Cuban Black Beans

I grew up in Miami, eating Cuban food. Fried plantains, guava pastries, cafe’ con leche….not the healthiest things, to say the least. But mmm.

Good black beans and rice, though, is a good thing. Arroz Con Frijoles Negros, Cuban style. Healthful, a complete protein (with whole rice only, of course), and inexpensive, you can feel good about preparing this for your family.

And when you make extra beans, you can make my favorite black bean burgers with them later in the week.

This recipe comes from Three Guys From Miami. Here it is:

2 1/2 cups dried black beans
9 cups water **note: I have always found this to be WAY too much liquid. Try 8 cups or even less.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled, and mashed with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Olive oil for sautéing
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons vinegar
3/4 cup dry Spanish wine (I use Emerald Reisling. Any white wine will do.)
2 teaspoons sugar
Olive oil

Cover dry beans with water and let stand covered overnight. Drain and discard water.
Place the cleaned black beans in a large 6-quart saucepan. Add water and olive oil—this will prevent the beans from foaming. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
Do not add salt to the beans when they are cooking. Salt at this stage of the game will make your beans very tough.
You may also cook the beans in a pressure cooker. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for exact times, but our pressure cooker takes about 20 to 25 minutes to cook the beans completely.
Whichever method you use, do not drain the water from the cooked beans.
Meanwhile, chop onion and green pepper. Mash the garlic with salt and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.
Sauté the onions and green pepper in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add mashed garlic and sauté another minute or so.
Add the cooked beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, vinegar, and wine. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf.
Some cooks—including us—like to thicken the beans by taking about 1 cup of beans and mashing them to make a thick paste. Mix the mashed beans back into the pot.
Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the sugar; then drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the beans. Immediately cover the pot, remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve the by now fantastically prepared black beans over white rice.
You may garnish the beans with cilantro and chopped white onions. Not only do they look good presented this way, they taste even better than they look.

Buen Provecho!

Amazing Black Bean Burgers

I found this recipe the other day when browsing for something new to make out of beans, and it looked really good. I made it last night, and WOW. It was so delicious, we were amazed. And we are burger people (I mean the kind with meat), so we know of what we speak.

I changed it slightly to suit us, omitting chili paste and adding more oats to thicken them so they would hold their shape better.

We added cilantro mayonnaise, (also delicious), as recommended, as well as the standard lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a slice of melted cheese.

There was one left over, and I snatched it up for lunch today and took this picture. YUM.

Amazing Black Bean Burgers
4 burgers, serves 4

Ingredients
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 cups black beans, cooked (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons veg. oil

Directions
1)Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium heat.
2)Add the red onion and garlic to the pan and saute until softened, about 8 minutes and then set aside to cool for a few minutes.
3)Combine beans, egg, oats, onion, mixture, chili paste, salt, pepper and cilantro and thoroughly mix and mash until pretty homogeneous, leaving a few whole beans.
4)Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties.
5)Refrigerate patties for half an hour. (This step is not completely necessary but I find it helps hold the burgers together while cooking.).
6)Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
7)Place burgers carefully into the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan.
8)After 5-6 minutes, flip and cook another 5 minutes. They should feel firm to the touch when finished.

Note: To freeze for later use, after shaping flash freeze and then wrap in plastic wrap. Place wrapped burgers into freezer bag and squeeze out excess air. To cook from frozen, simply heat frozen burgers over medium-high heat on the stove-top, cooking until done.

Cilantro Mayonnaise
Ingredients
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaf
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (I used lemon)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 garlic clove

Directions
1)Put all ingredients in a blender.
2)Blend until smooth.
3)Store in the refrigerator

Easy Hummus Recipe

If you’ve never tried Hummus, you’ve been missing out. Hummus is a Mediterranean dish made from pureed chickpeas (garbanzo beans.)It’s delicious on sandwiches or as a dip for veggies. There are many varieties and flavors; if you don’t like it one way then that only means that you haven’t found “your” secret ingredient.

The basic ingredients are:Cooked Chickpeas,Garlic,Olive Oil,Lemon Juice.

Israelis add Tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds (like peanut butter, but from sesame seeds). Tahini is a critical ingredient to Israelis; I don’t like it, and I make my hummus without it, like the Greeks do.

I can’t give you an exact recipe because I don’t use one; I just:

1)Put my cooked chickpeas in the food processor and add:

A garlic clove

Some lemon zest, and juice of 1 lemon

Salt

Cumin (optional)

Blend till smooth, adding water as necessary, tasting and adjusting seasonings.

Variations include: Adding roasted peppers, fresh herbs such as cilantro, dill, or parsley, cayenne pepper for a little kick. Be creative! There are many things you can do, it just depends on your taste.

For a nice presentation, spread the hummmus on a shallow dish, with an “edge” higher than the rest, and a slight depression in the center. Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil; add some olives if you’d like.
I serve this with Roasted Eggplant and Couscous Tabouli Salad, with pita bread for dipping or making sandwiches.
Here is a video showing the basic steps for making Hummus. It’s not my video; I don’t use all of the same ingredients. But it shows the main idea and what it should look like when you’re done. Because there are so many variations, you can take some, all, or none of the ones shown here.
Enjoy!

Homemade Almond Milk

Are you looking for a milk alternative? If you are wondering why you should be, then please read my post on milk

Well, we try to limit our dairy consumption to occasional cheese or ice cream for a treat, so when it comes time for eating cereal, we have used rice milk for years. I recommend rice milk over soy milk because soy is quite difficult to digest.

Rice Dream costs about $3.50 per 1 liter box, and our family of 6 easily finishes a whole box for one breakfast. In learning to be frugal, I started thinking….maybe I can make my own rice milk. I haven’t really looked into it, because I think it may be complicated (but I still will try to find out at some point), but I realized that I could do what I used to do when I was weaning the boys and wanted to introduce a highly nutritious “milk” for them. I made seed and nut milks!

Raw nuts and seeds are highly nutritious and can be made into butters, and yes MILKS, for babies and adults alike. The most nutritious are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.

I prefer Almonds to the others for milk due to their mild taste. Here is how to do it:

1/2 to 3/4 cup raw almonds (depends on how full you want the flavor to be. I used 1/2 c)
3or 4 dates (for a little sweetness)
water

1. Put the almonds and dates(pitted) in your Vitamix or blender. (more on this below)
2.Cover with water not much above the level of the food
3.Blend on high till smooth, adding only as much water as needed to blend. It will be thick.
4. Add water until liquid consistency.
5. Strain through fine mesh strainer, and again through cheesecloth (I used a clean cloth diaper/burprag) DO NOT THROW AWAY ALMOND MUSH! This is nutritious stuff and can be used in your next smoothie or added to pancakes or cookies. Use within a day or freeze for future use.
6. Your milk should be nice and smooth, free of particles. Add as much water as you want to achieve the consistency and flavor you want. I made 1 L of milk from 1/2 c almonds & 3 dates.

Pour on your quick and easy homemade granola or other cereal and enjoy! Also delicious to drink.

Note: this milk will not keep for more than a day or two in the fridge. Use the same day for best taste and nutrition.

About the blender: Work like this is tough on a regular blender. It can be done although it will wear your blender down quickly. For regular smoothie making, nut milk making, creamy soup blending, and other yummy stuff, I highly recommend a Vitamix or similar blender. I use mine every day and love it!

Couscous Tabouli Salad

Living in Israel offers many differences to living in the US. Being here this long, I have begun to really appreciate the flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Most tabouli is made with bulgar wheat; I prefer the taste of the couscous. I had just been introduced to these types of foods before moving here; they are healthful, and neither expensive nor difficult to prepare. I’ll add recipies for the accompaniments as I can.

Couscous Tabouli Salad

Serves 6
Adapted from: Chez Christine

2 cups whole wheat couscous
1 garlic clove, minced

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, & finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped 1 bunch fresh mint leaves 1bunch fresh parsley approx 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons’ worth)
Salt & pepper

1. In small saucepan with tightly fitted lid, mix DRY couscous with 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil.
2. Add 2 cups boiling water to couscous. Immediately cover and let stand 5 minutes.
3. After 5 minutes, fluff with fork, and leave uncovered to cool.
4. In the meantime, in large bowl, combine chopped tomato, cucumber, and garlic.
5. Finely chop mint (separate from stem) and parsley leaves. Note: I have tried to use the food processor for this to save time, but was not satisfied with the uniformity and size of the results. If your food processor is better than mine, go for it. Otherwise, I find it worth the effort to chop by hand. Add to bowl.
6. Add couscous, and gently mix to combine
7. Add olive oil.
8. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover and chill.
9. Add crumbled feta just before serving.

I serve this together with homemade hummus, roasted sliced eggplant, and labana cheese (similar to yogurt) along with olive oil for dipping and some nice bread or pita. Yum!

Quick and Easy Granola

Did you know that between 4am and 12 noon, your body is on its “elimination” cycle? That means it’s the time that your body “takes out the garbage”. Ever notice you seem to need to use the bathroom in the morning? This is why.

The complicating thing is that anything you eat will slow down this elimination cycle. You definitely don’t want to do that if you want to lose weight, or just keep your body from developing toxin-related diseases. Anything will slow down elimination, that is, except for fruit. That is why the best thing you can eat in the morning is fruit. We get our fruit in the form of a smoothie. We have them for breakfast almost every day. Another time, I’ll give details on how to make your own delicious, nutritious, filling and easy fruit smoothies.

One day a week we have cereal for breakfast as a treat. The boxed cereals are so expensive, especially if you want to buy some with good wholesome ingredients (no processed sugar!), that I looked for an alternative, and I found one. This granola is easy to make, inexpensive, and tasty. We use it with rice milk for cereal, and it is also delicious with fruit and a little yogurt. I hope you enjoy it!

QUICK AND EASY GRANOLA

1 stick butter
½ c honey
4 c rolled oats
Optional: raisins, about ½ cup
Vanilla, a splash
Dried coconut
Nuts
About ½ tsp cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a baking sheet.
2) Melt butter and honey. Add vanilla and ½ tsp cinnamon if desired.
3) Add oats, stirring well to coat
4) Spread on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes
5) Stir, adding raisins if desired
6) Bake an additional 5 minutes
7) Allow to cool, stirring every so often so it doesn’t harden all together.
8) Store in airtight container and enjoy!

Apple Crisp


Most evenings we don’t have dessert after dinner. But once a week, we have a special treat. This is one of our favorites, and although cooking the apples takes away most of their nutritional value, at least it’s not loaded with sugar or other processed ingredients.

APPLE CRISP
Adapted from The Occasional Vegetarian by Karen Lee

8-10 apples
¼ c honey (preferably raw)
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp whole wheat flour (preferably freshly ground)
Optional: heavy whipping cream for garnish

CRUMB TOPPING

1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup brown sugar or sucanat
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
Zest of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
2. Peel, core, and slice the apples into eighths. Toss the apple slices with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and flour.
3. Put the apple mixture into a 9-inch round baking dish with high sides.
4. Using your fingers, in a different bowl, make the topping by crumbling together the flour, sugar, and butter. Add the lemon zest.
5. Distribute the crumb topping over the apples. Bake until the topping is brown and crusty, about 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Optional: beat heavy whipping cream with electric egg beater until desired texture. If desired, add 2 tbsp sugar and ½ tsp vanilla before beating. Place a dollup on each plate before serving.