Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chipotle Black Bean Soup

I've been on a real soup spree this winter. This is a simple recipe with just a few ingredients, and I'm really impressed with how flavorful it is. I didn't realize how aromatic black beans are. When I started simmering the black beans, before adding any seasonings, my husband was already commenting on how delicious they smelled! I added my two favorite Latin seasonings, Adobo seasoning and chipotles, and it turned out flavorful, rich, and velvety. This can made with dry or canned beans, on the stovetop or in the slow cooker. Very versatile!  

1 lb dried black beans, soaked 6-12 hours or overnight
(or 3 15 oz cans black beans)
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can Rotel canned diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 t Goya Adobo seasoning

2 t chili powder or 1 t cumin
2 t oregano

2 t chopped or pureed chipotles
water, chicken, or veggie broth to thin as desired
salt and pepper to taste

generous amount of lime
Mexican brown rice

Stovetop method
If using dried beans, d
rain bean soaking water, cover just barely with fresh water in a large pot or dutch oven, and simmer. In a separate skillet, sauté onion, garlic, and bell pepper on medium heat until softened. Add this mixture and remaining ingredients to the beans in the large pot. Add water or broth to thin to desired consistency. Simmer for a total cooking time of 1.5-2 hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender. Blend or mash part of the beans to thicken if desired.

If using canned beans, s
aute the vegetables in the large pot or dutch oven. Add canned beans and remaining ingredients. Thin with water or broth to desired consistency. Simmer for 20 minutes. Blend or mash part of the beans to thicken if desired.

Crockpot method
Dump all ingredients except garnish in slow cooker. Add water or broth to cover beans by a couple inches. If using dried beans, cook on low 10 hours or high 6 hours, until beans are tender. If using canned beans, cook on low 6 hours and high 3 hours.

Serves approximately 8 people.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

I’ll be honest--even though it is one of my favorite foods, I’ve never made real mac and cheese before. Sure, I’ve made the Velveeta cheater version, but I’ve never made a proper mac with real cheese and milk. Part of the reason I haven’t is that I usually try to focus my cooking efforts on healthy foods. I don’t want to enable myself to make fattening foods whenever I feel like. This is exactly why I don’t bake. The idea that I could make a batch of creamy, cheesy, carby, fatty goodness whenever I have the craving might just leave me weighing 300 pounds.

When I recently visited England, I encountered the popular British dish “Cauliflower Cheese” (basically cauliflower au gratin), which got me thinking about how well cauliflower pairs with cheese. A hybrid of cauliflower cheese and mac and cheese might just have enough veggies to justify making. I started looking online for cauliflower mac and cheese recipes, and found this one. This recipe is somewhat healthier than a traditional mac, and it comes with a serving of veggies! I also liked that there was no roux-making or onion-sauteing required, which means fewer dishes to wash. You simply boil the pasta and cauliflower, drain, dump in the remaining ingredients, stir, pour into a dish, and bake. I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding more seasonings and cheese. I also added a lot more milk than the recipe called for to make it really moist and creamy. It turned out fabulous. It had a rich sharp cheddar flavor, but didn’t feel too heavy.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
13 oz ounces small multigrain pasta
(I like shells) 
2 pounds cauliflower florets (I used frozen) 
3/4 cup 1 % milk 

1 16 oz container lowfat Greek yogurt or lowfat sour cream
12 ounces grated sharp cheddar, a handful reserved for sprinkling over the top. I love Cabot cheddar, which is local and easy to get here in New England. I used their 50% reduced fat cheddar.
1/2 cup grated parm
Salt and pepper
1 t Tony Chacheres, Season All, or Old Bay seasoning
½ t garlic powder

sprinkle of worchestershire sauce or hot sauce (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot, boil cauliflower and pasta in salted water, but leave pasta quite al dente. It will cook the rest of the way when it bakes in the oven. Drain pasta and cauliflower and return to the pan off the heat. Add remaining ingredients except a handful of cheese, and stir thoroughly to combine. The mixture should be loose and saucy. If not, add a bit more milk or cooking liquid. It will thicken a lot as it cooks. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a 3 quart baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and bake until hot in center, about 20 minutes. Serves 8.