Creamy Pinto Beans with Bacon and Zucchini

Inspiration: I can always get behind a good pinto bean or black bean side dish when it comes to Mexican food. And lately, I’ve been loving to throw a bunch of ingredients into a sauce pan and see what happens. It’s awesome when a great recipe results, and as always, one-pot dishes are truly the best (especially with a new baby in the house!).

What We Loved: You can’t quite tell from the photo since the sauce seeps down into the dish, but these beans have an awesome creamy texture that we just loved. This is definitely a dish to eat with a spoon! And there are a lot of great flavors going on, too – zucchini and onion sauteed in bacon fat is always a good thing, especially when combined with crispy bacon pieces, fresh cilantro, and gooey, spicy cheese. That’s not a bad list of flavors to add to the already creamy and rich pinto beans. And everything is tied together with a simple seasoning blend of chili powder and cumin, which really adds a nice Mexican flair.

Tips: In order to get that great, creamy consistency with these beans, don’t drain the can before adding them to the pan. I also like to make sure to chop the zucchini very finely. That way, it doesn’t get mushy as might happen with large chunks.

Creamy Pinto Beans with Bacon and Zucchini
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2-3 as a side dish

3 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 small zucchini, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can pinto beans, undrained
chili powder, to taste
cumin, to taste
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 oz pepper jack cheese, cut into small cubes
Cilantro, chopped

1. Saute the bacon in a sauce pan over medium low heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2.Add the onion and zucchini to the bacon fat in the pan, and cook until softened and beginning to get nice and browned. Add the garlic, stirring to combine.

3. Add the pinto beans to the pan (undrained). Season to taste with chili powder, cumin, and plenty of salt and pepper.

4. Simmer over medium heat until thickened, about 5 minutes.

5.  Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the reserved bacon.

6. Serve topped with pepper jack cheese cubes and cilantro.

Cod with Salsa Verde

Cod with Salsa Verde

Inspiration: This was one of the first recipes that we had on the blog way back in 2008. I figured it was time for an update, right? And besides, with little Ben around, dinners like this that are easy peasy are getting thrown onto our menu left and right.

What We Loved: This recipe is dead simple to make and it’s plenty flavorful, which is always a great combination. Cod is really light and fresh, and the Mexican seasonings in this recipe really add a nice spicy punch. I just love the tangy, almost sweet flavor of salsa verde in any application, and here it adds a particularly nice contrast to the spicy seasonings.  This meal is a great way to get some Mexican flavors on your table if you’re looking for something a little bit lighter.

Tips: I really like taking some help every once in a while from something like a jarred salsa. We love Rick Bayless’ Frontera brand salsa because it’s full of whole ingredients, plus we like to support one of our favorite chefs. But you could certainly make your own salsa verde for this recipe if you’re not looking for a fast recipe or concerned about time constraints.

Cod with Salsa Verde
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2

12-16 oz cod filets
Chili powder
Ground cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
Butter
Salsa verde, either homemade or your favorite jarred variety (I used Frontera brand)
Cilantro, chopped

1. Season the cod filets well with chili powder, cumin, Kosher salt, and black pepper.

2. Add a good couple of pats of butter to a saute pan over medium heat. Add the cod, and saute until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.

3. Serve the cod topped with salsa verde and chopped cilantro.

Pecan Parmesan Salmon

Pecan Parmesan Salmon

Inspiration: I didn’t really have any cravings while I was pregnant. Aversions – oh, yes – but no cravings. Since we had Ben and I have been nursing, though, I’ve been getting some weird, out of left field cravings. One of those cravings has been pecans. I thought of them the other day, and I just had to have a meal with pecans in it. And I am just dreaming about a nice salted can of them right now. Mmm.

What We Loved: Salmon is a rich fish that really paired particularly well with the rich flavors in the topping – delicious nutty Parmesan and the lovely maple/caramel flavors that are inherent to pecans. Aside from that awesome maple flavor, my favorite thing about the topping was how nice and crispy it got. I was worried that the  nuts might soften in the oven, but they got super crispy and crunchy and delicious. This recipe is very simple but also elegant in a way – always a nice combination.

Tips: As you may be able to tell from the photo, I overcooked our salmon. Don’t do this – it is a sad thing indeed. I cooked ours at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, which would probably have been okay if my filets were thicker, as they normally are. I had thin filets this time, though, so I definitely should have cooked them a shorter amount of time. Keep an eye on your filets – they might need anywhere from about 12 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness.

Pecan Parmesan Salmon
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: 2

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespooms olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 6 oz salmon filets

1. Combine the pecans, Parmesan, thyme, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Place the salmon filets in a baking dish. Top each one with half of the pecan mixture.

3. Bake in a 400 degree oven until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 12-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.

Zucchini and Green Chile Breakfast Casserole

Inspiration: Happy 2013, everyone! I thought that this breakfast casserole would be a great start to the new year here on the blog. I’ve been making this recipe for years, so it’s about time that I shared it. It’s my favorite breakfast casserole, and it has been the inspiration for pretty much every other breakfast casserole that I’ve thrown together. This one is a great nutrient-packed breakfast and a wonderful way to sneak some Mexican-style foods into breakfast.

What We Loved: Zucchini and eggs is a favorite combination of mine, so I really love that this casserole has plenty of zucchini thrown in. There is something about the combination that is just so nice and buttery yet vegetable fresh at the same time. I love the spicy Mexican-style aroma and flavors that the green chiles lend the casserole, and mixing sharp cheddar cheese and cottage cheese into the dish makes for a creamy texture and a great cheesy background flavor. This breakfast is really just packed full off all kinds of great flavors and nutrients.

Tips: Salsa and cilantro are the perfect toppings to give this dish a truly Mexican-style feel, but I also adore thinly sliced avocado alongside this casserole to make for a great rounded breakfast. A nice dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt on top is fabulous as well.

Zucchini and Green Chile Breakfast Casserole
Source: Closet Cooking

10 eggs
1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
1 4 oz can green chiles
1 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Whisk the eggs together in a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir well to incorporate.

2. Pour into a greased baking dish, and bake at 400 degrees until the eggs are completely set, about 40-45 minutes.

Scalloped Potato Gratin

Inspiration: Potato dishes are a big deal around the holidays or in the winter time, aren’t they? Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, casseroles….they’re really just comfort food at its finest. And that’s about all that I need to say about that, right?

What We Loved: This may be the best potato dish that we’ve ever eaten. It had all of the components that we look for when it comes to potatoes and comfort food – an awesome creamy consistency and texture; crispy browned cheese on top and gooey, nutty cheese throughout; and the warm, spicy hit of nutmeg that just complements potatoes so well. All in all, this recipe was a perfectly rich combination of textures and flavors that reminded us of the potatoes that our favorite fancy restaurant serves – but better.

Tips: This dish is simple, elegant, absolutely delicious, and the definition of comfort food. It would make a great dish for company or for a special occasion. We originally made these potatoes for Thanksgiving, and I don’t think that a Thanksgiving will go by for us in the future without them making an appearance on our table. If you have any holiday celebrations coming up for which you are still planning your menu, I’d highly recommend this recipe to share with your loved ones. We celebrate Christmas and won’t be back until some time before the new year, so we wish you all a week or so of warm & cozy eating  :)

Scalloped Potato Gratin
Source: Slightly adapted from Tyler Florence

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 sprig thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Butter
2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices (this was three medium-sized potatoes for me)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Heat the cream, thyme, garlic, and nutmeg in a saucepan over low heat until warm.

2. Butter a casserole dish. Add a layer of potatoes in an overlapping pattern. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the thyme sprig from the cream. Pour 1/3 of the cream over the first potato layer, then add 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat with two more layers.

3. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the casserole is nicely browned and bubbly. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots

Inspiration: It’s no secret that Brandon and I love food, but something that we don’t mention as much on here is that we also love craft beer. I’m talking in an obsessive way. Luckily, we live in an area with a ton of great breweries around that we frequent often. One of the things that we’ve noticed is that craft breweries tend to care abut where their food comes from/how it’s made, and thus the food at our local breweries is usually pretty fantastic. Hurray for the craft beer scene! Anyway, one of the breweries that we frequent, Blue Tractor, has a menu centered around Southern/BBQ foods. The last time that we went there, I had some roasted green beans with bacon as a side, and they were just fabulous. I immediately went about planning to recreate them at home.

What We Loved: This is a simple dish that packs loads of flavor. There aren’t a lot of things better than fresh, crisp vegetables, and when you toss them in bacon fat and mix them with crisped bacon pieces and caramelized shallots…..well, that pretty much speaks for itself. We both adored the awesome vegetable flavor of these beans paired with the rich, browned bacon flavor.

Tips: I wanted to roast these beans in the oven to get them nice and browned/slightly crispy and blackened (like they were at Blue Tractor), but I just had too many other things going on in the oven at the time. These were great cooked on the stove top, but if you want to roast the beans instead to get that added browned flavor, I know that they would also be awesome that way. We enjoyed these with our Thanksgiving meal, but they would certainly be a wonderful side on Christmas or New Years, too.

Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots
Source: Original Recipe
Serves: About 4

5-6 slices bacon, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 lb green beans (I used a frozen bag of the thin, haricots verts style)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Add the bacon and shallots to a saute pan over medium low heat. Cook until the bacon is crisp and the shallots are browned and caramelized, about 20-30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cover the green beans with water in a sauce pan and  bring to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes and drain.

3. Add the beans to the saute pan with the bacon and shallots. Season well with Kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Toss everything together, coating the beans in the bacon fat. Serve.

Butternut Squash Curry

Inspiration: When I see all of the winter squash varieties show up in the store come fall, I just can’t resist throwing a few in my cart every time that I shop. Brandon is less-than-thrilled about this habit of mine – he’s not huge into winter squash – but man, do I love it. So I try to only cook it once in a while for our dinner and use the rest for myself for lunch. Anyway, this particular recipe really intrigued me because we’ve both been particularly in the mood for Indian curries lately, but I never would have thought to use butternut squash as the main ingredient in a curry. Color me intrigued.

What We Loved: My favorite thing about this dish was the tenderness of the squash. It had a soft and creamy consistency that really made each bite melt in your mouth. The spices used in this particular curry added a lovely warmth and depth of flavor to the dish, with just a tiny bit of heat. And like a huge handful of meals in our house, I threw some chopped cilantro on top, and that added a great fresh contrast. If you want to make a curry that’s basically fall in a dish, then this would be it.

Tips: When I make a new recipe, I usually ask Brandon if he would make any changes next time. We kind of joked around with this recipe the only improvement he could see would be to use paneer or tofu in place of the squash. However, I do think it’s a great idea and that either would make an awesome substitute. Tofu would have a similar creamy texture to the squash in this recipe, and paneer would be firmer but also more substantial or filling. And cheesier, of course.

Butternut Squash Curry
Source: Adapted from StoneSoup

Butter
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
About 3/4 cup coconut milk
Kosher salt and black pepper
About 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed, and cooked
Fresh cilantro, to garnish

1. Heat a good pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the garam masala, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon. Stir the spices into the butter, sauteeing them together for about a minute.

2. Add the tomatoes, stir together, and let simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Taste the sauce, adding more coconut milk or spices if desired.

3. Add the butternut squash cubes. Cook until everything is heated through and the sauce is thickened to your liking.

4. Serve garnished with cilantro.

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