Category: Cheddar


Spring has sprung!

Spring is late this year–there’s even still some snow on the ground in the shady areas. (That’s the last time I ever trust a groundhog to predict the weather!)  But a few glimmers of hope are finally starting to shine through.  Tulips are trying to come up, birds are building a nest out on our balcony, and asparagus that was not grown in Mexico has reappeared in the grocery store.

I bought some, not quite sure what I intended to do with it, but I knew that I wanted to leave it raw or nearly so.  Further inspiration struck in the form of a lovely brick of cheese at Trader Joe’s – it was a mix of cheddar and gruyere: a perfect combination of flavor and melt-ability!

I decided to make a pasta dish with a basic white sauce as its base that would really show off the freshness of the asparagus.  At the last minute, I also decided to throw in a handful of fresh green beans, but you could totally use frozen as long as you thawed them out first. Peas would be another excellent and springlike addition.  Just go with whatever looks good!

The key for the asparagus, though, is tossing it in to the sauce at the end, just before you add the pasta–you want it to heat through, but you don’t want it to lose any of its delightful, crisp freshness.  So don’t overcook it!

Ready to eat!

Springtime Asparagus Pasta
(Serves 2-3)

  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 handful green beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces.  Feel free to use frozen, but thaw them before adding to the dish.
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/2 c grated cheese (I used a cheddar-gruyere blend)
  • 112g pasta (I used papardelle)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pancetta (optional)

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.  Cook the pasta to al dente and drain.  While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once it’s melted, whisk in the flour.  When the roux is smooth, pour in the milk, whisking steadily to combine.  Add the garlic, and keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken.  If it starts to bubble, reduce the heat.  Add in the cheese, and once it’s melted, add in the asparagus and green beans.  Toss in the pasta, and mix to combine.  Season with salt and pepper, and, if you like, top it with some crispy pancetta bits.  Enjoy!

(Or: How to make a healthy dinner when you’re tired and feeling lazy)

The other day I was torn by two conflicting desires.  On the one had, I was really in the mood for something healthy for dinner.  On the other, I was feeling really lazy and not in the mood for cooking.  Some time in the afternoon I decided to soak some black beans since they’re healthy, delicious, and practically cook themselves.  (If you’re feeling even lazier than I was, or you just don’t have the time to soak dried beans for an hour or two, you can cheat and use canned.  Just give them a good rinse before cooking them.)

Then I had to decide what to have with the beans, since a pot of beans by itself isn’t really a meal.  Then I remembered that I had a jar full of brown rice in the cupboard!  Beans and rice is a classic pairing, but the dish was still missing something.  I started digging around in the (very full!) freezer and discovered half a bag of frozen corn just waiting to be used up.  Perfect!

I mixed them all together, added some dried cilantro and chili powder, and topped the whole thing with a little grated cheddar, salsa, and guacamole, and dinner was complete!

Beans, rice and corn

And if you’re wondering…yes, the rice boiled over.  It always does.

Beans, Rice and Corn
(serves 5-6) 

  • 3/4c black beans
  • 1/4 bouillon cube
  • 1c frozen corn
  • 1c brown rice
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • pinch of chili powder
  • pinch of dried cilantro
Toppings (optional):
  • guacamole
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • salsa
  • sour cream
If you’re using dry beans, give them a good rinse, and soak them for an hour or so before you plan to begin cooking.  (If you’re using canned, just rinse them off before you start cooking.)  Put your beans in a medium-sized pan on the stove, add the quarter bouillon cube (more or less to taste, but I find them to be really salty), and add enough water to cover the beans by about 3/4 of an inch (less if using canned).  Over medium heat, bring your beans to a boil, and then reduce the heat, cover them, and simmer until they start to get soft.  Then uncover them and continue to simmer until the beans are fully cooked and most of the water has boiled off.  With dry beans, this process should take about an hour, maybe less if you like your beans a bit harder.  With canned beans it will take a lot less time since they’re already fairly soft and you really just need to heat them up.
Meanwhile, put your rice on the stove to boil, and try to time it so that it gets done at about the same time as the beans.  The rice I had takes a good 45 minutes to cook, so I started it not long after the beans went in.  Keep an eye on the rice so it doesn’t boil over and make a mess all over your stove!
When the rice and beans are almost done, thaw the corn in the microwave.  It doesn’t have to be hot–it will warm up plenty when you add it to the beans and rice–you just don’t want it to be frozen.
Once all three components are ready, combine them all in whichever pot happened to be biggest, and season with salt, chili powder, and cilantro to taste.  Top it with any combination of cheese, guacamole, sour cream, or salsa, and enjoy!