easy black bean soup

Like anyone who prepares meals every night of the week, I don’t always have time to languish over a pot of soup.  Some days, there’s just not time for all the chopping and dicing and stirring required.  If you feel my pain, you’ll appreciate how fast this black bean soup comes together.  Classic flavor reigns with the cilantro, red bell pepper, and cumin.  Optional toppers, aside from the yogurt (or sour cream, if you’re so inclined), include some shredded pepper jack cheese, a dash of hot sauce to kick it up a notch, or some baked tortilla chips.   My only qualm with the recipe was it didn’t make enough to put it to the “yesterday’s soup” test.  We all know things like this taste even better the next day.  But this one tasted pretty darn good the first day!  Nonetheless, next time I’m going to double the batch to insure some leftovers.

Also, this soup is only a couple of substitutions away from being a perfectly acceptable vegetarian meal:  swap out the chicken stock for veggie stock, and bulk it up with tofu or more beans.  Personally, I’d go with the beans.  Tofu is just…well.  Tofu is just tofu.  However you make this your own, you’re sure to enjoy!!

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Easy Black Bean Soup (recipe adapted from: Cooking Light Superfast Suppers)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c onion, chopped
  • 1/4 c red pepper, chopped
  • 1 low-fat turkey kielbasa (Hillshire Farms), cut into pieces
  • 1 15 oz can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 oz can fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp basil/garlic/oregano flavored tomato paste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp reduced -fat Greek yogurt (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat until hot.  Add onion and pepper; saute 3 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
  2. Add chopped sausage, beans, and chicken broth to onion mixture.  Stir in tomato paste and cumin; bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 to 6 minutes or until soup is slightly thickened.
  3. Ladle soup into individual bowls; dollop each serving evenly with yogurt, and sprinkle with cilantro.
  4. Serve with home-made tortilla chips (optional).

 

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baked blueberry clafoutis

Since our decision to kick cable t.v., to the curb, there’s a lot less television-watching in our house.  We’re down to NetFlix and about 25 channels, twelve of which are in Spanish and of no use to anybody.  The other twelve or so are home shopping (still not useful), local affiliates (mainstream programming not my taste), and PBS.  So, I’m watching a lot of PBS.  And, hey, I’m a member, so no guilt trips, please.

One of the shows we see…well, I see pretty regularly as my partner-in-crime is snoozing away on the other half of the couch, is a great gardening show called Growing a Greener World.  One of the best things about it is the cooking segment at the end of each show.  Chef Nathan Lyon (Tweet him @chefnathanlyon – he even tweets back), always seems to be cooking up something fresh and easy-to-prepare with nutritious ingredients you don’t have to hunt down at a specialty store.  It’s nothing over-the-top.  Just healthy, simple fare you can throw together for a weeknight meal for your family, and always a little unique to impress your guests.  I don’t own his cookbook, but I’m definitely going to get it given the rave reviews I’ve gotten with his recipes, so far.

This one was from an episode we watched last night.  Again, I watched, hubby dozed.  I’d made a traditional cherry clafoutis at my mom’s one summer a number of years ago.  It was delicious.  How could it not be delicious?  It’s full of eggs and a tiny bit of sugar and fresh fruit.  And, it’s fun to say!  What I discovered after baking this one; blueberry, is the French are particular about their clafoutis.  It’s apparently only a clafoutis if it’s cherry.  If you bastardize it, as the French would undoubtedly claim, by baking it with blueberries, or any other fruit, it’s considered a flaugnarde – not nearly as fun to say, but equally yummy.  They’re not too sweet, since there’s really not much sugar compared to other desserts, and have a wonderful texture – more like a custardy-tart, since you use a minimal amount of flour to bind all the egg and creamy loveliness together.  The texture is creamy, a very thick custard, and melts in your mouth.  The berries hold their shape nicely, so there’s good texture in the fruit, as well.  Call it what you will: clafoutis or flaugnarde, it’s good eats!

Serve it warm, dusted with powdered sugar or a little heavy cream.  Personally, I found it just as delicious served cold.  Personal preference.  Enjoy!

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Baked Blueberry Clafoutis

Recipe Courtesy: Nathan Lyon, Growing A Greener World, Episode 116

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar, separated
  • 5 whole eggs, large
  • 1 cup half and half, or whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint blueberries (12 oz)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. In a medium, oven safe, non-stick sauté pan, combine the butter with 2 Tbsp granulated sugar and place over medium heat. (Be careful not to let butter brown).
  3. Meanwhile whisk the eggs plus the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar on high speed until tripled in volume and pale yellow in color (about 5 minutes). Then, by hand, gradually whisk in the half and half or milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and flour until just incorporated. It should look light and foamy at this point.
  4. Pour this mixture into the hot pan, top with the blueberries, then transfer into the oven. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top, and the Clafoutis has puffed up.
  5. Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a cutting board. Slice, and serve with the optional powdered sugar.

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***Baker’s Notes:  Don’t try to skimp too much on the calories with low-fat or skim milk.  Your end product will be watery and unsatisfying.  At the very least, I’d say 2% milk, but whole milk or half and half are truly best.  I used the full pint of berries and, even though I love blueberries, I thought it was a lot of berries.  I might experiment with 8 ounces next time.  Mine baked for 24 minutes and I actually spun it under the broiler for a few minutes to give the top a more golden appearance.

nutella swirl pound cake

My local grocer had Nutella on sale the other day.  I stocked up.

Fortuitously, I also re-acquainted myself with this recipe while looking through some older pins on my Pinterest board.  At that very moment I was thinking, “I’ve got so many pins on this board I’ll never find anything to bake.”  And, then?  There it was.  Nutella Swirl Pound Cake.  And me having just stocked up on Nutella, and all.  It seemed like the only sensible thing to do.

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I have to admit I was sort of happy to be baking this by myself, because I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such creamy batter.  So delicious, I couldn’t imagine having to share the bowl with…anyone.  The yellow batter is spectacular.  Amazingly delicious.  I’m not sure why I was so moved by it other than the fact there was not a hint of granulated sugar to be felt on the tongue.  Truly the smoothest batter.  Ever.  Now add a couple of layers of Nutella and, well, there are no words!!

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Dip your knife or spatula in and swirl.  Make sure you do a good job of this.  I don’t think I swirled enough and my cake ended up a little bottom-heavy with Nutella.  Pop it in the oven and commence to bowl-licking.  Then, once it’s baked and cooled, pour yourself a tall glass of milk and enjoy a little slice of Nutella Nirvana.  Good stuff.  Good stuff.  Enjoy!

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Nutella Swirl Pound Cake (recipe adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes, Taunton Press, 2009)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup)  unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 13-ounce jar Nutella (see Baker’s Notes, below)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour. In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
  3. Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not over mix.
  4. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

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nutellaswirl©zouptonuts***Baker’s Notes:  I don’t know what the original recipe said in terms of the amount of Nutella, but the adapted version I found over at Food & Wine suggested using the entire jar of Nutella (13 oz).  I love Nutella, but I have to say it’s overkill in this recipe.  It’s just too heavy and wet.  Half the jar would have been more than sufficient to create just what the recipe title suggests:  a swirl of Nutella.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, but given the quantity of Nutella, I’d have renamed it just plain old Nutella Pound Cake.  That said, it was really good.  The cake was moist and creamy and difficult to resist.  I’d definitely make it again with the mentioned adjustments.

jicama-lime slaw

Summer seems to be upon us here in Arizona, even though I think spring only officially got started a couple of weeks ago.  So, with temps in the 90s, and our grill performing its usual work-horse duties, I wanted a side that could herald summer.  Spring is fleeting.  Summer, well that just seems to go on forever.

I have my faithful stand-by recipes, but I like to experiment early in the season to find out if there’s anything worth making for upcoming picnics, get-togethers with friends, etc.  And I’m always enticed by oft-overlooked veggies.  Like the jicama, for instance.  You can find them in pretty much any grocery store, but it’s rare you see recipes calling for this uber-nutritious, fibrous root veggie.  And I’m surprised it took me this long to think of it as perfect for cole slaw.  The flavor and texture are spot on – crisp and sweet, somewhere between a water chestnut and a pear.  The jicama’s flavor is enhanced by the lime and doesn’t give way to sogginess when the dressing is applied.

If you’ve looking for a change of pace from a traditional mayo-based slaw, this one is perfect.  It’s tangy, zesty, and perfectly fresh for summer.  Enjoy!

 

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Jicama-Lime Slaw (recipe adapted from Cooking Light Superfast Suppers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium jicama, peeled and shredded
  • 1 c green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 c red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 c fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine first three ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing well.  Set aside. t
  2. Whisk together lime juice, EVOO, sugar, salt, and black pepper.
  3. Pour dressing over slaw mixture and toss well to coat.
  4. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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***Cook’s Notes:  I was in time-saving mode, so I grabbed a bag of pre-shredded cabbage in the produce aisle.  Turns out it was the angel hair variety, so a bit too flimsy for my taste, but worked fine.  Next time I’ll either shred my own or make sure I buy a thicker shred.

 

blood orange olive oil brownies

A couple of years ago, we went to the Olive Blossom festival at Queen Creek Olive Mill, in….you guessed it, Queen Creek, AZ.  It’s a place I’d highly recommend visiting if you’re here from out-of-town, or live in the Valley and are looking for a unique day trip.  It was an oasis in the desert.   Not to mention, live music, great food, lots of shade, and wine!

While we were there, I had a slice of the most delicious Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake from the mill’s kitchen.  It was so delicious, I picked up a bottle of Blood Orange Olive Oil and a handful of recipe cards.  This was one of the recipes:  Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies.  Seriously!  Citrus and chocolate.  Heaven!

Like a lot of things, this one sat on the back burner for a while.  But this weekend, because our citrus is plentiful and I have an enormous bowl of fresh lemons on my kitchen island, I got it in my head to bake these brownies.  You don’t actually need Blood Oranges for the recipe, just get yourself a bottle of this olive oil.  If you’re not local, you can order online.  If you’re in Arizona, but can’t make it out to the mill, they have several shops in the Valley and one in Tucson.  Check out this link to find the location closest to you.

The end product was delicious.  The dark chocolate flavor is beautifully infused with citrus undertones.  We loved them and I’ll definitely be making these again, although probably more for a special occasion.  The kiddo was not as enamored with the citrus.  She’s a purist, I suppose.  But to a more sophisticated palette, they’re a real treat.  Enjoy!

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Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies (recipe courtesy Queen Creek Olive Mill)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • 1 c walnuts, coarsely crushed (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Spray 9×13 baking pan with non-stick baking spray (i.e. Pam).
  2. On low heat, melt chocolate in sauce pan, stirring constantly.  Set aside to cool.
  3. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  4. In a separate sauce pan, melt butter, add olive oil, and incorporate one egg at a time, whisking as you go.
  5. Add vanilla and then chocolate, combining well.
  6. Fold in dry ingredients and walnuts, being careful not to over mix batter.
  7. Pour mixture into pan smoothing off the top.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until brownies pull away from side of pan.

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***Baker’s Note:  There’s A LOT of sugar in this recipe. (It’s not a healthy treat by any stretch of the imagination.)  Don’t be discouraged if your batter seems gritty.  The sugar does bake down and the texture of the brownies is cakey and dense.  No grit.  Just lots of calories.  But they’re special occasion, right??

tilapia tacos with fresh tomato salsa

It seems lately I’m ever so slightly bordering on obsessed with fish tacos.  I’ve pinned ump-teen recipes to my Pinterest board, I’ve bookmarked a bunch in my favorites bar, and I’ve cooked them…a lot…recently.  If there’s any kind of taco I’m happy to eat, it’s fish.  Don’t get me wrong.  It would be my worst nightmare to be served up a plate of Rubio’s fish tacos and ordered to eat!  First, it’s a chain restaurant and fast food, at that.  Second, while I understand it’s a popular place for fast (see above) fish tacos, crunch the numbers on the Original Fish Taco (2 taco plate) and you’ll devour 620 calories, 360 or which are from fat, 40 grams of fat, 50 mg of cholesterol, and 780 mg of sodium.  Which is why I make them myself.

Being able to control portion size and ingredients is a huge deal.  And, believe me, it doesn’t have to be breaded and deep-fried in artery-clogging oil to taste good.  This recipe is the perfect example of how a variety of spices and minimal oil can come together to create a mouth-watering meal without all the fat and calories that come standard at your local fast food taco joint.  This recipe went together really fast.  I made the rub ahead of time and refrigerated it for a couple of hours.  The recipe doesn’t say you need to do that, but I thought the fish had a truly developed flavor because it had been resting in the spices for a longer period of time.

The salsa was bright and lively, too.  I threw on some fresh cilantro from our garden just before serving, and gave an extra squeeze of lime juice, too.  Low-fat and delicious.  So much better than fast food.  Enjoy!

2014-02-25

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Tilapia Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa (recipe courtesy ActivewearUSA)

Taco Ingredients:

  • 4 tortillas
  • ½ pound tilapia fillets
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • ½ onion, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Salsa Ingredients:

  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour the herb and spice mix into a resealable plastic  bag.  Add the tilapia fillets and shake until the fish is completely covered.  Set aside to infuse with flavor.
  2. Pour 1 teaspoon of olive oil into a pan over medium heat and add the onion and corn.  Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, or until the onion is soft and the corn begins to blacken.
  3. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Be careful not to scorch.
  4. Remove the tilapia fillets from the Ziploc bag and place them into the pan, using a spatula or spoon to divide the fish into bite-sized pieces as the fish cooks.  Place a lid on top of the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring half way through.
  5. While the fish is cooking, prepare the salsa by roughly chopping the tomatoes and onion into small pieces.  Add them to a bowl with the minced garlic, lime juice, red wine vinegar and coriander, stirring until well combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. When the fish is solid white and flaky, warm the tortillas in the oven or microwave.
  7. Divide the tilapia, onion and corn mixture evenly between them. Serve immediately with salsa for topping.

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spiced red lentil soup with lemon

I’m a big fan of the lentil – healthy, filling, packed with protein, full of iron and budget-friendly.  I’m also a big fan of soup.  It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I love lentils in soup!  Not to disparage beans, which I also love, but you can whip together a soup containing lentils in a matter of an hour, or so.  Beans require forethought…something I don’t always exercise.

Friday night the kiddo had gymnastics until 5 p.m., which doesn’t leave a lot of time to get home and start cooking.  So earlier in the day I threw this soup together on a whim after finding the recipe on Twitter.  Of course the lentils caught my attention first, but we’re heavy into citrus season in these parts and lemons are plentiful.  Also, the list of ingredients was really short and all stock pantry items so there was no need for a last-minute scramble to the grocery store for obscure items.

The soup goes together really fast, so to enhance the flavors of the spices they’re dry-fried ahead of time.  This method gives them a fuller, headier flavor I don’t think you would experience if you stirred them in straight for the jar.  The citrus is fresh and crisp, and a nice compliment to the warm, spiciness of cumin and coriander.  I served this with some chopped, fresh cilantro from our garden and it was absolutely delicious.  For a recipe tossed together on a whim, it turned out to be delightfully pleasing and I’ll definitely be making it, again, in my regular rotation of meatless meals.  Enjoy!

2014-02-07

Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 c low-sodium, organic chicken stock
  • 1 1/4 c yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c Red Lentils, rinsed and picked through
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain lentils; set aside.
  2. Heat heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil and swirl to coat, reducing heat to medium.  Toss in onion and stir frequently for about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and continue cooking for another 3 minutes, or so, stirring frequently.
  3. Add lentils and cook for 2 minutes more, until well combined with onion and garlic, then stir in chicken stock.  Bring liquid to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are softened.
  4. While the lentils are cooking, heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat.  Place the cumin and coriander into the pan and dry-fry for 2 minutes.  Do not let the spices scorch.  Add to soup mixture along with juice of one whole lemon.  Stir together and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to serving bowls, salt and pepper to taste, and top with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (optional).

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***Cook’s Notes:  Similar recipes have you remove and puree half the soup, then return it to the pot.  This is obviously a textural issue.  I didn’t do that.  Honestly, I liked the texture of the softened, whole lentils.  It gave the soup a more rustic, heartier quality.  Blend or don’t blend, that’s up to you.  Also, although this is photographed with parsley, I served it with chopped cilantro, which I much prefer.  It was excellent.  Again, it’s a matter of preference.  You can easily make this soup vegetarian/vegan by choosing vegetable stock over the chicken.  I’m a proud omnivore and much prefer the depth of flavor in a chicken stock.  Choose low-sodium, organic stock if you can.

sausage and egg fried rice

One of my favorite things to order at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant is chicken fried rice.  Even better, wrap it up in a soft tortilla and call it a Chinese burrito.  Either way, it’s comfort food through and through.  But we all know the fried rice at your favorite carry-out is, while incredibly delicious, not exactly scoring high marks for health food.  Also, we don’t eat out that much – have you seen the portion sizes?  And, frankly, we get a healthier meal at home.  Which is why I’ve always been curious about making my own fried rice.

Last night was the perfect night.  My people had gone off to have dinner with relatives.  Earlier in the day, in anticipation of dinner-for-one, I cooked up some rice (halving the recipe below) and set it aside to cool.  Fried rice is a great way to use up leftover rice from a previous dinner, but since I’m apparently so good at portion control, I rarely have leftover rice on hand.  Note to selves:  If you’re ever just hanging out with an hour to spare, make some rice and tuck it away in the fridge for dinner later that week.

The original recipe called for diced ham, but I used an organic turkey sausage, instead, since it’s what I had on hand.  I think it’s a perfectly good substitute, lower in sodium and fat, while still adding a nice boost of protein.  Since it’s a recipe that loans itself to personal adaptation, pick your protein for what suits your lifestyle.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I believed it would be nearly impossible to recreate the goodness of Chinese carry-out in my own kitchen.  But this recipe came pretty darn close.  I thought it was delicious…and much, much healthier.  The green beans added crunch and a pretty burst of color.  Onion and garlic gave it nice, heady flavor in combination with the soy sauce and sesame oil.  Prep first and it all goes together really fast, as a stir-fry should.  Can’t wait to try the leftovers after the flavors have a chance to mingle, a bit.  Definitely a keeper on the first run, though.  Enjoy!

2014-01-26

Sausage and Egg Fried Rice (recipe adapted from Cooking Light, September 2008)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cold cooked long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup thinly horizontally sliced green beans
  • 3/4 cup diced turkey kielbasa (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup (1-inch) slices green onions

Preparation:

  1. 1. Break up rice with hands to remove large clumps, if necessary.
  2. 2. Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add canola oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add 1 1/2 cups onion and garlic to wok; stir-fry 1 minute or until onion begins to brown. Add beans and ham; stir-fry 2 minutes or until ham begins to brown.
  3. 3. Reduce heat to medium-high. Add cold rice to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Push rice mixture up sides of wok. Pour eggs in open space in center of wok; cook 30 seconds or until set, stirring to scramble. Gently stir scrambled eggs into rice mixture. Sprinkle with green onions.

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cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese

Just before Christmas, one of the moms from our 3rd grade class hosted a gingerbread house decorating party for some of her daughter’s friends.  We happened to be on the guest list and had a blast.  Not only was it fun because the kids had a ball decorating their houses with all sorts of edible sweeties, but she had a spread of real food (and beverages) for those of us who don’t find Skittles and Everlasting Gob-Stoppers nearly as interesting as we used to.

One of the appetizers she served was a goat cheese roll smothered in the most delicious cranberry sauce ever.  I begged her for the recipe.  She said, “I got it at Costco.”

Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m not a fan of Costco for a litany of reasons, and I had successfully avoided becoming a Costco member for a long, long, long time.  But then we got a dog.  And dog food is a lot cheaper at Costco.  Also, apparently I can buy Fage yogurt and 12-grain bread at a deep discount.  Not to mention, gas is 30 cents a gallon less expensive, and when you’re fueling with premium gasoline that’s a big deal.  So, now we’re Costco members.  Yippee!!

But I’m not buying prepared appetizers at Costco!  No matter how yummy they are!!

This recipe was easy enough to find and easy to put together.  On top of that, I’d put it up against the mass-produced Costco version (admittedly delicious) any day.  It was wonderful.  The cranberry sauce is tangy and lemony, yet with the warmth and savoriness of cinnamon.  It was one of my favorite appetizers on New Year’s Day.  I think it would also work as a Super Bowl party appetizer – the cranberries are pretty festive, but we’re not so far removed from the holidays that you couldn’t pull it off on game day.  Enjoy!

Cranberry-Cinnamon Goat Cheese (recipe courtesy Mission Food)

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 11 oz. log goat cheese
  • Crackers, for serving

Directions:

  1. Add cranberries, sugar, water, orange zest, and cinnamon to saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for about 8 to 10 minutes. The cranberries will pop, the mixture will foam and subside, and the sauce will thicken as the cranberries break down.
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spread about 1/2 cup of the cranberry mixture onto the plastic wrap, a little longer and wider than the goat cheese log. Lay the goat cheese log on top of the cranberry sauce and spread more sauce over the top and sides of the goat cheese (much like frosting a cake). There should be about 1/4-inch thick layer of cranberry sauce over all the sides of the goat cheese.
  4. Wrap the plastic wrap around the cranberry-coated goat cheese log and refrigerate.
  5. Remove the goat cheese from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to allow the cheese to slightly soften and become easier to spread. Remove plastic wrap before serving!

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white bean dip with rosemary and sage

Well, hello there,  2014!!!  By my calculations, I’m only about two weeks late to the party, but, hey…life has a way of being lived sometimes and I have to admit there’s been little time for cooking AND photographing.  Just cooking, lately, and Brownie meetings to supervise, and piano lessons to patiently sit through, and puppy obedience classes to attend.  Also, believe it or not, it gets dark really early this time of year in the desert.  By 5:30, if I haven’t cooked, plated, and photographed, there’s just not enough natural light.

Ahhh, excuses, excuses, excuses.  Enough of that, on to the bean dip.

I made this for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012.  It was a huge hit with our guests and, even though it was just going to be the three of us this year (one of whom wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole), I decided to do it again for our New Year’s Day feast.  We already had too much food, but this dip is so good (and gets better with each passing day), I was happy to have the leftovers for some post-celebration snacking.  It’s low in fat, high in flavor (lots of garlic goodness), and a good source of protein and fiber from the beans.  It’s also really fast and easy to assemble.  Put it together the day before you plan to serve it for maximum flavor mingling!  (I hear there’s a big football game in the not-too-distant future).  Serve with the crackers or crudités of your choice.  Enjoy!!

White Bean Dip with Rosemary and Sage (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, Aug 2007)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh sage sprig (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with pita wedges crackers, fresh veggies. Garnish with sage sprig, if desired.

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