Tag Archives: chickpeas

The Truth About Carbs (feat. an epic Chickpea Bulgur Salad)

26 Sep

In some circles, carbs have a really bad rap. I can’t count the number of times someone has told me they’ve cut out “all carbs” from their diet for weight loss (only to then learn that they’re still eating fruit, vegetables and dairy. NEWS ALERT: those foods contain carbs, too).

Let’s investigate some of the arguments against carbs that I’ve heard.

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“Carbs will make me gain weight” or “I lost 10 pounds in one week when I cut starch from my diet.” Sorry honey, that weight you lost was all water. Study after study has shown that weight loss is equivalent in subjects following a low-fat diet vs. a low carb-diet vs. a high protein diet, assuming the same number of calories are consumed. Carbohydrate contains 4 calories per gram, which is the same as protein and significantly less than fat which clocks in at 9 calories per gram. A balance of all three makes up a healthy diet— more precisely, 10-35% of your calories should come from protein, 20-35% from fat, and 45-65% of your total caloric intake should come from carbohydrate. A major imbalance in these ratios can increase your risk of chronic disease and negatively impact micronutrient status.

“Eating carbs will give me diabetes.” This is probably the #1 diabetes myth. When carbohydrate is consumed, it’s naturally broken down by the body into a type of sugar called glucose. Insulin is then released so that your body can use glucose as a source of energy. Diabetes happens when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or is unable to use insulin properly. Major risk factors for diabetes are genetic predisposition, older age, being overweight, and inactivity. If you don’t have risk factors for diabetes, your pancreas will be able to handle a significant glucose load without any problem. On the other hand, eating too many calories from carbs can cause weight gain which puts you at risk for developing diabetes. But that’s a completely different story.

Grains have toxins that bind good nutrients in other foods, making them unabsorbable.” Every Paleo fanatic will tell you this, but they fail to disclose all relevant details. Grains are rich in many nutrients: B vitamins like niacin and thiamin, magnesium, manganese, and selenium. Grains also contain phytates, which can bind some minerals (particularly iron and zinc), making them unavailable for absorption. Paleo subscribers state that humans who eat grains are at risk of nutrient deficiencies because of the “anti-nutrient” phytate. What they fail to disclose is that heme iron absorption (the kind we get from meat) is not affected by phytate, and zinc is well-absorbed from meat even in the presence of phytates. So if you eat meat, you don’t need to worry about phytates impacting your micronutrient status. Paleo dieters also fail to tell you that phytate has health benefits: it acts as an antioxidant and may protect against kidney stones and decrease cancer risk.

Lectin is another “anti-nutrient” that Paleo followers caution against. I won’t get into the details here, but this article summarizes the evidence nicely:  https://authoritynutrition.com/dietary-lectins/

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In my opinion, the most valid argument against carbohydrates is that they’re easy to overeat. And this can lead to weight gain. A standard 1/2 cup serving of pasta or rice seems measly on your plate, so many people end up doling out portions more consistent with what they’ve become accustomed to at their favourite restaurants. Stick to reasonable portions and carbs become part of a healthy diet.

The benefits of carbohydrates extend beyond their nutritional profile. A low-carb diet can be taxing on the environment if calories from carbs are replaced with animal protein. And carbohydrate ingestion leads to the production of serotonin which is a feel-good neurotransmitter that gives us pleasure. If you’ve spent any length of time with a no-carb dieter, you will know that they can become irritable and cranky at the drop of a hat. No fun.

In honour of today’s carb-loving rant, I present you with a salad that is full of healthy carbs: bulgur, sweet potato, chickpeas, and pomegranate.  My sister made this salad for our parents’ retirement party in the spring and it was a hit. Salty feta cheese is balanced nicely with refreshing mint and sweet, juicy pomegranate (which adds incredible texture to any dish). You really can’t go wrong with these flavours.

It’s carberific.

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Happy Retirement Mom and Dad!

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Chickpea Bulgur Salad with Mint, Pomegranate, and Feta
(adapted from an original recipe created by J’s friend SF)

If you’ve never de-seeded a pomegranate, it’s easier than it seems! This video shows you how to do it like a pro: http://bit.ly/2cxE35T

¾ cup uncooked bulgur
1½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large sweet potato, chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 pomegranate, de-seeded
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped mint (or to taste)
Juice from 1/2 lemon (approx. 2 tbsp)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/8 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Additional salt, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. On a baking sheet, toss chopped sweet potato with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp salt. Bake until soft (approximately 30 minutes), stirring once partway through.
  2. Combine bulgur and vegetable stock in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover until all liquid is absorbed (approximately 20 minutes).
  3. Once cooked, let the bulgur and sweet potato cool to room temperature in a bowl.
  4. Add chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, green onions, feta and mint to the bowl of cooled bulgur and sweet potato.
  5. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add dressing to salad. Season with pepper (and salt, if needed) to taste.
  6. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. This salad tastes best if made a few hours (or the night) before.  Use as a side, or over a bed of spinach as a meal.

Makes 8 servings. Per 1 cup serving: 225 kcal, 7.1 g fat (2.1 g saturated), 34 g carbohydrate, 6 g fibre, 6.8 g protein, 265 mg sodium

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A Hearty Moroccan Stew to Satisfy your New Year’s Resolutions

1 Jan

Happy 2013!  Do you have a resolution for the New Year?  The surplus of Weight Watchers commercials on TV yesterday served as a reminder that weight loss is one of the most common goals set by individuals at the start of a new year.  According to a recent study, 38% of resolutions are weight-related.  Unfortunately, only 8% of all people are successful in achieving their resolutions—and this number is not limited to those who strive for weight loss.

Soups and stews are the perfect vehicle for New Year’s resolutions that revolve around any of the following:  to lose weight, to eat more vegetables, to cook more often, and the list goes on.

The liquid in soups make them filling, meaning less room in your stomach for more calorie dense foods.  Research has shown that when individuals consume a low-energy soup before a meal (e.g. broth-based vegetable soup), they eat 20% fewer total calories at that sitting.  This can translate to weight loss of half a pound every two weeks if soup is eaten before a single meal each day.  Soups are also an easy way to meet your vegetable quota for the day: coarsely chop what you have in the fridge and throw into a pot. The more colourful, the better.  Canada’s Food Guide recommends that most adults eat a minimum of 7 servings of fruit and vegetables per day (preferably more vegetables than fruits).  One serving is ½ cup cooked vegetables. Finally, soups are easy. Even the least skilled home cook can ‘wing it’ and end up with a tasty meal. Bonus: no fancy knife skills needed.

Up until now, I didn’t plan on making a resolution.  But as I sit here and write, I’ve decided that my resolution will be to cook more soups and stews. Partly because I haven’t been cooking as often as I’d like to and partly because I find them warm and comforting, particularly as we enter the depths of the cold winter months.  Since any goal must be SMART to be successful, my goal will be to cook a large soup or stew with a variety of vegetables and at least one good source of protein once a week (ideally Sunday) for the next 6 weeks. As a bonus, this will provide me with ample inspiration for upcoming blog posts.

The recipe below is for a hearty, one-pot Moroccan stew that I made over the holidays for a ‘chili/stew cook-off’ between several families.  Chickpeas, sweet potato, peanut butter, and earthy spices (cumin, coriander, curry powder) are truly a match made in heaven!  I tend to use generous amounts of onion, pepper, and celery to boost the veggie content.  Next time I’d like to try substituting squash for the sweet potato.  Or adding several handfuls of spinach or kale.  The possibilities are endless…

Soup’s on!

Moroccan Stew sans cilantro thanks to my sister J

Moroccan Stew (sans cilantro, thanks to my sister J)

 

Rockin’ Moroccan Stew
(from The Looneyspoons Collection)

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup each diced celery and chopped green bell pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated ginger root
1 tsp each ground cumin, curry powder, ground coriander and chili powder
3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
3 cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (19 oz/540 mL) no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tbsp each light peanut butter and minced fresh cilantro

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, green pepper and garlic. Cook and stir until the vegetables begin to soften, about three minutes. Add ginger root, cumin, curry powder, coriander and chili powder. Cook for 30 more seconds.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the raisins, peanut butter and cilantro. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in raisins, peanut butter and cilantro. Mix well. Simmer for five more minutes. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 253 calories, 5.3 g fat, (0.8 g saturated fat), 8 g protein, 44 g carbohydrate, 6.9 g fiber, 355 mg sodium.

Colourful Moroccan Quinoa Salad

4 Mar

It’s official.  I’m the worst blogger ever.  Since January of this year I’ve been averaging one post per month.  Yikes!  Common excuses that keep me away from the computer include being too busy and the fact that I should use my time to do “real” work (or clean my apartment, or watch Top Chef).  In actuality, I’ve been in a bit of a rut for most of February.  It could be the weather, being in a rotation that I don’t love, or just the time of year.  Life is not overly busy and yet I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING.  Except for sitting on the couch after a day of work and watching TV.

Despite my lack of motivation, I’ve managed to do a fair bit of cooking and baking over the past couple of months.  I made this Moroccan-spiced quinoa salad a couple of weeks ago and it was an instant lift-me-up.  It’s colourful, bright in flavour, and full of wholesome ingredients.  A bowl of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day.

On a more positive note, it’s March and I already feel like my spirits are lifting.  Next weekend is one of my favourite times of the year.  Any guesses?  Drumroll please…

Next weekend we “spring forward” for Daylight Saving Time!  I may be the only person on the planet who gets excited about turning the clocks forward.  Yes, it’s a drag to lose an hour of sleep but I firmly believe that the joy of leaving work in daylight is worth a day or two of sleep deprivation.  Spring is just around the corner…

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

 

Moroccan and Rollin’ Quinoa Salad (from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup dried currants
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted the salt)
1 cup canned no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used an entire 19 oz can)
1/2 cup each finely chopped red bell pepper, grated carrot, and diced English cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onions (I think I would use a little bit less next time)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used only 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves (I omitted the mint)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine quinoa, broth, currants, curry, cumin, coriander, honey, and salt (if using) in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid.  Remove from heat.  Let stand covered for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and leave uncovered to cool completely.
  2. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. When quinoa is cool, transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, including the olive oil and lemon juice mixture.  Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour or two before serving.  Tastes even better the next day!

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 231 kcal, 7.4 g fat, 5.4 g fibre, 256 mg sodium

Tofu: the Culinary Chameleon

5 Feb

Tofu seems to be gaining a little bit more respect from the masses than it used to garner.  Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that it’s still considered to be bland and unappealing by most.

One of the beautiful things about tofu is that it easily takes on the flavour of other ingredients.  It’s truly a bona-fide culinary chameleon.  After a conversation about protein with a couple of friends several weeks back (you know– a usual Saturday night topic of discussion!), I went looking for a hummus recipe that incorporates silken tofu.  I thought this might lend a nice creamy texture to hummus while adding protein of a higher biological value.

The recipe I found was titled “The Most Awesome Hummus Ever.”  While tasty, I still think “my” spicy roasted red pepper hummus is the most awesome. Ever. No question about it.

Tofu and Chickpea Hummus

The tofu-hummus was a milder, creamier version of traditional hummus.  Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was a fan– the chickpea flavour wasn’t nearly as potent as I’m used to– but over time I really came to enjoy its subtleness.  This hummus is also a lot creamier than usual (thanks to the tofu), making it ideal for dipping.  Like a fine wine, this hummus gets better with age.  Wait at least one hour to taste this hummus, particularly if you’re weary of tofu in the first place.  The tofu flavour is just barely noticeable at first but vanishes with time.

With the extra tofu, I decided to make silken chocolate pudding.  A true testament to the chameleon nature of tofu: the same ingredient was used in both a garlicky hummus and a rich chocolately dessert!  Believe it or not, the tofu was virtually undetectable in the pudding (again, providing you allow the pudding to sit for at least one hour).  If you can’t resist the temptation to lick the bowl/spatula/any other surface that comes in contact with the chocolate pudding… be warned: you will taste the tofu, and you’ll probably be turned off of the entire dessert.  However, if you’re patient the result is an incredibly rich, chocolately mousse-like pudding… that also happens to be high in protein for a dessert.  It’s particularly amazing topped with sliced bananas. Yum!

Silken Chocolate Pudding

 

Chickpea and Tofu Hummus  (from Circle B Kitchen)

1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup silken/soft tofu  (approx a third of a package)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Blend ingredients in food processor until very smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover. Let sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.  Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Makes approximately 2.5 cups.  Per 1/3 cup serving: 110 kcal, 5 g fat, 5 g protein, 2.5 g fibre, 175 mg sodium.

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Silken Chocolate Pudding
(from Moosewood Restaurant’s Cooking for Health cookbook)

This is the scaled down version of the recipe, which will allow you to use up all of the tofu leftover from the hummus.

2/3rds of a 16oz package of silken tofu
2 tablespoons icing sugar
5 ounces semisweet chocolate (I’ve used as little as 3 ounces and it still tastes sufficiently chocolately)
4 tablespoons water (or milk)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. In a food processor, whirl the tofu and icing sugar until well blended.  In the microwave, warm the chocolate, water/milk, cocoa, and vanilla until the chocolate melts.  Stir until thoroughly mixed. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.
  2. Pour the chocolate sauce into the food processor with the tofu mixture.  Whirl again until smooth and silky.
  3. Spoon into 4 serving cups and chill for at least one hour.  Tastes best if left to sit overnight.

Per 1/3 cup serving (of 4): 245 calories, 14 g fat, 6 g protein, 3 g fibre, 9 mg sodium.

“Butter” Chickpea Curry (in a Hurry)

13 Sep

Do you love Indian food? Are you too intimidated to cook it at home?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, I have just the dish for you.

I first stumbled across this recipe a few years ago.  It was a Friday afternoon and I had no idea what to make for dinner. I was convinced there was no food in the house.  My search terms included chickpeas and potatoes, an unlikely combination I thought.  Little did I know that the recipe I would stumble across would soon become a favourite.  Onion and garlic?  Check.   Can of tomato soup? Check.  Indian spices? Check.  I had found a recipe that was healthy, looked tasty, and didn’t require me to go to the grocery store.  Success!

This curry is just like your classic butter chicken dish, minus the butter and with chickpeas instead of chicken.  It’s so simple (and tasty!) that a couple of my “no-fuss” friends have asked for the recipe.  To give you an idea of what I mean by no-fuss, one of my friends refuses to cook with onions because they make her cry.  I bought her a pair of onion goggles for her birthday to remedy this problem.  Yes, these things actually exist!

An "artsy" (and blurry) Butter Chickpea Curry shot. Artistic director and photographer: LS; Hand model: JC

One such no-fuss kind of gal is my good friend Erin who decided to make this dish for our potluck on Saturday evening.  It was her first attempt at making curry and it was a roaring success.

I love love LOVE potlucks! (and great friends, and good wine)

The sweetness from the condensed tomato soup and sweet potatoes contrasts so nicely with the mild spice from the curry powder in this hearty dish.  The cauliflower, while not in the original recipe, adds great texture and soaks up the curry sauce beautifully.  Good luck keeping leftovers around for long: I’ve been known to sneak a “bite” from the fridge and usually end up polishing off whatever is left…  in one sitting (er, standing).

Butter Chickpea Curry


Butter Chickpea Curry  (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

This is a very mild curry, perfect for those who can’t handle a lot of spice.  Add chili flakes or cayenne pepper to up the heat to your liking.

2 medium sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes), cubed
2 cups cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can (10.75 oz) condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup milk
1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (preferably no salt added)
salt, to taste

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender.  Add cauliflower at the last minute and cook until tender-crisp, about 1 minute.  Drain, and set aside.
  2. Warm oil over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  Stir in onion and cook until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Stir in curry powder, garam masala, ground ginger, cumin, and salt.  Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Add soup, milk, and chickpeas.  Stir in sweet potatoes and cauliflower.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Serve alone, over rice, or with toasted naan.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 300 kcal, 4.7 g fat, 8.8 g fibre, 495 mg sodium

The Best Hummus… Ever

6 Jul

This is the best hummus you will ever eat.  Seriously.  The roasted red peppers give it a mild sweetness which is countered perfectly by the spicy cayenne pepper.  The roasted red peppers also add a ton of moisture, meaning you get a nice smooth texture without having to add excessive amounts of water (which dilutes the flavour) or oil.

This hummus is so good that I’m at a loss for words.  Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
(from Allrecipes.com)

1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Process on medium to high speed until the mixture is smooth and slightly fluffy.  Periodically scrape the mixture from the sides of the food processor.

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Makes 2 cups.  Per 1/4 cup serving: 64 kcal, 2.2 g fat