Black Bean Soup

A simple and quick recipe for a warm and hearty soup.

I prefer to use Bushes Brand of  canned beans but you can use what you want. You can even soak your beans and make this from dried. But that isn’t so quick.

Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup

  • 2 15-ounce cans seasoned Bushes Brand Black Beans
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa – your desired level of heat
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried onions
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt

Garnishes:

  • Small diced onion
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Chunky salsa
  • Hot Sauce

Open the cans of beans and put them in a sauce pot along with the chicken stock and all remaining ingredients.

Using a immersion blender, slightly puree the soup just enough to break up some of the beans, but not all of them.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, then place a generous cup of beans into a blender or food processor or even mash them by hand. Add the mashed beans back to the soup.

Bring to a boil, stir frequently while preparing the garnishes.

Ladle the soup into soup bowls, garnish with desired garnishes. Serve with tortilla chips and salsa on the side.

Why not me and why not now?

This post is not about food, but about motivation. What gets us going?

“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. . . There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel unsure around you”

~Marianne Williamson, spiritual activist, author, lecturer, and founder of the Peace Alliance

These questions cross my mind from time to time; Why not me and why not now?

Hiding from our talents does nothing to further the world along or to reach the potential we are capable of reaching with focused effort.

We all have talents somewhere.

The problems lay in not defining or creating a focus on which to either concentrate or to direct our activities. Without direction how do we know what to focus on or in what direction to go?

Using an old analogy: when you start on a trip and head out the driveway, which way to go? Interstate, airport? How do we get to where we are going? Do we know where we are going or just wandering around?

This is why I make goals and lists of the steps I think will take me there.

Oddly enough, I have found making lists really works for me. Even if I scribble a few places to go, things to pick up while out, people to visit or weeds to pull in the garden, if it is on my list, it gets done. This works for simple and complex projects. Make a list of baby steps.

I used to teach at another college in Georgia. One year they had written some clauses in my employment contract that would require me agree to teach culinary arts at the #1 top security all-male prison in the state. I visited the area once and my blood ran cold.

(Think female in a high security all male prison – not for me! Very, very scary)

As I read my employment contract renewal, I saw a clause that said I would agree to work at the prison and anywhere else they decided anywhere, any time. I thought about what would I really like to do instead and it came to me that what I really wanted, above all else, was my own restaurant and to be my own boss.

So, I outlined the steps it would take to open my restaurant. Less than a year later, I had quit the teaching position and opened a wine room for tasting and sales; a kitchen shop for everything you could want for your kitchen, a recreational cooking school and a cafe.

Writing the business plan really helped clarify what I wanted, when and who I needed to help.

This was a great experience that clearly demonstrated that having a clear plan of action really works.

Recently I have been wanting to fulfill more of my potential and have felt like my wheels have been spinning without traction.

So I decided this is the year to work on the book I have wanted to write for a while. Obviously a cookbook. If I don’t get it started, it will never take shape.

Why not me and why not now?

If not me,  who?

If not now, when?

I have two neighbors who have awakened me to ask those questions more and more and to seriously ponder the answers.

One woman, Donna, had retired earlier this year. She and her boyfriend went to Spain on  vacation to celebrate. She began to not feel well while on the trip so when she returned, she scheduled a doctors visit. The outcome of that visit was she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She spent the last months of her life  in and out of various therapies. She died this fall, only 7 months after being diagnosed.

Another neighbor is “90 and 1/2″ as she would proudly tell you. She is active and refuses to have any help because she says as soon as she doesn’t keep moving and doing things she won’t be able to. The other day, she severely burned both of her hands in a flash grease fire, was rushed to a burn unit for surgery and now cannot use her hands at all for anything. Now, her family is looking at placing her in assisted living because she needs full-time, all the time help.

They say she will be alright but it will take several months for the burns and surgery to heal. To someone who measures “90 and 1/2″, this may be a long time for her. It definitely changes the rest of her life.

This illustrates clearly we have no idea what in coming down the pike for us. So why do I squander days of not really doing anything?

We have no guarantee of time. We have no guarantee of talent or success.

All we have control of are our choices and intentions.

So my challenge to you is to ask yourself

“Why not me? Why not now?”

Make a plan and see what happens.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

Ahh! One of my favorite vegetables is Brussels sprouts. These little green cabbage looking things are wonderful as long as they aren’t over cooked.

Truth is you either love them or hate them. I stand firmly in the love category.

They grow on a large stalk and if you can find them on the stalk, buy them that way. The first time I found them on the stalk, I grabbed it, brought it home only to realize the stalk was way too big to fit into my refrigerator. Considering the size of the stalk, I must have been insane at the market when I thought it would definitely fit into the fridge.

Later I realized the stalk can sit on the counter in the kitchen for a few days, while they get eaten up in various dishes.

Brussels sprouts can be steamed, sautéed, baked or roasted, or pickled.  You can use them in soup, as a side dish and in salads. I adore them with Italian dressing and Parmesan cheese.

You can cook them whole, cut them in half or “shave” or shred them into thin slices. There are even Brussels Sprouts with chocolate. And of course, don’t forget, you can always add bacon.

My preference is to use fresh sprouts but if you can’t find fresh one and you absolutely need to have Brussels sprouts, frozen will do in a pinch, although not nearly as wonderful as fresh.

The following recipe is a simple delicious way of serving Brussels Sprouts.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Pecans

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup pecans – halves or pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Trim sprouts and cut in half. Rinse under cool water.

Heat a saute pan, add oil. Place the sprouts cut side down in the pan. Allow the cut sides of the sprouts to become golden brown, not black and not pale green but a nice golden color.

Place the pecans over the sprouts as they are browning. Once the sprouts have  developed the color, stir the pan and add the water to steam the sprouts.

Simmer until the water has evaporated; add butter and stir to glaze the nuts and Brussels sprouts.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Trim and wash the sprouts

Place cut side down in a hot saute pan

Put pecans on top

Add water and simmer until water is gone

Serve and enjoy!

Eat More Brussels Sprouts!

Tabouli, Taboule or Tabbouleh

Tabouli, Taboule or Tabbouleh, is all the same.

It is time to get to know this terrific and tasty side dish.

Taboule is a middle eastern dish that has become part of the American diet. Just as Chinese foods became Americanized, so have middle eastern foods. So to call a particular taboule recipe an authentic middle eastern dish is not exactly accurate. There are regional differences – some use more parsley, some add cucumber and feta cheese. Then there are the non-traditional taboule salads that can have apples an walnuts in them or made with quinoa rather than bulgur.

My favorite version is simple with bulgur, parsley, tomato, olive oil, mint and lemon juice.

Sometimes I’ll make a batch and sit down and eat an entire bowl. I love how this dish makes you feel like you are really doing something good for your body.

Serve taboule as a cold side dish.  This recipe for taboule has a nice balance of traditional flavors.

  • 1 cup  bulgur wheat
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup  fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced small
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced small
  •  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  • Place bulgur in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Soak bulgur in water for 30 minutes.  The wheat should have absorbed all of the water. If there is any water left, drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.
  • Peel, seed, and dice the tomato
  • Dice the onion and finely chop the parsley and mint
  • Mix the bulgur, tomato, onion, parsley, and mint in a large bowl
  • Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and pour over the salad
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper

Taste and adjust the various ingredients to your taste. More olive oil? More lemon juice? Just be careful not to make the salad too wet. Instead of adding more salt, consider adding feta cheese crumbles.

  • Refrigerate for an hour or so to allow the flavors to blend

Optional additions:

  • Finely sliced scallions
  • Crumbled Feta cheese
  • Diced cucumber
  • Pitted olives
  • Diced green and/or red pepper

Zucchini Brownies

Zucchini Brownies are a great way of adding vegetables to your families diet. Unless you tell them zucchini is in the mix, they simply won’t know. The secret here is to finely shred the zucchini so it ‘melts’ while baking. You can’t expect it to be undetectable if you put big chunks in the mix.

This is a great way to get some vegetables into your meat and potato family members.

This recipe follows the formula of replacing the fat in the recipe with vegetables. The shredded zucchini adds the required moisture that creates the most gooey, fudgy brownies; you won’t believe they are full of zucchini.

 

Zucchini Brownies

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Zucchini BrowniesZucchini Brownies

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Butter a 9 x 9 baking dish.

Combine sugars, egg and vanilla in a mixing bowl on medium speed.

Fold in zucchini.

Shred Zucchini

Shred Zucchini

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Add flour mixture to zucchini mixture on low-speed, mixing only long enough to combine the ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish, smoothing it evenly in the dish.

All mixed together with the Shredded Zucchini

All mixed together with the Shredded Zucchini

Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes. Remove the brownies from the oven and cool on a rack.

Cut and remove from pan after the brownies have cooled to room temperature.

Zucchini brownies