Monday, September 03, 2012

Whole-y Foods

I call myself a vegan because it's the quickest way to convey what I don't eat... but really, a more accurate term to describe my diet is whole-foods plant-based. What's the difference? Vegans don't eat any animal products, usually including things made by animals, like honey. Vegans also typically have a fairly political stance on animal welfare, so they usually make it more of a lifestyle (e.g., not buying clothing or shoes made from animals - no leather, not buying products tested on animals, etc.). While I fully support treating the animals that share our planet with us well, this was not the main reason that I decided to stop eating animal products. Some vegans will also eat a lot of processed animal-free products, like potato chips, fake meats, and french fries. While it is much harder to be an unhealthy vegan than an unhealthy omnivore, it's still quite possible if your diet is based on processed foods.

Like the traditional vegan, I also don't eat any animal products. However, what makes my diet different than that of some vegans is that it is based on whole foods. I try to avoid processed foods, including oils and refined sugars which are only parts of the original plants. Breads are usually okay as long as they are whole grain, as are whole-grain pastas. We do make use of some sauces that have non-whole food components, but try to limit these as well. Basically, we try to ensure that whatever we're eating has been minimally processed at the most, and ideally not processed at all. So the recipes you see here on this blog will be as whole-food as possible. So really, you could call me a whole-food vegan. :-)

Today's recipe is for hummous. Many people love hummous, and you hear it said a lot that it is full of protein and soooo good for you. Well, again, it depends on how processed it is. The hummous you buy in the grocery store tends to have a lot more in it than the usual chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice that is the base of homemade hummous. Tahini itself (basically ground up sesame seeds) tends to add quite a bit of fat to the hummous, too. 

We recently ate at a vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver called The Foundation. The food at this place is uber-yummy, but the star of our dinner that evening was their hummous. It had black beans in addition to the chickpeas, and a special zing that I figured came from lime juice. So I decided to try making my own homemade version of it, but leaving out tahini to reduce the fat (and I'm just not a huge fan of the flavour of tahini either). Here is my attempt at homemade low-fat whole-food hummous.

Zingy Black Bean Hummous
Yield: about 4 cups

3 cups (750 ml) cooked chickpeas*
1 cup (250 ml) cooked black beans*
Juice from 3 limes
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
7 Tbsp (about 100 ml) water
1/4 tsp (1 ml) sea salt

Blend everything together in a food processor until desired consistency is reached. Taste, and add more lime juice, garlic, or salt as desired.

And here's what it looks like when it's done... admittedly it's a little grey, but it does actually taste quite good. And I bet it will be even better tomorrow when the flavours have had a chance to really mingle. I plan on eating it for a snack with baby carrots. Yum!

* I cook all my own beans from dried. I've found that "homemade" beans are a million times better than canned beans, and it's really quite easy to make them. Here's how:

  • put your dried beans onto a cookie sheet in a single-ish layer - pick them over to remove any stones or debris that might have gotten included
  • rinse the beans in a colander with running water
  • put rinsed beans into a large bowl and cover with about twice as much water (dried beans will expand by about three times, so ensure there is adequate space and water in your bowl)
  • put the bowl of beans in the fridge overnight to soak (soaking helps to reduce both the cooking time and the "gassiness" of beans)
  • the next day, drain off the soaking water
  • put soaked beans into a large pot and cover with water to about 2-3" above the beans
  • bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer
  • depending on the size of the bean, they will take anywhere from one hour to two hours (I found chickpeas usually take about 1.5 hours)
  • check regularly after one hour to ensure you don't overcook them - cooked beans should be mashable, but you may want to slightly undercook them if you're planning on adding them to a soup where they will still get more cooking time
  • be sure to skim off the foam on top of the cooked beans, then drain them

Cooked beans keep for a while in the fridge, but since I make very large batches at a time, I usually freeze them. Measure out 2 cups of beans for each sandwich-sized ziploc bag (this equates to about the same amount that you find in a can of beans), flatten the bag, label it, then freeze. Anytime you need beans, all you have to do is take a bag out of the freezer. So much tastier than canned beans and cheaper too!

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