Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rating Systems

I've been a bit slacking in my cooking these past couple days.  I can easily blame it on the weather: who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when it's 80 degrees out and you happen to have the week off from work?  I spent Monday getting sunburned in the yard and going for frozen yogurt at Woo Berry, and yesterday at the beach house hiding my red skin under an umbrella! It was just way too nice to be anywhere but outside.  A wonderful two days.  Today I was glad the temperatures dropped a bit and I could allow myself to be inside again! 

\Also, today I came up with the idea to have my family rate my foods.  Mom had said that she was reading over old blog posts and remembering her favorite things, and sometimes I never even mention that she loved it; on the other hand, sometimes I wrote that she liked something when she hardly remembered it.  So I figured I could have people rate the things on a scale from 1-10; it will help me remember what they love and don't love when I am trying to cook specifically for the very different people in my house :)

I made dinner, a side dish, and a dessert tonight! I am quite proud of myself because timing an entire meal is still a bit of a struggle for me.   And I was cooking for 7 people, so I had to make sure I was going to fill everyone up.  I had decided earlier to make a recipe I'd found on Pinterest called tortilla and black bean pie.  It's from Martha Stewart, and she knows what she's talking about!   I decided that Mexican rice would go with it perfectly, and I had already planned on making a bundt cake for dessert.  It's a strawberry bundt made with Greek yogurt and a lemon glaze: fresh strawberry yogurt cake.  Just the name sounded delicious, so I was excited to try it all out.

I started with the cake.  This is probably not the correct way to plan out an entire meal by starting with dessert when everyone is already getting hungry, but I wasn't sure how else to get it to finish up after we ate!  It came together pretty quickly, although compared to those damn scones last weekend, anything is simple!  I generously buttered the bundt pan because I am very sick of bundts sticking, and I finally have figured out the trick: use way more butter than you expect!  The cake came out beautifully.  I whipped up the glaze really quickly - just powdered sugar and lemon juice - and dripped it over the cake.  The cake was a huge hit!  In fact, my grandmother was here for dinner and rated it a perfect 10, as did my mother.  Rachael gave it a 9.  I am very happy with how this cake turned out; it is a perfect summertime dessert!

Okay now back to dinner.  I started panicking as I was cooking, because I read some of the comments at the bottom of the page and people said that it was kind of bland.  I decided I needed to take things into my own hands and start adding ingredients based on what I know about Mexican food.  For me, this is rather frightening, because I love following recipes, but when I tasted the bean mixture, the sauce was pretty bland.  The only flavoring was onion, garlic, beer, and cumin.  The recipe called for a jalapeno, but I obviously cut that out.  So I added some lime juice and cilantro, and changed up a mixture of beans insgtead of just black beans.  I can happily say that my experimeny worked out perfectly!  The pie was not only beautiful, but it was delicious.  It was similar to my Mexican lasagna, but with tortillas instead of lasagna noodles.  I was going to love it no matter what, because it has fresh cilantro in it, which I am obsessed with.  Mom rated the dinner a 9, and Gram even cleared her plate (plate, mind you, not a saucer like she usually does!)  I am so happy when everyone likes my meals - especially when that meal is vegetarian!  :) 

fresh strawberry yogurt cake

tortilla and black bean pie
adapted from Martha Stewart


4 flour tortillas (10 inches)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
course salt and fresh ground pepper
2 cans (15 ounces each) of beans, drained and rinsed: the recipe called for black beans, but I used 1 black and 1 pinto
12 ounces beer
1 package frozen corn
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
4 scallions, thinly sliced
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan; use the bottom of the pan as a guide.  Set aside.

2.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-7 minutes.

3.  Add beans and beer, and turn up heat; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in corn, scallions, lime juice and cilantro, and remove from heat.  Taste and adjust for seasoning. 

4.  Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the beans and 1/2 cup of the cheese.  Repeat 3 times, using 1 cup cheese on the top layer.  Bake until cheese melts, about 20 minutes.  Remove side of pan; sprinkle pie with more fresh chopped cilantro.  To serve, cut into wedges and serve with sour cream.

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