It’s been the start of another busy school year – 1st and 3rd grade. Hard believe it when the Facebook memories pop up and I see my little beanie babies in their diaper butts. It’s all so bittersweet. After years of loving on mommy my 9 year-old is all into daddy now. They play Roblox and Minecraft on separate computers with headsets on talking to each other, even though they are merely feet apart. My husband’s avatar is aptly named “dinkydorkdad” or something along those lines so as not to be the misunderstood adult creeping around the kids online gaming worlds. They play Pokemon and trade Magic the Gathering cards all hours of the day. My younger son is learning from his elders and follows suit. I hear the boys in our basement right now laughing and screaming “I broke my penis! Penis! Penis!”.
So I’m grateful for the extra time in the day where nobody is waiting outside the bathroom door anymore. Or screaming to play tag at the park. Or begging me to divide myself in two. But still. My husband gets the full frontal hugs. And now, I get the back hugs. Asher looks at me only when it’s meal time or to ask “Where’s dad?” and when I say “Not here.” he desperately says “Why? What happened??” And I’m heartbroken! Because I’m MOM. I used to be mommy. But call me mom now. Or, as my older son has named me “Worms”. Yep, that’s what was on my birthday card two weeks ago.
In any case, I’m still good for one thing and that’s cooking. Tonight’s menu was a vegan Chickpea Chile Verde mixed in with brown rice and it was DAMN GOOD. Tomatillos are native to Mexico and while they resemble tomatoes they are actually more closely related to gooseberries and come from the nightshade family. Fascinating stuff! They are also low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and are packed with vitamins. This recipe is much lighter, tangier and summery than a traditional smoky chili with heavier beans, and had a lovely crunch factor with sweet whole corn kernels and tortilla strips. It’s also easy to make because you can rely on the oven to do the bulk of the cooking.
CHICKPEA CHILE VERDE
- 3 TB olive oil
- 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped into large chunks
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 TB cumin
- 2 14 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup fresh, frozen or canned corn kernels
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 avocado
- Tortilla strips for topping
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss tomatillos, poblano peppers and garlic with olive oil and spread out on baking sheet, then bake for 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare brown rice according to packing – typically 2 cups water per 1 cup rice – simmering for 45 minutes. I use a rice cooker which steams the rice and tends to have a faster and fluffier cook. Remove banking sheet from oven and scoop tomatillos and poblanos into large pot, then add the vegetable broth. Use hand blender to puree your soup base to a smooth consistency, then stir in the chickpeas, corn and cilantro. Serve in a bowl over brown rice and top with tortilla strips.
My birthday cards…
Enjoying the last of summer…
With the recent elections and shift to crisp, fall weather, our family jumped right into hot soup season and what better dish than this hearty and healthy Senate Bean Soup!
One popular story claims the history of this dish goes back to World War II when the country was under rationing and the US government kitchen staff had to come up with creative ways to bulk up their lunch options. But another story contends it goes back at least 100 years and was simply a favorite amongst senators. Whatever the origination, it is a popular dish and has been served in the dining room of the Senate every day since, hence its name. The original recipe used a mashed potato base with ham, which I replaced with leeks and topped it off at the end with some crispy, pan-fried vegan Benevolent Bacon which added a nice smoky flavor to the soup once stirred through.
Made with just a few easy ingredients, this thick and buttery dish was scrumptious served with some toasted sourdough and was a big hit with kids and adults alike. The key elements in the prep were using dry navy beans and puréeing about 1/3 of the soup after it was all cooked down to create a thick soup base while still retaining much of the chunky beans and vegetables.
- 2 cups dry navy beans
- 2 leeks, trimmed and slivered
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Benevolent Bacon, diced and pan fried
Soak navy beans 6-8 hours, then drain and rinse. In large soup pot heat up olive oil then cook garlic and leeks until translucent, about 3-5minutes. Add carrots, celery, beans, thyme and vegetable broth and cook on medium for 45 minutes, stirring constantly, until beans are soft. Remove 1/3 of soup and purée in blender then add back to soup. Or use a hand blender and purée briefly enough to thicken the broth but not break down all the beans. In a separate pan, add additional 1-2 TB olive oil and fry the bacon until it starts to darken. Set aside for 1 minute to cool, then serve fresh with each serving of soup. Salt and pepper to taste.
Soup in a bread bowl has been calling my name like a banshee at night lately. The problem is that most restaurants like Panera Bread use chicken stock or high-calorie heavy cream, even on some of their seeming vegetarian bowls like the lentil and quinoa stew. My dreams came true when I discovered this vegetarian reinvention of the classic winter dish Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup. It’s not vegan, but by eliminating the dairy altogether this could still be a very soul-satisfying dish.
The key ingredients here are real wild rice for a flavorful, chewy bite (don’t give in to temptation and buy instant wild rice) and Beyond Chicken grilled strips – which I picked up at Target. The soft, meaty texture of the “chicken” pairs perfectly with the earthy mushrooms and thyme. But what really shines is the sour cream and flour base which makes a heavenly thick broth.
Bread bowl not included in photo below …but it is coming soon!
CREAMY CHICKEN WILD RICE SOUP
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 packet Beyond Chicken, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cup vegetable broth
1 cup wild rice
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tabledpoon chopped fresh parsley
In a small sauce pot, combine 1 cup wild rice with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil then cover and turndown to a simmer for 45 minutes. In the meantime, heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms, celery, carrots, chicken, and onion and cook, stirring often, until softened (5-7 minutes). Stir in thyme, flour, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and bring to a boil. When wild rice is done cooking, add to the broth and simmer additional 5-7 minutes. Then stir in sour cream and parsley.
Another week of freezing temperatures in Chicago sent me scouring for new soup recipes this week. I was looking for bold flavor but creamy in texture, the kind of soup you might savor in a steamy oversized mug and feel inspired by. My search led me to this unexpected butternut squash recipe posted on www.halfbakedharvest.com. Enveloped in the deep Moroccan flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and curry, then swirled with creamy coconut milk, this impressive recipe did not fail to impress and was easily adapted to a soul-satisfying one-pot vegan wonder.
MOROCCAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CREAMY COCONUT SOUP
1 head garlic, for roasting (or you may sub 2 cloves garlic, not roasted)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon spicy curry powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped ginger
2 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
2 cups veggie broth
salt and pepper, to taste
roughly chopped cilantro and pistachios, for topping
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Chop off the top portion of the garlic head to reveal cloves, pour one teaspoon of olive oil on top of the garlic cloves and cover with foil then roast for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool five minutes. Squeeze garlic out of the paper skin. Meanwhile, add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat, then add the red pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add the cubed butternut squash, spicy curry powder, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes then pour in the coconut milk and veggie broth, reserving just a few spoonfuls of coconut milk. Bring the soup to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender. Once the butternut squash is tender, then add the roasted garlic. Use a hand blender to puree the soup, then let simmer for additional 5 minutes. Top with freshly chopped cilantro and pistachio, and drizzle with a splash of coconut milk.
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
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.
I’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
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.
I never thought to pair the strong flavour of spicy cinnamon with tangy lemon, let alone in a savory soup dish. But since discovering this zesty recipe for Red Lentil and Chard Soup from Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi, I am now a believer. Ottolenghi intrigues me as a chef because he is known as a champion of vegetable-based dishes even though he is not a vegetarian. He blends the ingredients of his native Israel with unexpected flavours from the Middle East and East Asia in a very unapologetic and bold way, and many of these recipes can be made with 10 ingredients or less which I especially love. One simple pasta recipe in his famed vegetarian cookbook “Plenty” calls for the home cook to “roughly tear” mozzarella into the pot rather than the traditional “dice” or “cube”. Now that’s my kind of cooking!
This surprising dish can easily be made in one soup pot and a saute pan, and I have changed it up from the original recipe to remove the butter as I didn’t find that it made a huge impact on the overall flavor of the soup, and I thought it would be best showcased as an upscale vegan dish. I have also removed a few steps from the original recipe to simplify the preparation. I imagine you can spend $15 for a bowl of this soup at one of his upscale London restaurants, but you can make a huge pot for the same price at home and it would be a great dinner party opener.
RED LENTIL CHARD SOUP
7oz Red Lentils
8 cups water
2 Red Onions chopped finely
1lb Swiss Chard, leaves roughly chopped and stalks chopped the same size as the onions
2 teaspoons ground cumin
scant 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, whole or crushed
Juice of 3 lemons
A handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Rinse the lentils well and place in a large saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 25 minutes; removing any scum that rises to the surface. While the lentils are simmering, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a sauce pan and add the garlic and coriander seeds and saute for 3-4 minutes. I like the crunch of whole coriander in a dish, but crushed seeds would probably be more palatable. Then add the red onions and chard stalks and cook until they start to brown. Add theis mixture to the pot of lentils. Using a hand blender, pulse the soup in the pot for 20-30 seconds until it is partially pureed but still has some nice chunks from the chard and onions. Add about two handfuls of chopped chard leaves and stir well, then add the cinnamon and cumin and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Gently heat the soup and simmer for a few minutes. Finally squeeze in the lemon juice and turn off the heat. Let the soup infuse with the flavours for another few minutes before serving with a lemon wedge and some cilantro leaves. It is best served with a side of sourdough bread.