Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holy frijole!


Growing up (mostly) in Texas and being raised by Texan parents, I've eaten heaps of pinto beans in my life. They are a staple here. You just can't have good Tex-Mex without them. I also grew up with the idea that you must have salt pork, ham hock or bacon to make them taste good, because that's the way it's always done. And you just can't add other "stuff" to them. "Cowboy beans" were a Yankee invention. (By the way, the only things we use the word "Cowboy" in the name are boots and hats.) So, when changing to a veg diet, the idea of cooking them was daunting, but I've found a secret.

The key flavoring that the meat adds, for my taste anyway, is the saltiness and/or the smokiness. So, I've tried a couple of things. Obviously, making sure they're salted well is important. And I've tried adding a little Liquid Smoke. That helped. I've added whole tomatoes, sauteed onions, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and peppers in various combinations. And it's all tasted good, but I struck upon a favorite by chance.

I started cooking the beans in vegetable broth and realized that I didn't have any onions or tomatoes. I opened the fridge to see what I could find and came across a jar of smoky garlic salsa and thought, "Why not? " So, in went the salsa and then I salted to taste. Wow. It was wonderful. Didn't miss the pork flavoring at all!

How do I cook pinto beans?

1. Prep: Sort beans, discarding any debris and bad beans that may be present. Rinse well and drain.

2. Pre-Soak: There are a couple of way to do this, the long way and the quick way.

  • Long soak: Place beans in large pot. Cover beans with water by 4 inches. Cover pot with lid. Allow to sit at room temperature overnight or 8 hours.

  • Quick soak: Place beans in pot and cover with water by about 4 inches. Heat to strong simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Cover and turn off heat. Allow to sit for 1 hour.
3. Cooking: Drain soak water and rinse beans and pot. Return beans to pot. Add fresh water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring pot to low boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium and gently simmer for a couple of hours until beans are tender. I love them when they're creamy, but some folks prefer them a little firmer. One last tip. These beans are tasty right after cooking, but let them sit in the fridge overnight, and they're even better. Not often a leftover is better than it was at the first serving.

4. Seasonings: Oh so many options.
  • Add salt to taste toward the end of cooking, when the beans are ready to be taste tested for doneness. It is especially important that you wait to salt if you are using other seasonings that include salt.

  • If you wish to add sauteed onion, garlic or peppers, saute them in the pot after soaking the beans and before returning the beans and fresh water to the pot for cooking.

  • If you wish to add tomatoes or salsa, add those about half-way through cooking. If you're feeling a-spicy, add a little jalapeno.

  • Add a little cider vinegar to the pot while cooking, a tablespoon or so. It gives a little kick to the beans, and it supposedly it helps to reduce the gas emissions later.

  • Another secret, add vegetable bouillon to the fresh cooking water or sub vegetable broth for part or all of the cooking water. I happen to like Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon with Sea Salt. It has such great flavor. I add it to lots of dishes.

  • Shhh. My secret favorite combo is using the bouillon in the cooking water and adding Mrs Renfro's Roasted Garlic Salsa toward the end. Then salt to taste at the last.

Beans are a great staple to have on hand, but even the short method takes a while to cook. Luckily, they freeze beautifully! You can pack them in any amount that suits your needs. If you make ahead for a big gathering, then you can pack them into large plastic sealed bowls. If you use the 15-ounce cans for recipes, then you can pack them into freezer bags or reusable freezer bowls (you can find them BPA free!). I like to freeze them in an unseasoned state so that I can use them in any way that I need. Once thawed, I can add my favorite combo seasonings if I choose.



Approximately 1 1/2 pounds of dried beans made 7 cups of beans to freeze and 2 cups of beans for dinner.


Be sure to label your freezer items with contents and date. It seems like you wouldn't forget what's inside, or that you would be able to tell through the jar/bag, but freezing changes the look and makes it difficult to determine contents sometimes. Also, be sure to include the year on the date. I have a tendency to freeze things, thinking that I'll use them up quickly. However, I've been known to clean out the freezer and find dates from past years (I shan't reveal how many lest I embarrass myself!). My rule of thumb is, if no year is indicated, and I can't positively remember when I did it, out it goes!




Speaking of labels, these containers have spaces to write the info, but I love blue painter's tape. Inexpensive. Easy to remove. And pretty color. I think painter's or masking tape comes in other colors, but this is what I had left from a project. Easy.

What to do with my beans?

1. Beans are one-half of that great partnership, Beans and Cornbread. Serve with hot sauce on the side. I prefer Cholula, and David prefers Louisiana Hot Sauce. Other options might be Sriracha or Tabasco. This is an especially nice meal during cooler months, which is difficult to remember when it's 105 degrees outside, but trust me, it'll happen again before we know it.

2. Don't forget the Tex-Mex classic, Beans and Tortillas. Shoot. Fast food empires have been built on this concept!

3. Drain them and toss into a Tex-Mex salad with lettuce, corn, cilantro, purple onion, and red peppers. Drizzle with a little Catalina, vinaigrette or top with a little salsa.

4. Make Texas Hummus: Use pinto beans in place of chickpeas and add southwestern spices like cumin, oregano, garlic, chili powder, and/or hot sauce. Serve with corn chips or toasted pita crisps.

5. Serve as a side dish with enchiladas. (I have a forth coming recipe for enchiladas! Stay tuned!)

6. One word: Burritos! Drain, mash beans. Fill warm tortilla shell with beans and toppings like lettuce, onion, tomato, cilantro, chopped peppers, etc. As an aside, we have a local cafe called Sevi's Burritos that makes the most divine tortillas, burritos, etc. It is such a Saturday morning ritual for us that my son refers to "Saturday" as "Sevisday". Our standard is the bean and potato burrito. Divine tortilla filled with refried pinto beans and cottage fried potato. Add in their homemade hot sauce or pico de gallo and hmmm. My mouth waters just writing about it.

7. Add chopped veggies part way through cooking, or add thawed frozen veggies and heat thoroughly, to make veggie bean soup.

This is certainly not a definitive list, just a starter. This is a very versatile legume.

Want another reason to make these beans? Cost. The pinto bean is very inexpensive. Even the organic ones are relatively inexpensive. So, cooking your own allows you to control the salt, fat, and preservatives, and is still less expensive and much tastier than using canned ones from the grocery market. I can't think of a down side.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friends Bearing Gifts

My friend Amy posted this quote on Facebook recently: ‎

"There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate." -Charles Dickens.

If that is true, what about a friend with dark chocolate and cherries, a classic flavor combo? If you agree that would be even better, then I might be your best friend right now. Mom found this recipe and encouraged me to make it. She is my best girl friend and not the least bit concerned about my waistline. She probably thinks I look a little too thin now. (See? My very best girl friend!)

DARK CHOCOLATE BROWNIES WITH SOUR CHERRIES

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active), plus 2 hours cooling time
Servings: 1

Ingredients :
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/ 3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Wonderslim Wondercocoa)
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet mini chocolate chips, divided (I used non-dairy)
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup, blended with 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 Pinch of salt
1 large egg (I used Ener-G egg replacer)
3/4 cup dried sour cherries

Directions:

1 Position a rack in center of oven. Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray (this is important!)

2 In a small bowl, sift together the flour, powdered sugar and cocoa powder.

3 In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the oil and half of the chocolate chips. Place the pan over the lowest heat and cook, stirring constantly, until just melted and smooth (be careful that the chocolate does not overheat).

4 Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the granulated sugar, corn syrup mixture, almond extract and salt until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the egg until smoothly incorporated. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. Fold in the cherries and the remaining 3 ounces chocolate chips just until well blended. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading evenly.

5 Bake until almost firm at the center and a toothpick comes out with some moist batter clinging to it, 25 to 30 minutes. Let Cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours.

6 Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 brownies, wiping the blade with a damp cloth between cuts.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 192 calories, 58 calories from fat, 6 g fat (3 g saturated, 0 g trans fats), 15 mg cholesterol, 34 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 3 g fiber, 33 mg sodium.

I had a helper, Chef Andrew to be exact, and thus, fewer hands to take pix along the way. I seriously considered it, but he was already feeling a little grumpy, and we were well past nap time. So there you go. You only get a beauty shot and no play-by-plays complete with him testing the cocoa powder because he didn't believe me that it would taste bad. And I'm sorry about that, because the batter (more a dough) was worth seeing, all thick and rich. If I make it again, maybe I'll post pix. But here it is:


This picture really doesn't do it justice. These are chewy and rich and chocolate-y and hmmm-hmmm-hmmm scrumptulescent (according to Andrew using Lin's word).


A few notes:
+Don't overcook them. I did overcook slightly causing the edges and a couple of the cherries to be a bit too crunchy.
+Do have the patience to let them set up for the 2 hours after. It's hard, but so worth it.
+Don't let them sit in the pan much past the 2 hours. I did, and it was like scraping old glue out of the pan.

Now, on to the next thing, finding a trainer who will help me work this off. Any recommendations?

7/30 edit:

You'll want to eat these fairly quickly, like the first couple of days. They seem to dry out a little fast. They're certainly still edible, but not as fabulous after day 2.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Elvis would've approved

This story reminds me of an old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup ad from my youth in which there's a collision and an argument ensues between two parties about who got their peanut butter into whose chocolate and vise versa. This is not quite like that, but it does involve peanut butter.

Let me set the scene: Andrew had eaten a peanut butter and banana sandwich (a favorite of ours) and I had half a banana left. David was snacking on some pretzel sticks nearby. Andrew loves corn dogs. Can you see where I'm heading with this?

I sliced the banana into thick chunks, used pretzels for the sticks, and smeared on a bit of peanut butter. The pretzels keep little hands from getting too messy and are a welcomed salty flavor. Andrew and David declared them yummy and requested more, but alas, that was the last banana, and so, yes, we have no more bananas today.


Pardon me, but you got your pretzel in my banana...

As for corn dogs, I'm working on a vegan version. I'll let you know how that goes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One of those days

OK, so eating at home does not preclude me from using convenience foods at times. Tonight, it's salad for all and Amy's frozen spinach pizza for the boys. I'll let you know if I get creative.

Pots and Pans

We have new cookware. To say I'm excited about it is an understatement. When my husband and I got married, we both had some decent cookware, so we didn't register or buy any new stuff. It was all non-stick, and there were times we wished it were oven safe, could produce a good fond (tasty bits on the bottom of the pan before deglazing) for sauces and gravies, and didn't have to be protected from metal utensils. But, overall, it worked fine, and it got a lot of use.

Then, a couple of months ago I accidentally ruined my large sauce pot when I burned a batch of beans in it. And by burning, I mean reducing them to carbon. It was bad, and I was thankful I didn't catch the kitchen on fire - heart thumping, dodged a bullet, praise the Lord Almighty thankful. A pot is more easily replaced than a room or half a house or a whole house.

One pan disappeared. I know it sounds like I might have helped it along, but seriously, I went to get out my large deep skillet with lid one day to make something, and it was gone. Now, I may have done something with it, but for the life of me I couldn't say what. Maybe put it some place for safe-keeping?

Then, another skillet just died of natural causes. Kaput. So I was down to a couple of skillets a small sauce pan and a dutch oven.

When cleaning out my linen closet, I came across a beautiful, but massive, steamer set up that included a dutch oven-type pot, two stacking layers of steamer trays, and a lid with a hole in the middle that a great cook friend of ours gave us as a wedding gift. I had a steamer basket from another pan along with its glass lid that fit this pot nicely, so I ditched the other pot and kept this set up, as sort of a two-fer.

OK, I'll stop with the back story details. You get the idea that my pan collection at this point was hobbled together and included a Frankenstein steamer combo. And the non-stick surfaces were well-worn.

Now, David and I have both salivated over the shiny All-Clad numbers in the Williams Sonoma catalogue, which by the way is like porn for cooks, but we've hesitated to invest that amount of money in a set of pans because ours worked fine. So, when I started looking around to see what's out there, I thought I'd save up for a bit or just replace one pan at a time.

Not long ago, when I was walking through closeout retailer Tuesday Morning, a shiny stainless pot caught my eye. The price wasn't bad, but I didn't recognize the brand Tramontina and didn't know what exactly to look for in a good stainless pan. I came home and started researching. Low and behold, Cook's Illustrated, a great resource for food and equipment info, recommended the brand's 8-piece gourmet set as a best buy, and that it was available through Wal-Mart for about $150. All-Clad is about $600 for a 7-piece set.

I read user reviews on various websites. I looked all over the Internet to compare prices. I mulled it over. I discussed it with David, and he said, "Buy it". Finally, I agreed and bought it. Stainless is hard to photograph, so this is the promotional picture.

There's been a little adjusting after cooking on anodized non-stick for so long. This doesn't require as hot a burner. The manufacturer recommends no more than medium heat to prevent scorching your food. And you have to heat the pan before putting the food into it. I was a little anxious about using it the first, no, the second time. The first time I just heated Campbell's soup for Andrew. The second time, I scrambled an egg. (The boys still eat eggs too.) I was nervous that it would stick. Pfffttt. No sticking. Clean up was a snap. Pan even looked shiny like new.

The only con thus far is that the set, which varies a bit from website to store and store to store, came with 1.5- and 2-quart sauce pans. Some have 1- and 2-quart, and some have 2- and 3-quart, which would have been my preference, but I couldn't find one in-store. They're a bit small, but I've discovered that I don't need anything bigger many times. I will likely add a 3- or 4-quart pan before the next holiday cooking starts, but for now, it's all good. And shiny. I'm a happy camper.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Philly Mushroom Subs

Tonight's dinner was simple. I popped frozen sweet potato fries into the oven, threw some salad in a bowl, and made Philly Mushroom Subs.

For the subs, I started by "sauteing" some onions in a little veggie broth and sprayed a few pumps of Bragg's Liquid Amino for flavor. I set those aside because Andrew doesn't like onions. Had I been making this just from the grown-ups, I'd have left them in the pan and continued. Then I added sliced red and green peppers and cooked those for a couple of minutes then added sliced mushrooms and a little celery. I added a few more pumps of Amino and a little more broth to prevent the mix from drying out and scorching. Also tossed in a few sliced sun-dried tomatoes. I sliced a couple of bollilo rolls from the market, hollowed a little of the extra bread from the middle and filled the bread with the mixture, topping the grown-ups' sandwiches with the onion. David and Andrew still eat cheese, so they wanted a little shredded Italian cheese on theirs. I popped them into the oven on a baking sheet after removing the fries. Baked them for a few minutes to crisp the bread and melt the boys' cheese. Turned out great. David said he loved it and that he'd eat them every night if I choose to make them. Andrew ate quite a bit of his sandwich, most of his salad and all of the fries. He also "sneaked" salad veggies as I chopped them, so he ate a lot of salad. Can't complain 'bout that.

As for the Bragg's Liquid Aminos. I've seen it recommended in several vegetarian/vegan resources as a good additional source of nutrients and flavoring. I've used it a couple of times now. So far so good. I didn't add any other seasonings tot he sub filling. It was yummy.

I did need to chop a few veggies for this dinner, but usually I keep most of them chopped in the fridge, or at least cleaned, trimmed and ready to go. Makes cooking go much quicker.

Let's talk salad for a minute. Many people, especially at home, think lettuce, tomato and onion as the standard salad. I have a thing about adding everything but the kitchen sink. Tonight, for example, I added mushrooms, radishes, peppers, tomatoes, and celery. I meant to add onion but forgot, and I was out of carrot and cucumber. Frequently I'll add a few nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or dried fruit. For croutons, which I rarely just have on hand, I'll break up some pretzels, toss in a few mini crackers, or toast up some bread cubes. I keep trying to make it as interesting as possible without adding a lot of fat to mine. As a no-fat dressing option, I'll sprinkle on sherry, raspberry or balsamic vinegar. Salsa also makes a tasty dressing. Just trying to keep it interesting.

Now, what to have tomorrow? Maybe something with leftover bollilo rolls...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let's Chow Chow

When I was growing up, I remember my family members making Chow Chow, a kind of spicy green tomato relish, sometimes too spicy for me. As an adult, I love spicy food, but I haven't had Chow Chow in a long time. After seeing a recipe for it in our local paper recently, I now have a taste for it. There are a couple of pre-made offerings at my grocer's, but my farmer's market has lots of beautiful green tomatoes and onions, and Andrew and Mimi have a garden with peppers starting to make, so what's a girl to do? Chow Chow at home, I say.

The recipe below is the one I used. It's very similiar to the one from the newspaper, but it's also very similar to Emeril Lagasse's Green Tomato Chow Chow.

SPICY CHOW CHOW
Makes about 16 half-pints

Ingredients:
12 green tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 medium green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3 medium red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3 medium yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup fresh jalapeƱos, stemmed and chopped
2 cups water
2 cups cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the tomatoes 10 times (Do this in batches if necessary). Pour the tomatoes into a large nonreactive saucepan (stainless or enameled steel).

2. Add the peppers, onions and jalapeƱos to the processor and pulse the vegetables about 10 times. Add the mixture to the tomatoes. Stir in the vinegar, water, sugar and salt.

3. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and spoon into ½-pint preserving jars, filling the mixture to within ½-inch of the top. With a clean damp towel, wipe the rim and fit with a hot lid. Tightly screw on the metal ring. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

5. Using tongs, remove the jars and place on a towel to cool. Test the seals. Tighten the rings. Store in a cool dark place. Age for two weeks before using.


12 (mostly) green tomatoes. I bought them intending to make it right away, but had to wait few days. Oops!


Red, yellow, and green peppers, some from the grocer's, some from the farmer's market, and some from Andrew and Mimi's garden. The last ones, of course, were the tastiest.


3 medium onions.



2 jalapenos. The recipe called for 1 cup chopped, but I went with just 2 peppers. Once chopped, they equalled about 1/2 to 3/4 cup.


2 cups cider vinegar, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons salt.
The chopping took a bit, but once I got started, I fell into a rhythm and it went smoothly. I forgot to photograph everything post chop, but it was a lot.
I used a 6-quart stock pot and it was rather full, as you can see.

I don't have a canning set up, so I used another stock pot I have on hand. The bubbling of the water under the jars is loud and a annoying at first, but after the first batch I didn't notice it as much. When David and Andrew returned from errands, they definitely notcied amd it bugged them enormously. I think I'll pick up a rack for the next canning go round.


Awww. Last step. Removed from the pot, set on a towel to cool and seal. Nothing sweeter than the sound of the little "pop" you hear as the seals take after all the tie and energy spent trying to do each step just right. And yes, there are a lot more jars. This is the first batch.

As an aside, since I do not have a lot of canning equipment I needed a way to remove the jars safely out of the boiling water. The cheapest, neatest and least painful way I've found is picutred above. Note the purple ruber bands on the tongs. They came from some asapargus bunches from past dinners. I tend to rinse those and toss them in a drawer for later purposes. This is one of those purposes! Just wrap one around the end of each tong, and voila, grips. I also used my oven mitt that has silicone grips on the fingers to grab the jar after I pulled it out with the tongs.

The toughest part of this whole thing is waiting two whole weeks to test it out! If all goes well, I may have a few special Christmas gifts to give this this year.

My herb garden is in full tilt, so now I'm pondering possibilities for the mint and the basil. I'll keep you posted.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Change in Perspective

During this last break from blogging, I have encountered some perspectives and encouragement on my ideas of food. I may be repeating myself, but please bear with me.

I've read several books about vegetarianism and veganism in the past, and I own several cookbooks on the subject. I tried a vegan diet, in the pop culture meaning of eating to lose weight, about a year and a half ago, but it didn't last long. I approached it with an attitude of disgust with commercial farming and a want to lose extra weight. But I wasn't equipped with the tools to make it work past the first couple of days.

Growing up, I learned to cook in a way that almost every dish starts with some animal product. For example, most of the vegetables recipes start with "Fry some bacon" or end with "Top with butter." Even salad needed bacon bits, ranch dressing, and cheese. So, to go from that mindset to eating without any animal product was a shock to say the least.

Then a few a few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Since I'm always interested in reading about nutrition and food from reputable sources, I checked it out. In an unscientific nutshell, Dr. Fuhrman uses nutritive value of calories to control weight. For example, 100 calories of olive oil, chicken breast, and salad are very different amounts of food. The oil is about 1 tablespoon, the chicken is about a half cup, and salad is many cups. Thus, if watching your calories, you can eat a more salad than olive oil and stay under your limit. This is a very simplistic explanation and he goes into nutrition needs. Then, he includes some cooking info and recipes to help get you started, too.

After reading it, I was re-energized to give it another go. I discussed it with my husband because he has a say in how our family eats and, also, because he is my best friend and closest advisor. He agreed that we could be eating healthier and that he would support the effort. We also agreed that our toddler did not need to lose any weight and that we would ensure he ate plenty of calories to help him grow properly and healthfully. We also agreed, that while I choose adhere to this eating regimen, when we ate out, I would not give him a hard time for eating as he wished. It helps enormously to have his buy-in. And he's remained very supportive.

As noted, I have some veg cook books that I've used in the past, and I've used them with some success. However, whilst rambling in the bookstore one day, probably seeking something totally unrelated, I found myself in the cookbook section. I picked up a copy of Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson and took it home. This was my next step forward. Her approach is very everyday eating instead of dinner party gourmet. She provides recipes, alternatives and cost breakdowns for sometimes costly store-bought veg staples, like vegetable stock, seitan, hummus, beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and others and then the recipes for how to use them, along with tips on efficient use of your food budget.

Then, I found FatFreeVegan.com by SusanV. Another step forward. She uses a sensible everyday approach as well. Her writing is lovely, recipes are clear, easy to follow and yummy, and the pictures are appetizing.

So, as I've taken these steps forward, we've eaten many more veg meals at home. My husband and I focus more on salad as entree for the weight loss benefit. But I've tried several recipes (alas, I've not taken pix or blogged about them, but I'll try to be better going forward) that we've enjoyed and deemed repeaters. There were even a couple of recipes that my husband was a little surprised when he remembered there was no meat involved. And, I've adjusted to eating in this way. I love it. Because my palate has adjusted, I am better able to remind myself that I am unhappy with the state of commercial food production in this country. I am better able to think about the healthy goals I have. I don't have the same frustration of wanting to eat vegan and feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of providing the meal to do so.

In our area, there are not a lot of dining out options while keeping a vegan or even vegetarian diet. Our favorite little diner for Sunday brunch is a slightly reformed greasy spoon kind of place. I usually have a dinner salad with salsa for dressing and a baked potato, no butter please. When feeling giddy, I steal a few fries from one of the boys' plates. Although, the other day they had a tomato Florentine soup that appeared to be at least vegetarian. And was tasty. The waitress was unsure of its ingredients and not so helpful as to find out. I'm to the point now that I would rather go into my kitchen at 5:15 PM and put together something dinner than go out to have a plate of iceberg and a potato. It helps that it's summer and our farmers' market is in full swing.

One "recipe" of note, I'll call it Magic Tomato Sauce. The other evening I needed a quick supper and hadn't planned ahead. I found a package of whole wheat gnocchi (a fave of the family!), a bottle of tomato basil pasta sauce, fresh broccoli and Brussels sprouts that needed to be cooked right away, a can of navy beans and a small can of chopped black olives. I almost always have salad ingredients on hand. I steamed the veggies, rinsed and drained the beans, chopped part of the broccoli, and cooked the gnocchi. I added the chopped broccoli, part of the beans, and some of the olives to about half the pasta sauce then served it with the gnocchi. Served salad and Brussels sprouts on the side. My son loves broccoli but normally will not try Brussels Sprouts. That night, out of the blue, he announced he would try the sprouts, which he did, and then proclaimed that he liked them and wanted more. (Victory!) Overall, the dinner was great. Had some left over sauce, which went into the fridge. Next day it was filler for a veg Not-Quesadilla (no cheese) along with some chopped onion and peppers. Delish. The following day my mom, son and I had it on a great wheat roll as part of a sub sandwich along with sliced mushrooms, chopped peppers, and onions. It reminded me of a Parmesan-style sandwich. In hindsight, should have sprinkled on some nutritional yeast for a little cheesy flavor. Anyhoo, another yummy incarnation. Three from one, just like magic.

I have a few recipes and projects in the pipeline. I'll be sure to take the pix and blog. I promise to be back soon.