Throwback Thursday

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I found this great pic of my mom, niece and daughter while looking through old photos last evening. We had such a fun time all cooking together and this night really stands out. The inspiration for the cake was a bag of chocolate rocks that I found which later served as the fishbowl gravel. Just reminded me of all the fun times we had cooking and baking together as a family. Nothing is better than cooking with the people you love… <3

Cannellini bean throw down

Cannellini bean throw down

Using canned beans is not only quick and easy, it is pretty much commonplace in American households. I always see dried beans in the supermarket and at specialty food stores and I, probably like many of you, passed them up for a quicker, more convenient option…canned beans. So I decided to find out for myself which of these two alternatives was: 1. better tasting, 2. better for you and 3. the most economical.  I love beans, they make whatever you are eating a lot heartier and healthier, they are after all packed with fiber and iron. But let’s face it, no one is going to take the time to cook beans from scratch unless they taste better and are better for you.

First things first: I had to go out and get dried beans. (OK, actually my assistant picked them up for me from Eataly – thanks Beth!)  

beans in basket

Next I picked out all of the split and broken beans, stones and anything else that looked strange, then I weighed out a ½ pound of beans.

cannellini beans scale

After rinsing the beans thoroughly with water, I placed them in a covered pot to soak overnight. 

cannellini beans soaking in pot

In the morning, I rinsed the beans in a strainer again and as you can see below they practically tripled in size.

cannellini beans after soaking

Then I gathered all of the ingredients to cook them… ½ of a yellow onion quartered, two bay leaves and some extra virgin olive oil. Helpful hint: Do not cook them with salt. Salt keeps the beans from cooking properly, they will wind up tough and the beans will split, so only season after cooking.

cannellini beans ingredients

The beans then went into the pot and were covered with water. Then I added in the onion, bay leaf and a healthy glug of oil.  Brought everything to a boil for about 5 minutes, then reduced the heat and simmered them covered for about 40 minutes. I tested them for texture and firmness every five minutes after 25 minutes passed. I wanted them to be fully cooked of course, but somewhere in between too firm and mushy. 

cannellini beans cooking in pot

When the cooking was complete, I drained the beans in a mesh strainer and gave them a good rinse. This is what I wound up with…

cannellini beans after cooking

At first I was a little upset; all this work and a lot of the beans were broken, I wanted perfect, whole, smooth beans like you see in all of the pictures all over the internet.  Sooo… I cooked another batch, same results, eerrr…. But then I opened the can of beans I had and you know what, they were even more broken than mine were. I could have picked out only the whole beans and photographed them as a “pretty” pic, but I wanted to show what you really wind up with…not so bad after all.

Now to comparing the beans for texture and flavor. For starters, and the thing I noticed right away: the color. The beans I cooked had a much nicer color and looked fresher and more natural than the canned beans which have an unappealing brownish color. The fresh cooked beans also smelled a LOT better as well.   Now on to texture, flavor and nutrition:

            Texture: The canned beans were definitely softer, almost leaning towards mushy while the cooked beans had a much firmer, denser texture and feel.

            Flavor: Hands down the cooked beans tasted the best. They didn’t taste salty like the canned beans and the flavor imparted by the bay leaf, onion and olive oil, while mild, gave a very nice background flavor.

            Nutrition: I like the fact that the cooked beans were not packed with salt, I like to control what goes into my food. And also – there are no preservatives in fresh cooked beans, another great bonus.

 

cannellini beans finale close-up

I am going to declare dried cooked beans the clear winner here. They taste so much better and have a meatier texture than their canned counterparts and I like having control over and knowing exactly what goes into what I am eating. Obviously, you can be your own judge on the taste and texture, but I definitely recommend preparing the beans at home at least once so you can see for yourself.

Now does this mean I won’t use canned beans anymore? Absolutely not. If I just need a few to toss in a salad, I may very well grab for a small can of cannellini beans, but if I am adding them to a big soup, need them for a side dish or anything else substantial, I will definitely take the little bit of time needed to make these from scratch.  In my opinion they are definitely worth the little bit of extra time to make them at home.

cannellini beans finale

So there you have it… a bit of helpful information to help you eat better and healthier. Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Now what are you going to do with all of the beans?!? Don’t worry, I’ll be posting some great bean recipes in the upcoming weeks so stay-tuned! 

Homemade cannellini beans
A healthy, tasty alternative to mushy canned beans...
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Ingredients
  1. ½ lb dried cannellini beans
  2. ½ medium yellow onion, quartered
  3. 2 bay leaves
  4. 2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
PREP
  1. Sort through the beans, removing any split beans, stones, etc
  2. Rinse beans thoroughly in cold water
  3. Place in a bowl with enough water to cover all of the beans plus an extra 3-4 inches. Cover bowl or pot for 8 hours or overnight.
COOKING
  1. Empty beans from bowl or pot into a strainer and rinse again. If you soaked the beans in the pot you are going to use, give it a quick wash.
  2. Place all the beans in the pot and cover with water plus 2 inches
  3. Add in the onion, bay leaves and a healthy pour extra virgin olive oil
  4. Bring to a boil for 5-7 minutes (skim any foam off the top)
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes, testing for texture every 5 minutes after 35 minutes of cooking
  6. Drain and lightly rinse beans
  7. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. Store in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to five days.
Queen Bee's Kitchen http://queenbeeskitchen.com/

Reader’s Choice: Decide my next post

Recipes | August 14, 2015 | By

Check out the poll on the Queen Bee’s Facebook page and help decide what my next post will be about.  Voting closes at 5PM tomorrow. To vote go to: Queen Bee’s Kitchen on Facebook

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 Thanks for participating!

Blueberry tarragon vinaigrette…a summertime treat

Recipes | August 10, 2015 | By

blueberry vinaigrette

Blueberries are at the peak of season in the summer, and while July is the official “Blueberry Month”, you can find delicious, plump, sweet blueberries from across the United States from May through August. Over the past few weeks, the blueberries in my area were not only very affordable but were packed with flavor. I picked up three pints and headed home to figure out what to make.  I decided to try making a salad dressing, or more precisely a blueberry vinaigrette. I started rummaging through my fridge and pantry to see what flavors would go well with all these blueberries. The main ingredients are simple: oil, vinegar, salt & pepper… I love fruity flavors paired with garlic and I also love tarragon and blueberry together with a sweet note. Went to work and I came up with Blueberry Tarragon Vinaigrette… the flavors are amazing. A little bit of lemon zest and a bit of honey really pulls all of the flavors together. Drizzle it over some fresh leafy greens and it’s like summertime in your mouth – Yum! Hope you enjoy it – comment below and let me know what you think…

Blueberry Tarragon Vinaigrette
A sweet & savory summertime treat...
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Ingredients
  1. 1/3 C fresh blueberries
  2. 1/4 C white wine vinegar
  3. 1/4 C olive oil (not extra virgin)
  4. 1 Tb honey
  5. 1 tsp lemon zest
  6. 1/2 tsp dried tarragon leaves
  7. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  8. 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  9. Fresh ground pepper - 5-6 turns
Instructions
  1. Place all items into a small food processor or blender and blend until smooth - about 1 minute.
Notes
  1. Refrigerate leftovers, if dressing thickens after refrigeration, add it a splash of white wine vinegar and whisk
Queen Bee's Kitchen http://queenbeeskitchen.com/

Easy-peasy homemade peanut butter

Homemade peanut butter is a quick & easy money-saver that’s fun to make…

There was a short little article about making homemade nut butters in my local newspaper about a week or so ago. When I saw how ridiculously easy it is to make I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t done this before. I was now on a mission to make my own peanut butter so I ran up to the grocery store to grab a few ingredients. The peanuts happened to be on sale BOGO (buy one get one free) and I also had two coupons – score! I was excited just about making some yummy peanut butter, but now this was going to be a lot less expensive than buying a store brand – double score! When I returned home with the ingredients, I got out my food processor and literally in minutes I had delicious and creamy, homemade peanut butter – no banana was safe at this point. The texture was not the same as store bought PB, but I actually liked this better. It just tastes so fresh and natural, not “commercial and processed”. I put the remaining peanut butter in an airtight, hinged jar, wrote the date on the bottom and popped it in the fridge. And I am happy to report, nearly three weeks later, the peanut butter is not separated or hard-as-a-rock like many store-bought natural brands I have tried. This would be a great thing to do with kids and when placed in a decorative jar, it also makes a nice little gift for someone. I brought a jar over to my mom and she loves it. Here is all you need to do to have your own fresh peanut butter in minutes…

Easy-peasy homemade peanut butter
There is nothing like homemade peanut butter...
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Ingredients
  1. 16 oz. Unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  2. 4-6 Tbs canola or peanut oil
  3. 2 Tbs honey (optional)
  4. ½ tsp sea salt, or more to taste
Instructions
  1. Place all of the peanuts into a standard-size food processor (a mini one will not give the desired results), close the lid, and pulse for about a minute until the peanuts are broken down into small (pea-sized or a little smaller) pieces.
  2. Remove the lid and add 4 Tbs of the peanut oil, the honey and salt.
  3. Replace the lid and process until smooth.
  4. Taste for flavor & adjust honey and salt to taste
  5. Process again to combine. Now test for desired consistency. If you want a smoother texture add in ½ to 1 Tbs of peanut oil at a time and continue to process until desired consistency is achieved.
  6. That is it – enjoy!
Notes
  1. •If you prefer, purchase raw unsalted peanuts in bulk and roast them yourself
  2. •Avoid adding in more than the recommended 6 Tbs of oil or you may wind up with runny peanut butter
  3. •Make crunchy peanut butter by stirring in chopped peanuts after you are done processing
  4. •Store in the refrigerator in an airtight jar for up to two weeks
Queen Bee's Kitchen http://queenbeeskitchen.com/

Greek garden couscous

Everyone needs a quick and delicious go-to side dish for busy weeknights, to bring to a pot-luck or for a light lunch, so you can throw together a healthy dish in a pinch.  This is one of my all time favorites and I make it at least once a month.  It comes together in minutes and is light, yet flavorful.  Enjoy it as a side dish to sautéed chicken, a grilled steak or your favorite baked fish or try it for lunch: stuff the center of a large tomato and serve it with some baked pita chips and fruit.

Greek Garden Couscous
Serves 4
A quick and easy side dish with a Mediterranean flair...
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ C cooked Israeli couscous; cooled
  2. ½ C tomatoes, chopped or sliced
  3. ½ C cucumber, quartered and sliced
  4. ¼ C black olives, chopped
  5. 2 Tbs red onion, diced
  6. 2 Tbs crumbled Feta cheese, plain or flavored
  7. 2 Tbs of a lite Greek vinaigrette or dressing
Instructions
  1. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, olives and onion to the cooled couscous; stir to combine.
  2. Mix in the Greek dressing.
  3. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes to allow the dressing to soak in.
  4. Plate and then crumble feta cheese over the top to serve.
Notes
  1. If you are making enough so you have leftovers, divide the mixture and do not put the Greek dressing on the portion to be refrigerated, do that when ready to serve.
Queen Bee's Kitchen http://queenbeeskitchen.com/

Cherry walnut rice

Fruit, Pasta & grains | June 15, 2012 | By

This recipe just came to me the other night while I was preparing dinner.  I’ll admit that we eat a LOT of chicken, brown rice and veggies for dinner at my home, and with good reason: it’s healthy, quick, easy and a great value if you buy the chicken on sale and stock up your freezer. The challenge here is to keep a good basic healthy meal from becoming boring. The easiest way to accomplish this is by mixing it up with a variety of different flavors.  When you take advantage of the bounty of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits in your local markets and grocery stores, you can quickly and economically transform a “blah” dish into a delicious dish. Seasonal fruits and veggies are also typically much lower in price, and best of all they taste the freshest.

Right now scrumptious, juicy cherries are in season.  Cherries are generally in season late spring into summer, and recently I have been seeing them week after week in the grocery store and it started me thinking about different ways to start incorporating them in some dishes.  Here is one that is so simple, yet so delicious.  I hope you enjoy it…

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Blueberry Banana Nut Bread

I have to say, I was hesitant to mess with my banana nut bread recipe.  When I brought it up to my daughter, who has grown up eating this on a regular basis she flat out said “No mommy… don’t do it.”  Well I did it and she really liked it…

This is pretty much the same as my orignal Banana Nut Bread recipe aside from a few adjustments and of course the addition of yummy blueberries.

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Guacamole: a basic recipe

Quick & easy guacamole

Fruit, Vegetables | May 25, 2012 | By

I was asked to make guacamole for a party a few years ago, and at that time I had never made it before. So needless to say, like most people, I scoured the internet looking for recipes. I never really found “one” recipe that looked quite right so instead I decided to make up my own. Now this is a very basic, easy guacamole recipe, and with good reason: when you have fresh and flavorful ingredients, sometimes less is more, and you should just let what Mother Nature gives you shine…

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Oven-roasted plum tomatoes

Vegetables | May 11, 2012 | By

Oven-roasted plum tomatoes

Oven roasted plum tomatoes fresh from the oven

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6-8 ripe plum tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Olive oil

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