Thursday, October 27, 2011

Black Bean Soup

This is a new recipe and it's a keeper.  The secret ingredient is sun-dried tomatoes. They come in jars packing in oil or water as well as in vacuum-packed plastic containers but I always buy the plastic containers - i think it's cheaper.

For the record, I cut this recipe in half because I was only cooking for my dad and myself. It worked great simply doing half of everything

Black Bean Soup
-Moosewood Restaurant  Cooks At Home
(sorry, no picture!)

10 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)

11/2 C finely chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, minced

1 tsp ground cumin
1/3 C water
3 C un-drained whole canned tomatoes (28 0z can)
4 C black beans (2 16oz cans) **

V8 juice 
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro

**The recipe said not to drain your beans. I personally like to drain mine - especially if they are not the "no salt added" variety - but feel free to go whichever way you prefer

First, boil about a cup of water and pour it over the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Set the aside to soften. 

Meanwhile, saute the onion, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil in a large soup pot. Allow them to cook over medium heat for about five minutes until the onions are translucent. Next add the 1/3 C water, cumin, and juice from the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the tomatoes right in the can using a knife against the walls - don't ruin a good knife though! Add the tomatoes to the pot and bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer the mixture for about five minutes.

Take the sun-dried tomatoes from the hot water and chop them into thin strips. Add the black beans and sun-dried tomatoes to the pot and cook for another five to ten minutes. 

Stir in the cilantro. Puree about half of the soup mixture using either a food processor, a blender, or your trusty immersion blender. Recombine the pureed mixture with the original mixture. The soup will most likely need a little liquid, so feel free to add as much V8 (or other tomato juice) as you need. It should be pretty thick, but not too chunky. (In my half recipe, I added an entire mini can of V8 juice)

Heat the soup a little if needed, and enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fresh Tomato, Lentil, and Onion Soup

 This is a quick, healthy, and dependable soup. This is one of my favorites and it's popular with everyone in my household. The herbs de Provence are key to the flavor, so if you don't have in any in your kitchen I wouldn't try to replace it. This soup is great for chilly nights with warm crusty bread and a green salad.

Tomato, Lentil, and Onion Soup
-The Cook's Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking

Here's the picture from my cookbook. For once, the soup actually turns out just as the picture shows it :)
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 celery ribs, chopped
3/4 to 1 C split red lentils (dry)
2 large tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
33/4 C vegetable stock
2 tsp herbs de Provence (don't skimp!)
salt and pepper to taste

First heat some olive oil in a large soup pot and saute the onions and celery for about five minutes over medium heat. When the vegetables begin to get tender and aromatic, add the lentils and cook for one minute more. Add the tomatoes, stock, herbs, and a little salt and pepper. Cover the pot, bring it t a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils are tender, stirring as needed.

Allow the soup to cool a bit, and then it's time to puree! If you have an immersion blender this is a perfect time to use it (and if you don't, this is a perfect reason to buy one...they're AMAZING). If not, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender. Process the soup until it reaches a consistency that appeals to you - I go until there are no large tomato or onion chunks but there is still a little bit of texture.

Serve the soup in a pretty bowl and garnish with parsley for a beautiful display.

About the immersion blender - I absolutely love this little tool that my father bought a couple of years ago. This is the one I have: KitchenAid Immersion Blender
There are tons on the market though and  it's definitely worth looking into. They are easy to clean and perfect for mixing and pureeing pretty much anything.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Maple-Glazed Tofu

I had this at a friends house and loved it, so I made it the other night with stir fry for my family. It would go well with anything --the recipe I used actually called for it to be served with Spaghetti squash.

I learned something about making tofu that seems like it should have been obvious when making this recipe. I've tried everything, from pressing for hours on end to pre-baking the tofu in the oven, but I could never quite get the firm texture I was looking for. Turns out, all you have  to do is slice it thinly and cook it in a sauce pan like a burger...

Maple-Glazed Tofu via Rory McGuinness

1 C chicken broth
2 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs apple cider
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tbslemon juice
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon cold water

1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry*
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

*You can cut the tofu first or leave it in the whole block to drain it. I usually cut it first. See the directions for draining tips.

Slice the tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Then cut each slab into little bite-size squares. To drain, place the tofu on a few sheets of paper towel and press down firmly. You may need to do this a few times with fresh paper towel to drain enough of the liquid. If you have time, after the initial draining you can place a cookie sheet on top of the tofu and weight it down for a while with cans to allow the moisture to seep out even more.  

Stir together the broth, syrup, cider, soy sauce, lemon juice, and garlic in a skillet. Boil the mixture for about 5 minutes, then whisk in the cornstarch and whisk it until the glaze thickens, about 1 to 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, laying each piece in, and cook it on each side for about 3 to 5 minutes, until it's getting crispy and golden brown. 
Drizzle the glaze on the tofu and serve!

Here is the link if you're interested: Maple-Glazed Tofu with Spaghetti Squash

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cinnamon-Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Yesterday, being such a beautiful autumn day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, my sister and I were craving fresh picked apples and the flavors of fall. We decided to take my classic "Healthy Oatmeal Cookies" recipe and  morph it into the perfect fall cookie. Dee-licious.

Use any fresh apple you'd like in these cookies. I personally love Gala apples, and freshly picked Michigan Honey Crisps would also work well. 

Cinnamon-Apple Oatmeal Cookies
~One Hundred Percent Made Up

This is an easy recipe to post, because to make these cookies you pretty much just follow the directions for my regular oatmeal cookies (find the recipe here)

Here are the only changes to the recipe:

Add ~ 1 tsp cinnamon to the dry ingredient mixture, or more if you'd like
Replace the 1 C raisins with ~1 C finely diced apples (1 -2 apples)
Add ~3/4 C  chopped pecans or other nut of choice (optional)

I've only made these once, but they came out great. I wasn't in my kitchen, so I didn't have and wheat germ or vanilla extract but I will definitely include both (as the recipe does) next time I make them. Bake time is pretty much the same, but with this version of the recipe be sure to let the cookies cool sufficiently so that they set up well.

Enjoy these with a glass of milk or mug of warm cider :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peanut Butter...'nuff said

Being a protein-seeking vegetarian, peanut butter is one of my main food groups. It's great as a snack, as a flavoring agent for curries and stir fries, on a sandwich, and spread onto fruits and veggies. This delicious treat is high in protein and, if you use the right kind, it's an optimal source of "good fat". This brings two questions: "What is the 'right kind?" and "What kind of fat is actually 'good'?"

Let's look at the fat question first. Fat is actually very important to the diet, and certain types - what I call the "natural ones - are vital to our health. These types include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which among other things actually help to lower cholesterol. Fats to avoid include saturated fats and trans fats - anything with the word "hydrogenated". 
Guess what types of fat are found in peanuts? The good kinds, of course!

Knowing what we do about fat, the second question, asking which type of peanut butter is best, can be easily answered. My rule is, always opt for the least processed option. This holds true for peanut butter as well. Natural peanut butters are made from just peanuts and a touch of salt. By limiting the ingredients to just these two natural items, all of the extra sugar and oils (sources of hydrogenated fats) are cut out. 
Thus, all you have to do when shopping for peanut butter next time is to find a label that says "Natural", double check that the ingredients include only peanuts and salt, and you're good to go.

My favorite brand is Smucker's, just because you can find it everywhere. Here are some other common brands:

One other thing to remember: you should have to stir. Some brands market "No need to stir" natural peanuts butters. I may be incorrect, but that seems like an oxymoron...If you look at the ingredients, these types usually have a little something extra added. Go for the jars that say "stir and enjoy", because after you stir them once and incorporate all of the oils, just pop it in the fridge and it will stay mixed anyway.

I have been looking into making my own peanut butter, and it actually looks really easy if you've got some peanuts and a food processor. Here is a link to homemade peanut butter. I've looked at a lot of websites, but this is the simplest recipe I could find. I always go for simple, but feel free to look around for some others.

Try it out...I'm going to!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Zucchini-Quinoa Lasagna

This is a great spin on classic lasagna - replace the noodles with zucchini strips and the meat with quinoa!  I made this for the first time tonight, and we loved it.

Zucchini-Quinoa Lasagna
- Vegetarian Times, July/August 2011
2 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 12 1/4 inch slices

2 C vegetable broth
1 C quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 C tomato sauce
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 C each fresh basil leaves and fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbs cream cheese (optional) *
25 oz jar marinara sauce**
1/2 C shredded mozarella cheese

*I used a little bit of cottage cheese instead. Either  or neither works

**I never use pre-made marinara sauce. "Mariana" technically means seafood based, but nobody really pays attention to that...Anyway, I usually just make up some combination of tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian herbs, and perhaps some veggies such as onions or peppers. Often times I puree the mixture after it has cooked for a while to thicken it and make it smooth. Feel free to use a jar if you prefer though.

Preheat the oven to 400!
First, lay the zucchini slices out on paper towel and sprinkle them with about a teaspoon of salt and let them ssit and release their moisture. Meanwhile, combine the quinoa, onion, tomato sauce, oregano, and broth in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer, covered, for about 15 to 2 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Now it's time to assemble. Spoon about 1/3 C of the red sauce into a medium sized (about 8 inch) baking dish. Blot the zucchini dry to rid it of any extra moisture. Spread an even layer (4 slices) over the tomato sauce layer. Spread half of the quinoa on top, and add another layer of red sauce. Repeat this process, and end with an extra layer of zuchinni and red sauce, topped with the mozarella cheese. It only calls for 1/2 C but don't skimp - I put a little extra on top. :)

Bake it for about 20 minutes until it's bubbly and the zucchini is tender. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

These are the best cookies ever. They are low fat, full of oatmeal, and they taste great too!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
My Recipe

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 tbs butter
1/3 C apple sauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
~1/3 C wheat germ

2 C oats
1 C raisins*

First, beat the sugars and butter together with an electric mixer. When the mixture is fully combined, add in the egg, applesauce, and vanilla and mix on low until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and wheat germ. Combine this mixture with the applesauce mixture and stir it together by hand. (You don't want to over-mix the dry and wet ingredients)
Add the oats and raisins. Drop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake them for 10 to12 minutes, rotating the sheets half way through, at 375 degrees. When they are turning golden brown around the edges, take them out and allow them to cool on the sheets for about 2 minutes so that they set up completely. Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack. Keep them in an airtight container so that they stay soft for days.  

*If you want to, substitute chocolate chips, cherries, or any other tasty bits for the raisins!