Wednesday, September 26

Black Bean Stew

This meal was inspired by a dinner my husband and I had years ago at a Spanish tapas restaurant. It was a simple Black Bean Soup served over white rice and it became one of my all time favorite dishes. This is my recreation of that soup, tweaked to be slightly more like a stew and not brothy at all. This recipe is one of the very easiest and quickest meals I make, which is why I love whipping it up during the work week. It's also incredibly warm and comforting, perfect for those cool Fall nights that are right around the corner.
First, cook white, brown or jasmine rice according to package directions. I like to use jasmine rice in my mini rice cooker.
While the rice cooks, start the stew by browning bacon in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat until it becomes crispy and the fat renders out a bit. Add the onions and cook until they are tender, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1-2 minutes.
 Turn the heat down to low and add the tomatoes, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, spices and broth. Add the black beans and then turn the heat up to a boil before bringing it back down to a simmer.
 Simmer the stew for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up the cilantro.
 Add the cilantro and lime juice to the stew and then simmer for a few minutes more. At this point, you could serve the dish right away or cool and reheat it for later.
 Layer the rice on the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle a bit of cheese over the rice, then scoop a ladle of stew on top. I like to spoon some sour cream over the top with more cheese and a dash of cilantro.

Spanish Style Black Bean Stew
Adapted from Dave Lieberman

2-3 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced 
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 C chicken broth
Heaping T of ketchup
1 1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 T chili powder (or more if you like spice)
2 cans low sodium black beans, drained
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
About 3 C cooked rice (1 cup uncooked)

In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan, brown the bacon over medium heat until the fat renders, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until it becomes translucent and tender, about 5 minutes more. Add the garlic and cook until you can smell it, 1-2 minutes. Turn the heat down to low.

Add the canned tomatoes, broth, ketchup, worcestershire sauce and chili powder. Stir then add the beans. Bring the stew to a boil and then turn it down to simmer for 10-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, chop the cilantro. Add the cilantro to the stew with the lime juice and stir. Add salt & pepper to taste, being careful with the salt, as both the beans and the bacon will already be salty.

Place about 1/4 C cooked rice in the bottom of your bowl, top with cheese and a ladle full of soup. Garnish with more cheese, a spoon of sour cream and more cilantro if desired. 


Saturday, September 22

The Week-Cap - Happy Autumnal Equinox!

It's here! Fall is here! And after what had to be one of the hottest summers in quite some time, I am so excited to celebrate autumns arrival. And though days will be shorter, so many great holidays and events are around the corner. Maybe you will celebrate Fall by decorating your home with pumpkins and leaves, or doing 108 sun salutations in your yoga class. I recently read somewhere that Ginger is traditionally served on the Equinox, so perhaps you could make some Gingerbread today. Any way you decide to welcome Fall, use it as a time to be grateful for where you are and even more grateful for where you are going. 2012 is three quarters done already...doesn't time just fly?
  • Monday - The first morning and evening that really started to feel like the season was changing to crisper air and earlier sunsets. 
  • Tuesday - Some time back I posted a method for roasting veggies by broiling them. This week I made a variation on that for a side dish to go with BBQ chicken. I combined zucchini, onion and frozen corn with salt, pepper, paprika and olive oil and it came out amazing! Proof that you can really combine whatever is in your fridge to make a quick and healthy addition to your meal.
  • Wednesday - Remember that super easy Sausage recipe I posted last week? Well I found another delicious use for it when I made a salad for lunch and sliced the cooked sausage really thin over it. I added some goat cheese, avocado and balsamic vinaigrette and it was my highlight lunch of the week!
  • Thursday - If you like running, ellipticalling (is that a word?), or aerobicizing in any way, you must download my new favorite song to run to. Its not a new song, but has been recently featured on a commercial for something I can't remember right now. It's called 'In My Mind' and I love the rhythm and ups and downs of the music. Even if you don't typically like 'house' or electronic music, try using it when you exercise, the beat can help motivate you through the more unenjoyable parts of working out. :)
  • Friday - Work was made WAY more exciting by the coverage of the Space Shuttle Endeavour making its last journey by flight to where it will be on display in Los Angeles at the California Science Center. It passed over Disneyland at one point and I was able to snap a (albeit faraway) shot of the shuttle from where I work. It was a really cool experience to have seen it flying by and I felt priveleged to be able to take part in such a historical moment. You can visit the Shuttle at its new home starting October 30th.

Wednesday, September 19

Perfectly Grilled Sausage

Fresh, handmade sausage is a fantastic and easy way to change up your weeknight meals. I always buy sausage from the butcher counter that has been made in house and if possible, using organic meats. I prefer chicken sausage over pork because I feel like the flavors go with absolutely anything and they are slightly lower in fat. These days you can get sausage that has been flavored with everything from herbs and parmesan to apples and bacon. Choose your favorite and build your meal from there. 
 First step is to boil the raw sausages in a bottle of beer. Pre boiling the sausages helps to trap the juices inside and ensure even cooking on the grill. I've used Stella Artois and Blue Moon, but you can use whatever beer you have on hand as long as it is somewhat light. And remember, the better the flavor of the beer, the better the flavor will come across in the sausage.
 You want the sausages to be covered by liquid, so if the bottle of beer doesn't do it, just add a little water. Boil the sausages for about 10-15 minutes, or until they begin to look opaque and the juices inside are visibly running.
 Place the par cooked sausages on a grill pan or BBQ and cook for another 10 minutes or so, flipping mid way to get the grill marks on either side. Once finished, you can keep them in a warm oven until your meal is ready, or serve them immediately. Just be sure to let them rest for a few minutes before cutting.
You can serve these sausages however you like, sliced in pasta or soup, on a good crusty french roll or with your favorite side of vegetables. This was our meal and it was amazing! I'll share the recipe for the Grilled White Peach and Goat Cheese salad soon too.


Sunday, September 16

The Week-Cap - Is it Fall Yet?

I adore summer. It's my very favorite time of year. Sporting tank tops and flip flops and leaving my 'just in case' jacket at home makes me happy. Yet, as September rolls around, kids go back to school and Halloween goodies start popping up way too prematurely, I find myself getting ever more excited about the autumn things to come. Shorter days, knitted beanies and my favorite pair of boots keep calling my name. As much as I hate to say it, I'm really looking forward to some cooler weather getting here ASAP. Did I mention it's been 100 degrees all week? At the beach. I will soak it up for as long as I can, because come December, I'll most likely be bundled up like an eskimo.
  • Monday -Taking advantage of the still warm nights, we went for a walk around one of my favorite places, Balboa Island. Yes I ate a chocolate banana dipped in butter brickle. I was simultaneously walking it off after all. 
  • Tuesday - You should try bamboo rice. My husband found it for me at Whole Foods and I LOVE it! The grains are short and puffy and come out slightly chewy when cooked. I was a huge fan of the lightly floral tea flavor, my husband...not so much. The bag claims many health benefits from the rice being soaked in bamboo juice during milling, which also gives it a pale green color. I thought the rice was a lovely way to change up any meal.
  • Wednesday - Oh Fiona Apple, you kill me with those lyrics. Just go listen to Valentine. 
  • Thursday - I made one of the best dinners yet. Beer Boiled Chicken Parmesan Sausage, Grilled White Peach and Goat Cheese Salad and Buttered Whole Wheat Penne. I can't wait to share these recipes! My method of cooking the sausage is super simple and comes out perfectly moist and delicious everytime.
  • Friday - We celebrated a great friends birthday with a beach BBQ. Burgers, salad, my homemade brownies and lots of beer and wine made for one awesome evening. The charcoal grill became a fire pit at the end and all that warm summer weather made for a balmy 80 degree night. The perfect way to end the week. 

Saturday, September 8

Red Velvet S'more Brownies

Let me explain myself.  I did not make this recipe up. Well I did, or at least I thought I did until I googled the words "S'mores Brownies". Turns out putting a graham cracker crust and charred marshmallows on brownies is a pretty popular thing to do. This, however, does not lessen the fact that these incredibly gooey, and over the top sweet treats are a must try.

You've heard me talk about Red Velvet and my love for it before, but let me tell you, the marshmallows and graham only make it better. So grab a glass of milk and a another glass of milk, cuz you'll need to drink both for this one, and get baking.

Red Velvet S'mores Brownies
From How Sweet It Is

For the brownie recipe, click here.

Graham Cracker Crust
1 package graham crackers (about 9 crackers), processed into crumbs
6 T unsalted butter, melted

1 C marshmallow fluff (or enough to cover the top of the brownies)
about 1/2 bag mini or jumbo marshmallows

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs and press into the bottom of an 8x8 dish or pan that has been greased on the sides.

Make the brownie batter from the recipe link above. Pour the batter over the graham cracker crust, being careful not to spread the crumbs too much.

Bake for 35-45 minutes depending on your oven, my brownies are pretty thick and tend to take longer. They are done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Once baked, remove from the oven and top with the marshmallow fluff and marshmallows. Place under a preheated broiler to create that campfire crunch. I like mine pretty dark, but you can choose to take them out sooner if you'd like. You could also use a mini torch instead to control exactly where the browning shows up.

Let the brownies cool for about an hour or two before cutting (if you can wait that long). They are VERY gooey, so either wet or spray a knife with cooking spray to help slice through them.


The Week-Cap - I heart September

Happy September! I'm happy to see Fall approaching while simultaneously rueing the fact that I'll be putting away my flip flops and shorts in just a few weeks. We've had an exceptionally warm weathered summer and I've soaked up as much of it as I can. Now I'm ready for all things pumpkin spiced and leaf shaped. But first, here's what has been going on this week.

  • Monday - Labor Day was great. It's always great to have a day off, but it makes it especially better when you get to spend it with wonderful family and friends. It was a little relaxing and a lot of fun. There was Air Hockey, Crazy Cocktails, and Disneyland. A lovely way to wish summer would never end.
  • Tuesday - Ever have one of those days at work? The kind where you find yourself just kind of staring at nothing? Wishing that people lived up to the kind of moral standards you hold for yourself? Tuesday was that kind of day and ended with a serious need for one of my new favorite drinks, a Whiskey Sour. It did the trick and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep at 9 that night. 
  • Wednesday - Muse has a new album coming out at the beginning of October and I'm currently obsessed with the first single, "Madness". It's pretty addicting, get into it
  • Thursday - I just realized that there's no more Breaking Bad to look forward to this Sunday. How in the world am I going to make it 10 months without W.W.?? 
  • Friday - Gets here much quicker when you have a Monday off. Make this weekend great. Be appreciative of what you have and who you are and remember that no matter what race, religion or political party you identify with, everyone deserves love and respect!

Monday, September 3

Get this....

My New Favorite

Cutting Board! 

I've never really liked wood cutting boards since you cannot easily sanitize them in the dishwasher and they often show wear quickly. For the past few years I've been using a standard white plastic boring same ole, same ole board that would stain whenever I cut carrots or red peppers and showed every mark of the knife. 

Until now! A few weekends ago, while shopping at Sur La Table, my wonderful husband found what is now my ALL time favorite cutting board's only $19.99! and.....bonus's good for the environment!

It's called the Architec Eco Smart Poly Flax Cutting Board and is actually made using the husk of the flax seed. As the label says, it's like having nature in your cutting board! It's made in a zero waste facility and is 100% recyclable. Plus, it is dishwasher safe, made in the U.S.A. and free of any harmful chemicals often found in other plastic materials...which means you won't be getting any hidden radicals rubbing off onto your chopped onions. I really love the way this board looks in my kitchen and I have yet to see any stains or knife marks. Yay!

Sur La Table had three colors to choose from, a rusty red, a very spinachy green and the color I chose, brown, which looked most like a flax seed to me :).

As I said, I got mine at Sur La Table, but I also found them on Amazon right here. I highly recommend you check this board out for you or even as a super great gift for someone who loves to chop.