2016: The Year of the Pulses

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe}

Maybe you’ve heard or maybe you haven’t, but the UN declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.  Now, we usually think of a pulse as the palpitation of our heartbeats that lets us know we’re alive and signals how vigorously we’re exercising.  While this kind of pulse is definitely worth celebrating (something Andy Grammer did last year singing Good to be Alive), the UN is focusing on the other kind of pulse: Legumes. Agriculturally, a pulse is a crop that is harvested only for its dry grain.  Therefore, pulses include crops like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and split peas. These are edible seeds that grow in a pod and should be cooked before they are eaten.  In contrast, vegetables are crops that are harvested for green food and (obviously) can be eaten raw or cooked.

So, why’d the UN decide to highlight pulses this year?  Because pulses aren’t just a win-win.  They’re a win-win-win: They’re cheap, nutritious, AND they have positive effects on the environment! The nutrition profile differs based on the specific pulse, but generally speaking, legumes are a good source of plant-based protein and are high in iron, folate, and potassium.

In an effort to celebrate the year of pulses, each month (or so…) I will post recipes highlighting various legumes and their nutritional greatness.  First up: chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans.  Chickpeas are a great source of fiber, protein, iron, and a number of B Vitamins.FullSizeRender

Chickpeas can be used in many ways, but the most common way you’ll see is mashed up and combined with tahini and oil to create hummus.  I’m a huge hummus fan.  It makes a great dip for veggies and a tasty sandwich spread.  There are a number of really good store-bought hummus brands.  When buying from the store you want to aim for about 150mg sodium per serving.  This will allow you a little sodium wiggle room in case you plan to enjoy your hummus with 1/2 a serving of pretzels or pita chips in addition to your veggies (carrots, peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, snap peas etc are all great options). You’ll feel fuller after snacking on hummus and veggies than on hummus and pretzels or pita chips.

Another thing I really like about hummus is the variety of flavors it comes in. Be careful here though because the different varieties can result in a nutrition loss just as easily as a nutrition gain…the levels of vitamins as well as sodium, sugar, and fat can vary between varieties. When you make hummus at home, though, YOU have control of how much salt and oil you put in, and your flavor options are limitless!  This sunshine hummus recipe, for example, has curry powder, garlic, and turmeric which really kick up the antioxidant profile of the dip.

I was given this recipe from the Nourishing Kitchen program at the New York Presbyterian Hospital.  Started by Jackie Topol, RDN, Nourishing Kitchen is a really unique cooking demo program that teaches inpatient oncology and cardiology patients and their families diet-appropriate recipes and cooking tips they can use when they get back home. IMG_5739

This hummus recipe is intended for oncology patients, but is delicious for everyone!  One of the side effects of cancer treatments is a weakened sense of taste and loss in appetite.  Besides containing powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds these patients need, the curry, turmeric, and garlic are also really strong flavors which enables oncology patients be able to actually taste their food.  This goes a long way in getting these patients to eat during treatment, a critical component of their success.

Sunshine Hummus Recipe

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy peasy
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*Recipe from Jackie Topol, MS, RD, CSD, CDN, The Nourishing Kitchen, New York Presbyterian Hospital

Ingredients:IMG_5739
1 (15.5oz) can low-sodium chickpeas, rinsed
1 large clove of garlic
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
sea salt to taste

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or strong blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Adjust the spices to your taste.
3. Enjoy with cut up vegetables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ugh. Leftovers

Leftovers are the WORST–at least that’s what I used to think!  Leftovers and I became friends when I had to start buying my own food and cooking for myself.  What caused this 180° turn around?  Realizing that leftovers offer pre-cooked quick ingredient add ins to create entirely new, DELICIOUS dishes changed my mind!

For example, leftover peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache from a birthday cake I made just became peanut butter and chocolate ganache sandwich cookies in less than a half an hour!

Head over my leftovers recipe index for ideas on how to use up your leftovers!  But first, some leftover transformation tips:

TIPS TO TRANSFORM LEFTOVERS

1. Plan ahead
I find that a number of dishes like soups, stews, quinoa salads, lasagna, rice dishes, etc actually taste better the second day.  Plan to make extra of these and store in single serving containers for a quick lunch.  Alternatively, freeze leftovers for a later meal.

2. It doesn’t have to be a perfect match
Substitute ingredients for things you already have that are really similar. You have leftover cream cheese frosting and the recipe calls for cream cheese?  Omit the sugar in your recipe and you’re probably all set.

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Meat & Potatoes: leftover MVPs

3. Take advantage of being a “meat and potatoes” kinda person
Meat and potatoes offer a gazillion options for reuse in new recipes the next day. Mashed potatoes make a perfect topping for Shepard’s pie or simply pan fry them to make potato pancakes.  Leftover roasted, baked, or even lightly fried potatoes can be used in a hash the next day.  Leftover meat can be used in fried rice, stir fry, sandwiches, enchiladas, salads, omelets, casseroles…the list goes on and on.  You can find specific recipe ideas here.

4. “Everything but the kitchen sink recipes”= Whatever you have in your fridge
When a recipe calls for a variety of different vegetables or meats it is almost always okay to omit things you don’t like or have and/or substitute for things you do have.

Southwest Quinoa Salad
Kitchen sink recipes = just put in whatever you’ve got

5. Use the oven or stovetop instead of the microwave
Half the battle with leftovers is texture.  Reheating leftovers with the microwave is quick and easy but sometimes the final product has a mushy, gross texture.  An oven or stovetop will allow the food to heat, but not get mushy.  Other times, reheating causes food to dry out.  If this is the case, try adding extra stock or fat (don’t go crazy with the oil por favor!) while reheating.  If you are using the microwave, try not to over-reheat by opting for a shorter cook period and by frequently checking to see if the dish is properly reheated.  This is easier when reheating individual portions.  The other half of the battle is taste, which brings us to my final tip:

6. When something is bland the second time around, add some flavor!
If the dish tends to become bland when it is reheated, add some more of the seasoning that you originally used when making the dish.  Just salt and pepper can go a long way.

 

 

Inspired by Auntie Fee: LPT Salad

{skip the foreplay and head straight to the recipe}

My friend and I spent this afternoon watching Auntie Fee’s cooking videos on YouTube.  If you haven’t seen Auntie Fee in action, take a look:

She was recently featured in a segment on Jimmy Kimmel as well.   Auntie Fee swears (repeatedly) that parsley will make anything taste good, which got me thinking that maybe I should make something with parsley for dinner. The result is this Lentil Parsley Tomato Salad.

Now, forget Auntie Fee’s parsley and let’s just chat about how great lentils are for a second:  Considered a legume (think peas, beans, some nuts), lentils give you a lot of bang for your buck.  Just a 1/4 cup (uncooked) of lentils packs 8 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 9 grams of fiber into less than 100 kcals AND will cost only about $0.10!  Tender and with a slightly nutty flavor, lentils will absorb most any flavor you want to pair them with making them perfect for salads, soups, mashed into dips, or used as an alternative to rice or potatoes.  Alone, lentils can be kind of bland, but cook in chicken stock–or I like to add some wine–season with salt and pepper, and you’ve got yourself a great sidekick to any meal!

I used green lentils but you could use brown.  I wouldn’t use red lentils, though, because they tend to get mushy when they’re cooked.  Make sure you sift through the lentils to ensure that there aren’t any small pebbles and you want to wash the lentils to remove excess grit.  Like with rice, you use a 1:2 lentil to liquid ratio to boil the lentils.  Which type of liquid you use to cook the lentils is really flexible, but using a chicken or vegetable stock in addition to water really helps to add some flavor.  I used a combination of chicken stock, red wine, and water to cook my lentils tonight.

The process of cooking lentils is the same as rice: bring to boil and then reduce to medium heat and let cook for 35-40 minutes.  While the lentils are cooking, chop parsley (use fresh, the cost will balance out because the lentils are cheap and it’ll taste so much better), a red onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, and tomatoes (I just sliced cherry tomatoes in half).  Quickly rinse the black eyed peas and white northern beans to remove all of the gross can juice (also cheap items btw).  Add everything to a large bowl (to save some dishes, go ahead and mix everything in the serving bowl).  Then just add in the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and the lentils when they are done cooking.  When they’re done, the lentils will be soft but will still hold their shape, and almost all of the liquid will be gone.  Just drain and discard any excess liquid.

This made a lot of salad because I just used a full can or bag of everything, but it will last for a while in the fridge and I bet it will only get tastier as it sits with the dressing.  It can be served hot or cold.  Maybe Auntie Fee has a future in the food show business after all if she’s inspiring dishes like this!

LPT Salad

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:
1 lb bag of green or brown lentils, sorted and washed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup red wine
4 1/2 cups water
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed throughly
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed throughly
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small-medium red onion, diced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (again, more or less to taste)
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
3 Tbs olive oil

Directions:
1. Add lentils, water, chicken/vegetable stock, and wine to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape and almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.  This will take about 35-40 minutes.
2. While the lentils cook, combine the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl.
3. Add the cooked lentils (draining and discarding any remaining liquid), and mix.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.  The salad can be served hot or cold.  Enjoy!