Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Corn is only around during the summer, which means the clock is ticking if you want to make recipes that benefit from fresh corn, as opposed to canned or frozen.  This is one salad that really needs the bought it, chopped it, ate it kind of corn!

I love how colorful this salad is - the festive colors even LOOK like summer!  And this is a great dish for a potluck or barbecue, because it can be out of the fridge and still taste great (and, uh, not make anyone sick.)  This comes together in a flash - try it this weekend with whatever you decide to grill!

Black Bean and Corn Salad


  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 ears corn
  • 2 bell peppers (I used one red and one yellow), diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • salt to taste
  1. Rinse the beans and place in a large bowl.
  2. Prepare the dressing:  mix the ground cumin with the juice of half a lemon.  Add the oil and shake, then pour over the beans.
  3. Slice the corn off the cob, and add it to the beans.
  4. Add the peppers, cilantro, and onion and stir thoroughly to combine.  You may want to add a little salt.
Put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat.  You can also add chopped avocado to this.  It's delicious and adds a creamy counterbalance to the crunchy peppers.  Just keep in mind that, while this salad is terrific the next day, avocados are not, so eat them all before you put the leftovers away.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monkey Bites: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

In my quest for the perfect snack, there are several qualities I'm looking for.  Taste, of course, comes first, because otherwise, why bother?  But I want it to be healthy, and that means fresh ingredients, minimally processed.  That's not so easy.  Forget anything in the grocery store:  those cookies and snacks are meant to be edible for months, which means most of them have weird chemicals I'm just not comfortable with.  Also, refined sugar and flour have had the most nutritious parts stripped out of them, so they're not much of a boon to a growing child (or a trying-not-to-grow-larger adult!)

An added bonus for a recipe is if it's frugal in some way - using an ingredient I already have, or one that might otherwise be thrown away.  Chances are you might have one or more of these at your house:

Mmm, squishy!
And while I love banana bread as much as the next girl (if not more), I don't want to eat it every two weeks.  So this recipe saved the day for some overripe bananas - an automatic point in its favor!

After cruising around the internet, I synthesized a recipe that really meets the perfect snack criteria.  No added sugar, no flour, no eggs, and aside from the chocolate chips, no dairy.  Not that any of those things are bad, necessarily, but if I can make something without allergens, refined foods, or irritants, why not?  I bet these would be yummy with walnuts, but my girl is allergic, so I'll leave that experiment up to you.  Please try it out and let me know how it goes!

Monkey Bites!  (Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies)


  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 2 cups oats
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (or you can use butter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (or about half a bag) chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.  Lightly grease cookie sheet (or use a Silpat liner - they're awesome!)
  2. In a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients, mixing well.
  3. Using a spoon and a fork, scoop a largish tablespoon of cookie dough onto the baking sheet.  You're going to have to mold it into shape.  Mine are about 2" in diameter, and about 1/4" high.  Try to make them uniform in size so they bake evenly.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you like them.  They won't get really crispy, but you don't want them too squishy either.
I eat these with my afternoon cup of coffee.  My kids would eat them all in one sitting if I let them.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Quick Pickles Two Ways: Dill Pickles and Sweet Pickles

Dill spears, dill coins, and sweet pickle coins

I bought a big bag of little pickling cucumbers at the farmer's market.  I didn't weigh it, but it was probably 2 or 3 pounds.  They were selling three bags for $5, so the bag cost me around $1.70, a deal for sure.  I had grand plans of canning pickles.  And then ... the days flew by, and I just didn't have the time to brine, sterilize, process, etc.  I wanted pickles, but not the ordeal of making them.

And then I remembered a recipe I'd seen for quick pickles.  The upside:  it only takes 10 - 30 minutes to make, depending on which recipe you're following, and they're ready to eat in an hour.  The downside: they don't keep indefinitely, like supermarket pickles do, so you only have about two weeks to eat them.  Hah!  I challenge you to make these last that long!

As far as equipment goes, you need largish jars with screw tops on them.  I used canning jars, because I have them handy, but I also put some dill coins in a jar that used to have ghee in it.  Just make sure it's very clean and doesn't have any smell from whatever was in it before.  Now - get pickling!

Dill Quick Pickles

  • 4 Kirby or pickling cucumbers, about 4 inches long
  • 1 cup white or cider vinegar (I used about 3 tablespoons cider, with white vinegar to make up the rest of the cup)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns 
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 3 or 4 sprigs fresh dill, bruised
  1. In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, salt, allspice and peppercorns to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your cucumbers.  I cut off the top and bottom ends.  At this point, you can do spears (cut lengthwise, about 1/2" thick), or into coins (about 1/4" thick).  Fill the jar with cucumbers, leaving about 1/2" space between the top of the cucumbers and the top of the jar.
  3. When brine comes to a boil, pour over cucumbers.  Push them down with a spoon to make sure they're submerged, and top off with the dill and the garlic, pushing them down into the cucumbers.  Screw on the lid, put in the fridge, and give them an hour or two to soak up the brine before you taste them.  
Quick Sweet Pickles

  • 4 Kirby cucumbers, each about 4 inches in length
  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • small piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  1. Prepare the cucumbers:  Slice them very thinly, using a knife or mandolin.  Place them in a colander and salt heavily.  Let them sit for about 15 - 30 minutes.  (The salt draws extra water out.)  
  2. Prepare the brine: Add vinegar, water and spices in a saucepan and heat to boiling.
  3. When brine boils, remove from heat and let cool a little.  While it's cooling, rinse off the cucumbers and give them a little squeeze to get out the extra water.  Pack into a clean jar, leaving about 1/2" space at the top of the jar.  Pour in the brine, making sure the cucumbers are covered.  (Add extra water here if you have to.)  Screw on lid and refrigerate.
Note:  These are sweet, but not as sweet as the store-bought kind.  If you need enamel-peeling sweetness, add 2 or 3 teaspoons of corn syrup.  (Use the rest for pecan pie!)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Superfoods Salad! Warm Kale and Oven-Dried Tomato Salad

The term "superfood" is in the news a lot lately, and for good reason.  Science is proving that some foods are just better for you than others.  These superfoods are high in nutritional value and have been shown to prevent a host of diseases, from diabetes to cancer to heart disease.  Why wouldn't you eat these dietary power-houses every day?

Well, aside from berries and nuts, some of these super-foods aren't very "fun".  Broccoli?  Mustard greens?  Lentils?  We know they are good for us, but sometimes it sounds more appetizing to eat french fries than flax seeds.  The trick, as with most things, is preparation and presentation.

Tiny spokesmodel, or giant bag?
I found a 10-ounce bag of pre-sliced kale at Trader Joe's for $2.00.  That's a great deal!  Now to dress it up visually, jazz it up taste-wise, and add even more superfoods to the mix.  Voila!  Superfood Salad!  Serve this warm with any lean protein and get a big dose of vitamins, fiber, and cancer-fighting antioxidants.  Healthy and delicious = super!

Warm Kale and Oven-Dried Tomato Salad


  • 1 10-ounce bag of kale, or three large bunches of kale, tough stems removed
  • 3/4 cup broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup Oven-Dried Tomatoes packed in oil, with 2 tablespoons of the oil, or prepared sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1/2 cup almonds, lightly cracked
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • squeeze of lemon or lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Wash kale and remove tough stems.  If using bunches of whole kale instead of a bag of prepared kale, tear into bite-sized pieces.  
  2. Heat sauté pan on medium heat and add olive oil.  When hot, add kale and broth and cover, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove lid and add oven-dried tomatoes and tomato oil.  Stir to combine and lower heat, cooking until the broth has evaporated.
  4. To serve:  pile kale on plate, add cracked almonds and cheese.  Squeeze a lemon over it and season with salt and pepper.
Serves two.  I ate this for lunch yesterday.  And then again for snack.  It's that good.