Use Your Bean Water!

Did she say bean water? Yes, bean water is how I refer to the leftover liquid after I’ve cooked beans in my slow cooker or pressure cooker. Every week, we do at least one pot of beans, to provide the staple ingredient (beans) for many meals for the family.

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Dried beans, bought in bulk, are among the cheapest and most nutritious foods we can buy. Now, that weekly practice of ours has yielded several more meals that I had never thought of before — using the bean water to make wonderfully delicious dishes!

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Here’s our black bean water, leftover after I removed the beans to make refried beans.

This week, our beans of choice were black beans, and thanks to this article, I saved the bean water and used it as the basis for a huge pot of Tarascan Bean and Tomato Soup. It’s a recipe I first started making in my 20s, because I wanted to find something to use up the bacon grease that I save.

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We save our bacon grease for recipes and bird suet 

The soup takes on the flavors of the bacon and it’s absolutely delicious and Whole30 compliant.

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Bean water can also be saved for use as a base in vegetable stock and in soups like minestrone. Seems there’s a bit of a craze out there for bean water, especially chick pea water, which has the official name of “aquafaba.” Chick peas, or garbanzo beans, can yield a liquid that is a great replacement for egg whites and even meringues can be made from them. So, get creative, learn about aquafaba, don’t pour your bean water down the sink. Use it up to flavor your favorite meals.

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Behold, our bean water.

I’m feeling so very proud that the Tarascan soup which I love has 3 ingredients in it that many people would normally toss: bacon fat, vegetable scrap broth, and bean water.

Here’s the recipe for it, which is based on one found in my favorite Mexican cookbook, The Cuisines of Mexico, by Diane Kennedy.

Sopa Tarasca

4 Cups Bean Water (pinto beans or black beans)

2 Tomatoes or 8 oz Canned Tomatoes

2 Cloves Garlic

Half an Onion

4 Tablespoons Bacon Grease

1 Cup Vegetable Broth (or Chicken or Pork Broth)

Cilantro for garnish

Salt and Pepper

Blend the tomatoes, garlic and onion in a blender or Vitamix until a soupy puree. Set Aside.

Place the bacon grease in a soup pot and put the heat on high to melt it. Add the tomato mixture and mix by hand as it cooks for about 5 minutes. Gradually add the bean water and bring the soup to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and cook for another 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the broth and allow the soup to cook for another 10 minutes on low, until your soup reaches the thickness you’d like. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the soup and garnish with cilantro, paprika, shredded cheese or sour cream to taste.

Enjoy!

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DIY Freezer Bags

We never buy freezer bags and I’m on a mission to help people see that they’re entirely unnecessary. In the category of plastic bags in general, please don’t ever buy them!

Most of our freezing is done in glass jars. Roasted pumpkin, for example, goes into a large mouth glass jar with a few inches left at the top to account for expanding liquid when it freezes.

But what about things that really don’t need to be put in jars, like berries and bananas and pre-made burritos? Enter the DIY freezer bag. I’m feeling sheepish even writing about this, because I know most of my friends already do this. If you’re going to freeze your goodies for more than a month, be sure to use a very sturdy bag. Simply reuse another thick bag!

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We get frozen cassava tortillas, for example, and frozen berries when we run out of our own, and simply save those self-sealing bags to reuse as freezer bags for our own food.

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A DIY Freezer bag, Ahem, is Just a Reused Freezer Bag.

And, if you run out of those, double up on regular self-sealing bags that you’ve saved. By using two, you’ll extend the freeze-life of your perishables. Simple! If you don’t have ziploc-style bags, just ask for them in your local Buy Nothing group. People will gladly share the ones they typically throw away and you’ll never have to buy those bags again.

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Don’t Buy Freezer Bags. Just Double Up on Your Reusable Self-Sealing Bags.

Eat and Drink Your Dandelions

It’s been a long winter, and since the deer ate all our kale, we’ve been sans greens for too long. This week, the dandelions are in full force, and I’m eradicating them from my vegetable garden while weeding the lovelies more selectively from the lawn. Honey bees need their pollen, too, so I aim to leave plenty to flower for the bees, as dandelion flowers are among the first pollen sources for bees in the spring.

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Today, I collected a bucketful of dandelions, making sure to get as much of the roots and greens as I could. This is my second harvest, and we’re hungry for more. After washing the greens thoroughly, I’ve made a few dishes with them and they’re delicious!

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Sausage on a Bed of Dandelion Greens (serves 2)

Sauté 4 sausages to your liking.

Add some olive oil to the pan and sauté 4 cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil. Add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes to sauté along with the garlic. Add two pinches of salt. After 2 minutes, add a couple of handfuls of dandelion greens and another pinch of salt. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable or chicken broth into the pan and let simmer for a few more minutes. Place sausage on top of the greens on a plate and enjoy!

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Poached Eggs on a Bed of Dandelion Greens (serves 2)

Follow the same instructions above for cooking your greens and in the last 4 minutes, add 4 eggs sunny side up to your skillet or pan, right on top of the greens. Put a cover over your pan to let the eggs poach. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes until the eggs have cooked to your liking.

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Roasted Dandelion Root Tea

I love dandelion root tea as a substitute for coffee. It’s dark and bitter like coffee and tastes great with cream or your favorite creamer. Simply clean your dandelion roots as best you can.

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Dice them and throw them into a Vitamix or blender to chop them into small nugget size pieces. Don’t puree them into a powder.

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Place them in a 250 degree oven and roast for 2 hours. Let them cool completely and store in an airtight jar.

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You can grind them down to a powder after this if you like. I just put them in a tea strainer like other loose leaf tea and brew up!

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DIY Suet

I love making things from what I already have in my house, without buying anything new, things that are secondary uses for what might eventually become waste. When we fry up some bacon, there’s always some leftover grease. What do we do with that bacon fat? We turn it into suet for our wild birds.

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Our bacon comes from grass-fed natural sources with no added sugars or chemicals. It’s about as healthy as bacon can get. So, I’m happy to share the grease with our little feathered friends who in winter do need an added boost of calories.

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First, save the plastic holder for bird suet that commercial suets come in. If you don’t have any, ask in your local Buy Nothing group for the square plastic packaging for suet. This way, you’ll be able to use that plastic container as your future mold to fit into the suet feeder.

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Here’s our recipe:

  1. Fill 3/4 of a plastic suet mold with any kind of bird seed.sizzling bacon
  2. Collect the melted liquid fat from your bacon grease. You can keep it in a jar until you have about 2 cups of it, and melt it. Or, simply pour the not-too-hot grease into your plastic suet mold with seeds in it. Fill the suet mold with your grease. IMG_2777
  3. Place the plastic suet mold filled with seeds and bacon grease in the freezer. IMG_2787
  4. When the suet is completely frozen, take it out of the suet mold and place it in your suet feeder. Done!Suet 1

We sometimes add peanut butter, old flour, nuts, berries, anything that birds would like. Chicadee suet 1

Your little tweeties will love their suet and you won’t have to buy any more plastic-packaged suet again!

Willa and bird feeders

 

Corn Mache, The Sustainable Green

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This is my favorite hardy green as it’s the first to pop up in the spring here in the Pacific Northwest. If you don’t know what corn mache (Valerianella locusta) is, Google it and you’ll find some people call it corn mache choux, mouse ears, or corn salad. It’s a super fancy French green, used in top restaurants, and yet it grows like crazy in my garden, self-seeding every year.

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I just love the stuff: as a substitute for baby spinach, in salads, in stir-fry, and as a bed of greens beneath any kind of organic meat we have for dinner. It has a creamy, nutty, slightly floral taste, but is very mild, so putting something flavorful on it works well as it compliments strong flavorings.

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Balsamic chicken thighs and asparagus on a bed of corn mache © Liesl Clark

We throw it in smoothies every morning this time of year. And I give it away to happy neighbors in the spring, who are hungry for anything green and fresh. Plant yourself a bed of corn mache, let a few go to seed, and next year you’ll thank yourself for the effort as this lovely little veggie, like arugula and jerusalem artichokes,  will be come a perennial springtime friend.

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It takes a little extra effort to wash as grit can get down inside. I just soak the little florets in a big bowl of water and submerge them before pulling them out. Seems to work just fine!

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10-Minute Daily Yoga

I’ve done yoga on and off over the years, but I have to admit, for me, I really just needed to do it on my own, not in a group where I would feel self-conscious. My need for a more meditative solitary practice inspired me to ask my friend, Paula Suter, if she would be willing to pass on to me her intuitive yoga knowledge. She has such a way about her, I wanted some of her calm and beauty for myself. This was her gift that she passed on to me. In the spirit of paying it forward, here’s her rudimentary 10-minute version for you to try yourself, modify for your needs, and then share with others. Enjoy.

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We were in a beautiful place in Mexico surrounded by unpopulated hills and the sounds of the sea in the distance. Seeing these images and video just transports me there. I had only shot it for my own personal use, but Paula has graciously given me permission to share it with you all here. The images and video should simply speak for themselves (do pause the video to do your stretches, as we blasted through the poses quite quickly.)

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Paleo Sugar-Free Seed Crunch

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I fell in love with a delicious seed bar that’s sold down the hill in our local farm store. But they’re a bit pricey and come wrapped in plastic, and so my son and I worked together to figure out what’s in them, so we can make them at home.

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Ours taste pretty much exactly like the bars at the store, but our little seed mix ends up just that, a mix that you can eat with a spoon. This deliciously healthy mix of seeds and berries is now a staple lunch item for our always-hungry teen!

Enjoy.

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Paleo Sugar-Free Seed Crunch

2 Cups pumpkin seeds

1/3 Cup cacao nibs

1/2 Cup coconut butter

¼ Cup gogi berries

¼ Cup golden raisins or colored raisin mix

1/8 Cup almond flour

1/8-1/4 Cup cashews

3 dates (chopped up)

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

pinch of salt

Put everything in your Vitamix or similar kitchen gadget and let it rip on high until you have a meal-like consistency. Sometimes I have to take half of the mix out, half-way through, and do it in two batches. Throw the mix in a jar and it’ll keep for weeks!

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