Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

Smokey Black Beans & Rice

A good friend living in Nicaragua (see footnote) asked if I could post a recipe or two that would work for her, given the lack of gourmet grocery stores in her part of the world. Having lived there myself, years ago, I knew gallo pinto, or rice and beans, was a staple, and she confirmed nothing had changed. So to help out – here is a great recipe to spice things up a bit!

This is best done with a crock pot / slow cooker; but you can also make this in a regular pot on the stove, cooking over low heat. You may need to stir at times to keep things from sticking and burning to the bottom of your pot.

Smokey Black Beans and Rice

Serves 8 – 10, depending on your serving size. I used one big ladle per serving.

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons of olive oil (you could use vegetable or peanut oil – whatever you have)

1 onion, chopped – any type will do. I used a Vidalia

1 red bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 green bell pepper, cored/seeded, and chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

8 cups cooked (and drained) black beans

1 cup uncooked white rice

3 Tablespoons smoked paprika

2 Tablespoons black pepper

(I didn’t use any salt – personal choice.)

5 cups liquid – I used 3 cups of unsalted vegetable stock and 2 cups of water.

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion, bell peppers, carrot, and garlic for about 10 minutes. When the onions start to become translucent, you are ready to move on.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Put the black beans in the crock pot, stir in the sauteed vegetables.

Mix in the uncooked rice, smoked paprika, and black pepper.

Pour in the 5 cups of liquid. Gently stir into the mix. You want enough liquid to just cover the rice, beans, and vegetables.

Just before cooking started.

Just before cooking started.

Cover and simmer for 8 hours, or until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.

Serving

Pairs well with fried plantain slices dusted with a bit of sugar and cinnamon.

This is perfect in any climate – from the wonderfully warm temperatures of Nicaragua, to the frozen tundra I currently find myself inhabiting in Virginia.

* If you want to help children in need, and can spare a few dollars a month – please consider sending a donation to http://newsongnica.org/ Thanks!

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.

Who ordered all this snow? Not me.

 

 

 

 

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Carrot-Ginger Soup

The original plan was to make recipe numero dos in my quest to cook the book Easy Vegan – Simple Recipes for Healthy Eating. But then I found the bag of baby carrots in the freezer.

If this freezing had been planned, the carrots would have been blanched first, then frozen. Alas, this had not been the case. Still, it was a goodly amount of carrots and I hated to just throw them away. There had to be a way (a safe from food-borne illness way) to use these now thawed, soggy carrots.

Plan A: Roast them. So I thawed the carrots, drained as much water away as I could, then put them on a baking pan in a single layer. I seasoned the carrots with poultry seasoning (no worries, vegans – this is just a label for a combination of spices you probably have in your pantry right now) and some sea salt. 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven later – I thought Plan A had been the right approach.

Result: Hot, well-seasoned, and soggy carrots. Obviously, I needed a new plan.

Plan B: Saute them. I had a spare bit of Earth Balance Butter so why not toss the roasted carrots into a skillet and see if adding some buttery flavor would help. The carrot texture was still limp and soggy at the start; I was hoping the transfer of heat through conduction would steam the remaining water from the carrot’s cells, thusly reviving the original texture of a solid carrot.

Result: Very hot, well-seasoned, buttery, and still soggy carrots. Yes, you are right – time for the next plan.

Plan C: Make a soup. If there were any unwanted bacteria on the carrots due to the unplanned freezing, the roasting, sauteing and now soup-making should have been to kill those nasty things off. Chef’s tip: reducing the risk from unwanted bacteria is one very important reason why you blanch carrots first, then freeze them.

Result: It worked!

Since I do not want you to deal with accidentally frozen, unblanched carrots, let’s assume we are starting from scratch here. Try this recipe if you want a nice hot soup that tastes good, keeps the chill away, and is probably good for you!

Ingredients

1.5 – 2.0 pounds of fresh carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks the size of large wine corks

Olive oil

Poultry Seasoning

Sea Salt

4 Tablespoons (or more if you dare) of fresh ginger, chopped.

2 cloves of garlic

2 Tablespoon of black peppercorns

4 cups vegetable stock

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup coconut cream, or full-fat coconut milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place carrots on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the carrots- not too much, just a quick drizzle over all of them.

Sprinkle poultry seasoning and sea salt on top. Again, not too much, but make sure every piece of carrot has some seasoning.

Bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Turn the carrots every once in a while if they start to char up on the underside. Nobody likes burned carrots. Not even rabbits.

When done, remove from the oven and let rest. Now go look for your food processor or blender. It’s that device hiding in the back of the lowest cupboard shelf you have. That’s where the things you need always end up. See it? Good.

You may have to do this next part in batches, depending on the size of your food processor/blender.

Put the roasted carrots into the food processor. Adding the fresh ginger, garlic, peppercorns, and a cup or so of the vegetable stock, puree the ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a stock pot.

Once all of the carrot mixture is in the stock pot, stir in the remaining vegetable stock, sugar, and coconut cream. Keep stirring occasionally, and heat the soup until it just starts to boil. Now turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes. Continue to stir every once in a while, just to keep carrot solids from sticking to the bottom of the stock pot.

Once done – serve it up! And what you don’t use? Why, you can freeze it, of course.

I hope you have enjoyed my tale of kitchen (mis)adventures. And I hope you enjoy the soup!

Godt Nytar!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Huzzah! I received a great cookbook from my Secret Santa (who was nice enough to sign the title page. Thanks, Temma!) Anyhow, I immediately did what one always does when receiving a new cookbook – I looked at all the photos! And it was clear I had a new mission: cook.this.book.

The cookbook, easy vegan – simple recipes for healthy eating,  contains over 100 recipes so it will take a little over two years to fulfill this quest, recreating one recipe per week. I had thought about waiting until the New Year started, but in the category of what the heck – why wait, I have already started!

But first – a couple of caveats: (1) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit what I have available and (2) I reserve the right to change the recipe to fit our personal taste. Number one is in response to not having enough vegetable stock to make a soup for this first recipe, and number two is in anticipation of the beet salad about a third of the way into the book.

And by the way – this is a one pan dinner. You can’t get any easier than that, can you?

 

Garlic-Red Pepper Vegetable Rice

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: approximately 40 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients for Step One

3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon of sesame oil

4 scallion, chopped

1 cup carrots, julienned (thin little matchsticks)

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1 cup frozen green peas

8 cloves garlic, chopped (not minced)

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped – practically minced. Okay, go ahead. Mince away! Make the garlic jealous!

Ingredients for Step Two

3 cups uncooked rice (I used Jasmine-scented white rice)

4 cups of unsalted vegetable broth

1 cup of water

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 Tablespoons crushed red pepper (yep – two!)

Ingredients for Step Three

3 – 4 cups of hand-torn field greens

1 cup cashews or peanuts. Use more if you want. It’ll be okay.

Directions:

Using a (very) large non-stick sauce pan, pre-heat the olive oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Test the temperature by carefully dropping a carrot stick into the pan. If you hear it start to sizzle, add the Step One Ingredients.

Stir until the ingredients are mixed, then reduce to medium heat and cover. You are sautéing the vegetables here so be aware of how heat applied to oil reacts with damp vegetables such as frozen peas. Stir occasionally, sautéing for 10 minutes.

Can you believe it? You are almost done!

Add the Step Two ingredients, stirring until mixed. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let cook until the liquid has been absorbed into the rice. This might take 30 to 40 minutes.

In this step, you are allowing the liquid to cook the rice, and you are giving the spices and aromatics a chance to meld into the other ingredients. Plus you are giving yourself an opportunity to pour the glass of wine that has been calling your name since this morning. I know. I have the same thing happen to me all the time!

Just before serving, gently stir in the Step Three Ingredients. There you go – you have just created a wonderful one-dish meal full of substance and flavor. This works both as a main dish and as a side.

Optional: Add two more cups of hot vegetable broth after the rice has been cooked and you will have yourself a nice spicy soup, too.

Chef’s tip: Try to use fresh ginger whenever possible. Candied ginger is right out. All you need to do is peel the root a bit, chop what you need, then wrap the remainder in foil, place in a freezer bag (squeeze as much air out as possible) and keep in the freezer until you need more. The next time it may be a slight bit soggy, but the fresh flavor will still be there. And now you know!

Enjoy.

P.S. If you don’t use the V-word (you know – vegan) people will never know. It’s just a great tasting bowl of food!

Veggie Enchilada Casserole

Veggie Enchilada Casserole!

Ring in the new year on a saucy note with a spicy vegetable enchilada casserole. Stuffed with black beans, corn, potatoes, and Colby Jack cheese, then topped with a rich tomato-based sauce that has a good bite from chopped green chilies – this dish is perfect for those who are busy entertaining during the holidays. And it pairs well with beer, red wine, and even a decent champagne or sparkling wine. What more do you need?

The best part? You can make the sauce a few days in advance, freeze it, and then you are left with only 25 minutes of prep time and a half hour of cooking time. Great food in under an hour!

For the sauce:

Put the following ingredients in a stock pot, stir, and then apply enough heat to simmer for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan. Let cool, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend until you have a nice smooth sauce. Store in the freezer until you are ready to make the enchiladas. On the day you make them, thaw the sauce either in a microwave oven or in a sauce pan on the stove top. Bring it back to a simmer, then you are ready to go!

2 cups of vegetable broth

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 can of tomato sauce

2 small cans of chopped green chilies

1 small can of tomato paste

4 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

For the enchiladas:

4 medium Russet potatoes, diced into pieces a little smaller than, well, you know, dice.

A few dashes of olive oil

1 can of cooked black beans

1 can yellow corn

16 ounces of shredded Colby Jack cheese. Vegan option: any nondairy variety such as Daiya-brand Jack cheese will do!

12 corn tortillas (six inch diameter) or 6 flour tortillas (twelve inch diameter)

Optional: sour cream for the final topping. Vegan option: try Vegan Gourmet nondairy sour cream!

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You will also need a fairly large saute pan, a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish, and a dinner plate.

1. Saute the diced potatoes with the olive oil until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. While they are cooking, check to see if your sauce is hot yet, and then get the rest of your mis en plas. Once the potatoes are done, remove from heat. You are ready to assemble the enchiladas!

2. If you are using the twelve-inch flour tortillas, cut in half. This will help the enchiladas fit in the casserole dish.

3. Put a few spoonfuls of sauce in the casserole dish. Spread evenly on the bottom of the dish. You don’t need much; you just want a barrier between the tortilla and the dish surface.

4. Place a tortilla on the dinner plate. Coat the tortilla with a thin spread of sauce, then spoon on some potato, black beans, and corn. Finish the filling with a sprinkle or two of shredded cheese.

5. Roll up the tortilla, being careful to keep as much of the filling inside the enchilada as possible. Place it in the casserole dish. Repeat until you have used all of your tortillas.

6. Drizzle more sauce on the enchiladas. You can also add any leftover potatoes, black beans, and/or corn. Finally, top with the remaining shredded cheese.

7. Bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream. This dish works well alone or with added side dishes such as rice, stir fried green beans, or both. And don’t forget your beverages!

Buen provecho, mis amigos!

 

The whole enchilada!

The whole enchilada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cross Keys Vineyard – just in time!

Cross Keys Vineyard comes through!

Cross Keys Vineyard comes through!

Taking a short break from the throes of Nanowrimo to bring you this important message:

Virginia produces some very nice wine.

There, I said it. And I’ll even give all the purists who think good wine can only come from France, or at worst – California, some time to regroup. Take a seat. It’ll be alright.

What is the current fad? Oh, yes. Stay Calm and Drink Wine? Well we are in luck! Our quarterly shipment of wine just arrived from Cross Keys Vineyard, an awesome little winery located in the northwestern part of the Commonwealth, hidden among the shadows of the Massanutten Resort and the Shenandoah Mountains.

Today’s assortment included a Meritage, a Merlot, and a Fiore, which is fairly new to their fleet of award winning wines. To quote from their website, the Meritage is a blend of Cab, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, aged 15 months in oak barrels. The Merlot is just that, a fine Merlot that, like the Meritage is aged in both French and American oak barrels. The Fiore is an off-dry rosé, blended with Cab, Merlot and Pinot Noir. It is very light, “crispy” as they say, and one of my new favorites. I would give you fancy descriptions along the lines of this wine reminds me of springtime in my mouth, with just a hint of clover, blueberries, and fresh mountain air. But instead, I’ll give you the layman’s version: they are pretty darned good! Not too stuffy, yet packing just enough punch to remind you they have some moxie.

Yes, I used the word moxie. Either you have it or you don’t. And these wines have it in buckets.

Eleven wines are in production at present, and I like most of them. The Tavern? If you like port then you have a winner. Since it was not selected for the wine club shipment this time, I may just have to go online and buy one, or two.

Cross Keys, in comparison to other wineries, is a new entrant, planting the first vines only in 2001. But the key to their success is the dedication of the Bakhtiar family, and the superb vintners and staff who make the magic happen each year. And again, I send them our thanks.

Bonus: Now I know what’s for dinner!

And if you are ever in their neighborhood, stop by for a tasting and a tour. Cross Keys is Virginia’s little bit of the Mediterranean, found just outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Try it!

 

 

Easy Granola Bars

Easy Granola!

Easy Granola!

Who doesn’t like a nice, tasty granola bar? Call it what you will: protein bar, energy bar, “health” bar, as long as it can’t be compared unfavorably to a brick of sawdust, it is probably popular and thusly sells very well. Add chunks of chocolate, or a thin base of chocolate underneath and you probably have the sales leader!

But are they really as healthy as you think? That depends. Like cars, they all tend to have the same basic shape, and they all have many of the same parts – it’s just that some parts are better for you than others. The trick is in knowing which is which.

Why not make your own?

If you make it yourself, you know exactly what goes into it. You can adjust ingredients to meet your desired goals. Want more quick energy? Add a bit more honey. Want more protein? Vitamin E? Zinc? Add some wheat germ. Need the extra crunch? Pumpkin seeds will help, and they pack in some unexpected protein, too!

Based on a recipe from the culinary team at my office, here is an easy recipe for making your own granola bars. And hey, it’s an easy activity kids can help with (except the stove-top and oven parts. Use common sense, people!)

Prep Time: 15 minutes                   Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes                   Cool-down time: 3 hours

This recipe makes 16 bars, maybe more, maybe less, depending on how you cut them.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of rolled oats (as in Quaker Oats found in the cylindrical cardboard package)

1 cup of almond slivers

1 cup of shredded coconut

1/2 cup of pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

2/3 cup of honey (use locally harvested, if you can. Legend has it local honey helps build immunity to allergies. Is it true? I have no idea. But it’s a cool idea, isn’t it? Plus, you’ll be helping out a local business. And who’s against that? I didn’t think so!)

1/4 cup of light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups of dried cranberries (or any combination of dried fruits, i.e. 1 cup raisins and 1/2 cup cranberries.)

Directions:

–    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. or gas mark 4 for certain UK ovens, or Stufe 3 for das Deutsch – Ofen. [good granola bars know no borders!]

–    Take a small bit of butter and coat the bottom and inside walls of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

–    Now line the pan with parchment paper. Make sure you have enough paper to overlap the sides of the dish. I didn’t do this when we made the bars today, but now I see the value. Trust me – line with parchment paper. Getting the bars out later will be sooooo much easier!

–    In a large heat-resistant (i.e. Pyrex) bowl, toss the oats, almonds, and coconut together.

–    Pour mixture onto baking sheets and spread thin and evenly.

–    Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes; take out, stir gently, re-flatten out, then place back in the oven for 5 more minutes or until toasty and lightly browned.

–    Remove from oven and pour mixture back into large heat-resistant bowl.

–    In a small sauce pan, place the unsalted butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir ingredients together as you heat the mixture over medium heat, just until the mixture starts to boil.

–    Once boiling, reduce heat just a bit and stir for one minute.

–    Pour the hot liquid over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Why wooden? Why wooden you? Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

–    Add the dried fruit and stir again until thoroughly mixed.

–    Pour everything into your prepared 9×13 inch baking dish. Press down until you have an even thickness throughout.

–    Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees F. (gas mark 2 or stufe 1.5)

–    Bake the granola for 20 minutes, then check every few minutes until the desired level of browning is reached. We stopped after 22 minutes.

–    Remove from oven and let cool for three hours. Refrigeration may help but we didn’t try it this time.

When ready, slice the bars and serve. Ours were about 1 inch wide by 6 inches long. If you don’t want to serve them right away, you can wrap individual bars up in plastic bags. Once sealed up, these bars will keep for several days. They make great snacks for traveling, too!

Enjoy!

DJ’s Vindaloo Ragout

DJ's Vindaloo Ragout

DJ’s Vindaloo Ragout

The flavor knocks your socks off when you first cook it. The next day? Hold on to your skivvies!

This dish is a slow-cooked stew of chickpeas and potatoes, simmered for hours in a well-seasoned tomato sauce. You could make this dish using a crock pot or a stove top sauce pan; either works well as long as you have the lid or cover. You can make the vindaloo as spicy as you want, but don’t make it any less.  In India, they have two other versions much “hotter” than this. So we can’t really complain, can we? Besides, if you need a little zippity in your do-dah, this will do it for you!

Time required:  prep 15 minutes &  cooking 2 hours or more depending on size of diced potatoes and cooking temperature

Serves: 10 or so when accompanied with rice as a side dish. Naan or flatbread works well, too!

Ingredients- Part 1:

(1) 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies

(1) 6 oz. can tomato paste

(1) green bell pepper, cored and diced

(1/2) yellow onion, diced

(4) cloves garlic, minced

(1/2) cup water

(2) Tablespoons Sherry vinegar

(2) Tablespoons olive oil

(1) Tablespoon parsley flakes

(1) Tablespoon finely chopped, fresh ginger (if you don’t have fresh ginger, go get some. There is no subbing on this one!)

(1) Tablespoon crushed red pepper

(1) teaspoon curry

(1/2) teaspoon turmeric

(1/4) teaspoon cardamom

(1/4) teaspoon coriander

Ingredients – Part 2:

(2) cups cooked chickpeas

(2) cups diced raw potatoes

(1) cup water

(1/2) cup pineapple chunks. You know – chunks. Not too small, but not too big? Fits on your fork, and in your mouth for one bite? Yeah, that’s the size you want.

Directions:

Mix the ‘part 1 ingredients’ in a large sauce pan for the stove top method, or slow-cooker / crock pot.

Using medium heat, warm the sauce, stirring frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. Note: if using a slow-cooker, just stir to mix the ingredients, then set on low heat and leave it alone.

For stove top pans, when the sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat to low.

Now add the ‘part 2 ingredients’ and gently stir until the potatoes and chickpeas are covered by the sauce.

Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours using the stove top method, or 4 hours on low heat if using a slow-cooker.

Stir occasionally for both methods.

<tick tock tick tock – 2 or 4 hours later >

The Vindaloo Ragout is done!

Serve with white rice, couscous, or quinoa. Some sauteed fresh green beans, seasoned with garlic of course, makes the meal complete.

Except the wine. You need wine. Lemonade works, too. I prefer, well, you know.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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