Easy Black Bean Soup

black bean soup

black bean soup (Photo credit: stu_spivack)

The weather has hardly been spring-like here recently, more like winter.  Soup was called for to take the chill out.

1 onion, chopped
1 T. oil
1 28 ounce can tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 large can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked, chopped roast beef
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 – 2 T. chili powder (depending on your heat preferences)

Brown onion in oil in large pot until soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat down so that soup is simmering and simmer for about 10 minutes or until heated through. Makes about 4 – 6 servings. Serve with taco chips and a dollop of sour cream.


Stravecchio Parmesan Cheese

Stravecchio Parmesan Cheese (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



6 no-bake lasagna noodles


1 lb. ground beef


3 cups spaghetti sauce


2 tsp. each oregano, garlic, rosemary and basil


2 tsp. fresh ground pepper


1 small container (1 pound) cottage cheese


1 large egg


1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese


pinch nutmeg


1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese


Brown ground beef in large skillet over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, spices and pepper. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg in a small bowl.  Shred mozzarella cheese.  Spray a 9 x 12″ pan with cooking spray.  Add a little of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Top with three lasagna noodles.  Add about 1/2 the remaining sauce on top of the lasagna noodles.  Spread around to cover noodles.  Spread cottage mixture on top of tomato sauce mixture. Add three more lasagna noodles, remaining tomato sauce, and top with mozzarella cheese.  Cover tightly with tin foil.  Bake covered at 400 F for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven, uncover and return to oven for another 5 minutes to brown the mozzarella cheese a little bit.  Remove from oven and let stand 5 – 10 minutes before cutting.  Serves 8.




Chili for a Crowd


2 lbs. ground beef

2 onions

2 peppers

2, 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes

1 c. salsa

1 large can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp. each oregano, garlic, cumin and cocoa powder

1 – 2 T. each chili and curry powder (depending on heat preference)

Brown ground beef in large skillet adding a little oil if necessary (our ground beef is extra lean so we need to brown it with a little oil).  Place in large (7 quart) slow cooker.  Chop onions and peppers.  Add to slow cooker along with the canned tomatoes, salsa, beans and spices.   Don’t forget to plug the slow cooker in (like I did once).  Cook on low 6 – 8 hours or on high for four hours.  Serves approximately 10 – 12 (or more if part of a potluck, as this was).

Five Things to Do With Instant Coffee (You May Not Have Thought Of)

Instant coffee

Instant Coffee.  Coffee drinkers the world over cringe at those words and shudder at the thought of drinking it.  Although I daresay Starbucks has revolutionized the  genre with their line of instant coffee.    Here’s some things you can use instant coffee for:

  • Add a tablespoon or so to tomato based stews and chili’s to deepen their flavor
  • Combine one tablespoon instant coffee with one teaspoon each of paprika, oregano, garlic and cumin.  Add two tablespoons oil and mix well.  Use as a rub on meat before grilling
  • Add one or two tablespoons (to taste) to a pint of good-quality vanilla ice cream.  Blend well (you may need to use a mixer) for delicious coffee ice cream
  • Make mine a mocha:  add a tablespoon to brownies or other chocolate-based desserts
  • Mocha Dip Or Spread: Mix some finely ground instant coffee or a little bit of brewed coffee or espresso with one tablespoon of brown sugar  into cream cheese

Some tips:

  • Start slow with adding coffee to your cooking as it’s flavor is intense.
  • It may work better to dissolve the coffee in a bit of hot water before adding so there are no undissolved grounds adding a grainy texture to your cooking.

Some information for this post gleaned from:  http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/810001/cooking-with-coffee and http://www.vanhoutte.com/en-ca/c-the-coffee-blog/coffee-tips/cooking-with-coffee

Orange Feta Salad


I had a surplus of fresh oranges.

I Googled around and adapted this recipe http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipes/orange-olive-oil-cake/recipe.html?dishID=5506 by Anna Olson.  I wasn’t making the cake at the same time but, as I still have oranges left, will likely make it soon.  As my orange salad wasn’t being served with cake, I adapted her recipe to incorporate some salty and spicy tastes to balance the sweet.

I peeled and sectioned quite a few oranges – naval and clementine – probably about 8 in total.  An simpler, pain-free way would be to buy several cans of mandarin oranges and drain them and put in a bowl.  Add about 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 T. each olive oil and sugar, and 1 T. curry powder.  Stir.  This is good either served immediately or the next day after the flavors have blended a bit. It was quite a tasty salad and doesn’t get much easier.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables, Feta and Pastrami


1 c. quinoa, rinsed

2 c. water

Combine quinoa and water in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables.

1/2 c. each broccoli, cauliflower and pepper, chopped into large pieces

1 medium sized carrot, peeled and chopped into chunks

2 garlic cloves


Place vegetables and garlic on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Roast at 450 for 15 minutes.

Combine quinoa, vegetables 3/4 c.crumbled  feta and 1/2 c. chopped pastrami in a medium sized bowl.


In a jar or other covered container combine the roasted garlic cloves that have been smashed up with 1/3 c. olive oil, 1/8 c. rice vinegar, 1/8 c. maple syrup and 1 T. of mustard and 2 T. of a spice blend for the dressing.   Chill.

Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Sauce



Economical, easy, and no high fructose corn syrup like so many commercial BBQ sauces have.  Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe.

1 small onion, diced

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 small can tomato paste

1/2 tomato paste can water

3 T. molasses

4 T. vinegar

1 T. chipotle chili powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 T. mustard

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. curry powder

Brown onion in a little bit of oil in a medium size sauce pan on medium heat.  Add rest of ingredients and turn heat down so that the sauce is simmering.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or so. Sauce thickens nicely on its’ own without the addition of any thickeners such as flour or cornstarch.




Dill Cream Sauce

I made this dill cream sauce to use with sauteed chicken breasts.  It would also be delicious with meatballs (sort of like Swedish Meatballs) or over pasta or fish.


English: A roux-based sauce with chicken stock...

English: A roux-based sauce with chicken stock, white wine and cream. Svenska: En roux-baserad sås med hönsbuljong, vitt vin och grädde. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2 T. butter


3/4 c. chicken broth


1 T. lemon juice


1 c. whipping cream, coffee cream, or half and half


1 T. dillweed


salt and pepper


Melt butter in pan.  Add broth and lemon juice and cook for a minute. Add cream and dill and cook for 5 minutes until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.


If using anything other than whipping cream for the cream, you may need to thicken it with a bit of flour or cornstarch dissolved in water.


This made enough sauce to cover four small chicken breasts.




Strawberry Banana Milkshake

"Is one of these for me?"

“Is one of these for me?”

1 banana

1 cup strawberries

1 cup milk

1 cup good quality vanilla ice cream (such as Haagan-Daz)


Place all ingredients in a blender and blend thoroughly.  Serves two. (Since we have a Vitamix, we did not have to slice the banana or chop the strawberries first before placing them in the blender.)

The picture is of our cat, Oreo, checking out the milkshake.

Food for Love

Aphrodisiac Foods for Valentine’s Day


Listed below are a few foods that have a love potion reputation:

Almonds, aniseed, arugula, asparagus, avocado, bananas, sweet basil, broccoli, carrots, chocolate, coffee, coriander, fennel, figs, garlic, ginger, honey, hot peppers, licorice, mustard, nutmeg, oysters, pineapple, pine nuts, raspberries, strawberries, truffles, vanilla and watermelon.

While I personally can’t see how garlic could have an aphrodisiac quality, maybe if you both eat it, it won’t matter.


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