Life is beautifully full these days. Between caring for an energetic toddler and running my own business while attempting to carve out some time to cook, have a social life, exercise, pursue creative things and do laundry? It’s full-on. And wonderful. And then there are days when I feel that I may just lose it.
We were sitting down to dinner the other night, to a very simple meal that I had thrown together in a mad dash. My husband took a few bites, looked up and said: “This is really, really good.”
“Really?” I asked in disbelief. “I actually cooked the whole thing in 10 minutes and in the same pot” (a triumph for me – I’m a bit of a tornado in the kitchen).
“This is the kind of thing you should blog, Sarah. People like simple things.”
Not that I had forgotten this fact, but I also feel the need to like, blow your minds most of the time. Or at least attempt to, ya know? This was not a blow-your-mind kind of dinner. It was made on a busy weeknight from stuff we had in the fridge and pantry, while a hangry 2-year-old clung to my bare legs since he had already pulled my pants off. If this situation sounds familiar, this dinner will be your new go-to. It’s simple, fast, easy, and most importantly, very delicious. Just because you’re going insane doesn’t mean that you’ve lost all sense of taste. In fact, saving one’s sanity often hinges on proximity to good food, as evidenced by post break-up ice cream binges, and bad-day-at-work pizza parties. I get it.
Legume-based pastas have been popping up in regular grocery stores all over Copenhagen lately, and I am loving them! They are made from just legumes (red lentils, green peas, adzuki beans etc.), they cook in about 6 minutes and contain unbelievably high amounts of protein and fiber, thanks to the only ingredient being, well, legumes. Although I have some “rules” in my diet which exclude most things that I couldn’t recreate in my own kitchen, these pastas are a serious life-saver when I don’t have a ton of time to make dinner, and a seriously great alternative to wheat pasta. I will compromise a little when my sanity is on the line, won’t you?
The brilliance of this dish, besides the fact that it is so fast to make, is that it’s cooked in just one pot! Although it differs from the one-pot pastas I’ve seen online where everything is cooked together from the beginning, my version requires a little bit of timing on your part, adding the asparagus and peas about three minutes before the pasta is cooked. Theoretically, you could toss everything together in the same pot from the get-go, but this produces overcooked veggies, and no one really digs that.
You can use any legume-based pasta you like this, in any shape that appeals to you. And, you can really pick any seasonal veggies that cook in the same amount of time or slightly less than the pasta. It’s great with broccoli, sweet potato, green beans, zucchini or snap peas. I even enjoy this dish cold – so it’s the perfect make-and-take meal for a picnic dinner.
If you are not vegan, this is delicious with some grated Pecorino Romano grated in, or crumbled feta.
Sanity-Saving One Pot Pasta Serves 4-6
200g legume-based pasta (I used mung bean fettucini)
1 lb. / 500g asparagus
2 cups / 300g fresh or frozen shelled green peas
sea salt for cooking water and garnish
4 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
zest of 1 organic lemon
3 Tbsp. capers (about 1 small 60g jar)
A large handful fresh mint, leaves only
1. Put a large pot of water on the stove and heat over a high flame.
2. While the water is heating up, wash, trim, and chop the asparagus. Shell the peas (or take them out of the fridge / freezer). Wash and roughly chop the mint. Once the cooking water is boiling, salt it generously (it should taste salty).
3. Add the pasta and set a timer for about 3 before the suggested cooking time. Three minutes before the pasta is done, add the asparagus and peas. Cook for three minutes. Drain well and place back in the pot. Add the olive oil, lemon zest, drained capers and a few pinches of sea salt. Season to taste. Fold in the fresh mint and serve.
The funny thing about writing a blog, is that I never know how popular my recipes will be. Often, I think I have a real zinger and no one really seems to appreciate it on the same level as I do. Then I post something rather simple and everyone goes nuts about it. Curious.
You can imagine then, that when I posted The Life Changing Loaf of Bread, how incredibly shocked I was at the response. Although I was pretty confident that I had a winning recipe, I never expected the explosive reaction that it got. After checking up on it today, the post has over 1,200 comments. WHAT?! That is insane. And thank you. I’m so glad it changed your life too.
In the spirit of recipes that shake up our routine, I thought I would introduce you to the very same one all over again. That’s right. The same recipe with a new method to make the most life-changing crackers you have ever tasted.
The story goes like this: it was the night before a long trip, and I knew that I needed to make some food to take with me on the journey. I didn’t have a lot on hand, nor did I have a lot of time. Searching through the cupboards I realized I had almost everything to make The Life Changing Loaf of Bread, but because I was traveling with it, I wanted it to be a little more transportation-friendly (nothing like biting into an entire loaf of bread on an airplane to make you look like a total kook). A light bulb moment: what if I made the dough and just flattened it out like a cracker? It was just crazy enough to work! Crispy, crunchy, flaky, seedy, and so tasty, this crispbread that is my new go-to for every meal of the day, and snacking in between.
The wonderful thing about the Life Changing Cracker recipe is that you can customize the flavours by adding different gourmet ingredients. You can take them to sweet or savoury town. You can throw in some superfoods if you like, or just stick to the plain, yet delicious base recipe. I love dividing up the dough and creating multiple kinds of crackers all in the same batch. I made two different versions last time: Rosemary, Garlic & Smoked Sea Salt, and Fig, Anise & Black Pepper. Both were totally delicious and worked well with dips, spreads, and cheese. I also really enjoyed them on their own, totally unadorned. Because I loved these combos so much, I’ll give you the recipes for them below – just remember that they are for half a batch of dough respectively.
The Life Changing Crackers can be made into any shape you like too, so get creative. Use cookie cutters, biscuit cutters, pasta or pastry cutters if you have them. A simple knife works too. And if you like things rustic bake the whole tray until crisp, then break them up in free form pieces before storing them.
And to remind you of why this recipe is so awesome and life changing, I repeat: The Life-Changing Crackers are made with whole grain oats (choose gluten-free if necessary), and seeds. They are high in protein and high in fiber. They are completely vegan. Everything gets soaked for optimal nutrition and digestion. They are easy to make, require no special equipment and are pretty darn hard to mess up. Even if you have never made the Life Changing Loaf of Bread before, you’ll be a pro at making these crackers.
The Life-Changing Crackers Makes 2 baking sheets of crispbread
1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds
1/3 cup / 50g pumpkin seeds
¼ cup /40g sesame seeds
1 ½ cups / 150g rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 ½ tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½ cups / 350ml water
Rosemary, Garlic and Smoked Salt Half batch:
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
¼ – ½ tsp. garlic powder (depending on how strong you like it)
smoked sea salt, to taste
Fig, Anise and Black Pepper Half batch:
3 large dried figs (approx. 70g)
1 tsp. anise seed
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
1. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Divide the dough roughly in half, and set aside one half.
2. Place one half of the dough back into the bowl and add any flavouring you like. Gather into a ball and place it between two sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, firmly roll out into a thin sheet. Remove top layer of baking paper and using the tip of a knife, score the dough into shapes you like (I chose large rectangles but it’s up to you). Repeat with remaining half of dough. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Using the baking paper, slide the dough onto a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from oven, flip the whole cracker over (if it breaks a bit, don’t worry!) and peel the baking paper off of the back. Return to oven to bake for another 10 minutes, until fully dry, crisp, and golden around the edges.
4. Let cool completely, then break crackers along their scored lines and store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Show me your crackers on Instagram: #lifechangingcrackers
As someone who eats a predominantly plant-based diet, you can imagine that I’ve enjoyed a long history of consuming soy-based foods. When I became a vegetarian at 16 and vegan thereafter, there wasn’t the variety of plant-based protein foods readily available as there are these days, nor was I educated about alternatives to meat back then. Soy became my answer and my replacement for everything from dairy to eggs to chicken nuggets (eew). Before I knew it, I was eating some form of soy up to three or four times a day, when things started to get weird. Without going into too much detail I’ll just say that my PMS and menstrual issues became incredibly, ahem, challenging. I didn’t even like being around me. Period.
Once I started studying holistic nutrition, I began to think that perhaps my issues lay in the hands of the health food industry’s little darling. Yes, soy. Seeing as I was really grooving on being a human guinea pig while studying, I decided to give up the soy for other foods, such as hemp, chia, nuts, seeds, leafy green, other legumes just to see what would happen. Call it a coincidence, but after a couple months, my symptoms started to clear up and I returned to my regular, only slightly neurotic self, every 28 days. Did I miss tofu? Actually, yes. And I still do from time to time, which is why I’m pretty darn excited to share this recipe with you today. A recipe for tofu, made from chickpeas.
But first, let’s discuss soy. I’ve gotten a lot of emails and inquiries from many of you regarding this topic, because soy and soy foods are drowning in controversy these days. What is all the fuss about? Well, there are two schools of thought: one being that soy is a highly valuable source of plant-based protein because it is complete (meaning that it contains all essential amino acids). The other school of thought is that soy is “bad”, or even harmful for you if it is not fermented.
This brings up a good point, and it’s great to hear that more people are turning toward fermented foods, especially legumes and grains. But the idea that unfermented soy is downright dangerous to eat is blowing things a little out of proportion if you ask me. If we are going down that road, then we also have to say that all legumes, grains, nuts and seeds are harmful if not fermented. The process of fermentation neutralizes some of the naturally occurring phytic acid (a compound that binds to minerals in the digestive tract making them difficult to absorb), while breaking down some the hard-to-digest proteins. Soy actually contains less phytic acid than some of its vegetable counterparts, like flax, sesame, Brazil nuts, and pinto beans. This is why soaking legumes, grains, nuts and seeds before eating them is important for better digestion, nutrient assimilation, and therefore overall health. That is a statement I can get behind.
Fermented soy foods include tempeh, miso, and naturally brewed soy sauces, like tamari. I for one have been eating fermented soy foods exclusively for the past few years just because I feel better eating that way. I also choose non-GMO and organic soy because I support those agricultural practices.
In conclusion, I will say that eating any food in balance is okay, as long as it is minimally processed. That definitely excludes tofu chicken nuggets, soy cheese, soy eggs, and even most soymilk (always check the ingredient list – some brands are good and some contain a laundry list of un-pronounceables). My rule of thumb with any food, is that if you can’t make it at home, don’t eat it. Although tofu and tempeh are bit of an ordeal to make yourself, I’ve done it and it is possible. Tofu chicken nuggets? Good luck with that one.
Okay, onto the Chickpea Tofu! Although this stuff is pretty genius, I am not the genius who came up with it. It’s a traditional food originally from Burma, and often referred to as Burmese tofu or Shan tofu (here’s the original recipe I followed). It is easy to make with just a few basic ingredients and is a tasty, soy-free alternative to regular tofu that I think will be on the regular rotation in my kitchen.
I think the really surprising thing about Chickpea Tofu is its texture. It is lusciously creamy and silky, not unlike silken tofu in fact. It is delicate yet firm, and kind of melts in your mouth. I’ve found it works really well fresh in salads (a traditional way of serving it), and in soups. This way you can really enjoy its unique consistency. I liked the it in a simple miso-ginger broth with a few rice noodles swirling around too. I’ve even seen recipes online for “egg salad” sandwiches and coconut curries. Yum!
The downside of Chickpea Tofu is that it doesn’t do all the things that tofu can do. It doesn’t fry very well (deep fried however, I’m sure would be ah-mazing), nor can you really bake it to crisp up as I had hoped. But, I am pretty new at this game and looking forward to trying out more recipes with it. If anyone out there really knows how else to work with Chickpea Tofu, please clue me in down below in the comments section! I am so curious to learn more.
Some thoughts on the recipe…
You can purchase chickpea flour at most health food stores, but it is also available (and tends to be much cheaper) at ethnic grocery stores. Chickpea four is also called garbanzo bean flour, gram flour, and cici flour. It also falls under the name besan, an Indian flour made from both chickpeas and yellow split peas. This will work just fine for the recipe.
I think making a half batch of this would be a good idea. This made so much tofu that I had to freeze the majority of it, and I have no idea what it will be like after thawing.
I used turmeric in my recipe, which is a traditional ingredient for colour. This is optional but gives the tofu a lovely golden hue. I also added garlic powder – a decidedly untraditional ingredient but I am really happy that I did because it gave the tofu a mellow garlicky flavour, which I love. This is also optional.
Genius Chickpea Tofu Makes more tofu than you could ever eat
3 cups / 350g chickpea flour (or besan, a yellow split pea + chickpea flour combo)
15 cups / 3 ½ liters water
½ Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
2 ½ tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 Tbsp. ground turmeric (optional)
1 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
1. In a very large stockpot (make sure that is has capacity to hold over 20 cups / 4 ½ liters), combine the chickpea flour and water. Place somewhere to sit where it will not be disturbed. Let sit overnight, for about 12 hours.
2. In the morning, without moving the pot, carefully remove 6 cups of water from the top of the mixture with a ladle, and discard.
3. In a medium stockpot, melt the oil over medium heat. Carefully pour in the remaining liquid, without disturbing the bottom too much (what you’ll be left with is a thick chickpea sludge, which will be used as the thickening agent). Add the salt, and turmeric if using, and whisk well to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for 20-30 minutes, until the mixture begins to simmer and thicken.
4. Add the chickpea sludge. Like magic, you will notice almost immediately that the mixture thickens. To avoid the bottom burning, whisk vigorously and continuously for 10 minutes.
5. Line a 7×10” (18x25cm) baking pan with a clean cotton tea towel or cheesecloth (something you don’t mind being stained with turmeric!). This is important because the fabric will help absorb excess liquid. Pour the thickened chickpea mixture into the pan and smooth out the top. Fold the edges of the cloth over the top and let sit at room temperature until the evening, when it is ready to eat (about 8 hours).
6. To remove tofu from the pan, place a cutting board on top and flip over, pull cloth away. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to five days.
The salad in the top photo was a very quick dish I threw together to enjoy the tofu with, and it turned out so well I thought I should share it with you. I took the dressing from this recipe and combined it with shredded purple cabbage, spring onion, and plenty of cilantro. Later in the evening for dinner, I tossed the leftovers together with brown rice pad thai noodles, and it went over very well with the husband. He said it tasted better than junk food, which, coming from him, is the biggest compliment ever.
Update: A couple of you have asked if this tofu freezes well. It’s okay if you want to defrost it and put it into a soup or stew, but not great for anything else, as once the water content melts, so does the tofu, or rather, it totally collapses. I liked it in a chili, as it kind of melted into the whole thing and just thickened it up. Hope that helps!
* * * * * *
In other news, I am thrilled to mention that I’ve been nominated again this year for the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards! Super cool. And congrats to the other nominees in my category of “Special Diets” – what an honor to be in your company! If you’ve been enjoying My New Roots in the past year, show some love and vote for me (scroll down to the bottom of the page to the last category). Thank you a ton for your support. I’m still wild about writing this blog and it feels good knowing you’re wild about reading it.