Gazpacho and Spring Cleaning

That title is probably totally weird to you, but yesterday I did probably like my 10th spring cleaning of the year so far, and it always feels so great. Once I’m done, anyway. I tackled about 6 loads of laundry, deep cleaned both bathrooms, organized our closet and coat closet among other tasks {we are still going to clean the kids bedrooms out this weekend – they come home in 11 days!}.

All the spring cleaning, plus the 80+ degree weather {finally!} and our extremely well-behaved puppy at the park all made me think of those simple things that remind me of summer; lazing around on a hot summer day at the pool or a park, all the windows wide open letting in fresh air…

But one thing that’s not really my all-time favorite summer activity is cooking. If you recall, last summer I made a handful of different soups, which sounds crazy in hot weather. My logic is that you just throw everything in one pot, cover it and let it sit. No slaving over a hot stove or multiple burners heating up your house.

Something that {I honestly have no idea why or where I got it from} I have been wanting to make for the past week or two is Gazpacho. I did some reading up on this cold soup, and it’s just my kind of dish. I like foods that don’t always have an exact recipe, rather a backbone that you build off of to fit your palette/fridge/budget.

It was so refreshing and surprisingly FILLING. I couldn’t eat my entire bowl {I think maybe because the water content is so high} but I wish I could have. This recipe makes a huge pot and could probably serve 6 comfortably as a side dish. Possibly the best part is that there’s no heat required.

Gazpacho1

| Gazpacho

Serves approx. 6

5 Roma tomatoes

1 red/purple onion

1 large cucumber

1 red bell pepper

4 celery stalks

3 cloves garlic

1/2 jalapeno

a handful of cilantro

3 TBS tomato juice

3 TBS olive oil

3 TBS white wine vinegar

1/2 TSP salt

avocado to garnish {optional}

1/2 TBS agave

Finely dice the first eight ingredients. Put half of all the vegetables in a blender plus the last 4 ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour out the blended mix into a large bowl and set aside. Add the other half of the vegetables to the blender/food processor and pulse until they become minced, but not pureed. Add in the minced vegetables into the blended vegetables and stir well.

It is best if this soup sits in the fridge for 8+ hours.

Garnish with slices of avocado and a couple sprigs of cilantro, if desired.

Gazpacho2

Enjoy on a hot day!

Pea Soup with Garlic & Avocado

A long time ago, before marriage, a home and a pup, I made balsamic glazed chicken topped with pea puree {I won’t even show you the picture, it’s so atrocious} and have dreamed about that pea puree ever since.

This summer I went through a pea-crazed faze, eating a giant bowl as lunch, adding it to butternut squash soup {yep, I even eat soup in the summer}, and trying to sneak it into just about everything I ate {I bet you’re thinking it’s a good thing I don’t eat sweets}.

Pea  Soup 14

We all could have guessed peas are good for you – they are green, after all – but do we really know how they’re good for us? For starters, they have huge anti-inflammatory properties, provide twice as much protein as most other vegetables, plus they are rich in iron which helps stave off that 2 PM lull. Here’s a little info nugget that may help you in a future tournament of trivial pursuit: because peas come from a flowering plant, they are considered fruits. What’s this world coming to? First tomatoes, now peas?

In lieu of my recent Roasted Pepper & Avocado Soup gooey greenness {which is what initially brought the puree back into the rotation of my mind}, I thought I’d go ahead and turn that deliciously goopy pea puree into a pea puree soup.

| Pea Puree Soup

3 C Frozen Peas

5 + 1/2  C Water

3 C Plain Flax Milk {you can use any milk}

1/2 Avocado, cut into cubes

2 Cloves Garlic

1 TSP Cayenne Pepper

1/3 TSP Paprika

1/2 TSP each of S&P

In a large pot, boil the frozen peas in 5 C water for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked but still a very bright green. In a blender, puree the peas until smooth. Add in the milk, 1/2 C water, avocado, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper. Once again, blend until smooth. Return to pot and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Pea  Soup 4

Enjoy!

Roasted Pepper & Avo Soup

Husband and I are part of this super-awesome, wildly fun marriage group with a bunch of people from our church. We get together, meet other awesome married couples and have a pot luck.  Usually everyone brings a side and the amazing hosts/leaders serve the main course.

We happened to have a meeting last Monday with the theme of Christmas – we had fun competing in Christmas trivia & song games, prizes and great conversation. I felt brave that day, so I decided to tackle a food I had never made. Whenever I make something like this {green and gooey, i.e. Pee Puree} I get nervous that it’s going to be too freaky for people and no one will eat it. But I felt confident about this one.

Turns out, people loved it! Chartreuse in color with underlying heat notes, this is a refreshing take on soup.

 

| Roasted Pepper & Avocado Soup

2 Green Bell Peppers

4 Anaheim Peppers

4 Cloves of Garlic

1 Red Onion, roughly chopped

3 TBS Olive Oil

2 TBS Chili Powder

2 TSP Cumin

1 TSP Cayenne Pepper

4 Avocados

28 oz canned Coconut Milk

1-2 C Water

1/2 – 1 TSP Salt

1/2 TSP Black Pepper

In a pan, cook the onions in a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until unions begin to appear translucent. Remove the onions from the pan and into your crock pot, set on low. Turn your broiler on high.

Halve the Anaheim and bell peppers, removing the seeds and stem. In a large baking dish covered with foil, lay the peppers { inside facing down}, brushing or spraying with a little bit of oil. Place the peppers in the hot oven, keeping a close eye. The anaheim peppers will cook faster – everyone’s oven cooks differently, so just to be safe, check the peppers every 2-3 minutes. When they start to get covered with dark brown spots, they are done. Remove the peppers from the oven, place them in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.

Toss the garlic and the rest of the olive oil {2 TBS} in the slow cooker. Also add in 2 TBS Chili Powder, 2 TSP Cumin and a TSP Cayenne Pepper.

After the peppers have been covered for about 15 minutes, lay them out to let them cool. When they are cool enough to handle, start peeling the skins off. Put the peppers in the slow cooker. Leave it for 6 hours, occasionally stirring.

After, scoop at a time, puree the mixture. When the entire combination is smooth, add in halve of an avocado at a time, blending well after each one. Pour the liquid back into the crock pot and add the water {to whatever consistency you like – if one cup looks too thick, add more}, coconut milk, salt {to taste} and pepper, mixing well with a spoon. Cover again, and let sit for another hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with Anaheim Relish {which is really just my pico de gallo recipe, but swapping out the jalapeno for an Anaheim pepper}.

Roasted Pepper and Avocado Soup 3

Enjoy!

Quinoa “Tortilla” Soup

So, even though fall started a couple weeks ago, I feel like today is the official first day of autumn, and do you know what that means?  I get to be concocting more soups! A favorite dish of mine {or, ughm, bowl}, I find soups to be a perfectly complete, well-rounded meal – plus, a big bowl of soup never did the soul any harm.

Growing up, my mom made lots of soups. Well, that’s what I think now anyways, because Husband supposedly isn’t a big fan of soups {weird, I know}, which leads me to think either he didn’t have them very much growing up, or I had them a whole lot. But anyways, some of Mom’s staple soups included split pea, red chili, Thai coconut, Italian meatball, and the favorite – chicken tortilla. Yep. She made some of the best chicken tortilla soup you will ever have.

Now, nutritionally, I am pretty sure her version was pretty healthy, but using her basics for the soup, I made my own adaptation, and I think she’d be proud.

The reason that this posts’ title has the word tortilla in quotations is because I didn’t actually use tortillas. So you’re asking, “how can it be chicken tortilla soup with no tortillas?” I swapped out the crispy fried tortillas in the soup for quinoa {pronounced keen-wah for those of you who were just as confused as I was}. It gives it a little crunch with added fiber and protein. Also, I had a whole wheat tortilla on the side to dip into the soup, so fret not – there was tortilla to be had.

To start out, I did something I normally don’t do when adding chicken to a soup or stew: I marinaded the chicken for a whole day, roasted it, and actually didn’t add it into the soup until the last minute. The end result was a very moist, savory and perfectly seasoned chicken.

Marinade {2 breasts should be enough for the pot of soup; add more or less to your liking}:

2 TBSP of Coconut Oil

1 TSP of Salt

1 TSP of Pepper

1 1/2 TBSP of Taco Seasoning

1/2 TSP of Paprika

1/2 TSP of Cumin

A dash of Cayenne

I marinaded it for almost 24 hours, popped it in a 375 degree preheated oven 40 minutes before dinner {or 20 minutes per pound of meat}. Now, let’s talk about jalapenos for a second. Capsaicin is the key in these taste bud-shocking mini-monsters. Capsaicin relieves so many ailments; from headaches and sinuses to cancer and high blood pressure. It also revs your metabolism, being a key ingredient in weight loss. One jalapeno also has over your daily need for vitamin C {but I wouldn’t recommend popping one in your mouth to get the good stuff} and quite a bit of potassium in relation to their size.

Meanwhile, I busted out the ole crock pot. Seriously my best friend – she never fails. Into the pot, I put:

Two 10 oz cans of diced tomatoes with chillies {I used medium, you can use whatever heat you want}

Two 15 oz cans of black beans {drained and rinsed}

One 15 oz can of hominy {also drained and rinsed – this soup is delicious with garbanzos, too}

1/2 an red onion {chopped}

5 baby portobellos {chopped}

1/2 C of frozen corn

1 small jalapeno {minced}

8 cups of water

After I gave all the ingredients a quick stir in the slow cooker, I added the spices:

2 TBSP of taco seasoning

3 TSP of salt

2 TSP of pepper

1 TSP of paprika

Leave the soup on low for 6-8 hours. Garnish with avocado, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, or whatever your imagination comes up with!

Enjoy!

Yam Medallions

Well, since we recently had a discussion about yams, and you knew I obviously had some, here’s what I made – Yam Medallions. Simple and sweet. And oh so luscious.

Slice yams into quarter to 1/2 inch discs and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes {or in my case, since the oven is broken, zap ’em in the micro for 5 minutes}. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkle on a little paprika and S&P to taste. Set your stove on medium heat, and cook those little suckers on a nonstick pan until the sugars start seeping out and begin to caramelize, turning slightly brown {about 4 minutes or so}. Flip them over, and repeat. Done.

These are yummy when dipped into this soup, {although last night I did a slight variation of that same soup by adding cooked carrots and freshly sliced ginger – it was so fragrant and a little more gourmet tasting than the original} which is what we had for dinner, alongside some perfectly grilled chicken.

Enjoy!

Fennel Soup – {WAY} More Than Meets the Eye

This is actually one of my favorite things I’ve made to date. I was curious, and purchased a bulb of fennel, but really had no reference as to what to make, but for some reason my mind kept wandering back to soup. It’s fun to experiment with different foods, but this girl had never even eaten, let alone cooked fennel. Ever {shame on me! This is what I’ve been missing all these years?!}. But I think those itty-bitty food instincts kicked in when soup was calling out to me.

Fennel is just an absolutely amazing vegetable. It has LOADS of health benefits – more than I’ve probably ever seen in one little plant. Yep. Again, power food is the term here. According to the website Organic Facts, “the health benefits of fennel include relief from anemia, indigestion, flatulence, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders, menstrual disorders, eye care, etc.” WHOA – that’s a mouthful! Click the link above to see an in-depth look at this wondrous bulb.

Here’s what I did:

1/2 Fennel Bulb, roughly chopped

1/2 C of Chopped Onions

1 C of Frozen Peas, thawed

1/3 C of Frozen Butternut Squash cubes, thawed

1 1/2 C of Chicken {or vegetable, to make it vegan} stock

S&P to taste

A Drizzle of Olive Oil

Set your stove on medium-high heat, and drizzle in some olive oil, a couple TBSP of water, and toss the coarsely chopped fennel bulb in. Cover. After a couple of minutes of letting the water tenderize the fennel, toss in the onions, cover. After another couple of minutes, throw in the butternut squash. Do not cover. If the pan is getting dry, and the squash starts sticking, you can add a little more water. When everything is nice and tenderly sauteed, take the pan off the heat.

In a blender or food processor, blend 1/2 the peas and 1/2 the stock together with about 1/2 C of the cooked veggie mix. Pour into a separate bowl, and toss the remaining peas, stock and veggies into the blender, and blend until smooth. Pour the pureed mixture that we set aside back into the blender, add a good helping of pepper {1/2 – 1 TBSP} and salt to taste {I used a couple teaspoons}. Once again, blend until everything is nicely mixed. Pour into two bowls, and microwave to heat the soup to your hearts content {because putting piping hot food into a blender could be dangerous}. Garnish with a little pepper on top.

Not only was this soup so simple to create, let me tell you – the fennel is delicious! It has a slight anise flavor, and paired with the black pepper, it gives a pleasing little kick. I will continue to come back to this soup, especially when cooler weather begins to greet us.

Not only does this soup have exceedingly monumental health factors, but this whole recipe is for two servings! Yep, you get a giant bowl of this enchanting emerald-green soup for – get this – just 145 calories {or eat the whole thing as a meal}! Not to mention 3/4 of your daily need for vitamin A, and 6 – count ’em, SIX – grams of protein!

Double the recipe to serve 4.

Enjoy!

Thai Basil {Noodle Cafe}

Remember when I said I would be talking about this place? Yeah, that’s happening right now.

I’m kind of finicky about Asian food – I frequently find it either too heavy or not filling enough {hard to please?}, but this place has it right, let me tell you. It’s just a little hole-in-wall sort of joint, and not too impressive upon walking in, but if you cut it some slack, it will be worth it {plus, you’ll find the price to be surprisingly agreeable}.

My parents got the same lunch {oh, how cute} of Thai Spring Rolls {a rice wrap stuffed with shrimp, veggies & served with Thai peanut sauce} and Thai Spicy Soup {which included shrimp, onions, tomatoes & mushrooms, and had a delicious spicy broth – I will be trying to recreate it soon}.

Soup

I ordered their Grilled Beef Salad, which is pretty much strips of lean beef atop baby spring mix – it’s MUCH more flavorful than it sounds, and the perfect amount for a light lunch, including tons of protein to keep you going until dinner. Very important for a day of shopping.

Grilled Beef Salad

Next time I go there, I would like to try the Thai Curry Lime Beef. If you’ve ever been, menu recommendations would be welcomed gladly!

Enjoy!

Soup in Summer? Oh, yes I did!

I don’t know why, but every summer, I have this deranged, insatiable need to create a soup.

What?

Yeah, weird, I know. But this is what I’ve come to terms with: I think that the hidden sanity beneath all of this oxymoron-esque foolishness is because it’s easy – you don’t need 3 pans on 3 burners; just one. Contrary to what one might think, it actually keeps the house cooler. Very important when you’re living in an unairconditioned house. Yes. Very important.

This happened to me last summer, too. I repeatedly made chili, adding to the dumbfounded-ness of my then almost-husband. Honestly, I don’t blame him. Who would want to eat hot, spicy chili in 100 degree weather {although some Asian cultures believe that if you’re cold, drink cold beverages, and if you’re hot, hot beverages to balance the body temperature. Could they be right?}?

However, I think this soup I am about to acquaint you with might actually make you think that soup during summer is a sensational idea! Very fresh, clean and light, this soup is, making up for it’s lack in coolness. I was inspired to make this soup by my parents’ best friends who, every year, as far back as I can remember, they had us over for dinner on New Years Day and we had this Portuguese soup. I don’t know their exact recipe, but I tried my hand at it…

What you’ll need:

14 oz or 1 Package of Polska Kielbasa

1 Head of Kale {shall we go into the health benefits of this one? It would be a long conversation}

1 – 15 oz Can of Cannellini Beans, drained { they are really the same as great northerns, so if you have those, use them – however, great northerns do have less impressive nutritional values. Trust me – I studied the two cans in the grocery store aisle for 5 minutes, while people stared}.

1 – 15 oz Can of Kidney Beans

1 – 10 oz Can of Medium Heat Rotel Diced Tomatoes {can you tell I like this stuff?}

1/2 of a Red Onion, diced

1 C of Mushrooms, quartered, stems cut off

12 C of Water

S&P to taste

Put those 12 cups of water plus that can of Rotel {do not drain}  in a very large, deep pot on High, to get it boiling. While you’re waiting, chop that Kale coarsely, and add to the water. Slice up those Kielbasa links, and also add.

Drain & rinse well, both the cans of beans. Toss those in the pan, after the kale has begun wilting, along with the quartered mushrooms and diced onions. Once everything has mingled nicely, liberally S&P to taste {trust when I say liberally – there is, after all, 12 cups of water in there}. Close that sucker up with a lid.

Bring the heat to a simmer for an hour to an hour and a half.

You remember this recipe from last week? Here’s where it comes in handy with that toast. Make the toast according to instructions, dip in this ambrosial soup, and let your taste buds cheer. And they won’t even know how good it is for you. Sometimes I feel like my taste buds are kids – as soon as they know it’s healthy, they don’t want anymore! Okay, that’s a lie. But it’s that good! Try to trick your tongue!

Shhhh! It’s our secret ;).

Enjoy!

*Statistics are approximate and can be calculated on www.recipes.sparkpeople.com

  8 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 264.2
  Total Fat 14.4 g
  Saturated Fat 5.0 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.8 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 6.5 g
  Cholesterol 33.2 mg
  Sodium 1,524.3 mg
  Potassium 486.5 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 21.0 g
  Dietary Fiber 7.3 g
  Sugars 1.6 g
  Protein 13.7 g
  Vitamin A 221.4 %
  Vitamin B-12 13.4 %
  Vitamin B-6 11.6 %
  Vitamin C 57.6 %
  Vitamin D 1.7 %
  Vitamin E 4.2 %
  Calcium 12.5 %
  Copper 15.5 %
  Folate 10.1 %
  Iron 16.2 %
  Magnesium 10.5 %
  Manganese 25.6 %
  Niacin 12.0 %
  Pantothenic Acid     6.6 %
  Phosphorus     15.2 %
  Riboflavin 14.4 %
  Selenium 15.6 %
  Thiamin 14.5 %
  Zinc 10.2 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Basil&Garlic Butter

Okay, I’m sensing a theme here…

Remember here & here when I used these as the main flavorings for the dishes? Yeah, I guess I liked it.

Today’s recipe is exceptionally simple, and I have faith that anyone can do it {mainly because there is no actual cooking involved}.

What you’ll need:

1/2 C of Regular Salted Butter {really, this depends on how much you’d like to make. I started with a stick to make sure it’d work out}

3/4 TBSP of Minced Basil

1/2 TSP of Minced Garlic

That’s it! Now, let the butter sit out, covered, to get to room temperature.

It shouldn’t take but 20-30 minutes to get fairly soft. When it does get soft, start mashing with a fork, like so:

When it is nice and creamy, like this:

Add the rest of the ingredients, like this:

With your fork, make sure you blend the ingredients together well, so that all the flavors can infuse. Put the creation into a pretty little dish and pop in the fridge to let it sit. Sadly, I do not have a pretty little dish, but I plan on getting a charming, retro one soon!

Now, you’re probably wondering when you could ever use this flavorful fusion. How about on some toast, put under the broiler for a moment or two, maybe some parm cheese, and paired with a delightful soup {dippage required}! Sounds good to me!

Enjoy!

Here’s the stats:

*Statistics are approximate and can be calculated on www.recipes.sparkpeople.com

Stats are based on 1/2 TBSP per serving:

 16 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 51.1
  Total Fat 5.8 g
  Saturated Fat 3.6 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.5 g
  Cholesterol 15.2 mg
  Sodium 40.9 mg
  Potassium 3.0 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 0.1 g
  Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
  Sugars 0.0 g
  Protein 0.1 g
  Vitamin A 3.7 %
  Vitamin B-12 0.2 %
  Vitamin B-6 0.1 %
  Vitamin C 0.1 %
  Vitamin D 1.0 %
  Vitamin E 0.6 %
  Calcium 0.2 %
  Copper 0.0 %
  Folate 0.1 %
  Iron 0.0 %
  Magnesium 0.1 %
  Manganese 0.2 %
  Niacin 0.0 %
  Pantothenic Acid     0.1 %
  Phosphorus     0.2 %
  Riboflavin 0.2 %
  Selenium 0.1 %
  Thiamin 0.0 %
  Zinc 0.1 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.