Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Black Bean and Corn Salad

This is one of my go-to favorite salads when the mercury rises. It's less of a recipe and more of an "add a little of this and a little of that" kind of thing. Make it as spicy as you'd like, use whatever beans you like, and if you have access to some good avocado, please add it for me! Serve it as a salad or a Texas Caviar-type dish with tortilla chips. It's also delicious on top of Spanish Beans and Rice. When you want to keep your salad cold, use frozen corn kernels or beans. They will thaw in about 20 minutes, and you'll have a nicely chilled salad.

Black Bean and Corn Salad
2 cups black beans, cooked, rinsed, and drained
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
2 cups frozen or 1 can sweet corn, drained
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 fresh chilies, seeded and chopped finely
1 large handful fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 to 2 limes

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, starting with the smaller amount when a range is suggested and adjusting to your liking. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld for at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled.

Note: For perfect pressure cooked black beans (in 1st gen. pressure cooker), start with the quick soak method (boil 2 minutes, switch off, and cover for 3-4 hours). I don't have the forethought to do overnight soaking. Rinse and cover beans with water again in the pressure cooker. Clamp down the lid of the pressure cooker and bring to pressure (first whistle), then turn to low and cook for 10 minutes. Switch off and allow pressure to release naturally.

Rolled Biscuits

This will be a quick post because this recipe is so ridiculously easy. In a hurry? Need a bread for the breakfast or dinner table? Biscuits to the rescue! Pull out your homemade baking mix, and get going.

Fancied up with a sausage patty and cheddar cheese!

Rolled Biscuits
2 1/4 cups baking mix
1 cup cold milk

Mix the two ingredients together, pat into a large lump with your hands. Try not to get the mixture too warm with your hands, or you'll get flat biscuits. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until they are about the thickness of the first joint of your pointer finger (3/4 - 1 inch). Using a drinking glass, cut out circles from the dough and place them on a baking sheet. Continue to re-roll the scraps until you get as many biscuits as you can out of the dough. Bake in a 220C/425F oven for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden. Eat while they're warm!

To make scones, the process is the same, but you might want to apply an egg wash or some milk to the tops to allow for more browning.

Kitchen Staples: Bisquick

I am generally not a fan of boxed mixed for baked goods since I've learned out of necessity how to make many of those from scratch, but this one from Kitchen Simplicity...what a time saver! For our non-American readers, Bisquick is an all purpose baking mix that already has butter, salt, and baking powder mixed in. You can use it to make pancakes, a flaky topping for a pot pie, dumplings for soups, American-style breakfast biscuits (similar to scones), crescent rolls, and more. On a crazy weeknight when I had guests coming over and just needed one extra item, I had hot biscuits in under 20 minutes. I make a large batch of the mix, place it in a ziptop bag, and keep it in my freezer with my favorite recipes written on the bag.

Bisquick Baking Mix
5 cups flour
1/4 cup baking powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup/~260g butter, straight from the fridge

Food Processor Method:
Sift all the dry ingredients together and pour into the bowl of the food processor. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and add to the processor. Pulse until you have something that resembles corn meal. Pour into an airtight container and store either in the fridge or freezer.

Hand Method: 
Start by making sure your butter is frozen or you have a hand pastry blender. Sift all the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into the mixture. If you're using it from the fridge, cut it in using two forks or a pastry blender. If it's from the freezer, you can use a cheese grater to accomplish this quite easily. When it has reached cornmeal consistency, pop into an airtight container and store the same as you would in the food processor method.

To turn these into fluffy pancakes, take 2 cups of mix, add 1 cup of milk and 2 eggs. Mix just until it comes together (lumps are okay!). Cook pancakes on a hot griddle.

For drop biscuits, 1 cup of mix needs about 1/3 cup of milk. Stir until it comes together then drop by spoonfuls onto a pan. Bake in a 230C/450F oven for 10-12 minutes.

For rolled biscuits, see my next post! Get creative. Look up Bisquick online, and you can probably find hundreds of recipes that call for this mix.

Best. Granola. Ever.

Okay, seriously. I've tried different granola recipes over the years for breakfast cereal, but sometimes they're hit or miss. I like mine a bit chunky and crunchy, and sometimes homemade granola comes out more crumbly than the boxed varieties. I started my quest for this recipe when I was packing for an extended family trip to an area where cereal can be quite expensive and was looking for a low sugar variety for me. When this was baking, I knew I had found a winner. The smell was DIVINE--just like banana bread! And the taste...wham bam, thank you, ma'am! No joke. I hope you enjoy my slight twist on this fabulous recipe from Minimalist Baker.

Banana Bread Granola
3 cups oats (GF if you need it)
3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1 1/2 sachets stevia (or 3 Tbsp raw sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon flax or chia seed
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (use those black ones!)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir until they are uniformly combined. In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine the coconut oil, honey, and vanilla just until the coconut oil and honey have melted to a liquid. Turn off the heat and add the mashed bananas. Slowly pour the banana liquid over the dry ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients look moistened with the banana mixture. If it looks too dry, mix a little more or add a little more oil. Spread the granola over two baking sheets and place in an oven preheated to 170C/350F. Bake for 20 to 28 minutes, stirring once or twice halfway through baking to get even browning. In the last 10 minutes, watch carefully to ensure it doesn't burn. When it's done, allow to cool and then place in an airtight container.

Now seriously, after smelling that divine goodness, you need to sit down and enjoy a bowl or few handfuls at least! With cold milk, warm milk, plain, or on yogurt, this will be a treat any way you enjoy it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Sausage and Veggie Bake

I’ll just start with the fact that this is one of my favorite go to meals for pretty much any occasion. It’s simple, versatile and quick, and every time I take it somewhere I get heaps of compliments on it!

The original recipe (check it out here) was meant to be in foil on the grill which would be amazing, I’m sure, but I had to modify it to feed a big group of people and put it in the oven instead of on the grill, and it’s fantastic. I also tend to modify the ingredients as the seasons change and use what is in season and fresh at the time.

Sausage & Veggie Bake (or grill, or sauté, whatever works for you)

1 package Kielbasa sausage, sliced (or sausage of choice)
2 sweet potatoes, cubed
5-6 red potatoes, cubed (I only use these b/c they cook faster, any will do)
1-2 crowns of broccoli
1/2 a medium onion
Olive oil

Toss all the veggies and sausage in a baking dish or in foil packets or even a sauté pan, give a good dousing of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. In my oven it takes about 30-40 minutes at 400 F/200C.

Added note from Lizzy: If you're in our neck of the woods and thinking, "Wait? We don't have kielbasa?," think again! You can buy kielbasa from a Polish couple at either of the large farmer's markets in our area.  If you're not up for the splurge (which is SOOO worth it), you can experiment with other local sausages, too.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Stuffed Cabbage

Although my husband and I married someone who shares the same nationality, ours was a cross-cultural marriage of sorts as North merged with South. Their ways, their food, their behaviors, etc. were quite different from mine. I learned of all kinds of strange and new types of food when I moved into his area, cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage being one of them. I like to think of cabbage rolls as being a marriage between Polish and Italian food, both with large numbers of people in the Cleveland area. Really, I have no idea where they originated. These cabbage rolls were adapted from a recipe by Michael Symon, one of our favorite local chefs. This recipe makes 6 rolls so double all the ingredients to get 12-13 rolls.

Stuffed Cabbage
1 small-medium head cabbage
500g ground beef/buff
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup uncooked white rice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 can tomato puree/sauce (smaller size)
1 cup water + 1/2 chicken cube
Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it with a heaping teaspoon. Core the cabbage the best you can without cutting it apart. When the water is boiling, drop the head of cabbage, core up, down into the boiling water. Boil 3-5 minutes or until a leaf will easily peel off when pulled with the tongs. You need 6 whole leaves. Remove the head from the water and set aside. Making sure the meat is not too wet, in a bowl combine it with the chopped onion, white rice, thyme, parsley, and 1/2 cup of tomato puree. Salt with approximately 1/2 teaspoon salt and add pepper to the mixture. In a small pot, heat all the remaining tomato puree with the water and chicken cube. The consistency should be almost as runny as water.

Separate all the additional cabbage leaves from the head and layer them on the bottom of an 11x7 baking dish. To assemble the rolls, open one of the large leaves and fill with 1/3 cup of the meat mixture. Carefully, fold the ends and sides up to form a roll and place seam-side down in a pan. Once all the rolls are assembled, sprinkle any extra meat mixture down into the pan and pour the liquid tomato sauce over the top of each roll. It should fill up the bottom of the dish.

Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 170C/350F degree oven for 1.5 hours. If you want to speed it up, you can brown the beef first and raise the temperature to 190, cooking just about 1 hour.

**Note: This recipe is gluten-free ONLY if you use a chicken stock or cube that is MSG free.**