Staple Corner: Oat Porridge for Two

Oat Porridge for Two

By now everyone is familiar with the advice to eat whole grains as part of their daily diet, but many people still don't know how to go about getting them properly. Whole grains are widely marketed these days in all kinds of breads, granolas, cereals and snacks, but unless you're familiar with the actual process used in their productions, you're better off without them. Most commercial whole grain products are baked at too high temperatures — it's quick and efficient for the producers, but these temperatures destroy most of the nutritional content of the foods. Another common problem in modern production processes is the use of rancid grains — the outer layer of the whole grains are especially susceptible to becoming rancid quickly without freezing.

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Most importantly, however, the grains used in most commercial processes have not been soaked before being cooked. All grains contain phytic acid in their outer layer, or bran, that when left untreated combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. Soaking grains in warm water overnight allows enzymes and lactobacilli to break down the phytic acid so that the benefits of grains are realized. Soaking and fermenting also helps break down the complex proteins in grains, especially gluten, into simpler components that are much more easily digested by the body.

It's ridiculously easy to prepare whole grains for yourself, and one of the best times to get them is in the morning with your breakfast. Grain porridges have been a staple of cultures around the world for as long as anyone knows, and they're almost as quick as pouring a bowl of corn flakes. Oat porridges are fondly remembered by older generations of Canadians as a staple breakfast food, and they're also one of my favourite quick morning pick-me-uppers. Rolled or steel-cut oats are almost as good as using the whole oat groats, because they've only been lightly processed with light steaming and rolling or cutting.
Oat Porridge for Two

Add 1 cup of rolled or steel-cut oat flakes to 1 cup of warm water, yoghurt, or any mixture of the two, and add a small stick of cinnamon. Let the oats and liquid soak together for at least seven hours and as much as twenty-four hours.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil with a pinch of sea salt if desired. Toss in some finely diced apple pieces, and add the soaked oats. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for a few minutes until thick. Just before taking the oats off the stove, add fresh or frozen berries or raisins and stir in for thirty seconds.

Take the oats off the stove and let cool for just a few minutes before serving.

Whole grains should always be eaten with good fatty dairy products to provide the catalyst for mineral absorption. The easiest way to do this is to add some whole cream, yoghurt, buttermilk, or a pat of butter to the porridge. A few freshly ground flax seeds to give you a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids are always a good addition to the porridge after it's cooked. If you like a little extra sweetness, swirl in a bit of maple syrup or raw honey.
Although oat flakes are what I usually use in porridge, other grains can be substituted as well, although some grains like rye or teff may require soaking for longer than seven hours. Two popular alternatives in my house are spelt, an ancient member of the wheat family with a gluten that breaks down more easily during soaking and is often more digestible for people with digestion problems, and kamut, another ancient grain with a mild nutty taste. Give them a try, they're all good, and good for you.

Oven-Roasted Winter Vegetables

Oven-Roasted Winter Vegetables

A simple and delicious way to prepare and serve up winter vegetables. This is a suggested combination of winter vegetables, but any mix of root vegetables and onions that you choose will work out just as nicely.

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Indian Yellow Rice


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Yellow Rice

This simple rice dish is a delightful compliment to any meal. It has a delicate and distinctive flavor. I included it on the menu with tonight's spicy chickpeas in a tangy tomato glaze. If you don't have ajwain seeds, add a few extra cumin seeds and a dash of dried thyme.

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Spicy Chickpeas in a Tangy Tomato Glaze


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Spicy Chickpeas in a Tangy Tomato Glaze

Spicy Chickpeas in a Tangy Tomato Glaze
On tonight's menu, one of my favorite chickpea dishes. If you are using dried beans and prepare the ingredients while the beans cook, the dish is complete and ready to eat in an hour and a half to two hours. Goes very well with Indian flatbreads and a rice dish. Chat masala is a wonderful hot, tart and salty spice blend that is worth looking for in your local Indian or Asian grocer, but you can make it yourself using the recipe here.

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Vegetarian Caesar Salad

Vegetarian Caesar Salad

Vegetarian Caesar Salad
Since I started making my own salad dressings, I've not once purchased the bottled kind at the store. The premade varieties are rather expensive in comparison, and tend to be full of preservatives and of inferior quality and taste. Besides, it's ridiculously easy to make up a cup or more of fresh dressing, like my famous Caesar dressing for example.

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Whole Wheat Biscuits

Whole Wheat Biscuits

Tea biscuits are a popular treat and a good addition to a light meal. I make a variety of recipes, but I had a craving for the whole wheat variety tonight, so I whipped up a batch of these.

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Five-Dal Soup With Spinach


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Five-Dal Soup With Spinach

This is a delicious and hearty thick soup that is perfect for regular family lunches or as part of a more elaborate dinner. The five dals, or split beans, are easily available in any Indian grocery store. Although it takes quite a while to cook, the preparation is actually very simple, and the soup will keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for days. The final addition of a pan of seasonings and spices fried in oil makes for a quick burst of fantastic flavors that permeate the soup and will have your family or guests asking for seconds.

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Spicy Indian Green Beans


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Spicy Indian Green Beans

Spicy Indian Green Beans
I had some green beans left over after making an Indian-style millet with browned onions and green beans the other night, so I cooked up a spicy side dish tonight that I haven't made in years, and after eating it, it won't be years before I make it again. This is a popular method of cooking vegetables in southern India. The crisp fried vegetables combined with the aromatic seed mixture give this simple dish a tantalizing crunch. You can leave out the fenugreek seeds if you don't have them on hand, though I recommend you visit an Indian grocery store and add them to the list of spices you have on hand.

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Staple Corner: Quinoa and Millet

Basic Quinoa and Millet

Quinoa is one of the most nutritious grains available as it contains a nearly perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids, and is very high in protein. Make sure to rinse the grain well, and soak the quinoa overnight. Serve with a bean and vegetable dish for a complete meal.

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Indian Black-Eyed Peas


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Indian Black-Eyed Peas

Black-Eyed peas are a staple bean in my kitchen. They don't take long to cook, they're easily digestible, and their mild earthy and nutty sweetness is a wonderful base for spicy flavors. Serve with Indian-style millet with browned onions and green beans or a simple pulao rice.

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Indian-Style Millet with Browned Onions and Green Beans


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Indian-Style Millet with Browned Onions and Green Beans

I've been asked to provide a few recipes for spicy side dishes of a milder nature, so I cooked up this flavorful millet dish for dinner tonight. If you're into heat like I am, increase the amount of cumin and cayenne slightly, and add a dash of turmeric. It goes well with vegetables and bean dishes. Include a small bowl of yogurt with the meal, as yogurt has a cooling effect.

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Quick and Easy Cornbread Muffins

Quick and Easy Cornbread Muffins

These cornbread muffins make a good breakfast snack or addition to a meal as they contain little sugar. They are really easy to prepare and best enjoyed fresh out of the oven with a dab of unsalted butter.

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Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)


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Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)

Much like a rich, earthy and spicy Indian equivalent of a Mexican chili, this rajma is adapted from Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi. This extensive cookbook was my very first introduction to Indian cooking, and I highly recommend it to both novice and veteran cooks alike. A few of my dinner guests have purchased the book after tasting some of my creations inspired by the delicious recipes contained within. I frequently refer to it as the bible of Indian cooking as the recipes are easy to follow, though they vary in complexity and a wide variety of traditional Indian dishes are presented. The book is nearly 800 pages and includes recipes for beans and legumes, grain, breads, vegetables, cheese, chutneys and sauces, snacks and sweets, and beverages, in addition to a very helpful glossary of terms and definitions.

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Simple Pulao Rice


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Simple Pulao Rice

This is a very simple rice dish that goes especially well with spicy bean dishes, though the mild and fragrant flavour of this dish makes it a delightful side dish for any meal.

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Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Garam Masala Spice Blend


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As some of my readers might not have ready access to some of the spice mixtures that will appear in these pages, I will be providing recipes so you can make your own at home. Since garam masala is so often used in so many Indian dishes, I'll provide a few variations here for my readers to try.

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Nigerian Baked Beans

Nigerian Baked Beans

This recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. I refer to this cookbook often, especially when I'm looking for new ideas as the book features over 650 recipes for various beans, vegetables, grains, and dairy. Madhur Jaffery is a renowned specialist in Indian cuisine, and accordingly her book contains an ample number of Asian recipes, though a wide range of regions and foods are represented. The ingredients used are readily available, the instructions easy to follow, and the majority of the recipes are quite simple to prepare, although there are plenty of ideas for special occasions.

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Quick and Easy Fudgy Brownies

Quick and Easy Fudgy Brownies

This is one of my favorite brownie recipes. It takes only about 10 minutes to prepare a batch, not including the baking time, and they are soft and moist, rather like cake. Even cooks who maintain they cannot bake will be amazed at the results.

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Spicy Sour Chickpeas


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Spicy Sour Chickpeas

Tonight's creation is a simple and fairly quick dish to prepare, especially if you assemble the other ingredients while the beans are cooking.

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Staple Corner: Brown Rice and Millet

Although it's always a treat to try new dishes, most cooks have a ready supply of staple recipes on hand, and Lisa's Kitchen is no different. A balanced and satisfying vegetarian diet based on whole foods is relatively easy to sustain, so take care to serve up a grain with your beans, especially if your meal includes few dairy products.

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Welcome to Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen

Food and Wine

Welcome to my kitchen! This is the first post on my newly created blog that I hope will become a frequent stop for those of you looking for new culinary creations to prepare in your own kitchen. I will be showcasing some of my favorite recipes and cookbooks and providing some useful hints along the way. Most of the recipes you will find in these pages consist of easily available ingredients and most will be relatively easy to prepare. My goal is to make "Lisa's Kitchen" an important resource for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike who appreciate the value of a good meal cooked with whole foods.

I have been a vegetarian for sixteen years, and part of my motivation for starting this blog is a response to the persistent question "what do vegetarians eat?" Contrary to popular belief, not all vegetarians subsist — or insist — on tofu burgers and salad greens! Nor does a vegetarian meal need to be lacking in taste and substance. And I enjoy cooking, in addition to baking. I also like trying new recipes from around the world, and while my specialty is spicy Indian creations, in the upcoming weeks, months and — I hope — years, I will be featuring a wide variety of tantalizing dishes and treats.

Let's get cooking!