Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I've noticed falafel as a meal option offered by NYC street vendors, but never tried it. I'm too busy trying to fulfill my chicken gyro craving.

My cousin recently told me her neighbor made falafel for them and it was really good. I'm always intrigued when people eat things I haven't tried before and found them to be good enough to share with me.

Let's face it- we get in food ruts and there are only so many times you can defrost a package of chicken breasts or put on a pot to cook rice. I'm always looking for ways to expand, but I also don't want to expand to include hard or difficult foods. There's a reason ground beef and chicken breasts are our go-to. They're easy and you're not going to replace easy with hard, no matter how much better it tastes.

After a quick google of falafel to learn what the heck it is, I learned (from Wikipedia) that it's a mixture of spiced, ground fava beans or chickpeas rolled in a ball and cooked. They're eaten like gyros typically - in pitas and with a yogurt sauce.

A couple grocery trips ago I noticed a Falafel mix next to the quinoa as I was grabbing it off the shelf. I scanned the ingredients and saw no whey listed (yes!) so I threw it in the cart.

It's been in the pantry, but last night I saw it and realized it could be a quick and easy weeknight dinner. I put it on the stovetop to remind me today that I already had a dinner idea and not to sweat it.

Once I got home from work I dumped the bag of dry mix into a bowl and added 1 1/4 cups of water and stirred around. You let that sit 10-15 minutes for the water to absorb into the mixture. It gets kind of gummy, like a firm batter.

While this was sitting I put a high-sided pan on the stove with 1/2 inch vegetable oil to heat up. You then roll the mixture into little balls and either pan fry in ball form, or flatten the balls a bit and broil them in the oven. I rarely fry stuff at home- I usually choose the bake option. Unless we're going to fast food I very seldomly eat fried food. I believe in "in moderation" -- frying stuff every once in awhile isn't going to kill me.

So, tonight I pan fried them which took a lot less time than I expected. They're so small that you can cram a bunch of these little balls in the pan, making for one big batch instead of the numerous smaller ones I anticipated.

While these were cooking I popped the pitas into the oven a few minutes to heat up. I also got out our plates and made small side salads with mixed greens, carrots, green peppers and a raspberry vinagrette.

Once the falafel balls were done I put them on a paper towel covered plate to drain and we put sour cream (I didn't have yogurt sauce) in the pitas, stuffed them with the falafel balls and dinner was ready!

Start to finish it was less than 30 minutes and we had a nutritious dinner at home with minimal clean up.

I've become a huge fan of browsing the organic and health aisles of grocery stores. Even if you are not a vegetarian or vegan, you can always incorporate a few of their dishes into your diet or have them as sides.

A lot of vegetarian and vegan options are lower in fat because they don't have milk, cheese or meat in them. You get a great dose of fiber and protein and they're also always loaded with tons of vitamins and minerals from the fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans they contain.

This box of falafel mix was from Fantastic World Foods (their site is www.fantasticfoods.com) and only $3-4. It fed two adults dinner, plus we have leftovers good for another 2 sandwiches!

That's a real bargain in my book!

I have a question for those of you living with a food allergy sufferer. Do you keep only "safe" foods in your home? Once in a blue moon I'll have a craving for something that doesn't pass the no whey requirement and I buy it for myself, warning Johnny that he can't have it, sometimes even putting a skull and crossbones label on it before putting it away. The problem is that I always end up feeling really guilty that I'm enjoying these treats that he can't have. Is this normal, to have "allergy guilt" that you can enjoy something that the sufferer can't?


Nowheymama said...

We do keep some dairy items in our house, but they're either something we have a DF alternative for (ice cream) or something K. doesn't care about (coffee creamer). If she had a more severe allergy, we wouldn't keep it in the house.

I think it's natural to feel guilty, but I'm sure he understands.

Christina said...

Yeah, I know he understands. The latest guilt ridden part is Edy's changing his favorite ice cream in the world to contain whey. So now when I eat ice cream he doesn't, or eats a whey-free flavor I know he probably wouldn't prefer.