Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beans, Beans the Musical....

Make your beans at home.  Really, you can do it in about 10 minutes or less of your time and they taste so much better and are healthier and cheaper than store bought canned ones.  With reports of BPA in canned goods, I've really been careful with what I buy canned and try to avoid buying them.  Another few bonuses of making your own beans is that you can flavor them as you wish, make them organic, and remove the gas causing stuff buy tossing in a carrot.  Did you know that last part?  We can all thank my mother-in-law for that little tid bit of info. :)
To get started, you can purchase dry beans at most grocery stores.  I prefer to get mine at Whole Foods in the bulk section.  There, I can get how ever much or little I want as well as the organic beans.  For this recipe today, I used pinto beans, but you can follow the same steps for black beans and northern beans.  Chickpeas can be done with these steps too, however I don't do the same flavoring and I don't puree them.
Next, pour the dry beans in to a large pot and do a quick sift through to check for any small stones.
Then cover the beans with cool water.  Make sure there is a couple of extra inches of top water in the pot.  Cover the pot and let the beans soak over night.  See, your hands on work so far is less than 2 minutes (except for going to the grocery store, but you had to do that anyway for other stuff too).
The next day whenever you are ready start cooking the beans (they will cook for about 2 hours, so if you want them for dinner, plan ahead) dump the beans and water in to a colander and rinse the beans off with cool water. 
Put the beans back in to your pot and add just enough water to cover them.  Next add an onion--you can just cut the ends off and then cut it in half--a carrot, several cloves of garlic--don't take the time to chop them up--a jalapeno or two if you want to spice your beans up a bit--and salt.  Don't forget your carrot--it's that magical ingredient that makes the beans less musical. :)
Those red pieces in my pot are an over ripe chopped jalapeno from the garden.  It added just the right amount of flavor.  For the tender tongues in my house, I slice the jalapenos in half, then scrape out the ribs and seeds to remove anything spicy.
Push the vegetables down in to the water and beans.  You might need to add a bit more water.  Don't add too much water or you'll end up with bean soup later.  Now you've spent about 3 minutes or so of your time with your beans, now it's time to just leave them alone after you cover your pot and turn the heat on.  Bring the pot to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer.  They will cook for about 2 hours.  If you feel like, you can peek in on them periodically and check the water level. The level will go down and that's good and okay.
After 2 hours, they will look like this:
Remove the carrot--carefully--it will fall apart a bit.  Leave everything else in the pot.  If you have some cilantro on hand, you can toss that in the pot now (just rinse it off and use your hands to tear it up a bit--stems and leaves).  Also, if you want, you can add some chopped tomatoes at this time.
Then, use your immersion blender** and puree those babies as much or little as you like.
We like our pinto beans in a "refried" bean texture, so I puree completely.
They are ready to eat now!  Yum!  Dip a spoon in that pot, and give them a try.  You might need to add some more salt (or some garlic powder).  I like to add a bit of cumin and oregano now too.  If they are a bit thicker than you care for, add either some water or chicken broth to desired consistency.
If you won't be eating them at this point--LET THEM COOL COMPLETELY!!!! before putting them in the fridge or freezer.  If you put hot or warm beans in the cold fridge/freezer they will SPOIL and go RANCID.  YUCK!
Yesterday I made a big pot of black beans for our black bean soup tomorrow.  Before pureeing, I scooped some of the beans out and set them aside.  I purposefully made the pureed beans a bit thick because I knew I'd be making soup with them later and adding the broth and other ingredients then.
**If you don't have an immersion blender (I use mine at least a couple times a day!) carefully put contents of pot in a blender.  Do this in small batches since they are hot.  After each portion is pureed, pour it in to a large bowl.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekly Menu

Saturday: grilled steaks, baked beans, tomato and spinach salad with honey mustard vinaigrette, cinnamon sweet potato fries
Sunday: Lemon and Herb Zucchini Fettuccine (didn't get to this last week)
Monday: Dressed Up Sloppy Joes, homemade bread rolls, green beans with toasted slivered almonds
Tuesday: Grilled tilapia, rice or quinoa, green beans with tomatoes
Wednesday: Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches with homemade rolls, green salad
Thursday: Black Bean Soup with homemade black beans
Friday: Spaghetti with spinach and chicken sausage

I found a simple homemade pasta recipe that I think I may try for lunch one day this week to see if it will work for the family (will need to test it with regular flour first and then try it with my GF flour mix from Silvana's book, Cooking for Isaiah.)

Linked up here again.
Serve It Up Sunday

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Soccer Time!

This morning, bright and early at 8am, John Paul had his first soccer game of the season.  Jaime is the coach again and most of the teammates all go to Ascension with John Paul.  The game turned out to be pretty good despite the boys not being able to practice due to rain on Monday, their practice day.

And one of a future soccer player...

Her Big Buddy

The Great and Versatile Quinoa

Have you tried quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) yet?  It is a fantastic and versatile whole grain that is a complete protein.  One thing that I love about quinoa, besides it's versatility, is it's cooking speed.  It cooks up in about the same time as a pot of pasta, which makes it much faster than some varieties of rice.
I like to buy my quinoa at Costco because I can get organic quinoa in bulk and cheaper there than other stores.  If a recipe calls for rice, pasta, couscous, or barley I will substitute quinoa sometimes (always for barley since that has gluten).  Quinoa can be made savory or sweet, though I can only speak about it as a savory dish since I haven't tried making it sweet yet.  I've heard it can be cooked in fruit juice to give it a sweeter flavor.  I have pretty much always prepared my quinoa using chicken broth or stock.  Like rice, to prepare quinoa mix 2 parts liquid with 1 part quinoa, then bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.  The quinoa is done when the liquid is absorbed and the germ pops out of the ball part.  One of my favorite ways to eat quinoa is warm with fresh cracked black pepper and crumbled feta cheese.  For me it's so comforting.
Now for a few recipes using quinoa.
Quinoa with Zucchini and Black Beans
(This dish came together when we were rushed and needed to bring a dish to a baseball party. I didn't have time to run to the store, so I used what I had on hand and it went over very well.)
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup quinoa
1-2 zucchinis, grated
1-2 cups black beans (from a can--rinsed--or homemade)
tomatoes coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper
1-2 Grated carrots
Red, yellow, or orange bell pepper diced 
Some Olive oil
Lemon juice (optional)
Avocado, diced (optional)

Prepare the quinoa by mixing the broth and quinoa together in a small pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  While quinoa is cooking, grate the carrots and zucchini, dice the bell pepper, tomatoes, and avocado.  Rinse the black beans if using canned beans.  Toss everything together in a large bowl.  If using the avocado, in a small bowl toss the diced avocado with the lemon juice to keep it from browning then just before serving, toss the avocado in with the rest of the meal.  Serve hot, warm, or cool.  I serve this with some feta cheese as a topping for those who want it. Enjoy!

Quinoa Sorta-Pilaf
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup quinoa
1-2 celery ribs, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, diced
3-4 (or to taste) cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Toasted Slivered almonds or pine nuts (optional)

In a skillet or small pot (I use a small pot that I plan on cooking the quinoa in because I don't want to clean a lot of dishes) warm 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the celery, carrots, and onion and saute for 5-10 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two.  Add the broth/stock and the quinoa to the sauteed vegetables or if you used a saute pan combine vegetables and stock and quinoa in a small pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste as well as the nuts if desired. Serve hot to warm. Again, topping with feta cheese is wonderful.

Quinoa with Ground Beef and Zucchini
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup quinoa
1/2-1 pound ground beef, browned and cooked
1 onion, diced
1-2 zucchinis**, grated
Italian seasoning***
Salt and Pepper
Tortillas (optional)
Cheddar cheese (optional)

Prepare the quinoa by combining the broth and quinoa in a small pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes.  In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with the onion and some Italian seasoning.  Add the grated zucchini to the meat mixture and warm through.  Add the cooked quinoa to the meat mixture.  Stir well.  Add salt and pepper if desired.  This mixture can be served as is, topped with grated cheddar cheese, or in a warmed tortilla with cheese like fancy tacos.
** If zucchini isn't available, use spinach or kale.  If using spinach, either use frozen chopped (thawed and squeezed out) or fresh.  If using kale, rinse it, dry it, then finely slice it.
*** If you don't care for Italian seasoning or you want to mix things up a bit, try substituting cumin.

Enjoy your quinoa!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baking Bread and Saving Cash

I have fallen in love with baking my own bread again.  I found a fairly simple bread recipe and then turned it in to the simplest, most versatile, quick, no fancy machines required bread recipe.  With my recipe, I have made french bread, calzones, and dinner rolls.  I have no doubt that this bread could also be used as pizza crust, sandwich bread, sweet bread--monkey bread, cinnamon rolls, etc.
All you need to make this bread, is a bowl, a spoon, a 1 cup measuring cup, a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, piece of plastic wrap, a baking sheet, and an oven.
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 cup warm-hot water
1 teaspoon salt (I've forgotten to add this on occasion and it still turns out well)
3 1/2 cups flour+about 1-2 tablespoons for the baking sheet (I use King Arthur All Purpose flour)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (I don't measure this, just pour some in)
How To
In a large bowl add the yeast and sugar (the yeast feeds on the sugar--my kids LOVE watching this) and the warm-hot water.  Stir it around a bit and let it sit for 3-10 minutes.

Next add the flour and salt and some olive oil. 

Use that spoon again to mix it all up.  I don't use the spoon too long, just to start pulling it all together. 

Then use your hands to mix/knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or so. Form a large ball with the dough.
 At this point you can either spray the ball with some olive oil or brush some olive oil on using your hands. Then take your piece of plastic wrap and cover the top of the bowl.
Now leave the bowl in a warm spot for about an hour.  I stick mine in the oven with the light on.  Take a minute to wash your spoon, measuring cup, and measuring spoon, then prep your baking pan--just toss a bit of flour on there and shake it around. 
This pan has too much flour on it, but it was also the second time for me to use it to bake the bread that day.
 Then read a magazine, fold a couple loads of laundry, pick the kids up from school, prep dinner--you know, however you want to spend an hour. Then after an hour check out our bread dough...
It has pretty much doubled in size.  Also, smell that yumminess!  DON'T THROW AWAY YOUR PLASTIC, just fold it in half so you can use it again in a few minutes. Now you have to decide what you want to make with your bread dough.  This time I made 2 French loaves that we cut in half for meatball subs.
Divide the dough in two (if making rolls, this dough makes 12-15 dinner rolls) and stretch it out and dust it with a bit of flour from the pan.  Then loosely roll each loaf piece and tuck the seam under the bottom.
If you want to be fancy, cut a few slashes in the top of each loaf, and brush with a beaten egg to have the bread brown up during the cooking.  I don't do this because I like to use my eggs for other things--scrambled eggs, french toast, omelettes, other baking.
Cover the loaves (I don't always do this covering step) with your piece of plastic (I do save my plastic folded in 1/4s so that I can reuse it several times since for me it never touches the dough).  Let the dough rise on the baking sheet on the counter a second time.  This time though the rise time is only 20 minutes.  I don't always let it rise for the full 20 minutes and it still turns out just fine.
While the bread is going through this second rise, heat the oven to 375.  Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  I cook the smaller dinner rolls for 15-17 minutes and the calzones for 20-22 minutes.  Just watch your bread.
These loaves are a little light, but I needed to go pick the boys up from school.  What I did to brown them up some was turn the oven off and put them back in while I was gone.  They turned out beautifully and tasted fabulous.
This bread is so cheap and easy to throw together and as a bonus it is dairy free! (I'll have to play with it to see if I can make it gluten free too.)  Give it a try.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Day of School 2011

The boys have now completed their first week of school, Alexander in 3rd grade and John Paul in Kindergarten.  It's about time I get some pictures from that big day on here :)
Here they are together just outside the school, ready to walk in.

First we all took John Paul to his class room.  His teacher is the sweet and very experienced Mrs. Jennings.
Then John Paul went to his seat.  He was the first one at his table, but not the first in the room.  I think he was a little overwhelmed as he just sat there looking around checking everything out.
After some hugs, it was time to say good-bye to John Paul and take Alexander to his classroom.  I did pretty well keeping the tears in and a smile on my face until I gave him that final hug good-bye.  Pregnancy hormones!  He was only going to be at school for a couple hours that first day!  Goodness, I'm getting all teary just typing this up and reliving it!

Alexander in his 3rd grade room with Mrs. Jurgensmeyer.  It's pretty cool with large round tables instead of individual desks.  This room also has loads of animals--guinea pig, fish, geckos, and a hamster.  So far Alexander has LOVED 3rd grade and thinks it is the best yet!  He came home either that first day or the next saying they can talk ANYTIME and AS MUCH AS WE WANT as long as Mrs J. isn't talking.  Hmm, has she been able to get to know Alexander yet???!  I'm thinking that I won't be able to get too many more first day of school pictures in the classroom with him.  He was too busy checking the animals out and talking with friends.  I was able to get this last shot in before hugging and saying good-bye.
The boys are off to a wonderful start for a fun and awesome year.  :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Baby Sonograms

There is something both incredibly awesome and exciting and yet anxiety-filled about having a sonogram of the baby.  With each baby, I have looked forward to and dreaded the sonograms.  The dread has increased with each pregnancy.  I think it's because I recognize the true gift and miracle of life and how much can go wrong and how some of this can be revealed during the sonogram.  If something were revealed to not be right, we would of course still love and care for the baby, but like all parents, I'm sure, we hope and pray for healthy and the best.
Today we got to take a peek at our little one, who is now 22 weeks.  We still have a due date of Christmas Eve.  We have a healthy baby growing.  I am so thankful and praise God for this blessing.  I feel like I can now enjoy this pregnancy and look forward to holding her in my arms.  This pregnancy hasn't been easy.  The last 2 weeks have started to improve and I'm delighted to be off all my meds.  In the last 2 weeks, she has started kicking and moving...feels like a constant party in there.  With each movement, I'm reassured that all is well.  And the sonogram confirmed that too.
Here are a few pics of our daughter:
Waving hello :)
Looks like too many toes, but really only 10 there.
Baby profile

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekly Menu

Since Candy over at Mommypalooza decided to resurrect her weekly menu plan and link up I figure I might as well stick mine up here too. I write my menu and shopping list on a piece of paper each week. Then, if I get to the grocery store(s) and something isn't available or is too expensive I know what changes to make and which meal is impacted.  I also have a handy Evo phone so I can quickly look up alternate recipes as well as double check if something is gluten free.  After shopping, I write the menu on a dry erase board that hangs near the pantry.  It's a large board so I also have the different grocery stores I frequent listed on there so that as items become needed I can add them to the appropriate list.  I've been known to snap a quick picture of the board so that I know what is needed instead of having to write it all down on paper too.
Here is this week's menu:
Sunday:  grilled salmon with lemon herb butter, sweet potato and butternut squash (from our garden) fries, quinoa pilaf
Monday: homemade calzones with choice of fillings from salami (store was out of pepperoni)  cheese, mushrooms, sausage, spinach, broccoli, and bacon; dip in tomato sauce; green salad
Tuesday: shredded chicken tacos with homemade beans, avocado, Mexican rice
Wednesday: Carmelized chicken noodle soup
Thursday: Grilled fish, Lemon-Herb Zucchini Fettuccine  (made this last week and it was loved by all. For this week, I'm skipping the chicken in it and serving the fish on the side.)
Friday: Grilled honey-mustard chicken cutlets with onions (from the current issue of Everyday Food on p43), green salad, brown rice

Serve It Up Sunday

Two Twenty One

Jaime took the kids to go launch rockets.  It's the first time I haven't gone to help and observe.  I want to go, but it's just too hot out for me right now.  Sooo, I'm using my time wisely by blog hopping and checking out what's going on out in blog world. :) 
One I enjoy reading Just A Girl.  Today she posted her Show and Share Day (SaS) review post.  Usually there are some pretty fabulous things out there that people have made, redone, created, painted, etc.  Today the Cork Candle arrangement caught my attention.  We are wine drinkers here in Casa Martinez (though not in my current state, of course!)  Off and on we will save the corks, me often saying I want to do some kind of project with them other than tossing them in a vase or decorative jar.  But, inevitably I end up throwing them away.  Now, though, I've found the perfect and quick decorative thing (and great for the Autumn season) to display/use those corks!  Chelsea has a quick and simple tutorial on her blog, Two Twenty One, showing how to make these.
I decided to check out some more of her blog when I saw her side bar pictures.  This project in particular is what started it:
Yes, peony topiaries!  Aren't they sweet?  I'm thinking of making some (the trick is finding good quality silk flowers), but in colors that would work better in our home.  Though, the pink are so sweet.  They might look too cute in Penelope's room :)  Chelsea has a step by step tutorial on her blog for these too...I'll be following it every step of the way when I make mine!
Another project on her blog is something that I already do and love to create except I do mine without the fancy-schmancy-kinda-wish-I-had-it Silhouette machine.
These applique shirts are fun to create and can be so cute and unique.  I'm thinking of making some pumpkin ones for the Autumn.  I saw one idea that made a tree on the shirt and then sewed red buttons on the tree for apples--super simple and super cute.  I've got some other ideas cooking up depending on if this baby is a boy or girl too.


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