Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dietary Changes and What They Can Teach You

So I've already written a bit about how DH had to undergo radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer. He's had the treatment, he's doing well, and he still doesn't appear to be suffering from any of the possible side effects, so whew! He's nearing the end of the 3 week period where he's had to avoid iodine in his food, meaning he's had to avoid almost all processed foods and dairy, so he got to try out a vegan diet for the duration since he's pretty strict about not eating meat. (He's a better hippy than I am; I'll eat seafood once in a while.)

I've learned a few things from this enforced dietary change. It bears repeating that I realized I rely on things like packaged veggie broth, canned beans, and store-bought bread products far more than I would like. We didn't starve without those pantry staples and actually ate quite well. My favorite new food is garbanzo beans NOT from a can. The ones from a can do not hold a candle to dried beans you cook yourself, and they are so easy! They are a lot less finicky than other beans we've made from dried. (I'll add recipes below.) The quinoa pilaf I wrote about a few days ago was delicious too, and quick. We also ate salads for several meals, and delicious veggie packets that I learned about from Girl Scout camp training. Desperation and hunger can make you pretty inventive in a pinch!

So here are the directions/recipes:

Garbanzo Beans (from dried)

Start out by picking through a package of dried garbanzo beans, tossing any foreign matter or suspicious looking beans. Put them in a colander and give them a rinse, then soak them. Make sure they have PLENTY of room and PLENTY of water when you soak them; they swell considerably. You can soak them anywhere from a few hours to over night. Once they are soaked, drain them and throw them in a pot with fresh water to cover them by an inch or two. Bring them to a boil then reduce the heat a bit, cover the pot, and let them cook for an hour or so making sure to stir occasionally. Add more water as necessary. (DH made a batch in the pressure cooker; it only took 8 minutes plus the heat up/cool down time.) You don't need any seasonings, no salt, nothing but the water and the beans. Once they are tender drain them like you would drain pasta, and then the sky is the limit. I find them to be a lot easier than other types of beans because they don't break down like, say, black beans, meaning they don't thicken the cooking water. That means they aren't going to go from perfect to a burnt, goopy mess in mere seconds as soon as you turn your back, and when you drain them they are still basically intact for incorporating into a recipe, or for storing for later use.

Sauteed Garbanzo Beans

I threw this together one night when I was too tired to come up with anything else for dinner. The beans were ready to go in the refrigerator and they looked good, but they needed something more. Here's what I did:

1/4 of a sweet onion, cut into a large, rustic dice
minced garlic from a jar, about a half teaspoon (you could use fresh)
fresh basil, minced (about a tablespoon)
cooked garbanzo beans, about a cup
olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Saute the onion in olive oil with a little bit of salt until the onion gets translucent, a little brown, and delicious. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the beans, a little more salt, and some pepper. Cook until the beans get all warm, then add the basil and cook for just another few seconds.

Serves one.

Veggie Packets

This is a camping classic, although they taught us to put chicken in it so I had to modify it a bit to make it vegetarian.

Whatever veggies you like, cut into chunks.* Here are some I like to include:
Sugar Snap Peas

Pineapple, also cut into chunks. (We fight over the pineapple; it's the best part!)

A protein:
I love butter beans straight out of the can; I bet my garbanzo beans would also be terrific! We've also used other types of beans.

Polenta from a tube, sliced up and placed on the bottom layer

Salt and pepper to taste
Salad dressing to taste, about a tablespoon per packet (I like an Italian vinaigrette)

Make an assembly line out of your ingredients so everyone can make a packet with their favorite items. Use a large piece of foil and place your favorite items in the middle. Salt and pepper as you go along. Add some salad dressing over the top, a tablespoon or so, and close up your packet.

Place the packets on a cookie sheet and cook in the oven at 475 degrees for about an hour.

Open the packets carefully as the steam can burn!! If we don't use polenta in the packets we make rice separately and pour the veggies over a scoop of that. It is such a delicious meal, super healthy, and super filling. Too good to save for just camping trips, that's for sure!!

*A note- DH and I ate this while the kids were away and it was a lot easier to cut up veggies for two people than for all 5 of us! You just make as much as you need for the amount of people who are eating. This is such a flexible recipe.

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