grillin’ the most

I can’t tell you people how often I’ve gone into a grocery store with a list, only to leave without at least one item on said list. And not on purpose.

And I should add here, that I am quite the strategic little planner when it comes to grocery shopping. I don’t always shop at the same neighborhood Whole Foods, but in general the layout of most grocery stores is the same. So I write my list according to what I’ll walk through first. I load up on produce and stuff from the dairy/meat section (the outer parts of the store), then my list thins out once I hit the inside of the store to the processed/canned goods. Word on the street is that’s a big deal in eating right.

So with my planning, not only am I increasing the likelihood of “eating right”, but also I’m increasing the likelihood that all the things on my list will be found – especially important for the many times I leave my pen in the car and can’t cross things off.

And yes, I do try to make a list on my iPhone, but I find it hard to walk through the store holding my phone up. It’s almost as bad as texting and walking (I suppose it’s the same as texting and walking, but also pushing a cart, so actually worse). Those are the folks I want to punch in the face, so I figure I should try to stick to the pen and paper.

Anyway, I’d decided to join the hoards of 6:00 shoppers in the downtown area Trader Joe’s last week for a change of scenery, and also because I knew for once I could get everything on my list there without having to go to another grocery store. It was, needless to say, mass chaos. People pushing through to grab the $1.99 arugula and the free samples of artichoke dip, and meanwhile the stockers were pushing their carts through the store with a “kill or be killed” sorta mentality. But no bigs – I went into it knowing it would be crazy, and crazy was what I got. I also ran into Judy! That never happens.

I’d found all of my produce, and then lo and behold, I found totally fresh corn on the cob (meaning, not already shucked and put into plastic containers for a higher price), so I went to put back the other one, and somewhere in the mix I absolutely forgot to grab the fresh corn. So when I got home to make this GRILLED CORN and bean salad, I just had a bunch o’ beans.

Solution? I texted my dear husband and asked for a last minute stop for some corn which, he obliged to, knowing his dinner depended on it. I grilled fresh corn, onions, and jalapeños and tossed them all with beans and tomatoes, and a perfect summer salad (4th of July party, anyone?) was made.

The End.

p.s. Last Friday I posted some 4th of July recipe suggestions. Click here and scroll to the bottom! Happy 4th :).

Grilled Corn & 3 Bean Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light, June 2012; serves ~12

printable version

time commitment: 30 minutes

ingredients
1 c halved heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 t salt, divided
3 ears shucked corn
1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 jalapeño peppers
1 T olive oil
Cooking spray
1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 c fresh lime juice
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 diced peeled avocados
1/2 c queso fresco

instructions
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes.

Brush corn, onion, and jalapeños evenly with oil. Place vegetables on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill corn for 12 minutes or until lightly charred, turning after 6 minutes. Grill onion slices and jalapeños 8 minutes or until lightly charred, turning after 4 minutes. Let vegetables stand 5 minutes. Cut kernels from cobs (if you’re smart, you’d do this over a bundt pan so corn doesn’t fly everywhere). Coarsely chop onion. Finely chop jalapeño; discard stem. Add corn, onion, and jalapeño to tomato mixture; toss well. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, cilantro, and next 4 ingredients (through kidney beans) to corn mixture; toss well. Top with avocado and queso fresco.

Juicing It

Last week is a week I hope not to repeat any time soon. Not because I had a lot of work to do, and not because traffic was rough most mornings, and certainly not because I was sick or anything of the sort. Last week sucked because Chris and I did a 3-day juice detox.

Exactly.

Sure, vacation was great and all, but somewhere along the way we became pretty disgusted with ourselves and all of the greasy, processed, yummy food we were eating. Our pants were a lot tighter (remember? I said bring your fat pants on a Deep South trip) and our tummies much gassier than usual, which, for me, is saying a lot. Too much detail? Never! Anyhoo, let’s just call it the straw that broke the camel’s back, and leave it at that. A 3-day diet of nothing but juice seemed like the perfect punishment answer.

To be honest though, it wasn’t the most horrible event to ever happen in my life. And we did choose to do it (and pay a ginormous amount to do it, also). The juices were tasty, at least most of them (I actually miss the almond drink at night), and we certainly weren’t starving since we were drinking water and/or juice almost constantly. But damn, I missed eating. I missed chewing. I missed the variety of tasting something different every day if I chose to. The worst part about it all? We had a lovely weekend beforehand including extra-amazing pulled pork, coleslaw, and baked beans, and I couldn’t even eat the leftovers since we had to go vegan for two days before the juicing started.

Let’s chalk that up to poor planning on our part. We ran out of weekends in September and October, and we had to have a “shredded meat + zombie show marathon” party before the season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead this past Sunday, so there really was no way around it whatsoever. I want to say it was worth it, but all day Sunday I thought about my friends Elizabeth and Kevin and just knew they were tearing into the leftovers we’d forced on them. If they didn’t live all the way on the other side of the bridge I would have stolen it all back come Wednesday, so clearly it’s best that we just got the leftovers out of our sight, right?!

Of course, now that we’ve advanced to solid foods (yay grown ups!), we are trying our best to keep things on the lighter side. Juicing was not only a great way to get rid of a lot of toxin buildup, but it was also a good kickstart to some better eating around these parts. Don’t get me wrong – we’ll still be eating butter, heavy cream, cheese, and our fair share of red meat around here, but hopefully just a little bit less than we have the past few months.

The tacos you see here were eaten the night before and the night after three endless days of nothing but juice our wonderful, exhilarating detox. They were inspired by Joy the Baker’s recent post, primarily because I had everything on hand but the sweet potatoes. Her recipe also included a crunchy component, a cabbage slaw, which is certainly a great idea. I was in no mood to have extra food lying around, so I skipped it. But seriously, crunch is always welcome in a taco, so feel free to add something similar if you’re feeling the need.

As for me, I gotta say – these tacos were great, easy to throw together, and perfect for pre- and post-detox requirements, but this week, I’m ready to have something with actual meat in it. Hallelujah.

ps – if you live in the Bay Area and wanna give the juice detox a try, use Juice to You. They use organic, local veggies and reusable glass jars – super duper green! Outside of the Bay Area? Try BluePrintCleanse, the national company that ships it to ya like nobody’s business.

 

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos
inspired by  Joy the Baker; makes 8 hefty tacos

time commitment: ~45 minutes (most inactive)

printable version

ingredients
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 T + 1 t olive oil
salt and pepper
1 t chipotle chile powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 corn tortillas, warmed in the oven
1 T cilantro, plus more for garnishing
lime juice, for garnish

instructions 
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Toss the sweet potato with 2 T olive oil, salt and pepper, chipotle chile powder, and cumin onto a baking sheet and bake for ~30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet and toss in the onion. Saute on medium for about 5 minutes, until soft, and toss in the garlic for another minute. Then add the black beans and cook until heated throughout. Meanwhile, get the tortillas heated up in the oven. Once the black beans are heated, mix in a tablespoon of cilantro and then dump the beans and sweet potatoes into a bowl together.

Finish off with cilantro and lime juice, then scoop into corn tortillas.

An Uncanny Hankering

I am a big fan of the burger. One of the very first eateries we encountered here in Chicago was a lovely bar, right around the corner from where I now work, called O’Neil’s (sadly, it’s gone now and replaced by a lame clothing store).  They had big, fat, juicy burgers, great fries, and of course, the much-needed brewsky to wash it all down. The outdoor seating, fairly new to us Southern transplants, was icing on the cake, so to speak.

Midway through grad school, a few of us discovered the Chili’s build your own burger special (how we found it is beyond me, as we certainly weren’t watching a lot of TV those days), and many dinners (and of course, brewskys) were consumed there – my “southwestern-style” burger and Cheryl’s  mushroom/swiss burger – the cessation of that special was more hurtful than having my fingernails yanked out. Well, close, at least. Very close.

While I do love a good burger, I certainly don’t eat them nearly as much as I used to, but now that M Burger is open on the north side of my building, I smell those damn burgers all the time – there isn’t much better than the smell of a grill, especially on a warm summer day, of which we’ve had quite a few lately. And while their standard burgers are extra-tasty, simple, and eerily reminiscent of McDonalds’ burgers (but much, much better, and fresher, and if possible to use this word in the same paragraph as burger, likely healthier), their vegetarian burger is out of this world. Sans patty, the filling is simply a large, thick, juicy beefsteak tomato, finished off with the basics and M Burger’s ‘special sauce’, which again, is probably a riff off the Golden Arches burger.

It’s safe to say that, during this month of vegetarianism, I have wanted nothing more than a juicy, all-beef burger. With bacon. Why, I’ve caught myself drooling at least twice in the middle of restaurants, the juice from the burgers dripping all over the diner’s hands, running down their arms. I wanted to bathe in it. But I used what class I have, which isn’t too much, and I continued to munch on my wheat berries, washing them down vigorously with a hefty glass of Malbec.

So unfortunately, we’re still not in the clear here (4 days left!), and for the time being, I’m going to give props to this black bean burger recipe I snagged from The Kitchen Sink. It’s the second black bean burger I’ve made this month (yes, I was trying desperately to satisfy a burger craving, and failing miserably), but only the first one I’ve liked. It’s loaded with enough fixin’s to make you forget, momentarily, that there’s no meat. Does it replace a ‘real’ burger? H, E, double hockey sticks, NO.

But it’ll work for this week….and in June, I’m going here and here. And for lunch Tuesday, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m heading straight to M Burger.

Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from The Kitchen Sink, who adapted from Gourmet; serves 4

ingredients
2 (14-ounce) cans organic black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
3 T 2% Greek yogurt
1/3 c plain dry bread crumbs
1 T g flax seeds (optional)
1 t g cumin
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t chipotle chili powder
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
3 T canola oil
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns

Fixin’s: sliced avocado, spinach, red bell pepper slices, goat cheese, red onion

instructions
Pulse 1 can beans in a food processor with yogurt, bread crumbs, cumin, oregano, cayenne, chipotle chili powder, and salt until a mixture is coarsely chopped (will look light greyish and pasty). Transfer to a bowl and stir in cilantro and remaining can beans.  Add juice of lime (if mixture comes together well, use less than one lime; my lime was small).  Form mixture into 4 patties.

Preheat oven to 300 F. While burgers are cooking, slightly toast buns (optional).

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over med-hi until it shimmers. Cook burgers until outsides are crisp and lightly browned, turning once, about 5 minutes total. Serve on buns, along with the fixin’s.

Converting to Chili

It’s safe to say it – I’m a chili snob. I mean, it’s not just chili; there are other things I’m snobby about too. I have, possibly after drinking too much of it in college, grown to severely dislike watered-down beer and will only drink ales, aka beers with substance, or soul. I have very slowly started to like whiskey, but only from small-batch distilleries and so far, only when combined with ginger. I think my cat is the prettiest and loveliest of them all, because she is, and that’s all I need to say about that. And when it comes to toothpaste, I prefer Crest Pro Health, in cinnamon, if available.

So yeah, it’s not just chili. But until I met Hubs, I was never a chili-likin’-girl. Past chilies have been too bean-laden (specifically of the way-too-large kidney bean variety), or conversely, too watery. Both prompt some level of embarrassment after my consuming them, either in foul smell or by the appearance of chili-stained shirts. Sometimes both, I suppose.

But shortly after the Hubs and I started courting, I met his sister’s fiancee (now husband), a fellow Southerner, and frequent wearer of Carhartts. He had me hooked after making his biscuits n’ gravy, but after a couple bowls of his chili I knew I had to find a way to stay in that family, at least long enough to procure his recipe.

And no, this isn’t that chili. But that’s the chili that converted me; it was thick (but no so thick I felt like I was spooning ground meat alone into my mouth), it was spicy, it wasn’t runny in the least, and it warmed my heart, filled my belly, and made me wonder what was the matter with all those other chili-makin’ wannabees.

This chili here, this chili gave me that same feeling. And then some. This one is all of the above, but it is also full of complexity and layered with flavor upon flavor. It’s spicy, that’s no lie. But it’s spicy in only the best way possible. It’s healthy, with a generous amount of beef but rivaled by just the perfect amount of beans, black beans to be specific. It’s exactly what you want when the winter won’t quit.

And at least in these parts, I don’t see myself making any summer salads just yet. The good news is that, at least for the few minutes I’m eating this chili (and perhaps the time before when the smell is wafting around every corner in our house), I don’t care for all that warm weather. Give me chili, good music, a magazine, and my electric throw and I’ll watch the snow all day long, smiling all the while.

Cold weather concoctions, previously:
Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine
Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Chili con Carne
Loosely adapted from Cuisine at Home; serves 8 (leftovers freeze well, too!)

printable version

ingredients
fajita seasoning
2 t g cumin
1 t smoked paprika
1 t onion powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t g coriander
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t g cinnamon
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t g ginger

chili
2 T evoo, divided
2 lb beef stew meat, cubed
1/4 c tequila
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, preferably)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 white onion, diced
2 T garlic, minced
1 sm can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, pureed
1 T tomato paste
1 T mole sauce
1 1/2 c beef broth
2 T all purpose flour
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lime’s worth of juice
sour cream
avocado

instructions
stir together all seasoning ingredients; set aside.

heat 1 T oil in Dutch oven. brown meat in two batches, adding 1 T oil again for the second batch. transfer to slow cooker. Deglaze pot with tequila, scraping up bits from bottom, and add to slow cooker. (if using a Dutch oven instead of slow cooker, just leave steak in pot and deglaze as instructed)

add tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, fajita seasoning, chipotle puree, tomato paste, mole to slow cooker. stir in beef broth and flour. cover and cook on high for 4 hours. (Dutch oven – bring to boil, partially cover, simmer over med-lo for 1 hour)

stir in beans and lime juice before serving, garnish with sour cream, avocado.