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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