July 9 – Cleaning, cooking, and RPGs

I did get up and do yoga again this morning, but it’s not one of my three things today. Here’s what I did:

  1. I finished cleaning the bathroom. Yay!
  2. I cooked one of my favorite grain salads for dinner – a sort of Tex-Mex quinoa with black beans. The recipe’s at the end of the post for anyone who’s interested.
  3. I found myself a new game to play – and I’m super excited about it. It’s called Avadon, and it’s a single-player RPG that’s very story-focused – it’s almost like a choose your own adventure book, where your decisions as a player shape the way the game unfolds. I played through the free demo today, and I’m about to buy it so that I can play the rest of the game.

Here’s my black bean quinoa salad recipe – it’s super flexible, so you can mix and match whatever veggies, beans, and cheese sound good to you:

  • 1.5 c quinoa
  • 2.25 c water
  • 1-2 cans black beans (or chickpeas, or pinto beans)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (or whatever color you want)
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered (or a chopped tomato, or whatever)
  • 1 c frozen corn (thawed, obviously)
  • 2-3 jalapeños, diced (or use chili powder, or chipotle powder, or chipotles in adobo)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced
  • juice from 1-2 limes
  • 8 oz. cotija cheese, crumbled (or feta, or shredded pepper jack, or whatever)
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine the quinoa and water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, chop veggies and combine everything else. Stir in quinoa, and let sit for 1-2 hours so flavors can combine. (Or don’t – it’s almost as good freshly made).

I like to eat this straight up as a room-temperature salad, but J prefers it as a burrito filling in flour tortillas.

June 19 – 1: Stuffed peppers with black beans, rice, and corn

I’ve been in a cooking slump lately. I used to cook something from scratch almost every night when I was working in an office job, with J cooking something or us ordering something one or two nights a week. Lately, it’s been the opposite – I’ve been cooking something from scratch one or two nights a week, and most nights we order something or I cook something “easy” – like frozen ravioli with pre-made pesto.

I’m not sure how I used to have the energy to cook so much. I guess my office job was just less draining than my days now. I also think it helped that J was home earlier  in the evening – right now, his commute is almost two hours each way, so he leaves at 6:30 in the morning and gets home at 6:30 at night, and that’s if the trains all run on time and he catches the express train between Baltimore and D.C.

But last night I came home and wanted to make a real dinner, and I also knew we had a bunch of bell peppers left over that needed to be used up (from meals I’d planned to make but then put aside in favor of something that required less effort.) So I did some Internet scouring for options, and came up with a few recipes that looked promising, but we didn’t have exactly the right ingredients for any of them. So I improvised a bit, and this is what I came up with:

Stuffed peppers with black beans, rice, and corn

Ingredients

  • 6-10 colored bell peppers, depending on size (I used 5 medium ones last night, and had about half of the filling left over)
  • 1 c  uncooked brown rice
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 10-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 T brown sugar
  • red pepper flakes
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1.5 c frozen corn
  • grated cheddar cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, cut the tops off of the peppers, then carefully cut away the membranes inside the peppers and remove any seeds.
  2. Parboil the peppers by placing them in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove them (use tongs!) and set them upright in a baking dish. It’s helpful if the baking dish is sized such that the peppers can help hold each other up.
  3. Use the same boiling water to cook the brown rice – just dump it in, let it simmer for 40 minutes or so, then drain it like pasta.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes (I used about 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, but I was kind of winging it with my spices) and cook for 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown. Add tomato sauce, brown sugar, cumin (maybe 1 T?) and chili powder (2 T?), and stir to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes before adding the black beans and corn, then stir again until all is coated with the sauce. Finally, stir in the rice until sauce is distributed evenly. Remove from heat. (Maybe stir in some grated cheese? I didn’t do this, but will probably try it next time)
  5. Fill peppers with stuffing. At this point, they can be set aside for a while until you’re ready to cook them (possibly even a day or two, if you covered and refrigerated them).
  6. When you’re ready to cook the peppers, heat the oven to 350°. Top peppers with grated cheese, then cook 25-30 minutes, until cheese is thoroughly melted.

They turned out really well, and I can’t wait to eat the leftover beans and rice for lunch today. Enjoy!