Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tex-Mex Beans From Scratch

Instead of opening several cans of "Baked Beans,"pouring them into a slow cooker and reheating them, (which I've done before for pot-luck parties) I wanted to make something from scratch. Beans that are not too sweet, but rich with the savory flavors of garlic, cilantro, and pepper. Eureka, that sounds like the pinto beans that I've enjoyed at many Tex-Mex restaurants like Chipotle, Chilies, Papasitos and more. These beans are more than a side dish. They are a meal on their own. Oh, and if you saute the onions in bacon fat, it will take these beans to another level of gastronomic deliciousness. If  (and that's a big if) by any small chance that you have leftovers you can use them in the "Chili and Fixings" recipe.

Tex-Mex Beans From Scratch
16 oz of dried pinto beans
1 - 2 lemons, optional (See note in step one)
1 1/2 - 2 cups of chicken, pork, or beef stock
1 large sweet or yellow onion
3 heaping tablespoons of bacon fat (I used the fat from organic/nitrate free bacon)
4 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
3 "Oven Roasted Chilies" or 1 (7 oz) can of fire roasted chilies
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 heaping cup of fresh cilantro with upper stems

Optional Garnishes
sour cream
onions and cilantro
queso fresca

1. As I mentioned  before I've learned that soaking grains in an acidic medium for 8 to 12 hours helps to neutralize phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors making nutrients more readily available to our bodies and more easily absorbed. For more information on the value of soaking grains visit these two blog posts: "The Value of Soaking Your Grains" and "What's the Fuss About Soaking Grains? Explanation and Research Shared." Place beans in a large pot of water. The water should top the beans by 2 inches. Add the juice of one or two lemons and soak the beans for 12 to 24 hours. I soaked my beans for 24 hours.

2. Drain, rinse, and place beans in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 4 to 8 hours or as long as it takes for the bean to be completely soft all the way through. Be sure to check on the beans occasionally and add more water if necessary. This step can also be done in a slow cooker.  Cover the beans in water and cook on low for 8-9 hours or cook on high for 4-5 hours

3. When the beans are soft they are ready to add the flavor.  At this point the beans should be finished on the stove top. remove the lid and add the stock. (I always have stock available in my freezer in canning jars).

4. As the liquid in the beans are reducing chop the onion.

5. Melt 3 heaping tablespoons of bacon fat into another pot. Note: you could swap the bacon fat for olive oil and make this recipe South Beach Phase 1 friendly.

6. Add onions and cook over medium heat until they are soft and translucent.

7. Add diced chilies, salt, pepper, and garlic to the onions. Stir and let the flavors meld for a few minutes.

8. Add the onion mixture to the beans along with a teaspoon of cumin and mix well.

9. Remove two cups of beans and place them in a small mixing bowl.

10. Add the cilantro to the small mixing bowl, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.

11. Add the blended beans back into the large pot of beans to thicken. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed (adding more salt, pepper, garlic to taste). You could even add a pinch of cayenne. When it's cook approved it's ready to serve.

12. Serve a scoop of beans with the optional garnishes of sour cream, onions, cilantro, queso fresca, or whatever else sounds good to you.

Link Party Links: Anyonita Nibbles, Back to Basics, Love in the Kitchen

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Salsa - Restaurant Style (Made at Home)

In full disclosure this is a semi-homemade salsa because this recipe uses canned tomatoes. Someday if I run across amazing tomatoes from a farmer's market, or if I grow my own then I'll make a 100% homemade version. That said, this salsa tastes so fresh because all the other ingredients are fresh. I made a double batch of the recipe below and now have several jars in the freezer. (A double batch made 3 quarts plus 2 cups). I made this for a BBQ party for 60 people - that's why I doubled it.

Salsa - Restaurant Style (Made at Home)
1 (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes, drained (I used organic and no salt added)
2 (14.5 oz) cans of no-salt diced tomatoes, drained (I used organic and no salt added)
1 whole jalapeno
1/2 Serrano pepper (skip if you want mild, use 1/2 if you want medium, use whole if you want hot)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Oven roasted chilies, steamed, skinned, and seeded (or a 7 oz. can of fire-roasted chilies)
1 cup of fresh cilantro (I just grab a big handful)

1. Drain the whole tomatoes and diced tomatoes and add them to a large mixing bowl. (The first time I made this recipe I didn't drain the tomatoes and the salsa was a bit watery).

2. Slice the jalapeno in four quarters and slice the quarters into small slices. Dice the optional Serrano pepper in the same manner. Note to self: do not rub your eyes after slicing peppers.

3. Add diced onion, garlic, cumin, and salt to the tomatoes.

4. After broiling Anaheim chilis for 7 minutes each side and sealing them in a plastic bag, peel the skins, slice them in half and scrape out the seeds. For detailed step by step instructions check out "Oven Roasted Green Chilies."Add diced green chilies to the salsa mixture.

5. Add a large handful of cilantro, about a cup or so, to the bowl. I started blending and realized that I almost forgot the cilantro. Gasp!

6. Now we are ready to break out the immersion blender. Pulse for a couple of minutes until you reach your desired consistency.

7. When it comes to salsa for chips we like our salsa on the smooth side rather than chunky.

Helpful links:
Restaurant Style Salsa from Pioneer Woman Cooks
Fresh Tomato Salsa from Simply Recipes
Restaurant Style Salsa from Buns in My Oven

Link Party Links: Sunny Simple Life, Every Day Mom's Meals

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Caesar Salad

This salad is a family favorite. We eat it all the time. My father-in-law recently stayed with us and when I asked him what some of his favorite "bites" were during his stay the first thing he said was "Caesar salad." Wow. I was surprised...a salad? Really? Then the more I thought about it, the more his answer made sense. This salad tastes fresh. The croutons are homemade. And, the dressing is creamy and garlicky. Personally, I prefer a Caesar salad with a creamy dressing over one that is more oil based. There is a wide range of Caesar salad dressings served at restaurants, and I have been disappointed. One of my favorite restaurant Caesar salads is from Outback. This "Caesar Salad" is inspired by Outback.

Caesar Salad
2 hearts of Romaine
Caesar dressing (see recipe below)
homemade croutons
Parmesan cheese
fresh cracked pepper
(this will make 2 large entree salads or smaller dinner salads)

For the Croutons
1 slice of quality bread (I used a slice of organic whole wheat Udi's bread)
olive oil
garlic powder
salt and pepper

For the Dressing
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese or a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup of a good quality mayonnaise (I used Spectrum Organic or you could make homemade)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (usually one juice lemon will work)
1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste
1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce (I use Annie's Naturals Organic)
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/8 teaspoon of dry mustard
1 or 2 cloves of garlic depending on the size of the cloves and your taste

1. Make the croutons by brushing each side of a slice of bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little garlic powder, salt and pepper.

2. Slice the bread into bite sized pieces.

3. Place the bread cubes onto parchment paper and place in a 350 degree oven until toasted about 5 - 7 minutes. (I use my toaster oven).

4. Set aside and let cool.

5. While the croutons are toasting wash and slice the romaine. Cut off the core end of the Romaine heart.

6. Slice the romaine length wise into quarters. I know some people hold off slicing the core end until after slicing the romaine into quarters. I've done it both ways.

7. Slicing in the other direction cut the romaine quarters into 1 inch pieces.

8. Place the romaine in a bowl and set aside. If necessary, gently use a paper towel to absorb some water.

9. Finely grate cheese (or cheeses) in a small bowl.

10. Add mayonnaise to the cheese. If you are feeling ambitious you could make "Homemade Mayonnaise."

11. Add pepper and garlic.

12. Add the dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

13. Add the lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

14. Toss your desired amount of dressing with the romaine, and place in bowls. Grate some extra cheese and fresh cracked pepper over the top of the salad. Add a few croutons on each salad and get ready to eat one of the best Caesar salads that you've ever tasted.

Link Party Links: 1840 Farm, The Self Sufficient HomeAcre, Call me PMc, I Should Be Mopping the Floor, Anyonita Nibbles, Watch Out Martha, Back to the Basics, Love Bakes Good Cakes, Hungry Little Girl, and What's Cooking Love.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Egg in a Basket

The first time I had this was at a Cracker Barrel years ago, but I never made it for myself.  According to this recipe is also known as "Hen in a Nest, Chicken Egg Nest, Sunshine Toast, Moon Egg, One-Eyed Monster Breakfast, Bulls-eye Egg, Cowboy Egg, Toad in the Hole (not the British dish), Egg in a Frame, Eggs in a Bucket, Eggs in a Nest, Eggs in a Hole, Eggs in a Window, One-Eyed Jack, Egg Toast, Lighthouse Toast, Pop-eye or Pharaoh's Eye." Those are some pretty funny names. I decided to stick with Egg in a Basket. I actually made this meal the same day I made Eggs and Soldiers. I ate the Eggs and Soldiers and my husband ate the Egg in a Basket. We had two pieces of bread left from the Pain Ordinaire in a Bread Machine and one of the pieces was a bit torn because of the kneading/mixing paddle on the bread machine. The torn piece wouldn't work for "Soldiers," but I could make a "Basket" out of it.

Egg in a Basket
1 piece of bread (I used a slice from Pain Ordinaire in a Bread Machine)
1 egg
salt and pepper

1. Using a thin lipped glass or biscuit cutter, cut a hole in the bread slice.

2. Butter both sides of the bread and place in a pre heated frying pan. Cook over medium heat until the first side is golden brown.

3. Flip the slice of bread to the other side. Turn down the heat to medium low.

4. Place a small pat of butter in the center of the hole and crack an egg inside the hole.

5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired and cover the pan to help cook the egg white.

6. Check the egg every 30 seconds until the egg is cooked to your desired consistency. I like the white completely set with the yolk creamy for dunking the toast.

Note: you can also toast/grill the center piece of bread for extra toast.

Link Party Links: Sunny Simple Life


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