Creamy Crockpot Pinto Beans (gf, v option) and Gluten-free Cornbread (gf, veg)

The Missouri November weather was spectacular last weekend. Dave and I went on an epic, 3-hour, 10+ mile hike around the Weldon Spring area to enjoy said Missouri November weather, beginning and ending at the Weldon Spring Disposal Cell. What is the Weldon Spring Disposal Cell, you ask? Well, we wondered the same thing. It’s a 45-acre mound of rocks covering layers of nuclear waste. And you can walk to the top! How’s that for a bizarre tourist attraction?

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view from the top

The Us Army Ordinance Works purchased the site and adjacent land (17,232 acres- whoa) in 1941. The Army contracted the Atlas Powder Company to manufacture trinitrotoluene (TNT) and dinitrotoluene (DNT) at a sprawling factory complex on the site until 1945 to support World War II efforts. After the war, the Army started selling off the land but kept about 2,000 acres to house the Weldon Spring Uranium Feed Mill Plant, which was just what it sounds like- a uranium ore processing plant that operated from 1955 to 1966. Uranium ore processing plants produce well, radioactive waste, and that, kids, is what’s tucked beneath the Weldon Spring Disposal Cell.

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I’m hesitant to believe that the waste isn’t harmful to the surrounding communities or people walking all over the cell, but so far, I feel no strange after-effects. I can see better, though. Strange…. Anyway, we were starving when we got home and had breakfast-for-lunch, with the addition of these warming, slow-cooked, creamy pinto beans and leftover cornbread to dunk in them. I’d soaked the beans overnight the night before and put them in the crockpot before we headed out, so only finishing touches were left to be made when we got back. The cornbread originally accompanied some white bean chicken chili we’d made and heated up well to go with the beans. So, without further ado, creamy crockpot pinto beans and gluten-free cornbread!

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CREAMY CROCKPOT PINTO BEANS

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag dry pinto beans, rinsed and sorted
  • water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped, or 2 tbsp olive oil for vegan beans
  • 1 yellow or white onion, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped

Directions:

Rinse the dry beans after you pick them over for any rocks or clumps of dirt. Finding rocks and clumps of dirt in bags of dry beans isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds, but it is every bit as gross as it sounds, so look ’em over good. Put the beans in a bowl and cover with an inch of water, soaking at least 8 hours or overnight. How retro-frugal you are, soaking beans! Good for you. The WWII-era Real Housewives of Weldon Spring would be proud.

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RHOWS

When the beans have had a good soaking, dump their soaking water, rinse them again, and put them in your crockpot. Cover with water, up to 1/2 inch above the beans. Keep in mind that when cooking in a crockpot, the water added to a recipe will stay put, so add as much as you’d like or not like. Cover and set to low for 8 hours or high for 4. Take a hike.

When you return from your hike/nap/workday/classified mission, chop the 2 pieces of bacon and cook them over medium in a small skillet until crispy. If you’re omitting bacon, heat the olive oil over medium. Remove the bacon once it’s crispy and add the onion to the bacon fat or olive oil, cooking for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Salt and pepper the onions, and add the onions, bacon, and 2 cups of beans to a food processor. Whir that sucker until the mixture is smooth and creamy, then stir the mixture back into the pot of beans.

You’re all done! The beans are even better the next day. They’re rich and creamy and make a perfect partner for a few hunks of….

OLD FASHIONED GLUTEN-FREE CORNBREAD

Adapted from Gluten Free On a Shoestring

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups yellow cornmealbread 1
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 room-temperature egg, beaten
  • 4 tbsp melted butter, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups room-temperature plain yogurt
  • 4 tbsp raw honey

Directions:

Grab two bowls and preheat your oven to 400. In the larger bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

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In a second, smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: egg, butter, yogurt, and honey.

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Now make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients in the large bowl. See where this is going? Now you know why the dry ingredients got more bowl-love than the wet ones. Pour the wet ingredients into the center well and mix until just combined.

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Grease a cast-iron skillet or 9×13″ pan and spread the cornmeal mixture in evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.

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This celiac husband-friendly side was quite tasty. It held together well but was also crumbly, and would be great with the addition of cheddar cheese or chopped green chiles. It was great with the white chili and stood up to the beans.  What will you serve with yours?

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“Golumpki,” or Cabbage Rolls (gf, v option)

Friends! It has been too long! I passed the exam I was studying for and slumped into an exhausted, thumb-sucking ball for a month post-test. Lots of celebration, lots of yoga, and one trip to San Fran to see great friends later- I’m back! Back and cooking again. It’s fall in Saint Louis and the change-of-season cooking bug has bitten me again. My favorite bite. I’m so happy to be back in a bit of a routine and I’ll tell you- being back to writing and sharing on a!g feels fantastic. Let’s get cooking.

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Sometime in the whirlwind that was the first 3 quarters of 2014, my husband was diagnosed with a severe gluten intolerance (possibly celiac disease… this caused major malnutrition- what the heck! poor guy just wanted some sandwiches!). Most of what I cooked on a daily basis before the diagnosis was gluten free, save for a cake or bread project here or there, but this news has majorly changed what’s coming into and being prepared in our kitchen.

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Considering his dietary needs and my hankering as of late for cooked cabbage (all my life, I’ve been waiting to become that small, ethnic grandmother I know I’m supposed to be), I freestyled a pot of the humble golumpki, or, cabbage roll for dinner last night. My version has beef but it can easily be omitted to make a vegan version; you also have a stovetop or crockpot choice to make.

GOLUMPKI (CABBAGE ROLLS)

Ingredients:

  • I large head cabbage, core removed
  • 1/2 lb portobello mushroom caps (increase to 1lb for vegan rolls), chopped fine
  • 1 lb high-quality lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 parsnip, shredded
  • 1 large carrot or 1 cup baby carrots, shredded
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup brown rice, uncooked
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • tomato sauce or juice, to taste (2-14.5 oz cans tomato sauce/1 -28 oz can crushed tomatoes OR 1-14.5 oz can tomato sauce and large can tomato juice, see super-serious Note On Tomato Sauce below)

Directions:

This is a homey meal that comes with a homey preparation: it’s simmered on the stove for 2 hours or can be made in a slow cooker. So, not a top pick for nights when you need a quick meal, but a great pick for easy, warm nights with a glass of red wine to help you cook and some jazz on the radio. Now that you know this and have cleared your calendar, boil a large pot of water and core the cabbage with a large knife. When the water is boiling, remove the pot to a trivet, place the cabbage in the hot water core side-up, and cover. Let this sit for 10-15 minutes while you prep your veggies.

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Heat the oil over medium in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot. Make sure it has a lid if you’re not going the slow-cooker route. Veggie prep!! Save yourself some time and shred the carrot and parsnip in a food processor. This is also how I chopped the portobellos. Just pulse, pulse, pulse until you have a small chop. I diced my onion because I love dicing onions, but the onion could absolutely go the food processor route. Mince the garlic and set aside. Add the onion to the oil and sauté, stirring occasionally. Put the thyme, parsnip, carrot, celery, and mushrooms in a large bowl as the onion cooks (keep the garlic set aside).
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When the onion is translucent, add the bowl o’ veg. Stir it all up and salt and pepper the mix generously. This mixture will release quite a bit of liquid, so allow the liquid to cook off. It helps to create a well in the middle as the veggies cook- the liquid will gather there and simmer away.

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When the liquid is almost all the way gone, splash a bit more olive oil in the well you’ve created and add your garlic, stirring until fragrant.

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Remove from heat and stir well. Pour back into the large bowl and let cool for a few minutes… and let’s get back to the cabbage. The cabbage will be soft and pliable now. With tongs, peel off about 15 leaves, one by one.

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I cut out the large, tough vein in the leaves, but you don’t have to. Set the leaves aside and mix the ground beef, rice, and tomato paste in with the veggie mixture. Salt and pepper again, and mix a second time. This is your filling! You’re almost ready to leave the kitchen!

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this looks kind of gross, eh?

Grab the pot you cooked the veggies in OR your crockpot, whichever you’ll be using. Take a cabbage leaf and scoop 1/4-1/3 cup of the filling into the leaf depending on the leaf’s size, rolling the bottom, then sides, and then top down around it. I didn’t photograph this process, but here’s a helpful 20 second video made by someone who did. It’s very easy. Arrange the little bundles snugly in the pot or crockpot. You’ll have 2-3 layers of bundles, depending on the size of your pot.

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Now for my Note On Tomato Sauce: allow my trial and error to guide you, grasshopper. I throw myself on the cooking pyre for YOU, for youuuu. Okay, so I poured two cans of tomato sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes over my cabbage rolls. The combo was too thick and too seasoned, and overpowered the more delicate flavors of the rolls. If you’re a big tomato fan, by all means- go this route. Otherwise, I strongly suggest using one can of tomato sauce (or 2 cups of your favorite jarred or homemade sauce) and pouring in tomato juice or V8 until the mixture reaches the top of the rolls. Up to you. Comme ci, comme ça.

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bye bye, golumps

If you’re using a crockpot, cover and set to low for 8 hours. You could refrigerate the crock at this point and start it in the morning, if you’d like. If you’re cooking on a stove top, bring the tomato mixture to a boil and then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 2 hours. What will you do in those 2 hours? I read about *nothing* in Allure and we watched some DVR’ed triathlon, because we are that cool.  So! Kick up your heels…

…and, as on a cooking show, I’m sorry, but your long cooking time has magically elapsed and it’s time to head back into the kitchen. Everything’s easy from here,  though: serve. With sour cream, if you’d like, or mashed potatoes on the side. There’s a picture of a pretty roll up top, but you will lay waste to your cabbage rolls and they will look like this:

cabbage12HAPPY GOLUMPING!


Slow-Cooker Italian Beef (gf)

Okay, so first things first: a big shout out to my lovely mother-in-law for this wonderful recipe. She gave it to me when my husband and I moved into our first place together, and it always reminds me of that apartment- this meal is definitely food nostalgia for me. This is one of Dave’s favorites, and I threw it all together before a busy Sunday full of errands and a movie. Side note: the movie was The Artist and it was wonderful. I saw it with my best friend and we drank wine and ate popcorn and tap danced in the lobby afterward- I highly recommend all of those things.

With pleasure!

This recipe has a kick to it, so I have a few notes for the non-spicy fans out there.

SLOW COOKER ITALIAN BEEF

(adapted from Jane Ann Cruse’s family recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lb beef roast of your choice
  • 2 packets dry zesty Italian dressing mix (regular for the non-spicies)
  • 1 large jar pepperoncini (mild for the non-spicies)
  • beer to cover (I used three cans of good ol’ Bud Light)
  • garlic cloves, optional

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