Spicy black bean soup

This recipe was born of a sudden cold day, and the accompanying feeling that I MUST EAT SOUP TODAY. I was ready for fall; what can I say? Fortunately I had what I needed on hand (which was very little, honestly) to throw this together. It’s not super spicy, but has just enough kick to warm you up; the protein from the beans makes it deliciously filling.

Spicy black bean soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans
  • 1 can Ro-tel
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 16 ounces chicken broth
  • Shredded cheese, hot sauce, tomatoes, sour cream, and or green onions for topping

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, then saute the onion till it’s nice and soft
  2. Add in beans (you can drain if you want, but either way is fine), Ro-tel, tomatoes, chili powder, salt, pepper, and chicken broth; stir well
  3. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes or so; you can serve as is or blend a little with an immersion blender, which is what I did. Top with whatever sounds good, and enjoy!

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shell casserole

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked forever, and finally got to play around with it. And I’m so glad I did! Mine is, um, not photogenic. But it sure is tasty! It’s like Tex-Mex comfort food, which is exactly what sounds great to me this time of year. Well, really, any time of year, if we’re being honest here. It’s a nice departure from my standby of cultural divide casserole (have you weighed in?) which gets made a lot in winter weeknights.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shell casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz box large pasta shells
  • 1 large (29 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 can Ro-Tel
  • 4 Tbsp. (or one packet) taco seasoning
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • Salt
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Boil the pasta shells in well-salted water for about four minutes less than the time indicated on the box for al dente (mushy noodles = bad)
  3. Make the sauce by combining tomato sauce, Ro-Tel, taco seasoning, and black beans; heat to a low simmer in a saucepan
  4. Make the ground beef mixture by browning the beef, onion, and garlic together, then stirring in cumin, chili powder, and salt; turn off the heat and stir in the cream cheese
  5. Assemble the casserole by putting in a bottom layer of shells into a large baking dish, each shell stuffed with about a Tbsp. of the ground beef mixture (a small cookie scoop works great for this), follow with about half the tomato sauce mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat the layers, then cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so until cheese is bubbly

I would love to hear what your cold-weather favorites are! What else should I try?

Hummus

The first time I tried hummus? Not. A. Fan. I couldn’t even tell you now what I didn’t like about it (it was years and years ago) but I can for sure tell you I didn’t like it. Fast forward to this month when Kiddo’s BFF’s mom made it at her house. Seeing as how it’d been years and years I wanted to try it again, so I sort of held my breath and took a bite. YUM! I don’t know what the difference is, but now I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Vanessa sent me her recipe so I made a big batch of this for last night. Halloween night at our place is hanging out with the neighbors on the front porch with food and wine while we hand out candy; we don’t go trick or treating because Kiddo doesn’t like candy (of course) so we just make it into a party (and I LOVE it!). In the three and a half seconds I spent looking in the grocery store I couldn’t find the tahini Vanessa’s recipe called for so I used natural peanut butter instead, a la Alton Brown.

Hummus

Ingredients

  • Gather up:
  • 1 can chick peas (drain, keep 1/3 c of liquid)
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or tahini)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled or a couple spoonfuls of jarred minced garlic
  • Healthy pinch of salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put everything but the chickpeas in a food processor and process till garlic is well chopped
  2. Add in chickpeas and process till smooth and give it a taste — adjust salt and cayenne as desired
  3. Chill; eat with pita chips and/or baby carrots

Mashed black beans

I recently came across this Rick Bayless recipe for simple mashed black beans. Can you ever go wrong with a Rick Bayless recipe? I’m saying no. With a little tweaking for what I had on hand and what sounded good, I ended up with this:

  • 2 Tbsp. bacon drippings (I always have some in the fridge)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt

In the time it took The Yankee too cook up our fajitas (more on that later), I had these done like so:

  1. Put a dry skillet over medium heat and drop in three unpeeled garlic cloves; keep turning them till the skin is nice and browned and the garlic inside is soft; set aside to cool enough to handle, then remove skins
  2. While the garlic is roasting, drain and rinse a can of black beans
  3. Remove the pan from the heat for just a minute and drop in 2 Tbsp. bacon fat; let it melt (it will do this quickly and will also smoke quickly, thus the part about removing the pan from the heat), then drop in softened garlic and crush the cloves with a potato masher
  4. Pour in can of beans and give it all a good stir to incorporate the garlic
  5. After everything is heated through, use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans; you’re not looking for ice-cream texture here, just smush them up a bit
  6. Take the pan off the heat and add in as much water (probably 2-3 Tbsp) as is needed to be able to easily spread or spoon the beans
  7. Season with salt to taste — 1/2 teaspoon or so

These are fantastic eaten as is, sprinkled with cheese, on nachos, with fajitas, with burritos… use your imagination!