Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Ride!!

Back from the bar Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

Black bean and sweet potato chili – I made this after we returned home from the new country bar just up the road. Not as in country music, but out in the country.  We live about 9 miles from the closest town, so my scrounging is honed to a fine point.  It’s a nice backroad ride to town, but still one must plan ahead cuz nothing is open 24/7 in these parts.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

1 15 oz can  of refried black beans

1 sweet potato (6-8 oz)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ancho chili powder

1/2 tsp chili powder (your choice of heat level)

1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder (or cayenne)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp (scant) olive oil

Water, stock, beer or combination

In a 2 qt saucepan saute the onions in olive oil until they soften and begin to color.  Add the garlic and continue cooking over medium heat until the garlic softens.  Garlic burns easily; stir frequently and adjust heat as necessary.  While the onion cooks, pierce the sweet potato skin on all sides.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes, turn the potato over and microwave on high another 2 minutes.  All microwaves cook differently; just cook until it feels soft, but not mushy when touched.  Let the potato cool while the onion/garlic mixture gets nice and soft and golden.

Add the beans to the onion/garlic mixture.  Add one cup of your liquid of choice and stir the mess well.  Add all spices and seasonings, stir to combine while adjusting the heat to medium.  Peel the skin from the sweet potato.  Your hands work fine for this task.  Then dice the potato (or your preferred size) and add to the chili.  Add liquid to your desired consistency; most likely another cup will be needed if not more.  Let the mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with your choice of topppings.  Suggest using sour cream, shredded cheddar, cilantro, and LOUISIANA HOT SAUCE!

Tossed salad and BEER and you’re good to go.

We like our food on the spicy side; you may adjust spices to your taste; measuring with your fingers is OK.

It's a long ride to town

It's a long ride to town

No Tuna casserole turkey again

Turkey not tuna no bake casserole

No bake tuna casserole – no wait, a no bake turkey casserole.  I don’t know what came over me.  Guess I was tired and Mr. Mike was at his evening class, so it was time to cook wierd and easy.  As you’ll see, substitutions were made, but cookbook recipes are meant to be guides only not set in stone.  This one came from Believe It! Quick and Easy Meal Solutions (2008).

8 oz penne, elbow, or bowtie pasta

1 1/2 cups frozen vegetables (I used cut green beans & mixed vegetables)

1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (I used skim)

6 oz cream cheese (can use 1/3 reduced fat or regular)

1 12 oz can tuna, drained & broken into chunks (I used cooked diced turkey from the freezer in place of tuna)

Salt & black pepper to taste

1 tsp Fines Herbs (my addition, choose your own herb mixture)

Cook pasta according to package directions.  If desired, add frozen vegetables during the last 4 minutes of cooking.  Drain and return to pan.  I microwaved the vegetables in a separate container because cooking pasta and veggies together is too much even for me.  Also don’t like tossing nutrients with the pasta water.  I kept about 2 Tbsp pasta water in the pan to help melt the cheese.  Add the milk and stir over medium heat until cheese is melted and the pasta and vegetables are coated.  Add seasonings.  Fold in turkey (or tuna) and heat through.  Makes four servings.  Cooking & prep time: 20 minutes.

More recipes to share in the next several days.  I’ve been writing Christmas cards and getting some legal materials together.  I liked this casserole because there is little cleanup and it’s one of the few tuna casserole recipes that isn’t baked.

This is what the scrounge cats did while I was cooking.

Turkey is boring. Wake us when it's tuna

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Tay-cos and rice? Taco Rice?

Taco rice

Taco rice with lots of toppings

Taco rice – it does sound like some freeze dried product but it actually comes from Okinawa.  Call it creeping American imperialism or stroke of brillance, but it is popular in that part of the world, with or without a taco truck.  This recipe comes from the Penzeys catalog.

Taco Rice (serves 4)

1 cup uncooked rice (see note)

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

1/4 cup taco seasoning (I use Penzeys mix but the taco mix packets like Old El Paso would do OK)

3/4 cup water

1 cup salsa

Shredded lettuce

Shredded cheddar cheese

Sliced Black olives

Diced avocado

Sour cream

Add meat to a spray released skillet over medium high heat.  Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until it is well browned.  Drain fat if necessary.  Add the taco seasoning and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the water, stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low and simmer about 8-10 minutes.  Most of the water should have evaporated but the meat will be well coated with the sauce.

Divide the rice inot four wide bowls.  Top the rice with the meat mixture, then add 1/4 cup salsa to the meat.  Top with the lettuce and cheese; serve the other toppings on the side.

I like this recipe because you can add leftover bits or leave out some items such as salsa if you’re out and it still tastes good.  Last week I added about half a cup of leftover black beans/sweet potato chili to the meat mixture.

Serve with tortilla chips and BEER.

Note:  People complain about cooking rice.  It’s not hard to cook the real stuff.  Save your dignity and don’t use instant or the parboiled variety.  Do this: For each serving use 1/4 cup raw rice and 1/2 cup water.  For the recipe above you’d need 1 cup raw rice and 2 cups water (yields 3 cups cooked).  Heat water in a covered casserole in the microwave until it is just below boiling, about 3 3/4 minutes in my microwave.  Add the rice and heat on full power for 45 seconds.  Then reduce heat to 30% and cook for another 12-13 minutes.  Let it set for about 5 minutes, covered, before serving.  If using brown rice, increase cooking time to about 17 minutes.  Experiment a bit with times and power levels, your microwave may be different.  See? Cheap, good rice.

Pork chops with Port & cherries

Need a break from turkey?  Yeah, I love it but even scrounges need variety.  No recipe reference today.  I made this one up.

Pork chops with Port & dried cherries

2  4 oz boneless pork loin chops

1 tsp pork chop seasoning – I use Penzeys

1/4 cup port wine (just use the cheap stuff)

1 Tbsp (or splash) of balsamic vinegar (optional)

2 Tbsp dried cherries

Spray a frying pan with food release.  Heat the pan to medium.  Sprinkle chops with pork chop seasoning (see  Brown chops 4 minutes per side.  Reduce heat to medium-low; remove pork chops from pan.  Cover chops and let rest (I use one of the dinner plates and cover with the frying pan lid).

Browned seasoned pork chops


Add the port, cherries, and balsamic vinegar (if using) to the pan, scraping up the browned bits.  Adjust heat as needed; the liquids should bubble slightly but not so fast everything evaporates.  Remove the pan from the heat if necessary.  Allow the liquids to cook to a syrupy consistency.  Turn off heat and get your silicone spatula ready.

Uncover and divide chops one per plate.  Scrape the sauce mixture over the chops.  You can be fancy and “nap” the sauce or just scrape it out.  Tastes the same either way.  Serves two; ingredients can be adjusted for the number of people you’re serving.  For this meal we had baked sweet potatoes, broccoli, and french bread.  Red wine to drink.  I’m not a big fan of gadgets.  A few simple tools work just fine.  Learn to use your hands (washed) too.

Wine, cherries, & vinegar.  Note high tech gadget

Wine, cherries, & vinegar. Note high tech gadget.Pork chops with port-cherry sauce

Got my red beans cookin

As Marcia Ball sang…red beans and a ham bone.  Well no ham bone but I did use the Thanksgiving turkey stock for my red beans and rice.  This is the first time I’ve used this recipe from Southern Living’s Homestyle Cookbook.  I don’t follow recipe directions exactly, and you shouldn’t either.  They’re just guides to get you to the table.  Back in my mass quantity food days I was a stickler for having the production recipe followed exactly.  Home cookin is another story.  Here it is:


1 lb red kidney beans (red beans work fine too)

1 lb smoked sausage, sliced

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, chopped (6-8 oz)

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

2 qt poultry stock (I used smoked turkey)

3.5 cups water

2 bay leaves (I prefer powdered bay leaf, 1/8 tsp=1 leaf – saves you from having to fish the things out of the food)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

1/8 tsp ground red pepper

Hot cooked rice

sliced green onions for garnish

Rinse and sort beans; add them to a large pot and cover with water.  Bring water to boil, and boil for 1-2 minutes.  Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it set for an hour.  Change the water in the pot, add the 3.5 cups of water and 2 qt stock to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, likely 1-1.5 hours.

As the beans are near done, coat a frying pan with spray release and heat it to medium.  Add the vegetables and sausage to the pan and saute for 7-10 minutes, stirring so the food doesn’t stick to the pan.  For maximum flavor it’s important to brown the sausage well, but don’t burn it or allow the vegetables to burn.  The veggies should be soft and slightly carmelized by the time the sausage is browned.  Drain off any accumulated fat and add the sausage mixture to the beans.  Add all seasonings and the tomatoes.  Increase heat to boiling and then reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.  The mixture may seem thin, but resist the urge to thicken it.  That’s what rice is for.   Plan to cook  1/4 cup uncooked rice per person.

Spoon the hot cooked rice into wide soup bowls – gumbo bowls work well.  Ladle the red bean mixture over the rice.  Garnish with the green onions.  Accompany with Louisiana style hot sauce.  French bread or cornbread helps you sop up any remaining liquid.  The book states it will serve six – where you live may determine the appropriate serving size.


One last turkey thing – Scrounge Stock

One last turkey thing – Scrounge Stock.

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