Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wheatless Wednesday (The Last)

We thought it would never come. The end of not eating wheat - and just in time for stuffing and pies! Questions still need to be answered. How do we feel? Have we lost weight? Are we going to change our diets forever?

I feel good. As I've mentioned in previous WW posts, I think the foods I've been eating are more agreeable to my body than things like pizza and cookies. Also, I have tons more energy, especially in the mornings! There are still nights where I fall asleep on the couch at 9pm, but I blame that on Henry's 5:30am please-pet-me-nuzzles-and-tail-wagging. As for losing weight, I have no idea. We didn't weigh ourselves when we started (bad experimenters) and we don't own a working scale to weigh ourselves now.

Dan doesn't think he feels any differently. He finds that he isn't craving his usual wheat-full food like sandwiches or pizza, but he is looking forward to drinking his homebrewed beer.

Are we going to change our diets in the future? I've already written that I am permanently replacing the cinnamon-sugar sprouted grain toast I normally eat in the morning with old fashioned oatmeal sprinkled with muscovado sugar. I'm going to continue turning down cookies and cake at the office. I think we will eat pizza less often. I have never been a big pretzel or white-bread-sandwich eater.

Wheatless Recipe
We've made this "Amazing Beans" recipe several times over the past year and it's always really good! In fact, it was the first dish that inspired us to improve our collection of spices; it is one of the reasons our cabinets remain stocked with essentials like cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, and garam masala. If you don't have these, find an international/Asian grocer or market and look there. The spices will be unbelievably cheap and you can usually find some really interesting items.

One great thing about Amazing Beans is that they are made in a slow cooker. Slow cookers/crockpots are handy because you can turn them on in the morning, let the Dinner Fairy work her magic all day, and come home to a nice-smelling kitchen full of ready-to-eat food. Once you learn to shove that nagging worry about the house burning down into the back of your mind, slow cookers are wonderful things. This particular recipe has you cook the food for 5 and 1/2 hours, adding some things, then cook it all a bit longer. I wasn't sure how to work this out since I'm gone for 9ish hours every day. Dan (and a Christmas light timer) to the rescue!  He gets full credit for the idea, and it's a good one if you don't have one of those fancy crockpots where you set the cooking times. Read on!

1 cup dried lentils (black lentils are recommended, brown ones are easier to find and are also good)
1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 cup dried kidney beans
3 bay leaves
3 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 small onion
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
6 garlic cloves
2-4 Thai, Serrano, or Cayenne chilies (we have used jalapenos in a pinch)
1 T cumin seed
1 T coriander seed
1 good lug of olive oil
1 t turmeric
1 t red chili powder
2 T tomato paste
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 T sea salt
7 cups water
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Rinse off the lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans. Every website I've ever seen advises you to pick through for stones - I never do that. Let your spirit of adventure and fondness for your dentist be your guide.

Put the rinsed lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, bay leaves, cardamom pods, tomato paste, and cinnamon stick in the slow cooker.

In a blender or food processor (I use my average-at-best blender and it works fine) blend the onion ginger, garlic cloves, and chilies into a paste. You shouldn't need to add any liquid as the onion will be a bit watery.

The next step is to roast the cumin and coriander seeds. Add the seeds to a dry pan over medium-high heat. You'll need to stand there and stir/shake the seeds so they don't stay in one spot too long and burn. After about 2-3 minutes you'll notice them start to get a bit darker and become fragrant. Once browned, put them in a dish to cool; once cooled, grind them. You can use a fancy spice grinder for this, a mortar and pestle, or you can put the seeds in a plastic baggie and beat them with a rolling pin or something else heavy. All good options.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion mixture from your blender. Let it brown for about 5 minutes, add the smashed cumin-coriander seeds, red chili powder, and salt. Heat this all together for a couple of minutes. Add it to your slow cooker along with the tomato paste and water.

Cook this for 5 and 1/2 hours on high. If you're like me and out for more than 5 and 1/2 hours at a time, this is when you dig out the Christmas light timer. Set it to start 5 and 1/2 hours before you will get home and plug everything in; the mixture can sit undisturbed in the crockpot until the timer allows it to start cooking.

After 5 and 1/2 hours, add the yogurt and cream. Mix that in and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.

Top with the fresh cilantro. Brown basmati rice and naan (not wheatless) are excellent additions to the Amazing Beans.

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