Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tomato Soup

2 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
2 medium stalks of celery or one large stalk, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed so skins are broken
About 1 cup chicken broth (more or less to your desired consistency)
1 t basil
1/3 can lite coconut milk
Hot seeds (very small sprinkle, 1/4 t or less to your taste)
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Strain the canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet with the "smashed" garlic (still in skins). Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil. Cook for about 15 minutes. Garlic skins will be browned and insides will be mushy.

In the meantime, dice all veggies and saute in olive oil in a medium saucepan for about ten minutes. When tomatoes are done, add tomatoes and garlic (skins removed) to saucepan. Also add reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, hot seeds, and basil. Simmer about 15 to 20 minutes until vegetables are soft. Transfer to a food processer, blender, (or use an immersion blender in the same saucepan) and puree until smooth. Return to pan and add coconut milk, mix well. Simmer about 5 to 10 more minutes and serve.

Preparation time is about 15-20 minutes on this due to all the chopping.

Comments: I very rarely get sick, but very unfortunately caught our son's cold this week. Since I didn't feel well enough to work, I had extra time to cook and was craving soups of all kinds. I had never made tomato soup before, but thought I would give it a try and this turned out really good. I served this with Garlic Toast Points in lieu of grilled cheese and it was really a perfect dinner. I did not miss the greasy grilled cheese on the side or the cream in this tomato soup, which subsititutes coconut milk instead of cream (a trick I picked up from my friend Mrs. Scratch.Love).

Garlic Parmesan Toast Points

These toast points are very easy to make and are a more nutritious alternative to garlic bread. They taste very good and would be a nice accompaniment to a pasta dish, hummus, tapenades, and/or soups, etc.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Tortilla Soup

1.5 to 2.0 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
~1 1/2 t cumin
~1/2 to 1 t garlic powder
~1 to 2 t chili powder
~ 1 t Mrs Dash Fiesta Lime
Salt & pepper
1 small onion, cut in half and then sliced thinly (raw, or sauteed in olive oil until lightly browned - see instructions below)
1 15-ounce can of corn, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
4 ounce can of diced jalepenos or green chilis (depending on your heat preference)
About 24-32 ounces of chicken broth (depends on preferred broth thickness)
About 5 or 6 small corn tortillas, sliced, brushed with oil, and baked at 350 for about 15 minutes; or in a pinch, store bought tortillas (check ingredient list to be sure there are no undesirable ingredients in the corn chips you purchase)

Optional garnishes: Greek yogurt, avocado, sliced lime, chopped cilantro, skim-mozzarella cheese, peppers of any kind, etc.

Version 1 (Use if you will be gone all day and cannot do an intermediary step)
Place chicken, the majority of all seasonings, both cans of tomatoes, jalepenos/green chilis, raw onions, chicken broth in slow cooker on low. Cook for about six to eight hours. Add the corn and beans. Re-season with remaining spices to taste. Make sure chicken has "shredded" during cooking or use a fork to break apart. Cook another 30 minutes. Serve in a bowl over tortilla chips and garnish as desired.

Version 2 (Use if you will be home and can do an intermediary step about halfway to 3/4s of the way into the cooking process)
Place chicken, the majority of all seasonings, both cans of tomatoes, jalepenos/green chilis, and chicken broth in slow cooker on low. About 2 or 3 hours before serving, add sauted onions, corn, and beans. Break chicken apart with a fork, as desired. About 30 minutes to an hour before serving, re-season as necessary. If making tortilla chips, begin them now. Serve in a bowl over tortilla chips and garnish as desired.

This serves about 8 to 10.

Comments: My husband cooks a very highly processed version of tortilla soup, which is quite tasty. I really love his soup, but wanted a healthier, more nutritious, and less processed version. This soup was very delicious and everyone in the family loved it. We all prefer the home made tortilla chips, but make it with store bought chips when we are short on time.

Picture shows soup with store bought blue corn chips as garnish (and at the bottom of the bowl)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Basic Bean Soup

This is one of my favorite fast meals. It is surprisingly delicious for how simple it is to make. It is also one of my husband's favorites.

4 cups of soaked and cooked beans (any variety, although I personally prefer a white bean for this soup)
1 small onion, diced
Sea salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, I use this, or herbs du provence
Butter or ghee, enough to saute your onions
A little bacon fat (about 1-2 tsp) optional
Water or stock, about a cup, see Step 3 below

Optional: Garnish with cheese, tobasco sauce, green onions/chives, etc.

How To:
1. Soak your beans: 12-48 hours in advance, place beans in a non-reactive bowl with salted warm water and cover with a dish towel or screen. Let sit and sit and sit. Rinse beans a few times while you wait and switch out your soaking water when you do.

2. Cook your beans: When done soaking, rinse, and then add beans to clean water with a little salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the beans are soft. ***Do way more than your four cups because you will store all the excess in little 1 1/2 or 2 cup containers for your convenience the next time. Read this about storing soaked and cooked beans and what to do to keep them from splitting.

3. Make bean soup: ***If you have pre-soaked and pre-cooked beans, you will start here. Saute onions in butter or ghee over medium heat. Add bacon fat now, if using. When the onions are soft, add beans and just enough water (or stock) to almost cover the beans. See photo below. Start with 1/2 cup and go from there. Add seasonings. Simmer about 5-10 minutes until the beans are softened and then do one of the following in the next step.

In this batch, I actually added a little more water at the end
to thin it a little bit more. Keep in mind you can always thin it easily, so
start with the least amount of water you think you'll need and add
more from that point as necessary.

4. Mash the beans: Either:

A - transfer all to a blender or food processor and blend until creamy, return to pan.
B - using a potato masher, in the same pan mash beans until mostly all mashed.

5. Finish: Return to pot, re-season if necessary. Add more liquid if necessary to reach desired consistency. When serving, garnish with the optional ingredients above, if desired.

When I lived alone, I made this often and I did not use the food processor/ blender. I liked the soup with some remaining un-mashed beans in it. It also seemed easier to me because I did not have a dirty blender to clean up. However, when mashing by hand, some beans do not mash nicely (like pintos) whose casings were a little thick and resulted in a bit of a chewy soup - so keep that in mind. You may prefer to "blend".

Using the food processor adds to the ease of making this in that you don't have to chop the onions very small or worry about the casings around the beans. And, the resulting soup is a very nice creamy consistency.

I encourage you to experiment with beans and ingredients. My grandma shared this basic bean soup "recipe" with me, but modifies frequently and has said her version using black beans and diced tomatoes was the best, although I like this version so much I have never tried any others.

One final thought - even though this doesn't sound like some kind of amazing soup recipe since it is so simple, this soup is delicious. It will surprise you! My husband loves it (with tobasco) and our six-year old loves it as well (with freshly grated cheese on top). I do too and cannot urge you strongly enough to try adding this quick, easy, and delicious recipe into your diet. If you have soaked and pre-cooked your beans, this is very fast to make, probably 10 to 20 minutes tops. Or make lots and freeze or refrigerate for lunches or dinners all week.

Version using Kidney and Northern beans without the
food processor - notice it's chunkier
Version using Great Northern and Navy beans
with food processor

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Provencal Beef Pot Roast

~2 lbs. boneless chuck roast trimmed and cut into large chunks (mine was 2.35 lbs.)
1-2 T olive oil
5-6 garlic cloves minced
1/2-3/4 cup red wine
1/4-1/2 cup beef broth (low-sodium)
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 large carrot peeled and thickly chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and thickly chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
Chopped fresh parsley and thyme
Salt & pepper

Sachet - see comments below**
1 t whole black peppercorns
5 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Rind from 1/2 small orange

Brown meat in olive oil on stove top (brown on all sides) and add to crock pot (on low, covered). Add broth, wine, minced garlic, and dried mushrooms. **Ideally, using a sachet is the best method so you don't have large chunks of peppercorn or orange rind in your broth. However, I did not have cheese cloth today and so I just threw everything in the pot and sifted it off at the end. This worked out just fine, if not a little annoying. If using a sachet, combine all ingredients in a cheesecloth & secure with twine. Add bundle to slow cooker. 

So, either add sachet or add the sachet ingredients to the slow cooker. With about 3 hours left add the olives, carrots, onion, parsnips, tomatoes, and remaining seasonings. Cook for another 3 hours, meat should be tender and veggies should be soft but not mushy.

Total cook time about 7 to 8 hours optimally. I ran out of time today and cooked mine for 5 1/2 or 6 hours and it was fine, maybe not quite as tender as I expected. I would suggest the 7+ hours if you have it. Prep time is not too much, maybe about 15-20 minutes.

Comments: This is really very good, we all enjoy it. I served it with dilled squash and roasted sweet potatoes.

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