Monday, January 19, 2015

Dirt to Table Experiences: Old-Fashioned Vegetable Beef Soup

A walk through my winter garden beds reveal damaged leaves from late evenings of below freezing temperatures, soggy root systems caused by the deluge of rain that quickly followed.  A bed of stunning bok choy was given up as a sacrifice to save my large head cabbages from pesky garden pests.  Mother Nature was not kind this season.  I have put my hands up and surrendered to her wrath.  As a tease to call me to the spring garden she left a few gems of cabbage, broccoli and carrots untouched in the garden.

One of the most amazing dishes to create from seasonally available vegetables is a great pot of soup, and nothing beats a good old-fashioned vegetable beef soup.  This soup is loaded with colorful vegetables and provides comfort on a cold night, or any occasion is perfect.

The recipe below is delicious, hearty and dependable.  Don't hesitate to alter the vegetables you use in this recipe, change it up for what is locally available or in season.



Vegetable Beef Soup
Makes 6 hearty servings



Ingredients:
1 lb. ground chuck
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 cups chopped green cabbage
4-5 medium carrots sliced (thick cut) 
1 yellow or red bell pepper, diced
1 cup cut green beans frozen or fresh
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 teaspoons, each dried oregano, basil and thyme
2 cups peeled and diced russet potatoes
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add beef, brown, and transfer cooked hamburger to a bowl and set aside.

Add onions and garlic to the Dutch oven and sweat over medium heat until softened, 5 minutes.  Stir in cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, celery, basil, thyme and oregano. Partially cover and cook until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in broth, tomatoes, broccoli florets, green beans and Worcestershire sauce.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer partially covered until potatoes are tender, 15 minutes.

Serve now or later. You can even freeze it.

Enjoy!







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Friday, January 2, 2015

Savoring the Season: Preserved Meyer Lemons

It's That Time of Year!  If you have been following my blog you already understand the excitement when the Meyer Lemons on my backyard tree are ready to harvest.

Meyer lemons are the sweethearts of the citrus kingdom.  A mature tree can produce hundreds of lemons in one season. What do you do with a few hundred lemons?  You share, bake, freeze, make cocktails and finally, you preserve them.

Preserving Meyer Lemons (or any lemon variety) is simple. There are only two ingredients Lemons and Salt. The only hard part is waiting 4 weeks for them to be ready to use.  Preserved lemons are excellent in soups, stews and salads. Your preserved lemons will last up to a year in your refrigerator once they are ready to use.


Preserved Meyer Lemons
Makes 1 Quart
Recipe Adapted from Fine Cooking


Ingredients:
6-8 large organic Meyer lemons (Any variety of lemons will work)
1/2 cup kosher salt

Directions:
Sterlize a quart size canning jar  in boiling water or run it through the dishwasher to sterilize.
Cut 6 of the lemons lengthwise into 6 wedges each and remove the seeds.  Put about 2 Tbs. of salt in the jar and put 6 wedges on top.  Press down on the wedges with a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon to partially juice and compact them.  Repeat in layers with remaining lemon wedges and salt.  Squeeze enough juice from the remaining lemons to cover the lemons in the jar.  Close the jar with the lid.

Keep at room temperature for 4 weeks, inverting the jar about once a day to mix the salt and juice, and adding more fresh lemon juice as necessary to keep lemons covered.  After 4 weeks, they're ready to use.  Rinse the lemons throughly before using.  The peel and flesh are both edible.  Store refrigerated for up to a year.

Enjoy!
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Eat Your Greens: Vegetarian "Southern Style" Collard Greens

"Almost any southerner who is a respectable cook has a recipe for collard greens" 

There is history in this pot of leafy greens which is firmly rooted in the African-American communities of the deep south.  Family recipes are handed down from generation to generation.  Collard greens have been available for centuries but it was in the South that collard greens evolved and became part of present day southern cuisine.

Collard greens are slowly cooked producing a "low gravy" and often cornbread is dipped into the concentrated flavorful broth.  If you have never enjoyed collard greens, you are missing out on something really special.

My garden became my foundation for the inspiration to learn how to prepare real southern greens. Collard greens thrive in the mild southern winters and the first frost always adds a sweetness to the leafy greens.  Bending down in the soil to clip the large leafy green leaves from my plant it is understood "soul" is an essential element in the preparation of a pot of greens.  There have been countless pots of collard greens over the last two years in an honest effort to present a pot of greens worthy of respect.  Creating a savory broth with a slight kick is the goal.  I experimented using smoked turkey wings and necks, bacon, to the traditional ham hocks. There were a few hot sauces and pepper vinegars too.

A vegetarian version of collard greens cooked slowly in a rich vegetable broth flavored with onion and garlic, sautéed in olive oil with a pat of butter with a pinch of red pepper flakes would prove to be my pot of collard greens worthy of respect.

There is no meat but there is no sacrificing of flavor here. I think the southerners would agree.




Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. 
~Dorothy Day


Vegetarian "Southern Style" Collard Greens
Serves 4-6
Recipe adapted from Sunny Anderson

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 pound collard greens, chopped 
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into large chunks (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
 In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil and butter.  Sauté the onions until slightly softened, about 2 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes and garlic, cook another minute.  Add collard greens and cook another minute.  Add vegetable stock, cover and bring to a simmer.  Add carrots. Cook until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.  Add tomatoes, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy!
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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Savoring the Season: Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples

The pleasure of simple, warm comfort foods this time of year is irresistible. With cooler weather comes new cravings.  Cravings for heartier and more substantial dishes (think homemade mac n' cheese, mashed potatoes, creamy soups, chicken pot pie and meat loaf).  We might crave comforting classic dishes but we don't like piling on the pounds that can stick around long after the winter thaw.

This easy to prepare pork tenderloin is a one pot wonder.  The dish highlights the flavors of fall with warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander.  Add the sweetness of fresh apples, followed by a savory addition of shallots and thyme, and you have a feeling of satisfaction and comfort without guilt.

If you are thinking about cooking up some healthier options this holiday season consider adding this one to your recipe file.


Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples
Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Cooking Light



Ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 pieces
Cooking Spray
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced unpeeled Braeburn or Gala apple
1/3 cup chopped shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple cider or unprocessed apple juice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions:
1.  Heat a large heavy skillet  over medium high heat.  Combine first 5 ingredients; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over pork.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.  Remove pork from pan; keep warm.

2.  Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat.  Add apple slices, shallots, salt; saute 4 minutes or until apple starts to brown.  Add apple cider or juice to pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until apple is crisp tender.  Stir in thyme leaves.  Serve apple mixture with the pork.

Enjoy!


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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and Reflections on Turning Fifty

They tell me that 50 is the new fabulous…..Do I believe them?  Maybe.   I know that I am closer to death than I am to birth.  A reminder that life has a finite span.  This thought both sobers me and liberates me.  Makes me stop and think often of what's important, what's not.

I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted to eat, HELL NO, not anymore.  DITTO on eating after 9:00 p.m.   Love jalapeno poppers, ate six of them recently, had a burn for six days.

This new decade has given me the freedom to make new choices and the courage to do them.  I prefer the "complex" to the "complicated"  complex is so much more interesting.  I am a bit more daring, more adventorous and more loving.  I believe now I have experience and wisdom to share….Whoa, when did I arrive there (laugh).  I am hopeful that I will take my new decade to continue to explore and discover the world around me with a focus on making a difference.

So, my first fifty-year old blog post is going to start with ridding myself of the frozen overripe bananas in my freezer.  I am in a vicious cycle.   I buy them, they sit to long on my counter, and I throw them in a ziploc bag in my freezer, and before I know it, I am being over run with mystery date bananas.  A experienced fifty year old might simply unload her freezer full of bananas into the waste can and be done-but, I am a young fifty year old still exploring her options.

The recipe calls for using a 12-count muffin pan.  Hey, I am fifty and I used a 6-count mini-bundt pan.


Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12
Recipe from Epicurious



Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1 large egg
1/2 cup unslated butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line twelve 1/3 cup muffin cups with muffin liner.  Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in medium bowl.  Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended (do not over mix).  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 25-30 minutes.  Transfer muffins to rack and cool.

Enjoy!


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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dark Chocolate Black Bean Brownies

I would have probably raised my eyebrow had it been mentioned that black beans would be a healthy alternative ingredient to flour in brownies. It would have been difficult to imagine.  Obviously I am behind in the baking times…Not anymore. I am a believer. With the rise in sensitivity to gluten it has become known that bean flour or in this case A Can of BEANS is a good alternative to white flour for cakes, muffins and BROWNIES!

The jackpot has been won with this one bowl, one pan delight.  I love to bake when I don't have to think too hard, and when dessert has an opportunity to be enjoyed as a guilt-free pleasure.


Dark Chocolate Black Bean Brownies
Serves 10
Recipe from Rebecca Andexler

Ingredients
1 can (15-ounces) Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 piece of parchment paper
Butter, softened for greasing pan

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Line 8"X 8"X 2" baking pan with parchment paper and grease with butter

3.  Combine Black Beans, chocolate chips, flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, butter and vanilla extract in bowl of food processor.

4.  Secure food processor lid and blend until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.

5.  Spread batter evenly into prepared baking pan, using rubber spatula to scrape batter from bowl.  If desire, sprinkle chocolate chips and walnuts evenly over top.

6.  Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of brownie comes out clean.

7.  Remove pan from oven and allow brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Enjoy!
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Easy Lemon Cookies

One bowl,  five ingredients,  a roll in confectioners sugar, what is not to love. 


Easy Lemon Cookies
Makes 15-18 
Recipe from allrecipes.com 


Ingredients:
1 box (16-18 ounces) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners sugar

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2.  Pour cake mix into a large bowl.  Add eggs, oil, and lemon extract until well blended.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners sugar.  Roll them around until they are lightly covered.  Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3.  Bake for 6-9 minutes in the preheated oven.  The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy.

Enjoy!



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