Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Easy Rice & Beans

I judge myself when I used canned beans...  there is no excuse for not soaking your own. Unless you take into account the fact that some people have laundry to do, bills to pay and degrees to earn, all of which have led me to my most recent discovery: not all canned beans are created equally.

The most common varietal of canned bean is either generic [store-brand] or Goya; these range from 59 to 99 cents a can and are typically higher in sodium than they are protein & fiber. They also come packed in a slimy, starchy goo and the bottom of the can is an ambiguous mushy conglomeration of bean & packing liquid. I once believed these were the only sorts of convenient canned bean available, but I recently learned there are better canned beans out there- they are organic and cost 5 times as much [5 dolla & change], but they're definitely worth it, at least when the beans are the star of the show.  You probably don't believe me, I probably wouldn't either, but just try it- at least once. The beans are firm and they are not engorged with salt and water, and you won't find any of that goO at the bottom of the can either. Anyways, enough chit chat- let's get cookin'.

For the Beans:
1- 14.5 oz Can Organic Black Beans
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
half of one medium Yellow Onion, medium dice
half of one Green Bell Pepper, medium dice
half of one Jalepeño [optional], leave it in-tact for more mild heat, or chop it up for amplified spice
3 cloves Garlic, smashed & peeled
2 dried Bay Leaves
1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 Cup Water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro
Kosher Salt & cracked Black Pepper, as needed

For the Rice:
the other half of that medium Yellow Onion, medium dice
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Cup White Rice
2 Cups Hot Water

Let's start the beans first:
1. Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Once the pan is hot, add the 2 tsp of oil and allow to heat up [about 10 seconds], then add the onions, bay leaves, dried oregano & a pinch of salt. Stir the ingredients together and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are softened and translucent and the dried herbs are fragrant.
3. Add your smashed garlic cloves, jalapeño and bell pepper and stir.
4. Once the bell pepper is softened, add the can of beans and half a cup of water; stir.
5. Simmer for 20 minutes, then add the fresh cilantro and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
6. Adjust seasoning with salt as necessary. Serve with rice.

For the rice:
1. Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Once the pan is hot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil and allow that to heat up [about 10 seconds], then add the chopped onion and 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt.
3. Cook the onions until translucent and then add 1 Cup of rice. Lightly toast the rice and stir  to coat the grains with oil.
4. Add 2 cups of hot water, stir, and raise the temperature to high.
5. Bring the rice to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and reduce the heat to low.
6. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, being mindful of the steam that will billow out when you remove the lid to take a peak, check your rice. If all of the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat and keep it covered until you are ready to serve. If it needs more time, cook for an addition 5-7 minutes or until done.
7. Fluff with a fork and serve with your beans.

Grilled Steak Fajitas

This is a great meal for casual entertaining. Hanger steak used to be a more economical cut of meat, but now its all fair game [thanks for nothing, Food Network]. Summer is over, so if outdoor grilling is not an option for you, fire up your grill pan.

Ingredients [for 4 people]:
2 lbs Hanger Steak [Flank or Skirt are viable substitutions]
2 tsp ground Chipotle Chile
1 Red, Orange or Yellow Bell Pepper, julienned
1 Green Pepper, julienned
1 medium Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Jalapeño [left over from Pico de Gallo]
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt, as needed 
1 package Corn Tortillas [typically 10-12 tortillas per package]

1. Heat grill, or grill pan, on medium-high. 
2. While the grill is heating, rub the steak down [on both sides] with the ground Chipotle. Do not season with salt yet.

3. Place the steak on the grill/grill pan, and then add the olive oil and optional jalapeño half to a large saute pan and heat it over medium-high heat.
4. Once the jalapeño begins to sizzle, add the onions & bell peppers along with a pinch of salt. Sauté.
5. While your veggies are cooking, check on the steak. 

ready to be flipped...

6. If the edges of the steak are beginning to brown [about 5 minutes], it is ready to be flipped. Once you flip the steak, season the cooked side with a nice pinch of salt. 
7. How are your vegetables looking? There should be a touch of color on your peppers and onions and once they are softened, transfer from the stove to a bowl and tent with aluminum foil [shiny side down] to keep warm. Overall cooking time for the vegetables should be approximately 6 minutes.
8. Finish cooking the steak for about 4 more minutes, or if you like it well done, keep it on the heat for 8 more minutes.

When the juices begin to pool on the surface of the meat, you are at "Medium" doneness.

9. Remove steak from heat and allow to rest, on a cutting board, for at least 6 minutes. In the meantime, quickly heat up your corn tortillas on the grill and then hold them in paper towels, and then wrap them with aluminum foil; this will trap the heat and the paper towels will keep them from getting soggy.

10. Now that the steak is rested, cut it into thin strips and serve along with the spicy peppers & onions, pico de gallo, fat-free Greek yogurt [you won't miss the sour cream. Really- you won't.], lime wedges, warmed corn tortillas and rice & beans.

self-service serving.

Pico de Gallo

This isn't a full recipe, so to speak, but a tasty alternative for chips & dip, or lovely accompaniment to fajitas... a recipe which I will be posting later this week.

You will need:
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 small, Red Onion, small dice
1/2 Jalapeño, small dice [you can vary this based on your spice tolerance]
the juice of one small Lime
1/4 Cup [loosely packed] chopped, fresh Cilantro
Kosher Salt, as needed

1. First things first- cut each tomato into quarters, if the tomatoes are large, cut into sixths. Put the cut tomatoes into a sieve or strainer, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and allow some of the juices to drain for at least 15 minutes.
2. Once the tomatoes have drained transfer them to a medium bowl and combine with the onion, jalapeño, lime juice & cilantro. Gently fold the ingredients together until evenly incorporated.
3. Adjust seasoning to taste & serve!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Make Your Own Buffalo Wings-

No frying involved.
and just as delicious. I promise.

I learned this recipe, like many others, from my mom. I have made these wings on a handful of occasions and have been told these are "the best wings ever". It's very easy, the one piece of specialty equipment I would recommend having, but is not necessary, is a rack to cook the wings on. I made two baking sheets worth of wings last night, one with rack and one without [I only have one rack]; both trays came out crispy and delicious, but using the rack facilitates better cooking and crisping. Sans rack, the wings took a little longer to crisp up, most likely due to the fact that they are sitting in all of the fat rendering out of them.

For this recipe you will need:
20 Chicken Wings [the amount of wings is simply suggestive of a ratio of meat to spices for you to keep in mind when making larger or smaller batches]
1 tsp Ground Chipotle Chile
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt, as needed

1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Yes, 500 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken wings, chipotle and oil; get in there with your hands and mix it all together until the chipotle is lightly distributed throughout all of the wings.
3. Arrange the wings, being sure to leave a little bit of space between each, on a rack on a baking sheet.  If you do not have a rack you can place them directly on a non-stick baking sheet. If you do not have a non-stick baking sheet, line it with parchment paper.

with rack.
without rack. on a non-stick baking sheet.

4. Season the wings with a couple of pinches of Kosher Salt and put them into the oven, toward the top rack.
5. About 12 minutes after putting the wings in the oven, take a peak and see if they are a deeply golden brown; if you are like me, and your oven light has burnt out, use caution when opening the oven door because it will be smokey in there. If the wings are not a deep golden/bronze allow them to cook about 5 more minutes and check on them again.
with rack.

without rack... a few were tasted prior to this photo for quality control purposes ;o)

6. Once the wings are crisped & bronzed on top, remove the tray from the oven and, using tongs, flip each wing over. Return the rack to the oven and allow to cook for an additional 5 - 7 minutes, or until the flipped wings are crisped.
7. Devour.

Serving Suggestions:
1. I like mine with the sauce on the side; it helps maintain the crispiness.

2. Sauce 'em up. Traditional Wing sauce is a mix of butter and hot sauce, I love Frank's. In a medium bowl, combine 4 Tbsp softened unsalted butter [we're already bordering hypertension by using copious amounts of Frank's] and 1/2 Cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce. Once the wings are out of the oven, place them in the bowl with the sauce, using tongs, and toss to coat.

3. Don't forget the blue cheese!

Blue Cheese Dressing:
1/4 Cup non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 tsp dried Chives
1/2 tsp White Balsamic [or 1/4 tsp White Vinegar]
1/8 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Gorgonzola Cheese crumbles [or blue cheese. whichever brand of funk you prefer]

1. Combine all of the ingredients, except for the cheese, in a small mixing bowl.
2. Fold in the blue cheese crumbles.
3. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
4. Cover and allow to chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes so that all of the flavors can get aquainted before game time.
5. Serve!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Breakfast for 2...

very hungry people.

 Its amazing how using a whole grain flour in place of that All-Purpose bleached junk can really fill you up. Anywho- let's dig in, shall we??

Who wants pancakes?!

Banana-Spelt Pancakes are totally the breakfast of champions. Feel free to add 1 Tbsp of ground flax seed to the dry ingredients to really amp up the nutritional value of this breakfast delight.

You will need:
3/4 Cup Spelt Flour
1.75 tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 tsp Sugar [or substitute 1/2 tsp Agave Nectar & mix it with the wet ingredients]
1/2 Cup reduced fat Milk
1 Large Egg
1 medium, ripe Banana. sliced.
Butter, or cooking spray, as needed

1. Preheat a large griddle pan or non-stick pan on medium-high heat.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
3. Mix the egg, milk and Agave [if using in place if sugar], and then whisk into the dry ingredients.
4. Grease the heated pan, using cooking spray or a pat of butter. Ladle or pour about 1/2 Cup of batter per pancake onto the pan; quickly place 5-7 pieces of banana onto each pancake.
5. Once the edges of the pancake are set and bubbles are forming on the surface of the pancake [about 2-3 minutes], they should be ready to be flipped.

6. Flip the pancakes and allow to finish cooking [about 1.5 to 2 more minutes], add a touch more butter if necessary.
7. Remove from pan, transfer to plate, and serve with REAL Maple Syrup!