Monday, July 26, 2010

Slim Pickings Yield Delicious Results

Last week, our pantry and fridge stock had grown a little low, but I did have some amazing local carrots, and some yummy yellow currant tomatoes from my own garden. Earlier that day at lunch, my friend had some fantastic looking black bean soup, so I decided to try to make a local organic version. I was pleasantly surprised at the tasty the results!

Black Bean Soup

1 Onion, Diced (I used Vidalia for extra sweetness.)
2 Carrots, Diced
2 Cans of Black Beans
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Cup of Currant Tomatoes (Or chopped regular tomatoes if you don't have the currant variety)
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Teaspoons of Ground Cumin
1-1/2 Cup of Water
1 Chili Pepper, Minced (Optional)
Sour Cream for Topping
Cilantro for Garnish

In a Dutch Oven, pour in the olive oil and toss in the garlic, cumin, carrots, chili pepper and onion. Saute until the onion is translucent. Add the black beans, water and tomatoes. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of chopped cilantro.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vacation Road Snack

Since I'm on vacation today, and we're heading up to the mountains, I decided to make a little road trip snack. A lot of people seem amazed when I tell them that I bake pancakes or muffins from scratch, but the truth of the matter is, it's really simple. There aren't that many more steps than buying the bag of mix (with who knows what added in) and pouring in your milk. This recipe took me approximately 15 minutes to stir up the batter and then 20 to bake. And the results were absolutely worth the extra 10 minutes I put into the batter!

Blueberry Almond Muffins
Makes 12 Large Muffins


2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup of Wheat Bran (Optional)
1 Tablespoon of Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
1/4 Teaspoon of Grated Nutmeg
1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds
1-1/2 Cups Fresh Blueberries

1-1/4 Cups of Milk
1 Large Egg
2/3 Cup of Light Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla (or if you have it, Vanilla Paste, which has the lovely vanilla seeds)
6 Tablespoons of Melted Butter

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix all of your wet ingredients together (sugar is always considered a wet ingredient in baking.) Then add the wet ingredients into the dry bowl and mix just until the batter comes together. Don't over mix, it should look lumpy and thick. Grease your muffin pan, and spoon your batter evenly across the 12 muffins. Sprinkle a bit of light brown sugar and cinnamon across the tops if you like, then bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a knife poked into the muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cajun Meets Fresh

When I was a kid, my grandfather would take trips down to Louisiana for a few days, and he would come back with several cooler loads of crawfish, gator and other seafood. We would all gather at his house with the smells of semi-authentic Cajun food filling the air. Granddad never worked off a recipe, but everything was always delicious. When I cook my Gumbo now, it takes me back to those halcyon days, and life does not seem better than when I take a great big, spicy bite!

Gumbo (Simple)

2 Tablespoons of Butter
2 Tablespoons of Flour
2 Bay Leaves
4 Carrots, Diced
3 Stalks of Celery, Diced
1 Onion, Diced
5 Green Onions, Chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
2 Thai Hot Peppers
1 lb. of Andouille or Chorizo
1 lb. Crawfish
3 Tomatoes, Diced
1 lb. Okra, Chopped
1 Can of Chicken Stock
1 Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
1 Teaspoon Cumin
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Separately prepare some risotto or arborio rice.

In a big Dutch Oven, on medium heat, toss in your flour, bay leaves, some cracked black pepper, and butter. Stir often until the butter is the color of cafe au lait. Add in your carrots, celery, onion, green onions, Thai Hot Peppers and garlic. Take the links of sausage and pinch out 1" balls of meat into the vegetables. Cook until the vegetables are translucent, continue stirring often. Next toss in your okra and tomatoes, with the tomato juices and seeds. Cook for approximately 3 more minutes. Add in the chicken broth, crawfish, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, or until the crawfish are pink and cooked through. Add salt to taste.
Grab a bowl, spoon in some rice and pour some Gumbo on top!