Thursday, May 3, 2012

FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND FOOD: FIVE WEEKS IN CALIFORNIA’S CAPITOL

Five busy weeks in the Sacramento area, and the only photos I have taken are of food!  That’s what happens when we spend time with my family and friends – food talk, cooking, eating… and discussing what we’re planning to eat at our next meal.   Boy, did we have fun!

While in Tucson in March, I stopped in at Native Seed/SEARCH – and began an unintentional love affair with heirloom beans (dried).  Yum, yum – so much variety of color, texture, shape and taste.  I picked up an inspiring cookbook while there, Heirloom Beans, which introduced me to Rancho Gordo, a source for heirloom beans in Napa, California.  A visit to Rancho Gordo’s retail shop immediately went on my “to-do while in Sacramento” list… and I placed an order with them for twelve different kinds of beans, to be sent to my sister Sydney’s house in advance of our arrival in her neighborhood.

Bean tub at Rancho Gordo Beans in Roz hand

I love the sign in this tub of dried “touching beans”:
”Go Ahead – You Know You Want To”.

Rosanna couldn’t resist reaching into the tub, and neither could I.  What a fun idea!

At the same time Odel and I were sampling new (to us) bean varieties in Arizona, Sydney (a vegetarian, along with my BIL Frank) had picked up a copy of The China Study and found the information presented there compelling.  By the time we hit Sacramento, emails were whirling between me, Sydney, and our cousin Rosanna, a long-time vegetarian, about beans, veganism, and all related topics.  And my 12 pounds of heirloom beans had arrived from Rancho Gordo.

So we planned an event.

Six cooks in our family – my younger sister Nancy, my older sister Sydney, BIL Frank, cousin Rosanna, Auntie Carol (Rosanna’s mom), and I – each chose one kind of bean and took it home.  We picked a later date to convene at Rosanna’s new home (she and Auntie Carol just moved up to Placerville from Sunizona, Arizona) with our cooked beans. 

2012-04-16

Clockwise from upper left: Good Mother Stallard Bean and Barley Stew; Black Beans in Red Velvet Mole on Mashed Sweet Potatoes; Louisiana Red Beans and Rice (using Lila beans); Christmas Lima Beans and New Potatoes in Miso Bagna Cauda; Black Bean “burgers” with Salsa (using Ojo de Cabra beans); Cannellini Beans with Broccoli Rabe on Garlic Toast.

On the chosen day, we each arrived with our beans.  In preparation, we had each set aside enough plain cooked beans that all of us could taste each bean “unadorned”; the rest of each bean type was prepared as a vegan dish.  Following the wine tasting example (and with both wine and beer at hand), each cook introduced their chosen bean while we passed the unadorned sample for poking, prodding, admiring and tasting.  And of course, I had prepared a note sheet for all participants.  :)  Each bean was discussed in its turn, copious notes taken, opinions exchanged.

Lunch in NapaThen we got down to the real event: tasting the dishes.  I’ll tell you, this group can COOK!  What a blast – and what a fun, fun way to discover new beans and recipes.

With so many vegetarians in our family, with my newfound obsession with beans, and with lots of discussion amongst us about The China Study, Forks Over Knives, and The Engine 2 Diet, even Odel’s interest was piqued.   (By the way, if you are interested in “the other side of the story”, this witty, thorough and well-written blog is an interesting read.)  We both would like to reduce our cholesterol and our weight, so we’ve decided to explore a “plant-strong, whole foods” menu for four weeks, beginning when we head off for our summer travels on Monday. 

It is difficult to imagine that Odel and I would give up our omnivore ways permanently (though I must say that the “pink slime” story was extremely unappetizing!), but we both enjoy food adventures.  Eating “plant-strong, whole foods” (the Engine 2 Diet’s description of a no-animal-products diet that includes minimal amounts of processed foods) has introduced all sorts of new foods and recipes into our lives (and mouths).  I’m interested to learn what changes (if any) we see in ourselves after a month without meat or dairy… or store-bought cookies!  Meanwhile, we’re finishing off the lamb chops, steaks, and Italian sausage pasta sauce still stashed in our freezer.  :)

32 comments:

  1. Wonderful bean dishes!!! Can't wait to hear about your Whole Food, Plant Strong adventure...you are heading down the healthy life path...way to go!!!

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  2. Can't imagine my ranching husband giving up meat entirely but we have significantly reduced the amount we eat. I have a "personal" question--how do you deal with the side effects of eating so many beans??:)))

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    1. Janna, that seems to be everyone's first thought when it comes to beans - including mine! My solution? Start small, adding beans gradually to your diet while your body adjusts to the new regime. AND (speaking of new-to-us foods), look into kombu, a seaweed that you purchase dried in a packet at Whole Foods or other health food type of store - reputed to make beans more easily digestible, and our experience concurs. Add one piece (about an inch by three inches, rinsed) to your pot of cooking beans, then remove and discard it as the beans finish cooking. It doesn't seem to flavor the beans at all. I don't know why it works, but it does. Sea vegetables... the final food frontier! :)

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    2. I've read that if you soak the beans properly, they digest easily and don't cause bloating and gas.
      www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/why-you-must-soak-your-beans/

      This works for me.
      I've recently seen many, many kinds of beans at Whole Foods Market and have decided to try them all. I'll check Rancho Gordo too. Thanks for that.

      I hope you'll post the recipes of these bean dishes pictured here.

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  3. What a great idea for trying all those beans! And the variety of recipes chosen looks wonderful. Thanks for some great ideas!
    Lisa

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  4. Good 'musical' question, Janna. :)

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  5. Oh my....we just went to your site yesterday to see if you had visited Sequoia National Park and where you stayed. I commented to Paul...Wonder what these two are doing. No post since April 1. Now I know.
    First of all, I didn't know any one could make a post out of beans. And second of all, make it interesting. Good job.
    You have taught me new sayings, such as “plant-strong, whole foods”. Never heard of this. How interesting. Another: “touching beans”. What?
    What about: Christmas Lima Beans and New Potatoes in Miso Bagna Cauda. I don't have any idea what these are, but it looks delicious.
    What an interesting post. Good to hear from you two, and so glad you are having such a great time with family. Enjoy your delightful "family" time.

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  6. Hope you post some recipes. Those beans look delicious.

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  7. Hang in there, Odel. The cravings will gradually disappear and the challenge of the new flavors takes over. The hard part might be finding things to eat while on the road.

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    1. Fortunately, Odel LOVES beans, as do I, and it is so much fun to try new varieties. And they have a couple advantages for our lifestyle: no need to be refrigerated, and they travel small, then expand.

      I doubt we will be eating out much during the next month, but we are leaving California stocked to the roof with beans, grains, and non-dairy milk. We can find fresh vegetables anywhere.

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  8. Looks tasty, thanks thanks for including links in your post for more info, I think I'll try some Rancho Gordo beans.

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    1. Warren, FYI: our favorite types so far have been White Tepary, Vallarta, and Christmas Limas - three beans very different from each other in size, color, shape, texture and taste. BTW, Rancho Gordo ships any amount of beans to anywhere in the west (basically, west of the Mississippi) for $10 - which is why I ordered 12 pounds and shared them with friends. $12 to ship east of the Mississippi. The prices of heirloom beans are much higher than the dry beans you find in stores - more like the price of buying canned beans, but the variety and flavor are far superior. The three I mentioned above are worth it (to us). The one bean I don't think is worth buying dry is the garbanzo (chickpea) - I can't detect any flavor/texture difference between home cooked and canned.

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  9. I have that Heirloom Bean book too. I bought it at Bob's Red Mill and get lots of beans there too. Last summer I planted just 4 borlotti bean plants in the garden and harvested 2.4 pounds of wonderful beans. They are pole type and need a trellis, but easy to grow. Our grandson Phelan (7 years old)loves beans and her had his own patch of pinto beans and this year he wants to grow black beans. He wanted to know if he could plant rice too. He planted, watered, and harvested them and was quite proud of himself.

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  10. Laurie, I have the China Study waiting at the library for me to pick up... so I'll read that while I wait for your blog entries to appear.

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  11. I love all kinds of food and will never give up any of them without a fight... unless of course someday my doctor says do so or die... but dang those bean dishes look fabulous!

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  12. The bean dishes does look GREAT. I too will be waiting for recipes as we are in the process of changing our diet to more plant based foods. If only I knew what and how to cook them:o(

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  13. I LOVE different kinds of beans....I have recently just discovered dried chiles too and they are great fun to experiment with for heat and flavor! I really like the guajillos!

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  14. The thing I hate about making a bean dish is counting out exactly 239 beans for the dish, because if you add just one more bean it makes it too forty!!!! get it, sometimes I crack myself up.

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  15. We like trying things and you have whetted our appetite for BEANS

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  16. Glad to see a post from you. Jo is always trying to get me excited about beans, but they all taste the same to me. They're OK, but no big deal.
    Travel safe,
    Fred

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  17. What fun, Laurie, made me want to go do some cooking and try out some of those recipes. You surely do have some great cooks in your circle. Maximum expression of what I think of as "foodies". That is a compliment, by the way!

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  18. This is a great post Laurie. Those bean dishes look fabulous. I really envy you a family of vegetarian cooks!!

    We also read The china Study and being from a medical research background were very persuaded by Campbell's research. So we switched to Vegan and I can testify that you will drop the pounds and enjoy a whole new way of eating. Can't wait to see how it goes for you.

    Guess I'm going to have to get that bean cookbook. And thanks to your comments, I'll try the sea vegetable version of Beano! :-)

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  19. What a great Blog, Laurie! Your family sounds like so much fun. And what could be more fun than cooking together! Hugs, J&C

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  20. After I read The China Study it convinced me to minimize my meat intake. I haven't convinced my hubby yet though.

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  21. We just spent a month in Costa Rica... black beans and rice... followed by black beans and rice... No problem for us... we don't eat beef, but aren't vegetarians. That bean cook-off sounds great... (no pun intended about any after-effects...)... and looked delicious! Do you use many spices, chiles or other seasoning? Our motorhome has never seen a salt shaker, but we sure do use garlics, chiles or other stuff to jazz up our food! Guess I should check into the China Study....

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    1. One entire cupboard (a small one, but an whole cupboard nonetheless) in my kitchen is filled with nothing but spices (including several different salts). And, yes... lots of garlic here, too!

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  22. My wife and I also recently made the switch after watching the documentary Forks Over Knives and reading The China Study. Very compelling arguments, at least to us, not least of which was the statement that the amount of grain used to feed livestock is enough to feed the entire world's population.

    Anyway, four weeks ago, we started making the switch. I have had almost no meat or dairy since (aside from using up a few things we already had). I've nine pounds and have also found the energy to start exercising (with the help of our newly acquired Wii Fit). I get plenty to eat, and I'm even trying foods again I didn't like previously.

    I, too, want to get my cholesterol down. the eating change has also helped my blodd pressure and has convinced me I can get back down to my wedding day weight (first goal). After that, the goal in to get back below 200 pounds, a weight I have not seen in more than 30 years. The change in eating habits has me convinced for the first time that I can get there.

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    1. Very inspiring, Walt! If you haven't already read it, you might also enjoy The Engine 2 Diet, a vegan diet followed by a group of firemen in Austin, TX, with both a discussion of a "plant-based, whole foods" diet and lots of easy recipes. The meat loaf and the rice salad have both been big hits with my family and several omnivores who have tried them. I like the author's straightforward, down-to-earth style (and his great enthusiam).

      Best of luck meeting your goals, and thanks for writing.

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  23. Interesting post, and something that Eldy and I really need to take a look at...me, the meat eater...not a fan of beans, but after seeing your post, I"m tempted to try and change my ways...

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  24. Glad you discovered Native Seed Search in my hometown of Tucson. It's truly a great place!

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  25. We love beans so thanks much for the great information!

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