Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An Electrifying Tale and a little Fruit Salad...

     Sorry for the radio silence last week.  We've got a few home improvement projects going on at the moment.  I'll be sharing more with you in a few weeks, but one of the more "exciting" moments of our project happened last week.

     Our house was built in the 60's.  There have been a few digital gadgets invented since then that require electricity (you know, like everything) so when the lights in the living room dimmed occasionally, we figured there was too much stuff plugged in.  The breaker popped every time I ran the microwave and dishwasher at the same time, we figured it was all just part of having an older house.  Long about December, lights all over the house started flickering. "Probably just too many Christmas lights plugged in," we thought, "But might as well have that checked out.  Maybe get them to move the microwave to a different breaker.  And that wire over there in the living room never has looked great, we'll have someone look at that." 

     After a disappointing series of no-shows from one particular local company (4!), I asked my gal Danika who she uses.  She gave me a name and I called up the nice man at Bowie Electric Service and Supplies.  His guy actually showed up!  Random, right?  It's like he enjoys his job or something.

     He came last Friday.  It wasn't supposed to be a big deal.  Maybe he'd even be able to fix it on his first inspection.  Let me just say, friends, that when your electrician says he hears buzzing in your breaker box, that's a small deal.  When he says he has to take the meter off to check it.  That's a medium size deal .  When he yells "Oh [Expletive Deleted]!" when he opens that meter.  That's a really, really big, big deal.  When he starts throwing around words like "your house" and "fire" and "explode" just forget about it.   It's a GINORMOUS deal.  And when the deal gets to be GINORMOUS?  Well, friends, you start shoving money down your electrician's throat with wild abandon shouting, "HERE!  MONEY!  FIX!  FIX!  MORE MONEY!!  YES, GOODNESS, YES!  FIX!!"   Then he will gently extricate his lapel from your clammy death claws and quietly explain it's a two-man job and they'll be here Monday, but fortunately, "I can leave you with half power."     Or maybe that's just...uuhhh... me....

     So this weekend, I've been brewing a strange concoction of annoyance and gratitude over the fact that half the outlets in the house work.   No oven, the fridge plugged into an outlet across the kitchen, but the dishwasher, microwave, toaster and kitchen lights all worked.  But no washing machine.  And no heat.  And we've been playing a fun little game with all the light switches called "The Power's Out, Dummy!"  I expect Wham-O! will be releasing the board game version shortly.  I hear Mr. T is going to do the voice over.  It's the most fun when you're running late, half asleep, in the dark looking for socks and click the light switch three times before you remember.  It makes you feel smart.  But then the whole, "we didn't have to throw out a week's worth of groceries" thing is nice, too.  And the whole, "we didn't have to stay in a hotel for three nights" thing, you know... there's that.  First world problems...

     You know how when you're going to make a meal for someone who has dietary restrictions all you can think of is food they can't eat?  Gluten free? Let's make pasta! No.  Couscous! No.  Vegan? Hey!  Cheese covered egg dish with cream!  No.  Yeah, that's kind of how it's been with me trying to cook this weekend.  I played "The Power's Out, Dummy!" with pizza, banana bread, roast veggies, and vegetarian pot pie this weekend.  I hardly ever make pot pies, but darned if I didn't absolutely need one this weekend!  Oh well.  C'est La Vie. 

     But one thing I love that doesn't require heating of any kind is fruit salad and as it happens, it's also gluten-free and vegan! My Mom used to make one like this when I was a kid.  I usually make it with whatever fruit I have on hand, so it turns out a little different every time.  This is how I made this one:

Fruit Salad
Serves 4
1 apple, cubed
1 orange, segmented
1 tangerine, segmented
1/4 C almonds
1/4 C orange juice
2 Tbs shredded, unsweetened coconut

Combine the fruit and nuts.  Stir in the juice and coconut.  Serve immediately.

Bananas or mangoes would be great in this, and pecans or walnuts are great in place of the almonds.

     And by the way, I'm currently sitting in my home enjoying a warm room (heated by my electric furnace), a cup of hot coffee (created in my electric coffee maker), and I'm contemplating serving pot pies for dinner (made in my electric oven).  God bless Ben Franklin.  God bless Thomas Edison.  And God Bless Bowie Electric.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Getting Chili...

We've had stunningly beautiful but really, really cold days here in the Pacific Northwest this past week.  As my Grandmother used to say, "I'm cold as a frog!"  A constant supply of soup, baked goods, and warm drinks have been issuing from my kitchen lately.  Last night's offering was 4 Bean Vegetarian Chili.

I started making chili like this in college when my Mom sent me a recipe that looked pretty simple.  Just open a bunch of cans, dump it all in, and boil it for a while.  Since then, I've refined the recipe some.  I no longer buy canned beans and I use tomatoes I've canned myself.  I added jalapeños too to give it a little bit of heat.  Uh, and I changed the spices, too.  So basically, nothing is the same except it's vegetarian and it has beans in it...

A lot of this recipe is easily substituted.  The small sweet peppers can be replaced with a green pepper and you can add any bean you want to this really. White or cannellini  beans would be great in this, for example.  I have made this with hamburger for friends who simply must have meat in their chili, and I used to use vegetarian "beef" crumbles in it before I cut back on meat substitutes.  Nobody really misses either of those, but you can certainly add them if you want.  The hamburger I would fry up with the onions and peppers, and the soy meat should be added toward the end of cooking time.  Also, I made this one on the stove tonight, but this is an excellent slow cooker meal.  Just add all the ingredients to a crock pot and heat for 6-8 hours.  

This is a great one to feed a crowd as it makes enough for 8 or 9, easily!

4 Bean Vegetarian Chili
1 Can garbanzo beans (1/4 lb dry)
1 Can black beans (1/4 lb dry)
2 Cans pinto beans (1/2 lb dry)
1 Can kidney beans (1/4 lb dry)
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
1 large jalapeño, sliced
7 small sweet peppers, sliced
3-4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 jar of tomatoes (or a can)
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

If you use dry beans, soak them overnight separately and boil them each until they are cooked through or do them in a pressure cooker.  I cooked the kidneys and pintos together for one hour and the black beans and garbanzos together for 30 minutes.  Don't worry if something comes out a tad underdone, as you will be cooking all of it for another hour at least.

Once you've got your beans taken care of, heat the oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot and sauté the onions and peppers until the onion begins to brown.  Add the garlic, chili, cumin and cayenne and stir until the garlic is fragrant and the spices have bloomed (just a few seconds).

Deglaze the pan with the juice from the tomatoes and then add the tomatoes to the pot. Add all the beans and stir to combine.  Stir in tomato paste and salt and pepper.  Adjust seasonings to your taste, keeping in mind everything will be simmering for some time.

Bring everything to a boil, stir and reduce heat to a simmer.  Allow to simmer uncovered at least an hour stirring occasionally.  Once the liquid has reduced by half, the chili can be served.  The longer you let it simmer, the more the flavor will develop and of course, this is even better the second day!

Serve this with shredded cheddar cheese, crackers, corn chips, olives, sour cream, cornbread or avocado or any combination of the above.  Also, a dash of ginger will serve to insulate you from any "musical" properties so many beans my induce in your GI tract without changing the flavor noticeably. 

My boys are crazy about this stuff!  The jalapeño adds just enough heat to let you know you're eating chili without being so overpowering the kids can't eat it.  If you're not serving it to sensitive palates add more, by all means, or do like I do and sprinkle a little over the top for adults!

02/01/14 UPDATE:
Hi folks!  I've got another great healthy Super Bowl menu this year if you're interested!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Y'all Got No Idea...

I'm about to lay on you two of my very favorite foods of all time.  
Get ready.

These are Anasazi Beans:

And this is Garlic Herb Sauce:
When people say "Awesomesauce" this is what they're talking about.  Even if they don't know it.

When you add rice to them you get this:

Holy crabnuggets, Metromon.  

     My next door neighbor, Nancy, turned me on to Anasazi beans a couple of years ago.  They were a favorite from her youth and she asked me if I'd ever seen any in the crazy stores I go to.  I hadn't.  These suckers are hard to find.  Then one day I ran across some and took her the very last in the bin (about half a pound).  Late last year, I actually found these beauties mislabeled as black eyed peas at a Fred Meyer nearby and then suddenly, my favorite grocery Central Market, Shoreline started carrying them!  I am in bean heaven.  (And so is Nancy!)

     Anasazis taste a little like pinto beans, but sweeter and the texture is so smooth.  There's hardly a comparison, really.

     I have only found these in bulk bins.  If you can't find them in the store, has them for $1.00 a pound.  They are totally worth paying shipping for, friends.

     Cook Anasazis like you would any other bean, soaking them overnight or doing a quick soak and then boiling them until they are soft.  They cook a little bit quicker than pintos.  These took 45 minutes unsoaked in the pressure cooker.  For this recipe, if you can't find Anasazis, try kidney beans.

     The sauce is a homemade version of one I buy from my farmer's market.  It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn close.

Garlic Herb Sauce (AKA Awesomesauce)
1 1/2 C Cilantro
1 C Parsley
3/4 C Mint
3 very large cloves of garlic
5 Tbs good quality Olive Oil
2 Tbs Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Salt (heaping)
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Toss the garlic in a blender and buzz until it is chopped pretty well.  Add lemon juice, salt, and 2 Tbs olive oil and blend until garlic is liquified.  Add herbs, remaining oil, and Tabasco sauce and blend until all the herbs are very finely chopped and the sauce forms a watery paste.  

  • This is best if you let it mellow in the fridge overnight, but you can use it right away if you need to.  
  • This sauce will easily keep a week or more in the fridge, if you don't use it all up the first night!  
  • Depending on the strength of your ingredients you may want to modify the amount of herbs you add.  The cilantro and mint I bought when developing this recipe was pretty mild.
  • I love this sauce as a dip for pretzels and on warm potatoes or cold ones as a potato salad!  I've also used it to perk up hummus and I bet it would be lovely in some cream cheese as a spread on crackers.
Anasazi Beans and Rice
3 C cooked Anasazi beans
3 C cooked rice (I used Jasmine but brown rice would be healthier)
2 Tbs Garlic Herb Sauce
Salt and pepper

Basically, you cook the beans and rice and mix it all up with the sauce.  Add more sauce if you like and salt and pepper to your own taste.

My husband and I love this, though I find it hard to believe anyone can love this as much as I do.  My eldest asked for extra sauce on his rice and he begs for pretzels to dip in it.  My youngest wouldn't touch the green rice with a 10 foot pole.  So that's where it stands in this house. 3 to 1 in favor of Awesomesauce.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Have a Souper New Year!

     I hope everyone had a fantastic New Year's celebration, is well recovered, and ready to look 2013 straight in the eye and say "Bring It."  If you're still nursing wounds from last year, or maybe just last year's cold, I've got just the thing for you.

     This soup started out as a Souperhero Soup, Jean Grey aka Phoenix to be exact.  She has a stunning green suit and gorgeous flowing red hair.  The problem is it was darn near impossible to make it look like a super hero the way I have been with the other soups.  Puréed kale just isn't very yummy.  But I love this soup.  It is completely different from soups I normally make.  I love the clear broth, the chewiness of the kale.  It makes me feel like I'm eating a big ol' healthy bowl of health so I'm sharing it.

     There are lots of different varieties of kale on the market these days.  They all have a distinct flavor and color.  My favorite for this soup is called Dinosaur kale.  It's also called Tuscan kale, Lacinato kale, Black kale, or Cavolo Nero and sometimes, affectionately, Dino kale.  The dark green leaves hold up well to the cooking and the color is to die for.  In the end, this soup is a little like Phoenix: bold, beautiful, and dramatic, even if it doesn't look much like her costume. 

Kale and Sweet Potato Soup
12 oz dinosaur kale, washed, stems removed and chopped into small squares
1 sweet potato, scrubbed but not peeled
1 large portabello mushroom including stem and gills, cubed
1 1/4 C diced onion
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
2 four inch sprigs of thyme, stems removed
4 C water
dollop of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pierce the sweet potato several times with a fork and heat in the microwave until done.  You can bake it in the oven if you'd like, but it will be much quicker in the microwave.  Remove from microwave and set on the counter to cool.  When it cools enough to touch, peel the skin off and chop the potato into small cubes.  In a large pot, heat olive oil till it shimmers.  Add onion and sauté til the onions have softened and just begun to brown.  Add mushroom and cook until juices release.  Add thyme and garlic and heat just for 30 seconds or so while the flavor blooms in the garlic.  Add water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes.  The water should be gently flavored.  Add salt and pepper at this time to taste and determine if you want the broth to be more strongly flavored or not.  Cook longer as desired, though I find about 10 minutes to be adequate.  When you are happy with the broth, add kale and stir til combined and all the leaves are moistened. Cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes until kale just loses the raw flavor but has not become soft.  Serve with sweet potato on top.

  • If you want it to look a little more "Phoenix-y" you can drain the broth through a strainer to remove all the vegetables, but I like the mushroom bits, personally.  
  • If you can get your hands on some chanterelles, about a cup would make a terrific substitution for the portabella.
  • Adding some white beans like cannellini beans would be a nice touch.  
  • This is good reheated but doesn't freeze well.  It gets that "frozen greens" taste.
This is a favorite of the adults in the house.  The kids, not so much...
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