recipes

When I got my CSA box last week, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

Potato Leek Soup.

I had never made potato leek soup before and while I thought about finding a recipe, I decided in the end that it would be easy enough to wing it. During my lunch break at work, I stopped by Trader Joe’s and picked up some thyme, so I wouldn’t have to make any stops on the way home.

Then I forgot the thyme in the employee refrigerator.

Score.

I started my near 4 mile walk home and thought about whether or not I should stop off for some spices of some kind. While I didn’t really want to brave the lines, I in the end decided to stop off at Whole paycheck Foods * for some more thyme. They somehow managed to be completely out of fresh thyme. What? So I got rosemary instead. I nearly got sucked into the Whole Foods vortex, but I caught ahold of myself and managed to get out with only buying the rosemary. Go me.

* I don’t mean to be all snarky about Whole Foods. I like it there, and everything, but it gets so expensive. I try to only go there for specific items that can only be found there and I do my regular shopping at other markets.

When I got home, I set to work….as quickly as possible. I was hungry!

First up, cut up the potatoes and set to the side.

I know what you’re thinking.

“You didn’t peel them first?!”

I thought about it…and then decided I was too lazy. Plus, since I was going to blend the soup anyway, there was really no need. Hey, fiber, baby!

Heat up a little bit of extra virgin olive oil in a pot and then add some garlic. Then add two chopped leeks and saute until soft.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth and the potatoes. Then add water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 20 minutes.

Then blend the soup in four batches with your Magic Bullet. Or use a blender. Or an immersion blender. Whatever you have available.

Yeah, I admit it. My method is not terribly efficient. Effective though.

In the last batch of soup that went into the magic bullet, I added a couple of tablespoon’s worth of fresh rosemary. After it was blended, I put all of the soup back in the original pot to heat back up.

Once the soup has been returned to the pot, you can add any further seasonings that you would like. I added a healthy amount of black pepper. Then I dug around in my fridge and located the creme friache that I had used when I made the golden beet soup and the butternut squash soup in October. As it turned out, it was good for exactly three more days, so I took the pot off of the heat and added the remainder (about 1/3 cup) to the soup to make it a little creamier.

Final step is to serve up a yellow bowlful:

I added a little too much rosemary, as the flavor was a little bit overwhelming. It was still super tasty though. I considered it a recipe success.

Are you a soup person in the winter? I sure am.

Thanks to Sarah for offering to share a recipe with us. Can’t go wrong with grains….especially Quinoa!

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Hi! My name is Sarah, an elementary school teacher who lives in Austin, Texas and plays* in The Smart Kitchen, where, although we have some rules, the main focus is to follow Julia Child’s advice and “Above all else, have fun!” [and where we occasionally eat with our fingers,”pork belly is its own food group, and nut butter disappears at an alarming rate” (someone else’s words, not mine).]

*Yes, I do consider cooking “play”ing.

Thanks Alexa, for letting me provide this guest post!

Singin’ In The Grain

[or, what would happen if Pythagoras and Dr. Oz met to discuss whole grains]

Today I was craving my “go-to” grain dish, referred to affectionately (only in my mind, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually referred to it in normal conversation) as “Goat Grains & Sun-dried Squash,” since it involves zucchini and yellow ‘summer’ squash, sun-dried tomatoes, and (have you figured out how much I love) goat cheese. I typically make it with bulgur and it is quick, easy, satisfying, and delicious.

Well, having finished my ‘bulk bin’ bulgur the last time I had a grai-ving (Get it? Grains. Craving. Grai-ving… Not to be confused with grav-ing [verb]: hanging out in graveyards.), I had to turn to my handy dandy Grain Dish Algorithm (Yes, I teach math. Yes, I have been recently watching old episodes of Numb3rs.):

G+V+P [(n) C]

My friends, all you have to do to compose a perfectly delicious grain dish is remember the algorithm, pronounced as a chant-like mantra, ignoring the plus signs and with the (n) functioning like the slang ‘n, as in mac ‘n cheese, or sugar ‘n spice (and everything nice). OK, let’s try it. Ready? Set…Go!

G-V-P, ‘n C! G-V-P, ‘n C! (Say it with me now) G-V-P, ‘n C! G-V-P, ‘n C! G-V-P, ‘n C!

Follow that, and you can get THIS!

Now that you know the algorithm (and have further understanding of why my 5th graders always thought I was a little bit of a crazy person), I will explain.

The G stands for, of course, Grain. Unless you have been living in a bubble of nutritional denial for the past few years, you know that whole grains are key to a healthy diet and lifestyle. People who eat more whole grains get more fiber, have less fat around their abdomens (which is a risk factor for heart disease), and have less chance of contracting Type II diabetes. Unlike refined, white flours, whole grains are low on the glycemic index, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar as rapidly. The benefits are enormous. Each of the various types of grains also has their own unique health boosters. And there are SO MANY to choose from: oats, rye, buckwheat, wheatberries, millet, bulgur, barley…

Because I lacked any more of my beloved bulgur, I turned to what might be the ultimate superstar of the grain world: quinoa (keen-wa). Why is it so Oscar-worthy? Well, it is the only grain containing a balanced set of the essential amino acids, making it the only grain to also function as a complete protein source. [I like to imagine a scenario where this discovery was made public via Twitter and vegetarians everywhere stood up at their office desks (obviously not really working on that spreadsheet) and formed a Conga line chanting “Oh we love our Quin-OA, oh we love our Quin-OA”…or magically transformed into ninjas and started karate-chopping everything and shouting “keen-WA!”……………but I digress.]

Back to the algorithm.

Remember it? G, V, P [(n) C]!

G = Grains Today, I chose quinoa. Feel free to choose whatever you have on hand.

 

V = Veggies Choose any veggies you like. The more the merrier. Phytochemicals and all that. Another V to think about is V for variety. Variety is the spice of life (and the key to getting all of your nutrients).

I went with frozen squash and zucchini. This bag is $2.00 at Giant, and compared to paying $1.99/lb. for the scraggly-looking “fresh” stuff, I’d say I have a deal on my hands.

I do like to rinse the frozen veggies briefly with warm water to get some of the chill off, but I find that the little ice crystals that develop can actually help them steam/cook in the pan without adding excess oils or fats.

I also had some sun-dried tomatoes from the amazing CVille Market. They aren’t packed in water or oil, and they’re still soft and pliable, no need to reconstitute. AND you can buy them at bulk bin prices. 🙂


P = Protein For vegetarians, you could easily say “B” for beans, or “T” for tempeh or tofu. Non-vegetarians, less is more when it comes to meat in your diet anyway, so I would still go for beans, tofu, or maybe some shrimp. Because I love shrimp. A lot. (When I spent a month in Costa Rica, they told me I was going to turn into a shrimp. Or a pineapple. Imagine me with the head of a pineapple and a tail of a shrimp. It’s OK to chuckle.)

I used up some of the leftover chickpeas from my veggie burgers! Hooray for recycling!

Here is where the algorithm gets a little tricky…and why the rest is in brackets. N = Nuts and C = Cheese, both of which could also sub in for your protein, or put in additionally for a more complex dish. Yet, you want to be careful, because both can be highly caloric and fattening, although nuts have great mono-unsatured fats and both are good sources of other nutrients, including bone-friendly calcium in the case of cheese. To make a healthier dish, choose low-fat or lower fat cheese, like a goat’s milk cheese, or small amounts of really strong flavored cheese, like Parmigiano-Reggiano.

I rarely add nuts. I always add cheese. Cheese is amazing. It just is. (So are nuts, but I prefer them in butter form. As in, peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter…) Today I went with feta.

Follow these basic steps and you will have a perfect grain dish every time:

G+V+P [(n) C]–The Only Grain Recipe you Need

1. Cook up your whole grain, generally 2 parts water to 1 part grain. Add onion, spices, fruit juices to the water if desired. Or substitute broth or stock for water. (If you have left over grains from the night before, just add a bit of water or broth and reheat. You’re one step ahead of every else!)

I added the juice of this lemon half I found in my fridge! (Pat on the back for reusing…)

2. In a small pan, saute your chosen veggies with your favorite spices (garlic and pepper are always good, but you can get creative with oregano or basil in a Mediterranean dish, curry powder and cinnamon for a Middle Eastern flair, or cumin and chili powder for a Mexican infusion.)

3. Add beans or tofu to the veggies to cook. If using a meat or poultry source of protein, pre-cook. (Pre-soak beans if not canned.)


4. Put your cooked grains in your serving dish. Top with cooked veggies.

5. Add nuts and/or cheese. (If serving your dish warm, you can microwave it for a second to melt the cheese a bit. Scrumptious!)

As a person who is relatively new to cooking, I am always interested in discovering new recipes. Today I’ve asked one of my favorite bloggers to share one with us. I’m pretty excited…I have an unopened bag of bulgur sitting in my cupboard right now! Thanks for the idea, Kylie!

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Greetings, Friends! My name is Kylie, and I’m thrilled to guest post for Alexa while she’s away.

My blog, A Hungry Spoon, provides readers with a daily recipe for the occasion of your choice: nutty breakfasts, company-is-coming-dinner, healthy brown bag lunches for work, to-die-for-desserts, or swanky party fare. It’s all meatless on the menu at the Hungry Spoon, as I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 6 years. And although most of my recipes highlight my commitment to healthy and clean eating, I rarely spare the butter when it comes to decadent desserts (case in point: Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Ganache. Please make them. Then eat one. Or six.).

My recipes are designed to show readers that vegetarian food can be filling, flavorful, and wonderfully healthy. One of my recent obsessions in the vege-head world has been great grains. Quinoa, bulgur, farro…you name the grain and I’m on a hunt for a recipe.

Grains started rocking my world when I realized what an awesome substitute they make for rice and couscous–they’re healthier and often full of fiber (I’m a fiber-lovin’ gal). Bonus: they’re super easy to prepare!

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This summer I cooked up a curried bulgur dish I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. This little number combines the crunch of raw veggies with the sweetness of fresh mangos and tender raisins. Pair these tasty, textured ingredients with curry seasoning and we’re in business, friends.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did! Many thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day 🙂

 

Curried Bulgur and Mango Salad

Ingredients:

– 1 cup uncooked bulgur (or, feel free to sub in the grain of your choice!)

– 2 cups low-sodium broth (veggie or chicken broth)

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– a little olive oil

– 1 large onion, diced

– 2 cloves of garlic, minced

– 1 1/2 tsp. good curry powder

– Dash of cinnamon

– 1 peeled and diced fresh mango

– 1/2 cup diced celery

– 1 red bell pepper, chopped

– 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

– 1/3 cup raisins

Directions:

1) In a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add bulgur, remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 20 – 30 minutes, or until bulgur is soft and the majority of liquid is absorbed (not all of the liquid will absorb; you can simply drain the extra off when it’s time to combine it with the rest of the ingredients).

2) Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until tender, about 4 minutes. Add curry powder, stir to coat, and remove from heat.

3) Combine bulgur, onion mixture, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!