Showing posts with label beans and legumes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beans and legumes. Show all posts

24 May 2018

Exploring Mexican Made Easy for Cookbook Club


For May's library cookbook club, I made "Maria Cookie & Lime Cream Trifle" from Marcela Valladolid's Mexican Made Easy. When I hear "trifle" I think of the English dessert made with fruit, sherry-soaked sponge, and custard. Well, this trifle is nothing like that, but it's still fabulous -- a creamy, sweet-tart no-bake treat that goes together in minutes, keeps well, and can go straight from fridge to table.

Maria cookies are a very mild, slightly sweetened cookie more similar to a British rich tea biscuit than a traditional American "cookie." They're usually easy to find in the "ethnic" aisle of most grocery stores although Valladolid writes graham crackers can be substituted for the Maria biscuits, if you prefer. I stuck with Maria cookies, because the recipe only uses four ingredients and so substituting one just seemed wrong.

I tried my best to make the recipe exactly as instructed, but ended up doubling the number of layers as I still had a lot of biscuit and cream left after following the instructions (it was either that or make two trifles ... which, in hindsight, I realize might have been a grand idea as I would have had my own private trifle). Proportionally, to get the number of layers Valladolid calls for, I think you'd need to halve the amount of ingredients.

The recipe says it makes six to eight servings, but I would say closer to ten to twelve. No-one stinted in their servings, but there was still plenty left for my coworkers. Honestly, it's a very bright, zesty pud -- rather like deconstructed key lime pie -- and I'm not going to complain about having had too much of it!

When I whizzed the milks and lime juice in my stand mixer, the liquids did thicken up a bit but were still worryingly soupy. However, when I went to serve the trifle seven hours later, the liquid had set into a thick pudding. The biscuits had softened up considerably, but still retained their shape and enough firmness to add a pleasing texture to the trifle.

In addition to the trifle, I've made two other recipes from Mexican Made Easy -- "Red and White Kidney Salad" and "Corn and Zucchini Sauté" -- and they were both easy and flavorful. While I imagine the sauté will be even better with in-season ingredients, it was still very satisfying as it was. The crunchy bacon added a delicious smoky savoriness to the dish that pushed the salad from very nice to "I'm going to eat the whole pan on my own."

The bean salad was also pretty wow. Bright and refreshing with just the right about of zip. A lot of bean salads I've made go the "more ingredients are better" route, but this simple combination of ingredients reminded me that more isn't always better. While I made a significant attempt to eat all the tasty beans the first night, there were leftovers and they kept very nicely in the fridge until the next day when I let them come to room temperature before tossing them with baby spinach and eating them as a main.


Overall, I'm very pleased with my experience cooking from Marcela Valladolid's Mexican Made Easy and look forward to trying out her other cookbooks soon.

17 March 2018

Cookbook Club: Mediterranean Flavors

March's library cookbook theme was Mediterranean flavors -- dishes from Italy, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and such. I thought this was a broad enough topic that cooks who wanted to push the boat out and try something new -- like a Turkish dish -- could, while those who wanted to play it "safe" with more "common" cuisines like Greek and Italian, could as well. And that's pretty much what happened! In addition to a slew of delicious Italian dishes, we also had succulent buttered apricots with walnuts from Turkey and savory pan-fried chorizo in cider from Spain.


And what did I make? "Classic Hummus" from America's Test Kitchen's Complete Mediterranean Cookbook! Hummus is one of those things I disliked for years and then, abruptly, changed my mind about and now can't get enough of. I've often thought about making my own hummus, but 1) tahini is expensive and 2) I am lazy.

But I actually had tahini in the fridge (leftover from September's beet hummus) and there are always chickpeas in the cupboard so ... hummus! Who knew it could be so easy? The most persnickety part was during prep when I had to mix the lemon juice with water in one bowl and the olive oil with tahini in another. I don't understand why I couldn't just whack everything into the food processor and give it a whirl, but who am I to question the gods? Anyway, this is really good hummus -- smooth, creamy, and garlicky with a subtle lemon tang -- that I wouldn't want to mess with it.

I like this hummus so much that I've made it twice since the March meeting! It's so easy & inexpensive (yes, tahini is $$ upfront, but a jar lasts a long time) and there are enough recipe variations provided that I think I shall be happy making it for quite a long time.


Mind you, I did not intend to bring hummus! I intended to bring the lemony "Olive Oil-Yogurt Cake!" Tuesday was a snow day, so I thought I'd try the bundt cake out on The Husband and, if it worked well, I'd bring it to the meeting. Alas, it worked too well! The cake was so delicious, there was no way The Husband was going to let me part with it (admittedly, I was also loathe to give it up), but I didn't have quite enough time to bake another. So ... hummus!

But this cake. So tender. So moist. So lemony. And easy! Definitely going to bake another one soon. This was the first time I'd ever baked with olive oil and I so pleased with the experience that I went and borrowed Lisa Sheldon's Olive Oil Baking: Heart-Healthy Recipes That Increase Good cholesterol & Reduce Saturated Fats through my library system.


While I've told myself I ought to dial it back on Amazon purchases this year (Prime is the devil), I must admit I ended up purchasing a copy of America's Test Kitchen's Complete Mediterranean Cookbook. In addition to the hummus and the bundt cake, there were simply so many other recipes I wanted to try ("Braised Oxtails with White Beans, Tomatoes, and Aleppo Pepper," you're next!) that it seemed better to own a copy than keep the library's out on near permanent loan.

Unsurprisingly, I own quite a few ATK cookbooks and am very well aware there tends to be overlap between books, but I did not find the "Classic Hummus" recipe repeated in any other books. There are hummus recipes, certainly, but not that one. The recipe for "Olive Oil-Yogurt Cake," however, can also be found in The Perfect Cake (which I don't own, but my library does and I am, of course, on hold for).

01 March 2018

Green Bean "Shakshouka"

I've been enamored with the idea of shakshouka (also spelled shakshuka) -- eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices -- for a while now and so here is my completely off the cuff "oh my cake, why did I buy so many green beans?!" take on it. I ate this as a late breakfast, but it would be equally delicious any time of the day.


Green Bean "Shakshouka"

Yield: 2

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed & chopped small
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • Sea salt & coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cracked rosemary, to taste
  • 14.5 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes (used crushed tomatoes for a saucier dish)
  • 2 large eggs
  • Crumbled goat or feta cheese, as desired for topping

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook until tender and fragrant. Stir in green beans and tomatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until green beans are tender, approximately 8 minutes. Season, stir, and then make a well in the middle.
  2. Crack eggs into the well, cover, turn heat down to low, and let cook until egg whites are set and egg yolks are as you like them -- I went with 5 minute for firm whites and runny yolks.
  3. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and serve.
This was really easy to throw together and quite delicious -- very savory, rich with tomato and yolk. Admittedly, green beans and tomatoes are one of my favorite combinations, so I'm probably a bit biased. I might try for a spicy version next time, by eliminating the rosemary and stirring in a dollop of Thai chili paste.

01 July 2017

A Pirate's Life for ... Peas?

When I planted the vegetable beds in May, I planted a row of "Little SnapPea Crunch" sugar snap peas -- a compact plant with self-supporting vines well-suited to containers -- with the expectation they would grow into a stout hedge of deliciousness. Alas, my peas were rambling peas. The plants grew up, yes, but then went wide, entangling the orderly rows of beets, lettuce, and bush beans I had planted alongside them.


I put up my pea fence -- the fence I expected to not need this year -- and tied them back. But. Wild and wily, they keep escaping the pea fence and are currently climbing down the side of their raised bed, dead set on conquering the neighboring tomato/pumpkin/pepper bed. I am both immensely amused by their feral liveliness and exhausted. Stay on your fence, peas. Stop trying to pirate the other beds.

You might think, with all that prolific growth, that the plants would have no energy or time to fruit. You would be wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. The snap pea harvest is in its heyday and I find I need to pick a cake pan's worth every day just to keep up. Harvesting the peas, of course, means the plants get busy making more and ... it's just a vicious, delicious cycle, isn't it?


Sugar snap peas, you are so fine. So delightfully crunchy and sweet straight from the vine. Plump little green crescents of joy. Just keep your tendrils out of the lawn, less the lawnmower get you.

09 February 2017

Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup w/ Turnips

My lovely, generous coworker gave me another meaty hambone and, of course, I immediately turned it into soup. The recipe follows the same structure as my previous slow cooker ham and split pea soup, but this time I added chopped turnip, changed the seasonings up a bit, and used just water. It was still a magnificent pea soup -- extremely flavorful and hearty (but never stodgy). Good at any mealtime, including breakfast.


Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup With Turnip

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 oz dried split peas
  • 8 oz dried whole peas
  • 4 oz chopped onion
  • 4 oz chopped carrots
  • 4 oz chopped celery
  • 6 oz chopped turnip
  • 1 tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp roasted garlic flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 meaty ham bone
  • Water, as needed
  • Salt & pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Combine peas, onion, carrots, celery, turnip, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and bay in slow cooker insert. Nestle in ham bone and add water until the pea mixture is covered.
  2. Cover and cook on Low 8-10 hours or until peas are tender.
  3. Remove ham bone from slow cooker. Pull meat from bone, discarding bone and other inedible/undesirable bits. Stir ham into soup.
  4. Add more water to soup, if too thick. Season with salt and pepper, as desired, and serve.

I've only recently "discovered" turnips. Probably because I was so resistant to rutabaga for so long -- I just lumped them in together as dreadful root vegetables. But rutabagas and turnips turn out to be delicious. Like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, turnips are in the cruciferous vegetable family and are a great source of minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber while being very low calorie. One of my friends uses them as a potato-substitute, as she is allergic to potatoes, and I'm kind-of tempted to try ricing a few, like cauliflower, to see what that's like.

29 December 2016

Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup

As a child, winter always meant big bowls of meaty, flavorful ham and split pea soup made with the bone of our Christmas ham. My mother would let the soup simmer all day on the stove and the heavenly aroma would slowly spread throughout the house, driving me mad with desire. Yes, I was a strange kid.

Even now, my mother is my primary source of ham and pea soup. I do, occasionally, make a meatless pea and mint soup using frozen peas or a meatless dried yellow pea soup, but I never make anything even close to her hammy soup as I simply don't cook ham. The Husband won't eat ham and I do not need an entire ham of my own.

But then I was talking to a coworker about soups we grew up on and I mentioned how I never made my mom's soup because I needed a ham bone for it and she said "Mark's making a ham! I bet he'd give you the bone!" and, the next thing I knew, Mark's come into work with a big ham bone just for me.

So I made soup! And while it isn't quite my mother's, it's still pretty darn good. Rich, thick, and savory. I eat a bowlful with a satsuma and that's all I need for breakfast or lunch.


I used a "traditional" split pea soup mix I'd found at the Polish grocery which used a combination of both green and yellow split peas as well as red lentils. It came with a seasoning packet, but I chose to use my own seasonings to try to control the amount of sodium in the soup as I reckoned the ham bone would add lots of salt.

I also used my slow cooker, rather than simmering it on the stove all day, because I needed to leave the house and didn't want to worry about some stove-related catastrophe happening back at home while I was loitering at The Paperstore.


Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 package (13 oz) dried split peas
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 meaty ham bone
  • 32 oz carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Combine peas, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay in slow cooker insert. Nestle in ham bone and pour broth over everything.
  2. Cover and cook on Low 8-10 hours or until peas are tender.
  3. Remove ham bone from slow cooker. Pull meat from bone, discarding bone and other inedible/undesirable bits. Stir ham into soup.
  4. Add water to soup, if too thick. Season with salt and pepper, as desired, and serve.

The finished soup did seem rather loose when done, but set up nicely once cooled. If you prefer a looser soup, you may want to add a cup or two of additional broth at the end. I didn't feel it needed any additional salt, but did add lashings of freshly cracked black pepper.

03 June 2016

Chipotle Salmon & Beans

Threw together this simple and easy baked salmon and bean salad for supper earlier this week. Took no more than 20 minutes from fridge to table, was extremely flavorful, and looked like a lovely bit of summer on a plate. Which is exactly what I needed! The smoky chipotle puree lends the dish a mild, mellow heat and the lime makes it very bright and zesty. The bean salad is quite delicious as is, but I bet it will be even better in late summer with garden fresh tomatoes and corn! (Not that I'll be gardening this summer, but there's always the farm stand).


The bean salad makes more than you need for two portions of salmon, but will keep fine in the fridge for a few days and pairs well with grilled marinated chicken or shrimp. Or you could double the salmon and serve four people, leaving no leftovers. We're a household of two and I like (a manageable amount of) leftovers.

Chipotle Salmon & Beans

Yield: 2 plus leftover beans

Ingredients

  • 2 6-oz salmon fillet portions
  • 1 Tbsp pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 15.5 oz can cannellini, drained and rinsed
  • 7 oz can corn, drained
  • 4 oz chopped grape tomatoes
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts chopped
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper, as desired
  • 2 lime wedges

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Pat the salmon portions dry with a paper towel and place on the pie plate. If your salmon has a thin end, fold it under for even cooking.
  4. Brush with chipotle puree and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cilantro.
  5. Bake 10 minutes or until fish reaches 145°F and flakes easily with a fork.
  6. Meanwhile, mix together the beans, corn, tomatoes, scallions, lime juice and zest, and remaining 1 Tbsp cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Mound some of the bean mixture in the center of two plates. Top with salmon and serve lime wedges.
I use pie plates for everything now ... except pies. Can't remember the last time I baked a pie.

27 May 2016

Beans On Toast & A Poached Egg

Beans on toast. It's so quintessentially British. And, if you're a bit snobby about food, it can sound quite dreadful. Certainly, the first time I heard of it I was very "ehhhhh ... can live without trying that." And then I ate it and there was no going back. Yes, I was a college student at the time, summering in my sexy British boyfriend's flat, so hormones and a certain amount of anglophilia no doubt encouraged my initial adoration, but nineteen years have not dimmed my love of beans on toast (or The Husband, for that matter).

I poached three eggs & this was the best of the lot. #learning

Beans on toast is a simple, tasty, and deeply comforting (carbs, fat, salt ... how could it not be comforting?) dish. You want to use Heinz tomato-based baked beans (although Batchelors will suffice in a pinch) and really good white bread that's been properly toasted so it's all crunchy and golden and then liberally spread with lots of real cow butter -- get some Kerrygold or Kate's -- I know you're all "You're burying all that good buttery toast under tinned beans! How can butter make a difference?" Trust me, it does. Just like you want a good sturdy, farmhouse-type white that won't dissolve into mush under the beans). Some people top their beans on toast with brown sauce or ketchup, but that's a bit much, imho. But then, you know, I used a poached egg ...

There's definitely a learning curve to poaching eggs and, despite multiple attempts, I'm still at the wrong end of it. Most recently, I resorted to microwave-poaching -- put about a half cup of water in a mug, crack an egg in, cover the mug with a dessert plate, microwave it for 40 seconds on full power. This method works well about half the time. If the water is from the fridge, it's too cold and the egg needs to cook a little longer, but how long gets really dicey.

Also, if I'm microwave-poaching an egg in a mug I already used to poach another egg, both the water and mug are too warm and the egg will poach much more quickly, so I need to dial the timer down ... but how far down is seemingly random. I'm thinking my best bet is room temperature egg, water, and mug (and new water and mug each time) ... but that would require some planning ahead and the whole point of microwave-poaching is instant poached egg.

And let's not talk about what happens when I try to poach an egg on the stovetop!

10 February 2016

Mellow Red Lentil Soup

I'd picked up a bag of red split lentils around Christmas, because winter is Soup Season, but then the weather kept being so mild and spring-like that, while I still wanted soup, the thick rib-stickingness of lentil soup did not appeal. But then it starting snowing and now it looks as if it will never stop snowing. Hooray. Winter is finally here ... and now it can just go away already.


This soup is based on Chobani's "Red Lentil Soup" but I've mixed it up a little to create, imho, deeper flavors. I really don't know why the original recipe doesn't call for blooming the spices or sweating the onions in the butter first -- doing either (or both) creates a soup with deeper, more integrated flavors and a superior aroma.

I also used low-sodium fat-free chicken broth instead of water, doubled the amount of pepper, and threw in some sweet curry powder for extra flavor. Swapping the butter out for olive oil and omitting the pepper-infused butter drizzle was just because 1) I have lots of olive oil and 2) I didn't want a buttery soup.

Making this soup was also a great excuse for busting out the jar of Aleppo (halaby) pepper I'd picked up at Penzeys after I'd run out of crushed red pepper flakes. I wanted something a bit less brash and generic than red pepper flakes and the sales associate recommended Aleppo. It has a lovely smoky aroma and the heat is about on par with an ancho chile.

Mellow Lentil Soup

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 Tbsp sweet curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 oz bag red split lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 2 qts low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Organic]
  • 4 oz cup plain Greek yoghurt
  • Salt and black pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and curry powder in a large Dutch/French oven. Add carrots, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  2. Add lentils and broth. Bring pot to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove pot from heat. Stir in yoghurt and process with an immersion blender until desired level of smoothness is reached. Season to taste.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed. Soup will thicken as it sits. If desired, add a bit more broth when reheating to loosen it.

When I make this again, I think I'll cut out the yogurt and replace some of the broth with coconut milk. The yogurt adds a welcome creaminess, yes, but the coconut milk would do the same while eliminating a step. Also, I just like the idea of red lentils, curry, and coconut.



03 February 2016

Slow Cooker Sausage & Bean Soup

I had half a pound of raw sweet Italian sausage in the fridge, leftover from the "Tomatoey Macaroni & Bean Soup," and while at first I was all "I'll make a slow cooker Italian sausage pasta sauce all chunky with vegetables and heavy on the garlic" I actually ended up making a soup, because soup is definitely in season now ... and I'm not done experimenting with grilled cheese. The Husband picked up a lovely hearty loaf at Brooklyn Baking Company and it toasts up just wonderfully. Vastly superior to the "farmhouse" white I'd picked up in the Stop & Shop bread aisle.

Anyway, this soup tastes pretty great, is easy to prepare, and reheats well. To make it even easier, I did most of the prep -- chopping, browning, etc -- the night before and just dumped everything into the slow cooker the following morning. I had originally intended to throw the zucchini in with everything else at the start of cooking, but then I thought it might go a bit squishy and no-one wants squishy zucchini. Twenty minutes at the end was just enough time to soften (but not squishify) the zucchini.


Slow Cooker Sausage & Bean Soup

Yield:4-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • ½ lb ground sweet Italian sausage
  • ½ finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 15.5 oz can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • Salt & pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Brown sausage in a hot skillet. Transfer sausage to slow cooker. Drain oil from skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent.
  2. Put onions, garlic, beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, seasoning blend, bay leaf, and broth in with the sausage. Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.
  3. Add zucchini, stir, and cook for another 20 min or until zucchini is desired tenderness.
  4. Remove bay leaf, season to taste, and serve.

27 January 2016

Tomatoey Macaroni & Bean Soup

Let's face it, a hearty soup and crispy-yet-oozy grilled cheese is just the best winter food pairing in the world and I'd eat it every day at every meal if I thought I could get away with it. Certainly, last weekend's snow storm was the perfect excuse for getting out the grill pan and experimenting with cheeses to find the perfect combination of melty deliciousness. At the moment, that seems to be a 50/50 blend of Cabot's Colby Jack and Seriously Sharp cheddar -- it's marvelously gooey and sharp.

And what soup did I pair with all those grilled cheese sandwiches? A hearty-but-not-heavy tomato and bean soup. It went together all easy-peasy, was extremely yum, and the leftovers (little as there was) reheated really well. It's just my preference, but I mashed half the beans in this soup to thicken it up for real stick-to-your-ribs-ness. You could leave them all whole, but you'll have a thinner soup. Either way is good for dunking grilled cheese, though.


Tomatoey Macaroni & Bean Soup

Yield: 4-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • ½ lb ground sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 32-oz carton low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni [Hodgson Mill Ultragrain Elbows with Quinoa]
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • Grated parmesan, if desired

Instructions

  1. Brown sausage over medium heat in a large French/Dutch oven. Remove browned sausage from pan, draining off the oil.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  3. Add the seasoning blend and chicken broth to the pot. Heat broth to boiling. Add the macaroni and cook for 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Pour one can of drained beans into a bowl and smoosh with a fork or potato masher. Add to the pot along with the other can of drained beans, crushed tomatoes, and sausage. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until everything is heated through and soup is thickened.
  5. Serve garnished with grated parmesan, if desired.

17 January 2016

Slow Cooker Peanut Chicken

When I put Pillsbury's "Slow-Cooker Spicy Chicken in Peanut Sauce" on this week's menu plan I wasn't really thinking about how The Husband might react to it. But, the week moved along and it was the only supper left unmade, I started to fret. Cumin? Cinnamon? Chiles? Peanut butter?


Oh, he was going to hate it.

But he didn't. Except for the peanut garnish (which was too crunchy), he thought the dish was fine and would eat it again. Hooray. I quite liked the dish myself, although I found it more aromatic than flavorful. Other cook's comments on the recipe suggest I am not alone in this, so I might follow a few of their suggestions next time (yes, it's worth making again) and use more peanut butter (maybe a few tablespoons of PB2 stirred into the amount of peanut butter already called for?), more garlic, and add a squirt of sriracha.

09 December 2015

Easy Tomato & White Bean Soup

Last weekend I made a pot of fire-roasted tomato and white bean soup that was so good, I put it on this week's menu plan. I love soup and happily eat it for supper, lunch, and even breakfast. Does it matter that the thermometer says it's a balmy 47°F out and my irises are poking spring-green tips out of the mulch? No, it matters not a whit. It's soup season.

So, yeah, expect to see more soups. I know foodie social media is all about cookies this time of year, but I don't really feel like baking yet ... I crave savory things. Stews and soups. And grilled cheese!


I used chicken broth because it is what I had on hand. Feel free to make the soup vegan by substituting vegetable broth.

Easy Tomato & White Bean Soup

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1½ tsp olive oil
  • 1.5 oz minced carrot
  • 1 oz minced shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 4½ oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 15 oz can Great Northern beans, drained and well-rinsed
  • 14&frac12 oz can fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a French/Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot, shallot, and garlic. Cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or just until tender and fragrant.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, seasoning, pepper, beans, and broth. Cover. Bring pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes longer. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve.
  3. Want a thicker, creamier soup? Remove two cups of soup from the pot and puree with an immersion blender, then whisk back into the pot.


I served this soup with waffled grilled cheese sandwiches I made by splitting Pillsbury Grands! biscuits open like a book, smearing them with butter, stuffing with shredded Red Leicester, smooshing shut and then waffling for 3 minutes. They were pretty tasty, but might have been better if I'd combined with Red Leicester with a "meltier" cheese like Gruyère? I shall have to experiment with all the cheeses ...

21 November 2015

Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

I was supposed to go to attend a workshop Friday morning and then run a bunch of errands (including much-needed grocery shopping), but my car had other ideas and chose to spend the day at Firestone. Happily, The Husband found the time to pick me up from Firestone and bring me home, so I could do useful home-based things ... and not put a chair through the television in the waiting area, which was playing nonstop daytime talk shows that just ... UGH.

So. Home! No groceries! The lunch I'd planned on eating at a twee juice cafe was obviously impossible. What could I make that would feed both of us? Soup, of course. Comforting, filling, healthful soup. Without carrots or celery, because they were still at the grocery store, unbought.

But I had beans. And garlic. And tomatoes. And vegetable broth.


I pureed half the beans with my food processor to give the soup a dairy-free creaminess. Not that we're dairy-free! I just didn't see the point in "wasting" the remaining milk for The Husband's tea. (Again, no groceries). I also used vegetable broth in this soup, because it was going to be a vegetable soup so why meat it up? I know some people don't like to use vegetable broth -- claiming it tastes "sweeter" than chicken -- but I find College Inn Reduced Sodium Garden Vegetable Broth tastes quite vegetal and is definitely not "sweet."

Anyway, this turned out to be quite a yummy dairy-free vegan bean soup. Well-seasoned, creamy, and tomato-y with just a little kick from the pepper. As with many soups, it's even better the next day so try not to eat it all at once!

Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz chopped sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 oz cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth [College Inn]
  • 14.5 oz can no-salted-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Penzeys Tuscan Sunset]
  • ½ oz dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium in a large French/Dutch oven. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, combine one can of beans with one cup of broth in a blender or food processor and puree.
  3. Add puree, remaining beans and broth, tomatoes, seasoning blend, parsley, and pepper to pot.
  4. Bring pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about for ten minutes. Season with salt to taste, if desired.

17 June 2015

Quick White Bean Salad

I first made this bean salad for our Memorial Day picnic, because I knew we were going to stuff ourselves with burgers and deviled eggs so should probably pack a healthy side. Also, I wanted something mayonnaise-free that could sit on out on a warm picnic table in the woods for a bit without becoming intestinally exciting.


Anyway, it was so good that I've made it several times since. It's a very simple recipe and works well with other herbs, so feel free to use whatever you have too much of in the garden! I especially like it with fresh dill.

Quick White Bean Salad

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 15-oz can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • Generous handful finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Small palmful finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp garlic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine beans, onion, celery, parlsey, and rosemary in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a measuring cup or small bowl.
  3. Pour dressing over bean mixture, tossing to coat. Cover and chill for several hours.

20 May 2015

Fried Pork Chops & White Bean Salad

Sometimes, I have reasonably good idea about what main dish I'll serve for supper, but don't really plan on a side dish, because I'll just microwave some frozen vegetables or something and call it done. But then it comes time to cook and I realize I'm not really in the mood for microwaved frozen anything ...

Pan-fried thin-cut pork chops and white bean salad. Yum.
Beans to the rescue! Jazz them up with diced vegetables and a quick vinaigrette and there's a bean salad to be (reasonably) proud of.

White Bean Salad

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup finely diced seeded cucumber
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp garlic vinegar
  • Penzeys Tuscan Sunset
  • Parsley
  • Black pepper

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients, seasoning to taste.
  • Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

01 May 2015

Easy Italian Chicken, White Beans, & Tomatoes

I've been making this chicken and beans dish for a while now, but somehow I never managed to write it up. It's a rich, tomato-y dish that definitely warms up your insides. There's some sauce -- but not a lot as I cook everything without a lid so most of the juices render down -- and that's perfect for dunking crusty chunks of bread. I've been using cans of Cirio Cherry Tomatoes that I picked up at Big Lots on impulse, but I'm sure canned diced or crushed tomatoes will work fine when I run out.


Chicken Thighs With White Beans & Tomatoes

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 14.5 oz can cherry tomatoes (pomodorini)
  • 2 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grated parmesan, as desired

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken thighs and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Remove thighs to a shallow bowl.
  2. Add onion and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent.
  3. Add chicken and any juices back to skillet along with the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Cook for 10 minutes or until chicken has reached 165°F. (Don't cover the chicken, because you want the liquid to cook down).
  4. Add beans to skillet and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with cheese, and serve.

22 November 2014

Black Bean & Beef Burgers

The first time I made these black bean and beef patties, I made them for my work lunches because I wasn't sure if they were "good enough" to inflect upon The Husband. I ate them with steamed spinach and Side Mates' quinoa with rice, black beans, and corn. It was all very good -- even of the third day, I was all smugly "yum! what a clever cook I was to throw this deliciousness together!"

Work lunches all "neatly" packed in EasyLunchboxes

I've made these twice now and still not tested them out on The Husband ... because I'm enjoying them too much to share!

Black Bean & Beef Burgers

Yield: 6 patties
Prep Time: 10 mins.
Cook time: 15 mins.
Total time: 25 mins.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 Tbsp Penzeys Arizona Dreaming
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mash beans in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients. Mix to combine.
  2. Shape into six similarly-sized patties (a half cup measure is useful for this).
  3. Place burgers on a small rimmed baking tray and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

I used Nature's Promise low-sodium organic black beans and organic grass-fed beef for these burgers. Nature's Promise is Stop and Shop/Giant's natural and organic house brand. I buy a lot of the Nature's Promise organic products because the quality and price are good. No-one's paying me to promote Nature's Promise, I just know that many of us are trying to eat "better" and buy good quality ingredients while still minding our pennies and ... this is how I do it, anyway.

21 August 2014

Improv Challenge: Beans & Bacon

I'm a sucker for Campbell's "Bean With Bacon" soup, but I don't eat it as often as I crave it as it's full of salt. And, yes, I know the Healthy Request version has half as much sodium, but that's still too much considering I'm likely to eat the entire can in one sitting. Also, quite frankly, the stuff I buy now seems neither as beany nor as delicious as the Campbell's "Bean with Bacon" of my childhood memories!

So I decided to just go ahead and make my own version of the soup for August's Improv Challenge. Sure, it's hot and humid out. Sure, the air conditioner is constantly cycling on. It's the best time ever to make soup! Or not. But I wanted soup and soup I would have.


I started by looking at the ingredients on the back of the soup can:
COOKED PEA BEANS, WATER, TOMATO PUREE (WATER, TOMATO PASTE), BACON (CURED WITH WATER, SALT, SUGAR, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE), CARROTS, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2 % OF: MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, SALT, SUGAR, ONION POWDER, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL SMOKE FLAVORING.
And then converted them into something I could handle:
Canned small white beans, lower-sodium bacon, tomato paste, carrot, celery, onion, bay, thyme, low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, salt, pepper, liquid smoke.
The soup I ended up with was surprisingly tasty for a first attempt ... although, admittedly, not exactly like the canned version! It's smoky, bean-y, and bacon-y and that's good enough for me. (I do find myself thinking I might get better results using finely shredded bits of smoked ham instead of bacon? My mom makes her split pea soup using the meaty bone from her Easter ham and that might work here, too).
White Bean & Bacon Soup

Ingredients
1 1lb 13oz can small white beans, drained and well rinsed
[Goya]
6 strips lower-sodium bacon, chopped fine
3 Tbsp tomato paste [Amore]
1 carrot, chopped small
1 small onion, chopped small
2 ribs of celery, chopped small
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 bay leaf
½ Tbsp dried thyme, crushed
3 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
Salt and pepper, to taste
Liquid smoke, to taste [Lazy Kettle]
Crispy bacon, for garnish

Directions
Pretend it is late October. Cook bacon in large heavy pot on medium-low for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, or until bacon is crispy and as much fat as possible has rendered out. Remove bacon.



Drain all but 1 Tbsp bacon fat from pot, reserving fat for another use. Add celery, carrots, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and covered in bacon-y goodness.


Add the beans, broth, bay, thyme, and tomato paste. Cover and allow to gently simmer on low for 30 minutes.


Remove bay leaf. Puree a little of the bean mixture with your immersion blender (or puree a few cups in a "proper" blender) so your soup is half puree and half chunk (or however you like it best). Stir in bacon. Let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes (this will help the soup thicken).


Season to taste with salt, pepper, and liquid smoke. Garnish with additional crispy bacon bits, if desired.
(I apologize for my photos! I had to take them with my phone as my camera has gone missing. We had people over last weekend and I did a quick tidy hide-all-the-things before they arrived ... and I hid my camera so well I still don't know where it is!)



23 July 2014

More Beanz!

My bush green beans are quite ... prolific ... this year and I'm having a little trouble keeping up! Usually, by the middle of July, the plants have fallen prey to some hungry critter or been crispified by drought and bean production is over. This summer ... well, I'm pretty sure my cats have zeroed out my neighborhood's rabbit population and, thanks to cooler than normal temps and some decent rain, my bean and chard bed is a dense jungle! I'm not bothered that the chard is getting monstrous (it will be good whenever I harvest it) but leave beans too long and they go all woody and "untasty."

Over the weekend, I made a bean and tuna salad using one of Plated's recipes but subbed with my own green beans instead of their haricot vert as those were brownish and unappetizing looking. Anyway, the salad was dead easy to throw together -- just blanched beans, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, parsley, dill, shallot, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, dijon, sea salt, and black pepper -- and I'll definitely make it again with more garden beans and cherry tomatoes (if, by happy coincidence the beans are still bearing when the tomatoes ripen).


The bean salad was meant to be served with oil-poached tuna, but I chose to poach my tuna in low-sodium fat-free chicken broth because the Plated recipe called for poaching the tuna in 1½ cup extra virgin olive oil and my parsimonious brain was like "Dude! That's $7 worth of oil! Duuuude! And you only keep two tablespoons! The rest gets thrown away?! WTF?" Anyway, the salad was fine served with broth-poached tuna as I ended up flaking the tuna and tossing everything together to make two meals for work.


I also made an easy minestrone with green beans, garden basil, canned tomatoes, and a farmers market zucchini I had kind-of forgotten about in the back of the crisper. It came out pretty well for something that was just "Well, I'll saute some onion and garlic and carrots and celery and then add some chopped green beans and broth and herbs and zucchini and tomatoes and salt and pepper and just keep fiddling until it tastes right."