Hominy Tortilla Soup

IMG_2350.JPG I have often passed cans of hominy on the shelf at the grocery store and wasn’t sure exactly what to do with this simple yet somewhat daunting ingredient! Hominy is essentially dried corn that has been soaked in a mineral lime bath – a process known as nixtamalization. The process softens the kernels and causes them to double in size, which is why hominy looks nothing like corn. It is the main ingredient ground down into corn tortillas, and in Mexico it is even mixed with water and milk to make the sweetened beverage called atol. There are signs of hominy being produced in mesoamerica around 1500 BC so it is a very ancient ingredient that remains unchanged over time — the difference being as the consumer that I don’t have to do anything except use a can opener!

It turns out their chewy puffy texture makes hominy an excellent compliment to beans in a stew. So today I am sharing this flavorful and hearty meatless Hominy Tortilla Soup that is a cinch to make.

MEXICAN TORTILLA SOUP
14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or chunky tomato sauce
1 dried smoked chili pepper or 1 poblano pepper
1 avocado
6 corn tortillas (6-inch, taco-sized)
1 handful cilantro
1 lime
14-ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained
14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
32 ounces (4 cups) vegetable stock
1 medium white onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Olive oil
Salt

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Stack the tortillas and slice them into ½-inch-wide, 2-inch-long strips. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, then season with a bit oil and salt. Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion. Remove the seeds and membranes from the dried poblano. In a medium pot or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil on medium heat and cook the onion, garlic, and poblano peppers for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, then the canned tomatoes and vegetable stock. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then add the hominy and black beans. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve the soup: first, discard the dried chili pepper. Pour into individual bowls then top with some of the diced avocado, tortilla strips, cilantro and a lime wedge. Add hot sauce if you like it spicy!

Cowboy Caviar

IMG_2249.JPG
A few weeks ago I found out about Cowboy Caviar after I had made a simple bean salad that was reminiscent to someone of this recipe which they shared with me. Not only do I love the name, but I also love it’s simplicity and subtle different flavors that really make this recipe shine. The spicy base of black-eyed peas, avocado, corn and tomatoes combined with the red wine vinegar hot sauce is simply dynamite on a bed of romaine lettuce with crumbled tortilla chips on top – and it didn’t even need additional dressing.

The good news is that black-eyed peas are cheap, high in protein, and low in calories, cholesterol and saturated fat. They also have a good amount of potassium and iron. If you are concerned about iron intake on a vegetarian diet, beans and dried fruit (such as raisins and apricots) will more than compensate what you don’t get from red meat. Additionally, eating foods high in vitamin C will actually increase iron absorption in the body. So enjoy this salad with a handful of dried fruit for a healthy, nutritious meal!

COWBOY CAVIAR
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 firm-ripe avocado (about 10 oz.)
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
1 can (11 oz.) corn kernels
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Salt

In a large bowl, mix vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic, and pepper. Cut avocado into 1/2-inch cubes. Add to vinegar mixture and mix gently to coat.
Drain and rinse peas and corn. Add peas, corn, onions, cilantro, and tomatoes to avocado; mix gently to coat. Add salt to taste.

Putta-A-Fork-In-It Puttanesca

20140713-202206-73326871.jpg
It’s been two months of major changes in our household: two new jobs, new school, potty training, no more baby bottles, toddler bed to queen size, new nanny, first airplane ride with the kids. Change is hard. So this weekend was the beginning of a recommitment to my mind and body, and therefore my family. On Friday I finally joined the gym and reactivated my Weight Watchers app, and today I spent a majority of the day solo parenting to give my husband – who is my soldier in the trenches of the night – a much deserved break. These things may seem so simple and even carefree to most people, but the truth is these tasks seem insurmountable when you’re in a lousy state of mind.

When the membership director asked me what my fitness goal was I joked “To get here.” But what IS my goal here? I have a few. To not loudly sigh in annoyance at 4:30am when the baby screams through the monitor, to not slam the fridge door a bit too hard just to make a point, to go to bed tired in a good way and wake up refreshed (that’s one’s crazy!) and most importantly to find a meaningful getaway that gets me out of the house in a bad moment and do something good for my body. I will tell you jumping into a pool for water aerobics while listening to Lord of the Dance made me smile! So I guess you could say my ultimate goal here is to improve my attitude.

The nice thing about Weight Watchers is that nothing is “off limits”, just unashamedly tracked. So I don’t mind sharing today’s recipe for a vegan Puttanesca that is out of this world.

PUTTA-FORK-IN-IT PUTTANESCA

1 box spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil
1 red onion, slivered into thin moon shapes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
6 garlic cloves, diced
Olive oil

Boil pasta “al dente” according to package instructions, typically 10 minutes. While cooking, add a dollop of olive oil and cook onions and garlic on medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add capers and cook additional 2-3 minutes. Finally, throw in tomatoes, olives and basil and cook 5 more minutes. Add about 1/8 cup olive oil to pasta then mix in puttanesca topping. Salt and pepper to taste.

20140713-202254-73374781.jpg
A good night…

Tostada Mexican Pizza

20140710-073212-27132483.jpg
There’s nothing like the jarring sound of a screaming toddler at 4:55am. For the past few months, our 18-month old son Everett has been waking up like clockwork, no matter what time we put him down the night before. We’ve tried 8:00pm, 7:00pm, and 6:30pm. And what makes it worse is that he doesn’t want to nap longer than 40 minutes during the day. We used to do two naps, now he’s down to one shimmering moment of time after lunch. I hate parenting books. And now Asher has started napping at preschool. Long, refreshing naps that keep him running around until 9:30pm.

What I’m trying to say is that we’ve implemented family dinner at 6:00pm and we needed something quick and easy. These Tostada Mexican Pizzas are deliciously satisfying, and the components stemming from the standard “7-layer dip” cross over as toddler finger foods! Obviously you need a beer pairing to get through the kids post-dinner bath time, we opted for Revolution Anti-Hero.

TOSTADA MEXICAN PIZZA
Whole wheat enchilada wraps
Sliced black olives
Grape tomatoes
15-oz can refried pinto beans
1 avocado, mashed
Green onions, chopped
Salsa

Turn on broiler and place wraps on baking sheet on top shelf in oven for 2-3 minutes per side. You want them crunchy and a bit charred, but watch they don’t smoke and burn! Smear layer of refried pinto beans, followed by smashed avocado. Top with veggie toppings and salsa. Better than nachos!

20140710-073252-27172155.jpg

General Tso Cauliflower

Today’s recipe is not going to win any beauty contest. But then again, neither will I — unless it’s a leg contest. I think I could win that. But like me, this General Tso Tofu dish is authentic and unexpectedly flavorful, even with a bleak “resting face”.

This dish comes from Bakeaholic Mama and has that wonderful thick and creamy Chinese sauce with gingery garlicy flavors. A few things to note on where I went wrong – make it in small batches rather than all at once to ensure the cauliflower florets cooks thoroughly and still get that crispy outside. Mine was more “steamed” than “fried”. Also, use a wide and deep pan, not a wok. I did add a package of diced Chinese smoked tofu which added a kick of protein. cauliflower

GENERAL TSO CAULIFLOWER
1 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1/3 cup corn starch
3 tbs soy sauce
Peanut oil for frying

For the sauce:
2 1/2 tsp minced ginger root
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tsp garlic chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs peanut oil
Brown rice for serving
Green onions for garnish

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl mix together cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg until a you form a batter. Toss cauliflower in batter until evenly coated, then set aside for about 15 minutes. In a heavy bottomed fry pan, add 2 tbs of peanut oil and heat until the pan is hot. Toss in cauliflower florets and fry over medium heat until evenly browned on all sides. Once cauliflower is prepared, start your sauce. In a separate sauce pan, add sesame oil and peanut oil with your garlic and ginger and saute for 2 – 3 minutes. Mix in remaining sauce ingredients and whisk constantly over medium high heat, until it comes to a low boil. Once sauce has thickened, add to the fry pan you cooked your cauliflower in and toss with fried cauliflower. Over medium low heat, toss the cauliflower until it is evenly coated in the sauce. Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.

Edamame Succotash

succotashOne of the worst questions a coworker can ask you is “What size t-shirt do you wear?” It’s an awful question because it is so immensely personal, but also because it means that at some point soon you will be wearing a staff t-shirt. My husband loves free t-shirts. I do not.

The best response I got after I sheepishly admitted Large is “Really? You’re not a medium?!” Thank you Amy K. for making my day. This comment was made while I was eating today’s recipe for Edamame Succatosh, which is why I share it with you now! It comes from Vegetarian Times and makes for a nice twist on the traditional lima bean succotash. My version is a flavorful no-cook vegan dish that features fresh herbs and sweet yellow peppers which provide a bright crunch to the nutty edamame. It tastes great with a cup of pasta for a cold pasta salad.

EDAMAME SUCCOTASH

2 tsp. olive oil
2 chopped yellow peppers
1/2 chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 can whole corn kernels, drained
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Lentil Ratatouille

lentil stew

10 Things You Should Know about Being a Working Mom:

1. Coming home from work is actually when the hard work begins
2. Your Kate Spade will soon become affectionately known as the “snack bag”
3. There may come a day when you steal a roll of toilet paper from work because you’re down to half a roll between 3 adults and 2 kids and you just need to get through the night
4. What’s the point in a manicure since they only last a day?
5. You will frequently be getting into bed for a “nap” at 4am before getting up for work an hour later
6. Waist-high shared lukewarm baths with your toddler every night does not constitute a proper adult shampoo
7. Rewards cards now seem magical, especially since you will be buying new shoes every 4 months and no they are not for you
8. You now have “at home” clothes and “outside world approved” clothes. If you know people that have seen you in both then they are indeed a true and beloved friend.
9. You will be buying odd tomatoes that have been thrown in your grocery cart on Saturday mornings that you’re too embarrassed to put back
10. You can never have too many Goldfish crackers. Ever.

This week I was in the mood for a traditional hot ratatouille, but with a nontraditional twist of protein. This Lentil Ratatouille features a creamy braised eggplant and an earthy bite from the lentils. It can be eaten as a hearty stew or served atop any variety of pasta for a delicious dinner entree!

LENTIL RATATOUILLE
1 large firm eggplant, stem removed and diced into small 1/2” cubes
4 zucchini, stems removed and diced into small 1/2” cubes
1 bunch of basil, stems discarded with leaves torn into small pieces
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 jar of marinara
1/4 cup olive Oil
2 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 cup brown lentils
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pot, boil 2 cups of water then add the lentils, bay leaves, and thyme. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer then cook uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes. In large pot, cook olive oil, onion and garlic on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Toss in the eggplant and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and cook with cover on pot for additional 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add marinara and fresh basil and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove bay leaves from the lentil mixture, then add the lentils to the ratatouille mixture and serve hot.

Mexican Red Quinoa Soup

soup I often make grilled vegetables for the week to enjoy with pasta or salad, but it never occurred to me until this week to puree those grilled vegetables into a soup base and then pour that over a grain base to make a yummy stew. WHOA MAMA! Imagine the possibilities. It all started with this amazing recipe for a Mexican flavored vegetable soup with quinoa from Reboot with Joe which I altered slightly just because it is literally impossible for me to make a recipe without changing it somehow just for the hell of it. And now that the seed has been planted, I am definitely going to experiment more with spices, flavors and grains. This soup is hearty, sweet and spicy, and makes a nice substitute for the usual chili.

MEXICAN RED QUINOA SOUP
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
2 jalapeno chili peppers
4 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
3 tomatillos, peeled
2 15 oz. cans of black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cups organic vegetable broth
4 green onions, sliced
1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 cup cooked red quinoa
sea salt and pepper to taste

veggies Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Discard all stems and seeds from the peppers (if you want it spicier leave in jalapeno seeds). Roughly chop field peppers and onion. S[read whole garlic in peel, whole tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, onion and peppers onto baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until pepper skin is soft, about 15 minutes. While roasting, heat broth in pot. Remove baking sheet from oven. Peel garlic and place all vegetables into broth, and add half of the corn and beans. Blend with a hand blender until smooth. Add remaining corn and black beans, stir, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over bed of quinoa and garnish with chopped scallion and cilantro.

Quinoa Granola

granola
Wikipedia moment! Apparantly, the same person who invented the graham cracker was also a major catalyst in the vegetarian movement. Reverend Sylvester Graham (July 5, 1794 – September 11, 1851) was an American dietary reformer who, around 1829, invented the Graham Diet – which consisted mainly of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat and high fiber foods, and excluded meat, milk and all animal byproducts in an effort to purify our mind and body. Graham was also amongst the first to argue that chemical additives used to make bread whiter in color and more commercially appealing also made it unwholesome. Well at least that was a far cry from 1590 when the city of Paris actually declared it legal to use the bones of dead Parisians to be ground into flour and baked into bread during the famine!

Unfortunately, Graham also believed that vegetarianism was essential to an asexual lifestyle, and that consuming animal byproducts caused sinful lusts. So next time you feed your toddler a graham cracker just remember that it was invented as a substitute for sex!

Today I am invoking my inner free love hippie and sharing a rather pleasant recipe for Quinoa Granola.It’s mild cinnamony sweetness combines well with the tartness of the dried cherries and the nuttiness of the quinoa and almonds.

QUINOA GRANOLA
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 cup slivered or roughly-chopped almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together oats, quinoa, almonds, honey, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon until combined. Spread the mixture out on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring once halfway. Remove and let cool, then stir in dried fruit and toss to combine. Serve immediately or store in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Cashew Tomato Basil Soup

Cashew Tomato Basil SoupI’m all jazzed up this week because I just purchased the Breville JE98XL and am delving into the wonderful messy world of juicing. My goal is to increase my family’s nutrition intake, beat off the winter blues, and fight off this plague that has kept me on antibiotics, nasal spray and an inhaler for the first time since I was in grade school.

Weeeeell this morning I made the mistake of making beet juice for my 3-year-old. At the same time that the bright red substance projected through Asher’s straw onto the floor, Everett fell backwards while pushing his plastic shopping cart, biting his tongue hard enough that blood poured out of his mouth. At that precise moment our house alarm went off. Our unfortunate nanny had opened the front door, unbeknownst that we had changed the alarm setting to the “silent for 10 seconds then all hell breaks loose”, which then caused the fattest of our three cats to jump the baby gate onto the stair landing, knocking over almost everything within a two-mile radius.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m kind of digging soups and juices this week. I am especially proud of this Cashew Tomato Basil Soup I created based on a simpler recipe that called for cream and chicken stock. Boo! The rich creamy cashew puree and the fresh pop of thyme combined with the roasted tomato basil base is simply put – spectacular. Spectacular enough to take my mind off the beet stain. For now.

CASHEW TOMATO BASIL SOUP
1 1/2 cups whole raw, unsalted cashews
3 lbs Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise (or any tomatoes you find on sale!)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced (approximately one bunch)
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place 1 1/2 cups of cashews in a bowl of water and soak for at least 12 hours. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread tomato halves onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast tomatoes for about 1 hour. During the last 3 to 4 minutes, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler to get a bit of roasted char on the tomatoes. While tomatoes are in the oven, add a generous dollop of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and basils, then season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Pour 2 cups of water and then roasted tomatoes into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Drain cashews from their water and add to the soup. Using a hand blender, puree the soup for 5 or 6 minutes until a rich creamy consistency.