Monday, January 26, 2015

Copycat Skyline Black Beans and Rice

Copycat Skyline Chili Black Beans & Rice over Pasta
Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati tradition. Cincinnatians grow up eating the famous "3-Way" - a plate of Angel Hair Spaghetti, topped with Cincinnati-Style Chili and Finely Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese. Optional toppings, such as Beans, Oyster Crackers or Minced Raw Onion are also on offer. It's such a wildly popular Cincinnati establishment that Skyline Chili is also available in grocery stores so that you can make it at home, or even transport it to another state or country to enjoy it while in Cincinnati exile.

I'm delighted to say that Skyline also has a Vegan Option on the menu - their Black Beans and Rice. My little girl just loves it. But, unlike other Skyline entrees, the Black Beans and Rice dish is not available at the grocery store.

So, I created my own Copycat Skyline Black Beans and Rice for those nights when we have Skyline-at-home. My daughter says I got the taste just right : )

This Bean dish is supposed to be pretty "saucy" to make a better topping for the pasta. You will want to add water as needed to make a pourable, but not totally soupy consistency.  The starches in this dish are pretty "thirsty" so it may require more water than you would anticipate.

Copycat Skyline Black Beans and Rice
Simmer in Saucepan for about 15 minutes, to blend flavors
2 (15oz) Cans Black Beans with their liquid
1 Cup Cooked Rice (leftover Brown or Long Grain White work well)
1 large Cube Vegetable Bouillon (I use Knorr or Maggi)
1/8 teaspoon Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Cocoa Powder
1 teaspoon Fresh Garlic
Mild Green Chilies from a can, to taste (I use 2 teaspoons because of my daughter's tender palate. About 1 1/2 T of Green Chilies should taste more authentic)
Gradually add water as needed while simmering to keep saucy consistency. I use about a cup total.
Add & cook 2-3 minutes more, to mellow vinegar flavor
3 Tablespoons White Vinegar
When cooking is finished, Blend with an Immersion Blender until about 1/2 the mixture is blended, while 1/2 remains whole

Serve Over Angel Hair Pasta. If you like, a Vegan Mild Cheddar Style Shredded Cheese may be added to keep the traditional presentation. I prefer mine topped with Salad Veggies such as Shredded Lettuce, Avocado & Tomato.

Tip for Dining with Omnivores: You can serve traditional Skyline Chili to the Omnivore at the table. It can be purchased at many grocery stores, or online. For Ovo-Lacto Vegetarians and Omnivores alike, Shredded Mild Cheddar can be added.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Mexican Haystacks

Mexican Haystack (assembled & photographed without the help of a food stylist ; )

Mexican Haystacks are an old favorite in the Vegetarian & Vegan Communities. They're kinda like Nachos -
but both healthier & tastier : )

This is another "build your own" sort of meal - which is perfect when you have diners with a variety of allergies, sensitivities, or with strong food preferences. You simply put a layer of chips - or your other favorite base layer- such as rice - and build from there. This is a naturally gluten-free meal, if you have diners who need that option : )

What's really great is that with a freezer stocked with some seasoned beans - or with store bought ingredients - this meal can come together really fast. If you have several friends get together - each one can bring or prepare one ingredient.

The links in the list take you to my recipes for these ingredients. 

You simply set out the ingredients in bowls, choosing from the following:

  • Tortilla Chips of your Choice (I'm a fan of Baked Tostitos - they're widely available, tasty, and healthier than many other options)
  •  Rice (optional - but some diners might prefer it in place of, or on top of, the chips)
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Diced Onion or Scallion - if desired
That's it - just set out the bowls and let diners assemble their own on their own plates! : )

Tip for dining with Omnivores: If you like, in addition to the above options, you can set out any or all the following for Omnivores - Fajita Style Chicken or Beef Strips, Taco Meat, Shredded Seasoned Chicken or Pork, Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Ten Family Meals a Kindergartner Can Make

Family Favorite Lentil Soup over Pasta
As a rule, Kindergartners are not accomplished cooks. Usually, a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich is a great accomplishment.

Granted, there are a few little kids out there whose parents let them cook with loose sleeves, unsupervised, over a high gas flame, and wield a French chef's knife to boot. (I've seen actual pictures of these families on the internet!) We're not one of those families.

Nor is my daughter a cooking prodigy - she's just a normal little kid, working with beginner-level recipes.

But, my daughter could make several family meals when she was in kindergarten. This helped her learn basic little kid kitchen skills like rinsing and sorting beans, measuring, opening packages, using a can opener, converting simple fractions, tidying up after her work, oiling pans, kitchen safety, stirring, judging texture and doneness, etc. It also gave her the joy of accomplishment, and a better appreciation for healthy food. Home Economics was (and is)  a routine part of our homeschool day - roughly once every two or three weeks during kindergarten, my daughter would make the family dinner. Occasionally, on other nights, she helped me prepare more difficult dishes for the family.

These recipes are the sort that I could stand by and direct my daughter what to do next, while she did the work. I took care of any handling of heat, sharp objects, or heavy lifting, but there's not much of that in these recipes. If the recipe involved a Slow Cooker, I put the crock by the sink, let her fill it, then I carried it to the cooker and insert it & plug it in. Then she put on the lid and turned it on.

Perhaps you have a young child in your house, and you'd like to teach them to cook. Or, maybe you'd like some ultra-simple recipes to make yourself, either because you're strapped for time, or don't enjoy cooking, or aren't yet an accomplished cook. Or, maybe, like me, you love to cook but still love an easy recipe!

These are tasty recipes that can be turned out by anyone with minimal skills, time or cooking experience. 

Chili or Chili Cornbread Casserole
(this one requires a little adult help in spreading the cornbread batter over the chili)

Baked Potatoes in Slow Cooker

Greek Black-Eyed Peas

Greek Giant Beans

Greek Green Beans
(This uses the homemade sauce that I had previously made and had on hand in the freezer)

Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice
(This uses the homemade sauce that I had previously made and had on hand in the freezer)

Greek Peas & Artichokes Yachni

(for this one, my daughter only made her own pizza, not the big one that the whole family eats - she could not yet handle the large disc of dough. She did, however, make the dough from scratch with my help. She puts cheese on her own, by the way.)

Yeast Bread 
(This one requires a little adult help in stirring the dough as it becomes very thick, and in shaping the dough. Of course, the oven stuff is all done by Mommy : )

Corn Bread

Black Bean Soup 

Family Favorite Lentil Soup

Split Pea Soup

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Easy Broccoli Soup

Simple Broccoli Soup
This is a favorite, easy soup recipe. Like a few others I've featured lately, it's low in calories, and super-high in nutrition. And, my little girl LOVES it : )

I adapted it from a recipe I found many years ago in Soup by Debra Mayhew. It's super simple to make, economical, and great served with Garlic Toast Points.

Broccoli Soup
Bring to Boil in Stock Pot, and cook till tender
2 Pounds Frozen Broccoli (of course, fresh is fine, too!)
2 Large Cubes of Vegetable Bouillon, Crumbled (I use Knorr or Maggi)
Enough water to just cover.

Lift out a few large spoons full of the cooked broccoli, then blend the remaining Broccoli & Broth with an immersion blender. (If you don't have an immersion blender, you can carefully transfer it in small batches to a traditional blender to blend). After blending, return the larger pieces to the pot, so that you have a nice texture contrast. (If you prefer to be more efficient, you can just partially blend it with an immersion blender, and stop when you feel you have a nice mix of pieces & puree)

Serve with Garlic Toast Points.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

My Best Blog Posts of 2014

Here's my "Year in Review" post for 2014. It's so hard to pick "best" posts, because sometimes a great post is overlooked by readers, and sometimes something gets lots of clicks that seems to me to be a pretty average post. So, I decided to categorize them.

Domestic Posts

These posts were ones I loved that also got a lot of clicks - a win-win! : )

How I Accidentally Saved $200,000.

Raising Kids Who Aren't Picky

Wrinkle Remover Spray

My Amazing Mother's Kid Tips

Kitchen Cleaners  &
Bathroom Cleaners

Why I Ditched My High-Speed Blender

Menu Planning Posts

 Holiday Menus and Monthly Menus are reliably very popular posts. I'm featuring the ones that are coming again soon : )

 Vegan New Year 

 Ten Things to Do with Leftover Rice

Vegan Superbowl

How to Design Your Own Freezer Cooking Plan

Menu Planning for a Month in Ten Minutes

Bread Posts 

Rather Amazingly, in this age of "Gluten Free," my posts on how to make Traditional Breads the easy way were HUGE hits! 

Stove Top Bread Sticks

Easy Yeast Bread in the Slow Cooker

My Great, but Overlooked, Post

Twelve Vegan Recipes for a Toy Oven
I spent massive amounts of time on this post - creating 12 UNIQUE, Vegan recipes for Easy-Bake or other brands of toy ovens.  Who wouldn't want to make a kid a gift-basket of 12 different Kid-Mixes? But, the clicks only trickled in. Perhaps it was the timing? The title didn't grab people? People just assumed I was re-posting the same recipes that fill the internet? Don't miss it - this post is GREAT!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Most Un-Christian Word in the English Language

At His Birth, Christ Included an entire Spectrum of Guests
In a lifetime of hearing sermons, it is very hard to remember very many individual sermons. Most
sermons work together like bricks in a wall. They edify us (or build us up), but we don't notice the individual bricks much. Once in a while, there is a sermon that we hear and we remember many, many years later. This Christmas, I'd like to reflect on one such sermon.

One Sunday morning more than two decades ago, the Pastor* asked the Congregation, "What do you suppose is the most Un-Christian word in the English language?" Many, many words popped to mind, but I was surprised at the answer the Pastor supplied.

He said the most Un-Christian word in English is:

Are you ready?

The Most Un-Christian word in the English Language is . . .


That's right.


Think about it. We have "Exclusive" parties where only the creme de la creme are invited. We go to "Exclusive" sales at posh stores. We join "Exclusive" social organizations (and even social media, nowadays!) that are "Invitation Only!" We attend "Exclusive" schools and universities - and even preschools!

What do all of these things have in common?

They appeal to our pride by excluding those who we see as "less than" we are.

But, when we look at the beauty of Christmas, what do we see?

We see the God of the Universe - who truly was the Best of the Best - who gave up all the "perks" of Power, Privilege and Position and instead - out of sheer LOVE - came and chose to spend time with us! We, who along with St. Paul, are the worst of sinners!

Even the Wise Men, Kings and Angels who attended His Birth were far below Him!

But, He didn't just invite them! He also invited the poor, and those with no status in society - like the Shepherds. Even His own earthly Parents, though Holy, were poor.

He commended the virtues of the poor throughout His life. (see  The Widow's Mite and the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus for example)

More importantly, He commanded us to include the poor and underprivileged.

When I go to Church at Christmas, of all the Mysteries I ponder, the one that always amazes me most is that such a Perfect God wanted to come to earth to be with me!

This Christmas season, let's imitate Christ's Love and include those who aren't eligible for "Exclusive" offers in the circle of our Love & relationships.

*This is my recollection of a sermon given by the Rev. Karl Suhr of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Atlanta Georgia. Pastor Suhr made a very positive impression on me with his kindness, humility and compassion, as well as with this memorable sermon, despite the fact that I only lived in Atlanta briefly. As with any memories of this duration, I cannot guarantee that my recollection is an accurate portrayal of what he actually said, but I do want to give him credit for what I took away from the sermon.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

My Mom's Chocolate Icing

Mom's Chocolate Icing
Mom's Chocolate Icing was a childhood highlight. Mom rarely cooked. It was even more rare that she made dessert -usually only for occasional Birthdays or for Covered Dish Dinners - and we kids really looked forward to the Chocolate Icing. The cake was optional in our minds - just the Icing, please!

Now I use the same recipe, Veganized, to make birthday treats for my daughter.

For a Children's Version of this recipe, check out this post! 

Her original recipe was like this:

Mom's Original Chocolate Icing
Melt together in Saucepan:
3 Squares unsweetened Baker's Chocolate
3 Tablespoons Butter

Mix Separately:
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
7 Tablespoons Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Blend in melted Chocolate mixture, mixing well with an electric mixer. Add milk or powdered sugar, as needed to thin or thicken.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Mom's Chocolate Frosting
Over the years, I discovered that it was more economical to use Cocoa instead of Baker's Chocolate - and nobody could tell the difference. Then I Veganized it. I served my recipe to Mom, and she couldn't tell mine from hers - neither could anyone else!

 Mom's Chocolate Icing, Veganized
Melt in Microwave or saucepan
1/3 cup Earth Balance or similar Vegan Buttery Spread
Mix in
1/3 cup Cocoa
Dash Salt
Teaspoon Vanilla
Stir in
4 Tablespoons Nondairy Milk (I use Soy)
Then, gradually add, while mixing with an electric mixer
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
(add more Powdered Sugar or more Nondairy Milk to achieve desired spreading texture)

This Frosting Freezes well - you can decorate Cupcakes and wrap them airtight to freeze (in such a way that the frosting isn't damaged)  Thaw at room temperature, without unwrapping.

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