It's rainy, I want soup.

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I made the Split Pea Soup from the Moosewood cookbook on Sunday, anticipating the rain.  When it was done, I blended it smooth with my hand blender, then added half a ham steak that I warmed up in a skillet and minced. It was so good, and even my daughter loved it. 

That got me on a search for more soup.  Today, I'll make the carrot soup that I posted about before, from How to Cook without a Book.
  
I happened upon this recipe in a link from today's recipe on Food Blogga:  Italian Chicken and Escarole Soup  I love the idea of a non-meatball version, I can't wait to try it.  Maybe tomorrow if I can find some escarole at the market. 

Even her today recipe sounds wonderful, and I may try that one too. 
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I saw this on Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger yesterday morning, and when I went to Costco today, they had halibut, so I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did! It was very good, although I felt it needed a little more lime juice at the table, and my husband agreed. The broth was delicious, and would have been nice with some crusty bread.
As it was, the brown rice and spinach left in the broth at the end was very satisfying. The husband gives it the thumbs up for a do-again, and I agree, it was very good.

Except for the spinach and fish, I had everything else that I needed in the pantry, which means this is the kind of recipe I could do at a moment's notice whenever I pick up some fish. That's always a plus.

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You remember I'm not a food stylist, right? It actually tastes better than my presentation would suggest. If you click on the link to the recipe on the food network site, there is a better picture!

Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut-Curry Broth

Source: Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste*, or 2 teaspoons curry powder
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/4 teaspoon, plus more for seasoning
4 (6-ounce) pieces halibut fillet, skin removed
Steamed spinach**
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked brown rice, for serving

*Available in the Asian section of most supermarkets
**Steam or microwave 5 cups of washed baby spinach for 2 minutes

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes.

Season the halibut with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange the fish in the pan and gently shake the pan so the fish is coated with the sauce. Cover and cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 7 minutes.

Arrange a pile of steamed spinach in the bottom of 4 soup plates. Top with the fish fillets. Stir the cilantro, scallions, and lime juice into the sauce and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the sauce over the fish and serve with rice.

Yield: 4 servings

Episode#: EK0203
Copyright © 2006 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved

Carrot Soup

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This goes in the category for Easiest Dinner Ever! This is adapted from the excellent How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart by Pam Anderson which I purchased back in 2000 or 2001. The book did it's job well with this recipe, and a few others. In it, she teaches basic techniques so you only have to substitute ingredients in the correct proportions to get something good.

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Carrot Soup
1 large onion, chopped
3/4 lb. carrots, chopped
1/4 lb. fingerling potatoes, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
enough chicken broth to cover, I used about 3 cups because my onion was really large.
1/2 cup half-and-half
fresh basil for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Start the broth warming up to a boil while you chop the veggies. Toss them in as you finish chopping (except for the basil). Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, or until you can break up the carrots with the back of your spoon.

When the soup is done, add the half-and-half, and use an immersion blender to blend til smooth, or puree in batches in a blender.

Add salt and pepper to taste. (Depending on your chicken broth, you may not need to add any salt.)

Serve with a chiffonade of basil on top.

This makes about 3 servings, and is quite filling. I usually don't add the potatoes, but I didn't have enough carrots to make a pound, and I had the fingerlings so I threw them in with the skin on. The blender makes the soup quite smooth even with the skin on, plus gives you a little extra fiber!

The idea for this recipe is to substitute 1 lb of veggies and the fresh or dried herb of choice to come up with your favorite Cream of XXX soup. The first one I ever tried was carrot, and that's what gets requested all the time, so I actually haven't tried any others. You could use broccoli, cauliflower (you'd have to tie me down to make me eat that, though) butternut squash with ginger, red pepper, really anything you've got. I've made it with beef, vegetable, and chicken stock, and we both prefer the chicken stock version the best. The vegetable stock competes with the carrots, I think. Anyway, this is a great recipe for clearing out the crisper, so give it a try and see if you like it?!

I was looking for something to fill my Tivo during the dearth of viewing called "March Madness" and came across a show called "Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger" on FoodTV. It's aparently in it's second season, but I hadn't heard of it before. I put a season pass on it, figuring I had nothing to lose.

I watched the first episode my Tivo picked up, and although the recipes she made didn't sound very interesting to me, I liked what she was saying about nutrition and cooking from the pantry. She sort of has that fake smile, not quite as fake as Giada (who's food looks good, but what's with the mouth!) but what she was saying was the kind of stuff I like to hear in a cooking show. I decided to keep the season pass and see what came up next.

This recipe was so good that I didn't have time to take a picture. I will probably make it again real soon, so I will hold off long enough for a photo next time I make it. I can't say enough good things about it, it was that good.

I didn't make any substantial changes to the recipe. I didn't have natural creamy peanut butter, but I did have natural crunchy. I blended the sauce a little longer to crush the crunchy a little smoother, and I used cilantro where it says to use basil or cilantro. I served it with a side of brown rice and some steamed baby broccoli, which is really yummy with a squeeze of lime juice. There was plenty left for lunchboxes the next day, and there was even some peanut sauce left over, which I think my husband had with some veggies the next night for dinner. (I don't know how exactly it dissapaeared...)

It's not a low fat recipe, but it's not animal fat, it's all in the peanuts and lite coconut milk, so if you plan for it, your overall fat for the day or week can balance out this indulgence. It's so good, and the thing I like best is that I know what's in it, so I don't feel bad about having it, whereas at a restaurant, you never know what's in stuff. Try it, and see if you agree!


Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
Source: Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger
Copyright 2006, Ellie Krieger, All rights reserved
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce (or 2 additional teaspoons low sodium soy sauce)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast pounded slightly and cut into 1-inch strips
8 (8-inch) bamboo skewers, soaked for 20 minutes
3/4 cup Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce, recipe below
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or cilantro leaves
1/4 cup chopped toasted peanuts

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, coconut milk, soy sauce, shallot, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime zest, and ginger. Add the chicken strips and marinate for 1 hour. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Spray a nonstick grill pan with cooking spray and preheat over a medium-high flame. While pan is heating, thread chicken onto skewers. Grill 2 to 3 minutes per side, until meat is cooked through and has light grill marks.

Serve chicken skewers with Peanut Dipping Sauce, and garnish with basil or cilantro and chopped peanuts.

Yield: 4 servings (2 skewers and 2 tablespoons peanut sauce per serving)

Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Sauce can be made 1 day ahead of time, and will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 1/4 cups

Episode#: EK0210
Copyright © 2006 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved

I promised a review

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... of the cookbook I bought called "A Year in the Vegetarian Kitchen", by Jack Bishop.

So far, of all the recipes I've tried, only one was sub-par (Red Curry-Braised Tofu with Snow Peas, Red Pepper, and Scallions), but only because I accepted his warning about trying Red Curry paste in small increments until you are used to it's heat. I should have just gone with the full addition of curry paste and it would have been perfect.

Here is a list of what I've made so far:
Carribbean Black Beans with Sauteed Plantains
Cold Emerald Peanut-Sesame Noodles
Spicy Pan-Glazed Tofu
Quick Tomato-Basil Sauce
Pan-Fried Noodle Cake with Stir-Fried Bok Choy

Most of the recipes seem to be Asian or Italian-based, but not all. There are plenty of other flavors in the book.

The serving count / portion sizes of everything have been satisfying, as I generally make a recipe for four and pack up two servings for our lunches before serving our dinners. The exception to that is the Spicy Pan-Glazed Tofu, which we ate with steamed broccoli and brown rice, and we ate it all. In the book, Jack confesses that he and his wife usually do the same.

All in all, I am very satisfied with the book and I am glad I made the purchase. I bought it with the intention of cooking vegetarian meals at home, and have had no trouble doing that.

I did not plan to discard anything in my pantry or freezer, so there will be an occasional meat post in the future while I use up the contents, and I still have plenty of aseptic packs of chicken broth to use up before I clear that out of the pantry, but so far, with this book, it's been really easy to find something quick and enjoyable to make for dinner after work.

Since this was last night's dinner, I thought I'd post a review while it's still on my mind.

This was an amazingly quick recipe, full of flavor, and surprisingly filling. I served it with brown rice. On Skylar's recommendation, I tried the Trader Joe's frozen brown rice, and I found it to be much more tasty and with a better texture than their pre-cooked packaged rice. Plus the size of the package is small, which keeps us honest in the portion size!

I had to wait almost a week for the plantains to turn black and be ripe enough for eating, so if you want to make this, keep that in mind when you do your shopping.

Confession time - it calls for 4 servings, but we only eeked three out, it was so good that we both dug in to the for the lunchbox portions, leaving only one lunchbox portion left, which my husband ate today. We both really enjoyed it, and as long as we can find plantains, it will be on regular rotation.


Caribbean Black Beans with Sauteed Plantains
Source: A Year in the Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop 2004, p 374

Ladled into bowls, black beans spiked with garlic, chile, and citrus juices are topped with sauteed plantains. Use only the ripest, black or mostly black plantains. Rice (either on the side or served under the beans and plantains) makes and excellent addition to this meal.

2 large ripe plantains (mostly or all black)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves

Trim the pointed ends from the plantains. Cut the plantains into 2-inch chunks. Use a paring knife to slit the skin lengthwise in several places on each piece. Carefully remove the skin with your fingers and discard it. Cut each 2-inch chunk in half lengthwise.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the plantains and cook, turning once, until quite browned but not burned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the plantains to a plate and sprinkle with salt. Cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the garlic, and the chile to the empty skillet. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans, orange juice, and lime juice and cook, stirring often, until the beans are heated through and have absorbed most of the juices, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and season with salt to taste.

Spoon beans into individual bowls. Top each portion with some sauteed plantains and serve.

I hope you've seen this: No FDA OK — yet — on cloned meat, milk If not, give it a read.

This is the last straw. My husband and I have been feeling sick when we eat beef lately and have decided to cut it out of our diet. Now this story comes along, and that sort of puts the nail in the coffin for us.

We are going to make an effort to avoid meat from now on. We may still eat it on occasion, but will reserve it for killer cravings or when we are being polite at friends homes or occasions like that.
Considering Mad Cow disease and now this, I just don't trust our government to keep the safety of the populace above the profits of big business and agriculture.

I'm not going to give up dairy yet, but that may come too, I just don't know. It's all so disgusting.

I just bought this book and made 2 good meals from it so far. I'll post reviews soon.

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with Couscous

Here's one that has been in my repertoire for a long time, and is always good.

Sometimes I use breast meat instead of thighs, if that's what I have on hand. In that case, I have to adjust the cooking time so it's not too dry.

I also use whatever dried fruit I have on hand for the couscous. The last time I made it, I used dried
cranberries, and it was delicious.

I usually use a 5 oz container of Total 0% Fat Free Greek Yogurt, since it's a handy size.

Spicy Yogurt-Marinated Chicken with Couscous

Source: Cooking Light May 2001

1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon rind -- grated
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 skinless boneless chicken thighs
cooking spray

FOR COUSCOUS
1 cup fat-free chicken broth
3/4 cup couscous -- uncooked
2 tablespoons currants
1 tablespoon green onion tops -- sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

To prepare chicken, combine first 11 ingredients in large zip-lock bag. Seal
and marinate in refrigerator 24 hours, turning occasionally. Remove chcken
from bag; discard marinade.

Preheat broiler. Place chicken on broiler pan coated with cooking spray.
Broil 4 inches from heat for 10 min. or until meat thermometer registers
180.

To prepare couscous, bring broth to boil in medium saucepan; gradually stir
in couscous. remove from heat; cover & let stand for 5 min. Fluff with
fork. Stir in currants, onions and pepper.

Black Bean-Salmon Stir-Fry

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This is the first recipe that I've made from Eating Well Magazine that has turned out a little...meh. That's a really Lenny description, but I may or may not make it again. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing exciting either.

The only changes I made were to add more salmon, since the piece I had was about 1.5 lbs instead of 1 lb., and to add a stalk of broccolli, so I wouldn't have to make a veg on the side. I just cooked it a bit first so it would all finish at the same time.

I'm not a huge fan of bean sprouts, but I actually did like them in this recipe, but I left them crunchier than the description.

Maybe I didn't make this recipe at all.. I altered it a bit. Ah well, take a look and see if it sounds like something you might like.

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Black Bean-Salmon Stir-Fry

Source: Eating Well Magazine

Yield: 4 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Ease of preparation: Easy

We use a generous amount of fiber- and vitamin C-rich bean sprouts in
this quick stir-fry that combines tender cubes of salmon and a rich
black bean-garlic sauce. Make it a Meal: Serve with store-bought
crepes and plum sauce.

1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons black bean-garlic sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound salmon, skinned and cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ounces mung bean sprouts (6 cups)
1 bunch scallions, sliced

1. Whisk water, vinegar, black bean-garlic sauce, rice wine (or
sherry), cornstarch and crushed red pepper in a small bowl until
combined.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add
salmon and cook, stirring gently, for 2 minutes. Add bean sprouts,
scallions and the sauce mixture (the pan will be full). Cook,
stirring, until the sprouts are cooked down and very tender, 2 to 3
minutes.

I have a pressure cooker, and I don't use it nearly enough, but this is one recipe that makes me dig out the pressure cooker from the bottom of the drawer of pots and pans.

Once you have prepared the ingredients, this recipe goes so fast you won't know what to do with your free time! If you buy the squash already cut up, like they have at Trader Joe's, then all you really need to do is mince your onion and you're almost done.

This could be served as a side dish, but truthfully, I usually fill up my bowl and have it alone with some extra parmesan cheese. It's that good.

Yesterday was a comfort-food-needed kind of day, so this really hit the spot.

Risotto With Butternut Squash and Sage

Source: "The Pressured Cook by Lorna Sass"

1 Tbsp Butter or Olive Oil
1 C Minced Onion
1 1/2 C Arborio Rice
1/2 C Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth
4 C Chicken or Vegetable Broth
1 1/2 Lbs Butternut Squash -- peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Tsp Salt -- or to taste
1 Tsp Dried Sage Leaves -- heaping
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese -- freshly grated
3 Tbsps Minced Fresh Parsley -- for garnish

Heat the butter in the cooker over medium-high heat until it begins to foam. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rice, taking care to coat it with the oil. Add the wine and continue cooking and stirring until most of it has evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the broth, squash, and salt.

Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 4 minutes. Quick-release the pressure by setting the cooker under cold running water. Remove the lid, titlting it away from you to allow the excess steam to escape.

Crumble the sage leaves into the risotto. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the rice is tender but stil chewy, most of the squash is pureed (a few small chunks here and there are fine), and the risotto loses most of it's soupiness and becomes creamy and thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and additional salt, if needed. Serve immediately in large shallow bowls garnished with parsley.

"For a creamy risotto without the cream, this recipe can't be beat. The squash melts down into a puree, napping the kernels of rice in a thick pale-amber sauce. Like special friends, sage and squash bring out the best in each other."