A Mexican Mini – Mini Black Bean Taquitos

I never ate much Mexican as a kid. In fact, I hated mexican for quite some time. These days, I’m quite fond of the stuff; though I admit not all of it being authentic (I draw the line at Taco Bell, however. That stuff isn’t even food). A friend of mine held his wedding in Mexico a few years back and I was fortunate enough to attend. Excellent food; not only at the reception but at this excellent taco stand where we met one of the coolest vendors I’ve ever met. I had never eaten cactus before, but that was some good stuff.

Preparing your Taquito

So now I dabble with the style every now and then, admitting whole-heartedly that my German/Italian heritage gives me no special skills. But hey, I can pump out a few easy tasty Americanized treats. And when I’ve been snacking all day? Good to go with minis.

Mini Black Bean Taquito

Mini Black Bean “Taquitos”

12 5-6 inch tortillas
2 cups cooked black beans (1 can); drained
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup guacamole
1 onion; chopped
1 green bell pepper; chopped
2 tablespoons oil
Pinch of salt

Saute your onion and green pepper in oil for 10 minutes with a pinch of salt then move to a separate bowl. Heat your pan to medium low and heat your tortillas one at a time for 10-20 seconds. Add a bit more oil if you need. Add rice, onion and peppers, black beans and guacamole on a thin strip. Roll and enjoy.

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans

So remember back when I said I had seen a great recipe for a layered tortilla pie, but then I lost it? Well a few weeks ago I found the recipe and wow it was good. What really made it different and delicious was the way the black beans were cooked – soaked in beer!

black beans

It occurred to me on Friday that this style of cooking beans would be amazing in a taco salad. I’d never actually made a taco salad before, and without the assistance of a giant taco shell to throw everything in I’m not sure how authentic it is, but I thoroughly enjoyed the final product. The husband loved it, I loved it, it got me to eat lettuce (even if it was only iceberg lettuce) and all was right with the world.


This is also one of those meals that I think you could stretch to feed any amount of people. I’ll warn you that the two of us had a lot of leftover black beans, but I knew that going in to it and actually wanted leftovers to throw in tortilla shells and try other things. If you’re serving one or two people and you don’t want leftovers, just cut the black bean recipe in half. Of course, if you do this you’ll have to finish off half a can or bottle of beer on your own instead of using the whole can for the beans… hopefully this isn’t a problem for anyone.

taco salad with guac

The chicken plays a relatively minor role here, and if you’re a vegetarian or just not that into meat I think you could leave it out and still have a great dinner (or very large lunch!). The black beans really make up the main flavor. You can definitely taste the beer that they’re soaked in, and I think it’s excellent. I’m actually tempted never to make black beans again unless they’re cooked in beer. You don’t even need to use a fancy one – we just used a can of Bud Light. It works; trust me!

taco salad

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans
(black bean recipe adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast)

1 head of ice berg lettuce, rinsed and shredded
1 can refried beans (15 oz.), heated in a small saucepan
bag of tortilla chips
1 lb. chicken, marinated in some lime juice, salt and pepper, then grilled and cut into 1-2 inch pieces

For Guacamole:
1 medium Haas avocado, peeled and sliced
1 chili, minced with seeds removed (or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
dash black pepper
dash cayenne

For the Black Beans:
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less for less heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cans black beans (15 oz. each), drained and rinsed
12 oz. beer
1 can whole kernels of corn (15 oz.), drained

To make the black beans – Add onion, red pepper flakes, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to a large skillet on medium for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add rinsed and drained black beans and beer to the skillet and bring to boil. When boiling, reduce to medium-low and simmer until most of the beer evaporates; approximately 15 minutes. Stir in corn and remove from heat.

To make the guacamole – Peel and slice avocado and place in a medium size bowl. Add minced chili or red pepper flakes, sweetened lime juice, salt, minced garlic, black pepper and cayenne. Mash avocado with the back of a fork while combining ingredients. Don’t mash too much, you want it to be a little chunky.

To put the taco salad together – Create a layer of tortilla chips on the the bottom of several dinner plates or one very large serving plate. Next smooth heated refried beans over the tortilla chips. Add a layer of shredded lettuce, followed by the black bean mixture and chicken, then topped off with another layer of lettuce. Add dollops of guacamole to the sides of the plate or in separate bowls for serving.

Welcome Back Spring – Black Bean Spring Salad

Spring arrived a few weeks ago and we’re finally beginning to feel the warmth that it promises (and I so dearly miss). With the change in weather comes a change in the meals that make it to our plate. True, in this day in age one could practically eat whatever he/she desires any time of the year (strawberries in winter? no problem), but I personally think there’s something harmonious about eating with the season instead of against it. Oh, and it’s cheaper.

The Delicious Ingredients

With warm weather comes colder meals; and salads are probably one of the most commonly known cold meals. Today’s recipe isn’t a traditional leaf salad, but one with legumes taking center stage; so it’s an excellent source of protein. I wish I remembered where I came across this delicious recipe. The vegetables and beans work well together visually as well as tastefully and the addition of lime cools the fires of the jalapeno allowing it to do its thing. I. Love. This. Salad.

Black Bean Spring Salad

Black Bean Spring Salad

4 cups cooked black beans (2 cans drained)
1 can kernel corn; rinsed and drained
1 jalapeno pepper; seeded and minced
3 plum tomatoes; chopped
1/2 red bell pepper; diced
1/2 red onion; diced

4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and enjoy. Best served chilled.

Chicken and Black Beans with Avocado Salsa

My husband and I have been feeling a little lazy lately about cooking. We’ve both been busy, and on days when you’re just drained it’s not only hard to cook, but it’s likely that your kitchen may not be stocked with fresh options.

On this particular day I knew we didn’t have anything in the fridge. We had some chicken in the freezer, but we try not to defrost chicken in the microwave if we can help it (and I haven’t yet tried Edwin’s ice bath method).


I went to the grocery store after work and picked up some chicken breast (that I didn’t have to defrost). On my way to the cash register I spotted some avocados. I don’t think avocados are in season, and I know that they’re high in fat, but at that moment I just wanted some avocados!

For my calorie conscious friends, listen, avocados are good in moderation!

As I was walking home, I still had no idea what I was going to do with my small avocado and chicken. I thought about making chicken sandwiches with slices of avocado on top, but I knew I didn’t have buns. I decided on a citrusy, guacamole-like salsa over baked chicken and black beans. What an awesome change to spice up our typical routine! This dish is light but filling. The lime juice gives it a lot of zip, and it’s not very spicy.

chicken avocado

Chicken and Black Beans with Avocado Salsa

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can black beans

For the Chicken Marinade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
dash cayenne

For the Avocado Salsa
1 small Haas avocado, peeled and sliced
1 chili, minced with seeds removed (or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon sweetened lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
dash black pepper
dash cayenne

Cut chicken breasts in half longways and marinate in olive oil, sweetened lime juice, chile powder and cayenne for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Cut into the middle of the thickest piece to ensure the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

While chicken is baking, warm black beans in a small sauce pan on the stove.

Peel and slice avocado and place in a medium size bowl. Add minced chili or red pepper flakes, sweetened lime juice, salt, minced garlic, black pepper and cayenne. Mash avocado with the back of a fork while combining ingredients. Don’t mash too much, you want the salsa to be chunky.

Spoon black beans onto a plate and follow with cooked chicken breast. Spoon avocado salsa over the chicken and serve!

More red bell peppers! Yes, the sales have still been going strong, and I’m still taking advantage. A reader recently commented about quinoa and I realized that we haven’t done any recipes with that ingredient yet. That’s a shame really, because like couscous, quinoa is food that’s great for you and easy to prepare. In addition to this, its subtle nutty flavor has potential to enhance many a dish.

Cooked Quinoa

Do a search for quinoa salad with black beans and mangos and you’ll come up with more hits that you can count. I tried to go a different route. Now, I can’t say this dish is amazing or unique, but I enjoyed it. None of the flavors dominate, so it’s flavor is subtle and complex.

And yes, you can definitely use fresh corn and beans. I was feeling lazy!

Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad

Black Bean, Corn and Quinoa Salad
Follow the instructions on the packaging for cooking quinoa, but often this is just simply cook one cup of uncooked quinoa in two cups of boiling water, and let simmer. One cup of uncooked quinoa yields approximately two cups cooked.

1 can black beans; rinsed and drained
1 can corn; rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper; diced
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoon oil
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoon lime

Combine all your ingredients. That’s it! Enjoy.

Seven Layer Tortilla Pie

I have to be honest with you, Internet. Right now I am angrily biting the nail polish off my nails. I have extremely breakable nails, so I try to keep clear nail polish on them; you know, the super thick stuff. This stuff is also great fun to peel off when irritable. Come on, you know you’ve done it before… please?

red peppermashed black beans

I had big plans to bake something to bring to work tomorrow for some upcoming and recently passed birthdays, and I needed it to be flourless. But at this point I’m feeling like God made flour for a reason, and we just shouldn’t fight it.

layer onelayer one with black beans

I know, I can’t even believe it myself, but I tried those cursed black bean brownies again. No changes or alterations, just completely by the book. I was low on agave syrup, so I used half agave and half honey. They came out tasting so strongly of honey that it’s practically oozing from them. Don’t worry, my curiosity about these things has been sated. I’m burning the recipe – never again!

shredded chicken

Next I tried a flourless chocolate cake. The recipe stressed to gently fold in the beaten egg whites to the melted chocolate. Maybe I was too careful, because now it just seems completely bland.

Ghost failures twice in one night!!!

layer one completelayer two

I don’t even want to think about baking anymore right now. Let’s talk about dinner, okay? Dinner, unlike tonight’s stupid desserts (grrr!), turned out quite well.

top layer

A few years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine for some kind of tortilla pie. The tortillas were stacked high and stuffed with cheese and black beans; it looked great. Unfortunately, I lost this recipe before ever getting to try it. So instead I tried to create something similar but with less cheese and more beans.

tortilla pie

Seven tortilla layers total – I alternated layers of black beans and refried. I also included shredded chicken, diced red pepper, garlic, a combination of diced tomatoes and salsa, and the tiniest bit of cheese on each layer. I just included spice on the top layer, but feel free to mix the spice throughout. I also cooked mine in a springform pan to avoid any potential toppling problems, but I think that you could get away with using a pie plate or cake pan as well. My husband really loved this and kept making trips back to the kitchen for leftovers. Enjoy!

tortilla pie inside

Seven Layer Tortilla Pie

1/2 pound chicken breast, baked and shredded
1 can black beans, drained and mashed
1 can fat free refried beans
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated fresh
3 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup salsa
1 red pepper, diced
7 flour tortillas
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper, optional

Preheat oven to 375F. Measure and prep ingredients and bake chicken (if looking for a way to bake the chicken, you can use my style found here. Because it’s only one half pound you will not need to bake it as long. Be sure to cut into the middle of the thickest piece to make sure it’s fully cooked. Shred with a fork). Combine diced tomatoes and salsa in the same bowl.

Lay one flour tortilla in the bottom of a springform pan (or pie dish or cake pan with high sides). Spread a thin layer of the mashed black beans over the tortilla. Follow with shredded chicken, garlic, red pepper, salsa mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Be a little careful near the edges so that your filling doesn’t spill out. Lay another tortilla over this and push down gently to level it. This time spread refried beans over the tortilla, then include other ingredients as before. This recipe makes just enough, so don’t make your “filling” too thick or you will run out. I was especially stingy with the cheese.

Continue to alternate layers. On very top layer, sprinkle remaining ingredients evenly along with 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and cayenne for some heat. Be sure to take the salsa mixture to the edges of the top tortilla so that the top does not dry out and become too crispy while baking.

Bake for 25 minutes. Serve in wedges.

D’oh! As I started to type I noticed that my hand felt sticky. I looked down only to find that my wedding ring is covered in cake! This is a pretty typical day in the life of Ghost Baker… actually this is a good day – normally if cake’s involved it’s probably also squished into my clothes or in my hair.

fermented black beans

The reason for today’s mess is that I’m working on a fairly detailed birthday cake for my mom for this weekend. I’ve even drawn specs for the cake to compare what different decorations might look like. We always want to impress our moms, right? Please keep your fingers crossed for me, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Today’s recipe, however, features dinner, not cake. I was given Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook for Christmas (are you sensing a pattern? I was lucky enough to receive many excellent cookbooks!). Though I’d flipped through the book and oogled things several times before, this was the first time I tried a recipe. I was drawn to Martha’s “Stir-Fried Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce.”

black bean sauce

This recipe does require a trip to your local Asian grocery store, but if you haven’t been to one before consider this your special invitation! You can find great deals on certain things at Asian grocery stores (rice in bulk, various sauces, etc).

Let me warn you that fermented black beans smell a bit strong, but they’re just soybeans that have been preserved in salt. They are not the same thing as typical black beans. They give the dish a distinct flavor. If you like Asian food then you will likely enjoy this dish.

This would also work really well with tofu – either replacing the shrimp with tofu or adding tofu in with the shrimp. I didn’t alter Martha’s recipe too much, but I did try to make things a little simpler and take the edge off the salty black beans. I eliminated the soy sauce and scallions and added a little more hoisin sauce. If you try this with tofu, please let me know how it goes! Aside from a trip to the Asian market, this dish comes together very quickly and requires little prep.

shrimp with black bean sauce

Stir-fried Shrimp with Fermented Black Bean Sauce
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook
serves 2

5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed and crushed with the back of a spoon (found in Asian market in a small, usually clear bag)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced (be sure to lightly peel the papery covering off)
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (found in Asian market, or if you have to you can substitute dry sherry or white wine)
3 teaspoons hoisin sauce (found in Asian market, or the international food section of your grocery store)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12 medium frozen shrimp, peeled and dethawed under cold running water
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup white rice, cooked in a rice cooker or according to package instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, peanut oil, black beans (don’t forget to mash them first with the back of your spoon), ginger, Chinese wine, hoisin sauce and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Heat wok on medium high until it sizzles when you sprinkle a few drops of water on it. Add oil to the wok (never add oil to an unheated wok… remember what my Chinese cooking instruction said, “hot wok, cold oil”). Right before adding the shrimp to the wok, toss it with the cornstarch to coat it. Add shrimp to the wok, count to 5 and then press down on the shrimp with your wok utensil for a few seconds to sear it. Stir it quickly a few times, then let it sit for another few seconds. Continue this pattern until your shrimp turn pink and curl up, just another minute or two. Shrimp cook quickly. Pour in the sauce mixture and turn the heat up on the wok. Cook for just under a minute without stirring to let the flavor lock in, then stir before serving to coat.

Serve shrimp immediately over rice.

Simple Yet Delicious – Adobo Black Bean Soup

On inauguration day, while over 1.8 million people flooded capital hill and surrounding area to witness history in the making, I was working far away in Reston. Yes, I missed all the glory and truth be told, even if I had the day off I would probably have just slept in; maybe baked a pie (fact: baking a pie is never a poor use of one’s free time), but definitely keeping myself as far away from DC as possible. There are a lot of great things about living inside the beltway, but every now and then there are events that strongly compel you to stay out of DC (the cherry blossom festival is another taxing escapade).

Sweating those aromatics

I’ve never been one for politics and while I am hopeful for the possibilities our new President brings, there was no friggin’ way I was putting up with THAT insanity. And it was cold. Good lord, do I hate the cold… It was still a noteworthy day for me though because I came across some delicious black bean soup at Whole Foods. Due to my lack of time management, I had not prepared a large pot of soup for the week and was forced to brave the elements in search of lunchtime nourishment. I was pleased to find this soup and had to recreate it!

Adobo Black Bean Soup

This soup…. is not the soup I had on Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong, this is good soup and I’m enjoying it quite a bit; but it is not the soup I had at Whole Foods. This soup is milder and less sweet; and still delicious. It’s got a bit of a spicy tweak to it, but not so much as to overpower the taste. Give it a shot. And if you’ve ever tried to make Whole Food’s version, let me know.

Adobo Black Bean Soup

Adobo Black Bean Soup
Inspired by Whole Foods

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2 cloves of garlic; minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
4 tablespoons adobo sauce
2 cups dried black beans; cooked and drained
1 teaspoon cocoa
2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
4 cups water
Salt to taste

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil on medium heat and sweat the onion, bell pepper and garlic until onion is soft and slightly translucent; approximately 3 minutes. Add the oregano, cumin, adobo seasoning, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Stir briefly and let cook for approximately one minute. Add everything else and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.