Monday, October 8, 2012

Dried Beans from Scratch

Years ago when I was young, there was a time (before the time of food stamps as we know them today) when our family was on welfare. That was a devastating and embarrassing time for all of us which incidentally doesn't seem to be the case these days. Back in those days being on welfare meant that my dad had to drive to the county seat and pick up a load of food. My vague memory of that is that most of it was pretty useless to us. There were things like dried milk powder, peanut butter (with half an inch of oil that had separated out and covered the top), dried beans, canned spam and other similar items. I think you get the picture. Most of it was pretty nasty, but we had to eat at least some of it - we had no choice. We most likely also received such staples as flour and sugar so most of the peanut butter got made into peanut butter cookies since none of us were fans of peanut butter sandwiches. I remember my mother trying to make the dried beans into something palatable.

She didn't succeed.

However, I have since learned the secret of making wonderfully delicious dried beans. After living in Brazil where beans and rice is the staple on every table at almost every meal, it was inevitable. So you might ask, "How do you make dried beans from scratch in a flash?" Here are some tips. Sort the beans (I usually make at least 2 cups of dried beans) making sure you take out any rocks, stones, foreign objects and moldy beans. Yes, you can occasionally find all of the above in your beans. Then wash them either in a colander or by covering them and straining the water off with your hand. Then cover the beans with water to about an inch above them and place the pan on high on the stove. Bring them to a boil and turn the burner off. Let stand for 1 hour. Now you have a choice. You can either put them in a slow cooker along with the liquid used to soak them or you can use a pressure cooker.

My choice is always the pressure cooker so I'll explain that method. Add about a tablespoon of oil to the beans and water, put the lid on and the petcock. Bring to pressure at medium heat. Allow the beans to cook with the pressure gauge gently rocking for 12 minutes. Set your timer and adjust the heat if the gauge (petcock) is rocking too vigorously. After 12 minutes, remove your pan from the heat and let the pressure come down. To speed up the cooling process, you can set the pressure cooker in a sink partly full of cold water. After all pressure is out, you can open the lid. Now saute onion and garlic and any kind of peppers (to your taste) in a small amount of oil. Add to the beans. Add salt, pepper and cumin (to taste) and let cook for about 10 more minutes. For the last couple of minutes, I usually add a tablespoon or two of chopped cilantro for that extra special flavor.

If you really want dried beans from scratch very conveniently, cook more than you need and put some of the beans into freezer proof containers and freeze for future meals. Add the seasonings later whenever you get ready to eat the beans. This way, you'll have delicious beans from scratch at a fraction of the cost you would pay for canned beans. You can use them to make chili, refried beans, baked beans, etc by changing the seasonings. I have served beans and rice to guests and they have raved about the taste. You won't find the same flavor anywhere else!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Easy Polenta with Fresh Pesto

Several weeks ago I bought a small bag of organic polenta (actually it is coarse cornmeal). I had on hand some leftover chicken I had made in the slow cooker and I had plenty of sweet basil with which to make pesto. So I went looking for an EASY polenta recipe because I didn't want to have to stand over the stove and stir it for 20 to 30 minutes as some of the recipes suggested. Admittedly, I have the ideal heavy stainless steel pot to make polenta in, but still...after looking at many different recipes I found one that looked like just what I was looking for!

Here it is: basic polenta. One modification I made was to leave out the butter at the end. Basically, I put it on, left it on low and went away and forgot about it for about 10 minutes. When I ran back to the stove to check on it, it just needed to be stirred and allowed to cook for another 10 minutes or so during which time I stirred it about 3 more times. Then I spooned it out into a greased loaf pan and put it in the refrigerator. After a couple of hours, I sliced it, sprayed each slice with olive oil and baked it in a 350 degree oven until it looked brown. It turned out wonderfully crunchy on the outside and soft and tasty on the inside. We covered it with fresh pesto and leftover chicken with broth. What a yummy and super easy gourmet meal!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Easy and Quick Quiche Recipe

Do you love quiche but can't stand the idea of making a crust to put it in? Well, here is an easy and quick quiche recipe and the quiche makes its own crust as it bakes. If you've ever made impossible pie, it's kind of the same idea. This is how I do it: Brown bacon or sausage, drain and set aside. Use whatever quantity you'd like but in a single quiche, I might use about 4 to 6 slices of bacon or about 1/4 pound of sausage. You can use sausage links, bulk sausage or the larger type of sausage cut into smaller chunks. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan. Ingredients for the filling: Bacon or sausage 4 ounces of any kind of cheese, grated 2 Tablespoons of melted butter 5 or 6 eggs, beaten 1/4 cup finely chopped onion 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup all purpose flour 1 1/2 cups milk Basil, oregano, parsley or thyme (optional depending on what you like) Line the bottom of your pie pan with cheese and meat. (If you're using bacon, crumble it.) Combine eggs, melted butter, onion, salt, flour, milk and herbs. Whisk together until smooth and pour over the cheese and meat. I like to add a small amount of grated cheese on top. Bake in oven for 45 minutes (more or less). I bake it until it is nicely rounded on top and golden brown looking. You can serve this either hot or cold. Delicious!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grilled or Broiled Scallop Squash

I planted almost a full bed (4' x 12') of scallop (or patty pan) squash this summer and I'm getting lots of them. I take them to the market and frequently am asked how I prepare my scallop squash. Here is my answer: Wash several small scallop squashes. Cut them lengthwise so you end up with 2 circles. Drizzle on a little olive oil (or your favorite oil). Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano and/or other herbs. Wrap in foil and grill for about 3 to 5 minutes. Or place on a broiling pan and broil until softened - maximum of 5 to 10 minutes but it may take less time if the scallop squashes are young and tender. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Orange Sauteed Beets

I tend to put off making beets just because it takes so long to cook them, then peel them, then slice them and get them to the table. So I end up rarely making them...can you tell I'm a bit of a lazy cook?!

So last night while in the garden I decided to pick a few "baby beets" and then I had a brainstorm. So in keeping with the "from scratch in a flash" vision of this blog, This is what I did. Since there were 3 of us who eat beets (sorry, don't know what you're missing!) I took 3 beets, washed and peeled them and then grated them with my handy, dandy grater that catches everything in a container below the grater. Meanwhile I sauteed a few tablespoons of chopped onion, then added the grated beets, a dash of salt and pepper and let them saute lightly. I knew orange went well with beets so I went out on my patio and clipped 3 sprigs of orange mint (yes, there is mint with an orange flavor) rinsed them, chopped them and at the last minute, stirred them into the beet and onion mixture.

Oh, my! They were a taste delight! And best of all, it took less than 10 minutes to make them. Meanwhile I had also chopped up the beet greens and had them cooking. So we had yummy beet greens and absolutely "out of this world" orange sauteed beets!

In case you live in North Texas and would like to have some beets to try out this recipe, we sell them at Cypress Lake Ranch.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Quick and Easy Dill Dip

This is a recipe my mother used to make for home business meetings. I have awesome heirloom Mammoth Melting Sugar peas in the garden (and for sale at Cypress Lake Ranch) and this dip is great for vegetables or chips. I make mine with homegrown and dried dill weed.

1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise (or miracle whip) (I usually use only half that amount of mayo)
1 Tbs. dried onion flakes
1 Tbs. parsley flakes
1 tsp dill weed (or more if you like it to taste more like dill)
1 tsp seasoned salt OR garlic salt OR beau monde seasoning OR any combination

Mix, chill and enjoy with your favorite dip-ables!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mayonnaise in No Time Flat

One of the helpful time savers I use in my kitchen is an immersion blender and it is so easy to make mayonnaise from scratch, you can have it made quicker than finding the mayo shelf at the grocery store and putting a jar of it in your shopping cart.

I use all virgin olive oil when I make it to avoid oils made with genetically modified ingredients. I also eliminated the sugar. I may try it with a small amount of stevia as a sweetener but we find it very palatable without any sugar at all. And I only use a dash of cayenne pepper in my version.

I use a wide-mouthed canning jar and just blend everything up in it, use a small rubber spatula to get the excess mayo off of the blades and then put the lid on the jar and into the refrigerator it goes. I then wash the immersion blender by blending a small amount of warm, soapy water then I dry it and put it away. Total time used is about 5 minutes from start to finish.

What could be easier?!

You can get your own immersion blender from Amazon and have fresh, healthy mayonnaise from scratch in a flash.