Sunday, February 27, 2011

Veggie Soup 101



Veggie soup is one of our favorite foods, it's warm, satisfying and so easy to throw together. We often make a big pot on the weekends and then have it for lunch throughout the week (a cup of soup is also a great snack). Our soup is never exactly the same any two times, we don't follow a recipe per say, we just use whatever veggies we have on hand and some herbs (fresh or dried). The only items we always include are onions and garlic. We also like to include some type of leafy green (swiss chard, kale, spinach, or cabbage), and some type of sweet/starchy veggie (carrot, winter squash, turnip). Other veggie add-in that often make their way into our pot include: celery, fennel, green beans, zucchini, and tomatoes. Some of our favorite herbs include: sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, tarragon, cinnamon, nutmeg, and crushed red pepper. If we're itching for something extra hearty and filling we might toss in some beans (lima, kidney, navy, whatever you like) or grains (we particularly like wild rice). The formula for making the soup is also pretty darn simple.

Step 1:
Add a little olive oil to a large pot, saute the aromatics (onion and garlic) until they are translucent.

Step 2:
Add in the other veggies, herbs, grains or beans (if using), and enough water or broth to cover the veggies. Cover the pot and let it simmer until the veggies are cooked.

VIOLA - you have soup!

Here's the mixture I used in this week's pot - all the measures (especially the herbs) are approximate!

Enough Olive Oil to coat the bottom of the pot
1 Large onion, diced
6 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 Fennel Bulb, along with the stalks and fronds, chopped
4 Large Celery Stalks, chopped
1 Medium Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed
1 Large Bunch of Swiss Chard, stalks and leaves chopped
1 Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
1 teaspoon each fresh Thyme and Sage
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
Enough water to cover the veggies

To make the soup, I just followed the two easy steps above! Now I urge you to go forth and make your own yummy concoction, and be sure to tell us your favorite ingredients for veggie soup!

As usual, I've also included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, Friday Favorites, and Messy Missy's Marvelous Mess Party. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Panna Cotta



I made the following panna cotta as the dessert for a wonderful Persian meal Alfred made featuring gormeh sabzi and shirazi salad, which we've written about on here before. This panna cotta is similar to a very popular Persian dessert, yak dar behesht, which translates as Ice of Paradise. Like yak dar behesht, this creamy dessert is flavored with cardamom and rose water. However, yak dar behesht is made with rice flour and milk, and I have trouble digesting grains and dairy. So, I substituted coconut milk for the milk and used gelatin as the thickener. I also went ahead and used agave rather than sugar to be a little healthier :). It did not get quite as thick as I would have liked, but the taste was fantastic, our Iranian guests really enjoyed it! Next time I might add a little extra gelatin or try agar-gar, an alternative thickener and great vegan alternative to gelatin.

Panna Cotta
1 Can Coconut Milk, plus enough water to equal 2 Cups
5 Green Cardamom Pods, broken open
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar (or Honey)
2 teaspoons Rose Water
1 1/2 teaspoons Unflavored Gelatin
1/4 Cup Water

Sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/4 cup of water, whisk to combine, set aside.

Bring coconut milk and cardamom to a simmer. Add in the agave nectar and rose water. Strain the coconut milk to remove the cardamom. Add 1/4 of the hot coconut mixture to the gelatin mixture, whisk briskly to avoid lumps. Add the resulting mixture to the remaining coconut milk, whisk to combine thoroughly. Divide the panna cotta evenly between individual serving dishes or ramekins, cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture is set - at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Top with berries, pomegranate arils, or other fruit just before serving.



Noosh-e-jan (Bon Appetite)

As usual, I've also included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, Friday Favorites, Sweets for a Saturday, Messy Missy's Marvelous Mess Party, and Sweet Tooth Friday. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Biscotti for Your Sweetheart





Show your sweetie that you love them by making a treat that's both tasty and heart healthy! Thanks to olive oil, walnuts, whole grain flour, and pure raw cacao, these crunchy cookies are packed with omega-3s, fiber, and antioxidants! Like all biscotti, they are perfect for dunking in coffee, tea, milk, or even dessert wine!

A Few Notes on the Ingredients:

1) This was our first time baking with spelt flour, a whole grain that is related to wheat. We picked up a bag of spelt flour a few weeks ago, mostly because we like to experiment with new ingredients. You can bake with spelt flour just as you would with wheat flour, and you can also substitute whole wheat flour for the spelt if you can't or don't want to give it a try.

2) The cacao we used in this recipe is organic, pure raw cacao from Costa Rica - it was a gift from a friend, by way of a co-worker who is looking to start a side business importing it. The cacao is a solid block, and because it is pure cacao it is dairy free and completely unsweetened. Alfred is not a huge chocolate fan, but he loved the wonderful aroma and taste this cacao gave the cookies! If you can't find a comparable product, you can use bittersweet or dark chocolate in its place - look for the highest cacao content possible, the higher the cacao content the deeper the chocolate flavor and the more antioxidants!

Heart Healthy Biscotti
1 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour (preferably unbleached)
1 Cup Spelt Flour (or Whole Wheat Flour)
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup Sugar (preferably a minimally processed sugar such as evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, or palm sugar)
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup toasted Walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 Cup finely grated Cacao (or Bittersweet or Dark Chocolate)*

*We just used a box grater to grate the chocolate into fine shavings. You could also chop the chocolate or cacao into small pieces if you would prefer to have some distinct chocolately chunks.

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two large sheet pans with parchment paper or foil (shiny side up).
2) In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
3) In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the egg, milk, and oil.
4) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in the nuts and cacao/chocolate.
5) Divide the dough evenly between the two sheet pans, forming logs about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide.
6) Bake the logs 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans half way through until the logs are lightly browned and firm to the touch.
7) Let the logs cool. Meanwhile, line your sheet pans with new parchment/foil.
8) Once the logs are cool, cut them into 1/2 inch slices. Lay the slices cut side down on the prepared sheet pans, leaving space between them.
9) Bake the biscotti for 10 minutes, then flip them over and bake another 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.

The cookies will crisp up as they cool, let them cool completely before storing them.

Happy Valentine's Day To All - We hope your day is extra SWEET!

P.S. If you want to fancy these up a little more for Valentine's Day, a little drizzling of melted dark chocolate wouldn't be a bad idea!

As usual, I've also included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, and Friday Favorites. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Muffins the British Way





















There are many many things on my cooking to-do list (bagels, homemade nutella, apple chips, roasted duck...). English muffins have been on that list for a far too long. Crusty exterior, soft and chewy interior with plenty of "nooks and crannies" for jam to melt into - what's not to love! So, when I saw that this month's "A Worldly Epicureans Delight" (AWED) theme was British food, I knew it was a sign that the time to make English Muffins had finally come!

As many readers know, I(Ashlie)'m now gluten free, so I didn't get to partake in the consumption of these lovelies, but it gave me great pleasure to make them and to watch Alfred slather them with raspberry jam for tea time! He assures me that they tasted perfectly authentic - I can attest that they looked and smelled the part!

A note on the jam Alfred used - I found a great line of French jams that are sweetened with fruit juice. The brand is called St. Dalfour. Alfred is a jam fanatic, but I don't let him have it very often, unless I make it for him with natural sweeteners. When I found these naturally sweetened jams on sale I decided to get them for him as a special treat for Valentine's Day, but I'm really awful ate keeping gifts tucked away until the holiday actually arrives. So far he has tried black cherry, fig, and raspberry pomegranate. His favorite was the cherry!

English Muffins
1 Cup of Buttermilk, warm*
2 1/4 teaspoons Yeast
1 Tablespoon of Oil
1 Tablespoon of Honey
1 1/4 Cups of Unbleached Bread Flour (or All-Purpose)
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon of Sea Salt
3/4 teaspoon of Baking Soda

* If you don't have any buttermilk or want a vegan alternative, combine 1 Cup of regular or non-dairy milk and 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.

1) Combine the buttermilk, yeast, oil, and honey. Set aside for about 10 minutes to proof, until it is very bubbly.

2) In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking soda.

3) Once the yeast mixture is bubbly, add it to the flour mixture and stir until a very soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly (about 2 minutes), just enough to shape the dough into a ball - you want the dough to remain very soft in order for the nooks and crannies to form properly. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles (60 - 90 minutes).

4) Line a large baking sheet with foil, light oil the foil. Set this aside.

5) Sprinkle a surface generously with cornmeal, and turn the dough out onto it. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Use your hands to gently coax the pieces into rounds (they don't have to be perfect - this is more for aesthetics than taste). Dust the tops of the pieces with cornmeal. Transfer the dough pieces to the foil lined baking sheet - leaving ample space between the pieces as they will double in size while rising. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place (I placed them in my oven, which was turned off but was slightly warm thanks to the pilot light), and let rise until doubled in size (30-45 minutes).

6) Heat a large skillet (I used 2 to speed things up) over low heat (other recipes said medium-low, but I found low heat to work better). Lightly coat the skillet(s) with oil. Working in batches if necessary - you don't want the muffins to touch one another - cook the muffins 8-10 minutes per side until golden brown. To serve, split the muffins open, toast them if you wish and spread with your choice of toppings: butter, jam, and lemon curd are all traditional British options. In my bread eating days, peanut butter and honey was always a favorite! You could also use the muffins to make yourself a tasty egg sandwich or eggs benedict if you're feeling particularly fancy!



For lots of other tasty British recipes, head over to Reva's blog Kaarasaaram!

As usual, I've also included this post as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays , Making Monday Marvelous, Just Something I Whipped Up, My Meatless Mondays, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays , Tuesdays at the Table, Real Food Wednesdays, Whatcha Makin' Wednesdays, Full Plate Thursday, Friday Foodie, and Friday Favorites. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!