I have taken on a fun challenge that is expanding my comfort zone in the kitchen. I began volunteering with The FIT Project, a local non-profit focusing on improving the wellness of low-income, high-risk families in the Portland area. The organization is so inspirational and I am extremely excited to be working with them. My first project is creating weekly dinner menus for a family of four for $100. Currently, the project is serving mainly Hispanic families so I am focusing on traditional Mexican meals. The goal is to create meals that are budget-friendly, very healthy, low-fat, low sugar, low sodium…phew! So far, I have struck out once, but also made a couple of really good recipes that the kids have loved and I have really enjoyed. I have no real experience cooking Mexican food with the exception of fish tacos so I was nervous when I started making some of the recipes. However, tonight’s meal was the most concerning. In the end, it was pretty easy, delicious and healthy. I made a healthy version of pork tamales that had no lard and lots of flavor. We enjoyed them with chipotle chard (minus the cheese) and home-made pinto beans (see recipe below).
This week I also attended an Ethiopian cooking class at Whole foods and learned how to make an amazing lentil dish and Injera, the traditional Ethiopian bread. I love learning about different traditional foods. They are often very healthy, inexpensive and easy to make. Sundays are a good time to take on the challenge of a new meal as I normally have a little more time on my hands to prepare a sit down family dinner. After I try a recipe, if it is a winner, I usually make a double or triple batch the next time and throw it in the freezer.
If you are feeling motivated and adventurous, chose an ethnic food to focus on for a while. Look up recipes and try them out. If you can “healthify” them by including more veggies and removing or replacing unhealthy fats and sugars, you may end up with a recipe that becomes part of your normal routine. Ethnic foods are often really healthy can introduce interesting spice combinations can add a lot of exotic flavors. Try out these easy beans. Make a big batch and use throughout the week over quinoa, salads, tacos or freeze for later!
Pinto or Back beans
1 lb. pinto or back beans
16 c water
1 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves
1 white onion
Soak beans in 8 c water overnight to remove phytic acid
The next day, dice onions and garlic. Put drained beans into 8c water in stock pot or crock pot. Add onions, garlic and salt. If using stock pot, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low to simmer for 3-4 hours.
If using crockpot, turn on low and cook all day (6-8 hours).
I store my excess in wide mouthed mason jars in the freezer. Retain much of the juices for storing so the beans do not dry out.