The Easiest Ever Spicy Black Bean Soup


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Do you ever want homemade soup, and only want to spend about the amount of time it would take to heat something in a pot to make it?  No chopping, sauteing, or real pre-prep required?  Here's your dish.  My wonderful landlords from my first apartment made this soup, and gave me the "recipe."  I lived in their basement, and often would pass through their living area/kitchen in order to enter and exit the house or to use the laundry.  They were making this one day and it looked good, so they told me how to make it.  It was one of those "teach a man to fish" moments.  Drew and I have been enjoying it ever since.  It's easy, tasty, warming, and satisfying, and yet EASY.  It's also quite cost-efficient, as are many of my recipes.

The beans are in the crock pot.  The apples are evidence of me not editing.

This time I complicated it by using black beans I made from dried beans rather than canned so that I could have a ton of black beans, but it was still easy.  You can't mess this up.  New cooks, rejoice!  I am sure this would make a great crock pot recipe, though it's so easy and quick I don't know that I've ever tried.

Serve this with tortilla chips, quesadillas, or cornbread.  This time we baked cornbread and also diced some avocado to add to the soup.  

Spicy Black Bean Soup
serves 4

2 cans or 3 cups prepared black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilis (such as Ro-Tel)
1 can (2 cups) beef broth

Open all cans and add all ingredients into a medium pot.  Heat over medium heat until warmed through.  Serve with whatever floats your boat...or in this case, tortilla chip.  

  • I am sure you could make this vegan by subbing in vegetable broth, and maybe some liquid aminos to add to a more meaty flavor.  We're not vegan so I use the beef broth.  
  • I did not drain the beans or the tomatoes.  If you decide to, you may want to add a little extra broth.  

Amaretti Cookies


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It's a shame, that I didn't have the foresight to take an out of the oven, all finished pic for you.  This will show, though, they remain pale!

As I promised Monday, below is the recipe I used to make Amaretti cookies.  I have had Amaretti only once before, and they were pre-packaged, so I really can't even tell you if what I made resembles a true Amaretti cookie.  What I can tell you about these is that they are delicious, light, crisp, and absolultely addictive, and practically forced themselves on me.  I shamefully couldn't eat just one.  Or two.  Thankfully, I had the foresight to save what I needed for the butternut squash tortellini recipe, in which they seemed to work well.

More about the cookies- they're a lot like a meringue based cookie, which accounts for their lightness and crispness.  They are intensely almond flavored, so anyone who likes the taste of almond would like these.  I do not know if there's a substitute for the amaretto liqueur, but the alcohol cooks completely out, so they're not boozy or anything.  These are so good.  I'm glad I don't have more, or my pants would probably not fit.

So, whether you use these for the butternut squash tortellini recipe or for just enjoyment, they are just one of the most surprisingly awesome treats.  The end.

Amaretti Cookies
from Mario Batali via Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cups whole blanched almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large egg whites
Pinch of kosher salt
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon amaretto
1/2 cup turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place almonds, cornstarch, and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until almonds are very finely chopped.

Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add salt and beat on medium speed until foamy and light. Gradually add granulated sugar in a slow, steady steam and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Beat in almond extract and amaretto.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in ground almond mixture. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle each cookie generously with turbinado sugar.

Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are pale golden and begin to crack slightly, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees. Leave oven door ajar to release some of the heat. Let cookies stand in oven until completely dry and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes more. Let cookies cool briefly on baking sheets, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.


  • I made the recipe almost exactly as is, with the only variation being that I didn't use a whole cup of turbinado sugar to sprinkle on top.

Meatless Mondays: Butternut Squash Tortellini


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This post will actually be a two-parter, since I will first share with you the primary recipe and a recipe for homemade amaretti cookies.

I made this recipe a few years ago for the first time and again this year, earlier this winter.  I currently have at least 2-3 meals' worth of tortellini in the freezer, and have already enjoyed them 1-2 times.  This is the recipe that keeps on giving.

There are a few steps involved in this recipe, and it is time intensive, but if you like butternut squash, and the idea of making your own tortellini intrigues and excites you rather than makes you roll your eyes and wonder whoever would want to make their own pasta when it's so readily available in stores, then try this recipe.  It's delicious.  It's so good, even my non-pasta loving husband looks forward it it.  It's also a recipe that will make you feel like you have kitchen cred.  Go on, invite some friends over.  Tell them you made the pasta.  I'd be impressed.  Feel free to invite me over if you make this.  I'll eat it and swoon.

Another note on the steps- they can be broken up over a period of days, which makes for decently quick work each day.

I am posting the recipe below as you can find it on Food Network's website, and at the bottom, in the notes section, I posted my slight variations.

Butternut Squash Tortellini 
from Giada de Laurentiis
4-6 servings


1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, cubed (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
4 small amaretti cookies, crushed (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package small wonton wrappers

Brown Butter Sauce:

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or chopped dried cherries, or mixture of both
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To make the tortellini, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. On a foil-lined baking sheet toss together the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven until soft and golden, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots and garlic until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the butternut squash mixture, the shallot mixture, and the ricotta cheese and pulse a few times to blend. Add the crushed amaretti cookies, the nutmeg, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth. The tortellini filling can be made one day ahead.

To make the tortellini, lay out 6 wonton skins, keeping the remaining skins inside the package or under a very lightly dampened paper towel. Place 1 tablespoon of squash mixture in the middle of each skin. Dip a pastry brush in a little water and wet the edges of the skin. Gently fold the square wrapper into a triangle, making sure the edges are securely closed and there are no air pockets inside. Dampen the two bottom corners of the longest side of the triangle and gently bring them together, pressing lightly to secure. Place the formed tortellini on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Before laying out another 6 wonton sheets, be careful to dry the work surface. This will help keep tortellini from sticking to the baking sheet. Continue until all the butternut squash mixture is used. There should be approximately 36 tortellini. (The tortellini can be formed, frozen on the baking sheet, transferred to a tightly sealed plastic bag or container and stored for up to six months. To cook, simply toss the frozen ravioli into the salted boiling water and cook for 4 minutes.)

To make the sauce and serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.

Add the sage, walnuts and cranberries and let cook until the butter starts to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and season with salt, and pepper.

Stir to combine. Then, gently place the tortellini in the boiling water and gently stir. When they begin to float they are done, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, gently spoon the tortellini onto a serving platter, Top with the brown butter sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.


  • I have found I have to use about 1 teaspoon or so of filling in the wonton wrappers.  This means I end up using about a pack and a half of wrappers, and get around 60 tortellini.  Any more filled, and they end up squirting out of the edges.
  • Since I often make only a fraction of the tortellini at any given time, I just eyeball the sauce ingredients.  I have never used the dried fruit.  Instead, I use the butter, nuts, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and sage leaves.
  • As an alternative to walnuts, hazelnuts are great.  That's what I have been using.  I am sure pecans or almonds would be good here too.
  • Because my small town doesn't have amaretti cookies, I used a recipe I found off Martha Stewart's website, which will be shared later in the week.  

Butternut-Chicken Mac and Cheese


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What a mouthful!  I like short names for recipes, like "taco soup" or "cornbread."  I tried to think of a shorter name, but the above title best captures it.  Several years ago, I fell in love with butternut squash and promptly wanted to incorporate it into everyday life.  Rachael Ray made a recipe with it that she called "butternut bowties," (nice and short name, nice dish) and I made it and loved it, but Drew insisted that this was not acceptable main course dinner material.  I'm still learning how to feed a man.  So, the dilemma was presented:  how to continue making this dish into a main course?  The answer I've found is to add cooked, diced chicken.  In doing so, you have proteins, carbs, veggies, and dairy all in one tasty dish, and it can be eaten alone or with a side salad.  Yay!  Why did it take 3 or 4 years to try that?

The dish itself is so tasty.  We loved it, and it probably gave us 6 servings with the chicken added in.  It's also a good way to lighten up mac and cheese without losing anything in terms of taste or texture.  The butternut squash and sage add a nice fall/winter flavor.  It's a good dish for any day, but I will warn you that it's a solid hour and a half prep, if not longer.  You can break that up into stages, though.

Butternut-Chicken Mac and Cheese
inspired by Rachael Ray

1/2 to 1 lb boneless skinless chicken, cooked and cubed or diced
1 butternut squash, halved and seeds removed
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
16 oz. macaroni or other small pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
5 to 6 sage leaves, thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place squash halves on a baking sheet and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon EVOO, salt and pepper. Place them cut side down and transfer to the oven. Roast until tender, about an hour. Remove from oven and cool.
Once cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the squash and transfer it to a food processor. Process until smooth.

Place a pot of water over high heat for the pasta. Once at a boil, add some salt and the pasta, and cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot it was cooked in.
While the pasta water is heating up, place a small skillet over medium-high heat with the butter. Once melted, add the flour and cook about a minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until the liquids come up to a bubble and the sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes. Add the squash puree, nutmeg, cinnamon and sage, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the sauce to the pot with the cooked pasta and chicken and toss to coat. Turn everything out into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with both cheeses. Transfer to the oven and bake until the cheese is brown and bubbly, 10-15 minutes.

  • I can't remember how I cooked my chicken, whether it was poached (boiled), baked, or grilled, but as long as it's cooked- this can of course be done ahead of time, utilize leftovers, etc.  We used about 1/2 lb. boneless skinless breast, but any boneless skinless meat will work.
  • You can also do the butternut squash ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until needed.  That would allow this to be a quicker, weeknight meal.
  • As with a lot of pasta dishes, this one is best the day it's made, but it's still good as leftovers.

Meatless Monday: Poor Man's Supper


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I don't know where this recipe comes from, but my mom has made it since I was a kid, and I have loved it since then.  It's cheap, easy, and quick, but the biggest reason to make this is that it is so good.  In keeping with the January theme and idea of healthier, lighter eating, this fits the bill.  Drew and I both agree that few dinners are better.  We usually make it with cornbread and some type of greens, whether it be collards or turnip greens or even sauteed spinach.  It'd also be good with roasted potatoes.

This works for the crock pot or the stove top, so it fits your schedule well.  If using a crock pot, just heat on low for 6-8 hours or high for 2-4 hours.  If using stove top, heat on medium until warmed.  I usually throw everything in the crock pot. Oh, and it gets better the next day, after the flavors have really had time to blend.

Poor Man's Supper
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans
1 (15 oz) can chili or mexi beans
1 (15 oz) can butter beans
1 (15 oz) can great northern beans
1 (15 oz) can navy beans
1 lg onion, either slivered or diced, your preference

In a crock pot or large pot, add all ingredients together.  Heat through.  

Pioneer Woman's French Onion Soup


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Most of the country has been dealing with record-setting, bitter cold.  It's cold here, too, and perfect soup weather.  Just like how rain boots make a rainy day brighter, so soup is for me on a cold day.  There's just nothing better.  I love soup so much, that I get aggravated when it gets warm in winter months.  It takes away from soup glory.  Is anyone else getting the idea that maybe I think about these things too much?

Anyway, French Onion Soup is a classic, made very popular by Julia Child and restaurant chefs everywhere.  That means that it got this way by being awesome, and has since been made in homes and restaurants with great pleasure and success, and at times had culinary heresy committed against it by restaurants wanting to have it on their menus and serving something that is barely passable, and a far cry from what it originally was.

By the way, I sometimes ate French Onion Soup but was never really hooked until last January, when Drew took me to Savannah for a late Christmas present.  We ate at Bistro 529 (highly recommend it if you're in Savannah, GA!), and Malcolm Love (our very awesome waiter) told us to order the soup.  Malcolm never steered us wrong.  It was the closest thing to Heaven in a bowl you can get.  Maybe that will be served in Heaven, as the soup course in the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, you know, provided there's a soup course.  My point is that this soup recipe is GOOD! 

If you've never had real french onion soup, make this recipe and forget about all the over salted, under-cooked onion varieties that have made you wonder why people order French Onion Soup, apart from the cheesy deliciousness over the top.  It's complex, bright, and warming.  This is another kitchen cred recipe.  Why are all the French-based recipes the ones that seem to come with the most kitchen cred?

Unlike most of the other recipes I've read, PW starts her onions on the stove top, then roasts them in the oven, and then returns them to the stove top for the rest of the preparation.  It's a good way to do things, and the end result was one of the first few dishes I've ever used real wine in that didn't make me gag.  Progress!  To see step by step pictures and directions, I encourage you to visit this post on PW's website.  She's great with photography and step-by-steps.  

by Pioneer Woman

serves 8ish

1 stick Butter
4 large (or 6 medium) Yellow Onions, Halved Root To Tip, And Sliced Thin
1 cup (generous) Dry White Wine
4 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
4 cups Beef Broth
2 cloves Minced Garlic
 Worcestershire Sauce
 Several Thick Slices Of French Bread Or Baguette
5 ounces, weight (to 7 Ounces) Gruyere Cheese, Grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Place soup pot into the oven with the lid slightly ajar to ensure the onions will brown. Allow onions to cook in the oven for 1 hour, stirring at least once during the cooking process so onions won’t stick and burn.

Remove pot from oven and place back on stove top over medium heat. Stir, scraping off all the brown, flavorful bits. Turn off heat and pour in wine. Turn heat back to medium. Cook wine for five minutes, allowing it to reduce. Add broths, Worcestershire Sauce and minced garlic and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Butter one side of the bread slices and broil over low heat, allowing bread to brown and become crispy.
When soup is ready, ladle into broiler-proof bowl or ramekin. Place crispy bread on top, and then sprinkle generously with grated cheese. 

Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.

  • I can't remember the type of wine I used- maybe a pinot grigio?  While not all wines do this, the label specified that it was a dry wine with a light flavor.  It worked well here.  The alcohol does cook out, but the wine itself is a unique flavor.  As I said before, it was one of the first times I have used wine in food that I didn't want to gag while eating it.  So take caution.  I would imagine if you don't want to use wine in your cooking, extra chicken broth would work too.
  • My onions required slightly more time to cook, but because some of them started to burn in the oven, I cooked on the stove top.  
  • I used smoked gruyere from Aldi, because of the price.  It didn't melt well.  I don't know if it was the particular block I had, that it was from Aldi, or that it was smoked.  Either way, just buy the original, or something you've had experience with before.  
  • We ate several meals out of this- reheats well.  Just make the bread and cheese as you need it for best results.

Black Eyed Pea Salsa


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I didn't think about it until just now, but this would have been a great "New Year's" dish.  I didn't make this for any new year celebration.  I made this for a Christmas party, and I've made it tons of times before.  It was one of those recipes that I've been making forever, and finding out I hadn't yet shared it really surprised me.  Use any reason you want to make this recipe.  It's got beans and other vegetables, so you can feel OK about eating half the bowl.  Until you realize that it took almost a whole bag of chips to do that.  It's really tasty, and even people who don't normally like things that aren't meat will eat this without flinching.  Good for parties wherever salsas or chip dips are accepted.  Makes a huge bowl full.  People will want the recipe.  Trust me on the Italian dressing (that's pronounced eye-talian where I'm from).

Aside from dipping, it's a good addition to scrambled eggs and mixed into a taco salad.  What other ways do you have for it to be eaten?

Black Eyed Pea Salsa

2 cans (15 oz each) black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (10 oz) shoepeg corn, drained
1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes and chilis, partially drained (Ro-Tel)
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1/2 red onion, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
8 oz Italian salad dressing

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Store in fridge.