Three soups for you

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(photo c/o CookingLight.com)

All I want to eat lately is soup.

Let me rephrase that: All I’m eating lately is soup.

Within the past week, I’ve made three big pots of soup. Lunch at work every day this week has been leftover soup and my favorite Fall salad (which I can share with you another day, if you’re interested). Soup every day sounds boring, I know, but it’s not. Most soups/stews taste even better the second day – or fourth, in my case – because the flavors have had time to settle in and get comfortable.
Here are links to the three soups I made this week. They’re all really easy to make and have a ton of flavor. Enjoy!

North Woods Bean Soup: I buy whole carrots and chop them into bite-size pieces (think the size of  a chickpea)  instead of using baby carrots.
Autumn Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup: I roast the carrots, sweet potatoes and apple instead, but I’m sure the recipe as is, is great, too.
Split Pea Soup: I use this recipe for smoked turkey lentil soup, but use green split peas instead. It’s an easy substitution.

Curried Roasted Vegetable Farro Salad

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Grain + vegetable + protein = an amazingly easy, tasty and healthy salad.

I make a lot of these types of salads. I even blogged one not too long ago. I hesitated sharing this one, but it’s so good, SO GOOD, that I just had to share.

The thing I love about these salads is that they pack a lot of flavor. They’re also full of vegetables, so I feel good eating a big bowl. Or two. And they’re easily adaptable. Use what grain(s) you like. Use what vegetables you like. Add chopped chicken for protein or garbanzo beans to make it vegetarian or quinoa to make it gluten-free.

There are two tips to make these salads really stand out. The first is to season everything as you go. The second is a well-seasoned vinaigrette. Please make your own. The vinaigrette I use for this salad comes from Giada De Laurentiis. Many, many years ago, I watched her (on Everyday Italian) make a curry vinaigrette to top a carrot and pear salad. While that particular fruit/vegetable combination didn’t knock my socks off, the vinaigrette did. If you’re not a fan of curry, this vinaigrette is not for you. If you are a fan, you’ll love it and want to use it all the time.

So here’s another salad recipe. This is the combination I used this time, but I’ve made it before with other ingredients. I often make it with whole wheat couscous for the grain. Sometimes, I’ll chop a cucumber and throw it in there. Oftentimes, I use golden raisins for a little sweetness. One big thing I did differently this time was roasting the vegetables first and, wow, was that a good idea. It’s not necessary, but if you have 20 minutes, I recommend it.

Enjoy!

Curried Roasted Vegetable Farro Salad

Cook 1 cup of farro according to package directions, drain and place in a large bowl

2 carrots, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup garbazno beans

1 small handful of cilantro, chopped

1 small handful of dried cherries

salt and pepper

Curry vinaigrette*

Preheat the oven to 450. Toss the carrots and red pepper in a bowl with oil (whatever you have. I like to use neutral oils when roasting such as grapeseed), about a 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, turning once or twice.

While the vegetables roast, make the vinaigrette.

When the vegetables are done, add to the bowl with the farro, toss in 1 cup of garbanzo beans, a handful of dried cherries and the cilantro. Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and stir to coat.

Refrigerate or serve at room temperature (I like it at room temp).

*Curry vinigrette

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 a small shallot, chopped

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a blender combine the white wine, curry powder, shallot, honey, salt and pepper and blend to combine. With the machine running add the olive oil.

Freekeh salad

freekeh 007

Freekeh salad

2 cups cooked freekeh (or quinoa, farro, brown rice) (cooled after cooking)

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup diced English cucumber

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 pint of roasted grape tomatoes*

1/4-1/2 cup feta cheese (omit the feta cheese for a vegan salad)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 red onion, diced

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon of cumin

A pinch of oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Juice from 1/2-1 whole lemon

Toss the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.

Pour the vinaigrette over the freekeh mixture and toss gently to combine.

Sprinkle the juice of half a lemon over the salad. Taste and add more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice to taste.

Keeps for several days.

*Roasted tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and toss with a teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place the tomatoes on a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the tomatoes burst and start to shrivel.

Want to know more about freekeh? Freekeh is young green wheat that has been toasted and cracked. It’s a healthy whole grain food, much like bulgur wheat and other whole grains.

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Sometimes I’m inspired by a meal I’ve eaten in a restaurant. Sometimes I’m inspired by other blogs or magazine articles. Sometimes I’m inspired by ingredients already in my kitchen. And sometimes I’m inspired by friends.

A friend inspired these stuffed peppers.

I’ve been wanting to make stuffed peppers for ages, but they always took a back seat to other meal ideas. Then a friend showed me a picture of stuffed tomatoes and that was it: I finally had the motivation to make these stuffed peppers.

They’re as easy as … I was going to write pie and then I realized that pie isn’t so easy. But these? Super easy. And very tasty. I stuffed these with couscous, corn, black beans, red bell peppers, cilantro and smoked Gouda. The possibilities are endless. I think next time I’ll try orzo, sun-dried tomatoes, chickepeas, basil and mozzarella.

Have fun. Play around with flavors. Be inspired.

Stuffed peppers

4 bell peppers (I used red and yellow)

1 cup of cooked couscous (or quinoa)

1 cup black beans

1 cup corn

1/2 bell pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped

handful of cilantro, chopped

handful of shredded smoked Gouda

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon (smoked) paprika

dash of cayenne pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Prepare the peppers: Chop off the top of the peppers (or slice them in half) and scoop out the seeds and ribs. Place the peppers in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes.

For the filling: Mix all the other ingredients, except the cheese, in a large bowl. Taste the filling and adjust your spice levels as needed.

Assemble the peppers: Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Place the peppers in the dish and stuff the peppers with the couscous mixture to the top. Top with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until the mixture is heated through.

Creamy Avocado Potato Salad

Guacamole and potatoes? Yes, please.

This is one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” recipes. I like guacamole. I love potatoes. Why didn’t I ever think to put them together?

Besides being delicious on its own, the avocado in this salad is a great, healthy alternative to mayonnaise. Avocados area an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, which may improve blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease.

With temperatures inching higher, and spring and summer on the way, I anticipate many servings of this creamy, delicious, slightly-unexpected side dish.

Creamy Avocado Potato Salad

Adapted from Vegan Brunch

2 lbs fingerling or baby Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch chunks

1 tablespoon cilantro

1 clove of garlic, peeled

2 ripe avocados

2 tablespoons lime juice, from a lime or two

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)

1 plum tomato, chopped

1/2 small red onion, diced small

1/2 English cucumber (or regular cucumber), diced very small

Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat to a rolling boil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool. I put them in the refrigerator while I prepared the dressing.

To prepare the dressing, place the garlic clove and cilantro in the food processor and process for about 10 seconds, until the cilantro and garlic are chopped. Next, split the avocados in half, remove the seeds and scoop the flesh into the food processor. Add the garlic, lime juice and salt and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed. Once smooth and creamy, add the tomato and onion. Pulse three or four times, until they are incorporated but not completely blended.

Put the potatoes and cucumbers in a large mixing bowl. Add the avocado mixture and mix well, being sure not to mash the potatoes. Taste and add more salt and lime juice to taste. Sprinkle a little extra cayenne pepper on top, if you like.

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Veggie Burgers with Tahini Mayonnaise

I think one of the biggest problems with getting people to enjoy veggie burgers is the word ‘burgers.’ Burger conjures up a specific imagine – meat. A veggie burger can be many thing, but meat it is not. Instead of eating a veggie burger as a substitute for meat, it should be enjoyed for what it is – a protein bomb full of deliciousness!

I’ve been making this veggie burger/pattie for a few years now. I first saw it prepared in 2007 (!) on an episode of Everyday Food on PBS. There were other burgers featured on that episode, and I remember wanting to try those, too, but so far, I’ve only made these. I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my tastes and I’m pretty happy with the results. These come together quickly and are very hearty and healthy.

I used to make these patties with whole wheat couscous, but now I always make them with quinoa.  Quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids and is a complete protein source. Kidney beans are high in fiber and protein. And I’ve learned that the protein content of beans consists of an incomplete amino acid profile and are best served with a food containing complementary amino acids. Like quinoa! So really, there’s no reason for you not to make these burgers/patties.

Veggie Burgers with Tahini Mayonnaise*

Adapted from Everyday Food

Ingredients

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs (or panko)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large egg
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame-seed paste)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Tahini mayonnaise (recipe below)

Directions

Place beans in a medium bowl; mash until a coarse paste forms. Add breadcrumbs, scallions, egg, carrot, cayenne, tahini and quinoa. Season with salt and pepper, and mix to combine. Form mixture into 6 patties (I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup to form the patties).
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low. Cook patties until browned and firm, 5 to 8 minutes per side. Serve on whole wheat English muffins (or gluten-free bread) with tahini mayonnaise and lettuce.

*Tahini mayonnaise

The tahini mayonnaise really takes these patties from good to great. Tahini (sesame seed paste) can be found in most supermarkets in the ‘International’ section, but if you’re close to a Middle Eastern food store, I advise going there. You’ll find the prices are so much less expensive!

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup light mayonnaise (or Veganese for a vegan burger), the juice from 1/2 a  lemon and 1 tablespoon of tahini; season with coarse salt and ground pepper to taste.

Turkey Chili with Pumpkin

The first cookbook I ever ordered was Help! My Apartment Has A Kitchen (my copy of this book is so old that the cover is different!). I ordered it shortly after I graduated from college, started my first job, bought my first car and moved into my first apartment. I’m not sure what made me order the book. I suspect I was tired of eating  Lean Cuisine glazed chicken (I lived on these in college because they were readily available at the university ‘grocery’ store) and wanted to try cooking something for myself. This book was a great way to ease me into being comfortable in the kitchen. The recipes are incredibly simple, but the results are really good. For a beginning cook, that’s what you need.

One recipe I come back to again and again is the book’s recipe for Chili con Carne. Onion, garlic, ground turkey, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, liquid, beans. That’s it. It’s not a complicated recipe, but it’s a great starter chili and a great base recipe. I’ve made this chili more times that I can count. I find that this recipe never really fails and when I want an uncomplicated chili that I can make in a hurry, this is what I make.

Today, was not one of those in-a-hurry days. It’s 57 degrees outside and raining so I figured today was a perfect day for the first big pot of chili of the season. My first impulse was to make the tried and true recipe, but I wanted to do something a little different.

A couple of days ago, a friend asked if I like pumpkin. I’m not the biggest fan of pumpkin pie, but pumpkin muffins, scones, bread and pancakes are delicious. I don’t eat a lot of savory pumpkin, though. In the fall and winter, I look forward to cooking with various types of squash in savory recipes, but I hardly ever use pumpkin. Today was the day I decided to jump on the savory pumpkin train and make turkey pumpkin chili.

This chili is delicious! The pumpkin flavor isn’t strong, but it adds a sweet (but not sugary) undertone to the chili. Also, pumpkin is all kinds of healthy. Pumpkins have a lot of common nutrients, like iron, zinc, and fiber. It’s rich in carotenoids, which is known for keeping the immune system of an individual strong and healthy. And it’s good. So there’s that.

The good thing about this recipe is that the simple base:  Onion, garlic, ground turkey, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, liquid, beans. It’s the quality of the ingredients that are going to boost the chili. Buy ground meat from a source you trust. Use the best, freshest spices you can find. Use organic broth.

Snuggle in for the night and watch a movie on the couch while enjoying a big bowl of this chili.

Turkey Chili with Pumpkin

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced (feel free to use less. we like garlic)

1 pound ground turkey

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

2 cups (or 1 15 oz can) pumpkin puree

1 (15 oz) can black beans

1 (15 oz) can kidney beans

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups organic beef broth*

Cilantro

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and saute the onion and bell pepper until tender. Stir in the turkey, and cook until evenly brown. Push the mixture to the side of the pot and add the garlic and spices. Stir the spices for about 20 seconds to allow them to toast. Mix with the turkey mixture. Add the pumpkin and cook for 1 minute. Taste the mixture and adjust spices as needed. Mix in tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add the beans and let cook on low for an additional 10 minutes. Serve topped with chopped cilantro.

*I like the flavor the beef broth gives to chili. Feel free to substitute organic chicken broth or organic vegetable broth.