Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup

I am both blessed and cursed to be forced to cook for just me on a regular basis.  My better half has always traveled, and while for years I cooked for the kids and me, the kids are off cooking for themselves now.  These days, it's often just "the babies" and me for dinner.

"The Babies"

Thursday, February 21, 2013

38 Power Foods -- Week 32 -- Flax Seed -- Flax Seed Granola with Dark Chocolate


well......maybe not ALL:

Granola has a bad rep.  I have relatives who, when they want to make a derisive remark, say something like, "Those granola eaters  are tree-huggin' their way to ____. (Fill in the blank.) Others say, "Granola is just a crumbled up reason to call an oatmeal cookie breakfast."  (That might have been Melissa Clark, but I'm not sure.)  And, definitely, granola has the reputation of being full of fat and terribly caloric, despite its delicious character.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

38 Power Foods, Week 31 -- Walnuts -- Leek-Fennel Soup with Walnut Pesto


I didn't mean to do it, but you can see the steam billowing away from this hot Fennel-Leek Soup with Walnut Pesto.  Hearty without being heavy, this is a lovely light lunch with toasted baguette and cheese..

Left:  Roquefort                     Right:  Aged Provolone
or a lemony start to a special dinner.  Simple pictures are often best and this is no exception.  The soup pot ingredients are mostly fresh fennel, sliced leeks, chicken stock, and lemon juice--cooked up in about twenty minutes until the vegetables are just barely tender.   The only complexity involved, and it isn't much, is a gremolata-like pesto made in the food processor using today's power food, walnuts, along with lemon and parsley.  Traditional gremolata contains garlic, but I tossed that in the soup pot intead, so have named the topping a pesto.  You can call it what you like; I also call it good.

As walnuts are the nut grown where I live in Minnesota (there's a black walnut tree right down the street),  I was happy to blog about them today!  Not only are they locally sourced and extra-heart-healthy goodies, they also improve brain function and are full of anti-oxidants. A good source of easy-to-carry protein, walnuts weigh in at about 185 calories per ounce (about 14 walnut halves.) While we think of walnut oil as special salad oil, in France, at least,  it was in years past used in lamps for light along with candles.  I happen to be reading a book just this week  From Here, You Can't See Paris: Seasons of a French Village and its Restaurant, by Michael S. Sanders.  Just at the point were I stopped, a local duck farmer was explaining about walnut oil to the author, as many local gardens featured walnut trees and some farms still had walnut groves:

(100 years ago)...  And of course they force-fed geese, mostly for the fat, rather than for the meat.  FOR THE FAT!  Not for using in preservation, because pork fat is better than goose for that, but for cooking!  And the walnut oil, they burned in little lamps, a shallow dish with a wick suspended above -- you see them in all the antique shops now -- les calèmes.  They had walnut oil, back then, for lights.   Oh, people make such a big cheese of the walnut oil now, eh?  But it's not that good, it goes rancid fast, and back then it was used almost entirely for lighting.  They had no petroleum yet, that was the next thing to come.  So they burned walnut oil or candles. 

Three things: walnut oil was and is probably used for a lot of things,  but it isn't terribly useful for cooking per se as it's heat-sensitive and burns easily.  Also, it does become rancid easily, so buy small quantities and store the oil in the refrigerator.  I have always stored walnuts in the freezer (up to a year); they keep only about a month on the pantry shelf.  Let them come to room temperature before using for baking.

Learn more about walnut here, but first make the soup!

   leek-fennel soup with walnut pesto  

The pesto ready to be made in the food processor.
4 generous main-course servings 
6 small first course servings

      Cook's Note:  While the soup cooks, make the pesto, and have it ready at the table. This soup is easily vegan if vegetable broth is used instead of chicken stock.  Without the toasted cheese accompaniment, it's also gluten-free.

 for the soup:
  • 1 tablespoon each olive oil and butter
  • Pinch aleppo pepper (can substitute crushed red pepper), optional 
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored, and sliced thinly
  • 6 leeks, white and light green parts only, well cleaned, and sliced thinly
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 celery stalk, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 quart chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1-2 drops hot sauce, optional
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon--or to taste (you need to grate the peel for the pesto-do that first!)
 for the walnut pesto:

  • 1/4 cup each fresh parsley and walnut pieces-whole or in pieces
  • grated peel from 1/2 lemon  
  1.  In a 6 quart soup pot, heat the oil and butter with the pepper over medium heat.  Add the fennel, the leeks, carrot, celery, parsley, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Stir, cover and cook about ten minutes, stirring once or twice; turn heat down if browning too quickly.
  2. Add the garlic, stir, and cook two minutes. Pour in the stock and the white wine.  Season with hot sauce, if desired.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let cook another ten minutes or so until all vegetables are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pesto by placing all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or hand chopper and pulsing until finely ground like fresh breadcrumbs.  Place in a small serving bowl with a tiny spoon at the table.
  4.  When vegetables are tender, purée soup using an immersion blender or in batches in the food processor or blender.  Squeeze in about half of the lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, adding the rest of the lemon juice if you like it.  I liked just a little more salt--this will depend on how salty your stock was. Serve hot with a small spoonful or two of the walnut pesto.

Disclaimer:  For vegan and gluten-free options, please check all ingredients in your own kitchen as some ingredients are available with different options from different manufacturers.  As always, check with your dietician with questions.  
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38 Power Foods is a group effort!   Stop by these other blogs and see what they're cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available.

Ansh –  
Minnie Gupta from
Sarah - Everything in the Kitchen Sink

All sites may not blog power foods every week.
    Are you a food blogger?  Join us!
 Sing a new song,

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Make Your Own Chocolate for Valentine's Day

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere and lots of drops to drink.

This gorgeous bark is one that Dave had made for me for Valentine's Day a couple of years ago.  Truth to be told, his bark is better than mine.  Candy maker, I'm not, though my toffee was to die for this year.  (pat pat)

Make someone happy. This bark is quick, incredibly decadent, makes lots, and is much less expensive than a big box of perhaps elderly chocolates off the store shelf.   It's also a beautiful candy you might want to make together.  The recipe came from the Food Network (courtesy Dave Lieberman), as do so many scrumptious things these days.  There is hardly an easier dessert to make except perhaps to clean strawberries and arrange them in a bowl come summer.  And that's not really making dessert.  Serve with  a little port or a coffee laced with brandy.

Dave's Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest

1/2 c slivered almonds
3 cups chocolate morsels (I like 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 bittersweet)
1/2 c dried cranberries (We like cherries, too.)
1/2 tangerine, zested

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line a 13x9" baking pan with aluminum foil.

Lay out almond slivers on baking sheet.  Bake in oven until light brown, shaking the baking pan occasionally to mix them around, about 10-15 minutes.

Melt the chocolate morsels in a double boiler over low heat.  Mix in the cranberries, almond slivers and tangerine zest.

Pour into prepared pan.  Smooth the chocolate mixture out into an even layer.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.  Use a knife to break up chocolate into jagged, varied sized bars.

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Lose 10 Pounds in 8 Weeks or Subtract 35,000 Calories -- Update

I finally got the crud the rest of the world has had, so I am off schedule a bit this week.  3 pounds so far and even while ill I've stayed on the food program.  For now, the exercise portion is off-schedule.  I'll be back at it as soon as I'm able to stay on my feet for longer than a few minutes.
Keep cheering!

Sing a new song,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meatless Mondays--Green Chile-Vegetable Crock Pot Soup

Vegan and Gluten-Free

On Monday mornings, I read the Sunday New York Times. (Read Mark Bittman's article on bread in yesterday's NYT magazine--beautiful.)  I'm totally perverse.  Occasionally I snuggle up on the couch for a Sunday afternoon with it, but I work Sundays...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chinese New Year Stir Fry with a Minnesota-Thai Accent

Dave likes to say, "You don't like Asian food."  It's not true and he actually knows it.  What I don't like is food from a greasy "Chinese" take-out place.  What I don't like are limp vegetables and high-fried protein mixed in a shiny, gelatinous sauce full of sweetness and calories I neither need nor want.  I adore the real deal anywhere and, if I'm at home,  pull out the Barbara Tropp when I need inspiration, instigation, or education. What he doesn't say out loud is that he's the better Asian cook; he's just too often too busy to make dinner.  I do love to see him in the kitchen.  Yep.

Friday, February 8, 2013

38 Power Foods, Week 30 -- Pistachios-- Tomato Soup with Yogurt Swirl and Pistachios

I've been making lots of soup lately--for good reasons.  There's a soup book on the way plus I'm watching my calories pretty carefully, so am eating lots and lots of vegetables.  The other day, I made a pretty special tomato soup, which I blogged on Dinner Place.... Next day, I had to have something different; yogurt and pistachios did the trick.  I mixed in a little yogurt to one small portion of my soup, spooned it into the middle of the bowl, and topped it all with chopped pistachios.  I had a partial "cream" of tomato soup and some perfect crunch for texture.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

10 Pounds in 8 Weeks or Subtract 35,000 Calories--Week 3

Light and Lusty Tomato Soup--Yesterday's Veggie Lunch. My recipe here.


Week 3 of my fitness program and I'll admit it's not going as quickly (is that "as well") as I'd like--if I'm measuring success by weight loss, that is.   I've lost 1.5 pounds after finally buying a scale and also figuring out how it works.   I feel better in certain ways.  For instance, it's always nice to be taking care of yourself, isn't it?  I stretch out daily, so my body feels looser, more able.  I thought the grocery bill might go down after giving up most cooked  or restaurant lunches and quite a bit of meat, but vegetables and fruit are expensive.  As you know.  I'm struggling with mid-afternoon munchies, which is a new thing; I rarely snack.  A tablespoon of almonds or a tiny piece of low-fat cheese and a big cup of decaf green and mint teas mixed are my solution.  Perhaps 1 or two Triscuit triangles for crunch...this is not easy.

As I'm slaving over the soup book--re-writing and editing, I'm sitting at the computer way too much.  I am thinking of moving it to the kitchen counter every other hour to stand rather than sit.  I think it'd be better for me anyway, though recent research shows those office workers who are standing all day long at high desks are having serious foot (feet?) problems.  We'll see.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Slow Oven BBQ Ribs with Spicy Broccoli-Potato Salad

Barbeque ribs made in my kitchen oven on a cold, cold day made it seem like...well, somewhat nearer to summer, let's say!

 In the middle of of the winter, I become entranced with the idea of summer food.  I crave hamburgers on the grill eaten outside at the picnic table.  I adore the idea of Sangria and a big crab salad.  (I have the opposite reaction when in mid-July I crave beef stew. Every year.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

38 Power Foods, Week 29 -- Pecans -- Light Winter Vegetable Gratin with Savory Granola

Each Friday, a wonderful group of women reaches across cyberspace and joins culinary hands to salute one very healthy food, one single beautiful ingredient from Power Foods : 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients.  (Scroll down for the list of blogs.)

I won't say it's not a challenge to come up to that gorgeous plate each week.  If I'm busy learning music for church or have my daughter home, or am busy with the soup book, I sometimes can't give the opportunity the intelligent focus and attention it deserves.  I used one great recipe for more than one blog can get ahead of me sometimes.  Hopefully I'm forgiven!