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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Using Your Bean

With this issue Vegetarians in Paradise continues the bean explorations of VOW, a diabetic who has discovered the importance of beans in her diet. In subsequent VIP issues VOW will enlighten our readers with the further Adventures of the Bean.

Adventures of the Bean #26
Holiday Season Brings More Temptations for Diabetics

by VOW, of course

I just looked at the calendar. Ugh.

The holiday season is approaching. AGAIN!

Holidays mean parties, family, presents, and as most Diabetics know: FOOD.

The kind of food trucked out for the holidays is usually the fattest, sweetest, most caloric, and the unhealthiest in the world. Cooks seem to be in a contest with each other to create culinary killers to inflict on their families and friends.

Unfortunately, holiday party food also tastes like Heaven.

As I see it, there are three ways of handling this dilemma:

  1. Stay home, lock your doors, close the shades and the drapes, unplug the phone, and refuse all deliveries.
  2. Say, "The Hell with it!" and eat everything that crosses your path, enjoying the brief moments of pleasure and dooming yourself to high blood sugars, inevitable weight gain, headaches, digestive upset, and lots of regrets.
  3. Plan ahead.

Number One is impractical. Number Two is what I usually do. And of course, Number Three is the smart choice.

Teach yourself to look away and walk by the trays, platters, boxes, and bowls of temptations. Remind yourself, you've TASTED all of this in the past. Remind yourself also, the MEMORIES of the tastes are always better than the real thing! If you are attending a party where you know the host or the hostess is famous for knocking guests down and cramming massive amounts of food down their throats, eat before you go! When your tummy is already full and your jaws are tired of chewing, you won't be interested in the greasy, salty, sugary, bad-for-you party foods!

Plan more exercise. Moving around not only burns off the calories you DO eat, it floods you with endorphins so you don't feel hunger like you used to.

And I hope this year I can be strong enough to take my own advice!

It's All in the Broth


Just about all the bean recipes and nearly every soup recipe includes this mysterious ingredient! If you began your cooking education as a carnivore, you probably learned that broth is something you make with the leftover carcass of dead animals. How many Thanksgiving aftermaths can you remember where Mom shoved the cave of turkey bones in a huge pot and boiled it until the kitchen windows steamed up? Let me tell you, picking through the bones, cartilage, skin, and gobs of dressing was a chore not for the faint-hearted! I still shudder to this day whenever I think about it.

Yet another excellent reason to be a Veg!

You can always use water in place of broth, in any recipe. But water, if it's the clean stuff, adds no flavor. And let's be honest here: flavor is one of the main joys of eating!

Hit the Soup aisle at your neighborhood grocery store, and you can find veggie broth. A can will run you about 60 cents; a one-liter carton can be as high as four bucks.

VOW Ouch.

If you are cooking from scratch, using the dried beans, it seems contradictory to pay a lot of money for the BROTH that you use to cook the beans.

Sit down, make yourself comfortable, and let's talk. You can take notes if you want to. I'm about to give you the benefit of my accumulated wisdom on how to fix good food and save money at the same time.

(Golly, what a wonderful present, and it's not even Christmas yet!)

I've already mentioned in the Taco Soup recipe that vegetable juice is a wonderful cooking broth. Look for the store brand to save money. Tomato juice is another useful liquid as well. But keep in mind some legumes won't soften properly in the presence of tomato. You could end up with a crunchy lentil soup if you start out with a can of tomato juice. Tomato juice and veggie juice both are intensely red, which can color your finished product. If red food isn't your end goal, you will be better off with one of the other broth suggestions.

My next broth recommendation is something you get to create! And I promise it is nowhere near as disgusting as the turkey carcass description I mentioned earlier! Now, what is veggie broth other than water used to cook veggies, right? When you come home from a shopping trip to the roadside produce stand, all the yummies you bought have to be cleaned and trimmed. Radishes have green tops, cabbages have huge outer leaves, and celery bunches have a stump which gets hacked away. One of my biggest heartbreaks of fresh produce is the leek: there is so much that is cut off and discarded it seems like a waste of good food! I tried to save the green tops of leeks and included them in a soup once. No matter how long I simmered them, the greenery was like chewing on plastic wrap.

Potato Well, all those trimmings are wasted no more! Give everything a good wash and throw into your biggest cooking pot! Take a tour of your refrigerator and your pantry bins, and rescue the forlorn veggies that don't quite measure up to be the prime stuff any more. The shriveled potatoes, the sprouting onions, the rubbery carrots, we're going to turn them into good food! Cut the big items into chunks, add to the trimmings you already have, then fill the pot with plenty of H2O. I also like to include a handful or two of wheat bran, because it adds color and potassium to the finished product.

The important thing is to wash-wash-wash. Greenery often contains hidden sand, and anything grown in the dirt like carrots or potatoes can hang onto reminders of soil. We want to make veggie broth, not mudpies! Also look for anything moldy or slimy or bad smelling. If a vegetable is only bruised, it might be salvageable, but actual spoilage is not welcome in this hot tub. If in doubt, throw it out! Cut out the potato eyes, too, since they are poisonous.

The Process

  • Bring the pot of veggie stuff and water to a boil, then turn it down to a low simmer. Let it cook a couple of hours. Give it a stir occasionally, to make sure nothing is burning or scorching.
  • Once the veggies have become a mass of unrecognizable glop, turn off the burner and let the pot cool.
  • Get a second pot and put it in the sink. Set your colander over the second pot, and line it with cloth. I don't like cheesecloth because it takes too much of it to do a decent job of filtering. I have squares of an old sheet I keep on hand for kitchen use. It's perfect for this job!
  • Once you get the filtration system set up, carefully pour the contents of the veggie cookery into the colander. Be patient, because the sheet fabric drains slowly. Let the whole mess sit for a while.
  • After the liquid has trickled to the bottom pot and the contents in the colander are cool enough to handle, gather up the fabric and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the glop. You definitely can feel virtuous as you throw the squeezed out glop into the trash can!
  • Rinse the cloth well, and include it in the next load of towels you launder. It can be used over and over, another benefit of sheet fabric versus cheesecloth!
  • You should have a lovely pot of veggie broth! It was made from good old water and stuff you normally would have thrown away. Now you can walk right on by those pricey cans and cartons of vegetable broth in the supermarket!

I have a passion for zipper freezer plastic bags. The quart size is my favorite. I fill them with just about everything under the sun, because you can flatten and stack them in the freezer so they take up almost no space. And those bags are my choice for the veggie broth. Label the bags with the contents and the date, and fill each one about halfway with the liquid. "Burp"the air out and make sure they are completely sealed. Be careful, because those guys are slippery, and they like to slide off the counter and splatter themselves on the floor, all the while they laugh at your hard work!

Once you get your broth packaged, I recommend looking for an empty box or plastic container that is the approximate size of the flattened zipper bag. Stack the filled bags in the box, and place the whole shebang in the freezer. Once the broth is frozen solid, you can take the bags out of the box, and tuck them in the freezer anywhere!

Another "version" of this veggie broth is to roast the trimmings and the rubber veggies in the oven until they start to brown. Then boil them in the pot as described above. The roasting gives a richer flavor to the broth, and also produces a darker color.

Okay, you've got broth now! How can you use it? Oh, MY!

  • cooking beans or lentils
  • cooking rice or noodles
  • use as a soup base
  • a source of a wonderful gravy
  • a hot drink on a cold day
  • steaming veggies
  • And one of the nicest things, aside from the miniscule cost, is that your broth has almost no calories to it, but it contains all the goodness of the veggies in it!

    Next month, we're going to travel around the world to search for broth, and you won't even need a passport!

    Click here for more Adventures of the Bean

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