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beans final

OK, so I did things backwards.  That’s really not unusual, I can be a bit scattered.  I used this black beans recipe for the nacho bites.  So it would have made sense to post this recipe first, but we didn’t eat the beans as pictured above until last night, and I wanted to give you the full effect (amateur photography and all).   

This recipe isn’t a one-hit wonder.  It takes some time to make so you really want to make it worth your while and cook in bulk. 

Why go to the trouble of making your own beans when you can just open a can, you ask?  Well, that’s like asking why drive a Lexus when a Honda will do.  It’s just that much better.  So when you have time – which I’m sure is at a premium – this recipe is well worth it.

Here’s your secret weapon:

secret weapon

Simmering the beans in chicken broth is key.  But again, I’m getting ahead of myself.  First you’ll want to soak the beans overnight in water (this isn’t mandatory but cuts down on cooking time).

beans soaking

Then drain them.

beans_drained

Now you add the broth and the spices (chili powder, cumin, thyme, salt and pepper).  Now I went a tad heavy on the chili powder, so if you don’t like spice you’ll want to cut back.

spices

Add them all together, bring to a boil…

beans cooking

Then wait….and wait some more.  All told, you have to simmer them for about 2 hours.  When you’re almost done, add the onion so it doesn’t get too mushy.

You can serve over rice with tomatoes and avocado for a delish vegetarian meal.

Here’s the recipe!

Black Beans (6 servings):

  • 8 oz of dried black beans (about half a bag)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Half a medium onion, finely diced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight.  Drain and put in large pot.  Cover with chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add 2 cloves garlic, cumin, chili powder, thyme, salt and pepper.  Turn heat down so beans simmer (low to medium low heat).

Simmer loosely covered until very tender (approximately 2 hours).  When almost done, add onion and remaining garlic.  Cook 5 to 10 more minutes.  Add more spices if needed.

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Nacho Bites

Nachos without cheese?  Yes, that’s right dear reader.  And you don’t even miss it!  No, I’m serious.  I wouldn’t joke about something like this.

So while I’ve yet to find a solution for cheeseless pizza, I’ve at least cracked the code for nachos.  In fact, I’ve been eating so much Mexican food lately I’m starting to learn Spanish.  OK, not really, but I do love the cuisine.

I served these little gems this weekend at a birthday party and they were gobbled up by a bunch of male cheese eaters.  Now that’s quite a test market.  What’s the secret you ask? 

avocado

That’s right, avocado.  But I’m jumping ahead. 

First you have to make the adorable little cups to hold your nacho bites.  Now, I’ll admit there are a lot of steps to this recipe, so if you’re just serving a few folks you could make these like traditional nachos.  Or for a crowd you could do it as a layer dip with tortilla chips.

But if you’re feeling fancy, and have some extra time on your hands, I’d recommend the cups.  You can make them a few days before.  They’re just so cute, no?

finished cups

All you do is cut regular tortillas with a cookie cutter…

cookie cutter

Then push them into mini muffin tins like dees (sorry, that’s my Spanish accent coming out).

putting into cups

I discovered that folding them cuts down on torn tortillas.  But if you rip a few don’t worry, they’ll still work.  When you’re done they look like this.

tortillas in cups

Now just bake these in the oven at 375 for about 5 minutes.  When they cool, pop them out and you’re ready to roll.  Oh, except you have to make the filling.  For that, you brown some meat with taco seasoning (again, you could do this ahead).

taco meat

I recommend making a lot so you can have tacos for dinner.  This is too much trouble to go to for just an appetizer.

Then you mix 1-1/4 cups meat, beans and salsa together.  I did it in Tupperware so it’s ready to transport (you’ll want to wait to assemble until party time so they don’t get soggy).

meat_beans_salsa

Now onto the guacamole.

avocado in food processor

I used 3 avocados, 1/2 lime so it wouldn’t brown before the party and a dash of salt.  I also added, wait for it, 1 tablespoon of mayo.  I know, that sounds awful doesn’t it??  But that’s what give it the creamy, cheese-like consistency. 

Just lay the tortilla cups on the platter, spoon the bean, salsa, meat mixture and top with guacamole.  Then stand out of the way as people dive for them.  (Ok, maybe not, but I do think they’ll be popular).

Nacho Bites (makes 48 bites):

  • 24 Taco Size Flour Tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cups taco meat, browned
  • 1 1/4 cups jarred salsa
  • 1 1/4 cups black beans, canned
  • 3 avocados
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbsp. mayo
  • Salt to taste

Cut the tortillas with a cookie cutter and place in mini muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes.  Let cool before removing.

Combine avocado and mayo in food processor until creamy.  Add lime and salt and pulse to combine.

In a small bowl, combine taco meat, salsa and beans.  Spoon the bean mixture into the tortilla cups then top with the guacamole.

Debbie Downer

Sometimes I feel like the Debbie Downer of the taste bud world.

“Hey, want a cookie?”

“No thanks, if I eat that my child will scream in agony for days.”

Cue the music.

When I first decided to try this diet, other moms told me they got by ordering plain chicken and vegetables at restaurants and packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner parties. 

Ugh, I can actually feel my taste buds wilting.

Not to sound selfish, but I wouldn’t last two days on a strictly blah diet.  I need flavor!  But this can be a tall order when you’re not cooking your own.  I find people fall mainly into two camps when offering you food: the nonchalant and the over-zealous.  The nonchalant person is the one to fear most.  If they say, “you should be alright” when you ask if there is dairy or soy in it be afraid….be very afraid.

But the over-zealous person can be equally dangerous (to your taste buds).  They try to eliminate everything from a dish – even salt and pepper – to avoid any offending allergens.  Problem is, this also eradicates flavor.  But hey, I appreciate the effort.  I usually just smile, make a joke about how high maintenance I am and (if I’m in a restaurant) see if they can help me find a more taste-worthy option.

A little reconnaissance work goes a long way when dining away from home.  If you’re headed to a chain restaurant, see if they have allergy information posted online.  I Google “restaurant name allergy info” because sometimes it’s hard to find on the restaurant website.  If it’s a local joint, call ahead and ask if they accommodate food allergies.  They can usually put you in touch with someone in the kitchen or a manager.  You’ll still need to inform your server, but you can at least figure out what to order beforehand, which cuts down on the nine million questions you usually have to ask.

Eating in people’s homes is a little more tricky.  If you know them fairly well, try to find out what they’re serving and how you can “fill in” for taboo items, i.e. bringing chips and salsa for an appetizer or a small thing of rice instead of mac n’ cheese.  If you don’t feel comfortable asking, plan to eat beforehand or brown bag it.  I’ve even been known to check food labels at friend’s houses, but I know that can get a little awkward.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: don’t just ask someone, “Does this have dairy or soy in it?”  People usually don’t think about (or know) all of the hidden sources of these tricky ingredients.  When at a restaurant, I go through every aspect of the dish.  If it’s a sandwich, I ask if the bread was made with milk or if they butter it.  Always ask if the sauce has dairy or soy in it or if the vegetables have butter (they usually do). 

If it’s crazy busy or the server falls into the nonchalant camp, I’ll sometimes just wander over to the kitchen.  There’s usually a manager or kitchen staffer milling about.  I tell them I don’t want to “bother” the server with this since they’re so busy and see if they can help me pick something out that’s safe to eat.  A smile goes a long way.

All of these things take a lot of effort, but if you’re a fellow foodie they’re worth it. 

And if all else fails, there’s always peanut butter and jelly.

intro pic

By reading the word ‘zucchini,’ you may be inclined to think this is a healthy recipe.  But leave it to me to turn a vegetable to the dark side.

I don’t know about you but after eating oatmeal and high fiber cereal all week, I like a little breakfast treat on the weekends.  And this bread fits the bill perfectly.  (It freezes well too if you want to double it). 

It’s an old family recipe that didn’t have to be altered at all for this diet.  No fake butter or milk necessary.  For some reason that makes me happy.  It’s the small things in life, no?

Just like most of my days, this recipe starts on the right foot with a healthy dose of grated zucchini.   

zuchinni grated

Then, like most days, it goes downhill from there.

First, whip the eggs into a frenzy. 

eggs

Now you add the good stuff…or the bad stuff depending on how you look at it.  Oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla.  I’m not going to show you how much sugar I add because it’s borderline obscene.  But that’s what makes it good!

If you’re brave enough to continue, it’s on to the dry ingredients.  Sift the flour once.

Sifted Flour

Then sift again with the other dry ingredients, including cinnamon…..mmmmm.

sifted dry ingredients

All mixed evenly…isn’t that nice?

sifted dry ingredients, part 2

Add the dry ingredients to the mixer slowly.

final mixture

Now, I lied to you earlier.  I didn’t mean to, but at this point some fake butter may enter the picture.  The recipe calls for a greased and floured pan to keep it from sticking.  You can either use fake butter or shortening.  Pick your poison.

greasing pan 1

It’ll look like this when done.

greasing pan 2

Then dust a little flour in the pan and shake until all sides are covered.

greasing pan 3

If the flour gets gloppy on you, bang the side of the pan.  Naturally, this works better with real butter, but we gotta play the hand we’re dealt, right?

Then divide the mixture between two loaf pans.  By the way, you can use glass or metal.

final mixture in pan

This takes an hour to bake, but oh, is it ever worth the wait.

Here’s the recipe…

Zucchini Bread

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 heaping cups of grated zucchini (about 1 large zucchini)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grate zucchini in food processor and set aside.  Beat eggs in mixer until light and foamy.  Add oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla and beat well.

Sift flour.  Add dry ingredients and sift again.  Add slowly to creamy mixture.  Once incorporated, fold in walnuts if using.

Divide between two greased and floured loaf pans.  Bake 1 hour.

Popcorn Final

One of the hardest things about nursing (and this diet) is the constant, gnawing hunger.  Maybe it’s just me, but most days I’m ravenous.  But my rumbling belly has led to a new obsession: stove-top popcorn. 

My father-in-law taught me how to make it on the stove, viewing all microwave versions as culinary abominations.  He’s right, but I always settled for the bagged stuff until I had to give up butter.  (Oh butter, how I miss you!) 

But butter withdrawals aside, one of the benefits has been my discovery of popping my own corn.  You see, you CAN have delicious movie-worthy popcorn without butter.  That’s right folks, you heard it here first.  “How?” you might ask.

Well, it starts with the kernals.

Popcorn kernals

I throw in a few handfuls – just enough to coat the bottom.  But before you toss them in, drizzle in a little canola oil.  Again, just enough to coat the bottom.

Cover the pot and turn the stove on high.  After about 2 minutes, your oil will heat up.  Once I hear it sizzle, I start shaking the pot back and forth over the eye, Jiffy Pop style (if you’re old enough to remember that.)

Popcorn shaker

Once the popping slows, take it off the eye and let it rest.  When you’re sure it’s done, take a peep at your magical creation.

Popcorn on stovetop

See?  You did it!  You really can pop your own popcorn!

Whew, I guess I got a little excited.  But the real magic happens when you pour it in the bowl.

Popcorn Final

 That’s when I drizzle it with butter-flavored grapeseed oil from Wildtree.  Mmm, mmm good.  You have to have a rep to order the stuff (ala Pampered Chef) but luckily the good folks at Wildtree can hook you up here.

If you simply don’t have the attention span for mail-order, plain olive oil works pretty well too.

And for heaven’s sake don’t forget the salt!  If you have a sea salt grinder, you’re one step ahead of the game.

Enjoy!

Popcorn (serves two, or one very hungry breastfeeding mama like me):

  • 1/4 cup popping kernals
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Canola oil (or vegetable oil)
  • Butter-flavored grapeseed oil, or olive oil
  • Salt

Pour the oil in a covered saucepan and add kernals.  Cover and turn stove to high.  When oil begins to sizzle, gently shake the pot back and forth over the eye.  When the popping slows, take off eye and let it sit until finished popping.

Pour into bowl and drizzle with oil and salt to taste.

Kale Dinner

I’m on a mission.  I want the world to love kale as much as I do.  Turbo is already a convert.  One down…

First, I should probably lobby the kale farmers for a better name.  It doesn’t really sound as delicious as it is.  (Turbo called it ‘kelp’ the first few times I served it.)  But since I probably won’t get around to writing my congressman or local farmer anytime soon, maybe I’ll start with telling you how I cook it.  Once you give it a whirl, I can almost guarantee you’ll like it!

So what’s with this cruciferous love affair?  Well, besides having as much calcium as a glass of milk, this dark, leafy green takes about five minutes to cook and doesn’t have the strong taste of its cousins, broccoli and spinach.  This recipe came from a healthy eating class I took from a group called Greenlight.  They also have a great recipe blog

So anyway, here’s what you do.  Start by washing the kale.  Some say you need to soak it for five minutes then rinse.  Usually I skip this step, but this batch came from the farmer’s market and had some critters on it. 

kale, washed

This is called Red Russian kale and truthfully, it’s not my favorite.  Normally I get the curly leaved variety from the grocery store.  It holds up better in cooking and has milder flavor.  It looks like this.

Kale - traditional

Either way, the first step is to separate the leaves from the ribs.  You can do it by pinching at the bottom and pulling up.

Stripping Kale

Now, that was easy.

Kale Ribs

Now rip up those beautiful green leaves into bite-sized pieces and put in a skillet, covered, with just a smidgen of water.  (Just enough to cover the bottom). 

Kale Cooking

Once the water comes to a boil, it’s pretty much ready.  I let it go for maybe 2-3 minutes more or until a little wilted and dark green.

Kale Cooked

Again, this is a little wilty for my taste. 

Next you just pour off the water, add a little olive oil, lemon and sesame seeds, and Voila!  You’ve got a super-food side dish. 

Kale (serves 2)

  • Bunch of fresh kale, approximately 5-7 stems
  • Lemon
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Olive Oil

Wash kale, remove stems and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Place in skillet, covered, with just enough water to cover the bottom.  Once water comes to a boil, cook for approximately 2-3 more minutes, or until dark green and slightly wilted.  Drain water.  Drizzle with olive oil, sesame seeds and freshly squeezed lemon to taste (approximately one-quarter slice).  Toss together and serve.