Smitten Saturdays: Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout

This will be a very quick post because I am in the thick of finalizing (read: writing practically from scratch) four course syllabi for the spring semester, which starts on Monday.

(Side note: I am terrified by how much preparation a couple of these courses I’m teaching will require. I will definitely not be getting paid enough for my services this semester.)


This week’s recipe is the Slow Cooker Black Bean Ragout (p. 137). I didn’t make the spaghetti squash and black bean tacos as anticipated because I just couldn’t do that to my family. But I loved this recipe (beans in a slow cooker? What’s not to love?). The spices were perfectly balanced and the beans tender and not at all mushy. Maybe an entire large onion was unnecessary; I’d probably go with a smaller one next time.

I served these beans with taco fixings, even though my husband and I were the only ones who ate them (when the Big Kid complained about the beans having onions, my husband said, “well, I don’t even like beans,” which was news to me). This means that I’ve got several servings of black bean ragout for my lunches this upcoming week (I’ll freeze them and space them out over the next few weeks for everyone’s sake), and that’s totally okay. I’ve got a heap of corn tortillas (and a neglected spaghetti squash) and a busy schedule ripe for a grab-and-go lunch. Some lettuce, a little dab of guac and sour cream, plus some sliced olives and jalapenos added to the beans make for a healthed-up (read: no fried, edible bowl) taco salad. Or you can just heat up the beans and eat them with a hunk of multigrain bread for a wholesome peasant’s meal. Black bean ragout: Versatile!


Next time: Baked Potato Crisps with the Works (p. 296), which will a dry run for a potential contribution to Sally and Chad’s annual Super Bowl commercial-watching potluck!

Austin City Guide: Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks

This post is the third in a series of entries dedicated to the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide 2012, aimed at helping visitors and newcomers sort out the city’s most notable food establishments. Over the course of the next week, I’ll be covering a broad array of topics dedicated to the best places to eat and drink and socialize in Austin.

Today’s topic is non-alcoholic drinks. When you think of Austin, you probably think of Shiner Bock or margaritas (rightly so, in truth). But did you know that Austin also has a vibrant coffee culture, as well as some really solid local sodas?

But there’s also a growing conversation about juice these days. While fruit juices get a bad rap for being chock full of sugar and contributing to the global obesity problem, there’s something to be said for a foamy concoction of freshly compressed fruits and veg to help fill you up when you need a snack or as a bit of a refresher after some vigorous exercise.

To that end, here are three options for yummy, freshly squeezed juices, whether you want to reboot your digestive system with a brief juice fast or just have a tasty (and fairly nutritious) alternative to water when you’re feeling parched.


Deep Eddy Juiceland

I like to go to Juiceland after a run for a “Moderator” (I would link to the menu, but that website is a nightmare), as I find the bracing bite of the ginger and lemon mixed with the sweet finish of the apple and beet to be completely energizing. Juiceland also has a selection of ready-to-eat meals and packaged living-foods snacks on hand to grab and go with your juice or smoothie.

Daily Juice

Daily Juice

Daily Juice is a raw foods cafe at the corner of 45th and Duval streets, smack in the middle of the Hyde Park neighborhood. While parking is a hassle, I really like this spot because not only can you get things like raw durian truffles to go with your juice or smoothie, you can get raw nachos and even vegan ice cream.

Snap Kitchen

Snap Kitchen juices, photo courtesy of Jodi Bart,

Snap Kitchen, which has two brick-and-mortar locations in Austin, as well as a downtown popup, is one-stop shopping for pret a manger meals that are portion controlled and customized to your particular dietary needs. Vegetarian? Yup. Gluten free? You betcha. Diabetic? But of course!!! Dairy free? Lower sodium? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Snap Kitchen recently rolled out a series of juices meant to comprise a Day 0 “cleanse” as part of their 21-day Snap Commit program, but you can also just walk into the shop and grab something light and nutrient-rich, like the Energy Boost (with papaya, lime, and coconut water, among other things) or a decadent cashew protein shake after you’re done pumping iron. I definitely see myself grabbing a juice from the cooler for some relief from the heat when I go to the Triangle Market on Wednesday afternoons this summer.

Meal Plan: 2/12-2/18 (with recipe!)

It’s RETURN OF THE MEAL PLAN!!! After a week of WAY TOO MANY meals out, I put together and shopped for a meal plan that has us eating home every single night this week. My goals for this week’s meals were to have at least two vegetarian dinners, keep waste at a minimum, and be weight-loss friendly. (I’ve also written a meal plan for myself that has each day’s meals/calories/snacks planned out in advance because, dammit, I really want to be able to fit into all the cute clothes in my closet!) Of course, it didn’t help that after tonight’s pretty darn virtuous dinner, I had half an individual black- and blueberry pie from Pie Fixes Everything topped with a slightly unreasonable dollop of vanilla ice cream. Baby steps.

I’ve listed the mains here, but I also have a bunch of veggies from Johnson’s on hand: Brussels sprouts, carrots, bok choy, beets, and purple cauliflower. I’ve also got some salad fixings from the grocery. I just need to get some fruit that isn’t clementines, tangelos, or oranges. I’m not really a huge fan of summer, but I am ready for some fruit that isn’t citrus.

Sunday: Taco ‘Tater Skins (pictured above, recipe below)
Monday: Inner Peace Brown Rice and Cashews
Tuesday: Chicken with Pepperoni-Marinara sauce
Wednesday: leftovers
Thursday:Vegetable and Tofu Pad Thai (with a side of shrimp for the boy)
Friday: Pork and Potato meatloaf
Saturday: Leftovers/freezer surprise

The meal I made tonight was quite delicious and satisfying. I found it on Gina’s Skinny Recipes and, because I am lazy and skipped over certain parts of the recipe, I am going to post my cheater’s version here. I have renamed them Taco ‘Tater Skins because I refuse to call something “Santa Fe” just because it has black beans and corn in it.

Taco Tater Skins
adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes
(I don’t have a Points+ value for these, but I reckon they’re about a 5? Or a 7? I really have no idea.)

4 large Russet potatoes, cleaned and pierced with a fork
3/4 lb. ground turkey breast
1/2 white onion
cumin to taste
salt to taste
1 cup jarred salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-monterey jack blend)

Preheat the oven to 450. After washing and piercing the potatoes, wrap them individually in foil and place them in the oven. Bake for 1 hour.

While the potatoes are baking, dice the onion. Warm about a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add the turkey and saute until cooked through. Add the cumin, salt, and salsa and stir until combined. Add the beans and corn, mix thoroughly, then cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

After the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven (leave the oven on). Cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving about a quarter-inch of flesh on the inside of the potato. (I put the potato innards in the freezer to use when I need mashed potatoes.) Once the innards have been scooped, arrange the potatoes on a baking sheet (cover it with foil if you want easier cleanup). Place 1/2 cup of filling into each potato half (you may have excess filling; divide it evenly among your potato halves or just save it for later). Sprinkle some cheese on top of each half, then put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake until cheese is melted.

Serve with sour cream, if you like, or more salsa, or jalapeno slices, or guacamole, whatever.

Slow Cooker Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

Oh, this life as a food writer (and as someone who is surrounded by other food writers/bloggers and lovers of food) is wearing on me. And by “wearing on me,” I mean “I have to log 15-20 miles per week running or on the elliptical in order to fit into what few items of clothing I have that still fit me.” Sometimes you just have to clean that mess up. And with the weekend ahead of me — lunch tomorrow at Lucky J’s and dinner at Lucy’s, plus a baby shower here and a Super Bowl potluck on Sunday — I suspect I will be on an all-juice diet at least one day next week!

But tonight was all about vegetables, getting some fiber down the hatch in a pleasurable way. I had planned to make these for a vegetarian mommy meal, but a casserole presented itself for that family and we wound up having these all to ourselves. I like these because they are not super heavy in cheese (although they could be if you wanted them to) and they are mostly vegetables. I found these via Pinterest, and tweaked the recipe to suit what I had on hand (primarily a large bundle of spinach I’d bought at the farmers market and needed to use up). Once they’re cooked, they more closely resemble chilaquiles than enchiladas, but what is really important is that they are really, really delicious with the bonus of being incredibly easy.

(And we shall not speak of the peanut butter brownies and lemon sponge cake in the fridge.)

Slow Cooker Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

adapted from The Kitchn

1/2 white onion, diced
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 t chili powder
1 t cumin
1 t salt
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used a blend of cheddar and monterey jack)
3 cups salsa (I used Mrs. Renfro’s)
12 small corn tortillas

Mix together the onion, spinach, beans, spices, sour cream, and 1/2 cup cheese in a bowl.
Pour 1 cup salsa into the slow cooker and cover the surface of the crock.
Make a single layer of six enchiladas by filling each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of filling, then rolling it and placing it on top of the salsa.
Spread a cup of salsa on top of your first layer, then sprinkle it evenly with 1/2 cup of cheese.
Make the second layer of enchiladas with the remaining filling and six tortillas.
Top with the final cup of salsa, but do not top with cheese.
Cover the crock pot and cook on high for about 3 hours.
15 minutes before serving, top with the remaining cheese and allow to melt.

Apple crisp

It’s October. Technically fall. Apples and pears are in abundance at the grocery stores and farmers’ markets. And yet it’s still 90 degrees outside in my town. Oy vey, times a thousand. It’s supposed to drop down into the 70s this week, so we’ll be able to think about soup and hearty meals for about fifteen minutes, but this terrifyingly hot and dry summer has got my sense of the seasons all out of whack.

That didn’t stop me from making an apple crisp, though. Sure, apples and oats and cinnamon and brown sugar scream sweater weather, but these were organic fujis (ENORMOUS) on sale at the grocery store (kind of ironic that just this morning I got up on my high horse about cheap food; on one hand, I think it devalues food in our minds, but on the other hand, I like the idea of affordable organics for people who have less money to spend on food). I got a little over three pounds (about five apples) and let them sit on the counter for a few days before deciding what to do with them. I was thinking about apple butter for Christmas gifts because I really want to emphasize handmade gifts this year (that and books). But I am really, really busy right now and decided to go with something that would take an hour and would require as few dishes as possible.

I would also like to point out that the dish of apple crisp in this picture rests on top of my completed (!!!!!) dissertation. That doesn’t mean that I will stop talking about my project here, because its roots run deep and the ideas within it reach to many corners of food culture. But for now, I am enjoying the sense of pride and liberation at having reached this particular milestone. I hope to get my defense on the calendar for sometime before Thanksgiving.

Apple Crisp
(adapted from Simply Recipes)

5 large Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
juice of two lemons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dark brown sugar (I like the deeper, earthier taste of dark brown sugar)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used McCormick’s roasted Saigon cinnamon, but they did not sponsor this post)
1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds
1/2 cup unsalted butter (that’s one stick, y’all)

    Preheat oven to 375 F.
    In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the lemon juice and vanilla (be aware of any lemon seeds that splurch into the bowl).
    In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, and almonds. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter and mix until blended.
    Place the apples in a casserole dish (I used a gigantic 11×15 dish, but a 9×13 would work here, too) and sprinkle the oat mixture evenly on top.
    Bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream (or go crazy and top it with one of those seasonal flavors, like pumpkin. I bet a chai-spiced ice cream would be good with this, too).

(I hesitate to designate this recipe as gluten-free, since rolled oats are a controversial ingredient when it comes to gluten contamination, but if you’ve got certified GF oats, you are good to go with this recipe.)

Meal plan: 8/8-14

Meal plan is back! Now that I’m back to my luxurious part-time schedule, I have time to curate a (somewhat) thoughtful meal plan and the corresponding shopping list. As it turns out, BK is done with summer day camp and is now set to enjoy two weeks of Camp Mommy. The first order of business is a two-hour kids’ cooking class at Central Market; I’ll do the week’s shopping while he cooks.

Monday: black bean tacos with fresh corn, avocado, Monterrey jack, some beautiful peppers from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and topped with some Shanita’s Salsitas Hal’s Hot Love. (The black bean tacos have really become my go-to Meatless Monday dish, but they’re sooooo easy and delicious. And healthy!)
Tuesday: grilled ribeye (or maybe baby back ribs, depending on how cheap I’m feeling when I get to the meat counter), potatoes, asparagus, cauliflower (totally not seasonal, oops!)
Wednesday: leftover turkey bolognese excavated from the freezer, whole wheat fettuccine, salad
Thursday: tomato, mozzarella, and basil paninis
Friday: tortilla-crusted tilapia (purchased at Costco and not my favorite, but it’s been malingering in the freezer and I refuse to toss it), perhaps in taco form.
Saturday: probably dining out
Sunday: My folks are coming to babysit the kids while Matt and I go to the quiz bowl. I’ve promised to feed them dinner in exchange, so we’ll have chicken breasts from the grill and a big, huge, healthy taco salad with corn, black beans, tortilla chips, avocado, tomatoes, probably some peppers, and dressed with Shanita’s Salsitas Ki’s K.O.

I’ve decided to cut out or largely avoid white flour-based things, so breads and tortillas will be whole-wheat/multigrain (or corn, in the case of the tortillas). My cousin John cooked a fantastic dinner for us a couple of weeks ago that included grilled chicken, sauteed beet greens, steamed beets, cream peas, grilled corn on the cob, and the (delicious) crunchy noodle salad that I contributed. Since then, I have endeavored to make dinners featuring lots of fresh, healthy veges and a minimum of trashy carbs. Some nights I’m more successful than others. 😉

Not the Pits Granola Bars

I’m always looking for new and exciting things to put in the Big Kid’s lunch box. Having a full-time summer job this year has meant that BK goes to day camp, one that doesn’t serve lunches. So, summer break has not translated into a break from packing his lunch. I will admit to having fallen a bit into the pb&j-Pirate’s Booty-sliced strawberries rut a few times over the past 6 weeks or so.

So, naturally, when Whole Foods announced its kid-friendly cherry recipe contest, I immediately started thinking inside the lunchbox.

This recipe, as written, is not very sweet, but it is also very versatile. You could add in a half-cup of brown sugar, maybe some dark chocolate chips if your family has a sweet tooth (and we all know that dark chocolate goes beautifully with these luscious cherries!). You could use honey as an alternative sweetener, or agave nectar for a lighter taste that’s still suitable for vegans (the golden syrup used here adds a deep, almost nutty flavor, so other sweeteners will change the flavor profile a bit). I see this being a great portable snack for athletic kids to turn to after a rigorous soccer or track practice, or a wholesome power-up before a test or a dance recital.

Not the Pits Granola Bars

makes about 12 bars

1/2 cup fresh cherries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 fresh apricot
3 cups rolled oats (NOT quick oats)
1 cup whole almonds
2/3 cup golden syrup
2 T olive oil
1 t cinnamon
1 t sea salt
1.5 t vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pit and halve cherries, and place on a cookie sheet with blueberries and pitted, sliced apricot. Dry in the oven until shrivelly but not burnt. Remove and cool.
2. Bump oven up to 350. Spray or oil an 8×12 baking pan (I used Pam) and line with parchment paper.
3. Place oats and almonds in pan and toast for 15 minutes, stirring once.
4. While toasting, whisk together in a large bowl the golden syrup, olive oil, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.
5. After you remove the oats/almonds from oven, bump temperature down to 300. Mix the oats and almonds in with the wet ingredients and stir to coat. Add in the dried fruit and mix thoroughly.
6. Press mixture into pan. Bake for 25 minutes.
7. When completely cool, lift the mixture out of the pan using the parchment paper and transfer onto a large cutting board. Slice into bars. Eat and enjoy!

Radish butter

A few weeks back, I mentioned my plan to make radish butter for my friend’s Super Bowl party. Well, I weren’t just whistlin’ Dixie, y’all!

Yesterday morning, Laurel and I made a speedy trip down to the farmers market to snag some radishes and a loaf of three-seed sourdough from Texas French Bread. It was an incredibly hectic day of out-of-town AND neighborhood birthday parties (not to mention a jewelry trunk show that I really wanted to attend, but that sadly fell through the cracks of chaos), so I snagged the very small window of opportunity I had to grab my most preferred ingredients for this experimental party dip.

The recipe is so incredibly easy. Just pulse a half-pound of radishes in a food processor until they are very finely diced, then wring them out in paper towels or cheesecloth. Then place them in a bowl and cream the radishes with four tablespoons of softened unsalted butter. Add more butter one tablespoon at a time until you have a spreadable dip (I erred more on the veg-heavy side, but feel free to make it more butter-heavy if you prefer). Top with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

If you’re making it ahead of time, cover it up; it will keep for two days or so. Let it soften for about 15 minutes before serving so that it is spreadable.

I was a little nervous about how it would be received at a Super Bowl party, but the feedback was resoundingly positive. It was more spreadable at the onset of the party because it was still soft and the sun was still out (the food was outside). But after the sun went down and the air cooled off, the spread stiffened up and was hard to serve. But that didn’t stop me from plopping a big blob of it on my bread and chowing down even after I had already eaten past satiety.

As I mentioned, I served this with a seedy multigrain sourdough, but it’s also good on Wasa or GF crackers. And maybe even with celery or carrot sticks.

P.S. Don’t be stingy with the salt. It really brings out the flavor of both the radish and the butter.

Curried Chicken Pan Roast, or, coping with failure

This week has been so, so stressful. I keep thinking things will calm down, but they just keep escalating. My opportunities to work on my dissertation (I’m on my fourth and final chapter) keep getting curtailed (this week I got more time than usual, but I only managed to get a sentence or two written yesterday due to the kids being home for a snow day), and this causes me a lot of anxiety. I would really like to get an April defense date on the books, but there are people who have had my three other chapter drafts for MONTHS and I’ve gotten no feedback. I don’t know how to interpret this silence, but my default setting is OMG THEY HATE MY CHAPTERS AND THEY HATE ME. MIGHT AS WELL GO GET THAT APPLICATION IN AT McDONALDS. (I’m sorry. I know that I just went all Dooce on you with the all caps. I need to find a more creative way to be emphatic.) But I just keep plugging away under the impression (delusion?) that I’ll have all of my committee stuff ironed out and a defensible draft by April 15. I haven’t entertained the other prospect.

Additionally, back in the summer, I signed up to run a half-marathon, which is now two weeks away. I have yet to do a 13.1-mile run. In fact, I haven’t run in more than a week. The weather here has been quite cold and blustery and while I don’t really have an issue with running in the cold (because you don’t stay cold for long!), but when that 30 degrees is accented by frigid 20mph winds, no deal. And I can’t stand running on a treadmill or on an indoor track. I’m a very fussy exerciser in that regard. (That’s also why I stopped doing Zumba and Total Body workouts on campus, because I also can’t stand to work out among a bunch of 20-year-olds who weigh 100 pounds soaking wet and all of their body fat is in all the right places.) The weather is supposed to improve this coming week (apart from another cold, wet blast on Wednesday), so I can get back out on the trail and bust out some miles, but I am very, very, VERY anxious about what I’ve committed to do two weeks from tomorrow. In fact, there’s still a possibility I’ll chicken out and sell my bib to someone who failed to register before all the spots sold out.

And we won’t even talk here about all of the unfinished craft projects I’ve got floating around here, the disaster area that is my sewing room, and so on. There are so many loose ends flapping in the breeze over here, the only way I’ve found to cope with it is inertia. I was in bed last night at 8pm, watching bad stand-up comedy until I finally succumbed to sleep.

One thing, though, that I’ve found satisfaction in is cooking dinner, especially with my forays into roasting chicken. I’ve gotten it into my head that I want to have some variation of roast chicken for Sunday dinners. My first outing was a recipe from the Lee Brothers that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It turned out pretty well, except that I didn’t adjust the cook time for the larger chicken and it was a bit undercooked when I attempted to carve it. Which resulted in a roast chicken that was a bit dry in spots once it was totally cooked through, but it was tasty.

Last Sunday, I tried this recipe, despite the fact that my husband was in the Flu Cave and wasn’t eating anything but applesauce (he finally emerged on Tuesday, but he’s still fairly low energy). I had gotten two bone-in chicken breasts and four drumsticks, with the plan to pack those in Harrison’s lunch box. I was particularly excited about the winter veg that would roast with the meat; I adore Brussels sprouts and butternut squash is the only squash I’ll eat (I hate zucchini and I have a mild allergy to summer squash). I used “Punjab” curry instead of the Madras the recipe calls for; I’m not sure what the difference is between the blends, although I’m sure they both feature coriander, turmeric, and cumin.

I thought this chicken was delicious, and the way the veg caramelized in the pan was just delightful. The next time I make this (and there WILL be a next time), I’ll probably halve the oil and maybe use some chicken broth to moisten the veg because 4T of oil just makes me uneasy (oh, hey! I forgot to mention how I’ve totally been cheating on my diet and have stopped losing weight as a result! Yay!). Sadly, I was the only one who ate any of this meal. Harrison roundly rejected the chicken because the skin was yellow (from the turmeric). Laurel doesn’t eat any meat, and Matt was, as previously mentioned, on an all-applesauce diet. I did my best to work through the leftovers, but ended up tipping three of the drumsticks into the garbage (the breasts were HUGE, and I didn’t get the rest of the meat into the freezer before it was too late).

So, I’ll keep plugging ahead with my roast chicken project because it really is so simple, hearty, and pleasing. And these days, I need to take the small victories where I can get them.

Aloo gobi in the crockpot

This week has been hectic. Between trying to maintain what fragile traction I have on my fourth dissertation chapter, jumping “once more into the breach” of the Spring semester, and dealing with Week 2 of the toddler’s virus(es), I haven’t had much time for blogging (or exercise or knitting or reading or doing much other than staring slack-jawed at the TV after the kids go to bed). But I did want to share this recipe for Aloo gobi, which was on the menu this week for Meatless Monday.

I really love Indian food, but have had middling luck making it at home. A couple of years ago, I made a full Indian meal for some friends, including biryani, saag paneer, and kheer (plus premade samosas and naan). I roasted and ground the spices and refused to cut any corners in assembling the food. (Which is probably why I haven’t done such a stunt since.) A few months back, I made chicken tikka masala and it was pretty good. And a while back, I made palaak tofu in the crockpot and it was blandy bland blanderson. But yummy.

So, I approached this recipe with measured expectations, hoping it would be good, but fully cognizant of the fact that it may well be awful. Surprise! It wasn’t! The only problem was that I needed to either cook it longer or cut the potatoes smaller because they weren’t done after three hours. But the leftovers are delicious and next time I’ll add tofu for a bit of protein.

Crockpot Aloo Gobi
adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker

1 large cauliflower, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 medium tomato, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used a garlic press)
1 largeish serrano (the original calls for 3-4 green Thai peppers or serranos, but I’ve got to mind the Scovilles with the small ones around.) (Not that they ate any of it.)
1 T cumin seeds
1 T red chili powder
1 T garam masala
1 T salt (I was so relieved to see this much salt in the recipe! I am so sick of underseasoned recipes!)
1 t turmeric powder
3 T canola oil (make sure you’re using non-GMO canola oil; I use Spectrum. I reckon if you’re anti-canola in general, you could use butter instead or regular old vegetable oil)

(The cookbook also calls for a heaping T of chopped cilantro, but I don’t know why you’d want to ruin your dish with that foul herb.)

Put all the ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low for three hours (or more, if necessary). Stir occasionally. Don’t worry if the cauliflower seems crunchy; it will eventually soften and release liquid. (Here’s where you add cilantro, if you want to ruin your meal.) Serve with rice or naan, or if you’re me, both. Yay, carbs!