{Vegetarian} Black Bean Soup

Sunday I went to the grocery store for the first time since Jesse left for this go-around in China. For some reason this trip has really thrown me through a loop and I needed to get back into a groove and in order to do that I needed groceries.

Unfortunately I went to the store hungry, craving a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, and without a plan. I got my latte…. and an assortment of random what-the-heck-will-I-do-with-that groceries. Lots of snack things made there way to my cart. Like hummus, tortilla chips, and Snyders Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzels. A few real ingredients did made the cut. One such ingredient was a bag of dry black beans.

I love, love, love black beans. By themselves, in a burrito, on top of rice, as a pasta sauce, in a quesadilla – you get the picture. So I go through a lot of cans of beans. But for some reason I usually shy away from the dry ones. I think it’s because black beans are typically a part of a quick dinner, and dry beans are not quick. This weekend, however, I needed a small kitchen project to get me back into the groove.

Black bean soup sounded perfect and using the bag of beans I bought and other things I already had in my kitchen, I was able to get a soup going. It wasn’t as big of a kitchen project as I probably needed, but the apartment sure did smell delicious all day. Hands on time for this soup is just about 15 minutes. The rest of the time is hand off simmering. Oh and as an added bonus this soup can be vegetarian (even vegan) just by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth (and obviously not topping with sour cream or cheese if you’re shooting for vegan)! It was my plan to make it vegetarian today until I realized I only bought chicken broth. That’s what happens when you shop with out a real plan…

{Vegetarian} Black Bean Soup

1 cup Onion, chopped (1 medium or a little more than half a large onion)
1/2 cup Shredded Carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Dry Parsley
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp Tomato Sauce
1 lb bag Dry Black Beans, rinsed and sorted
1 32 oz carton Reduced Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 cup (or more) Water

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the seasonings, bay leaves, and tomato sauce, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the black beans and liquid and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to low then simmer covered for 1 hour and uncovered for at least 1 more hour, until beans are soft. If the liquid starts to go below the level of the beans just add a little water (unless you want a thicker bean soup).

Serve with sour cream and cheese, if desired.

Heavily adapted from the back of the Safeway Brand Black Beans

The 3 Ingredient Pasta Sauce


This may or may not be groundbreaking news for you. If you read a lot of food blogs, it probably won’t be because it’s gone around like wild fire. If you don’t, or if you haven’t already seen this, it will be because this sauce is one of the easiest things I’ve ever made but it’s also simply delicious.

A 3 ingredient sauce is perfect for weeknights or weekends when you have lots of running around to do or a laundry pile that is waist high. You can get this sauce started (ie. throw 3 things in a saucepan) in less than 5 minutes and then you’re basically free to do anything that needs to be done for at least the next 45 minutes.

As for the flavor, it’s simple, smooth, and mellow. The tomatoes are the star player in this sauce so it’s important to go with a good brand of canned tomatoes. I’ve had luck with Trader Joe’s brand as well as San Marzano. Once I tried it with Von’s store brand and I wasn’t as happy with the results, so keep that in mind. Also something to note, almost every time I see this online people include salt on the ingredient list (as will I) but they all say they didn’t need it. This was true with me too, no extra salt, hence the title 3 Ingredient and not 4 Ingredient. I did however top mine with lots of fresh Parmesan before eating (not pictured) because that’s how I roll. Some may disagree that this sauce needs the cheese, but to me all sauce needs it.

3 Ingredient Pasta Sauce

28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can *
5 Tbsp butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste, though I have never needed it

* Once I accidentally bought a can of whole tomatoes with basil, and it also did well. Some would say the basil takes away from the simplicity of the sauce but it tasted good, so it can’t be “wrong”.

Place the tomatoes, onion, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 45 minutes, occasionally stirring and using the spoon to begin to break down tomatoes. At the end of the simmer remove the pan from the heat, discard the onion, and use a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes on the side of the pan. Season with salt only if needed.

Serve with pasta shape of your choice and grated Parmesan cheese for topping. I also served with a side of broccoli.

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Grilled Brussels Sprouts

Why do brussels sprouts get such a bad rap? My guess is too many people have had a bad brussels sprout experience with mushy, overcooked, bland ones. I mean seriously, they are possibly one of my favorite vegetables. I compare the flavor to broccoli, just with a smoother texture. And being a member of the cabbage family means that they are going to absorb the flavors of your seasoning really well. Typically I roast my sprouts with garlic and olive oil until the tops are brown and caramelized. But with all of our recent grilling adventures I decided to track down a new preparation method.

Before I go any further, I’ve always said “Brussel” sprouts and just now realized (through some google searches) it’s supposed to be “Brussels“. It doesn’t feel right though…

This recipe hit the nail on the head right away. The blanch ensures that they are no longer tough to eat but it’s quick enough that they are not over cooked and mushy. Then the tossing in that fabulous seasoning? Are you kidding me, match made in heaven. I love the unexpected flavor from the celery seed. Then there’s the grilling, the outside starts to turn a fabulous golden brown that really concentrates the flavor. Really really fabulous. So please, STOP HATING ON THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS and try this recipe.

Before I end this post I need to take a little personal side track. Here we go again! Jesse is headed back to China in a few weeks. Luckily this stay is only for a month (and he’ll be back for Thanksgiving!!) but it’s still a month apart. 🙁 Because of his impending trip I plan on making a lot of comfort food in the coming weeks. The boy loves his mashed potatoes (who can blame him?) and other US friendly carbs. So you can expect to see lots of those sorts of recipes. And possibly some unexpected twists…. You’ll have to stick around and see 🙂

Grilled Brussels Sprouts
(Source: Food52)

12 small to medium Brussels Sprouts
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp celery salt

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, clean and trim the brussels sprouts. Add the brussels sprouts to the boiling water and blanch for 4-5 minutes. Remove the sprouts from the water and drain off any excess liquid.

In a medium bowl heatproof bowl, drizzle the sprouts with olive oil. Then add the seasonings and toss well, until evenly coated. Set the bowl aside. (don’t rinse it out!)

Place the coated sprouts on the grill (if you need to, you can lay out a piece of foil so they don’t fall through) and cook over medium-high heat for 12 minutes, turning the sprouts every 4 minutes.

Remove the sprouts from the grill and put back into the heatproof bowl. Toss with the seasonings one more time before serving.

Pasta with Mexican Black Bean Sauce


Try not to be too confused by my post today. The story and meal don’t match, but I don’t have a great story about this Mexican Black Bean Sauce. It came together incredibly easily and might have become my new favorite meatless meal. You know I love my black beans and to put it over pasta in the form of a sauce is just pure genius. Now onto my completely unrelated story (that mentions another recipe all together)…

Maybe you heard about a little blackout in Southern California last week. Around 3:30 all the power went out from Tijuana all the way up into Orange County and across to the California Arizona border. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t notice the power had gone out. The girls and I were working on homework and since it was daylight we didn’t have any lights on and there was no air-conditioning to go off. A neighbor actually called and asked if ours was off too and that’s when I looked at the clock and noticed. After that it didn’t take long to realize how wide spread this power outage was. And pretty much everyone left work early.

Not knowing how long the outage would last (and hearing it could be a day or two) I wanted to use up some of the things I knew would go bad. Meat and cheese. Thank goodness we bought that grill, because I managed to use it make the super easy Mac and Cheese (that’s how easy it is, I did it without power, partially in the dark, on a grill). Then we dined by candlelight with a few friends and tried to enjoy the slow pace of the evening. I snapped this picture with my phone and just had to share it with you.

Now for the recipe!

Pasta with Mexican Black Bean Sauce
(Adapted from Branny Boils Over)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 can (14.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh cilantro and cherry tomatoes for garnish
Cheese for garnish (optional)
12 ounces pasta, cooked according to box directions

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent and tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chili powder, sugar, and oregano. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove 1 1/2 cups of the sauce, and add to the bowl of a food processor* along with the black beans. Process to desired consistency then add back to the skillet and stir into the reserved sauce.

Serve over pasta with cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and cheese garnish.

*If you have an immersion blender, you can use that instead of the food processor and save the dirty bowl.