The black bean recipe that makes me love beans

I’ve never been the biggest fan of black beans, although my family members seem to enjoy them. A lot. But they’ve always been a little blah to me. I’ve tried my brothers trick of warming them in beer, I’ve tried throwing things in to season them up, I’ve tried eating them with tastier things, but the result is always the same. Blah. Until last night.

These beans may well be worth the price I paid for the cookbook. Thank you, Bon Appetit, for helping me discover something that I’ll soon memorize as part of my pantry “canon.”

Refried Black Beans
Best of use canned beans ever. I reduced the amount of jalapeno as the kids are a bit sensitive to heat, but you can kick it up or reduce it based on your own tastes. I had ground ancho in my spice shelf and you could probably substitute regular chili powder, but the smokiness of ancho makes it worth the $5 jar. The cookbook recipe is an improved version of this Bon Appetit version – and the ancho is the difference. 

2 T canola oil
1 T finely chopped jalapeno chili (I used 1/2 jalapeno, no seeds or pith)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 cans of black bean, drained, liquid reserved (I needed about 1/4 cup)
1/2 t ground ancho pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 radish for garnish, if you’re feeling fancy OR you want to use up leftover produce in the fridge

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the jalapeno and garlic; stir for 20 seconds. Pour in the beans, stir well, and season with the ancho pepper, cumin, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beans are warmed and the liquid begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. If it gets too thick, add some of the reserved bean liquid. Remove from heat and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish or just eat it – it’s great!


Refried Black Beans. I have a feeling I may start buying beans by the case. 


3 years ago, this kid discovered beans. Matching goatees, black bean style. 

Arctic White Bean and Chicken Chili

We’re driving back from Wisconsin after a family day and I started thinking about what to make for dinner. Option 1 – leave the kids with Jeff while I go to the store. Option 2 – create something with that was in the cupboard. Jeff suggested Option 3 – Chipotle. Since rice isn’t in the cards for me and the temperature outside (-12) made salad seem insufficient, I decided to roll the dice and create out of the cupboard. Thanks to Epicurious and a few substitutions, this turned out to be a great winter chili. I think I’ll make it again – this time by choice.

Arctic White Bean and Chicken Chili
When it’s bone-chilling cold outside, you need something warm to stick with you. This chili did it for me and came together in a fairly quick 35 minutes. I received a small jar of fennel pollen a few months ago and haven’t been sure how to use it – so I put it in as I didn’t have aniseed. It was a good decision. The chili is slightly warming but not spicy. Add a can of green chilis (I didn’t have any) if you want to up the heat. Adapted from this Epicurious recipe.

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San Choy Bau

Don’t be intimidated by the longer list of ingredients – you may have a lot of this in your pantry already. This was a last minute make for me, so I had to make some alterations. Not perfect for the flavor profile, but more reflective of what’s actually in my fridge. But if you happen to have bamboo shoots and water chestnuts handy, sub them out for the carrots and celery. This was an awesome and fairly fast lunch for us on a summer day.

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Spiced Muffins with Applesauce

My kids went crazy for these muffins. I made a spice substitution from the original recipe as I really hate cardamom, but cinnamon and nutmeg do the trick. Even pumpkin pie spice works. The ingredient list is fairly basic, but you’ll probably have to buy some dry milk. Who really keeps that around anymore? While these little gems are tasty, the texture is a little heavier – these are not cakeish muffins. But overall, a healthier choice for the kids to sneak! Tip: using an ice cream scoop makes filling the muffin tins super fast and mess-free!

Spiced Muffins with Applesauce
Adapted from The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook  Continue reading

Pasta Salad with Cantaloupe, Salami, and Basil

My kids love pasta. According to C, he would eat noodles about 100 times a week if he could. (He just learned about 100.) I like pasta too, but sometimes it can get a little old. And then there is pasta salad. Granted, it’s a family friendly workhorse, but I get a little bored with it. It’s just….forgettable. I’ve been steering clear from it lately. But when I offered to help a neighbor out with a family dinner and she thought a pasta salad would be the easiest, I had to rethink my pasta salad strategy. I started googling. There were lots of recipes, but nothing that I thought was both kid friendly and inspiring. And anything with mayo or that couldn’t be prepared the day before were immediately out. Fortunately, there was a bright spot to help a girl out. Bon Appetit gave me a few ideas of what to avoid – and how to create – better pasta salads. This lit my inspirational fires and I trotted off to Target to grab a few things for our family road trip as well as the pasta for my salad. While I was there, I found myself looking at a cantaloupe and found my inspiration. A fun curly pasta, cantaloupe, salami, mozzarella cheese, basil. I think we’ll have a winner!

For the record – this is just a ball parking recipe. Adjust the flavors/amounts for your personal tastes. This passed the kid test (my kids devoured it) and Jeff told me twice that he liked it. That’s a good thing.  Continue reading