Mexican Black Beans

I love black beans.  Love them.  I love them in chilis, I love them in salads, I love them on nachos, I love them in soup, I love them in a box, I love them with a fox, I love them in a house, I love them with a mouse.I love them with green eggs and ham, Sam I am.  Okay, maybe I don’t love green eggs.  Anyway, black beans are delicious.  They are also chock full of protein and fiber.  And, yes, sometimes they are considered musical fruit.  You can thank the fiber.

Anyway, one of my life’s goals is to conquer the dried bean.  They’re so difficult sometimes!  Have you ever tried to make anything with dried beans?  I mean, I’ve had good luck but not always.  Anyway, I neglected to grocery shop for the week and then Easter came along and the stores were closed and I needed to figure something out for dinner.  So, I scoured my pantry – will someone please explain to me why I have 12 half-empty boxes of pasta? – and saw the bag of dried black beans.  Ah ha!  And then, I looked at the rice container – full!  Jackpot!  Black beans and rice!  And out came my BFF! 🙂 (Oh, your first time reading? That would be my crock pot.)

So, after soaking all night, my black beans spent the day cooking on low, marinating in the broth and tomatoes, hanging out and getting friendly with all those yummy spices. And boy am I glad they did! The beans were perfect, flavorful, and absolutely cooked exactly the way they should be. Already got my leftovers packed. No, I’m not sharing. 🙂

Black beans and rice!

Black beans and rice!

Mexican Black Beans

1 pound dried black beans, soaked overnight and drained
6 cups chicken broth (if you opt for vegetable broth, you may want to add some additional salt)
6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes or 2 cups fresh, chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder

1. In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine all ingredients.  Stir well to combine.

2. Cook on low 8-10 hours.

3. Serve over rice or serve as a side dish.

4. Gobble them up!

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General Tso’s Chicken

I don’t know about your house but we love Chinese food in my house.  Whenever we move, we’re always on the hunt for the good place – because you know there are some NOT good places out there masquerading as good and just waiting to cripple your stomach with an excess of sodium or oil or just plain grossness.  Well, we have a great place where we are now but, as a health conscious runner and mom, I generally put a limit on what we can order.  Our normal is beef and broccoli and maybe some garlic chicken or curry chicken.  Those dishes are usually sauteed instead of deep, fat fried and much better for our waistlines.  Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t wish we were eating General Tso’s Chicken or Orange Chicken – and we do get an order every now and then – but sometimes a craving absolutely must be fed.  So, when I found this recipe marked “healthy and fast” on the Food and Wine Web site, I was hooked!

This recipe cuts a great deal of the fat by soaking the chicken in a cornstarch mixture rather than a full batter and then pan-frying in a small amount of oil rather than deep-fat frying.  The result?  Healthy homemade General Tso’s Chicken – slightly sweet and a little spicy and amazingly delicious and on your table in about 30 minutes!  Paired with some sticky white rice and some steamed broccoli, you’ve got a dish to rival anything you might get from your favorite take-out joint.  Eight thumbs up in this house!

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General Tso’s Chicken

1-1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 large egg white

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce (I use low sodium)

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 in pieces

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon Chinese chile-garlic sauce

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying

2 tablespoons very finely chopped fresh ginger

2 large garlic cloves, minced

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Steamed broccoli and white rice for serving

1. In a medium bowl, combine the toasted sesame oil with the egg white, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add the chicken, stirring to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the chicken broth with the chile-garlic sauce, sugar, the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

3. In a large saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir the broth mixture, add it to the pan and cook until thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

4. In a large deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil until shimmering. Carefully add the chicken, one piece at a time, and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until very browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain the chicken on paper towels and immediately add to the sauce with the scallions.  Cook until just coated, about 30 seconds. Serve right away with steamed broccoli and rice.

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