Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pinto Beans

What makes these beans so good??? A little bacon!!! Meat is my least favorite of the food groups and isn't a staple in my cooking...with the exception of bacon! I LOVE bacon and a little bit goes a long way for flavor. I usually buy Applegate Sunday bacon which is my favorite of the organic, nitrate free bacons on the market. Of course you can skip the bacon in this recipe and still end up with some good beans, but the bacon really does give these beans that little extra.

Pinto Beans 
serves 4

1 can pinto beans undrained
1/2 onion minced
2-4 large garlic cloves minced
3 slices bacon (preferably organic and nitrate free)
1 t cumin
1 T oregano
sprinkle of shredded cheddar or jack cheese
sprinkle of cotija cheese


Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat then chop and set aside. Save 1-2 T bacon fat and add onions. Saute for about 5 minutes or until golden. Add in the garlic and saute another 30 seconds or so. Add the can of undrained beans or you can rinse them and just add a 1/2 cup of water or so. Add the cumin and oregano and a little salt. Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Preheat the Broiler. Partially mash the beans with a potato masher. You may need to add a little more water to get a creamy consistency.  Add in the chopped bacon, put in an oven safe dish, sprinkle with cheeses and throw under the broiler until cheese is golden and bubbly.                                              

Veggie Tacos

I have finally found a way to cook my corn tortillas without them completely falling apart and hence my love affair with unique, homemade tacos has begun. The method does require a bit of frying in oil but this gardengirl isn't afraid of a little fat...especially the good for you kind! I did use a little cheese in this recipe, but an avocado mashed with a little minced onion, garlic, and cilantro, a squeeze of lime and a dash of salt would make a great substitute to give it that creaminess that cheese offers.  I have developed a real appreciation for vegan cooking and have found great substitutes in many meals to give me the satisfaction and comfort that certain animal products offer because I am not on board with fake cheese and meat which is just soy based, processed crap with ingredient lists a mile long. Not much better in my mind. So I use a dash of meat and cheese here and there when I have a craving. But I do buy sources of these products that are as organic, humane, and environmentally friendly as possible. They are a little pricier but I have a really hard time supporting factory farming and industrial food so I pay the extra money and just use less of the product which is healthier anyway. Just some food for thought...literally :)  So, back to tacos, these were just heavenly and I will post the recipe for the pinto beans we had on the side soon, which were also amazing. Even my two year old gobbled the entire meal up! Leftovers were great for lunch the next day too which I am always a fan of since lunch is usually the toughest meal for me to plan.

Veggie Tacos
serves 4

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 mild green chili, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 cup frozen or fresh corn (roasted is extra yummy!)
1/2 to 1 cup salsa
1 t cumin
1 T oregano
corn tortillas
olive oil
salt and pepper
cheddar or jack cheese (optional)

optional garnishes:
sliced avocado
lime wedges
chopped cilantro
cotija cheese (Mexican cheese similar to feta) 

               Cut up your veggies. Really, any veggies would be good here so definitely get creative!

If you are roasting your corn, drizzle it with olive oil, salt and pepper and put it in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat up your olive oil over medium heat then throw in your veggies, sprinkle with cumin, oregano and salt, and saute for 10 minutes or so.

Add in the roasted corn but if you decide to just saute it with the veggies, add it in the last few minutes. Then stir in the salsa. let it simmer for a minute or two, then turn the heat to low. 

 Slice your cheddar and crumble your cotija if you are using.

Heat up oil in a pan on medium high heat, the more you use the crispier the tortillas will get but they don't need to be drowning in it. Let the tortilla cook flat for about 30 seconds. Lay your cheese slices on half and spoon some veggies over the cheese. Fold the tortilla over the veggies and let cook for about a minute. Flip the taco on the other side and cook an additional minute or until desired crispiness.
Pinto beans make a good side. I will share this recipe soon because these beans were awesome!!! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting the garden ready

It is almost time to plant cool season veggies, which, depending on the variety, can be planted anywhere from 4-8 weeks before the last spring frost. This varies from state to state so check your area before deciding when to plant. Our last frost is at the end of May, so I am going to start planting most of my veggies Easter weekend. In the meantime, I want to prep my soil and prepare any structures beforehand.

My soil seemed a little too rocky and sticky to my taste so my husband built me a soil sifter by screwing 4 2x6's together to make a square, attaching some screen to the bottom and then attaching some legs so that it will sit about a foot off the ground. It is a bit time consuming but after sifting my soil, I removed tons of rocks and sticks and was left with the fluffiest soil that roots and root vegetables will love! Be sure to throw back in any worms you sift out since those are your gardens best friends! I amended my soil in the fall with compost and vermiculite but I might throw one more bag in. I like to mix up my compost sources to get a variety of nutrients. I have plans to build my own compost pile, I just need to wait for my husband to find the time to build it since he is currently working 2 jobs and renovating our family room. Maybe this fall...

My cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale and chard seeds are growing pretty big. I started hardening them off this week by placing them outside in the sun for a couple hours each day. They need to gradually spend more time outside each day, and even a few nights outside (covered) before I plant them in the garden to prepare them for the outside elements. I also planted my tomatoes, peppers and some herbs from seed, but those won't go into the garden until the end of May. This weekend I will build a support structure for my snap peas so I will post more about that later.  

This is my plan for my first 4'x4' square. Cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage can be planted one per square foot, spinach can be planted 9 per square foot, chard, kale lettuce and cilantro is planted 4 per square foot, and carrots, beets and radishes planted 16 per square foot. Carrots, beets, radish and lettuce can all be continually planted throughout the growing season (every 2-3 weeks) for continual harvest. Lettuce does not do as well in the hottest months but can be grown if given some shade. And as soon as my broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and spinach are harvested, I can use those squares to plant warm season veggies. Also pay attention to how big your plants will get. You want to keep the biggest veggies towards the back of the box facing N or E and keep the shortest ones in the front facing W or S.