Monday, April 28, 2014

Lemon-Basil White Bean Soup

To make our food budget work, we eat soup a lot.  In fact, soup is so often on our menu, it was really easy to blog about for a year in the soup project.  But I have secret.  I'm a long time soup lover and it's one of my favorite breakfasts. So I'd been dreaming about a white bean soup for awhile, but I was against adding any canned tomatoes. It's a sign I'm tired of winter-early spring fare in the Northwest.  My other option for "something sour" is lemon.  Basil is a perfect pairing for  a spring white bean soup.

You can use small white, navy, or cannellini beans.  I love beans from Willie Green's Organic Farm. And I've gotten them many times, but if you're looking for budget items these days, you can also use white beans from the Grocery Outlet if you want because this soup is about a symphony, not a solo performer. 

I don't use prepared vegetable broth or stock--it's just a pricey way to sell water.  You can make decent soup without any stock at all if you include, carrots, celery and onion and make sure to balance 5 flavors--salty, sweet, spicy (hot), bitter, and sour.   For sweetness I like to add sweet potato and cook it just enough so it begins to fall apart in the soup.

You can still find sweet potatoes at the market or you can check for the best price in grocery stores.  I love the local variety, but sweet potatoes are one of the "clean 15," along with asparagus, eggplant and kiwi.  

The "clean 15" means they are okay to purchase as non organic, according to the Enviromental Working Group.  So if you see a non organic sweet potato price bargain and you're on a food budget, go for the deal. 

Another farm vendor I love at the market is Olsen Potato Farm.  Their well-tended varieties make eating potatoes fun.  My favorite is the Purple Majesty with purple flesh inside purple skins.  Any red potatoes will do in this soup, but you might want to consider organic since potatoes are always on the "dirty dozen," list and no one needs extra pesticides with their soup.

I get my shiitaki mushrooms at Sno-Valley Mushrooms.  But if you can't get Sno-Valley mushrooms, you can often find decent quality at natural food stores.  You can also use regular button mushrooms if you have a tighter budget than mine.  This soup is just as delicious with less expensive mushrooms.

Here's this week's recipe.  I hope you like it as much as I do.   My Cooking Assistant of course gave his lick of approval.

Lemon-Basil White Bean Soup
(Serves 4)
When you sautee the onions, don't let them brown much.  A brown color will transfer to your soup and this soup looks best with the orange glow of sweet potatoes.

1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, red or yellow, peeled and diced
1/4 cup chopped red or green pepper
4 or 5 shiitaki mushrooms, tough stems removed and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 potato diced
1/2 sweet potato, diced
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 to 5 cups water
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup dry white or navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1 bunch spinach, tough stems removed and chopped
Sea salt to taste

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat.  Add oil, onion and peppers.  Stir and cook until onions soften.  Add mushrooms and garlic and continue to stir and cook until garlic begins to brown.  

Add carrot, potato, sweet potato and Mama Lil's peppers.  Stir to coat vegetables, then add thyme, water, white beans, and thyme.  Cover and simmer on low for one hour or until beans are soft. 

Add olives and basil.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Then add lemon juice.  Place the spinach in the bottom of the soup bowl.  Ladle soup over the leaves and stir to wilt the spinach.  Add sea salt to taste.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kale, Potatoes and Green Garlic

With spring kale, green garlic, shiitaki mushrooms, potatoes and a hint of lemon this dish is a breath of spring (without the sneezing and allegies, of course.)

I could have used something more exotic than kale and I do get excited by the new greens that come to the market in during the spring, but my heart belongs to kale. This week it was Red Russian. It's the variety I also like to grow because it's tender and tasty.

I got a great looking bunch of kale at Whistling Train Farm. I can't wait till my own plants in the garden are a little bigger.

I got green garlic too, but wasn't sold on any recipe in particular to pair them with until I saw the potato decorations at Olsen Farms.

Who can resist this cool display? Mr. Potato Head had morphed into Potato Bunnies.

Every holiday they have a different display at Olsen Farms.  This photo is from Halloween.

The potatoes at Olsens may be a little more costly than organic potatoes in the store, but if you think all potatoes are the same, you haven't tasted Olsen's potatoes.  My favorite is the Purple Majesty.  

I like to think they have more antioxidants with the purple flesh and skins and some experts verify this idea.  In fact, there have been reports about the purple antioxidants in the potatoes as beneficial in colon cancer.

With low carb diets all the rage now, potatoes get a bad rap.

Another must add ingredient--shiitaki mushrooms from Sno-Valley. You know these have lots of health benefits.

My Cooking Assistant likes greens so much he mistakenly removed the tops of our strawberry plants in one garden bed just last week.  I couldn't really blame him because he was practically weaned on greens and strawberry greens are one of his favorites.

New flash:  for those of you who are lazy chefs like me, this super easy recipe is one to add to your recipe line up.  And for budget shoppers, this one won't break your budget.  If you can get your kale and green garlic from the garden it's even more economical.  I recommend getting your potatoes in the ground now, too.  Be sure to move them from last year's potato patch because they can attract pathogens in the soil if you leave them in the same spot evey year.  In fact, potatoes can get so many diseases and problems, I'm amazed they remain so cheap in grocery stores.  They must really spray the non organic potatoes.

I count myself lucky that we have great farmers like Olsen's farm who keep heirloom potatoes going.

Kale, Potatoes, and Green Garlic
(Serves 4)

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup sliced green garlic
8 ounces shiitaki mushrooms, tough stems removed and sliced
1 tablespoon Mama Lil's Peppers
1/2 cup chopped seitan chunks, chicken style (try West Soy)
4 to 6 purple or red waxy potatoes, diced
1 bunch of kale (any variety), stem removed and chopped
2 tablespoons apple cider or juice.
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Sea salt to taste

1. Saute onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil until they soften.  Add mushrooms, peppers and seitan chunks.  Cover and cook on low or remove from heat until potatoes are nearly done.

2. Preheat oven to 375F.  Toss potatoes with remaining oil and place them in a single layer in a baking pan. Roast potatoes for 25 to 30 minutes.  When potatoes have about 10 minutes left, add kale to mushrooms and green garlic.  Add apple cider, cover and steam for about 5 minutes.  Stir.  When potatoes are done, add them to the mixture. 

3. Drizzle with lemon juice.  Add salt to taste.

Serve with a green salad and crusty artisan bread.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rhubarb-Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Like any seasonal fruit or vegetable, when rhubarb first comes to the market it can be pricey.  Whether you give in to temptation early is up to you, and your budget, but I splurged this weekend.  I'm actually trying to budget and I have no excuse for this indulgence. It was a pure impulse. I offer no apologies, but I had no idea what to even make with my rhubarb. It was just so beautiful, I couldn't resist.   

I considered a side dish but always came back to pairing rhubarb with  pineapple.  I'm not the first to imagine the flavors. Nothing much is brand new these days.

Check these out if you're interested:

It's nothing I would pick but here's a pineapple rhubarb upside down cake at All Recipes with jello and mini marshmallows.  And an interesting  pineapple-rhubarb pie also at All Recipes.  How about an odd pineapple-rhubarb custard pie that includes balsamic vinegar and mustard?  (Not the image I conjure when the title says custard, that's for sure.)  My favorite find was this pineapple-rhubarb salsa in the New York Times--maybe I'll make a salsa next time.

Like I said, nothing new.  Just unique tweaks on old recipes. 

I like rhubarb when it's really red and at Rockridge Orchards Wade Bennett had mouthwatering red rhubarb.  I think the red hooked me.

My Cooking Assistant is not impressed.  It's a good thing because rhubarb is toxic to dogs. He really is smart about some things. He definitely has the best nose around.

He's definitely interested in the pineapple. You could probably use canned pineapple for this, most upside down cakes use canned pineapple.  We always use fresh when we can.

I like the way the cake looks, with cracks.  Like an earthquake cake.  I've made this recipe with nectarines and pie cherries.  This was a first with rhubarb.  Just goes to show you how a recipe could shift with the seasons. I like the top tastes when it browns. The flour is caramelized and sweet.

Rhubarb-Pineapple Upside Down Cake
(Makes one 8-inch or 9 by 7-inch pan)

2 cups sliced rhubarb
2 cups bite-size chunks of fresh pineapple
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange or tangerine juice
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1/3 cup soy, coconut, almond or rice milk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg beaten or egg replacer* for 1 egg

Combine rhubarb, pineapple, 1/2 cup orange juice and arrowroot in a medium saucepan.  Stir until well blended.  Heat gently and stir continuously until arrowroot thickens the mixture.  The mixture should be fairly thick.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly oil cake pan on the bottom and sides.  Mix the soymilk and 1 tablespoon orange juice.  Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and soda, sifting into a medium mixing bow. Stir to make sure the ingredients are well blended. In another bowl, cream the oil and sugar (Florida crystals).  Blend until soft and creamy. Stir in egg or egg replacer.  Then mix the milk and oil and egg mixture into the flour.

Place an even layer of fruit mixture on the bottom of the cake pan. Spread the cake over the mixture.  Bake for 40 minutes or until cake is browned on top and springs back lightly when you touch it.

Cool, then flip the cake over to serve.  Serve with coconut sorbet.

*Egg replacer--
Combine 1 tablespon ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water.  Blend until frothy.  (Hint: it's easier to make a replacer for more than one egg.  Store the remaining replacer in the refrigerator and use within a week.)

Pineapple-Rhubarb Upside Down Cake with Coconut Sorbet

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yam and Mushroom Taco Sliders

With only a small time frame to make dinner, I pulled out my weekly menu, which looked suspiciously like last week's menu. I listed taco sliders as a main dish, but I'd been in a hurry when I wrote down my ideas and I had just picked my favorite foods, thinking I could revise it later. It seemed just like yesterday I'd blogged about taco sliders with this post on roasted vegetables. 

It wasn't exactly last week, but still I'd already blogged them. Magazine editors routinely reject ideas when they've dong them before.  But were is the rule that says you can't repeat ideas on your own blog? 

I mulled over using the mixture with rice, quinoa. baked potatoes and even pizza, which I did blog about last week.

But taco sliders are my current favorites, so use what you want for a base for this vegetable blend, but seriously, what can't you put on a taco slider?  It's becoming my new mantra.

They take about 20 minutes, tops.

I buy these mushrooms every week, so they were first on my list for taco sliders. These fresh shiitaki mushrooms from the market, are better than you can find at any grocery or natural foods store in Seattle.

Next I added  arugula because I found some tempting small bundles of it at Mair Farm-Taki.  Use your own favorite fresh spring greens from a market vendor, or fresh from your garden. Spicy mustard greens would also be a winner in this combination.  Spinach is a little on the bland side.

One thing is certain,  I'm planting more arugula this year.  For one thing, it tends to be pricey at the markets early in the spring; for another, it is one of those greens that grows well in the Pacific Northwest.  

Get your arugula seeds and starts going now.


All the other ingredients, I found in my pantry--onions, a sweet potato, some leftover celery, garlic, Field Roast, and sundried tomatoes.

I was in such a hurry I forgot to add herbs and spices, so I got out some fresh salsa to add as a dollop on top.These were so good, my husband tucked leftovers in a burrito for lunch and I had the rest for breakfast.

Yam and Mushroom Taco Sliders
(Serves 4)

1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola or extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 or 2 stalks celery, sliced
8 ounces shiitaki mushrooms, tough stems removed
2 cloves garlic, pressed
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup, sliced Field Roast apple sausage or vegan sausage
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's Peppers or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
2 to 4 cups chopped arugula
Sea salt to taste
Fresh salsa for garnish

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat.   Add the onions and oil.  Stir and cook until the onions begin to brown.  Add the sweet potatoes, celery, mushrooms and garlic.  Stir.  If mixture is dry add a tablespoon of water.  Then cover and steam the vegetables, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften. 

Add the sundried tomatoes, Field Roast and Mama Lil's Peppers or pepper flakes.   Continue to cook for a few minutes, then remove from heat and add arugula.  Stir until wilted and serve.  Add sea salt to taste.

Not even my Cooking Assistant could resist the lure of these taco sliders