A lot, a lot of taco nights go down in my house. Tacos are easy. Beans are cheap. And it’s hard to go wrong with a bunch of flavors wrapped up into one. Plus, any excuse to pull out a few avocados is a welcomed one. The phrase “holy guacamole” didn’t come from nowhere. I mean, we all know guacamole is holy in every sense of its being.
Generally I make my own guac, but on very rare occasions I’ll just pick some up at the store. However, I always make my beans from scratch, if that is what’s to be at the center of the night’s tacos. (Sometimes I opt for ingredients like butternut and goat cheese instead.) Refried beans are incredibly simple to whip up and are truly better than any pre-made versions at the store. There’s something about the freshness you get from doing it yourself…kind of like most things you do yourself. But with refried beans, it’s particularly noticeable.
If you want to really take the homemade superiority to the next level, start with dried beans.
As opposed to pre-cooked ones in a can, dried beans let you go through a simmering process that really cooks them down and makes them all creamy inside. Then, you get their juices to pull back into your saute process, which makes the whole refried bean mixture that much creamier. The two steps required for this are painless and are totally worth the bit of waiting time required. (Don’t tell anyone, i.e. my landlord, but I let my beans slowly simmer on the stove while I jetted out for a run. My apartment survived.)
Last weekend I hosted a taco night, which is where this was born. This year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations looked more like Cinco De Mayo, and I’m 100% okay with that. The sentiment of cooking up a huge pot of beans for a night with friends is always a warm one. And I mean really, what’s better than a taco night with your pals or your family, especially when everyone’s put in charge with crafting their favorite ingredient? Add fresh mint mojitos (not the Tecate that we were surviving off of) and a few board games to the table, and it’s hard to think of a place I’d rather be. I’m already ready for the next one.
Given this was for taco night, the following recipe is designed to serve a crowd. However, it could easily be cut in half for taco nights with less people. Just whatever you do, don’t cut the guacamole from your topping list!
Late night baking calls for a healthy and quick, subsequent morning meal. Not that I wasn’t chowing down on Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies right alongside this bowl of Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats… Regardless, I wanted something a little less butter and sugar-filled to be the base of my breakfast. With some leftover pumpkin from the cookies, I got to work creating this while the last batch of cookies were still baking away in the oven.
There’s not much to say about this bowl of oats other than that it’s a heavenly way to start your morning if you’re a pumpkin pie fan like me. If you’re not familiar with overnight oats, I have a bunch of other recipes that will introduce you to the make-ahead creation. Usually, my base is oats, soymilk and yogurt. For this one, I swapped the yogurt with pumpkin puree, making it my second ever vegan overnight oats recipe. The pumpkin add a creamy consistency equivalent to that of yogurt, and with the spices, brown sugar and walnuts, you’d be tricked into thinking this wasn’t much healthier than the previous night’s cookies you might pair alongside it. But oh it is, and equally delicious!
Serve with a dollop of plain soy yogurt if you’d like a tart component to compliment your pumpkin pie in a bowl.
Growing up, my mom was always try to create new ways to fix our oatmeal for breakfast. Simple salt and pepper, peanut butter and banana, soy milk and maple syrup, ground nuts, and the other countless combinations she’d try out on my brother and I were all her endeavors to keep us eating a healthy breakfast. Never a fan of starting off our day with sugar, Fruit Loops (my favorite junk cereal as a kid) was almost always out of the question. On the rare occasion, my mom would let my brother and I wander the cereal aisle and actually pick out what we wanted. She’d treat us with mini cereal boxes for camping trips or some other special outing. On an everyday basis, however, it was some kind of oatmeal concoction going into the breakfast bowl. Luckily, she was a particularly talented oatmeal lady. Switching it up frequently, I was often fooled into thinking I was eating something new on a regular basis.
One of my favorite ingredient combos. that she came up with was blueberry oatmeal. She’d start the oatmeal and then a few minutes before it was finished, throw in a large handful of blueberries. She’d continue to cook just until the blues began to burst. The oatmeal was always finished off with a spoonful of sesame tahini and a drizzle of quality maple syrup. The result: A heavenly bowl of oatmeal that resembled blueberry pancakes. Pancakes, of course, were an item I would’ve eaten nearly every day for breakfast.
As I grow older, I’m filling in for my mom and creating my own ways to eat my morning oats. While my mom could eat and enjoy a bowl nearly every morning, it takes a little more motivation for me to crave oatmeal on a consistent basis. However, lately I’ve been eating overnight oats on the reg. and find I still look forward to them each morning they await my spoon. Below is my latest O-Oats creation, inspired by my mom’s timeless blueberry oatmeal. I’ve created a cold, summery variation that’s prepared the night before, perfect for those morning’s when you’re in a rush. Make sure to use a ripe banana, which surprisingly eliminates a need for any extra sugar…that’s certainly Mom approved.