Originally Published in the Greenwood Daily Journal Saturday January 14, 2012
In the last 16 months that I have been blogging away in the food world I have gradually learned to accept many things. We sometimes have to wait until I get that ‘perfect shot’ of the plated meal before we can eat, when I go to get togethers I am sometimes expected to bring something interesting and I have had to learn how to take criticism about my posts from complete strangers.
I read a lot of cooking publications, blogs, and cookbooks. Rarely do I get fired up enough to contact the writer but I do occasionally leave a comment on a particular post I enjoyed. I ask questions and am always trying to learn more and expand my horizon’s ,so to speak. So the same goes for the writer. I truly value the feedback I get both constructive and not so much. This is how I learn and grow. Writing about food is sort of a work in progress for me. Food trends and tastes change from day to day so I rely on the feedback I get so I can stay real and relevant.
I may not be the best cook, I certainly do not claim to be, but I can follow directions. I am also not afraid to improvise. I have found that over the last several months that many people are afraid to take the leap and get creative. Not everyone, but a large amount of people. It is assumed that to be creative in the kitchen means that you have to spend a lot of money or time preparing a meal. That is certainly not the case. You just need to arm yourself with a few good recipes.
Recently, I asked the readers of my website to tell me what foods and ideas they would like to see on my site in the new year. I really didn’t expect to get so many responses, I don’t know what I was thinking. That one day I had a 150% increase in my traffic and I received over 130 responses. I asked and they answered. Talk about a clogged inbox!
I sorted through the responses and immediately ruled out the ones that were not going to happen. Several required unique kitchen equipment or ingredients I had never heard of. A few suggested recipes with meats that are not readily available or that I flat out won’t eat. When all was said and done I ended up with a great list of meals that I will try in the next few months.
I found that the resounding theme in all of the comments left on that post were that people are looking for fast recipes, that their family will like, that are interesting and somewhat inexpensive. That may sound basic but underneath all of these requests of a good red sauce and beef stew are people who are really bored with what they have been eating and they need a change. They may want to experiment a little but they don’t know where to begin. I also got a fair amount of requests for meatless entrees. Not from vegetarians but people who ,for whatever their reasons were, needed a bit of variety in their mealtime lineup. This was just the motivation I needed to refine a few of my favorite meatless and semi-meatless meals.
You mention a meal made almost exclusively with beans and the reactions can be mixed. Beans, the dried or canned varieties, can be an excellent substitute for meat. Three ounces of meat, fish or poultry contains 21 grams of protein compared to 14 grams in 1 cup of beans like black or kidney beans so they are a good source of protein. Meat has a slight edge over beans when it comes to quality protein — meat contains all nine of the amino acids considered essential. But, that doesn’t mean that beans are not a good source of protein — when combined with other vegetables or grains eaten throughout the day the proteins complement each other and your body gets all of the essential amino acid it needs. Beans have some other health benefits that meat doesn’t — beans are high in fiber, folate and magnesium, and very low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. The icing on the proverbial cake is that beans are very, very budget friendly!
So today I have for you not one but two of my favorite meatless and semi-meatless entrees. The first is a Black Bean Burger topped with a tangy tomatillo salsa and the other is a not so meatless Sloppy Joe. Both are perfect for a busy school night and will not leave you hanging in the taste department. Another bonus is that each makes more than enough for my family of four, with leftovers. You want healthy and budget friendly? Coming right up!
Almost Meatless Sloppy Joes
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 TB minced garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 oz. lean ground beef
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 tsp chili powder , use 2 tsp if you like it a bit spicier
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp brown sugar
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, I used Red Gold
1 15 oz can red beans, rinsed and drained
4 sandwich buns
red onion slices
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and beef. Cook until meat is browned.
Add carrot, chili powder,brown sugar, oregano, and red pepper. Cook 2 minutes.
Add crushed tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until thickened to your desired consistency. Meanwhile,put the red beans in a small bowl and mash them with a fork. When the tomato/beef mixture is almost finished, add the beans to the skillet. Cook 1 more minute, until the beans are heated through.
Put the mixture onto a nice, sliced hearty whole wheat bun with a crisp Romaine leaf and a few red onion slices and dinner is served!
Black Bean Burgers with Tomatillo Salsa
1 minced clove of garlic
1/3 C red onion, finely diced
2 15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 TB of chopped cilantro
1 egg, beaten
1/3 C red pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp dried cumin
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch of salt/pepper
1/2 C breadcrumbs
In a large bowl, add the beaten egg and 1 can of rinsed and drained black beans. Mash those beans to a smooth consistency then add the remaining ingredients along with the other can of black beans that you have left. With your hands gently combine the ingredients. Form 6 to 8 small but compact patties. Place in a medium skillet over medium heat , that has been drizzled with a bit of olive oil. Cook for 5 minutes on each side and serve on a nice wheat bun with a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of Tomatillo Salsa.
1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, or more if you like cilantro like me!
Juice of 1 fresh lime
zest of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped. Use 2 more if you like it hot.
Salt to taste
1/4 C water if you need to thin it
3 cloves of garlic, optional, I like this but it’s not for everyone.
Remove papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse well.
Place tomatillos in a saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tomatillos with a slotted spoon. Place tomatillos and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Cool in refrigerator.