Comfort with a Kick

I don’t know about you, but I am in major “comfort food” mode. I’m not sure if I should blame the weather or all of my cooking magazines, but I just want warm, cozy foods. Soups. Stews. Cheesy, baked potato dishes. Or baked mac and cheese. (Look, there I go, gravitating toward the carbs. Again. Shocking.) 😀

I am also in “easy dinner” mode, since our evenings have been pretty busy the last few weeks. I used canned beans this time because I wasn’t organized enough to have some cooked ones in the freezer. In fact, the most time-consuming part of dinner was chopping the onion! (Well, that and doing the dishes…) 

The original recipe barely serves two people, so I always double it. After all, we like our leftovers! I also added more corn and pumped up the spice with a little jalapeno. And there you have it. Easy comfort food with a little kick. Who wouldn’t want this? 😉

Why yes, that IS dessert hanging out in the background. Chocolate whoopie pies with marshmallow filling, in case you were wondering.

Black Bean Corn Chowder

2 15-ounce cans of black beans, divided
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 cup of salsa
2 cups frozen corn
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 avocado, cut into chunks
shredded cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, sour cream and tortilla chips for serving

In a blender, combine 1 1/2 cups of black beans and the half-and-half. Puree until smooth and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeno to the pan and cook until tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the reserved black beans, salsa, corn, lime juice and cumin to the pot. Bring to a simmer.

Stir in the pureed beans and half-and-half. Cook over medium-low heat until heated through, and then stir in the avocado chunks.

Serve with cheese, sour cream, cilantro and tortilla chips.

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Spring 2007

Click here for a printable version.


Summer Salad

Long weekends were made for kicking back and taking it easy. (Sometimes they’re also for planting trees, pulling weeds and hauling mulch, but that’s neither here nor there at the moment.) There’s something incredibly relaxing about sitting down on a Sunday evening and realizing, “hey, I don’t have to set the alarm tomorrow!” As much as I love a nice, long vacation, I think that three-day weekends are just as rejuvenating. It’s the grown-up version of a snow day.

For us, long weekends also involve plenty of time with friends, which means time with food, at least in my book. But who wants to spend the entire long weekend cooped up in the kitchen, slaving away over a hot stove when it’s 90 degrees out? (Okay, maybe I do, but I’ve come to realize that I might be alone in this area…) Solution? One of my favorite summer sides. Fresh sweet corn, healthy black beans and creamy avocado, dressed with zippy lime juice and spicy peppers and living in perfect harmony. I can eat this stuff by the bowlful.

This salad’s perfect for sharing with friends (or keeping at home and hoarding the leftovers, your choice). There’s no mayo or dairy, so it handles the heat well. It’s good at room temperature (no ice or chilled dishes needed!), and it goes together in a snap. You can eat it with a fork, or scoop it up on your favorite tortilla chips. (I think it would be especially good with these, although I haven’t tried them yet.) Plus, you can add more (or less) chili pepper, depending on how hot you like things.

Corn and Black Bean Salad

2 cups of corn, cut from the cob if fresh, thawed and drained if frozen (This is one of those recipes where fresh ingredients really do make a difference, but it’s very doable and almost as good with frozen corn if you want to make this the 11 months when sweet corn’s not in season.)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lime
1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
1/2 an avocado, diced
1 teaspoon serrano chili pepper, deseeded and minced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown spots develop. Remove from heat and place in a large bowl. Add the black beans and pepper, stir to combine. Mix in the lime juice, and then the cilantro. Gently fold in the avocado (too much mixing smashes it!). Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: I usually double this recipe so I don’t end up with a lonely avocado half in the fridge. Which usually means there’s enough left to take to work for lunch the next day. And if I’m feeling generous, I share the leftovers with Andy. Lucky guy. 🙂  

From Everyday Food

M is for… Mango!

Mango. It’s one of those exotic-sounding, tropical fruits. Not your average apple or banana. It’s also not one that I was really sure about at first. How do I know when it’s ripe? What should a “good” mango look/feel/smell like? Is it even possible to get “good” mango here in the middle of Wisconsin? Or is that like expecting to find good lobster here?

Finally, I just decided to go for it. And since all of the mangoes at the store looked the same, I just randomly selected a couple, brought them home, and stared at them some more. Now that I HAD the mangoes, what on earth was I going to do with them? Andy suggested that we just eat them. Perfectly good fruit, he said, is “ruined” by putting it in things. We should just enjoy the mangoes as God made them. (Translation: Don’t you dare mix them with black beans, cumin and garlic and serve it over quinoa.) 

Lucky for us, I didn’t listen. And we while we waited for the quinoa to finish cooking, we demolished half of the mango-black-bean goodness straight out of the bowl.

Even though I ran out of cilantro, it was still a super-tasty meatless Monday dinner!

Mango Black Bean Salsa with Quinoa

1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup of mango, diced (this is usually less than one mango, so you can give the fruit-lovers in your household something to snack on while dinner is coming together) 
1/4 cup sweet bell pepper, diced (red, yellow, orange… pick your favorite color!)
2 tablespoons onion, chopped (red, green… again, pick your favorite) 
1/2 cup of corn
1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon cumin

In a medium bowl, combine the black beans, mango, onion, corn, cilantro and peppers. Stir in the olive oil, salt, cumin and garlic. Set aside for 20 minutes or so to let the flavors mingle. (I’m sure the flavor would be better the longer you let this sit, but as I’ve mentioned before, I have a patience problem. 20 minutes is about the end of my attention span at dinner time.) 

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, chicken broth, quinoa and cumin. Bring to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is done. Fluff with a fork.

Spoon the quinoa onto plates, and then top with the salsa. Extra salsa is great on chips, or straight from the bowl.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats