Thursday, February 24, 2011

Healthy soup in 30 minutes? Yup!

My life seems to be all about quick dinners lately--At least until I get myself a new crock pot. Tonight, we arrived home from play practice starving so I put together this soup in 30 minutes. It was the perfect meal for a cold night and fed all four of us with just enough for the girls to take for lunch in thermoses tomorrow. I have this seasoning saute mix from Trader Joe's that I love . . . it's a blend of herbs and spices and is an easy way to spice up almost anything.

Quick Vegetable-Bean Soup

Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into half-moons
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 quart vegetable stock
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
2 cups chopped kale, cabbage, or spinach
1 (15-ounce) can cooked kidney beans (1 3/4 cups)
sea salt
black pepper
Seasoning mix (optional)

Coat bottom of large pot with olive oil and place over low heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Stir in celery, garlic, carrots and potatoes and sauté a few more minutes. Add vegetable stock. Cover and turn heat to high. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low. Simmer 10 minutes. Add cauliflower, kale (or cabbage or spinach), and beans. Cover and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Season with salt, pepper, and seasoning mix to taste.

Serves six

Friday, February 18, 2011

15-Minute Veggie Burger

We got home from dance practice and had 1/2 hour to cook and eat, before heading out to a play. Trying to see what I could make in a hurry, I came up with these veggie burgers--thanks to leftover rice and beans in the refrigerator. TIP: Whenever you cook rice or beans from scratch, ALWAYS MAKE EXTRA. There are so many ways to use the leftovers.

My kids absolutely loved these and they are so much healthier than storebought veggie burgers, plus they are free of soy, dairy, gluten, corn, and nuts! They get kind of lost in a big burger bun so you might want to put two burgers on the bun, but they are perfect in a pita pocket with sunflower sprouts. Since we had 2 burgers left over (no time for seconds!), I made the girls cold veggie burgers sandwiches (whole wheat bread, mayo, catsup, lettuce, and burger) for lunch and they said they were great. Next time, I will double the recipe and freeze some.

15-Minute Veggie Burgers

1 stalk celery
1 carrot
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (or other bean)
1 1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon tumeric powder
pinch paprika
oil for pan

Cut celery and carrot into chunks and place in a food processor with a metal blade. Process until the vegetables are minced. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until the mixture holds together but is still a little chunky.

Pour enough oil onto griddle or skillet to coat the bottom. Place over medium-low heat. Scoop 1/3 cupfuls of burger mixture onto hot skillet. Flatten to a burger shape. Let cook 5 minutes, or until bottom is brown and crisp. Do not turn to early or the burger will fall apart. Carefully turn the burger (it will be delicate), and cook another 5 minutes or so until crisp.

Makes 6 burgers

Note: These would also be great with other beans, spices, and vegetables

Monday, February 14, 2011

Slow cooker success at last!

Well -- mystery solved. I made the identical split pea soup recipe from the other day when the peas never softened but made it in a borrowed slow cooker. It was such a treat to come home Friday evening to a perfectly cooked dinner! And even better, this slow cooker had a removable canister so I could bring it to the table, and it was much easier to wash.

So, if you want to come home to a nourishing, delicious meal, here's my recipe:

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

1 smallish onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 potato, peeled and diced
2 cups dried split peas (green or yellow)
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Place all ingredients in slow cooker set to low. Cover and cook 8 to 12 hours. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Serves 8

Note: I also like to add 1 small head cauliflower, chopped (about 3 cups) when I have it on hand.

Oh . . . and this also works on the stovetop. Just simmer for about an hour before seasoning with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Hard to Cook Bean Mystery

I feel like I'm Nancy Drew trying to solve this mystery of the hard beans. When I got home at 10 pm Monday night and the lentils were still hard, I just transferred the whole thing to a pot and stuck in in the refrigerator to deal with later. On Tuesday, when I got home from work, I tried cooking the soup on the stovetop . . . after 2 hours, the lentils were a little softer but definitely not soft enough so I pureed the soup with my immersion blender and added some diced tomatoes and frozen corn. The soup tasted good enough . . . but still not the lentil soup I had been envisioning.

To try to narrow down the problem I wanted to see if the problem might be old beans . . . or maybe even our hard water. I
had some uncooked lentils left so I cooked them from scratch on the stove top. Within 30 minutes, they were soft and perfect.

So to recap, I proved that it's not the beans and not our water . . . it must be the crock pot. But what's really weirding me out is why the lentils didn't soften eventually--not even when I transferred them to the stovetop. It's like there was something that permanently hardened them. I know adding acidic foods can do that but I didn't. I didn't add salt either which some say can keep the beans hard. So, must be the crock pot right?

We'll see. I have borrowed a crock pot from a friend so I will try that next.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Slow Cooker Blues

For the third time my family ended up having sandwiches for dinner because after more than 12 hours of cooking, we still had hard beans in the crockpot. First it was the split peas . . . and I was like okay because I've had problems with split peas before . . . but then the onions in my barley soup that had been wonderful the week before were raw . . . and last night it was lentils that were hard. And according to my health food store, the lentils had come in in December . . . less than 2 months ago.

So is it the beans or are the cooking times I finding on the Internet wrong (maybe I should cook on high instead of low?) or could it possibly be my crockpot? Before I plunk down money for a new one, a friend will loan me hers so I can do a test.

But really . . . I'm getting tired of wasting time and ingredients on an appliance that is supposed to save me work!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Samosas and Pinto Bean Cakes

Another fun day of recipe creation . . .

I'd been wanting to try making samosas for a while and finally had the time. I boiled potatoes and carrots and then mashed them with curry and added green peas. Then made a batch of pastry to make the turnovers. They came out good, but were quite a bit of work. I had some leftover filling and since I was frying up some pinto bean cakes, I figured I'd shape the leftover filling into patties and fry them up to an--WOW! So good! I think that might become my chosen recipe . . . I can totally see them with some homemade chutney and some nondairy plain yogurt. I guess chutney experiments will be next. I've never made one.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Versatile Bloggers Award!

I just found out I've been given The Versatile Blogger Award by the wonderful author/blogger Anne R. Allen!

Apparently the rules are I tell you 7 things about myself, so here goes:

1) I love to read . . . and really I'd get a lot more writing done if that weren't the case. I read about 3 books a week. Check me out on goodreads if you want to see what I'm reading.

2) I'm a library tech in charge of an elementary school library and I love it! It's my dream job (see number 1).

3) I also review books for the Amazon Vine Program, VegFamily Magazine, and occasional other venues--another dream job (again see number 1).

4) I've written a middle-grade novel featuring homeschooled characters and am currently searching for an agent to represent it (in case you know anyone . . .)

5) I've recently started writing a new cookbook of vegan family recipes which I am very excited about. It will be similar to The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook -- simply, family-friendly, whole foods recipes.

6) I love to cook but sometimes I wish I didn't have to. Luckily, my daughters are become quite good cooks!

7) My special relaxation when someone else volunteers to cook: A cup of green tea with a splash of coconut creamer and a square of Green and Black dark chocolate. Oh, and a book of course!

And now . . . my pick for the Versatile Blogger: Alisa Fleming of Alisa Cooks!