Thursday, July 8, 2010

Daily Vegetable Soup

Soups are simple to make, yet so many recipes want you to think it's complicated. Seriously, it's water, salt and whatever else you happen to have on hand. How hard can it be?

Of course, water plus salt just makes for something to boil spaghetti in. It doesn't have much nuance. So the next step is to throw stuff in the water and boil it until it gives up. You can eat it all, or sieve it and drink the broth.

The step after that is to brown some of the things you are going to add to your water and salt. You can also roast things, dice things, ferment things and generally cavort with all and sundry. Some of these steps add flavor, some are questionable.

The flavor profiles can be very simple. Carrots, salt and pepper. Chicken boiled with celery and onion. Cream and broccoli. As long as there's enough salt, you are fine.

Of course, we are all being admonished to watch our salt intake. I think about it every time I inhale a bag of Doritos. Nacho Cheese. Homemade broth recipes usually ask for about 1 teaspoon per quart of liquid. The more vegetables and herbs you use, the less salt you can get away with. Lemon juice, wine and sherries or ports can also help you add flavor when you cut sodium.

The recipe following cuts the salt a bit by diluting the broth with water. The carrots and yam are sweet and only need a bit of salt to satisfy. Coriander and pepper add another flavor dimension and fresh parsley strewn on top can add even more flavor. Plus, the amount of vegetables in this get a couple of servings in by lunchtime.

Yam and Coriander Soup
Makes 2 servings
Takes 30-40 minutes to make

1/2 onion, about 1/2 cup diced
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 yam, about 1 cup diced
1 carrot, about 3/4 cup diced
1 stalk celery, about 1/2 cup diced
1 c. broth
1 c. water
1/4 tsp. crushed coriander
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
Fresh, ground pepper
1 Bay leaf
1/4 tsp. salt
Protein product, such as meatballs or Morningstar patty  (optional)
Fresh parsley or cilantro as wanted for garnish

Sauté the onion in the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the diced vegetables and stir until coated. Sauté a few minutes, then add the broth, water and all the spices. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove Bay leaf and blend, with an immersion blender. Taste and add salt as necessary.

Cut protein product into bite-sized pieces and add to soup. Warm through. Put soup in Thermos container or serve with garnish.

P.S. Serve this soup without meatballs as an accompaniment to a half a sandwich or as a first course. Two and 1/4 vegetable servings per person.

The other half of the yam was grated, cooked in 2 teaspoons of butter like hashbrowns until soft and a little caramelized. Then I added two, beaten eggs and some cheese on top and had incredible, sweet/salty scrambled eggs (not pictured). How to make yam or sweet potato hashbrowns here.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baked Chicken Fingers - Lowfat but still Breaded

If you followed Jamie Oliver's reality show, Food Revolution, you saw in one segment how Jamie made chicken patties for the kids out of nasty bits and bones of chicken all blended together and then fried like a hamburger. Even after seeing the gross stuff go into the mixture, the kids wanted the patties. Breaded, fried foods are now programmed into our culture and our deep needs. Curse you, McDonald's!

These Baked Chicken Fingers are so different from the processed, deep fried kind that it's hard to imagine that they taste better, but they do. Breading the outside of the white meat keeps them moist, even when baked, and the curry is a nice addition.

As with any restaurant knock-off, they take a little time to prepare, but you can make a big batch and freeze them for later. We use them, sliced, on top of salad or dipped in peanut or teriyaki sauce. The mango catchup they included in the recipe works great, too.

Our recipe is a little different than the one in Shape Magazine. Rick likes coconut, so we threw in some of that, and omitted the brown sugar with very little problem.

Baked Chicken Fingers

1 1/2 c. crushed corn flakes
1/2 c. dried, shredded, unsweetened coconut
Dash salt
Ground black pepper
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 - 2 eggs, beaten
1 to 2 pounds chicken breast tenders or boneless breasts, cut into 1–inch strips


Note: I am always vague on the amount of salt, because many people are on sodium restricted diet. Adding salt isn't always necessary, for instance, the corn flakes already have salt added and the curry powder and black pepper add a lot of flavor. Also, I use the crushed Kellogg's corn flake crumbs you can buy at the store. They have some added sugar, but not a lot (3 grams per 6 tablespoons).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix together cereal, coconut, salt and pepper, curry powder and oil.

Arrange three shallow containers, one with the brown rice flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with the crumb mixture.

Individually dip chicken tenders into flour, then eggs (letting excess run off), then breading mixture.

Place the chicken fingers on a cake rack to dry for about 15 minutes while you finish the rest. Arrange breaded chicken pieces on the cookie sheet.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until crisp and brown all over.

Serve while hot, cool and freeze the leftovers (they don't stick together in the bag).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No-Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

Rick's B-day was on Friday and I baked him a batch of his favorite cookies*. His mom had the recipe from somewhere and gave it to me and I've modified it a bit since then. I didn't like them the first time I tried them, but this time I thought they were pretty tasty. That just goes to show that you should try a food many times over many years before you give up on it.

I left out a few (like for Santa Claus) on a plate and froze the rest so he can have dessert for the next couple of weeks. Otherwise, we keep the pantry stocked with HeavenScent Windmill Cookies, which are pretty good, if a bit dry.

The sweetness comes from the fructose in the orange juice, but you might want to add some Stevia, which keeps its sweetness when baked, if you are used to more sugar. Fructose is used a little differently in the body than sucrose even though they are both "sugars", but the main advantage here is that there is not very much fructose (only about 30 grams from the O.J., less than 1 gram per cookie) in the batch of cookies.

Of course, there's also the coconut (about 30 grams sugars in 1/2 cup) and the raisins (60 grams sugars in 1/2 cup) which bring the sugar content of each cookie to about 4-5 grams. That's as much as in one (sucrose) sugar packet. Contrast that to a regular oatmeal cookie recipe with at least 1 1/4 cup of sucrose (table sugar), which weighs 250 grams plus 1 cup of raisins (120 grams). About 3:1.

No-Sugar Cookies

1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unsweetened, dried coconut
1 c. uncooked rolled oats
1/2 c. pecans or walnuts
1/2 c. raisins
1 c. orange juice
1/2 c. oil
1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Beat the orange juice, oil and egg together, then mix into the dry ingredients. Let the mix sit for 5 to 10 minutes to thicken up.

Use about 2 teaspoons of dough for each cookie and bake at 350°F for 10 - 15 minutes.

*He also got a burger and fries (from the Deli) and a set of tires for the Taurus.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quick and Easy Meatballs

Rick asked this morning, "And what are we having on top of our salad?" Meaning what protein product would keep us from being grouchy all afternoon. Of course, it's the meatballs I baked and froze a couple days ago and I watched a smile spread over his face.

This is a new discovery for Rick. It was with trepidation that I started adding cold meatballs to the salad at all, thinking that he would object because they were new and therefore "uncouth." I underestimated him. They are the nuggets of heaven and can be broken up, sliced or served whole on salads or warmed in the soup. As a matter of fact, a couple meatballs added to the "Vegetarian Pea Soup" last week made the soup very acceptable to the family carnivore.

I made the meatballs at first when I did not have enough meatloaf mix for another mini-meatloaf. I baked them in a 8 x 8 inch dish, not touching each other, for about 25 minutes, then packed them in a ZipLock when they were cool. Six meatballs were enough for two lunches. I have now graduated to making 40 meatballs at a time on two cookie sheets using about 4 pounds of ground round.

Because I bake them and don't fry them, the cook time is hands off and the fat runs off. I don't put them in a sauce, so far we've used them up quickly and no freezer burn. They are discreet portions, too, good for a diet.

As you can see, I'm a big fan of oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs to stretch the beef and help it stay together. I also like the Worcestershire sauce but like to stay away from catchup, so here is my tasty recipe. Any meatloaf recipe will do, though.


Makes 40, 20 lunch servings

1 1/2 c. oatmeal
1 c. water
8 oz. tomato sauce
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
4 eggs
1 tsp. dried basil and oregano total
1 T. dried parsley
1/2 - 1 tsp. salt
Ground black pepper
4 lb. ground beef

Mix the oatmeal and water in a bowl and microwave for 1 - 2 minutes. Cool slightly. Place in a 6 quart bowl. Add the tomato sauce and the other ingredients through pepper. Mix well. Add the hamburger and mix until all ingredient are well distributed.

Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil or spray or grease lightly. Form 2 ounce meatballs and place evenly spaced on the cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until brown.

Cool completely, then freeze in a plastic bag.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vegetarian Pea Soup

This vegetarian pea and lentil soup recipe is lifted straight from 101 Cookbooks blog. Heidi has many lovely soup ideas and, I am always curious to see if the food shown actually tastes good, too. The Coconut Red Lentil Soup recipe she made is certainly a winner. I made half the recipe shown and will show you my changes below but be sure to take a look at her original recipe for more direction.

What I found interesting about this vegetarian pea soup is that it is nothing without the coconut milk. I tasted it along the way. Ginger, salt and curry powder weren't making my heart sing, but I finally added the coconut and everything started to make sense. I don't know if it is the fat in the coconut milk that solubilises more of the flavor components but it is an indispensable ingredient.

I also liked the color scheme. Yellow peas, red lentils, orange carrot, red tomato paste, golden raisins, with a little green to make sure you noticed the oranges. Somehow that grouping just made me happy thinking about it. Not to mention that orange vegetables are full of lycopenes and other wonderful nutrients.

Since this soup must simmer for more than an hour, it is not a lunch soup, unless reheated. I don't know how it freezes yet, either.

Vegetarian Pea Soup with Lentils and Coconut Milk

Makes 4 bowls

1/2 c. yellow split peas
1/2 c. red lentils
3 1/2 c. water
1 carrot, diced
1 T. grated ginger, divided
1 tsp. - 1 T. curry powder (depends on taste and how hot the curry is)
3 - 4 green onions (or onions thinned from the garden), sliced thin
2 T. golden raisins
2 1/2 T. tomato paste
1 5 oz. can of coconut milk
1 tsp. salt

Rinse the peas and lentils. Place in a pan and add the water, carrot and half the ginger. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 - 2 hours (Note: Heidi writes 30 minutes, but at my elevation and with older peas, no way) until peas are soft.

Saute the onions a few minutes in the butter. Add the rest of the ginger and the raisins and sprinkle the curry over it and brown a little. Stir in the tomato paste. Add to the soup along with the coconut milk and salt and cook for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve.