Slow Cooker Beans

A few years ago, I got a slow cooker for Christmas from my mother-in-law.  I was extremely excited about this gift.  I had big plans for tossing ingredients in while I had breakfast and coming home to find a wonderful finished meal just waiting for me.  Then I discovered that hubby views the slow cooker as a fire hazard and will only allow us to use it when we’re home to babysit it all day.  I try to explain that this defeats the purpose of the slow cooker, but my protests have fallen on deaf ears so far.  And that, friends, is why you have never seen a slow cooker recipe on here!

Until today.  I have been meaning to learn how to use the slow cooker to make beans.  Yes, I know they’re better when they simmer on the stovetop all day, but I’m not picky about beans that I’m going to turn into chili or soup or other dishes.  (If they’re destined to be eaten on their own, now, that’s another story.)  Although it would still be more convenient to set the beans to cook while I’m at work, until hubby is convinced that the house won’t burn down if we leave the slow cooker on all day, my bean-cooking is a Saturday enterprise.  But it does help to be able to make a large batch of beans to use in different dishes all week… even if I have to be home and staring at the darn slow cooker the entire time.

Slow Cooker Beans

1 pound dried beans of your choice (I used Rancho Gordo)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon thyme

  • Combine beans and herbs in slow cooker and cover with approximately 1 inch of water.
  • Set slow cooker to cook on low for 8 hours.  Walk away.
  • Come back 8 hours later.  Done!

Source: Covered In Flour (use your own slow cooker’s instruction manual to verify cooking temps and times)

Golden Herbed Tofu

So… how’s everyone’s sugar hangover coming along?  This might help.  This Halloween, instead of gorging ourselves on candy, hubby and I contributed to the incomes of children’s dentists across the DC metro area by distributing handfuls of candy to our trick-or-treaters, and (muahahaha!) saved the good stuff for ourselves.  And by “good stuff,” I mean tofu.  Herb-crusted tofu, to be specific, broiled until it is golden brown on the outside and creamy on the inside.  Better than Hershey’s any day if you ask me.

I know what you might be thinking.  Tofu – really?  Doesn’t that stuff taste like, well, nothing?  Well, yeah.  But that’s the beauty of it.  Tofu is very mild in flava and so it willingly takes on any flavors you cook it with.  (Remind you of anything else?  Chicken?  Pork?  Anyone?  Bueller?)  That makes tofu extremely versatile.  But I think I found my ultimate tofu.  It’s crispy, salty and herby.  15 minutes under the broiler gives it a yummy crust and wonderful texture.  If you think you dislike tofu, try this over a bed of greens with your favorite salad dressing (Annie’s Organic Goddess for us, please!).  You might just change your mind.

Golden Herbed Tofu

1 block extra-firm tofu, rinsed and patted dry*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
herbs de provence
kosher salt
black pepper

  • Preheat broiler to high.
  • Slice tofu as follows: cut into 1 1/2 inch thick rectangles, then cut each rectangle in half on the diagonal to form triangles.  Arrange triangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat.
  • Drizzle olive oil over tofu and brush with a silicone brush until olive oil lightly coats each piece.  Season generously with herbs de provence, salt and pepper.
  • Broil for 10-15 minutes (I needed the full 15, but if your broiler has more oomph than mine you may need less – so check it after 10) until golden brown.  Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve over a salad the size of your face.

*Nota Baker: I don’t bother to press extra-firm tofu because the brand I buy (Twin Oaks, which I think is generally available at Whole Foods in Virginia – I know KERF buys it in Charlottesville – but may not be accessible elsewhere) just doesn’t seem to need pressing.  With some brands, pressing does really improve the texture.  So if your typical practice is to press your tofu, go right ahead and don’t let me stop you.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Pizza Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is one of the most versatile dinners in a vegetarian’s repetoire.  Together they make a complete protein, they fill you up without tons of extra empty calories, and there are infinite varieties.  I often do a Mexican version, but recently I decided to try making rice and beans that tasted pizza-esque.  This dinner isn’t like eating a gooey, chewy pizza (there’s no cheese and no crust), but it has similar flavors and it’s fun.  Who can argue with fun?

Pizza Rice and Beans

1 cup dry long-grain brown rice
3 cups baby kale (I used Olivia’s Organics Cooking Greens)*
1/2 jar tomato sauce of your choice (I used 365 Organic tomato basil)
1 jar cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

  • Cook brown rice according to directions on package – generally it requires 2 1/4 cups liquid per cup of rice; bring rice to a boil then reduce to simmer and leave covered for 45 minutes.  When rice is cooked, fluff with a fork before stirring in remainer of ingredients.
  • When rice is nearly done cooking, steam kale in microwave with a little water, then drain.  (Alternatively, wilt kale with a little oil, water or broth in saute pan).
  • Stir wilted kale and all remaining of ingredients into cooked rice and allow to warm together over low heat for 5 minutes before serving.

*If you can’t find baby kale, you can use regular kale and just chop it roughly, or you can substitute baby spinach.  Both are readily available in most supermarkets.

Source: Covered In Flour

Chickpea Soup for the Soul

This is a food blog, not a life blog.  I try very hard to keep this a positive space and to maintain some separation between my life and what I post here.  Although I will use a personal story or anecdote to lead into a recipe sometimes, this is not a space where I air my private feelings.  And while I don’t plan to start now, I will say that I’m aware of the idea that food bloggers’ lives are perfect and we all live in a storybook land of sun-filled kitchens and dreamy apple pie aromas.  Not so.  I’m a real person with feelings, and I hit rough patches like everyone else.  I was recently on the receiving end of some very hurtful remarks and while I’m trying to bounce back, it’s not easy.

I’ve never been a “comfort food” person.  In fact, if you were to ask me what my personal “comfort food” is… well, I don’t actually know.  I’m not one to drown my sorrows in a bowl of mac ‘n cheese or a pint of ice cream.  If I’m upset you’re far more likely to find me at the mall (holla back, DSW!).  But I do know that in times of trouble, it’s especially important to take care of yourself.  My Chickpea Soup for the Soul is a great way to start the healing process.  It’s full of nutrients and fiber, with a great protein hit from the chickpeas.  Because when we’re at our lowest points, that’s when we’re most in need of good nutrition.  After all, we need to be strong so we can stand up for ourselves.

Food is just food.  It’s not a hug or a friend.  Fortunately for me, I have hugs and friends aplenty, and I’ll be fine in the end.  In the meantime, I’m being kind to myself by giving myself chickpeas and leafy greens.  Not because they’re comforting, but because they’re giving me fuel while I try to shake it off, smile, and get back to the business of being my best self.

Chickpea Soup for the Soul

4 stalks celery
3 carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Better Than Boullion vegetable base*
1 cup vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cups chopped kale
salt and pepper to taste

  • Prep celery and carrots: thinly slice celery, peel and dice carrots.
  • Heat olive oil in large stockpot until shimmering.  Add celery and carrots and shallots (if using), stir to coat, and saute briefly until veggies are beginning to soften.  Sprinkle with thyme and stir well.
  • Add broth, water and vegetable base.  Simmer all together for 15 minutes.
  • Add chickpeas and kale.  Stir to wilt kale and simmer soup together for 15 more minutes.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary (you probably won’t need salt because the vegetable base is salty, but you may want some pepper).

*If you don’t have Better Than Boullion vegetable base, you can substitute 5 cups of vegetable broth instead of 1 cup of vegetable broth, 4 cups of water and the vegetable base.  I just did it this way because I only had 1 cup of vegetable broth in the house!  But you can feel free to sub some or all of the water.

Source: Covered In Flour

Tamari Chickpeas

Chickpeas are one of my favorite vegetarian power foods.  They are loaded with protein and fiber and they soak up whatever flavorings you cook them in.  Versatile, delicious, and healthy – who could ask for more?  This dish combines two of my favorite things – tamari and chickpeas.  Holy Yum.  I love to bake it up and serve it as a finger food for little parties, but it would also be great over salads or stews, or even mashed roughly and spread on crostini.  Hmmmm… I think I know what I’ll be doing with the leftovers…

Tamari Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup tamari
pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a small casserole dish, mix together all ingredients except thyme, until well combined.
  • Bake for 25 minutes.
  • Remove and allow to cool slightly.  Mix in dried thyme.  Serve as a snack bite or sprinkle over salads, soups or stews.

Source: Adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton

  • Drain off remaining liquid

Tofu Curry with Soba Noodles

One of the best things about being a vegetarian, for me, is how easy dinner is these days – and often, how fast.  Of course, I’m not saying you have to be a vegetarian to make fast meals.  Rachael Ray would have my head on a platter (roasted up in under 30 minutes!) if I tried to claim that.  And perhaps it wouldn’t make any difference to a more organized, less forgetful person.  But for me, as an omnivore, I can’t count how many times I forgot to defrost the chicken or salmon for dinner, only to come home and stare at a pantry that was jammed full but lacking in concrete dinner ideas for me.  Being vegetarian has removed defrosting from the equation.  Tofu and tempeh don’t need to be frozen – they can chill in my fridge (pardon the pun) until I’m ready for them.  And if I’m not in a soy mood, there are always canned beans in my pantry.  These days, even if I come home and I’m not feeling whatever was on my meal plan, I know dinner is not far away and I have ample options at my fingertips.

This one-pot meal is a perfect example of that.  I had planned on coconut milk-braised tofu with soybeans over brown rice for dinner.  Well, I got home after a hectic Monday and I had the same problem that I often have when rice is on the menu – I was hungry now, not 45 minutes from now.  I also wasn’t really in the mood for soybeans, although tofu still sounded good.  Two quick swaps – soba for rice and peas for soybeans – and I was in business.  Dinner was on the table 20 minutes later and hubby and I were two happy people.  More importantly, perhaps, we were two people who didn’t eat six servings of cheese because dinner was an hour away.  I really can’t complain about that.

Tofu Curry with Soba Noodles

1 block extra-firm tofu, cubed
1 can light coconut milk
1/2 bag frozen peas
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 handful soba noodles

  • In a large cast-iron pot, heat coconut milk over medium-high heat.  Stir in tofu, peas, tomatoes and seasonings and allow mixture to come to a boil.
  • Break soba noodles in half and stir into curry.  Allow entire dish to cook together for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Don’t ignore it, or it will stick to the bottom of the pan!  Don’t be like me!)
  • Serve in small bowls.

Source: Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

Nota Baker: You can totally omit the soba noodles here if you are going for something less pan-Asian and more traditional Indian.  This curry would be delicious served over brown or basmati rice.  However, the soba noodles are much faster than rice and they make it a one-pot meal.  Good stuff on a weekday, in my opinion!

Sweet Potato Biscuits

I don’t really know anything about horse racing.  I grew up not far from Saratoga Springs, NY, and we used to go to the track from time to time during racing season.  I never won anything.  (My refined technique of picking the prettiest horse never worked.  I wonder why?)  These days, I am one of the millions of people who only tune into the racing world on Derby Day, or for the Belmont if there is a chance that a horse might win the Triple Crown.  I know who Calvin Borel is, but he’s the only jockey I can name.  It’s safe to say that horse racing is not my sport – although I do love the hats, the roses and the green grass at Churchill Downs.  But if you want to hear me talk intelligently about a sport, ask me about ice hockey, not horse racing.

One thing I do know about, though, is baking.  Different people may disagree on what is necessary for Derby Day.  Some can’t do without Derby Pie; some think the day is incomplete without spiced pecans.  (I think we’d all agree on Mint Juleps, though.)  I personally must have sweet potato biscuits.  You can make these all year ’round, although I think they would also do very nicely for a Southern Thanksgiving celebration.  But I need them on Derby Day.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter)
1 can sweet potatoes in syrup
1/2 cup soymilk (or buttermilk)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the Earth Balance (it must be cold) and “cut it in” using a pastry cutter or two knives.  Work the Earth Balance until the pieces are the size of small peas.  Set aside.
  • Drain the canned sweet potatoes, but not too enthusiastically.  (A little syrup left really adds to the flavor!)  Mash with a fork.  Mix in the soymilk and stir until the soymilk and sweet potatoes are smooth.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with hands until dough comes together in a rough/sticky ball.
  • Roll dough or simply pat it into a disk of about 1 inch height.  (It’s so soft that you don’t really need a rolling pin unless, say, you have a lavender silicone French rolling pin that is super cute and you love to use it…)  Using a round biscuit cutter or a small glass (I went with a cordial glass I had lying around, because I actually don’t have a biscuit cutter) cut rounds and place on a silicone- or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Pat the dough scraps back into another disk and continue cutting biscuits and reshaping dough until all the dough is used up.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and serve with…

Maple Butter

1/2 cup Earth Balance, softened or spreadable
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup

  • Using a fork, mix the Earth Balance vigorously with the maple syrup until they form a whipped consistency.  Serve in a cute bowl alongside the biscuits.

Source: Adapted from TheKitchn

Psst!  I have a secret for you – these biscuits and the maple “butter” are completely vegan!  You can always make them non-vegan by using butter instead of Earth Balance and buttermilk instead of soymilk, but I really encourage you to try the vegan version.  No one will ever guess that they are vegan – and they will be amazed when you tell them.

Provencal Lentils

Obviously I loved every place that hubby and I visited in France, but I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Provence.  I’ve wanted to visit Provence since I was a little girl.  I papered the inside of my closet door with pictures of Europe, which seemed to be disproportionately pictures of Provence (although there were a good number of Alpine villages thrown in there too) and I would stare at the pictures every day and dream of visiting them in person.  When hubby and I finally made that trip last fall, Provence was everything I imagined it to be and more.  I loved the hot sun, the lush grapevines, the sleepy hill towns, the bustling markets, the towering Pont du Gard and the spires of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, and the relaxed outdoor cafes where – even if it’s not on the menu – you can always get pastis.  And of course, I loved the flavors of Provence – the tomato-pepper-eggplant trio that makes up ratatouille, the briny olive taste of pistou (I even had a risotto that seemed to have olive tapenade mixed in – outrageous – note to self: must recreate) and the quintessential herbs de Provence, naturally.

With these lentils, I am putting a Provencal twist on a very simple, rustic dish (which is kind of Provencal in and of itself, if you think about it).  If you’re simply going to cook up a pot of lentils – and why not? – herbs de Provence impart a heady lavender and thyme flavor.  And I went one better than that, even, by adding a teaspoon of fennel seed to give a whiff of the licorice aroma of pastis. In one bite of these lentils, I felt as though I had stopped by the Arles market to collect a big bunch of aromatic dried herbs and then sauntered into a corner cafe, sat down and requested pastis, sil vous plait.  Not a bad trip for a Friday night in my kitchen.

Provencal Lentils

1 cup Urban Garden mixed lentils (or brown lentils)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence (substitute thyme)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

  • In a heavy pot, bring the lentils and the vegetable broth to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover.  Allow lentils to cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  (Nota Baker: It’s really important that you use brown lentils here.  French green lentils take forever to cook – although you can use them if you have all day – and red lentils will break down into a delicious mush, which is great but not what we’re going for here.  The lentils I had were a mix of green, brown and red and so there were several textures represented.  That’s great, but if you can only use one, go for brown.)
  • Once the lentils have fully cooked (taste a small bite just to make sure) drain off the remainder of the vegetable broth – but don’t get too overenthusiastic with the draining; we want the lentils to be a little loose so some remaining broth is a good thing.
  • Return the lentils to the pot and stir in a teaspoon of mustard powder, a teaspoon of herbs de Provence (or you can substitute thyme if you don’t have herbs de Provence), and either 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds.  (I used a full teaspoon, which tasted fantastic to me, but hubby isn’t wild about the flavor of fennel seeds – he liked that it was in this dish but would have preferred it to be a little subtler.  So I’ll reduce it for his sake next time I make this, but if you like fennel seeds, then a full teaspoon will be very nice indeed.)
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve over greens, buttered baguette slices, or simply in a bowl.  Yum.

Source: Covered In Flour

Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole

April in D.C. has been acting really weird. One day it will be 75 degrees and hubby and I are eating salads and popsicles.  Then the next day it’s rainy and 41.  This is that time of year when D.C. can’t make up its mind as to whether it wants to be grey and gloomy and cold, or sunny and beautiful.  We go through this every year, but this year it seems to be taking longer than usual.  By Easter we should have sorted ourselves out, but in the meantime comfort food is still called for.  And I know that it’s still cold up north where my family is… so this recipe is a gift for all of us.  It’s warm and soothing, briny and salty from the Chickpeas of the Sea, and even includes a crispy golden crust.  In short, Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole is the total package, perfectly designed for taking us out of the winter doldrums and into spring and summer.

Mock Tuna Noodle Casserole

6 ounces egg noodles (1/2 package)
1 cup Chickpeas of the Sea
1/2 cup Homemade Bread Crumbs (or substitute panko)
olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Boil egg noodles in salted water, until al dente.  Remove noodles to a mixing bowl, reserving some of the pasta water.
  • Add Chickpeas of the Sea to the noodles and fold together gently.  Add pasta water, a little at a time, to loosen mixture as needed.
  • Remove noodles and Chickpeas of the Sea to a casserole dish.
  • Sprinkle bread crumbs in an even layer over the top of the casserole.  Drizzle with olive oil to ensure browning.
  • Bake at 350 for 3o-35 minutes, until top of casserole is golden brown and casserole is heated through.

Yield: Serves 4.

Source: Covered In Flour

Source: Covered in Flour.

Spring Green Soup

Spring is the most glorious season of the year in DC.  There are flowers, literally, everywhere.  For a few weeks, it seems like there isn’t a tree in the mid-Atlantic region that’s not in bloom.  Dogwood, cherry trees, and my favorite redbuds are on every street corner.  And then there are the fields of daffodils, the flowers blooming up and down every street in the city, and you should see my neighborhood – gardens in bloom everywhere.  It’s gorgeous.  I love it.

Unfortunately for me, spring in DC also brings epic amounts of pollen – obviously – and every year my body completely revolts.  I usually spend several weeks of the spring holed up indoors and even that isn’t enough to keep me from coming down with a miserable case of spring allergies.  In the worst years, I’m virtually unintelligable.  This year I thought I was getting off easy and I got cocky and went out for a run on Sunday morning.  I waited until the worst pollen time (5:00-10:00 a.m.) was over, but I was out the door at about 10:05 and apparently I didn’t wait long enough, because I am a mess now.  Yesterday I spent the entire day sneezing and rubbing my eyes.  Fortunately, my office is well acquainted with my allergy woes and they know I’m not contagious!  Still, by the end of the day I was a pretty unhappy girl and desperately in need of something soothing and nourishing.  I knew exactly what I wanted – green soup.  Between the leeks, potatoes and spinach, I enjoyed each and every nutrient.  Now, I’m not delusional – I know that green soup isn’t going to cure my allergies.  But it’s a nice way to celebrate the season while I stare wistfully at the gardens outside my window.  Here’s to a few days of low pollen counts…

Spring Green Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned
3 potatoes, large-diced
kosher salt
5 cups water
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
4 large handfuls baby spinach
freshly ground pepper to taste

  • In a large cast iron pot, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Chop leeks and add to oil.  Season with a pinch of kosher salt and stir to coat with oil.  Allow leeks to cook down for about 5 minutes.
  • Add potatoes and season with another good pinch of kosher salt.  Stir potatoes and leeks together.
  • Add water and Better Than Bouillon and bring to a boil.  Cook for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
  • Add spinach and stir into soup until spinach is wilted down.  Blend soup in a high speed blender or in the pot with an immersion blender until it reaches the consistency desired.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.  Garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

Source: Covered In Flour