Rice and Black Bean casserole

Here is my recipe for a recipe so delicious you will swear it is full of fat and very bad for you. In fact it’s got lots of protein and fiber, and is pretty healthy. Not only that, but it’s very cheap and super easy! Get out your slow cooker for this one.

Rice and Black Bean Casserole

1 1/2 cups of rice

1 can, or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans

1 cup salsa

1 cup sauteed mushrooms (optional)

3 cups broth or water

cheddar cheese, shredded

fresh cilantro

sour cream

Slow cooker directions: Combine rice, beans, salsa, mushrooms and broth in slow cooker and cook on high for about 3 hours, or until the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally so everything mixes together evenly. Remove crock pot insert from casing. Top the casserole with shredded cheese and place in oven under a hot broiler until cheese is bubbly.

Conventional directions: Cook rice in broth or water. Combine cooked rice, beans, salsa and mushrooms, and top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 or until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

This amount made two dinners for us (2 adults plus 1 preschooler), plus one lunch for my partner to take to work. It goes really nicely with avocado so I made a salad with that in it. You could probably eat it in a pita or a tortilla too. For a vegan option, omit the cheese and sour cream.

I’m planning on making more dinners with black beans since I bought a 3 kilo bag from Food Basics (about 17 cents per 100 grams). Any recommendations?

A pita-riffic dinner idea

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been buying cheap whole wheat pita bread from the Food Basics that my friend has taken me to a couple of times–$1.69 for 6 huge pitas. Turns out they’re a great replacement for tortillas. I think they’re tastier too, and more filling.

So tonight we had sort of a Tex-Mex burrito/fajita/wrap kind of dinner, which could have been very inexpensive if it hadn’t been for the red and yellow peppers that each cost $3.99 a pound. It was around five dollars for just two peppers! But if you can get your peppers cheap, this would be a very tasty, filling and inexpensive meal. I should also mention that this turned out to be another accidentally vegan meal!

One thing with using pitas rather than tortillas is that they do tend to get soggy faster. I suppose one could use a lettuce leaf to hold the fillings to protect the bread from the moisture, or possibly skip the salsa, or at least squeeze the juice out of it. I just went with it, and then gobbled my wrap quickly before it fell apart.

I’ve never had much luck eating tacos neatly either 🙂

Pita Fajitas

four large whole wheat pita breads, split into rounds

one onion, sliced lengthwise

two red, yellow, orange or green peppers, or a combination, sliced

chili powder

salt

refried beans

salsa

2 avocados, sliced lengthwise

other optional additions: sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, guacamole, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped green onions, etc.

Saute the onions in olive oil until dark brown in places. Remove from pan and set aside. Add peppers to the pan and season with chili pepper and salt. Saute the peppers until blackened in places.

Build your pita fajita with generous spoonfuls of refried beans, avocado slices, onions, peppers, salsa, and any optional condiments you choose. Wrap and enjoy.

Serves four.

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One of my next projects will be to make my own refried beans. I’ve got the pinto beans–now I just need a good recipe. Any recommendations?

“Chips”

A friend of mine has started taking me to Food Basics down at Herongate. It’s got some great deals, including large pita bread at $1.69 per package. That’s 6 very big pitas–about 12″ across–at about 30 cents each. I’ve been getting the whole wheat ones which are very tasty and also very filling, especially with hummus or refried beans. Yum!

Last time I went I stocked up and got about 4 bags and thew them in the freezer. Now when I want something to dip, roll or top, I pull out a pita.

But my favourite thing to do with them, especially if they sit around and get a little stale, is to tear them up into pieces and toast them in the oven to make “chips”. Super fast, healthy, substantial and delicious. Maybe next time I will try brushing them with butter or olive oil, plus some salt and/or spices for an even more delicious treat.

Other things I’ve been doing with the pitas include tearing away one half, folding it over with shredded cheese inside, and making a melt in my skillet. I’ve also used them as a wrap for scrambled eggs, but you could wrap anything inside really.

What do you do with your pita bread?

Pastured Yogurt!

Home-Made Raw Milk Yogurt
Home-made raw milk yogurt

I didn’t buy the cow, but I got the milk for free . . .

Raw organic pastured milk, that is. I was going to buy a cow share, but in the end took a long hard look at the budget and decided against it. The very sweet farmer, after hearing my budget constraints, sent a free bottle of milk along for me with my friend who did sign herself up for his milk.

So I became the owner of 1.5 litres of raw milk. It had nearly 3 cm of cream on top, and it smelled like a fragrant pasture. There are many health benefits attributed to raw, pastured, unhomogenized dairy products; access to this kind of “real milk” is lobbied for by the Weston A. Price Foundation.

The only thing was that I found it just a little bit different from what I’m used to. So instead of pouring it over my cereal, I used some for making pancakes, and the rest, I used for making yogurt. I took a very low-tech approach, as outlined below. Keep in mind, the milk is no longer “raw”, as heating for yogurt effectively pasteurizes it.

Home Made Yogurt (without a thermometer)

milk

yogurt with active cultures

Warm up slow cooker on low setting. Add hot tap water.

Heat milk in a saucepan on the stove until frothy and steamy. Then cool the milk by placing the saucepan in a sink of cold water and stirring the milk. Cool the milk until it is “warm-hot, not owie hot” (as my daughter would say). Add active yogurt–approx. 2 tbsp yogurt per four cups of milk–and whisk until combined.

Pour into clean mason jars and place jars in the slow cooker, making sure the hot water does not rise above the jars. Turn off/unplug the slow cooker and wrap it with towels. Let sit for several hours. The longer you let it sit, the firmer and more sour the yogurt will be.

Remove from slow cooker, place lids on jars, and refrigerate. The yogurt will firm up as it cools.

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It’s like magic: milk alchemy! I was so excited to be making yogurt that I kept on wanting to lift up the towels to take a peek–a peek of what, I have no idea! But it worked, and I’m stoked. The sourness of the yogurt works very well with the more complex flavour of the pastured milk. And the price is better than any organic yogurt out there, even with the $3 per litre price tag. And hey–no more plastic yogurt tubs to stress about!

How about you? Do you make yogurt? Have you tried raw or pastured milk?

A Cheaper Way with Beans

Cans of beans were on for 99 cents for the last few weeks, and I stocked up on some of our favourites: black beans for soup, mixed beans for tabouli, kidney beans and white kidney beans for chili and other stuff, and our favourite: chick peas, for hummus, tabouli, and many other things. But darn, they take up a lot of room! And is 99 cents really a bargain?

Well, we ran out of chick peas, and I really want to make both hummus and tabouli this week, but the sale is over. So I finally pulled out the giant 2 kilo bag of dried chick peas from the back of the cupboard. I measured a cup of dried peas and almost 2 litres of water into a large bowl, and left them out to soak last night. This afternoon I’ll give them a good boil for about an hour, and I’ll be good to go with the equivalent of 2 cans of chick peas.

And is it cheaper? Well, if memory serves, my 2 kilo bag of chick peas cost about $3.99, or $2 per kilo. 1/2 cup dried peas (equivalent to one can) weighs about 110 grams–about 22 cents. Yes, it takes some energy to boil them afterwards, but it’s still about 1/4 the price.

The other benefit is how little space dried beans take up to store compared to cans. A great benefit in our teeny tiny kitchen.

Once I’m done this 2 kilo bag, I’ll head to the Sandy Hill People Food Co-op and pick up some organic beans for $3.85 per kilo–still around half the price of conventional canned! I’m all about bringing down the price of organics.

So, for beans, as with many other things, I can either spend money or time, and in the words of Erik Knutzen, “my time is cheap”! (And BPA free.)

A-mayonnaise-ing Cupcakes

As it turns out, I’ve made quite good progress working through my giant jar of mayo. And it’s all thanks to this recipe for my “A-mayonnaise-ing” chocolate chip cupcakes. It’s adapted from a America’s Test Kitchen recipe for “Emergency Chocolate Cake” which is both SUPER easy, and also takes a full cup of mayonnaise. I’ve added chocolate chips for extra-chocolatey flavour, and made it into cupcakes so I can freeze most of them and ration them out to myself during those long afternoons (defrosted for 25 seconds in the microwave).

A-mayonnaise-ing cupcakes

2 cups flour

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin very well or line with cupcake papers.

Sift together flour, sugar and baking soda. Add chocolate chips and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and water until smooth. Add mayo and vanilla and again whisk until smooth.

Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until combined. Then portion into the cupcake tin. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into one of the interior muffins comes out with only a few crumbs attached. I have had a tough time taking them out of the cupcake pan, so if you have any tips, please let me know. Cup liners might be preferable (though my current strategy of eating all the crumbs–er, chunks–that fall off or stick or smoosh off is working pretty well for me).

I eat them as-is but you could probably ice them if desired. To freeze, I wrap each one in a square of wax paper and then store two wrapped cupcakes in a ziplock baggie (I actually use an empty milk bag, but have recently learned that Ontario is the only province that sells milk in bags. Seems unbelievable, but apparently is true).

In any case, I’m hopelessly addicted to these delicious things. I just might buy another big tub of mayo just so that I’ll “have to” make batch after batch of chocolate chip cupcakes.

Fruit Crisp

[photo to come] I was writing up this recipe for my friend Holly, but it fits the bill for the blog as well. It is cheap, easy, and delicious, especially when it takes advantage of seasonal fruit. I made this yesterday with most of a 3-Litre basket of peaches that I got for $3–and that was at the overpriced grocery store near my house!

I actually doubled it in 2 dishes, and froze one with an aluminum foil “sling” so I can remove it from the baking dish, and then take it out and plunk it back in the dish when it comes time to bake it later. I’m hoping to be able to bake it from frozen–maybe for longer at a lower temperature?–but I will have to look into this more.

The recipe is from my good ole’ Five Roses Cookbook. It’s basically just a crumbly sweet oat topping over chopped up fruit. The fruit really compacts as it cooks so if you have it, I suggest really filling up the dish with fruit and then topping it. Also, I added sugar as the recipe called for, but then I found it too sweet. In the past I have usually just put fruit on the bottom and with the topping, found it sweet enough, so that is what I am going to instruct here. If you want to add the sugar, the recipe called for 1/3 cup sugar or brown sugar, depending on the fruit, so you can decide for yourself.

Oh, and a vegan alternative would be to use margarine instead of butter, or another recipe I saw called for chilled coconut oil . . . sounds tasty especially with the addition of shredded coconut in the mix!

Fruit Crisp

2/3 cup flour

2/3 cup oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup soft butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter until completely incorporated. A food processor would make short work of this in a few pulses.

Prepare fruit as indicated below and spread in the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping over it and bake about 30 minutes until top is crispy and fruit is soft. Delicious hot with vanilla ice cream, or cold with yogurt for breakfast.

Fruit filling instructions

Chop fruit, peeled or unpeeled as you wish, core or pit removed, until it rises a good way up the side of baking dish. The fruit will shrink substantially during cooking. Add sugar if you wish, to desired sweetness, and mix with sliced fruit. You may also want to add lemon juice or grated lemon rind, especially for apples.

Suitable for: pears, apples, peaches, blueberries, rhubarb, or apparently canned pie filling . . . though I wouldn’t recommend it!