Category Archives: Munchies

Vegetarian Friday: Slow-cooker red beans

This is not a quick, easy recipe like the ones I normally post. It’s time-consuming. It involves some advance planning and a lot more ingredients than usual. And it is TOTALLY worth the effort.

If you want a quick version you can throw on the table in 20 minutes or less, with very little prep, I posted one a couple of years ago. What I’m posting today is the version you make when fall is finally settling in, the nights are just a little too cool for comfort, and you need something comforting and familiar with a kick of spice to warm you up.

Red beans absolutely MUST soak for 8-10 hours before you cook them, and they need to cook for a long time, so round up your ingredients ahead of time. This recipe is a variant of one I first tasted at a potluck during Twangfest in St. Louis about 16 years ago. The lady who made it shared the recipe, which in turn was a variant of one from a cookbook published as a parish fundraiser by the Holy Rosary School in Larose, Louisiana. She modified the original recipe for vegetarian purposes; I modified her version (which was baked for several hours) to work in a Crock-Pot, adjusted the proportions based on some stuff I needed to use up last night, and substituted a jar of my mom’s home-canned tomatoes and — of course — a hefty helping of roasted New Mexico chiles for the Ro-Tel listed in the original recipe.


1/2 lb. dried red beans
1/4 pkg. dry yeast
3-4 ribs of celery
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. roasted green chiles
1 bunch green onions
5-6 cloves garlic
3-4 sprigs cilantro or parsley
1/4 c. Guinness or other stout
1 can whole tomatoes
1/3 pkg. Soyrizo (optional but SO good)
Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper
1 can cheap beer (Stag, Budweiser, etc.)
3 bay leaves

Day 1: Place beans in crock, cover with water, and sprinkle with yeast. Let sit for at least 8-10 hours — overnight, while you’re at work, whatever.

Day 2: Drain and rinse beans. Cover with water and turn on Crock-Pot to high.

Split each rib of celery down the middle a couple of times, then chop finely. Coat the bottom of a large cast-iron skillet with olive oil, turn on the burner, and dump in the celery. Push it around occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula.

While celery sautes, chop up the bell pepper. Add it to the skillet and stir.

Let the celery and pepper cook over medium heat for a few minutes, then add green chiles and stir. While the mixture cooks, chop the onion finely and add it to the pan. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is clear and starts to brown.

While the onion mixture cooks, peel the garlic. Lay the flat side of a chef’s knife on top of each clove and strike the flat of the blade sharply with your fist to crush the garlic. (Bruising it this way releases the flavor better.) Chop the crushed garlic finely.

Cut the root ends off the green onions and chop finely. Chop the cilantro or parsley finely. Add garlic, green onions and cilantro to the pan and cook for 30 seconds to a minute — just long enough to warm up the garlic a bit and release more flavor.

Add all the sauteed vegetables to the Crock-Pot.

Deglaze the pan with Guinness and add the deglazing liquid to the Crock-Pot. Stir.

Drain tomatoes and dump into skillet. Use wooden spoon or spatula to break them up into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper and simmer briefly, then add Soyrizo, breaking it up with a spoon as you mix it in. Let simmer a couple of minutes.

Dump tomato mixture into Crock-Pot. Deglaze the pan with the cheap beer. Pour the deglazing liquid into the Crock-Pot, stir in the rest of the cheap beer, and add bay leaves.

Cook 8-10 hours until beans are done. (They will be soft but not mushy — think al dente pasta, but in bean form. Red beans are always firmer than pintos or black beans, but they shouldn’t be hard in the middle.)

Serve over rice or couscous with plenty of Louisiana-style hot sauce available for those who like it spicier. (Rice is traditional, but I ran out and forgot to buy more, so we settled for whole-wheat couscous.)

Ridiculously time-consuming but inarguably wonderful.

Vegetarian Friday: No-bake recovery treats

These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.
These are a good, quick recovery snack after a hard workout.

This recipe isn’t particularly glamorous or photogenic, but it’s an absolute godsend if you happen to be an endurance athlete, because it’s an easy make-ahead snack you can keep in the refrigerator and grab quickly after a long run or a hard hill workout to give yourself a nice balance of protein, fiber, and sugar to keep you from crashing and speed muscle recovery.


1 c. rolled oats
1 c. peanut butter, almond butter, or a mix
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (optional)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Scoop out about a tablespoon of the mixture and form it into a ball. If the mixture seems too squishy, add more oats. If it seems too dry and crumbly, add more nut butter and/or honey. (The proportions aren’t precise, because the consistency of the nut butter you use will vary by brand, type, and oil content.)

Once you’ve adjusted the proportions as needed to make a workable texture, form the rest of the mixture into balls, place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and chill until firm. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks.


Vegetarian Friday: Cranberry sauce

This post is late this evening because I had to pick up some canning supplies so I could put up today’s recipe as soon as I finished cooking.

Look at these gorgeous berries.
Look at these gorgeous berries.

About nine years ago, my friend Laurel gave me a big bag of cranberries she’d brought back from a Maine cranberry bog — and then, upon discovering I’d never made homemade cranberry sauce, gave me a recipe and instructions for making some.

I lost Laurel’s recipe in the Great Mac Crash of 2013, but I’d riffed on it in 2007 and had enough presence of mind to post it here.

I’m grateful for that. Laurel passed away in January. I think of her every year and smile as I listen for the berries to pop, remembering the day I stood in her kitchen in Tulsa as she explained the steps.

I smiled tonight, blinking back tears and remembering Laurel and thinking about how amused she would have been by the latest political revelations that were pouring into my Twitter feed as I stirred the sugar syrup.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have and use it to make some happy memories of your own.

1 c. sugar
1 c. water
4 c. cranberries
2 apples, diced
1-2 c. other fruit (berries, grapes, or more apple if you like)
3/4 c. honey

Peel and chop apples. Wash cranberries and any other fruit you’re using. (I used grapes tonight because I had some on hand, but I’ve also used strawberries, blackberries and extra apples, all of which produced equally good results.)

Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn't scorch.
Heat water and sugar together until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch.

Stir sugar into water and bring to a boil in a big saucepan, stirring frequently.

I love the sound of cranberries cooking.
I love the sound of cranberries cooking.

Add fruit, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You’ll hear the berries pop as they cook. Remove from heat, stir in honey, and let stand to thicken.

Makes about 2 pints.

Cranberry sauce cans very well; just leave a half-inch of headspace and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. I made three batches tonight and put them up in wide-mouth pint jars.

Vegetarian Friday: Kettle corn

One of the foods I always associate with fall — along with hot cider and caramel apples — is kettle corn, which shows up at a lot of county fairs and harvest festivals.

I’m sharing the recipe now because I’m thinking of it, but you can make kettle corn at any time of year, and it’s way easier than you’d think. Cheap, too; I used to make it for our scholar-bowl team at Webster, and a batch big enough to feed two teams and all their alternates took about 50 cents’ worth of popcorn and sugar. The kids loved it and were disappointed if I let a game slip by without making it.

The big trick with kettle corn is having all your equipment ready so you can move fast once the oil heats up.

Big saucepan or small stockpot with a lid
Big spoon
Oven mitts
Big bowl
Measuring cups

About 1/3 c. popcorn (use Orville Redenbacher, not the cheap stuff)
About 1/4 c. sugar
Enough canola or peanut oil to coat the bottom of the pan about 1/8″ deep

Step 1: Pre-measure the popcorn and sugar and set them next to the stove, along with the spoon and the big bowl.

Step 2: Pull the battery out of your smoke alarm and turn on the exhaust fan above your stove, because you’ll probably screw up and burn this the first couple of times you do it. It gets easier with practice.

Step 3: Put on the oven mitts. No matter how well your lid fits, oil and steam can escape around the edges and scald you.

Step 4: Cover the bottom of the pan with oil, throw in three kernels of popcorn, and heat on high until they all pop.

Step 5: Dump in popcorn and sugar — in that order — stir quickly, and cover. Remove from heat and shake vigorously every three seconds, holding the lid onto the pan as tightly as possible.

Step 6: Once corn pops (about five minutes or less), dump it into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt, and enjoy.

If you let it cool down completely and then store it in a sealed container, it will stay fresh and crispy for several days.


P.S.: The little strings on the popcorn in the picture aren’t hair. They’re strands of melted sugar. The sugar melts into the oil, coats the popcorn, and basically turns into candy as it cools.

Vegetarian Friday: Vegetable stock

Remember a few weeks ago, when I told you to start saving vegetable scraps in a freezer container? It’s time to get out that container and reap the rewards.

This won’t be the prettiest thing we ever make, but vegetable stock is the basis for so many winter recipes, it only makes sense to prepare a batch now and keep it on hand as we head toward soup season.

You can buy vegetable broth at the store, but it’s usually outrageously expensive, comes in packaging that’s difficult to recycle, and often includes a lot of excess salt and preservatives. Vegetable bouillon is cheaper and involves less packaging, but the sodium content is through the roof, and many brands are made with monosodium glutamate or other chemicals that trigger problems for people with certain food sensitivities.

Our DIY version is free, tastes better, uses little to no packaging, and takes less than 10 minutes of actual work to prepare.


At least 2 c. vegetable scraps

That’s all you need. The scraps can be mushroom stems, celery trimmings, onion peels, herb stems, baby carrots left over from a veggie tray, bell-pepper cores, or just about anything else you have on hand. Every time you cook, instead of tossing these leftovers into the compost bin, throw them in an old ice-cream tub or┬ásimilar container and keep it in the freezer.

The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.
The Crock-Pot turns vegetable scraps into broth with minimal effort.

When the container is full, take two minutes to dump it into a Crock-Pot and cover the contents with water. Turn the Crock-Pot on and let it cook at least 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. The longer it cooks, the more concentrated the flavor will be.

Shut off the Crock-Pot and leave it alone until the broth is cool enough to handle safely.

When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.
When the stock cools, freeze it in ice-cube trays, then store the cubes in a ziplock bag.

Strain the finished broth into a large pitcher, pour into ice-cube trays, and freeze. Pop out the finished cubes and store them in a ziplock bag or other freezer-safe container to use in any recipe that calls for broth. Compost the cooked vegetable scraps.


Vegetarian Friday: Frozen fruit pops

Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.
Packed with phytonutrients, my anti-inflammatory fruit pops are a great recovery snack after a hard workout.

As an erstwhile distance runner, I (usually) (sort of) try to eat sensibly(ish). You can train for a marathon on Krispy Kremes and MaggieMoo’s, but it’s not pretty.

A few months ago, I read an article somewhere about foods with natural anti-inflammatory properties and how they help tired muscles recover after a long run. As summer was just getting started, I decided the best way to incorporate such foods into my postrun snacks would be to freeze them into popsicles, giving me all the inherent benefits of the foods themselves, plus an easy way to bring my core temperature down quickly without having to stop and make a smoothie while doing the dear-calves-please-don’t-cramp dance.

With that in mind, I picked up a popsicle mold similar to these at World Market and hit the grocery store for ingredients I could run through the blender. Here are the two best recipes I came up with.

This isn’t an exact science, so I didn’t get too specific with the amounts. Base your proportions on what you like, what you have on hand, and the capacity of your popsicle mold. My mold has 10 openings that hold about 2 oz. apiece, so I aim for 20 oz. of liquid in the blender when I’m done.

In a pinch, you can use ice-cube trays or small Dixie cups with lollipop sticks in them, but molds are much easier to work with and pay for themselves in a few batches. Also, frozen fruit works fine for this (obviously) and is usually cheaper than fresh.

Anti-Inflammatory Fruit Pops

About a cup of red raspberries
About a cup of strawberries
About a cup of cranberry or grape juice (or a blend)

Puree fruit in blender. Add enough juice to make 20 oz. (or whatever your popsicle molds require) and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold, wrap individually in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag.

The phytochemicals in the fruit make these a good choice after long runs or hill training.

Spicy Electrolyte Pops

2 c. seedless watermelon, diced
About a cup of orange juice
Chile-lime salt (available at Mexican grocery stores)

Puree watermelon in blender. Add juice as indicated above and blend briefly to mix. Pour into molds and freeze. Unmold pops. Lay each pop on waxed paper, sprinkle with chile-lime salt on both sides, wrap in waxed paper, and store in a big freezer bag. (Work quickly, as the salt will melt the surface a little bit.)

With the potassium from the orange juice and the sodium from the chile-lime salt, these are a good source of electrolytes after a hard workout on a hot day.

Vegetarian Friday: Cheesy cauliflower mess

I am not one of those people who will swear to you that cauliflower tastes “just like [insert thing that is not cauliflower],” because it doesn’t. Cauliflower tastes like cauliflower. It can be made to approximate the texture of various other substances — most notably, mashed potatoes — but it’s not going to fool anybody, and if you try, you will only annoy your dinner guests.

What cauliflower will do, if prepared properly, is taste good without costing you as many calories as some of the other foods you might like to prepare in a similar manner. For this recipe, we’re going to puree cauliflower and then add a bunch of crap you’d expect to find on a baked potato, which will give you something that bears exactly zero resemblance to a baked potato but still tastes good and is a nice way to eat cauliflower.


Bag of frozen cauliflower
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. butter
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. sour cream or your favorite onion dip
1 tbsp. snipped chives (fresh is best if you have some on hand)

Put the cauliflower and water in a microwave-safe dish, cover, and nuke until tender (about 7 minutes in my tired old microwave, but your mileage may vary).

Drain cauliflower. Place cauliflower, butter and 3/4 c. of the cheese in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Divide puree between two bowls and top with the rest of the cheese. Nuke briefly to melt cheese.

Top each bowl with sour cream or dip and chives. Serves 2.

Non-vegetarians: You can add a couple of strips of bacon to this list if you feel like messing with it. Fry to your liking, crumble them up, and sprinkle on top along with the chives.