Cold weather is always good for making real beans. By real, I mean not from a can – I mean dried beans soaked overnight and simmered in broth on the stovetop for a couple of hours. With lots of garlic and some onion, carrots and celery. In addition to the gorgeous smells you’ll have wafting through the kitchen when you make dried beans, the final product doesn’t even seem to belong to the same family of food as canned beans. These are beans that actually give a little resistance when you chew them, making them seem so much more robust and filling.

I had been eyeing some heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo for some time, so I finally ordered a few varieties to try. I had a hard time choosing, since they all sounded so good (and were soooo pretty). But select I did, and below is a picture of the types I went with.

Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo - Scarlet Runner Bean, Ojo de Cabra Bean (Goat's Eye), Vallarta Bean, Rio Zape Bean

Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo – Scarlet Runner Beans, Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye) Beans, Vallarta Beans, Rio Zape Beans

I ended up using the Rio Zape beans for this particular recipe. The Rio Zape beans are an heirloom which is touted as being discovered in the ruins of the Anasazi cliff-dwelling people in the Southwestern area of the US, and are probably the most delicious beans I’ve ever had. But I got a nice close-up of the Ojo de Cabra beans I wanted to share as well:

Closeup of Ojo de Cabra (Eye of the Goat) Beans

Closeup of Ojo de Cabra (Eye of the Goat) Beans

So back to the Rio Zape beans. If you don’t have them or a similar heirloom bean, you can substitute pinto beans, but the Rio Zapes make such a nice tasty broth, you might have to throw in some additional spices to add some flavor. (Plus, you really, really want to try these beans.)

Rio Zape Beans, Carrot, Celery, Onion, and Garlic

Rio Zape Beans, Carrot, Celery, Onion, and Garlic

I did some research on the conventional wisdom that says you shouldn’t cook beans with salt because it will make them tougher, and it turns out that’s not actually true. So I went ahead and used broth, as well as some diced onion, carrot, celery, and lots of garlic.

(Slightly) Spicy, Garlicky Rio Zape Beans
serves 4

1 cup dried Rio Zape beans
1 small white onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4-8 large garlic cloves, minced (the amount depends on your love of garlic)
1/2 oz grated pecorino romano (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
vegetable or chicken broth (variable, but several cups)
2-6 shakes liquid smoke
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (only if using low-salt broth!)
brown rice

Rinse beans, then cover with 2 inches of water in a large bowl, and soak 6 hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse beans, then put beans in a stock pot, add all ingredients up through the broth, then add broth to cover beans by 2 inches. (You’ll want to taste the broth and adjust it with the liquid smoke and salt to your liking, but you might want to wait until it’s heated to do so. You’ll also want to go a bit light on the salt, since as it reduces, it will become more salty). Bring to a boil, then cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 1+1/2 to 2 hours (until beans are tender to your liking), checking every 20 minutes or so, and adding broth as needed to keep the beans submerged (towards the end you just want them to be barely under the broth, so the results aren’t too soupy, but you do want a little juice left. Once the beans are tender enough, you can turn up the heat and cook off a some of the excess broth if you like. Serve over brown rice.

Spicy Slow-Cooked Beans

(Somewhat) Spicy Garlicky Rio Zape Beans

Anyone who grew up carving Jack-O’-Lanterns for Halloween has probably had roasted pumpkin seeds at one point or another. What else are you going to do with the guts from your pumpkin? In a rare occurrence, we decided to carve pumpkins this year, and to roast the seeds as well. First, for your viewing pleasure, a blurry portrait of my somewhat dentally challenged Jack-O’-Lantern:

Jack-o-Lantern - Munson Farms Pumpkin


I decided I wanted to add some pizzazz to my roasted seeds… No – you know what? I don’t really care for that word, pizzazz. Something about it displeases me. What to use instead… How about: I decided to give some character to my roasted seeds, by coating them with spices. There. That’s better.

Washed and De-Pulped Pumpkin Seeds - Munson Farms Pumpkin

Washed and De-Pulped Pumpkin Seeds

We had so many seeds after carving, I decided I could easily make two varieties – one with some spicy, cinnamony flavor, and one with a more savory chile pepper flavor. I ended up baking them nearly a week after we carved, so I had to rehydrate the pulp to remove it, but it came off pretty easily nonetheless. Then I dried the seeds on paper towels to be sure the oil I used would stick, mixed up some spices, and tossed together the seeds, some olive oil and the spices. I roasted them for about half an hour, and they were good to go. They are somewhat high in calories and fat, so I generally only have a bout a 1/4 cup at a time – but that’s a pretty satisfying amount.

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Munson Farms Pumpkin

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1+1/2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds
2-4 tsp olive oil or melted butter
spice blend (choose one from below)

spicy cinnamon blend
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
3/8 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp salt

spicy chile blend
1+1/2 tsp adobo chile powder (I used Savory Spice Shop’s Lodo Red Adobo)
1 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash pumpkin seeds, then remove as much pulp as possible. Pat dry with paper towels. Mix spices together. Toss pumpkin seeds with olive oil or butter, and then add spices, and mix well to coat seeds. Spread on a baking sheet either sprayed with cooking spray or lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-40 minutes until toasted, stirring every 10 minutes.

I’d been wanting to make pretzel rolls for a while, and finally decided last week that I’d give it a go. But that day I bought a bunch of tomatoes, found myself thinking about them off and on during the day, so I took a detour, and decided I wanted to make tomato pecorino-romano pretzels instead. I had no idea how well that would work, but I figured it was worth a try.

I heated up some tomato sauce (the heirlooms I bought that day were ear-marked for pasta sauce – I used canned sauce for the pretzels), put the yeast in, and waited to see if it would actually bubble like I wanted it to. Fortunately, it did indeed! I added a bunch of finely grated pecorino romano, and used my favorite white whole wheat flour. I let it rise for about an hour, kneaded it very briefly, divided it up, and formed the pieces into pretzels.

The first time I made this I didn’t roll the pieces out long enough, so the pretzels were quite puffy. Obscenely puffy perhaps (but rather amusing, I think).

Round One - Overly Puffy Pretzels

Round One – Overly Puffy Pretzels

I did a second round a week later, adding some basil and oregano to pump up the flavor. I ended up making a larger batch, and figured out why my Dad used to recruit my mom and I to help shape crescent rolls and such when he made them. It definitely takes a bit of time to make 24 shaped pieces (or 23 if you can’t count well while you’re dividing the dough up). Not that making the ultimate Play-Doh shape for anyone who is inartistic (the SNAKE!) is difficult, it’s just time-consuming. But I powered through, and had some lovely looking pretzels to show for it. I made sure to make the ropes longer than the last time so there’d be less puffiness.

Round Two - Much More Normal-Looking Pretzels

Round Two – Much More Normal-Looking Pretzels

I’m really pleased with the color of the finished product. Plus they’re yummy. Definitely a recipe to keep!

Tomato Basil Pecorino-Romano Pretzels
makes 24 (or 23) pretzels

1+1/2 c tomato sauce
1+1/2 packages yeast
1 Tbsp tomato paste
60 g finely grated pecorino romano* (about 2 cups)
1+1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp oregano
3 to 3+1/2 c flour
1 egg, beaten
coarse salt

* You can substitute parmesan if you’d like

Heat the tomato sauce to about 110 degrees (aka ‘warm’ in most recipes – I used a glass measuring cup in the microwave, and used 20 minute increments, stirred it, then put my thermometer in to check. You want to be sure to get it fairly close to 110 degrees, because too cold and the yeast won’t activate, and too hot and you will kill it). Once it’s at the right temperature, stir in the yeast, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it’s bubbly.

In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce/yeast mixture, tomato paste, pecorino romano, sugar, basil, and oregano. Once everything is well mixed, add the flour 1/2 cup at a time. The amount to add will vary depending on your altitude and humidity. You will probably have to mix in the last 1/4 to 1/2 cup with your hands. Basically you want the dough to have a consistency that is smooth, but not sticky.

Form the dough into a ball shape, put in a lightly greased (or cooking sprayed) bowl, turn to coat, and then cover with a slightly damp towel (use warm water). Here is where I’m supposed to say ‘let rise until doubled in size’, but honestly – I haven’t seen ‘doubled in size’ in my bread dough for decades. Lets go with ‘let rise 40-60 minutes, until you can tell that it has increased in size quite a bit’ – but if you really get double the size, kudos to you!

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Punch the dough down to release the air, then divide the dough into 24 pieces. As you are shaping each piece, keep the others covered with the damp towel so they don’t dry out. For each piece, roll into a rope 12-14 inches long. Form into a pretzel shape:

Forming the Dough into Pretzels

Forming the Dough into Pretzels

Arrange the pretzels on two baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Brush each pretzel with egg. Now sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack. Obviously since the pretzels are orange, you won’t be able to determine their doneness by a ‘golden brown color’. So you kind of just have to go by the outside texture.

Any time I hear something with the number ‘2’ at the end (à la ‘Biscotti 2’), I think of all the over-used movie sequel titles, and want to tack ‘The Revenge’ or ‘This Time it’s Serious’ on the end. So – pick your favorite bad subtitle for this post from the above. And now why there is a part 2: I’ve been going a little overboard on making biscotti since my Chocolate Almond Biscotti post at the beginning of the month. But it’s just so easy (waiting time aside) and delicious that I kind of can’t stop.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Chocolate Chip Biscotti

I’ve made several different flavors with varying amounts of success. The batch of cherry biscotti I made (after tediously reducing the juice from puréed bing cherries (laboriously pitted by hand)), were disappointingly uncherry-flavored. The vanilla with yogurt chip biscotti were good, if overly sweet. But the coconut biscotti were outstanding, and the pumpkin pie spiced chocolate chip biscotti was given the stamp of approval by several of my friends.

Coconut Biscotti

Coconut Biscotti

For the pumpkin pie spices, I ground fresh spices for all but the ginger. Using whole spices and grinding them adds extra intensity to the flavors, so I try to do that whenever I can (or whenever I have the energy)). All you have to do is use an old burr coffee grinder, and shake it with the lid held tightly closed to ensure all the spices are well ground.

Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg and Allspice

Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg and Allspice

I actually used a very fine grater for the nutmeg instead of the coffee grinder, and was surprised to see the inside of the leftover nutmeg afterwards – I had no idea how cool looking nutmeg was!

Cool-looking Nutmeg Insides

Cool-looking Nutmeg Insides

Over the past eight batches or so of biscotti, my husband and I decided that we actually like biscotti a little less dry than is standard. Sometimes it’s kind of nice to be able to eat a biscotti in your cubicle at work without having to dunk each bite in coffee so that you don’t disturb your coworkers with reverberating crunch noises. (Honestly, I made one batch that really was that hard – I kind of felt like I should apologize for breaking people’s concentration).

Coconut Biscotti
makes 18-24

1+3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c erythritol*
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c low-fat shredded coconut
1/4 c applesauce
2 Tbsp olive oil
1+1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp coconut flavoring
1 egg + 2 egg whites

Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Chip Biscotti
makes 18-24

pumpkin pie spices (you’ll use about half of this)
3 tsp cinnamon
1+1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1+3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c erythritol*
1/4 c sugar
3/4 c pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c chocolate chips
3 tsp pumpkin pie spices
1 egg + 2 egg whites

* Erythritol is usually about 70% as sweet as sugar. If you want to use all sugar instead of a mix, try 3/4 cup of sugar. I haven’t done this ratio, but I don’t think that the missing 1/4 cup of sugar texture would make too much difference since this is basically a quick bread.

Directions for both types:
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil, and spray well with cooking spray.

In one bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In another bowl mix together all the rest of the ingredients, except the eggs. Taste and adjust as desired. Next add the egg and egg whites. Gradually add the flour mixture (in about 3 batches), combining well.

Divide the dough in half, rinse your hands in cold water and just shake (but not dry) them off. Form two skinny loaves between 2-3 inches wide and about 12 inches long. (The dough will spread a bit as it bakes.)

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until it has the consistency of a loaf of bread (just a tiny bit of give when you touch the top). Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. As soon as you remove the biscotti, decrease the oven temperature to 275.

Slice each loaf diagonally with a serrated knife into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Wipe the aluminum foil with a paper towel to get rid of excess cooking spray, then arrange the slices on the baking sheets, and bake until the biscotti are dry – anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes (seriously, it’s a crazy range, I have different results with basically the same batter as near as I can tell. The pumpkin will probably take a bit longer since I used a lot of pumpkin to get a bold taste). Remove from oven, and cool on a baking rack.

As soon as 2R’s Farm starts selling their purple potatoes at the Boulder Farmers’ Market, I can’t resist the urge to buy some nearly every week. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know of my affinity for brightly colored vegetables, and my special attraction to anything purple. So for most of the second half of the summer, we have a lot of purple potatoes. When I set out to make this dish, I discovered I was a bit scant on my supply, so I had to supplement with a few emergency red potatoes from the grocery store. (Next time I’ll be sure to grab an extra handful of the purples.)

For my last post, I shared my recipe for tzatziki potato sausage salad. This week I decided to make a potato salad based on one of our favorite recipes – Southwestern Potato Salad from Cooking Light Magazine. To avoid cooking too much in the kitchen since it’s so hot out, I decided to grill the peppers, onions, and sweet corn. I cooked the potatoes in the microwave, since honestly, I find that just as easy as doing it on the stovetop. You don’t want the peppers and onions to be too cooked, so just grill enough to get a bit of char on them.

Ingredients for Chipotle Black Bean Potato Salad

Ingredients for Chipotle Black Bean Potato Salad

Chipotle Black Bean Potato Salad
adapted from Southwestern Potato Salad in Cooking Light Magazine
servers 4-6

1+1/2 lbs new potatoes
1+1/2 red bell peppers
1 red onion
3 ears sweet corn (about 1+1/2 cups kernels)
1 can black beans
1-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
3 tsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp hot smoked Spanish paprika (or regular if you don’t want more heat)
1/2 tsp ground chipotle chile (optional)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 -1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
liquid smoke (optional)

Cut the potatoes into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces, and cook in boiling water until tender, either in the microwave or on the stovetop. (About 15-17 minutes in the microwave). Drain and set aside.

Cut the tops and bottoms off of the bell peppers, and then cut the pepper into 4 flat pieces (remove the seeds). Cut the red onion into about 1/3 inch thick slices. Remove the husks and silk from the sweet corn, but leave the ‘handles’ on.

You’ll want your grill on medium heat, and ideally use a basket or a grilling tray for the onions and peppers. Brush all the vegetables (both sides of the flat ones) with the first tsp of olive oil. Place everything on the grill.

Vegetables on the Grill

Vegetables on the Grill

After about 3-5 minutes, once the bottom sides are just slightly charred, flip the peppers and onions, and turn the sweet corn by 1/3. After 3-4 more minutes, once the peppers and onions are just slightly charred on the other side, remove them from the heat, and turn the sweet corn again. Grill for an additional 3-4 minutes, then remove the sweet corn as well.

Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Vegetables

Let the vegetables cool, then cut the pepper into about 1/2 inch pieces, and dice the onions. Cut the kernels off of the corn cobs.

Dressing: Finely mince 1-3 of the chipotle chiles (depending on how hot they are, and how hot you want the potato salad). Combine the chipotle chiles, lime juice, hot smoked Spanish paprika, salt, and black pepper. Stir well, then taste. If you want more heat, add the ground chipotle.

Combine the potatoes and vegetables in a large bowl, then add the dressing, and stir to combine well. Taste and add a few shakes of liquid smoke if you want a smokier taste. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

Chipotle Black Bean Potato Salad

Chipotle Black Bean Potato Salad

Nutritional Information:
per serving, 4 servings: 325 cals 5.2 g fat 9.5 g fiber
per serving, 6 servings: 215 cals 3.3 g fat 6.3 g fiber

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