Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Feeding the Neighbourhood

These days, it seems like my life is filled with dollar signs everywhere I go. From putting together order sheets for the retirement home I spend 1/3 of my co-op term at to costing snacks for the Club kids to running cost control for the stuff I bake at home, everything is always boiling down to the cash left over at the end of the day. Even the simple, everyday things (like making sure I have enough cash for a tea at Timmie's) come down to the end dollar amounts. I'm sure it was always like this in one way or another, but I suppose that now, with everyone scrimping and saving what they can, it's more "public" knowledge than it used to be!

At the Club, at least, with our budget the way it is (read: dinner equals the donations from the truck and whatever's in the cupboard), we don't have all that much time to deal with the exact amounts of expenditure at mealtimes. Since my mom had generously donated a 10 kilo bag of rice after I told her about our shortage a couple weeks back, and I had a bunch of both dried and canned beans in my pantry that were sitting idle, I pitched the idea of a good ol' "beans and rice" stew for the kids last Friday to stretch whatever "meat" protein we'd get. Lo and behold, we didn't get any meat anyways, so the pot (and I don't know whether to call it a stew really... it clearly isn't a soup, so I'll call it a "pot") became a totally vegan meal. I chucked in some of the Cajun spices we had - Cajun seasoning blend, some fresh thyme I had, smoked paprika, and other stuff - and let it simmer away! We had a lot of stew in the end, so much so that the staff in the Club ate it for lunch and dinner too (with rave reviews!) and a few of them even asked if I was "feeding the neighbourhood". You know, if I could, I would!

"Feed the Neighbourhood" Beans and Rice Stew
Serves 60
3 tbsp chili oil (or canola oil + 1 tsp red pepper flakes)
5 onions, diced
5 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 bunch celery, sliced
4 bell peppers, chopped
8 oz button mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup smoked paprika
3 tbsp Cajun seasoning
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tbsp black pepper
6 1/2 cups dried mixed beans, soaked overnight
3 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
Water to cover
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
3/4 cup chili sauce (like Heinz, NOT hot sauce!)
4 cups tomato sauce
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
2 (19-oz) cans small red Mexican beans, drained
1 (19-oz) can kidney beans, drained
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup dry red lentils
3/4 cup wild rice
3 cups brown rice
Salt to taste
  1. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring, 10 minutes.
  3. Add peppers, mushrooms and spices. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are coated in the spice and mixture is fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add soaked beans, bay leaves, thyme, and bouillon cubes.
  5. Cover with water to 1" above the mixture, bring to a boil.
  6. Stir well, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 4 hours, stirring periodically and adding small amounts of water as needed.
  7. Add remaining ingredients, recover and cook 40-50 minutes longer, until rice is done and mixture is thick (uncover and reduce if desired).
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 184.9
Total Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 262.8 mg
Total Carbs: 35.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.4 g
Protein: 8.3 g

To go with the slight spice and savouriness of the beans and rice, I whipped together an enriched sweet yeast bread that I filled with flaxseed and whole wheat, not to mention delicious buckwheat honey and cream cheese for tenderness! It was a great foil for the main meal, and the four "medi-baguettes" (bigger than minis, smaller than normal!) made just enough for the gang. I'm sending this Flaxen Sweet Bread off to Susan's YeastSpotting event.

Flaxen Sweet Bread
Serves 40
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp instant yeast
2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
3 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup lite cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp vanilla
  1. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, salt, yeast, gluten and flaxseed.
  2. In a large glass or bowl, heat milk, water and honey until just above body temperature.
  3. Add liquids to the flour mixture and mix to incorporate.
  4. Add cream cheese and vanilla, beat well (with a stand mixer and dough hook for 10 minutes on low speed, or equivalent by hand).
  5. Cover bowl and let rest for 40 minutes.
  6. Divide dough into 4 pieces, shape each into an oblong loaf and place on baking sheets (2 per sheet). Re-cover and allow to rise 2 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Bake loaves for 30 minutes, cool completely on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 95.7
Total Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 3.1 mg
Sodium: 16.7 mg
Total Carbs: 18.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.6 g
Protein: 3.4 g

1 comment :

Mimi said...

How cool that everyone loved your frugal stew!!

The bread looks wonderful. What a great idea to use cream cheese in it. I always have leftover cream cheese. Now I have a use for it!