Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Mysterious Bean~ Part 3

Now that we know how to cook a nice big pot of beans, we know how to store them for adding to recipes for later and we know how to bake with them, what's next?

Now we get to learn some bean recipes. Recipes for flavorful soups, chili's, baked beans and more. I'm going to link up a bunch of my favorite recipes as well as some new ones that I have found that look amazing. Ready? Lets go!

Spicy Bean Burgers
A Flavorful Pot of Beans
Ham and Bean Soup
Hot bean Dip
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas
Black Bean Enchiladas
Perfect Pot of Black Beans
Minestrone Soup
Chili Con Carne
Crockpot Baked Beans

There's just a few great bean recipes to get you started. Have a favorite? Share it in the comments!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mysterious Bean~ Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of The Mysterious Bean! Are you wondering if I messed up and accidentally put a piece of cake on here instead of a big bowl of steaming beans? No! This cake is the surprise! This paragraph has a lot of exclamation points!

We all know that when you make a cake, you can substitute applesauce for the oil right? Well, newsflash! You can sub beans as well. It absolutely, positively DOES NOT change the taste, texture or performance of your cake. I'm not joking. Your family will never know that the beans are in there.

Why would you want to use beans when you can just use applesauce? Well, a couple of reasons, really. Applesauce can sometimes leave an apple-y flavor. It can sometimes seem to have a spongy or gritty texture. And, even unsweetened applesauce has sugar in it, so while you are keeping the fat down your essentially adding more sugar. Beans, on the other hand, do not add sugar or change the flavor/texture. They add loads of fiber. Fiber is good, it fills you up.....and that means that a smaller piece of cake is going to be more satisfying. Think of it as cake with built in portion control.

And it's not just cake that you can add beans to; it's brownies, quick breads and (drum roll please) cookies. If you like cakey brownies, replace all the oil with bean puree, if you like them fudgy only replace 1/2. If you are making chocolate chip cookies, use white bean puree as your shortening or butter and have a lower fat, fiber packed snack to send off with the kids to school.

You simply cook the beans, like we talked about yesterday, and puree them with some of the cooking liquid. Scoop 1/2 cup into baggies and freeze. Next time you want to make cake, or cookies, or brownies, take one out and let it defrost and away you go!

But, which bean do you use? You wouldn't want to use a black bean in a white cake for example. Here is a handy little reference:

  • Black beans for chocolate and red velvet
  • White beans for white, lemon, and light colored cookies (i.e. chocolate chip)
  • Pinto beans for spice cake, applesauce, and most quick breads (i.e. zucchini, pumpkin, applesauce bread)
I got my inspiration from Everyday Food Storage, and I cannot say enough things about her website. She is fantastic! I learn so much each and every time I visit. Great info on food storage as well. Take the time to check her out :)
See you back here tomorrow for Part 3! I wonder what we'll cover then?! :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Mysterious Bean~ Part 1

Dried beans don't get a lot of love and I'm not sure why. They are nutritious, cheap and a wonderful source of nutrients including protein. Full of fiber they fill you up without slowing you down. They are versatile and can be added to many dishes that you already prepare. Soups, stews, many Mexican dishes and salads are all wonderful places to add beans to your diet.

I avoid store bought canned beans if at all possible. Why? They are loaded with salt and other ingredients that you probably want to avoid. Cooking one batch of beans and using them several times is one of the simplest things you can do to boost your nutrition while stretching your grocery dollars.

In this part (part 1) of this series on dried beans I'm going to teach you how to sort, soak, cook and store your cooked beans. We're going to focus on the traditional, long soak and long cook method here and I'll touch briefly on the short-cut method at the bottom of this post.

If at all possible, I want you to try making beans along with me. I'm going to show you how to use them in a very unusual way and I'm betting your family will never even know unless you tell them :) But, first we have to make these hard, dried-out little rocks turn into something edible.

Step 1~ Really, step 1 is buying some beans. I'm going to cook up some black beans here, we love these and the kids often ask for them in quesadillas for lunch so I like to have them on hand. Try to buy your beans somewhere that the demand for beans is high. Beans will store for a long time in a cool dark place, but if you are buying them at your corner market they may have been there for a while. The older the bean is the harder it is to get it to cook to a pleasing texture. Sometimes they won't cook at all. So, buy your beans from a store that probably goes through their inventory in a timely manner.

Beans sorted and ready to soak.

Step 2~ Measure your beans and sort them. Yes, they are sorted at the factory when they are bagged, but rocks, sticks and other field debris find their way through. Sort out any shriveled bean, broken bean and anything that isn't a bean. Rinse them under water in a colander and place them in a bowl.

Beans soaking.

Step 3~ Soak your beans. Pretty self explanatory right? You want beans for dinner tomorrow night, soak them before you go to bed and cook them the next day. Put enough water in your bowl to cover your beans by a good 2 inches or a little more. They are going to start soaking up the water and getting soft, so don't skimp on the water. Leave them on the counter for 8 hours or overnight.

After an all night soak. Almost all the liquid is absorbed.

Step 4~ Drain the beans and put them in a pot. Cover with water again and cook on medium heat until they beans are tender. Time will vary according to the type of bean you are cooking, but 2-2 1/2 hours is a good guess.

Cooked and ready to use!

So, there you have it! You have now cooked a pot of plain, unseasoned beans to add to other dishes. The reason I advocate cooking 1 large pot of beans is that it takes time. You don't want to be doing this every day (unless you are at home every day and even then I'm guessing you aren't going to want to do this all the time.), having the beans already cooked is convenient and makes it easier for you to just add them to your meals as you go.

What should you do with all your beans now that they are cooked? Measure out a cup or 2 and put them in freezer bags. Freeze those little suckers and they will be ready to be dropped into soup, enchiladas or thawed in the fridge for your lunch salad any day of the week. You can also puree them and freeze them. This can be added to soup or stews and be used as a thickener as well. Not a bad way to sneak a little nutrition in huh?

I said I would touch briefly on the short-cut method of cooking beans and I will now. I want you to know that I think learning to cook beans the long way is a valuable skill and I think everyone should master it. That being said, sometimes you forget to cook your beans, or need them in a hurry. That's OK, I've been there and done that. While these beans will be perfectly tasty and work just fine for you, I feel that the longer cooking time yields a superior end product.

Short-cut beans cooking: Sort and rinse your beans. Place in a pot and generously cover with water. Place on the stove and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and let it sit for 1 hour. Drain beans and cover with more water. Cook until tender.

That's the long way around and the short-cut. I'll let you decide which way you want to take, but at least try the long way once if you are hesitant. I think it will make a believer out of you!

If you're adventurous, puree 1 cup of black beans and meet me here tomorrow for a recipe with beans as the secret ingredient.....even if you aren't adventurous, come back to see the recipe it's amazing!!

Black bean puree, ready to be used in a surprising way :)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pink Sauce

You know the stuff~ the thick, pink sauce served with Mar Far Chicken or other take-out delights. The wonderful stuff that sits on the tables waiting to be poured all over your fried rice. Ummmm.....I think I could eat it all by itself. By far, it's my most favorite part of Chinese food.

I searched a long time to find a recipe that tasted like my favorite restaurant makes. I found it a couple years ago and as I was making some eggrolls and fried rice for dinner tonight I thought maybe you would like the recipe too!

I'm sorry there is no picture. I didn't think to take one when I was making it and it doesn't last long around here :)

This isn't a healthy recipe, nor does it pretend to be. However, it is delicious!

Pink Sauce

2 1/4 cups oil (canola works well)
3/4 cup apple cider, rice or white vinegar
1 cup ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons dry hot mustard or Chinese mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, or pasteurized egg substitute equal to 1 large egg
1 cup sugar

Put the first 6 things in a blender and mix well. Slowly add the sugar while it blends and keep blending for 2 minutes after you have added all the sugar. Makes 1 quart and should be stored in the fridge, especially if you used a raw egg!

Make this sauce and your homemade take-out will be just as good (if not better!) than the "real" thing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Freschetta Giveaway

October is National Breast Cancer awareness month and Freschetta is doing their part to support research by presenting the FRESCHETTA PROUD TO SUPPORT PINK Program! From September 25th-October 31st when you purchase specially marked packages of Freschetta pizza and Artisan Specialty Crusts you will be helping Freschetta reach their goal of a $50,000 donation to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Specially marked packages are printed with codes you can enter at Proud To Support Pink. For each code entry, the makers of Freschetta will donate $1 to this center to support breast cancer research, up to $50,000.

The site also has a place for people to share their breast cancer journey or journey of a friend or loved one. These stories will be displayed on the Proud To Support Pink website and on their facebook page to inspire all of those who read them.

They are also giving away 50 pink iPod shuffle players each week in October as part of a giveaway on the site to encourage participation and sharing of this program. Additionally, 50 pink iPod shuffle players will be donated each week in October to four cancer centers around America to be enjoyed by cancer patients during treatments.

My family and I LOVE Freschetta Rising Crust pizza and when we got the opportunity to try one out for free we were excited! Not only was it fabulous (and it always is!) we were proud to log on and enter our code onto the Proud to Support Pink website so we could help them reach their goal of donating $50,000!

You could also score some great pizza, let me tell you how:

The Prize:

  • A coupon to try Freschetta pizza, any pizza 12 oz or larger
  • Two (2) pairs of FRESCHETTA PROUD TO SUPPORT PINK earphones. One pair for you to keep and enjoy, and one pair for you to share with an in-real-life pal or family member as a reminder of proactive health.

To Enter:

Leave a comment telling me what you favorite Freschetta pizza flavor is. Please remember to leave an email address so I can contact you if you win. Entry will be open until Midnight (EST) October 21, 2011. Winner will be notified October 22, 2011 and will have 48 hours to respond. Entry open to US residents only. One entry per person.

The makers of Freschetta pizza contacted me and provided me and provided me with products to review, but the opinions and thoughts of this blog are always mine.

The winner is comment # 1 Amanda G! Congratulations!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beef Barley Soup

I'm sitting here typing this up as I dutifully watch my pressure canner to ensure that it stays at 11 pounds of pressure~ no more, no less. It seems that I have it on my stove all the time right now so I can can up the leftovers from a meal, make a pot of chili to put up, or like today- can up a batch of soup.

Last night we had a really good crockpot pot roast for dinner so today I make a 3 gallon batch of soup from the leftovers. Some will be our dinner and the 7 quarts that I am canning up will be our dinner some other night :) It's like the ultimate fast food!

I know some people are intimidated by soup, but you shouldn't be. Soups are simple, hearty and cheap to fix.
Here's the recipe I made today:

Beef and Barley Soup

4 cups (or more) leftover roast
1/2 cup pearled barley
3 carrots
3 ribs of celery
1 cup green beans
1 cup peas
1 onion, chopped
4 cups beef stock (from the store or your own, either way)
1/4 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree

Chop veggies and meat into bite sized pieces. Heat stock in a large pot and add the veggies, meat and seasonings. Cook until veggies are almost cooked through. Add barley and cook until it's tender. Taste broth and adjust seasonings. We like to have this with some fresh bread or dinner rolls.

If you double or triple this recipe you will have enough to freeze or can. One of the easiest ways to stretch your money is to not increase the meat, but increase the veggies and barley instead. You could also add some corn and/or potatoes as well.

This is a very simple, very tasty, very economical meal. Just the kind we like :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Roasting Squash

I keep hearing a lot of talk about a pumpkin shortage again this year (maybe?) and it always makes me laugh. I've heard that what we buy as "pumpkin" is actually just orange fleshed squash. After all, what is a pumpkin? A squash!

I also do NOT enjoy paying the ever increasing price on a can of pumpkin, so I have decided to take matters into my own hands:

I'm making my own "pumpkin" puree :)

I just split the squash (there are a few different varieties here), scooped out the seeds and put them on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven until they were very soft. I'm not sure how long it took because I was doing other things, but it was maybe 1 1/2 hours? That would be my best guess anyway lol.

I'm waiting for them to cool and then I'll scoop out the flesh and puree it in the blender, measure it into 2 cup portions and put in a freezer baggie.

Next time I want to make pumpkin bread, a pie or even pumpkin scones, I'll be able to reach into the freezer for a bag of my own, fresh, no preservative added squash puree.

I'm LOVIN' that!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Star Wars Cereal and $25 WalMart Gift Card Giveaway

Are you a fan of Star Wars? Do you like cereal? How about free money? Answer yes to any (or all of those questions and this is the giveaway for you! The complete 9-disk saga was released on Blu Ray and is available at your local Walmart.

This incredible collection unites all six Episodes together for the first time in stunning high definition with the purest digital sound in the galaxy. With over 40 hours of thrilling special features, including all-new content created exclusively for this release, you can journey deeper into the Star Wars universe and discover more than ever before. Feel the Force of STAR WARS The Complete Saga on Blu-ray.

In honor of the release, select General Mills Big G cereals have a limited edition Star Wars good versus evil image on their packaging, which when combined creates this cool panoramic poster:

  • Exclusively at Walmart, look for specially marked boxes of Big G cereals, including Honey Nut Cheerios®, Cinnamon Toast Crunch®, and Lucky Charms®. Collect all three to create a Star Wars panoramic poster showcasing your favorite characters, like Darth Vadar™, Luke Skywalker™, Han Solo™, Princess Leia™ and more.
  • Marking the first time ever that the full Saga is available in one complete collection, the 9-disc STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA will be available on Blu-ray September 16th, courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

  • May the force be with you as you check out these Star Wars boxes at your local Walmart for a limited time only!

    You too can WIN! To celebrate the release, MyBlogSpark is giving one of my readers a prize pack which includes:

    • Honey Nut Cheerios
    • Cinnamon Toast Crunch
    • Lucky Charms
    • $25.00 Walmart Gift Card
    It's easy to enter, just tell me your favorite Star Wars character! Please make sure you leave me a way to contact you (like an email address) so I can contact you if you win. Thank you and GOOD LUCK!

    Some handy links for you:

    This giveaway will end on October 12th, 2011 at Midnight (EST). The winner will be notified on October 13, 2011 and will have 48 hours to claim their prize. Contest is open to residents of the US. Winner will be chosen using

    Disclosure: The cereal, gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.