Minestrone Soup

I have been using this recipe to make minestrone soup for years.  It is just wonderful!  It’s very versatile and can be easily tweaked to use what you have on hand. Chickpeas can be added instead of kidney beans. Additional veggies, such as fennel can be added for a change. 16 ounces of tomato juice can be used instead of the tomato paste. Increase or decrease the amounts of ingredients to suit your taste. I usually add more shell macaroni (or ditalini pasta) and sometimes leave out the spinach or kale (although it’s equally as good with these ingredients). I usually add more broth than this recipe calls for….I like mine brothy. This soup freezes really well.

Minestrone Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups vegetable stock
2 cans (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 – 3 tsp. dried basil
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 cup fresh spinach or kale (optional)
½  cup shell macaroni (uncooked)

Sauté onions and celery in olive oil until tender.  Add garlic, sauté 2 more minutes.  Add veggie stock, cooked kidney beans, and basil.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste and dry pasta; return to a boil.  You can add more water at this point for a brothy soup.  Lower heat and simmer 5 – 7 minutes.  Add carrots and simmer 5 more minutes.  Add zucchini and spinach or kale and cook until tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise

From January 09, 2005:   These tasty burgers are a quick and easy vegetarian meal. They are filling and satisfying. I recommend making the chipotle mayonnaise to go with the burgers, it’s fantastic (and that’s something because I don’t like mayo). The patties can be a bit crumbly, so be sure to mash the beans well and don’t add too much corn. I added a tad more salt and cumin than was called for in the recipe.  Cook up any extra patties and put them in the freezer for a quick meal.

Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Burgers:
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can no salt-added whole-kernel corn, drained

Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon canned minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce

Remaining ingredients:
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 (1 1/2-ounce) whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
4 romaine lettuce leaves

To prepare burgers, combine the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. Add pinto beans and corn; partially mash with a fork. Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 3 1/2-inch patty, and refrigerate for 10 minutes. 

To prepare chipotle mayonnaise, combine mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon chipotle in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until thoroughly heated.  Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top each patty with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 lettuce leaf, and top half of bun.

Yield: 4 servings

CALORIES 411 (23% from fat); FAT 10.7g (satfat 1.9g, monofat 3.2g, polyfat 3.2g); PROTEIN 15.2g; CARBOHYDRATE 63.1g; FIBER 9.1g; CHOLESTEROL 57mg; IRON 3.9mg; SODIUM 837mg; CALCIUM 153mg;

recipe source:  Cooking Light, January 2005


Perfect Fried Okra


Fried okra reminds me of my childhood in Texas. We always grew okra in our garden and it seemed like we ate okra every day in summer. This is the absolute best fried okra recipe. Simple and to the point. The okra turns out crispy (and not slimy at all) every time. I recommend this recipe for anyone who has never tried okra before, or who thinks they don’t like okra. After having okra fried this way, you will love it.

Perfect Fried Okra

1 pound fresh okra
1 quart water
1/4 cup salt
cornmeal
oil for frying

Wash okra well; drain. Cut off stems and tips. Slice into small pieces.

Combine salt and water. I know it seems like a lot of salt, but trust me, the salt draws out the slime and helps make the end result crispy. Soak okra in salt water for 30 minutes.  Drain okra in a colander. Rinse well (it will still be somewhat slimy, but that’s ok because it will allow the cornmeal to adhere) and drain again.

Roll the drained okra in enough cornmeal to coat all pieces.

Fry in batches in hot oil until golden and crisp.  Drain on paper towels.


Bulgur and Garbanzo Salad

From July 21, 2008:  On Saturday I made this whole grain salad to take to a party (that we ended up missing because of the horrible traffic on I-95). It’s a great no-cook summer salad. The bulgur wheat and garbanzos make a complete protein and are complemented with other traditional Mediterranean ingredients. Parsley can be used instead of cilantro.

Bulgur and Garbanzo Salad

1 cups raw bulgur
3/4 cup boiling water
Juice of 2 lemons
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, seeded, peeled, and diced
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
4 oz. feta cheese, diced

In a bowl, pour boiling water over the raw bulgur. Let sit for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, garlic, ground mustard, cumin, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil and pour dressing over the bulgur.

Mix the garbanzo beans, tomatoes, cucumber, and cilantro into the bulgur. Add the feta and chill for at least 1 hour to let flavors meld.


Portuguese-Inspired Vegetarian Sausage Soup

From December 30, 2007:  I am on a two week break from teaching and have been cooking like crazy. I feel like a real person again. It’s been perfect soup weather and so I have been making lots of soup. This is a yummy vegetarian soup that I based on a recipe I found that was chocked full of nasty, nitrates and preservatives filled, greasy meat sausage. I use Frieda’s brand Soyrizo. My only complaint is that it breaks down into little granules. It still tastes good, though. The only place I have been able to find vegetarian sausage is at the Super Wal-Mart here. You can add 1 teaspoon of aniseed to make this soup more authenic. Some chopped kale would be good in this too.

Portuguese-Inspired Vegetarian Sausage Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable broth
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (including juices)
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
1 package Soyrizo (discard plastic casing)
3/4 cup black olives, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced

In a large soup pot, saute the onions and celery in the olive oil over medium heat.  When they become tender, add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.  Add potatoes, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.  Then add the Soyrizo, black olives, and zucchini.  Cook 10 more minutes until potatoes and zucchini are tender.


Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Bamboo Shoots

This is a curry I threw together for lunch today.  It was so easy and delicious.  I used chicken, but any other protein (including tofu) can be used instead.  I found fresh, pre-cut bamboo shoots at the Asian market and used them for my curry.  Fresh bamboo definitely has a more distinct flavor (and aroma) than canned, but the canned bamboo is much easier to find (most grocery stores carry it) and works and tastes fine. Green curry tends to be spicy hot.  You can cut back the amount of curry paste in this recipe to try to tone down the heat level.

I keep a variety of curry pastes and canned coconut milk in the pantry for quick meals.  The Maesri Curry Pastes are so amazing and functional.  There are so many flavors available and directions are on the can (although I always deviate from their instructions…don’t be afraid to experiment).  You can take a can of curry paste, mix it with coconut milk and add any meat and/or veggies you have on hand to make wonderful curries.  Red curry, chicken, and a bag of frozen green beans is a favorite combination of ours.  Great for weeknight dinners.

Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Bamboo Shoots

1 can Maeri Green Curry Paste
1 can coconut milk
1 – 2 chicken breast(s), thinly sliced
1 can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 bell pepper (green or red), seeded and sliced
Fresh Thai basil leaves (to taste)
Fish sauce (optional and to taste)
Sugar (optional and to taste)

Combine the green curry paste and coconut milk in a large pan or wok over medium high heat.  Let the mixture come to a slight boil and then add the sliced chicken.  Let the chicken cook until it is no longer pink and then add the bamboo shoots and bell pepper.  Simmer about 5 minutes (or longer to let the sauce thicken up some).  Stir in the Thai basil and fish sauce and sugar, if using.  Serve with rice or rice noodles.