Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Refried Beans

I'm currently reading In Defense of Food:  An Eater's Mainfesto by Michael Pollan, in which he states "Eat Food.  Not Too Much.  Mostly Plants."  It is the third book of his that I have started to read.  My problem is that I have been so busy lately that I get about 30 pages into one of his books and then I have to return it to the library.  I can't renew it because there's a wait list for it.  So far I'm doing much better with this one as I'm on page 69.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm dangerously close to just ordering them from Amazon so that I can read them at a pace that I have time for.
Michael Pollan is a Professor of Journalism at Berkeley and has written several books about food.  His books are easy to read and full of interesting information.  I recently read that someone took a class that included one of Mr. Pollan's books on the reading list and it was the most entertaining book they had to read that semester.
Anyway, we hear all the time how we need to eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  Actually, Mr. Pollan would point out that we tend to translate this into the idea of eating more.  What we really need to do is replace some of the non-whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in our diets with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, thereby changing the ratio of the types of foods we eat.  This has me finally (again) trying to accomplish this feat.  Therefore, tonight's dinner was burritos made with homemade refried beans and brown rice.  As you sit there potentially thinking I have too much time on my hands if I'm making homemade refried beans, I am going to show you how simple it actually is and the taste is SO much better than what you'll get from a can.  I found this recipe in Huntly Dent's The Feast of Santa Fe.  I love this cookbook!  It not only has wonderful, authentic Southwestern recipes, but he does a lot of teaching about the hows and whys of cooking Southwestern-style foods (a major ingredient in an awesome cookbook - pun intended).
Refried Beans in Butter
3 cups cooked black kidney, or pinto beans, plus cooking liquid (a 27-ounce can, approximately)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Wedges of lime for garnish
Drain the cooked beans and reserve the liquid.  Combine the onion, garlic, butter and seasonings in a 10-inch skillet, stir over medium heat, and cover to allow the onion to wilt, about 5 minutes over low heat.  Uncover, turn heat up to medium, and add the beans.  Using a large slotted spoon, roughly mash the beans as you are heating them.  but not to the point that the beans lose all their shape.  Thin out of necessary with some of the reserved liquid.  Serve garnished with wedges of lime to squeeze on as the guests are served.
If you don't want to mash the beans yourself, you can also put half at a time into a food processor and pulse to the desired consistency.
Personal Notes:
  1. I have used canned black beans or pinto beans as well as dried beans that I soaked and cooked myself (the crockpot is wonderful for this).
  2. The amount of cayenne listed makes for quite the spicy dish.  I use about 1/4 of what is called for (i.e. 1/8 tsp)
Coming soon:
A series on potatoes (requested by my sister, who I'm sure is through her bag of potatoes by now - sorry!)
Treats for our K9 family members

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Macaroni and Cheese

Here are two more Macaroni and Cheese recipes that are favorites of mine.  The first is one that I imagine my grandmother made.  It is from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which has the lasagna recipe that I know she used.  The second recipe is Alton Brown's Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese.  While I love this one,  it isn't as healthy as the one in my previous post, so I don't make it quite as often.
Macaroni and Cheese (from The Better Homes and Garden Cookbook)
1 cup elbow macaroni (4 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp margarine or butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Dash pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups shredded American cheese (8 ounces)
1 medium tomato, sliced (optional)
Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain well.
Meanwhile, for cheese sauce, in a saucepan cook onion in margarine or butter till tender but not brown.  Stir in flour and pepper.  Add milk all at once.  Cook and stir until bubbly.  Add shredded cheese; stir till melted.
Stir macaroni into cheese sauce.  Transfer to a 1-quart casserole.  Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or till bubbly.  During the last 5 minutes of baking, arrange tomato slices atop macaroni, if desired.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Makes 4 servings.
Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese (from Good Eats)
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fast-As-Boxed Macaroni & Cheese

This recipe is from The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers and was requested by my friend Anna.  While this book focuses on improving the way families eat, it is a great resource for healthy eating whether you have a family or not.  For more recipes from the authors of this cookbook, visit their website:  Meal Makeover Moms (the link can also be found on my list of food links in the side margin).
Fast-As-Boxed Macaroni & Cheese
8 oz dried small elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups 1% lowfat milk
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups preshredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
Return the saucepan to the stove (do not place over heat just yet).  Add the milk, flour, mustard, and garlic powder and whisk until well blended.
Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Add the Cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese and stir until the cheese melts.  Stir in the pasta, heat through, and serve.
Update 1/15/08:  I made this today with a few modifications and it is getting good reviews, so I thought I would pass along the changes.  First, I used my cost-savings method of using reconstituted dry milk instead milk from the fridge.  I used 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup of dry milk.  Next, I opened my fridge to find that I was out of Dijon mustard so I used yellow mustard instead.  Finally, I added 2 slices of 2% Reduced Fat Kraft American Cheese.  I actually think I like this better!  I plan to post a couple of more favorite macaroni and cheese recipes later.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Taco Soup

Tonight I spoke with a wonderful group of women about Budget and Power Cooking.  This has put me in the mood for sharing something that is budget friendly and easy to double or even triple so that you can freeze extra for future use.  This Taco Soup recipe is quick, easy, and delicious.  Our friend Judy served it for dinner one night and I had to ask for the recipe.  I believe she found it through Weight Watchers.  While it does not call for any meat, feel free to add ground meat or precooked chopped chicken.
 Taco Soup

3 cans beans, drained
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can corn, canned, undrained
1 cup water
1 package ranch-style dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning mix

Put ingredients into pot on stove.  Simmer about 20 minutes.
Top with shredded cheese, if desired.
Personal Note:  I also rinse my beans.  This is a great way to reduce your sodium intake.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Stromboli Supreme

This is one of my favorite dinners.  Why?  I love pizza and this is basically a rolled-up pizza.  It is also very versitile, which is great because then I can use whatever ingredients I happen to have on hand.  The recipe does list specific "toppings", but I am certain I have never used them as written.  Tonight we did ham and turkey pepperoni.  Sometimes I make it with turkey pepperoni, mushrooms and onions.  I have also made it with spinach, tomatoes and onions.  What are your favorite pizza toppings?  Try them.  Go wild!  Many, many thanks to my friend Laura who passed this recipe to me!
Stromboli Supreme
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
2 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
2 Tbsps olive oil
4 oz pepperoni
4-8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
4 slices ham, sliced into strips
4 Italian sweet sausages, crumbled and cooked
marinara sauce
mushrooms, onions, green peppers
Allow dough to thaw and rise.  Once it has risen, press and fit into a baking sheet.
Cook sausage.
In a small bowl, combine egg yolks, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, and olive oil.  Spread mixture over dough using a pastry brush.  Layer pepperoni, cheese, and other toppings.  Roll dough from long ended side, jelly-roll style, to enclose filling.
Place seem-side down on pan and tuck ends under.  Beat egg whites and brush over dough.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.
Personal note:  I have used Trader Joe's pizza dough (any flavor) and pizza dough made using the dough function on my bread machine.  Both work very well.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy New Year!!!!!

I hope that you had a fun and safe end to 2008 and beginning of 2009.  I was able to get out and smell the roses, so to speak.  I love taking some time to enjoy the natural world around me.  Here are some pictures of the beautiful scenes I witnessed.