Monday, January 5, 2015

Once a Month Vegan Staples: Beans and Taco Beans (18 to 21 Portions)

Not a shall we say enticing picture but you get the idea.
Once a month cooking normally refers to prepping, cooking and freezing a whole month of complete meals at one time. Many of the recipes and efficiencies are similar to what a freezer group does.

My favorite thing to do once a month style is beans. After becoming a vegan we ended up going through a lot of canned beans since I was not planning ahead enough to prep beans before each meal. A cost effective balance for our family is to prep, cook and freeze all of a month's beans at once.

This is a wonderful use for a large slow cooker, though a traditional pot on the stove will do fine as well. My process is the following.

The morning of the day before I have time to assemble, I soak:
4 cups chickpeas
4 cups kidney beans
4 cups pinto beans

The evening before I have time to assemble:
Rinse the soaked beans
Load up my 3 large slow cookers (It's kind of embarrassing to have so many. You can also just cook the next day if you are on a stove top.)
Add the rinsed beans, a dash of salt and water to cover.
Cook on low overnight. I use a 10 hour setting on each.

Assembly day:
Drain and rinse cooked beans
Label freezer containers with Item Name, Date and Amount. I prefer to freeze beans in 1.5 cup portions.
Using a measuring cup as a scoop I fill the bags, push out any air and lay on a cookie sheet for freezing.

I generally get about 11 cups of kidney beans per each 4 cup dry batch. The pinto and chickpeas normally expand a bit less. I normally end up with 6 or 7 portions of each bean. If I'm being really fancy I make taco beans with the pinto beans.

Taco Beans:
Cooked Batch of Pinto Beans around 10 cups, drained and rinsed
2 large onions chopped and sauted
4 cloves garlic minced and sauted
Dash of chili powder
Dash of black pepper

I just put everything in the giant slow cooker and attack it with an immersion blender. I then label 6 freezer bags. Using a measuring cup as a scoop I evenly fil
l the bags, push out any air and lay on a cookie sheet for freezing.

I thaw the morning of taco night and just warm the beans in the microwave when we get home from work.

Stocking the Vegan Freezer Before Baby

I may have gone overboard on the breakfast burritos but we used all 64 of them.
Search for "stocking freezer for before baby" and you will get lots of recipes for chili, chicken enchiladas, meatloaf and other meat and cheese heavy items. So before my last little one I  planned and made some healthier options.

Consider when your little one is due. With my most recent little one due in July being up to my neck in soups and stews seemed less appealing. However, if you have a fall or winter baby then easy slowcooker soups and stews might be just the thing.

With my July baby I most appreciated  Veggie Burgers and microwaveable meals. Good microwave options were Breakfast Burritos, Sweet potato burritos and stuffed peppers.

If you want soups I'd suggest:
Red Lentil Thai Chili
Chana Masala
Baked Beans in side dish portions
Winter Squash Soup that you can drink from a mug.

With nursing I found myself wanting to snack in between meals. So having a stock of healthy snacks was great. For me the best snack from the freezer was carrot, zucchini and bran muffins.

Peanut Veggie Stew for 20

Everything but the water and peanut butter ready for the slow cooker.
This was another favorite of our group. The friend that shared it found the original recipe out of a cookbook and you can find variations if you search for African Peanut Stew or Groundnut Stew. The following version is modified for a large freezer batch.

The peanut butter, ginger and garlic makes this reminiscent of a peanut curry. The addition of the sweet potatoes also makes it quite sweet. The heat from the chili powder helps to balance this out. The peanut butter will also cause this to scorch easily. Put it in last and be careful to stir at a lower heat.

The same goes for once it is frozen and thawed. Keep stirring do not overheat.

8 medium to large sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
2 large onions diced
4 cups green beans
4 cups cooked kidney (red or white) beans
4 med tomato diced
12 cloves garlic minced
2 t ground ginger
chili powder to taste
1.5 cups peanut butter
water to cover

Easy modifications: more or less sweet potatoes
more or less green beans
more or less kidney beans--or other bean

Combine ingredients (except the peanut butter) in a large pot or split between slowcookers. Heat till hot and the potatoes are soft and stir in the peanut butter. Divide for the freezer. This is often served on a starch (rice, flatbread, etc). However this soup is wonderful standing on its own.