Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cream of Improv Soup with Cauliflower and Corn

Let me start by noting that if there's ever a pot of soup in our house, and the consensus is that a bag of Trader Joe's roasted corn wouldn't improve things, that's because there's already a bag in there.

Also, this recipe from 101 Cookbooks has changed my soup life forever:

Before we shifted to a more chemical-free, less processed pantry, I used Better than Bouillon for everything.  Anytime I needed a little bit of umami, I'd add a daub.  If you read the ingredient list though, that's unquestionably not ok with somebody in the household who can't eat chemical lab output.

I made a "use the things I have and adjust for the things I'm missing" version of the 101 cookbooks version the other week and it makes soup making so much easier - no need for making or storing broth!

Today's soup might be improved with caramelized onions, or homemade stock instead of water, or cream or cheese, but it's also perfectly lovely as it sits on the stove currently.

8 quarts cauliflower bits and 3 roughly chopped yellow potatoes covered halfway by water.
6 cloves or more of garlic
1 bag TJ's roasted corn
1tbs homemade bouillon paste
1tbs olive oil
2 cans white beans, rinsed

While cooking the cauliflower and potatoes, I cooked the garlic to blond, then added the bouillon paste and cooked that until the edges started to caramelize.  Scrape the mixture into the larger pot, allow things to cool enough to use the immersion blender, add the white beans and blend.

From beginning to end, the most time consuming part was actually hacking the cauliflower into bits.  This is on our keep list!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

First Heatwave of 2012

We have 42 swiss chard plants in the garden.  In this heat, they have just about doubled in size, which means that I can easily harvest a leaf from each, giving us enough for dinner tonight.  two mornings ago, I harvested enough that we had dinner last night.  that's an average of dinner every other day.

I'm awed that something so simply - bitty baby chard plants - have grown into something so vibrant, productive and tasty.

The trees at the back of the property block the direct sunlight from our tomato bed during the hottest heart of the day, which is nice - it means I was able to sneak back there and water then aggressively mid-day without worrying about leaf-scorch.  I dumped about eight gallons of water into their bed, because they were looking somewhat droopy.

Pictures later when I've got them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quinoa Salad

Tonight, we had a perfectly ripe avocado, so I needed a dish that would take advantage of that. The White Bean Smash with Broccoli over Polenta got postponed until a night where produce doesn't matter.

(white bean smash - blonde some garlic in a pan in olive oil. add 4 cups white beans, 2lb tomato product of some sort and cook until thick and stew-like. smash with bottom of jam jar or potato masher to help thicken the whole thing.)

Tonight's quinoa salad was mostly a product of planning enabling inertia. I often have a jar of cooked grains in the fridge to be used as the base for any number of dishes. Tonight, a jar of quinoa turned into a cold grain salad.

We also often have chopped peppers in the fridge. This makes last minute dinners, salads, burritos, etc MUCH easier.

Soo... dinner:

4 cups cooked quinoa
1 can drained corn - we never have canned corn in the house, but this came from a pantry cleanout elsewhere.
1 can black beans
1 can chick peas
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 cucumber, finely diced
1.5 cups chopped peppers

dressed with a dressing made on the fly. the general idea is:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup dijon mustard
1/8 tsp smoked spanish paprika
1 tbs maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup orange juice

stir, serve. add chopped avocado to the top.

Makes a good six servings and keeps well in the fridge.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Canning Soup

One of the things I worry about, perhaps disproportionately so, is the chemical load from the packaging our food comes to us in. I don't really trust even "BPA-free" packaging - what's hiding in there that will be the Big Bad next week/month/year?

With all of our other food weirdnesses (vegetarian, mostly dairy free, gluten-free for meals, additive free), I'm always looking for new ways to make life easier, since most convenience food isn't. (food, that is.)

This weekend, I'm going to try the terribly ambitious step of taking dried beans, rehydrating them and putting them into the pressure canner in 1 pint jars, roughly the size of store bought cans of beans.

I'm also putting up a batch of soup, using the same general plan - soak the beans, cook them for half an hour, then add them to the jars and process them for 75 minutes at 10lbs of pressure.

The Recipe:
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 T. taco seasoning
1/4 t. chipotle powder
2 lbs diced tomatoes, and their juice (off-season. I know...)
4 cups soaked beans
2 cups frozen corn
1/4 cup tomato paste (jarred, not canned)
8oz broth or water
1 t. sea salt

the bean instructions I'm starting with:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Project Pack-a-Lunch and Plan: Eat More Plants

I know it's less expensive and healthier to carry a lunch than it is to venture into the wilds of Manhattan to procure one. I did the math once, and my brain exploded. Even if I buy bagged "triple-washed" lettuce, only costs me about $3 for a salad from home that would cost me $10 if I buy it downstairs at the deli. That's a $7/day savings, and yet for some reason, I often have a hard time motivating myself to be bothered.

That's ridiculous - a week of $7 splurges is $28 a week for me. That's $1400 a year (assuming two weeks off in the year). Folks, that's not chump change. That's a vacation for the three of us. That's a new appliance. Or that second shed for storing the conventions in. It's... real money On something I can easily manage to do.

I'm always starting and stalling on PPaL, but I figure if I just make it a regular thing, I can do this. I've got a new spiffy office blender for making smoothies here from frozen fruit I can bring from home or at a grocery store here in the city. I've got at least four containers appropriate for hauling salad. and I have no excuse not to.

Tomorrow and Friday's plans:
farina or oatmeal from my "pantry" here at work.

Oranges (before they go off!)

salad - bagged lettuce, chopped peppers and onions, shredded carrot. TJ's feta cheese, cooked chickpeas. dried cranberries and pecans.
Imagine! butternut squash soup - I have a box of it that has been in my emergency lunch stash for far too long - I'm using it up.

blueberry almond milk smoothie - I just need to haul in the bag of frozen fruit and a box of almond milk.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A-Cooking we will go...

Today was a "cook ahead" day. I made two huge batches of food, to get us through the first half of a hectic week.

First, I made K's new favorite fridge-food. Two chopped onions, 1.5 chopped red peppers tossed into a hot pan with 2tsp olive oil. cooked until softened. 3 large sweet potatoes steamed in the micro until mostly soft. add to pan with peppers and onions. add three cloves crushed garlic, 1tbs lemon juice and a good sprinkle of salt. let it cook until the bottom is good and brown.

Next, I made a somewhat successful variation of White Bean Jumble from "Student's Vegetarian Cookbook." . Basically, leafy greens, white beans, onions, garlic, potato, thyme. My recipe was roughly this:

20 oz fresh spinach
3 cups chopped potato, steamed until fork-tender
3 cups cooked white beans
2 chopped onions
1/2 cup tomato juice (ingredients: tomato, lemon juice, salt.)
1 tbs dried thyme
1 tbs dried chives
1 tbs lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chopped garlic

blonde the onions, stir in chives and thyme.
stir in spinach and garlic. wilt spinach.
add remainder of ingredients.
cook until beans start to stick to the bottom of the pan in tasty brown bits.

With these two large batch recipes, we had lunch and dinner today, lunch and dinner tomorrow and possibly one or two other small meals.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Living with dietary restrictions means learning how to avoid emotional triggers - it's not as simple as "oh, just don't eat those things." A friend of mine - who has been a huge influence in me tackling this bravely - has described the internal struggles as conversing with her NoNoGrrl - the teenager who does exactly what you tell her not to, in order to prove her independence.

K has a NoNoGrrl who used to throw her vitamins out the window. Used to take as many quarters as she needed for the vending machine in exchange for eating greenbeans and then stop. She ate a full ten vegetables - corn, creamed corn, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots... I can't think of many others.

Bread, cheese, sour cream. These things are important to her NoNoGrrl. Ice Cream became a crutch when corn syrup and many mass produced desserts went on the no list. Suddenly, all the things she was soothing with are gone - I suspect this will make our relationships with food healthier and less neurotic, but it's work. Psychotherapy by way of elimination diet.

One of the things I've used to make cheese-free less painful is to add peanut butter to our standby of zucchini-tomato-chickpea/whitebean stew. Usually, the dish gets feta. The peanut butter gives it a substantial mouthfeel, and makes it creamy. This is HUGE when leaving dairy suddenly.

Our stew:

2 zucchini, chopped
two red onion, chopped
three cloves garlic, crushed
tomato - either juice, chopped fresh, canned.
herbs - whatever moves you.
one or two cans of either white or chickpeas.
peanut butter
lemon juice

toss the onions in a pan and when they start to wilt, toss in the zucchini. add the tomato when the zucchini starts to melt.
stir in the garlic, the peanut butter, the lemon juice, the salt and your herbs. Sage with white beans, rosemary or thyme - I love to just throw open the cabinets and shake some of whatever looks good into the mix.

You'll note the lack of amounts - I cook by feel and will work on getting better about recording amounts.