Eggless Sprouted Mung Bean Pasta, Spring Style

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April 20th, 2015

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Chances are, you’re familiar with mung bean noodles, some clear and some ghostly white, that can be found in abundance at Asian markets. I’ve always been fascinated with the simplicity of their ingredients list, which typically includes only mung beans and water. Making pasta at home has become somewhat of a hobby for me over this past winter, and I was determined to nail down this healthy, protein-rich mung bean version.

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The first attempt, which involved just grounding mung beans into flour without sprouting them, resulted in pasta with too beany of a taste that I wasn’t satisfied with. I noticed long ago that sprouting grains and garbanzo beans improves the taste of the resulting flour, so I decided to sprout the mung beans for this pasta as well. My next attempt, made of sprouted flour, was much better and mild tasting, but included eggs, and I didn’t care for the texture.

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When I was ready to give up the idea, I bumped into the possibility of using psyllium husks as a binder in gluten free pasta. I gave them a try and it turned out absolutely amazing – a nicely pliable, flavorful, freshly-made pasta, that is very light and gentle on your stomach, and quite easy to make once your flour is ready.
I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m pretty sure that other types of gluten free flours such as quinoa, buckwheat, etc. will work great in this recipe as well.

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It may seem like a lot of work to make such flour at home, but in reality what you will mostly have to do is wait until beans sprout and dry. If the process is not for you, however, there are several companies that make sprouted flours and my latest favorite is Blue Mountain Organics. Our local health food store carries and array of their flours and they are not only delicious, but also less expensive than regular flour. For this post, I prepared the pasta with peas and spinach to celebrate spring, but it will work well with your favorite homemade tomato sauce or any other pasta toppings. Happy Spring!

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Sprouted Mung Bean Pasta
adapted from here

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon psyllium husk powder
1 cup sifted sprouted mung bean flour (see below), plus more for rolling out pasta
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
2 tablespoons coconut oil – 1 tablespoon melted, divided
3-4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
splash of canned coconut milk – optional
freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan – optional

1. Mix together psyllium husk powder and 4 tablespoons filtered water in a small bowl. Let thicken while mixing together dry ingredients.
2. Combine flours and salt in a large bowl, mix to combine. Make a well in the center, add 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, gelled psyllium husk and 4 tablespoons of water. Stir to combine with a fork as much as you can. The mixture will appear dry, but don’t add more water at this point. Begin working with your hands, mixing and kneading the mixture into slightly sticky (but not wet) dough. Add more water, one tablespoon at a time, if you find that it’s absolutely necessary, or more flour if dough seems too wet.
3. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts, keep them wrapped to prevent drying.
4. Working with one portion at a time, roll out on a well floured surface into a paper thin thickness. Cut it into pasta of any desired shape using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife. Sprinkle with more flour to prevent from sticking (the same sprouted mung bean flour or brown rice flour will work great for rolling and dusting).
5. Divide the pasta into two equal portions. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook one portion of fresh pasta at a time for 2 minutes, until al-dente.
6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add half of the spinach, sprinkle with salt and stir to coat. Drain pasta reserving about 1/4 cup of cooking liquid. Add pasta, 2 tablespoons of reserved liquid and splash of coconut milk (if using) to the pan with spinach, stir until spinach is wilted, for a minute or so. Add half of the peas, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, stir them in and remove from heat.
7. Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan if desired.

Note: You can continue cooking the other portions of pasta in the same manner or keep the remaining dough wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Remove from refridgerator to warm up 15 minutes prior to rolling. 

Sprouted Mung Bean Flour
1. Rinse 2 cups of mung beans and place them in a large bowl covered with filtered water, soak overnight.
2. Drain and rinse again, cover with wet kitchen towel and leave to sprout. You should see white tails in 24-48 hours. Make sure to rinse every 8 hours and keep the towel damp. For the purpose of this flour, sprouts don’t need to be large and thick – tiny white tails will be sufficient.
3. When you are satisfied with the look of your sprouts, rinse them thoroughly, drain well and shake off water excess as much as possible. If you have a dehydrator, spread sprouted beans on mesh screen covered trays and dehydrate at 115 F until completely dry.
4. Alternatively, spread on a dry kitchen towel or paper towels and let dry for 24 hours, change towels to dry ones after the first 8 hours. Spread on a baking sheet and continue to dry in the oven at the lowest temperature for a couple of hours, until completely dry.
5. Grind into flour using a high speed blender, mill or coffee grinder (in batches). Sift through a fine mesh strainer.

Tags: gluten free, mung beans, pasta, peas, spinach

Black Sesame Cappuccino

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April 1st, 2015

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I don’t mean to offend those who are passionate about their coffee by naming this drink cappuccino, but I can justify. The rich, foamy texture and deep flavor of this black sesame tea reminded me so much of all of cappuccino’s finest qualities, that I couldn’t resist giving it this name. I generally don’t drink coffee, but that changes as soon as I find myself on the other side of the Atlantic, where vacation mode and the magic of the European lifestyle make coffee into a very pleasant necessity for me. Otherwise, it’s always tea. Out of the caffeinated teas, good quality black, loose leaf tea is my drink of choice.

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In my latest attempt to take a break from caffeine, I came across the possibility of using black sesame seeds and dates in a hot, tea-like drink. Chinese black sesame tea has long been known for its therapeutic properties. It is especially believed to nurture and restore hair strength, and is generally a great, calming whole body tonic, thanks to the overwhelming amount of nutrients in black sesame seeds.

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When I made my version of black sesame seed tea for the first time, I couldn’t believe its rich taste and velvety texture. It really hit the spot and I’ve been drinking it in the morning for the past couple of weeks, not missing caffeine very much. Sesame seeds contain lots of lecithin, which, aside from helping keep your arteries flexible, accounts for the silky, creamy texture of this tea. In the absence of black sesame seeds, I’ve substituted with unhulled tan sesame seeds, which worked great as well.
I’ve included a recipe for another sesame drink I discovered while making my cappuccino. The taste of this milk reminds me of halva, one of my favorite childhood treats. This one is quick to prepare and quite satisfying in its own way.

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Black Sesame Cappuccino

1 cup black sesame seeds
2 soft dates – pitted
3 cups water
1 cup homemade almond milk or almond-sesame milk (see recipe below)

1. Combine sesame seeds, dates and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, adjust heat to a strong simmer and cook for 30 minutes, partially covered. The water volume should reduce by about 1/3. Towards the end, mash dates against the sides of the pan with a spoon, letting them further release their sweetness. Strain the liquid and collect black sesame seeds in a large strainer.
2. Pour the strained liquid back into the saucepan, add one cup of almond or almond-sesame milk and reheat gently. Add sweetener of choice, if needed (I find the subtle sweetness from dates to be enough). Optionally blend at high speed to make it foamy. Enjoy hot.

Note: Optionally, you can dry the leftover black sesame seeds for future use. To do that, spread them on a baking sheet and keep them in the oven at the lowest temperature for a couple of hours. When almost completely dried, turn off the oven and leave the seeds in until the oven is cold.

Halva Milk

2 cups homemade almond-sesame milk (see recipe below) – warmed if desired
2 tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds – ground in a coffee grinder
any preferred sweetener – to taste.

Combine all the ingredients in a blender until well combined and frothy. Enjoy hot or cold.

Almond Sesame Milk

1 cup almonds
1/4 cup unhulled sesame seeds

Soak almonds and sesame seeds in purified water overnight. Drain by catching the seeds in a fine-mesh strainer, rinse under cold water. Combine nuts and seeds in a strong blender with 4 cups of purified water. Blend until smooth. Strain through a nut bag or cheese cloth. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Tags: almond, black sesame, drink, sesame seed

Roasted Root Vegetable, Red Rice and Lentil Stew

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March 15th, 2015

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Spring is in the air, I can tell by the volume of the birds outside my window, which gets louder every morning. Daylight savings was a great help – having that extra hour of light in the evenings feels amazing and allows me to be much more productive towards the end of the day. Soon there will be peas, favas, rhubarb and asparagus. For the time being though, while winter produce is on its way out and spring produce is not quite ready, there are root vegetables.

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We’ve been eating variations on this stew for the last couple of weeks, and this version is one of my favorites. It is a hearty one-pot meal that is very simple in preparation.

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This dish speaks of both winter and spring, when the earthiness of roasted carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes is combined with the bright notes of lime juice, ginger, turmeric, cardamom and coconut milk. Red rice and lentils bring substance to the dish, and spinach delivers a good dose of green. Enjoy!

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Roasted Root Vegetable, Red Rice and Lentil Stew

serves 6

3 medium carrots
2 medium parsnips
2 small sweet potatoes or 1/2 small winter squash
3 tablespoons coconut oil – divided
few sprigs thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – to taste
2 teaspoons cumin seeds – freshly ground
4 green cardamom pods – seeds crushed in mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
large pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger root
1 small red chili pepper – sliced (optional)
1 large yellow onion – chopped
3/4 cup red rice such as Ruby Red or Bhutan – rinsed under cold water
handful kaffir lime leaves – bruised with the back of a knife (optional)
1/2 cup green lentils – preferably soaked
1 14 oz can Thai coconut milk
1 large or 2 small limes – zest and juice, plus more for serving
4 cups packed chopped spinach leaves or baby spinach

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Peel and chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Toss them in a bowl or right on the baking tray with 1 tablespoon coconut oil and thyme leaves, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer for 20-30 minutes, stirring at halftime, until soft and caramelized.
2. Meanwhile, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add spices, ginger, and chili if using, stir around for about a minute, until fragrant. Add onion and saute for about 7 minutes, until translucent.
2. Add rice, big pinch of salt and kaffir lime leaves, if using, stir to mix. Add 4 cups filtered water. Increase the heat, bring to a boil and decrease to a light simmer. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
3. Drain and rinse lentils and add them to the pot with rice with a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Test lentils for doneness, if you did not soak your lentils, they might need to be cooked a little longer, cover and simmer for another couple of minutes until lentils are cooked. Add roasted vegetables, coconut milk, zest and juice of lime and another pinch of salt. Stir to mix and let simmer for a couple of minutes for flavors to mingle.
4. Remove from heat and stir in spinach to wilt. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as needed. Serve immediately with more lime juice squeezed over.

Tags: carrots, coconut milk, lentils, parsnip, red rice, rice, spinach, stew, sweet potato, vegan, vegetarian

Pumpkinseed Butter Goji Cookies

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March 7th, 2015

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I’ve grown very used to making my own nut butters, it’s complete second nature by now. I buy nuts and seeds in bulk, which is cheaper, and blending them up to a buttery stage in my food processor is quick, easy and produces delicious results. 

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The other day I ran out of my homemade tahini and needed it as an emergency for a recipe, deciding to grab a jar at the store. I got a look at my local health food market nut butter shelf for the first time in a long time and was amazed at the variety of different nut and seed butters on display. A beautiful bright green butter caught my eye – it turned out to be sprouted pumpkinseed butter.

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I didn’t buy it that day, but the idea haunted me for a few weeks before I finally gave in and made my own pumpkinseed butter. Mine is not sprouted but toasted, and the color is not as brilliant but still very beautiful. After having it on toast and loving it, I imagined that the butter would be a nice base for baked goods. That’s when these cookies were born.
They are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, with the pleasant addition of goji berries. If you don’t have goji, replace them with other dried fruit, chocolate pieces or nut of choice. Enjoy!

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Pumpkinseed Butter Goji Cookies
(loosely adapted from here)

makes 16 cookies

for pumpkinseed butter
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

for cookies
1/4 cup oat flour, plus more if needed
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup pumpkinseed butter (see below)
3 tablespoons coconut oil – soft, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup goji berries

to make pumpkinseed butter
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine pumpkin seeds with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt in a medium bowl, mix to coat. Spread on a parchment paper covered baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Let cool.
2. Place pumpkinseeds in a food processor and grind finely. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil through the funnel with machine still running. Continue to process until a ball of pumpkinseed butter forms. Scrape the walls of the food processor if necessary. Add more oil, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue processing until seeds turn into creamy, runny butter. You’ll need 1/2 cup of it for the recipe, keep the rest refrigerated in an air tight container and spread on toast or use in more baking.

to make cookies
1. Keep oven at 375 F. Combine 1/4 cup of oat flour, brown rice flour, oats and soda in a medium bowl.
2. Combine pumpkin butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a separate medium bowl and mix to combine.
3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir to combine. If the batter appears too runny, add more oat flour, about 2 tablespoons should be enough. Add goji berries.
4. Prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Using a small (1 1/2″) ice-cream scooper or 2 teaspoons, scoop a cookie at a time and arrange on the sheet 2″ apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden brown. Let cool completely to firm up.

Tags: cookies, dessert, goji, pumpkin seeds