Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beet and Greens Soup

I arrived home feeling overwhelmed by the amount of last week's farm share still not processed. Meaning, if I didn't use it soon, it was gonna go bad. Now y'all know how much I love to waste food, so this was something I was driven to tackle. One challenge was that the freezer is now teeming with a plethora of meals, and running out of space quick! So I pulled out a big container of broth and some Hubbard squash from last season, to make way for a new soup. This one was going to successfully utilize some of those green tomatoes and lots of leftover greens. It was going to be more sweet than savory, and we were gonna once again, just wing it.

This is what I had on hand:

2 TB olive or grape seed oil
5 small beets 
(raw, peeled and chopped)
2 small beets
(leftovers already roasted partially and chopped, from the fridge)
3 yellow carrots
(orange ones work too!)
12 small new potatoes 
(half red/half yellow)
3 green Roma tomatoes
3 medium green tomatoes
1/2 eggplant
(peeled and cubed)
2 cups shredded zucchini
(this was already shredded from another recipe. Cube it, slice it... doesn't matter.)
2 cups frozen roasted Hubbard Squash
(a huge frozen hunk that I just let simmer in there until it broke apart. I helped it along by poking at it.)
1 large red onion
(3/4 of an onion, actually...)
3 gloves of garlic
(pressed, but you can chop it or mince it, too)
(just a squirt)
(a few squirts)
black pepper
(to taste... we like lots)
sea salt
(to taste... didn't need much)
4 cups mixture of chopped beet greens and rainbow chard
(kale or collards would be good, too.)
20 oz of broth 
(I used chicken cause that's what I had on hand, but you could also use veggie, beef or just water.)
**I would have used chopped celery too, had I had it on hand. I like the sodium and flavor it provides and it prevents me from adding extra salt or seasonings. I like to keep it simple.

This is what I did:

Press garlic into large pot, with oil and heat on medium heat, stirring until fragrant. Turn up the heat a smidgen and add chopped onion, carrots, potatoes and eggplant and stir to coat. Keep stirring and allow veggies to soften - about 5 minutes. Add cubed beets, zucchini, frozen squash, broth, tomatoes and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat, then lower temp and simmer for 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add chopped greens, a squirt of agave, a few squirts of Aardvark (or not), and salt to taste. Stir and simmer another 5-10 minutes.


Provided you use water or veggie broth, this recipe is vegan.
If you so desire, you may add either goat cheese, cream cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt before serving... or any of the vegan alternatives to these dairy delights. Garnish with fresh dill.

For more information on the benefits and nutrition of some of the ingredients I used, 
click on these links:

Beets and Beet Greens:

Hubbard squash:



Monday, October 11, 2010

Crock Pot Experiments = YUM

The thing I love most about culinary experiments, are the times when you just "wing it" and they surprise you by turning out fabulous. This adventure was inspired by the fact that I was about to head out to my second dance of the day and I knew that I was gonna be extra hungry for something substantial, nutritious and heartwarming by the time I arrived home for the evening. Knowing that I had some chicken in the freezer I could thaw was the first step. The tomatoes on my counter that needed to be used soon, put me one push closer to my creation. The eggplant that was gifted to me earlier in the day, sealed the deal, so here is what I did:

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore


2 chicken legs (thawed, skin on)
2 chicken drumsticks (thawed, skin off)
1 chicken thigh (thawed, skin off)
(I regularly check out the "picnic packages" of chicken when they're on sale, buy organic when I can, and then portion them into small freezer bags so that I can thaw them as needed for a meal)
3 large ripe tomatoes
(I tend to use fresh tomatoes if they are in season ONLY. Off season ones tend to lack sweetness and flavor, and are often mealy. I hate mealy tomatoes.)
1 small can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
(Muir Glen Organic is my favorite)
1/2 yellow summer squash, diced
1/2 medium sized eggplant, peeled and cubed
4 cloves of garlic, roasted and peeled
5 large leaves of red chard
1 large stem of broccoli, peeled and cubed
(This is a great way to utilize the health benefits of broccoli, without wasting what most Americans consider the unusable part of the vegetable. Make sure you peel or cut away the tougher, fibrous outside of the stem)
several small onions, chopped
1/2 bottle of Cajun marinade or grilling sauce
(I love finding super deals on marinades and sauces at Grocery Outlet and keeping them on hand for just an occasion as this! That said, I have also used pasta sauce, ketchup, salsa, V-8 or other tomato based things...)
olive oil 
crushed black pepper
1 cup of quinoa


medium to large Crock Pot

Start by thawing your chicken. Since this meal was a last minute thought and I only had 1/2 hour to prepare it, I defrosted the chicken in the sink, changing the water frequently, as my mother has always done. By the time you are done preparing all of the other ingredients, the chicken should be ready to go. When fully thawed, remove the skin off of 3/4 of the chicken. Leave a little skin on for flavor and for fat, to help break ingredients down as they cook.

Grab your garlic cloves, set on toaster pan or baking sheet, spray them with cooking spray or brush with olive oil and roast them at 300. When they become fragrant and soft, remove from heat and cool.

De-vein your chard leaves, chopping the stems and onions and set aside.
Chop up the remaining leaves and set aside.
Cube eggplant, broccoli and summer squash and add them to the bottom of the pot. (Veggies always take longer to cook in crock pots than meats do, so they need to be closest to the heating element.)
Sauté onions and chard stems in a little olive oil and add to the pot.
Slice up tomatoes and add them (peel and all) to pot.
Add can of fire roasted tomatoes and 1/2 bottle of Cajun marinade or grilling sauce.
Season with basil, oregano and black pepper.
Squeeze garlic gloves out of their skins and into pot.
Submerge larger pieces of chicken first and lay smaller legs and thighs on top of mixture.
Turn on high and let be for 4-5 hours.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and return to a boil. 
Lower heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Fluff with fork.

The meal is done when you can grab a chicken bone with tongs and the meat just falls off the bone.
Remove all of the large bones and any skin left, with tongs and discard.
Stir and salt to preference.

Ladle over quinoa in bowls, with shredded asiago on top. YUM!

For more information regarding the benefits and nutrition in the ingredients I used (many of which are particularly wonderful in assisting with weight loss), click on the links below:







Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soup is Good Food.

Soup is Good Food

For as long as I can remember, anytime my parents left us kids alone for the evening, and we had to "fend for ourselves", we happily perused the pantry for what was usually a can of Campbell's Soup for dinner. It was quick, easy, there was lots of variety to choose from and from the perspective of a parent on a budget, inexpensive to replace. And it filled us up, too. Although I have long since given up Campbell's due to the high sodium and MSG content, soup is still good food and I have learned to make my freezer the pantry that I had growing up. I usually tend to begin my weekly ritual of making giant pots of pipping hot deliciousness in the fall, after the first leaves have fallen. Gifts from the last harvest of friends' gardens, farm share pickup and farmer's markets provide me with enough bounty to stock my freezer full in just a few weeks. However, even with limited fresh produce, one can produce nutrient dense pots of soup or stew for just a few bucks per serving. And even if you aren't an experienced cook, many are SO easy, you hardly need a recipe to follow. I will share one said recipe with you today. Let's call it Lebanese Lentil Soup, as the seasoning I chose tends to be a combination typically found in that precise region of the Mediterranean. My cooking style tends to evolve from the ingredients first, research second, instead of the other way around. This means that most recipes often do not call for what I have on hand, so I tweak the recipe until it is no longer one particular recipe, but rather a creation from several, and a pinch of whatever Sabby throws in. I may or may not measure, but will intentionally try to communicate in clear terms the amounts used. Often, those details are insignificant in my eyes anyway... it's more important to cook for taste - which varies from individual to individual - and for nutrition. I should also mention that 80% of the time, my soups happen to end up vegan, which makes them more affordable and healthier, too.

Lebanese Lentil Soup

a few tablespoons olive oil 
(I tend to eye it. You want just enough to lightly coat what you are about to sauté)
1 1/2 large onion
(I had fridge leftovers in pieces and several varieties of fresh smaller onions - green, red, yellow and white - and combined them all together)
1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt
9 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of red lentils 
(this type of lentil is probably best for this soup, as it would cook within 15-30 minutes, however I ended up using what I had, which was a mixture of black and French green lentils, which require a longer cooking time)
2 bunches of greens 
(I had beet greens to use up, but I feel that I also could have used collards, chard, kale or mustard)
1/4 head of cauliflower
(again, something I just happened to have on hand)
1 small patty pan summer squash
(another item I wanted to use up... you could use any variety of summer squash or zucchini, or none at all)
1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
fresh crushed black pepper to taste
fresh garlic
(use as much as you prefer. I peeled and pressed 5 cloves for this batch)
lemon juice

I like to start by processing my veggies:
- wash and trim greens (leaf only), slice in thin strips, set aside 
- chop onions, cube cauliflower and dice squash so they are similar size, set aside

In a BIG pot, toss in your oil, onions, cauliflower and salt and sauté on medium heat until they soften.
Add water and lentils, stir, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until lentils are soft. 
In a separate pan, sauté the greens on low heat with a bit of olive oil until slightly wilted, set aside.
Do the same for squash, add black pepper while cooking, set aside.
When lentils are done, add greens, squash, cumin, cinnamon and minced or pressed garlic.
(I prefer pressed, as you retain a lot of the precious oil that makes garlic such a fantastic infection fighter)
Simmer for another 10 minutes to let flavors marry.
Add a splash of lemon juice to finished pot.

Typically, once the pot of soup has cooled, I portion into reusable salsa and hummus containers. 
They tend to be the perfect meal size for freezing and stacking in the freezer.
Then, in the morning, on my way to work, I grab one for my bag. By the time I'm ready for lunch, it's had time to thaw enough to transition to a proper ceramic bowl for microwaving, or a pan for reheating. YUM!

For more information regarding the benefits and nutrients of some of the ingredients I used, 
click on the links below: