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Years ago we purchased enough wheat to feed a circus for a decade. Then we began branching out: oatmeal, sunflower seeds, split peas, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, lentils, black beans, etc. Add a few dozen shelves of canned goods and we could have fed not just the performers, but the circus elephants as well. 

The problem is using all that storage. This last year we had to face that all the organic, high-quality wheat we purchased, which came in paper, was now infested with weevil. Since we didn’t know anyone with enough chickens to eat all that wheat, we began throwing out 150 lbs. per week for several weeks, weighing down the garbage container that rolled to the curb. It was heart-breaking and reinforced an old lesson: “use it or lose it.” Or since I did use it (but obviously at too slow a pace) perhaps: “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” My version is: “don’t buy as much wheat as a circus could eat.”

Meanwhile I took a second look at all those legumes I still had. I forced myself to walk past the neatly labled cans at Costco, pulled out my grandmother’s ancient (and absolutely frightening) pressure cooker and began to once again bottle my own beans. I started with garbanzos and black beans.

First I soaked them over-night, and then I sprouted them for a day or two (just until a tiny sprout forms on the end) before processing them. The sprouting process increases the nutritional level and reduces the side effect beans are best known for. But you can use store-bought, canned beans and get the same results. (I’m talking about recipes.)

Black beans are a favorite at our house. They are good in salads, wraps, with Cajun rice, and in soups. I’ve even made a chocolate cake (or was it brownies?) with them. Yep, that memorable.

The mild flavored black bean goes well with spicy flavorings: chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Here’s a recipe and video demonstration for black bean burritos (actually they’re lettuce roll-ups). The beans don’t look pretty, but the flavors sound good, and the host is entertaining. Regarding slicing a tomato, he reasons, “Lately I’ve been trying to learn to use tools. . . . I could be trapped on a dessert island with nothing but a tomato and a chef’s knife, and I want that to have a good outcome.”

Here’s a recipe for Black Bean Veggie Burgers I intended to make except for a spring snow-fall out my window with “Despereaux” (my granddaughter was visiting) playing in the background. Combined, they put me in the mood for soup. So I chose a black bean and sweet potato chili to try, though this black bean pumpkin soup sounded equally delicious.

Each of these recipes have the same flavor combinations, so I’d recommend rotating them into your vegetarian menus, but keep track of which were well received. If you try any of these or other recipes, let me know how it goes.

Black Bean Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • pinch cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Preparation:

Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, then add sweet potatoes, carrots and bell pepper until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, and add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine well. Simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes, until flavors have mingled and vegetables are cooked.

It’s now afternoon, the chili is prepared and yummy! My granddaughter is napping, so I think I’ll make some corn bread muffins. Enjoy!

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