Thursday, March 2, 2017

Slow Cooker Red Beans w/ Rice

There is this wonderful restaurant here in Denver called Lucile's Creole Cafe and they make these amazing red beans that are so tender and creamy and flavorful and just delicious. I've been craving them so I decided to try my hand at making my own version of these and Oh My Science, they turned out SO good. I am definitely adding this to my regular rotation. And the ingredients are very simple and inexpensive so its a great budget meal.

I cobbled my own recipe together by using 3 or 4 different variations that I saw on the web, this is a meal you could easily tailor to a vegetarian/vegan recipe by removing the meat and maybe adding a dash of liquid smoke to help give it the smoky flavor that is imparted by my use of the smoked hamhock.

And the added bonus is, if you cook it in the crockpot you do not need to pre-soak the beans! Actually you never really need to pre-soak beans, all it really does is help speed up the cook time but when it's going in a crockpot, that no longer matters.

I also sauteed the celery, bell peppers, onions, and garlic before adding them to the crockpot, This is totally optional if you are pressed for time, I just feel like it adds a slightly different flavor when I cook them a bit first. Of course that could just be me making shit up, but whatever, it turned out great so who am I to question it?

1 pound bag dried kidney beans or small red beans, rinsed and sorted
1 smoked hamhock
water to cover everything in the crockpot, it was about 3 liters for me
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
Ham - I used part of a package of sliced spiral ham that I found with the hamhocks but a ham steak cut up would also work. You can also use more or less ham depending on how much you like it. Trust me, it's delicious when the beans are done!
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne - this gives it a nice slow burn so if you don't want that, lessen or remove this.
1-2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, all depends on your preferences. You can always add more but you can't really take it back out!
2 bay leaves
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 celery stalks, washed and sliced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
cooked rice - I don't know how much you need, its your family

1. Put everything up to the celery in the crockpot.
2. Saute the celery, green bell pepper, onion and garlic in a frying pan over med-high heat until the onion is translucent.
3. Add veggie stuff to crockpot and cook on low for 12 hours or high for 8. It may take less than that but I really wanted those super creamy, mushy red beans.
4. Cook and serve with rice of your choice

And done!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cardamom Apricot Oatmeal Cookies

Last year for the holidays I decided to try an alternate version of my Oatmeal Raisin cookies because I know a lot of people really don't care for raisins and because I happened to have some dried apricots on hand.

I always buy the oats and the apricots from the bulk section of Sprouts but you can just as easily buy the Sun Maid apricots or any another brand of dried apricots. And of course Quaker makes great oats.

1/2 cup(s) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick or old fashioned oats
1 cup dried apricots, cut up into quarters
parchment paper to line the cookie sheets - total life and time saver!

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and salt.
2. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed of an electric mixer or by hand if you have to (but mixers are the way to go if you have one! My KitchenAid is the best thing in my kitchen)
3. Add the combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and salt; mix well.
4. Fold in the oats and the apricots with a wooden spoon or heavy duty spatula. Just mix until blended.
5. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

 Substitutions - you could of course use raisins or any other dried fruit, or chocolate chips or add nuts. I've also used this recipe with 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. So tasty!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Aloo Patta Gohbi

Not long ago I was at my favorite Indian restaurant (like I could happily eat there every day and never get tired of it), Star Of India and I tried Aloo Patta Gohbi which I think translates to Potato and Cabbage. It's a dry, stir-fry like dish that traditionally comes from the North of India and I was blown away.

I love cabbage, I love potatoes, I love spicy Indian food, how could I not love this dish? I used my Google-Fu to search for recipes online and then cobbled my own variation together based on the ingredients that I had on hand and my own personal preference.

This is supposed to be a dry curry with no sauce, I realized I had to keep a close eye on it near the end to ensure that all of the moisture wasn't cooked off before the potatoes and cabbage was tender and cooked through.

Couple of notes - I use garlic and ginger separately but you can also buy ginger garlic paste which is wonderful stuff, I'm just out of stock on it right now. Also you will need a large, deep covered skillet, I have the GreenPan Rio 5 quart pan from Target and I love it especially for the price.

1-2 tablespoons canola oil  - or another oil with a high smoke point, do NOT use olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger paste or 1 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
4 potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2" chunks
1 cup peas, frozen or canned
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder (or more if you want more heat but be careful, too much and it will have a weird almost dirty flavor)
1-2 bay leaves
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water (or more if needed)
1 small-medium head of cabbage, washed and shredded or cut into small chunks
2 teaspoons garam masala

1. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet pan. Once the oil is hot (you can check it by tossing a cumin seed in the pan and make sure it sizzles), add the cumin and mustard seeds and cover immediately. The seeds WILL pop and get everywhere so you have to make sure you cover it right away. Fry the seeds for 1-2 minutes or until they change color. It doesn't take long for them to burn so only a minute or so will do.
2. Once the seeds change color add the onions, garlic and ginger paste and saute until the onions are translucent. Depending on your stove you may want to lower the heat so nothing gets burned.
3. Add the potatoes, peas, tomatoes, water, bay leaf, and the powdered seasoning except for the garam masala, stir until the potatoes are coated with the spice mixture. Reduce the heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are pretty close to being done
4. Add the cabbage, cover and cook until the cabbage has wilted down, once  it starts to get tender remove the lid and cook until most of the moisture in the pan is gone.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fresh Mozzarella Sammich

This is one of my all time favorite sandwiches ever. It is really simple (not that sandwiches are ever really that hard to make!) and tastes incredibly fresh.

 It is really important to use ciabatta bread or something else that has a thicker, heartier crust to help prevent your sandwich from getting soggy. I also recommend using a high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar as it can really affect the flavor. Remember with balsamic vinegar - a little goes a LONG way.

This is for one sandwich but it's easy to make a couple of them. They do not store well so be sure to eat it right after making it although you can make a "kit" of all of the making of the sandwich so that if want to eat this at work you can just have all the pieces and just assemble on your break or whatever.

Ciabatta roll (or in a pinch you can use kaiser rolls)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Fresh Cracked Pepper
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 roasted red bell pepper (if using the kind in a jar be sure to pat it as dry as you can using paper towels or something)
thinly sliced red onion
thinly sliced tomato
4-6 fresh mozzarella medallions
garlic salt with parsley

1. Sprinkle or spritz the inside of the roll with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Top with spinach, red bell pepper, onion, tomato, mozzarella. Top the mozzarella with fresh cracked pepper and a light sprinkling of the garlic salt.

And that's really it.
I'm no food photographer but this doesn't look too bad. 

Variations -
add Fresh, Roasted or Grilled mushrooms, especially portabella, they lend a nice earthiness to the overall flavor.

Use roasted Hatch green chiles in place of the roasted red peppers

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cuban inspired Black and White Beans with Rice (now with crockpot action)

Growing up we ate a lot of beans and rice and even to this day it's one of my favorite comfort foods. I decided to make Cuban inspired beans in the crockpot since I had a busy day planned and  I didn't want to deal with cooking when I got home. Thanks to my handy dandy rice cooker, dinner was a breeze to prepare! I served this with this Two Onion Relish and cornbread muffins.

I think the leftover beans are going to be used later this week to make chili, especially since the flavors I used to prepare them will lend themselves well to chili.

1 cup black beans
1 cup white beans
5 cups water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 chopped green bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
cooked brown or white rice

1. Place the beans in a large bowl, add water to cover by 2 inches, and let stand overnight. Drain and rinse.

2. Put the beans, bay leaf and water into a crockpot on low.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute garlic, onion, and green pepper and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes. dd the cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and stir until it's absorbed into the onion mix. Add into the crockpot. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or until the beans are tender. Discard the bay leaf.

4. Serve over rice and top with onion relish.

Two Onion and Garlic Relish

Very simple relish that adds a nice punch of flavor on a lot of dishes. I particularly like it on bean dishes like Black Beans and Rice or what my cousin calls Ham Beanies. I really like the strong flavor and bite of raw garlic but you could always omit that if you feel like it's too much for you. You can also sub cilantro instead of the parsley if you like cilantro. 

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion 
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1/2 cup chipped scallions (white and green parts of the scallions) 
2 garlic cloves, finely minced

I used a quart size baggie and put all of the ingredients in and just shook it up. Easy peasy. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vegan Yellow Pea Curry with Crispy Veggies

I found a recipe in one of my cookbooks that inspired this recipe. It helped me think about using the peas differently than I usually do when making Indian style food. I usually only think of them in relation to dal but today I cooked them as the sauce for the curry with lots of seasonings and then added some tender-crisp fresh veggies at the end.

* I use a LOT of curry powder and I like mine a bit spicy so feel free to adjust the curry powder blending as you see fit for your own taste buds but use at least 1 1/2 tablespoons to ensure that you get enough flavor*

One thing I recently realized - growing up I rarely ate fresh vegetables, they were mostly frozen or canned because at the time, that is what we could afford (and basically all my mom could cook, love her but cooking is not her strong point) so lately I've made a point of using all fresh veggies whenever possible and boy does it make a big difference!

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoon hot yellow curry powder
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup yellow split peas, rinsed (I usually can only find these at Sprouts)
2 3/4 cups water
1 can coconut milk (be sure to use the full fat one not the light version, it's worth the calories for the taste)
1 cup sliced carrots
3 cups broccoli florets
1 cup thickly sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup cut green beans
1 each - yellow, green, orange, and red bell peppers, chopped
4 roma tomatoes chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

1. In a 3 quart saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic, cook stirring until the onions are tender, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the curry powders, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne until the spices are absorbed into the onions.

2. Add the peas and stir until they are coated with the spices. Add the water and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour to hour and fifteen minutes, or until the peas are mostly dissolved. Be sure to stir it occasionally.

3. When the sauce is almost done, about an hour into cooking, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet or a wok. Add the carrots and cook until they are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the veggies and cook until they are your desired tenderness. I like my veggies pretty tender so I cooked mine for about 10 minutes but 3-5 will cook them so they are still pretty crisp.

4. Stir the vegetables in the curry mix and add salt. Serve!

One of the things I like about this the most is it's really easy to modify so you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Everything from cauliflower, snow peas, squash, mushrooms, the sky is really the limit! Just be careful with the cooking times depending on what veggies you end up using.