Greens and chickpeas

This was one of those nights were I craved a warm, healthy homemade meal (yes, the day was thunderstormy and chilly not like the day most of you were suffering through) but I didn't want to spend a long time in the kitchen, especially cleaning-up (my least favorite part). So, I surveyed the ingredients we had on hand and, decided on sautéed mixed greens and chickpeas with grits. It may sound odd, but it's super tasty and quite filling!

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20110726-020150.jpg Before I left my job in Georgia, my friends at work gave me a very generous going away bag filled with all sorts of travel goodies and new home stuff. One of the items in my package was a bag of the fabulous Georgia grits that I love from Logan Turnpike Mill...a little gift of the south to take to Seattle with me :) Tonight, the grits became our grain side and they were extra scrumptious. Maybe being away from the south made them that much better?! Real stone ground grits, as opposed to the instant bleached white variety that are found in most grocery stores, require a good rinsing to remove big grains and extra slow heat cooking time. I made a cup of grits with 4 cups of water and cooked them uncovered on simmer for about 45 minutes. I cheesed up Jack and David's grits and kept mine simple with a small pat of smart balance "butter". "Mmmmm" was the chorus heard around our dinner table as we tried them!

For the greens, I sautéed a good amount of olive oil with 4 cloves of minced garlic. When the garlic was fragrant, I added kale first and when that cooked down a bit, I added a large amount of collard greens, turnips greens, and mustard greens. You can choose any greens combination you like or have on hand, they are so versatile and easily mix and match. Because the greens cook down so much, I like to cook a lot, but this requires adding the greens in batches so that they will all fit in the pan. I sautéed them for about 20 minutes making sure to get the veins tender. Near the end of the cooking time, I added a can (yes, I bought a can!) of drained and rinsed chick peas to the greens in the pot and stirred well to mix.

Serve alongside each other for a tasty southern inspired supper. Hint: Mixing the greens with the grits on a few forkfuls created deliciously tasty bites.

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Pasta with seasonal greens

Truthfully, there is nothing overly exciting about this dish aside from the fact that it is always good. Really good...that is, if you are a bitter greens lover like us! And, the cool thing about this meal is that the taste of it changes a bit with each season, depending on the type of greens that are available.

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Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously and add 3/4 pound of pasta (your choice). Cook for about 12 minutes, cooking time will depend on your pasta type. Then drain, reserving a bit of the liquid to thin out the dish.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté 3-4 cloves of garlic in a large pot with a good amount of olive oil. When the garlic is fragrant, add a large amount of mixed greens (I used nearly 2 full bunches). Any type of greens will do...I love to just browse and get what looks the best at the farmer's market. For tonight's dinner, I used turnip greens, spinach, and collard greens. Cook until wilted.

Combine the pasta and greens (along with all of the olive oily juices) in a large bowl (or back in the pot if you don't want a lot of dishes to clean and you just want to dish out your plates from the stove top...nothing wrong with cutting corners midweek!) and salt adequately. Shave in some good quality parmesan because when it's good, a little can go a long way.

Slow cooked pinto beans

Yes. I did it again. I told you I wouldn't, but I did...This week another slow cooked meal post using beans. But I've decided, if people think brown goat and think beans, I will not be offended!

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Seriously. For all of you whom I haven't converted yet, here is your chance to jump to the other side. Say NO to canned beans tonight and try slow cooked pinto beans instead. You will not be sorry.

I cooked about a pound of pinto beans for 7 hours in the slower cooker on the low heat setting. Today, I was feeling lazy and did not sauté the onions and garlic before adding them to the beans. And, guess what...it still turned out delicious! The slow cooker is so forgiving (and, it doesn't heat up your kitchen, a bonus for all of you suffering from the endless summer heat wave!).

For tonight's dinner, we created our own burritos at the table with the pinto beans, flour tortillas, cubed avocado, sliced cherry tomatoes, diced mango, salsa, and a squeeze of lime. Sooooo summery fresh, so simple, and so good! I'm glad to have bags of pinto bean leftovers in the freezer so we can recreate this meal again soon!

A new slow cooked beans recipe and overly indulgent nachos

It's true. Almost every week, I cook a big pot of beans in our slow cooker to use in various ways throughout the week and also to freeze for using later. I don't know why, but a freezer full of homemade beans makes me feel secure. By having that in place, I always know that I can prepare a healthy and flavorful homemade meal even on a very busy day. I promise to get more creative with my slow cooker recipes, but this week it's another pot of beans. Instead of just connecting you back to my original black beans recipe post, though, I thought I would take a moment to rewrite a general recipe for slow cooked beans and then share with you one of my true indulgent ways to eat black beans.

Slow cooked beans:

To prepare your dried beans, pick through about a pound of beans looking for small pebbles and then rinse thoroughly in a colander. Next, place the beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover the beans by a few inches. Cover the pot with its lid and leave it on the counter or stove to soak overnight at room temperature. You will be thankful for the time you take to prepare and soak your beans because soaking actually speeds the cooking process (which is super helpful if you are cooking the beans on the stovetop) and creates a plumpness to the beans that you don't always get when you skip the soaking step.

This next step you can either do the night before or wait until the next morning. Finely chop a yellow or white onion and sauté it in a skillet with 3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic and a healthy pour of olive oil. Sauté until the garlic and onions become aromatic and tender. If you do this step the night before, simply cool down the garlic and onions, then cover and place in the refrigerator. If you sauté them right before you cook the beans, simply add the onion and garlic mixture to your bean pot along with any oil left in the skillet.

In the morning, drain the beans and discard the now dirty and discolored soaking water. Put your beans in a slow cooker or back in the same pot and add fresh water in a volume nearly triple the amount of beans. If you are going to be away for the day or just want the beans to cook themselves, put them in a slow cooker along with the garlic and onions, sprinkle with kosher salt, set the slow cooker to low heat, and cook for 6 hours. If you are cooking the beans on the stovetop, bring the water in your pot to a simmer and cook the beans with the onion and garlic mixture, uncovered, for 40 minutes to longer than an hour depending on the type of bean and their freshness. Stovetop bean cooking requires some hands on work because you will need to sample regularly to gauge doneness. Every time you taste, be sure to taste more than a couple of beans because they don't always cook at the same speed and a bean that's not quite cooked is icky. Season the stovetop beans with kosher salt in the last 15 minutes of cooking, when the beans are almost finished. If you season them with salt at the beginning, it sometimes makes the beans breakdown and get crumbly.

Regardless of the cooking method you choose, you will be left with a large pot of beans to enjoy in many dishes. The beans you don't plan to use in a few days should be drained and then placed in quart-size freezer bags to freeze for later.

Now, for my indulgent black bean dish that is just so tasty, bean lover or not, it's hard not to enjoy it. I'm forced to be more creative now than I was here with this dish since I have decided to eat a mostly vegan diet, but cheesy, sour creamy nachos are the way to do it...so, if you wish, pile it on!

20110720-015253.jpg For these, I kept it simple and topped blue corn tortilla chips with a large spoonful of black beans, steamed and lightly salted broccoli, a spoonful of sour cream, grated sharp cheddar cheese, and a heavy drizzle of hot salsa. A deliciously satisfying dinner!

Black bean bowl

When we were in Bend, Oregon over the 4th of July weekend, we had an amazingly simple, yet fantastic lunch one day from a little restaurant tucked inside a large shopping area. I have been craving the lunch since that time, so I decided to recreate it in my own way for tonight's dinner...black bean bowls filled with slow cooked black beans, fresh vegetables, and ooey-gooey toppings like sour cream and cheese. First you want to make a big pot of black beans. As usual, you will have lots of beans left to freeze or to use for other meals throughout the week (yay!).

As dinner time approaches, cook your rice (color is your preference...I always prefer brown for it's texture and nutty flavor, David always prefers white) according to the package or bin directions. I now keep all of my pantry staples on an open wire shelf displayed in jars so I've been shopping exclusively from the bin sections at our markets...my rule of thumb for cooking rice is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of boiling water. I just keep an eye on the rice during the cooking process, stirring occasionally, and stop the cooking when the water is gone and the rice is ready to fluff with a fork- about 20 minutes for white, 45 minutes for brown.

Add rice and black beans to a nice-sized bowl. Then, go wild with your toppings...we chose black olives, avocado which along with the black beans adds creaminess to the bowl, sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, steamed and lightly salted broccoli, and lots of hot salsa.

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Eat with a few corn chips and salsa and an icy beer. And, remember to enter my blog contest for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate! Contest ends Wednesday night.