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.

Smoked Turkey-Lentil Soup

The first time I made this recipe, I ate one bowl and Jim at the rest.

Yes, he ate a crock-pot full of lentil soup.

To his credit, he felt bad and called me to apologize, but I just laughed at him.

It’s good soup.

Now, I make sure to double the original recipe and that way, we can have soup for more than one meal. This is the easiest, tastiest lentil soup I’ve ever made. It may even be the best lentil soup I’ve ever eaten. We were at a Mediterrian restaurant a few weeks ago and ordered their lentil soup. It didn’t compare to this one.

This is total comfort food, and with fall right around the corner, this soup is the perfect meal on a chilly night. Just place all the ingredients in a crock-pot,* turn it on and in a few hours you have a hot, smokey, hearty, protein-packed filling soup that you will make again and again.

One note: Take the time to find the smoked turkey. It’s the ingredient that puts this soup over the top.

Smoked Turkey-Lentil Soup

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 8 cups organic vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) smoked turkey leg (or smoked turkey wing or thighs)
  • 1 pound dried lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (largish) carrot, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 small potato, cubed into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Crumbled Feta cheese, optional
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation

  • 1. Place first 11 ingredients in a 3- to 4-quart electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours or until lentils are tender and turkey falls off the bone.
  • 2. Remove turkey leg from cooker. Remove and discard skin. Shred meat; return to cooker, discarding bone. Add salt to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with Feta cheese, if desired.

*You also can make this recipe in a stock or soup pot if you don’t have a crock-pot.

Combine all the ingredients except the turkey and Feta in a large pot.

Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Cook, covered for about 30 minutes.

Add turkey pieces and cook for about 15 minutes more, until the turkey is thoroughly heated through. Ladle into bowl and garnish with Feta cheese.

Greek pizza

After I graduated from college, I gave up pizza for a year.

Mind you, I still loved pizza, but after so many years of it being a staple of my diet, I needed a serious break. My school partnered up with one of the big chain pizza places in the area, which means this place was on our meal plan. Which means that when everything on campus was closed, you could just dial up the pizza place and in 45 minutes or less you’d have a hot pizza in your room.

Crazy.

Because I was such a picky eater those days (someday I’ll get into that) the only thing I liked on my pizza was cheese and pepperoni. Sometimes, I’d go crazy and maybe eat some sausage, but that was it. If I saw an onion or black olive on there, I would silently freak out and pick out every single piece.

I was weird.

Which brings me to this Greek pizza, something I never would have eaten in college and even a little beyond.

I never would have eaten spinach, olives or red onions. I would have thought Feta smelled weird. I would have been OK eating the zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes and red peppers in something else, but never (never!) on pizza.

I’m happy to say that I’ve grown up a lot since those days. Now I seek out olive bars so that I can get my fix. I’m still not a big fan of raw or big slices of onions in food, but if they’re chopped finely enough, I don’t crawl into a ball and weep like I used to.

I’m mature.

We’ve all heard and read about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. Incorporating more vegetables and fruits into your diet and less red meat and sugar are the basic lessons to take away from this diet. But even if you’re not following a ‘diet’ specifically, the Mediterranean way of eating is something all of us can incorporate into our daily lives.

Like this Greek pizza for instance. Yes, it’s pizza, but it’s not the greasy, cardboard pizza that’s delivered to your home in 45 minutes or less. This pizza is loaded with fresh vegetables, olives, herbs and a little cheese. It’s really easy to put together and very filling. I used whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe’s (I keep a couple bags of pizza dough in the freezer for emergencies) and the nutty taste of the dough really gives the pizza a whole new depth of flavor.

So try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Greek style pizza

1 whole wheat pizza dough

1 tomato (or 1 cup of chopped tomatoes)

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 red pepper, sliced

1/2 cup of Kalamata olives, chopped

1 cup fresh baby spinach

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, chopped

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

3/4-1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella (I used smoked mozzarella)

Fresh or dried herbs (oregano, basil, mint)

Prepare the dough according to package directions.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If using a pizza stone, place the stone in the oven while the oven is preheating.

Make the sauce: Place the tomato and garlic in a blender and blend for about 20 seconds. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

When the oven is hot enough, carefully remove the pizza stone (or baking sheet) from the oven and quickly assemble the pizza.

Assemble the pizza: Place a bit of olive oil on the stone to coat. Spread or place the pizza dough on the stone. Spread the tomato sauce on the dough, being sure not to use too much, leaving a little room on the sides. Top with zucchini slices, baby spinach leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, mozzarella, red pepper, feta and olives. Sprinkle a little salt on top and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

When the pizza is done, remove it from the oven, top it with the fresh chopped herbs and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top.

Lacinato kale and quinoa stir fry

I love kale.

I grew up eating collard greens. They were a staple at holiday meals and ‘big’ Sunday dinners. I remember standing in the kitchen watching my mom, grandma and/or aunts washing those big leaves, cutting them off the stems, rolling them up into cylinders and cutting them into ribbons. Then those collards would slowly simmer on the stove for hours with some kind of fatty meat, usually pork, and hours later they’d be ready to eat. I was a picky eater as a child, but I sure did love those greens. I still do. I look forward to holiday meals when I can serve myself a big helping of collard greens. The pork has been traded for smoked turkey these days, but the taste, and the memories, are the same.

I still love the collards and the way my family prepares them, but I don’t cook them for myself. I’ve taken a shining to kale and Swiss chard and other leafy greens. They’re a nutritional powerhouse. According to WebMd.com: One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.

But to me the important thing is that it tastes good. Which it does. And it’s very versatile. Soups, salads, a stir fry, casseroles. There’s really nothing that you can’t do with kale. It’s hearty and sturdy and stands up to cooking.

I had a bunch of lacinato kale that sat in the crisper a little too long and needed to be used. I started brainstorming ideas and came up with this one. It’s easy to make, very filling, and, I must say, delicious.

Lacinato kale and quinoa stir fry

1 bunch of lacinato kale

1 clove (or more to taste) of garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Vinegar (cider, red wine or white wine)

Salt and pepper

1 cup of quinoa, cooked to package directions

Remove the stems from the kale and wash gently, making sure the leaves are very dry. Cut the kale into ribbons or bite-sized pieces.

Put the thinly sliced garlic into a cold pan with the olive oil. Let it cook for a few minutes until the garlic starts to brown but not burn. Once the garlic browns, remove it and set it aside. Add the shallot and cook for about 1 minute. Add the kale, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the kale starts to wilt, adding broth as need. This can take 10-20 minutes. You want the kale to soften, but still have a bite to it.

Once the kale is to the desired consistency add the golden raisins and stir. Add a splash of vinegar and stir. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve on top of quinoa, topped with toasted pine nuts and the reserved garlic slices.