As I've already admitted, I used to be an open-the-can-or-box time saving everything type of cook - if you can call that cooking. I'm now trying to avoid everything canned and processed and cook from scratch. Meals really do taste better when you get rid of the fillers, preservatives and chemicals and you start to feel a lot better too. But as an additional benefit, it opens up a world of experimenting with different flavours and discovering new ways to put things together which is simply more fun than opening cans or boxes. The problem for most people is still time and money. Packaged meals are fast and cheap. So here's a healthy staple that can be both cheap and fast and can offer you endless meal combinations: chickpeas.
Chickpeas are super high in fibre. One cup gives you 12.5 grams or 50% of your recommended daily intake. They are also both a good and cheap source of protein. A 15 oz can of chickpeas is about a buck and will give you 1.5 cups of drained cooked beans. Organic, bpa-free cans are more expensive, but what's even cheaper than canned chickpeas is dried chickpeas. A one pound bag of dried organic chickpeas (2 cups) is only a few dollars and becomes about 6 cups of cooked beans or the equivalent of 4 cans. In food terms - one delicious meal and two tasty snacks or however you want to do the math.
Replace any recipe calling for canned chickpeas with dried ones. Yes, it takes a few extra steps and extra pot vs. opening the can, but it's cheaper, healthier and doesn't take much time. Leave a pound of chickpeas to soak in water before you go to bed Saturday night. At some point Sunday, quick them a quick rinse, then bring them to a boil and then simmer them for an hour. Drain, and you have ready to go chickpeas you can incorporate into quick weeknight meals. I never thought I'd have a kitchen with copious amounts of legumes soaking on weekends but it quickly becomes habit and you don't really think about it any more. Here's some of my favourite ways of enjoying these cheap and protein/fibre-packed powerhouses:
1. Roasted Chickpeas for snacks on the go: Take a cup of your cooked chickpeas and toss in coconut or olive oil and your favourite spice mix (garam masala or curry powder are delicious), roast them in the oven at 400° F for 20-30 minutes and pack to go. Here's 15 different flavour combinations from The Kitchn - they also give the option of dry roasting the chickpeas and then mixing them with oil and spices as soon as you take them out of the oven for more punch.
2. Hummus or Chickpea spread for snacks, lunches, entertaining: Blend 2 cups of chickpeas with some lemon, oil, and endless flavour combinations. I met up with Dana from The Garlic Harlot last week and she created this wicked, indian-inspired chickpea spread that she put on flatbread and topped with roasted veggies. Read the full post and get the recipe here.
3. Baked Falafels for dinner or lunch: Blend 1 cup of cooked chickpeas with fresh parsley, coriander, minced garlic, ground cumin and coriander. Form into little balls them roll them in a bit of olive oil and bake at 400° F for 20 min, turning halfway. This is adapted from Epicurious. Follow this recipe but use cooked chickpeas instead of dried so you can bake them instead of fry for a healthier version. Or try their variation on this as a mushroom falafel loaf (like a meatless meatloaf).
And finally, you know we love our curries. One of our weeknight staples is chickpea curry with kale. Curries almost always taste better the next day, but some vegetable curries can get a little soggy. Magical kale, on the other hand, just gets better when it's left for a day to soak up spices and break down the tough greens a bit. This curry comes together in about 30 minutes so perfect for manic (meatless) Monday and then lunch the next day. Below is the full recipe and as always, get fresh, high quality organic spices here.
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Chickpea & Kale Curry:
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon each of ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric, garam masala
one thumb of grated ginger
2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
- heal oil in a saute pan and cook the onions until browned
- add the spices and fry for 1 minute to release the flavours, then add the ginger, chilli, tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes
- add the chickpeas and vegetable broth; bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and add the kale
- simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes and serve