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andean bean stew with squash and quinoa

November 4th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

This is a perfect stew for right now, for November, for cool nights and for filling your house with warmth. I made this two years ago and we loved it; this being long before we passed on meat in favor of hearty vegetable dishes and grains. So bringing it up again serves more than a purposeful means to introduce you to something I loved, but to reintroduce myself to a great idea, once more.

I’m giving you the Weeknight Version of this hearty and delicious stew, ready in about as much time as it takes for your squash to cook in the pan. If you are so inclined, use dried beans instead, with the proper soaking. As with many soups or stews, this dish tastes better with a day in the fridge, but it also thickens substantially so you’ll want to add more broth or liquid the next day.

Delicious and hearty, with a good healthy twist and terrific for a cool weather meal, what’s NOT to love about this??

 

 

Andean Bean Stew with Winter Squash and Quinoa

1 winter squash of choice, peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T. sweet paprika
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid (use regular if you don’t have these available)
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed well
1 bay leaf
3 T. chopped basil or parsley

In a sturdy stockpot, brown the onion in oil of choice, about 10 minutes or so. Add the paprika and stir to coat, cooking for a minute. Add in garlic and stir, cook for 30 seconds or until very fragrant. Add in tomatoes and their juice and cook for a few minutes to combine flavors. Stir in the beans and squash. Fill the tomato can with water and empty into the pot. The solids should be only just covered with liquid. This is a thick stew. Add more if necessary and put the bay leaf in the pot. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, but not thoroughly cooked- 30 minutes or so. Stir in the quinoa and simmer until the grain is translucent and the tiny thread appears- about 10-15 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with basil or parsley.

from The New York Times, Recipes for Health and Nutrition, Nov. 2008

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

recovering……

September 4th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

I came away from a long visit to the Minnesota State Fair this year with two prominent thoughts:

#1- The absolute BEST way to attend such a gastronomic event, where most everything is deep fried, with enormous portions, not so very healthy and most always made with meat is to go with a big group of like-minded friends so you can share all the gustatory delights and not leave feeling bloated and ill.

#2- I went to the Fair, knowing all the above regarding the food offerings and I ate everything that I felt like eating- including meat- sort of as a means to remind myself why I prefer to fill my belly with healthy and nutritious foods instead of the crap that often constitutes the American diet.

And that night, after sharing in the consumption of fried cheese curds, an Asian style pork burrito, fried pickles, cajun french fries, honey sunflower ice cream, sweet corn ice cream (FOUR portions shared between six of us- wow, so darn good), falafel, gyros and a strange but satisfying vegetarian dish that included lentils, rice, pasta and fried onions, I went to bed with aching legs from the 7 hours of walking, and woke in the night with a fully expected belly-ache. And I mean a raging hurricane of complaints from the tummy, saying over and over and over again “What did you DO to me!!!???”

I mean, four months is not a lot when compared to a lifetime in terms of good eating. But four months IS a lifetime though, because really, it took me only two days at the start of those four months to realize that changing the eating game for me was really beneficial. And it doesn’t take but one day of eating lousy to send my body back into a whirlwind of pain and suffering. It’s that easy, and your body is pretty good at reminding you of what happens when you feed it junk. My poor belly whirled and twisted, like an angry toddler with flailing fists as if it just couldn’t believe what I’d done to it.

The harder part however, was fighting off the urge to continue eating more junk, despite the protesting belly. It was like a switch was flipped in my head, a switch that said GIMME!! with red-hot intensity, to grease and fat. One day of eating poorly and I suddenly was flooded with urges for food I hadn’t regularly eaten in years. Mike made oatmeal for breakfast and I couldn’t eat it. With my tummy still doing cartwheels over the previous days intake, a bowl of something warm and healthy was the last thing it wanted, but really what I was craving was a huge carb and fat feast the likes of which I haven’t consumed for a long time. I drank a protein shake instead and that sort of helped, but I still fought off intense cravings for junk all day long. By late afternoon, I gave in and devoured a partial bag of chips that was in the cupboard, then by dinnertime my stomach was pleading with me to give it something green and chock full of vitamins. I can’t recall ever feeling so desperate for something healthy. Ever. With my mind and body at war over the onslaught, I was disoriented and restless, feeling depressed and scattered. It was eye-opening and somewhat scary how quickly all that junk food took over my mind and belly and fought for domination.

But I am nothing short of stubborn.

And my belly and mind can try and fight for domination over my heart and common sense but it won’t work. I knew what I needed and thankfully, it was all right there in the kitchen. A bag of chard, the remains of a container of cherry tomatoes and a can of great northern beans and soon I was happily consuming something green, sending my belly the message that those cries for help had been heard.

I even included the colorful and crunchy chard stems in my meal.

Tossed with a bit of oil and dusted with salt and pepper, I roasted this batch of stems until they were tender and nicely chewy, giving a pleasant added texture to the soft earthy chard. The stems are a really nice touch to any medley of roasted vegetables, especially tiny red potatoes and fresh carrots and they are rich with chard’s lush, dark flavor. This dish is quick to come together, making it a cinch to readily step up and cure what ails you, whether it’s a gastronomic overload of wanton delights or just a stressful, busy day.

 

Simple Chard Sauté

1 bunch chard, stems removed
1 15-oz can Great Northern beans, rinsed well
1 small leek, split, washed and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

Wash the chard leaves thoroughly and spin them dry. To make them easier to cook and eat, rough chop them into manageable pieces. Wash the stems, trim the ragged edges and chop them in to bite sized pieces.

In a medium skillet with a lid, heat a small amount of oil and add the leek and chard stems. Season with a bit of sea salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard stems are tender and the leek is browned slightly, maybe 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until the mixture is very fragrant.

Add the chard leaves by the handful, stirring the leaves to begin wilting them. Continue adding leaves and stirring until they cook down to a manageable size. Add about 1/3 cup of water to the skillet, stir in the beans and tomato and then cover the skillet. Allow to steam over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes undisturbed. Remove the cover, season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

exploring chard

July 10th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

Beyond the deep green of spinach, and now kale, I hadn’t yet moved towards other deep green leafy vegetables, such as collards, mustard greens, or chard of any variety. But I’m working slowly to incorporate more of this incredibly nutritional vegetable in to my diet though. It’s a work in progress, for sure. So, in consideration that I didn’t just wake up one morning in a “Hallelujah!!” moment and love spinach to death, or eat one bite of kale and declare myself transformed, trying out Chard, and finding that I liked it on the first attempt was somewhat surprising.

( photo courtesy of Going Local )

I’m exploring a lot more offerings on the tables at the Farmers Market these days. And really, I’m loving the results. Approaching my favorite organic farmer one afternoon, I spied a small bunch of delicate baby red chard sitting on his table, with it’s lush deep red veins and crisp, exceptionally dark leaves and something in my mind went “Get that now!” and so I held out a few dollars and walked away with this thick bunch of greens thinking “I have no clue what to do with this.”

But thankfully, that’s never stopped me before. And we learn a lot through often just following our will in to adventure; listening to the voice that tells us to turn left at the crossroads, even when you have no idea where ‘Left’ goes. I trust my gut instinct. And this bundle of red chard was that gut instinct telling me to branch out. So I sauteed the chard one morning, and topped it with a poached egg. I’d been making this breakfast for a while now, only with leafy braised kale and loving how energizing and delicious it was. It seemed the next logical step was to try it with chard.

And I was devouring – devouring –  the last bite when I realized that I should have maybe tried to take a picture of it. So trust me, ok? It was divine.

The next week when I went back, there sat my favorite farmer, again with bunches of Red Chard on his table, although much larger and leafier than before. I told him how delicious that tiny bunch had been and his eyes lit up. You see, my very first experience with chard years ago, and subsequent experiences since then were not favorable. Maybe I wasn’t ready at that point to be going ‘Left’ in my exploration of leafy greens, of appreciating the merits of good health that they offered.  It hadn’t left a very good impression, but that little bunch of organic chard, at this point in my life where I am firmly rooted in learning, exploring and embracing a plant-based eating plan, well that impulse purchase had Wow-ed me, and I happily handed over a few more dollars and stuffed another huge bunch in my sack. When I made it again, it was lunch for Mike and I.

And I remembered to take a picture.

But like spinach, and beet greens, a whole enormous pile of leafy chard can be reduced to a little pile of barely anything by a few quick turns in a hot skillet. And with one lunch, plus me stealthily hiding the leftovers so only I could benefit from them, that delicious $2 bunch of red chard was gone in a matter of moments. But it left such a nice taste and experience in my mouth that I eagerly anticipated a return to said farmer, and maybe TWO bunches of it this time. Alas, by the time I got back to that market, his slot remained unhappily empty. Given that it was the day after July 4th, I’ll grant him his absence. But by golly, if next week rolls around and he isn’t in his usual place, his hat pushed back and a truck full of truly wonderful produce behind him, don’t be surprised if you hear that I’ve broken down crying.

Because that’s how quickly, and deeply I’ve fallen for this rich and lush green. It’s dark and brooding, silky, tender and tastes like I’m in the middle of a deep forest drawing in the air, and the green. Can a vegetable taste like a color? Does color even have a taste? To me it does, and this chard tastes like it looks. Deep green, and rich with flavor and I’m sold, 100%.

Have you tried Chard? What do you like to do with it?

 

Chard and White Beans with Fresh Herbs

2 small shallots, finely minced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced (use minced garlic scapes if you have them, about 2 T. worth)
2 big bunches red chard, stems removed and rough chopped
1 15-oz can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 T. each finely minced parsley and thyme
1/2 c. cooked wheatberries (optional- I had these on hand and they were delightful in this dish)

In a large skillet, saute shallot and garlic until tender. Add the chard in handfuls, stirring to saute. Cook chard for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in white beans and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes to blend flavors. Add a few tablespoons of water if dry.

Recipe from Whole Foods, with heavy modifications


 

no ‘d’ word allowed

January 24th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

It’s January, and there are a million resolves to make healthier changes; to exercise more, to eat better, to get more sleep, to connect deeper, to make the 180° change that’s going to revolutionize our lives.

And by now, heading towards the end of the month, how’s everyone doing? Still holding on? Going strong? Let’s put our collective fingers on this a moment. We all think about it each year, come January. We’re determined, striving ahead. And somewhere along the way, there comes a realization that change is hard. As a species, we don’t handle change all that well. If you don’t agree, look at the amount of griping that occurs any time Facebook makes changes, or what happened when Twitter recently went through it’s re-design. (for the record, I like BOTH new sites much better) and you realize that it doesn’t take much to make us feel like the earth is being yanked out from underneath us. And inevitably, a lot of those changes we want end up falling by the wayside because if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we will admit that change is very, very hard.

I’ve been there. Done that. It is really hard to make positive and lasting changes, and these will take time, regardless of what they are. In August of 2007, I realized that I needed to lose some weight. What I saw in a photograph made me cringe. It was NOT pretty. Still, I didn’t actively embark on making those changes, much less following through until November of 2008, well over a year later. But by the time I did implement what I needed, I stuck with it, and in the Spring of 2009 I was 25# lighter and down two pants sizes. So the bottom line for me was to get both my head and my heart around what needed to get done. Once that happened, there was little to stop me.

Changes take time. Habits don’t form overnight. If you really want the success of integrating new habits into your life, give it time and give yourself a break. Berating failure only pushes us backwards, and we all have off days. There’s no goal you can reach for that has to have a set time limit, nor any that isn’t amendable along the way. If it’s weight loss you seek, take baby steps and celebrate the first 5 pounds, then the next. Pay attention to how your clothes fit because sometimes that’s a better indication of what your body is achieving than the number on the scale.

And please, please, please…… don’t use the word “DIET”.

For every person alive, “diet” rings with deprivation. A wonderful friend of mine admits she needs to make some big changes in her eating habits, but laments “I don’t want to be eating oatmeal and plain chicken breasts for the rest of my life.” So instead of considering it as a “diet” I suggested she think of it more as a permanent lifestyle change, because that’s what it boils down to in the long run. And it won’t happen overnight. Do the baby steps and celebrate each one instead of dumping the contents of your refrigerator and pantry in the trash and then thinking “What now?” The habits we’re ingrained with didn’t occur in a few days, they took months, and sometimes years to build up. And to reverse them, they could feasibly take months, or maybe even years to become something new, something better for you and wiser, overall.

And food habits are hard to change. Long ago I used to be addicted to Burger King french fries, and Wendy’s Chicken Nuggets. I would see their signs as I drove and get an undeniable craving, so bad that I almost broke out in a sweat. I know! It was awful! And on one occasion as I stuffed those first hot golden french fries in my mouth, I was hit with the realization that they tasted simply awful. But guess what I did? Yep. I ate the entire order anyway. My mouth felt like it had been assaulted; it was coated with this horrible aftertaste, heavy and greasy. And my stomach hurt. I was appalled at myself because even when I clearly realized that I didn’t even like the product, I kept eating it anyway. It was the same with Wendy’s; I could consume two orders of their Chicken Nuggets without a single hesitation despite knowing I didn’t even like them, yet the one day that my brain equated those nuggets with warm rubbery sponges was the last time I ever put one in my mouth. Still, I couldn’t tell you how long it took me to get there. It was an embarrassment to me, and I really struggled to kick those habits, as well as many other unhealthy ones I used to have.

I’ve made drastic changes to my eating in the last 5 years, and have noticed immeasurable improvement to my health in the process. It’s no cliche that when you eat better, you feel better. I know through personal experience. Just recently I drank Diet Coke- with fresh squeezed lime wedges in it!-  for the first time in ages, and man what a stomachache! It tasted all right, in fact, it tasted really good but I seriously wanted to cry because my stomach was so twisted up in knots. As uncomfortable as I was, I rejoiced also, as it instilled in me the same resolve that the french fries and chicken nugget revelation did; this isn’t good for me, and I shouldn’t be consuming it. But still, it took time for me to get there. And it will take time for you too. Take the baby steps, celebrate the small victories and be kind to yourself in the process.

If there’s one meal you want to change this week, you could try out this nutritional powerhouse of a salad. It requires no special ingredients, and is really inexpensive to make.

This garlicky White Bean Salad with Tuna and Avocado is a super-bomb of good food to put in your body. It’s full of fiber to keep you satiated and operating at open throttle all afternoon, with the very important Omega-3, and monounsaturated fats that our bodies need. It’s also quick, and works equally well as a warm main dish with a few good sides, or a quick cold salad for your lunch. And the garlic is cooked, so your family and co-workers are safe. I had a small bowl of this for lunch, along with some fruit and by dinnertime I wasn’t even hungry. I love meals like that.

Garlicky White Bean Salad with Tuna and Avocado

2 15-oz cans Great Northern Beans, rinsed well
1 3-oz can tuna in olive oil, drained
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 T. fresh thyme (use 1 t. of dried)
1 medium avocado, diced

Drain tuna well and place in a large bowl. Flake with fork until shredded.

Heat a skillet on the stove and add about a tablespoon of olive oil and the  garlic. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the garlic is translucent and fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic!! Stir in herbs and great northern beans. Heat through, stirring, for about 5 minutes more, drizzling in a bit more olive oil to coat. Remove from heat and add to bowl with tuna, mixing well. Stir in avocado, season with salt and pepper and serve warm. Can be chilled as well.

KATE’S NOTES:
Canned salmon can be subbed for the tuna, or chopped sardines if it’s your thing. You can add finely chopped veggies as well, like celery or red pepper or cucumber. Rosemary is really flavorful in this too. If you want to get creative with it, the entire dish can be put through a food processor and used as a spread for a wrap, on top of toasted baguette slices or thinned a little with milk or water and used as a dip for fresh vegetables.

simple pleasures

February 16th, 2010 | 8 Comments »

Last year wasn’t my favorite year. Come to think of it, 2008 tossed some bombs my way and it all seemed to carry over, spreading out over time and trying to suck all the life out of me at every turn. As 2010 approached, and I looked back on the 12 months behind me, it was a bit sad to see that I’d paid far too much attention to the valleys in my life, and forgot to take in the view from the peaks.

Life is all about valleys and peaks. We’re up, we’re down and when we’re not, there’s the climbing out of the abyss and of course, slipping as we fall back into it. Sometimes our peaks are long, straight paths that resonate with light and glory, and we feel great. For a long time. Life is good and we breathe easy. But we slip, once more. The valleys can be dark. It’s hard sometimes to keep remembering that it doesn’t last forever. I’ve struggled to keep my chin up, part of me wishing fervently that this time of trial would just end already because really, I’ve had quite enough, thank you. Then I always realize that I’m climbing once again.

One aspect of 2010 that I’ve really wanted to do more of was to keep focused on the good, even when it seemed like there was nothing but darkness all around me. Fortunately, we’re only 6 weeks in, and what few dark moments that presented themselves passed rather quickly. It’s exciting to see the Earth changing around me, to notice with delight that there is still light at 5:45pm, that the tilt of the sun has changed enough to make 15° in February feel way different than it did in January. Or December. We’ve been absolutely dumped on in terms of the snowfall, and it’s given us quite a gorgeous landscape to look out over, and some stellar cross-country skiing. But beyond the natural turn that is happening, and the shorter amount of time between us and the arrival of Spring, it seems like there’s a whirlwind of good happening around me too. I hope to be able to share much more of what it entails as it pans out, but right now it’s slowly starting to twirl, like a tentative pirouette, moments of time pressing together and gradually expanding that are quietly whispering “Soon. Be Patient.”

The famous poem ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann has a line that says “… and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” For a long time it just never felt clear to me, it felt more like I was standing still while the world twisted and moved on around me. That’s changing, as is my perspective and I’m grateful. I’ve had this sensation inside me for a while now that I’m standing at the edge of a cliff, and everything in me knows that I just have to leap despite the voice in my head that’s saying “No- step back! You’re really scaring me!” I’m in my Indiana Jones moment, on the edge of that precipice. And this is my leap of faith. There is a bridge there that will catch me, even though I can’t see it.

There is one aspect of this extended time of trial in my life, and that is being available to just stop and enjoy those tiny moments along the way that can be so easily overlooked. Sitting down for a cup of tea one day really opened my eyes as the square cup seemed to fill my hands so perfectly. Moments of clarity that come from spending days with my almost 2-year old niece Nina,losing track of myself for awhile as I see life through her eyes. A Fall hike on a misty day that seems to leave the world around me at a standstill, smothered in the thick, wet air.

And with food too. Simple, easy and nourishing; stopping myself long enough to savor my lunch or an afternoon snack, taking the time to taste, smell and appreciate what’s in front of me.

I’ve spoken out for these garlicky white beans before, urging you to try them and fall in love with their simplicity like I have, the endless ways they can be dressed up as a quick yet nutritious meal. One bright and sunny afternoon I set out to simply stir together this favorite of mine, and as I perused the pantry, fridge and countertop, I reached for a can of tuna, half an avocado and some washed spinach, which when paired this time with lime zest and juice instead of lemon, made yet another winning combination. Great taste, good for the body and with the first few bites, apparently very good for the soul.

White Bean and Tuna Salad
by Kate

1 15-oz can great northern beans, drained and well rinsed
1 3-oz can of tuna, drained
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1/2 a ripe avocado, diced
1 c. fresh spinach, washed and chopped
Lime zest and juice to taste

Fresh thyme (optional)

In a medium skillet, warm about 3 tablespoons of oil and add garlic, sauteing gently until lightly browned. Add in the beans and tuna and warm, stirring to combine. When hot and steaming, add about half the spinach and stir until wilted slightly. Repeat with remaining spinach. Grate in some of the lime zest and squeeze in about 2 tablespoons of the juice. Stir and taste. Season with salt and pepper, more lime zest and juice if desired. Remove from heat and scrape into a bowl. Add the avocado and gently mix it in. Sprinkle with thyme and serve warm with rye crackers if you wish, or toasted pita bread.

Three years blogging

June 26th, 2009 | 17 Comments »

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of this blog. Am I happy about it? That depends on the day, but usually yes. And sometimes, more often than not these days, I would say no.

I admit that I’ve toyed a lot lately – a lot!-  with quitting this past time of mine. Part of me feels if I hit the ‘Delete’ button that there wouldn’t be many people who would notice. You see, the thing is, everyone is writing a blog these days; it’s the thing to do- it’s cool, trendy etc etc. And the sheer number of food blogs out there is astonishing beyond imagination. It seems like anyone who’s ever been told ‘Hey, this is GOOD!’ has decided to write a food blog. Some of them are amazing, and they humble me greatly. Others? Feh. A can of soup poured over a microwaved potato somehow doesn’t strike me as being fodder for a blog, but hey, who am I to ask what other people want? After three years it has become apparent to me that I still haven’t got a clue, and that maybe I never will. This has become OK with me, in a hard-fought and harsh sort of way.

roadsign

I’ve had some recent face-palm moments of anxiety though, there’s been ranting and grousing; Facebook conversations with treasured blog buddies and true friends have been able to talk me me down off the ledge which is why I am here to write this anniversary post. These moments of extreme instability have thankfully had a purpose. I have at least come to understand the most important reason why I continue to do this even when it often makes me crazy; I would rather have half a dozen genuine and honest comments about what I post that come right from a readers heart lush with praise than a hundred fickle and shallow ones that only say ‘Yum!’. Because it’s important for me to touch someone through this giant web we live in, to touch a part of them that matters. Our lives are too informal and detached. We type messages to one another instead of speaking face to face, fall into television shows and disappear, plug in our earbuds and tune out the rest of the world. If this is how life has turned, I can jump aboard with the rest and I certainly have. You all know, if you’ve been here long enough, how much I love Facebook and how it keeps me connected with so many, over thousands of miles, the past and the present colliding all in one crazy spot, and this blog is yet another way that I can reach out across the spaces in between and give everyone a part of who I am. That is what’s important to me. I want it to feel like coming home to an old and trusted friend. My reward is in your words, and I want you to know I appreciate them immensely.

hugging

The rest of it is certainly still evolving and no one is more surprised than I am about how this blog has pushed me to stretch and re-define my food tastes and more thoroughly examine both what I do and how I eat, and in keeping with the way I choose to nourish myself and my family, the food will remain real and honest. My hope each time I post a recipe is that you find something in it that lights a spark. That you read the recipe and say not only “I can do that!” but “I WANT to do that!” Because I don’t find it at all coincidental that as we strive towards that always elusive brass ring, surrounding ourselves with technology and silencing the voices of those around us in favor of an array of electronics, that the urge and need to feed our stomachs AND our souls grows ever louder and more persistent. We congregate where there is nourishment for every aspect of our lives and our hunger isn’t always for food; it’s for something to touch us, to touch our lives and give us a reason to smile, a means for being connected – really connected and not just with a power cord-  and I hope that you’ll find a small part of that here.

This blog- this three years in the making blog of mine, it’s not about mass appeal and I hope someone smacks me a good one if I even think to post an ad on it. It isn’t about my stats, or readership. I don’t feel I need to roam the USA going to blog conferences and schmoozing (I hate schmoozing for schmooze sake….I just like to hang out and talk to people). I’m not big on posting recipes that have worn out a welcome, I don’t jump on food trends, I’m not a locavore and I dislike labels. I love to cook and I’m really darn good at it. That’s all I want to share.

cooking

And I did promise you something food related as you put up with me in my last post going on about learning life lessons in the garden and talking about my darling shaved cat, so I won’t disappoint but this is something pretty simple. Almost too simple. That’s what makes it so good though.

It’s a wrap.
wraps 001wraps 002

Nothing superbly special, right?

But I’ll tell you, start with this creamy Avocado White Bean Spread and any wrap you make will be just a titch better. Grill some chicken, beef strips or shrimp, get some good crab meat or top quality tuna and add whatever vegetables you prefer. Grate some good cheese into it. Wrap it in a nice flavorful tortilla and pour some ice tea. The weather has been HOT here, and this cool and quick dinner was just the ticket. We were picking at the crumbs and sighing in contentment at each other. A few fresh cherries rounded out a perfect summer meal.


Creamy Avocado and White Bean Spread

From Eating Well magazine (and adapted slightly by Kate)

1 15-oz can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 ripe avocado
1/2 c. grape tomatoes (my addition)
1-2 T. finely minced red onion (or use some good onion powder like Penzeys)
Fresh ground black pepper and coarse salt to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients and process until slightly chunky. Scrape sides. Pulse once or twice more to fully combine and scrape into a clean bowl. Season to taste.

Spread about nice layer of this on a tortilla and top with your choice of fillings. Roll up tightly and enjoy. It’s also delicious as a chip and raw vegetable dip (but it does NOT photograph well! Sorry!)

Would you like something equally delicious and appealing with little fuss? How about a nice Mexican Rice?

Kate’s Mexican Rice

1 15-oz can diced or whole tomato
1 medium onion
1 jalapeno (seeded if you wish)
1 4-oz can green chilies
1 1/2 c. white rice

Fresh lime wedges and oil for cooking.

In the bowl of a food processor, place tomato, onion (cut into fourths) jalapeno and green chilies. Blend until mixture is finely chopped, almost to the point of being like a thin salsa. Pour into a measuring cup. It should be about 3-4 cups.

In a deep skillet over medium high flame, heat about 2 T. of cooking oil until very hot. Pour in the rice and stir to coat with oil. Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook, stirring regularly until the rice is turning browned and becoming very fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. The pan should be smoking hot by now. Carefully pour in the tomato mixture- careful of the steam!- and quickly stir to combine it with the toasted rice. Allow to come to a simmer and then cover, reduce heat and cook until liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat and allow pan to stand, covered, for about 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve, squirting some fresh lime juice over the top.

NOTES FOR THE RICE:
You can stir in another chopped jalapeno before serving the cooked rice. It adds another level of heat to the dish. Other good additions are canned black beans (rinsed), frozen corn, sauteed zucchini or roasted peppers. Or all of it. For varied flavors, try using fire roasted tomatoes. If you wish to use fresh tomato, the equivalent would be about three medium sized ones and it’s a good idea if you peel them before using. This is excellent as a rice to use with burritos and tastes fabulous topped with cold chunks of avocado.