A simple guide to cooking dried beans

I’m starting off the week with a big batch of home cooked pinto beans. Later I’ll add them to soups or chili, stuff them into toasted campfire burritos, or fold them into a soft egg scramble for a breakfast tortilla wrap. And that is just the beginning of the bean goodness.

If you usually tend to open a can of beans, I want to walk you really quickly through how I cook mine from dried. I think once you try it, you’ll be converted.

Not only is it more affordable (especially if you buy organic canned beans), but you can control the amount of added salt and, well, like most homemade versions of pantry staples, the taste is far superior to anything that comes in a can.

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Planning for the October Unprocessed challenge (Pumpkin Spice Granola)

If I could sum this post up in five words, I would say, in true Joy the Baker fashion,

October Unprocessed. Get into it.”

However I feel I owe you at least a little background, followed by a look at how I’m gearing up for the annual whole foods challenge. The motivation? That has to come from you, but if you are already a regular reader of this blog, I’m guessing that you would be totally down with this challenge. (There I go again with the Joy-isms.)

What is the Unprocessed Challenge?

Andrew of Eating Rules is a terrific guy with a fantastic message about healthy food. His goal behind the October Unprocessed challenge is to try to get as many people as possible off of processed foods and eating whole, healthier foods during the month of October. The thought behind this goal is to show people that they will ultimately feel better after the challenge – and hopefully be inspired to improve their long term eating habits.

What are the ‘rules‘?

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” – Andrew Wilder.

Sounds do-able, right? After all, we’re already on the whole food track here at Simple Bites.

You may remember that we cut our teeth on October Unprocessed for a week last year. There was the menu plan, and the follow-up recap of the week, highlighting a few of our favorite recipes. I also wrote a guest posted for Andrew and shared Seven Ways to Survive October Unprocessed with Kids, which I’ll be putting to practice again this year.

This time around I’m feeling better equipped for taking on the whole month. We’re feeding a baby real food, after all; that is even more incentive to keep our diet unprocessed. Sure, Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up in October, but both this naturally sweetened apple pie and this rustic maple pecan pie are unprocessed, and as long as we have pie, we’re all set.

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English Eccles Cakes for special occasions

From time to time there are occasions special enough to break out the fine china and bake up a tray of scrumptious treats. The impending arrival of a new baby is just that sort of opportunity, and Eccles Cakes are just the ticket for a tea-time delicacy.

Today we celebrate our friend Jen Schall, who is due to have a sweet baby girl in just a few weeks. She is the gentle, yet opinionated voice behind My Kitchen Addiction, and has been baking a little bun in the oven alongside her usual sugar cookies and coffee cakes. This little one’s arrival is highly anticipated and a few of us just wanted to surround Jen at this significant time in her life and show our support.

If we could be so fortunate as to bypass the miles that separate us all, I imagine we would gather in a sunny living room for tea and treats. We’d give Jen the comfiest chair, of course, then settle in around her – on pillows, the sofa arm, or cross-legged on the floor – to admire her taut belly, speculate over baby names, and prattle on about our own birthing experiences. (Sorry, Brian!)

Traditional English Eccles Cakes would be my contribution to the event, a crispy pastry filled with spiced currants and topped with a sprinkling of raw sugar. Read on for the recipe and for an impressive list of links from the other virtual baby shower attendees.

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Favorite fall recipe: Slow-cooker {lazy} cabbage rolls with brown rice & herbs

Scarcely two weeks ago I wrote of clutching tightly to summer, but over the past few days, I’ve relinquished my grip, and admitted to spotting yellow-tinged leaves among the trees lining our lane.

At the markets, I can feel my excitement growing over the pallets laden with magnificent new squash of all varieties, and may have been caught snapping iPhone photos of a particularly attractive stalk of brussels sprouts. Obviously, fall is getting into my head.

I’ve trading shorts for leggings, wrapped an orange scarf around my neck, and donned my favorite mid-season gray jacket. Thus bundled yesterday, I joined the family for a Sunday walk along the river where the boys dashed here and there among the tall oaks, stuffing their pockets with fallen acorns and collecting brilliant yellow poplar leaves. The cool sting of the wind on my temples was revitalizing; a much needed stimulant for my groggy mind.

The combination of a week of rainy weather and an dramatic political sequence of events, not to mention kissing both my boys off to school, has left me tired and melancholy, looking to comfort food for a lift. The daily table d’hôte of summer salads and berrylicious desserts has been swiftly replaced with roasted root vegetables and bowls of steaming, creamy polenta.

To help pick me up further last week, I pulverized cinnamon and cardamom seed together to add to brown rice and coconut milk for a rich, spiced rice pudding that we ate by the bowlfuls, topped with the last peaches of the season. Then pale green heads of cabbage, firm to the touch and frugal to the pocketbook, caught my eye at the market. One handsome noggin made its way into my kitchen, and, not long after, into my slow-cooker for a simple, and utterly satisfying dinner.

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Smoothies for Quick Snacks – Orange Mango Carrot Smoothie

Written by Katie of Good Life Eats

Our life is so busy right now! We’re getting ready for an out of state move and I’ve been traveling a ton. I just counted, and in the last 38 days (as of Monday this week) I’ve been out of town for 21 days. During the days home I’ve been sick twice. Just my luck!

I can’t remember the last time we sat down to a nice, family dinner where we were all present and I often forget what day it is.

Now that I’m finally home, it is time to start the packing and cleaning process. And eventually that means I’ll have to pack up my kitchen. There is so much to do! Needless to say, we are in for some really simple meals and snacks in the next 7 weeks.

When I’m busy, I’m often at a danger of forgetting to eat. Preparing meals can feel like too much work. To solve this dilemma, I’ve turned to my blender. Smoothies are great as a snack or an add-on to breakfast, lunch or dinner and they’re fast and easy to prepare. [Read more…]