Monday, January 31, 2011

Food Budgets and Shopping Locally

We are on serious budget this year and have scaled our food budget back to 25% of our income. You can probably guess our income isn't much so far this year, and I got tired of seeing more money going out than coming in, so I decided to do something about it--hence the "Soup Project" blogs.

One key to staying within a food budget is writing a weekly menu plan and sticking to it. The things in the photo were all on my list this week and I was amazed that for under $20.00 I got all this at the U District farmers' market:

Green cabbage
Red cabbage
4 giant carrots
3 potatoes
2 apples
About 12 sekel pears

What's on your list today? Check out my soup of the week, which includes kale from our own yard and shiitake mushrooms (not included in the photo).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Soup Project: Deborah Madison's Rustic Lentil Soup

I wanted to immerse myself in the world of soup, so I visited the local library online and reserved a number of soup books. As often happens with the library the books all came at once so I came home with an armload. The stack made me wonder whether world needs any more soup books? Who knew soup was this popular? Obviously I was clueless.

I looked through the books and the one that stood out from the pack was Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. I remembered when this book came out, but at the time I had lots of soup recipes and my space for book collecting is full, and I confess, I don't always look at new cookbooks. But once I flipped the pages, I was inspired by the way she combines flavors. And when I spotted "A Rustic Lentil Soup with spinach," I knew this was the soup of the week. I couldn't wait to make (or change) the recipe.
Deborah's recipe listed onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and spinach. Bell pepper and spinach are fresh ingredients that I don't buy in the winter but when I spotted these mushrooms, I knew they'd be perfect in my dream version of this soup recipe.

Shiitake mushrooms add a deep flavor and an intriguing meaty texture and they also offer so many health benefits, it's worth the price to add them to vegetarian main dishes and soups. You don't have to buy a whole log at this booth at the U District Market because they also sell these nutritional gems by the pint container. As I recall one pint cost $6.00.
We bought a shiitake log like this one (but not from this place) and we waited and waited and finally got one huge mushroom, one of the biggest I'd ever seen, and then only a few small ones later, so actual results aren't always like you see in the picture.
A soup just wouldn't be complete without Nash's sweet carrots. (Look for them at all Seattle winter markets as well as PCC Natural Markets.) These carrots turned extra sweet this year and my Cooking Assistant checks my bags each week looking for them.

Here's the recipe with my adaptations for winter vegetables. Get out the crusty bread or make your own biscuits to go with it because it's pure comfort food for a rainy winter day.

A Rustic Lentil Soup with Kale
Adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, she says "all greens are good with lentils, and I especially like to add them to a soup that's going to be a meal. That way you get all your good foods together in one bowl."

1 cups brown lentils, rinsed and soaked if possible
1 to 1 1/2 cups shiitaki mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, grated or finely diced (use one of Nash's big carrots, if you're lucky enough to have them in your kitchen)
1 potato, diced (no need to peel)
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
6 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups kale, middle rib removed, finely chopped Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped parsley
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Red wine vinegar or apple cider to taste
Croutons for garnish

If you haven't already soaked the lentils, soak them while you prepare the rest of the soup.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and dry fry the mushrooms until they become soft--5 to 7 minutes. Roughly chop and set aside.

Heat a soup pot over medium head and add the oil, onion, and carrot. Stir and cook until onion softens, add drained and rinsed lentils, mushrooms, potato, garlic, tomato paste, prepared mustard, dry red wine and bay leaf. Stir to combine, then add water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until lentils are soft.

Add kale and salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook until kale softns--5 to 10 minutes. Add about a teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and add a dash of vinegar to each serving. Garnish with croutons, if desired.

Nobody "gets" croutons like my Cooking Assistant. What's your weakness with soup?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Food Photography 101

I'd been thinking about getting a better camera for months. I couldn't get decent closeup shots with my Cannon G9, but a better camera was just a dream. That is until last fall at the Hillsdale farmers' market when I was snapping photos at the Ayers Creek Farm booth. Another shopper asked, "How do you like that camera?"

"It's decent," I'd replied. "But it doesn't zoom in on details--flower petals, honeybees, sesame seeds. I'm dreaming about getting a Rebel."

"I'm thinking about selling my Rebel if you're interested, " said Anthony Boutard. "I need something that will take better photos myself."

I couldn't refuse the offer, and two weeks later, I drove to Ayers Creek Farm and bought Anthony's pampered camera. Everything, even the two extra lenses he'd included were in original boxes with original Styrofoam packaging and the CD and instruction manual. As Carol Boutard helped me carry the boxes she joked, "I told Anthony he forgot one of the twist ties." We both laughed.

But seriously, I'm so excited to get this well cared for camera and I wanted to learn more about photography. So I signed up for this class; because sometimes I need a kick to get started.

The assignment this week was shutter speed. I thought I'd get some good shots at the Ballard Farmers' Market. (Or maybe I just wanted another excuse to go to the market.) And after a few lame attempts at capturing dogs walking and sniffing each other and people strolling around and staring at food, I got distracted by the food. We're so lucky to have abundanat food at the markets smack in the middle of winter and we don't even think about it much anymore. And the stuff that's plucked fresh from the earth is so enticing.

Who could resist these Chioggia or "Candy Striped" beets?

Not really "shutter speed" photo, so I moved on and snapped a picture at the Patty Pan Grill. The veggies look enticing but hello the only thing moving here is the steam above them. The Patty Pan Grill, by the way, is my favorite place to buy tamales, if I haven't mentioned that already. But try these local veggies topped homemade salsa and wrapped in a tortilla while you're there and you won't regret that choice either.

At the end of the street, was this hot dog cart, with a man was grilling dogs. I made commented about veggie dogs and the man surprised me when he said, "I've got vegetarian hot dogs, too." Suddenly I was thinking about hot dog possibilities, and I wasn't the only one. Two feet away from me was a red and white basset hound sitting motionless, staring up seriously. She was so much like my Cooking Assistant, it unnerved me. Scent hounds are over-the-top obsessed with scents, especially food and they're so optimistic about getting a bite.
If that hound could have seen the grilled dogs from my vantage point, she'd have really been in heaven.

Back at home I used a macro lens for my soup project. I had to back up to get my Cooking Assistant in the frame. He was patient, waiting for me to get the right settings and to focus the lens. I'm not sure this qualifies as "action" for the class, but I can see my Cooking Assistant is up for more picture since he always snags a well-deserved reward for his interpretation of hamming it up for the camera.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Soup Project: National Soup Month and Locro Argentino

The more I discover about soup, the more it intrigues me. Last week I learned that January is National Soup Month, and I got so excited about this factoid, I thought I'd just toss it out and impress everyone. Then I looked it up here and found out that January is not only National Soup month it's also National Meat Month, National Candy Month, and National Hot Tea Month. And who knew that today is National Coffee Break Day?

Give me a break. The truth is I suspect these kinds of holidays are concocted by food companies to help pitch their products and entice us to buy their brand. They offer coupons under the guise of a holiday. Big whoopie. National month or not, soup is a budget-stretching meal option that happens to be gaining popularity this year, in my kitchen anyway, and I hope in yours too.

This week's soup happens to be one of my new favorites from Argentina from this fabulous cookbook, I mentioned last week, The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac

The original recipe lists canned hominy in the ingredients, but I don't like the canned versions of most foods, and there isn't an organic option for hominy, so I always stare at the cans and end up passing on it in favor of frozen corn. When I found hominy at Rancho Gordo, I got a small bag of that, and later when I learned Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek in Gaston, Oregon grew and sold it, I bought some from him. Now I'm hooked.

Locro Guascho Argentino
This vegetarian soup is adapted from The South American Table. The original recipe also included a 1-pound beef brisket and 8 ounces of Polish sausage. Though the recipe specified that the sausage was optional, few spices or herbs were included making this a rather mild-tasting soup without the meat. That is, until you add a spoonful of sofrito, a fried spicy sauce stirred into the soup at the end of cooking. Also I discovered that Field Roast (a vegetarian wheat-based sausage) has the perfect meaty texture with a sausage-like flavor and isn't off-putting like some of the vegetarian faux soy-based meat substitutes of the past.

1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 cups stock or water
1 cup white beans, rinsed and soaked for at least 4 hours
1 medium-large carrot, diced
1 sweet potato, diced or 1 pound winter squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium potato, diced
2 cups cooked hominy
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
8 ounces Field Roast sausage, sliced (optional)
Pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup minced green onions (use some of the green as well as the white part)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons minced parsley leaves

1. Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and oil. Stir and cook until onion becomes translucent. Stir in garlic and cook for a few minutes.

2. Gradually pour in the stock or water. Add the beans, carrot, sweet potato, potato, hominy, and sundried tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until beans are tender, about an hour.

3. About 15 minutes before the beans are done, slice and cook the Field Roast sausage until browned.

4. While the Field Roast cooks, make the sofrito. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add oil and paprika and stir. Add red pepper flakes, oregano, cumin, salt, and cilantro. Stir and cook until cilantro softens. Stir the sofrito into the soup. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

5. Place pieces of sausage in each soup bowl, ladle in the soup and sprinkle each serving with fresh parsley leaves.

My Cooking Assistant says if this is a "poor man's dinner" he wants more. For me it could use a bit more heat so I drizzled a little hot salsa over the top but my Cooking Assistant rated this one Four Paws Up.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to Cook Hominy, Ayers Creek Style

Farmers in Washington grow all kinds of grains these days, but I haven't found anyone who grows corn for popping, polenta or posole to sell at farmers' markets. So when I heard Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon grew it, I made the journey in December to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market to get some.

While I was there, I bought lots of fresh produce, 2 bags of polenta, 4 jars of preserves and a bag of Roy's Calias Flint kernels for hominy all from the Boutard's booth. It's hard to resist buying when everything looks so perfect,and I have to say I love that Carol and Anthony are both there to sell their treasures. The line was long and when I left, my bags were so heavy I could hardly lift them.

Before I left, I asked Anthony to spoon in a tablespoon of hydrated lime with the corn. He handed me the directions for cooking hominy. Hydrated lime or cal in Spanish is caustic and and should be kept away from children and careless adults. The lime softens the corn, but with the lime in the bag, I wasn't sure about cooking half of the corn, so I cooked it all.

Here's how I cooked it:

  • In an enamel pot, add two tablespoons of hydrated lime per pound of corn. Add water to cover the kernels by an inch or so.
  • Heat the pan to a bare simmer don't boil; let it cook for 40 minutes to an hour. The solution will turn a lurid yellow-brown and the fragrance of corn will fill the kitchen.
  • Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture steep overnight at room temperature or on the back stoop.
  • The next day, strain off the lime and liquid into a compost bucket. Rinse the kernels vigorously several times until they are clean. The outer skin of the kernel, the pericarp will wash away. This is alkalized corn, or nixtamal.
  • The nixtamal is cooked very slowly until it is tender, at which point it is called hominy. If you have a slow cooker, you can use it. Refill the pot with corn and fresh water. Cover the kernels with plenty of water because they will absorb a good deal of water.
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer until the kernels split open as little flowers. The hominy is now ready to use in a pozole or soup. This is a wonderful adaptable ingredient in all sorts of dishes. Experiment and have fun.
I made Locro Argentino from The South American Table. (Check out the recipe next Monday.) But since one pound of corn when cooked produces a boatload of hominy, I've been searching around for another recipe. I found this great posole recipe at 101 Cookbooks; and for those who eat meat, a turkey posole recipe at Good Stuff NW was featured recently. I also discovered recipes for humitas, a type of corn casserole with onions, peppers, cheese and eggs in The South American Table, my new favorite cookbook. That is what I'm making tonight. My Cooking Assistant is wagging his tail already.

If you're intrigued by hominy, another place to get the good stuff is Rancho Gordo in Napa, California. Check it out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Soup Project: Prison Food and Soup Stock

I've been so excited about my "soup project," I tried to sell my family and friends on the idea. That is, until I asked my sister.

"Are you kidding me?" She'd said, shocked at my audacity. "Prisoners eat soup."

I laughed and suddenly remembered that when I visited Alcatraz in San Francisco last fall, I found this magazine in the gift shop.
First thing I did was check out the prison menus. It appears prisoners did indulge in regular meals that often included soup, but they had to eat in 20 minutes, and in solitary confinement though soup was served nearly every day, it was only in half rations.

Half rations? It's enough to deter my Cooking Assistant from the life of crime.

Good thing soup stock really has nothing to do with prison food. And stock enhances flavor so much for vegetarian soup, I can't just throw out recipes every week without covering the basics.

I don't use stock all the time, but it's not hard to make, and it does create layers of flavor, and if you use the same processed soup stock all the time, all your soups will have similar flavors and pretty soon every soup will be flat and boring. I'd rather add soup stock vegetables like carrots, celery and onions to soup rather than buying ready made stocks from a box or can.

Here are a few stock making tips:
  • Save vegetable scraps in plastic bags in the freezer, labeled, for easy stock making.
  • Produce can be slightly over-the-hill, but nothing moldy or bad should go into a soup stock
  • Roughly cut all the vegetables the same size--about 1-inch pieces. This brings out the flavor of the vegetables equally and strengthens stock flavor.
  • Always start with cold water. Add all ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Strain the stock after it has finished cooking. Never let cooked stock sit because the sit may turn bitter, causing the soup to have a slightly off-taste.
Basic Soup Stock
This recipe is similar to one The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. You can use it for most soups, and vary the vegetables. Don't go crazy adding lots of onion skins because too many turn the stock bitter, and remember skins turn the stock a dark color. If you're making a light-colored soup like creamy cauliflower, you might want to leave onion skins out. You can stock taste richer by frying mushrooms and garlic in one tablespoon ghee or oil before adding the water and other vegetables. I sometimes roast extra vegetables to add to this basic recipe.

6 cups water
3 stalks celery, cut into pieces
2 carrots, sliced
1 yellow onion, with skin, sliced
Handful parsley
4 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup lentils
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons basil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
6 to 8 peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain, discard cooked vegetables, and cool stock. Use immediately or freeze in plastic containers (glass can break).

  • Add seasonal vegetables such as corn, squash, celeriac, parsley root, leeks, bell peppers, tomatoes, fennel, or pea pods
  • Use carrot tops, potato skins, corn cops, mushroom stems, and squash seeds. You can also add leftover cooked potatoes, but becareful some vegetables like cooked sweet potatoes can turn the stock cloudy
  • Vary herbs according to your taste
  • Add 1/4 cup white, brown, or red miso instead of salt

Tune in next Monday when I make a soup using hominy from Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sowing the Seeds of Spring

At the beginning of the year, I checked The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide and learned that onions, leeks, artichokes and lettuce seeds should be planted in January. This week the seed catalog started arriving, and last night, I stayed up dreaming about summer, circling the greens I wanted and making plans for our summer garden.

If grey days and winter storms make you long for summer too, why not check out these cool Northwest seed catalogs:

Osborne Seed Company (in Mount Vernon, WA)
Irish Eyes Garden Seeds (in Ellensburg, WA)
Wild Garden Seed (at Gathering Together Farm)
Peace Seedlings (in Corvallis, OR)
email to order a catalog:

I found Peace Seedlings when I went to the Corvallis farmers' market last summer. The woman at the booth told me she was buying the company from her dad who started the seed company in the 1970s. It was the first time I'd seen seed farmers at a market and I was intrigued. They came up almost right away, just like she'd said, but I must plant them earlier this year. But even with these beans, I'm not going to have a big garden. I'm paring back from last year's garden. The expense of watering and using organic amendments made it more costly than I'd ever imagined.

The main problem last year was we planted way too many tomatoes. By mid-August we had tons of green ones and then suddenly (like overnight) they got blight, turned black and died. When Tom broke the news, I'd wanted to throw in the trowel. It was ugly. Not as easy as Michelle Obama made it out to be.

This year I'll be more realistic about gardening. Confession number one: I don't like to dig in dirt. And I only want to grow easy things (who doesn't?)--like sugar snap peas and lots of greens. You might call me a fair weather gardener.

For sure I'll order India Red Giant mustard greens and Red Russian Kale seed from the Osborne Seed Catalog partly because lots of farmers have told me they swear by seeds from Osborne so I can't wait to to try them. I have lots of seeds left from last year, so we'll use those first and hopefully they're still good.
Of course we'll have raspberries because they're so easy. Once raspberries are established they just come up, but the blueberries I'd planted last year look like sticks. Are they still alive? At the end of the summer, they'd looked fragile, and the freeze we experienced recently probably did them in. But the raspberry canes we got from our friends just a few years ago came back last year with more berries, and my Cooking Assistant swears juicy homegrown raspberries can't be beat on a hot summer day. How's that for a winter dream?
This year I plan to keep it simple--lettuce, braising greens, raspberries, then maybe we'll graduate to more complicated gardens.

Just one more thing I'm doing for the garden this year--more edible flowers. I love these pretty violas and they taste fantastic and are super easy to grow. Plus they attract bees, they're oh so trendy and cool in summer salad mixes at the markets. So what's on your garden list? Haven't decided yet? Check out those catalogs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

If It's Monday It Must Be Soup: Quinoa Chowder

When I was young Mom knew what foods she'd serve for dinner every week. Monday we might have meatloaf and Tuesday we could expect spaghetti with meatloaf leftovers in the sauce. As a budget conscious cook, she planned for leftovers. I'm planning for soup nights which automatically means leftovers for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

My New Year's resolution got a boost today when I read this post from Lifehacker about how to scaffold your resolutions for lasting change. I've got a set budget and a concrete plan and I may not eat soup twice a week for eternity, but I'm so excited by the possibilities of my food budget soup plan. I'm so excited that if I wasn't doing it, I'd be following the blogger who was to see if that's what works for slashing food budgets.

My only worry is, will I still be hungry for soup come summer? Right now, I'm confident there are enough soup recipes and ideas for main dish soups in the world to keep me going, and by the end of the year, I should have enough recipes for a book.

I've decided to make Mondays the new recipe day of the week and the recipe this week is partly influenced by what I found at the market and partly by this soup article about South American soups that I'm supposed to be writing for Vegetarian Journal.

I found some great spinach at Willie Green's Organic Farm and of course Nash's sweet carrots--I absolutely love them right now and my Cooking Assistant is very excited about them, too.
I had one lonely sweet potato from Ayer's Creek still in my pantry, and I needed to test a recipe derived from a Peruvian soup, so I took a bag of quinoa from my pantry. I'd had never used quinoa in a soup before, and I've got to say, the texture and flavor is amazing. I could easily eat this soup for breakfast lunch or supper.

The original recipe also listed milk, but I added a can of coconut milk and how can you go wrong with coconut milk?

Another bonus is this soup is ready within a half an hour.

Quinoa Chowder
(Serves 6)
This soup has an amazing flavor, but remember leftovers need extra liquid added for the next day. This version isn't exactly authentic Peruvian fare because adding and adapting makes soup more fun. Instead of sundried tomatoes, I used roasted, frozen and thawed tomatoes from Ayers Creek Farm. These are so good and are disappearing so fast, I plan to preserve tomatoes like this again. The red currants were my idea; I don't know they whether currants grow currants in Peru and originally I thought I could use them as a lemon substitute. Now I'm just tossing them into various recipes and they really add character. Many people don't have them, so let this be a reminder--get some currants from your favorite berry or fruit farmer this summer at the market. Stash these treasures in your freezer and use them in soups like this one.

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well 1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers, or chopped jalapeno (optional)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
3 medium carrots or 1 of Nash's Best Organic carrots (above), chopped
1 sweet potato or 2 potatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
4 to 6 cups water
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
3 cups seasonal greens, rinsed and chopped
1 cup frozen red currants (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. Heat oil in a stock pot. Add onions, cook and stir until onions soften. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Stir in quinoa, then add Mama Lil's peppers, carrots, sweet potato, oregano, tomatoes and 4 cups water.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and currants and continue to cook until currants are heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste; garnish with cilantro. Serve it with some warm corn tortillas.

So sad, Cooking Assistant missed the boat for this photo.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's Resolutions; Food Budgets; and Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

I read this post on Lifehacker about eating healthy foods and I hadn't quite formulated my New Year's resolution yet, but I'd been mulling it over. Technically you have all of January to decide, right?

Anyway I gave it some thought and my plan, goal or resolution for the year is to pare my food budget. It's out of control, and it's easy to get that way shopping at farmers' markets on a regular basis. Oh, I'll still be at the market every week, and I'll indulge in my favorite healthy foods and support local farmers, but I need to set limits since our income fluctuates and it got so low for the past few months, I need to get real about budgets.

I already cook at home ninety-nine percent of the time, but lately I've been giving a lot of thought to soup and how this humble healthy dish has fed the poor for centuries. Every cuisine around the world includes soup.

My idea is to make two nights a week soup nights. (Okay, stew and chile will count, too.) I love the creativity of making soup so it will be a fun project to come up with creative ideas every week. If you're new to soup making and want some tips (and a recipe for Mushroom Barley Soup with Merlot), check out my "Take 5 Column" in The Sound Observer from Marlene's Market and Deli in Tacoma. The soup recipe with the article is one from my cookbook.

Or you could make this fabulous sweet potato and kale soup that was inspired by a recipe in The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac, who says that this soup originally came from Portugal and is a favorite today in Brazil. I think my version will end up in my favorites for the year.

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup
(Serves 4)
Maria says her original recipe is meant to be served with a plate of sausage. Pass it around and everyone adds what they want to the soup. And while the recipe listed potatoes, I love the color of sweet potatoes or yams and that's what I had in my pantry, leftover from Ayers Creek farm at the Hillsdale Market. I had the frozen roasted tomatoes in my freezer. I'd splurged on Tuscan kale this week, so that's what I used.

1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 frozen, thawed roasted tomatoes, or 1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
4 to 6 cups water
1 large sweet potato or yam, chopped
1 potato, chopped
About 6 kale leaves, removed from stems and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers (optional)
Grated cheese or croutons for garnish (optional)

1. In a soup pot saute onion in oil over medium heat. When onions soften add garlic and stir for a few minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, water, sweet potato and potato. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in kale and cook until wilted.

2. Add salt and pepper to taste, Mama Lil's (if you like heat) and grated cheese or croutons, if desired.

My Cooking Assistant says he loves the idea of my New Year's resolution, but only if every meal is as good as this one. (However, I must confess, he'd be mighty excited if a plate of sausage meant to accompany the soup was passed his way. And he'd be unapologetic about eating it all.)

P.S. Do you have any meat-free recipes you'd like to share? My Cooking Assistant and I would appreciate some cool ideas.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Quinoa, Kale, and Carrot Salad with Apple-Honey Vinaigrette

I wanted to kick this fresh new year off right with a healthy salad like the one I made a few days ago for an article for The Sound Outlook for Marlene's Market and Deli. The recipe started with this cool cookbook called Fresh that I got from Cascade Harvest Coalition. Fresh is this small unassuming little book jam-packed with recipes any locavore would love. Also the proceeds from sales go to this great organization that has helped localize our food system in Washington.

The first recipe caught my eye--Dandelion Greens Salad with Honey Vinaigrette by Kerry Sears. More specifically it was the vinaigrette that captured my attention and made my imagination wander. Sherry vinegar, wildflower honey, Dijon mustard, horseradish, grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. I checked my pantry and found only apple cider vinegar from Rockridge Orchards, raspberry vinegar from Rent's Due Ranch and a bit of Fini balsamic vinegar.

The apple cider vinegar would have to do, so I set in on the counter. I wondered how a Newtown Pippin apple from Grouse Mountain Farm would taste when pureed into the mix and whether fresh horseradish root from Ayers Creek Farm would work. I set those ingredients out, too. I took out some honey from Tahuya River apiaries. I was surprised by the smooth creamy texture; the flavor was heavenly.

Kale and carrots replaced the dandelion greens and quinoa turned it into a whole meal salad. The vinaigrette could be doubled and used for other kinds of salads, if you like.

Here's the recipe:

Quinoa, Kale, and Carrots with Apple-Honey Vinaigrette
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 small, sweet, tart apple, cored and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon horseradish or 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons hazelnut or extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated carrots (about 2 medium size carrots)
2 cups thinly sliced kale, middle rib removed
1/2 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts (optional)
Grated carrots for garnish (optional)

1. In a small saucepan bring water to boil. Add quinoa and salt, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow grain to sit 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

2. While quinoa cooks, puree the apple vinegar, honey, mustard, horseradish and garlic in a blender until smooth and creamy. Blend in olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss vinaigrette with quinoa, carrots, and greens. Garnish with hazelnuts and carrots, if desired.

My Cooking Assistant gives it 4 paws up but says to lose the decorative kale. I'm fairly certain he would have been up for the bacon that the original recipe listed.

May 2011 be filled with fabulously healthy recipes.