Home-grown microgreens

I enjoyed my first taste of soil-grown sprouts this weekend, and I was impressed with how much this technique of growing them in soil intensified the flavor.  I grew these in partial sunlight, and this picture was taken fter only six full days from seeding.

These are lentil sprouts, grown in a clamshell packaging flat, with just a few drops of water added as needed during the week.  We had a couple of 90-degree-plus days, lots of sunshine, and plenty of TLC from the gardener (me!).

Lentil microgreens

After trimming these, I placed them back on my outdoor shelf to see if I could get more growth from some of the “slower” seeds.  After one day, I’m seeing more sprouts, and I’ll get a full second harvest, it appears.

Microgreens, such as these, deliver a large dose of antioxidants for just pennies a cup, when you do it yourself.  Another big plus is that you can grow your own salads 365 days per year.  Whether grown in soil or in a Mason jar, the nutrient density per dollars spent make it worthwhile for your health.

Another tip: I continue to grown them even when I have plenty in the fridge.  I package the excess in reusable containers in my freezer to use for my morning smoothies.

Here’s a link to Dr. Greger’s blog regarding micronutrients.  It also links to some of his short videos that explain the cost effectiveness a little more.

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Sprouts taco dinner

I was in the mood for something quick after fighting 108º F weather and commuter traffic today in the blast furnace summertime of Dallas, so I went for something that looks great, tastes great, and is sure to boost my spirits to face another day just like this one tomorrow.

I harvested my lentil sprouts this morning, so they had been in the fridge all day, just chillin’.  Summertime is a great time for good-tasting tomatoes, when the taste hasn’t been compromised by refrigeration, and I can never turn away from a just-ripe avocado!

sprout tacosThere it was, simple, tasty, and inspiring with its color and fresh taste!

I had some organic corn tortillas that were very low in sodium and no oils, and I had some spicy tomato sauce left over from last week that was just enough to mix in with my sprouts.  I pulled three tortillas out of the storage bag, heated them for 20 seconds, covered with a paper plate, in the microwave oven.

To get my quota of cruciferous veggies for the day, I steamed some brussels sprouts and diced butternut squash I had prepared for steaming over the weekend.  This couldn’t have been any easier!  Faster than waiting in a drive-thru line at a greasy hamburger joint where I used to spend my money.

The result was a full stomach, nutritious perfection, and I was done with it all by 7 p.m.  Time to kick up my feet and watch some baseball!

Eating sprouts, cheap and easy, and super nutritious

Sprouts will provide a big nutritional punch to our diets, and are very easy to grow at home.  And, it’s cheap!

My first adventure with sprouting, about four years ago, was pretty fancy.  I bought a very nice sprouting kit from Amazon that was pretty easy to use, and it worked like a charm, that is, until I lost a couple of the pieces in the dishwasher, finally rendering it unusable.  It wasn’t $30 wasted, but it was still $30!  And, it is just not necessary to be fancy.

Sprouts are surprisingly filling!  This is a picture of my breakfast this morning, a big bowl full of sunflower seed sprouts.  This was taken before I added a sweet oil-free and low sodium homemade salad dressing as a topping, along with a couple of pieces of fruit, on the side, to prepare for the hard day ahead.

sprouts4If you aren’t familiar with the sprouting process, there are tons of great videos on YouTube that can help, but some of them may scare you away from it by making it sound so ominous and time-consuming.  It’s not brain surgery!  The seeds do all the real work!

Sprouts prepThe simple process goes like this:

  1. Select the seeds you want to use.  Remember, beans are seeds!  There are lots of bean varieties that are perfect for sprouting: mung, garbanzos, lentils, adzuki.  But, you can also choose non-bean seeds, like the raw sunflower seed in the breakfast picture above.  Broccoli seeds are fantastic, too.  These can be ordered online through Amazon or from health food specialty sites.  Of course, if you grow your own, just save the seeds and use them.
  2. Wash them thoroughly, and then wash them again!  The biggest complaint (an unfounded fear) is that with all the water that the beans sit in during the sprouting process, they are susceptible to molds.  This is true if you don’t follow the process, but again, it’s not brain surgery!
  3. After washing them, put them in an airtight glass container, fill with water, and put the lid on the jar.  This is only for the first 24 hours.  Set them aside at room temperature, preferably out of the sunlight.  Under a box, like this one (above right), works very well.  One side of the box is lifted in this picture so that you can see the sprout jars, but if the box is deep enough, you should cover them completely.  A towel, or anything that will stay in place that keeps them in the dark, works just fine, too.
  4. Day 1 sproutsAfter 24 hours, remove the sprouts from the soak, pouring them into a colander, or a large sieve.  This picture was taken after these lentils were soaked for about 24 hours.  You can see the sprouts already forming.  Nature is working her magic!
  5. After the first 24 hours, you do not need to soak the seeds again.  Instead of soaking, you will give them “waterings” 2 or 3 times a day, and use a lid that has holes in it, or punch some holes in it yourself.  See the picture above to see the lids I used on these vintage mason jars from Ball (I bought these at Target, 4 for $10).  Just remove the seeds from the jar, and wash them.  This is a watering process, but it also cleans them again and again.  Rinse the jars thoroughly, while the seeds are draining in your sieve or colander.  The seeds will still be wet, but put them in the jar.  There will not be enough water to pool at the bottom of the jar.  These little sprouts drink up a lot of water, and they will dry out if allowed to go too long without washing again.  Remember, you do not want to put them in an airtight container for this washing process over the next few days.  They need air!Day 2 wash
  6. After 3 to 5 days, longer for some seeds, you will have some luscious, extremely healthful, sprouts that you can use for toppings, or as a main feature in your meal.
  7. Once you’ve decided it’s time for them to be eaten, put them back in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.  You should plan on eating them within 2 to 3 days so they will remain fresh and tasty.

The process is easy, each washing taking about five minutes.  I have four jars going at the same time, so I spend about ten minutes three times a day, usually while I’m waiting for my meal to finish cooking, or just before bedtime after the kitchen is clean and ready for the next day.

There are a variety of methods, and of course, a large variety of favorite sprout seeds.  I would love to hear your ideas and tips on great seeds to use.  Enjoy!

Butternut lentil soup

Fast-cook dry beans

Dry Lentil-Pea MixI keep a jar of fast-cook dry beans handy for impromptu meals.  “Fast-cook” dry beans, like lentils, mung, green split peas, black-eyed peas, are a great start to the day, nutritionally speaking, and they are perfect for the spur of the moment because they do not require a long period of soaking.  After rinsing them thoroughly, you can bring them to a rapid boil, and leave them boiling for about five minutes, then turn the heat to a medium setting and let them cook for about 20 minutes, and they’re ready to eat.

Typically, Saturdays and Sundays, especially at breakfast, lend themselves to breakaway opportunities, when I don’t have to rush out the door to fight the commuter traffic.  And, this is where the “fast-cook” dry beans really become a good thing to have around the kitchen.

This is a soup that is ready to put together at a moment’s notice that takes only 30 or 40 minutes to prepare and cook, enough time to do the other morning routines while you wait.  My dogs need at least that much time just to say hello in the mornings and get all their begging for attention done!

For this recipe, I used some butternut squash from my own garden I had frozen last year, along with a bean mix of lentils and split peas.  Often, I will combine “fast-cook” beans when I’m running low on certain varieties.

Mung bean sproutsButternut lentil soup

Ingredients:

1/3 cup of lentil-split pea dry bean mix
1 large clove fresh garlic, sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup bean sprouts (mung is what I used) for topping

Instructions:

Place all ingredients, except the bean sprouts, in a pot.  Add enough water to cover the mix and to leave a soup when it’s done.  I usually add enough water to double the depth of the beans (one inch of beans in the pot, add two inches of water).  This will absorb and boil down, so you are left with a hearty soup.  Bring ingredients to a rapid boil for about five minutes, cover, and adjust the setting to medium-low.  Cook for about 20 minutes.  Test the beans for softness, and adjust cooking times to your preference.  Add the bean sprouts, and you’re ready to chow down on a delicious soup for the day.

Makes 20 ounces, so you can share, if you want.

Butternut Lentil Soup