Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beans and Greens with Spicy Cheddar Bay Biscuits, 12/31/11

Let me just start with the answer to your first question.  Yes, I am still a vegetarian.  I don't know how many days it's been now, but it's right at 7 months of meat-free eating.  My family and I even made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas with me as a vegetarian and very few issues with food.

Although I've toyed with modifying my diet to flexitarian or pescatarian, so that I can eat seafood, it's really the result my desire to be less of an inconvenience to others when they're trying to eat with me.  I have truly enjoyed the culinary experience that my Vegetarian Adventure has afforded me.  However, there are nights when I just don't feel like cooking.  What I usually end up doing is calling my mom to try to convince her to take me out for dinner.  On the rare occasion that she agrees, the 35 minute conversation about where we're going to eat- because I'm a vegetarian, can be quite daunting.  And, I don't think it's fair, to her, that our options are somewhat limited.  Plus, I feel terrible on inservice days, those coveted times when teachers are allowed to eat with other adults of their choosing, when the group that I'm going to lunch with feels like they need to change their plans to accommodate me.  So, I guess we'll see what happens in the future.

Now, let's get to what I'm really doing here.  I want to share with you a delicious and super nutritious meal that I enjoy often.  Beans and Greens is what I call it.  I know that's not the most glamorous sounding name, but don't let that fool you; it's such a tasty meal!  If you're like me, and you didn't grow up eating "greens," you might be a little scared by the name as well.  Trust me, you have no idea what you've been missing!  You'll thank me later if you are brave enough to try this one.

My Beans and Greens is a concoction of cannellini beans and whatever dark delicious green I was able to get in my Door to Door Organics order that week.  Today, I made it with Swiss chard and beet greens.  This was actually my first experience with beet greens and I wasn't disappointed.  I usually try to find some really grainy bread to sop up the delicious sauce left at the bottom of my bowl by the Beans and Greens, but the bakeries in my local grocery stores are subpar, and I never find what I really want.  So, this time I decided to make my Spicy Cheddar Bay Biscuits to go with it.  And, it's pretty much a perfect marriage.

For Beans and Greens, add about 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot over medium to medium low heat.  Add 1 diced medium onion and 16 oz of sliced mushrooms.  Stir these occasionally while they're working.

Just as the onions are becoming translucent and the mushrooms are browning nicely, add 1/2 of a red pepper, diced.  I actually added 3/4 of a pepper, because that's what I had in the refrigerator and I wanted to use it before it went bad.  I think 1/2 of a pepper would be plenty, but just use what you've got on hand.  I did.

Let this cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and then add about 16 oz of veggie broth and season the dish.  Start by grating in 2 large garlic cloves and mix it in well.  Then add sea salt, ground black pepper, 2 bay leaves, cumin and cayenne.  You could certainly add red pepper flakes to get some heat instead of cayenne powder if you prefer it.  I don't enjoy the texture of the dried pepper skins and seeds of red pepper flakes, so I always add cayenne instead.  With these seasonings, use whatever measurements suit your taste buds.  I add lots of cumin.  It adds such a nice smoky flavor.  If you're a meat-eater, you could certainly add diced ham to get that smoky flavor or some pork steak would also be a delicious addition!

Now it's time to add your greens.  I added 1 bunch of beet greens and 1 bunch of  Swiss chard.  You could use spinach, kale, arugula... whatever you can get your hands on.  The day I received the greens, I cleaned them and put them in the fridge.  If you don't do this right away, they'll quickly wilt and become lifeless.  You can clean them by cutting the thick middle stem out of each leaf (the result is each leaf being cut in half lengthwise,) and then giving them a soak or two and a whirl or two in the salad spinner.  They're usually pretty dirty.  I generally let them sit in the spinner basket for a couple of hours, giving them a shake every now and then, so they'll be good and dry when I add them to a large Ziploc with a paper towel lining one side.  I actually received the beet greens a week before the chard and using this storage technique they were still in perfect condition 9 days later when I made this.

Stack several of these half-leaves on top of each other.

Swiss chard
Beet greens

Then cut them into strips about an inch or so wide.  You end up with nice bite-sized pieces.

Add all of the greens to the pot and stir them into the mixture.  You'll see that they'll start wilting quickly.  Let this simmer about 5 minutes.

At this point, add another 16 oz of veggie broth, a can of Original Rotel (don't drain it) and 2 cans of rinsed and drained cannellini beans.  I like to pour the beans into a small strainer and give them a really good rinse.  Of course, you could add a 2nd can of Rotel if you're a real Rotel lover.  Although I do really like Rotel, I wanted the beans and greens to be the real star here, so I didn't add a 2nd can.

Now you're going to let everything in this pot just simmer together for an hour or so.

I enjoy Beans and Greens so much that I make it about twice a month.  Since my local grocery stores don't have a great selection of greens, I make it whenever one of them (usually a variety of chard) is available in my DTDO order.  Typically I use just one bunch of greens for this recipe with almost everything else cut in half as well... but when I ended up with 2 bunches of yummy greens in 1 week, I decided to make a super-batch!   Actually, that's what is great about this recipe- it's an easy and tasty way to use almost any produce you have in the fridge.  I've made this many times without mushrooms, and Rotel is a more recent addition to the standard line up.  And before I had tried very many of the wonderful other greens out there, I always used spinach.  You really can use whatever you have on hand at the time.

While my Beans and Greens simmered, allowing the flavors to develop completely, I made some easy Spicy Cheddar Bay Biscuits to go with them.  When I decided that I wanted to make jalapeno and cheddar biscuits about a year ago, I kept running across all of these recipe variations for the famous Cheddar Bay Biscuits that we've all enjoyed.  I decided to add jalapenos and just go with it.  Plus, several of those recipes start with baking mix (Bisquick) and how much easier can it get??

For these delicious biscuits, you'll start by working 3 Tablespoons of cold butter into 2 cups of baking mix.  You can do that with a pastery cutter if you have one, but I just use a couple of forks- I may have used a potato masher once for this task.  Unfortunately, I don't remember how well that worked- or didn't.  This isn't difficult, but it's a little bit of a pain.  Take my word for it though, don't skip this step, it makes all the difference in your biscuits.  They won't be as light and fluffy if you skip the butter or add melted butter instead.  When you have small chunks of butter in your baking mix, it's perfect.  (I should've taken a picture of what this will look like, but I completely forgot.  Sorry.)

Then just stir in 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, an extra pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning, 2/3 cup of milk, 4 oz of shredded cheddar cheese and 1 heaping teaspoon of diced jalapeno peppers from a jar.  You may have to add a little extra milk to get things to combine properly, but I like to start a little short and add as needed.  You'll probably end up using a total of 3/4-1 cup of milk.  It should look like this:

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.  They really don't spread out at all, so you can put them pretty close together.  Cook these for 10-12 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven.  When the tips begin to brown, go ahead and pull them out.  You don't want the cheese on the bottom to burn.

What really pushes these biscuits over the top, is the mixture that you'll brush over them when they come out of the oven.  Carefully melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in a microwave safe bowl.  One minute at 40% power in my microwave perfectly melts butter without making it sputter all over the place.  I LOVE that discovery!  Stir 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley, 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon onion powder, and 1/8 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning into the melted butter. 

Brush or spoon this mixture over the top of the biscuits as soon as they come out of the oven.  Ummmm.  I ended up with 15 2-inch biscuits.  The great news is, the leftover biscuits can be stored in a container in the fridge, and they'll heat up deliciously the next day in 10 or 15 seconds in the microwave.

Well, the biscuits are out of the oven and they have that delicious butter mixture brushed on top and the Beans and Greens have been simmering for the last hour.  Time to eat!  Do you remember the blog post I wrote about how one ingredient can take a dish from mediocre to outstanding?  I was talking about lime juice on my tostadas...  Well, with Beans and Greens, that one ingredient is a nice salty cheese like parmesan or romano.  You won't believe the difference it makes.  I usually add about twice as much parmesan as pictured below, but if I covered the whole thing, you wouldn't be able to see the yummy Beans and Greens that the parmesan is topping.  So, I took it easy on the cheese for this photo op.

The Beans and Greens on their own are such a tasty comfort food, but adding these Spicy Cheddar Bay Biscuits makes this meal complete.  Plus, it's okay to splurge on some bread when your meal is as healthy as Beans and Greens are!  Enjoy.