Two Bucks, Chuck, and my Bro

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Trader Joe’s Organic Charles Shaw wines are no longer two bucks.  Try $4.  Still crazy cheap (at least compared to Sonoma wines).

Now that we’ve celebrated our two years of blogging, it seems appropriate to return to our roots – even if it’s just for a few blogs.  Our blog is/was rooted in the idea that small, simple dishes should make up the bulk of our cooking repertoire.  Who has time, no matter what one’s age, to spend hours in the kitchen – unless, of course, it’s a fun hobby?

Cooking when you really don’t like to cook – or don’t know how to cook – or are cooking for just one – isn’t fun.  We admit that.  Our two Buck friends – T Buck and Buck H – and our friend Chuck and my bro, AV, would clearly agree.  Also, our bestie Danielle – who is in the midst of a move from Boulder to L.A. and to new digs and a new job – just asked me how a non-cook feeds her family of four during this high stress time.

We’re on top of this.  Andy suggests you get all philosophical about cooking and recommends his simple and delicious breakfast in Andy’s Corner;  meanwhile, I’ve gone back to the dinner basics.

For your main course: think Basic Home-Cooked Beans, Basic Roast Chicken, Basic Pork Tenderloin.  The point in all of this is to have one delicious and simple Basic meal and then several easy-and-quick-to-fix meals using the leftovers from your Basic recipe.

Be sure you have these seasonings: Za’atar (Middle East), Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (Louisiana), Italian Seasoning (mmmm, let me think about where that’s from :), garam masala (India), five-spice powder (China).  And make a note whether your seasoning has salt added to it (Tony’s definitely does and Za’atar often does) because you’ll want to cut back on the additional salt when you use it.

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Basic spices for around-the-world seasoning

When you’re ready to eat, add some greens to your plate – if you don’t eat greens at home because you hate to wash them – just buy triple-washed greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc) in the market, but be sure they’re organic.  This easy Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing is good to have on hand.

As for veggies – it doesn’t get better than roasted asparagus, roasted carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, and/or roasted broccoli.  Cut everything (except the asparagus) into chunks so they roast quickly.   Put them in a 425 degree oven tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast around 25-30 minutes. If you don’t want to heat up the oven, steam them.  A miso dressing would be a delicious addition.

And make rice once a week.  Lots.  Enough to warm up and use again several times.  We were reminded just the other day how much we love this relatively-easy, vegetarian, leftover rice recipe – Breakfast Lunch and Dinner Fried Rice.

Finally, scramble some eggs for a quick and nutritious weeknight meal.  These 3 simple little recipes we call The Egg and I are my go-to’s.

New for today we’ve got the 3 basic Basic Recipes – for beans, chicken, and pork, as well as some quick and simple recipes to use up those home-cooked (or maybe canned) beans.   In the next few blogs we’ll have suggestions for using your leftover chicken and leftover pork.

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If you can’t find these heirloom beans, great northern or cannellini beans are good substitutes

 

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All the ingredients for a quick meal: toast some artisan bread, mash some beans; add a bit of tuna – if you want; top it all with some sliced tomato.  Easy, nutritious – and delish.

I’m constantly amazed at how much more I like home-cooked beans than canned beans.  But when convenience is the main need, canned beans – rinsed before using – are fine.  Goya and Bush are two brands of canned beans which we tend to like.

If you are doing your own bean cooking, here are two good sites for advice on how to cook them: Rancho Gordo and Melissa Clark from the NYTimes.  Little did I know that a slow-cooker set at low should not be used for kidney beans because that particular bean has toxins that need to be destroyed by a 10-minute hard-boil.  A word to the wise.

Rancho Gordo’s website suggests cooking all other kinds of beans on a HIGH temperature in a slow cooker and adding salt BEFORE cooking, which is not the usual advice, but I followed it and thought my beans turned out great (and cooked quickly, even without a pre-soak).  Slow cookers are just so perfect when life is a little frantic.

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Basic Home-Cooked Beans

Basic Home-Cooked Beans

  • Servings: 1 lb of uncooked beans will make about 6 cups of cooked beans
  • Print
Note: if you don’t have a slow cooker, the same recipe will work fine for beans cooked in a large pot on top of the stove.

  • 1 lb uncooked beans, rinsed and picked over.  Good multi-use choices are cannellini, chickpea, black, great northern, and pinto.  Remember that if you’re doing any red bean, especially kidney beans, put them in a pan, cover them with water and boil for about 10-15 minutes to get rid of any toxins.  Then drain them and put them in the slow cooker.
  • water or broth – enough to cover the beans by at least 2″-3″
  • 1 tsp salt (this has been debated by cooks, but the consensus seems to be to go for it and add it early on) – plus more to taste, once the beans have cooked
  • 1 onion chopped and 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved (optional – but great if  you have them)

If you’re using the slow cooker, add all of the ingredients, including the 1 tsp salt, to the slow cooker, cover, turn to HIGH.  Check the beans every hour or so, stir, and add more liquid if necessary.  The beans should be done in 2-5 hours, depending upon the type of bean, etc.

If you’re using a pot on top of the stove, add all of the ingredients, including the 1 tsp salt, to the pot, bring it all to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, partially cover, and let the beans cook – just barely simmering.  Check every hour or so, stir, and add more liquid if necessary.  Beans done this way may take 3-4 hours to cook.

When the beans are cooked, taste and add more salt, as needed

The beans will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and will freeze well.  Because it’s a bit of a time-consuming process, make your beans on the weekends, if you’re away from home during the weekdays.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
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Basic Roast Chicken

Basic Roast Chicken

If all you can find are 5-6 lb chickens, just roast them longer – but no longer than 1 hr 45 minutes. 

Basic Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, approximately 3-4 lbs
  • 3/4 tsp salt per pound of chicken
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • additional spices, if you want, such as 2 T of Za’atar, or 1 T Italian Seasoning or 3/4 tsp of garam masala or 3/4 tsp of five-spice powder
  • sprigs of thyme or rosemary and/or sage to put in the cavity (optional)
  • greens with a squeeze of lemon to place the chicken on when serving – arugula, baby kale, spinach, a mixture (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Mix the salt and pepper – and any other seasonings you may be using – together;  dry the chicken really well with paper towels and then rub the chicken all over with the salt and pepper mixture, including some in the cavity.  Tuck the chicken wing tips behind the shoulders.  Add the sprigs of thyme, rosemary or sage, if you have them.  Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan and let sit at room temperature – uncovered – for up to an hour (or put it uncovered in your fridge for several hours or even overnight – but be sure to bring it back to room temperature before putting it in the oven).  Note: the salt rub and leaving the chicken uncovered are what helps get a crispy skin and a moist chicken.

Place the chicken in the oven and roast for approximately 1 hour – or until the juices run clear when you poke the thigh/leg joint with a fork – and the skin is a beautiful dark golden brown.

Carve and serve.  If you have greens, drizzle them with lemon juice, place the hot chicken pieces on the greens, and spoon on some of the pan drippings.  Delicious.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
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Basic Pork Tenderloin with Za’atar Seasoning

Basic Pork Tenderloin

Be sure to fix two tenderloins if you want lots of leftovers.

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 pork tenderloin – about 1 1/3 lbs
  • 3/4 tsp salt per pound of meat
  • 1 tsp Tony’s Seasoning (or any other ones we’ve recommended in the blog; use 1 1/2 tsp if they don’t have any salt in them)

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Sprinkle the seasoning (and salt, if your seasoning doesn’t have salt) evenly over the tenderloin. Using a skillet that can go in the oven, heat the skillet and oil on the stove top over medium high heat.  Add the pork loin and leave until it starts to really sizzle (about 1 minute). Put the loin into the oven and roast for 10 minutes.  Turn it over and roast approximately 10-15 more minutes, depending upon how pink you like your pork.  Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

 
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Quick White Bean Soup

Quick White Bean Soup

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 oz pancetta or bacon or ham or Spanish chorizo, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 c cooked small white beans (canned, rinsed beans are fine; beans cooked in a slow cooker are delicioso; Rancho Gordo beans are to die for)
  • 3 – 4 c chicken broth (or vegetable broth), depending upon how soupy you want it)
  • 3 c chopped Swiss chard – or spinach or arugula or kale
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crusty bread to accompany it

In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the pancetta, onion, carrot, and garlic and fry until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the beans and broth and chard, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook until the chard is tender, just a few minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a crusty bread.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
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Easy White Bean Tuna Salad

Easy White Bean Tuna Salad

  • 7 oz of good quality tuna in olive oil, drained – with the oil saved
  • 2 c cooked small white beans or 1 can, drained and rinsed; cannellini beans work well here
  •  1/2 red onion, thinly sliced crosswise or finely chopped
  • 2 T capers
  • 6 T oil from the tuna (add olive oil, if you don’t have that much left from the tuna jar or can)
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • arugula or spinach
  • cherry tomatoes (if they’re in season), halved and lightly salted
  • torn basil (optional) for garnishing
Put the tuna into a bowl and break it up slightly with a fork.  Fold in the beans. onion and capers.
Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and gently mix that into the tuna mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.Serve the tuna on top of the arugula  – with the tomatoes and basil sprinkled on top of the tuna.Refrigerate any leftovers, keeping the tuna mixture separate from the tomatoes and arugula.  Bring it to room temperature before serving.  It will keep nicely for several days.
Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
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One-dish Pasta and Beans

One-dish Pasta and Beans

Don’t let the somewhat long list of (vegetarian) ingredients scare you off.  Many of them are optional.  The recipe comes together rather quickly.

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (or whole ones that you crush with your hands); do NOT drain
  • 1 3/4 c vegetable broth (or make it half white wine and half vegetable broth)
  • 1 can of white beans – such as cannellini, drained and rinsed – or 1 1/2 c home-cooked white beans
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 oz dried lasagna noodles broken into about 1″ pieces; ditalini or macaroni (NOT broken) can be used instead of the broken lasagna
  • 2 c chopped chard or escarole or spinach
  • grated parmesan for topping (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, beans and seasonings, including salt, bring to a boil and add the lasagna pieces.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lasagna is cooked – about 15 minutes.  Add a little more broth at this point if you want soup-y rather than stew-y.  Stir in the chard and cook over medium heat until the chard is wilted, about 1 minute.

Taste again and add salt, if necessary.

Serve in small bowls, topped with the parmesan.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

4 Comments

  1. ROBERT BRIGGS CARLETON says:

    Never, ever, heard that about red beans. Apparently a problem with “glycoprotein lectin”. I use a couple cans of red kidney beans with every batch of chili… but maybe we are “saved” by the fact that the pot seems to boil for an hour or two at the end.

    Regarding 3-buck Chuck: I’ve tried their expensive stuff and it’s like listening to Mel Torme (the Velvet Fog). It’s pleasant, but there’s no substance there. Gimme their standard cabernet or chardonnay, or a box of their Australian shiraz.

    Like

      • ROBERT CARLETON says:

        Yup… remembered the canning process at the old Ann Page factory in Indiana (A&P Stores)… the cans were immersed in hot water long enough to bring the contents up to about 170 degrees for X-minutes (don’t remember, but think it was about 20 minutes). The Celsius conversion table says that’s a good temperature. We’ve always had trouble (especially at 6,000 feet) getting dried beans to soften adequately… have tried 24 hour and 2-hour processes with equally unsatisfactory results, so have reverted to canned beans, mostly. Lentils are a different story entirely. Note: The Ann Page factory was just about a half mile from another customer, the Columbia Record Club and Columbia Records factory. Fun places.

        Like

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