The Best Freaking Turkey you will EVER taste!

It’s November and we know what that means! Thanksgiving will be here any day now so I’m reposting this recipe because it IS that good. This year we have our own homegrown turkey and I can’t wait to do this with it.


I have finally perfected our Turkey Recipe! It takes some preparation, but in the end it was more than worth the effort!

This recipe will work for a 16-25lb turkey. Make sure the bird is completely thawed the day before you plan to cook it because brining it requires at least 12 hours.


For Brine:
1 gallon unsweetened apple juice
3/4 cup salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6-8 slices of ginger
2 Tbs peppercorns
2 Tbs allspice berries
2 Tbs whole cloves
2 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Stir in salt and sugar. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes and then allow to cool completely.

We use a large orange “water cooler” that we have designated just for brining similar to this one:
Unwrap the thawed turkey, remove the giblets and place neck end down into clean cooler. Pour cooled brine over the bird. Add water until the bird is completely submerged. Add a bunch of ice on top to keep cool. Put lid on cooler and leave undisturbed for at least 12 hours.

For Roasting:

1/4 lb butter (1 stick) cut into pats
2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbs chopped fresh Thyme
2 Tbs chopped fresh Oregano
2 cups chicken broth
Olive Oil

1. Remove bird from brine and let brine drain out of cavity. Don’t rinse bird.
2. Coat roasting pan with olive oil and place bird breast side up in it.
3. Using your hands separate skin from breast and legs. Rub the chopped herbs onto the meat.
4. Place the cut pats of butter under the skin in various locations, including the legs. Pour chicken broth over bird.
5. Cover bird with lid of pan or foil and place in a preheated oven at 350 deg.
6. Roast for two hours basting every hour. Remove foil and allow bird to brown, basting every 20 min.
7. Continue to roast bird until interior temp reaches 165 deg. Can range from 1-2 additional hours depending on whether the bird is stuffed. Make sure when taking the temp that the thermometer is through the thickest part of the breast and is not touching bone.

This recipe will give you an incredibly moist flavorful bird that is amazingly tender.

Tom’s Spicy Tomato Sauce

Tom and I’s first date he made me dinner at his apartment. It was a simple yet tasty dinner but I was most impressed that not only that he could cook but also that he enjoyed it. One of his best dishes was spaghetti sauce from scratch. Everyone who ever tries it raves about it.

Over time his recipe has improved. Fresh herbs and homemade sauce from our garden replaced the commercial sauce and dried herbs. The season really depends on all that we put in it. During the winter we don’t have peppers, zucchini, or eggplant available. So instead we just add more onions and mushrooms.

The secret ingredients in this sauce are the hot sauce and the sugar. Tom didn’t really want me to share, but then why would you make this recipe if it was just so-so?  The hot sauce adds some heat along with some extra acid. We generally like to use Tapatio. I think Tabasco would be too vinegary for this sauce though.

  • 4 c tomato sauce
  • 1 c tomato paste
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 1 c water
  • 1lb sausage, removed from casings or ground meat
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, cut in half and sliced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small eggplant roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs Hot Sauce
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh Oregano
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a hot dutch oven over medium high heat add oil and then sausage. Break up sausage while it cooks. Add garlic, herbs and hot sauce and continue cooking until sausage is browned.
2. Deglaze with the red wine.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetable are tender and the sauce has thickened.
4. Serve over fresh pasta or add to a lasagna (I’ve been known to eat it on it’s own).

Mmmmm….Crockpot Chili

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a non-canning recipe so I figured I was overdue.

With this cold weather it’s nice to sit with a bowl of comfort food. I love chili but I really don’t make it enough. We have a ton of dry beans that we’ve grown so there really is no excuse for not making it. Yes, I put beans in my chili, which I know some of you would consider blasphemous. I’ve done it this way since I learned how to cook. My mom has done it this was for as long as I can remember. And I will probably always add beans to my chili.

I don’t like to heavily rely on meat to make my chili, well, meaty, so beans are added. Of course, it does take some planning ahead because you’ll need to soak the beans overnight. You could skip the soaking, but it will have to be cooked on the stovetop at a higher temperature for quite awhile.

As for the meat, we’ve got a freezer of goat and it seemed like some goat ribs would be a fantastic addition to this chili. Goat can be difficult to find so feel free to substitute it with lamb.

The night before in a large bowl cover 2 cups of dry beans with water. Add enough water so that there is at least an inch of water over the beans.

The next morning in your crockpot combine:

2 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups tomato sauce
1 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp salt
12 oz roasted green chilies, chopped
1 lb goat ribs

Turn your crockpot on high and leave it until dinner. The meat should be falling apart. Most chili powders are mild so it won’t really be a spicy chili. If you want it to have some kick add some hot sauce. Serve with fresh chopped onion and sour cream.

Not-So-Green Chili Stew

Remember the Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce? Here’s what you do with it.

So I promised this recipe when I posted the Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce recipe and I just kept forgetting to post it. Well, here it is finally.

My mom taught me how to make the first version of this back when I was in college. It became a staple for me because it was tasty and easy to make. It was originally made with canned enchilada sauce, canned green chilies, pork, onions and potatoes.

Over time the recipe obviously evolved substantially.  It made it’s largest change when we wanted to make it one day and didn’t have any enchilada sauce but plenty of tomatillos – which we simply threw in the food processor. For that recipe you just replace the sauce with 2 1/2 lbs of tomatillos, 4 tsp chili powder and 4 tsp cumin.

Even though we’ve eliminated all of the commercially canned ingredients, this is still a surprisingly easy recipe to make.

Not-So-Green Chili Stew
1 quart of Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
1/2 lb pork loin, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 c nixtamel or hominy
1/2 lb roasted green chilis, remove skins and seeds and chop
1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 c chicken broth
2 Tbs oil
Hot sauce to taste
Sour cream and/or cheddar cheese

1. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add oil and then pork and garlic. Cook until pork is browned.
2. Deglaze dutch oven with chicken broth.
3. Add remaining ingredients except sour cream/cheese and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender.
4. Serve topped with sour cream and/or cheese.

Making Rabbit Sausage

Mmmmm, rabbit

 We’ve got so much rabbit and so very little freezer space right now, with more rabbits on the way. We needed to do something with all this rabbit and let’s face it, I’m getting a little tired of just braising it.

Rabbit’s a very lean meat and can be quite tough if it’s not cooked right, which usually means either cooked very quickly or cooked for a very long time at a low heat. Since Tom is rather squeamish about rare or even medium rare meat, we have to go with the long cook time.

Grinding is a great way to deal with tough meats

However, there is another way you can prepare tough meat. Tough cuts from any animal whether it’s beef, pork or rabbit lend themselves very well to grinding.

Not really wanting to make rabbit burgers and being that the current Charcutepalooza challenge is stuffed sausages I decided that rabbit would be the meat of choice for this challenge.

Pork fatback

But of course it wouldn’t just be rabbit. Because sausage needs 25-30% fat I needed to add pork fatback. But I didn’t stop there. My goal was a very flavorful sausage so it had to have asiago cheese and porcini mushrooms. But wait! It needed something more! Garlic! Yes garlic.

Unfortunately, Tom proclaimed that it smelled like a foot. He said the cheese smelled like a foot. The mushrooms smelled like a foot and now the fridge smells like a foot. Tom does NOT like stinky cheese, which, in my opinion, is quite a shame. I’m hoping this recipe works for him.

Unfortunately we’re out of fresh garlic, but we have some really good dried garlic. So here’s my recipe:

Rabbit Sausage with Porcinis, Asiago and Garlic

2 Whole Rabbits (3-3 1/2 lbs each), deboned and cut into 1/2″ chunks
1 1/4 lb pork fatback, cut into chunks
1/2 lb Asiago cheese, cut into chunks
1.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
3 Tbs dried minced garlic
3 Tbs Kosher salt
10+ feet of pork casings (optional)

1. Rehydrate mushrooms in 2 cups hot (not boiling) water. Put mushrooms in water into fridge overnight to chill.

2. Drain mushrooms reserving 1 cup of liquid. Return liquid to fridge.

3. Combine everything but the liquid in a large bowl and put in freezer until very cold, just short of freezing solid. Also freeze the detachable parts of meat grinder that will be coming into contact with the meat.

4. Reassemble meat grinder and run meat mixture through and into a bowl set in ice (I use the bowl to our stand mixer). I use the smallest die that came with the grinder.

5. Using my stand mixer (mine is the smaller Kitchen Aid mixer so I have to do this in batches), I quickly mix half of the ground meat adding 1/2 fo the reserved mushroom liquid to evenly distribute the spices. I repeat with the second half and then combine it all in one large bowl. Don’t overmix or you’ll end up with an emulsified sausage – mix just enough to distribute everything evenly.

6. Cook a small patty to check and adjust seasonings as needed. Return to the freezer to chill again.

7. You can choose to stop here and use it to make breakfast sausage or you can stuff it into casings.

I have to admit, or more like my husband has to admit, smelling like a foot can sometimes be a very good thing. The porcinis I feel are a bit overpowered by the garlic and asiago though, so I think next time I’ll save my money and omit them.

So what did we do with the sausages? We’ve added them to spaghetti sauce and lasagna. We’ve eaten them on homemade rolls with homemade sauerkraut and eaten them as snacks when out and about. I even add them to soup. Sometimes you don’t need a special recipe to use them because they are the special recipe.

Pasta a la Carbonara with Leeks and Arugula

Sometimes you don’t know you’re looking for something until you find it.
Sometimes you’re just minding your own (or everybody else’s) business mindlessly surfing through facebook when a friend of yours posts a recipe to another friend of yours saying “we need to make this” and you can’t not look, because hey, it’s food and both of those friends know good food when they see it (or read about it) and all of a sudden your dinner plans have DRASTICALLY CHANGED. And also you feel a little like you just stuck your nose in something that was not for your nose. But still. Sometimes these things happen.
And sometimes that’s awesome.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted this recipe, and I was immediately smitten. The flavors reminded me a lot of an eggs en cocotte recipe (served over sauteed asparagus, leeks and bacon) that I have always loved, and the method (similar to a pasta a la carbonara) was something I had been meaning to try for a while.
So this weekend I picked up leeks at the farmer’s market. And, because I have a massive aversion to parsley in most dishes (mostly, everything but these), I picked up some arugula. I figured heck, why not? The recipe called for a lot of cracked pepper, so maybe the green tanginess and spiciness of arugula would be just the thing to kick up the mild softness of the leeks and garlic.

When I’m right, I’m right.
…also, usually kind of smug. But it’s OK to be smug about good food choices.
The pasta was PERFECT with this sauce. The sweet, mellow flavor of the long-cooked leeks and garlic blended with the salty crispness of the bacon and the crunch of the raw arugula and the rich heartiness of the egg to make something greater than I could have imagined.
This one’s going in the recipe box, for sure. You know, after I post it on facebook.
Pasta a la Carbonara with Leeks and Arugula
(adapted from the New York Times)
8 oz of any dry pasta (I like linguini/fetuccini for this)
4 thick strips of smoky bacon, cut into pieces
3-4 medium/large leeks, sliced into thin rounds and thoroughly washed/drained
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 c fresh baby arugula
1 very large (or 2 small) eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large skillet, brown the bacon bits until they are just starting to crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon and toss the leeks and garlic into the pan drippings (add more bacon grease or olive oil if they start to stick). Cook the leeks slowly over low-to-medium heat until they are very soft and golden (about 30 minutes).
In another pot, bring a large amount of lightly-salted water to a boil and start your pasta cooking. You want it to be al dente right when the sauce is pureed and ready to go back in the pan.
NOTE: it is very important that the pasta be hot when the sauce is added, as the heat of the pasta and reserved cooking liquid are what cooks the eggs and makes this a safe dish to serve. Even with our fresh backyard eggs, I am very careful to thoroughly wash the shells before cracking them, and to being them to a safe temperature before eating them.

Transfer the softened leeks into a blender or a food processor (my blender does a better job of pureeing than my cuisinart) along with most of the arugula (save a little bit to chop for garnish) and the raw egg. Blend until the sauce is thick and a bit foamy. Add a tiny bit of water if the arugula won’t blend down on its own.
Transfer this puree back into the large skillet (off the heat) with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, and the (drained but not dry) pasta. Toss to combine, making sure the sauce thickens and the strands of pasta don’t stick together too much.

Serve this pasta on a large serving plate (or individual bowls) with a sprinkle of chopped arugula, some bacon bits, and fresh cracked pepper and salt.


I LOVE seafood. I mean LOVE it. I’ve loved seafood since I was a little kid. Every year for my birthday all I wanted was to go eat calamari at my favorite seafood restaurant at Jack London Square in Oakland. They are no longer there, but I’ll always remember it.

So it would make sense that I would love cioppino. One of my favorite restaurants, the Dead Fish in Crockett, has what they call the Dead Fish Stew, which is basically cioppino and it is fabulous! Well, since we can’t eat there for at least the next year I had to find a substitute. This is a pretty good stand in and it’s really easy to make.

4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dry pepper flakes
1/4 c olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 c oven baked tomato sauce
4 c regular tomato sauce
1 1/2 c white wine
1 lb clams
1 lb mussels
1 whole dungeness crab
1 lb firm white fish of your choice
1 lb shrimp – shelled and deveined
1 lb scallops
1 lb octopus and/or calamari

1. Steam clams and mussels in 2 cups of water until they open. Strain, reserving liquid.
2. In a large pot cook garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the onions soften. Stir in bell pepper and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add wine and boil until reduced by 1/2. Add reserved clam & mussel broth, tomato sauces, and bay leaf and simmer for 30 min.
4. Add fish, and remaining seafood to broth. Cook until seafood is cooked through – about 5 min.
5. Serve with fresh baked or artisan bread.

I made this last night we added octopus to it as well. If you make this, have fun with the seafood you put in it. The garlic, onion, peppers, and tomato sauces all came from our garden. The seafood sans the mussels and clams came from our local fish monger. The mussels and clams came from our farmers’ market. The wine is the last remaining wine from our wedding, almost a year ago. The bay leaf is from our garden. The red pepper flakes are just some of the spices we still have in our spice cabinet – but will be making more with our serrano peppers that we’re growing.

The pot we made was huge! I had to remove the meat from the mussels and clams because adding them with the shells wouldn’t have fit in our pot, and I was using the biggest pot we had. Well, not the biggest pot, my brew pot is the biggest, but it’s not suitable for cooking meals in due to it’s thin bottom.

I hope you try this out and love it as much as we do.

Belgian-Style Mussels

I should have called this post “Things I Thought Were Hard to Cook (But Was Wrong About)”, but then I would have had to include all of the other well-kept culinary secrets and…well…some of them are just going to have to stay secrets for a little longer.
Today, I just want to talk about mussels.
Anyone from coastal California knows mussels. They’re…the ones that aren’t barnacles. You know – the big (sharp) black shells that grow all over the rocks and cut your feet open and make it impossible to go tidepooling and sometimes the seagulls drop them from way up in the air and they hit you on the head and…
…wait, you can EAT those things?
I am here to tell you that you can (and should). If you don’t cook shellfish because it is “hard” or “scary”, you’re wrong. Try this. It is SO EASY and easily makes the best plate of mussels I have ever eaten.

If you are harvesting the mussels yourself, please read about the safe times of year to do so (October to April, basically) and all precautions to take. Hank Shaw has a great post about wild mussels here. Please take warnings about mussels seriously, as you can get very sick (and even die) from ingesting mussels that have filtered a particular dinoflagellate present in the waters during the summer months.
Farmed mussels are strictly enforced and are safe to eat, provided your supplier is following the rules set down by the government (who track the algal blooms and only allow harvest of shellfish when it is determined to be safe).
And yes, the quality of the shellfish is very important. We have a guy who comes to our local farmer’s market who supplies us with fresh, live, healthy mussels for a totally reasonable price (also clams, and oysters, which are his specialty).

This is only kind of a recipe. It’s actually more of a method. Take 2 lbs of mussels, and make sure they are all alive (they should either be closed, or they should close pretty quickly when you poke them in the squishy-parts). If they don’t close, toss them – they’re probably dead, and a dead mussel is not a tasty (or safe to eat) thing.
The beards will need to be removed from the mussels just prior to cooking (don’t do it until you are ready to cook them, as it can kill them, and then they will go bad). To do this, start at one side of the beard and pry it out. It will be partially inside the shell and can take a bit of muscle (haha) to remove, but once you get the hang of it, the process goes pretty quickly. Once they are de-bearded, rinse them well (Rick scrubs them off with a sturdy brush/scrubber) and keep them chilled until you are ready to put them in the pan.

Speaking of pans, you’ll want a big stock pot or deep frying pan (I use our big paella pan) that has a tight-fitting lid. Finely dice a couple of shallots and about 4 cloves of garlic, and put them in the pan with 1/3 bottle of white wine and about a cup of heavy cream, and slowly bring this up to a light simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic and shallots are tender. Chop about 1/2 c of flat-leaf parsley and toss it into the mix, with a bit of salt and pepper (you’ll adjust later to taste).
Bring the broth up to a high simmer (but not a boil) and throw in your chilled, cleaned mussels. Spread them out as best you can in the pan (it’s OK that the sauce won’t cover them) and put the lid on the pan. Steam the mussels for about 8 minutes, or until all the shells are open.
At this point, if the shells do not open, they are probably dead. You can cook them for another few minutes to see if they’ll comply, but I generally just throw them out to be on the safe side.
Taste the broth and season with salt/pepper if necessary. The opened mussels are now ready to eat! Garnish with a bit more chopped parsley, and serve over pasta or with a side of fresh garlic bread – delicious.

From start to finish, this process takes Rick and I less than 30 minutes. I make the sauce, he de-beards, we reconvene for steaming, and make garlic bread while the mussels cook. Easy, right? Right.
Delicious? You bet.

I can’t wait until the season is right to try this with wild mussels (which will require a few more steps, as they are notoriously gritty and the broth needs to be strained to remove debris). Another wild food for the pot? I’m willing to go to the trouble!

Boston Style Baked Beans

This week I am continuing my quest to eradicate all processed food from the house with a simple-yet-hearty recipe for Boston-style baked beans.

I have been searching for recipes that are easy and healthy. I need to be able to make them in bulk and store them. I don’t want to sacrifice the meals and flavors that I love just because my standards for food have changed.

This recipe is very simple and can be made without a lot of supervision, meaning I can get it started and then go work in the garden, or do a load of laundry, or clean out the chicken coop. Multitasking is the only way things get done around here, and anything that I can accomplish while also doing something else immediately gets bonus points in my book.

This recipe also gets bonus points for being BETTER than its rival, the can of baked beans.

I will admit there are certain processed foods that for some reason or another (owing largely, I think, to having grown up eating them) just taste comforting. They taste “right”. All attempts to recreate those tastes, while potentially delicious, just never seem to live up to that standard. If anyone can give me a ranch dressing recipe that is better than bottled Hidden Valley, I will love you forever. No kidding.

I had thought that home-made baked beans were going to be like this for me too. Tasty, sure, but not quite what I’m craving to serve on toast with fried eggs and bacon. Because of this, I’ve been holding out. Until now.

My recent success with making my own refried beans gave me the confidence I needed to try this other bean-based pantry staple, and I have to say I will never again look at a tin of beans as though it has something I haven’t got.

Because I’ve got it.

And now you do too!

Boston-Style Baked Beans
(adapted from this recipe)

about 3 cups dry beans (I used pinto, because they’re what I had on hand)

  • 1/2 lb smoky bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup (homemade!)
  • 3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (not homemade, sadly – anyone have a recipe?)

Soak the beans in water overnight to begin softening them. If you are like me and don’t have that kind of glorious forethought (read: OMGIWANTBAKEDBEANSNOW), you can cook them on the stove straight from dry and add a bit of baking soda to the water part of the way through the cooking process to aid in the softening of the beans – works like a charm (and is fun fizzy cooking)! If you’ve soaked them (you planner, you!), finish the cooking in a large pan on the stovetop.

Basically, however you want to make ‘em soft, do that. They should be tender, but not to the point of falling apart. If they are a tiny bit al dente, that’s OK – they will cook more in the next step. Remove the beans from the cooking water, but don’t toss out the bean juice – you might still need it (I did, when I made it).

While the beans are cooking, heat the rest of the ingredients (ketchup, molasses, sugar, mustard powder, salt, pepper, Worcestershire) together in a pan on the stove until they are simmering, then remove the sauce from the stove.

In a large casserole dish (I used my cast iron dutch oven, which was PERFECT), layer about 1-2 inches of cooked beans, and sprinkle them with half of the onion and half of the chopped bacon. Cover this with the remaining beans, and repeat the onion and bacon. Drizzle the sauce over the beans/onions/bacon. Use the bean-cooking juice to bring the liquid level to just about even with the beans.

Bake this with the lid on for about 2 hours, or until the bacon is cooked through and the onions are tender and translucent. If the beans are swimming in too much liquid, remove the lid and cook UNcovered for another 20 minutes or so, until the sauce is the consistency you like (remember it will thicken slightly as it cools).

Serve these baked beans on toast as part of a perfect greasy hangover breakfast – I served them with a roasted tomato, fried eggs, and homemade 12 grain rolls. Delicious!!

They’re also a perfect snack on the go, or a great side dish for any kind of meat. Basically, eat them however you want. I’m not here to tell you HOW to eat them. I am, however, here to tell you to MAKE them. Right now. Go.

Trust me – try this recipe. It’s a keeper.

These baked beans can be frozen for up to 6 months in a freezer-safe zip-top bag or other appropriate airtight container. Just be sure to thaw them to room temperature before heating so they don’t turn to mush!

A quick how-to: Refried Beans

Sometimes life is busy.

Sometimes life is so busy that you don’t have time to do the things you said you would do for other people (let alone anything for you) and you forget to feed yourself for long periods of time. This, if you are anything like me, makes you do one of two things:

a) get cranky and stop doing ANYTHING and make some sort of ridiculous confection-y cake or tart or canned good, then don’t eat THAT, and become more cranky (about all the things you flaked on doing to tweak out on snobby French pastry technique, of course).

b) eat terrible, terrible processed/fast food that makes you feel nauseous (after a short burst of guilty pleasure, of course), resulting in complete body shut-down and avoidance-napping.

It shouldn’t take much to see that neither of these outcomes are anywhere near ideal (or even effective). I don’t have time to slip into these sort of patterns.

Sadly, though, I often don’t have time to make a decent meal for myself, either. What to do, then? How can I make sure I get the nutrition and calories I need to keep myself at my best when I hardly have time to EAT the food, let alone prepare it? How can I ever give up microwaveable snacks and boxed mac and cheese?

The answer was more simple than I thought: I learned to make refried beans. Now I can have chips/dip or a burrito or a taco at the drop of a hat, without sacrificing quality OR breaking the bank.

This recipe was sent to me by a friend (thank you, Natalee!). I pestered her repeatedly after reading her post on facebook that she was making a batch of refried beans from scratch. She says SHE got the recipe from The Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook (which I have not read…but Natalee speaks very highly of the range of recipes, as well as of their simplicity and quality).

I love that this recipe can be prepped overnight, and that the actual cooking time is very short. I love that it is adaptable to any number of flavor variations, and that it could easily be made lactose-free, vegan, or chock-full of meat and still be tasty. I love that when I have a batch of refried beans on hand, I do not feel the need to gorge myself on Kettle Chips (OK, well maybe *sometimes* I do, still. But that’s different). With a deep, complex mix of flavors and textures, these refried beans will make you wonder why you EVER bought that scary cat-food-lookin’ stuff from a can.

I know *I* will never go back.

Mostly, though, I love that making this recipe once a week affords me time to feed myself well without feeling guilty or like I am missing out on anything. My life might be busy, but it can still be delicious.

**a quick note: I have not yet reached a point where I am making my own cheese or tortillas. Rachel has posted recipes to make your own flour and corn tortillas, which I plan on making very soon. For now, I buy flour tortillas and cheese from my local Coop Market.**

Refried Beans
1 1/2 c dry pinto beans (I sometimes add black or kidney beans; whatever is around the house)
2-3 c water
1 tbsp olive oil (I actually use 1-2 Tbsp of bacon grease, which I always save when making BLTs).
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped green chilies (optional depending on how much heat you want)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp plain yogurt or sour cream
2 tbsp shredded cheese (cheddar/pepperjack/swiss are all nice)
1 tsp mild
vinegar (apple cider or red wine)
Salt to taste

Before making this recipe, you’ll need to start the beans (picked through for rocks and debris) soaking in 2-3 c of water – enough to cover them by at least an inch. I tend to do this in a big mason jar, but you can also do it in the pan you’ll later use to cook them. Once they have soaked for at least 4 hours (during which time they will double in volume – I usually just leave them overnight), put them into a pan on the stove and bring them to a simmer.

Cook the beans until they are tender (usually mine start to split their skins, at which point I know they’re getting close to done), and then strain them out of the cooking water (reserve 1/2 c of the bean juice for later).

In a large skillet, heat the oil/grease on medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and hot peppers and cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to be translucent. Add the minced garlic, and dry spices, and stir to combine. Continue cooking for another minute or so.

Add the beans to the skillet and mash them with a potato masher (or mash them beforehand and then add them). Some people like their refried beans nearly pureed: no lumps at all. I tend to like them more rustic, and I cut the onions and peppers accordingly. Do it however you like it best!

If the beans are too dry to mash into a paste, which is likely, add some of the bean cooking liquid until the texture is thick and creamy. Let the mashed mixture cook for another few minutes over medium heat until warm (it’s good to keep the beans moving so they don’t burn. I use a rubber spatula or a bamboo/wooden spoon for this). Stir in the yogurt/sour cream, cheese, and vinegar. Remove from the heat and taste. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust any seasonings (I find I *always* want more cumin and salt than I originally put in).

These beans will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or up to six months in the freezer.

My favorite thing to do with them? Quick and crunchy bean and cheese burritos:

Put some beans and shredded cheese into a flour tortilla and microwave it for a minute or two to get the beans warm and melt the cheese. Then roll it into a burrito, making sure to tuck the ends in so the cheese can’t run out.

Then fry them in a dry frying pan until they are toasty and browned on the outside.

Try it, and tell me it doesn’t beat out ANY other healthy snack you know of. Seriously. it doesn’t even taste like “I don’t have time to eat real food” food. And for me right now, that counts for a LOT. They are especially good with some guacamole, salsa, and sour cream on the side. You know, if you have the time.