It has been so hot and humid in South Carolina lately. Who wants to cook on days like this? Crockpot cooking is perfect for hot days. It doesn’t heat up the house and leaves you plenty of time for summer fun.
We have been eating more vegetarian meals lately. Grocery prices have gone up so much that there’s not much room for meat in the budget. Grocery prices are ridiculous! The price of cheese alone has gone up 20% in just the past two weeks. What is going on? Everything is going up but the paycheck, so budget meals are a necessity. This meal is budget-friendly. Beans are cheap. I am able to get cans of beans at Aldi for 59 cents each. Dried beans are cheaper, but canned beans are so convenient. Paired with chiles from the farmers’ market and my garden, this chili is relatively inexpensive as well as nutritious.
This chili is even better the next day. Do you know what I did with the leftover chili? I made Frito pie (Fritos topped with chili and cheese) with it. So good.
Crockpot Vegetarian Bean Chili with Peppers and Corn
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, seeded and chopped
1 – 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, drained
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Combine all the ingredients except the cilantro in the crockpot and cook on low 6 to 8 hours (or on high for 3 to 4 hours). Right before serving, stir in the cilantro.
While I was in Texas a couple of weeks ago, I caught up with a dear friend one night and we had dinner at P.F. Chang’s in Arlington. I ordered the Singapore Street Noodles. It was a somewhat simple noodle dish and I knew right away I could re-create it. I think I hit the nail on the head. There are minor differences. P.F. Chang’s uses red cabbage in their Singapore Street Noodles, but I just used green cabbage since it was what I had. Napa or Savory cabbage would be really good too. Their dish contained halved grape tomatoes, but I left them out. I also left out the green onions. Like most Asian dishes you cook in a wok, you want to have your ingredients prepared and ready to go. Once you start cooking, it comes together fast.
I’m partial to Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder. I used to be able to buy it locally when we lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, but since moving to South Carolina I have not been able to find it. I ended up ordering it from Amazon.com. Here’s what that container looks like:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, cored and sliced (use any color bell pepper you like)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/4 large head red or green cabbage (or your favorite type of cabbage), cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (to taste)
lime wedges, for serving
Soak the rice noodles in very hot water until they are softened, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside until ready to use.
Meanwhile, combine the water, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Set aside.
Heat a wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, turning the wok to make sure the oil coats the bottom. Add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink. Transfer to a clean bowl or plate. Wipe out the wok (It doesn’t have to be super clean, I just quickly wipe the wok out using a paper towel) Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok and then add the sliced chicken and cook until no longer pink. Transfer the chicken to the bowl or plate with the shrimp. Again, wipe out the wok.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. add the garlic and cook briefly, a few seconds, before adding the onion, bell pepper, carrot, and cabbage. Stir-fry the vegetables until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the reserved sauce and the Madras curry powder to the wok. Add the softened rice noodles and cooked shrimp and chicken, gently tossing them with the sauce and vegetables. Cook, stirring often, until the noodles absorb the sauce, about 3 – 5 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.
The cucumbers in my garden are doing well this year. It makes me happy because I really love cucumbers. I especially love cucumber salads. This is my favorite one. It’s adapted from a recipe in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking by Mai Pham (Prima Publishing, 1996).
I often make this salad using regular cucumbers found at the grocery store. Peel and then remove the seeds before slicing. Most of the time I make this salad only using cilantro since it’s an easy-to-find and inexpensive herb. In the summer months, I also use mint and Thai basil that I grow in my garden. I love the combination of cilantro, mint, and basil in Southeast Asian foods. Use any one of these herbs or a combination when you make this salad.
Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad
2 cucumbers (English cucumbers work well), cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 – 3 jalapenos or other hot chile (to taste), seeded, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
fresh herb(s), to taste
….fresh cilantro, chopped
….fresh mint leaves, chopped
….fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the sliced cucumbers, onion, jalapenos, and herb(s) in a bowl. In another bowl (or measuring cup) combine the rice vinegar, sugar, water, and salt. Pour the mixture over the cucumber salad. Mix to combine. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving.
I might have been slightly delirious when I came up with the idea to hide some yellow squash in chocolate cake. At the time, I was knee deep in squash from my CSA. I was a little desperate to find new ways to use it. I had success using yellow squash in Yellow Squash Cornbread and in Summer Squash Bread, so I was pretty sure I could pull it off in chocolate cake.
Oh my gosh, it was so good, y’all! I was super happy with the result. It was moist and chocolatety. So delicious! You could not tell the cake had squash in it aside from the little flecks of yellow squash on top of the cake after it was baked. The frosting totally covered it up, so problem solved. My 4 year old had no idea. He loved it. My 14 year old son wouldn’t try it (extremely picky eater) because he heard me telling my husband of my plans to use squash in the cake. His loss. The Yellow Squash Cake was awesome!
RECIPE UPDATE: I had someone comment that I must have forgotten the eggs in this recipe since her batter was very dry. There are no eggs in this recipe. The squash releases it’s moisture and it should come together in the end. My cake turned out very moist, although a little more dense than most cakes. I’m sure several factors (humidity, moisture content of the squash, etc…) could make this cake dry. Make sure you firmly pack the squash into the measuring cup to ensure you get enough squash in the batter to make it moist. Do not decrease the amount of oil or sugar. The batter should not be dry and crumbly or super thick (as in, if you have to press the batter into the pan, something is wrong). If you felt like you need to add 2 eggs, go ahead. The result would probably be a lighter cake. If you still have a problem with dry, crumbly batter, then try mixing in a liquid (milk or water) a tablespoon at a time until the batter is at a thick, but pourable (with the help of a spatula) consistency.
Chocolate Yellow Squash Cake
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 firmly packed cups shredded yellow squash
1/4 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch cake pan
In a large bow, mix together the oil, sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. In another bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the oil and sugar mixture. Fold in the shredded yellow squash. Your batter should be thick, but pourable with the help of a spatula. If your batter is dry and crumbly, try adding a little milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the batter comes together. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
To make the frosting, cream the butter in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat until it all comes together and is a spreadable consistency. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.
I got back to South Carolina Tuesday night from a 2 week trip to Texas. My sons and I had a great time visiting family and friends, but it is good to be home. My husband did not go on the trip with us. While he was home, he looked after my garden and picked up our CSA boxes. I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of produce (tomatoes, a variety of peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, corn, winter squashes, and blueberries) I came home to. It was time to get to work.
I was too tired to go to the grocery store Wednesday, so I came up with this dish. I really liked how this Mediterranean-inspired concoction turned out. Summer comfort food. I added a dash of Penzey’s Bourquet Garni herb mix (a mix of savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill, marjoram, sage, and tarragon) to the veggie mixture as it cooked. I didn’t include it in the recipe, but feel free to add your favorite herbs/herb mix. Serve this stew-like dish over rice or pasta (orzo).
Eggplant, Peppers, and Tomatoes with Chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I cut them in half horizontally to make the pieces smaller)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Italian eggplant, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces (or use equivalent amount of Japanese eggplant)
2 bell peppers, stem removed, seeded, and chopped
3 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and chopped
1 cup chicken broth
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the oil. Cook the chicken until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add the chopped onions to the pan and cook until softened. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the eggplant, bell peppers, and tomatoes, and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and bay leaves. Add the chicken pieces back to the mixture and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the veggies and chicken are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and season the dish with salt and black pepper. Serve with hot rice or pasta.