The SG Challenge Part 2 - Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

A few weeks ago I asked everyone to vote on what new black bean recipe I should make. The winner was Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili and I was ready to go with the recipe. Then summer reappeared. Now, I am not complaining about 75+ degree days in October, but that is definitely not chili weather. Yesterday, fall finally arrived and tonight so did the chili.

You'd never know that there is pumpkin in this chili if you didn't see it go into the pot. The remaining ingredients alone would make a fairly light flavored chili, so that is where the pumpkin comes in. It adds a richness and a depth of flavor to the pot that would be sorely lacking without it.

The recipe is adapted from this recipe found at Taste of Home.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili (makes 8 - 10 generous servings)

1 medium onion, diced fine
1 yellow bell pepper, diced fine
1 1/2 lb ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 C low sodium chicken stock
2 cans (or 4 cups) black beans, rinsed
1 can (15 oz) solid packed pumpkin
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 t dried parsley flakes
2 t chili powder
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t salt
1 t black pepper

In a large skillet, saute onion, pepper and turkey until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to slow cooker.

Be sure to cook off all of the liquid from the onions and peppers.

Add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker. Stir to combine well.

Everybody in the pool.

Cook on low for 5 - 6 hours or until heated through and bubbly. Serve with sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream, or to taste.

The SG Challenge: Turkey Black Bean Burgers

After my last post of how to cook black beans, my friend, SG, asked what I did with them once I cooked them. I pointed her to a number of recipes on this blog; Lentil and Black Bean Salad, Quick and Easy Turkey Soft Tacos, even The Amazing Black Bean Brownies. I started thinking about these recipes and the other that I make using black beans and I decided I needed to try something new. It was time to break out of my black bean rut and find some new and interesting recipes. I have dubbed this recipe search (drum roll please.......) The SG Challenge.

I found this little gem on the Taste of Home website. I made it tonight and it was a hit. Even the kids ate them, although they both initially resisted because they could see the red bell pepper in it (shame on me - I thought I diced it finely enough). Chris and I both loved them too. One note on the TOH recipe, theirs makes 4 servings. I found that with one lb of turkey I got six good sized burgers. As we ate them, these come in at 335 calories (including the whole grain sandwich thin and all of the toppings) and only 247 m of sodium.

Turkey Black Bean Burgers (makes 6 patties)

3/4 C black beans
1 egg white
1/2 C zucchini, finely shredded
1/2 C red bell pepper, finely diced
1 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t salt
1 pound ground turkey
1 T olive oil

In a small bowl, coarsely mash beans. Add all remaining ingredients and mix lightly. With a wet hand, shape lightly into 6 patties. In a large skillet, cook burgers over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer reads 165 and juices run clear.

Serve as desired (we served on sandwich thins with mayo, mustard, chili sauce (Chris), lettuce, tomato and onion. Yum!)

I am Full of Beans

Congratulations. If you are reading this, you are thick skinned enough (or just down right curious) to keep reading after you saw the title of this post. But the title is perfect; I am full of beans, both literally and figuratively.

I have mentioned on this blog before how much I love beans. I cook with beans all the time. Beans are an inexpensive, versatile source of protein and fiber and are sooooo good for you. We eat so many beans in this household that I used to buy them in cans by the case. Then I started reading labels.

It turns out that beans, like almost every other processed food, start as health food and in the hands of food processors become junk. We eat mostly black beans, so I will give you a little nutritional comparison using them:

Bush's Best canned black beans (regular) - 1 cup
Calories: 210
Sodium: 860 m (36%)

Trader Joe's canned black beans (low sodium) - 1 cup
Calories: 220
Sodium: 350 m (15%)

Home cooked black beans (no salt) - 1 cup
Calories: 227
Sodium: 2 mg (0%)

So then, you can see what my problem is with canned black beans. You think you are making a healthy choice for your family by serving them beans, but in every cup you are giving them nearly 900 m of sodium in a food that is naturally sodium free. Why do food processors do that? It makes me so mad!

Now that I know the truth about canned beans, I won't use them anymore. Instead I cook my own and freeze them in 1 can size portions. Beans are insanely easy to make and freeze beautifully. Go ahead and give it a try.

Freezer Black Beans (makes 12 cups cooked, or 6 2-cup portions)
Note that I make 2 pounds at a time because my large pot holds 2 pounds fairly well. Increase or decrease the amount you make as your pot demands.
2 pounds dried black beans, picked over
water to cover and cook

Add dried black beans to a large bowl and cover with cool, fresh water. Cover with a tea towel and let sit overnight.

In the morning, drain the water from the bowl and rinse the beans in cool water. Add the beans to a large pot and cover with as much water as you can get in the pot. Cover and set over high heat. Once the pot comes to a boil, boil until just tender (not mushy), about 45 - 60 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the beans rest until they are cool enough to handle. Once cooled, drain beans and gently rinse with cold water.

Pack your cooked beans in 2 cup portions (this is roughly equivalent to one can of prepared beans) in zip top bags and freeze.

Homemade Almond Milk

A few months ago I noticed a change in my husband. He started eating salad, lots and lots of salad. Then he began asking for almond milk. We tried lots and lots of different brands and finally decided to make our own. Making our own almond milk isn't any cheaper (it runs about the same price as commercially prepared), but the almond pulp that remains behind is an excellent baking ingredient (I use it instead of almond meal - it is the same texture, but removes some fat and flavor from the meal - all of which is good in my baking) so it is cheaper for us in the long run.

Before you decide to give almond milk (or any other alternative milk product) a try, it is important to understand the differences between the various kinds of milk. Here is a handy chart that I found on a a blog called Noshtopia.

What you will notice from this chart is that cows milk wins, hands on, on the protein front. If you are using milk as your main source of protein, then stick with the moo juice. However, if you are getting enough protein from other sources, then non-dairy milks have lots of advantages. For us, choosing almond milk (it wins for this family on taste) means lower calories, carbs and sugar while still providing us with plenty of calcium. It is also easy (and fun) to make. I hope you give it a try.

Almond Milk (make approx 7 cups)

2 C water (to soak almonds)
2 C raw organic almonds
6 C filtered water
2 T agave syrup (or 4 pitted dates)
pinch salt, if desired

Add almonds to bowl and cover with 2 C water. Refrigerate almonds and let them set overnight.

When you are ready to make the milk, drain the almonds and rinse with clear water. Add 1/2 of the almonds to a blender along with 3 cups of filtered water and 1/2 of your sweetener of choice. Turn your blender on liquefy and process for 2 minutes.

Once the milk is blended, pour your mixture into a nut milk bag which has been set over a large bowl (if you don't have a nut milk bag, use a few layers of fine cheesecloth). Slowly squeeze the almond milk out of the bag. Keep squeezing gently until there is no milk left in the bag (you will have almond pulp leftover). Repeat the blending/squeezing with the second half of the ingredients. Pour milk into a pitcher and taste. If needed, add a pinch of salt to taste.

Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. The almond milk will keep, refrigerated, for 4 days.

Here's a nifty YouTube video (its not me, but they do a good job explaining the process)