Pita Bowls

Named by my son, because all I could come up with were things like; garbanzo taco-ish things in a pita. You see why his name won. This is actually adapted from a recipe in Country Beans called “Mexi-Pita Bar”.

Here it is the way we make them.

1 can garbanzo beans rinsed and drained.

Mix together with:
1/4 teaspoon each; cumin, garlic powder, and sea salt (Real Salt at our house)
Heaping 1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Heat on the stove, or set on top of the toaster oven while you use it to heat up the pitas. This last option only works if you do not need your beans to be really warm, just slightly warmed up.

Cut 3 whole grain pitas in half, and fill each with 1/6th of the bean mixture.

Top with:
Shredded lettuce
Sliced tomatoes (grape tomatoes in winter)
Diced onions
Sliced black olives
Shredded Daiya cheese substitute (optional)
Salsa
“Sour Cream” – Use one of the many non-dairy recipes floating around, or mix Vegenaise with lemon juice to taste.

For a gluten free version, leave out the pita and use a bowl instead. Still delicious!

Kid-Friendly Version

Fill pita halves with the garbanzo bean mixture. The seasonings called for work in our house. If you need to, use smaller amounts of the spices on all or part of the garbanzos. I suggest using some of the seasonings if possible, just to work towards more possibilities in the future.

Top with any of the above options that will be eaten without too much complaint. Here, that meant lettuce and black olives. My son does not love lettuce, but he doesn’t hate it either, and it’s good for him, so on his pita it goes.

Grated carrots are another option for getting more veggies onto a child friendly version of this dinner.

Another option for younger children would be to serve this all separately. A pita, garbanzo beans, & veggies in separate piles.

C

Pressure Cooking 101, the final

Having successfully cooked something, in your pressure cooker, you are now ready to move on and branch out in your pressure cooking experience.

If you purchased The New Fast Food, finish reading it.

Recipes start on page 29, but the there are two sections following this which talk about cooking grains and beans in more depth. Definitely worth a read.

Try cooking other things.

What not to do:

Do not decide to impulsively convert your lentil soup recipe. Actually, this would have probably been fine except too watery (turns out you reduce the liquid when converting recipes). However, if you also at the same time decide to double the recipe, and then after adding nearly everything (except some of the water) think about how you are supposed to only fill the pressure cooker 1/2 to 2/3rds full, and then decide to try it anyway minus some of the water (which was a good thing). ย Then when it’s cooking freak out and do a quick release resulting in undercooked soup. And then because you’re still worried about it being too full, ladle out half of the soup and cook the other half, eat dinner, and then cook the rest. Don’t do that. Just in case you were thinking about it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Instead:

Cook more than one recipe already converted for pressure cooker use. Try some beans, after all that’s what pressure cookers are for, right?

C

Pressure Cooking 101, steps 5 through 8

Step 5: Read through the manual and identify the various parts, get a general idea of how to operate your cooker.

*This may lead you to wonder what people have against broccoli. Eight minutes in a pressure cooker? I don’t even steam broccoli for that long, so at first I thought they just didn’t know anything about cooking vegetables, but… then I read how long to cook Brussel Sprouts. Four minutes. Probably accurate, but seriously who cooks Brussel Sprouts for less time than broccoli? The resulting limp, army green broccoli is exactly why people think they don’t like it.*

Step 6: Having thoroughly read the owner’s manual attempt the water test. Fill the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water and bring to pressure. This will tell you whether your particular pressure cooker is functioning or not.

Interestingly, you take the cooker up to pressure over high heat and then if you have a gas stove top you lower the heat to maintain pressure, but if you are cooking on an electric range you may need to use two burners. One would be set on high and the other on a low heat (or medium as needed) because electric burners tend to take longer to cool down. That said, I’ve heard some people have no problem using just the one burner even on an electric stove top.

Step 7: Start to play around with the minimum amount of water required to achieve and maintain pressure. My manual says 1/2 cup, but my pressure cooker will hold pressure with only 1/4 cup of water. I suppose this step could be optional, I would never have tried it except forthe fact that Jill Nussinow recommends doing so in my “textbook”, The New Fast Food, since some of her recipes call for fairly low amounts of water.

Also, as recommended in Jill’s book, I tried the quick release method of lowering the pressure. Wherein you run cold water over the lid, as most likely illustrated in your users manual.

(Steps 6 and 7 will also help you overcome any residual fear of pressure cookers you may be harboring.)

Step 8: Actually cook something! Pick something simple, one ingredient. And, I would recommend something that cooks quickly for your first time through. I made banana squash, cubed (large cubes) and with about 1/2 cup of water added to the pressure cooker, it took 3 minutes at pressure to cook! I’m half in love already. In addition to being super speedy it was cooked to perfection, something that frankly doesn’t usually happen when I cook squash in the oven. I didn’t use the quick release method, since it was winter squash and I wasn’t worried about it overcooking. Instead, I just waited for the pressure to decrease naturally while I finished our salad dressing. Seriously, loving this!

*Disclaimer – I have not actually tried cooking broccoli in a pressure cooker for 8 min. so maybe it doesn’t really result in limp, soggy, army green, and unappetizing broccoli. But, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

C

Pressure Cooking 101, Steps 1 through 4

A Self Taught Course.

I have recently become motivated to learn to use a pressure cooker, in part due to the title of my recently acquired “textbook”, The New Fast Food by Jill Nussinow. Who doesn’t need a healthy and fast food option for dinner?

So, anyone else who’s interested, feel free to follow along. So far, it goes like this:

Step 1: Order/Purchase the Textbook

IMG_2355

Step 2: Glance through the book and determine to unearth your pressure cooker from somewhere in the depths of the basement. (Alternatively you could go buy one based on the advice provided, ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Step 3: Read pages 0-18 of The New Fast Food. Be happy that she assures us that pressure cooking is now safe, reading this reassurance repeatedly is, I am sure, helpful to overcoming previous fears due to horrible stories/childhood pressure cooking experiences.

Interestingly, I don’t have any horrible or traumatic childhood pressure cooking experiences, and yet still have an intense reluctance to actually use a pressure cooker. My mother had one, which, after reading this book I am inclined to think was fairly solid (certainly heavy) and well made, and therefore relatively safe.

Step 4: Locate your owner’s manual. This will be easier if you are purchasing a new device, ;-). I found mine in my cookbooks with various other cooking related manuals.

Interesting tidbits found in the cookbook/textbook:

*Pressure cookers save quite a bit of energy over traditional cooking methods.
*The Cuban Government (for the above listed reason) in 2005, made Chinese produced pressure cookers available to their citizens for $5.50, payable in installments.
*The first T.V. dinner cost $.99 and took 1 hour to heat in the oven. (Although I’ve read varying accounts regarding the cooking time required.)

Next up will be the water test.
And then cooking adventures await.
(Assuming the water test is passed)

C

Pancakes

Is there really more to be said on this subject? I wouldn’t even write about it except for the fact that most pancake recipes call for milk and eggs. So, when you don’t eat those things, maybe pancakes seem a bit out of reach.

Today I made pancakes again, but first I read what Mark Bittman had to say on the subject in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. In addition to three basic recipes, there were a zillion (o.k. maybe not exactly a zillion) options for jazzing up your pancake experience and the handy information that the batter will keep just fine in the fridge for a few days. So, go ahead and make up a large batch and you’ll be covered for breakfast over the weekend. Or, at least the pancake portion of it. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea for your meal to consist of just bread products (sometimes mine do, I just don’t think it’s ideal). Today for instance our pancakes were accompanied by a green smoothie.

So, now for the recipe. After realizing that really I hadn’t made the same thing I was reading (not uncommon), I decided to go ahead and post what we did eat for breakfast.

Basic Whole Grain Pancakes

4 cups freshly ground Spelt Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon Redmond’s sea salt
1 to 2 Tablespoons Agave (opt)
3 cups Rice milk
1 to 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup water as needed to adjust the consistency

Use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients.

In a 2 cup measure (or another bowl) combine 2 cups of the milk with the agave and oil if using. Whisk together well with a fork and add to the flour mixture. Only slightly incorporate this into the flour, then measure out the other cup of milk and add that too. You want to mix as minimally as possible, but I still use a whisk, just larger motions and less speed. A few lumps when you are done are fine.

Let the batter sit for 5 or 10 minutes and then add water as needed to obtain an pourable, but not watery, consistency.

Heat a skillet on Medium (honestly I don’t know, I just use gas and heat until it’s the right temp., water dances). If you don’t have a cast iron skillet go buy one, but in the meantime add a bit of oil or something to the pan, about 1 teaspoon. It’s my understanding that if you don’t have non-stick (I think these are scary) or cast iron you’ll need to do this with each pan full of pancakes. With my cast iron skillet I just grease it once (since after all I do wash it with soap) and then it’s good to go for the entire batch.

Pour your desired size pancakes into the pan. (I used the same two cup measure, not per pancake just for ease of pouring, mentioned earlier in the recipe). Watch for them to bubble up in the middle, the edges will cook first since they’re thinner. Flip the pancakes, cook on the other side for a few minutes, remove from the pan and repeat. If you are making the whole batch in one day, or possibly even half a batch depending on the size of your pan, you might want to have a warm oven handy to keep the first pancakes warm in while you cook the rest.

I served these with warmed (on the stove-top) Maple Syrup. But, homemade fruit syrups are of course good too.

C

A World of Baked Potato Adventure Awaits!

Usually, when I prepare potatoes I either make oven-baked fries, mashed potatoes, hashbrowns, boil them for potato salad, or serve them baked and topped with steamed veggies & Spicy Vinaigrette Dressing. Oh, and I almost forgot, Thick & Creamy Potato Soup.
However, in catching up on cooking blogs I discovered a treasure trove of potato preparation ideas. A guest poster on HappyHerbivore.com listed a variety of options for your potato eating pleasure. I am especially intrigued by the “hot dog” style potato since I too love the toppings, but (obviously) can live with out the hotdog.
Trying that out is definitely in my future.

C

Bread: A Template – part 2

We’ll start with the water, 3 to 3 1/2 cups will give you an average size batch of bread dough. This makes 2 or 3 loaves, or a loaf and a bunch of rolls, etc. I pour in about 1/2 of the amount from room temperature filtered water, and the other half out of my tea kettle (heated of course), not necessarily boiling, but quite hot. (I will say here, that some people – Chef Brad for instance – dump in all the ingredients, half the flour, and add the yeast on top to avoid any risk of killing it with water that’s too hot. So, if you’re interested you can look into that method.) You’re going for “wrist temperature” water in the mixer, that means quite warm, but not anywhere near boiling.

Add in a bit of sweetener, 1/2 teaspoon is sufficient here, but who wants to measure? This could be almost anything; like molasses, agave, barley malt, rice syrup or honey.

Now add in your yeast, about 1 Tablespoon is good for a batch of this size.

Let this proof – proving to you that the yeast is active and happy.

Add in a few cups (about 3) of the flour (this needs to be a gluten containing flour, like wheat or spelt) for the sponge stage where you’ll let this raise for 1/2 hour or so. Of course bread can be made without this step, in fact if you have a mixer you could just mix it longer to develop the gluten, but I think using the sponge step leads to lighter whole grain breads.

Now, for the fun part.
Decide how much oil, sweetener, etc. that you want to add, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each is a good range. I actually use less oil than that and often less sweetener. (Rather than adding any oil you could use ground flax seeds). Be sure to include salt, bread made without it will remind you never to do so again. Use about 1 Tablespoon for a batch this size.
You can at this point also include seasonings, herbs, soaked/cooked grains, or nuts in your creation.

Some suggestions:
For a french style bread you’ll want to leave the oil and sweetener out entirely.
For a richer dough you could use more oil/ground flax seed and even sub some non-dairy milk for part of the liquid.

Add/knead in the additional flour. This does not all need to have a high gluten content. For instance some of it could be oat flour, which does not contain gluten. Continue to add flour until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl. You want it a bit sticky, this gives a softer bread, be especially careful when using a mixer which can make it easy to add too much flour.

Here we have what you could call the official “template”, to be used as a jumping off point.

3 – 3 1/2 cups water
drop of sweetener
1 Tablespoon yeast
at least 4 cups of a gluten containing flour, such as spelt or wheat in it’s many variations.
1 Tablespoon salt
Oil or ground flax seed
Honey or other sweetener
Any desired additions
The rest of the flour, gluten or not depending on your creation

For more information on this method, and instructions with and without a mixer see the Basic Whole Wheat Bread recipe in our recipe section.

C