Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chili Burgers

Occasionally, I have a debate in my head about my favorite kind of bean. The winner is often whatever bean I am eating or cooking with, though I do think my all-time favorite is probably black beans. But these burgers make a good case for dark red kidney beans. My fear with bean burgers is that they won't stick together, but these did a decent job considering that there is no egg or anything used. The oats do a fine job as a binder, and the mustard and ketchup keep the burger moist. For some reason, this burger reminded me of meatloaf, if it were vegetarian and in burger-form. And that's a good thing, flavorful but not spicy. I served this topped with cheddar cheese and greens.

Chili Burgers

1/2 yellow onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, shredded
1 tsp. dark mexican chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 tbsp. dark brown mustard
2 tbsp. worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp. ketchup
1/2 c. quick cooking oats


Heat a large skillet over medium low. Spray with nonstick spray, saute onion, garlic and carrots for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
While veggies cook, drain beans, and add to a bowl. Mash with a potato masher.
Add mustard, worchestershire, ketchup, chili powder, cumin and oats.
Scrape veggies out of pan, add to bean mixture.
Mix burgers thoroughly, form into 4 patties.
Heat same skillet over medium-high. Spray with nonstick spray.
Drop patties into skillet, cook for 5-6 minutes per side.
After flipping, add cheese, cover to melt.
Serve on a bun with condiments.

Nutritional Information
serving size: 1 patty
Calories: 274.1
Total Fat: 1.7 g
Total Carbs: 51.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 17.1 g
Protein: 14.3 g

Monday, March 29, 2010

Breakfast Couscous

Most mornings I eat oatmeal, but when the weekend comes around, I like to cook up something a little different, something that doesn't have to be gulped down before jumping in the car to run to school. But the weekend I made this, my impetus for big breakfasts (Joe) was working, and I was busy at church. Making this on Saturday and portioning it into individual containers made it super-easy to get a non-oatmeal tasty, filling weekend breakfast before I preached on Sunday morning. And I had two leftover portions to eat throughout the week. The flavors are nothing earth-shattering, but eating couscous for breakfast makes it a little more exciting.

Breakfast Couscous
Yields 3 servings

1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup uncooked couscous (
I used whole wheat couscous)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins (or whatever 1/2 cup combination of dried fruit you have around)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan; stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand 10 minutes. (Mixture will thicken as it cools.)

Nutritional Information
Calories: 305; Fat: 6.9g (sat 0.7g,mono 1g,poly 4.8g); Protein: 9.6g; Carbohydrate: 53.7g; Fiber: 3.3g; Cholesterol: 2mg; Iron: 1.1mg; Sodium: 169mg; Calcium: 174mg

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Part 1

At the beginning of January when it was cold and icy, Joe and I were trying to figure out what to do and where to go for our spring vacation. We tossed around several ideas but none seemed to pan out. We were talking about cruises, but to go on a cruise that went to ports that neither of us had been to, we would have to leave out of San Juan. But then, why not just go to San Juan? I did a quick search and found some affordable VRBOs and reasonable airfare, and our decision was made. San Juan seemed to provide just about anything we want in a vacation: interesting history, sight-seeing, relaxation on a beach, a metropolitan city, great live music, and good food. Plus, because Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory, there's no messing around with changing money or bringing a passport or having trouble using your cell phone. Both Joe and I love Latin American and Caribbean culture, and San Juan was a great blend of the two.

Our first day, we arrived in San Juan around 2 pm after a short connection in Charlotte. The travel was remarkably smooth, and we quickly got a taxi and headed for our apartment in Condado, about 10 minutes away. The owner was waiting for us in front of a white, 10-story building. This was no luxury hotel or condominium tower, but we were right in the middle of everything. The accommodations were clean, and we had just about the room we needed. The owner had left us maps, and the apartment had an outfitted kitchen, and beach gear. After getting settled, we decided to roam around Condado and get our bearings. Our first stop was the beach, a mere block and a half away. As many people will tell you, San Juan is not the most beautiful part of Puerto Rico, but the beach was wide and well-maintained, especially for a city beach. The water is technically the Atlantic, which can be a bit rougher than the Caribbean for swimming, but it was still warm.

We exited the beach and walked towards the main strip of Condado, an area full of the best shopping in Puerto Rico and a multitude of restaurants and hotels. For people who are less adventurous eaters or who just want a taste of home, American chain restaurants are plentiful. The streets were bustling, and Joe suggested that we hop a bus and go into Old San Juan. Once we determined how much bus fare was ($.75 a person) and obtained quarters, a bus came driving up. Taking the bus into OSJ is very easy as there is a large transportation center there. It is the last stop going west. We got off in view of the piers and the docked cruise ships and followed some other people up into the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan.

Of course, I did not have any maps with me, so finding the tourism office was a bust, but we walked down the main street of San Francisco and basically just wandered for a while, occasionally coming upon plazas where people were gathered. We passed a small alleyway and spotted a few tables with people drinking some beer, so we stopped and bought a couple Medallas, the local beer. It is a light lager, perfect for quenching our thirst. After conversing with a few friendly members of the, ahem, local color (aka the resident drunks), we meandered on. We stumbled upon another bar that had been recommended to us, Nono's (100 Calle San Sebastian). Nono's is a very relaxed atmosphere, almost an overgrown dive bar type of feeling. After finding a few places at the bar, I asked the woman next to us what she happened to be drinking. A couple pina coladas later, we moved on to figure out something to eat.

One of the things I noticed and appreciated about San Juan in general and Old San Juan in particular is that there seems to be a good amount of both public parks and public art. This is the Plaza de la Rogativa, and the sculpture commemorates a religious procession led by the women of the town that had the unintended consequence of frightening away the British who thought the torches belonged to additional Spanish forces.

A lot of the food in Old San Juan is on the pricey side and a little fancy for what we wanted. We were craving some good Puerto Rican comfort food, and with some luck, we managed to stumble upon the perfect place, El Jibarito (276 Calle Sol). The place was busy, filled with the sounds of large groups laughing and enjoying their food. We were seated and handed a hand-written menu. I ordered the pork and plantain tamales with a side of mofongo (essentially mashed plantains). Side note: it is nearly impossible to eat vegetarian in Puerto Rico, so I didn't even try. Like many Spanish cultures, pork products play a large role. Joe chose the small bits of pork in a plantain sauce also with mofongo. When it arrived, it was precisely what we had been craving. A little on the fatty and salty side, but what good comfort food isn't? We then caught the bus back to our place just as it began to rain.

The next day we ate breakfast at La Patisserie de France in Condado and received enormous breakfasts for only $4.99. Then we hit the beach for lounging, reading, sunbathing, and some swimming. For lunch, we walked to the local grocery store and bought some fresh baked bread, cheese, and chorizo. Our evening plans involved dinner and salsa dancing in Old San Juan at The Latin Roots, a place that appeared more tourist-y than it ended up being. We arrived early, and the salsa instructor wasn't there yet. Our waiter was perfectly accommodating when we informed him that we were planning to stay for the music that started later. Our courses came out slowly, just as we requested, and he even brought us complimentary plantain chips with some delicious dipping sauces. My bistec encebollado was perfectly cooked, and Joe's mofongo with fried pork was even better than El Jibarito. Then we took some brief salsa lessons until the band took the stage. We danced the night away as the place got more and more crowded with people. Joe was very impressed with the band, and I got mistaken for a famous writer (though I'm not sure which one). Exhausted, we took a cab home to rest up for the following day of sight-seeing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seared Mahi-Mahi with Edamame Succotash

Lent is seriously flying by, and it's only another two weeks until Easter. For the past two years, about this time, I have some decisions to make. Am I really going to go back to eating meat as cavalierly as I was before Lent? After educating myself by reading books and watching movies like Food, Inc. can I really pretend like my diet doesn't affect other creatures? But could I really never eat prosciutto or chicken enchiladas or a steak ever again? And then I read this great article in the April 2010 issue of Cooking Light called "Rethinking Protein" (which doesn't appear to be available online), and it cemented the direction in which I was leaning.

After Easter, the plan is to continue to eat similarly to the way I have been eating, getting my protein predominantly from plant and sustainable fish sources. We will only buy enough meat to afford to be able to buy sustainable and ethical meat. At this point, I've done too much theological reading and thinking to pretend that God is not present in all of God's creation, including the animals that we eat, and our household needs to do a better job of recognizing that. I want to move towards a more American Indian model where I am cognizant and thankful of an animal that has given its life for me to eat it. But as someone who enjoys food, eating at restaurants, and entertaining friends, I cannot, at this time, imagine a life without the flavor that meat gives. So this is our middle-ground for the time-being.

And honestly, if I have to keep eating meals like this delicious seared mahi-mahi, I am not going to complain very much at all. The part that took the longest was roasting the red pepper, which you could do over the weekend and throw this together in about 15 minutes. The smoky, sweet flavor of the red pepper and the sweetness of the corn was delicious with the acid of the lime juice. I had seen this recipe a while ago and just never had all of the ingredients on hand, but I am so glad I finally made it!

Seared Mahi-Mahi with Edamame Succotash
source: Cooking Light via Erin's Food Files


1 medium red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (I used about 1/2 tsp dried)
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

1 teaspoon olive oil
Cooking spray
4 (6 oz) mahi-mahi fillets, or other firm white fish
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Preheat broiler

To prepare succotash, cut bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel & finely chop. Combine pepper, onions, and next 7 ingredients (through garlic), tossing to combine.

Combine corn and beans in a small microwave-safe bowl; cover with water. Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes; drain. Add corn mixture to bell pepper mixture; toss to combine.

To prepare mahi-mahi, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large nonstick skilled coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle both sides of fish with the salt and black pepper. Add fish to pan. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with fork. Serve with succotash.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 379
Fat: 9.4 g (sat 1.5 g, mono 5.5 g, poly 1.6 g)
Protein: 35.8 g
Carbohydrate: 41.2 g
Fiber: 8 g

Monday, March 22, 2010

Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya

One of the things that I love about our abode is that we live in close proximity to three grocery stores. Three full-service big-time grocery stores. Spoiled much? Sure, I have my preferences, but I visit all three at least occasionally. The one problem is that it is difficult to keep track of the aisles and where different things are. For instance, in one store, I can almost never find the raisins. So when I went looking for canned black-eyed peas (silly me!) in the bean section, all I could find were dried. Figuring that was cheaper and better than nothing, I continued on my way. And then I spotted the canned black-eyed peas...in the canned vegetable section. This thoroughly confused Joe who kept asking me whether black-eyed peas were legumes or vegetables and led to agreeing that "legume" was a pretty fun word.

Whether canned or dried, this was perfect for a cloudy, gray Monday after Daylight Savings Time went into effect. Add Cajun seasoning and Tabasco (which is aged in Bourbon barrels, score!) to your taste buds' liking. Joe threw in some chicken andouille sausage with his portion. With all the vegetables, whole grain rice, and beans, this is some real stick-to-your-ribs vegetarian cuisine.

Black-Eyed Pea "Jambalaya"
source: Beth Eats
Yields 4 servings


2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup brown rice
2 (15 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles with liquid
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1/2 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste


Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery, cook about 5 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic and parsley and saute 2-3 more minutes. Pour in the broth, and mix in rice, black-eyed peas, and diced tomatoes with green chiles. Add Cajun seasoning, Tabasco, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until rice is tender.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 408.7
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Total Carbs: 77.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 14.5 g
Protein: 21.3 g

Monday, March 15, 2010

Couscous with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Edamame

I meant to post this before Spring Break and our trip to Puerto Rico, but I was heavily distracted by the impending sun and warmth after two days of icy, sleety stuff falling from the sky. So I figured I should post it now before I get back into my normal routine and face the papers and sermons I have to write.

Another (somewhat) exciting development in our household: we joined Costco. We are now officially smug marrieds with a condo and a Costco membership. But seriously, I was very impressed and surprised with the good deals I found on foods that I try to make a healthy part of my diet: Greek yogurt, nuts, sweet potato fries, fish, and feta cheese, which features prominently in this dish. Between the chickpeas and the edamame, it's full of protein and fiber, which I've found help keep me full and satiated even when I'm going meatless. It's also quite tasty and could function as a main course or as a side dish. Plus, healthy one-skillet meal! Joe had his with a side of chicken sausage.

Couscous with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Edamame
source: Serious Eats
Yields 5 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/4 cups water, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I used 2 tsp dried basil.)
1 (16-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 cup coarsely chopped green onions (about a bunch)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add edamame, red pepper, and garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/2 cup water, basil, chickpeas, and tomatoes; simmer 15 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups water and salt; bring to a boil. Gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in onions and feta; toss well.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 454 (28% from fat)
Fat: 13.9g (sat 5.4g,mono 4.3g,poly 2.6g)
Protein: 20.7g
Carbohydrate: 62.4g
Fiber: 11g
Cholesterol: 27mg
Iron: 4mg
Sodium: 990mg
Calcium: 307mg

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coffee Toffee Bars

On Monday afternoon, Joe's childhood pet, a 17 year-old terrier named Toffee was put to sleep and sent to the big farm in the sky. She was in bad health, so Joe said good-bye to her when we were up in Wisconsin in July. But as I know all too well, even saying good-bye to an elderly pet can be painful, so I decided to honor Toffee's life and the love she gave and was given by baking these treats. Note that these are for human consumption and not for dogs!

I was afraid that these would not turn out and that I would've just wasted two sticks of butter. I almost threw in an egg to help the dough along, but it's just a really crumbly dough, so be warned. The taste is different considering from the visual that you're thinking, "Oh! Chocolate chip cookie bars!" But the coffee and the almond extract give it a different depth of flavor. We will eat these and raise a glass in Toffee's memory. Rest in peace.

Coffee Toffee Bars
source: Tasty Kitchen

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 2-½ cups Flour (approximately) (I used 2 cups)
  • 1 cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar.

Blend in the almond extract, instant coffee, baking powder and salt.

Add enough flour to make a stiff dough.

Press into a well-greased 9×13 pan and sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool in the pan on a rack. Cut into pieces as desired.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mongolian Tofu

Some kind of tofu stir-fry is a standby during these meatless Lent months, and I'm always looking for different sauces to approximate that greasy Chinese food that we hardly ever eat. Actually, a good (good being relative) Chinese take-out place is the one thing around us that we don't have. We've got Turkish and Neapolitan pizza and sushi and Mexican and Vietnamese not too far up the road but no Chinese (save for the sketchy buffet right across the street. I'm not counting it.)

Anyway, this sauce had that great sweet and salty combination going on here. It made a ton of sauce, so I threw in a package of frozen Asian-style vegetables. I also needed another tablespoon of cornstarch to get it to thicken as much as I wanted it to. Joe commented on the nice caramel flavor from the brown sugar. You could certainly use this with a beef stir-fry as well.

Mongolian Tofu
source: Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 block firm or extra firm tofu, with the water pressed out and cubed
  • Cornstarch, approximately 2-3 tbsp
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 c water or broth
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • Toss tofu with cornstarch to coat
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat
  • Add the tofu and cook until browned on all sides, about 6-8 minutes
  • In the meantime, mix the soy sauce, water (or broth) and brown sugar in a bowl
  • Once the tofu has browned, add the garlic and ginger; saute 1 minute
  • Add the soy sauce mixture and stir; bring to a steady simmer and then reduce to low. Let simmer for several minutes to thicken the sauce.
  • Add half of the green onions
  • Serve over rice and garnish with green onions

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Zesty Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili

One of the things that I appreciate about going meatless during Lent is that it's a great impetus for me to branch out and try some new things, even if I have to go hunting for them. I had never cooked with wheat berries before. If you're curious, I found them in the bulk foods section of Whole Foods. The wheat berries added a nice chewy texture and an understated nutty flavor to this chili, which otherwise has some pretty standard chili flavors.

Normally I think of chilis as a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of food, and while this chili will fill you up, it also has some nice light, citrusy flavor from the lime, oregano, and cilantro to keep it from getting too heavy. Really, it's the perfect transitional season chili. It's still pretty chilly out there, but the days are getting longer, and I'm beginning to see the heads of daffodils poking out of the ground. So for a chilly, end-of-winter evening, this chili will have you thinking about spring.

Zesty Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili
source: Eating Well
6 servings

  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper,chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed (I used 3 cups cooked black beans.)
  • 2 14-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (I used 1 even though we like spicy food.)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 2 cups Cooked Wheat Berries
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 avocado, diced (I omitted.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, chipotle to taste, broth and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  2. Stir in cooked wheat berries and heat through, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in lime juice. Garnish each bowl with avocado and cilantro.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tortellini Primavera

When I realized that my Cooking Light magazine subscription had lapsed and I went to Amazon to renew it, they also had an Eating Well subscription for $5. I use the Eating Well website frequently to plan meals and decided that $5 for a year's worth of issues was a pretty good deal. Unlike Cooking Light, Eating Well deals almost exclusively with food. While I enjoy the other articles about fitness and travel in Cooking Light, I appreciate Eating Well's focus on food-related issues like seafood sustainability. It's a much smaller magazine than Cooking Light, but I still found several recipes I look forward to making.

This recipe came from the most recent issue of Eating Well, under their quick meals section. And wow, was this fast! Frozen tortellini and frozen vegetables came together under a creamy sauce in mere minutes. The lengthiest part of this recipe was waiting for the water to boil for the pasta. In addition, it was flavorful and cheesy but still light. Serving it with a side salad adds even more veggies to the meal!

Tortellini Primavera
source: Eating Well March/April 2010
5 servings

  • 1 14-ounce can vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, dill or chives or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (I used 1 tsp dried dill)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups chopped vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots and snap peas, or 16-ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables (I used an Italian vegetable blend.)
  • 1 16-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk broth and flour in a small bowl. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth mixture to the pan, bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese, tarragon (or dill or chives) and salt.
  3. Add vegetables and tortellini to the boiling water; return the water to a simmer and cook until the vegetables and tortellini are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain; add to the pan with the sauce and stir to coat.
Nutrition facts can be found at the link above.