Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beans, Beans, Beans, and more Beans...

Some Black Beans with the Rocks that Came From One Kilo of Beans

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit…

Actually, I have never been really fond of beans. I will eat them, yes, but they are sort of like filler to me. If there is anything else on the plate, I would rather eat that. Beans just don’t seem to be very interesting. Maybe it’s the color. Most beans after cooking turn to a kind of dull brown that is not very appealing. Or maybe it’s the squishy, almost grainy texture of them that turns me off. Whatever it is, I am trying to get over it. Let’s face it. Beans are good food, good nutrition, and inexpensive. They are an excellent source of protein, and when combined with grains, such as rice, they combine to form complete protein, which means you will need very little or no meat.

One bean that I do enjoy is soy. You can boil the whole beans for as long as you like, and they never get soft and mushy. They will remain firm and with a slight crunch even if you cook the hell out of them. They are great in salads as a yummy protein boost. Also, they make great snacks. Boil them and drain well, and enjoy.  Or, you can fry them in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Salt them while they are still hot, and you will have a very pleasing, high protein snack.

How to Cook Beans

Most beans are packaged directly from the field. They are not processed, sanitized and hermetically sealed. They are real food from real dirt. They need to be cleaned before cooking. I like to imagine sitting in a rocking chair with a big bowl in my lap, cleaning the beans like grandma used to do while gossiping with the girls, but usually I just put them in something big and flat and, leaning over the counter I go through them carefully, removing all sticks and rocks and funky looking beans. If you omit this step in the process, chances are you will only do it once. A big dentist bill to repair a broken tooth can be a fantastic learning tool.

The different bean varieties are really pretty similar. There are different shapes, colors and slight variations in texture, but all of the kidney shaped beans are interchangeable for most bean recipes.
These instructions will work for Black, Kidney, Pinto and several other beans that are available in Mexico.

After the cleaning, put the beans in a colander and rinse well. Put them in a heavy pot with enough water to cover them and then some more. You can also add a chopped onion, garlic, tomato, celery, carrot, or a combination of any of them. This will add a lot of flavor. Turn on high heat until they begin to boil and then turn to low. Put a lid on the pan, but leave it tilted a bit to avoid the dreaded boil-over. Once the beans begin to soften it is a good time to add salt. About one teaspoon for every cup of beans is a good guideline. You will need to check the pot throughout the cooking to make sure there is enough water. The worst smell in the food world is probably rotten potatoes. A close runner up might be burnt beans. You can add more water anytime.

After the beans become tender, the fun begins. Remove the vegetables that you added for the primary cooking. Their work is done now. Its time to add flavor in the way of herbs, spices and flavor, which, to be honest, beans don’t have much of. Cook for another 30 minutes or so with the flavorings added. Here are a few ideas for adding to your beans:

Bean Enhancement Suggestions:

Mexi-Beans: Cumin, ancho chile powder, cilantro and oregano, diced tomatoes, diced onion, garlic

Asian Style: Soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic (for this one omit the salt in the cooking process). Sprinkle with sliced green onion.

French, Oh – So - Sophisticated Beans: Thyme, marjoram, sautéed minced shallots and parsley

Country Boy Beans: Liquid Smoke (very little), catsup, dried mustard, brown sugar, sautéed onions, a bit of apple cider vinegar

Yankee Style: Maple syrup, butter

...So Enjoy Your Beans with Every Meal!

Here is a link for more great bean information:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Things that Caught My Eye in Walmart Today

 Hello, Food Service Workers...

    If you are going to rock this look, then you need to cover all of the holes on your face. Otherwise you might as well just put on some lipstick and go as yourself. 

Okay, I am not posting this out of meanness, but out of awe... What you don't see the are 4 inch butterfly earrings and the rainbow wrist cuffs, which were truly awesome, I swear....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Salsa Mexicana Recipe...The Real Thing

Salsa Mexicana

This all-purpose uncooked sauce represents the colors of the Mexican, white and green.  Salsa Mexicana is the most common Mexican sauce and is used as a condiment for all kinds of Mexican food, to enjoy with chips, on top of quesadillas, or just spooned all over everything...rice, beans, meat, whatever.
It is best used right away, or at least within one day. If you have extra and can’t use it up quickly, it can be cooked and used to make a delicious Huevos Mexicanos, which is basically scrambled eggs with salsa cooked in...or you can cook the sauce and then blend it for a great sauce for your Huevos Rancheros or to pour over Carne Asada.
It is recommended to use latex gloves when handling chiles. They are very powerful and can burn the skin of hands, and the essence will stay on your hands for hours, making it very unwise to touch your face or eyes for up to 24 hours. If you forget to use the gloves, keep hands away from your face!
Note: Can also be made without chile for children or anyone who doesn’t appreciate spiciness.

What you’ll need:
5 Roma Tomatoes 1/2 Large White Onion 1 small bunch Cilantro  
2 to 6 Serrano Chiles 1 Fresh Lime Salt

WASH and/or disinfect Tomatoes, Onion, Chile, Cilantro, Lime
 CHOP 5 Roma Tomatoes
 CHOP 1/2 Large White Onion or 1  whole Small  Onion
 CHOP 1/2 cup Cilantro
 CUT 3 to 6 Serrano Chiles lengthwise and take out seeds.  CHOP. Use latex gloves to protect hands
 SQUEEZE juice of Fresh Lime, about 3 teaspoons
 MIX everything together and ADD Salt to taste
 ENJOY with Tortilla Chips, on Quesadillas ,  Eggs or on just about any food.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Do You Experience Tofu-phobia? Here Is The Cure…

Do You Experience Tofu-phobia? Here Is The Cure…

Do you always ask for your salad dressing “on the side”?  Are you trying to avoid fat and/or dairy products? Do you like intense and fresh-tasting foods? Keep reading and get out the blender…

There’s No Fu Like a To-Fu
Tofu…It’s not the most popular food in the world. In fact, many people avoid it, say that they don’t like it, or just ignore it. The fact is that there’s really nothing not to like about tofu. It has almost no flavor of its own, and since it comes in different forms, it can have different textures. It basically is a very non-offensive food and a friendly one that just wants to fit in, so it takes on the flavor of its neighbors.
One of the best things about tofu is that it allows us to make really good substitutions for foods that normally contain oil, cream or eggs, all of which are nice, but some of us find ourselves trying to cut down on or eliminate them. Here are a couple of my favorite tofu recipes. Low fat, high flavor, and so, so easy to make.

Dill & Lime Tofu Dressing
This can be used as a dressing for a simple cucumber and tomato salad or for a refreshing green salad. It’s light, fresh and delicious. Also makes a pretty good mayonnaise substitute!

Put in a blender or food processor and process until smooth:

1 cup Soft Tofu
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
One clove Garlic minced
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Dill or Mint...fresh is best, dried is OK. 

Thin with water (or a little more vinegar or lime juice) if necessary

Good with Cucumbers and Tomatoes

Dark Chocolate Tofu Mousse
This is actually more like a pudding than a mousse, but knowing that it is low fat and does not contain those common criminals, cream and eggs, makes it taste even better!
We made it in a “Vegetarian Cooking Class” and everyone loved it.

Put all at once into a blender or food processor and process until smooth:

1 pound Soft Tofu
¾ cup good Cocoa Powder (Dark Dutch Cocoa is the best)
6 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar (adjust to taste. You may want it a little sweeter. We did.)
¼ cup Soy Milk

Pour into six martini glasses or wine flutes or some other fancy glass and chill. Garnish with fresh berries.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ten Very Basic Kitchen Rules

Ten Very Basic Kitchen Rules
Bruce Bennett photo

I’ve never been a big fan of most rules. In a perfect world, we only need one rule, and that is the rule of Love and Compassion for all beings, even the human ones. If we all followed this there would be no need for any other regulations. There would be no stealing, no causing bodily harm to others (or food poisoning) and we wouldn’t do anything to hurt anyone in any way.  We would be so aware of our actions and how they affect others that we wouldn’t ever intentionally cause harm or loss to anyone. However, our world is not perfect, or at least we are not perfect, so we need some rules to remind us how to behave.
These basic rules for kitchens can apply in a home situation as well as in a commercial kitchen. The reasons we have them are mainly for safety…safety of the workers as well as the consumers. Another reason is economy. If there is a lot of waste or mistreatment of equipment the kitchen will mean a loss of money for whoever is paying the bills, and a kitchen can’t run without money.

1)      Clean hands at all times. Everyone knows that they need to wash hands before cooking, especially after using the bathroom, coughing or sneezing or touching any part of the head or body. We also need to wash hands during cooking. Wash before touching any appliances, such as opening an oven or a cupboard or refrigerator. Keep it clean! A clean towel draped over your apron string at the waist is a big help for wet hands, but you still need to wash or keep changing the towel whenever it gets dirty. If you REALLY want to follow safe food practices like the professionals do use disposable gloves (changing them often) whenever you handle any food that will not be cooked before serving or if you need to use your hands to serve cooked food. This is standard practice in many kitchens and is the best way to avoid contamination, especially in a large kitchen where it is hard to keep an eye on everyone. Many cooks also like to use gloves when working with meat, fish or chicken, as they find it “yucky” to handle, and it just makes it easier to keep the hands clean.

2)      NO finger tasting or tasting from the stirring spoon. Considerate cooks keep a stash of teaspoons handy for tasting and toss them in the sink after each taste.
3)      Don’t use knives or other utensils for prying, opening or poking holes in anything. That’s why god invented Sears Craftsman tools and can openers.
4)      Clean up your area between and after every task. Try to deal with fruits and vegetables before meats and seafood.  Wash your knife and cutting board between tasks. Clean boards and knives with chlorine solution or other disinfectant after cutting any kind of meat . This prevents not only contamination, but also undesirable flavor crossover.
5)      Always rotate. When you buy something new, store it behind the old stuff. It’s that simple.
6)      Don’t serve anything that you wouldn’t eat yourself, with the exceptions of your own allergies or “food aversions”.
7)      In a commercial kitchen everyone in the kitchen and dining room should taste everything at least once. They need to know what things are supposed to taste like and be able to make sincere recommendations to customers.
8)      Don’t re-use anything that has been on a table previously, such as bread and butter, sauces in open dishes, serving utensils, etc…
9)      Don’t send out any food that has not been tasted. Mistakes happen, and need to be caught before they hit the table.
10)   Keep cold foods COLD and hot foods HOT. The temperature of a kitchen is a perfect place to breed nasty bacteria. Don’t leave anything sitting out if it won’t be used immediately.