Best Bean Dip

Christmas 2017 is over, and while I’m usually feeling blue about this fact, this year I’m staying positive. My kids have been delightful, and I’m savoring every holiday moment with them. They helped decorate the tree, decorate cookies, helped shop for family members, helped wrap gifts, helped clean, and generally helped by being loving and in the holiday spirit. So, now that we are all sugared out, I had to break out something else for bowl game season. Go Hawks! Bean dip has always been one of my favorite snacks, and it’s no secret that I can finish off an entire bag of tortilla chips on my own, so this was a no-brainer.

My cooking has never been very precise, instead it’s based on what I have, what sounds good, and what people in my house will eat. With that in mind, I have images with ingredients and the steps. Swap out whatever sounds good and change proportions/sizes as needed!

In a bowl, mix together 1 can refried black beans, 1 can whole black beans (rinsed), and 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes. Spread smoothly into pan. Sprinkle Mexican seasoning on top, to taste. By the way, I just found three of these cheery Dansk baking pans, in yellow, at a thrift shop today for under $20!

Spread corn and choppedblackolives on top, next. I used about ¾ of each can.

Next, chop 2 avocados and sprinkle with lime juice. Layer on top.

Smooth sourcream over the top and sprinkle with shreddedcheddar cheese. I used most of a 1 lb. container of sour cream and an entire bag of shredded cheese.

Then, I sliced 4 small jalapeños and spread them out festively. These are the not-too-hot variety. I brought in my jalapeño and habanero plants before the first frost and they are thriving in the southern sunshine of my art room/office.

Best Bean Dip

1. In a bowl, mix together 1 can refried black beans, 1 can whole black beans (rinsed), and 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes. Spread smoothly into pan. Sprinkle Mexicanseasoning on top, to taste.

2. Spread corn and choppedblackolives on top.

3. Chop 2 avocados and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons lime juice.

4. Smooth about 1 lb. container of sourcream over the top and sprinkle with 1 bag of shreddedcheddar cheese.

5. Optional, thinly slice 4 small jalapeños and spread over the top.

Balsamic Beet Pizza

This past week I got inspired by a beet recipe, Balsamic-Glazed Beets with Pecans, from Eating Well magazine.  We have been receiving lots of beets from our weekly produce box and I get tired of making things over and over again the exact same way.  I decided that this beet recipe would be the best pizza topping on earth.

So, I mixed up a double batch of my best.pizza.crust.ever, however, this time I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of all-purpose flour.  It was a nice whole grain taste, without being too dry.   By the way, the Norpro silicone pastry mat (above) gets used all the time in my kitchen – it is perfect for kneading, rolling dough, and measuring the size.

I glazed the beets the day before, but also added a small yellow onion to the Eating Well recipe.  I added an extra tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to make sure it was saucy enough for a pizza topping, as I was not planning on using tomato sauce for the beet pizza.  I left off pecans, due to personal preferences in my household, however, I would add them were I making this just for myself!

beet pizza

I like to make amoeba-shaped pizzas – they are more interesting to look at.  I topped the beet pizzas with crumbled goat cheese, sliced jalapeño peppers, and sliced beet greens.

I made 6 pizzas total, out of whatever veggies we had laying around.  These were the perfect kitchen sink pizzas.

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Pizza on left: tomato sauce, pizza seasoning, sliced sweet peppers, sliced swiss chard, and crumbled feta cheese.  Pizza on the right: tomato sauce, pizza seasoning, sliced grape tomatoes, sliced shallot, beet greens, and crumbled feta cheese.

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The last pizza was for the kids and topped with: tomato sauce, pizza seasoning, sliced sweet yellow peppers, and grated cheddar cheese.

I baked all pizzas at 425° for 14-17 minutes, or till cheese was melted.
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All of these pizzas were delectable – but the beet pizza was by far my favorite.  The combination of vinegar, beets, onion, crispy greens, soft goat cheese, and chewy crust was perfection.  I will be making this again, with my next batch of beets!

Coconut Curry & Butternut Squash

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This past week I put together a few of my produce box vegetables to make a curry dish.  This coconut and curry dish is slightly sweet with a thick sauce made of puréed squash. It made plenty of food – enough for freezing, leftovers, or to feed a large crowd.  I served it with cooked Basmati Rice.

I made it milder for my kids, but amped up my own bowl with a few more spoonfuls of curry paste.  Curry is one of my favorite flavors of all time and I am fairly certain I could put it on just about anything. Curried ice cream, curried cookies, curried bananas…you name it and I will try it with curry.

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Start by cutting 1 medium butternut squash into 4 sections and removing the seeds.  Place the squash sections on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake it at 400° for 35-40 minutes.  This is the easiest method for preparing butternut squash, because after the squash has cooled off, the skin just peels right off.

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Purée the cooked and peeled squash with 1- 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk and 1 cup of water.  I split my pureé into 2 sections, so as to not overflow my Ninja Professional Blender (this is the best blender I have ever owned!)  You may have more or less, depending on the size of the squash, and therefore adjust water as needed.  Place the squash mixture into a slow cooker and turn it on low.

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Peel and cube 2 medium potatoes.  Add to slow cooker. Sauté 1/2 of yellow onion in oil until softened, add to slow cooker. Mix in 2-5 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste (less for milder dish, more for spicier dish).

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Cube 1 block of extra firm tofu.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with oil, and spread out tofu.  Flip to coat in oil.  Bake in oven at 400° for 15- 20 minutes, flipping once.  This helps to dry out and the tofu before adding it to the squash mixture.  For crispier tofu, follow broiling steps, with or without flavoring.  Remove tofu from baking sheet and add to slow cooker.

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Remove seeds and ribbing, and slice 1 medium green bell pepper, add to slow cooker. Stir mixture well, and cook on low, covered, for 6-7 hours or high for 4-5 hours.  I served this with cooked Basmati rice.  As you can see, the recipe creates a very full slow cooker.  You can reduce veggies or tofu amounts, if desired.

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Other things going on in my world – caucusing is coming up. I live in Iowa, so of course the political scene is a big deal right now.  February 1 is the big date and the candidates are still working Iowa hard.  I haven’t caucused since college and am looking forward to being a part of the process again.  We found this hilarious shirt at the downtown Des Moines Raygun shop.

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It’s been cold, so the kids and I have been catching up on our reading.  This is a new family favorite – Star Wars ABC.  My daughter just giggles when I tell her that wookies are my favorite part of Star Wars.  I haven’t seen the newest one yet and have a rule in my classroom that students aren’t allowed to spoil it for me.  I need to get Eric up to speed first, as he is not as much of a Star Wars fan as I am.

 

Coconut Curry & Butternut Squash 

  1. Cut 1 medium butternut squash into 4 sections and remove the seeds.  Place the squash sections on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake it at 400° for 35-40 minutes.  Allow squash to cool and remove skin.
  2. Purée the cooked and peeled squash with 1- 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk and 1 cup of water.  Place the squash mixture into a slow cooker and turn it on to low.
  3. Peel and cube 2 medium potatoes.  Add to slow cooker.
  4. Sauté 1/2 of yellow onion in oil until softened, add to slow cooker.
  5. Mix in 2-5 tablespoons Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste (less for milder dish, more for spicier dish).
  6. Cube 1 block of extra firm tofu.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with oil, and spread out tofu.  Flip to coat in oil.  Bake in oven at 400° for 15- 20 minutes, flipping once.  Remove tofu from baking sheet and add to slow cooker.
  7. Remove seeds and ribbing, and slice 1 medium green bell pepper, add to slow cooker. Stir mixture well, and cook on low, covered, for 6-7 hours or high for 4-5 hours.  Serve with cooked rice of your choice.

Egg, Hash-brown & Sausage Breakfast Casserole

This simple 4 ingredient breakfast casserole is perfect for serving a large group or saving for leftovers.  My mother in law brought a similar one for our Christmas brunch and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Since I didn’t have her recipe, I winged it and was quite pleased with the results.  We had this delicious meal this morning with my side of the family for Easter brunch.  My mom even mentioned how great it would be to give as a food gift for new babies, illness, or deaths in the family.  She’s right – how nice to have something other than a lasagna!
I started off using the Lodge Cast Iron Wok I got for Eric’s birthday as the method of cooking the hash browns.  Thankfully, Eric quickly stepped in and took over.  I don’t know why I am so impatient when it comes to hash browns, but I always want to over stir them, flip them too soon, and just plain ruin them.  The wok was perfect for the job of browning hash browns – the heat stayed high enough and you could spread out the potatoes enough.

The cooked hash browns got dumped into a glass casserole dish.

I added eggs, almond milk, salt, pepper and cut up vegetarian sausage patties to the prepared hash browns.  One could easily swap our the vegetarian sausage for real sausage and the almond milk for regular dairy milk.  I used Alexia hash browns – they are fantastic and come pre-seasoned with garlic and onion.

I cooked this casserole last night, let it cool, refrigerated it, and then simply reheated in the oven while covered in foil, at 275° for about an hour.  We served this with my mom’s hot cross buns, fresh fruit, and coffee.  It was the perfect Easter morning family brunch.  Stay tuned for more on our Easter crafts, Easter eggs, and Greta’s Easter experiences.

Egg, Hash-browns & Sausage Breakfast Casserole

1. Prepare 2 bags of frozen hash browns (2 lbs), according to package.  Transfer to greased 9 x 13″ baking dish.

2.  In a large mixing bowl beat: 9 large eggs.  Combine with the eggs: 1 cup almond milk (or dairy milk), salt and pepper to taste, and 8 oz. crumbled veggie sausage (or real sausage).

3. Pour egg mixture over the hash browns and mix to combine.  Cover in foil, bake in a 350° oven for 50 – 60 minutes or until browned and egg fully cooked.  Serve warm.

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

I first made these vegetarian and gluten-free burgers back in January when we had some friends over for dinner, and forgot about them until now.  I decided to make them again, according to my scribbled notes, I was pleasantly surprised at their end result.  It is a recipe I originally made up as I went – not always the best idea when company is coming over.  However, I did have some frozen veggie burgers on hand, as a back-up plan.
 
 
 
The second time I made these burgers, I mixed everything the night before and popped it all in the fridge overnight before cooking them.  This recipe is so easy to whip up – it will no doubt become my go-to veggie burger recipe this summer.  I can’t wait to try it on the grill!  

I used the trusty Baby Bullet to puree half the beans, half the carrot mixture, the scallions, and eggs.  If you wanted to make this recipe egg-free, you could replace the 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water, or just simply increase the amount of panko as a binder.

Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or till done.

They should be a nice golden-brown and firm all the way through.

This photo shows a buried veggie burger – just the way I like them – covered in mustard, spinach, and on a big crusty bun.  This just so happened to by a lunch at work one noon hour.  The orange dotted thing is one of those nifty reusable sandwich bags.

Black Bean & Carrot Veggie Burgers

1. In a small bowl combine: 2 grated carrots, 2 tablespoons lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a food processor or blender puree: 1/2 can of black beans, 4 tablespoons chopped scallions, 1/2 the carrot mixture, and 3 eggs.

3.  Transfer puree to a medium mixing bowl.  Combine with puree: remaining 1/2 can of black beans, 1 tablespoon chia seeds1 cup gluten-free or regular panko, and remaining carrot mixture.

4. Fry on griddle or pan over medium heat, 3-5 minutes per side or till done.  Serve with toppings and bun of choice.

Coconut Red Curry & Veggies

This simple and pleasing curried vegetable classic comes from a spurt of energy due to an Iowa warn-up.  Last week we actually had a a couple balmy, sunny days.  It was enough to give me hope for spring!

It actually warmed up enough to melt almost all of the snow and go without jackets a few times.

It was even nice enough to sit on the porch while we had dinner!  I can’t wait to get my summer-cabin themed porch done just right this summer.  I know we will be using it daily.  Anyway, after happy hour or chips & salsa and NA beer, I decided to make something fresh and springy to fit the mood of the afternoon.

I started by throwing a bunch of veggies into a glass 8″ baking dish – 1/2 a red onion, sliced, 3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  I tossed these veggies with sesame oil and then baked these in the oven at 425º for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  Combine 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste in a saucepan.  Stir and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies.  Stir. Serve over warm cooked rice.

I was feeling so in the mood to cook on this warm spring evening that I even whipped up a batch of cherry crisp from canned cherries from last summer‘s crop.  I will share this classic recipe at a later date, because usually when I make this, I just throw it together without measuring – that’s what happens when you make a certain recipe often enough.


Coconut Red Curry & Veggies –
makes about 4 servings

1. In a glass 8″ baking dish combine: 1/2 a red onion, sliced3 medium carrots peeled and sliced, 1 – 2 cups of corn, and a bunch of asparagus stalks, sliced.  Toss veggies with sesame oil and then baked in a 425º oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or till softened.  (If you wanted to make things faster and not use your oven, pop ’em in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes, or till softened.)

2.  While the veggies are cooking, prepare the curry sauce.  In a small saucepan combine: 1-1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or honey, and 2 tablespoons red curry paste.  Stir until well combined and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, about 15 minutes.

3. Pour cooked sauce over tops of cooked veggies and stir. Serve over warm, cooked rice.