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Archive for the ‘Soup’ Category

Pure Barre-rrrrrrr

In Beans, Healthy Lifestyle, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 2, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Like I’ve said before, healthy eating and regular exercise are the key to a hot bod.  Over the years, my dedication to this cause has changed and evolved.  From low-carb to lunges, I’m always looking for a lil something to spice up my regime.  My newest obsession: Pure Barre.  Before I ever took a class, I was really skeptical – was everything I’ve heard just hype, or was there something to this workout craze?  A combination of Pilates, Ballet, and conditioning exercises, it’s like no other class I’ve ever taken.  I don’t know about other people, but I can attest to my experience, and it’s definitely yielded some great results.  I am in no way writing this post to advertise or sponsor Pure Barre, I just really love what it’s done for my mind and body.  From slenderized hips and thighs, to a tightened core, I physically feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.  After only a month of taking classes, I noticed serious changes.  Now 75+ classes later, everybody else can, too.  I’m no VS model, but I’m proud of my results thus far.

Before

Before

4 month in.

4 month in.

Abs!

Abs!

More Abs!

More Abs!

I regularly attend classes 4-5 times a week.  Between the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday early 5:45 am time slot (aka: momma gets up at the ass crack of dawn to work out without inconveniencing her family after already spending an exorbitant amount of money on said workout)  and a few weekend options, I manage to find an abundant amount of opportunities to get my LTB in every week.  That is, until Old Man Winter showed up to the rodeo.  Now, my schedule is dictated by the meteorology report.  Even today, class was cancelled due to snowy/icy conditions.  However, I made sure to put my work in this past weekend in anticipation, so I didn’t have to feel guilty about missing my usual Monday session.  The same preparedness can be said for stocking up my kitchen with healthy staples.  This came in handy when I saw a post on my studio’s Facebook page for a weather-worthy white bean soup.  On a frigid day like today, I was glad to have a recipe for another comforting soup.  I made a few adjustments, but it was really simple and easy, even a toddler could [help you] make it.

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Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup

Adapted from Pure Barre Oceanside

Makes 7-8 cup

1 tbl olive oil
1 large onion
2 (15 oz) cans of Cannellini or Great Northern Beans
1 head of garlic, roasted
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
4  cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

I had pre-roasted some garlic earlier in the day, knowing I wanted to use it for this soup.  The original recipe called for sautéing, but I really enjoy the flavor of roasted garlic.

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I did sauté the onions though, only using 1 tbsp of oil instead of the recommended 3.

Fitting in some thigh work while I sauté.  Nick tried to make me laugh, and it worked.

Fitting in some thigh work while I sauté. Nick tried to make me laugh, and it worked.

After a few minutes, I added the spices and sautéed another minute.  The original recipe called for basil instead of sage, but a) sage goes much better with white beans and b) I personally don’t like the taste of dried basil and I find it’s rather bitter.

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Instead of continuing to cook the soup in a pot, I opted to blend in my Vitamix for 6-7 minutes to combine with the rest of the ingredients and cook through.

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Before

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After

The soup came out really creamy.

Extreme close-up.

Extreme close-up.

Paired with some roasted broccoli, we had a yummy and nutritious meal to beat the brrrrrr.

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Being snowed in is no excuse to let your health slide.  With some planning, a repertoire of warm recipes and consistent workout routines, you’ll be sure feel the burn all winter long.

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Mopping up Foods on a Snowy Evening

In Beans, CSA, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on January 29, 2015 at 5:03 pm

While writing about food is one of my passions, I haven’t always excelled in the literary arts.  I knew my multiplication tables at the age of 5, but reading comprehension, creative writing, and book reports turned me into a deer-in-headlights.  Even in college, I had to drop my extra minor the last semester of senior year because of one writing-intensive poetry class (which was also offered at a lower level with a smaller workload).  Had I kept registered in the upper level version of the class (which I needed for the minor), my grade would have prevented me from graduating summa cum laude.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  This class was like no other class I’d ever taken.  Millions of ways to interpret and dissect sentences, lines, capitalization, you name it.  Perhaps because I was a business major, that’s how I saw poetry: examining the situation, finding the formula, and deriving a solution.  This approach was far different from the roots of my poetic knowledge, which all started in the sixth grade.

With the exception of “Roses are Red…”, the first poem I learned to memorize was “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.  My sixth grade teacher made each of us in the class stand up at the front of the room and recite the poem.  Til this day, almost 20 years later, I still remember every line (with the exception of one that I JUST looked up a few minutes ago).  Each time I recall the lines in my mind, I get a sudden twinge of emotions: a mixture of nostalgia, sadness, and happiness.  At the time, I had a very shallow understanding of Mr. Frost’s work.  However, as I’ve grown older – and as my college poetry professor had taught me – there are layers upon layers of meaning one can peel away from this story.  I won’t delve too much into this piece, because that’s not really the point of this post.  For me, this poem symbolizes my journey in life, which is why I have such a great connection to it.  Going through the motions of the day-to-day, even when I think there really isn’t time to stop, sometimes it’s those precise pauses that invigorate me to continue.  And this week was no exception.

After returning from a wonderful week-long vacation in Cancun, I was back to my ever-growing to-do lists.  However, unlike a “typical” week, I had the added bonus of fever/congestion for Rocco, which quickly infected me.  Not only was I dealing with the shock of after-vacation bliss and all of the unpacking/laundry that accompanies the return home, I was taking care of a whiny, inconsolable toddler while feeling weak and miserable.  Oh, and an impending snow storm to boot.  I did what I had to do to prepare – stocked the kitchen, did the laundry, etc. and napped when I could.  Even though the naps took away from doing more work, I had to take care of myself.  Then came Wednesday.

On Wednesday, I kind of felt like that man with the little horse.  I was still congested, but feeling well enough to not allow myself to stop.  In the early afternoon, I was mostly caught up, so I got a jump start on dinner.  While I really didn’t want to cook, I didn’t have much of a choice.  After being inside for almost 3 days, it was one of those clean out the fridge kind of endeavors.  I was really in the mood for some soup, so I decided to try roasting whatever veggies I had, then finishing them off in the Vitamix for a few minutes with some broth. It came out much better than I anticipated.  Plus, the time it took to prepare the veggies allowed me the opportunity to quietly reflect on my progress in the smaller and larger scheme of the day/week/month/year/life.  That may sound a little far fetched, but it truly was how I felt at the time.  I think it’s just what soup does to me.

I’m sure you could swap in/out for whatever you have, but I’d recommend trying this anytime you want a bowl of existentialism.

Roasted Root Vegetable “Refrigerator” Soup

Makes 8 cups (4-6 Servings)

Appx. 6-7 cups chopped root veggies.  I used:
1.5 large carrots
2 small parsnips
3 small turnips
1 small daikon
3 medium red potatoes
2 celery centers
1 medium Kohlrabi
4 whole cloves garlic
3-4 tbsp EVOO
2 leeks
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
Salt and Pepper to tastes
Extra EVOO, butter, or margarine for garnish (optional)

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I preheated the oven to 425, lined two baking sheets with aluminum foil, and washed/peeled/chopped all the veggies.  With the exception of the leeks, I added all the veggies into a large bowl, and then mixed in the EVOO, S&P.

Freaky Leeky.

Freaky Leeky.

After 20 minutes of roasting, I took the sheets out, and then mixed in the leeks.

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Another 20 minutes of roasting, the veggies were cooked enough for the next step.

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I transfered all the veggies to the Vitamix, then added the quart of broth.  With the lid on nice and tight, I blended on high for about 7 minutes.

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Then tada! The soup was done!  No simmering in the pot, followed my emersion blending.  The cleanup is really simple – just rinse out, add water, and blend with dish soap for 30 seconds.  Plus, it came out so smooth, you’d think it was a jar of Gerber.

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To really guild the lily, I stirred in a tiny slab of butter.  To keep the recipe completely vegan, you could also use earth balance or another fat of choice (EVOO, coconut oil, etc).  I served the soup with a simple salad of mixed greens, walnuts, avocado, pinto beans, and lime juice (sorry, no picture).  There was just enough left for some lunch today.  Rocco enjoyed his in a sippy cup!

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The next time it snows, I might just whip up a comforting bowl of this soup to slow me down and rejuvenate my psyche for the long road ahead.  There may be “miles to go before I sleep”, but stopping to fuel my body and mind is what I really need if those promises I’ve made are to be kept.

Going Green: Breakfast Edition

In Breakfast, Oats, Quick Meal, Quinoa, Salad, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on October 28, 2014 at 6:18 pm
Part of ANY well-balanced meal.

Part of ANY well-balanced meal.

We all know the importance of filling that 5-a-day veggie quota.  However, many a day may come and go without coming even close.  Even with a fridge full of produce, I’ve found myself on some busy mornings running out the door eating a rice cake for breakfast, followed by a sandwich for lunch.  By the time dinner rolls around, I’ve realized I haven’t eaten any veggies, let alone some leafy greens.  As a result, I’ve been making an effort at breakfast time to include leafy greens and other green vegetables.  With a little preparation, ingenuity, and thinking outside of the box, here are 10 of my tips and tricks for incorporating a healthy start to the day.

  1. Smoothies

    More of a trick than a tip.  Make your favorite fruit smoothie.  After everything is combined, add 1-2 cups of greens – kale, spinach, chard, beet greens, even lettuce – and blend until combined.  I also like to add mint and/or raw cacao to cover up any bitter taste.  You can also try my protein-packed green smoothie.

  2. Pancakes
    Apple, Pumpkin, and Kale Oat Pancakes

    Apple, Pumpkin, and Kale Oat Pancakes

    Make your favorite pancake batter.  Then blend in a cup or two of leafy greens.  My new fave for fall: 1/2 cup oats, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin, 1/2 chopped apple, vanilla/cinnamon to taste, 1 cup kale.  Blend all except kale.  Once combined, add kale and blend for a few seconds.  There’s the batter, cook like normal pancakes.  You won’t even taste the kale, trust me.  Great for kids and kids at heart.

  3. Pesto/creamed greens

    Using your favorite pesto recipe, substitute some or all of the basil for spinach, broccoli, broccoli robe, kale, you name it.  Get creative.  I’ve made one with spinach, garlic, chickpeas, and nutmeg.  Use on toast, in an omelet, or to make savory oatmeal (think risotto).  Same applies to creamed spinach.  When you’re making dinner, double up so you have some leftovers for breakfast.  You can also use Indian-style spinach (saag) to spice things up.

    Leftover creamed spinach is great the next morning.

    Leftover creamed spinach is great the next morning.

  4. Soup

    This is a new one for me.  A couple times a week I start the morning with a miso-based soup.  I boil some water with whatever greens I have – raw or leftover sautéd (I really like bok choy).  Once warmed up, I add chickpea miso (since I have some soy intolerance) and stir for another minute.  To make it a complete meal, I’ll add some leftover grains and/or beans.  Maybe even some poached eggs.

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  5. Salad/Slaw

    Not just for a light lunch.  Have a side salad with your eggs.  This can be as simple as arugula and lemon juice.  Add an avocado or nuts.  Really easy.  Same with coleslaw.  If you make some for dinner or over the weekend for a bbq/tailgate, just add a big scoop to your plate.  It may be weird at first, but you’ll feel much better later in the day for being 20-40% done with your veggie requirements.

    Arugula with avocado and lemon juice.  Paired with a quinoa omelet.

    Arugula with avocado and lemon juice. Paired with a quinoa omelet.

  6. Quiche/egg cups

    A little more obvious/traditional.  Make a crustless quiche with lots of sautéed greens.  This will last 3-ish days in the fridge.  You can also pour the batter into muffin tins and freeze for pre-portioned future meals.

    Spinach, mushroom, goat cheese.

    Spinach, mushroom, goat cheese.

  7. Omelets

    A stand-by.  Use any kind of fresh greens.  Ever try an arugula omelet?  It’s really good.  You can also shave some broccoli florets and save the stems to roast for another meal.

  8. Breakfast grilled cheese

    On toast or a bagel.  Add greens to your cheesy sammie.

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  9. Side of sautéed veggies.

    You can make them fresh in the morning, or you can take leftovers from the day before.  Some mornings I sauté 3-4 big leaves of kale and share them with Rocco while I prepare the rest of breakfast.  It can be as simple as some water/olive oil, or you can add garlic and herbs.  You can also finish with a miso sauce – 1 tbsp miso paste added to a cup of water, add to pan once veggies are cooked.

    Munching on some greens.

    Munching on some greens.

  10. Leftover roasted veggies

    Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, you name it.  If I have leftovers, they are sides or appetizers for breakfast.  Same principal as the sautéed greens.  While I prepare the rest of the meal, I unload 1-2 cups of roasted veggies on Rocco’s tray, and I nibble while I’m cooking.  Broccoli stems are a particular favorite.

    Roasted cabbage.

    Roasted cabbage.

Those are some of my go-tos.  I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.  Who doesn’t want to be more more Green?  Especially first thing in the morning.

Everyone’s Got a Sunday

In Breakfast, CSA, Fruit, Potato, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on October 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

No matter how busy somebody may be, there’s usually one day of the week that affords a little extra downtime.  This day may be used to run errands, get chores done, or sit on the couch and basque in the wonders of reality TV.  For the “traditional” Monday-through-Friday-9-to-5 adult, this tends to be Sunday.  It’s the day for grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, spending time with family, watching football, and nursing a hangover with bloody Marys.  While I participate in some of said activities on most Sundays (not all, and not every), I find these days to be just as busy as Saturdays.  They are simply one of the 8 days a month to squeeze in a social rendezvous or attend the obligatory celebration.  At this point in my life, I don’t get any chores or errands done on the weekends.  Instead, Wednesday is my new Sunday.

While everyone is complaining about Hump Day and looking forward to the weekend, Wednesday is the culmination of my weekly routine.  It’s my day to stay home, and with the exception of a barre class at 5:45 in the morning, the only appointments made are with my to-do lists.  When Rocco naps, I get more done in those 2-3 hours than all Sundays of the month combined.  On a good day, I can wash/fold 2 loads of laundry, load/set/unload the dishwasher, roast veggies, prep for dinner, bake something, and watch an episode of Real Housewives or the Chew.  On a great day, I can shower and take a nap.  CSA distributions are on Thursday, so my biggest food priority is prepping the kitchen for the next day’s bounty.

Wednesday is for cleaning out the fridge.
Roasted carrots and broccoli stems

Roasted carrots and broccoli stems

While I prepare lunch, I pull out all the veggies that are left from last week.  This gives me a chance to think about how to use them so that when the clock strikes one, I hit the ground running.  Leafy greens turn into salads or smoothies.  Roastable veggies are great little somethings for Rocco to munch on after his nap.   However, sometimes there are some odd ones at the bottom of the crisper drawers.  Yesterday, it was celeriac.

The culprit.

The culprit.

When I performed my weekly ritual yesterday, I was left with a small head of lettuce (lunch for Thursday), a bunch of carrots (roasted), some broccoli stems(roasted), 2 leeks, and 2 celeriac bulbs.  I was also still slowly chipping away at 6 lbs of apples, but that’s an issue for an entirely different post.  While I knew what to do with the rest of the produce, this ugly root vegetable staring me in the face was one I knew about but never actually prepared.  I figured I could use it for a soup, along with the remaining leeks and potatoes from Thursday.  I quickly googled celeriac so I know how to clean/cut it, and I actually came across a recipe on the NYT website for a pureed soup using celeriac, potato, leek, and apples.  What a coincidence – all the ingredients I wanted to use, plus another way to incorporate some apples.  With the addition of a carrot, it was time to attack this ugly beast.  I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but it was a good guideline for my first attempt with an unfamiliar food.

 

Celeriac, Potato, Leek and Apple Soup

Adapted from The New York Times

3 tbsp EVOO
2 bulbs celeriac, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into half moons
3/4 lb potatoes
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 apples, cored and diced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 quart vegetable broth
1 quart water
~10 leaves fresh sage

Leeks soaking in water.

Leeks soaking in water.

First thing’s first – I had to get those leeks cleaned.  I find the most effective way is to slice the leek in half lengthwise, then cross slice into half moons.  Place the leeks in a bowl of water and prepare the other ingredients.  When the other veggies are prepped, transfer the leeks to a towel (I use an old beach towel) and rub off any excess dirt. Then it was time to clean and slice the celeriac.  I cut off the ends, sliced in half, then into quarters.  I used my knife to cut off the skin instead of peeling with a vegetable peeler.  Then I rinsed the flesh to remove the little bits of dirt left. IMG_0646 Then I peeled the potatoes.  I forgot that this variety was a really pretty red fleshed spud.  I also forget it had a slightly spiced taste to it.  This actually worked in my favor for the soup. IMG_0647 Next came carrots and apples.  I peeled the former, but not the latter.  All the veggies went into the pot with some olive oil, ready to be sautéed for 5 minutes with some salt and pepper. IMG_0648   Once the vegetables were soft and the leeks reduced in size, I folded in some fresh sage, sautéed another minute, then added the liquids.  I also added some more salt, because potatoes absorb a lot of salt. IMG_0650 Once it came to a boil, I reduced to a simmer, and covered the pot with a lid, leaving 1/2 inch gap from edge of the lid and the pot.  The soup would probably have been done in 30 minutes, but I let it cook for about an hour.  Then I pureed it with an immersion blender. IMG_0652   I was debating whether or not to strain the soup through a mesh sieve, but I opted to serve the soup as is.  I realized half way through I had forgotten to take a picture, so here’s my ugly picture of half eaten soup.  Seems appropriate.   IMG_0655 Grilled cheese accompanied Nick’s bowl, but I opted to just have the soup with a side glass of white wine.  The soup as really delicious and had a lot of complex flavors and textures.  Nick said it had an Indian flavor to it, which makes no sense to me because the only seasoning was salt, pepper, and sage.  Perhaps because it was spicy?  The consistency was good, but a little stringy.  I don’t know if the cause was the celeriac, or maybe the skins from the apples, but next time I think I would use my Vitamix to really pulverize the pulp. I had the soup again this morning, and it was equally delicious.  For Rocco, I poured some into a straw-style sippy cup, and he loved it!  However, after 5 or so instances of having to unclog the straw, I strained the remainder of his portion through a sieve.  He gulped the rest up and mommy got to drink her coffee in peace.  Just what I needed to start off my week.

I’m Over It(?)

In American, Bread, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Lentils, Nuts, Pasta, Quick Meal, Quinoa, Seitan, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm

A little less light-hearted than usual, but here’s a bit of what’s been going on.  Don’t worry, I’ll still have some photos to make you drool :).

I’ve always loved food.  Throughout my adolescent and adult years, there has been a constant battle between enjoying food and being mindful of nutrition and health.  Although it became easier as I grew older and more knowledgeable, that inner struggle was always there.  Sometimes to the point of obsession and compulsion.

Being the over analytical nut that I am, I’ve gone through different phases of nutritional “rightness”, ensuring my due diligence by checking labels, measuring, logging, etc.  I’ve even developed predictive models in Excel.  My analyses have gone so far that I can piece together meals and daily meal plans to get the most bang (filling/satiating) for my caloric buck.   These endeavors, however, are extremely masochistic.  No matter how hard I try to just relax about my diet, I will drive myself crazy with some new form of food obsession.

Everyone thinks that being pregnant is a great excuse to let yourself go and eat what you want.  Yeah, right.  Not according to every piece of pregnancy literature.  Experts recommend only adding 300 extra calories a day to your diet, along with making sure you get 4 calcium servings, tons of protein, and various vegetables as sources of necessary vitamins – just to name a few of the “dos.”  The don’ts are even longer.  So I stopped the caffeine, really committed to excluding chemicals, hydrogenated oils, HFCS, GMOs, etc.  I’ve turned down so many offers of candies, cookies, and packaged products because they don’t fit my new “diet.”  I forced myself to drink milk, and stuff my face with a variety of veggies, lest I endure my self-inflicted guilt.

All of this “dedication” (read: obsession) had helped me in the first 5 months to first drop 5 lbs and then only gain 6 back.  Compared to the average gain of 13 lbs by that point (and what woman doesn’t compare herself to others?), I became worried.  Even with the occasional ice cream or cookies, I was not gaining weight.  While this is a goal most women strive for, it’s not super when you have a living being growing inside of you.  So now, I have to try to eat more.  If you thought it was difficult counting calories, measuring foods, or leaving food on your plate, try purposefully eating a lot of healthy food.  My mind is so conditioned to abide by that bang for your buck mentality, I find it exhausting to think of more things to eat.  Almost every day, I think to myself or say to Nick “I’m so over it [thinking about food],”  and I am about 95% committed to that statement.  Because really, who am I kidding?

I’ve been eating a lot of avocado, nuts, and cheeses to aid in my healthy weight gain.  I also eat whole eggs instead of whites.  And sometimes I eat french fries.

Whole Wheat with avocado, mixed greens, and provolone.  Newest sandwich obsession. Also great with fried egg.

Whole Wheat with avocado, mixed greens, and provolone. Newest sandwich obsession. Also great with fried egg.

It’s been 3 weeks of these practices, and 4 lbs have been added to my total gain.  Unless you catch me from the side, I still don’t look pregnant, but I’ve finally succumbed to wearing maternity jeans.

As for “liking to cook”, I still do!  When I have the energy :).  I may be using more fats, but I guarantee everything is wholesome real food.  There are some new recipes to report!   However, by the time I’ve finished cooking and cleaning, my energy levels are usually maxed out with no reserves for blogging.  I’ve been getting a lot of advice, mostly to let others help out more.  That’s where you, my lovely readers come in handy.  I’m posting some photos below of a few recipes, and I’ll let you vote which to write about next.  And remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

Eggplant, Peppers, and Onions Hero

Eggplant, Peppers, and Onions Hero

 

3 Lentil and Quinoa Stew

3 Lentil and Quinoa Stew

 

Marinated Beet Salad with Arugula, Sunflower Seeds, and Homemade Paneer (Indian Cheese)

Marinated Beet Salad with Arugula, Sunflower Seeds, and Homemade Paneer (Indian Cheese)

 

Truffle Mac 'N Cheese (Warning: not healthy AT ALL, but will win you friends and get you laid)

Truffle Mac ‘N Cheese (Warning: not healthy AT ALL, but will win you friends and get you laid)

 

Whole Wheat Peanut Sesame Noodles (Served with Gingered Chicken and Garlic Broccoli)

Whole Wheat Peanut Sesame Noodles (Served with Gingered Chicken and Garlic Broccoli)

 

Twist on an American Classic:  Seitan or Chicken Noodle Casserole

Twist on an American Classic: Seitan or Chicken Noodle Casserole

 

Cast your votes, and I’ll post the most popular recipe next week.

Say “Cheese”

In Beans, CSA, Italian, Pasta, Pizza, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on July 31, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I really love me some cheese, as do most people in the civilized world.  Whether it’s the mozzarella of Italy, the queso fresco of Mexico, brie of France, or paneer of India, many cultures showcase their love for cheese throughout their cuisine.  As an Italian-via-osmosis, I tend to gravitate more towards mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, and pecorino for cooked dishes.  However, I enjoy all cheese in any form (except American cheese), and it was the hardest food to give up when I adapted a vegan diet.  Now that I have reintroduced dairy to my daily consumption, cheese is back in rotation!  I even ordered some through my CSA for the first time, and I’m super excited to try it this coming Saturday.  I try to limit the fattier varieties, opting for low fat cheddar or airy goat cheese.  However, a glass of wine or two will tend to loosen my rule’s grip.

Speaking of CSA, I’ll be gone for most of August and September’s distributions, so I swapped one August pickup with somebody’s alternating pickup this past Saturday.  One of the many reasons I was crazily using up all the lingering fruits from the prior week.  My swapee also had a flower/egg share, so I lucked out with some purty flowers this week.

There were tons of veggies:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 bulb fennel with frands
  • 1 stalk dill
  • 1 root basil/leaves
  • 2 ears sweet corn
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bunch beets
  • 1 bunch carrots (4 large)

Fruit included:

  • 1 pint blueberries (looks like those are almost over for the season:()
  • 2 lbs donut peaches (about 14)
  • Yellow melon (I think it’s Thai or Japanese – similar taste to honeydew)

I washed and put everything away rather quickly, so I didn’t take too many photos.

Red chard.

Yellow melon on top, beets in large container, chopped fennel in the small container, carrots/zucchini/cucumber in a ziplock.

I was really excited to get theses carrots because they had their greens attached.  I washed the greens, set to dry in a towel, and completely forgot about them as I went about my busy day!  I had a wedding that night, so I spent the day beautifying myself in preparation, followed by more liquid than solid food.  There was some cheese though :).

I think only 2 drinks in at this point.

Speaking of cheese, let’s get back to the subject at hand.  After a night of drinking, I crave cheesy carbs and gatorade.  The latter I consumed after running 6 miles in the morning.  I resisted a cheesy egg sandwich post-run and went with fruit, egg white/spinach/mushroom/onion omelet and whole wheat toast.  I slept off the rest of the hangover, but still had a hankering for some pizza or mac n cheese.  Instead of ordering overly cheesy mac, practically negating my run from earlier, I made a quick healthy(ish) version of baked macaroni and cheese.  It also allowed me to use up all the extra zucchini I liberated from last week’s distribution leftovers.  I would have made more, but then I could have possibly eaten more.

Spicy Baked Zucchini Mac

Serves 2-4

6 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
3 cups chopped zucchini
1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin
5 sundried tomatoes, diced
Onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and red chili flake to taste
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 egg whites
Nonstick Spray
3 oz fresh mozzarella
10 basil leaves

I cooked the pasta 1 minute shy of al dente while I chopped zucchini and preheated the oven to 375º.

When the pasta was done, I added the 1/2 cup pasta water to a large bowl, and combined all the other ingredients except mozzarella and basil.  I sprayed a square nonstick baking pan with nonstick EVOO spray and emptied out the mac mixture.

Then I topped the pasta with the mozzarella and basil, covering with tin foil to bake for 20 minutes covered.  Then I raised the temp to 425 to cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Before.

After.

I behaved and only had 1/4 of the tray.

It really helped satiate my craving for mac n cheese, and all without the regret and lbs I’d gain from ordering out.

Cheese doesn’t have to be the enemy.  It can also be an ally to veggies trying to win the war against diseases and free radicals.  All of the vitamins and minerals in vegetables provide you with the equipment to live a long and healthy life.  Take dark leafy greens for example.  Vitamins A, K, and C are abundant in greens, as well as calcium and iron.  However, not everyone LOVES the taste of greens.  Of all varieties, Nick can most tolerate Swiss chard, just as long as it’s properly prepared (preferably with tons of oil, garlic, and salt).  To avoid using a lot of oil and salt, I decided to use cheese to mask -I mean flavor – the chard from this week’s share.  I also had some leftover whole wheat pizza dough in the freezer, so I experimented and made some chard calzone.  Mmmmmmmm.

Swiss Chard Calzone

Makes 4

1 bunch Swiss chard (I used red)
3-4 cloves garlic
Nonstick EVOO Spray (or 1-2 tsp of regular EVOO)
8 oz whole wheat pizza dough (half lb)
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta
water for sealing
1 egg beaten

I preheated the oven to 425 and got to work.  Luckily I had pre-chopped the chard, so it was rather quick to cook.  I just tossed in some garlic and sauteed with some EVOO spray in a nonstick pan.

At the same time, I divided the dough into 4 equal(ish) parts, and rolled one part into as much of a circle as I could.  BTW, I suck as that.

Then I layered a quarter of the chard with 3 tbsp ricotta.  I forgot to salt both, but you should do that.

After wetting my fingers to surround the edge near the mixture, I folded over the other half of the dough and folded the bottom over the top.  Not sure if that makes sense, but this is how it looks.

I sprayed my pizza stone with some EVOO spray, arranged the calzones as I prepared them, and brushed on some egg wash.

15 minutes and 3 rotations later, they were done.

Normally, calzones are served with a side of marinara sauce.  In an attempt to use up even more zucchini, I made vegetable soup that was mostly zucchini based.  In Italy, vegetable soup usually has zucchini, carrot, onion, potato, and tomato.  Mine had all of that, but used canned crushed tomatoes instead of fresh.   I didn’t use broth, just water.  Lots of water.  And lots of salt and pepper.

I also added some chickpeas.

3-4 hours later, the soup is perfect.

Fresh basil for good measure.

Paired with the calzone, it was perfect.

Soup. Calzone. Can you say dunking contest?

Seriously, could you imagine eating that many veggies and it tasting so delicious?  This dream can become a reality for you, too.  Just make sure to have some cheese on hand.

Don’t Throw That Out!

In Beans, CSA, Flexitarian, Japanese, Meat and Pultry, Mexican, Rice, Saving Money, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on July 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I hate to waste, especially with food.  Maybe it’s from years of hearing my Great-Depression era grandmother say “eat everything on your plate.”  Or perhaps it’s from watching the starving children in those commercials you can feed for 25 cents a day.  Along with  several other motivators,  I strive to use every inch of food I buy.  I’m not perfect, but I’ve definitely found some ways to get creative.  Especially with my CSA produce.  I was able to stretch out the “scraps” from three items this past week and turn them into delicious meals!  This includes pods from peas, stems from broccoli, and greens from beets.  Let’s take a look.

I got about a quart worth of peas in a pod last week.  One doesn’t normally find these too often.  Usually people use frozen or canned peas, but the fresh kind are the best!  You can eat them raw as a snack or in a salad.  After I spent a good 15 or so minutes shelling the peas, I reserved the pods to potentially use in a stir fry (like I would use snow peas).  When the day came that I planed to make said stir fry, I found out Nick had Thai food for lunch, so I wanted to make something completely different.  That’s how this recipe was invented.  It still has an East Asian flair, but it’s a soup instead of a stir fry.

Ginger Lime Pea Pod Soup

Makes about 8 cups (4-6 servings)

1 quart peas in pod, shelled and separated
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
2 tbsp minced ginger
2 tsp EVOO
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 tbsp chickpea miso paste (or miso of your choice)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 lime, zest and fruit

I had shelled the peas in advance, so I was able to start chopping the pods right away.  I also chopped the celery, onion, and ginger.

In a large pot, I added the EVOO and chopped veggies, allowing them to saute for 3 or 4 minutes just to get a little bit of the raw bite out of them.

I added the broth and water, and brought to a boil.  Then I added the chickpeas.  I combined 2 tbsp of the hot broth with the miso paste so that I could easily incorporate the latter.  I also added the sea salt.

I lowered the soup to medium-low to simmer for 20 minutes.  Then I added the zest of the lime to the pot.  Then I peeled the skin so I could use the fruit.  I know that sounds weird, but trust me you get a lot of flavor that way.  Plus, you don’t have to juice several limes, which helps to stretch out what you have some more!

I added those wedges to the pot.

After cooking another 2 minutes, I turned off the heat so I could use my immersion blender.  Once everything was smooth and incorporated, I added the fresh peas to gently cook for 5 minutes.

Then it was time to serve!

The soup had a really nice bite to it!  Tart from the lime, spicy from the ginger, and crunchy from the peas.  It was great both hot and chilled.  I even added a dollop of soft goat cheese to it later on, which was an amazing addition.

Now let’s move on to the other ingredients I mentioned:  Broccoli stems and beet greens.  I’ve used the stems before in slaw, and the greens for a salad.  Both occurrences were raw, which render a truer taste and texture.  Nick isn’t a fan of certain tastes and textures.  This is when I have to get really creative (i.e. sneaky).  The best trick I’ve learned is to chop any less-desired veggies into tiny pieces and mix them with other veggies.  That way it’s really hard to pick out the ones you don’t like, and you end up eating everything.  Case in point, enchiladas.  I had leftover pumpkin seed mole sauce, so this was a perfect way to use up the leftovers.  You can refer back to the original enchilada post for details, but here are the ingredients I used:

Veggies:

1 cup zucchini
1 yellow pepper
1 small green pepper
1/2 large onion
Stems of 2 bunches broccoli, cut into match sticks
1/2 bunch beet greens (about 3 cups chopped)

Seasoning:

I didn’t measure them out, but I’d guess about 1/2 tsp of each (except Cayenne).

Cumin
Ancho chili powder
Oregano
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Coriander
Cayenne
Salt
Pepper

I sauteed all the veggies (except greens) for 5 minutes, and then added all the spices.  Then I folded in the greens.

I added about 1/2 a cup of vegetable broth to deglaze.  I used a similar method with chicken breast (to add to Nick’s enchiladas).

I rolled up the enchiladas, topped with mole and low fat cheddar, and baked for 20 minutes at 350.  I served the enchiladas with some black beans and leftover brown rice.  I try to make a bunch of rice at a time, and then stretch it out by reheating with some broth.  You can do the same with leftover rice from Chinese take-out.  Money and time saver!

I just had the veggies and beans with some mole sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.  Without the cheese, this is a really good vegan dish!  Look at how the stems from the beet greens turned the veggies a lovely ruby hue.

Not only was I able to use all the veggie scraps, I was also able to use up all the mole, rice, and a lot of the tortillas I had on hand.  Next time you think of throwing out any of those, don’t.  Make one of these recipes instead!

One Huge Zucchini; 2 [Healthy] Ways to Use It

In American, Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Challenge, Dessert, Quick Meal, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables on June 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Zucchini next to a marker for size comparison.

I usually don’t complain about getting too much zucchini.  It’s one of those veggies my hubby will always eat, and that’s definitely a bonus.  For those who know me, I tend to enjoy my veggies as close to natural as possible.  I don’t usually fry/bread them, nor do I smother in butter or stuff them in puff pastry.  This week, however, I made a slight exception.  In our share this week, we got 2 kinds of zucchini: 2 smaller yellow kind (yes, there is a difference between yellow summer squash and yellow zucchini), and either 1 HUGE green zucchini or large patty cake squash.  Of course, I chose the zucchini.  This guy in front of me in line said his family is not really into zucchini, so he chose the patty cake squash.  We got into a bit of a conversion about how we were going to prepare each of our choices, and I said “this is going into a zucchini bread!”

For some magical reason, I thought you needed a lot of zucchini for a zucchini bread.  I also thought the larger and juicier, the better.  I didn’t have a recipe, so before searching the web I messaged my mother-in-law for hers, knowing that it was Nick-approved.  When she sent it over, she did warn me that it is basically a cake.  I made a few adjustments to lower both the sugar and fat, and also bumped up the fiber by using some whole wheat pastry flour.  Here’s my version.  P.S. this is also a vegan recipe!

Low-Fat [Mostly] Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves, or 24 muffins

1.5 ripe bananas, smashed or thinly sliced
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup oil (I used unrefined extra virgin coconut oil)
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini (less than half of my huge one!)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup blackstrap molases (or just double the agave)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fine sea salt
t tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Just as an FYI, the first 2 ingredients are swaps.  The original recipe calls for 1 cup oil and 3 eggs, but you can replace half the oil for apple sauce, and half a banana for every egg.

In a large bowl, I mixed the bananas, apple sauce and oil with a hand mixer.  For coconut oil, it needs to be warmed to liquify, so just heat on a stovetop or microwave for a few seconds.

Once everything is blended, it’s time to add all the other ingredients, and then you can just mix by hand with a spoon for a minute until everything is incorporated.

The batter! Since there are no eggs, very easy to lick the bowl :).

I divided the mixture as best as a cold between two loaf pans; they probably weren’t 100% even.  Then I set them in the oven to bake, up to 60 minutes.  I started checking at 45, and took mine out at 55 (although there was such a marginal difference in those 10 minutes).

These loaves didn’t rise as high as I expected; but then again, I admit I am not a baker.  They were, however, moist and delicious.  Not too sweet, and perfect for a snack or breakfast.

I had mine with a lil peanut butter; Nick liked his with chocolate peanut butter.

I took the liberty of calculating the nutrition for both the original and my low-fat version.

Original Zucchini Bread 
(Includes 1 cup oil, 2.5 cups sugar, eggs, and bleached flour)

Per slice (1/24th of recipe):

Calories: 231.61
Fat: 9.91
Carb: 33.86
Fiber: 1
Sugar: 21.22
Protein: 2.73

Not awful; but my version is a bit more figure-friendly.

Low-Fat [Mostly] Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread 
(Uses half the oil, subs banana and apple sauce, and uses only 2/3 cup sweetener)

Per slice (1/24th of recipe):

Calories: 132.92
Fat: 5.08
Carb:  21.12
Fiber: 2.34
Sugar: 7.66
Protein: 2.08

My version is 100 calories less, and has about half the fat.  It also skims off nearly 14 grams of sugar, and doubles the fiber!  Now I don’t feel so bad about having a second slice :).

I baked these loaves while making dinner one night (that recipe will follow in another post).  I still had more than half of that huge zucchini left!  I decided the next night I’d make a soup out of the remains.  It was also a great vessel for using up all that extra cilantro.  It’s a really simple recipe, and it packs a lot of flavor!  I haven’t tried yet, but I’d assume it would be great served chilled as well!

Pureed Zucchini and Cilantro Soup

Makes about 11-12 cups (just guestimating based on what was served and leftover)

1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
4 cups chopped zucchini (I’d say 3-4 normal sized ones)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1.5 cups)
1 bunch cilantro leaves (about 1 cup packed tightly)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil the broth and water over high heat until they boil.  While waiting to boil, chop up he zucchini and onion.

Add the veggies and chickpeas to the pot with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to a rolling boil, and cover slightly to cook for 15 minutes.  While that’s happening, remove all the stems from the cilantro; you just want to use the leaves.  If you’re making this recipe just to use up the cilantro you have from another recipe, don’t worry about needing the whole bunch.  If you use half or 3/4 I’m sure it will still taste great!  Make sure to reserve a couple of stems with leaves for garnish.

Super Green! That’s what happens when you wash and prep properly.

All the stems removed.  Took about 8-10 minutes to do, but well worth it!

After 15 minutes, add the cilantro.

 

Then, if you have it, whip out your emersion blender and get to work!  If you don’t, just ladle   the soup in batches into a regular blender.

 

Let the newly mixed soup cook for 5 minutes more, then it’s time to serve!
At first, I was nervous about using so much cilantro, but it was surprisingly really
complementary to the zucchini.  It gave the soup a fresh layer, as well as some zing and spice.  It also helped me to use up all my cilantro!  Hooray!
There you have it: two healthy ways to use zucchini.  Both required some innovation, but were certainly worth it.  I’m sure if you have a garden and your zucchini is overflowing, you’ll want to add these recipes to your repertoire.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Ramen for Grown-ups

In Chinese, Japanese, Pasta, Quick Meal, Salad, Soup, Vegetables on June 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve all gone through a ramen noodle phase – 10 packages for 1 buck fits any student or non-for-profit professional’s budget.  I experienced ramen overload in elementary and junior high school.  It was one of the very few things I could cook without making a mess or burning the house down.  My sister and I would take turns or work together to make the soup, and it was a great after school snack.  Once I could actually understand labels and ingredients, I started to shy away from ramen, cup of noodles, or any other packaged noodle soup that had a flavor packet included.  As an adult, I still can’t really stand ramen, even if it’s at a restaurant.  I find that it’s even saltier than its packaged version, and I feel so bloated and thirsty after, and then an hour later I’m still hungry.

One soup I still like is egg drop soup.  Chemicals and MSG aside, it’s a pretty filling appetizer.  I used to order it frequently with my Chinese delivery, but after confirming that every place uses chicken broth I’ve stopped.  Since then, I’ve learned to make it on my own!  It’s even better than delivery, in my opinion, and much healthier, too.  If you add noodles and/or dumplings, it can become a meal all on its own!  Just remember to add some veggies in there.  Since it had rained Monday, the kitchen was cool enough to make some of this soup for dinner.  Luckily I still had some Pok Choy left on its last limb, and a fresh bunch of Bok Choy, so I had plenty of material to create a well balanced one-pot meal.

Egg Drop Soup with Bok Choy, Udon, and Dumplings

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main

1 quart (32 oz) vegetable broth (chicken broth if not vegetarian)
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp ginger, minced
2 cup tightly packed chopped Bok Choy (or other greens like collards, napa cabbage, watercress, etc)
2 tsp corn starch
1 egg + 2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Cooked noodles (I used whole wheat udon) and dumplings (I used both shrimp and chicken gyoza for Nick)

I boiled some water for the udon noodles, and cooked them according to the box.  During that time, I worked on the soup.

I brought the broth to a boil, and added the soy sauce, scallions, ginger, and Pok Choy (what I had left over from last week).

After about 5 minutes, I spooned out about a tbsp of liquid to mix with the corn starch.

I whisked them together with a fork until it formed a creamy consistency.

I added the mixture to the soup pot, and mixed with a wooden spoon.  Then I let the soup boil a little bit more to thicken, and lightly scrambled the eggs.  Adding the eggs to the pot requires some patience; you have to slowly stream it in and mix the broth with a spoon in the other hand.  Otherwise, the eggs clump up and you don’t get that streamed result.

If you’re gonna make the dumplings, I’d advise cooking them in the noodle pot.  Just add them 2 minutes before the udon is done.  If you try to add them to the soup pot and THEN stir in the eggs, your dumplings will break up into the soup, and that’s no fun.

To serve, spoon in some soup, and then add in as many noodles and dumplings as you’d like.

I also served a simple salad of red leafy lettuce from this week’s share with Japanese carrot ginger dressing.

You can also omit either/or if you’re just diggin’ the broth.  I sometimes prefer just the simple version, smothered with sriracha.  Or, if I’m lucky, I’ve still got some packets of red hot sauce from take out.  Then I’m happier than a school girl with her 10 cent ramen.

Two Farmer’s Markets, Two New Finds

In Challenge, CSA, Fruit, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Soup, Vegetables on June 20, 2012 at 11:10 am

Since I was such a good girl last week, using up everything from my first CSA distribution, I was left to brave the markets for an in between week.  At first, I was super excited because I could choose what I want, and in what quantity.  However, I have definitely taken for granted the no-fuss convenience of NOT having to decide!  Especially when the pickings are slim – such as they were this weekend.

It was really nice on Saturday, so I wanted to bike to the market (which also ensures I only buy what I can carry in my tote bag).  There are two options on Saturdays near me in Brooklyn – the Borough Hall Market in downtown Brooklyn, or Grand Army Plaza Market in Prospect Park.  I chose the former, because 1) it is closer, 2) there are fewer visitors, and 3) it is only a slight incline to bike there.  There’s a reason Park Slope warrants its name, and biking up that hill definitely proves it.

Unfortunately, the advantage of fewer shoppers at a markets leads to fewer farmers and varieties being present, and thus a vicious cycle of supply/demand.  I always remember there being so many vendors at Borough Hall, but for some reason this was not the case this time.  Maybe it was because I got there towards the end of the day?  There was one super huge farmer, one medium sized, and one small.  Plus the bakers, fish stand, cheese, flowers, etc.  I was really looking for some veggies and fruit, so the farmers were my target.  The larger farmer, as it turns out, is a conventional farmer that sprays the bejubus out of all of its crops.  Yet, they charge organic prices.  Why would I pay $5 for a pint of strawberries that are enriched with pesticides, or $3.50 for collards?  These are slightly more expensive than organic produce at the local grocery.  I know that you should support local farmers, and that the majority of produce in the stores is flown in, but really?  I decided to patronize the smallest farmer, who is not certified as organic, but uses all organic soil, no pesticides, no GMOs, etc, except for 2/3rds of their apple orchards.  I know this because I asked and they answered.  That larger farmer didn’t want to give me a straight answer!

There wasn’t much to choose from, but I got:

  • 1 bunch beets (plus the greens – which is a twofer)
  • 1 bunch rainbow swiss chard
  • 1 small Poc Choi – that’s the newbie!  It’s like Bok Choi, only it has some purple in it.
  • 2 quarts strawberries

I also went to the cheese stand and chose a pecorino infused with truffles, and a soft lightly smoked Gouda style cheese.  Needless to say, my bounty would not cover me for the week!  I cleaned everything up, and figured I’d pick up some stuff midweek if I found time.

Beet greens and stems, perfect for salad or saute.

Beautiful rainbow chard.

Chopped up Poc Choi, for Miso soup or stirfry.

Strawberries! Half cleaned and frozen for smoothies, the other half for oatmeal and snacking.

Packed and labeled!

On Monday, I found some time to make my way to the Union Square Market.  That is the premier NYC Greenmarket, for those who don’t know.  Go on a Saturday if you can, that’s when EVERYONE is there.  Mondays are slower, and fewer vendors.  I biked, again, over the meadow and through the woods.  AKA over the Manhattan Bridge and through China Town.  After surveying the options, I found there was one organic vegetable farmer, and one that used no spray, describing all of their methods on a sheet of paper.  I thought that was really nice, to educate the consumers about what your practices are.  I ended up choosing the organic farmer, and here’s what I got!  No photo of all the bounty because I was in a rush to get home for yoga.  I’ll be sure to include more photos when I write about the ingredients in future posts.

  • Tuscan Kale
  • Wild Purple Kale – newbie!!
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 2 small cucumbers (I think Persian, not kirby)
  • Purple scallions
  • 1 bunch dill
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bag bargain lettuce (basically on its last limb, so it was only $1)

I also bought some hard pretzels from a market vendor – some regular, some whole wheat.  Grand total, excluding pretzels, was $21 on vegetables.  That’s a few dollars less than my CSA, so I figured I did good :).

So far, this is what I’ve used:

  • Half the wild kale for a smoothie
  • 3/4 of the berries for oatmeal and smoothies
  • Beets (and greens) for salad
  • Half the Poc Choi for udon soup
  • Rainbow chard (recipe to be posted)
  • 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash in the chard dish
  • Half the purple scallions (for almost everything!)
  • All the lettuce for a salad
  • About 1/3 of the dill (recipes to be posted)

Stay tuned for all the recipes!