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chickpeas!

The theme for our potluck dinner tonight was “On a stick” because apparently it is National On a Stick Day? 🙂  Just a fun fact for ya!

To keep in the theme, we made some salads-on-a-stick to contribute to our dinner.  We enjoyed kebabs and salad for dinner, and fruit kebabs, fruit pops and chocolate pretzel rods for dessert.

We decided to make 2 different ‘salads’.  First up, Caprese Salad (on-a-stick, of course).  I bought cherry tomatoes and mini mozzarella balls to keep things simple.

Next, I made a Pear Gorgonzola Salad (on-a-stick).

I envisioned them to look like those, but unfortunately the cheese was so crumbly!  I don’t normally buy gorgonzola, so I didn’t realize this was going to happen.  But, I made due with a cheese/tomato/pear plate with toothpicks to make your own salad-on-a-stick.  This was a delicious combo!

I used heirloom cherry tomatoes, which were delicious!

We had a great dinner!

Chickpeas!

I have been meaning to try to cook my own beans for awhile now.  I love beans, especially garbanzos (chickpeas), and hate that canned beans contain so much salt.  Buying dry beans and cooking them myself would mean much less salt, and it would be much cheaper.  I like to add some beans to my salads at lunch in order to get in protein.  By cooking a huge batch of beans, I could store some in the freezer to have whenever I want them.  So, this weekend I set out to cook my beans!

Chickpeas are a great source of protein, iron and cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other beans.  In addition to lowering cholesterol, chickpeas high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal which increases your energy levels.  Pair your chickpeas with a grain (such as quinoa) and you have yourself a complete protein meal.

I bought about 6 cups of dried beans from the bulk bins at my local heath food store.  Last night, I put them into covered jars filled with water and soaked them overnight (about 8-10 hours).

Why should you soak the beans before cooking them?  Well, for one – they will cook faster!  But, there are also other benefits as well.  By soaking the beans, you make them much easier for your body to digest.  It helps to break down all the complex sugars in beans, sush as the indigestible oligosaccharides.  Soaked beans are also more likely to retain their maximum nutritional value, mostly due to the shortened time required for cooking. Basically, the longer you have to cook your beans, the less nutritional value will be retained since many vitamins and minerals are lost with added heat.  So, definitely take the time to soak your beans first (FYI – the same goes with nuts)!

This morning, after my beans had soaked for a good 10 hours, I found that they had expanded to almost twice their dry size.  Make sure you leave room in your soaking jar or dish for this!

I dumped the soaked beans into a strainer to rinse with fresh water before cooking.  I read that you should never cook your beans in the water that you soak them in – I’m not sure why, but I chose to listen to the advice out there!

Then, I dumped the rinsed beans into my crockpot.

I filled the pot with water, so that it was about 2 inches above the beans, turned the crockpot on low for 6 hours and went on with my business for the day. 🙂

I checked the beans throughout the 6 hours, probably 2 or 3 times because this was my first time doing this and I did not want to overcook them.  But, I found that 6 hours was the perfect amount of time.

So, I dumped them into the strainer again and rinsed with cold, fresh water.  Then let sit for 15 minutes to dry.

I put some of the beans, that I will eat this week into containers in the fridge.  The others I wanted to freeze, so I dumped them in a single layer onto 2 baking sheets and placed them in the freezer until frozen.  This way they won’t all clump together and I can easily use them in batches from the freezer.

Once frozen, I checked them a few hours after I had put them in the freezer, I dumped the beans into a glass jar for storing.

This may seem like a long, time-consuming process, but it honestly took about 10 minutes of my time to make a huge batch of beans from scratch.  I basically dumped the beans into soaking jars, then dumped them into the crockpot, then put them in jars for storing – and they will last me weeks (at the very least)!!  It is totally worth it to have homemade, cheap, salt-free beans at your disposal whenever you want them.  Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!  I plan to cook some black beans that I bought fairly soon.

Have you ever cooked your own beans?  Or do you prefer the convenience of canned beans? As you can see from my experiment, home-cooked beans seem to be extremely convenient as well!

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smoothie in a bowl

Happy Sunday! 🙂

I was feeling very productive this morning doing my work, so I decided to hold off on my workout until the afternoon.  Mid-morning, I was finally ready for a break for some breakfast.  I was famished at this point, so I made up a big bowl of oatmeal/oatbran.  See, some days, I just crave a solid bowl of oatmeal!

In my mix this morning went:

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup oat bran (I am liking this combo of rolled oats/oatbran)
  • 1 huge banana
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

YUM!  As always, it was delicious and very filling.  In fact, It kept me full for a really long time.

While I was making this delicious bowl of oats for myself, Brant was working on his own creation.

Check out his omelet!  Yup, I was a little jealous when I saw that!

Anyways, while I finished up my work, I put some pineapple into the dehydrator to make my dried pineapple stash for the week.  Doesn’t it look good?!

In 12-14 hours I will have a delicious dried pineapple snack for the week.

Before my workout, I snacked on a granola bar and an orange to hold me over until my late lunch.  I tried this 18 Rabbits bar that I was sent to sample.

It was delicious.  See my review of other flavors here.  I loved the big chunks of figs and cherries.

At the gym, I decided to take it easy and do 45 minutes on the elliptical and 10 on the stepper.  My legs and body were a bit sore from yesterday’s weight session, so I want to let my body recover.

Once home, I knew that I needed some protein for my muscle recovery, and some greens for nutrients.  The last thing I felt like was a salad, so instead I made a thick, creamy Smoothie in a Bowl which I had seen on Kath’s blog!

In my SIAB mix:

  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 huge handfuls spinach
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 packet Chocolate Amazing Meal (you could substitute any protein powder here)
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds

Blended in the blender until thick and creamy.  For a normal smoothie I would have added more water or milk, but I wanted to eat this with a spoon.

Perfect for muscle recovery and staying power!  You have probably noticed that I love smoothies by reading my blog, and it’s true!  What I love most about them is that you can basically put anything that you want into a blender and have a super nutritious, quick and portable meal in a matter of seconds.  They are perfect for a meal replacement if you make it dense enough (because sometimes, like today, my smoothie was basically a salad blended up!), or for a quick protein replacement after a tough workout.  I keep frozen fruit and spinach in my freezer all the time, and a tub of hemp protein powder in the fridge for quick and easy smoothies when I am running out the door and don’t have time to think about or prepare a meal.  They really are perfect. 🙂

I used a ton of fresh spinach in this baby!

Once blended, I added some crunchy granola on top.  I loved the crunch.  Eating this smoothie with a spoon, tricked my mind into thinking that this was a larger meal, I think.  Funny how the mind works.

I also had a slice of toast with Chocolate Coconut Butter and Raspberry Jam.

A delicious late afternoon lunch!

We are off to a fun potluck tonight – off to make my dish. 🙂