In my quest for cheap healthy meals I have developed a couple of chick peas recipes that not only satisfy the budget, but are both tasty and very nutritious. As they are prepared with a homemade chicken broth they provide a whole range of nutrients while being quite inexpensive.
Chickpeas aka garbanzo beans, in and of themselves, are rather bland. When combined with onions, spices and other tasty morsels they can be made into thoroughly savory dishes. The effort to spiff them up is very worthwhile as they are one of the least expensive sources of important nutrients.
Being one of the most nutritious of all the legumes they are high in calcium, potassium, phosphorus and loaded with iron and vitamin C. They contain B complex vitamins as well as being rich in fatty acids.
One cautionary note if you are going to make chickpeas a staple of your diet as they are in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries. Chickpeas are high in omega-6 fatty acids as compared to omega-3. Hence, they should be balanced out with good sources of omega-3 like adding flaxseed to breads and pancakes or taking cod liver oil.
I can purchase 5lbs of organically grown dried chickpeas for $19.10. That is approximately 13 cups of dried beans. After soaking to rehydrate the beans those 13 cups swell up to about 39 cups. There are not many other sources of a cup chock full of nutrients for under 50 cents!
If you plan to incorporate chickpeas into your diet it is important to neutralize the phytic acids they contain, which are anti-nutrients. They can combine with minerals and make them indigestible potentially causing deficiencies.
This does not really pose a problem if you start with organic, dried beans. They should be placed in hot, not quite scalding water and soaked at room temperature for 24 hours to rehydrate anyway. So adding a couple of Tbsp per cup of a source of acidity such as whey, vinegar, lemon juice or kefir is not a problem and will neutralize the phytic acid.
The chickpeas then need to be placed in water salted at a tsp per cup and brought to a boil, skimmed and then simmered for about 6 hours or until soft. This can be reduced to about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker if you use one.
Once I have prepared the basic recipe I generally make either a chickpea soup or a main course with chickpeas and ground beef.
The performers for the cream of chickpea soup follow:
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs butter
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 Tbs fresh chopped marjoram
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 cups of garden fresh tomatoes or can of whole organic tomatoes, chopped
6 cups of basic chickpeas (begin with 2 cups of dried chickpeas)
1 quart chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
A bunch of kale, Swiss chard or spinach (whatever I have on hand) torn or cut into small pieces
I start out with a pot large enough for the soup and saute the onions and garlic in the butter and olive oil over low heat for about 15 minutes. I add everything else except the kale or whatever I am using for a vegetable and simmer for about 40 minutes.
If I am adding kale I will give it about 10 minutes, less for chard and even less for spinach. I adjust it so the total time simmering is roughly 50 minutes.
Now is where my stick blender come in handy. I initially bought it to make Castile soap, but it sure is great for creaming soup. You just have to be a little cautious with the scalding hot soup. I just pulse it with short bursts to begin with to get a feel for how it goes.
If you don’t have a stick blender the same end can be accomplished in a traditional blender or food processor. It is safest to do it in small batches once it has cooled a bit though. If, like me, you really get into cream soups this is a great kitchen gadget to have on hand.
The performers for the chickpea and ground beef follow:
6 cups basic chickpeas
1 1/2 cups millet
3 medium onions finely chopped
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs butter
10 cups chicken broth or beef broth
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 head of broccoli, bunch of kale, Swiss chard or spinach (whatever I have on hand)
1 to 2 lbs pasture fed ground beef
The millet needs to be placed in hot, not scalding water with 3 Tbs of whey, vinegar or lemon juice and soaked at room temperature for 8 hours or more. I use a pot large enough for the works and saute the onions and ground beef in the oil and butter. Then I add 8 cups of broth and after bringing it to a boil add the millet after draining it. Stirring with a whisk keeps the millet from clumping up.
Meanwhile I melt 1/4 cup of butter in another smaller pot and add the 1/4 cup of flour and stir till its smooth. Then I slowly stir in the other 2 cups of broth to make gravy.
I add the remaining ingredients to the big pot, except for the veggies and simmer for about 30 minutes. After adding whichever vegetable I have on hand I let it simmer till they are tender.
It is now ready to serve smothered in gravy. The remainder can be scooped into serving portion sized containers and drenched in gravy before freezing. Having hearty dinners like this in the freezer only needing to be thawed and heated up is very convenient.
We all know that if we don’t have something healthy and quick to prepare on hand we are much more likely to buy something processed when we are in a hurry. Maintaining an inexpensive healthy diet does require a bit of planning. But it is well worth it!