The Chili Pepper Apron
Can Your Own Beans? Sure! 
We try to do our produce shopping at a local produce market owned by a very nice Pakistani man who gets most of his merchandise from local farmers and even the occasional homeowner who happens to have a bumper crop of say.. lemons. 
While we were there recently, I noticed that he was carrying several types of dried beans.  This is very exciting because, if you did not already know this, DRIED BEANS ROCK! For several reasons:
1.) They’re cheap.  One pound of bulk dried chickpeas was $1.19.
2.) They’re versatile.  You can use them however you want once they are boiled soft and you get to control what goes in them. (ex. salt levels)
3.) They last forever.  Okay, maybe not forever, but pretty close.  Archaeologists have found beans in the tombs of ancient Egypt that are still good, so I think that qualifies them to “nearly forever”.
The biggest downside to dried beans is having to get them from “rock-like” to “palatable” before you can eat them.  The easiest way I have found to do this is with a slow cooker.
For the chickpeas pictured, it was 2.5 cups of dried beans to 6 cups of water that cooked in the slow cooker for about 3.5 hours on high.
This made about 6 cups of chickpeas.  
That’s right, that $1.19 per pound of dried beans equates to about 5-6 cans (maybe more) of chickpeas from the grocery store.  And if you consider that a can of chickpeas can be anywhere from $1.50 to $3.99 a can, that’s quite a bit of savings!
But what do you do with all those beans once they’re cooked? You can ‘em of course! 
Keep in mind that I did this at home without any of my grandmother’s fancy canning equipment and it was still easy peasy lemon squeezy.  
Just heat the jars, sealers, and lids (which you can buy all together at your local Walmart or general goods store) in a boiling water bath for at least 3 minutes.  Carefully remove the jar with tongs and allow to drain upside down on a towel for about a minute.  Ladle in the hot beans and seal with the sealer, screw on the lid, and allow to sit until you hear the “Pop!” from the sealer indicating it’s airtight and cooled.  This may take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is.  
That’s it!  You now have your very own healthy, canned beans for pennies instead of dollars!  This is all about saving money, peeps!  And the jars can be reused over and over, though you will need to buy new sealers as they are really only good for one, maybe two, uses.
Enjoy! 

Can Your Own Beans? Sure! 

We try to do our produce shopping at a local produce market owned by a very nice Pakistani man who gets most of his merchandise from local farmers and even the occasional homeowner who happens to have a bumper crop of say.. lemons. 

While we were there recently, I noticed that he was carrying several types of dried beans.  This is very exciting because, if you did not already know this, DRIED BEANS ROCK! For several reasons:

1.) They’re cheap.  One pound of bulk dried chickpeas was $1.19.

2.) They’re versatile.  You can use them however you want once they are boiled soft and you get to control what goes in them. (ex. salt levels)

3.) They last forever.  Okay, maybe not forever, but pretty close.  Archaeologists have found beans in the tombs of ancient Egypt that are still good, so I think that qualifies them to “nearly forever”.

The biggest downside to dried beans is having to get them from “rock-like” to “palatable” before you can eat them.  The easiest way I have found to do this is with a slow cooker.

For the chickpeas pictured, it was 2.5 cups of dried beans to 6 cups of water that cooked in the slow cooker for about 3.5 hours on high.

This made about 6 cups of chickpeas.  

That’s right, that $1.19 per pound of dried beans equates to about 5-6 cans (maybe more) of chickpeas from the grocery store.  And if you consider that a can of chickpeas can be anywhere from $1.50 to $3.99 a can, that’s quite a bit of savings!

But what do you do with all those beans once they’re cooked? You can ‘em of course! 

Keep in mind that I did this at home without any of my grandmother’s fancy canning equipment and it was still easy peasy lemon squeezy.  

Just heat the jars, sealers, and lids (which you can buy all together at your local Walmart or general goods store) in a boiling water bath for at least 3 minutes.  Carefully remove the jar with tongs and allow to drain upside down on a towel for about a minute.  Ladle in the hot beans and seal with the sealer, screw on the lid, and allow to sit until you hear the “Pop!” from the sealer indicating it’s airtight and cooled.  This may take anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on how warm your kitchen is.  

That’s it!  You now have your very own healthy, canned beans for pennies instead of dollars!  This is all about saving money, peeps!  And the jars can be reused over and over, though you will need to buy new sealers as they are really only good for one, maybe two, uses.

Enjoy! 

Quick Salmon with Orange-Ginger Glaze
Yum! 
This is a simple seared salmon dish, but before removing the salmon from the pan, I added a quick sauce that I allowed to reduce down into a glaze. 
You can do it too!
Add a few tablespoons of canola oil to a super-hot cast iron skillet, swirl to coat, and then add in the salmon fillets, meat side down. 

You should hear that lovely “TSSsszzzz!” as it hits the pan. 
In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup orange juice, a dash of soy sauce (or Worcestershire sauce), a few drops of Sriracha (Rooster) sauce, and about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground ginger.  If using fresh ginger, finely grate to equal about 1/2 tablespoon.  


Mix well with a whisk and add to the skillet just before salmon is finished.  

I made sure that the salmon was coming free of the pan on its own prior to adding the sauce.
Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes (or longer, but just remember the salmon’s still cooking too! and you don’t want sawdust salmon)
Plate up with some noodles and drizzle the sauce/glaze over the salmon and noodles.  We also had a salad, which is quite tasty too. 
Another great part about this is that there’s only a few things for you to clean up afterwards!
Enjoy!

Quick Salmon with Orange-Ginger Glaze

Yum! 

This is a simple seared salmon dish, but before removing the salmon from the pan, I added a quick sauce that I allowed to reduce down into a glaze. 

You can do it too!

Add a few tablespoons of canola oil to a super-hot cast iron skillet, swirl to coat, and then add in the salmon fillets, meat side down. 

Tsszz!

You should hear that lovely “TSSsszzzz!” as it hits the pan. 

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup orange juice, a dash of soy sauce (or Worcestershire sauce), a few drops of Sriracha (Rooster) sauce, and about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground ginger.  If using fresh ginger, finely grate to equal about 1/2 tablespoon.  

saucey

Mix well with a whisk and add to the skillet just before salmon is finished.  

saucy salmon

I made sure that the salmon was coming free of the pan on its own prior to adding the sauce.

Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes (or longer, but just remember the salmon’s still cooking too! and you don’t want sawdust salmon)

Plate up with some noodles and drizzle the sauce/glaze over the salmon and noodles.  We also had a salad, which is quite tasty too. 

Another great part about this is that there’s only a few things for you to clean up afterwards!

Enjoy!

Catching Up With Myself or Quick Blanched Asparagus!

As I forewarned in my very first post, my subsequent posting would be feast or famine.  So forgive me for not posting in a while.  

At least I’ve been remembering to take photos!

Until I can find the time and energy to make a decent sized entry (because I really do have several), here’s a filler recipe!

Step 1:  Acquire Asparagus.  This is easily done around this time of year as asparagus tends to be a spring time veggie and now’s the perfect time to find locally grown vegetables at your local produce market, grocery store, or (if you’re very lucky) farmer’s market!  If you buy your asparagus more than a day or two before you’re going to use it, place it in the refrigerator in a cup or bowl of water deep enough to cover the cut ends of the stalks. 

Step 2:  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  

Step.. 2.5?:  Prep asparagus.  Rinse the asparagus well to clean.  Then, grab one stalk, hold it on each end and slowly bend in half.  It should snap somewhere near the end of the stalk.  This is your cutting point.  Below that snap point is going to be very fibrous and chewy, so compost that away and cut all your stalks at about that same point.

Step 3:  Make a big bowl of ice water.  It needs to be large enough to hold all the asparagus at once.

Step 4: When the water in the pot is at a rolling boil, add in the asparagus.  DON’T YOU WALK AWAY! This is really quick! Give it a minute or two.. maybe three at the most.  Now take it out of the boiling water (preferably with tongs) and drop it into the ice water to stop the cooking process.  

This is called blanching and it’s a way to end up with yummy crisp-tender veggies.  It works for any veggie you would normally cook that is relatively sturdy.  Translation: This won’t work well with collard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, or spinach.

Now remove the asparagus from its ice bath and arrange on a pretty plate.  Add a little salt and a pat of butter (maybe some herbs..) and viola! Quick, easy, healthy side dish! 

blanched asparagus

Enjoy! 

Hummus? More like Yum-mus!

Look! A recipe! I know you all were getting hungry for another one.  

Today’s recipe: Hummus.  If you’ve never had hummus then you had better have an allergy to chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans), olive oil, sesame seeds (tahini), or garlic, otherwise you have no excuse.

Or you live no where near a grocery store.  In which case, I’m very sorry.

I’ve had hummus from several sources.  Grocery stores, friend recipes, Greek restaurants, Mediterranean restaurants, other.. restaurants..

Anyways, all hummus recipes revolve around pretty much the same ingredients:  

hummus ingredients

Number 1: Garbanzo beans or Chickpeas.  These are the same thing! Please don’t stand there for 20 minutes in the grocery store trying to figure out which one you need.  If you’re pressed for time or just want to have the ingredients on hand, go with a canned variety.  Make sure you look for one that has low sodium though, because the manufacturers can really pile it in there. We’ll talk more about the sodium thing later.  If you’re going for fancy 100% homemade, look for a dried fresh variety that you can boil up on your own.  I have yet to try this, but it is on my to-do list.  Dried beans do last a veryveryvery long time, but may also require a lot of soaking and prep time before they’re ready to use. 

Number 2: Tahini.  This is a paste made of white sesame seeds and tastes a bit like an ever-so-slightly bitter peanut butter.  You can find it at most big grocery stores (e.g. Wal-mart) and it generally comes in a tin.  It will cost you $5-7 and may be the most expensive part of this whole recipe; but it will last you a very long time and, so long as it is refrigerated and closed, it doesn’t spoil easily.  My can lasted well over a year.  You’ll notice that it usually has a layer of oil on top. DON’T POUR THIS OFF!!! You want to C.A.R.E.F.U.L.L.Y. stir this into the paste.  If you get rid of it, your paste is so thick that it’s hard to work with.  An alternate to stirring is to look for a glass jar of tahini (I have found this at a local ethnic market) and heat it for about 30 seconds in the microwave (without the lid!) then close it tight and shake it, it should mix in a bit easier. Make sure it’s not too hot to handle first! 

Number 3: Olive oil.  This almost goes without saying.. you know.. since it’s a Mediterranean recipe and all.  If you find an olive oil that tastes good, go with it.  I use Wal-mart brand and have no qualms about its flavor.  BUT —> ( | ) (heh heh hem.. sorry..) If it’s been sitting in direct sunlight at all or in your pantry since the time of the mastodon, give it a sniff and taste test.  If it smells rank or rancid, toss it.  If it tastes bleh, toss it and go get a new bottle. 

That’s pretty much it.  So why do I have balsamic vinegar, garlic, and capers in the photo?  Flavor, my friend, flavor.  While you can make hummus using just chickpeas, olive oil, and tahini, it’s going to have a very bland or mild flavor; but this also makes it a great base for some really yummy combinations, so have fun!  I’ll give you a list of some different add-ins later, ‘Kay?

So, onward to preparation!! 

Dust off this baby.  If you don’t have one, find one, it makes life happy. 

food processor

Open your can of chickpeas (if you’re using canned) and drain them into a colander. Rinse them well with water.  Remember that sodium thing I mentioned earlier? This helps to reduce it down since the salt is mostly in the liquid around the beans.  Dump them into the food processor. Pulse a few times until they look like this:

blended beans

Add in the chopped garlic (if you’re using it. I recommend it.), and pulse a few more times.  I cheat and just break up the garlic a bit before dropping it in and then let the blades do the rest, but if you want to be 100% positive there are no BAM! GARLIC! areas, go ahead and mince it up before you add it in. 

Add in your tahini, about 1/4 cup. 

down the chute

Down the chute! Yes, the tahini and garlic are in there already..

With the food processor running, drizzle in about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (if you’re using) and start drizzling in the olive oil.  How much depends on how you want the hummus to look when it’s done.  The more oil, the smoother the consistence, but also the more calories.  I used about 1/2 cup oil and then added about 1/8 cup water.  You can also add in any other flavorings at this time.  I added capers for a brine-y taste.  

Other good add-ins: lemon zest and juice, pitted Greek olives, roasted red peppers, jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, oregano, Parmesan cheese, or any other savory flavor that you like.  Amounts of each will vary depending on personal taste. 

After you’ve blended properly, it should look something like this:

h-yum-us! 

And I’m not going to lie, you could sit down with a spoon right there and start eating it, but I recommend putting it into a bowl with a lid and letting it sit overnight.  It’s better the next day.  However, I did not take this advice and went ahead and chopped up some carrot and celery sticks and sat down to a mid-morning post-workout snack!

snack time!

And dont’ forget about this..

clean up

Yeah.. Don’t forget to clean up your mess!  It’ll make your spouse/significant other/roommate/parents happy later.  And if you live by yourself, you don’t want to invite unwelcome critters into your home by leaving delicious food leftovers in the sink. 

I hope you all enjoy! 

Vegetarian Lasagna

This has recently become one of my preferred recipes. It’s relatively quick, tasty, and can be enjoyed by nearly everyone.  I say nearly because while it is vegetarian, it is not vegan nor gluten-free.  Please accept my apologies if this means you cannot enjoy this lasagna and consider it a challenge to adapt it to your eating specifications.  

This recipes joins us from here:http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/vegetarian-lasagna-10000000524367/ But you will notice that I have not followed the recipe exactly. (Gasp!) I very rarely ever do and instead prefer to use the recipes more like guidelines and helpful suggestions.

Step 1:  Gather all ingredients.  This helps prevent a sudden realization that you do not have a crucial ingredient (like cheese or noodles) and ensures that everything is within easy reach.  This will be where you notice my first discrepancy: I’m using Tomato Puree instead of Tomato Sauce. There are two reasons why; one because it is low in sodium and two because the sauce was really really high in sodium. If you’re keen eyed, you’ll notice my second move away from the recipe: Extra Firm tofu.  This gives the lasagna more of a ricotta cheese texture that I like.  Plus it’s what I had in the fridge. Remember to preheat your oven to 375 about now too.  

Ingredients

Step 2:  Mix it up! Combine tofu, Parmesan cheese, eggs, herbs, salt and pepper, and garlic in a bowl.  I use a micro-plane grater for the cheese and the garlic.  It makes the garlic blend better into the dish and releases more of the healthiness of the garlic. It should look a lot like ricotta or cottage cheese when it’s properly mixed. 

ingredients

ingredients mixed

Step 3:  Layer it on, Baby! Start with a layer of sauce (or puree), about 1 cup, and layer on the noodles (enough to make an even layer).  Top this with half of the tofu mix, followed by half the spinach, and then a layer of mozzarella cheese.  Repeat the layers, ending with noodles/sauce/cheese.  I ran out of cheese.. which is a very sad thing indeed. Tomorrow is shopping day.  Note to self: Buy Cheese.

1  2

3

4

Complete

Now pop that bad boy into a preheated 375 degree oven and set your timer for 30 minutes!  Clean up while you wait for delicious food to cook.  This makes your significant other or room mates happier!! If you live by yourself it’s still a good idea to clean up because it means no bugs! Because, Ew. Bugs.

While you wait for it to cook, appease your tummy rumbles with a serving of fruit!  In this case, loquat! 

loquat

Bing! It’s done! Remove it from the oven, carefully now! Use those oven mitts!  Let it sit for about 5 minutes before you cut into it… I know I know, I’m hungry too, but trust me on this one, it’s yummier if you let it sit just a few more minutes….

Yum

Okay, now you may go ahead and serve.  Careful, It’s still a little hot!  ..See, wasn’t that worth it?  Enjoy!