It takes 29 ingredients to make mole, the thick chocolaty, spicy sauce that drowns moist chicken. Mole (pronounced moe-lay) is a recipe reserved for birthdays, baptisms, weddings…I personally have yet to attempt the recipe, the long list of ingredients overwhelms. I prefer the uncomplicated recipe that is both fast and tasty.
Each food ingredient has a water footprint. The shorter the list of ingredients the lower the water footprint. On a recent shopping trip, I needed pancake mix from my local market. I looked first for an organic brand with no luck. So I looked for the pancake mix with the fewest ingredients among my five choices.
We all encounter unrecognizable ingredients in our food. I bought Chinese Chicken Salad from the deli section at the grocery store for a quick lunch fix. After the first few bites I noticed how the sauce had the consistency of slime. I looked at the long list of ingredients printed out on the sticky label. My hardly edible Chinese chicken used 69 ingredients…many of the ingredients didn’t sound like food. Chinese chicken salad shouldn’t require more ingredients than chicken mole.
I have a few favorite two or three ingredients foods that are both quick and tasty.
Roasted Butternut Squash- one ingredient
The flavor of butternut squash stands alone. If you must, you can sprinkle salt and add butter but it really is unnecessary. It makes a great side dish for any meal.
To roast butternut squash set your oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash length wise and scoop the seeds out. You can save the seeds and plant in your backyard garden. Place on a cookie sheet (flesh up) for about an hour or until supple.
Fresh Organic Beans- two ingredients
A pot of fresh cooked beans is my go to comfort food. The only ingredient required for this recipe is beans (any kind) and salt. Sometimes I add fresh cloves of garlic or in the summer months add chunks of tomatoes and cilantro as a garnish. But most of the year I keep it real simple.
To make a fresh pot of beans first clean them by sorting through the beans to find any dirt rocks (kids like this job). Place cleaned beans inside a colander and rinse thoroughly (I collect this water in a bucket in the sink and use to water plants outside).
My mother taught me how to make beans without measuring cups but if you prefer to be more exact soak two cups of beans in water overnight. When ready to cook use fresh water. Cover the beans with enough water to account for the expansion of the beans when cooked. Cover and bring beans to a boil and then simmer. Each bean variety cooks at different rates. Pinto and black beans for example take a few hours and lentils are done within an hour. Every 30 minutes check the water level. The beans will absorb the water and the water will need to be replenished. Once the beans are tender you can serve. Salt to taste. Freeze extra.
Beans can be cooked in a crock pot. I’ve done this overnight at low heat setting. Fill the crock pot 2/3 full of water. By morning the beans are ready.
Beans are nitrogen-fixing plants. What this means is the bean plant can convert nitrogen from the atmosphere into nitrogen for the soil. Healthy soil means several things for water. The top two reasons is that it eliminates the need for synthetic soils that encourage chemical runoff into fresh water systems. And secondly, healthy organic soils retains water at higher rates than synthetic soils thereby reducing the need for irrigation.
Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Blueberries- three ingredients
My crockpot is used almost exclusively for steel-cut oatmeal. Just before I go to sleep I combine the few ingredients needed for this favorite breakfast meal.
To make steel-cut oatmeal in the crockpot just add one cup oats to four cups water. I add about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup frozen organic blueberries to the oats. Set the crockpot to the lowest setting. Sweeten with fair-trade sugar to taste. I also like to add dry-farmed walnuts that I buy at my local farmer’s market.
This recipe can be made exactly the same on the stove top, but requires some boiling, simmering and mixing. The crockpot way is so much easier. 1 1/4 cups of dry steel-cut oatmeal (plus 5 cups of water) easily feeds my family of two adults and three small children…so modify the quantity accordingly.
Other few ingredient food ideas….
Roasted unsalted almonds– I find these at my farmer’s market. They are dry-farmed, organic and have the best crunch around.
Organic salted popcorn– This is my go to snack. I pack it for school lunches and have popcorn ready for afternoon snacks. You can see our very serious popcorn machine pictured above (Christmas present from Grandpa Tony).
Fruits and veggies– Sometimes we have a tendency to forget the obvious. These are all one ingredients foods. Tis the season for citrus. I have tangerines and oranges in plain sight for quick, sweet, healthy snacks. Chunks of orange are a great addition to winter green salads.
Snap peas are also all the rage in my kitchen this season. I place a plate of them of the kitchen counter and watch them disappear.
One of these days I will attempt a mole dish for that special occasion. In the meantime, I will stick to recipes that use few ingredients and purchase foods that have less ingredients than mole.
Eat less water at your kitchen table!