Sunday, February 18, 2007

Fun with Fiber

Okay, I couldn't resist. Yes, I will write about knitting fibers, but I'm starting with another sort of fiber: vegetable fiber, both soluble and insoluble. We need them both, and lots of them, and very few of us get enough. I always thought, somewhere in the back of my head, that since I am a vegetarian, surely I get plenty of fiber. I read that women should consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. Just for fun, I decided to keep track of my fiber intake, and the results surprised me. Even starting my day with a very high fiber cereal (9 grams right there!), I often did not get enough. And those days when we don't have time to eat right? Not even close!

I know there are all sorts of fiber supplements out there, but I believe the best way to get our nutrients is from whole foods, so I decided to share some recipes. These will center around the humble legume, or bean, if you will. Beans come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Their tastes can be surprisingly complex. You can buy them dried, canned, frozen, or (sometimes) fresh. You can serve them hot or cold, whole or mashed, with grains, in tortillas, in soups, stews or salads. And on and on; the possibilities are endless.
I personally think that beans taste best when they are either fresh or dried and then soaked and cooked to order. I know this takes time and forethought, so I am also a huge fan of canned beans. Just rinse well and drain and proceed with your recipe. You really can't go wrong. I have to put a plug in here for another one of my favorite kitchen appliances: my pressure cooker. Cooks beans, soups, stews in mere minutes. More on that another time.

Since we are all looking for quick and easy, here is my favorite Q and E Black Bean Soup. It is adapted from an old McDougall recipe, and there are lots of variations, so make it your way:

Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup

2 cans of refried black beans
1 can whole black beans, rinsed and drained
1-1/2 to 2 C vegetable broth (I use water, then add a Tbs. vegetable broth powder)
1 C salsa (from a jar works fine)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
cayenne pepper or tabasco, to taste

Pour the refried beans and broth into a soup pot over medium heat. Stir to mix; adjust amount of broth to your liking. You can use your whole beans whole, or you can mash them a bit with a potato masher, depending on how chunky you like your soup. So, add your whole beans, salsa and seasonings. Cook for about 10 minutes and serve. Garnishes add a nice touch; try fresh cilantro, some finely sliced green onions, avocado dices, extra salsa, a dollop of sour "cream" or yogurt.

Here is another simple bean salad recipe. I'm going to give general amounts, but you can double or triple the recipe, use dried beans, or add things to your liking.

Cannellini Bean Salad

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced OR 2-3 green onions, diced
Optional: 1 avocado, diced
Optional: 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Optional: 1-2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dash cayenne

Combine salad ingredients EXCEPT avocado. Whisk dressing in a small bowl and then pour over salad. Mix well. Add avocado; mix gently. Adjust seasoning to taste. (Tastes great without avocado; I just throw it in if I have a ripe one!)

I guess that's enough for now, but don't forget to have fun with your fiber! Keep some canned beans in your pantry. Add them to soup; mix with marinara sauce and serve on pasta; sprinkle on top of your leafy green salad; add a can of beans to a can of RoTel tomatoes.

I'll move on to knitting fibers, in case beans aren't your thing! I cast on the Regia yarn from the now defunct Jaywalker sock for a new sock. I am making a simple textured rib patterned sock, using size 1.5 needles instead of size 1. I think this yarn is much, much happier in the new sock. The pattern is a lot stretchier and springier and I'm enjoying it much more.

If you are even thinking about knitting socks, there is one book that is essential. Actually, you could knit socks from this book for years and not run out of ideas! It's Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch, and it is the ultimate sock knitting book. You will learn how to knit socks cuff down, toe up, on 4 dpns, on 5 dpns, on 2 circular needles, in any size, to fit any foot. There is a "class sock", a mini sock with detailed instructions, for beginners. Ribbed patterns, slip stitches, cables, eyelets, lace, fair isle, basketweave, and combinations of all those, and more. Essential for your knitting library. She has a new book called More Sensational Knitted Socks. I haven't seen it yet, but I have high hopes:-)

Finally, I have this skein of yarn. 100% wool. 165 yards. I'm so intrigued by the colorway, sort of chartreuse into mauve. It really wants me to knit it up into something, but what?? I've been thinking about some fingerless mitts.... still thinking....


Anonymous said...

I love that yarn, Cheryl; it seems Springy. Maybe it wants to be felted for Spring: perhaps into a new bag or a tea cozy or, Yes! a new yoga mat bag?

The bean soup sounds simple and delicious -- I'm definitely needing simple and delicious these days.


Cheryl said...

Thanks for the ideas, Anne! You are right, the yarn does look springy! I wound it into a little cake and I'm waiting for inspiration to hit me! Too bad I only have one skein; a yoga mat bag would be perfect!