Monday, March 17, 2008

Stone Pot Soup

For several years, I was a member of a Community Supported Agriculture Farm (CSA). As part of your membership, you need to work a minimum of hours on the farm during the growing season. I liked putting in my hours on Saturday because a tradition they had was to start a Stone Pot Soup in the morning to be eaten at lunch. Everyone was to bring something as a contribution to the soup. The soup always tasted fine. It wasn't something you'd want to be sure to capture the recipe for so you could make it again, but it made for a tasty and satisfying lunch. You'd need to jazz it up a bit with some spices or liquid aminos, but overall it was fine.

So, since I am on a mission to clean out my pantry (see last entry), I decided a Stone Pot Soup was in order. Here is what I threw into the pot: onion; garlic; veggie broth; a can of diced tomatoes, a can of cannelini beans; a sweet potato; barley; kale; thyme; salt and pepper.

Based on my experience, I have a few tips for you:
  • A little barley goes a long way. If you put some barley into the soup pot and think to yourself, "That doesn't seem like nearly enough barley", trust me, it is enough barley. I had this thought, and then added triple that amount. I don't need to eat barley again for a while.
  • When you are choosing sweet potatoes to keep on hand, it is probably best to buy small or medium sized ones. Gigantic ones (like the one I put into my soup), are probably too big for most things.
  • When you are making a Stone Pot Soup, it is a good idea to limit the amount you make, especially if you live alone. Remember, they are typically not all that delicious. So, to eat it four days in a row for lunch, and let's just say my serving sizes were on the generous side, becomes laborious. Did I already mention that barley probably won't be on my hit list for a while? (Ever again?)
You may have surmised I am having some quantity issues. I seem to be eating much more than necessary lately. I'm going to blame it on winter. I think I am trying to comfort myself and I may just eat my way to spring.

Try a Stone Pot Soup! It's rather liberating to toss things into a pot with reckless abandon. You just may come up with a really great concoction. Let me know if you do.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Winter Blahs/ Quinoa and Black Beans

I feel boring. My mood is matching the grey dismal skies. I haven't felt inspired to cook anything new in a while. I've also given myself the mandate to use up a good majority of the items in my "pantry" (Currently my pantry consists of a small closet with shelves, but I aspire to have a real pantry area someday.) before I can buy anything new. Unfortunately, I don't even know what some of the items are. I get carried away in the bulk food aisle sometimes and buy things that look interesting. Recently, I got in the habit of writing down what the item is, in addition to the store code on the tag so I don't end up with mystery grains or flours.

So lately I've been relying on my old stand-bys, instead of searching for new fun things to make. I love quinoa (which I do have and can identify), and I love black beans, so the two together are really a very nice combination. If you haven't tried quinoa, you should! It has the highest amount of protein of any grain (I'm pretty sure on this, but you can check if you want), and it only takes 20 minutes to cook. Here's one I make a lot:

Quinoa and Black Beans

1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup quinoa (rinse the quinoa in sieve before cooking, otherwise it can be bitter)
2 cups veggie broth
1 tablsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 small zucchini, diced (optional)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 cans black beans
1/2 cup fresh cilantro minced

1. Sautee onion and garlic in a medium sized saucepan until light brown.
2. Mix in quinoa, broth, cumin, salt and pepper.
3. Bring to a boil. If using zucchini, add now. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Stir in corn, black beans and cilantro. Cook another 5-7 minutes. If you don't have any fresh cilantro, you can use dried (a teaspoon, or a little more) and add it when you add the cumin in step 2. Another option I have starting using recently is frozen herbs. You can buy them in little trays with teaspoon sized cubes at Trader Joe's. They only have a couple to choose from, but they do have cilantro.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Carrot Soup

While I do love making soups, I am not sad to see soup season come to an end. No, it is not completely over, but it is winding down. We turn the clocks ahead this weekend, and the days will become longer, and soon warmer. I long for the kind of day that it is so stinking hot, you can't even believe you ever craved a bowl of steaming hot soup to warm your frigid soul. (If in the middle of July I am complaining of the heat and humidity, you can remind me I said this.)

I figured I might as well squeak in another soup recipe while there still is time to appreciate soup. Carrot soup is very simple and colorful. I usually make some basmati rice to add to it and make for a heartier meal, but you don't have to.

Carrot Soup
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs of carrots, sliced
1 14 oz can cannelini beans
5 cups veggie broth
1 lemon
fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup basmati rice
Note: I added some leftover sweet potato with the carrot and that added some nice flavor.

1. Put rice on.
2. Saute in soup pan for 5 minutes: olive oil, onion and garlic
3. Add carrots, cannelini beans and veggie broth and cook for about 20 minutes, until carrots are tender.
4. Puree soup, add the juice of the lemon, some fresh cilantro and salt and pepper
5. Put some cooked rice in each bowl and ladle soup over it.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette

I haven't been eating as many salads in the past few months as I do regularly. I was having some stomach issues at the beginning of the winter, and when I discussed my eating habits with my doctor, he suggested I reduce the amount of salads I eat. The reason for this is in the winter, when your body is already dealing with the cold, putting lots of cold food into it can act as a stressor. Instead, eating soups and lightly steamed vegetables can feel better to your body. This doesn't mean you should never eat salad in the winter, but I typically have one for my lunch every day. This change in my diet seemed to solve the issue. (If you are wondering what the issue was, I was dealing with some acid reflux. I apologize if this is TMI, but for anyone who may be curious, I didn't want to keep you wondering.) I also took aloe vera juice for a couple of weeks. It tastes horrible but is helpful in soothing the stomach.

When I did eat salad, however, there was a new dressing I tried that I think is perfect for winter, especially on baby spinach or mesclun greens with dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, shaved carrot, red onion and feta.

By the way, there's only 20 days left until the first day of spring. Hopefully Mother Nature is aware of this and shifts the weather accordingly. I could use a sunny 70 degree day right about now.

Maple Dijon Vinaigrette
1 tblsp maple syrup
1 tspn Dijon mustard
1tblsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tspn salt
1/8 tspn pepper
2 tblsp olive oil

Mix together all ingredients accept for olive oil. Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while stirring with small wisk or a fork. You could also use a blender on a slow speed.