I know that this is not your typical holiday post featuring good tidings, good cheer and decadent desserts. For me, it’s a gentle reminder that I have SO MUCH for which to be thankful!
I’m thankful for:
I’m especially thankful for tonight’s simple meal of beans and rice. Beans and rice can be cooked so many different ways, with so many different flavors. They are nutritious, delicious and economical.
You can feed a lot of people with a nice pot of rice and beans. And, you can dress them up with so many exotic flavors so that your family would never know that they were “eating on the cheap”.
Like most of you, I spent Thanksgiving eating way too much and, now, it’s less than a week before Christmas and everywhere I look, people are shopping like there is no tomorrow. Television commercials and computer pop-ups encourage us to buy more, buy bigger, buy faster!
We spend outrageous sums of money and consider it our due! Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. But, it is so important to remember the reason for the season! And, I for one would like to just take a few moments to give thanks for all the little things that we take for granted.
I was blessed to be raised in a home with loving parents. Though we were by no means rich (at least by the world’s standards), I never knew hunger. Nor did I ever wonder where I would sleep at night. Honestly, I’m ashamed to say that I never gave much thought to hunger and homelessness. hat has since changed.
During a period of almost two years, I lived in a city and rode the bus to work daily. On the way to my bus stop, I often passed a gentleman who lived in a tent in the woods, not even 30 yards off of the highway. “Carl”, a veteran of the United States Military, lived in that tent with his two dogs no matter the weather. Though he would accept gifts of food for himself and his pets, “Carl” was unwilling to go into a shelter because it would mean leaving his dogs behind.
This may have been his choice, but for so many others, there was no choice. Not for the homeless men, sleeping under the overpass. Nor for the women sleeping on the stairs of the church..just trying to find a safe place for shelter. Without fail, there were people on the bus, trying to seek shelter from the heat or cold.
One night, on my return bus trip from work, I encountered a family of four. This family had two young children and I overheard them, at about 9 o’clock at night, trying to figure out where they could stay the night. The children, with no coats or hats, were under-dressed for the subfreezing weather and, when offered the meager food my co-worker and I had on hand, eagerly devoured it. Even the children’s mother ate the tendered apple like it was the only food she’d had in a long time. Surely, this little family’s homelessness and hunger were not by choice!
The problem of homelessness and hunger are not limited to my home state of North Carolina. According to one source, “48.8 million Americans—including 13 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.” (https://www.nokidhungry.org/problem/hunger-facts). And, “on a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.” ( http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/SOH2016 ). We, as a nation, and as a people, need to find solutions for these problems. No one…especially a child, should have to endure hunger or homelessness!
So, during this holiday season, give thanks for even the smallest of things, like safe and adequate food and shelter. Together, let’s find a way to help bring an end to hunger and homelessness!
Tonight, my family and I will eat our meager meal of beans and rice, in this case Chana Masala or Curried Chickpeas, and give thanks for all with which we are blessed…continuing to pray for all those who are hungry and homeless.Print
Chana Masala | Curried Chickpeas
Note: This recipe is from Rouxbe.com, appearing at http://rouxbe.com/recipes/1525/text?tab=recipes . The author, Dawn T, describes the recipe as “Healthy chickpeas are added to slowly-cooked onions, tomatoes and freshly-ground spices. Finished with lemon, coconut milk “yogurt” and cilantro, this tangy and pleasantly-spicy curry dish makes a perfect side or main course.” This recipe had everyone in my family coming back for more!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4-6 people
- 2 onions (large yellow )
- 5 tbsp Coconut Oil
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 inch Fresh Ginger, Peeled and Grated
- 2 green chiles
- 3 large ripe tomatoes (approx. 3 cups)
- 2 cans chickpeas (19 oz. cans, or, preferably, use freshly cooked chickpeas)
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. tumeric
- 1/8 tsp Kashmiri powder (Indian chili powder)* (Kashmiri powder can be substituted with regular chile powder)
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 3/4 cup coconut milk yogurt
Step 1: Cooking the Onions
- To start, first finely dice the onions. Then heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat and add the oil. Once melted, add the onions followed by the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until soft and golden.
*Note: If desired, omit the oil and sweat the onions with a bit of vegetable stock or water.
Meanwhile, prepare the rest of your mise en place.
Step 2: Preparing Your Mise en Place
- To prepare your mise en place, first crush the garlic into a paste. Finely chop the ginger and mince the chilies. Depending on how spicy you like your curry, you may want to remove some of the ribs and seeds. Next, core and dice the tomatoes into medium dice. Drain and rinse the chickpeas under cold water and set aside.
*Note: For the best flavor and results, soak and cook about 1 cup or so of dried chickpeas from scratch. Using canned chickpeas is faster but the flavor and texture of the dish is not as good as it could be.
Remember to stir the onions occasionally and adjust the heat downward, if necessary. They need to cook slowly until they become a nice, even golden color.
Next, using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, finely grind the coriander followed by the cumin. Lastly measure out the cayenne, turmeric and Kashmiri powder.
*Kashmiri powder can be substituted with regular chili powder.
Step 3: Cooking the Dish
- Once the onions are soft and golden, add the garlic, ginger and chilies. Stir to coat with the oil and let cook for a minute or so until they release their aroma. Then add the spices and fry just until they release their fragrance.
Next, turn the heat up to medium, add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Then add the salt and cook until the tomatoes start to break down and soften, about 10 minutes. Once the tomatoes are soft, add the chickpeas and water. Stir to coat with the onions and spices. Bring the mixture to a quick boil and then turn down the heat to low. Cover but leave the lid slightly ajar. This will allow the moisture to evaporate very slowly, while the chickpeas cook. Let this simmer and cook for about 20 minutes in total, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing is sticking. After about 10 minutes, check to see how much moisture remains. You want it to reduce and thicken, but still have some liquid.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the garnish.
Step 4: Finishing the Dish
- While the chickpeas cook, roll the lemon to release its juices and then cut in half. Roughly chop the cilantro and measure out the yogurt.
Check on the chickpeas. Once almost all of the liquid has evaporated, squeeze the lemon juice over top and let cook for another minute or so. To finish the dish, turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt.
*NOTE: Non-dairy coconut “yogurt” or full-fat coconut milk work well in this recipe. Another option would be to mix 1/2 cup cashew cream with 1/4 cup of water. If dairy is not an issue, a full-fat plain yogurt would also work.
Just before serving, fold in the cilantro and test for seasoning.
Served with rice, this delicious vegetarian dish is hearty enough to be served as a main course. However, it’s also great served with a variety of other dishes such as dal and grilled pappadums.
Dried chickpeas that have been soaked and cooked can definitely be used for this dish. Canned chickpeas are much quicker and still produce great results.