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June 29, 2009

Hearty Black Bean Soup

So wouldn't you know, two days after I bought Trader Joe's latin style black bean soup for the first time, the girls over at hungry like the wolf posted a recipe that uses it. Their recipe spices up this soup for a quick and easy lunch, but I wanted to have it for dinner so I added some veggies to turn this into a 1 bowl hearty meal.

The added veggies gave this soup a lot of substance without making it too heavy. In fact, this soup is very low in calories--each cup of the soup base is only 70 calories. So, the term hearty in the title of this recipe is really to describe the oodles of crunchy vegetables, but overall this soup is much lighter than say, black bean chili.

Hearty Black Bean Soup
(serves 3-4)

1 quart smooth pureed black bean soup base (I used Trader's Joes brand)
1-1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped red and green bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup canned black beans
3/4 cup chunky salsa (I used HOT)
1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like spicy, or not at all if you don't)
1 tbsp cumin
2 cloves garlic, minsed
3 tbsp lime juice
4 corn tortillas
Cheddar cheese for sprinkling

Heat oil or cooking spray in a large pot. Saute peppers and cabbage for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the corn tortillas into strips and drizzle lightly with olive oil and salt (low-cal option: spray with a bit of cooking spray instead). Bake strips at 350 for 10 minutes. Once the cabbage and peppers have had the chance to soften a bit, stir in green onions, black beans, garlic, and cumin and cook for an additional 3 minutes or so. Pour in black bean soup base and stir in salsa and cayenne pepper, tasting along the way for desired spiciness. Stir in lime juice and bring to temperature over medium heat. Serve into bowls and sprinkle with cheddar cheese and a handful of baked tortilla strips.

Additional options: I would have added in a few tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro at the same time as the lime juice, if I had some. Also I would have loved to try chipotle powder like the girls at hungry like the wolf used, but I settled for the cayenne pepper that I had on hand.

Here's a view of the soup without the extra toppings:

Thanks for the dinner inspiration girls!

June 28, 2009

Tasting Chicago

This weekend was the kick off of Taste of Chicago. Generally speaking, the most famous tastes of Chicago aren't veggie friendly, with items topping off the list like Chicago style hot dogs, Italian beefs, Italian sausages, Maxwell Street Polish Sausages, and of course, deep dish pizza. Although the meat was dominant on the crowded streets surrounding Grant Park, there was some great vegetarian fare as well.

We decided that we should walk the long stretch of booths checking out all of the options before deciding. We gave up on this about half way through and stopped for some sauerkraut perogies, yum! This served as an appetizer, but we were still on the lookout for our main course. We were on the last stretch of booths when there it was, Soul Veg!

I had heard of this restaurant, but had never been. The options that they offered today were veg bbq on a stick, tamales, sweet potato pie, and vegetarian gyros. Vegetarian gyros?? what?? Our decision was unanimous.

What a treat! After our soul food we walked around a bit more, watched a Blackhawks bozo buckets game and also a giant chess game with 3 foot tall pieces. After some people watching and a bit of ice cream we headed back to the train to go home. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon in the city.

Have you been to any good festivals so far this summer? What's your favorite festival food?

June 22, 2009

Lemon Herb Pasta with Capers

I created a new dish earlier this week, let's call it Lemon Herb Pasta with Capers. I cannot take all of the credit though. This single-pot meal was based on a cauliflower side dish recipe, Herbed Cauliflower with Capers & Lemon, that I found on eat me, delicious. I stumbled on this blog through aimless clicking, and I've been enjoying it ever since. Great recipes and photography, and bonus (!) she often features random pictures of her cat. (oh ideas, ideas!)

This recipe has a lot of room for variation, so use your imagination on what kind of noodles, vegetables, and cheese you use. I opted for light on the pasta, heavy on the veggies, and I was very happy with the result. Here's what I did:

Lemon Herb Pasta with Capers
(serves 2-3)

1 cup orzo pasta
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
8 stalks of asparagus trimmed and chopped into 1" pieces
2 tbsp capers, minced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
salt to taste

Bring about 4-5 cups of water to boil in a large saucepan. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley, capers, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Add noodles into boiling water and cook according to the box directions. When there is 1 minute left to boil, add in cauliflower and asparagus. Drain and return to pan. Pour in sauce, stir, and serve immediately. Sprinkle a bit of goat cheese onto each individual serving.

You may need to adjust the amount of oil or lemon juice so that you don't have too much or too little to cover all of your ingredients. The amounts of everything in my sauce are close estimates, but not exact.

June 18, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Enchiladas

Many thanks to Sarah at Coffee Beans and Curry Leaves for her Roasted Red Pepper Enchilada recipe. This recipe is all about the sauce, which is a combination of roasted red pepper tomato soup and diced green chilis... brilliant! The combination of fillings and additional toppings are up to you. I followed in Sarah's footsteps for one of the enchilada fillings, sauteed cabbage with cumin and salt, and then I added black beans.

Just look at it spilling out it's bean-y cabbage-y glory... yum!

Here's what I did:

Roasted Red Pepper Enchiladas
(4 enchiladas / serves 2-4)

2 cups roasted red pepper tomato soup
4 oz can diced green chilis

2 cups shredded cabbage, with cumin and salt to taste
16 oz. can black beans

1/2 cup mexican blend cheese
Sliced black olives
1 cup guacamole (2 small avocados, 1/2 tomato, 1/4 red onion, 1/8 cup cilantro, salt and lime juice to taste -- blend in food processor)

4 large tortillas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the soup/green chilis mixture in a saucepan. Saute cabbage in a light amount of olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Stir in cumin, salt, and black beans and continue to cook for 1 minute or until the beans are heated through. Fill tortillas with the cabbage and bean mixture, roll, and place into a 9 x 9 baking dish. Pour sauce over the top and then sprinkle on the shredded cheese. Since most of the ingredients have already been heated this only needs 10 minutes in the oven just to melt the cheese. I finished the enchiladas off with some homemade guacamole and sliced black olives.

Visit Sarah's site to see her awesome step by step pictures and helpful commentary. Thanks again, Sarah, this recipe will frequenting my dinner table!

June 16, 2009

Green Curry Noodles

Everywhere I turn I see summer inspired recipes. I've been eating a lot of cherries and asparagus to celebrate the season even though summer hasn't really caught on yet in Chicago. I can count on one hand how many days have made me feel like summer might actually be here. Today was particularly chilly and rainy around the time that I got off of work, which left me wanting something for dinner that would warm me up inside. Something hot, spicy, and soupy perhaps?

The core ingredients from my cabinets that would satisfy this need were noodles, green curry paste, and coconut milk. The vegetables and protein that ended up in the pot were ones that I had on hand. It all came together quickly and beautifully, and I was sufficiently warmed up by this meal. Although it ends up looking a bit like soup, the broth is pretty thick, but is not quite thick enough to be considered a sauce. You could easily add or cut back on liquids if you wanted it to be soupier, or alternately, on the saucy side. As I made it, you'll need both a fork and a spoon to sufficiently enjoy this dish.

Green Curry Noodles

2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
4 oz green curry paste

9 oz. package of Nasoya Chinese Noodles or similar
1/2 15 oz package of firm or extra firm tofu, cubed
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup baby carrots, quartered lengthwise
1 cup quartered white mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
A generous squeeze of fresh lime juice (1/2 or whole lime)
red pepper flakes to taste

Mix curry paste and coconut milk in a large pot over medium low heat. Once curry paste is well blended add water and vegetable broth and bring to a rolling boil. Add noodles, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add tofu, tomatoes, and mushrooms and simmer for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and mix in cilantro, red pepper flakes, and lime.

June 14, 2009

Orzo Super Salad

This past Friday night I was invited to a potluck style picnic. I wanted to make something new for this occasion and I ended up turning to 101 Cookbooks for inspiration. Heidi really struck gold with the combination of ingredients in her Orzo Super Salad. Everyone must have agreed, because there were no leftovers to bring home!

Orzo Super Salad
(Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks)

1 cup dried (whole wheat) orzo pasta
8 - 10 medium asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch segments
1/2 a medium head of broccoli (or broccolini), cut into small trees
small handful of cilantro(or mint if you prefer), chopped
1 small clove of garlic, mashed with a big pinch of salt and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
a small handful of sprouts
1/3 cup almonds, toasted
1/2 small cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium avocado, sliced into small pieces
1/4 cup feta, crumbled

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and boil the orzo per package instructions. Avoid over-boiling, you want your orzo to be cooked through, but maintain structure. About 30 seconds before the orzo is finished cooking stir the asparagus and broccoli into the orzo pot. Cook for the final 30 seconds, drain and run under a bit of cold water. Just long enough to stop the cooking.

In the meantime, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and more salt (if needed) into the dressing. Set aside.

When you are ready to serve the salad toss the orzo, asparagus, broccoli, and cilantro with about half the dressing. Add more dressing if needed, and toss well. Now add the sprouts, almonds, cucumber, avocado, and feta. Very gently toss a couple of times to distribute those ingredients throughout the salad and serve.

June 9, 2009

Dill Tofu Spread

OK, I promise that this will be the last post having anything to do with my trip to New York. When I needed a quick snack Meg fed me some Dill Tofu Spread on top of a rice cake. This spread is a quick and healthy snack, with a very short list of ingredients.

Spread silken tofu onto a rice cake, bagel, or other starch of your choice. Sprinkle on some salt and dill, and you have yourself a very low calorie, high protein substitute for cream cheese. 1 rice cake topped with this spread totals about 60 calories, and a very satisfying 60 calories at that.

Using silken tofu in this snack has inspired me to seek out some new recipes for this versatile product. I've seen it used in place of cheese in lasagnas and dips, and in place of eggs in scramblers and egg salad. What are your favorite uses for silken tofu? Have a great recipe? Please share!

The piece of broccoli that got away

Allow me to apologize in advance for this blog post which is about to be about my cats. I like to assume that everyone finds them as interesting as I do. This is food related so I consider it fair game.

I have two cats both under 2 years old--Evie the brown tabby, and Arnold the orange tabby. Evie is the most curious, she is always wondering what you are doing and most of all what you are eating. I found out pretty quickly that if I just let her smell my food that she will go away. I was cooking dinner for some family one night, and before the meal my grandpa was sitting on the couch enjoying some cheese and crackers. Evie circled around him from the arm of the couch to behind him, sniffing around and trying to figure out what was on his plate. I told him to just offer his plate to her so she could get a good sniff and that she would then leave him alone. When he took my advice, she promptly snatched up a piece of cheese in her mouth and ran across the room with it to enjoy it in solitude. I've learned since then that she likes all varieties of cheese, cold, hot and melty, soft, or hard. I left a block of romano cheese on the kitchen table once and came back in the room to catch her knawing on it. As funny as her cheese obsession is, I decided it is probably not healthy for a cat to eat cheese, so she only gets some if she is sneaky enough to get it on her own.

Today I discovered that she feels the same way about broccoli. A raw broccoli floret fell on the floor of the kitchen and she quickly snatched it up and ran to the living room with it to attempt eating it. Luckily my camera was nearby to catch the hilarity. (Click pics for larger view)
Arnold was curious about what she had, but as it turns out he isn't much of a veggie eater.
I just about fell over when I saw her putting it in her mouth with her paws!

Oh, cats!

You totally enjoyed that post, you know it..

June 4, 2009

Brooklyn Eggless Breakfast Skillet

I had the awesome opportunity to spend 4 nights in NYC last week. I love love love this city. The first two nights I stayed in Manhattan for business, then headed off Saturday afternoon to Brooklyn to visit a great college friend, Meg. I love visiting her and staying in her charming studio apartment, and she was an amazing hostess as always!

She made a special request for the Saturday Morning Breakfast Skillet, and I invited the opportunity to take over her kitchen. This is what a Brooklyn studio apartment kitchen looks like, so cute right?!

She had the groceries ready and waiting for me, with one exception, eggs. Meg is vegan, so as a substitute for eggs she picked up smokey tempeh strips, aka fakin' bacon... YUM! We started with two large red skin potatoes, and then added the veggies that she had on hand: red and green bell peppers, onions, and baby bellas. We fried the tempeh in a separate pan until browned on both sides.

She didn't have all purpose seasoning salt so we dug through her cabinet for alternatives and decided to give turmeric a try. The turmeric ended up playing off of the smokey tempeh beautifully! We topped the skillet off with a bit vegan cheese and some salt and pepper. Amazing! I didn't even miss the eggs..

I'm now on the hunt for this flavor of tempeh, I was a huge fan. I can imagine the vegan BLT's now..

And just for fun, here is a picture of Meg's cat, Silly. She kept me company while I was away from my own kitties this weekend.

Thanks again, Meg, for having me, and for putting up with my touristy, vacationing, non-urban self. I am forever indebted to you for forcing you to be a tourist in your own city. Can I repay you in skillets?