Broccoli Asparagus Soup

Weather in Minnesota, particularly in the spring, is somewhat unpredictable. We’ve been on a weather rollercoaster of sorts over the past few weeks, with highs ranging from low 50s to low 80s. Today it’s hot, humid, and breezy as we’re expecting storms later, but a cold front moves in tomorrow and we’re only supposed to have highs in the mid- to upper-40s. I might have to get my wool coat out again…On the positive side, tomorrow is the perfect day for soup, and this one uses one of my favorite spring vegetables, asparagus.

Broccoli Asparagus Soup

Broccoli Asparagus Soup

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 (1-pound) bunch asparagus, woody stems snapped off and discarded, spears cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp round cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • a sprinkling of chives (optional topping)

Instructions

  1. Cut the leek in half and pull back and rinse the outer layers. Put the layers back together as best you can and slice the leek. Place into a large soup pot with 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth. Simmer on medium heat until tender.
  2. Add the garlic, potatoes, and the remainder of the broth. Bring to a boil and then add the broccoli, asparagus, cumin, and pepper. Bring to a boil again, then lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Once the vegetables are tender remove the pot from the heat and let the soup cool for 5 – 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into bowls, sprinkle with chives if desired, and enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Whole Foods Market

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French Onion Soup

My first experience eating French onion soup was memorable, and not in a good way. I was on a field trip with my French class, and French onion soup was one of those things we just HAD to try. I don’t remember if we got to pick our food option or not, but I don’t know that it would have mattered much as I had never had it before. It looked gross, all brown with a hunk of congealed-looking cheese on top; and it tasted gross, which may have had something to do with the fact that the cheese on top was probably Gruyere, which is definitely not my favorite. I’ve seen French onion soup on many a menu since then, but haven’t been gutsy enough to try it after the experience I had as a youngster.

After eating a bowl of this soup (with a thick slice of lentil bread and some melted mozzarella cheese on top), I’m convinced that I can like French onion soup. In fact, I would probably eat this for every meal forever if it didn’t take so much time to make and if it was a bit more nutritionally sound.

French Onion Soup

FOS 2

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds yellow onions
  • 3 tbsp non-dairy spread (I used Earth Balance)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 thick slice of bread, cut in half
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions in half top to bottom and peel off the outer layer(s) of skin. Thinly slice each half and then cut the slices in half. Transfer cut onions to a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt the non-dairy spread with the oil in a large saute pan or soup pot over low heat. When it starts to sizzle add the onions and stir to coat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Uncover the onions and stir in the salt, black pepper, and sugar. Cook, uncovered, over low to medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently and lowering the heat if they start to scorch. You can add a bit of liquid or oil to the pan if they seem to be sticking or scorching a lot.
  4. When the onions are golden brown heat the vegetable stock in a separate pan. Stir the flour into the onions and cook for another minute or two.
  5. Add the hot vegetable stock, bay leaves, and thyme to the onion mixture. Cook the soup over low heat, partially covered, for an hour or until it’s as thick as you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. If you’re going to add bread and cheese to the soup, now’s the time to do it. If you have oven-safe bowls you can place the bread and cheese right on top of the soup, otherwise place the bread on a baking sheet and top with the sliced cheese. Broil on high until the cheese gets bubbly and starts to brown.

You can make this vegan by not using the mozzarella cheese, or by using a non-dairy cheese alternative.

Source: Adapted from the kitchn.

Acorn Squash and Pecan Soup

I’ve mentioned my love of squash before, so it’s no surprise that I always seem to have one sitting around waiting to be used in some recipe or another. This time it was an acorn squash, and I wanted to use it to make something fit for a Minnesota winter (usually pretty cold this time of year, but we’ve been experiencing  a warm streak), something warm and comforting, AKA soup.

 Acorn Squash and Pecan Soup

Acorn Squash and Pecan Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder, divided
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin, divided
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup cannellini beans, drained and puréed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Mix the olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp chili powder, and 1/4 tsp cumin together in a small bowl. Brush the squash halves with the mixture and set cut side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Remove the squash from the oven and allow to cool. Meanwhile, place the pecans on a baking sheet and roast for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Once the squash has cooled scoop it out into a blender or food processor. Add the pecans, vegetable broth, agave nectar, and remaining spices. Blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and stir in the puréed cannellini beans. Cook over medium heat until heated through.

Source: Adapted from Food 52

Butternut Linguine with Crispy Sage

I’m sticking to my (mostly) vegan diet, and also trying to incorporate dietary restrictions due to a somewhat recent rosacea diagnosis. I’m still trying to figure out what my food triggers (things that make my face flush/make my rosacea worse) are, but I’ve heard that tomatoes are one food that can make rosacea worse, and I’ve had mixed results when I’ve eaten tomato products. It’s a tricky disease to figure out.

Anywho, I’ve been avoiding most tomato products for some time, which means no pasta with red sauce (one of my favorite things!). I stumbled upon this pasta recipe a few days ago while searching for ways to use up the butternut squashes sitting on my counter. While it’s definitely different than a tomato-based sauce, it’s still delicious. And, now I want to put crispy sage ON EVERYTHING. So. Good.

Butternut Linguine with Crispy Sage

Butternut 1

 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 to 4 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Sea salt and/or kosher salt
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 ounces whole grain linguine
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the sage and toss it around in the skillet so it’s coated with oil. Crisp it up, then remove from the pan and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Set aside for later.
  2. Add the squash, onion and garlic to the skillet. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the broth, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is nice and soft, 15 – 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions, until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta.
  5. Once the squash mixture is done cooking, remove it from the heat and let cool a bit. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Keep the skillet handy because you’ll be using it in just a bit.
  6. Combine the pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup water in the skillet and toss until the pasta is coated, adding more water as needed. You could also use almond milk for a creamier, nuttier pasta sauce.
  7. Top the pasta with the crispy sage before serving.

I can’t do spicy foods anymore, but if you want a bit more flavor feel free to add black pepper, cayenne, or whatever other spices suit your fancy.

This recipe makes A LOT of pasta. The original recipe says it yields four large servings but you could easily get six servings out of this (or more if you add a side like a nice spinach salad).

Source: Adapted from Cookie and Kate

Salmon Loaf

I had salmon for dinner the other night, and while I was looking for a new way to prepare it I came across several recipes for salmon loaf. This one sounded the most flavorful.

Salmon Loaf

Salmon loaf 1

Ingredients

  • 1 (14 3/4 ounce) can pink salmon, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves, finely shredded
  • 25-30 saltine crackers, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 to 11/2 tsp dried tarragon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Remove the skin and bones from the salmon, if desired. I like the extra flavor and texture so I leave them in.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the salmon, onion, garlic, spinach, and crackers. Add the sour cream, milk, and tarragon, and mix well.
  4. Scoop the salmon mixture into prepared loaf pan and pat down until firm. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, broiling for a few minutes at the end if you’d like more color on the top. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before digging in.

This dish is best when eaten within a few days of making it… some of the flavors change as it sits in the fridge, and I’ve found that it doesn’t taste quite as good.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Healthy Across America.

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is my favorite season. Cooler weather, crisp smell in the air, bonfires, apple orchard trips, fall colors… and the FOOD. Apples, squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts – so many tasty, healthy foods are in season in the fall. And there are so many great ways to prepare fall produce, too.

One of my favorite fall foods is squash, and I love the traditional ‘roast in the oven with butter and brown sugar’ technique. But some days I’m looking for something a little more filling (no pun intended!) than just the squash itself. If you search for “stuffed acorn squash” online you’ll find a ton of different recipes, many featuring some sort of grain/vegetable/protein mix. I tried brown rice, kale, and raisins a few days ago, but felt like the brown rice lacked the flavor and texture I was looking for. So, I decided to try farro, an ancient grain that I’ve used in a previous recipe, because I thought its nuttier, chewier texture would complement the other ingredients well.

Though I used the specified ingredients below, it’s really easy to change out the grains/greens/fruit that I used for other ingredients, as long as you account for any changes in prep time (if you’re going to use meat, for example). Personalize your recipe with whatever combination of ingredients appeals to you.

Farro-Stuffed Acorn Squash with Kale and Dried Cranberries

Stuffed squash

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup kale, torn into small pieces
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups prepared farro (I used the microwaveable kind because it’s quicker)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 tsp brown sugar, divided use

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place squash halves, skin side up, in baking dish or pie tins. Fill dish/tins with enough water so that it’s 1″ deep. Cook squash for 35-40 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Poke with a fork to check for doneness.
  2. When 12-15 minutes of cook time remain for the squash, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook the kale until it’s nice and wilted, about 2 minutes (this will depend on the size of your kale pieces). Remove from heat and let cool briefly.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the farro, kale, and cranberries, drizzling with a little bit of olive oil as you mix.
  4. When the squash is done, dump the water out of  the dish/tins and let cool for a minute or two. Place 2 tsp brown sugar in each half. Fill with the farro/kale/cranberry mix, packing it in with the back of a spoon as desired. You might have some left over filling – save it for another batch or just to eat later.
  5. Place the squash halves carefully back into the dish/tins (skin side down this time), and bake for another 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Source: Inspired by the kitchn, but recipe is my own culinary genius. ; )

Rice, Lentils, and Greens – Oh My!

Going on week three of the job hunt, and trying to do more cooking, even if it’s just throwing some stuff together for a quick dinner. That’s pretty much what I did last night, using some basic pantry staples and a few other ingredients to whip up a quick and delicious meal. You can sub other grains, protein, and/or greens in this recipe, adjusting cooking times as needed.

Quick Meal: Rice, Lentils, and Greens

Rice, Lentils, Greens

Yield: Approximately two servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice (I used the instant kind)
  • 1/2 cup pink lentils
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, divided use
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tbsp garlic scapes, minced
  • one large handful of baby spinach ( or other leafy greens)

Instructions

  1. Prepare rice as directed on box/bag, using vegetable broth in place of water. Set aside.
  2. Rinse and sort lentils, removing any rocks or debris. Pour lentils into a medium saucepan and add 1 to 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes,or until lentils have reached desired consistency.
  3. When lentils have about 5 minutes of cook time left, pour olive oil into small skillet. Add garlic scapes and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted.
  4. Combine rice, lentils, and spinach, and enjoy.

Source: My own culinary genius ; )