Savory Baked Beans on a Rainy Day

It was a dreary day in Seattle recently and I decided to make a batch of savory beans, slowly baked in the oven with herbs and garlic. And then I looked at my assembled-in-5-min-and-ready-to-go-into-the-oven beans and was inspired to write about it. Perhaps you are wondering where the heck I have been. That’s part of the inspiration too….to let the kind souls who have asked about me know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth or succumbed to some weird illness. I’ve been flying almost every other week for work.(Exciting you say? Not really. Though the flight into and subsequent drive from Missoula to Kalispell, Montana was quite beautiful. And wee Grangeville, ID is cuter than I expected it to be…). Plus getting myself slightly over committed with a few work and volunteer projects, and being a hockey mom and then there’s the fact that my year of food blogging put 10 lbs on me from all the thinking, tasting, re-envisioning and re-making (and re-tasting) of food! So I lost inspiration for a while. And seriously…of all the foods to lead to the first post in 4 months, it was the lowly bean? Not so glamorous. But VERY much in the comfort food camp. AND it’s healthy, low fat, high fiber, low glycemic and DELICIOUS! Ok, I’ll stop shouting now. Go make this.

Mixed beans with lots of herbs

Mixed beans with lots of herbs. Though next time I’d use about 1/2 the amount of rosemary pictured here.

Savoury Slow Baked Beans
From my mom, who might have read something somewhere about this method but then just made up her own recipe. She really should have her own blog.

Here’s the general method:
Combine dried beans in a large pot, fill with cold water and soak overnight. Then, drain and place in (several) baking dish(es), add a glug of olive oil and broth/stock of your choice to just cover the beans. Nestle in lots of halved garlic cloves and whichever fresh herbs you want, stems and all, celery stalks, chopped onion. NO SALT. Cover and bake at 350 – 375ºF for 2-3 hours. Check half way, you might need to add more liquid. Beans should be soft when finished. Take out the herb stems and celery stalks, smash in the garlic, onion and season to taste with salt. What you do next is up to you:
-eat in a bowl with a dash of hot sauce
-make some toast and scoop some beans on top
-serve a scoop over rice or quinoa
-puree to make a bean spread/dip
-puree along with cooked vegetables,additional stock or cream for a creamy soup
-use as a starter for a brothy vegetable bean soup

Tips:
Don’t include black beans with others unless you want it to look super dark.
Use rosemary sparingly. It will overpower the other flavors
Don’t salt until beans are soft

Halloween Fun Food

So Evan wants to live in a haunted house. For real. Every year it’s the same conversation about how the inside of the house needs to be really dark and scary. Thankfully he’s satisfied with some outdoor giant webs and spiders and he’s pretty psyched about the new black cauldron that we’ll fill with dry ice this year.

Having a pumpkin ale and a few laughs…modelling the latest reaper wear from J. Creep.

Pumpkin coffee tables from Crypt and Brimstone

You couldn’t pay me to take a photo like this of a real spider.

Our basement window well has turned into a crypt

Styrofoam balls (cut with serrated knife), painted black and joined with toothpicks, plus some black pipe cleaners.

He’s also psyched about Halloween food, like hot dog mummies, spider dip, witches’ hats and, of course, the puking pumpkin. I took the photos below a couple of years ago, before it had even occurred to me to start writing a blog. I was just one of those weird people who takes pictures of her food. Okay, I’m still am.

Mummy Dogs

Chocolate digestive biscuits (or any round chocolate cookie), Hershey’s Kisses and decorator icing tubes (don’t get the gel kind, it doesn’t dry hard).

Layer refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, black olives and salsa in whatever order you want, ending with salsa on top. Pipe sour cream into a web pattern. You can cut a small hole in the corner of a Ziploc bag and use that to pipe the sour cream.

Lightweight…

All Green Guacamole
There’s no real recipe here, keep tasting as you go.

2-3 ripe avocados, finely chopped green onion, tons of chopped fresh cilantro, juice of 1 lime.

Mummy Dogs
If Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a guilty pleasure, here’s your excuse to buy them.

Cut hot dogs into 2-3″ pieces
Roll out Crescent Roll dough and use a sharp knife to cut into narrow strips. Wrap the dough around the hotdogs, but not too tight. Don’t forget to leave space for eyes. Bake according to package directions until golden. Dot with mustard for eyes after they’ve cooled down a bit.

Roasted Fennel. Or, How Not to Be Bested by a Bulb

Ok, I did it. I admitted defeat. It was an exhausting inner struggle and finally I decided that I was the lesser in this battle and the sooner I accepted that, the better. So the garden won, and I gave up and hired a local guy to show my overgrown, weed-infested front yard who’s boss because I clearly could not be bothered was not up for the task. And I feel much improved. And it looks better than it has in years. Sometimes you have to admit defeat. Much like I also did the other night when I couldn’t stop munching on graham crackers with honey….I knew it was PMS….so I went with the flow (ha ha ha…see what I did there?) and caved in to the Borg hormones because I knew resisting was futile. TMI? Bad Star Trek jokes? Sorry….well, we’re all friends here, right?

Well one thing I did not let defeat me was my lack of interest in fennel. I’ve avoided it for years thinking who wants to eat a vegetable that tastes like black licorice? WRONG! It was reminiscent of celery but with a deeper flavour, sweeter, and it was wonderful! No licorice taste….ok maybe the merest hint, but it was so subtle. Cut in quarters, drizzled with olive oil sprinkled with coarse salt and pepper and roasted until tender with crispy bits. It was fantastic. We even persuaded Evan to try some and he replied with “Not bad”, but politely declined any further bites. More for us! Fennel will definitely be on the menu more often.

Roasted Fennel

2-3 fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks and greens, and cut in quarters
Olive oil
Coarse salt and cracked pepper

Drizzle fennel with olive oil and a splash of balsamic if you like. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast at 400° until tender and edges are crispy. About 15-20 min.

Quick Rustic Ratatouille

The veggies in the photo above look so fresh don’t they? It’s all the bright colours I think. I bet you have a ton of zucchini and tomatoes in your garden…maybe even peppers and eggplant. Me? None. Zero. Zilch. It was not my gardening year. It was not Eggton‘s gardening year either. Check out her video. Oh, and read her. She’s funny as hell and always includes pictures of her kids dogs and posts yummy recipes.

For me, there was too much work travel this summer and then lack of motivation to get out there and work in the yard. I can only speak for myself because Bob has a garden too (he takes care of the back yard, I deal with the front) but he grew different stuff. Garlic, onions, peas, beans and some weird looking heirloom tomatoes, oh and corn! A few cobs actually grew this year. That was cool. His stuff looks great. Mine sucks. But I’m not competing or anything. :)

Ok so back to the photo of the ratatouille. The tomatoes and herbs are fresh but everything else has been quickly roasted until tender and the flavours are wonderful. You can make ratatouille any time of year, but there’s nothing better than when everything is in season. (And even better when they come from your own garden but I’ll leave that to you guys, ok?).

This is a quick, rustic rat that’s super simple to throw together. It really benefits from fresh herbs so if you don’t grow them yourself, splurge on them because it will be worth it.

Slice the zucchini in rounds, the eggplants in spears and roughly chop the peppers and onions into ~1″ pieces and toss everything into a mixing bowl as you go. Add salt and pepper. I didn’t measure the salt and pepper but you can see the amount I ground in. Add more if you like.

You dump it all onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast it quickly at high heat. While it’s in the oven you prep the tomatoes and herbs and toss it all together with the hot veggies.

We like ratatouille as a side dish or tossed in pasta, rice or quinoa as a main meal. It makes a great cold pita sandwich with a smear of hummus. I just had it again for lunch tossed with fusilli, some feta cheese and a drizzle of balsamic. Serious yum!

Quick Rustic Ratatouille
Thanks to my mom for this recipe…I’m not sure where she got it but she adapted it and then I did…..) Preheat the oven to 475º.

Cut and toss into a large bowl:
1 small eggplant, cut into thick spears
2 med zucchini, cut in rounds
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
3 bell peppers coarsely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped (I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Hmmmm…kids today probably don’t know what that means.)

Toss with: 3 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet (spray it or spread out a little olive oil on the sheet first)
Roast for 15 min or until the veg are tender.

While the veg are roasting: 
Chop: large handfuls of basil, flat-leaf parsley and cilantro (have about 1-1.5 cups of chopped herbs)
Halve: lots of cherry tomatoes

Take the vegetables out of the oven, stir in the tomatoes and herbs and transfer to a large platter. Enjoy!

First Day of School French Fries

Well, my kid is in Grade 2 now. Sorry, I mean 2nd Grade. My dual-citizen kiddo is really very American and gets mad if you call it Grade 2. There was excitement over a new lunchbox, cool school supplies (I loved school for the school supplies alone! I can spend all day in Staples now….), and a very grown up boy got washed and dressed, made his bed and cleared his breakfast dishes without being asked.

But then the anxiety hit and there was worry, and withering confidence and my very grown up boy became a very teary boy as we walked closer to school. So different from kindergarten when he proudly sat at his Very Own Desk and announced with a giant grin that we could go now. Almost 8 means more to think about, a bit less naïveté about the world, new awareness of things….and more anxiety than Almost 6 did. I hugged him goodbye, loosened his desperate grip on my arm, gave him a thumbs up from the classroom door and managed to get a weak smile in return.

As expected though, I was greeted at 3:20 with light and energy and “My day was AWESOME!!!!”
And then there was the traditional First Day of School Ice Cream and a coffee (milk) together at Starbucks, and home made french fries with dinner.

Home Made French Fries

Use Yukon Gold or another white potato for good crispy fries. Cut them into sticks, place in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 425º until brown. You probably have to turn them once but you can just push them around with a spatula unless you’re Type A enough to turn them individually with tongs. Serve with ketchup….and vinegar eh?

I focus on food and recipes in this blog and the way we make the different dietary needs work in our family. I haven’t written about the food relationship though and it’s something I am intending to do in an upcoming post. But for starters I wanted to share this wonderful post written by a blogger I follow. Sara is a funny, creative and all around excellent human being. Read her. (For my friends and family who read me but don’t blog, a ‘reblog’ is the equivalent of an email forward).

Mediterranean Baked Feta

Oh. You guys. You HAVE to make this. It’s simple and fantastic. We came home from camping and I saw Smitten Kitchen‘s post with all these ingredients I love…feta, kalmata olives, cherry tomatoes. This are the kinds of ingredients I use all the time. BUT I’d never had the idea to serve the feta warm. It takes it to a whole new level. After a week of hot dogs, s’mores, cold cereal, etc this was just what we needed. You need this too.

Slice cherry tomatoes in half, chop olives, toss with thiny sliced onion, minced garlic, oregano and a good grind of pepper.

Place tomato mixture around and on top of a block of feta and bake. Serve immediately. Preferably outside on a deck somewhere.

Mediterranean Baked Feta

You can serve this on crackers, flatbread, pita chips, soft pita etc. Or if you’re watching your bread carbs/gluten try it on cucumber rounds (patted dry), in a lettuce wrap, endive leaves, grape leaves….or just eat it with a spoon!

1/3 – 1/2 lb block feta
1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup kalmata olives, diced (measure with whole olives, then dice)
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1-2 thumb-sized cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh, chopped oregano
pepper

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place block of feta in an oven-proof dish and set aside. In a separate bowl, gently toss tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano together. Then place around and on top of feta. Add a good grind of pepper on top and bake for about 15 min.

Serve immediately. Feta will not melt, but will be spreadable. As it cools it will firm up but can be popped in the oven again. I think it won’t last long enough to really cool down! You could also make a balsamic reduction and drizzle it over when you take the feta out of the oven. (To make a reduction, pour some good balsamic in a sauce pan and heat over med-high until it becomes thick and syrupy).

Roasted Garden Veggies

20120822-153004.jpg

I had the house to myself today for the first time in a while. And though I had to spend the majority of it working, the opportunity to wander through the garden looking for lunch gave me a lift. I felt a little bit guilty snagging the first beets and carrots that were ready but I got over it pretty quick.

20120822-153109.jpg

I’ve always been pretty sure you can roast just about anything and it will be good. I had visions of turning those green beans into crispy bean-fries or something. I tossed them in olive oil and coarse salt but they were terrible. I’ll have to work on that one. Anyone have any ideas? But the beets and carrots are naturals for roasting. All you need are olive oil, coarse salt, pepper and whole sage leaves (which get all crispy, like little sage chips). Roast at 400º for about 20 min or until fork tender. A rainbow on my plate. Yum.

20120822-153101.jpg

Peach Blueberry Galette

I guess it’s fitting that Sanjay Gupta weighed in on whether sugar is ‘toxic’ on 60 Minutes last night. So this galette is probably a bad idea. But it’s a mouthwateringly delectable bad idea. Everything in moderation, right? So make it for when you have company and not when you’re at risk of hanging out alone with your pie. Unless you’re one of those freaks of nature people who can eat just a small, reasonable amount of dessert.
Me? I can’t be trusted.

Soak blueberries in 1 part white vinegar and 4 parts water. Rinse and enjoy. The vinegar will kill any mold spores and they’ll last a lot longer if you buy a big batch.

This is super easy. (Yes, Stacie, even you, self-confessed ‘poser in all culinary endeavours’ can make this :) – though I suspect you are a better cook than you profess given how fit you look!) I was lazy and bought frozen pie shells and it rocked. Put the frozen pie shell (remove from tin plate) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave it to warm up and soften. Then cut up the fruit, toss in sugar and flour, pile in the middle, fold up the sides and bake. See? How hard was that?

Peach Blueberry Galette
adapted from Dinner with Julie

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place frozen pie shell on the parchment. The sides should relax as it warms up and eventually lie flat. If you make your own pastry, roll it out to about 10″ diameter. Stir together the sugar and flour and then toss in the diced fruit. Pile the fruit in the middle of the pastry spreading out to within one inch of the edge. Fold up the sides of the pastry folding it wherever. You can brush the pastry with cream or milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar if you want to. Bake for about 30 min or until bubbly and brown. Don’t worry if the berry juice leaks out. Just let it cool and it will be fine.

1 single crust pie shell (~10″)
2 peaches, diced
1 cup berries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour

Tomato and White Bean Salad

I’ve been waiting for months to make this salad again. Waiting for fresh tomatoes and sweet onions from the garden, basil from the pot on my front step…finally I couldn’t wait any longer. If I waited for my own tomatoes it would be late August before this came to be so we made do. Bob bought some unbelievable cherry tomatoes…so pretty!

These are not from my garden!

But this onion did come from our backyard. The first year growing them and we lucked out. They are very mild and perfect for eating in salad. (Try a slice of sharp cheddar cheese with a small slice of mild onion on top. It’s one of the best flavour combos).

I think this photo is really cool. Love Instagram! Doesn’t this kind of look like it belongs in a film noir or something?

This salad should work as a main source of protein for the vegan/vegetarians and as a really great side dish for the carnivores. On its own with some bread (or not), it makes a perfect lunch, outside, feet up, with a good book. It doesn’t really work for Evan, who hasn’t decided he’s going to try fresh tomato, nor beans, let alone all mixed up in the same bowl! Plus there are “bits of green” in it, which crosses it off his list immediately. So we ate this salad with some flank steak and quinoa. Bob The Veg ate the quinoa and salad, Selective Evan had quinoa and steak and I happily enjoyed all three. One meal, three ways.

Tomato and White Bean Salad
We were in a hurry when I made this salad and completely forgot to make a vinaigrette but it didn’t need it in the end. If you want one, drizzle some olive oil and vinegar. Use a mild vinegar like champagne vinegar or rice vinegar.

1 can small white beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or larger tomato diced small
1/2 cup diced mild onion
1/2 cup basil, sliced in ribbons
coarse salt and pepper to taste