My crazy Family Living in Japan

Military Family Living Abroad

Thin Mints. .. . Vegan style! February 27, 2011

Filed under: recipes,Vegan Recipes — Annastasia @ 12:39
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For valentines day, my husband bought me a new cook book. I know some girls might get offended by this, but me. . . I love to cook. I couldn’t believe he had found a vegan cookie book on Okinawa. I have the most amazing husband ever!

Of course, since he bought me this book. . . . of course I would have to cook out of it . . . A LOT!! Last night, I had a craving for some Girl Scout Thin Mints. Of course, those are not vegan, so I can’t have them. That was until. . . . “The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur” cookbook by Kelly Peloza.

I am not going to lie, these cookies did take a little bit of time because of the cooking/cooling/coating process. But they were SO worth it in the end.

Here is what you need:

1/2 Cup Margarine 

3/4 Cup Sugar

1 3/4 tsp peppermint extract

1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

2 Tblsp Soy milk (I used almond)

3 Tblsp Chocolate chips, melted

1 1/4 Cup Flour

2/3 Cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Cup chocolate chips

1 Tblsp shortening

Cream together the margarine, sugar, and extracts. Add the soy milk and Melted chocolate. Continue to mix until smooth.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda, gradually adding extra splashes of soy milk if necessary to hold the dough together.

Roll the dough into  a log about 1 1/2 in wide and wrap in either plastic or parchment paper.  

Freeze for at least 30 Minutes.


Pre-Heat oven to 350 F


This knife is amazing. It cuts so smoothly, no sawing motion needed. Slice rounds of dough 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick and flatten with your palm onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake cookies for abotu 12 minutes, until firm. They will harden up a bit once they cool, but not a lot, so make sure they aren’t too soft when you remove them from the oven.  Let cool on a wire rack.


In the meantime, melt your chocolate and shortening in a glass bowl in a pan of boiling water on the stove. (Or use a double boiler)

Dip cookies into the chocolate, remove with a fork, and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. (I used stackable cooling racks with parchment)

Let sit at room Temperature until the chocolate is hardened, then eat! These are really good cold from the refrigerator, but they don’t need to be refrigerated unless it’s a really hot day.

(I put mine in the fridge to harden up quickly so I could eat them, then I put them into a container to keep in the fridge ~ Who doesn’t love COLD thin mints?)




Gone Bananas!! July 23, 2010

I know I know, I am already completely bananas! But. . .Cupcakes are so intriguing. They are small, fun, portable morsels of yumminess. Who doesn’t love a cupcake?? I personally, could eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!! They are not only fun to make, but they are fun to eat. I have been on an extreme cupcake kick lately, and am making them ALL the time! I can usually come up with SOME reason as to why “I HAVE” to make cupcakes. Today’s was completely legit .. . . I had some SUPER ripe bananas on their way into the garbage if they weren’t used like today! I hate wasting food, so  .. .  It was time for some cupcakes!!

A while back my daughter Kiwi bought her Mom (that’s me) a cookbook ALL on her own (yes, she picked it out and all). This book was AWESOME! It is called “Crazy about cupcakes” by Krystina Castella. She has a website as well  here. This book is AWESOME! of course, I had to veganize the recipes . . . but there are 2 cake and 2 frosting recipes in the book that are in fact vegan already.  While thumbing through this cookbook, I cam across banana cupcakes.  ..  PERFECT! That is what I was going to make! Then  . .I needed a frosting, what sounds better with Banana cupcakes then peanut butter frosting with chocolate chunks on top?? NOTHING!! These were AMAZING!!  I have posted the original recipes here, and then added my vegan adaptations of them at the end. You really should go get this book if you like cupcakes!

Banana Cupcakes w/Peanut Butter Icing


When you look at Yummy cupcakes, don’t they make you just want to smile?

Go forth and make yummy cupcakes,

putting a smile one the world one cupcake stuffed face at a time!



(This recipe is from the book “Crazy about cupcakes” by Krystina Castella)

Banana Cupcakes

You will need:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter,
at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line cupcake pans with liners.

2. With an electric mixer on medium speed cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs to creamed mixture, and beat well. Add the bananas creamed mixture and mix well.

3. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Add all the dry ingredients to creamed mixture at once. Mix until the dry ingredients are completely integrated.

5. Add the milk and vanilla. Mix batter for 1 minute on medium speed.

6. Fill cupcake liners one-half to three-quarters full with batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in the pan.


My vegan adaptations were as follows:

1/2 pound (2 Sticks) unsalted butter = 1 cup earth balance organic

2 Large eggs = 2 egg equivalent of EnerG egg replacer

5 Tablespoons milk = 5 Tablespoons Rice milk


Peanut Butter Frosting (This recipe is from the book “Crazy about cupcakes” by Krystina Castella)

You will need:

12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

4 Tablespoons water

1 1/3 Cups smooth or crunchy peanut butter

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan over high heat bring the butter, brown sugar, and water to a boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Put hot frosting on the cupcakes while the cupcakes are still hot.  Frosting will thicken as it cools.


My vegan adaptations were as follows:

12 Tablespoons unsalted butter = 12 Tablespoons Earth balance organic

A note about this “frosting” – It may have been my vegan adaptations, but it turned out more like an icing or glaze than a frosting. I actually “dipped” my cupcakes into the frosting, and this was JUST the right amount for them!


Mondays Muffin mayhem July 19, 2010

Filed under: recipes,Vegan Recipes — Annastasia @ 17:30
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As any of you know who have read my blog. . .I always seem to make muffins on Mondays! I am not sure why this is, but Mondays are always great days to bake! Today I actually had somewhere to take my muffins. Tonight is our cluster meeting for PC (pampered chef), and our team was to bring snack & refreshments. Well, I started the day thinking .. . . Muffins would be great. Perfect amount of sweetness, rich, moist, goodiness that needs no frosting. Easy right? Not in my kitchen .. .

As I thought of what kind of muffins to make I came up with 2 choices. . . banana chocolate chip OR pumpkin chocolate chip (I am seeing a pattern here. . .. ).  After much deliberation, and a facebook vote. . .  I settled on the pumpkin chocolate chip. These are one of my fave muffins (sans frosting).  Since I was clean out of canned pumpkin, I’d need to stop at the store during my morning errands to pick up a can.  No biggie. . . . (Ha, Ha, Ha)

I get to the commissary, and low and behold. . . they are also clean out of canned pumpkin (OF COURSE!), so I grab the pumpkin pie canned suff and see a recipe for  “Crumbled top pumpkin muffins” so I changed my MoJo to these crumbled top muffins. .. .minus the chocolate. I am always up for trying new things!

Well, I made the muffins. .  fairly easy, and cooked well .. . . . but, they were kind of  .. . . PLAIN.  So, I decided they would be better with frosting or a ganache.  After much (MUCH) thought,  I decided to go with a brown sugar frosting that I found @ The Cupcake Project. Of course, I’d have to “veganize” it. . . but no biggie.

These Babies turned out SO GOOD!!! They are like mouth watering yummo pumpkiny brown sugary good!! They turned out Delishioso!!! Oishi!! Damn good!! So. . . . I thought I would share the recipe with you all. . . . Please try them out, they are super good!


Crumble Top Pumpkin Muffins (From the inside label of a can of Libby’s Easy Pumpkin pie mix)

4 C  all-purpose baking mix

1 C raisins (optional)

2/3 C quick or old fashioned oats

2/3 C granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 can (30oz) Libbys easy pumkin pie mix

2 large eggs

Streusel Topping (Recipe follows)

Preaheat oven to 400F. Paper-line or grease 24 muffin cups.

Combine baking mix, raisins, oats, sugar and cinnamon in large bowl. Combine pumpkin pie mix and eggs in medium bowl; mix well. Stir into oat mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle with streusel topping.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans to wire rack; cool slightly.  Serve warm.

For Streusel Topping:

Combine 3 Tblsp all-purpose flour, 3 Tblsp granulated sugar and 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon in small bowl. Cut in 2 Tblsp butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture is crumbly.


Now obviously I veganized this. I used egg replacer, and I also left out the raisins.  These turned out good on their own, but I felt they were lacking something. So I added the brown sugar frosting found here. I also veganized this recipe by subbing organic soy milk for the milk called for in the recipe. Once that frosting was added, these muffins were out of this world!!  Getting this frosting ON the muffins was a fiasco in itself!

First, I tried using a pastry bag with a tip on it (to make them prettier) and I got the frosting in the bag, and went to put it on the muffins . . . the entire seam ripped and it gushed out all into my hand! (Thank goodness it missed the muffins!) once I salvaged all I could (scraping my hand and the pastry bag) I decided to forget about “prettiness” and went solely for flavor. . . . I applied the frosting with a . .  . butter knife! So. . . . they don’t look crazy. . . but they tasted GREAT!!


Todays (lived & learned) piece of advice. . .. . Invest in a sifter and a GOOD pastry bag.


Yummy balls!! April 26, 2010

Filed under: recipes,Vegan Recipes — Annastasia @ 15:31
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Today I was trying to come up with a little healtier alternative to the typical “sweets” snack. I am such a HUGE snacker. If I am sitting, I have this need to “snack”. I know it is a horrible habit, but I am trying to snack less, and snack on healthier things!  I have seen many “ball” recipes, though lots of them use sugar and chocolate, neither of which is all that healthy. I came up with my own little take on the “ball” – there are so many things you can do with this type of a snack.


2 Cups of dates, (Dried, chopped)

1/3 Cup Water

1/2 Tblsp Vanilla

1 Cup Chopped Almonds

2 Tblsp Cocoa Powder

1/2 Cup Coconut

Combine dates, and water in a saucepan on the stove. Cook over low heat, mashing and stirring frequently. Cook about 10 minutes until the dates are all mushy and soft. Once done, remove from heat.

Stir in Vanilla.

Pour date mixture into a bowl, add 1/2 Cup chopped almonds and cocoa powder. (If still too gooey, add more chopped Almonds)  Stir well.

Put into refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Once cooled, use a small – med scoop to make balls. Roll them in shredded coconut or almonds and place on wax paper.  Once done, return them to the fridge to “set” up (if you don’t eat them all before hand)

These are SOOO yummy!!! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family did!


Lentils. . . . What is that? April 17, 2010

Filed under: recipes,Vegan Recipes,Your Health — Annastasia @ 15:42
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Lentils. .. . . what the heck is a lentil?!?!?!

Let me tell you! Lentils are part of the legume family.  They come from an annual plant and grow in a pod. The seeds inside are “lens” shaped and SUPER good for you!

Lentils come in MANY colors; brown, red, green, black and others.  They can be found near the other dried legumes (black eyed peas, split peas, black beans, etc.) in your local grocery store. They usually run approx $0.74 per pound ~ so they are really affordable! has rated lentils as one of the world’s healthiest foods!

Let me break down some of the nutritional info for you ~

For comparison sake, a 6oz broiled porterhouse steak has 38 grams of protein, 44 grams of fat – 16 of them saturated.  That is ¾ the total daily recommended intake for saturated fat!! On the other side, 1 cup cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein and <1 gram of fat! So this little 1 cup of lentils provides roughly 40% of your daily recommended intake for protein and 65% of the daily recommended intake for fiber! That is super good for you!  In India, families normally eat lentils at least 2 times a day. They are usually served with bread and/or rice.

Just for review – Lentils are SUPER good for you and cheap to buy!  But. . . are they easy to cook? What the heck do I do with the things?? YES and YES – they are both easy to cook, and super yummy to eat!! Cooking is usually 30min or less, with no “overnight” soaking such as other legumes.  I do not suggest using a pressure cooker to cook these, as they are done so fast on their own, this is not necessary.  Lentils can be made into a variety of dishes; they are also SUPER yummy to sprout!! You can put sprouted lentils on your salads and tacos for a super yummy good for you boost!

Now, I want you to all go out and buy some lentils and try one of these recipes I have provided for you!! Both of these recipes were created by me, so let me know what you think!! Leave a comment below if you tried them!


Lentil Patties

1  Cup uncooked Lentils

2.5 Cup water

1 Tblsp Low Sodium Soy sauce (Kikkoman)

¾ Cup Oatmeal; fine ground (use blender)

¾ Cup Corn flakes

2.5 Tblsp Old Bay seasoning

½ Cup Ketchup

½ Cup “parmesan cheese” (see recipe below)


1)Rinse and pick through lentils.  Add lentils and water to saucepan. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 4 minutes. Reduce heat to med-low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes or until soft and done.  Add more water if needed!  Once done, remove from stove, and let cool 10 minutes.

2)In a large bowl, add lentils, Soy sauce, Oatmeal, Corn flake crumbs, Old Bay, ketchup and parmesan cheese.  Mix all together well.  Once all well combined, form into “patties”. Fry in a small amount of oil 1 -2 min each side, or bake at 200°F for 15 min.

Enjoy on hamburger bun with all the fixings, or eat alone. It is super yummy either way!!

Parmesan Cheese –

Ground together equal amounts of whole unsalted cashews and nutritional yeast.  Add garlic powder to taste. Store in refrigerator and use on anything you would normally put parmesan cheese on!


Lentil Sloppy Joes

1 cup lentils
2 cup water
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoon green pepper flakes*
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon dry minced garlic (the kind in the spice section)
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 1/4 cups water


1) Rinse and pick through lentils.  Add two cups water to pan with lentils and bring to boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 55 minutes until tender, but not mushy.

2) For the sauce, combine the minced onion, salt, sugar, dry mustard, chili powder, green pepper flakes, cornstarch, minced garlic, celery seeds. Combine well and set aside.

3) When lentils are done, add the tomato paste and water.  Stir in the sauce seasoning.  Combine well and heat through.

Serve on whole wheat buns or over brown rice. Makes excellent left over’s too!!!

Note: the dry ingredients can be combined and stored in snack size baggies for your own homemade sloppy joe seasoning to use anytime.

*If you can not find green pepper flakes, add fresh green pepper sautéed until soft.


Sinfully Delish comfort food March 22, 2010

Filed under: Vegan Recipes — Annastasia @ 19:34
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I have not blogged in awhile. My college classes have been taking up all of my free time (with 3 kids, my free time is already a commodity). Since my last blog post,  I have decided to get my degree in nutrition, and am super excited about my decision.
Some friends have been asking for some of my recipes I have been posting on facebook, so today’s post is going to be on some new sinfully delish foods!!

First up . .. . Soup!

Creamy Cheezy Potato Carrot Broccoli soup ~ Note: I combined 3 different recipes, added my own flair and came up with a whole new dish for this one! It turned out super yumm-O!!

6 cups water

2 veggie bullion cube (No MSG)

5 cups potatoes, cubed

1/2 cup onion, Chopped

1/2 cup carrots, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 capful of liquid smoke

1 bay leaf (remove before blending)

Rosemary, sage, and Nature’s Seasons (by morton, the salt peeps) – I add these to taste ( I like lots)

Add all these ingredients to the crock pot.  Stir, cover and cook on high 6 hours.

1 hour before these are done you need to prepare your cheezy cream.

Cheezy cream

1 cup potatoes, cubed

1/2 cup carrots

1/3 cup onion

2 cups water

1/2 Cup Nutritional Yeast ( HOLD until the end of recipe)

Add above to pan, boil for 10 min or until veges are tender.

When done, add to blender with 1 cup cashews, 1/4 tsp garlic minced, 1/4 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tblsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp cayenne, 1/4 tsp paprika. Blend until creamy. Add some of the vegetables and soup broth from the crock pot into the blender (with the creamy sauce) to total about 3-4 cups. Blend well. Add all back into the crock pot, stir well. Add frozen broccoli and 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, stir.  Cook 45 more minutes or so. until crock pot is done.


With this I made Onion herb rolls. The recipe I use for these is fantabulous and from vegweb (

Onion Herb Rolls

1/2 cup soy milk
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar (I use evaporated cane)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated margarine
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 packet yeast (about 2-1/4 teaspoons)
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/4 medium red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon thyme (dried)
1 tablespoon rosemary (dried)

Mix the soymilk, salt, sugar in a small saucepan and plop in the margarine. Heat until *almost* boiling, stir, and remove from heat. Add the onion and garlic. Let cool.

Mix the flour with the herbs.

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large bowl, and add the soymilk mix (should be lukewarm/room temperature-ish) and flour mix. Stir well.

Let the dough rise, covered, for about 45 minutes.  It works best if it’s somewhere warm (I put it in the oven, heated to 100 and then turned off)

Plop spoonfuls of the dough onto a greased pan/ sheet, making about 12 rolls (or whatever you like).  Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are browned.


These two recipes are a definate favorite in my house! The kids and hubs loves them! There is never leftovers!



An apple a day or an onion a day? December 17, 2009

Filed under: Vegan Recipes,Your Health — Annastasia @ 14:21
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Considering that apple’s are #2 on the dirty dozen list (Look here) is that slowly changing to an onion a day trend? Onions are packed with TONS of good for you stuff, and according the the EWG, Onions are lowest on the list for pesticide contamination. Not to mention, you can normally find onions fairly inexpensive.  I think I picked up some yellow onions for $1.37/lb the other day.  My family likes onions. .. . ok, maybe they don’t “like” them, but at least they eat onions. They know mom says “they are good for your health“. Lets take a look at the Onion, which is an Allium vegetable and what makes them SOOO good for you.

Onions (Allium cepa) belong to the lily family, the same family as garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots. There are over 600 species of Allium, grown all over Europe, North America, Northern Africa and Asia. The plants can be used as ornamentals, vegetables, spices, or as medicine. There are over 120 different documented uses of the Alliums.

For over 4,000 years onions have been used for medical purposes. Egyptians numbered over 8000 onion-alleviated ailments. The esteemed Greek physician Hippocrates prescribed onions as a diuretic, wound healer and pneumonia fighter. During World War II, Russian soldiers applied onions to battle wounds as an antiseptic. And throughout the ages there have been countless folk remedies that have ascribed their curative powers to onions, such as putting a sliced onion under your pillow to fight off insomnia. (Taken from

Onions are highly recommended for people trying to prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer and infections. Like most vegetables, onions are fat- and cholesterol-free, and contain very little sodium. Onions  are a member of the 500-plus allium family. While garlic, also in the allium family, has been highly praised as a cancer preventative, most people eat a lot more onions. As Americans search for low-fat, low-salt, but tasty meals, they’re eating more onions – according to the National Onion Association, around 20 pounds/year per person, which is 50% more than a decade ago.

Two health benefits of the onion are sulfur (a compound) and quercetin (a flavonoid). Flavonoids are super potent antioxidants. They each have been shown to help neutralize the free radicals in the body, and protect the membranes of the body’s cells from damage. Quercetin is a antioxidant it is also found in red wine and tea, but in much lower quantities. White onions contain very little quercetin, so it’s better to stick with the yellow and red varieties. Most health professionals recommend eating raw onions for maximum benefit, but cooking makes them more versatile and doesn’t significantly reduce their potency. I personally only know one person who will eat an onion raw, like you would an apple (YUCK!).  But, if you like them that way. . . It is definitely the way to go!

Throughout history, Onions have been used for a variety of ailments. Early Americans used wild onions to treat colds, coughs & asthma, and to repel insects. (I would think this would repel EVERYONE, onions have a strong scent) In Chinese medicine, onions have been used to treat angina, coughs, bacterial infections, and breathing problems.

The World Health Organization (WHO) supports the use of onions for the treatment of poor appetite and to prevent atherosclerosis. Onion extracts are also recognized by WHO for providing relief in the treatment of coughs and colds, asthma and bronchitis. Onions are known to decrease bronchial spasms. An onion extract was found to decrease allergy-induced bronchial constriction in asthma patients. They contain a number of sulfides similar to those found in garlic which may lower blood lipids and blood pressure. Onions are also a rich source of flavonoids, a substance known to provide protection against cardiovascular disease. Onions are also natural anticlotting agents since they possess substances with fibrinolytic activity and can suppress platelet-clumping.

Onions are a very good source of fructo-oligosaccharides. These oligomers stimulate the growth of healthy bifidobacteria and suppress the growth of potentially harmful bacteria in the colon. They are known to reduce the risk of tumors developing in the colon. Onion extracts, rich in a variety of sulfides, provide some protection against tumor growth. In central Georgia where Vidalia onions are grown, mortality rates from stomach cancer are about 50% lower than the average level for the United States. Studies in Greece have shown a high consumption of onions, garlic and other allium herbs to be protective against stomach cancer. Chinese with the highest intake of onions, garlic, and other Allium vegetables have a risk of stomach cancer 40 percent less than those with the lowest intake. Elderly Dutch men and women with the highest onion consumption (at least one-half onion/day) had one-half the level of stomach cancer compared with those consuming no onions at all.

Western Yellow, New York Bold, and Northern Red onions have the richest concentration of flavonoids and phenolics, providing them with the greatest antioxidant and anti-proliferative activity of 10 onions tested. The mild-tasting Western White and Vidalia onions had the lowest antioxidant content and lowest anti-proliferative activity. The shoppers trend to purchase the less pungent, milder onion varieties may not be the best, since the onions with a stronger flavor and higher astringency appear to have superior health-promoting properties.

Onions are safely consumed by most people. Though, consuming large quantities of onions may lead to stomach distress and gastrointestinal irritation that may result in nausea and diarrhea.

So there you have it – try to eat onions every day!! They are super good for you!!  I put them into almost everything I cook. If you are concerned about bad breath, Parsley (fresh of course) cures that icky onion breath.  It also taste good in many many foods.  To cut down on the “tears” that come with cutting onions, when using a cutting board, spray it down first with white vinegar, I am not sure why this works, but I hardly get tears when cutting onions now.


Here is one of my favorite recipes with raw onions.

Black Bean Salad (courtesy of Vegweb)

2 cans Black Beans
1 Can Corn (I used organic, white)
4 plum tomatoes (Or organic diced tomatos, plain)
1 Medium Red Onion (More if you can handle the strong flavor of them)
1/2 Green Pepper (I have used red, green, yellow, and orange)
Handful of fresh Cilantro
1/2 tablespoon SALT (or to taste)
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tblsp Olive Oil
2 Chipolte Peppers (Or Chipolte sauce)
1/2 Tblsp Minced Garlic

1.  Drain & Rinse Beans

2.  Drain Corn

3.  Dice red onion, Green Pepper, Tomato, and chipotle peppers.

4.  Chop Cilantro.

5.  Mix all of it together. Add salt, olive oil, garlic, and vinegar.

6.  Chill covered 4 hours to let flavors blend.  Serve chilled.