Feb 25, 2012

Pinto Bean Picadillo

The way I see it, there are three ways to cook vegetarian: 1) you ignore that meat ever existed and just come up with your own dishes that only use the ingredients you eat; 2) you find meat recipes and substitute the meat with mock meat; or 3) you find meat recipes and adapt them for your kitchen. Not surprisingly, options one and three are the ones I follow in my kitchen. While I'm sure there are wonderful mock meat products out there, I like my food to taste like itself -- not pretend to be something it isn't. I also have the luxury that, if I'm really dying for some meat, I'll eat it.

But before we get into a political discussion about why people eat vegetarian, let me tell you about this Pinto Bean Picadillo. I first heard about Picadillo last month when the New York Times Dining & Wine Section posted a recipe for Party Picadillo. It was a one-pot dish (and, with the addition of rice, a complete meal). Moreover, they described Picadillo as a "versatile, richly seasoned ground-meat dish from Latin America" and, well, I was hooked. I'd already started making out my grocery list when I realized "wait, if I make this, what will the vegetarian have for dinner?" The ground beef is added too early in the recipe for it to be easy to take out and, moreover, so much of its flavor depends on everything melding together. So I bookmarked the recipe (maybe when we have company for dinner and I make enough sides to satisfy him?) and forgot about it.

Luckily, in search of inspiration, I stumbled on it again. And this time I thought -- let's vegetarianize it! So out went the beef and in went some pinto beans. To reinforce their flavor, I added in some safflower oil and white onions. Finally, because pinto beans are more delicately flavored than ground beef, I upped all the spices. Serve over plain brown rice for a complete protein. Enjoy with a glass of Merlot, followed by a slice of Banana Sour Cream Bread. Bon appetit!

Pinto Bean Picadillo
inspired by The New York Times

In a bowl, mix pinto beans and Merlot together well. Let sit so the flavors can meld. Meanwhile, heat oil in a very large pan over low heat. Add onions, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers and garlic and gently saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives and raisins, increase heat to medium and add bean and Merlot mixture, including all the liquid that wasn't absorbed. Toss everything together and let cook 10 minutes.

Stir in oregano, cumin, tomato paste, kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Lower heat back to low and cook, covered, 30 minutes. (This is a really good time to make your rice if you haven't already done so).

Top with almonds and serve warm over rice. Serves 6.

Links to other pinto bean delicacies:

Feb 21, 2012

Blueberry Oat Muffins

I have a confession to make: I'm on a muffin binge lately. And, since I don't know how to make muffins without bananas in them (they bind the muffins and add natural sweetness -- what's not to like?) I guess I'm on a banana binge too. See, it's a vicious cycle, really -- I buy bananas, then have some left over, so I make muffins but I don't have enough so I buy more bananas and, since I always buy them in bunches, a few days later, I have more brown bananas so I make more muffins ... you get the picture. And, while I could buy single bananas or just eat them raw before they turn brown, that really doesn't interest me as much as making all kinds of muffins.

I must admit, though, that, so far, these are my favorite. I used only one banana so you can't taste it at all. I also used sweet potato puree and that, mixed with various warm and wintry spices (cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar to name a few) and just a bit of butter makes these deliciously reminiscent of sweet potato pie. But with blueberries as well. Really, what's not to like? Enjoy these with some sparkling wine and ginger almonds. Bon appetit!

Blueberry Oat Muffins
inspired by Snack Girl

Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, mix together mashed banana, sweet potato, maple syrup, vanilla extract and melted butter. In a medium-sized bowl, combine oat flour, allspice, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Add mixture in two stages to the larger bowl, stirring until just-combined (you don't want to overwork the batter; just stir until there are no streaks of flour). Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin pan (use removable liners for easy clean-up) 3/4 way with batter. Bake 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.

Links to other banana cinnamon delicacies:

Feb 17, 2012

Cherry Vanilla Smoothie

Everyone has a favorite taste memory and mine is Haagen-Dazs Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream. This was also my grandfather's favorite ice cream. He had a real sweet tooth and would often pick up all kinds of delicacies from the local bakery which (aside from rainbow cookies) I would decline, much to his chagrin. But whenever there was cherry vanilla ice cream in the freezer, I always had room for dessert. It's been about fifteen years now since I lost my grandfather but, whenever I'm feeling low and in need of comfort, I still always turn to cherry vanilla ice cream.

Lately, though, I haven't been able to find it at Fairway. (Has anyone else found this? Please tell me they haven't discontinued it!) And I do know that ice cream is not the best way to sneak more fruits into our diet. So I used this flavor combination as a jumping-off point and created a smoothie instead, using real frozen cherries and vanilla frozen yogurt, as well as some cinnamon, apple juice, applesauce and maple syrup (Grade B, so you really get the maple flavor). I also discovered a forgotten bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer, so those went in as well. And I snuck in some wheat bran and peanut butter for added health benefits and to thicken the mixture. (Even the vegetarian admitted their tastes weren't discernible.) This was a sweet smoothie -- more suited to dessert than breakfast in my opinion -- but it's was really delicious. The only thing to watch out for is that mine was a bit chunky; all those tiny blueberries somehow managed to escape the blender's blades. Enjoy with (or after) Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers. Bon appetit!

Cherry Vanilla Smoothie
inspired by Smoothie Web

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Links to other cinnamon delicacies:

Feb 12, 2012

Not Box Muffins

I'm not a baker. See, when I'm cooking, I like allowing myself to just be seized by the moment and, while reaching for the allspice, allow my gaze to travel down to the vanilla and think ... maybe I'll throw that in too! And I can't experiment like that with baking. Oh, sure, I can play around with spices but it's when I start getting really adventurous and swap out eggs or add in buttermilk that things can get dicey. Because, when I'm baking, I have to keep track of the ratios of solids to liquids and acids to bases and, well, I never took chemistry for a reason!

But, somehow, all those insecurities go out the window when I make muffins. For some reason, I can't mess them up. (Oh, look, now I've gone and jinxed myself. Silly omnivore.) Seriously, though, as long as I have a leavening agent(s), I'm good. And whether they rise a lot or a little -- it's fine. As long as they're cooked through and over the top of the muffin pan, I'm happy.

These muffins are very much made from scratch. So much so that, while they were in the oven I kept turning on the light to check and make sure they were ok! The primary impetus was two bananas left over from my frappe that were turning dangerously brown and splotchy. But I didn't want them to taste terribly bananaey (especially since the vegetarian doesn't much care for their taste) and I wanted a little kick so some chile peppers went in as well, along with buttermilk, allspice, vanilla and, to round everything out, Armagnac. They're not quite savory but also not quite sweet. In fact they taste to me like mild banana muffins but with a little unexpected kick at the end. Perfect to wake you up in the morning or the afternoon. Enjoy with ginger almonds and a glass of Armagnac. Or buttermilk, depending on your preference. Bon appetit!

Not-Box Muffins
inspired by Food.com
Melt butter (easiest in a microwave) and stir in vanilla seeds. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas and jalapeno peppers together with a potato masher until well-combined. Add sugar (microwave briefly if hard and lumpy) and buttermilk. Stir in butter and vanilla seeds and Armagnac. In a medium-sized bowl, combine allspice, baking powder, flour and oats. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until just combined. Butter muffin pan or fill with muffin liners. Fill at least 3/4 way (they won't rise much so it's fine if you fill them higher). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a chopstick inserted into the biggest muffin comes out clean. Let rest 2 minutes, then enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Links to other banana delicacies:

Feb 7, 2012

Pineapple Banana Frappe

I hate breakfast. This statement actually has two parts. Firstly, the last thing I want to do first thing in the morning is eat something, especially something heavy and overly sweet. If I am going to have something, it's likely coffee or tea and, more often than not, something savory. Yes, I admit it; nine times out of ten, my cravings are more salty than sweet. Full confession -- I often have leftover soup or pasta while the vegetarian has his cheerios.

For a while, though, when I was working early mornings at a travel agency and needed some energy before leaving the house, I got into the smoothie craze. The problem, however, was that I didn't have the time or desire to make the smoothies in the morning. That and I'm really not hungry until I've been awake for at least an hour.

But I do like smoothies and, in a constant effort to sneak more fruit into our diets, I created this frappe for dessert the other night. Why is it a frappe and not a smoothie? Because I added some passion fruit sorbet. This also makes it dessert rather than breakfast in my book (although the vegetarian declared it more tart than sweet for anyone other than me and, possibly, my mom).

You can play around with the fruits you include but I do strongly urge you to add banana (even if, like the vegetarian, you don't like it very much). The pineapple, passion fruit and lemon juice cover up the taste so the banana is really just responsible for a delightful creaminess. And, if you are in the mood for breakfast, serve with Baked Sweet Potato Oatmeal Breakfast Casserole, as I did. Bon appetit!

Pineapple Banana Frappe
adapted from Ziplist

  • 1 banana, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pinch vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sliced pineapple
  • 1/2 pint passionfruit sorbet
Combine all ingredients in a sturdy cup. Blend, with an immersion blender, until fairly smooth. Enjoy!

Links to other banana delicacies: