Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Our days off and a recipe for black bean and corn salad

Matt and I finally had two days off together for the first time in quite a while.  My boss is really good about trying to make my schedule work with Matt's but, with work being busy, sometimes things just don't work out. 

On our weekend off together, we went to yard sales, the farmers market, stopped in town for ice cream, soaked up some sun on the beach and just sat on our porch, watched the ocean and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  Needless to say, blogging didn't really cross my mind.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)I was also able to get through a good chunk of a book that I'm reading, titled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.).  It was sent to me a while ago by Matt's mom and I finally had some time to really dive into it.  If you have ever considered starting a garden or buying your produce locally, read this book and I believe that you will, at the very least, give some serious thought about the items you are placing in your grocery cart.  I know that I will.  My goal this summer is to try and purchase most of my produce from local growers at the farmer's market.  Maybe by the time I'm finished with the book I will be so inspired that I'll stop tripping over myself because I'm sprinting out the door to get to the store to grab a box of corn flakes for $0.50 (side note... industrialized corn and soy beans are major players in our nation's problem with obesity and a huge reason why we've lost so many small farms in the past few decades).

And, because I'm not much of a believer in being an extremist...  Here is a recipe for black bean and corn salad that we made on one of our days off (I bought a frozen bag of corn for $0.15 at Publix the other day).
One of these days I would like to live off the land a little more and rely less on coupons.  One of these days...  But not yet.

I once bought a black bean and corn salad from Starbucks for about $4 and, although really tasty, it was waaaay overpriced.  I made a similar salad for less than $0.50/serving.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

In a bowl, mix together:

Black beans (I use canned)
Corn kernels (Canned, frozen or fresh)
Chopped Cilantro
Diced tomato (I used canned because I had some leftover but, of course, you can use fresh)
Diced jalapeno (if you like a little heat)
Clove of garlic
Chopped onion or green onion
Squeeze of lime juice
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

Monday, March 14, 2011

Let us be thankful

Three days ago I woke up to a text message from my sister saying that there was an 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan.  She followed by telling me that my family was okay but had to evacuate to higher ground because of a tsunami warning.  I was still a little confused as I turned on the tv and...  There it was on the news.  Even at the time I did not realize the magnitude of what had just happened.  All I knew was that my family was safe.

Over the next couple of days, I followed the news and came to understand just how devastating this earthquake was.  Every day the death toll rises and hundreds of thousands are left without a home.  It hits you hard knowing that your family could have easily fallen victim to this disaster.

In an instant your life can be turned upside down, and tomorrow you can be without everything you have today.

So let us be thankful.

I am thankful for everyday that my world is left undisturbed and peaceful.  I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and food to eat.  I am thankful that my loved ones are alive and safe. 

There are a lot of people, right now, who don't have much to be thankful for.  If you have something to be thankful for, please consider helping those who are less fortunate.

Thank you for reading.

If you would like to help the earthquake victims of Japan, the American Red Cross is accepting donations.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Shredded Chicken Burritos

Here's something else I made on my freezer cooking day - Shredded chicken burritos.  I finally got the chance to test out the crock pot that Matt and I received from my mom for Christmas.  This thing is incredible.  Not only is it a slow cooker (and huge - Do you see that it fits an entire chicken?) it is also a pressure cooker AND rice cooker ANNND it has browning capabilities (Meaning you can sear your meat and saute your vegetables in the crock pot).

I've used my new toy to make rice a couple of times but this was the first time I used the slow cooker capability.  Since I was busy trying to get so much stuff done, it was really convenient for me to throw a bunch a ingredients in a pot, close the lid and let it do it's thing for eight hours.

The burritos turned out nice and they freeze really well.  I was able to make ten large burritos with one whole chicken.  After the chicken was done cooking, I was left with some really nice stock (which I also froze) and that will probably be used to make chicken chili later on.

Like always, I tried to use what was in my kitchen.
How do I get my groceries for so cheap?  Go here to see how I shop.
  • Whole chicken $2.80 (Harris Teeter still has them on sale for $0.59/lb!)
  • Bag of shredded cheese: $0.25
  • Can of tomatoes: $0.50
  • Can of black beans: $0.50
  • Tortillas: $2.50
  • Sour cream: $.10
  • Pace Picante Salsa Verde, 1/2 jar: $0.70
  • Onion scraps, cilantro stems, garlic
The total cost of one dinner-sized burrito is about $0.75 (with great stock leftover!). 

Chicken, onion scraps, garlic, cilantro stems, canned tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper all go into the crock pot.

Set the timer for 8 hours and go about my business.

When eight hours have passed, remove the pot from the cooker and cool.  Refrigerate overnight and the next day it will look like this.  Scrape the fat off the top and remove the chicken from the jelly-like broth.  Shred the chicken.

 Put the broth into a pot, heat and strain.  Reserve some liquid for the chicken, freeze the rest for later use.

Put shredded chicken into a pot and add salsa verde, cumin and a little stock.  Add sour cream (or cream cheese, like we used to do at my old culinary school) for a little richness.  Add black beans, salt and pepper.  Finish with chopped cilantro. 

Set tortillas on parchment paper (not to be confused with wax paper) and spread a thin layer of sour cream.  Top with chicken and cheese.

First, roll burritos.

Then, roll in parchment.

Last, if you are like me and don't own a microwave, roll in foil.  Otherwise, roll in plastic.  Store in airtight bags and freeze.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Being A Kid Again - Mac and Cheese and Hot Dogs

Before I begin this post, I am excited to announce that I was featured in a blog created by my friend Stacy.  I have known Stacy for quite a few years now and she is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.  We were in the Air Force together, a few years back, and the last time I saw her she was the mother of one little baby boy.  Now she is the proud parent of three beautiful children.  Stacy is the author of Kids Stuff World and writes about being a mother, taking care of the home and life in general.  Read about her adventures here and the really nice blog post about me here

Sometimes Matt and I do things that remind us of being young again...  Riding our bikes to the ice cream shop, bringing our mattress into the living room (I used to love sleeping in the living room as a kid) and eating mac and cheese and octopus-shaped bbq hot dogs for dinner.

The mac and cheese is homemade with bechamel, sauteed onions, cheddar and a little gorgonzola (recipe and method coming soon) and I usually get the Hebrew National All Beef Franks when they are BOGO at Publix.  Hebrew National hot dogs contain no by-products, artificial flavors or colors and are really tasty, in my opinion.

It is common, in Japan, to put octopus-shaped hot dogs in children's lunch boxes.  They call it taco weinna- which means octopus wiener.  And by wiener, I mean hot dog.  I think they're really cute and something that children will enjoy.

To make taco weinna-

  • First cut the hot dogs into thirds.
  • Cut a cross into one end of the hot dog pieces, the cuts should go up 1/3 of the way (Fancy graphic below).
  • Heat frying pan on medium-high heat with a little oil.  Add hot dogs. 
  • Add a little water to steam the wieners and the legs should start to curl out.
  • When all the water has evaporated and the hot dogs are heated through, add BBQ sauce. Serve.