January 30, 2013

Garlic Potato Soup

And here's the potato (actually garlic potato) soup I made to fill the bread bowls. This soup has a lot of garlic flavor, but it's cooked so it doesn't linger. Basically this is just a variation of the classic potato leek soup.

Garlic Potato Soup

from The Flour Sack

3 Tbsp. butter
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, cleaned, and chopped small
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 whole garlic cloves, rinsed, outer papery skins removed, top third of head cut off and discarded
6 c. water or vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1/2 c. cream
1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. minced fresh chives

Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until soft (do not brown), about 5-8 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add water (or broth, if using), bay leaves, garlic heads, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Partially cover pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until garlic heads are very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 30-40 minutes. Add potatoes and continue to simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Discard bay leaves. Remove garlic heads. Using tongs or paper towels, squeeze heads at root end until cloves slip out of their skins. Using a fork, mash garlic to a smooth paste in a small bowl.

Stir cream, thyme, and the mashed garlic paste into the soup. Taste soup add additional salt and pepper as needed. Using an immersion blender, process soup until creamy, with some potato chunks remaining. Adjust consistency with more water, if necessary. Serve sprinkled with fresh chives.

January 29, 2013

Wheat Bread Bowls

Sometimes I ask my husband for ideas for the week's menu. He usually says my old standbys: pizza, beef stew, angel hair pasta, soft tacos, breakfast for dinner, etc. But a few weeks ago he surprised me with the idea of potato soup in bread bowls. I've never made bread bowls and probably have never bought them either. I've not really made too many potato soups either. I did find an excellent recipe for both, so he got his wish. The bread bowls were easy to shape (I was worried), and because of the "x" on top, when my husband first saw them, he thought I bought them. I laughed, because I thought he knew me better than that. Potato soup recipe to come soon!

Sweet Wheat Bread Bowls
from Life as a Strawberry

2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
4 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing bowl
2 tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
cornmeal, for dusting baking sheet or baking stone
1 egg

1. In a stand mixer, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes to let yeast bloom.

2. Mix molasses and olive oil into yeast-water-sugar mixture.

3. Add all-purpose flour and salt. Mix with a dough hook until most of the flour is incorporated into the dough.

4. Add wheat flour to dough and knead with a dough hook until dough is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

5. Transfer dough to a large bowl greased with oil. Let rise in a warm place for 1 and 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

6. When the dough has doubled, punch it down and return it to the oiled bowl. Let rise another hour or until doubled again in size.

7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Punch dough down and cut it into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a roll shape. Cover and let rest for 45 minutes.

8. Dust a baking sheet or a pizza peel with cornmeal. Place shaped loaves onto the baking sheet while you preheat the oven to 425. If you’re using a baking stone, place that in the oven while it preheats and let the loaves sit on the pizza peel for an easy transfer to the stone.

9. Crack the egg into a small dish and add 1 Tbsp. of water to make an egg wash. Brush each loaf with the egg wash. Using a VERY sharp knife, make two slashes in the shape of an X on the top of each loaf of bread.

10. When oven is preheated, place the bread bowls in the oven or onto the baking stone. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until bread makes a hollow sound when you knock on it.

11. Remove bread to a wire rack to let it cool for 15-20 minutes. When you’re ready to fill them with soup, insert a knife at a 45 degree angle and cut in a circle around the top of each loaf, then pull out the center and serve on the side.

January 28, 2013

Carrot and Leek Soup

So it's not been until the past year or two that I've discovered pureed vegetable soups. I've been missing out! One of the first ones I remember making and loving is potato leek soup. Really, all you need to do is cook any vegetables until tender in water or broth, then puree. I still haven't tried plain carrot soup, but I mean too. Leeks are so delicious, though, that I'm not sure I want to leave them out.

My soup turned out a little brown in color, but I think that is because I over-browned the vegetables before adding the water. Otherwise, it may have turned out more of an orange hue.

Carrot Leek Soup
adapted from Recetas de Mon

4 medium leeks, sliced into half moons (immerse in a bowl of water, swish around, drain to remove dirt)
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into thin coins
1 onion, diced
olive oil

Drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large pot. Add the carrots and onions, allow to cook for about five minutes, until they start to soften. Add the leeks and saute everything together for five more minutes. Add cold water to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. When it starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove at least half the broth, reserve. Use an immersion blender to blend the remaining broth and vegetables until smooth. Add more broth as needed for desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

January 24, 2013

Millet for Breakfast

I've been interested in less-common grains for a few years now. My intent is to share some info and recipes with you for several grains you may not be too familiar with.

I'm so excited that I received a grain mill from my parents for Christmas! I haven't used it that much yet, just due to my lack of wheat supply. I'm trying to find a good-price source of whole wheat berries to purchase for long-term storage. Just yesterday, I bought a small amount of wheat berries, so I'll be making some bread soon.

In the meantime, I already had some whole grain millet on hand and thought I'd try it out in the mill, as I've seen several recipes with millet flour. I ended up making waffles with millet flour, but they were just okay. I'll have to do more experimenting with millet flour.

You can also add millet whole and uncooked to baked goods, adding a little crunch. Check out these muffins.

And lastly, millet can be boiled to make a porridge for breakfast. I often eat oatmeal for breakfast, but it's nice to change things up once in a while. I really liked this simple recipe for breakfast millet.

Spiced Millet Breakfast Bowl
from Casa Yellow

2 c. millet
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 c. plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 c. dried fruit (figs, currants, cranberries, or raisins)
1/4 c. pecans, chopped

In a pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 cups millet, give a quick stir with a wooden spoon, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until water is mostly absorbed and millet is tender. After you turn off the heat, keep the lid on the pot, and let steam for 10-15 minutes. Cooked millet can then be stored in the refrigerator until breakfast-time.

When ready to eat, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the millet and spices, tossing to coat and warm through. While millet is heating up, stir a few tablespoons of maple syrup into the yogurt, flavoring to taste.

When the millet is hot, scoop it into bowls. Top each with a big swirl of the maple yogurt, dried fruit, and pecans.

January 10, 2013

Chocolat Chaud

Sometimes the weather looks like this:

And when it does, I give you permission to make hot chocolate. But only if you make it from scratch and abandon Swiss Miss and Nesquik.

Chocolat Chaud
adapted from Family Bites

1 1/2 cups cold whole milk
1/2 cup water
1-2 tablespoons sugar or honey (optional)
3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

Combine the milk, water and sugar in a saucepan and heat it just until it comes to a boil. Remove the pot from the stove, add the chocolate and allow it to sit until the chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally.

Using an immersion blender, aerate the milk until it's thick and foamy.

Pour into bowls and serve hot.

January 9, 2013

Creamy Roasted Acorn Squash

I am trying to like squash more, and this recipe helps. I made have made this four or so times. It seems to work better with smaller squash - they roast up more tender. When ready to eat, use your fork to shred the squash from the skin, combining it with the cheese and cream. You won't believe how good squash can be.

Creamy Roasted Acorn Squash
from Martha Stewart

2 acorn squash (1 pound each), halved lengthwise, seeded, and bottoms trimmed to lie flat if necessary
salt and pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 sprigs thyme or dried thyme
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash halves cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Divide cream and thyme among halves.

Bake until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake until cheese is melted and golden, 10 to 15 minutes more.

January 7, 2013

The China Study and Moroccan Bean Stew

I watched the documentary film Forks Over Knives a few months ago, and really enjoyed it. Much of the film features two men - a scientist and medical doctor. The scientist is T. Colin Campbell, who is the author of the book, The China Study (2006). The basic message of the film and the book is that a whole foods, plant-based diet has been proven to be the best for fighting diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.

I was a little worried The China Study would be too scientific and hard to read, but it wasn't. He does explain the most significant of his science experiments, including the effect of various amounts of animal protein in diet and a carcinogen on the health of mice, and the massive China Study. The China Study surveyed the health of many people across various counties in China on a scale never before done or replicated. Dr. Campbell worked with a team in China to prove that diet is definitely linked to cancer and other disease. This may seem obvious, but in the scientific community this was not accepted as fact until more recently.

Because of his findings, bolstered by many other studies by other scientists, Dr. Campbell has come to the conclusion that the healthiest diet for humans is a whole foods, plant-based diet. This means no processed foods and no animal products.

While I am highly persuaded by his findings, I cannot agree entirely because of modern-day revealed truth from God: "Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly." So meat and poultry are to be consumed by man, though sparingly. I submit that the average American diet does not follow the caution of "sparingly".

So instead of avoiding animal products, which I already try to limit, I've decided to focus on ways to add even more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to my diet. Some examples are adding veggies to dishes that may often be veggie-less (example: scrambled eggs), using meat to flavor a dish instead of being the focus of the dish, and consuming more whole grains (less white flour, pasta, rice).

I highly recommend the book and/or film if you are interested in very sound research that will encourage you to eat healthy. Here are a few facts from the book that I don't want to forget.

Plant foods have dramatically more antioxidants, fiber, and minerals than animal food. Animal foods have more fat and cholesterol and slightly more protein, more B12, and vitamin D (though this is mainly due to vitamin-D fortified dairy products).

Four nutrients which animal-based foods have that plant-based foods for the most part do not - cholesterol, vitamins A, D, and B12. Vitamins A and D can be made by our bodies. B12 can be gained from plants grown in rich soil (usually organic) and not triple-cleaned (bought from a farmer).

The following diseases can all be prevented and even reversed by a low animal-foods diet: obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes (type I and II), autoimmune (MS, hyper/hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis), and common aging diseases (blindness, osteoporosis, cognitive impairment).

A low animal-protein diet can overcome the ill effects of carcinogens, even reversal of ill effects. Instead of worrying about staying away from cancer-causing agents, instead focus on your diet. Our bodies can fight off carcinogens when fueled by the proper diet.

Vitamin supplements do very little, if any, good. The best way to get vitamins is through consuming whole foods. Nutrition and the science of our bodies is much more complex than separate nutrients.

For the most part, doctors are not well trained in nutrition and the medical community is not accustomed to using diet as a treatment for many diseases. I have experienced this myself. I struggle with headaches and migraines. In recent years I have seen several doctors, just to see if they any can shed any light on my problem. They never ask me what I eat, even though I know that diet plays a huge role in how my head feels. A doctor once suggested a preventative medicine to be taken daily. I have tried several before, and so I told the doctor I'd rather not have to be dependent on a pill. The doctor offered no further suggestions and said to come back and see her if I ever wanted to try the medication. I am not against doctors, but I am for trying to manage ailments without pills and surgeries where possible. Nutrition plays a huge role in this. Good health is in our hands and what we put in our mouths.

There are recipes on the website Forks Over Knives. I found this one for Moroccan Bean Stew there and thought it looked pretty good. Wow - this is so flavorful and delicious.

Moroccan Bean Stew
from Forks Over Knives

1 tablespoon water (to sauté)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
Few pinches cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cup onion, diced
3-4 medium-large cloves garlic, minced or grated
3 – 3 1/2 cups yellow or orange-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 can (14 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed
3 cups vegetable stock
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

In a large pot over medium heat, add the water with the spices and salt.

Cook for a couple of minutes, and then add the onion, garlic, and sweet potato.

Stir through, cover, and cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have started to soften.

Add all remaining ingredients except ginger, and increase heat to high to bring to boil.

Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until lentils are fully dissolved.

Add fresh ginger, stir through, and serve.