I have a group of awesome friends and one of my favorite things about them is that we all love to cook. With the New Year and increasingly crazy schedules and tight budgets, we decided to start a supper club of sorts. Once a month, we get together and somebody teaches us how to make one of their signature dishes and everybody brings complimentary side dishes. I claimed the month of February because of Mardi Gras and my love for New Orleans food. Together we made my red beans and rice and a King cake and we munched on Cajun spiced deviled eggs, crab dip, pralines and all sorts of other goodies.
Traditionally red beans are made with andouille sausage but as a vegetarian with mostly vegetarian friends, I obviously leave the meat out. Instead I substitute one of my favorite secret ingredients: liquid smoke. It costs a whopping $2.50 at my grocery store (next to the BBQ sauce and marinades, if you’re interested) and lasts forever. It adds a little bit of oomph to dishes that usually include sausage or bacon. Can’t find it or a little afraid? Feel free to leave it out, but you’re missing out on something. As for the beans themselves, this is a recipe where you’ll really want to start with dry. You’ll end up with a really tasty dish that’s fat and cholesterol free. Not a bad way to celebrate a holiday that’s normally associated with indulgence.
Red Beans and Rice
- 1/2 pound dried red beans, picked through
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke (optional)
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- salt to taste
- 4 cups cooked rice (brown or white!)
- Tabasco (optional)
In a large pot, cover beans with an inch of water. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook for 30 minutes, adding water if needed. Once beans start to soften, add onions, celery, garlic, Cajun seasoning and liquid smoke. Cover and simmer until beans are soft, another 30 minutes or so. Remove cover, add bell pepper, and continue simmering uncovered. Periodically stir the beans, mushing them against the sides of the pot with the spoon until the mixture is thick and stew like, then adjust salt to taste. Serve over with rice with Tabasco on the side. Serves 4 to 6.
Y’all, I feel a little silly posting this recipe. After all, it only calls for 4 ingredients. But this is hands-down my favorite way to prepare baby lima beans: the limas get to stand out, rather than being smothered in sauce, and they taste fresh and summery, even though they’re cooked from dry.
Simple Lima Beans
- 1/2 pound dried baby lima beans
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
(See? Only 4 ingredients!) Pick through and rinse dried beans. Then transfer to a pot, add the remaining ingredients then enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the beans are tender, about an hour. Add additional water if needed. Drain, and serve with a splash of olive oil and additional salt if desired. Serves 4.
This week I was feeling a little lazy and never got around to feeding the starter for my half whole wheat sourdough, forcing me to bake a slightly more traditional loaf of whole wheat bread for my breakfasts. It’s a lot more like what you’d find in a supermarket: softer crust and slightly sweet. It’s also easily made in an evening or an afternoon, for same time bread enjoyment. I use brown sugar in this recipe because that’s what I always have on hand but feel free to substitute honey or molasses. Just keep in mind that you might have to adjust the liquid. Anyways, I hope you enjoy it. I know you’ll enjoy the way it makes your home smell.
Whole Wheat Bread
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3 tbsp oil or melted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, honey or molasses
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- Using a mixer with dough hook, food processor with dough blade or in a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients to form a shaggy dough (it’s totally ok if there’s still a little flour on the bottom).
- Allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
- Knead dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth, if still slightly sticky to touch.
- Cover the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
- Shape the dough into a log and transfer to a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 bread pan.
- Cover the dough with a greased sheet of plastic wrap and allow to rise for another hour, or until it has risen to about 2 inches over the rim of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake bread for 45 minutes.
- Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it from the pan to a cooling rack.
Y’all, I feel a little silly sharing this recipe. I mean, it’s just vegetable soup, nothing fancy, right? But I love this soup. It is absolute comfort food to me. This makes an enormous batch, which I always freeze half of. When I feel a cold coming on, I pull out a quart of this soup. When a friend has the flu or just got out of surgery, I pull out a quart, bake or pick up a fresh loaf of bread and take it to them. The secret is allowing this to simmer for a long time so that the flavors become more than just some vegetables in broth. Anyways, with a raging flu season going on out there, I hope you enjoy it, despite the less than ideal picture.
I know that going from cornbread to sourdough sounds like going from the baby pool to the deep end of the pool, but once you get past the starter, sourdough can be a fairly hands off. I bake a loaf of this bread once a week and eat it almost every morning with almond butter and homemade jam or fried eggs. Compared to your standard grocery store whole wheat bread it’s a little denser and more tangy, but very filling. I know it contains all purpose flour, which isn’t quite as great for you as 100% whole wheat, but maintaining a whole wheat starter is next to impossible.
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 pint glass mason jar
2 to 3 days before you want to bake your first loaf, mix the above ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Transfer to the mason jar, cover loosely and set in an out of the way place in your kitchen at room temperature. Stir every 8 to 12 hours, until the mixture is bubbly and smells slightly sour. This takes as from 1 to 3 days, usually. Congratulations, you just made sourdough starter! Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.
Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
- 1 batch sourdough starter
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- Transfer the sourdough starter to a large bowl. Add the all purpose flour and water. Cover and leave at room temperature for 6 to 10 hours, until bubbles start to form on the surface. Now you’ve fed your starter.
- Transfer half the mixture to a pint glass jar and put in the refrigerator for next time.
- With the remaining liquid, mix in remaining ingredients until dough forms a smooth ball. A Cuisinart with a dough blade or Kitchenaid Mixer with a dough hook are great tools for doing this.
- Cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.
- Transfer to a lightly greased bread pan, cover and allow to rise for another hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Bake bread for 45 minutes.
- Allow to cool before slicing.
This might sound weird, but I’m not the biggest fan of potatoes. I do like french fries and potato salad, but those rely on a ton of fat to add flavor to a fairly bland star ingredient. However, they’re cheap and on their own, not all that bad for you. However, a while ago a found a recipe that was deceptively simple: potatoes roasted in lemon juice. No garlic, no onions, no herbs; none of those things that I rely on to add lots of cheap flavor. But oh my goodness, they’re so delicious. I had to restrain myself from eating the entire pan in one go.
I’ve decided to start a new “mini-series” so to speak on my blog: baking your own bread. Initially baking my own bread was intimidating but I quickly found that it’s really not that difficult. It’s also way cheaper than buying store-bought, tastes better than the prepackaged stuff, you can control the ingredients yourself and your house smells ah-maz-ing when you’re done. Seriously, I wish you could smell my house right now. Plus, people are unbelievably impressed when you bring a homemade baguette or still warm pita bread to a party, making your contribution an instant hit.
I know this first recipe is not a more traditional yeast bread, but being Southern it’s been a staple in my diet for as long as I can remember. This recipe came from my grandmother’s kitchen, where one day my mother and I sat with her and measured her “handful of cornmeal,” “tea cup of milk,” and “pinch of salt.” I love this with chili, beans and greens, or as a breakfast side. It’s the first bread I ever baked and I hope y’all enjoy it half as much as I do. As proof of how often I make this, let me share with you a picture of my recipe card: