Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It was a picture perfect morning for an early kayak ride!

It was a beautiful morning for an early kayak ride!

‘Tis the season of temperatures in the 80s and the sunset being around 8:30 p.m. Which means I want to take advantage of every second I can when I get out of work to be outdoors. And which also means dinners are late. Very late. While exercising, I create recipes in my head with items I have in the fridge and the cupboards so I can make a quick meal because I’ll be famished when I walk in the door. (This is how I get through a hike–thinking of food!) This salad is one such creation; I wanted something healthy, of course tasty, but one that I call a “dump it” salad, throw everything in a big bowl, toss and serve.

I’m a big advocate for canned beans, especially this time of year. Even though I prefer to cook my own dried beans, it’s definitely less expensive but more time-consuming, I find I don’t spend as much time in the kitchen as I do in the winter; having a few cans on hand for quick meals like this are a life saver. I measured out two cups of frozen corn to defrost for a couple of hours. When I got home, I took my big mixing bowl and started to add what I had in the fridge and cupboard. I didn’t have enough lime for a quarter cup, so I added some lemon juice. If you don’t have both herbs, you can use just one. And of course, there are substitutes galore: red pepper in place of the tomatoes, scallions in place of the red onion, cucumber in place of zucchini. Or add some protein; I was thinking cooked chicken or grilled shrimp would be good, or even some quinoa or another grain. I served it with grilled chicken sausages and it was fantastic. And of course, if your palate isn’t one for spicy foods, omit the cayenne entirely; just a tiny bit goes a really long way!

This dish makes close to four cups, which I thought was plenty enough for dinner for two and at least lunch the next day. Until I heard the Eater of the House, who went for seconds (or was it thirds?) ask if he could have the rest of the salad! “I wouldn’t eat so much if your food wasn’t so good!” I guess that’s a rousing endorsement for this recipe!

black bean sal 

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Salad
This recipe can easily be doubled for a summertime potluck!

2 cups, defrosted corn
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoon diced red onion or shallots
1 small zucchini, diced
Chopped fresh basil and cilantro (2 Tablespoons each)
½ avocado, diced
¼ cup fresh lime juice or lime and lemon juice
A dash of cayenne or a bit of chopped jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In advance of cooking, defrost the corn until thawed (at least two hours). Add to large mixing bowl, and add the remaining ingredients (through lime juice). Add cayenne, if using, and salt and pepper.

coloring bookkMVK’s *Like* of the Week: A Coloring Book for People Who Like Food
The biggest things these days in bookshops aren’t the books themselves, it is coloring books for adults! While I myself haven’t gotten into this craze (I like to read too much to spend time coloring), this one did spark my interest, a book for people who like food! Edible Paradise is just that, pictures of lots of fruits and vegetables that you color! I don’t know if this will make me put my book down and pick up a coloring pencil or pen, but it might! You can read more about it here.


Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

A few weeks back The Eater of the House and myself were invited to a dinner party and the request was to bring either an appetizer or dessert. Since I had the time and the urge to cook a little bit, I made some chocolate chip cookies with coconut, but wasn’t really sure what to make for an appetizer. Be forewarned, if I am cooking for a group of people either at my home or for a potluck, I almost always try something new. Certainly not the wisest of decisions (the rational voice in my head is always questioning why?!), but I love trying something new to me and introducing it to guests. And I truly hit the jackpot with this dip.

This incredibly flavorful black bean dip has a little bit of heat, a hint of garlic and crunchy onion, and a combination of lime juice and red wine vinegar that is so good that after one bite I moved the plate closer to me with the hope the other guests wouldn’t notice. It was so delicious, I made it the next day just for myself!

I searched high and low in the grocery store and couldn’t find queso fresco cheese, so I used feta in place and it was just as good. This appetizer will make vegans and those who don’t eat dairy happy if you leave off the cheese as well as those who are looking for a healthy, flavorful dip that isn’t terribly heavy or rich. I thought it would be terrific as a vegetarian burrito filling or as an accompaniment for eggs!

black bean dip
Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco

This recipe first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Can’t find queso fresco? Crumbled feta cheese can certainly be substituted, or if looking for a dairy-free version, just add extra onion and cilantro. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to make it more dip-like as I found it a little dry without it.

1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons queso fresco
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine tahini, lime juice, olive oil, beans, salt, water, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar, cumin, and crushed red pepper to food processor with black bean mixture; process until smooth. Top with queso fresco, onion, and cilantro.

onionsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pickled Onions
This is more like my love of the week. Or month. Or year. I decided at the beginning of the summer to make some pickled onions to go with the burritos I was making. O. M. G. They are the best (and easiest) thing you can make to add flavor to your food! I take 3/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and add some diced red onion. They last forever and are so good! I’m a big onion fan, so this just adds enhanced flavor with a little bit of a zing. I especially like putting them on a warmed corn tortilla with melted cheese, a scrambled egg, and some avocado for a really tasty breakfast!

I found this article, which gives great instruction on how to make quick pickled onions or you can do what I do. Either way, I hope you find a new delicious food accompaniment!

MVK’s Burrito Bowl

A couple of months ago, I went to a Chipotle for the first time. Am I the last person on earth? While I’d heard about the healthy fast food chain, I’d never been to one; Vermont just barely got its first a few years ago. But on a cold January day, I decided to treat myself to lunch. And while it was delicious, I knew I could make a healthier and less expensive version at home. And I have!

This dish is so easy and healthy that it’s become a staple for Wednesday night dinners. When it’s the middle of the week, I don’t feel like cooking or I get home late and don’t have the time, so this is something you can make with kitchen and fridge staples or with a quick stop at the supermarket on the way home from work.

Before you leave the house in the morning, put a cup or so of frozen corn in a bowl and let it thaw in the fridge. (If you forget this step, just put it in a bowl when you get home, as it thaws pretty quickly.) When you get home that evening, start boiling water in a saucepan to make a batch of rice, preferably brown. While that is cooking, take out a mixing bowl and add to it a can of black beans, the thawed corn, a few halved grape tomatoes, a tablespoon or so of scallions, and if you like heat, chopped jalapeno, and mix. Add a dash of salt, a couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, some lime juice to taste, and a little bit of cumin. In a deep dish bowl or plate, add about a half cup of rice, add some of the black bean salad, and top it with avocado, salsa, sour cream, more cilantro and/or scallions, lime juice, or your favorite topping.

You can really make this dish your own. I thought about adding black olives next time or perhaps some shaved cabbage or sliced radishes. Instead of black beans, you can use another kind of bean or shredded chicken, pork, beef, or even fish. If you don’t like rice, you can leave it out or substitute another grain. Instead of cumin, use coriander or another favorite spice.

It was interesting that as I was working on this recipe, this story was printed in the New York Times. So now I know my version has fewer calories and is definitely healthier! (Although I will add, the restaurant can be healthy if you make the right choices!)

mvk burrito bowl


MVK’s Burrito Bowl

1 can of black beans
About a cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
A couple of tablespoons chopped scallions
1 cup of thawed frozen corn
A dash of salt
One jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
A couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
A dash or two of cumin powder
Cooked brown rice
Toppings: avocado, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, cilantro

1. In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, jalapeno pepper (if using), and to taste, salt, cilantro, cumin powder, lime juice, and mix. To a plate or bowl, add a half cup of rice, top with the salad and added condiments.

eggsMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
Bravo, albeit a few decades late, to the U.S. government who finally realizes that low-fat food is not good for you! This article from the New York Times last week focuses on a new study, which is linked in the article. The government has said that cutting fat and cholesterol may have worsened Americans’ health, because by clearing our plates of meat, eggs, and cheese they were replaced with more grains, starchy vegetables, and pasta. The real takeaway is to eat real food, not processed or manufactured.

Week Night Dinner Series: Bean Burritos

Sometimes, just sometimes, you are rewarded for waking before dawn.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you are rewarded for waking before dawn.

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding dinner is coming later and later with the terrific weather we’ve been having these days. So when I get in the house, I want to eat–STAT!

I created this one evening after mowing the lawn and was home alone for dinner. It’s quick and easy to make, and is basically cobbling together ingredients together, putting it in the oven, and eating! Just open up a can of black beans, drain and rinse, and in a large bowl add the beans and a dash or two of dried cumin for flavor. You can also add a little spritz of fresh lime juice if you have it. Take a flour tortilla shell, add a couple of tablespoons of grated sharp cheese (or slice off thin slices instead), add ½ cup of the beans, ¼ cup of frozen corn, roll, and place in a baking pan. Add a little more cheese on the outside, cover with foil, and heat at 350 for roughly 20 minutes or so.

I try to make these work night dinner recipes just five ingredients, but with this recipe there are lots of additions that could make this even more fabulous: avocado, lettuce, green scallions, salsa, and sour cream. If you want to bypass the beans and have leftover meat in the fridge, this would be terrific with leftover chicken, pork, or steak.

My recipe makes one burrito, so you can either whip up a batch for leftovers, or you can add some scallions and grape tomatoes to the remaining beans and have it for a  later meal as a side salad!

This photo doesn't really do the dish justice, but trust me, it's delicious!

This photo doesn’t really do the dish justice, but trust me, it’s delicious!

Bean Burrito for One
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
A dash or two of cumin
Fresh lime juice, optional
5 Tablespoons grated sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup frozen corn
1 flour tortilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Take the drained and rinsed black beans and place in a mixing bowl. Add the cumin and lime juice, if using.

3. Place the tortilla shell on a baking pan. Add 2-3 tablespoons of cheese, ½ cup of black beans, and the corn. Roll and place seam-side down. Top with the remaining cheese.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve atop a bed of lettuce, with avocado, salsa, and sour cream on the side. Add green scallions if desired.

Simple Salad Suppers

The calendar has turned to July, the temperature is now humid not warm, and my hair is no longer curly but frizzy. Yup, it’s summer! So when the heat and humidity turns up, I want to get out of the kitchen and away from the stove for easy and light dinners. These two salads are so simple and easy, I promise it will take you longer to go to the grocery store to buy the items than it will take you to make them!

Easy Cucumber Salad
(Note: Easy to double!)
One cucumber
– Diced tomatoes (I like grape tomatoes sliced in half, but you can use whatever fresh tomato you have on hand)
– Onion (I prefer Vidalia in this, but any onion will do. As you can see, I used red onion this weekend.)
– Feta cheese (optional, I don’t make an effort to add this, only if I have some in the house)
– Finely sliced fresh basil (optional)
– Apple cider vinegar

Peel the cucumber. Slice it in half horizontally and scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Slice into thin half-moon shaped pieces and place in a bowl. Add the tomatoes (I want the ratio to be 3/4 cucumbers, 1/4 tomatoes, but of course you can change it to fit your mood). Add to the bowl. Add a few slices of onion. Mix together. Add the feta, if using. Add a couple of capfuls of the vinegar, about a tablespoon or so, mix, testing it to make sure it has the right amount of zing. Some freshly ground pepper, salt (if I don’t use the feta), stir, and serve!
*Note: This salad is a bit weak on leftovers. Although I eat it, it gets a little wilted and everything isn’t as crisp as when you first make it.  

Spicy Black Bean Salad
– One can black beans, rinsed
– About a half cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
– Sliced scallions (green onions)
– Diced jalapeno pepper (optional)
– Diced avocado (optional)
– Juice from a half lime, or to taste
– Salt and pepper

In a bowl, add the black beans, tomatoes, scallions, pepper, and mix. Add avocado, if using. Add the lime, salt and pepper, and chill until ready to serve.