New Formula: Veggie Curry

DSC_1657I’ve always known that I love curry, but I didn’t realize just how much until Travis, Nolan, and I visited my sister and her husband in Japan this past June. In addition to traditional Japanese fare, the streets are sprinkled with tiny, authentic Indian restaurants, serving many varieties of curry with chewy naan. Travis, Petra, Craig, and I decided that we really needed to check out these curry joints; the chefs there must be doing something right if there is just as much curry available in Tokyo as sushi and ramen.

Thus, we embarked on what we lovingly named The 2013 Curry Crawl. We sampled curry from six different Indian establishments over the course of two days, with one day of rest in the middle (curry can be intense, ya’ll). We even found a bakery that sold savory curry-stuffed donuts! Yes, it’s true, and boy were they delicious!  Here you can see me and Petra, members of the Curry Crawl Clean Plate Club, and the donuts.

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Vegetarian curry was easy to find, but vegan curry? Not so much. While coconut milk is a typical base for the creamy curry sauce, many places use heavy cream or milk. Being lactose intolerant, I knew pretty quickly when I had just wolfed down a cream-based curry rather than the preferred coconut milk variety. Uh oh… 🙂

Full and inspired, I knew I had to come back to Arizona and perfect my own totally vegan curry dish. I experimented with different vegetable and bean combinations, plant milks, and spice levels, and think I just may have figured this out. I discovered that there really is no ideal recipe since I like so many different flavors and because different people prefer their curry differently: sweet, spicy, mild, thick, soupy, etc. Thus, vegetable curry (now under Square Meal Formulas) lends itself perfectly to my Fresh Formula model.

When I’m making this dish—which Travis claims is the best vegetable curry he’s ever had, just sayin’—I throw together whatever vegetables and beans I have on hand and have a unique experience every time. I keep the spice blend and sauce thickness consistent, since to me, that’s what makes my curry, my curry.

Before we get started, I have pictured here an actual sweet potato, since that is what I am using in today’s recipe. If you didn’t already know, while some varieties of sweet potatoes may be orange inside, the orange guys you find in the grocery store may actually be yams, with the true sweet potatoes being pale yellow inside. Does it matter? Yes! Sweet potatoes are higher in protein and fiber than yams and a mega source of vitamin A. While both are extremely nutritious, sweet potatoes have an edge. Just something to consider the next time you are in charge of these starches next Thanksgiving.

DSC_1648Finally, don’t forget to thoroughly wash your vegetables before peeling and chopping. Remember, you can collect the clean scraps in a large bowl in the freezer to make into homemade veggie stock later on. 🙂 On to the curry!

FORMULA BASE: VEGGIE CURRY

Serves 6

  • 2 cups grains + 4 cups cooking liquid –> I’m using short grain brown rice, which I’m cooking in my homemade veggie stock.
  • 2 cups cooked beans –> I’m using garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas).
  • 1 cup raw nuts –> I’m using cashews.
  • 5-6 cups chopped vegetables –> I’m using 1 medium sweet potato, 2 small carrots, 1 medium zucchini, ½ cup each corn and peas, and ½ of a small yellow onion.
  • 2 cups plant milk –> I’m using 1 cup each of coconut and almond milk. (Although I’ve never sampled a curry where I could actually taste the coconut flavor, which I don’t like, I always still err on the side of caution and mix plant milks. :))
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tbsp curry powder –> The premixed stuff is too spicy for me, so I combine 1 tbsp garam masala, ½ tbsp each of cumin and turmeric, ¼ tsp of ground nutmeg, and ½ tsp of pink Himalayan sea salt and adjust while cooking as my taste buds see fit. If you like it spicy, use a premixed curry powder (beware of added salt) which will likely already carry some heat and add cayenne pepper to taste.
  • ½ tbsp agave syrup (optional) –> I’m using it. I may consider using more if I weren’t included a sweet potato in the mix.
  • 1 tbsp oil (to prevent cooking vegetables from sticking to the pan) –> I’m using coconut oil.

Rinse your grains and place in a rice cooker or stove top pot with their cooking liquid. Set to medium low heat and cover, stirring occasionally. The grains are done when all of the liquid has been absorbed. Cooking times will vary. Brown rice takes 25-35 minutes, depending on the variety and whether or not it is cooking in a rice cooker or on the stove.

Dry toast the nuts in a large sauté pan over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, or until lightly golden, tossing frequently.

DSC_1649The nuts will darken in color throughout the entire cooking process. While you’re waiting for the nuts to brown, chop up your longest-cooking veggie(s). For me, these are the sweet potato and the carrots, which I am peeling before chopping.

When the nuts have browned slightly, add your oil to the pan, along with your longest-cooking veggie(s). Sauté for about 5 minutes before adding your milk, garlic, agave syrup, and spices. Turn the heat down to medium to reduce the milk for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, continue to chop all of your veggies. After the 15 minutes, add them to the mix from longest cook time to shortest; my last addition will be the garbanzo beans (rinse and drain if necessary) and frozen peas and corn since they simply need to heat through. Stir your vegetables often to ensure they aren’t sticking to the bottom of your sauté pan, but are still being exposed to the heat.

Cook times will vary depending on the vegetables selected. This version of my curry formula takes just under an hour. When your veggies are all cooked through or to your liking (I prefer them al dente), serve the curry over rice. Enjoy!

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New Formula: Multi-Grain Salad

DSC_1635Remember that DIY veggie stock I made a few days back? Today, I’m putting it to good use making a salad that I love. My multi-grain salad, now housed under Square Meal Formulas, is filling, nutritious, and an easy way to combine a variety of great-for-you grains.

Pictured below are the grains that I’m using for my salad this go-around, with descriptions to follow.

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Clockwise, starting in the upper left corner:

SHORT GRAIN BROWN RICE: As I’m sure you know, brown rice boasts far more nutrients than the white variety. Brown rice is rich in fiber and selenium and can even lower bad cholesterol.

QUINOA: Often referred to as a super food, quinoa is mega rich in fiber, protein, and iron, among other minerals. ‘Nough said.

FARRO: Farro is also rich in fiber and minerals and in my opinion, maintains an appealing semi-crunchy texture after cooking. It pairs nicely with softer grains like rice and quinoa.

WHEAT BERRIES: Finally, wheat berries, like farro, are crunchy, and high in fiber and micronutrients. Sprouting wheat berries will result in wheat grass, which I use in all of my super smoothies. So, there’s that, too.

A little off-topic, but a quick word about balsamic vinegar, since I’m using it in today’s recipe. When I’m not in the mood to use fresh citrus juice or don’t have any on hand, I turn to balsamic vinegar as a dressing base. Besides being loaded with potassium and calcium, balsamic vinegar can normalize blood pressure, stabilize cholesterol, steady glucose levels, and even aid in weight loss. To say the least, I adore it. J Thus, it is important to me to have a high-quality variety in my pantry. Pictured below is a brand that I like, with a middle-of-the-road price tag. The more you pay, the better vinegar you’ll get.

DSC_1631Ok, back to the grains! I pair my multi-grain salad with fresh produce. Having made this salad many times, I prefer it sweet and savory. I use strawberries for the sweet and cook the grains in veggie stock for the savory. Find a balance that works for your taste buds and, as always, enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: MULTI-GRAIN SALAD

  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock –> I’m using my homemade veggie stock.
  • 2 cups dry grains –> I’m using ½ cup each short grain brown rice, quinoa, farro, and wheat berries.
  • 2 cups chopped fruits and/or veggies –> I’m using nearly 1 lb of sliced strawberries.
  • Dressing of choice or a combination of herbs/spices and salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, which pairs classically with strawberries. I’m also adding a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking, a tablespoon of dried basil, and a pinch each of pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper.

Rinse your grains before cooking in order to remove any possible dirt or dust.

DSC_1623Because different grains have different cooking times, you may approach this in two ways: cook them all in the same pot, in stages, or cook them separately and combine them later. Having worked with my particular selection of grains before, I am opting for the former method. If you’re not sure about the grains you are using, research their cook times and even better, experiment in your kitchen. Or, make this salad with just one grain to start. Baby steps are a-ok.

I use a rice cooker because I find that it reduces sticking to the bottom of the pan with just a few occasional stirs, but you can certainly cook your grains in a pot on the stove top, stirring more regularly. First, add your veggie stock and wheat berries to kick off the cooking process. Wheat berries take longer to cook than any of the other grains I am using.

After 30 minutes, add your farro. 10 minutes later, add your rice. 10 minutes after that, add your final grain, quinoa, and cook for an additional 15-17 minutes, or until the last of your cooking liquid is absorbed. I usually leave the lid to my rice cooker off for the last few minutes to speed this process.

DSC_1627While your grains are cooking, chop your fruits/veggies and prepare your dressing and/or seasonings.

DSC_1626Cook your grains to completion and chill in your fridge, uncovered and stirring occasionally to allow heat to escape more easily, until at least room temperature (about 30 minutes). If the grains are hot, they will par-cook your produce, which we want to keep raw. When cool, combine the grains with your other ingredients. Consume cold and store in the fridge for 3-5 days, depending on the shelf life of the produce used.

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