End of Year Garden Sauce

Every Spring, my mom and I start seeds for tomato and pepper plants. We always end up getting excited by the different varieties of seeds we have and start at least a couple seeds for almost every variety (we never learn). Every year, we end up with around 50 tomato & pepper plants and sometimes more. One year we’re going to get our act together and sell them since they’re all organically raised. So, at the end of every summer season, there are entirely too many tomato and pepper plants and people start hiding from us. So, every year, I end up with a bunch of tomatoes and a bunch of peppers and I make this sauce and throw it in the freezer. It’s not complicated, but it is delicious and it’s my backup to tomato paste. The sauce is a little different every time since the ingredients aren’t always the same, but it is yummy! I add tomato paste to a lot of dishes, but have a terrible tendency to always forget to put it on my shopping list. I’ve run out on several occasions so I just dig some of this out of the freezer and works as a great addition to sauces or soups. BTW: If you don’t make huge batches of food like I do (yes I know I am not feeding an army but I will be raising a teenage son, so I’m in training), freeze the sauce in ice cube trays then store it in the freezer in freezer bags so you can use a little bit at a time.

20111103-125853.jpg Roasted Pepper & Tomato Sauce

An equal amount of sweet peppers & tomatoes
2 Spanish Onions, cut in large pieces
Peeled garlic cloves from 1 head of garlic
Poultry seasoning or fresh herbs
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Black pepper
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Vinegar (Either Balsamic or Sherry Vinegar)
1/2 cup White Wine (or Vermouth, or Red Wine, or Vodka)

1. Preheat oven to 400F and move the rack to the top position.

20111103-125729.jpg2. Cut up all the peppers and tomatoes (squeeze out the seeds as much as possible). Add to a large glass baking dish (preferably 11×14 if you have it). Add the onions and garlic cloves. Make sure the garlic cloves are buried underneath the peppers and tomatoes.  Add the herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar and wine. Toss together. (NOTE: You don’t have to toss. I had to do this all one handed the other night while holding the Kid so I can tell you it still works.)

3. Roast for 60 – 90 minutes. This just depends on how much you have. At 60 minutes, take a look at the mixture. If it looks caramelized enough then take it out. Otherwise, just keep checking back for the next 15-30 minutes.


4. Puree just enough that it’s still a little chunky then put it in a large soup pot to simmer on medium-low heat. After about 30 minutes, taste it to see if it needs any more seasoning. Then package it up and store it for the next time you forget to buy tomato paste. This works great in the Lazy Gravy Recipe too instead of tomato paste.

Hot Soup on a Cool Fall Day

I’m on a soup kick. I know. I can’t stop. Every year when the cool air starts creeping in I have that moment where I crave putting on a thick cozy sweater and wrapping my hands around a steaming soup mug. I tend to like my soups a bit spicy since it adds to the warming effect. If you’re not a heat fan, feel free to skip it.  I started thinking about this soup in the summer when all the fresh corn was available. But somehow I just couldn’t get into making soup when it was hot out. So, when I went into the produce spot and saw whole corn and poblano peppers on a cold day I knew what I was going to do. Of course, I wasn’t thinking it through and completely forgot to pick up the potatoes. Thankfully I picked up a Jamaican yam (also sold as Name) which I roasted (in 425F oven for two hours) so I used that instead of potato, but potato works just as well in the recipe. If you’re feeling adventurous give the Jamaican yam (yes I know its not only Jamaican) a try… Why not try something new? The swiss chard also wasn’t part of my original idea, but it’s the end of the season and there was a ton of swiss chard at my parents place, so I’ve been using the stems like celery in my soups. It’s easier than letting them go to waste.  On a side note, if you decide to add the jalapeño (or whatever good hot pepper you have) roast a few extra potatoes just in case.  The potatoes and half and half really help calm down some of the heat in the soup.  If you don’t use all the potatoes for this recipe, then we can come up with some other way to use them.


Corn Poblano Chowder









5 poblano peppers
4 ears corn
5 cloves garlic
2 Spanish yellow onions, cut in large pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in large pieces
15 stalks Swiss chard, remove leaves and cut in large pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped, seeds & stems removed (optional)
8 cups water or vegetable/chicken stock
1.5 cups beans
1/2 medium size roasted yam (or 2 baked russet potatoes), cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup half and half

Roasting the poblanos:

Move the oven rack to the top. Turn on the broiler. Roast the poblanos on a metal baking sheet for 8 minutes per side or until the skin is black and blistered.  Put the roasted poblanos in a glass dish and cover with cling wrap.  After about 10 minutes, the steam should have helped separate the skin from the poblanos and you can peel and remove the seeds.  Chop the poblanos into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces and set aside.


While the poblanos are roasting, cut the corn kernels off the ears. With food processor running add garlic cloves. When the garlic is minced, stop the food processor, add onions, celery, and Swiss chard stems. In a soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the vegetable mixture. Add the corn cobs, salt and pepper and sauté with the vegetables. Add the jalapeño peppers. After about 8 minutes add 8 cups of water or stock. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Take the corn cobs out of the pot and purée the vegetables in a blender. Put the cobs back in and add the corn kernels. Turn the heat to high until the mixture is boiling. Add beans. Add poblano. Add yam. Turn the heat back down to medium-low and simmer for 15-30 minutes.  Add half and half and adjust salt and pepper to taste while it warms through and serve.

Note: Add some crushed tortilla chips on top!!

Meat Sauce and Not so Meaty Sauce… Whatever I’m in the mood for

I have a huge pet peeve with the marketing of Vegetarian Food.  The idea that a vegetable tastes just like meat is ludicrous.  Meat tastes good.  Vegetables taste good.  Vegetables don’t taste like meat.  They’re not supposed to!  I tend to believe that you would have a much easier time convincing people to give vegetarian food a chance if you didn’t set them up with incorrect expectations.  There are tons of meat substitutes on the market and some of them are good.  I think it’s amusing that they have options like steak and chicken and bacon, and I get that they’re just explaining the gradient of flavor.  But, if you know that it’s not really supposed to taste like meat and take it for what it is, you can find some that you like.  I was vegetarian for about 6 months my senior year of high school.  I didn’t do it for any reason other than I figured I wanted to eat something else for a while.  My dad is an amazing cook and he just alternated.  Some nights everyone would eat vegetarian and some nights I would break out my frozen veggie patties and have that with the vegetable sides.  They didn’t taste like meat, but they were good.  Now that I think of it, I should find out what brand they were and see if they still sell them.

I realize that I am lucky that The Hubs is open minded about going along with my nutty ideas about what we should eat, but I think a lot of people think of vegetarian food and expect a weak attempt at making meat.  That’s just not how I look at our meatless days.  I figure if I just work out how to make something that tastes good then we’ll all be happy.  I try to stick with buying  organic meat which is more expensive so I just buy less of it and sub in meatless options to balance out the budget.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m very grateful that I have a Hubs who is willing to at least give it a try.  Which is how I came up with this recipe which I think is pretty cool if you just accept the fact that it’s not meat, that’s it’s actually quinoa and it tastes good in it’s own right.

The Hubs LOVES meat sauce.  I love it too, but I usually find it way too heavy and end up feeling like a sack of potatoes when i’m done eating it so I’ve always lightened it up by using half veggies and half meat in order for us to meet in the middle.  Thanks to the food processor it doesn’t take much time to make.  Using the same basic premise you can make this with meat or without.  The kid likes Quinoa so he loved this and we were still able to get the classic picture of the kid covered in red sauce.


Meaty/Not so Meaty Sauce

1 cup black quinoa, uncooked OR 1 pound ground meat (beef/meatloaf mix [whatever you’re in the mood for])

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned with damp cloth
2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 red pepper, seeds removed, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 spanish onions, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large garlic cloves
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp italian seasoning
pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper  to taste
3 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup liquid of choice (red wine, dry vermouth, vodka, water [whatever you have])
Any Good Red Pasta Sauce 36 oz (or more as needed)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Meaty: Add salt and pepper to the meat.  Brown the meat on medium high heat in a wide pan.  Do this in batches so the meat has room to spread and gets nicely browned.  When all the meat is browned set aside in a bowl.

Not so Meaty: Make quinoa according to package instructions.  (If you buy it in bulk, then rinse it first until the water runs clear to make sure you get rid of the soapy coating.) If you expect to be short on time, make the quinoa a day ahead.

While the food processor is running, add the garlic so it gets chopped up pretty fine.  Turn off the food processor and add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, red pepper, and onions.  Pulse the veggies until they are finely chopped.  You do not want to puree them.  Add olive oil to the pan on medium-high heat and add all the veggies.  Add a pinch of salt.  You’re going to cook them for a while so the idea here is to get most of their liquid to evaporate.  Don’t rush it.  It will happen, just move them around the pan occassionally and let them brown.  When you start to see them sticking to the pan, add your herbs & spices.

This part is important.  Depending on how long your herbs have been around they may have varying intensities.  Smell the veggies.  Taste them too.  If it tastes like you need more herbs, add them.  Remember that you haven’t added your “meat” yet so if it seems too intense you still have a chance to even it out.  If it’s not intense enough, add more herbs.

Then add the tomato paste.  Clear out a spot in the middle, and put it in the pan for a minute and leave it to caramelize.  Then start moving it around.  Add a pinch of salt.  Now that everything is sticking to the pan (but not burning), add 1/4 cup of the liquid of your choosing to deglaze the pan.  The idea is to use your wooden spoon or spatula to scrape all of the stuck on bits off the bottom of the pan.  This is where your flavor is and you want to get it in the sauce and not leave it for the dishwasher.  Once the liquid has evaporated, add your black quinoa or browned meat and stir to combine everything.  Then add your red pasta sauce of choice.  Bring it up to a simmer and leave it to cook through.  Before you serve it, check it for herbs, salt and pepper.  Add more of whatever is needed.

Serve over the pasta of your choice with Parmesan Cheese if you’re into that sort of thing.


Condiments to the Rescue — Mustard

Some eating establishments cook vegetables as though they are punishing them for existing and punishing you for selecting them despite all the other available menu options.  I usually pick the veggies from the menu, but have lived to regret it on occasion.  Sometimes I think they cook the veggies without even the suggestion of salt just to say they are healthy even though they taste so bad they might as well have left them off the menu.  My restaurant cheat is an odd one I know, but it works in a pinch.  If I get veggies that taste horrible, but I know I need to eat them to stay on my calorie goal for the day, I break out the condiments.  Although ketchup is supposed to be the catch-all condiment, it’s constant companion, spicy mustard is actually my veggie saver.  It has acid (a flavor which is often overlooked in cooking) and just enough salt to give the flavor punch to veggies that are sorely lacking.

Mustard is one of my favorite flavor cheats.  I always have a few bottles of different types of mustard in the pantry because it’s useful for more than just hot dogs.  Just a tablespoon or two give that added kick to sausage and peppers.  And seriously… who can deny the greatness of “real” Honey Mustard?  I love using whole mustard seeds to my spice mixes.  It’s great as a part of dry spice mixes.  When I need a quick side, I find that potatoes roasted with a good spice mix is always a crowd favorite.


Potatoes Roasted with Mustard Spice Mix

5 pounds potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground sumac

Preheat oven to 400F.  Slice potatoes  into about 1/4-inch thick rounds.  On a large sheet pan (or two), spread out potato slices.  Drizzle oil and spice mix over the potatoes.  Mix the potatoes and spices around until all the potatoes are coated with oil and spices (hands are easiest for this).  Roast in oven for about an hour.  Check to make sure the potatoes are as crispy as you like them before you remove them from the oven.


Potsticker-Style Veggies

There are some things that are just irresistible. For me, good potstickers fall in that category. There’s something about the combination of caramelization and soft steamed interior that I just can’t turn down. The method actually works for veggies too. My favorite veggie to do Potsticker-style is Brussels Sprouts.

Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation. They have the same built in pop up timer as the other cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage that can leave a house smelling like rot if they are cooked too long. If you are steaming them, then timing is critical. The Potsticker method works really well when there are distractions. And because of the caramelization, it changes the flavor profile and makes them a bit sweet and a little soft. I did this recipe with baby Brussels sprouts that were small enough for the kid to pick up and paired it with pasta which he loves and they were a big hit.  The hubs loves brussels sprouts this way too although he eats most veggies.


Potsticker-Style Brussels Sprouts








1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered (whichever you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup water

Toss the Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper. In a medium hot skillet (select one that has a cover or use a cover from another pan), add 1 tablespoon oil and spread out the Brussels sprouts so that it forms an even layer. After about 5 minutes, turn over a couple pieces and look for some browning. If it is brown, toss in the water and cover the pan. The water will steam the Brussels sprouts. After about 8 minutes try and stick the brussels sprouts with a fork. If it is still hard add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover again. Check again in a few minutes. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the finished Brussels Sprouts and serve.

The Dinner Time Food Trade — Sweet Potatoes

We’ve reached the point in The Kid’s development where he wants to feed himself  so, everything must be finger food.  He also wants what is on the adults’ plates.  He gets very excited when he sees everyone else’s plate, but he is willing to give everyone some of his food as well. (Sharing is good I guess.)  And apparently it’s hilarious when adults eat baby food. So, we tend to keep an eye on what we’re eating to make sure at least some of it is baby approved (no hot pepper/spicy mustard) and make sure his food is edible since we are sometimes under obligation to eat it.  I can’t wait until he is safe to eat nuts because I really want some cashew chicken. But until then, we’re engaged in a food trade from baby plates to adult plates.

My current favorite food in the trade is Sweet Potatoes. When The Kid was on pureed food, I steamed them with apples or pears or nectarines. Steamed with nectarines was amazing. I had to make another batch the first time since I think I ate half of it and The Hubs kept saying, “I like sweet potatoes” as though I should have considered making some for him. But I generally prefer the flavor of baked sweet potatoes and of course the minimal effort required.  I’ve smashed the baked sweet potatoes and mixed it with his beans (big favorite).  I’ve just handed the kid pieces of baked sweet potato off my plate (went over well too), but the other night I was entirely too tired to think of something to make and tried something for him that ended up being so good, that I had to “help” him eat it.


Sweet Potato & Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous with Corn

1-1/4 cup water
1/2 medium size sweet potato cut small
1 cup Whole Wheat Israeli couscous
1 cup frozen corn

In a small saucepan, add the sweet potato pieces and 1 1/4 cup of water.  Heat until the water is boiling.  Add the couscous and corn.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.


When it’s done, the sweet potatoes should not be easily distinguished as individual pieces, but will form a coating on the couscous to help them clump a little so the little ones can grab the couscous pearls more easily.  This is actually really sweet and if you decide to put it out for everyone to eat, I would recommend something simple like roasted chicken and your veggie of choice.  Pork could probably work well with this too if you like sweet accompaniments.



What am I supposed to do with all these herbs? – Let’s start with Mint

When we moved into our house, the first thing we did was remove the massive ugly shrubs that I’m guessing were planted when the house was built in the 60s.  That may also be the last time they were tended to, because they were crazy wild and far beyond the point where I would have considered rehab.  Removing them was no easy task and The Hubs actually had to drag one out using the hitch on the back of his SUV.  The Hubs was one step shy of dynamite to get those shrubs out.  It wasn’t an easy job, but after a lot of hard work and sore muscles they were gone, chopped up and hauled away by the township’s yard waste removal program.  The first thing I planted was herbs (they’re usually the cheapest plants at the garden centers).  I like to try new herbs, but I’m less interested in paying for them so I pay for seed packets and try them out in the garden.  If they work, then great, if they don’t then oh well.  But thanks to trying out some of the oddities that are available as seeds, I’ve grown Cutting Celery (tastes like celery, but easier to grow), Mitsuba or Japanese Parsley (which doesn’ t look anything like Italian Parsley) and Salad Burnet (which is a leaf plant that somehow tastes like cucumbers).

If you put an herb somewhere that it likes, it will grow like crazy for you.  So, if you have a friend who grows herbs and has an established set, chances are they will be willing to give you some of what they have.  Depending on how established they are it may be easier to give you cuttings instead of actual plants, but friends and family are a good source to save some money.  Over the years, I’ve planted many types of herbs and some of them did too well (yes there is such a thing) and this year I’ve offered them to just about everyone I know.  I’ve given away tons so far and the growing season hasn’t even gotten going yet.  I think my friends have stopped looking me in the eye when I mention the herbs for fear that I’m going to try and offer them more.  Thankfully, there’s a program by Philabundance called Share the Harvest that allows you to give away your produce/herbs that your friends are tired of you offering so it goes to feed people who need it.  So, my friends should be able to relax for a while.

One of my favorite no-fuss herbs is mint.  As I’ve learned over there years, there’s no such thing as “just mint.”  There are so many kinds of mint that sometimes it seems like there must be some crossover somewhere.  I can’t leave a garden center without a mint plant if I see one I haven’t grown.  Over the years I’ve grown spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, orange mint, apple mint, mojito mint, salad mint… you get the idea.  Honestly, not all of the mints taste strongly of whatever flavor the namers claim is there, but many of them are pretty and worth the effort to grow.  I HIGHLY recommend that if you decide to grow mint that you do each one in their own separate pot.  Mint is one of the wild child plants of the garden.  Once it’s in the ground it can spread like crazy, take over the growing space of other plants and be nearly impossible to remove.  It constantly straddles the fence of pain in the butt weed and beloved herb.

Since mint grows like crazy you have to figure out something to do with it.  I dried it to make mint tea.  Then I started making syrups.  Whenever I make iced tea for a party, I put out flavored syrup instead of sugar.  I just don’t like using sugar since it never melts and you just end up with half an inch of sugar bunched up in the bottom of the glass and hardly any sweetness in the tea.  Everyone likes different levels of sweetness so syrup is the easy solution for me.  I use cane sugar so my syrup has a browner tint than using regular granulated sugar, but whatever sugar you like should work.


Mint Syrup

1 cup mint
2 cups sugar
2 cups water, room temperature

Add mint to medium size sauce pan.  Add sugar and smash it up with a wooden spoon (like you would if you were making a mojito).  Pour room temperature water over the sugar and let it sit for a few minutes as it starts to dissolve.  Heat up the sugar-water mixture over medium heat.  Don’t mix it.  Don’t touch it.  Just watch it.  Watch the mixture until it boils and it looks like all the sugar has melted and it’s clear.  (You don’t want caramel so don’t leave it unattended.) Put the cover on the pan and take it off the heat.  I usually leave it to steep for about an hour so it gets pretty strong.  When it’s done (you can start tasting it at half an hour if you don’t want it that strong), pour the syrup through a strainer into the container of your choice and refrigerate (or use for iced tea).


Presto Pesto – One Hand Tied Behind My Back

In the days of pre-parenthood, I watched the Top Chef challenges that had the chefs cooking with one hand tied behind their backs and cooking in pairs tied together so each chef only had one hand available.  I remember thinking, “That would be fun to try…”  They brought back that challenge for a recent episode and all I could think was, “Big deal, that’s a regular Tuesday night for me.” Lol… oh how things change.  Last weekend, I went out to do some grocery & produce shopping and left the hubs and the kid at home.  When I came back, I took the kid so the hubs could go for a run.  We didn’t have anything in the house for dinner so I figured I’d put the kid to play on the floor with some toys and get something going.  Thanks to the Easter Bunny bringing him teeth #7 and #8 (which were somehow worse than all 6 teeth before these), the kid was feeling crummy and wanted to be held.  So, it was “cook with one hand and hold the kid with the other” night.  I don’t recommend trying this recipe with one hand tied behind your back… I’m just saying it’s possible.  The funny thing is, I should have expected it since when I was at the store, I was thinking, I should pick up one of those one-hand choppers in case I need to cut up something while the kid is having a hold on to mom night.  Next time I’m listening to my instinct.  Thankfully, I was able to cut the onion before the hubs was out the door and the hubs was back in time for me to cut the tomatoes.

I defrosted some sausage, but since I was not going to handle uncooked meat while holding the kid, I didn’t add it.  I do, however think it would be a great addition to this or even roasted chicken or fish.


Spinach Pesto with Garbanzos & Tomato Salad

13 oz whole grain penne
1 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1 lb baby spinach
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups garbanzo beans
1 spanish onion (cut lengthwise, pole to pole)
3 cloves garlic

Tomato Salad:
12 Campari Tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Long Hot chili pepper, minced
1 4″ sprig fresh tarragon, minced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pesto Pasta:

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but undercook it by 1 minute.  Heat up a large skillet over medium heat.  When the pan is hot, toast the pine nuts until they are lightly browned and you can smell them.  Add the olive oil, onions and garbanzos and leave to caramelize in the pan for 5-8 minutes.  Meanwhile, mince two cloves of garlic in a food processor.  Add the baby spinach slowly until it is almost all chopped.  Add the toasted pine nuts, and black pepper and let the processor run while you add the olive oil.  The mixture should be thick like a paste.

Move the garbanzos and onions around the pan.  You should see some caramelization.  Let caramelize for another 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and when you can smell it, add the pasta and the pesto.  Coat all the pasta with the pesto.  Then, add two (large) to four (small) ladles  of the pasta water to the skillet to loosen up the pesto and to allow the pasta enough liquid to make up for the minute you undercooked it.  Aff more water as needed.

Tomato Salad:

Toss quartered tomatoes with the salt, pepper, chili pepper and tarragon.  Let sit until you are just about to serve.  Shortly before serving, add white wine vinegar and olive oil.


Top the Pesto & Garbanzo Bean Pasta with the Tomato Salad and serve topped with parmesan cheese.


Bean of the Week – Garbanzos

I think part of the reason I fell in love with cooking is that it’s not nearly as hard as it seems.  While I love trying new things, I’ve found that many of the things that sound complicated are actually pretty easy.  But, if you buy the finished product you get charged A LOT for it.  One of my favorite cheap eats is beans.   I used to stock up on canned beans for quick meals, and unless I got a really good sale, it was not cheap and the selection was mediocre at best.  Thanks to the dried beans, I’ve tried beans that I didn’t even know existed like Peruvian Beans/Yellow Canary beans.  I’ve found beans that I have never seen in a can like Mung beans.  I even found Adzuki beans at Whole Foods which apparently are really high in protein (and BTW: the bean paste that is used in many Asian pastries) and gave them to the kid who LOVED them.  Now, I buy dried beans for quite a savings in comparison and less need for storage space.  I gave up on the canned beans when I realized that even though the cost is pretty similar for a can of beans and a pound of dried beans, the resulting amount is VERY different.  A 1-pound pack of dried beans makes up to 6 cups of beans.  The canned beans only give you a little less than 2 cups of beans.  If you get the dried beans, you can infuse them with flavor.  Canned beans… not as much.  Depending on the dried beans you buy, they can cost less than $1.00 a pound and bulk buying can be even better priced.  And carrying tons of cans out of a supermarket will test even the best of reusable bags.

It’s surprisingly easy to make beans from a dried state and it requires very little actual cooking time.  Garbanzo beans take the most time of all of the beans I’ve tried so far, but it’s still not actual standing over the stove time so it’s still worth it.  Once I realized how easy this was, I haven’t gone back.

BTW: If you’re looking for cheap garden seed, you can use some of the dried beans to grow in your garden.  It’s worth a try and if it doesn’t work, you don’t lose a lot of money for the effort.

Part 1: Soaking

  • Get a big glass measuring cup/bowl that can hold at least two quarts.  If you bought the 1 pound pack of beans, just dump the whole bag into the cup/bowl.  If you bought in bulk, put the bowl on a kitchen scale and measure out 1 pound.  You can spread the beans out on a sheet pan to look for stones or you can just look through them in the bowl.
  • Fill up the bowl with water and put the bowl in a corner of the kitchen.  (Go do anything else.)
  • Check the beans after about 4-8 hours (Small beans like mung beans soak faster than large beans).  I leave garbanzos for 12 hours or more if i’m busy (I’ve left them up to a day and they turn out fine).
  • If the beans have soaked up the water and look plump, pour out the beans into a sieve and rinse the beans.  Do a double check for any dark or funky looking beans or anything that isn’t a bean.  (If a bean doesn’t look good, toss it)

Part 2: Cooking

  • Get a pot big enough to boil pasta.  Toss in the beans.  Fill it up with water.  (DO NOT ADD SALT!!!) Now, add the flavorings of your choice.  I like to add a bay leaf, a garlic clove, a quarter or a half of a yellow onion, half of a large carrot, half of a celery stalk, and whole peppercorns.  You can add any fresh herbs you want here.  Savory & Thyme are generally my favorites.  [If you want to use dried herbs or don’t want to fish the peppercorns out when you’re done, I recommend getting one of the large tea balls made with tiny mesh and putting your herbs in there and wrapping it around the pot handle or hanging it on the side of the pot.] (See, your beans are already going to taste better than canned beans)
  • When I’m doing this in small batches for the kid, I don’t add a lot of flavorings.  At most, I’ll add half of a carrot, but I’m working him up to adding everything else slowly.  For now, I’m just letting him taste all the different beans on their own.  And most importantly, I cook the beans much softer for the kid than I do for the adults.  This way the beans crack open and are easily smashed so he doesn’t choke on them, even though he has top and bottom teeth that he likes trying out on various foods.
  • Turn the heat on a back burner up to high to bring the pot up to a boil.  There will be some white foam on the top of the water.  Skim it off and turn the heat down to medium to let the beans simmer.  This can take about an hour depending on the bean.  Set a timer to go back and check it at regular intervals after 30 minutes.  If you’re doing garbanzos, save the effort and start checking after an hour.  They take a long time to cook through.  Test a few beans to see if they’re soft enough.  If they’re not soft enough and the water has fallen below the beans, add more water and let it keep cooking.  When they’re done, turn off the burner and let the beans cool down in the water.

Part 3: Packaging

  • For The Kid: I haven’t given the kid garbanzos yet.  I stick to the softer, smushable beans.  I fill up his food containers with the beans and add enough of the water the beans cooked in to cover the beans.  I rinse the beans to remove the cooking water before giving the beans to the kid.  I rinse them off before I send them to daycare so they don’t have to.  He likes to eat the beans as finger food.  For the larger beans, I smush them a little so their soft, but he can still grab them.  It’s hilarious to watch him gobble them up.
  • For the Adults: Grab a container or containers, fill it up with the beans, add enough of the water the beans cooked in to cover the beans.  I add a pinch of salt for the sake of preservation.  Toss it in the fridge.  After about a day in the fridge, I rinse the beans in a sieve and they’re fine to store in the fridge without the water.

I rinse off the water I store the beans in before I cook with them or toss them in salads just like I would if they were canned, but storing them in water just seems to work better.  I keep the beans in the fridge for about a week or two.  If I don’t end up using them in the Meatless Monday dinner, then I just use them to toss in salads.  I try to do a different bean each time.  When I do garbanzo beans and it’s getting close to the end of the week or second week, I just roast them.  I just adjust the recipe according to how many beans I actually have left and eat the roasted garbanzo beans as snack food or for tossing in salads for crunch.


Roasted Garbanzo Beans

1 cup Garbanzo Beans
1 Tablespoon Flavoring of choice (dried herbs, ground spices, crushed red pepper flakes)
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil (or garlic oil)
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the garbanzo beans, oil and your flavoring of choice in a bowl.   Toss everything around until the garbanzo beans are coated with the oil and flavorings and spread out on a sheet pan.  Every 15 minutes or so, shake the pan to help the beans brown evenly.  Roast for about 45 minutes or until the beans are crunchy and brown (not burnt).

BTW: This works great in a toaster oven.  If I’m doing it in the toaster oven, I turn down the heat to 325 degrees.


Vegetable Spaghetti

I have a tendency to make a lot of food and I don’t like eating the same thing twice. So, in order to avoid wasting a ton of food, I had to develop my own system of planning meals ahead in stages. I never feel like I’m eating leftovers, because the entire meal isn’t the same two times in a row. And since I don’t have a ton of time (see aforementioned motherhood), it’s easier to make quick meals if I’m really only making part of the meal. And more importantly… less cleanup.

Thanks to last week’s vegetable run, I had some zucchini, yellow squash and peppers in the fridge and had an idea of making sausage pasta. I started with the sausage by making Spicy Sausage & Pepper Sandwiches for dinner. Then, a couple days later, I made my dad’s vegetable spaghetti and added the whole grain pasta as an easy way to stretch it (the hubs likes to eat… and he’s training for a 10-mile race). It tastes great either way. So, if you’re leaving out the pasta, then just double the veggies. I paired this with the remaining sausage & pepper, which I cut up into large diagonal slices and nestled in the center of a huge nest of the pasta. If you have extra bread leftover, you can always add some garlic bread too.

The best thing about this recipe is that you can cook it in the same time it would take to boil pasta. The brand of pasta I used took 7 minutes to cook. So, if the brand you use has different timing then adjust accordingly. If you have superior knife skills like my dad, you can julienne all the veggies with a knife. If you have limited time like me, then a mandolin or a julienne peeler are the fast and easy option for everything. Just make sure you’re julienning along the full length of the vegetables so the strips look like pasta strands. For the zucchini and yellow squash stop cutting when you see the seeds. The core doesn’t hold up to cooking as well as the flesh and skin. To make it easier when julienning the carrots, I recommend grabbing twice the amount of carrots you need and julienning only as much as will not cause you injury from your slicer of choice and get the equivalent of 2 large carrots. Just cut up the remainder (doesn’t have to be pretty) and save it for your next salad. The red pepper works best if you julienne it with a knife. Try to get close to the size of everything else. Cut slowly and don’t stress. It’s going to get mixed up with everything else so no one will notice if they’re not perfect. When I make this without meat, I generally add a little more than a cup of defrosted French-style cut green beans.

Vegetable Spaghetti

Vegetable Pasta

13 oz whole grain thin spaghetti
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large carrots, julienned along the full length
1 large red pepper, core removed and julienned along the full length
1 generous cup of french style cut green beans (optional)
1 tbsp herbes de provence
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 zucchini, julienned along the full length
2 yellow squash, julienned along the full length
1 tsp kosher salt or handful of parmesan cheese

Set pasta pot on high heat and skillet on medium heat. When the pasta water comes to a boil, add a handful of salt, the pasta and set your timer. At 7 minutes, add the olive oil to your skillet along with the carrots, red pepper (green beans, if you’re using them) and herbs. At 4 minutes to go, add the garlic. When you can smell the garlic (about a minute) add the zucchini and yellow squash and move it around the pan. When the pasta is done, add it to the pot and toss to combine. You can add salt, but you really won’t need much if you added a good amount of salt to the pasta water and add parmesan cheese. So, try it before you salt it. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.