Anyone who knows me at all knows that I like to eat. And, sometimes a lot. Growing up with a Vietnamese mother exposed me to a lot of Asian cuisine, of course, but I’m not shy about trying foods from just about anywhere. So, in the spirit of trying new things and also in the spirit of resolving to do better (especially after the my interview with health counselor, Davina Sanders!) I tried a few new things this past week.
Davina mentioned that many people eat too much meat. She says that processed meat, in particular, is something we should avoid. So, I decided that I would try and add more vegetarian dishes to our fare and see how my family would take to it. We subscribe (moderately) to the Peter D’Adamo Blood Type Diet. I read his book and it just made sense to me. The problem is, however, is that we live in Bulgaria. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Bulgaria and I love the food here but you just don’t have access to the variety of foods and items that you do if you live in the United States. It’s just not possible to get all the things that we need or would want to stay true to his suggestions. For example, we loved to eat Ezekiel bread and you can’t get it here. And, most ‘health’ or ‘organic’ things are treated as status items and they are outrageously overpriced.
So, I decided that I could still make healthy meals but using the ingredients and dishes that are common here. I have wanted to make Bulgarian beans since we moved here. After we arrived in the country and during our first evening in Bulgaria, we were treated to a wonderful, authentic Bulgarian meal. I remember, in particular, being enthralled with the beans. When I asked about how to prepare then, I was told time and time again that it was very easy but I was intimidated to make them by myself for some reason. I don’t know if this is because I never really ate a lot of beans growing up so I just wasn’t used to them or what the reason may have been but in the 3 years that we’ve been here, I’d never made them until this week .
We were given a large clay pot as a gift but I hadn’t cooked in it yet. We’d made some delicious meals in smaller clay pots (gyuveche) but I hadn’t yet broken in the large clay pot. I endeavored to change that.
I wanted to let you see the pot without the beans because I think the pots are so beautiful 🙂 Here are the beans.
We ate them for about 3 days and my husband and daughter were not tired of them. This recipe made a generous portion and I served it to a Bulgarian friend of mine who said, “Wow. This is really good…especially for your first time.” So, I felt pretty successful about my first attempt and wondered why it took me so long to finally do it.
Along with the beans, we ate a lot more fresh vegetables this past week. I wouldn’t say we’re changing that much about what we ate before but are just adding more things that we know are good for us. I still eat too much sugar (this will be, I’m afraid, a life-long battle for me) but I felt really good about eating more of the things that I know will nourish my body. I also didn’t put any restrictions on what I thought was “appropriate” for a meal. For instance, I had half an eggplant leftover from the previous night’s meal. I cooked it up and ate it with my lunch. I wouldn’t have thought of eating eggplant before for lunch but, like I said before, I’m resolving to try new things.
For those who are interested in the bean recipe, I will post it in a recipe section with my changes on the blog. I diverged slightly from the recipe but I think it came out just fine. In the meantime, here’s the original recipe:
For the clay pot in the beginning:
2 packages navy beans ( 500 gram)
1 red onion, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, cut
1 cup peppers (green bell, yellow or red, whatever you like), sliced
1/2 cup celery sticks, cut
1/3 cup carrots, grated or finely chopped
1/2 cup dry or fresh mint/peppermint, chopped ( very important ingredient for the original taste! Without it it’s not the same at all!)
salt, black pepper to taste
In a 5 qt clay pot- 4 qt water.
In a 7 qt slow cooker- 4 qt water
After the beans are fully cooked add to the clay pot
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes ( fresh or canned)
1 small can tomato paste
Just before you take the beans out of the oven:
2 tbsp. paprika
3 tbsp olive oil
1. Wash and drain the beans, then place them in a regular cooking pot with 1.5 quarts of water to boil.
When it boils, drain the beans in a colander and repeat one more time.
2. After the beans have been boiled and drained twice, add all of the ingredients from the first list together in the clay pot or slow cooker ( navy beans, red onion, white onion, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, peppers, celery sticks, carrots, dry or fresh mint/peppermint, salt, black pepper to taste and water).
* If you are using a clay pot– place in the oven on 450F for 30 min, then lower the temperature to 150 and bake for 4-5 hours or until the beans are fully cooked)
* If you are using a slow cooker– place all of the ingredients in it and use the program that is for 6 hours on high.
3. After the beans are fully cooked, add the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.
* In a clay pot- bake for 30 more minutes on 350 F
* In a slow cooker – start a new 4 hour program on high and cook for 1 more hour, then turn off.
4. Place the olive oil in a small pot on the stove on high, then add the red pepper until the mixture is sizzling ( be careful not to burn it, you have to work very quickly). Get a big ladle and start adding beans from the clay pot ( or slow cooker) into the small pot as stirring the olive oil and red pepper well.
5. When the small pot is full of beans, add them all back to the clay pot or slow cooker.
* if using a clay pot- stir the beans in the clay pot well, turn off the oven and leave the pot inside until serving time.
* if you use slow cooker– stir the beans in the slow cooker and switch the temperature to ” Keep warm” until serving time.
Has the New Year inspired you to try new things? What healthy foods or habits have you incorporated?