My CSA’s fall season has started and I couldn’t be happier. I really miss those boxes in between seasons. The last two boxes have had a variety of peppers and summer squash in addition to sweet potatoes, arugula, eggplant, and pickling cucumbers. I love using poblano peppers in soup.
Depending on the heat of the poblano peppers (they tend to vary quite a bit) you use, this soup can be a bit spicy. I like it that way. If you would like a spicier soup, add a jalapeno or serrano pepper for heat. If you are not a fan of spicy foods, substitute a milder pepper, like an Anaheim or banana pepper, for the poblano. If you have fresh cilantro on hand, feel free to throw some into the soup before serving.
This recipe makes about 12 1 cup servings that come in at about 100 calories a serving. A great low-calorie lunch.
Southwestern Vegetable and Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 poblano chiles, stem and seeds removed and diced
1 large bell pepper, diced (use your choice of color)
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups of vegetable broth
1 15.5 ounce can kidney beans, drained
1 14. 5 ounce can diced tomatoes and juices
1 cup frozen corn
1 large zucchini, diced (yellow squash would be fine too)
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onions, poblanos, and bell peppers and sauté until tender. Add the garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and zucchini. Cook until the zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
One of the many joys of no longer having a thyroid is the non-existent metabolism. I have put on 17 pounds since my thyroidectomy surgery in January. Having been diagnosed with hypothyroidism over 13 years ago, I’m no stranger to the weight issues that go along with thyroid disease. Right before my thyroid cancer diagnosis, I was on a sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free diet for 6 months. In that 6 months I lost a whopping 4 pounds. It’s discouraging. I don’t have room for extra weight so I have resorted to calorie counting. There are some great free apps out there to make it easier. I’m aiming for 1500 to 1700 calories a day for (hopefully) weight loss.
My hubby works late on Thursdays and I usually end up making something simple for my dinner. Last Thursday I roasted a batch of fresh okra. I love okra. Roasted Okra is totally addicting and satisfying too. Plus, it’s super easy to make. I used a jalapeno from my garden and it was super hot. It made for some SPICY Roasted Okra. It was so spicy, I got the hiccups. Do you get hiccups when you eat spicy/hot foods?
Vegetables typically have lower calorie counts than other foods, so it makes sense to eat more of them to aid in weight loss 1 pound of fresh okra has 124 calories! 1 tablespoon of canola oil also has 124 calories. 1 jalapeno has about 4 calories. This entire recipe (if made with 1 tablespoon of canola oil) only has 152 calories! So, there’s no guilt when I eat the entire batch of Roasted Okra by myself. : )
Spicy Roasted Okra
1 pound fresh okra pods, ends trimmed
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 – 2 tablespoons oil (I used canola)
Kosher salt and pepper
spices of your choice (I used garlic powder and cumin)
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
Cut the okra pods in half lengthwise. In a large bowl, toss the okra and sliced jalapeno with the oil. Season the okra to taste with Kosher salt, pepper, and preferred spices. Arrange the okra in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Roast the okra in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring once half-way through cooking. I like the okra right when it starts to crisp up and brown.
I picked up 8 ounce packages of baby bella mushrooms at Aldi this week for 99 cents each. Such a good deal. I’m becoming a big fan of Aldi, which is owned by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s. Aldi doesn’t have much in way of variety, but they have good prices, especially on produce. I got organic bananas for 69 cents a pound and a seedless watermelon for $2.99 this week. Just don’t get too attached to any one product at Aldi. The products are constantly changing.
We will be eating a lot of mushroom dishes this week. This is a variation of my Spinach and Mushroom Enchiladas with a Creamy Tomatillo Sauce recipe. In this version, the sauce is different. I incorporated some of the mushrooms into the creamy enchilada sauce. It’s delicious.
Creamy Mushroom and Spinach Enchiladas
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms (or mushrooms of your choice)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 packages (9 – 10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (squeeze as much liquid as possible)
salt and pepper, to taste
4 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated (or Monterrey Jack)
1 cup water
1 vegetable bouillon cube (I use Knorr brand)
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
8 corn tortillas
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter until tender. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Remove half of the mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Add the spinach to the mushroom mixture and cook until all the liquid in the skillet is gone. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the pepper jack cheese and turn the heat down to low. Keep the mushroom mixture warm while you prepare the enchilada sauce.
In a saucepan, bring the water and vegetarian bouillon cube to a boil. Whisk the corn starch and garlic powder into the sour cream and then whisk into the boiling liquid. Whisk until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the reserved mushroom mixture and the cilantro.
Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
Wet several paper towels and wring them out. Wrap the corn tortillas in the damp paper towels and microwave for 45 seconds or until warm and pliable.
Divide the spinach and mushroom filling evenly between the 8 corn tortillas and roll up (not too tight) to enclose the filling. Place the enchiladas seam side down in the baking dish. Top the enchiladas with the creamy mushroom sauce. Bake the enchiladas in the 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
It has been so hot and humid in South Carolina lately. Who wants to cook on days like this? Crockpot cooking is perfect for hot days. It doesn’t heat up the house and leaves you plenty of time for summer fun.
We have been eating more vegetarian meals lately. Grocery prices have gone up so much that there’s not much room for meat in the budget. Grocery prices are ridiculous! The price of cheese alone has gone up 20% in just the past two weeks. What is going on? Everything is going up but the paycheck, so budget meals are a necessity. This meal is budget-friendly. Beans are cheap. I am able to get cans of beans at Aldi for 59 cents each. Dried beans are cheaper, but canned beans are so convenient. Paired with chiles from the farmers’ market and my garden, this chili is relatively inexpensive as well as nutritious.
This chili is even better the next day. Do you know what I did with the leftover chili? I made Frito pie (Fritos topped with chili and cheese) with it. So good.
Crockpot Vegetarian Bean Chili with Peppers and Corn
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, seeded and chopped
1 – 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, drained
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Combine all the ingredients except the cilantro in the crockpot and cook on low 6 to 8 hours (or on high for 3 to 4 hours). Right before serving, stir in the cilantro.
While I was in Texas a couple of weeks ago, I caught up with a dear friend one night and we had dinner at P.F. Chang’s in Arlington. I ordered the Singapore Street Noodles. It was a somewhat simple noodle dish and I knew right away I could re-create it. I think I hit the nail on the head. There are minor differences. P.F. Chang’s uses red cabbage in their Singapore Street Noodles, but I just used green cabbage since it was what I had. Napa or Savory cabbage would be really good too. Their dish contained halved grape tomatoes, but I left them out. I also left out the green onions. Like most Asian dishes you cook in a wok, you want to have your ingredients prepared and ready to go. Once you start cooking, it comes together fast.
I’m partial to Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder. I used to be able to buy it locally when we lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, but since moving to South Carolina I have not been able to find it. I ended up ordering it from Amazon.com. Here’s what that container looks like:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, cored and sliced (use any color bell pepper you like)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/4 large head red or green cabbage (or your favorite type of cabbage), cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (to taste)
lime wedges, for serving
Soak the rice noodles in very hot water until they are softened, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside until ready to use.
Meanwhile, combine the water, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar. Set aside.
Heat a wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, turning the wok to make sure the oil coats the bottom. Add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink. Transfer to a clean bowl or plate. Wipe out the wok (It doesn’t have to be super clean, I just quickly wipe the wok out using a paper towel) Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok and then add the sliced chicken and cook until no longer pink. Transfer the chicken to the bowl or plate with the shrimp. Again, wipe out the wok.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. add the garlic and cook briefly, a few seconds, before adding the onion, bell pepper, carrot, and cabbage. Stir-fry the vegetables until just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the reserved sauce and the Madras curry powder to the wok. Add the softened rice noodles and cooked shrimp and chicken, gently tossing them with the sauce and vegetables. Cook, stirring often, until the noodles absorb the sauce, about 3 – 5 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.
The cucumbers in my garden are doing well this year. It makes me happy because I really love cucumbers. I especially love cucumber salads. This is my favorite one. It’s adapted from a recipe in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking by Mai Pham (Prima Publishing, 1996).
I often make this salad using regular cucumbers found at the grocery store. Peel and then remove the seeds before slicing. Most of the time I make this salad only using cilantro since it’s an easy-to-find and inexpensive herb. In the summer months, I also use mint and Thai basil that I grow in my garden. I love the combination of cilantro, mint, and basil in Southeast Asian foods. Use any one of these herbs or a combination when you make this salad.
Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad
2 cucumbers (English cucumbers work well), cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 – 3 jalapenos or other hot chile (to taste), seeded, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
fresh herb(s), to taste
….fresh cilantro, chopped
….fresh mint leaves, chopped
….fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the sliced cucumbers, onion, jalapenos, and herb(s) in a bowl. In another bowl (or measuring cup) combine the rice wine vinegar, sugar, water, and salt. Pour the mixture over the cucumber salad. Mix to combine. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving.
I might have been slightly delirious when I came up with the idea to hide some yellow squash in chocolate cake. At the time, I was knee deep in squash from my CSA. I was a little desperate to find new ways to use it. I had success using yellow squash in Yellow Squash Cornbread and in Summer Squash Bread, so I was pretty sure I could pull it off in chocolate cake.
Oh my gosh, it was so good, y’all! I was super happy with the result. It was moist and chocolatety. So delicious! You could not tell the cake had squash in it aside from the little flecks of yellow squash on top of the cake after it was baked. The frosting totally covered it up, so problem solved. My 4 year old had no idea. He loved it. My 14 year old son wouldn’t try it (extremely picky eater) because he heard me telling my husband of my plans to use squash in the cake. His loss. The Yellow Squash Cake was awesome!
RECIPE UPDATE: I had someone comment that I must have forgotten the eggs in this recipe since her batter was very dry. There are no eggs in this recipe. The squash releases it’s moisture and it should come together in the end. My cake turned out very moist, although a little more dense than most cakes. I’m sure several factors (humidity, moisture content of the squash, etc…) could make this cake dry. Make sure you firmly pack the squash into the measuring cup to ensure you get enough squash in the batter to make it moist. Do not decrease the amount of oil or sugar. The batter should not be dry and crumbly or super thick (as in, if you have to press the batter into the pan, something is wrong). If you felt like you need to add 2 eggs, go ahead. The result would probably be a lighter cake. If you still have a problem with dry, crumbly batter, then try mixing in a liquid (milk or water) a tablespoon at a time until the batter is at a thick, but pourable (with the help of a spatula) consistency.
Chocolate Yellow Squash Cake
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 firmly packed cups shredded yellow squash
1/4 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch cake pan
In a large bow, mix together the oil, sugar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. In another bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the oil and sugar mixture. Fold in the shredded yellow squash. Your batter should be thick, but pourable with the help of a spatula. If your batter is dry and crumbly, try adding a little milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the batter comes together. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely.
To make the frosting, cream the butter in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat until it all comes together and is a spreadable consistency. Spread the frosting over the cooled cake.