Superhero's Black Bean Salad

Superhero's Black Bean Salad is nutritious, low in calorie and packs a zesty kick!
black bean saladInspired by the movie, "The Dark Knight" (2008)

“The Dark Knight “(Batman) was played by Christian Bale, and Gotham City’s arch enemy was the Joker played by Health Ledger. This role earned Health a much deserved Academy Award. On a very sad note, Health passed away before the opening of “The Dark Knight.” Tons of action and one of my favorite scenes is when Batman is driving his motorcycle with the mega tires through a shopping mall, then proceeds to race down a busy street. The Joker has Batman in his sights and charges full throttle in an 18 wheeler truck. These guys played a very dangerous game of “chicken.”

My recipe for Superhero Black Bean Salad is a vegetarians dream! Nutritious ingredients like the fiber and iron filled black beans, Vitamin C charged tomatoes, and the zucchini is busting with Vitamin A. Low in fat and crazy delicious has never tasted so fresh. These super foods are “The Dark Knight's” diet, and he needs all his energy to keep the scrubs out of Gotham City.

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 -15oz can of black beans, drained and lightly rinsed
1 tablespoon finely chopped red or yellow onion
1 garlic clove minced
1 small zucchini finely diced
1 teaspoon of jalapeño pepper finely diced (without seeds)
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup of low-cal zesty Italian dressing
Dash of salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium high heat - add onion, garlic, zucchini and jalapeno pepper. Sautéed in pan stirring frequently for 3 minutes, then add black beans and heat another 2 minutes, no longer. Remove from heat, and let cool 3 minutes. Pour ingredients into a large serving bowl. Add tomatoes and Italian dressing. Gently Toss. Serve slightly warm or room temperature as a side dish or stand alone salad with romaine or mixed salad greens.

Serves 4 to 5.

About Debra

I was cheated out of a million dollars. Not once, not twice, but three times! I was a finalist in 3 consecutive Pillsbury Million Dollar Bake-offs. I did receive free trips, appliances, cash and free products. I was also featured on ABC 7 News in Chicago; the CBS Pillsbury broadcast; Food TV; the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, out of town publications, and recipe books. I want to thank Pillsbury and the sponsors. But it wasn’t a million bucks. Since 3 time finalist can't enter the Pillsbury Bake-off again, I needed a way to share some of my great recipes.

My two favorite things are good food and good movies. So I created this blog to make your cooking experience more fun. Each recipe is inspired by my favorite movies. I hope you enjoy the recipes and are reminded of a great movie you saw, or maybe you'll check out some of my favorites. So if you want to have a “reel” good time, stop by and visit often!

Please Note - I will share new recipes and movies each week!

Enjoy the blog!

aka "Reel Lady"


Steak N’ Avacado – Bravo!

steak avacado sandwich Inspired by The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

Clint Eastwood is at his finest traveling throughout the southwest with a cigar in his mouth and his finger on the trigger. The search for gold has everybody running fast and loose. The good the bad and the uglys final showdown is a tension and nerve fest of the highest degree. We got some real crazy cowboys on our hands. Good stuff!

The old southwest with its grit and bark and knee slappin grub. Steak and Avocado – Bravo takes its lead from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. This dish shares the essence of the southwest where all things are possible, and this recipe for Steak and Avocado – Bravo is golden!!

1 – Pillsbury Refrigerated Garlic or Regular Flavor Breadsticks (10.6 oz)

1/2 – 1.06 oz package Tenderizing Beef Marinade (such as Lawry’s Spices and Seasoning Mix)
2– 8oz Boneless Rib-Eye, Sirloin or other premium steak, rinsed and cut in halves at an angle
1 Tbs Olive Oil
4 slices Provolone Cheese
1 cup chunky salsa, divided
1 Ripe Avocado, peeled and cut into thin slices

Bake breadsticks according to package directions except do not twist breadsticks. You will have 2 sections of 5 breadsticks.

While bread is baking, place steaks in a large zip lock bag. Add beef marinade per package directions. Let marinate only 10 minutes.

Remove steak from bag, discarding excess marinade. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Cook steak about 7 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and place on paper towel.

Remove breadsticks from oven. Top each breadstick section (2) with 2 slices provolone cheese. Return to oven for an additional 3 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bread is lightly golden.

Cut each bread piece in half at an angle, making 4 triangles. Top each with 2 tablespoons of salsa, one piece of steak, an additional 2 tablespoons of salsa, and 3 or 4 slices of avocado.

Place open faced sandwiches on a platter and garnish with remaining avocado and salsa.

Serves 4.


Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

This cookie recipe is courtesy of cookie guru Alecia Baxter. E.T. would certainly "Phone Home" about these cookies!
chocolate chip and peanut butter chip cookies
Inspired by the movie E.T. (1982)

One of my favorite scenes is when E.T. was in the kid’s room and heard the mother coming. E.T. ran to the closet and placed himself among the toy stuffed animals. When the mother looks in the closet, all those funny stuffed animal faces are looking at her. E.T. is scared but totally fools the mother into thinking he is a toy.

This recipe for "Phone Home" Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies was inspired by E.T. Elliot (Henry Thomas) lured E.T. by placing Reese pieces candy along a trail to his room. E.T just loved those peanut butter pieces and I'm sure wanted to phone home to tell his family and friends. E.T not only stands for Extra Terrestrial, but in the case of our Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookies also stands for "Extra Tasty"!

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 sticks butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp milk
3/4 cup Nestle Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chips
1 package Mini Reese's pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugars, eggs and milk (tip: warm the milk in the microwave for a few seconds before mixing in. It will help dissolve the sugars and make blending easier). Blend in flour, mix well. Add chocolate and and peanut butter chips and Reese's baking pieces.

Drop in rounded spoonfuls on a cookie sheet (tip: line cookie sheet with parchment paper to prevent over browning).

Bake for 11-13 minutes or until lightly brown. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
Optional: Serve with vanilla ice cream or make cookie ice cream sandwiches.


Shank-alicious Seared Beef Stew

vegetable beef stew
Inspired by the movie "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption is a gem of a movie. From the moment you hear Red’s voice (Morgan Freeman) talking about his first impression of the new fish or convict Andy (Tim Robbins) you know a bit of movie magic is going to happen. One of my favorite scenes is when the evil and crooked warden realizes that Andy as not only escaped, but taken his money and dropped a dime on him to the media. Andy's posters of Rita Hayworth and Raquel Welch served more than one purpose.

This beef stew recipe is inspired by “The Shawshank Redemption." Andy Dupree’s redemption took over 20 years, but the good news is my Shank-alicious Braised Beef Stew only takes 2 hours and 20 minutes. Both are worth the wait!

2 large beef shanks (about 1 ½ to 2 pounds), fat removed
1 package beef marinade (I like Lawry's or McCormick packaged marinades)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup red onion, coursely chopped
1/3 cup celery, coursley chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 cups water
2 teaspoons of “Better than Bouillon” chicken base
1 large (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes and (its juice), put in a bowl and slice tomatoes in half
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
½ cup uncooked white rice
1 – 14-16oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1 Tablespoon of fresh thyme (1 teaspoon each if using dried thyme)
1 Tablespoon fresh basil (1 teaspoon each if using dried basil)

Marinate beef shanks for at least an hour in beef marinade.

Using a large soup/stock pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add beef shanks. Sear about 6 minutes on each side.

Add 2 of the mined garlic, red onion, celery and Bay Leaves and black pepper.

Turn heat up to high and add water and “Better than Bouillon" chicken base. After pot boils, reduce heat to simmer, and let simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 2 hours add tomatoes, sugar, hot sauce, rice, basil, thyme and 1 minced garlic clove. Let cook 10 minutes.

Add frozen vegetables and cook an additional 10 minutes.

When cooking is completed, remove the beef shanks and place on a plate, cut beef from bones and chop in medium size pieces. Return beef to the pot (you can discard bones or return back to the pot for additional favoring).

Remove bay leaves.

Serves 5 to 6.

Pineapple Nut-House Parfait

A pineapple nutty extraganza that’s no bake, super easy, and elegant enough for dinner parties!

pineapple walnut parfait dessert
Inspired by the movie "One Flew Over the Cockoos Nest" (1975)

Oscar winner Jack Nicholson is a brilliant actor. In “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, he plays a guy named R. P. McMurphy who is sent to a mental institution for evaluation. Nurse Ratched played by Oscar winner Louise Fletcher is an evil heartless woman with a hairdo that looks like a goat’s head. You just want to wipe that shirk off her puffy face with a hatchet. During a group therapy session she causes the patients to spin out of control, with one guy screaming for his cigarettes that are in her office. The group is in total chaos and Nurse Evil is fueling the fire, until, R.P can’t take the guys screaming anymore and smashes through the office glass window to get the guy his cigarettes. He was too nuts to care about the surgeon’s general’s report on smoking.

This nutty pineapple dessert is a fun and yummy ride from beginning to end, just like our inspired movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” My suggestion–Rent the DVD of this movie and treat yourself to my Pineapple Nut-House Parfait. You will love all the nuts equally!

graham cracker mixture (mix well in bowl):
One package of Honey Graham Crackers (about 18), crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons butter, melted

pineapple mixture:
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 -20 oz can crushed pineapple in heavy syrup, drained
1 ½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup of chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon of lemon zest

Optional: additional chopped nuts and cherries for top of parfait
n a large bowl combine crushed graham crackers, sugar, cinnamon and butter. Mix well and set aside.

In a medium bowl add whipping cream and sugar, mix on high speed until cream is whipped to a meringue consistency. Gently fold in pineapple,vanilla, walnuts, and lemon zest. Set aside.

Layer ingredients in champagne, wine, or dessert glasses:
1/4 cup graham cracker mixture
1/3 cup of pineapple mixture

Rotate this process until you reach top of glasses, ending with pineapple mixture on top.

Top with additional walnuts and cherry (optional). Serve chilled. Store leftovers (yeah, right!) in the fridge.

Serves 6.


Cowboy Chicken

Whole Chicken and Salsa Southwestern Style

chicken with salsa and rice
Inspired by Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain is a memorable movie in many different ways. One of my favorite scenes is when Ennis’s ex-wife finally confronts him at Thanksgiving about Jack Twist. Ennis’s emotions are a volcano that just explodes. He could never handle his own feelings, and no way was he going to deal with Alma’s. Lots of real history and pain with this couple.

This Cowboy Chicken recipe gets its name from its' hearty cowboy style, but you don’t have to be a cowboy to love this dish. If you're searching for down home on the range, knee slappin' good, kick your butt favor, you’ve found it! You'll be sayin' "Cowboy Chicken, I wish I knew how to quit you!"

1 whole chicken (cut-up and cleaned, remove skin, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup of premium thick and chunky salsa (medium heat)

2 slices thick cut bacon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves or teaspoon of chopped bottled rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons liquid smoke

1/4 cup sliced ripe black olives or green olives with pimentos, drained 2 tablespoons flour mixed with ½ cup water

In a large non-stick pot, over medium high heat cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside.

Add chicken to the pot. Cook on both sides in bacon drippings, about 10 minutes on
each side.

Add rosemary, bay leafs, liquid smoke, and salsa to pot, stir. Increase heat and let boil, then lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 35 minutes.

Turn up heat and add flour and water to thicken. Add olives. After pot starts to boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 5 more minutes.

Remove bay leafs.

Serve over Rice, Quick Grits, hearty breads or pasta. Optional: Serve with bacon crumbled on top.

Serves 6.


Salmon and Broccoli Pocket Pies

salmon and broccoli pie

Inspired by Waitress (2007)
Waitress is a movie about a young woman named Jenna (Keri Russell) who has a special talent for creating all, and I do mean all, kinds of pies. She made a ”I hate my husband pie” and “bad baby pie”, and that’s just for starters. The best part of this movie is watching all the clever ways her pies come together - deliciously.

This pie recipe is something Jenna might make. It has healthy ingredients like salmon and broccoli and can be enjoyed every bit as much as Jenna’s chocolate and Raspberry pie. I promise!

2 – 6 oz cans salmon, drained
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
4 oz Philadelphia Reduced Fat Cream Cheese, softened
¼ cup roasted red bell peppers , chopped
½ tsp black pepper
1 package Pillsbury Pie Crust
1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped

Egg Wash:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water

8 slices red bell peppers from jar
Dash parsley
1Tablespoon butter, melted
Dash garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine salmon, lemon juice, cream cheese, red peppers and black pepper. Mix well.

Lightly grease cookie sheet. Unfold pie crusts and cut into halves. Place the 4 half circles onto cookie sheet.

Place ¼ of salmon mixture onto one side of each half circle, leaving 1 inch around the edge. Top with 1/4th cup of broccoli. Fold dough to cover and pinch sides closed.

Whisk together egg yolk and water. Brush over pastry. Add parsley and 2 strips red bell pepper. Cut 2 slits across top of each pastry.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush top with butter and garlic powder.

Serves 4 - 8.

Sausage Pizza Danish with Sautéed Portabella Mushrooms

sausage pizza, pepperoni pizza, peperoni pizza,stromboli recipes, italian recipes, pizza recipes, pizza recipe, italian recipies
Inspired by the movie "Goodfellas ( 1990 )

Goodfellas is the true story of Henry Hill who lived his life in the “mob.” There is a scene where Henry and Paulie (the big cheese) are in jail along with some of their cronies. They have a large cell with all the conveniences of home. The guys are making an Italian sauce with pork, beef and veal. Paulie is shaving the garlic extra thin with a razor blade so that it will melt in the pan with a little olive oil. Who knew wiseguys had the culinary touch.

The recipe for Sausage Pizza Danish with Sautéed Portabella Mushrooms is inspired by the move “Goodfellas.” In this movie they think they know what’s really important in life, they kill a little and they cook a little. The two seem to go hand in hand. If this wasn’t based on a true story, the good folks of America would never believe it. But do believe, this dish rocks!!

½ pound Jimmy Dean or other premium ground Sausage
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbs. red onion
4 to 5 large slices of Portabella mushrooms
Dash Salt and pepper
4 oz. sour cream
1 – 14 oz. jar pizza sauce, divided
1 ½ cups grated Mozzarella cheese
1 egg yolk with 5 drops of water
2 tsp McCormick’s Pizza Flavor Seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook ground sausage in a medium non-stick skillet over low-medium heat, stirring frequently for 7 minutes, or until it’s no longer pink. Drain and set aside.

To skillet, add olive oil, garlic, onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Sauté mushrooms about 8 minutes, turning once. Set aside.

Gently unroll refrigerated French loaf onto a greased cookie sheet, working lengthwise. Using a pastry brush, add sour cream and ½ pizza sauce to middle of dough, leaving 1 inch at the short ends uncovered for closing. Spread out evenly. Add mushrooms, sausage and cheese.

To close dough, fold in the 1 inch of dough on the left and right. Pull top dough over 1/3rd of filling, then fold the bottom dough over top dough. Pinch the sides to make sure they are closed.

Cut 6 slits at an angle about 2 inches apart on dough top.

To make egg wash - whisk egg yolk with 5 drops of water. Using a pastry brush cover entire loaf. Sprinkle loaf with McCormick Pizza seasoning.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

To Serve – Remove from oven and after about 5 minutes, brush remaining pizza sauce on a platter and place pizza Danish on top. Slice with a serrated knife along slits in loaf.

Serves 6 to 8.