Wednesday, January 29, 2014

90 Minute, No Soak Beans

I've been using dried beans for a number of years now.  Quick soak method, over night method, both yielded fine results.  I would make a big batch of beans, then freeze them in can-size portions (about 1 1/2 cups).  But I was forever forgetting to soak them overnight, or remembering to soak and then burning them as they cooked on the stove top.  It got to be a pain and I would procrastinate making beans and then be irritated when there were no beans for a recipe I wanted to make.

I forget how I stumbled onto the 90 minute, no-soak bean method.  But I found it and I love it!  I use my Lodge 6 quart dutch oven for cooking the beans. I've successfully cooked black beans, white beans and pinto beans with this method.  It's as convenient as a slow cooker, once you've got the beans rinsed and the water boiling, you can put the pot in the oven and walk away.

And's nice to have the oven on low on these chilly days, warming up my kitchen!

90 Minute, No-Soak Beans

Rinse beans, remove stones and broken pieces.

Add beans to dutch oven (or a pot with a tight fitting lid) and add enough water to cover by 1 ½ inches.  

Add 2 tsp salt.

Bring the water to a boil on the stovetop while the oven preheats to 275 degrees.  

Cover the pot and put in the oven for 75 minutes.  

Check on the beans after 45 minutes and add boiling water if needed (mine has never needed additional water).  
Check the beans for doneness at 75 minutes. Continue to cook in the oven for 15 minute increments if needed. 

Drain the beans and refrigerate or freeze as desired. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken

I'm becoming less and less enthralled with cooking/handling raw meat.  So anytime I can throw something in a slow cooker with minimal touching, it's a good day.  

This is a frequent Sunday night dinner.  Onion in the bottom, sprinkle spices on the chicken, in the slow cooker it goes, and walk away.  The flavor from the smoked paprika is spectacular.  Though if you want to make it even easier or don't have these spices on hand, you can just sprinkle on salt, pepper and some thyme or rosemary and be done.  Still delicious.

A five pound chicken feeds my family of four and gives me leftovers for another meal or two (stay tuned for white chicken chili).  And today I'm experimenting with making my own chicken broth with the chicken carcass in the slow cooker.  

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
From 100 Days of Real Food 

2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp black pepper
1 onion
1 large chicken

Coarsely chop the onion and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Combine the spices and rub over the chicken. 

Place chicken in the slow cooker and cook on high 4-5 hours.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Whipped Coconut Cream

All out of cream (we always seem to be...someone uses it all up in homemade egg nog)?  Vegan?  Just looking for something fun and new? 

Whipped coconut cream is one of my favorite toppings...for pancakes, fruit, granola, cocoa, pie.  It takes a little forethought (overnight refrigeration), but other than that it is just as easy as whipping cream. 

Oh She Glows gives plenty of tips and photos on the how-to.  Even though all the bloggers say don't use light coconut milk and you must chill it, I had to try using light coconut milk and not chilling it.  Totally doesn't work.  Just like they said. 

Coconut milk can be prohibitively expensive for me at close to $3 at Meijer (in the international aisle), but Trader Joe's is much cheaper ($1 for light coconut milk, just a bit more for the full fat).  Since I'm in a curry phase, always make coconut rice to go with my curry, AND there is no TJ's on the southside, I generally end up with 10+ cans of coconut milk in my cart when I make it up there.

Adding the sugar is optional.  I think it's fine without the added sugar, but it's up to you.  The vanilla though...add the vanilla. 

Whipped Coconut Cream

1 can full fat coconut milk
2 tsp powdered sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Refrigerate the can of coconut milk (upside down) overnight. 

Chill the bowl you will use to whip the coconut cream for 5-10 minutes. 

Open the can (still upside down) and pour out the liquid from the top.  (Don't throw away the liquid!  Add it to smoothies or use it in coconut rice).

Dump the hardened coconut milk into a chilled bowl and whip using a hand mixer or stand mixer until it is fluffy.

Add the sugar and vanilla and give it a quick mix.  

Serve over pancakes, waffles, pie, etc.  It stores well in the refrigerator for a week or so, just give it a quick mix to whip it up again when you are ready to use it.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

The first time I made these was right before my daughter's fifth birthday. She has a summer birthday, so zucchini was abundant. After her third muffin she said, "MOM! Can I have these for my birthday cupcakes?" 

Muffins generally have enough sugar and oil/butter to make them delicious, though not super healthy. Substituting some wheat flour for white flour, decreasing the sugar a bit, and adding zucchini and applesauce keeps them plenty delicious, but tips the scales back a bit towards the healthy side. 
These muffins freeze well. And as mini muffins they make a great lunch box treat.  

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Adapted from In Erika’s Kitchen

3 eggs
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups zucchini, grated
⅓ cup applesauce 

2 cups white wheat flour
1 cup white flour (all purpose, unbleached)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, oil, cocoa powder and vanilla.

Mix in the zucchini and applesauce.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Gently mix with a rubber spatula, being careful not to mix.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups about ¾ full.

Bake about 18 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven until the muffins spring back when touched or a toothpick comes out clean
(about 10 minutes for mini muffins).

Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Slow Cooker Refried Beans

Slow cooker...big batch of delicious beans...that freeze well.

So many things to love about these beans.  It doesn't take much effort to throw everything into the slow cooker and let it do its work.  It just takes a few minutes at the end to drain and puree the beans in the food processor or with an immersion blender.  A word of the wise...add fresh water or chicken broth to the beans as you puree them to thin out the consistency of the beans.  Don't reserve and use the drained liquid from the cooked beans, you'll have some gastrointestinal difficulties.

And there you go: delicious refried beans without the hassle of 're-frying' and the addition of oil.  Here are my top three refried bean dishes:

1) Seven layer dip: Layer beans, pepperjack cheese, sour cream, salsa and avocado.  Serve with tortilla chips.

2) Baked beans and cheese: Place desired amount of refried beans in a glass baking dish.  Sprinkle beans with a mixture of pepperjack and cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Serve as a side with tacos or fajitas.

3) Burritos: Mix 3 cups of refried beans with a small can of diced green chilies.  Place a few spoonfuls of bean mixture in a tortilla and add some grated cheese.  Roll up the tortilla.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and spray both sides of the burrito with cooking spray.  Cook the burrito in the skillet on both sides until golden brown. 

Slow Cooker Refried Beans
From Six Sisters' Stuff

1 onion, peeled and halved
3 cups dry pinto beans, checked for stones and rinsed
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 TB minced garlic
3 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
5 cups water
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to combine. 
Set slow cooker to high for 5-6 hours.    
Drain the beans and remove the onion.  
Use a food processor or immersion blender to puree the beans, adding water or chicken/vegetable broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Add extra salt if needed.

Refrigerate or freeze in airtight containers.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chocolate (Whole Wheat) Pancakes

Right smack at the end of a lovely two week winter vacation, the winter of all winters hit Indianapolis.  Sunday was really a lovely day, watching 12 inches of snow fall.  We headed out to shovel the driveway right before dark and our kind neighbor stopped over with his snowblower to help us out.  Monday and Tuesday we got the polar vortex in all its glory: below zero temperatures with wind chill down to 30 below.  Schools were closed all week.  I did venture out to work and the grocery store on Thursday, but the roads were still terrible. 

The kids and I had plenty of indoor time, and I decided to resurrect this blog project.  This seemed like a cheerful post to lead off, as it is still quite gloomy out.  I first made these chocolate pancakes for Valentine's Day several years ago, and it remains a favorite breakfast treat of the girls.  I prefer the addition of chocolate chips to the pancake batter.  Go big or go home, right? 

We've tried a variety of toppings.  Whipped cream and strawberries/raspberries/blueberries...maybe a drizzle of chocolate sauce or caramel.  My new favorite topping is coconut cream.  I'll have to post that soon as it is so easy and delicious. 

The recipe calls for a small amount of coffee, which enriches the chocolate flavor.  But water can easily be substituted. 
Whole Wheat Chocolate Pancakes
From Alida's Kitchen

1 cup white wheat flour (or wheat pastry flour or white flour)
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 TB raw sugar (or granulated sugar)
½ tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup plus 2 TB buttermilk
2 TB brewed coffee (or water)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cooking spray
Fruit and whipped cream/coconut cream for topping

In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, coffee, vanilla and butter.

Add buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and gently fold until blended (there may be some lumps).  

Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Let mixture sit for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat non-stick skillet over medium and then spray with cooking spray.  Pour batter in skillet by the 1/4 cup-ful and cook until bubbles appear (about 3 minutes).  

Flip and cook on the other side until done (about 2-3 minutes).  

Repeat with remaining batter.  

Serve with desired toppings and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my go-to cookie, the one I'd rather make over any other.  I've had this recipe for years, and can't remember where it originally came from.  I do remember the first time I had cookies baked on a pizza cookie life was never the same again.  Baking cookies on a pizza stone (without over baking them!) gives them a texture like you wouldn't believe.

These cookies are the ultimate dark chocolate cookie.  I use a good quality baking cocoa from Penzeys Spice and plenty of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips.

The dough often doesn't make it this far, but sometimes I will manage to freeze some of the cookie dough once it is shaped into balls.  The dough freezes well and it's great to have some ready to be thrown straight in the oven in a cookie emergency.  The cookies themselves also freeze well, although again, they rarely stick around that long.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup baking cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup softened butter
¾ cup sugar
⅔ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
Cut some parchment paper to fit your pizza stone and place the parchment paper on a wooden cutting board.

Preheat oven (and pizza stone) to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in another bowl until creamy (5-6 minutes).

Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Gradually beat flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Stir in chocolate chips.  

Drop cookie dough on parchment paper.

Slide parchment paper from the cutting board onto the pizza stone that has preheated in the oven.  

Bake cookies for 8 ½ to 10 minutes, until centers are set.

When the cookies are done baking, slide the parchment paper from the pizza stone back to the cutting board and let the cookies rest for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fresh Salsa

Welcome to homegrown tomato salsa season! 

In the past I've had trouble with the consistency of my fresh salsa.  Always too watery.  And the taste was never quite right. 

But how could I go wrong with America's Test Kitchen's recipe for fresh salsa? 

As always, the salsa needed to sit for a few hours for the flavors to settle, but then it was the perfect blend of freshness.  It was great for Friday night chips and salsa...then the next morning I added it to some scrambled eggs at breakfast. Best scrambled eggs ever.

To solve the watery problem, I used a couple of different strategies and was happy with the end result.  The addition of the lime juice at the end did add more liquid after all my hard work to get the liquid out, but I was able to live with it.  

Fresh Salsa

1 ½ lbs firm ripe tomatoes, diced (about 3 cups or 6 small-medium tomatoes)
1 large jalapeno chili, seeds and ribs removed
½ cup red onion, coursely chopped
1 small clove garlic (or 1/4 tsp minced garlic)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ tsp salt
pinch ground pepper
1 TB lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tsp white sugar

1. Slice the tomatoes, place on a double layer of paper towels, lightly salt and let sit for 30 minutes.

2. Press tops of tomatoes with another double layer of paper towels to remove more liquid.  
3. Add the tomatoes to a food processor with jalapeno, onion, garlic and cilantro.  Pulse to desired consistency.  

4. If desired: Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with a paper towel.  Drain the salsa through the paper towel lined sieve lined with a paper towel to extract additional liquid.

5. Stir in salt, pepper, sugar and lime juice.

6. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Basil Pesto

August has been good to me.  Despite the long, hot, dry Indiana summer, my garden is producing beautiful tomatoes and basil.  I've spent the last three summers gardening with little to show for it.  Then I learned how to compost.  And what a difference it made!

I don't need to tell you that there's nothing better than homegrown tomatoes with a little salt.  A close second - homegrown tomatoes smeared with a dab of fresh basil pesto.  Pesto is so easy to make and smells like garden heaven. 

Put it on anything: pasta, potatoes, baguette, grilled chicken or fish. 

Spread some in a grilled cheese sandwich, or use it in place of tomato sauce on pizza. 

Thin it out with extra olive oil and use it as a salad dressing.

Add it to hummus.

The sky's the limit.

 Pesto it up.

Basil Pesto
From Simply Recipes

1/3 cup walnuts (or pine nuts)
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 tsp minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Pulse walnuts in a food processor until roughly chopped.

2. Add basil and garlic, pulse 5 times.

3. Turn on the food processor and slowly add the olive oil. 

4. Add the cheese and pulse a few times. 

5. Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Refrigerate and enjoy!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tilapia with Coconut Curry Sauce and Coconut Jasmine Rice

Another attempt in my quest to like fish.

A definite win!  The sauce and the rice were so delicious, I didn't even mind the fish.

The coconut curry sauce is to die for.  I used sweet curry powder rather than hot curry powder, making it not too spicy.  The curry paste came through with a great, strong flavor.

I think chicken would work just as well as fish if you'd rather.  I broiled the tilapia this time around, but I think the tilapia could just as easily be grilled for this dish.

The rice.  Oh the rice.  It was plump and sweet and perfectly textured.  I strayed from my usual brown rice and tried some jasmine rice with the coconut milk, and it was a fabulous pairing with the curry sauce.

Tilapia with Coconut Curry Sauce
From Cooking Light 

1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger in a pinch)
1/2 tsp minced garlic cloves
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tsp curry powder (I used sweet)
2 tsp red curry paste 
1/2 tsp ground cumin 
4 tsp soy sauce 
1 TB brown sugar 
1/4 tsp salt
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk 
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro 

4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
Toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper

3 cups coconut jasmine rice (recipe below)
Lime wedges

Preheat broiler or grill.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Add ginger and garlic to the skillet and cook 1 minute.

Add pepper and onions and cook 2-3 minutes.

Add in curry powder, curry paste, and cumin and cook 1 minute.

Add soy sauce, sugar, salt, and coconut milk.  Bring sauce to a simmer, but do not boil.

Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.

Brush fish with sesame oil and season with salt and pepper and place on baking sheet.   

Broil 7-10 minutes until fish flakes easily.

Squeeze lime wedges over fish and serve with rice and curry sauce.

Coconut Jasmine Rice
 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice

Add coconut milk, water and rice to rice cooker and cook until done.  

Serve hot with fish and curry sauce.

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