a very hot pan. Add a bit of oil and toss in the protein, letting it set for a moment before stirring to get that caramelization browning started. Then toss in the peanuts, ginger and cayenne pepper followed by the vegetables. We had made some rice too – easy with a 2:1 ratio of water to rice and a simmer of about 20 minutes.

The saute begins

The last step was to add the soy sauce slurry for flavor and thickening. Since there was some browning on the bottom of the pan we added a small bit of water to the pan to deglaze the bottom which let us scrape up the brown flavoring to add to the dish. The stir fry was served on top of the rice and I must say

Final tofu stir fry over rice

the tofu was tasty (as opposed to trying a bit of it plain when I opened the package – – plain!). The seasoned tofu actually had a nice brown coloring and flavor and really did look a lot like chicken stir fry. The whole dish tasted great and I’m grateful for the opportunity to apply these concepts to a meatless dish and know how easy and healthy it can be once you have some key ingredients on hand. I’m so glad I’m taking this course. Thanks, Chef Julie!

Resistance 1

Today I shared with a certain family member my journey into eating foods that don’t include animal meat. The response I got was less than supportive . . . “oh what are you doing that for? you eat healthy enough, you don’t need to do that too. I don’t think you should/need to do that.”

My gut feeling was to defend myself, but I resisted . . . and just let this person have their podium, so to speak…. since I realized I didn’t need to defend, nor did I really want to when someone is being quite defensive…. I realized for me that the only one who really matters with this is me. I’m ok with this journey I’m exploring .  But it sure can take you back when a response like this comes at you.

I suppose like anything new there will be some kinks to work out as you go along – situations faced in order to handle in a new way.

But I must say it rattled me a bit – and I then start to question myself, etc. My reason for doing so was to sort of “prep” for some upcoming family time together. Funny how some from my family can be a bit condescending (perhaps knowing it or not knowing it)! Anyhow, it’s good to get that out . . .

And I realize once again the concept of  “the mirror” – – and even projection.  Perhaps something I do or say results in a “twinge” in someone else – it’s like you are their mirror and we get to see the face of something they can’t seem to see for themselves.

So when I spoke with yet another family member tonight on the same topic, part of me sort of expected a similar response, yet I was pleasantly surprised that not only was it not negative, it was incredibly supportive. This family member offered some ideas for recipes they’ve tried and also some sample combos that worked for them. Really, I sighed a breath of relief . . . this reflection was much nicer! Which leads me to another point, the same statement can lead to very different responses from different people!

So I must continue to remind myself: beware of taking certain negative reactions of others on as my fault/responsibility,  or an indication I’m flawed in some way. I’ve been tempted and have responded that way too often in other situations and it’s not necessary. For me, I’m finding the best way to find that healthy separation and boundary is to be curious, be calm,  be open to considerations yet confident in my choices and that I can manage, allow others their own opinions (with no need on my part to freak out loud – LOL) and be a support for myself. Well, this was a great practice ground for me to do just that, so for this I am grateful.  Funny that something that wasn’t even there (meat) allowed me this opportunity to grow.

Need a Plan

So I’ve been doing pretty well with not eating meat for a bit now. Surprisingly I haven’t had cravings .  It helps too that I work at a university and the dining halls have lots of choices of foods and also vegan stations – so this is quite helpful during the day while I’m at work.

At home it’s been going pretty good too. My youngest son is aware that I’m on this exploration journey with eating and he’s been curious about it and we’ve had some topic discussions. Yet right now my refrigerator is pretty much empty at the moment, with the exception of a bunch of fresh cilantro, a green pepper, bag of whole carrots and a couple of other random things.  So I find myself thinking, what to eat/buy/prepare/etc next?  Besides eating to alleviate hunger where will I get adequate protein, calcium, iron, etc. I feel some sort of plan is in order – – yet my day today is pretty darn full at the moment.

I did try a recipe recently – – – a warm black eyed pea salad with a homemade dressing and that was pretty good. But that is since gone.  What to buy now for food?  What are some good and quick staples to have on hand at home?  These are the things that I’ll need to play around with!

Tonight I’m picking up the DVD, “Forks Over Knives” at the bookstore and hope to view it with my son tonight (check the website for the trailer). I was thinking I could stop at Chipotle and pick up a couple burritos for my boy and I – – then I wondered, my son likes the pork burrito; do I get him one or another without the meat?  I don’t want to force my eating choices on him but I wonder if he’d feel bad that I got it for him since he knows I’m not eating meat . . .  ahh, this too is part of the journey…considering all the questions.  I’ll figure it out! 

Take away for today: a plan of action seems to be a good course of action; just keep moving forward – and for this week I’ll start with setting a couple simple goals:
1. Determine some simple staples to get and have on hand that are plant-based and desirable to anyone in my home.
2. Review some cookbooks for some things to try this week.
3. Get some feedback from friends who have some plant-based cooking and staples tips!!!!!

Peace all,
Rochelle

Fresh Pasta

Chef Julie shows the pasta pressing.

Today I had my weekly cooking lab for the Food Fundamentals class I’m taking. Today we utilized some cooking techniques such as sauteing, deglazing, reducing and we also got to make our own pasta from scratch! Here are some photos I took in class when our fabulous instructor demonstrated the art of using the pasta machine to flatten the dough and then to cut into desired shapes.

Final cutting into pasta strips.

Part of the recipe included sauteing bacon for flavor and I wasn’t completely keen on that (since we always eat the food we prepare each class) – and I was quite thankful when Chef Julie asked our group if everyone was ok using bacon or not – – to which I said I would prefer not to. So my partner and I decided to skip the bacon but came up with an alternative to use for flavoring: we used sun-dried tomatoes and also a bit of soy bacon (though I would have been fine without it). The pasta making was a great experience! – – each pair of students pressed and cut their own, and our final dish came out great with the fresh chopped parsley, fresh grated Parmesan, and yumminess of deglazing our pan with white wine. Great time!

Still delish with no bacon!

Fillet of Fluffy?

I’ve been taking a college course this semester called Food Fundamentals and I am really enjoying it – which also includes a weekly cooking lab. In today’s class the topic was “Understanding Meats and Game”. In class the discussion started with the definition of meat as “the flesh of domestic animals and of wild game animals” and there was a slip of the tongue and a giggle when a clarification was made that this is not the same as “domesticated” animals (ie. pets).

Which got me wondering, what actually is the reason and difference? After all, it’s still meat – – but really, what is the difference from a domestic vs. a domesticated (potential) meat source?  There are some cultures that have no issue with cooking and eating animals that would seem unacceptable to most people I know (such as Fluffy the cat or dog) – yet chicken, beef, lamb and others are accepted. As I’ve started this journey to re-examine my food choices I see that for me, the difference is the personal connection and relationship we have with a pet animal vs.  more of a disconnect  with formerly living animals that have been processed to provide  meat for consumption.

I’ve always eaten meat and I’m not slamming those who do – – but in recent days I’ve started to see more of the connection to life and the ability to get nutrition from a variety of food sources that don’t need to include animal flesh. I never considered eating a cat or dog but I really never thought closer about other meats I had been consuming. But now I am.

I know that look of panic on a cat’s face and in its body when it feels trapped or in danger. I have felt the same feeling myself and it can be awful – and what a relief it is to get to a safe place. Now I find myself thinking about that meat in my grocery cart or on the plate – and think, what did this animal go through? and was it 100% necessary?  If I can get good nutrition from plant-based sources in place of animal flesh – why not explore that instead?

I’m a work in progress and I’m learning as I go. My journey continues.  A related quick read, and one opinion – but a good one to share (making more connections and decisions):

http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/25/hey-chef-get-with-the-program/