Braise up

January 1, 2010

I’ve been taking advantage of my brief unemployment to do all of the things I never do when I’m working – going grocery shopping in the middle of the day, spending 5 hours waiting to have my picture taken at the DMV, actually using the daytime minutes on my cell phone, and cooking pounds and pounds of beans to stock the freezer. On Monday, I’ll return to my regularly scheduled programming, and I’m fairly sure that none of these things will be possible. Unless I have a hot plate in my new office.

We were out running errands the other day and stopped to eat lunch at a place that offered braised white beans as a side dish. I was all over that, until the waitress brought it out and warned me that there was chicken stock in it, and I had to part with it for some (delicious) roasted veg. But I literally couldn’t stop thinking about braised beans, so I ended up making my own.

braised white beans with kale + baked sweet potato

That picture is seriously terrible. But the meal was great. Especially after a fun-filled day at the DMV.

I did this as kind of a dry run for tonight’s lucky New Year’s main dish – braised black-eyed peas and collards.

prosperity in a bowl

Braised Beans and Greens (serves 4)

You need

  • Olive oil
  • Several cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 cups of cooked beans (adjust based on your hunger level)
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of liquid (water, vegetable broth, or a combo)
  • 1 lb greens

To do:

  1. Heat olive oil and garlic over medium heat in a large skillet (with a lid)
  2. When the garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, add beans and liquid (for tonight’s meal I used a little leftover Prosecco from our NYE toast in addition to vegetable broth) and bring to a boil
  3. Add greens*, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and give it all a good stir
  4. Cover and reduce heat to low for 10-15 minutes
  5. Uncover, increase heat (add a bit more liquid if needed), and cook over medium for 5 or so minutes

*If you’re using more delicate greens, wait until you uncover the pan to add them. I did this with the kale, and it was tender but still bright green and presumably all anti-oxidanty. Collards are a bit tougher and need to cook longer, so I put them in right after the beans.

After a few weeks of fairly erratic meals, it’s nice to get back into the habit of cooking meals I feel good about. Not that all those pizzas weren’t delicious, cookies for breakfast can be quite lovely, really. But sometimes it’s good to reset the system.

Happy new year!

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Legume therapy.

October 16, 2009

Whatever vague borderline sickness I’ve been fighting off for the last week or so hit me in the face yesterday morning, and I was in bed all day, with a really limited appetite. It was unnatural, basically.

By the time dinner rolled around, I felt like I really needed to eat something, so I went for the simplest thing I could think of: rice and beans. I tried to spice them up a little bit with what we had around.

rice and beans with cheese and guacamole

rice and beans with cheese and guacamole

I used some leftover brown rice with red beans and red peppers, punched up with some chipotle puree. The guacamole is kind of an accident – I wanted to slice some avocados on top, but the ones we had were overripe so I just mashed them up with some lemon juice.

Tonight I was still feeling kind of rough, so I needed something warm and comforting.

split pea dal

split pea dal

Dal is always comforting, but especially when it’s accompanied by little chickpea pancakes and yogurt to balance out the accidental overdose of cumin seeds and red pepper flakes.

From the amount of coughing and sneezing I did after eating it, I think it might have been just the remedy I needed.


Parting words of wisdom.

July 6, 2009

If anyone ever asked me about my cooking process (which no one ever has, so consider this a bonus), I think I’d explain it like this:

  1. Start cooking a grain.
  2. Stand in front of the refrigerator.
  3. Find quick-cooking proteins that are or used to be beans.
  4. Look for vegetables justthisclose to going bad.
  5. Heat some oil in a skillet.
  6. Add garlic to it. No matter what.
  7. Chop vegetables. Put them in the skillet.
  8. Add enough ground cumin that everything gets a little bit brown and there’s cumin crust in the pan.
  9. Add the protein(s).
  10. Stir. Add more cumin. Let it cook until it looks kind of gross.
  11. Put the cooked grains in a bowl. Scoop some of the vegetable mixture on top.
  12. Add cheese.
  13. And maybe salsa.
  14. Eat dessert.
  15. Play Boggle.
  16. Go on vacation.
rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

Don’t miss me too much.


Hue-faux rancheros

June 29, 2009

One of the gifts I got in my birthday package from my in-laws was an issue of Eating Well magazine, which had a “fast weeknight dinners” section. I’m a sucker for a fast weeknight dinner, and I had a bag of pinto beans to cook, so their recipe for huevos rancheros caught my eye. The only issue for me with huevos rancheros is that I hate hate hate fried eggs. They gross me out beyond explanation. But, I’m good with eggs in many other forms, so I subbed in scrambled. An abomination? Maybe. Delicious? Yes.

the colors in this picture are kind of insane

the colors in this picture are kind of insane

Besides the different style of eggs and the use of red salsa in place of green, I didn’t do much to modify their recipe. I even dutifully served it with rice and avocado, as suggested.

the breakdown

1.5 cups of pinto beans (@ .99/lb dried) = $.25
8 sprouted corn tortillas = $2.46
1/2 jar salsa = $1.35
4 large eggs = $.83
sharp cheddar cheese = $.20
cilantro = $.10
1 cup rice = $.74
1/2 avocado = $.65

grand total= $6.58

A semi-respectable $1.65 for each of the four servings. Interestingly, more than they indicate it should be. It must be those sprouted corn tortillas. On the pricey side, but they just crisp up so nicely.


Patriot pasta salad

June 1, 2009

I’m thinking of June as “recover our finances” month. Also known as “live on the cheap” month. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that we’re celebrating our anniversary and both of our birthdays over the next five weeks, which means three dinners out, and I guess some presents or something. I also refuse to carry a credit card balance, especially since they jacked up my interest rates. So, I’ve set us up a complicated system of envelopes for receipts and a grocery budget of $40 a week. I wanted to cut it to $30, which represents a more than 50% reduction from our typical $75 or so a week, but Matt made a compelling argument that we had to live that way in college and when I was in graduate school and really shouldn’t have to now that we’re both gainfully employed. So, $40 it is.

The first meal of this experiment was a financial and gustatory success. Matt jokingly came up with the name when I was putting it together and pointed out that that it had the colors of the Italian flag. Okay, if I’m being honest, I had to confirm that with him. I’m just not good with flags. Plus, he lived in southern Switzerland for 5 years, so I defer to him on most things European.

red, white, and green

red, white, and green

Patriot Pasta Salad (serves 4)

you need:

  • 1.5 cups of cannellini or other white beans, cooked from dried (or 1 can, rinsed and drained)
  • 3/4 lb of asparagus, cut diagonally into 3 inch slices
  • 1 serving of dried tomatoes (about 5 tomatoes), chopped
  • 9-10 oz pasta (farfalle, penne, rotini, etc)
  • olive oil
  • oregano
  • red wine vinegar

and then you:

  1. Bring a big pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Add dried tomatoes and pasta to water.
  3. When the pasta is almost done, add the asparagus. You want it to be bright green and crisp, so don’t overcook it. Rubbery asparagus has no place in this pasta salad.
  4. Drain the pasta/tomatoes/asparagus. Fill the pot with cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain again.
  5. Put pasta in a serving dish. Add beans. Season with oregano to taste. Add a little olive oil and red wine vinegar, just a glug of each.
  6. Toss and serve.

I’m no stranger to pasta with white beans, though I usually add spinach and stewed tomatoes when I’m serving it hot. These flavors made the whole thing feel more late spring/early summer, and it makes for a great weeknight meal for a hot day. It takes less than 15 minutes of stovetop cooking, it’s light, and you eat it cold.

All that for…

1.5 c white beans @ .75
2/3 box of whole wheat penne @ 1.50/box = 1.00
1/5 bag of dried tomatoes @ 2.99/bag = .60
3/4 lb asparagus @ 2.99/lb = 2.24
and some pantry staples (red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano)

grand total = $4.59

That’s $1.15 a serving. And more math than I’ve done in months.

BAM. Welcome to lean-living June.


Legume experiment #2: beans on a pizza?

May 13, 2009

My mom is a really solid cookbook and recipe spotter, and a few weeks ago, she sent me a recipe for white bean and spinach pizza.

Do I love pizza? Yes. Are beans my only source of protein? Pretty much. And so, I made it tonight, when I was looking for an easy meal to cook because I’ve done something to make my back spasm out of control. Like I don’t have enough problems.

I didn’t have any pre-baked crust, and I wasn’t about to make any from scratch, so I went the easiest way I know: the way of the pita.

Here’s how it happened.

1 can of cannellini beans + 3 cloves of garlic
1 can of cannellini beans + 3 cloves of garlic
became this, which takes the place of tomato sauce
became this, which takes the place of tomato sauce
three pitas, sliced in half so that one pita looks like two (the pitas I buy are too thick to make a decent pizza crust)
three pitas, sliced in half so that one pita looks like two (the pitas I buy are too thick to make a decent pizza crust)
all dressed up with the bean paste, spinach, rehydrated dried tomatoes, and mozzarella, baked for 9 minutes at
all dressed up with the bean paste, spinach, rehydrated dried tomatoes, and mozzarella, baked for 9 minutes at 350

As it turns out

April 29, 2009

I’m just not so good at blogging. I blame the fact that I’ve been mainly living off white beans and pasta lately. Which, while delicious, isn’t super interesting to photograph after about 800 times.

Last night, though, I made some quinoa and red bean burritos using a recipe that my mom sent me a few weeks ago. They were delicious, and a bonus was that I managed to use up some of that chipotle puree from last week.

quinoarritos - not quite the same ring as bulgurritos

quinoarritos - not quite the same ring as bulgurritos

I love these. The quinoa gets really soft and they remind me of these baked chicken chimichangas I used to make. Plus, the recipe made 8 and we’ll probably be eating them for the next several days.

I’m sorry I’m so boring. I’ll try to bring some sparkle back into the blog over the next few days. I’m doing the Arthritis Walk on Saturday so that’s something to get you all pumped up. Am I right? Or am I right?

I’m right.