Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fall is right around the corner!

If this round of cool temps we've been experiencing is any indication I believe fall is on it's way, and I couldn't be happier about it. Don't get me wrong, I love long summer days, but the cool breezes and beautifully colored leaves of fall are my absolute favorites. Snuggling on the couch with a warm bowl of soup, stew or chili while listening to the roar of a football crowd can't be beat. Since the football season is well underway the only thing missing is some belly warming fare; thus, I've decided to post some recipes from my recent ventures in soup making. The best thing about them is that most stews and soups can be frozen for up to 4 months, so they can be enjoyed throughout the fall and winter.

Black Bean Soup with Andouille Sausage

I went to our local farmer's market yesterday and was thrilled to find fresh organic andouille sausage. However, once I got home I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it. I had planned to remove it from the casing and add it to the burgers I was making for dinner, but alas, the sausage was pre-cooked. Thus, I decided to add it to one of my favorite soups and was thrilled with the outcome.

1 lb bag of black beans or 2 (15 oz) cans, drained
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes with jalepeno peppers
1/2 lb diced andouille sausage
1/2 C diced onion
1/2 C diced celery
1/2 C diced carrots
1/2 C diced bell peppers, a variety of colors
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
juice of 1 lime
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Bring 5 cups of water to a boil, add black beans and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. After 1 hour, drain the beans.

In a slow cooker, combine beans, broth, tomatoes, sausage, onion, celery, carrots, peppers, cumin, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Add cilantro and lime juice.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and sliced avocado.

Zuppa Toscana

My boyfriend loves the Zuppa Toscana from the Olive Garden Restaurant, but we rarely eat there. Last week I surprised him by whipping up a pot of the soup. I made some adjustments to the recipe I found on-line to make it a little lower in fat and less oily. The result was a success!

Zuppa Toscana
1 lb. spicy turkey sausage, crumbled
1/2 lb. smoked bacon, chopped
1 qt. water
(2) 14.5 oz. cans (about 3 2/3 cups) chicken broth
2 lg. russet potatoes, scrubbed clean, cubed (skin on)
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 medium onion, peeled, chopped
2 cups chopped swiss chard
1 C. soy cream
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.

Cut fat off of bacon and brown in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain bacon and set aside.

Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender. Add sausage and bacon to pot; simmer for 10 minutes. Add kale and cream to pot; season with red pepper. Add salt and pepper to taste; heat through.

Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese. I served the soup with a crusty rosemary bread.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Veggie Soup

Here's yet another recipe from my aunt Michelle, maybe she needs to have a food blog! I love this recipe because I was able to make it with ingredients I had on hand from my vegetable and herb gardens. Also, whenever I have the opportunity I make and freeze chicken broth so I always have some available when I need it. Thus, I was able to make this soup without going to the grocery - gotta love that!

Soupe au Pistou

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 leeks (white & pale green parts only), thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
5 1/2 C chicken broth, or 1-48 oz can chicken broth
1- 15 1/2-19 oz can white or cannellini beans
6 small to medium Roma tomatos peeled and diced, or 1- 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 medium squash, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 lb green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces (~1 1/2 C)

Warm oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks, cooking about 3 minutes, until softened, stirring. Add garlic, cook 30 seconds more, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in next 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, uncovered. Add green beans, simmer 6-8 minutes longer until tender. Serve with 1 Tbsp pesto in each bowl.

Pistou = Pesto

2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 c pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the tube. Stop the motor when you have a thick, slightly chunky paste.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I don't do much baking these days, so you know when I do it's for something or someone I really love. In this case I was motivated by both my love of brownies and my love for my boyfriend. This is a fantastic, quick, easy recipe for brownies from scratch. They are heart healthy, but you wouldn't know it from the taste of them. Enjoy!

Sugar Dusted Mocha Brownies
Adapted from American Heart Association Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook

Vegetable oil spray
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp light stick margarine
1 Tbsp instant coffee crystals
1 C sugar
Egg substitute equivalent to 2 eggs, or 2 eggs
1/4 C prune baby food
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray an 8-inch square cake pan with vegetable oil cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, melt the margarine over medium-low heat. Stir in the coffee crystals until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the sugar, eggs, prunes and vanilla into the coffee mixture. Fold the cocoa mixture into the sugar mixture until well combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake uncovered, for 18-20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean.

Cool brownies in the pan on a wire rack. Sift confectioners' sugar over the brownies.

Tips: I used a tea steeper to sift the sugar over the brownies.
These brownies are cake-like so they are really tastey when served with ice cream.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wheat Berry Delight

I have been reading about the wonders of Wheat Berries and have been searching my local grocer for weeks to locate them. I was eager to put this grain to use. You see, wheat berries are a whole grain, meaning the grain is left intact so the nutrients do not oxidize. A cup of cooked wheat berries has about 300 calories and is packed with fiber, protein and iron. When boiled, cooked wheat berries have a chewy bite and subtle nutty, earthy flavor. They’re sturdy enough to handle bold salad dressings and still delicate enough to taste delicious with some milk, honey and cinnamon. There are two varieties of wheat berries, red and white. The red tend to be a little heartier and require longer cooking times.

Wheat berries can be used in other forms as well. Those who are industrious grind them into whole wheat flour for baking, or if you like sprouts you can add a little water to them and watch them grow. The sprouts are loaded with vitamin E, a cell-protecting antioxidant, and magnesium, which is good for healthy bones and muscles.

Finally, after visiting my mother in Chicago, I found the illustrious grain at Whole Foods. I was so excited to have nutritional powerhouse in my hot little hands that I immediately set to work. Over the past few weeks I've been testing them out and here are two of the better recipes I've come up with.

Wheat Berry Salad
1 C raw wheat berries
3 1/2 C chicken or vegetable broth, or water
Cooking spray
1 C Swiss chard
2 Tbsp minced leek
1/2 C. diced yellow squash
1/2 C. diced zucchini
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
juice of 1/2 of a clementine
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 oz crumbled goat cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

To prepare the wheat berries, place 3 1/2 cups broth (or water) in a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil. Add wheat berries and simmer, covered, for an hour. Uncover and continue cooking until all liquid has been absorbed and berries are beginning to burst and are chewy. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, coat a small saute pan with cooking spray and saute chard and leeks, over medium-low heat, until chard is wilted. Remove mixture from pan, coat pan again with cooking spray, saute squash and zucchini over medium heat until tender. Be careful not to overcook the vegetables, they should be tender, but not falling apart.

In a small bowl whisk together the clementine juice, vinegar, oil and oregano.

When the wheat berries are done cooking and have cooled for about 15-20 minutes combine them with the vegetables and dressing. Gently fold in the goat cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.

Wheatberry Stuffed Eggplant
1/2 C raw wheat berries
2 C chicken or vegetable broth, or water
2 Japanese eggplants
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, charred, peeled and diced (or about 4 slices from a jar of roasted red peppers)
1 C skinned, diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3 oz crumbled goat cheese, or feta
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cooking spray

To prepare the wheat berries, place 2 cups broth (or water) in a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil. Add wheat berries and simmer, covered, for an hour. Uncover and continue cooking until all liquid has been absorbed and berries are beginning to burst and are chewy. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Gently remove flesh from the center of each eggplant half; careful not to cut through the skin, leave about 1/2 inch of flesh around the edge. Dice the removed eggplant and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, careful not to burn the garlic. Add the diced eggplant, roasted pepper, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wheat berries and continue to stir.

Spray the eggplant shells inside and out and place on baking sheet. Fill each shell with the wheat berry mixture and top with 1/4 of the cheese. Bake until golden brown, approximately 40 minutes.