Southern Style Pinto Beans


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.


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)


-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


Appetizer Idea: Southwestern Egg Rolls

photo (40)

Another egg roll wrapper recipe comin’ atcha!photo (42)

Why? Because I had a bajillion of them and a hankering for some crispy appetizers! Yes, the egg-roll-wrapper saga is not over. And I question whether or not its crispy goodness should.

Since I’m headed to Texas, I thought I’d try a Tex-Mex recipe, for festivity’s sake.

And like anything I do, this recipe is simple, easy, and fast. Planned for the live-alone girl (or guy) in mind, and made to pack a flavorful pop the “Everything’s Bigger” state can love.


2 egg roll wrappers, sliced in halves

1/4 cup black beans (or pinto)

1/4 cup fresh corn kernelsphoto (41)

1/2 small Roma tomato or 3-4 grape tomatoes

1 T chopped onion

dash of minced garlic

dash of: cumin, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro

twist of lime

optional: Chipotle Ranch dressing

Directionsphoto (39)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

In a small skillet, combine beans, corn, tomato, onion, garlic, spices, and lime. Saute until veggies appear fully sauteed and seasoned.

Transfer veggies to your four eggroll strips. Parcel out less than you think to each. Divide evenly, but “eyeball,” as my mother would say, to see if you might add a bit more. Before you start to roll, be careful to overlap to create a longer roll and make sure the ends connect up so none of the filling comes out. This is also why you have to underestimate how much veggie filling is needed because more often than not, you’ve added more than can fit.

Bake until crispy and the wraps start to flake up with air bubbles. Serve hot in cool dipping sauce if you like. Que bueno!

Satisfying Salads: Zesty Southwestern Black Bean


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!


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


1/4 cup canned tomatoes and green chiles

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


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.


Appetizer Idea: Bite-Sized Fajita Bowls

pretty lime fajita

With this post, I begin the first of what I imagine will become a long series of appetizer ideas using my new favorite ingredient for entertaining…fjita aerial

This weekend, I picked up a package of egg-roll wrappers. And since I opened them tonight and starting playing around with them, my mind has been racing with ideas.

I often see won-ton wrappers used to make lots of creative appetizers on I finally picked up a package for my own culinary experimentation. But note, I went with egg roll wrappers instead. Why? They’re similar, but bigger. So if I want to cut them to different shapes and sizes with a knife, then I can have whatever I need, including won tons, by slicing accordingly.

Occasionally I am clever.

For this first one, I had some venison steak strips leftover, some peppers, limes, chiles, and tomatoes. The rest is history. I love these. It’s like a perfect appetizer compliment to my own meal and I can’t wait to try them out on a group.tres fajitas


1 egg roll wrapper (Get a good healthy brand like Nasoya)

2 oz. steak, sliced into strips

red pepper flakes

1.5 T red and green chiles

1 slice of lime

a few diced tomatoes

a few thinly-sliced peppers

dash of cumin and chili powder


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin. Set aside.bite fajita

Take the egg roll wrapper and slice into four equal squares. Press into pan, folding sides to fit down as necessary, but not pushing too hard.

In a small pan, sear the steak with the vegetables, cumin, and chili powder. You can use other vegetables, of course, I used common fajita ingredients I had sitting in the fridge, but you might also try corn, avocado (not seared in pan though), tomatoes, black beans, etc. Saute for a few minutes, then evenly  distribute among the wrappers. Spritz some lime juice over the top to keep the steak moist–and a little more after it comes out of the oven–but not too much or else they’ll get soggy.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges of wrappers turn golden brown. Top with chiles and a dash of red pepper flakes. Serve right away and warm!

Protein-Packed Enchilada and Beef Eggs


Contrary to popular belief, I am not a vegetarian. But I rarely eat beef or a lot of red meat, so I can understand why so many assume I am.

But every once in a while, even this plant-preferring omnivore has a carnivorous moment.SAM_5519

The perfect storm one Wednesday afternoon around lunchtime. An open can of enchilada sauce to use, leftover strips of roast beef from a Mother’s Day outing, and a hankering for some much-needed protein of egg whites led me to a delicious reconnection with a breakfast meal traditionally reserved for the more carnivorous types.

It hit the spot, and all that protein is enough to keep you full for a long time. Here’s what I used and how I did it:


3-4 egg whitesSAM_5533

Dash of minced garlic

½ Roma tomato, few slivers of onion, and black olives

1 T enchilada sauce

1 oz. roast beef

Dash of chili powder, cumin

Optional: sliced spinach or cilantro to garnish


Prepare your eggs as you usually would. I scrambled, but you could make sunny-side up or anything else work. Remove from heat.SAM_5520

In a small skillet, heat a few drops of oil and add garlic, then onion, then tomato. Cut beef into thin strips and add that, too. Sprinkle with chili and cumin powders and let sit for a few minutes ‘til warmed through and fragrant.

Plate the eggs. Top with meat and sautéed veggies. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle on the olives and any other garnishes you’d like to add. Serve hot.

This would be so tasty with some avocado slices, but I didn’t have any on hand. Drats. Next time the protein craving hits, and I’m sure it will in due time.

Appetizer Idea: Enchilada Minis


So many times I go to potlucks and watch friends, especially my gluten-free friends, fret over partaking in a dish that won’t agree with them or is simply too large in terms of portion size. Our culture has a predilection for wanting “the whole enchilada!” not just a tiny taste.SAM_5503

But wouldn’t it be delightful if tasty treats, like enchiladas, were put on portion check AND made with healthful ingredients?

Behold a new little appetizer idea: enchilada minis.

Yes, just make them mini. And don’t douse them with sauce and cheese so they become mushy. A crispy, smaller than normal enchilada can be just as delightful as a big soggy one, or in my opinion, better.

Plus, guests find finger foods delightful. And a clever idea like this might spark good foodie conversation and sharing.

Ingredients (for a single serving, double for more)SAM_5517

1 large whole-wheat burrito wrap, cut in two halves

¼ cup black sliced olives

¼-1/2 cup enchilada sauce (preferably preservative  free)

filling: pulled pork, chicken, ground beef or turkey, or a veggie filling of sauteed beans, spinach and tomatoes

optional: sprinkle cheese (soy is great, but keep sprinkling light to avoid sogginess)



-Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Set aside.SAM_5495

-In a medium-sized skillet, add a little oil and sautee whatever veggies you chose or brown your meat. If you’re going for meat, be sure to drain grease well so tortillas don’t get soggy. (Clearly, the aim of this endeavor is avoiding soggy enchis at all costs.)

-Once veggies or meat filling is prepared, get ready to roll. Don’t overestimate the filling. A little goes a long way. Spread a thin layer over each tortilla half. Roll and pin down with several evenly-spaced toothpicks. Transfer to baking sheet.

-Cut the enchiladas between the toothpicks. I made 4-5 out of each half of the tortilla. Drizzle sauce over the top and drop an olive down each toothpick. Bake for about 15 minutes or until they get golden brown and crispy. Add more sauce if necessary, but again, don’t let soggy happen.

-If you’re adding cheese, do that last, a few minutes before serving. The heat will melt it for a pretty contrast. And your guests will think you’re pretty great letting them have as much healthy enchilada minis as they like.SAM_5493

Gluten-Free Enchiladas


The cabbage kick is more or less over, but during my fascination I snapped a few pics of all the crazy recipes I tried.SAM_5423

Okay, they’re not that crazy. But because the Standard American Diet is something that doesn’t feature many veggies, especially not as grain replacements, it seems odd.

With this recipe, I boiled cabbage leaves as tortilla wrappers and used some leftover enchilada sauce from my Enchi-lotta Pasta recipe to make a quick and satisfying lunch.


4-5 Cabbage leaves

3 oz. cooked taco meat (turkey is what I went with!)

¼ cup enchilada sauceSAM_5426

Olives for topping

Optional: cheese


Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add in leaves and boil ‘til tender.

Meanwhile, you can be preparing your taco meat. I added in lots of mix-ins to add more bulk, so onions, sautéed tomatoes and kale. If you need a healthy taco seasoning in a pinch, try my recipe for Preservative –Free Taco Seasoning.Preservative-Free Taco Seasoning

During this time, you’ll also want to get your oven ready. You can either broil the enchiladas on high if you need it faster (as I usually do) or preheat to 400 degrees. Prepare a pan with cooking spray.

When leaves are boiled and tapped dry and taco meat prepared, spoon equal portions of meat on the end of each leaf. Tuck in the sides and roll, leaving the end of the leaf tucked under the bottom so it doesn’t come undone. Transfer to pan. Drizzle the enchilada sauce and olives over the top.

If broiling, you only need only a few minutes. If baking, you’ll want longer, probably 18-22 minutes or until the leaves become somewhat translucent and crispy.

Enchi-lotta! Pasta with Turkey Taco Meat


For The Register’s Datebook last week, I wrote an article on 5 ways to celebrate the fifth. The most memorable part of that interview/ gathering process, talking to the owner of La Tapatia Grocery in Des Moines, who laughed at me for being like so many other silly Americans celebrating what Mexican-Americans consider “a normal day.” It was a pleasant jab–oxymoron intended. I hung up smiling.SAM_5395

But how did I spend my Cinco de Mayo? Did I partake in any of the very exciting festivities I wrote about?

No, but I still had un gigante amount of fun.

Saturday I went to El Azteca in Ames. A little skeptical, I went for the festive feel and friends. I was pleasantly surprised. My shrimp tacos were fairly good. The rest was standard Tex-Mex fare, the kind and quality that you may be picturing right now. Average. But my friends are far from average, so it was a great time.





On the actual holiday I was in for dinner. A long day of editing and researching for a bus-comm textbook left me cooped up in my apartment most of the day, but hankering for an exciting dinner. No friends were free, but my overabundance of whole-wheat pasta from this semester’s nutrition study gave me some ideasSAM_5403

So my favorite dinner fare (pasta+veggies+protein) headed south of the border, and for 10 minutes or so, my taste buds did, too.

So easy. So spicy.

And a nice break from my usual Italian taste.


2 oz. dry pasta (elbow, rotini, or even spaghetti noodles would work)SAM_5389

1/4 cup enchilada sauce

2-3 oz. ground turkey

dash of minced garlic

1.5 T taco seasoning

1 cup veggies of choice (I sauteed tomatoes, onions, kale, and olives)

optional: cheese

Directions SAM_5408

-Prepare pasta as directed. Meanwhile prepare veggies in pan, simmering in cooking oil and garlic.

-In another small pan, grease with cooking spray and brown turkey meat. Add in taco seasoning slowly ’til covered. If it starts to dry out, add a little water. Or if you like it spicy like I do, Tabasco.

-Now put it all together. Get a large bowl. Layer one is pasta. Drizzle with half of enchilada sauce. Layer two is meat. Layer three is veggies, the rest of the enchilada sauce, and cheese if you’re adding it on. Serve hot.

Crispy Edamame Snack



Chips are boring.SAM_5094


Fries are gross.

Nuts are boring.

Fries are still gross.

The only routine with my lunch routine is no routine at all. I’m constantly switching up what I eat, especially with sides. You probably would have guessed on your own that I detest anything fried or processed. Another lunchtime challenge is that by this point in the day I haven’t had any veggies yet. So if I don’t get 2 servings of vegetables at lunchtime, my health-nut side feels the need to overcompensate at dinnertime, effectively stuffing myself and inducing lethargy to follow. Not ideal, but you’ve got to have them…SAM_5083

Back to my point with this post, I eat a lot of vegetable sides, but I’m picky about their preparation.

When in doubt, I always broil a vegetable. You’ve read about how I’ve done this with sweet potato fries, chickpeas, greenbeans. There’s nothing this girl can’t turn crispy and delicious with a broiler, seasoning, and a few minutes of patience.SAM_5091

Remember that 8-week nutrition study I participated in, the one that required me to have an incredibly high-fiber diet? In addition to breads, tofu, and black beans, I was given a generous supply of edamame. Yum! I could eat those little beans raw all day long.

But on a wet, April-showers-kind-of morning, I wanted something warm and crispy. So I tried roasting.

And you know what, it never fails to please.


1/2 cup edamame beans (thawed if frozen)

cooking spray

seasonings of choice


-Preheat broiler to high.

-Prepare boiling pan by spritzing lightly with cooking spray. Too much spray will actually make it harder for the beans to crisp up, and if you leave them in too long waiting, they’ll burn.

-Place beans on pan. Coat lightly with seasonings. Use hands or utensils to toss them around a bit so they’re evenly coated and sop up just a tad of the oil.

Note: you can use just about any seasonings you like. I used a garlic-pepper blend, but a spicy Tex-Mex version might feature chili powder and cumin. Or you could go Asian-inspired with a sweet ginger rub or a curry powder.

-Roast beans until the outside shells begin to crisp and turn brown. About 5-6 minutes in my broiler.

Veggie-Bean Tacos


Last Wednesday I wrote all about the high-fiber study I was participating in, and about how I was Tex-Mexing with tofu for lack of meat in my diet (as required by the study). Well, the study is over, but these little veggie-bean tacos aren’t, not for me.SAM_5050

Why do I love them? First of all, I almost never eat beans, which is a shame considering all their health benefits. More so than that, I love this recipe because anytime I want a protein-packed, filling meal, it doesn’t require thawing. Defrosting meat is something I hate. It’s disgusting. It’s uneven if you use the microwave, and because I usually prepare whatever I feel like eating when I feel like eating it, I rarely plan ahead.

But beans are ready when you are. Simple and wonderful.

This recipe is very similar to the Southwestern Tofu Scramble because I sautee my beans with my veggies and smash them up a little bit. You don’t have to, but I like them to be infused with similar flavor.



1/4 cup black beans, rinsed

1 jalapeno

1/2 Roma tomato, chopped

garlic and minced onion, to taste

dash of cumin and chili powder

optional: tortillas, kale, cheese, twist of lime


-Warm a skillet to medium heat. Spray with cooking oil and begin adding in garlic, onion, tomato, and jalapeno. Sautee for a few minutes.

-Add in beans and then the seasonings into the veggies. Continue to cook until beans and veggies are heated through fully. Again, I smash my beans down a tad, but that’s personal preference. If you want to keep the texture of your mix diversified, don’t press down on them.

-Serve warm with warm tortillas, which I like to toast for a minute or so in the broiler (and it crisps the edges of the veggie-bean mix quite well).

I add kale and spritz a little lime juice over the top. Not too much though or else the tortillas become soggy. And my salsa rice makes an excellent side.