Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Southern Inspired Collard Green Soup

This delicious hearty soup has become one of my favorites. Nutrition meets Soul Food. Warm, savory, and satisfying-- perfect for cool autumn evenings.  My 5-year-old proudly proclaims: "I LOVE Collard Greens!" when she finds out I've made this for dinner and my toddler gobbles it up, too.

You could substitute any white bean and use spinach, kale, or chard and it would be just as tasty.


1 Tb. olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 bay leaf
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 tsp. salt (Salt to taste, really)
6 cups vegetable stock or vegetarian chicken broth
1 15 oz. can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pearled barley (eliminate for gluten free)
3 Tb. minced garlic
1 large bunch collard greens, stemmed and chopped
Ground black pepper to taste


Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add onion, bay leaf, celery, carrots and salt. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, then add stock or broth and barley. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables and barley are tender. 

Add black eyed peas, garlic, and as much of the collard greens as you can fit. Cover and wait a few minutes for the greens to cook down. Keep adding the greens in batches until they are all incorporated. Add black pepper to taste and adjust salt. 

Serve hot, garnished with a little parsley and a spoonful of parmesan or romano cheese (eliminate for vegan version, of course!).

I love to toast some crusty artisan bread, tear off a piece and dip it into my soup...Mmmmm. I'd make this again for dinner if I hadn't already made it twice in two weeks. I think I'll make Lebanese lentil soup instead...

Happy, healthy eating! 

Serves 4-6 (We have to double it in my house)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Omega III

"If you don't eat fish, how do you get enough omega-3 in your diet?" "Do you get enough protein?" Two questions I've heard often repeated when people find out I'm vegetarian. The answer to both is: There are plenty of plant-based means for including good fatty acids (known as omega-3s) and protein in your diet. Walnuts, avocado, flax, hemp, olive oil, green leafy veggies, soybeans, and pumpkin seeds are some of the most common sources. You can take vegetarian supplements, but I have a really hard time swallowing those gigantic pills.

So why the big fuss over omega-3? WebMD offers an explanation...

"The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease. Just how do omega-3s perform so many health "miracles" in people? One way, experts say, is by encouraging the production of body chemicals that help control inflammation -- in the joints, the bloodstream, and the tissues." Read the whole article here

Pretty important stuff, right?

In our house we like to include a sprinkling of flax seed or ground flax in just about everything from smoothies to cookies. (Flax is an excellent replacer for eggs in baking!) I recently found an easier way of ingesting our daily dosage of omega-3....Smooth, creamy, and delicious! 

Kinda spendy, but totally worth it! One tablespoon has 93% of your daily allowance for omega-3 (1,490 mg). And, it tastes awesome...We chose the pomegranate/blueberry variety of Barleans brand flax oil.  They also have cinnamon, lemonade, banana/strawberry flavors and of course, plain ol' plain. 

Hey now, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy improving your health! :0) So, whether it's munching on a handful of walnuts, grinding flax seed between your teeth, savoring luciously smooth flax oil, or eating a hearty green salad, make a mental note to daily add more omega-3 to your diet!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ethnic Food of the Day: Lebanese Lubia (لوبيا)

We love ethnic food. Period. Korean. Middle Eastern. Thai. African. Mexican. Indian. You name it, we like it. We are blessed with a wide cultural circle of friends and they each have something new and delicious to bring to the table (pardon the pun) as far as cuisine is concerned. I'm excited when one of them is willing to teach me how to make a traditional dish. 

Our Lebanese friend, Rabih, showed me the basics for Lubia, a saucy Middle Eastern dish served with white rice. Lubia/Lubya simply means "beans" in Arabic. You could use white or red beans and make Fasolia, but traditionally green beans are used in this recipe. Now, I should put a disclaimer on this. This is my interpretation - probably not super authentic, but so good! This is my go-to dish when I'm short on time because it's simple, healthy, delicious, and my family loves it. 

The recipe calls for baharat, or Middle Eastern mixed spices. For sake of time I purchased some from a Middle Eastern market but if you're feeling adventurous, you could make your own! I made some a few  years ago. Find a recipe here.

Olive oil
4 cups canned green beans 
1 large can diced tomatoes, in juice (or 2 - 15 oz. cans)
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag Morningstar Griller Crumbles (eliminate if making gluten free)
Red pepper flakes
Lebanese Baharat or Middle East Mixed Spices 

In a large stockpot, saute onion in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat. When semi-clarified, add minced garlic and sauté a moment more. Add green beans and tomatoes. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, a pinch or two of sugar (to neutralize the acid), about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. Seven Spices, and salt to taste. Stir and add 1/2 of the bag of Morningstar Griller Crumbles if using. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes more, or until all ingredients are fully incorporated and stew is bubbling nicely. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy hot over white or brown rice. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Truly Vegan Cheese?

I visited our local Whole Foods Market yesterday for two items...Came home with more than I bargained for. I wasn't even hungry while I was shopping! It's just that I saw this great deal on Kidz Clif Bars for Gracie's lunches, and I simply HAD to get some more rye and barley flakes for our hot cereal in the morning...There was the vegetarian beef and chicken flavored broth mix, and finally in the cheese department, this: Monterey Jack Vegan Gourmet Cheese by Follow Your Heart. Usually if a cheese claims to be vegan, it still has casein or whey protein in it. I perused the ingredients ~ WHOA! Completely vegan cheese alternative. Into the cart it went...

So, my impression? While not tasting like traditional cheese (I've yet to find a cheese alternative that actually does), it'll do in a pinch. It has a unique texture due to its tofu base, very moist. It shreds well as you can see from the photo, but I found that it didn't melt when I combined it with vegetables for the Mini Spinach/Broccoli Tarts I made for lunch today. It did add a nice saltiness though, without being overpowering.

Nutritionally, it's lo-cal with 70 calories per 1 oz. serving. There are 7 g. of fat, 0 cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 2 g. carbs, and 1 g. protein. That's in comparison with normal Monterey Jack cheese...105 calories per 1 oz., 8.5 g. fat, 240 mg sodium, and 6.5 g. protein. Don't mean to confuse you with a host of numbers and data, but I had to be fair, right? That's the important stuff.

So, here is how I made the tarts ~

12 small wonton wrappers
two medium broccoli florets, chopped (Just two pieces of the broccoli stalk)
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
1 oz. Shredded Vegan Gourmet Monterey Jack cheese
4 fresh basil leaves, julienned (rolled and cut in ribbons)
dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
granulated garlic

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 6-tin muffin pan with food spray. Place two wonton wrappers in each cup, gently pressing down into the base and overlapping the edge of the tin to give a nice tart shape. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until lovely golden brown on the edges.

For the filling:
Saute diced onion in a small amount of olive oil. When slightly clarified, add chopped broccoli. Cook until broccoli is crisp tender (maybe 1 1/2 minutes); add handfuls of spinach. Gently toss to combine until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and add a few sprinkles of dried oregano, a sprinkle of granulated garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Mix in basil and shredded cheese.

Fill your tartlets with about 2 Tb. of vegetable mixture and put back into oven to heat ingredients all the way through, maybe 5 minutes or so. Remove and allow to cool slightly before enjoying. You'll notice that the bottom of the wonton skin does not stay very crunchy, due to the vegetable juices escaping. But, you could bake them a little longer before filling if you'd like a little more crunch.

Serving size? Probably three....But I ate all six. They were that good! And small, too....Just sayin'.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

I've been on a baking frenzy lately...I don't know why, but I seem to be obsessed with cupcakes. I never even liked cupcakes! I think it was the frosting ~ Why do people like frosting? Thick, sugary goo that impairs the lusciousness of the cake? Well, I guess not all frostings are like that.....but I digress.

So, today I was going through a box of food items that some friends left for us when they moved to Australia. Imagine my delight when I saw a container of Chai Spiced Tea. Instantly my creative juices started flowing. Chai Cupcakes! Here, I thought, is an original idea! I doubt anyone has thought of it...Ugh! Martha Stewart and a host of others beat me to it.

So, thanks to Darla of Bakingdom.com, I found my perfect Chai Cupcake recipe. If you love a warm Chai tea on a cool autumn day, this is the recipe for you. Sorry it's not an original, but I did make a slight adjustment. I discovered a perfect substitution for cake flour! I'll share the joy in the ingredient list. I'm so excited about this recipe because you can substitute applesauce for eggs. Not only is it low fat, it's full of awesome fiber, too!

1 1/2 cups cake flour (If you don't have it, mix 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup of cornstarch to equal 2 cups. Then portion out your 1 1/2 cups. Cool, huh?)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup soy milk
4 chai tea bags (I used Stash brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. This recipe will make about 18 regular size and 24 mini size.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices; set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm milk until it just simmers. Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and allow the milk to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add applesauce, just until combined.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture over the butter/sugar/applesauce batter and mix with a hand mixer on low speed until just combined. Add 1/2 of chai milk mix and beat on low until combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mix and beat. Scrape the bowl, then add remaining milk. Mix until incorporated, then add the last of the flour. Be careful not to over mix.

Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 of the way full and bake for approximately 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. I always like to test the tops of the cupcakes, too. If they spring back when lightly touched, they are most likely done.

Allow to cool completely before frosting. Darla suggested using a cinnamon scented buttercream frosting. My husband would like a cream cheese style frosting...You choose what you'd like to accent them with.

Enjoy! I certainly will...as my exercise regimen increases.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

French Toast ~ Mmmmm

So, every time I go to a Coney Island (a diner, for those of you who don't live in Michigan) for breakfast, I order french toast. I don't like egg dishes, waffles don't really appeal to me and really the only thing that sounds good is french toast dusted with powdered sugar. Oh, and a side of hash browns, of course! When I make french toast at home, I use a cashew based batter. I've tried several recipes and finally decided, ENOUGH! I will make up my own recipe. I tested it out on my family this morning. My husband liked it, and that's good enough for me!

You can use whatever bread you have on hand, but I used Great Harvest's Cinnamon bread and it was amazing!

Batter Ingredients:
1/2 cup cashews (you could try another nut such as blanched almonds if you have allergies to cashews)
1 cup water
5 dates
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup soy milk
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. honey
1/8 tsp. almond extract

Blend cashews and water together until very smooth (no gritty pieces at all). Turn off blender and add dates. Resume blending until very smooth. Add flour, milk, salt, honey and almond extract. Blend until all is combined well. Pour into a wide dish. I use a pasta bowl that's not very deep. Dip bread slices into batter and fry on a medium hot skillet until nicely browed on both sides. Serve with your favorite toppings! We enjoy fresh strawberries and a touch of whipped cream, or peanut butter, applesauce, and syrup.

Enjoy this healthy alternative to regular french toast! If you have any leftovers, these freeze well and make a quick breakfast if you are short on time. Just pop them in the toaster and you're set!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Three Bean Chili

Our church hosts an annual Chili Cook Off in the fall and this was my entry. At that point in time I was trying an elimination diet for my newborn son: no dairy, no soy. I took this recipe because it was chock full of vegetables and taste, but had no soy products such as Morningstar Farms Griller Crumbles. I have adjusted a few things recently, cutting back a bit on the spice and adding vegetable broth to reduce the sodium content. Enjoy this hearty chili with some crunchy cornbread on a cold winter night.

1 Tblsp. Olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly minced
2 (4 oz.) cans diced green chiles
1 (15 oz.) can peeled, diced tomatoes in juice
1 (15 oz.) can vegetable broth
2 Tblsp. chili powder
1 (15 oz.) can Great Northern beans
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas
2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, or 4 cups homemade black beans
1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery, bay leaves, cumin, and salt. Saute until onion is tender then mix in carrots, garlic, and green chiles. When vegetables are heated through, add chile powder, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer approximately 45 minutes. Stir in corn and continue cooking for 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blueberry Cornmeal Scones

I happened across this recipe for berry-cornmeal scones when we lived in Colorado. My husband is an avid outdoorsman and he loved to take a few of these hearty treats with him on his mountain climbing expeditions.

Cornmeal gives this recipe a satisfying crunch and succulent blueberries pop with juicy sweetness.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup margarine
1 tsp. finely shredded lime peel (you could also use lemon or orange)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries), thawed
2/3 cup sour soy milk (*see instructions below)
1 tsp. vanilla

*To make sour soy milk: For each cup of sour milk required, place 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into a glass measuring cup. Add enough milk to equal 1 cup total of liquid. Combine and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes before using in your recipe.

In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Using a fork, cut in margarine until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add lime or lemon peel. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture. In another bowl combine blueberries, milk and vanilla. Add all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quickly knead dough about 10-12 strokes until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough into an 8-in. circle on an ungreased baking sheet. Cut dough into 10 wedges, cutting only about halfway through to score.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cut the wedges and serve warm. Icing is optional.

I drizzled a bit of lime icing over the top of the scones this morning and my daughter loved it! She kept remarking how much she enjoyed the sourness of the lime juice. :0)

*Original recipe in Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, copyright 1998.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cranberry Orange Bran Muffins

My husband visited some of our dear friends for the weekend recently and returned home raving about the delicious bran muffins they had for breakfast one morning. I asked my friend for the recipe because if something is THAT good, I have to try it! These are moist and not too sweet, and the addition of slightly tart dried cranberries and the brightness of orange zest make them irresistible!

1 cup white flour
1/4 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tb. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups All Bran Original Cereal (the twigs!!)
1 1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup dried cranberries
a healthy pinch of fresh orange zest

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cranberries in a small bowl. Set aside. Mix All Bran, milk, and oil in another bowl and let stand for about 5 minutes, or until cereal has absorbed most of the liquid. Stir together the dry and wet ingredients until well incorporated and add the pinch of orange zest. Stir until combined. Spoon batter into sprayed muffin tins and bake for about 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees.

The original recipe called for baking for 20 minutes. My muffins weren't done until about 30 minutes, so you'll have to take into consideration that oven temperatures vary.

Thanks to Kellie May for sharing the basic recipe with me! I hope you'll enjoy the additions ~
Yield: 12 muffins

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Southwestern Potato Corn Chowder

So, my family are huge fans of southwestern style food. My husband and I spent some time in New Mexico and came to appreciate the versatility of chiles. We've always enjoyed corn chowder, but one day I thought to include some green chiles....WOW! That added a new dimension to an old favorite. Today I spent some time actually writing the recipe down as I made it. (Unfortunately, I rarely do that. Then when something actually turns out, I can't remember how to replicate it!)

1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can yellow sweet corn (I used the creamed variety, but regular will do just as well)
4 cups cauliflower
1 4-oz. can green chiles
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. cumin
2 1/2 scant tsp. salt
pepper to taste

In a medium stockpot, cook cauliflower. Peel potatoes and cube, then cook in a large soup pot with just enough water to cover (about 3 cups). Spray a small saute pan with cooking spray and saute onion. When cauliflower is tender, place in a blender with sauteed onions and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Blend until smooth and creamy. Add cauliflower mixture to potatoes in pot, then pour in drained corn and green chiles. Add seasonings and combine well. Simmer soup for about 20 minutes until it begins to thicken slightly. Serve hot!

You can adjust the seasonings to taste.
Enjoy! :0)