When Time Is Short And Hunger Is Sharp
As I mature (more or less), I’m realizing that what I eat when I am tired, hungry, and stressed can significantly help or seriously hinder me. For many years, my go-to foods were cereal and milk or cheese toast. These days, I can’t tolerate almost any commercial cereals, even organic-y ones. Milk is also harder to deal with, and soy milk is no longer an option either. I love bread and cheese, but am sorrowfully recognizing that wheat really does trigger some inflammatory symptoms and cheese impairs my singing voice. Dang!
After a lot of denial and culinary fumbling, I’ve settled into a few fast food treats that satisfy me when I’m eating them and leave me feeling better, not worse. Probably not coincidentally, they are all plant-based foods. Instead of cereal, I enjoy a bowl of homemade granola that’s wheat-free, sugar-free, and oil-free yet totally delicious. It has many variations, but here’s how it goes in basic form:
Grannie Annie’s Granola
10 cups organic rolled oats
1-2 cup(s) each almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts
sesame seeds, hulled pumpkin seeds, hulled sunflower seeds
unsweetened coconut flakes, unsweetened raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In rimmed baking sheets, bake oats for 20-30 minutes, nuts 12-15 minutes, seeds 8-10 minutes, and coconut for 8 minutes (all to desired degree of crispness/browning). I mix it all up in a huge bowl and store it in canning jars, tightly sealed, and refrigerate it for up to a month.
You can dress this up with more dried fruit, change up the seeds and nuts, whatever you like. It makes great cereal with cold rice milk and is also a lovely topping for fruit crumbles. For a treat, stir some into melted bittersweet or dark chocolate and spoon into blobs on waxed paper for crunchy, chewy candy.
New Condiments Add Zip To Same Old
That takes care of the cereal issues, but nothing really replaces cheese toast. However, I do find homemade hummus to be almost as yummy, especially slathered on sourdough rye muffins. I love creamy hummus in a sandwich with weirdly large amounts of Romaine for the crunchy factor. I also find I can alter my basic hummus in wonderful ways by changing up the flavoring.
I love condiments, as you would know if you saw my fridge, which is packed with mustards, sauces, chutneys, ponzu, and so on. I’ve recently discovered a couple of new-to-me flavors that just knock my socks off and give my old favorite foods a whole new spin. A company called Safinter makes outstanding smoked paprika in 3 heats; mild, which is gentle and tasty; hot (which is very hot indeed); and bittersweet, combining medium heat with a lovely mellow sweetness. To taste the differences, stir some of each into a little mayonnaise for an instant aioli effect. This stuff is dynamite on steamed vegetables, and any of them makes a basic hummus amazing.
Every simple food has a trick or two that make the difference between pretty good and terrific. For pesto, it’s grinding the basil with coarse salt, which keeps it from discoloring. For hummus, it’s blending ingredients in a certain order, and processing them longer than you think is necessary. Try it and see if you find the result to be especially toothsome.
Smoother Hummus With Smoked Paprika
3-4 tablespoons tahini
1 large organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1-2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
1-1/2 cups cooked garbanzos, rinsed and drained if canned
1-2 teaspoons bittersweet smoked paprika (or any)
In a food processor, combine tahini and 3 tablespoons lemon juice and puree until very well blended (about 1 minute). Use a rubber scraper to push material from the side of the bowl back to the bottom and process for another 20-30 seconds. Add garlic and salt and process for another 30-45 seconds. Clean bowl again, add oil and 1 cup of garbanzos and process for about a minute. Clean bowl again, add remaining garbanzos and puree for another minute or more. Taste and adjust lemon juice, salt and garlic, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time to get the density/creaminess you want. Now add smoked paprika and process for 15-20 seconds. Store in covered glass jar in the fridge for up to a week. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.
Vary this by using hotter or sweeter paprika and more or less garlic, lemon juice, and/or tahini. It’s traditional to sprinkle a little paprika on top and call it good, but I find blending it in makes the hummus even better.
Grains Of Paradise
Another new-to-me pepper substitute is called grains of paradise, which are seeds of the ginger relative Aframomum melegueta. These deliver a mild, spicy, peppery flavor with citrusy overtones. I put some in an empty pepper grinder and grind them just like peppercorns, but you can also use a mortar and pestle. The delicate heat and intriguing flavor is as delicious as paprika in hummus and wakes up a bland potato leek soup in a flash. I especially enjoy this traditional Ethiopian flavoring with white beans and kale (of course).
Wondering Where The Kale Was?
This speedy, satisfying dish has become my new favorite fast food; it takes only a few minutes, smells and tastes great, and is pretty yummy even as leftovers. Anything that combines kale with garlic is good already, but adding cannellini (or any) beans makes it a meal. For a switch in direction, use coconut oil and add a little garam masala to the mix. It’s all good!
Kale With White Beans And Garlic
1 tablespoon olive OR coconut oil
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 big bunch kale, cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1-1/2 cups cooked garbanzos, rinsed and drained if canned
1 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
1/4 teaspoon grains of paradise
In a wide, shallow pan, combine oil and garlic over medium high heat until fragrant and golden. Add kale, onion, and salt, stir to coat, cover pan and cook until lightly wilted (2-3 minutes). Stir in beans and garam masala if using, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover pan and heat through. Season to taste with grains of paradise. Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side.