Adventures in Disastrous Cookery

I have recently developed the habit of using any otherwise unoccupied Saturday night for some mad food science. It’s a little weird — I have spent most of my adult life living on frozen food and takeout, with only occasional forays into actual cooking (usually very, very pathetic forays that end very, very badly). Lately, though, I’ve begun to prefer the taste of fresh to frozen meals, and I find myself craving different tastes and styles of food.

This is the point at which both of my parents, if they’re reading this blog entry, will probably either faint dead away or start giggling, because I was the pickiest damn eater as a child, and showed no inclination whatsoever to try new things. New things were bad things. I did not like them, Sam I Am. I did not want Green Eggs and Ham. I was creeped out by odd textures, and didn’t much care for spicy food of any kind. I could (and did) break out the big-time drama when confronted with foods I did not wish to eat — self-inducing a gag reflex, crying, dithering, delaying. Gods, was I a pain in the ass.

Now, of course, I find myself liking things I used to despise and feeling kind of “meh” about stuff I used to love. My new cooking priorities are these:

1) Use fresh (non-processed) ingredients as much as possible, or at least try to find minimally processed stuff.

2) Find recipes that can be used to prepare at least one full week of single servings that stand up well as leftovers.

3) Get spicy and interesting!

4) Find recipes that aren’t fussy — simple to prepare, requiring little in the way of Advanced Chef Superpowers or special tools.

So far, it’s been pretty cool. I’ve found some stew and chili recipes that work really well, and I recently discovered a sort of beef pastry thing that I like a lot (I discovered how awesome rosemary is as a spice — parsley, sage, and thyme can suck it). I haven’t really inflicted the results of my madness on anyone else, so who knows if they’re any good, really, but I like what I’ve been preparing.

Today, at the request of a former student of mine, I’m going to rock some food pr0n here and walk through a kind of bean-bun thing I just created tonight. Woohoo!

The original recipe (as found at Allrecipes.com) is meant to be a vegan bean taco filling. I decided to alter it a bit by adding spinach and green peas to the bean mash, adding some cheese, and wrapping the whole thing in a pastry shell instead of eating it as a taco filling. Whee! Other than the pastry bits and the added vegetation, I stuck pretty close to the recipe as written.

The first step, naturally, involved preparing some stuff (cutting, cleaning, draining, etc.). The oven was preheated to 425 and ignored until needed. In a skillet on the stove, I heated some extra-light olive oil and warmed up one chopped-up green pepper, one thoroughly massacred large yellow onion, and a mess of diced garlic.

Sizzlin’!

While that mess was bubblin’ in the pan, I put black beans, spinach, and peas in my ancient food processor and set the mechanism on “utterly destroy”… or possibly “high.” I can never tell those apart. The result looked like I had blended Kermit the Frog with a dash of crude oil. 
It isn’t easy being green…

Once that was ready (and the onion/pepper/garlic stuff was cooked enough), I added it to the skillet, followed by a mix of spices, a little corn meal, and some diced tomatos. It made the whole mess look like I had murdered one of Santa’s elves and was looking for some fava beans and a nice chianti, but it smelled pretty awesome.
Do you hear them, Clarice? The elves?

Using my mighty spoon arm, I blended that hot mess into, um…well, a hotter mess, which I then covered and let cook on medium for about 5 minutes. Once that was done, I broke out my secret weapon (and great disgrace):
Flaky! Like Me!

Pastry is work, people, and I don’t do that shit. It turns out that these big ol’ biscuits (which are the main source of calories and assorted artificial crap in this recipe of mine) are really terrific as pastry wrappers for heavy fillings (which is why I use Grands instead of crescent rolls). The dough is tough enough for the job, but cooks well and is easy to stretch into the required shape. Like so:

Stretch the dough, put some of the
bean mix in the middle, add some
shredded cheese (I cheated and used the Kraft Mexican 4 Cheese mix), and then stretch and pull and pinch and swear and fit the whole blessed mess into a nice, pleasant, pudgy little bun of beany goodness.

Once the buns were all put together, I loaded ’em up on cooking sheets, put a little more cheese on top of each bun (to make it all cool and shit), and then put it all into the nice hot oven for a little cooking action!

Ready!

As it happens, the pastry shells cook pretty quickly — 10 minutes max, probably less. I never actually time it. I usually do some dishes, knock back a drink, and hover over the stove until the buns are a nice, toasty brown color on the outside.
What? It’s naturally gluten-free!

When it was nice and brown and ready, I hauled it out of the oven and let it sit until very, very cool — I find that stuff freezes better when you let it cool properly, and I’m preparing these buns in order to be frozen for lunches for the next two weeks (the recipe makes 16 buns, plus about two or three meals of leftover filling, which I’m going to store in the fridge, reheat, and serve over rice).
Oh, yeah…

Now that all of the nifty buns are in the freezer (individually bagged), I can bring them out when I need them. For something like this, I usually bring two buns at a time down into the fridge to defrost. To eat them, all I have to do is stick them in the microwave on “high” for about a minute, and then I’m good to go with a nice hot bun. Woohoo! I did have one small problem this time — some of the bottoms of some of the buns are a tad burnt — my stove can’t really do a good job on too many things at once. Note to self: next time, only do one sheet at a time, and turn the darn thing about halfway through.
I tasted a bit of the mix, and it seemed nice and spicy (what with all of that stuff in it). We’ll find out tomorrow how it settles overnight — I’m eating reheated leftover filling and rice for lunch. Woohoo!

 

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About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. Otherwise, I labor to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
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