Black Bean Dip

Fireside Black Bean Dip

So apparently the Golden Globes were tonight. I didn’t realize this because we don’t have a television, and I spent my evening snuggled by the fireside eating what our family affectionately, though perhaps inappropriately, calls “Black Bean Dip.” The only reason that I do know now is that I turned on “the internets” to write about the glories of said food, and discovered that Kate Winslet has won two awards. Oh, and lest we forget: Heath Ledger has won a posthumous award.

But back to the dip. Black Bean Dip is not a dip in the traditional sense of the word. It is not creamy or spreadable, though it can be scooped. It is alternatively known among the members of our congregation as “Russian Bean Dip” because my mother-in-law is well known for making it. I suppose now that I have begun to make it frequently it should be termed “German-Russian Bean Dip,” just to add another layer of confusion to its nomenclature. The recipe, of course, did not originate with me or with my mother-in-law; in fact, I have seen something rather similar to it on the back of a can of Bush’s black beans. But regardless of where it originated or what, precisely, it is termed (I have also heard it called a ‘salad.’) it is easy, healthy, and super tasty. Oh, and of course, it is naturally gluten and casein free. (Just make sure you don’t buy fancy flavored tortilla chips, which can contain hidden foodstuff nasties.)

The basic recipe is as follows, with changes I’ve made annotated. I’m all for using fresh corn in season and preparing your own beans from scratch, but all that requires forethought. The strength of this is that it can be put together using ingredients commonly in your refrigerator and pantry. (Well, commonly if you are from California or Arizona. I am of course aware that non-Western types don’t ordinarily consider avocados to be a grocery staple.)

Black Bean Dip

Black Bean Dip (Or Salad, if you prefer)

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer and 2-3 as a meal. GF/CF

1 Can of Black Beans

1 Can of Whole Kernel Corn*

2 small or 1 medium Tomato, chopped

1 small or 1/2 medium Red Onion**, finely chopped

1 or 2 Avocados, diced

The juice of 1/2 – 1 Lime

A good handful of Cilantro***, chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, and serve with tortilla chips and margaritas. The margaritas are of course optional, and could be replaced by tequila shots, as seen above.

This “dip” can easily become a “salad” when combined with some cooked brown rice. Vegetarians will tell you to stop there, that this forms a complete protein – and they’d be right. But if you really want to go for a salad that is tasty even when served cold, brown some ground beef with whatever taco seasonings float your boat (mine vary, but usually include freshly-ground cumin and some chile pepper, onion and garlic, and oregano if I can find it). Mix in to the rice and bean salad mixture, and enjoy.

I have also used it as a side to fajitas, huevos rancheros, and mixed in to a burrito – but all leftovers should ideally be eaten within a day.

* I frequently use only half a can as I prefer to let the beans predominate.

** Or use whatever onion you have on hand; I’ve used just about every onion imaginable.

*** If you are one of those strange anti-cilantro types, I suppose you could try parsley here, or simply leave it out.


How To: Clarify Butter in a Little Dipper Slow Cooker

Those of us who are sensitive to casein, the protein in dairy products (including, alas, butter), must either accept an entirely butter-free existence, buy expensive casein-free certified ghee, or learn to clarify butter ourselves. Granted, for many the idea of home-clarified butter is a scary thought. It’s probably not entirely casein free … you can see from the pictures that there are little remnants of milk solids left floating around. But given that butter is already very low in casein, and I’m removing say 90% of it, I’m okay with that.

To clarify butter, one must simply heat it slowly until a foam has gathered at the top and the rest has liquified and separated. The resulting clarified butter is butter in which the milk solids (containing the casein) and whey have been removed, resulting in pure butter fat. This rendered fat has a higher smoke point that butter, making for better frying. Perfectly clarified butter (as in the aforementioned ghee) can be stored at room temperature for many months without going rancid. As my butter is likely not perfectly clarified, I like to store it in the refrigerator and soften it as needed.

Clarifying Butter I

Of course, a Little Dipper Slow Cooker is not necessary to clarify butter. It’s just that I recently received one, and found that most of the recipes I’ve found for it are really not very friendly to us non-dairy folks. So I’ve been experimenting with other uses for the thing – including making my own yogurt. (Okay, that’s a dairy product, I know … but husbands and infants like yogurt. What can I say?) Moreover, I find that it’s the perfect size for 4 sticks (1 lb) of butter. Let’s proceed:

Step One

First, place four sticks (1lb) of butter in the Little Dipper. Plug in the Little Dipper, and walk away. Check your email, make your son a peanut butter sandwich, get out the vacuum to clean up after said sandwich eating. You don’t want to stir or otherwise upset the butter while it’s doing its thing.

When you finally remember that you’re melting butter, and that you should probably check on it, return to the kitchen to find this:

Step 2

Oopsies. It appears that the butter bubbled over just a tad, but then that’s the foam that we don’t want anyway. Good thing you remembered to put that towel under there. Moving on:

Step 3

Skim off the icky foamy bits. We don’t want those. I use a little mesh strainer, but before I bought one of those I used a flat spoon. Either way works, but this way you waste less of the yummy butterfat.

Step 4

Next, we want to get the butter fat separated from the white milk solids at the bottom. To accomplish this, I’ve poured the whole thing into this handy dandy fat separator … but in the past I’ve also just ladled the butterfat, taking care to avoid the solids. You can easily tell if they’re getting into the ladle; if they do, simply drop the contents of your ladle, allow everything to settle again, and try once more.

(Incidentally, this fat separator comes with a top portion that is intended to keep out bits of meats and whatnot. If it had a finer meshy/sievvy quality to it, I could have saved myself that previous step. Perhaps in the future I’ll try this with some cheesecloth draped across the top of the strainer so catch the foam?)

Step 5

Ahem. It seems that I forgot that the last time I did this, I only used two sticks of butter. That little glass jar did NOT hold all the butter I had clarified today, though this helps me to make my point. That jar had originally held 6 oz of commercially prepared ghee, bought for the exorbitant price of just under $6. Meanwhile, the four sticks of butter cost somewhere in the vicinity of $1.50 -$2.50 depending on where I buy it and whether it’s on sale.

So there you have it – delicious and nutritious (yes! it’s true! Butter is good for you.) butterfat, at a fraction of the cost.

Living Without Magazine

Living Without Magazine

Living Without Magazine

I’ve been meaning to start writing more about food, but have been hindered by the fact that I just can’t seem to come up with a witty food blog title. It seems like all the good ones are already taken … I mean, “Book of Yum?” Awesome.  “Smitten Kitchen?” I like. And the title “Gluten Free Girl” has been held for years by someone far better qualified to the position. Besides, while I might like a nod to the food issues, I really wouldn’t want them to dominate. So please help me. If you’re reading, and it would surprise me if many are, but play along here … if you’re reading, then do please throw out some ideas. Then again, I might just keep things here and keep it nice and simple.

A friend recently stated that I’m a bit obsessed with food. This is no overstatement … but I have a reason for thinking about food all the time, I do! I have food issues. I know, I know. White people and their food issues. Long story short, I can’t eat foods containing the proteins gluten (found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, and so on) and casein (found in milk). I’m also not too great with Soy. All this means that many of the foods I used to know and love are either totally off-limits, or else have to be substituted into an unrecognizable form.

Enter Living Without Magazine.  Living Without is a magazine devoted to helping those with food allergies and intolerances educate themselves about foodstuffs and feed themselves with style and grace. Excellent articles nothwithstanding, I find that the advertisements are actually useful. Not all Gluten and Dairy free products are available in all local stores, and it’s helpful to find out about new brands of prefab foods and flour mixes – though in general I use them rarely. Each issue also comes with a fairly extensive substitution guide, including recipes for various flour blends. We have a local gluten free bakery (Gluten Free Creations) that makes a few fantastic mixes, which I confess I find far easier to use than mixing everything from scratch eatch time I like to bake, but I love knowing how to blend various flours to achieve different flavors and textures. My favorite part of this particular magazine, though, is that they very frequently have recipes that are both gluten and casein free. While many people who are gluten intolerant also can’t process dairy, it can still be difficult to find such recipes. They are usually tagged Gluten Free / Casein Free (GF/CF in my categories) and I have found that Vegan Recipes, Autism Spectrum Disorder Groups, Specific Carbohydrate Diet sites, Kosher (for non-dairy) sites, and of course Gluten Free recipe collections can all be good resources.

Full disclosure: Living Without is fond of exploring the wide world of hard to find and expensive but gluten free flours … and I have often had to change things up by making my own substitutions. BUT I fully intend to make and review recipes from Living Without, which will be tagged as such.Because I simply can’t leave well enough alone and usually view a recipe as a fluid guideline (even – gasp – when baking), I’ll probably fidget with things … but I’ll clearly mark my modifications and list the recipes as originally detailed in the magazine.

First up, from the new February/March issue which arrived this morning, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free CHOCOLATE dessert recipes. I’ll see if I can find some yummy deliciousness to serve at our prospective Valentine’s Day Symposium. With raspberries. Husbands like raspberries.