Back in the Baking Game

I’ve found that there are a few types of things in life that people naturally categorize themselves into those who do and those who don’t.

For example: baking. When I was a child, my baking was limited to following directions on a ready-made mix box.  (By the way, did you know you can make your own mixes?)  Anybody who baked “from scratch” was seemingly in a whole different league. So, I did bake, but only from a box.

Then I found out why it is so important to use whole wheat flour, and later still why it should be freshly milled.  Not only did I begin to bake from scratch, but I became someone who did make bread.

Since our move, I have not made any bread until just a few days ago. We sold our grain mill, and with all the stress of everything, it just wasn’t something I prioritized.  However, I’ve finally decided that enough is enough. Even if it isn’t freshly milled, it’s still better than the alternative.

Tonight we’ll have some Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans) soup with freshly made garlic herbed bread.

The soup is simple: take chopped carrot, celery, and onion and saute. Add some water, can of crushed tomato, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and cooked white beans.  If you’d like, add other veggies like: cubed eggplant, cut green beans, peas, sliced mushrooms.  Simmer till yummy and serve over small pasta like macaroni.

And as for the bread, just make this baguette recipe and add some dried herbs into the dough.  I usually add 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of oregano or basil.

Tastes of Jamaica

When I first met my husband-to-be, we talked of many things.  He spoke of a wonderful, seemingly magical place called Jamaica.  Of course, I’d heard of that popular vacation destination,  but had never been there.  He insisted that it is unlike any other in the world; the people there are genuinely kind and the whole attitude of the island tends toward relaxation, calm, peace, satisfaction, and love.

Sounds pretty good.

After several years of piquing my interest, we finally had an opportunity to go there together.  And although I was only there for 3 days, I indeed saw a tiny glimpse of what he described.  I also had an opportunity to taste some of the local flavors.  My favorite was Ackee with Saltfish for breakfast (yes, even I drank some of the famous Blue Mountain coffee with ‘sweet milk’).  Freshly squeezed orange juice was sold everywhere, sugar cane was to be chewed, and pineapple was to be munched.

And the sunsets….the white sand….the clear water….

Someday, I hope to go back.  And stay for a loooong time.

Meanwhile, we’ll have to be content with bringing some of those flavors to the dinner table.  The Jamaican Rice and Peas (which are not actually “peas” at all but red beans) is one of the simplest dishes I’ve ever made; it’s also inexpensive and healthful. You already know how I feel about beans

These and other recipes which I have not tried I found at this site.

Jamaican Rice and Peas Recipe

3 cups of rice
1 can of tinned or 1 cup of fresh red peas (either kidney beans or pigeon peas) note: I use 2 or 2 1/2 c beans
5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 uncut scotch bonnet pepper (1 jalapeno pepper may be used as a substitute)
3 Scallion (spring onions may be used as a substitute)
1 tin (or one cup) of coconut milk
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (2 teaspoons of dried thyme may be used as a substitute)

Soak beans overnight, rinse, then cook in 7 cups of water with the garlic until cooked through, about 45 mins. Add rice, coconut milk, scallions (crush them-don’t cut), salt, pepper, and thyme.  Simmer till all water is absorbed, about another 45 mins.  Remove hot pepper and scallions, serve, and enjoy!

Of course, you can do this in the crock pot.  Just allow more time, and be ready to add more water if needed.

I usually end up adding a little more salt, and if I want to be fancy-schmanzy, I squeeze on some lime juice, sprinkle some fresh cilantro, and accompany with some mango salsa(healthy) or fried sweet plantains (unhealthy).  Some fresh sliced cucumber goes nicely with it on the side.

And if I really want to go all out, I serve it with Jerk Chicken.  Fantastic combination.

Jerk Chicken

Here’s how to make the sauce:

NOTE: this recipe makes a HUGE amount of sauce. If you don’t mind having lots leftover to store in the fridge for another time, go for it. Otherwise, cut it in half and you’ll still have plenty for 3 or 4 pounds of chicken.

6 sliced scotch bonnet peppers (jalapenos may be used if scotch bonnet peppers are unavailable) NOTE: I’ve made this sauce twice, and have omitted the hot peppers both times with good results. I’ll add some heat after the fact if needed.
2 Tbsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. ground allspice
8 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Medium onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tsp. ground black pepper

1 to 2 Tsp of the following (to taste)
-ground cinnamon
-nutmeg
-ginger

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
Juice of one lime
1 cup orange juice
1 cup white vinegar

Blend it all up, marinade meat overnight, and use some of the rest for basting, and the rest for dipping.  Cook chicken (in pieces) about 1/2 hr on each side.  Enjoy!

Here’s a funny thing: I mentioned Jerk sauce to a friend, and was reminded about the “Jerk Store”.  For all Seinfeld fans, this is for you: Watch this clip (unfortunately, embedding was disabled, or I would have put a player right on here.)

My Newest Kitchen Gadget

I love kitchen gadgets.  And yet, I do show restraint when it comes to acquiring them; I know well how NOT fun it is to have drawers and cabinets that are overflowing with gizmos you use only twice a year (sandwich maker and fondue set) and some which you’ve used….never (deep fryer) but don’t want to let go of just in case you have an A-list guest who simply MUST have fresh, homemade potato chips.

We’ve moved now, and in all my decluttering I DEFINITELY took to heart the concept of owning intentionally. I want to only have things which I will really use (preferably often or in more than one way), and also those which are easy to store or travel with. And if it doesn’t use electricity, that’s an added plus.

I’ve seen these old fashioned mortar and pestles, and always wondered what they were used for and why they were necessary….I mean, if you have a food processor, Vitamix, or even a garlic press, why on earth would you use one of these?

Well, I’ll tell you.  I don’t know.  But I just bought a simple wooden one and I’m excited to use it tonight in the only recipe I have that calls for one: Cuban Black Beans.   It says to crush the garlic with the salt and pepper in this way; I’ve always just chopped it and I’m sure that’s why the dinner has always been only excellent….now it will be FANTASTIC, I’m sure.

In researching now, I see that the wood is highly absorbent, and it might be better to get one made from another substance.  I thought that might be the case, but this one had the right price.  If I really like it and use it, I’ll upgrade.

Here’s a great video of Jamie Oliver teaching how (and why) to use one.  Great info.

But until then, I’m happy to use this one.  I really do like simple, old fashioned things.  Not that I’d give up my high-tech gadgets, mind you.

What’s one of your favorite gadgets (kitchen or otherwise, simple or high tech)?

I am excited to have finally bought myself one of these old fashioned things

The “Musical Fruit”-Frugal Fridays

“Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you…..”

I always found this little rhyme at least moderately amusing. It makes me giggle even now. I haven’t shared it yet with my guys because I just know they will probably not stop saying it & then collapse in hysterics. But, they are boys, after all, It might be time to teach them about armpit “honks”. Crass, yes. But some things are just funny.

But I digress.

Beans are extremely nutritious. See bean nutrition facts here. Beans, when combined with rice, provide a complete protein. Many Latin American countries rely on this combination for most of their dietary needs.

But why do I mention it here, on Frugal Friday? Because beans are CHEAP! Really, really inexpensive. Buy the dried beans in a bag, soak them overnight, and then follow any of thousands of recipes. I have some recipes for beans here on my blog;

Chickpeas and Spinach
Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil
Mexican Taco Casserole
Cuban Black Beans
Amazing Black Bean Burgers

Easy Hummus

Jamaican Rice and Peas

Have a good weekend!

Chickpeas and Spinach

from The Occasional Vegetarian

1 pound fresh spinach, washed & stems removed. (I use a bag of frozen chopped)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions, white & green parts (I’ve used onion or leek instead)
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Steam the spinach until the leaves are wilted, 1-2 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, saute’ the garlic lightly in the oil, about 2 mins. Add the scallions and saute’ for 1 minute.
  3. Add the drained spinach, chickpeas, cumin, salt, and pepper, Stir, cover, and cook over low heat until the spinach and chickpeas are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, stir again. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve hot.

I like to mix this in with some whole grained rice (about 1 1/2 cups) and some labana cheese (plain yogurt would work fine). I serve this with some good fresh bread and more labana and olive oil for dipping. I’ve added sauteed mushrooms in a few times and it was delicious.

Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil

This is one of our favorites. Lentils are about as nutritious and inexpensive as you can get, so those are two big pluses in my book. Make a double batch and stick half in the freezer for a ready made meal.

From The Occasional Vegetarian by Karen Lee

6 cups water
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
2 med potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cubed
2 unpeeled carrots, cut into 1/3 inch rounds
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

SPICED OIL
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin

1. Combine the water, lentils, bellpepper, potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, soy sauce, pepper, and bay leaf in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 45 mins.

2. Meanwhile, warm the oil in a small saucepan over low heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the ginger, turmeric and cumin. Stir and set aside.

3. When the stew is cooked, add the spiced oil. Season with salt and additional pepper, if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Serve hot.

I like to remove a little and puree it, then return it for a thickened stew.

This stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. I recommend doubling it and freezing half. Simple!

Mexican Taco Casserole & Salsa Recipe


As a busy mom of five little ones, I’ll take any help I can get; anything that makes life a teeny bit simpler. Enter: The Casserole.

Casseroles can be assembled when convenient and baked later. They freeze well. We lived on soups and casseroles for a while I’d prepped ahead when baby#5 arrived.

And Mexican food….Love it. But once the little guy became 2 guys and then 3 guys (now 4) who all needed help assembling tacos, we knew something had to be done.

Time to combine the two. How to do it? Simple. Take all your ingredients, layer them in a casserole dish, and bake. It’s as easy as that.

Ex: salsa first (helps to prevent sticking), rice, salsa, beans or meat, cheese if you’re using it, another rice or beans layer, chopped onions & black olives, cracked corn chips w/cheese to brown on top. Serve with lettuce and tomato, guacamole, salsa & sour cream. Yum.

You can sneak veggies in there too. This time I sauteed onion&garlic with eggplant, carrots, and cabbage. Usually I add zucchini but I didn’t have any. You just make them taste “Mexican-y” with salsa, garlic, and lots of onions.

Make your own salsa cheap & easy w/canned crushed tomato, lemon juice, chopped fresh cilantro & chopped onion.

Middle-Eastern Chickpea Soup

I love making soup. It’s an easy to make, filling, and inexpensive meal. And the variations are endless. I usually don’t follow a recipe for soup, but just take the ideas of the ingredients and then run with it. This is an exception. I tried this recipe and loved it so much that I don’t want to change a thing. Except that I switched from white rice as originally called for to whole grain. And since there are also chickpeas in the soup, you get a complete protein.

Add a salad and/or some fresh homemade bread, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic meal. Remember “The Soup That Eats Like A Meal”? Well, this one does. Only without the MSG and bad food combining.

The recipe was adapted from The Occasional Vegetarian by Karen Lee.

Middle-Eastern Chickpea Soup

1 cup chopped onion

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 c chopped carrots

1/2 c chopped celery

3 garlic cloves, minced

5 c vegetable stock or stock of your choice ( use my easy chicken broth, stored in frozen 1/2 cups)

2 tsp salt (I find this to be a little too much; try 1 tsp)

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp black pepper

1 bay leaf

1/3 c rice

1 16oz can chopped tomatoes

1 c cooked chickpeas

Garnish

lemon wedges

chopped fresh cilantro

grated parmesan cheese

  1. Saute onion in olive oil until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, and cook until soft, another 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until it begins to turn golden, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the stock and turn the heat to high.  Bring the soup to a simmer, then add the salt, cumin, pepper, bay leaf, rice, and parsley.
  3. Add the can of crushed tomatoes.
  4. When the soup returns to a simmer, turn the heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chickpeas and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
  5. Serve hot.  Garnish with lemon wedges, cilantro, and a sprinkling of cheese.

It’s REALLY good. And very easy to make. And filling. And has unique flavors….Can you tell that I really like this soup?

Tell me what you think of it!

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