Southern Style Pinto Beans

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I’m a little closer to the equator now and although I would’ve never expected it, I’ve been eating beans of every Tex-Mex variety like they’re going out of style.IMG_1224

So while peeking in my pantry for ideas the other day, I spied a bag of dried pinto beans I bought last fall in Iowa in an effort to reduce my sodium intake (sans canning preservatives). I tried the “slow-soak” method of softening the beans and it took too long and didn’t turn out that great. But I’m somewhere new now, so I figured why not give it another shot.

Slow soak did not work, again. I even soaked three times the recommended time. No softening to be had. I strained them, popped them in the fridge for a few days, and returned feeling challenged but determined.

Not another slow soak for me. This time I boiled them for just 8 minutes and the results were much better, allowing me to try my hand at Southern Style Pinto Beans, which are a lot like refried beans, but of course I’m not going to add any hydrogenated oils.IMG_1198

And really, all the recipes I drew preparation ideas from were pretty easy and healthy already. So here’s my version, done in a slow cooker. It’s not single-serving style, but cut anything by 1/4 and you’ll have it anyway or email me and I’ll help.

Ingredients

1 pound pinto beans, softened

1/5 cup diced onion

1/2 T cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and a dash of cayenneIMG_1196

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth (or more water)

Directions

-Place onions and beans in a slow cooker on low. Stir in spices and liquids.

-Cook for about 4 hours, stirring every half hour or so. And pay attention to liquid levels, so if the bean mix appears to be drying out add another 1/4 cup of water or more if necessary.

-Place in food processor. Blend until smoother but still lumpy. Return to slow cooker if your meal isn’t prepared yet and keep on warm or serve. (But serve warm because this is the one time when cool beans aren’t so cool…)IMG_1223

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Appetizer Idea: Unfried Mac-and-Cheese Bites

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Taste the unfried side…photo (18)

That rings in my head. It’s got to be a slogan for some company, although I’m not sure what at the moment. It’s possible that it’s just a rhyme I’ve made up to.

But it’s sticky. No, not like fried sticky. It’s an idea–and a health habit–that sticks, i.e. has staying power. Nothing truly good comes from anything fried, not in the long-term (health wise) or in how you feel right after eating something fried.

A quick vignette to illuminate my point:

Shortly before the 4th of July this year, a friend of mine indulged in a fried mac-and-cheese burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines. The thing was a spectacle with it’s layering of mac and cheese and “buns” made as large mac-and-cheese bites, similar to the ones made popular by Sonic and other fast food chains. Was it comical? Absolutely. Did it make everyone cringe a little? Yes. There’s something appealing to us Americans about indulgence and extremes. I get that. But we also know better.photo (16)

Epilogue: Dear friend did not finish that burger. He took the rest for lunch the next day, his girlfriend squealing uncomfortably at the thought of it being reheated.

My purpose in telling you this story is to lead you to another option. You know I’ve been experimenting with egg roll wrappers lately, and so with some cheesy cauliflower left over from my Healthier Mac-and-Cheese You Can Microwave, I set out to make an appetizer comparable to the cheesy, carby bites so many crave, sans the grease.

How’d they turn out? In my humble, disapproving-of-all-things-fried opinion, REALLY GOOD! Perfect crunch. Perfect amount of cheesiness, and anything but hard to make.

Ingredients

2 egg roll wrappersphoto (19)

1 single-serving container of Green Giant Cheesy Cauliflower

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin, or a regular cookie sheet if you don’t have a mini-muffin one. Set aside.

Using a pizza cutter, slice the egg roll wrappers in half to get two triangles for each square sheet.

Gently press the middle of each triangular wrapper into the tin or lay flat. In the center, spoon in warmed cheesy cauliflower mix. Be conservative in how much you spoon in. A little dollop goes a long way.

The next part is tricky. Fold the edges of the wrapper over and tuck them under the bottoms to form the ball. You’ll have to finagle them a little to get them just right, but keep calm and fold gently. When you’ve achieved folding that makes them look like small balls or popovers, pop them in the oven for about 7-9 minutes, or until the outer edges are brown and crispy. photo (15)

Serve warm in a favorite dipping sauce or with a sprinkle of pepper as I did. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Hash + Egg

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If you love fun food like I do.IMG_1293

If you adore anything avian (birds, nests, eggs).

If you love comfort food.

You’ll love this.

Sweet potato hash gets a salty-sweet kick with a little onion salt and an egg bakes in the center for a most delicious pairing that would be fun to make with kids.

Or even, fun for a twenty-something gal who likes breakfast for dinner every now and then.

If you think it’s hard to make, think again. Nothing I make is very challenging, really. I have limited time and limited patience most nights, like most people. So I try to cook fast, but well. IMG_1296

So don’t let a spud and a bird’s egg scare you. Try this recipe. You can even try it in the microwave.

Ingredients

1-6 or 7 oz. sweet potato

1 egg

dash of onion salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a ramekin. Set aside.IMG_1283

Cut your potato into four pieces. Heat for 30 seconds to soften a tad. Then take to the scraper and begin making hash with your shredder. You could process in a food processor, but you won’t get hash shreds, really.

Once your shreds are ready, put them in the ramekin. Shape a little hole in the center for the egg. Crack it and drop it in the center. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the egg and shreds are fully cooked.

Alternatively, if you want to try this in the microwave–which I also did once because I really didn’t have any patience that night–microwave your shreds in the ramekin for 3 minutes. Add in the egg as you would if you were baking, and microwave for another 1-2 minutes, being careful to listen for overheating or that unwelcome yolk-pop sound.IMG_1295

Sprinkle with a little pepper, hot sauce, or whatever else you like on your eggs and potatoes, and enjoy!

Cottage-Cheese and Veggie Egg Muffins

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True fact: Up until this point in my life (just a day shy of 24) I have avoided that lumpy white sludge they call cottage cheese.IMG_1260

What about it is cottage-like, I wonder? The wordie in me likes to think this unattractive, lactose-filled allergen wonder was snarkishly named in memory of a grandparent gumming lumpy cheese back in the holler somewhere. That’s the story in my head that I’ll stick to.

On to more serious points, when I tried this recipe a few weeks ago–with my own single-serving adjustments–I was surprised, and pleasantly surprised at that.

Is lumpy white cheese my new favorite dish? No. I honestly don’t understand how people can pair this with fresh fruit…IMG_1262

But does it bake down into a delicious light, eggy crust? Absolutely. Paired with sauteed veggies and legumes, this recipe might be worth sharing with my own grandma and Nana.

Makes 4 small or 3 medium muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup diced vegetables of choice
  • 1/4 cup black beans or low-sodium refried beans
  • 1/4 cup spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese (lactose-free ones are available!)IMG_1258
  • optional: toppers like extra sprinkle cheese or diced hatch chiles
  • dash of paprika, cayenne pepper

Directions

1. Sautee vegetables, spices and spinach over high heat until tender.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with muffin liners (or grease really really well).
3. Spoon veggie mixture into muffin slots, filling each about 1/2 full. Then evenly divide and spoon the beans on top.
4. In a small bowl, whisk egg and cottage cheese together.
5. Spoon egg mixture over top of veggie cups.
6. Top with additional paprika and cayenne, if you like.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until eggs are set. If they’re taking a while or if you’d like a crispy golden finish, set the oven to broil for 1-2 minutes, but be sure to remove quickly so they don’t burn.IMG_1253

Use a spoon to remove and serve warm. Enjoy!

Burgie in a Nest

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Burgers are coming in all kinds of packages these days. I’m always happy to see restaurants that offer whole-wheat bun options, less happy when I see disgustingly indulgent bun options, like the fried mac-and-cheese buns at Zombie Burger. Yes, ZB in downtown Des Moines is an excellent restaurant, very tasty choice with lots of creations, but the mac-and-cheese burger that has mac on a burger between two fried mac-and-cheese patties as buns: disgusting.CC Pics 018

And then there are those who offer protein-style options, like lettuce wraps, which I really like. Quesadilla wraps are big now, too.

So in my quest to use up all 21 egg roll wrappers purchased for a single-serving recipe way, way back at the start of summer, I had another idea. Most have been appetizer ideas, but this is a wrapper idea. Wrap a burger in an egg roll wrapper for a crunchy alternative to buns that adds a nice texture.

And it’s just cute. To me it looks like a little infant burger poking out of a little nest.

The reality is that it’s actually a substantially-sized venison patty that packs a lot of delicious flavor, but back to being cute…

Here’s how to wrap your burgie in its nest for an alternative to the bun that’s a little more fun.

Ingredientsphoto (27)

1 egg roll wrapper

4-6 oz. burger, cooked

toppings of choice

Directions

Preheat broiler to high or set your oven to bake at 450 degrees. Lightly grease a broil-safe pan. Set aside.

Lay the burger on the egg roll wrapper, in the center. Now slide it down closer to one corner. Not all the way, but close. Fold the two perpendicular corners over the sides of the burger, tuck the closest corner over the top of those and fold under. With the flap that hasn’t been folded yet, curl that underneath the burger for extra support/ crunch.CC Pics 038

Note: Make sure your burgers aren’t dripping in grease as that’ll cause the wrapper to not crispy up, just stay soggy.

Broil for 4-5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. If baking, expect the crisping to take a little longer, more like 6-7 minutes.

Let cool a tad and then tuck in your favorite toppings. Crunch in and enjoy!

 

Hatch Chiles & Cheese Over Easy

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Since arriving in Fort Worth at the start of this month, I’ve been less consumed with being the new girl in town and more into all the new things this town can offer. My foodie favorite is Hatch Chiles from an awesome new grocer called Central MarketScreen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.20.42 PM

The Hatch Chile Festival was not the traditional festival I thought it to be–more of an in-store roasting and celebration than an off-site extravaganza. Nevertheless, my spicy side had to try, so I picked up some of those big green chiles, the “Hot” ones, one night before a Rangers game.

Were they as “Hot” as advertised? I didn’t really think so. But these once-a-year peppers from New Mexico are fresh and tasty. I thought they’d be the perfect compliment to eggs. Some simple cheese and red pepper spice later, I had an excellent Southwestern breakfast. It’s not novel, but it is good. Lots of egg-white protein and some capsaicin make for a delightfully healthy mix.Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.20.16 PM

Ingredients

1/2 small Hatch chile, sliced into rings

4 egg whites or 1 egg + 3 egg whites

1 oz. fresh cheese, crumbled or sliced

1 T fresh salsa

optional: Red pepper flakes

Directions

-Lightly grease a skillet. Add in eggs one at a time after the skillet has reached medium-medium heat. Cook until almost all of the egg white has hardened, and then using a wide spatula, flip carefully.Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 2.21.04 PM

-While eggs are cooking, prepare other ingredients as necessary. When egg is cooked through, plate it. Top with cheese first, then chiles, then salsa and spice. The egg should be hot enough for the cheese to melt down a bit on it’s own, but if not you can microwave on high for about 30 seconds.

Appetizer Idea: Thai Flatbread Pizza

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The egg-roll wrapper saga seemed like it would never end. I’d tried my hand at every wonton-wrapper-inspired idea I could imagine.photo (38)

And then one day I had lunch at a cool little cafe-bistro in Cedar Rapids, IA called Brewed Cafe. It was at this lunch meeting that I found myself torn between a vegetarian chili and a Thai flatbread pizza. Concerned that the flatbread might disappoint, I went chili. Curious still the next day, I recalled the ingredients and tried making my own version of the ‘za.

It was great. The wrapper I used was a perfect flaky crust to make several mini pizzas. And I’d have never thought cucumber would have worked so well on a warmed crust, but I was mistaken. Slice it thin enough and it can surprise you.

Ingredients

2 egg roll wrappers

2-3 T Trader Joe’s red curry sauce

1/2 cup cucumber, thinly sliced

a few dashes of basil and caraway seed

Directionsphoto (36)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

Spread the curry sauce over the wrappers, being sure not to use to much or the crust won’t crisp up at all. Place on sheet. Arrange cucumbers as you like and sprinkle on seasonings. Bake until wrappers have crisped, about 5-6 minutes.

Simple and tasty, just the way I like it.

Cilantro Sweet Corn Side Dish

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One of my favorite nutritionist bloggers, Snack Girl, was bragging one July morning on her Easiest Corn Salad. It did look easy and tasty. Of course I had to try it.CC Pics 029

But with my own twist of course. Snack Girl’s was more of a salad, whereas mine is more correctly identified as a corn side with a little cilantro sass.

I’ve changed some of the ingredients to make a side that has a hint of sweet alongside herby cilantro and zesty lime. I quite like the outcome.

Per usual, this recipe makes on serving, but you can make more. See Snack Girl’s post for resizing or comment below if you need help adjusting.

Ingredients

1/2 cup fresh sweet corn kernels

twist of lime

pinch of steviaCC Pics 027

1 T diced tomato-onion mix

dash of freshly chopped cilantro

dash of paprika

Directions

Simply combine the corn and veggies. Squeeze lime over the top. Sprinkle on the stevia and add in the cilantro.

Toss. Toss. Toss.

Top with paprika and more cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!

Satisfying Salads: Zesty Southwestern Black Bean

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Salads are not for rabbits or desperate dieters. If done right, they are a healthy, filling, nutritionally-generous meal (or side) you won’t regret.

To date, I’ve features these protein- and fiber-packed recipes:

The Sesame Steak Salad

The Garden of Eden Salad

If Asian-inspired beef and veggies isn’t for you and neither is fruit-cheese-and-nut combos–or perhaps you prefer a meat-free option (?)–then try a little Zesty Southwestern Black Bean Salad.image

This is the salad I make when I’m at home and can’t pull myself away from work for long. It’s sort of the kitchen-sink recipe I go to when time is limited. Why?

Because I always have these ingredients in my fridge and pantry, can dump them on top of a bed of lettuce at the drop of the hat, and the protein and fiber in the beans and veggies assures me I won’t be aching for a more filling meal as I work through the rest of my afternoon. The zesty dressing gives it a little bite that keeps my tastebuds happy, too.

Try it!

Ingredients

2 cups Romaine lettuce

1/4 cup black beansimage

dash of cumin

dash of chili powder

dash of red pepper flakes

1 small Roma tomato and a few slices of onion sauteed

-or-

1/4 cup canned tomatoes and green chiles

1 oz. Newman’s Own Southwestern Ranch (or something comparable)

Directions

Toss all ingredients until dressing coats the salad leaves. Or if you’re like me and prefer layers in your salad instead of a mix, start with salad base, and then top with beans, sprinkle seasonings on top, veggies, and finally drizzle dressing on top.

 

Satisfying Salads: Garden of Eden

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Welcome back to a satisfying salads: Garden of Eden Edition! Like the Sesame Steak Salad I crafted in June, this salad has plenty of protein to keep you full and feeling satisfied. No skimpy salads to be had.image

A cheesy introduction for a salad that isn’t cheesy in the hokey sense, but is in a Gorgonzola-and-fruit pairing fantastic one. On a trip to KC earlier this summer, I was pleasantly reunited with my favorite salad, ever. I realize I’m speaking in hyperboles beyond reason, but forgive those and believe that the Garden of Eden Salad from The Mixx restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri is special. If you like savory-sweet combinations, you’re sure to love the savory-sweet ingredients tossed in this one. We’re talking cheeses, fresh apples, pecans, grilled chicken, and a champagne-honey vinaigrette that can’t be matched.

The downside for those wanting to try this recipe at home? I’ve yet to find a recipe or substitute dressing that stands up to the deliciousness of The Mixx’s. As you’ll see in the pictures, I saved a little cup from The Mixx and brought it back home with me.

The good news is that the most comparable dressing I’ve found can be bought at Trader Joe’s, TJ’s Champagne-Pear Dressing. Very good, that one, and it comes with small chunks of bleu cheese I believe. So your cheese and nut selections for this one can range. The Mixx uses Gorgonzola and candied pecans. For my slightly less sugary version, I used slivered almonds and chopped garlic-herb cheese. I also used a fresh Fuji apple, but a Granny Smith would do, and a Pink Lady would be equally delightful.image

So simple, but just in case you need it…

Ingredients

2 cups spring greens mix or Romaine lettuce

1/2 apple, sliced into matchsticks or very thin wedges

1 T nuts (walnuts, pecans, or almonds)

1 oz. cheese (Gorgonzola, bleu, etc.)

3 oz. grilled chicken

1 oz. dressing–whatever champagne-based one you can locateimage

sprinkle of black pepper

Directions

Toss all ingredients until dressing and cheese coat the salad leaves. Or if you’re like me and prefer layers in your salad instead of a mix, start with salad base, and then top with nuts, cheese, chicken, apples, pepper, and finally drizzle dressing on top.