Thursday, January 28, 2010

Savory Bean Stew over Polenta

I love the winter because it gives me a chance to eat hearty soups and stews. Nobody wants to sweat over bean stew in July, but it's perfectly divine in January. Not only is this recipe warm and filling, it's also inexpensive and healthy - good for your post-holiday budget and waistlines! It might be January's perfect food.


  • 1 tablespoon plain olive oil
  • 1 cup of equal parts chopped onion, celery, and red/green bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper

Cover the beans in 2-3 times their volume of water. Soak 6-8 hours (or overnight). Pour beans and water into a large saucepan and bring to a low boil. Cook for 90 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
NOTE: The black beans will dye the other beans purple! This does not affect their flavor but does make it look funny. You may want to both soak and cook the black beans separately.

Heat oil in the same saucepan over medium-low heat. Sweat chopped vegetable with a pinch of salt for 5-7 minutes, or until the veggies are soft and translucent. Stir in cooked beans, tomatoes (with juice), and herbs. Make a slurry with 1/4 cup broth and flour and stir into bean mixture. Bring to a boil and add the remaining broth. Simmer, stirring frequently, over low heat for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

While the stew is simmering, prepare polenta. Bring 3 cups water to a boil and add the salt. Gradually stir in cornmeal, whisking constantly. Once all the cornmeal is integrated, reduce heat and simmer and 5 to 8 minutes or until polenta thickens and hold it's shape, but still soft. Season to taste with black pepper. Spread polenta over plate or large soup dish and top with stew.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fried Rice

So the secret to this recipe is SPAM. Before you go running and screaming, you should know that I have fed this recipe to many an unsuspecting diner, and they always believe the meat in this dish to be ham, sausage, or some other port product. Shock and wonder are the reactions when they realize that it is the infamous canned pork product that adds such a savory goodness to the other ingredients.

  • 1 can SPAM, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1½ cup fresh peas (or thawed frozen peas - do not use canned peas!)
  • 4 cups cooked day old rice (freshly cooked will work, but is generally too moist)
  • 1 tablespoon Canola oil
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce (to taste, but don't go overboard!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (also to taste)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Paprika
  • ½ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper


Place oil in wok/pan. Turn stove on to medium heat. Add onions, cook until they start to become translucent, then add the SPAM. When the onions become translucent, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until everything has started to brown. Turn the heat up to medium high or high. Add peas, rice, paprika, and black pepper then stir. Add remaining soy sauce in small doses until the rice is light brown in color.


If you use Aloha brand soy sauce, you will not need much (if any) sugar, since it is brewed sweeter than Japanese or Chinese soy sauce.

If you just have to skip the SPAM, here are a few alternative meats:
  • 1/2 pound of diced bacon
  • 1 can of tuna or salmon (use lower heat because canned fish can burn easily)
  • 12 oz Ham
  • 12 oz chopped chicken

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas

I hope everybody had a great holiday season! I am not much of a "Holiday" cook, so I took some time off from blogging :) Now that the holidays are over, I feel good posting a recipe in my favorite style: Mexican! This recipe can be made from what are normal pantry staples along with a few fresh ingredients, making it a great weeknight meal - unlike some "traditional" Mexican dishes, which require a visit to a Latino grocery store and two hours of prep work!


For the Enchilada Sauce
  • 1 can (14 ounces) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 ounces) plain tomato sauce
  • 1 can (7 ounces) diced green chiles (mild or hot, your choice)
  • 1 small onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 fresh jalepeno chile (remove the ribs and seeds for a milder flavor)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles (optional - they give the sauce a subtle, smokey heat)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, thick and leafless stems trimmed off
Other Ingredients
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon each cumin and coriander seeds, toasted, cooled, and crushed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 4 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (or just Cheddar and/or Monterrey Jack cheeses)
  • 12 medium (or "enchilada size) flour tortillas
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan with the cumin, coriander, salt, and lemon. Add enough water to cover everything. Bring to a boil and gently simmer over low heat, covered, for 8-12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Meanwhile (while the chicken is cooking), put all the Enchilada sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse 10-15 times until smooth. When the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat, remove the chicken from the liquid and shred into bite-sized pieces with forks. Discard the cooking liquid, or strain and use as you would chicken broth (although it might be a little too salty, depending on how much water you added). In a large mixing bowl, add the shredded chicken, half of the sauce and half the cheese. Stir to combine.

Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray. Warm the tortillas in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. Place about a 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture in a line across the middle of a tortilla and roll it up. Put the enchilada seam-side down in the baking dish and repeat with remaining tortillas, packing them in as snugly as possible (you may have to experiment with the exact layout depending on the size of your tortillas and the dimensions of your baking dish). Spread the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is bubbly. Remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking.