Black Bean Burgers with Beet, Red Onion & Orange Salsa

Let me just preface this recipe post by saying that before my relationship with Pete, I never properly cooked. During family gatherings or holidays, I dreaded potentially having to bring an item of food or help out in the kitchen. I was the girl who went to the grocery store the day of a 4th of July barbecue to buy whatever version of potato salad they still had left in stock. I liked the idea of cooking. I had shiny kitchen gadgets! I dog-eared recipe books and favorited baking websites, but that was the extent of my energy spent in or around the kitchen. My meals consisted of chicken tenders with fries, frozen pizza, ground beef burgers or if I was feeling really energetic, ground beef tacos! It came as no surprise that my cholesterol was through the roof during this time.

I remember when Pete and I had one of our first “dates,” he came over to my apartment and we made dinner together. We walked hand in hand at the local ACME while browsing fresh produce. I remember thinking to myself “Have I ever had basil? Do I like basil? What if he makes me this amazing basil-centric dinner and I hate the main ingredient?” I was a twenty-five-year-old who had never ventured far from whatever aisles had processed cheese, snacks and meat. The evening ended with us making caprese salad (turns out I love basil) and some amazing, Ricotta-based pasta dish which Pete conjured up.

After that evening, I was officially ecstatic about food. I looked forward to spending time together with Pete, cooking meals and trying out new recipes. He surprised me with a subscription to Everyday Food, which may or may not be one of the most thrilling times of the month when we receive a new issue in the mail. I love thumbing through the mini magazine to jot down a grocery list for the weeks ahead. Since we began living together, our diet has gone in more of a vegetarian direction. That’s not to say I won’t instantly eat a bacon-infused cheeseburger if given the chance, but for the most part, our fridge is stocked with vegetables and on occasion, seafood.

That being said, we had been anxious to try out a black bean burger recipe as of late, to see if they would be worthy of future backyard barbecue shenanigans. We found a recipe on Everyday Food for the burgers, which we combined with a beet, red onion and orange salsa recipe from Epicurious. Pete’s mom had recommended the salsa recipe, and after sampling some of it at her house, I was looking forward to making some of my own to top on our burgers.

I began by heating one tablespoon of oil in a skillet and adding onion, red pepper and garlic. Once they were translucent, I added cumin and ketchup and cooked everything for a minute before adding them to a food processor along with a wee bit of rice and beans (specific measurements can be found on the link mentioned above).

After making sure the ingredients were well combined, I transfered them to a large bowl and added breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and a bit of hot sauce.

I mixed a bit too much for our two burgers, so I made them extra thick. I’d recommend flattening them out more, but overall they worked out well and (surprisingly) didn’t fall apart.

Meanwhile, I was boiling beets for the salsa recipe, which called for olive oil, lemon juice and honey to be mixed into a small bowl.

Once the beets cooled off, I chopped two to add to the salsa bowl.

Finally, I mixed in chopped orange, red onion and pitted green Greek olives and stirred everything before seasoning with salt and pepper.

Here is a glimpse at our black bean burgers with spinach salads, which included goat cheese, beets, walnuts, pomegranate craisins and avocado slices with balsamic vinaigrette. I apologize for the blurry photos, I was in a rush to devour my dinner and didn’t snap the most flattering pictures. Also, what may appear to be a pitcher of urine in the background was in fact lemon/orange-infused water, I promise. Anyway, our final verdict was that we’d definitely like to offer these for upcoming barbecue shindigs, along with a “normal” option for those Ron Swanson-esque meat lovers out there.

I’d like to start sharing more of our cooking adventures now that we are settled in at our new home, so brace yourself for more foodie posts in the future! My friend Kerry, who is a culinary god in my (somewhat biased) opinion, introduced me to Foodgawker, where I have become hooked on “heart-ing” recipes to store away for upcoming meals.

So tell me, has anyone else become more enthusiastic about cooking because someone important in their life has influenced them in the kitchen?

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Everyday Food: Grocery Bag

Top (L-R): Spicy Black Bean Soup, Parmesan Chicken With Mushrooms and Brussel Sprouts, Sesame Beef

Bottom (L-R): Turnip and Sweet Potato Gratin, Chicken Cutlets With Mustard Greens and Roasted Squash, Pasta e Fagioli (recipes by Everyday Food)

*Thanks to Pete for snapping these photos with his iPhone before meals

Every month, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food has a weekly dinner planner, which Pete and I have been taking advantage of for the past few months. We add the “shopping list” of ingredients they provide to our normal grocery list and plan a week’s worth of meals alongside the magazine’s Monday-Friday schedule. I enjoy cooking dinner with Pete this way because it steps us outside of our comfort zone of eating chicken nuggets and personal pizzas and forces us to ask questions like “What do mustard greens look like?” or “How do you chop an acorn squash?”

Everyday Food makes scheduling a week’s worth of meals simple and enjoyable and gives us time to work together after a stressful day at the office. Plus it makes our taste buds happy to try something new and exciting every month. Sometimes there are recipes that we’ve mentally marked as “never again,” but for the most part, we finish our dinners with a smile.

What are some of your favorite cooking blogs or magazines that give you inspiration?

Happy Birthday, Pete!

Today is Pete’s 24th birthday, so, like the total lunatic that I am, I decided it would be a good idea to blow up dozens of balloons last night. I thought it would be cute to get up in the middle of the night, put all the balloons out on the floor (they were hiding in closets) and hang the “happy birthday pete!” banner I made to surprise him with in the morning. Getting my arse out of bed at 4am was not an easy task, considering it was 64 degrees in our apartment…yeah, for some reason our heat decided to malfunction last night. I tried my best to sneak out of the bedroom like a ninja so Pete wouldn’t notice, but he jolted awake as I was leaving. I mumbled something about needing to take some medicine because I felt sick (straight up birthday B.S.) and I scampered into our kitchen area.

I quietly started to unload the dozens of balloons from the closets and began hanging the banner. I had planned to hang streamers, but Cadbury, the bitchiest of our three rabbits, decided it would be the perfect time to stomp her feet in her cage as. loud. as. humanly (or bunny-ly). possible. I had to run back inside the bedroom because I could hear Pete loudly sighing and I didn’t want the surprise to be ruined. I was greeted by a “What the eff is going on?” inside the bedroom and I mumbled something in hopes that Cadbury would soon be done having her bunny tantrum. Not so much. She stomped (and by stomped I mean STOMPED) for at least an hour. 5am rolled around and our upstairs neighbor was waking up and doing his morning ritual, which we can hear in its entirety because the walls are thin. Any hope of getting back to sleep was quickly dwindling away.

I decided it would be a good idea to move Cadbury’s cage to our back room so we wouldn’t have to hear her being a stompy beyotch. This seemed like a smart move, until during my walk through the balloons, Cadbury decided to kick a ginormous amount of bunny turds from her litter pan onto the kitchen floor. Pete said he could hear the poop scatter across the floor from inside the bedroom…imagine dropping a bag of mini, poop-covered marbles everywhere. Awesome. So, I tried my best to gather all the little bunny poops that were hiding beneath the balloons all over the place. Being barefoot at the time was not an enjoyable experience, as I ended up stepping on one too many bunny poops. Not fun.

Eventually, I flopped back in our arctic bed (after making sure my feet were clean, ick). I felt awful that I was making Pete (who should have been having fluffy rainbow birthday dreams) lose hours of sleep because I wanted to surprise him with some birthday flair. Le sigh.

Speaking of rainbows, when I asked Pete what type of cake I could make him for his birthday, he requested a funfetti cake with lemon frosting. I found a funfetti recipe (from scratch!) on this blog and I tried to make the cake decorations as girly as possible.

These are the ingredients for the Funfetti cake recipe, alongside a bunny cookie jar my Grandma handed down to me (I am so super lucky that my grandparents loved bunnies too).

The ingredients for the lemon-y frosting Pete requested.

Happy 24th, Pete! Next year I promise not to make you lose hours of sleep or have a balloon-hiding bunny turd scavenger hunt in the wee hours! I hope it ended up being a fun birthday, despite the major ninja fail on my part!

Recipes: White Bean Stuffed Portobellos

For whatever reason, my domestic side kicked in recently when I began to cook for the first time. Ever. As part of my “30 before 30” challenge, I’ve been trying at least one new recipe per month for a year. Our oven is now deceased, so while we wait for the landlord to bring it back to life, we are making do with our stove top (which still works!) and convection oven. Before our oven kicked the bucket, I made the following recipe from a recent issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, which I now have a monthly subscription to, thanks to Pete! Be sure to keep in mind that the portions allow for enough food for a delicious lunch with leftovers the following day.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a tasty wintry recipe we can cook on our stove top? We can only eat so much grilled cheese, stir fry and pizza before our tastebuds get bored.

White-Bean Stuffed Portobellos
4 Servings

INGREDIENTS
6 large Portobello mushrooms, stems discarded
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) cannelli beans, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 thick slices crusty bread (from a 1-pound loaf), crusts removed
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 bunches spinach (about 3 pounds total), trimmed and washed

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place mushrooms, stem side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons each lemon juice and oil. Brush mushrooms with oil mixture; season with salt and pepper. Roast mushrooms until tender and beginning to release their juices, 15 minutes. Flip and drain juices from sheet. Reserve 2 mushrooms for tomorrow’s lunch. Increase oven to 450 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high. Add half the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add beans, 1 teaspoon thyme and ¼ cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is almost evaporated, 3 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse bread until coarse crumbs form. Add 1 teaspoon oil and 1 teaspoon thyme; pulse to combine. Top each mushroom with 1/3 cup bean mixture. Reserve remaining beans for lunch. Divide cheese and breadcrumbs among each mushroom. Return sheet to oven and cook until breadcrumbs are golden brown, 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high. Add remaining garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Gradually add half the spinach (reserve remaining spinach for lunch), season with salt and pepper, and toss until wilted. Add lemon zest and 1 teaspoon lemon juice and toss to combine. Serve spinach alongside stuffed mushrooms.

Nutrition facts (amount per serving): Calories: 329; Total fat: 11.7 g; Protein: 13.5 g; Carbs: 46.4 g; Fiber: 13.7 g.

Recipes: Vegetable-Stuffed Eggplant and Lime Chicken Tacos

In food news, I tried two new recipes the other night, one was a vegetable-stuffed eggplant and the other was lime chicken soft tacos. I wasn’t sure if I really liked eggplant, but after this experience I can safely confirm that I am not a fan of eggplant. At all. I do, however, enjoy tacos and could eat them every day for the rest of my life with no complaints. I also made pumpkin pie with pre-made Oreo crust (Pete’s idea) for our families this week since my parents were in town. I sure do love me some nutmeg.

Anywho, happy September everyone, and more importantly, happy birthday to my big brother!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Recipe

I don’t know what is happening to me. Lately, I’ve had a strong desire to explore baking and cooking, two things that have never previously interested me in the least. I think this recent change has to do with how happy I am now in general and with Pete, but perhaps I’m just at a nesting point of my life. Before this, I never really had a desire to spend time in the kitchen because I was often stressed and would eat entire meals consisting of Cheez-Its, Oreos and pickles (ok, I still do that sometimes, I’ll admit). Besides, that’s what take-out was for.

Now that I’m a chipper little thing, I want to prance around in an apron and bake (I don’t have an apron, so I’ll just wipe my hands on my pants in the meantime…don’t judge me). I don’t even really like cheesecake, but this weekend I wanted nothing more than to try to bake a cake for the first time ever. Yeah, you read that right, I’ve never baked a cake. Apart from cutting refrigerated Pillsbury cookie dough, my baking experiences are pretty much non-existent.

I am a spazz at operating a spatula and handheld mixer and can barely figure out how to grease a pan. Needless to say, I think my first attempt at baking a chocolate chip cheesecake with homemade graham cracker crust was a success, considering it came out in one piece. The boy said it was delicious and ate his slice in under a minute, so I suppose that counts for something.

Here’s the recipe, for those of you who are also jonesing for something sweet in your life:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter and cocoa. Press onto bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Set crust aside.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk; beat well. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat on medium speed until smooth. Toss 1/3 of the miniature chocolate chips with the 1 teaspoon flour to coat (this keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the cake). Mix into cheese mixture. Pour into prepared crust. Sprinkle top with remaining chocolate chips.

Bake at 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) for 1 hour. Turn off oven (do not open oven door) and leave the cake in the oven to cool in the oven for another hour. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate before removing sides of pan. Keep cake refrigerated until time to serve.

Do you have a favorite cake or pie recipe that you’d like to pass along?

Hummus and Cucumber Sandwich Recipes

I’ve been following my “30 before 30” goal of trying a brand new recipe every month, no matter how simple they may be. This week I decided to splurge on a mini food processor so we could indulge in freshly-made hummus, pestos and other delights. Pete seemed to like it (hopefully he’s not just being nice and excusing himself from the table to spit it into a napkin), so I am a pleased lady. I am trying to cocoa butter my hands to death to get rid of the garlic smell, but alas, I could still keep vampires at a far distance if needed.

With the homemade hummus I made a simple cucumber sandwich, which was absolutely delicious! Below are the recipes that I stole from people who are much smarter than me in the kitchen.

Hummus Recipe

INGREDIENTS
4 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed
2 15-oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
2/3 cup of tahini (roasted, not raw)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Pine nuts (toasted) and parsley (chopped) for garnish

METHOD
1. In a food processor, combine the mashed garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, 1/2 cup water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon, to taste.
2. Spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.
Serve with crackers, raw dip vegetables such as carrots or celery, or with pita bread. You can cut the pita bread into thin triangles, brush with olive oil and toast for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven to make pita chips with which to serve the hummus.
Makes about 3 cups.

Cucumber Sandwich Recipe

INGREDIENTS
2 thick slices whole wheat bread
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
6 slices cucumber
2 tablespoons alfalfa sprouts
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tomato, sliced
1 leaf lettuce
1 ounce pepperoncini, sliced
1/2 avocado, mashed

METHOD
1. Spread each slice of bread with 1 tablespoon cream cheese. On one slice of bread, arrange cucumber slices in a single layer. Cover with sprouts, then sprinkle with oil and vinegar. Layer tomato slices, lettuce, and pepperoncini. Spread other slice of bread with mashed avocado. Close sandwich and serve immediately.