Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Instant Pot Great Northern Beans
When Should You Salt Beans?

White beans with olives, artichokes, peppers, and avocado.

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Easy to make in your Instant Pot
It's easy to open a can of beans but it's not all that hard to make them from dried beans in your Instant Pot. Here's a simple recipe that's perfect for summer since it can be served warm, at room temperature, or even chilled. Bring to a pot luck, serve as an antipasto when entertaining company, or make it a meal on a bed of greens. 

To Salt or Not to Salt
A while back I read a post on Serious Eats about whether or not you should salt your beans when soaking and when cooking. You should read the entire article to appreciate the testing but their results were: "For the best, creamiest, most flavorful beans, season your bean-soaking water with one tablespoon of kosher salt per quart (about 15 grams per liter), rinse the beans with fresh water before cooking, then add a pinch of salt to the cooking water as well." 

This goes against everything we've been told about how salt during cooking will cause beens to be tough or that the skins will burst. If you've listened to this advice, you probably realize how tasteless unsalted beans are and how hard they are to flavor after they are cooked. After reading this article, I've started soaking my beans in salted water and adding salt to the pot when cooking. They come out great! So give that a try when you make this recipe.

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Mediterranean Great Northern Beans
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 6 servings]

Plan ahead to soak the beans the night before.

For the beans:
1 cup dry Great Northern Beans
2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 cup small diced roasted red pepper
4 marinated artichoke quarters, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sliced kalamata olives
1 avocado, diced

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

The night before: Pick through the beans for rocks and rinse. Place them in the Instant Pot and cover with 4 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover and let sit over night.

Drain and rinse well. Return to the Instant Pot and cover the soaked beans with 1 1/2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Secure the lid, press the “Manual” button, and set for 6 minutes at high pressure. When done, press the “Off” button and let the pressure release naturally. After 10 minutes you can release the pressure. Then, remove the lid carefully with the steam vented towards the back. Drain the beans and set aside.

Most of the skins are intact and the beans are soft and creamy.
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the drained beans, the roasted red peppers, artichokes, olives, and avocado. Gently mix to combine and serve.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

A delightful way to eat oatmeal in the heat of the summer.

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Keep Oats in your Diet
Oats have the fiber "beta-glucan" which can help lower bad cholesterol which in turn lowers the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. But when the weather heats up, you may not crave a bowl of hot oatmeal.

Adding uncooked rolled oats to your favorite smoothie is a refreshing way to get those healthy oats into your diet. Here's a simple recipe that uses seasonal strawberries and provides 6 grams of fiber per serving.

In the following recipe, you can substitute the almond butter and water for almond milk or any nondairy milk. 

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Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Smooth
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free (see note)
[makes 2 (1 1/2 Cup) Servings]

High Speed Blender

1 tablespoon almond butter
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 packet stevia

Place all the ingredients in your high speed blender and process until smooth.

Per serving: 206 calories, 7 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 124 mg omega-3 and 1498 mg omega-6 fatty acid, 5 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 6 g dietary fiber, and 4 mg sodium.

Although oats are naturally gluten free, they are sometimes cross contaminated. So if you have celiac or are extremely sensitive to gluten, use certified gluten free rolled oats.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Strawberry Crisp With Nutty Hemp Seed Topping

Fresh strawberries in a delicious vegan and gluten-free crisp.

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Strawberries are in Season
My little strawberry patch is producing in full force and although my favorite way of enjoying them is to just pop them in my mouth, I love making this healthy strawberry crisp. 

Strawberries from my garden.

To add additional fiber and structure, I combine the strawberries with a few delicious pears and to get a good dose of omega-3, I add raw, shelled hemp seeds. 

I like the taste of organic coconut sugar in this recipe but you can also use regular organic cane sugar. 

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Strawberry Crisp
Vegan, Gluten Free (see Note)
[makes 6 servings]

8-inch Square Baking Pan

For the topping: 
3 tablespoons Earth Balance or other vegan "butter", plus more for greasing pan 
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup oat flour
1/4 cup raw hemp seeds
2 tablespoons organic coconut or cane sugar
2 (1-gram) packets stevia powder (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon 

For the filling: 
2 pints fresh strawberries, cut in half and sliced (~4 cups)
2 pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon organic coconut or cane sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch 

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. 

Make the topping: In a small bowl, combine the oats, flour, hemp seeds, sugar, stevia, and cinnamon and mix well. Add 3 tablespoons of "butter" and mix together with your fingers or with a fork until crumbly. 

Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the strawberries and pears with the sugar and cornstarch. Pour the fruit mixture in the prepared baking pan.

Cover the fruit evenly with the topping. 

Place in the oven and bake until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and serve. 

Per serving: 231 calories, 10 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 753 mg omega-3 and 2,091 mg omega-6 fatty acids*, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 5 g dietary fiber, and 53 mg sodium. 

* Nutritional information for omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids excludes any contribution from the Earth Balance, since that information was not available from the 

Although gluten is not naturally present in oats, oats occasionally get cross-contaminated during storage and processing. If you are on a gluten-free diet, use certified gluten-free oat flour. 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Biggest Bargain In Your Pantry
5 Reasons To Buy Bulk Spices

Bulk spices are available at your
local food coop or Whole Foods.

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The Biggest Bargain in your Pantry
Yesterday I needed some bay leaves, cumin, and chili powder so I scooped some out of the bulk section at Whole Foods. When I got home I looked at the receipt and was shocked at how littles these organic spices cost - most of them less than a dollar! There are few times that I'm shocked at how little I'm paying for something at Whole Foods, so it's worth noting. This morning I walked back over there with a notepad to jot down the bulk versus packaged cost of some common spices so that I can share them with you. But before I do that,  there are more reasons to buy in bulk. Here are 5 of them.

#1 - Freshness
Bulk herbs tend to be fresher than those sitting in jars on the shelve. Old herbs not only lose their flavor, but their nutritional value.

#2 - Buy what you Need
Some recipes call for an exotic spice that you don't normally use. When you buy in bulk, you can just get the tablespoon that you need and not commit to an entire jar. The last time you moved I bet you found jars of spices that you bought a decade ago.

#3 - More Environmentally Friendly
By refilling your spice jars with bulk herbs, you save packaging, freight, and landfill.  

#4 - Try a New Spice
Being able to buy a small amount of a spice, you might be more willing to try a different flavor without committing to an entire jar.

#5 - Price, Price, Price
You will be shocked at the savings. Here's the ounce to ounce comparison of some common  spices that I discovered during my outing this morning. I am comparing the Whole Foods bulk price per ounce to the Whole Foods packaged spice per ounce (not per jar since some jars have more than an ounce and some have less.) All prices are for organic herbs. (Different stores and different packaged brands will vary in savings but bulk will always be less - these are just examples.)

Prepackaged Whole Foods Organic Spices
Bulk Spice Section at Whole Foods.
Just weigh out what you need.

Basil: $1.44/oz bulk vs. $5.64/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 4 times more. Bulk saves $4.20 per ounce.

Bay Leaves: $1.25/oz bulk vs. $26.60/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 21 times more. Bulk saves $25.35 per ounce.

Cayenne: $1.00/oz bulk vs. $2.36/oz packaged.
Packages costs 2 times more. Bulk saves $1.36 per ounce. 

Cinnamon Sticks: $0.87/oz bulk vs. $7.03/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 8 times more. Bulk saves $6.16 per ounce.

Cloves, Whole: $2.00/oz bulk vs. $4.28/oz packaged.
Packaged costs twice as much. Bulk saves $2.28 per ounce.

Coriander, Ground: $0.99/oz bulk vs. $2.63/oz packaged.
Packaged cost 3 times as much. Bulk saves $1.64 per ounce.

Crushed Chili Pepper: $0.59/oz bulk vs. $4.92/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 8 times more. Bulk saves $4.33 per ounce.

Dill: $1.75/oz bulk vs. $8.67/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 5 times more. Bulk saves $6.92 per ounce.

Ginger: $1.25/oz bulk vs. $2.63/oz packaged.
Packaged costs twice as much. Bulk saves $1.38 per ounce.

Oregano: $1.18/oz bulk vs. $8.54/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 7 times as much. Bulk saves $7.36 per ounce.

Paprika: $0.94/oz bulk vs. $2.39/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 3 times more. Bulk saves $1.45 per ounce.

Peppercorns: $1.12/oz bulk vs. $7.35/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 7 times as much. Bulk saves $6.23 per ounce.

Poppy Seeds: $0.69/oz bulk vs. $2.43/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 4 times as much. Bulk saves $1.74 per ounce.

Rosemary: $0.75/oz bulk vs. $7.13/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 10 times more. Bulk saves $6.38 per ounce.

Sage: $1.25/oz bulk vs. $3.24/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 3 times as much. Bulk saves $1.99 per ounce.

Tarragon: $4.46/oz bulk vs. $11.88/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 3 times more. Bulk saves $7.32 per ounce.

Thyme: $1.19/oz bulk vs. $5.96/oz packaged.
Packaged costs 5 times as much. Bulk saves $4.77 per ounce.

You can see, by this example at least, that buying in bulk can bring you significant savings as packaged spices can cost as much as 21 times more! So reuse your empty spice jars and fill them with the amount of bulk spices that you are going to use in the near future. Or, you can buy a set of empty spice jars with labels and fill them up. 

DecoBros 12 Spice Bottles with Labels