Vegetarian Fajita Tacos

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These are using my Whole Wheat Protein Tortillas I posted earlier.  I was originally not going to post this because I felt like it was just vegetables in a tortilla, but Justin said people like recipes.  I guess I trust him.  We’ve been together for a while now, I think I owe him that.

Recipe:

2 white onions (sliced, caramelized) 
1 red pepper (sliced, roasted)
1 green pepper (sliced, roasted) 
3 jalapeno or serrano peppers (diced, roasted) 
1/2 cup corn
1 15 oz can black beans (or 1.5 cups cooked beans)
1-2 tsp oil
salt

Toppings:

Greek yogurt
salsa
avocado
lettuce

First we’re going to slice our onions.  People get all weird about onions.

They’re like, “No, I’m going to cry.”

And, “Oh my god, my breath.”

I read all sorts of forums about people complaining about onions and crying all that stuff.  People come up with the silliest solutions to avoid this problem — goggles, freezing the onion, soaking the onion in water, cut near a flame.

Silly business.

When you cut into an onion you’re breaking cell walls, inside those cell walls is a chemical compound called sulfoxide which is basically sulfur and oxygen bonded together with other compounds.  When we cut into an onion we release this and it turns into sulfuric acid, which then stimulates the tears in our eyes.  Mind you this is a bastardly simplified version, but enough for these purposes.  Anyway, the majority of the sulfoxides are contained near the root of the onion.  So if you leave the last 1/2 inch of the onion alone and cut with a sharp knife (which disrupts less walls) 9 times out of 10 you won’t have tears and chances are your breath won’t smell.

So quit your bitching and cut your onion.

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Leaving the root on, cut the very top of your onion of after you’ve halved it.  Make slices through your onion, making sure not to disrupt that last 1/2 inch.

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Here’s a diagram.

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Then slice the root off.

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No tears!

And no freezing, flames, or goggles.

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Now we’re going to caramelize our onions.  This is a process.  Any person writing a recipe that tells you you can caramelize an onion in 5 or 10 minutes is a damn dirty liar and is never to be trusted again.  It takes minimum 30 minutes, but longer is always better.

Add 1-2 tsp oil to a pan and heat over medium heat.

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Add your onions and salt.  Cook over medium-medium high heat.  Don’t stir too often or you’ll prevent caramelizing.

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Every 10 minutes I deglaze the pan.  It’s up to you what you want to use–oil, vinegar, wine, water.  I just used water.

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While your onions are doing their thing get everything else ready.

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Roast your peppers, you can do it on the stove or in the oven.  On the stove or under the broiler is the fastest.

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Just make sure your skins are most, if not all the way black.

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20 minutes in, deglaze your pan if needed.

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Wipe or rinse of your skins.

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And slice.  Dice your serrano or jalapeno peppers if you’re using them.  Or you’ll pay for it.

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30 minutes in.  This is the bare minimum for caramelizing onions.  You could go all day with these beauties and they will only get more delicious.  But you do have to eat eventually, and I can only plan for a meal an hour or so in advance.

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Add your peppers, beans, and corn to your onions and toss around to warm everything.

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Get your toppings ready.

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And your tortillas.

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I love Greek yogurt and find it’s one of those things that is well worth the extra cost.

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Fixins.

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I decided to be cheap and buy iceberg lettuce.  Never again, once you grow accustomed to eating dark leafy greens you’ll wonder why the fuck this stuff even exists.

I’m sorry iceberg but it’s true, you’re a superfluous vegetable.

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The End.

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Whole Wheat Protein Tortillas

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Tortillas are one of those things that once you make them, you’ll wonder why you haven’t all along.  I’ve been a loyal Mission girl since I knew what a tortilla was so I’m issuing myself some authority on tortillas.

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These tortilla shells are obviously not the soft white flour tortilla shells of Mission, dare I say they’re better.  I do dare say.  I was convinced Justin was going to hate these and he loved them.  Side note: when Justin and I first met he was your typical college guy and hated pretty much all things healthy.  Now he’s salivating over a whole wheat soy tortilla.

Ladies, Cosmo was right, you can change your man.

Recipe: (makes 12) NutritionLabel (1)

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup soy flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp oil
3/4 cup water

Add your flours, oil, salt, baking powder to a bowl.

I’m adding soy flour here because I wanted to up the protein of the tortillas.  Soy flour has 10 g of protein per 1/4 cup compared to whole wheat’s 4 g.  The rule is you can replace up to 30% of your flour with soy flour and not run into problems.  You can do all whole wheat if you want but I find using solely whole wheat in any dish makes it too dense.  If I didn’t use soy flour I would have used all purpose.

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Mix together and add your water until it comes together.

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Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.

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It won’t get elastic like a bread dough due to the lack of yeast.

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Portion into 12 equal balls. If you want to do tacos 12 is good.  If you want burritos, consider doing 8.

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Cover with a damp cloth or paper towel so they don’t dry out.

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Lightly flour your surface and flatten out ball with your hand.

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Roll out the rest of the way with a rolling pin.

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Mine were about 6 inches.  Cover back up with a damp cloth until you have made all the tortillas.  I stacked mine on top of each other and didn’t have a problem with sticking.

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Heat a skillet over medium-medium/high heat.  I didn’t bother with oil.

Heat the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side.  You’ll start to see bubbling.

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I found these tortillas good enough to eat on their own, which is something I would never do with store bought tortillas.  I also realized how plastic-y the store bought ones taste after sitting in those bags for so long.

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We enjoyed ours as Vegetarian Fajita Tacos.

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Black Bean Burrito Burger

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This is a weird name for a dish, I know but bear with me.  I was wanting to make a veggie burger type deal but a lot of the recipes I came across had bread crumbs in them as a binder.  I didn’t want to do that so I just decided to throw together what I had available to me.  The end result tasted more burrito-y than burger-y to me and I only had wraps on hand, hence the name.

This recipe is to show you can pretty much throw any kind of vegetable, bean, and grain/seed into a veggie burger recipe and it probably won’t suck.  Just be open to the resulting outcome.

Recipe: (makes 6, 4 oz patties) 

1 can kidney beans (rinsed, drained)
1 can black beans (rinsed, drained)
1 cup brown rice
1 tomato (diced)
1/4 green pepper (diced)
1 red onion (diced)
3 garlic cloves (diced)
1/2 jalapeno (diced)
1/2 cup corn
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder

Toppings:

red onion
lettuce
soy cheese
salsa
mango
avocado

Prep all your veggies.  I roasted mine 30 minutes in a 400° oven.  If you’re lazy you could soften them in a pan over medium heat for a few minutes.

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Just until they start to get a good color.  Wait to dice your garlic until after you roast it to prevent it from burning.

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Drain and rinse your beans.  What?!  Canned beans?!  Yes, sometimes I get lazy and give no fucks.

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Mash ’em up.

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Add your cooked rice.

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You could do anything you want here.  Quinoa, cous cous, millet, oats, whatever.

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Now add your roasted veggies.

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And any spices you want.

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Get your fixins ready.  At this stage in my life, a day without avocado and mango is a day not fully realized.

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Because I’m putting these in wraps I made them to fit the shape of a wrap better but you can do whatever you like.

Put a little bit of oil in your pan and cook over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes per side.

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Now I’m not going to lie to you.  Veggie burgers are a lot more delicate than regular meat burgers.  It is possible to flip them without breaking them, it’s just a little harder.  And no you can’t make these on a grill.  No veggie burger you make will have that mouth feel a traditional burger gives you, so either deal with it or have a hamburger.

Now you might be arguing that the frozen Morningstar Veggie Burgers you buy ARE stable and CAN be made on a grill.  Well, I would retort there isn’t a whole lot of vegetable action happening in a Morningstar Veggie Burger.

WATER, TEXTURED SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CORN OIL, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF AUTOLYZED YEAST EXTRACT, VEGETABLE GUM, NATURAL FLAVORS FROM VEGETABLE SOURCES, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY FIBER, SALT, CARRAGEENAN, POTATO STARCH, ONION POWDER, CARAMEL COLOR, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, KONJAC FLOUR, SUNFLOWER OIL, SESAME SEED OIL, SOY SAUCE (WATER, SOYBEANS, WHEAT, SALT), CONCENTRATED ONION JUICE, ASCORBIC ACID, VINEGAR POWDER, CITRIC ACID, ASPARTIC ACID, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, MALIC ACID, SUCCINIC ACID, TARTARIC ACID, LACTIC ACID, WHEAT FLOUR, SOY LECITHIN.

Anyway, if you want these to be a little more stable you can add some breadcrumbs but I believe that’s the thing I said I was trying to avoid in the first place.  But to each their own.

Carefully flip, getting a gold color on each side.

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Serve and enjoy!

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Mango Risotto

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After the much success I experienced with my Spinach Mushroom Risotto I had to go and mess around with it.  If you’re looking for more of a traditional risotto check that out.

Where did this recipe come from…I’ve been on a serious mango and avocado kick for the past few months.  For whatever reason they make me feel fancy.

This recipe is definitely open to your own taste adjustments.  The recipe below is my second attempt.  My first attempt I used 1 mango and coconut milk instead of coconut water.  While it tasted fine it wasn’t what I was going for.  The mango flavor was much subtler than I wanted and the coconut milk flavor was too dominant.  But who knows, maybe you would prefer that so that’s an option.

Here’s a picture of my first attempt with the 1 mango and coconut milk.

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Not bad, but not great.  Now let’s get to the recipe I preferred.

Recipe:

1/2 red onion (diced)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup white rum
1 Haitan/Dominican Mango (optional)
1/2 Guatamalan Mango (common grocery store mango)
10 oz Arborio rice
3 cups (about) Coconut Water added to mangoes to make 4 cups total
1 cup black beans
Salt to taste
Avocado to garnish

Dice your onion.  Definitely use red here, anything else would be too overpowering.

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Cut your mango by cutting the top and bottom off.

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Place it on one of the flat ends and slice the skin off with a knife.

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Then remove the flesh in a similar familiar to which you removed the skins, carefully cutting around the pit.

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Cut both your mangoes this way and place in a blender, I would have juiced them if I had a juicer.

I decided to go with 1 Haitian Mango and 1/2 Guatemalan Mango (generic grocery store mango).  Haitian Mangoes tend to be juicier and have a more vibrant flavor.  My first risotto was lacking a little bit in mango flavor, which is why I chose to use the different kind of mango and bump up the amount of mango used.  It’s really up to you though.  Because the Haitian Mango flavor is so much stronger than the more common mango I’m thinking I could have gotten away with using just the one Haitian.

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Blend.

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Now add enough coconut water to make 4 cups of liquid total.  Make sure you buy enough to have some left over.

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4 cups.  Remove from blender and place on the stove, bring and keep at a low simmer, covered.

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Back to the onions.  Sweat them in 2 tbsp coconut oil for about 3 minutes.  We’re using this much oil because the rice is going to absorb it later.  Relax, you’re allowed to consume oil from time to time.

Don’t let your onions brown, or it wouldn’t be sweating anymore.

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Have your 10 oz of Arborio rice ready.  You want to use any Italian short grain (Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano, or Bald).  Arborio is usually the cheapest/easiest to find.  Don’t rinse it.  Rinsing removes starch, which gives the risotto that creamy texture.

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Add your rice and toast it for about a minute (over medium-ish heat).  It should get too hot to hold it in for finger tips for more than a second or two.

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It will start becoming translucent around the edges.  Toasting helps ensure the risotto ends up creamy rather than mushy.

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Add your rum and cook it down all the way.  If you don’t the risotto will have too strong an alcohol flavor.  The edges should be even more translucent now.

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Now add 1 cup of your mango liquid and bring your rice to a low boil, moving it around to encourage even cooking.  Make sure you move down the kernels that get stuck on the side.

The reason you keep your liquid at a simmer is adding warm liquid keeps the risotto at a more consistent temperature and makes for faster cooking time.  You also run the risk of your rice being hard in the middle, while the outside is mush if you use cold liquids.

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When most of your first addition is absorbed add more of your liquid in about 1/2 cup additions.  This need not be exact.

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You’re ready to add more liquid when you see the bottom of the pan easily.

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Ready for more liquid.

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How do you know when the risotto is done?  Well the 4 cup/18 minute rule is usually a good indicator.  Once you’ve finished adding all your liquid and the 18 minutes has passed and if you were using warm liquid additions it should be done.  Just by looking at there should on be a small amount of solid white left in the middle.

Near the end of your last liquid addition add your black beans.

If your risotto is too thick (which is even more possible with this considering we’re cooking it in pectin) add some of your leftover coconut water until it becomes the consistency you desire.

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Garnish and enjoy!  Remember to serve immediately.  🙂

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St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs with Pinto Beans and Cornbread

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These are oven-prepped pork spare ribs.  In theory and I guess execution they work.  But when it’s 90° outside and you don’t have an air conditioner you have to be pretty much bat shit crazy to make these.  Guess who falls under that label?

I had never made spare ribs or ribs or any barbecue type meat before, but pork spare ribs were on major discount at the store and I felt some weird urge to tackle it.  I know discount meat right?  How can anyone pass that up.

The reason I decided to make a post about this even though I really have no knowledge regarding the subject is because it was kind of hard finding clear directions from start to finish on how to make spare ribs in a kitchen.  I find cooking meat kind of daunting so I spent hours trying to prepare for it until finally I got frustrated and winged it.  Surprise, they turned out near perfect.  That’s not me being conceited, that’s just a fact.

The following recipe is not really meant to be a recipe (they are the exact measurements I used), but I’m just saying that because I was just throwing stuff together.  So I encourage you to do that too.

The resulting flavor of the ribs was very balanced.  These aren’t candy sweet ribs but they do a have a slight sweetness to them that is balanced by the savoriness of the meat and a slight spiciness.

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Pork Spare Rib Recipe:

6 lb pork spare ribs trimmed down to about 4.5 lbs

Mustard Rub:

1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c mustard powder
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup beer
2 tbsp water

Dry Rub:

4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Braising Liquid:

1/2 cup beer
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Oven temp: 225°
Cooking time: 4.5 – 6 hours

Mustard Rub:

There is no right way to prep ribs.  Even championship grillers who win competitions all do something different so just figure out what you feel like doing and do it.  Because I read that spare ribs have a tendency to be tougher I decided to add mustard as a tenderizing safety net if you will.

If you’re planning ahead whisk all your ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit in a fridge overnight.  If you’re like me, just throw them in a pan and start whisking over low heat.  Or if you’re even lazier than me, go to the store and buy some frickin’ mustard.

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Whisk until combined and slightly thickened, should only take a couple minutes.

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Set that aside and finish your dry rub and start prepping your meat.

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You can certainly buy your own mustard, but the beer I used in this mustard is what inspired the flavor profile of my ribs.

Sam Adams New World:  This Tripel was born from the old world Belgian technique of barrel aging and the new world’s craft brewing innovation. With its pale golden color and uniquely refreshing taste, this big, flavorful, and complex brew has a subtle herbal hop character combined with the tropical fruit and spice notes of its special Belgian yeast.

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Dry Rub:

Alton Brown goes by a 8 + 3 + 1 + 1 concoction when making his ribs.  That means 8 scoops of brown sugar, 3 scoops of salt, 1 scoop of chili powder, and 1 scoop of a bunch of random things added together to make 1 scoop.  I used that formula as a jumping point.

Once again my rub/mustard recipe was decided by my beer choice so either pick a beer that will go with cinnamon and nutmeg, don’t use beer, make your own rub recipe, or just close your eyes grab random things from your cupboard and see what happens.  All are valid choices.

Add all of your dry rub ingredients together and combine.  My recipe is to be used completely for 1 rack of pork spare ribs.

Make sure you taste it here.  If it doesn’t taste good now, it’s not going to taste good 4 hours from now.

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Braising liquid: 

Not much to say, just add it all up together and heat it up in the microwave for a minute or so.  Once again if it doesn’t taste good now, fix it.

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Ribs:

Preheat your oven 225°

Prep your ribs.  I wasn’t about to take pictures showing you how to prep spare ribs since I had never done that before and also I hate having to constantly wash my hands to take a stupid picture.

I decided to go with St. Louis style ribs because I wanted to try trimming and it makes the meat cook more evenly.  St. Louis style ribs are ribs with the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed to create a rectangular-shaped rack which makes them visually resemble baby backs.  Why spare ribs?  Because that’s what was on sale.  Spare ribs do take longer and can be harder to get tender.

I found this video on the internets and out of all the videos I watched it was the most beneficial.

For my first try I did a pretty decent job.  Lay your ribs on a sheet of aluminum foil shiny side down.  I made a separate aluminum sheet for my trimmings.

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Spread your mustard on both sides.  I did not put mustard on my trimmings but you can if you want.

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I used all of my mustard.

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Add your dry rub focusing mostly on the meat side.  I added about 2/3 to my ribs and 1/3 to my trimmings.

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Looking back on it I wouldn’t have kept as much of my trimmings.  I kept all of the fat trims save for 1 or 2 chunks.  It was just an unnecessary amount of fat in my opinion.

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Now here’s where I had a little bit of difficulty.  Spare ribs are wider than baby backs so the aluminum foil didn’t reach all the way around.  I had to use 2 sheets to create my upper seal and instead of having one seam down the middle I had 2 down the top sides.  No big, it just took a bit longer.  You’re smart though, you’ll figure it out.

Make sure your top aluminum sheet is shiny side up and do the same to your trimmings.

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Place your ribs and trimmings on a baking sheet.  Open up one side of your aluminum and slowly pour in your braising liquid.  Make sure your aluminum foil is adequately sealed before hand.  I didn’t have any problem with leaking and I was using bargain brand aluminum foil, so if you have a problem that’s on you.

Like the rub, I added 2/3 of my liquid to my ribs and 1/3 to my trimmings.

Add to your 225° oven and cook.  I’m not going to tell you an exact time that they’ll be done but mine were done after 4.5 hours and were cooked perfectly.  But all of this depends on the type of rubs you use, how tightly you seal your aluminum foil, your meat, et c.  So just be patient and check it every one in a while.

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About 1 hour in I took out my trimmings and added them to my beans.  There was no time reasoning I just didn’t want to over cook them.

Place the trimmings over a pan/pot and slice a whole in the aluminum foil.  Allow the liquid to drain.

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When your ribs are done drain its liquid into the same pot as your trimmings.

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How do you know when your ribs are done?  There are a few ways to tell.  I found the bone test to be most helpful for me.  Grab one of the bones near the middle and try and twist it.  You should feel it start to move slightly.  If it’s wanting to slip right out then I’m sorry you overcooked your ribs.  It’s a common misconception that rib meat should fall off the bone.  It should pull off cleanly with your teeth.

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As you can see there is a lot of fat in my liquid.  You can use a gravy separator or deal with all the fat if you want.  Or if you don’t have a fancy schmancy gravy separator you can do it backwoods style and pour your liquid into a ziplock bag, seal it, hold it steady under cold running water (the fat will separate from the liquid faster that way), then snip the bottom corner of the bag and let it pour back into your pan, pinching the corner closed before the fat can drain out.

Cook down your braising liquid over medium heat to make your sauce.

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Be careful not to burn it.  Hey!  You made bbq sauce!

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When its thickened slather your ribs with it and place them under your broiler to caramelize.  You have a very small time frame between awesome and suck.  So don’t walk away.

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Evidence of a job well done.

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Time for some pinto beans! 

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Pinto beans are one of my favorite memories from home.  What I love about them is they taste so complex but their only seasoning requirement is salt and pepper.  These pinto beans cheat a little bit because I’m using the trimmings from my spare ribs that have some of my rub on them, which gives them another flavor dimension.

Pinto Beans Recipe:

1 lb pinto beans
water
salt
pepper
meat (Not making spare ribs?  Throw some uncooked bacon in there.  Vegetarian?  Don’t put meat in there.)

Cooking time: 2 hours or all day if you want 

Seriously, I’m not fucking with you with that recipe.

Rinse your beans and add to your pot.  Top with about two inches of water.  You don’t need to be exact, you’re going to need to add more later anyway.

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Bring to a boil.  When it starts boiling cover and reduce to a simmer.

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Simmer until they are melt in your mouth soft.

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I cooked my spare rib trimmings for 1 hour and then added them to my beans after my beans had been simmering for 1 hour.  You probably could put the trimmings in raw but I thought my ribs were only going to take a couple hours and I didn’t think that was enough time to fully cook the huge chunks of trimmings I had.

Whatever you decide I’m sure it will work out perfectly.  My trimming meat was still raw when I added them to my beans and wound up being melt in your mouth delicious at the end.

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When your beans are fully soft (like mushy soft), add your salt and pepper.  I like my pinto beans on the soupy side so I add extra water, up to you though.

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On to the cornbread! 

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I prefer savory cornbread over sweet and I like the yellow over white cornmeal.  So if you like sweet, white cornbread then don’t make this recipe.  The inspiration for this recipe was I like the density and taste of traditional southern cornbread but I’m intrigued by the more cakey bastardized version.  So this is kind of a marrying of the two.

The extra bonus is while it’s certainly not healthy, it’s certainly better for you than most cornbread recipes you’ll find.

Cornbread Recipe: 

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 ear corn
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tbsp shortening

Oven temp: 425°
Cooking time: 20 – 25 minutes

If you’re making this with the ribs oven style then wait until your ribs are done.  After you take your ribs out, set your oven to 425°

Prepare an ear of corn.  I do the boil method.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, put in the ear of corn, when the water returns to a boil the corn is done.  Should take 2-3 minutes.

Cut off the kernels with a knife then rub the spine of the knife (non-sharp side) along the ear to get the milk out.  Really make sure you get all you can out of it.  Because we’re not adding as much fat/oil in our batter, we’re using the milk from the corn to supplement that.  Kind of like how you use applesauce instead of butter/oil in baking recipes.

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Sometime during your prep you want to start heating your cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Combine your cornmeal, flour, baking powder/soda, and salt in a bowl.

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Add your corn, buttermilk to a bowl and combine.

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Add the egg and whisk with a fork until combined.

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Pour your wet mixture into your dry mixture.

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And combine.

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Now your cast iron should be sufficiently heated.  Add your 1 tbsp of shortening and allow it to melt, spreading it around the pan.  You could make the cornbread not in a cast iron pan, but then I would have to ask you why would you go ahead and do something as foolish as that.  If you’re so inclined you can forego the shortening and just lightly grease your pan, but cut yourself a break.  This is already a lower calorie cornbread as it is.  Keep the tbsp, it gives the cornbread that nice dark brown crust on the bottom.

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Turn off the heat on your cast iron and immediately add your batter.  The batter should sizzle, if it didn’t your cast iron wasn’t hot enough.  If you’re worried about this you can do the water drop test.  Flick a couple drops of water in your pan, if they dance around you’re ready.

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Bake in 425° for 20-25 minutes until golden and tester comes out clean.

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Spinach Mushroom Risotto

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I recently became obsessed with Hell’s Kitchen after having never watched it before.  I find the more stressed I am in life, the more mindless I need my television to be.  I’ve been hella stressed lately, which means I’ve been watching an obscene amount of reality television.

After exhausting Netfilx’s supply of Toddlers and Tiaras–shut up, you watch it too–I turned to Hell’s Kitchen.  I was fascinated by how often the chefs on the show screw up Gordon Ramsay’s risotto.  Considering it’s on his menu every service of every season you’d think they’d get it right eventually.  I began thinking, is it really that hard?  There are so many things that can go wrong with a risotto, but after a little research I realized it’s so easy to make it go right.

I also learned, like pretty much every thing else there is to bake or cook, there’s no one right way to make a risotto.  There’s also multiple preferences for what the consistency should be at the end, how al dente it should be, et c.  So  even if you do “screw up” your risotto, chances are you got it right to somebody’s preferences.

Recipe:

1 small shallot (diced)
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz portabella mushrooms (sliced)
10 oz Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock or broth (low sodium, warmed)
4 oz spinach
2 oz Parmesan cheese
Saffron (pinch, optional)

Dice your shallot and slice your mushrooms.  You can dice your mushrooms if you like, but I prefer them sliced in this dish.

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You can use fancier mushrooms like porcini or something, but they’re expensive.

Rinse and dry your spinach.  How much you use is up to you but I always go by fractions.  I wanted this to be primarily mushroom flavored so I used half the amount of spinach.

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 Grate your cheese.  It’s important to have all your additions ready before you start.  Otherwise you’ll risk overcooking or even burning your risotto.

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Sweat your shallot in 2 tbsp of oil for 3 minutes.  No you don’t need this much oil to sweat an onion, the rest of it is for your rice to absorb.  Do not let your onions brown.

If you’re using a regular onion consider using some garlic.  I’m not using garlic with my shallot because of the slight garlic flavor shallots already provide.

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Increase your heat to med/med- high and saute your mushrooms about 3 minutes or until they’ve started to soften, being careful not to let your shallot burn.  Lightly salt here, very carefully if you’re using broth later.

Yes, I realize I’m crowding my pan.  But I figured since…whatever I just didn’t feel like cooking it in sections.

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Your pan should not be filled with water.  If it is, your stove temp wasn’t high enough.

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Turn your heat down to medium.  Add your rice and toast it for about 1 minute.  Toast until it becomes hot to the touch.  Toasting doesn’t mean browning.  You want to mix it with the oil so it starts becoming translucent around the edges.  This encourages the risotto to be creamy rather than mushy.

I’m using Arborio rice, you want to use any Italian short grain (Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano, or Bald).  Don’t rinse it.  Rinsing removes starch, which gives the risotto that creamy texture.

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Add your wine and cook it down.  Make sure you actually cook it down.  If you don’t your risotto will have a strong wine flavor.  You can see the edges becoming translucent.

From here on you’ve got about 20 minutes of stirring to do, give or take.  So get comfy.  Enjoy this time.  It’s relaxing.  Unless you decided to make risotto in your 90° kitchen then it’s more like a sauna.  But saunas are relaxing right?

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Now add 1 cup (1/4 total) of your broth or stock and your saffron if you’re using it.  Bring to a low boil while stirring constantly to prevent any burning.

Make sure you’re scraping your edges down to ensure all the rice is cooking evenly.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula.  A metal spoon is thought to be too violent for the rice kernels.

Keep your broth at a low simmer (covered) while you make your risotto.  If you don’t use warm broth your rice kernel will be harder in the center and your cooking time will be longer.

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When most of your liquid is absorbed add more broth in about 1/2 cup additions.

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I think the confusing thing for people regarding risotto is it kind of looks done half way through.  Look at the kernels they should be translucent all the way around with only a small amount of solid white.  You can tell just by looking, this isn’t done yet.

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 Near the end of your last addition add your spinach.

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 When your risotto is done turn off your heat and add your Parmesan.

How do you know when it’s done?  When it’s translucent almost all the way through with a little bit of white in the middle.  When you bite into it it should be al dente, meaning “to the tooth.”  Firm, but not crunchy.

What happens if you get to this stage and your rice is still crunchy?  Add some more broth and cook it longer.  It’s a good idea to have a little more liquid than what your recipe calls for just in case.

Turn of your heat and add your Parmesan (or whatever cheese you want to add), taste and salt if needed.  Really stir the cheese in there, almost like a whisking motion.

If you want it creamier/looser, add some butter, more cheese, more broth.  All up to you.

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 You want your risotto to be thick enough so it’s not soup and thin enough so it’s not pasty.  I know, it’s a fine line.

Run your spoon or spatula across the bottom of your pan, does your risotto slowly undulate towards itself?  Then you’re at a good place.  It’s just up to you to determine your preference in the speed of your risotto’s undulations.  I just like looking for excuses to say the word undulate.

Undulate.

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 Serve immediately.  Don’t let that risotto die you donkey.

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Saag (kind of)

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Well, this is my version of it anyway.  Saag is one of my favorite things to order at Indian restaurants and Indian food is one of my favorite things to indulge in when we go out to eat (that or Sushi).  The problem with Saag, at least for me, is you never just want Saag.  It’s not a dish that makes much of a meal.  Even if you get the Saag Paneer or Saag Aloo.

So this is a bastardized version of Saag.  And by bastardized I mean, it’s got a whole bunch of crap thrown into it (garbanzo beans, potatoes, tofu) and it’s healthier.  I’m sorry food traditions of India, I just can’t help myself sometimes.

I put a decent amount of heat into this dish because one time a waitress misunderstood me and thought I wanted my Saag extra spicy instead of my vindaloo.  It turned out to be delicious but I payed for it later.

Recipe:

1 onion (diced) 
16 oz spinach
16 oz mustard greens
1 block extra firm tofu
2 oz ginger (about 2 in chunk, diced) 
3 medium white potatoes (1 inch cubes) 
5 garlic cloves (diced) 
1 cup dry garbanzo beans (OR 2 cans) 
2 tsp whole cumin (ground)
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 dried pepper (optional, I used dundicut)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup greek yogurt (I used 0%)
salt
2 tsp olive oil + 1 tsp olive oil

Make your beans, or if you’re using canned you’re all set with that.

Cut your tofu in half long ways and place paper towels above and below and top with a weighted plate or baking sheet.  This removes excess water and makes the tofu denser.

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Bring a pot of water to boil for your potatoes and prep them.

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While your water is coming to a boil prep your other ingredients.

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Your water should now be boiling so add your potatoes and parboil them.  They should be done after about 3 minutes.  You want the edges to start looking translucent while the center is still white.

Rinse your potatoes under cold water (this ensures they won’t turn to mush when we fry them and it washes off residual starch).

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Dry out your potatoes (I use a salad spinner) and coat them with your 1 tbsp curry and 1 tsp cayenne.

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And fry them up with your 2 tsp oil.  Near the end of their cooking time you can add the tofu to start giving that some flavor, but you don’t have to.

When they’re done remove to a plate and set aside.

Lightly salt here.

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Over medium low heat add your other 1 tsp oil, garlic, ginger, dried pepper (if using) and onion to your final cooking pan.  Cook for at least 15 minutes to get it to that toffee color, do not let it burn.

Lightly salt here.

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While your onions are doing their thing you can start cleaning your greens.  If you’re using frozen (which you can, in fact it will make the dish faster and easier to cook, but who needs that?) then ignore these next few steps.

Fill up your sink with cold water (clean it first, duh) and dump your greens in there.  Swirl them around then let the gunk settle.

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Remove them to a bowl and for a brief second be excited you decided to go with fresh greens.

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Then look at your sink and be happy you listened to me about cleaning them this way first.

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Now chop your greens.  This part is a bitch, I’m not going to lie.  But seriously, how pretty does that look?  Don’t forget about your onions.

Mustard greens are more bitter than spinach.  If you want you can use all spinach, the mustard greens at the store just looked so fresh I couldn’t resist and I love me some mustard greens.

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Now back to your onions.  See?  Toffee color.  Do not try and rush this process by cooking it at a higher temperature, the onions will not like you for that.

After this 15 minutes has passed add your cumin and cook for another 5.  Deal with it, if you wanted fast Indian, go to a restaurant.

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Now add your greens.  You don’t want your greens to be dry, so don’t put them through a salad spinner or anything.

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Increase your heat to medium and add your 1/2 cup of water.

Lightly salt here.

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Now here’s where I followed an incorrect recipe.  It told me 5 minutes would be a fine enough time to cook my greens down.  5 minutes is not enough time and does not give you that creamy Saag texture.  Simmer your green for at least 20 minutes with the lid on, checking regularly for water level.  You don’t want it to be soupy and you don’t want it to be dry.

After 20 minutes add your beans, potatoes, and tofu.  Simmer for another 5 minutes with the lid off.

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Now because I did the 5 minutes instead of the 10 I had to cook it longer so my tofu broke up.  It still tasted delicious but just something to keep in mind.

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Now you can add your 1/2 cup greek yogurt if you want.  It’s not traditional in Saag but because we use so much less fat it helps up the creaminess a little.  If you do decide to use it turn off your heat and temper your yogurt.  Do this by adding small spoons of your warm Saag to a bowl with your yogurt and stir.  When the yogurt has warmed up add it to your pot and turn the heat back on to a low simmer for 5 minutes.

This is ready to eat now but, like foods of a similar fashion it’s much better the longer you let it stew.

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Serve by itself, with rice, or in a Whole Wheat Pita pocket!

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