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Soup Day Number Two – Moroccan Lentil Soup in the Slow Cooker

I probably don’t make good enough use of our slow cooker. I always say I am going to use it more but somehow it just seems to slip my mind. The problem I have is that our kitchen is small so it is not a piece of equipment I can keep on the counter and remember to use often. It is usually when I see a recipe I like that makes use of the slow cooker that it jogs my memory. That is exactly what happened with this soup recipe that I found from A Year of Slow Cooking. This recipes uses 3 different kinds of beans, which I love, and some interesting spices to create this one pot meal.

Moroccan Lentil Soup

1 cup dried lentils

1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

28 ounce can diced tomatoes and juice

4 cups vegetable broth, chicken broth or water

1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 inch ginger, peeled and grated

Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot to the slow cooker and sprinkle over the bottom. Drain and rinse off the lentils, garbanzo beans and pinto beans and add them on top of the vegetables. Grate the ginger on top of the beans and then add in the garam masala, cayenne pepper, cumin, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in the broth or water and the diced tomatoes plus the juice. Stir the mixture to blend everything together.

Cover the slow cooker and cook the soup on low for 8 to 10 hours. Before serving the soup, use an immersible blender to pulse and blend some of the vegetables and beans together. This will help to give the soup a better texture and meld some of the flavors together.

This recipe makes a good bit of soup, so you will have leftovers for lunches or another dinner, or you  could even freeze some to use as an emergency dinner for another weeknight when you don’t feel much like cooking. Garam masala is a spice blend commonly used in Northern Indian cooking that mixes together pepper, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. It really adds some nice flavor and fragrance to this dish. All of the spices work well together and give great taste to this soup and using the immersible blender really helps to give it a velvety smooth texture to finish off with. If you use vegetable stock or water in this dish, you can make it vegetarian. You get plenty of protein from all of the beans in the dish and I have had some for lunch after the dinner we had of this soup and the flavor does seem to get even better. If you want to save yourself even more time with the slow cooker, chop your vegetables the night before, get everything prepped on your counter, and then you can just throw it together in the morning before you run out the door to start your day.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. I still have lots I have been working on, including a new roasted chicken dish I tried last night. I also have some other great recipes from the Cooking Channel, Food Network, Food Republic, Cook’s Country and Williams-Sonoma that I will be trying over the next few days and weeks, so check back for those. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Soup Season in Full Bloom – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

The weather has started to get a little more Fall-like around here the last few days so I had planned to make a couple of soups this week to fit the occasion. Soups make a great dinner because they are filling, delicious and nutritious all in one. I had bought a butternut squash at our friend’s farmstand this past weekend and then I found this great recipe from Michael Chiarello for a different butternut squash soup recipe than I had made before. It makes use of some different spices to give a different flavor and roasting the squash with some of these ingredients really added something to the meal.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

For the Toasted Spice Rub:

1/4 cup fennel seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1/4 cup chili powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Roasted Squash:

3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large squash)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup dark molasses

2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub

For the Soup:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup diced carrot

1 cinnamon stick

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash

1/2 cup half-and-half

For the spice rub: Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, turn on the exhaust fan above your stove, add the red pepper flakes and toss the mixture vigorously. Immediately turn the mixture out into a bowl to cool.

When the mixture has cooled, place it in a blender or spice mill with the chili powder, salt and cinnamon and blend until all the spices are evenly ground. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a  cool, dry place.

For the squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, halve lengthwise and discard any of the seeds. Cut the squash into 1-inch diced pieces. Place the squash in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and add the sage, sugar, vinegar (keep your face back when you add the vinegar), molasses and the toasted spice rub. Mix well and allow it to simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors.

Pour the  vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well. Transfer the squash to a heavy, rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place the squash in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until it is very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set the squash aside until it is cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are still runny.

Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. You can use the squash immediately or refrigerate it for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to 2 months.

For the soup: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot and cinnamon stick and saute until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until it is smooth, then simmer gently, allowing the flavors to meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, until it is smooth. Return the soup to the pan and re-heat it gently. Add the half-and-half and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.

A couple of things about this recipe. The toasted spice rub makes quite a bit of spice mix. If you think you will use it again later on, it’s great to have on hand. I cut the recipe in half and still had plenty leftover so you can do that if you don’t want a lot of spice mix. You can use the squash puree for other things as well if you didn’t want to make soup with it. I think it would be a great side dish for chicken or turkey just as it is. You could also use other winter squash if you prefer, like acorn squash, and I think it would do just as well. The soup itself has a very roasted, toasty flavor to it. You can certainly taste the spices coming through in the soup but they do not over power the dish at all. I loved the creaminess of the squash and found it to be a very hearty meal. If you use vegetable stock or water instead of the chicken stock, you can make this a vegetarian meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another soup recipe I just tried. This one was made in the slow cooker and can also be a vegetarian dish, so check back for that one tomorrow. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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Let the Soup Season Begin – Hearty Vegetable Chowder

The weather is starting to get much cooler here at night now so Fall is not far away for us. It is still warm during the day, for the most part, but the nights have been crisp and cool. For me this means that it is time to start breaking out some soup recipes. Luckily, in the newest issue of Cook’s Country magazine, there was a great looking soup that was perfect to kick off the soup-making season for me. This vegetable chowder is very easy to make and makes good use of just a few simple ingredients.

Hearty Vegetable Chowder

6 slices bacon, chopped

1 pound leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin and washed thoroughly

4 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is nearly crispy, about 7 to 9 minutes. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, thyme and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until the leeks are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, until the starch begins to release from the potatoes and coat all the vegetables, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and the bay leaf and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Transfer 1 cup of the vegetables (using a slotted spoon) and 2 cups of the soup broth to a blender; process until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Stir the processed soup back into the pot. Stir in the half-and-half, chives and lemon juice and gently re-warm the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

There are a couple of things about this easy recipe. If you don’t have any leeks, I think you could easily substitute onions instead and not really lose anything. Leeks are great in a soup, but they are not always easy to get and can be a little pricey. Stirring in the potatoes really does make a difference here. The starch acts as a bit of a thickener here for the soup so that when you puree that bit of soup, you are going to end up with a nice, thick chowder. it was tasty and easy enough to make in under an hour on a weeknight all with ingredients I already had in the house. Even better, it’s a one pot meal and you could easily make it vegetarian by eliminating the bacon altogether if you want.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time to see what recipe I’ll be making. I have been checking a few things out in the latest issue of Cook’s Country and there are a bunch of things I want to try, so we’ll see what’s next. until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Spices, Vegetarian


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Snacking it Up – Vegetarian Nachos and Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip

I wanted to make a couple of snacks this weekend. it’s a busy sports time of year with the baseball season going, football season just starting, college football underway, NASCAR entering the chase and more, so there are plenty of good things for you ro watch. If you have some friends over for the game and want to make a couple of quick and easy snacks, these two are perfect to give a try. The first is a very easy vegetarian nachos recipe that you can whip up in just a few minutes.

Vegetarian Nachos

1 bag tortilla chips

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups shredded cheese (such as cheddar or Monterey Jack)

1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves

Jalapeno peppers, sliced

Salsa, for topping

Guacamole, for topping

1 cup sour cream, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet or a large pie plate with nonstick spray. In a saucepan over medium, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and the black beans and chopped onion. Saute until the beans are warmed through and the onion is soft, about 2 minutes. Place a layer of tortilla chips on the sheet and cover with a layer of beans and onions and then cover with cheese. Repeat the process to make a second layer. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Top with salsa, guacamole, cilantro and sour cream.

You could make these nachos with some beef or pork if you happen to have some on hand and ready to use, but you can just as easily throw it together without them and then they are suitable for anyone who is staying away from meat to eat. You could always vary the toppings and add more or less of what you and your guests like best to make a great snack.

It’s always good to have a good dip on hand and what is better and more liked than an onion dip? Naturally, you could simply used the dry soup mix that many people use with some sour cream or yogurt, but using fresh ingredients tastes so much better and has a lot less sodium and preservatives. This one is really easy to make and you can alter it up a little bit to make it even easier. I altered the original recipe somewhat from Bon Appetit to make a little bit of a smaller batch.

Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip

1 pound large onions, thinly sliced

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon onion powder

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and shallots and saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sprigs of thyme, the white wine and the Sherry vinegar and saute until the liquid has evaporated and the onions and shallots are well caramelized, about 6 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and discard the thyme sprigs. Allow the mixture to cool.

Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the sour cream, yogurt and onion powder until the mixture is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill the dip until ready to use.

The original recipe roasts the onions and shallots in the oven for well over an hour. If you have the time to put in and want to do it that way and get a deeper, richer flavor from the onions then you may want to give it a try. If you are pressed for time and want something faster but still tastes better than anything you can buy, give it a try with my method. Everyone thought the results were pretty good from what I made.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. I do have a couple of things to post, including the first soup of the fall season that I made last night. Check back for that one. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Cooking, Snacks, Vegetarian


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Side Dish or Main Dish – Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

I saw this recipe from Williams-Sonoma about 2 weeks ago and knew I wanted to give it a try. I have been trying to introduce more things polenta into our meals to cut back on starches like potatoes, bread and white rice. Sean isn’t exactly thrilled with it so far, so I try to do things with it to make it a little more palatable to him. This recipe could easily be a main course on its own if you wanted a vegetarian meal or you can use it as a side dish for a meal, which is what I did.

Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pans

1 small eggplant, cunt into 3/4-inch pieces

2 small zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 small yellow squash, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1/2 red onion, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup stone ground cornmeal (polenta)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Oil a rimmed baking sheet and an 8-inch baking dish with olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, red onion and bell pepper. Drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast, tossing once, until the vegetables are caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes. Set the vegetables aside and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Stirring constantly, very slowly add the polenta. Cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the polenta, stirring frequently, until the polenta is soft, about 25 minutes. Add the butter and Parmesan  cheese and stir until the cheese has melted. Pour the polenta into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.

Bake the polenta just until it begins to set, about 15 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and top the polenta evenly with the roasted vegetables. Place the polenta back in the oven and continue to bake it until the vegetables are heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve the polenta directly from the dish.

I did change a few things about the original recipe. The original recipe also calls for 2 cups of Fontina cheese to be added at the same time as the Parmesan. I did not have any on hand, so I just used the Parmesan instead and I think it turned out fine. Since I am not a cheese eater, this was more than enough for me but you may like it even better with the Fontina. Also, I did not use the eggplant or the pepper. Michelle and Sean are not big eggplant fans, so I omitted it from the recipe and used extra zucchini and squash instead. I also did not have an orange pepper so I added a diced carrot instead for similar color. You could easily make this as a main course for a meal and it would be quite filling. We have leftovers to use as side dishes for other meals this week. I loved the creaminess of the polenta and the vegetables added just the right texture and flavor to the dish.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes I have been working on. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!




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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Side Dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian


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What a Crock (of Cream of Broccoli Soup)!

Well not quite a crock, but at least it’s a nice pot of cream of broccoli soup. There are lots of recipes for different cream of vegetable soups, and they all seem pretty much the same to me. You basically cook the vegetables you want until they are done, puree it and re-heat it with some cream. This recipe, which I got from Mark Bittman, does a slight variation that seems to taste better to me. He uses a little more cream and adds either some white rice or a potato to the soup to help make it thicker and creamier. You can choose to leave the rice or potato out of the recipe if your like your soup with a thinner consistency; I personally prefer to have it thicker.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

4 cups broccoli florets

1/2 cup white rice or 1 medium baking potato, peeled and cut into quarters

4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock, or water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cream or half-and-half

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Combine the broccoli, rice (or potato) and stock in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook until the broccoli is very tender, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree through a food mill, blender or food processor. (At this point, you may refrigerate the soup, covered, for up to 2 days; re-heat before proceeding).

Return the soup to the pot and re-heat over medium-low heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add the cream. Heat through again, garnish, and serve.

Just a couple of notes about this soup. I am using homemade chicken broth, but any broth or even water will do nicely. For a soup like this, homemade broth doesn’t really make a huge difference since it’s not really the star of the meal, and if you’re going with a vegetarian meal, use vegetable stock or water. As far as pureeing soup, I think the blender probably works best of all your options. It reduces chunky ingredients into a smooth consistency very quickly. I often use the food processor myself for this, but be sure you only fill the food processor half-way to prevent the soup from leaking out of the bowl. Food processors don’t usually have a watertight seal like a blender, so be careful. Another option for this would be to use the immersion blender, which I also use often for soups. You can place it right in the pot, eliminating the mess created by using the blender or food processor. The only downside to this method is that the immersion blender doesn’t give you quite as smooth of a puree as a blender or food processor.

I’ll be serving a crunchy loaf of bread I got at Adams Farms this morning, and that’s all we have for this meal. Tomorrow’s meal is another one pot meal that I’ll be doing. It is Artichokes, Potatoes, Garlic, Olives and Shrimp. It’s something different, our seafood meal of the week, and cooks like a stew. It should be a good one. Check back tomorrow to see what it’s all about. Until then, enjoy your day and enjoy your meal!


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A Couple of Meat-Free Meals

Yesterday was our meat-free meal day, and we actually had two ideas for the meal, one I had planned, and then one my sister-in-law had suggested that sounded really good as well. My idea was Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions. it’s a great one pot meal, completely vegetarian if that’s what you are looking for, and very filling and satisfying.

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped, plus 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups lentils, washed and picked over

6 cups water, vegetable, chicken or beef stock (your preference), warmed

1 cup long-grain rice

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Put 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and some salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the lentils, stir, and add 4 cups of liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Add enough of the stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid. Stir in the rice. Cover and turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the onions and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice.

Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes. When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready. If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes. If the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring, until it evaporates. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve, garnished with the caramelized onions and parsley.

The lentils and rice make for a very hearty meal. The second meal for meat-free night is Browned Cabbage and Noodles. Michelle loved the sound of this one so we thought we would give it a try.

Browned Cabbage and Noodles

3 pounds cabbage

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 sticks butter

3 tablespoons grated onion

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound broad noodles, cooked and drained

Wash the cabbage and grate very fine. Mix in the salt and let stand for 2 hours. Rinse, drain and dry the cabbage (you could skip this step if you wanted and just go straight to cooking).

Melt half the butter in a deep large skillet or Dutch oven. Mix in the cabbage, onions, sugar and pepper. Cook over low heat for 1 1/4 hours, stirring frequently. Add the remaining butter after 1 hour. Toss in the cooked noodles until thoroughly mixed with the cabbage. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.

This recipe serves 6 to 8, so you can adjust the recipe down a bot if you are cooking for a smaller crowd, like I do. There’s not many ingredients in this one, but it does take some time to make it. It’s also a great one pot dish, and I really like those as it cuts down on the clean up afterwards.

So that was Wednesday’s meal, nice and easy. Check back later today for tonight’s meal of Sesame Chicken Stir Fry with Fried Rice and Steamed Vegetables. It promises to be quite tasty. See you later!

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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Vegetables, Vegetarian


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