Sunday, February 21, 2010

Avocado & Black-Eyed Pea Salad

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Black-eyed peas: are they beans or are they peas?  My extensive research leads me to they are beans - although they are very closely related to peas, and peas and beans are all from the legume family.  So call them what you will.  :)

The original recipe calls this a salsa and it does work great as a salsa (serve with chips!) but it also works as a side salad.  We ate it as a salad alongside Quesadilla Pie (which was made using leftovers from tacos the night before as well as ingredients from this recipe!).  This is also cut in half from the original recipe.  Unless you are serving a large group, I promise this is all you will need to make!

source: tweaked from
prep time: 15 minutes
total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
serves: 6-8 servings

1 ripe but firm avocado, diced
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced (about 2 onions)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup roma tomato, chopped (about 1 tomato)
1 1/2 cups frozen sweet white corn, thawed
1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a salad bowl, gently toss together avocado, green onions, cilantro, tomato, corn and black-eyed peas.
  2. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over salad.  Lightly toss to coat and refrigerate 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

And the giveaway winner is...

A winner has been chosen...

Congratulations!  I will contact you for your info and choice of spice set from!  Thank you to all who participated in this giveaway!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quesadilla Pie

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This is such an easy dinner! So versatile and so delicious. I served this with a side of Barley & Bean Salad. Whatever ingredients I had leftover from that salad, I threw into the quesadilla pie!

prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 40-45 minutes
ready in: 55-60 minutes
serves: 4

BASE INGREDIENTS4 large flour tortillas
1/2 pound cheese, grated (Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, Cheddar, etc.)
pat of butter

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENT OPTIONSbeans, drained and rinsed (black, kidney, pinto)
tomatoes, chopped
sundried tomatoes, chopped
zucchini, coursely shredded (squeezed to remove water)
onions, sliced or diced (green onions, yellow onion)
mushrooms, sliced and sauteed
chiles, chopped (chipotles, cooked chile peppers, canned pickled jalapenos)
spices (cumin, chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic salt, oregano, basil)
black olives, sliced
Consider other ideas.... greek style (feta cheese sprinkled in with mozzarella, white beans, artichoke hearts, green onions tomato, oregano, fennel seeds, kalamata olives), italian style (mozzarella, basil, sundried tomato, pepperoni, tomato sauce, seafoods), etc.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a pie dish that's approximately the same size as your tortillas. 

2. Place one tortilla on the bottom of your dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Add your chosen ingredients, layering tortillas and adding generous handfuls of cheese to each tortilla. Spread a bit of butter on the top tortilla.
  • For our quesadilla pie pictured above, the bottom layer had cheese, black beans, green onions, corn, and a sprinkling of chili powder. The second layer had cheese, kidney beans, pickled jalapeno, shredded zucchini and cumin. The top layer was the same as the bottom. 
3. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, increase heat to 400 degrees and bake for 10-15 minutes until the top tortilla is lightly browned and cheese is bubbling. 

4. Remove from oven. Let cool and cut into quarters. Serve with garnish.

    Barley & Bean Salad

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    This is such a gorgeous salad! It reminds me of confetti... Easy to prepare, great for making ahead, and it's so healthy! You can substitute half or all the barley for wild, brown or white rice if you prefer (but I highly recommend sticking with the barley...). It can be a main dish on its own or a great side salad.

    Barley is a high-fiber, high-protein grain. A great substitute for rice (even my picky toddler devoured it when I told him it was "big rice"!). I buy it from the bulk section at Whole Foods. You may notice there are two varieties of barley: hulled barley and pearl barley. Hulled barely is unprocessed with only the outer hull removed, and it takes longer to cook. Pearl barley is 'polished' with more layers [and nutrients] removed.

    source: adapted from
    serves: 6-8 servings

    1 cup pearl barley
    1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
    1 cup canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 cup frozen corn kernels, cooked according to package
    1/2 cup green onions, cut into half-inch slices (about half a bunch)
    1 red bell pepper, diced

    1/3 cup red wine vinegar
    2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    2/3 cup olive oil

    1. In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups water to boil. Stir in barley and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes or until tender. If using a rice cooker, increase water to 2 1/2 cups. Allow barley to cool. 
    2. In a large bowl, combine the cooled barley, black beans, kidney beans, corn, green onions and bell pepper. Mix well. 
    3. Combine remaining ingredients, whisking in olive oil. Pour over salad and toss well.* 
    4. Serve at room temperature or chill in fridge for several hours.** 

    * I only used about 2/3 of the dressing.
    ** If serving chilled, reserve some of the dressing to pour over salad just before serving.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    {CLOSED} Spice Up Your Life this Valentine's Day!

    ** This giveaway is closed **

    I LOVE spices.  Spices add so much spark and life to food.  I traveled a lot when I was in college - visited some exotic and beautiful countries - but now that I'm a mama with two little boys, I don't get to see the world like I did before.  Spices can bring the world to me!  I love that I can fix dinner and experience just a taste of the Mediterranean.... or South America.... or northern Thailand.  And I love that spices allow me to introduce the guys in my house to places they haven't seen yet.

    I was recently introduced to and a few things immediately stood out to me: (1) founder Greg Patterson has a passion for good spices and healthy living, (2) he's committed to offering top quality spices, herbs and seasonings, (3) they give away free spices every week! (4) you can find organic spices and herbs as well as salt-free seasonings on their site... and (5) free shipping on all orders over $35!!

    So here it is.  The giveaway that you don't want to miss (and I admit, I'm jealous of those of you who get to enter!): is graciously offering one of my readers your choice of one of these fabulous spice sets.

    Salt Free Basics 
    This no-salt set includes Pennsylvania Pepper, Salt Free Steak Rub, 
    Garlic & Herb Seasoning and Manzanillo Mexican Seasoning. (:::drool:::)
    Italian food lovers, this one's for you! Wow your family when you cook with these amazing spices... 
    Tomato Powder, Italian Seasoning, Basil, Mediterranean Oregano.
    Curry lovers unite!  This amazing set includes Madras Curry, 
    Sweet Curry Powder, Maharajah Style Curry Powder, Garam Masala

    Here's how to enter (You may enter up to six times, once for each of the ways below.  Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry!):
    1. Become a follower of my blog and leave a comment - (e.g. "I'm a follower!") - if you already follow my blog, just leave a comment. 
    2. Become a fan of Mama Jan's Kitchen on Facebook and leave a comment here - (e.g. "I'm a fan of Mama Jan's Kitchen!") - if you're already a fan, just leave a comment.
    3. Add's blog to your blogroll then leave a comment here - (e.g. "Spice Balance is on my blogroll!")
    4. Become a fan of on Facebook then leave a comment here - (e.g. "I'm a fan of!")
    5. Check out's list of Top 25 Spices Every Kitchen Must Have and then come back here to leave a comment telling me either which of these is your favorite spice to cook with OR which one have you never cooked with.
    6. Blog about this giveaway - post a link to that specific blog post in the comments.
    Contest will be open until 8pm PST on Sunday, February 14.  One lucky winner will be chosen to spice up their life on Valentine's Day!  Please make sure you leave your email address in the comment or have your email visible in your blogger profile so I can contact you if you win!

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Slow-Cooker Black Bean-Mushroom Chili

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    I was so excited when my most recent e-issue of EatingWell This Week arrived in my inbox: healthy slow-cooker recipes!  Hooray!  What was even more exciting was that this recipe wasn't going to include all the same ol' ingredients that make so many slow-cooker meals taste all the same.

    But let's take a minute and talk about some of these ingredients.  They might seem a little intimidating if you've never cooked with them.  Take tomatillos, for example:

    I've been eying tomatillos at Whole Foods for ages but I never knew what to do with them.  I just about jumped out of my seat when I saw that this recipe used them!  Tomatillos look kind of like small green tomatoes, but they are all wrapped up in a paper husk.  They're tart, they're the main ingredient in salsa verde and you can find them in the produce aisle at your local market (I assume.  I live in California and sometimes take it for granted that we have so much fabulous produce to choose from!).

    Chipotle peppers may also be foreign to you.  They are just smoked jalapeno peppers, usually canned with adobo sauce.  Find them along with the Mexican food at your grocery store.

    Prep time: 25 minutes
    Cook time: 5-8 hours
    Servings: 10 1-cup portions

    1 pound dried black beans (2 1/2 cups), rinsed*
    1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup mustard seeds
    2 Tablespoons chili powder
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
    1 pound mushrooms, sliced
    8-16 ounces tomatillos, husked, rinsed and coarsely chopped  (about 4-8 tomatillos)
    1/4 cup water
    5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
    1 6oz can tomato paste
    1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (note: that's one pepper not one can of peppers!)

    grated Monterey or pepper Jack cheese
    reduced-fat sour cream
    chopped fresh cilantro
    lime wedges

    1. Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts water. Drain beans, rinse and discard liquid.**
    2. In a 5- to 6- quart dutch oven, combine oil, mustard seeds, chili powder, cumin and cardamom.  Place over high heat and stir until the spices sizzle (about 30 seconds).
    3. Add onions, mushrooms, tomatillos and water.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are juice (5-7 minutes).
    4. Uncover and stir often until the juices evaporate and vegetables are lightly browned (10-15 minutes).  Add broth, tomato paste and chipotles.  Mix well.
    5. Place beans in a 5- to 6- quart slow cooker.  Pour hot vegetable mixture over the beans.  Cook on high heat for about 8 hours, until the beans are creamy.***
    6. Garnish and enjoy!  We ate this with buttermilk cornbread on the side.

    Kitchen tips:
    * want to use canned black beans instead? If I were substituting in this recipe, I would use 3 cans black beans, omit step 1 and in step 5 cook on high 3-4 hours or on low 6-8 hours.
    ** if you don't have time to soak overnight, place beans and 2 quarts water in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand one hour).
    *** Stovetop version: increase broth to 8 1/2 cups.  Omit step 5, add beans to Dutch oven instead.  Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook until beans are creamy, about 3 hours.
    1. Chipotle peppers freeze well which is great because most recipes call for just one. I bag them individually (1-2 chiles per bag) with a teaspoon or two of the adobo sauce. Don't forget to label each bag with the number of chiles. Then place all the bags in one quart-size freezer bag and stick them in your freezer! If using a frozen chipotle for this recipe (and if you don't mind the extra heat from the seeds), chop it up while frozen. This makes the chopping SO much easier!
    2. Freeze half this recipe in a gallon-sized ziploc freezer bag (remove as much air as possible, lay flat to freeze).  Thaw and reheat on one of those days when you just can't cook!

    Buttermilk Cornbread

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    Although I know this oh-so-yummy cornbread is not at all healthy, I want to remind you health nuts out there not to be scared off by the word 'buttermilk'.  It's not as artery-clogging as it sounds!  Buttermilk is made by adding a bacteria culture to low- or non-fat milk!  So don't pass on by recipes that include buttermilk if you think this means it's high in fat....

    Prep time: 10 minutes
    Cook time: 30 minutes
    Servings: 9-12 squares

    1/2 cup butter
    2/3 cup white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 cup buttermilk
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup cornmeal
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch square pan.
    2. Place butter in a microwave-safe dish.  Heat just until melted.  In a medium bowl, combine sugar and butter.  Stir until mixed. Quickly add eggs, beating until blended.
    3.  Combine buttermilk and baking soda.  Stir into butter mixture.
    4. Stir in cornmeal, flour and salt until well-blended and few lumps remain.  Pour batter into prepared pan.
    5.  Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    Kitchen tip:
    If you forgot to pick up buttermilk at the store (as I did the other night...), you can make your own rather than sending your husband back out in the rain (not that I know what that's like...).
    What you need: 1 cup milk and 1 Tablespoon white vinegar (or 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or 1 and 3/4 Tablespoons cream of tartar).
    What you do: Add your acid (vingar, lemon juice, cream of tartar) to your milk and stir.  Let stand for about 15 minutes, until the milk begins to curdle.  Stir well.
    That's it!  So simple!