Saturday, June 27, 2009

black bean taco salad

It is simple, easy and the perfect summer dinner.

1 large head lettuce, washed and torn into bite size pieces
2 tomatoes- chopped
2 cups black beans- or 1 can rinsed
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 can olives, sliced
1 cup corn (optional)

3 cups tortilla chips,
1 cup salad dressing

Mix the first six ingredients in a large bowl. Just before serving add the chips and dressing. Enjoy!

TIPS: I like to use romaine lettuce and either ranch dressing, french dressing, or my favorite, a mixture of 1/2 cup ranch dressing and 1/2 salsa.

Friday, June 19, 2009

southwest egg rolls

Here is the first favorite black bean recipe. These are much like the ones on the appetizer menus at a couple of my favorite restaurants. I found a few different recipes that came close and adapted them to create this one. The number of ingredients may make these seem a little complicated but they are really fairly easy. They work well to make in bulk and freeze. From the freezer they make a quick dinner for the family or a little snack for one.


2 tbsp. oil
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 bunches green onions, finely chopped
Saute in a large frying pan until tender and then add:

4 cups, cooked chicken, chopped
2 cups corn
4 cups black beans, cooked (2 cans will work)
6-8 oz. frozen spinach. thawed and drained
2 tbsp. jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp. taco seasoning
Cook for a few minutes, and then add:

1 8 oz. package cream cheese
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
Stir until cheese is melted and remove from heat.

Cook or warm 32-36 tortillas.

Spread 1/4 cup of the filling onto each tortilla, fold in sides and roll up.

Place the rolls on a baking sheet.

If freezing, place filled baking sheet in freezer until frozen and then transfer rolls to a labeled freezer bag.

If baking immediately, spray rolls with cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Slice in half and serve with dipping sauce.

To bake after frozen, place on baking sheet, spray rolls with cooking spray and bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or microwave 2-4 minutes.

Easy Dipping Sauces:

1 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup salsa

Avocado Ranch
1 cup ranch dressing
1 avocado, peeled and crushed

*The green onions can be replaced with 1/2 of a regualr onion or 2 tbsp. dried onion.
*Jalapenos can be fresh or canned.
*I have also used colby jack or cheddar cheese and I like them all.
*The secret ingredient that makes these so great is fresh tortillas. I buy them at a local Sam's Club, cook them on a griddle, and then fill them while they are warm. They roll easier and have a much better texture and taste than regular tortillas.
*Spraying the rolls with cooking spray is an alternative for frying. It gives them a crisp outer shell without the mess or fat content of all the oil.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

rainy day playdough

It has been rainy for a few days at our house so we decided to make some playdough. We made it a few days ago and the girls have played with it everyday since. I split the recipe into two bowls so that each if my girls could choose their own color and mix it up. I have seen two recipes. One uses Alum and the other uses Cream of Tatar. I tried both and I can't tell any difference. If anyone knows I would love to hear why. Here is what we ended up with.

Rainy Day Playdough

Flour 2 1/2 Cups (may have to add a little at the end)
Salt 1 Cup
Cream of Tartar or Alum 1 Tablespoon
Boiling Water 2 Cups
Oil 1 Tablespoon
Food Coloring 5-10 drops (color to your desire)

First mix all the of the first three dry ingredients. Next mix the next three in a seperate bowl. I found the adding the color to the liquid helps it the blend a little better. Combine the two mixtures and stir until it forms a stiff dough. I then just kneaded in any extra flour to make a good dough that was not sticky. Play, roll, and squish! Store in a plastic bag or container. I found that sometimes when it sits in the bag it may be sticky when you get it out next. I just kneaded in a little more flour.

*Your little ones may try a taste but at least you know what is in it (nothing to harmful in small quantities).

Monday, June 8, 2009

black bean basics

At our house it is the official first day of summer. This time of year brings great fun and food including cold watermelon, fresh salads and savory smells from the grill. Over the next month we will be sharing four of our favorite summer recipes and they all happen to include black beans. So we thought we would share a few black bean basics first.
Beans are a great source of fiber, protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid. They are fat free and rich in antioxidants. For more information about beans check out the US Dry Bean Council.
Black beans are available canned and ready to use in recipes. A regular can contains about 1 3/4 cups of beans.
They are also available dry. Preparing these usually includes soaking and cooking but there is a simple and easy way to use dry beans. It involves one of my favorite kitchen appliances, called the crock pot. Normally beans are soaked to reduce cooking time but by using a slow cooker the processes can be combined. Here's how:

1. Sift the beans through your hand and watch for any small rocks, or dirty beans. (Food growers have pretty cool machines that sort foods, but they don't always catch little rocks that look like beans so you may find one or two.) Then rinse the dry beans before putting them into a slow cooker.

2. Fill the cooker up to a third of the way full with beans and fill the rest with water. (Beans use the water to increase three times their size as they cook.) Don't put anything in with the beans while cooking, especially any acids like tomatoes or vinegar as this slows the softening process.

3. Put the lid on and cook on high for 5-6 hours.

4. It is important to drain and rinse the beans after cooking. Then they are ready to use.

5. Now that the beans are ready, use them in a recipe or put them in zipper freezer bags, label the bags and save for a later date. A quart size bag will hold four cups. After measuring the beans into the bag, seal it, lay it down flat, and press a space across the middle. This will make it possible to break off half the beans (two cups) after they are frozen.

Black beans are a simple, healthy, food that my kids love. Check back for four easy dinner black bean recipes.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

mr. leaf bug

While out weeding one morning we found this little bug. The girls called him leaf bug because he looked like a leaf. They had a great time watching him, finding sticks for him to crawl on, and playing hide-and-seek with him. It was such a simple thing but it was the highlight of our morning.

In the Family Fun Magazine in April they had a cute article on six reasons that your family should plant a garden. I know that most of you have already planted a garden if you are going to but it is better late than never. That is how we live most of the time at our house.
I am no expert gardener but we learn a little more every year mostly by trial and error. So weather you have a few small pots on your back porch or a large garden here are some on the fun benefits that I have found.

1. Gardening is a great workout. If you have ever spent a day planting, weeding, or digging you have felt this.

2. Gardening makes healthy eating fun and adds easy nutrition to your family's diet. I have one very picky eater that will try a lot of things from the garden because she helped plant it and because she can pick it herself. Some of our fun favorites are cherry tomatoes, peas, strawberries, and jack-be-little pumpkins (those cute little mini ones).

3. Gardening is hands on learning. Families can learn about seeds, beneficial bugs, composting, and photosynthesis to name a few. (I put families and not just kids because I am still learning about these things too.) Kids can also learn responsibility and have fun taking care of their own little garden, little pot, or plant.

We have gained a lot of information from our local extension office and also seed and garden stores. We found a great planting guide, some fun ideas to do with kids, and other good information.
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