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Category Archives: gluten free

Cinco de Mayo, or Avocados Are on Sale Day

Here’s how to have a festive feast for a crowd of twenty, at about $2 per person.  The extremely generous sales at the grocery store this week were fantastic.   On the menu I have black beans, brown rice with lime and cilantro, shredded chicken quesadilla tacos, spicy corn dip, chips and guacamole.


No-soak Spiced Black Beans


Chop a couple onions, saute in olive oil till tender.  Rinse two pounds of black beans, add to pot along with 12 cups of water.  Add in 2-3 T. cumin, several shakes of crushed red pepper flakes, and bay leaves.  I purchase bay leaves from an Indian grocery, which is a very affordable option.  I don’t recommend using the tiny leaves from the expensive grocery store bottles here in this recipe–it just costs too much for the flavor you would get out of it, but tossing in several affordable leaves is worth it.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook on low to medium low for 3.5 to 4 hours.  Alternatively, bake in oven at around 300 degrees.  Add more water if needed.  Add salt to taste.

Of course this can be done in a slow cooker or instant pot; however, I find that the stove top or oven method makes a thicker black bean gravy.  Also, if you use the slow cooker you’ll have to saute your onions in a separate pan unless you are keen on that sulphurous raw onion taste (I’m not).  Here’s the thing about stove-top or oven cooking:  you get to smell the delicious beans cooking for the whole afternoon.  Not so at all with the instant pot and less so with a crock pot on slow.

Do you need to soak your black beans?  No.  I’ve made black beans with this method more times than I can count now.  They turn out great every time.  Do you need chicken broth?  No.  Do you need expensive bay leaves?  No.  Gosh, these beans turn out great if all you have is onion and salt.  Really.  And you could probably get away with just salt.


Shredded Chicken Quesadilla Tacos

Place chicken breasts in an oven-safe pot with a lid.  Pour over a jar of salsa or a couple cans of tomatoes with jalapenos.  Bake at 300 until the chicken is shreddable, probably about 2 hours, maybe more.  Shred chicken and keep warm.  When guests arrive, make quesadillas with corn tortillas and a small amount of cheddar cheese.  To serve, place a few tablespoons shredded chicken in the quesadilla, top with lime and cilantro, guac and sour cream and spicy salsa.  The advantage of making quesadillas over just setting out warmed corn tortillas is that the quesadilla wraps and rolls so nicely.  It doesn’t fall apart  like a plain corn tortilla would.

Brown Rice with Lime and Cilantro

Typically I make brown rice with just water, rice and salt, but tonight I added other flavors.  I sauteed the rice in a bit of olive oil, then added some homemade chicken broth I had saved back.  I added a fair bit of salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.  At 20 minutes, let the rice stand with the heat off and the lid on for another 20 minutes.  After the rice was cooked, I stirred in chopped cilantro and squeezed over some lime.  I did ask my guests how folks felt about cilantro; for some it tastes like soap and I didn’t want to ruin the rice for them.  Lucky for me, everybody was a cilantro tolerator.  For a crowd of twenty, I made 3 cups dry brown rice in 6 cups of broth and had to add some water as the process went on because I used the unlucky pot instead of my usual one.  Brown rice can be tricky, but is usually salvageable if disaster looms.

Spicy Corn Dip


Go big or go home.  This is the double batch.  It’s pointless to make a single.

While two cans of fiesta corn and two cans of rotel drain thoroughly in a strainer, chop up two packages of green onions, a half a green pepper, and shred 16 oz. of cheddar cheese.  Combine the veggies and cheese in a large bowl.  Now begin to add equal spoonfuls of sour cream and mayo, a little at a time.  The concept is that you are only trying to make the dip hold together nicely with the sour cream and mayo–you don’t want a soup.  Season with garlic powder and cayenne pepper.  Let it sit and then add more cayenne if needed.  You’ll have to open a bag of chips to sample it as you go along.  Sure hate to serve guests poorly flavored corn dip…….


Finely mince 2 jalapenos, 1/4 c. onion, 1 clove garlic, cherry tomatoes.  Chop avocado.  Smash together with a fork, leaving some nice avocado chunks.  Squeeze over some lime.  Add salt to taste.










“Simple” Chicken and Rice Soup

Recently a dear friend guffawed as I explained—at length—how to make my simple, healing, savory, comforting chicken and rice soup, the one the children request for birthdays and Christmas, the one I make a couple times of month for ordinary meals.

It has not gotten to the point yet that I am personally taking chickens to meet their telos on a backyard stump and making pillows with the feathers to sell at craft fairs, but I think my friend’s laughter indicates that it is so nearly to that peak that I should find it unreasonable to ask folks to hassle with this “simple” luxury soup.

For your reading pleasure, then, rather than your cooking pleasure, I submit to you my “Simple” Chicken and Rice Soup.  If you would like to eat it, just come on over or ask for a jar.  If you would like to make it, I can write out a prescription for lifestyle changes that would allow you to be home long enough to get the job done.  The prescription for how you might feel about the amount of pot washing involved, the forty minutes spent chopping with a giant knife, or fear over whether your chickens were roasted to the proper temperature is between you and your therapist.


This recipe fills a 13 qt. stock pot.  It’s enough to feed my family of 8 a hearty supper, send out several quart jars of soup to friends, and have lunch leftovers the next day.  I could make a smaller batch, but I don’t play Uncle Scrooge and Silas Marner with soup.

1) Roast 2 big chickens in cast iron skillets or roasting pans at 425 degrees for approximately an hour and 15 minutes.  If your chicken is a wee bit undercooked, there is no need to panic.  The meat will be cooked again when it is added to the soup.  Err on the side of chicken that isn’t dried out by overcooking.  Alternatively, purchase tasty flavor-infused hot roasted chickens from your local grocery store. The flavor from these store chickens is really quite better than what you can make at home.  They, the commercial chicken roasters from on high, add yeast extract, guar gums, “natural flavorings,” maltodextrin, corn flour and some other things I would hesitate before pronouncing.  I do not condemn store roasted chickens.  They are tasty.  They are convenient.  They are reasonably priced.   There is therefore now no condemnation for using store roasted chickens.  Please pass by on the far side of the road for boxed broth, however.

2) After letting the chickens cool down enough that you won’t sear the flesh off your fingers, debone the chickens, set the chopped meat aside in the fridge, and put all the bones, skin, and roasting pan deglazing juices and cracklings, including the fabulous flavorful fat, in a dutch oven sized pot.  Cover with water, toss in some bay leaves if you have them, perhaps some dying celery and a couple of carrots.  Maybe an onion.  Bring pot to a simmer.  Now you’re making broth.

3) The broth will take how much ever time you have to make it.  Broth is like wedding planning.  You can barely pull off a wedding in 2 weeks or barely pull off a wedding in 24 months .  Your decision.

4) Cook 3 cups dry rice however you like to cook rice.    I cook my rice separately from the soup because I want the vegetables to be a certain consistency and my rice to be a certain consistency and it’s just too hard to make both of those things time out well in one big pot.  I make my brown rice with the following method:

– Measure 3 cups brown rice and 6 cups water into an appropriate sized pot.

– Bring to a boil.  Cover with a good fitting lid.

– Turn the heat down to simmer and simmer for 20 minutes.

– At 20 minutes check the pot.  You should see rice at the top, the surface dimpled in little craters with gurgling water below the top rice.  If not, stir and cook for a bit longer.

– If it does look right, stir the rice so that the top layer won’t turn out crunchy, replace the lid, and turn off the heat.  Let stand for 20 minutes.  The rice will keep standing for you as long as you like it to stand.

***At this point, you’ve begun counting pots.  2 roasting pans, 1 broth pot, 1 rice pot.  I’m going to add one more pot.  The actual soup pot.  But not just yet because there is about 35 minutes of vegetable chopping next up.***

5) Sharpen your knife.

6) Peel 4 pounds of carrots and slice into rounds.  Chop up a head of celery including the celery leaves which I think make the soup look lovely.  Chop 2 large sweet yellow onions into small pieces. Just a note about carrots:  those pre-peeled mini carrots are not soup friendly.  “Baby Carrots” are merely carrots that were too ugly and tough to sell whole so they were whittled down into a baby carrot shape by a baby-carrot-shape-whittling machine.  They are challenging to chop and they don’t cook up nicely.  Avoid.

7) Chop 16 oz. of mushrooms into bite sized pieces. This is a great job for kids. Mushrooms shrink when cooking so if your 8 year old cuts “bite-sized pieces” the size of a jumbo jaw breaker, it’s really going to be O.K.

8) Harvest a large handful of sage from your garden.  You did plant an herb garden and keep it alive over the winter, right?  Finely chop.

9) Pull out 2 pounds of frozen peas from your freezer and let them thaw on the counter.

10) Get out your big soup pot.

11) Heat up olive oil in the pot, stir in the carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms and sage.  Cover with a lid, stir frequently.  Some people call this sautéing, some people call it sweating.  Whatever you call it, the goal is to cook the veggies over medium high to high heat until they become tender.  The advantage of doing it in this way, rather than boiling them in broth, is that the quick heat brings out a natural sweetness in the veggies.  I also think that it is faster than cooking the veggies in broth that takes forever to come to boil.

12) I cook the veggies till the carrots are tender but still a bit toothy, as in pasta al-dente.

13) Strain your broth.  I’m very sorry, but this is indeed messy and requires another big container, plus a mesh or sieve strainer.

14) Add broth to the veggie pot.  How much?  Well, add what you have conservatively and add more as needed.

15) Stir in the cooked rice, chopped chicken meat, and salt and generous pepper to taste.  I must use at least a teaspoon or two of pepper.  Check your broth level.  Do you need more broth?  Add more.  Have you run out?  THEN ADD WATER.  The broth you buy from the store is just super thin chicken broth with lots of salt.

16)  Bring to a simmer.  Add the thawed green peas towards the end just before serving so you can keep them in their state of brilliant bright green.  Adjust taste by adding more salt, pepper and sage as desired.

Spoonbread: glorious humility.

Occasionally I find myself standing in front of a pantry that I think looks scary empty; it feels like I am in a dark pit with giant spiders chasing me, all squealing for snack, supper, sustenance. In my weakest moments, I throw up my hands and trudge off to the store to find a quick fix.  In braver moments I pause and think.  And think.  And pray.  Surely the one who invented the idea of food can help me:  a  light in a dark pantry.

The truth dawns on me that the pantry is not empty.  I have flour.  I have milk.  I have the ingredients to make baking powder even if I don’t have baking powder.  I have any number of basic ingredients to make lovely food.  Crepes.  Biscuits.  Silver dollar pancakes.  Homemade syrup.  Spoonbread.  Suddenly I find that we are not desperately out of food, rather, I was just out of fresh ideas.

I give you spoonbread.  Glorious humility.

Andrea’s Spoonread

2 c. milk

2/3 c. yellow cornmeal

1 T. unsalted butter

1 t. salt

4 eggs separated.

Separate eggs and whip the whites until they form peaks.  Gently beat the yolks and set aside. Combine milk, cornmeal, salt and butter in a 3 qt. saucepan.  Whisk over medium to medium low heat until the mixture begins to bubble and then thicken.  Remove from heat and stir in egg yolks.  Sitr the egg whites into the mix.  You can gently fold them in, but I prefer to have them actually mixed in a bit so that I don’t get a big bite of egg.  Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish, about 9 inches round.  Bake at 425 for 20-22 minutes, until golden and puffy.  Serve immediately.

NOTE:  I also enjoy adding corn to this recipe.  During cooking time, just add 1 to 1 1 /2 c. tasty sweet corn (fresh, frozen, or as a last resort, canned.)   You can find other spoonbread recipes online: and Martha Stewart have  great suggestions.  Steer clear of the spoonbread recipes with jiffy corn bread mix and sour cream–tasty though they may be, they really aren’t spoonbread.  Give the authentic southern version a go first.   

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