Brown Rice with Black Beans & Cheese 

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Hearty & Delicious!

The Winter Solstice…  It is the shortest, darkest day of the year and a day when I inevitably breathe a sigh of relief because from that point on, the days begin to get a little lighter.  Seattle is pretty far North, rainy and grey during December, so the sunrise happens close to 7 am and by 4 pm it is nearly dark.  In these days of isolation and staying at home, this is not good. Thankfully – I nearly always find solace in my kitchen.

Yesterday I pulled out a bunch of saved recipes I wanted to try at some point and stumbled upon “Cheesy Rice and Beans” from Kate McDermott’s blog tucked away in my stash.   I got right to work. I decided to use brown rice since I like the nutty flavor and I used black beans – although next time around I will try freshly made pinto beans.  I grated all the cheese by hand.  My two older Seattle grandsons, who are in my bubble, helped me make a double batch of this so that they could take a casserole dish home.   We donated some to Jakey boy and family and still had some left for the two of us here.  

My daughter called me after a harrowing day of work, and said it smelled so good she wanted to get rid of her kids, put on a bathrobe, crack a beer and eat the entire thing!  This dish is surprisingly good and filling.  All you need is a little fruit and a green salad or roasted vegetables.  It reheats beautifully and I see no reason why it wouldn’t do well in the freezer.  My entire bubble gave it a thumbs up.

Brown Rice with Black Beans & Cheese 

6-8 servings

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Ingredients
  • 2 ½  cups already cooked brown rice  (I do mine in the pressure cooker)
  • 2 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 2 brown-skinned onions peeled, cut in half, and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups 2 % milk
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon  of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans rinsed and drained or 2 cups home-cooked black beans, drained.  You could use pinto or kidney beans as well. 
Instructions

In a large skillet, add olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onions are barely browned. 

In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Stir in milk. Add dry mustard, nutmeg, salt. Mix the cheeses together but save ½ cup to sprinkle on top of the casserole.

Add cheese, onions, rice, and beans to the liquids and mix together.

Grease a 9×9 casserole pan with olive oil. Turn the rice, cheese, and bean mixture into the pan. Sprinkle ½ cup of cheese on top.

Bake at 375F for 40 minutes. Let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Cook’s note:  As long as you are messing up the kitchen, I think it is good to make a double batch of this!  The original recipe says to use whatever cheese you have on hand. Colby, Monterey Jack, Fontina, Mild Cheddar, Pepper Jack are all fine.

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Banana Chocolate Scones

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Seriously Delish Banana Chocolate Scones

This morning, I noticed a few bananas on the counter that were overly ripe.  A smoothie seemed too cold for December, I was over banana bread and banana pancakes and banana cake…so I did a search for banana scones.  This is my version, a combo of several recipes I found on various blogs and websites.  What did we ever do before the world wide web?  

These came out just like I wanted them.  I am only mad that I baked all eight rather than freezing a few for next week. Per my notes below – you can freeze the dough and bake it right out of the freezer — fresh scones in just a few minutes! Alas, I am now obligated to eat them all!!

Banana Chocolate Scones

Makes 8 Scones

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Ingredients 
  • ½ cup or 1 large ripe banana, mashed 
  •  ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  •  ⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar
  •  2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 stick cold salted butter, cut into half-inch chunks
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips, coarsely chopped 
  • 1 Tbsp turbinado (raw) sugar to sprinkle at the end before baking
Instructions

Heat the oven with the rack in the center to 425°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mashed banana, cream, egg, and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly with even pieces. Add the chopped chocolate chips and stir. Scrape the banana mixture into the butter/flour mix and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is barely combined.  

Place the dough onto a silicone mat or a piece of parchment on the counter – pat it into an 8 -inch circle. Using a sharp knife, cut the circle like a pie into eight equal triangles. (At this point, you could freeze the triangles well-wrapped on their sheet for another day. Bake them from frozen.) Spread the triangles at least an inch apart and sprinkle with the raw sugar.  Lightly press the raw sugar into the dough. 

Bake until the scones are golden brown and set – about 16-20 minutes. These turn pretty dark brown compared with other scones I have made but inside they were moist as can be.  Transfer the parchment paper/scones to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or room temperature.  If they last more than a day, reheat them gently at 300 degrees for five minutes!

Note: if you aren’t planning to eat all eight scones the day they are made, the raw triangles can be wrapped and frozen  When you are ready, bake them directly from the freezer!  I made another batch to try this and I baked three today from the freezer.  What a wonderful way to have fresh scones each day.

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Toasted Israeli Couscous with Spicy Eggplant

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Insanely Good Israeli Couscous & Spicy Eggplant

I recently found this recipe by Adeena Sussman and decided to try my hand with it since I had a large eggplant sitting in my kitchen – just waiting for a home.  The original recipe was supposed to be a meatless main dish, but I wanted to make a bigger quantity and have this as a side dish to serve along with fish, and then have some yummy leftovers for lunch. 

The original directions contained more couscous than eggplant, but you know me – I’m a veggie girl so I switched things up, resulting in a higher eggplant to couscous ratio. I didn’t include cumin because I didn’t have this spice on hand, but it turns out the combination of smoked paprika and cinnamon was enough flavor for me.  I boosted the deliciousness by adding a little chicken bouillon and a handful of diced garden-fresh cherry tomatoes as well.

We celebrated my son’s 41st birthday and I brought this leftover eggplant couscous. Everyone there (all family bubbled together) wanted the recipe.  I guess that means it was a hit for the entire bubble!

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Spicy Eggplant

Serves 10

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Ingredients
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne (more or less depending on your love of “picante”)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous 
  • ⅓ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 cups cubed eggplant with skin (about 1 large eggplant)
  • 1 large brown-skinned onion, diced ⅓ inch
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1  15 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • ½ cup fresh cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 cups hot water mixed with 1 tsp “better than bouillon” chicken flavor
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped parsley to garnish 
  • Optional:  Yogurt with lemon zest and lemon juice mixed in to taste, for serving
Instructions

Slice eggplant into ½ by 2-inch strips.  Place in a strainer and mix with two teaspoons of sea salt. Let it stand over a bowl for an hour, shaking intermittently.  After an hour, rinse eggplant well and shake off the water then roll in a cloth towel to dry.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, cayenne, and one teaspoon sea salt and set this spice mixture aside.

Heat a heavy saute pan  (2 to 3 quarts) over medium heat until it is hot. Add couscous and stir every 20 seconds for about three minutes total until the grains are golden. Transfer toasted couscous to a bowl.

Add oil to the pot and increase heat to medium-high. When it shimmers, add drained eggplant, chopped onion, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring often, until onions are softened and golden and the eggplant is browned and slightly shrunken, 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds.

Add tomato paste and the spice mixture and cook, stirring, for one minute. Stir in toasted couscous, canned and fresh tomatoes and two cups of water/bouillon mix, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the couscous has absorbed all the liquid, 8 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and let this rest for two minutes. Uncover, stir in smoked paprika and parsley, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Serve immediately and dollop with yogurt mixture, if desired.

 

 

 

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Cinnamon Apple Scones

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Cinnamon Apple Scones – So Delicious!

Please forgive me for posting another scone recipe.  If you can believe it – this is my EIGHTH scone recipe! I simply couldn’t help it. I do live in the land of apples after all. And, it turns out these are just different enough from the other scone recipes on this website so perhaps I don’t really need to apologize.  PLUS – see previous notes about COVID baking. It’s a thing.

I have used King Arthur Flour for many years, and I swear by their flours – whether it’s unbleached, white whole wheat or bread flour.  So, when they advertised “cinnamon sweet bits” I had to see what that was all about.  This was my maiden voyage with these tiny bits. And now I am going to be using these cinnamon sweet bits in cookies, breads, and muffins.  PS – in addition to offering the most amazing products – King Arthur also has some lovely recipes … including the one I used as the basis for these scones.

I also decided to make these because the yield is 12 nice scones, not a huge or overwhelming proposition.  The coarse sugar/cinnamon lid makes them crunch when you bite into the scone.  I am going to wrap a few of these to give to my daughter in law who just gave birth to twin baby boys, and a few to my daughter whose three kids absolutely inhale everything I bake.  

I did weigh most of the ingredients so I could feel like a professional, but I am including cup measurements as well.  I would suggest that you get on the “baking by weight” bandwagon as soon as you can.  It’s way easier and more consistent. 

Put this in your pile of “I want to try these soon” recipes.  They will not disappoint.  

Cinnamon Apple Scones

Makes 12 small scones


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Ingredients 
  • 2 ¾ cups (326 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup fine sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder, sift after measuring
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick salted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • ½ large apple, unpeeled and cored and cut into ½ inch pieces (I used a Pink Lady apple)
  • ½  cup cinnamon sweet bits (order from King Arthur and tell them Queen Marilyn sent you) 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ cup unsweetened applesauce.  (I didn’t have this  so I boiled my other half apple, peeled and chopped, added some water and mashed it to make my own.)  

Topping Ingredients
  • 3 Tbsp raw coarse sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp milk to brush the scones
Instructions

Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment to fit. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and one teaspoon cinnamon and whisk to combine.

With a pastry blender or fork, add the butter until crumbly.  It doesn’t have to be perfectly even.

Stir in the chopped apple and cinnamon sweet bits.  Add the egg/vanilla/applesauce mixture and stir to combine.

Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a 5 ½ inch circle of even thickness.  I use my silicone mat and transfer the raw dough onto the cookie sheet.  Repeat with the other half. Brush both circles with milk, then sprinkle the sugar topping (the three tablespoons raw coarse sugar and half teaspoon ground cinnamon, combined) evenly on each circle.  With a cold knife, cut the circles into six even triangles and space the triangles out on the parchment so they can spread.  Place the parchment-lined sheet into the freezer for a half-hour, uncovered.

15 minutes after the scones go into the freezer, preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the shelf mid oven.  Once the oven is preheated (mine takes about 15 minutes to reach temperature),  take the scones from the freezer and place them along with the parchment and cookie sheet into the oven and bake 18 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

Let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes and then eat them warm with butter or whipped cream cheese.

Fresh from the oven

Leftover scones can be cooled and wrapped in plastic or sealed Tupperware at room temperature for up to four days. To reheat, remove the plastic wrap and tent with foil;  heat at 300 degrees for seven minutes.  

PS: When COVID is over, I plan to take a weekend class at King Arthur near Seattle.  Who is in??

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Korean Beef Bowls

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Beautiful Korean Beef Bowl

To keep my daily cooking anything but routine, I have found myself searching for and trying new recipes a few times a week.  I am so pleased that my weekly investigations led me to this Korean beef and cabbage bowl recipe.  I promise it is super quick and easy to make, and if you serve this over cooked basmati or brown rice, you’ll have yourself a meal that kids and adults will love.  If you are not a red meat eater, I bet you could use ground chicken or turkey  – but go for the dark meat so it doesn’t get too dry. You could also stretch this a bit with finely chopped mushrooms, using less meat. 

Korean food has a lot of familiar flavor profiles that you will see in this recipe.  Sesame oil, chili or pepper flakes (kochukaru), soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and scallions. It turns out that all of these spices and ingredients live in my kitchen 99% of the time, so this was a dish I was able to make at the last minute.  And, lucky me, there is a butcher right up the street who has amazing ground organic beef that was perfect for this dish.

The only warning I will give you is that making this in a hot cast iron skillet (best to avoid using a nonstick pan so you end up with crispy edges) produced crispy beef, however – the fat splatters everywhere.  That is not a deal-breaker for me – I just cleaned my stovetop (and floor!) when I was done cooking.  The smell lingers in my kitchen for a few hours and I love it.  I served my Korean beef with rice, but you could easily have some large iceberg lettuce cups if you prefer.  As a bonus, leftovers reheat beautifully.  

Korean Beef Bowls (adapted from The Splendid Table)

Makes 3-4 servings


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Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3 cloves minced garlic (I chopped mine by hand)
  • 1 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger root
  • ¼ tsp hot pepper flakes (use more if you love spicy)
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup tamari sauce
  • 4 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds to garnish the top
Instructions

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat for four minutes.  Add the oils and swirl around until they are very hot.  Add the ground beef and press it with a spatula into a thinner, even layer.  Let it cook without stirring or bothering it for five minutes so that the edges become dark brown and crispy. 

Add the garlic, ginger and hot pepper flakes and stir to break up the meat, and cook another three minutes until it is mostly cooked through.  

Sprinkle the top with the brown sugar and add the tamari sauce, stir and cook for another half minute.  Add the sliced cabbage, stir and cook a couple of minutes until the cabbage wilts a bit. 

Spoon into lettuce cups or over rice and garnish each serving with sesame seeds and sliced onions.

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Bagel Baking

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A Beautiful Bagel!

I like to think I am not of the herd mentality – or perhaps I just want herd immunity.  Those of you who know me realize that is the truth – I don’t like to go along with a crowd until I think things through for myself, which makes me somewhat of an independent unicorn I suppose.  My need to be my “own person” translates into most things I do – how I dress, where I travel, and especially what I cook.

Let me back up.  The other evening during our 2-hour zoom sisters call, I knit while visiting with my sisters.  Kay was knitting too and Susan was….making bagels.  She completed the mixing and even cleaned her kitchen before we hung up.  Nothing like multitasking.  

I was intrigued, curious, and if I’m being honest, jealous about the bagels.  How hard could it be if she makes them countless times and could do it while talking to us?  AND she raved about how great these bagels were.  OK, I needed to be part of this herd.  We Klass girls have a need to join each other’s virtual lives – books we read, blankets we knit, and recipes we share.  Susan sent me the annotated recipe but by the time I opened her scanned copy, I had already reviewed the original recipe, made my tweaks (which were oddly similar to Susan’s!) and my bagels were already in the oven. 

Bagels – Boiled, Baked & Ready to Eat

So bagels it was for my next daily baking adventure.  Susan had used a mash-up of two recipes from the Washington Post that required Barley Malt Syrup. It just so happened our PCC Coop had the Syrup in stock and brought it to me via Instacart, nice people that they are.

At 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I rolled up my sleeves, called Susan to see if I could use regular yeast (yes) and in less than 15 minutes I had the dough made and formed and in the fridge.  The next day at 6:30 a.m. I was preheating my oven and boiling the water and getting ready for the final step. In less time than it took for my oven to preheat I had the bagels boiled and coated with black and white sesame seeds!  16 minutes after they went into my oven they were ready and after resting while I took a shower I sampled THE best bagels I have eaten ever.  Ever.  I am not a New Yorker but I truly believe these could give those highly-lauded bagels a run for their money.

I have to say this wasn’t even a messy project.  It does call for a heavy duty stand mixer with a dough hook (I have that and don’t get to use it much these days) ) and a kitchen scale (which I have). And King Arthur Bread flour – I have stockpiled that as well.  You need space in your fridge for a cookie sheet to stay overnight.  The only problem is that it makes just eight bagels and two days later, after gifting just two of them, I am sadly out of bagels.  No worries, I’ll make more dough tonight.

If you are a bagel fan or just curious, try these.  They will not disappoint! I highly recommend you read the recipe through a few times to get it right.  You might like to look at the original recipe because I tailored mine for what I had in the house and for the way I like to bake. (see footnote).  

Homemade Bagels-adapted from the Washington Post with changes

Yields 8 bagels, about 4+ ounces each

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Ingredients 
  • 1 ½ tsp active dry yeast (I had Red Star on hand)
  • 337 grams warm water (scant 1 ½ cups)
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp barley malt syrup (this is in several stores in Seattle)
  • 623 grams King Arthur bread flour (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tsp fine-grained sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp cornmeal for dusting the baking pan
  • About 1/4 cup sesame seeds (black or white or a combo) to sprinkle if you prefer sesame bagels like me)
Instructions

Measure the water and add the yeast and sugar in a 2-cup glass measuring cup.  For those of you challah bakers, this is the same way I start making my own challah!   Let it sit until it foams a bit then add the barley malt syrup and stir. 

In the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt.  Put on the dough hook and add the liquids.  Mix on low for about four minutes until the dough comes together, then turn the speed to medium-low and continue beating for 7-10 minutes or until the dough is formed, smooth and stiff.  It is stiff and that is why you can’t do this by hand!

Evenly spread the cornmeal on the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet.  Turn the dough onto your counter and divide it into eight equal pieces, about four ounces each.  I weighed my total mass of dough then divided the ounces by eight so they would be equal. A little compulsive but…I like my baked goods to look professional. I then smoothed each ball of dough and covered them with Saran Wrap for five minutes at room temperature.  Full disclosure-a silicone mat works well for forming and resting the bagels. 

This is where I digressed big time from the original recipe, which had me rolling 11-inch snakes out of each ball and attaching ends together with water.  Halfway through this, I decided just to punch my finger into each ball and form a bagel shape, making sure the middle hole was at least 1 ½ inches in diameter and that the dough around the hole was even and smooth. Put each bagel onto the cornmeal-dusted cookie sheet as you finish shaping until all eight are done.  Be sure to leave as much space as you can between them as then rise a bit – it will seem crowded but you will be fine.  Cover the rimmed sheet with lightly oiled or sprayed Saran and find space to overnight these in the refrigerator for 12-18 hours.

The next day when you are ready to boil and bake, put a regular cookie sheet in the oven (so it heats too) and preheat the oven with the rack in the middle to 450 degrees.  Have 1/4 cup of sesame seeds ready to sprinkle on top (if you like sesame seeds).

Meanwhile, bring a large soup pot filled with four inches of water to a boil.  Get ready by having a cookie cooling rack ready and a piece of parchment that fits the cookie sheet (which is now in the oven) on the counter.  Carefully put four raw bagels in the boiling water at a time and let them boil for 30 seconds, taking a slotted spoon or a metal skimmer and submerging them gently into the boiling water.  Carefully remove the dough rings to a wire cooling rack and do the same 30-second boil for the next batch. Do not keep the bagels in the water longer than 30 seconds or you will get holes in the inside of the bagel.  Remove these to the rack.  While they are still damp, sprinkle one side (the rounded side) of the boiled bagels with sesame seeds, gently press down place each bagel seed side up on the parchment paper.  Be sure the bagels are spaced evenly on the parchment. Finally I grind some coarse salt onto the top of each bagel-just a bit.

Ready for the Oven!

When all the bagels are coated with seeds and the oven is preheated, remove the hot cookie sheet from the oven and carefully slide the parchment and bagels to the hot cookie sheet.  They will sizzle!  Put the hot cookie sheet back into the oven and bake for 14-16 minutes until the bagels are brown and crisp.  

Use kitchen tongs to move the bagels to a wire rack to cool.  Wait for 10-15 minutes to slice in half.  

*  Note: you might enjoy reading the original recipe from the Washington Post. There was a video as well that included the way they want you to form ropes when making the bagels. But my way is easier, trust me!

I have recently been using caraway seeds too.  My next adventure will be to substitute some rye or whole wheat flour in these.

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Black Bean & Sweet Potato Salad

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The Best Black Bean & Sweet Potato Salad

And…drum roll…I seem to be making a lot of salads sans lettuce this summer.  When people ask me what I most love to cook, I always say creative salads and soups.  Of course, I love baking but truthfully I prefer savory dishes.

This recipe I am sharing is a hybrid between two dishes from a few of my favorite recipe writers…Deb Perelman and Mark Bittman.  Mark is my age (well, maybe a little younger but not much) and Deb is a LOT younger and writes cookbooks and a fantastic blog.  If I were 30 or 40 something, I would want to be her yet I jumped on the blog bandwagon a little late in life.  But I digress…

This salad is so good, so tasty and so beloved.  If you are searching for a good dish to bring to a socially distanced picnic (sniff sniff) or just to have in the fridge, this might just fit the bill.  

Simple & Colorful Ingredients

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Salad

Serves 4-6

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Ingredients
  • 3 medium peeled sweet potatoes (I don’t use yams although they are more colorful, but sweet potatoes hold up better for me)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 25 grinds fresh black pepper
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds + 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch dried pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ cups black beans (15 oz  can or freshly cooked.  Don’t hate me, but I always have fresh black beans in my fridge or freezer)
    ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pickled red onions 
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (I love Valpreso)
  • Wedges of lime to serve
Instructions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cut potatoes into half-moons.  Coat the sweet potato slices with the olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and roast for 15 -20 minutes until slightly brown.  Turn the potatoes and bake for another 15 minutes or until they are soft and brown.

Meanwhile, combine pumpkins seeds with two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and warm.  Let the pumpkin seeds cook until they are a little brown, about two minutes.  Remove from the heat and season with salt and red pepper flakes.  Put aside while you wait for the potatoes to cook

Rinse the cooked black beans (freshly cooked or from a can).  Add this to the cooked potato along with cooked pumpkin seeds, cilantro, and red onions.  Cut the avocado into cubes and add last.  Gently mix and top with feta cheese.  Taste and add more salt, pepper and pass a dish of lime wedges to squeeze on top of the salad.  This is great slightly warm or at room temperature.  

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

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Note: this post has been in my queue since February, but I made these cookies last night for a change because I didn’t want more raisin oatmeal or oatmeal chocolate chippers.

PBCCO (minus a bite or two)

I don’t usually like or even lust after cookies in a bakery case.  That all changed one weekend shortly before Covid hit (I can barely remember before Covid) when, for some crazy reason, I started to crave oatmeal cookies with dark chocolate chips.  I had just arrived back in Seattle for a blink before heading  to Guatemala, and hadn’t even gone to the grocery store, so I stopped at a fine shop near my house, Macrina Bakery.  There in the case were oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies calling my name.  I bought one which set me back three dollars.  For ONE cookie. Holy smokes!  It’s a good thing I don’t do this often and it always bothers me to spend a lot of money on things I can make myself.
I got home and Googled “Macrina Bakery oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookie” to see if I could hunt down a recipe that matched what they sell.  Lo and behold there were a lot of riffs of the cookie, so I did my own…ahem…adjusting.  Double the chocolate (naturally) and of course I only use bittersweet. And I subbed in a little more peanut butter than suggested.  And less granulated sugar.  I did stay true to Macrine and made mine huge just like the bakery.  I seem to be stuck on making giant cookies.

Why NOT Make ‘Em Huge?!

They are salty, sweet, and crunchy yet chewy in the middle.  For me they make a satisfying breakfast on the go.  They got two thumbs up from the other person living in my house and from my extended Seattle family, my most honest critics.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (what a mouthful to say and to eat!)

Yield 23-25 large 4-inch in diameter cookies
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 Ingredients
  • 14 Tbsp salted butter (1 ¾ stick) – leave at room temperature to soften a bit
  • 1 cup commercial peanut butter (Jif or Skippy, smooth or chunky)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups regular unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats, old fashioned (do not use quick-cooking oats)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
 Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Position the oven racks mid oven. 

Cream the butter, peanut butter, salt, and both sugars for six minutes, scraping down the sides of the mixer.  Add the vanilla and egg and mix.  Dump in the flour rolled oats, soda, and mix briefly until combined.  Finally, add chocolate chips.

The raw batter is pretty soft.  Scoop about ¼ cup batter (I oil my scoop) and place the cookies on a  parchment-lined cookie tray.  I put six cookies per sheet since they spread out.  Cover the raw dough balls with waxed paper or parchment and use a smooth circular glass bottom or measuring cup to smoosh them down so that the cookies are about three inches in diameter.  When you have two cookie sheets filled, slide them into the oven, bake 10 minutes then switch the bottom sheet to the top shelf and the top shelf cookie sheet to the bottom shelf.  Bake another 5-7 minutes until the cookies lose their gloss and are brown around the edges.  Remove from the oven, and let the baked cookies rest on the cookie sheets for 20 minutes, then remove them from the cookie sheets to a cooling rack.  

Cook’s notes:

I love to cool these and freeze them, then I take a few cookies out at a time and briefly reheat them in my toaster oven at 300 degrees for about five minutes.  OR you can form the raw dough balls and freeze them, then take out a dough ball or two, defrost for a half hour then bake on the spot. Add a glass of milk or a cup of tea and enjoy!   

My last go around I ground a bit of coarse sea salt on top before baking.  I loved this addition!  

 

Finally, I have tried these with fancy peanut butter but I wouldn’t waste the money on high quality peanut butter for these since there are so many other flavors and textures.

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BEST Pressure Cooker or Instapot Pinto Beans

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Perfect Pinto Beans

I love beans, as a side dish and as a main course.  I am not in love with beans out of a can and try my best to start from dried. That said, I do use canned beans in a pinch if I don’t have time to make my own.

This recipe is my favorite way to prepare pinto beans – they are flavorful, saucy and delicious in a bowl with grated cheese and condiments. I also like to pour them over any type of rice or as part of a lunch bowl for something heartier.  Plus – they’re lickity split easy and fast – only ten minutes of prep and 22 minutes to cook. 

Right Before Cooking

Pressure Cooker or Instapot Pinto Beans 

Yields 8 large servings

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Ingredients 
  •  1 pound dry pinto beans
  • ½ large brown-skinned onion, peeled but kept whole  
  • ½  good-sized yellow or red bell pepper, seeded but kept whole 
  • Large chunks of 1 carrot + 1 celery + 1 parsnip (optional)
  • 4 large cloves peeled garlic
  • A handful of fresh cilantro if you have it (optional)
  • 3 ½  cups water with a tablespoon of chicken stock, (I like Better Than Bouillion)
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste (I use my always ready tube)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard (the kind you put on hamburgers)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1 tsp neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado

SUCH Simple Ingredients

Instructions
  • Place beans in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker and add enough water to cover by 2″ to 3″. Allow to soak overnight or for at least six hours. Alternatively, bring the beans to a boil before soaking and let them simmer away for two minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and let the beans sit in the hot water, covered, for at least an hour.  After the soaking time, drain off and discard the soaking water and rinse the beans with fresh cool water, draining well. Set aside.
  • Add everything above to the soaked and rinsed beans and stir well.
  • Lock the lid in place, let the pressure cooker or Instapot come to full pressure and cook 22 minutes from when it reaches full pressure.  
  • When the time is up, allow the steam pressure to naturally release which should take 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes I leave the beans in the pot after turning off the heat and go to do errands, returning two hours later.  Fine. After the natural release, remove the lid. Remove the onion, carrot, celery, and herbs with kitchen tongs.
  •  Stir, taste and season with salt as desired. You shouldn’t need much, or any, salt.
  • Sometimes I package the beans into smaller containers and freeze them.  And while the beans are cooking I often make some type of rice, which also freezes well.  

Notes: I usually do a quick soak rather than overnight just because when I get a hankering for beans, I don’t want to wait for the long soak  Also, as these sit after cooking they thicken up quite a bit, so don’t panic if they seem soupy.  Give them a couple of hours and you’ll be skurprised by how much the liquid becomes much less liquidy, if that is a word!

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Peachy Lemon Pound Cake

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Lovely Peachy Lemon Pound Cake

Worry not – I’m back to my Corona baking! This week, I chose this recipe for two reasons.  #1: it makes two loaves of dessert or breakfast bread and #2: during our video chat the other week, my sisters talked about peaches and a peach bread recipe in the New York Times.  I found the recipe of which they spoke and intended to make it too – after all, the three of us are not very independent thinkers when it comes to trying recipes.  However, I Googled Peach Pound Cake and found a recipe in the Washington Post that originated from a peach grower in Tennessee.  Peaches?  Southern baking?  OK, I’m in.

I switched ingredients because I don’t go to the store often these days, so I used what I already had in my kitchen.  I changed other instructions too — just because that is how I rock and roll.  What I ended up with is a personalized version of a pound cake that is more lemony than peachy, but very moist and delicious.  I highly recommend you try this. I ate two pieces before lunch. No shame.  

Glazed and Good to Go!

Peachy Lemon Pound Cake

Makes 2 loaves

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Pound Cake Ingredients

(Note: I always love weighing ingredients when possible so you can use either method!)

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (219 grams)
  • ½ cup medium ground cornmeal (75 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted because mine always clumps
  • ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Grated zest from two average-sized lemons
  • ½ cup plain kefir (shake before measuring) – you could also use buttermilk but I didn’t have any
  • ¼ cup whole or 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks of salted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 medium-sized peaches, peeled* and chopped finely – about ⅓ inch cubes  
Glaze Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle.  Spray two 8×4 inch loaf pans with Pam, line the bottoms of each pan with a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom, and respray the bottom.

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl and set aside

Combine the lemon zest, kefir or buttermilk, milk, and vanilla in a glass measuring cup.

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar for three minutes, stopping twice to scrape down the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating until each egg is incorporated.

Turn the mixer to medium and add the dry ingredients a third at a time.  After the flour mixture is well combined, add about half of the liquid ingredients from the glass measuring cup.

Beat for about a minute once all the flour mix and liquids are in the bowl.  Turn off the mixer and fold in the cubed peaches.

Divide the mixture between the two prepared loaf pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula.  Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Put the pans on a wire rack to cool for 45 minutes.  Gently shake the loaf pans to release the cake edges from the pan and turn out onto the wire rack to finish cooling for another 15 minutes.  

While the loaves are cooling the final 15 minutes, whisk together the lemon juice and sifted powdered sugar.  The mix should be fairly thick, more than maple syrup – kind of like cake frosting.  Add more powdered sugar or lemon juice if needed.

At the end of the 15 minutes, while the cakes are on the rack, they will be warmish but ready for the frosting.  I put a piece of waxed paper under the rack to catch dribbles then divide the glaze in half and spread evenly on top of the loaf.  Let everything cool completely and don’t wrap or store until the frosting is hardened.  

This would be good with a dollop of whipping cream or plain yogurt and some fresh peach slices or raspberries on the side.  Best of all, you have another loaf to give away! Or … just eat yourself.  

*PS: To peel peaches – I bring a saucepan of water to the boil, make a shallow X cut in the bottom of each peach and lower the peaches into the water. Let them simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the hot water to a bowl filled with iced water.  The skin then peels off easily and quickly, and you won’t have to struggle to peel your peaches or lose any peach flesh.

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