Friday, October 29, 2010

Sans Chicken Noodle Soup

Tis the season, I have my first cold of the year. Ick. Colds make me want to wrap up in a warm blanket and eat some hot that's what I did. I wanted soup, but didn't want to shop so here's what I came up with based on the foods I had in the pantry and freezer.

Sans Chicken Noodle Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package of frozen pearl onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can white cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups kale (or other green)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
2 bay leaves
1 cup gluten-free small dried pasta

1. In a large pot, cover bottom with olive oil and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onions and sauté until they start to brown. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes or until vegetables are light brown.

2. Add broth, beans, kale, salt, pepper, thyme, sage and bay leaves.

3. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Salt and pepper according to taste. Remove bay leaves before serving.

4. Cook pasta in another pot, rinse and drain. Place a small amount in each bowl and ladle soup on top.

Sorry for the blurry photo, you can tell when I take the photos, instead of my photographer husband :)


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Triple Take Mushroom Soup

I don't think I've ever had a mushroom soup before, so I found it a little odd when I started craving it...but I believe that when you're craving something healthy it's your body's way of telling you what it needs. So I found this recipe which is a take on Anthony Bourdain's mushroom soup recipe and then I made my own changes - hence the Triple Take name.

Triple Take Mushroom Soup

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, cut into thin half-slices
1 cup chopped portabella mushrooms
12 oz. fresh mushroom, thickly sliced (I used regular white mushrooms)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. dried parsley (or use 2 tsp. fresh parsley if you have it)
2 dashes of cooking sherry
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ginger
1 hot pepper
2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)
1 good size potato
3 cups collard greens

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Saute the onions until translucent, then add the mushrooms to the pot. Let the mushrooms saute until they release all their water and most of it evaporates (about 8 minutes). Add vegetable stock, parsley, cooking sherry, hot sauce, garlic and ginger (I used my microplane to shred the garlic and ginger). Let the soup come to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer for an hour. For extra heat I put a hot pepper in while the soup simmered.

While the soup simmers rinse and peal your potato. I used six small potatoes, which I think would equal one large spud. Cut the potato into small edible chunks and then toss into the soup. Rinse your collard greens and tear into small strips, then add to the soup. The collard greens will need to simmer for at least 35 minutes to get nice and soft.

I left the soup chunky, but if you would like you can puree it until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

All Natural

I have two food goals I'd like to accomplish:

1. Live microwave free
2. Stop eating processed foods

Of the two I think that giving up processed foods might be easier, particularly because the office doesn't have a full kitchen...yet another reason I need to find a job that allows me to work from home (I know, yeah right).

Yesterday I found this blog detailing how he is going to eat only natural foods for the month of October. I'm really intrigued and tempted to give it a go...but I just bought some gluten, dairy, egg free waffles that I am dying to try. Maybe I'll go processed free in January instead ;)

Do you have any food/diet goals? Do you think you could go a month without processed foods?

Friday, September 17, 2010

So close

Whoops - I fell off the vegan wagon, but just a little bit. It turns out that it's pretty hard to eat vegan at restaurants. It's also hard to keep such a strict diet when drinking...Thursday night we went out to say farewell to our dear friend Andrea, she's joining the Peace Corps and going to Turkmenistan for two years, so naturally the wine was flowing. We went to an Indian restaurant and I ordered the rice/veggie meal, but when the cheesy naan showed up at the table I couldn't resist a bite, and there went the vegan. Oh well, I suppose it's still vegetarian week.

I'm really glad I tried this vegan challenge, it was nice to prove to myself that I can go a week without meat. It's funny, every time I restrict my diet I end up actually expanding it because I am forced to look for something new and different to eat. Most of all, the biggest thing I learned through all of this, is what a wonderful and supportive husband I have!

For our last meal of the week I made a Southwest Soup recipe I found on, it's very fast and easy to make so it's a good meal for quick week night dinners.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1.5 orange sweet pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (28 ounce) can canned crushed tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can vegetarian broth
1/2 cup water (I used more broth instead of water)
1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
2 (15 ounce) can black beans
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups shredded meat from a rotisserie chicken (optional)

1. In a medium stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth, and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Stir in corn, chiles, beans, cilantro, and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls. Serve with optional toppings, if desired.

I also made my corn muffins to go with this meal. This is a really filling meal and both my husband and I loved it, we'll be making this one again for sure.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Continuing Down the Vegan Path

I love Elana's Pantry - it's a great blog and her recipes really helped me when I was first going gluten free. Last week she posted this recipe for cauliflower rice and I thought it would be fun to try for vegan week.

Cauliflower Rice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup celery, finely diced
1 head cauliflower, trimmed
¼ celtic sea salt

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat
2. Saute onion over medium heat for 10 minutes, until soft
3. Add celery to skillet and saute for 5 minutes
4. Meanwhile, place cauliflower in a food processor with the "S" blade and process until the texture of rice
5. Add cauliflower to skillet, cover and cook 5-10 minutes, until soft, then add salt

I paired it with some corn on the cob.

I've never been a big cauliflower fan, but I was really surprised by how good this was! I added some lemon juice, garlic powder, and pepper as well - it had a fall, almost Thanksgiving feel to it, and reminded me of stuffing. I was also pleasantly surprised by how full I got, what do you know, you really can have satisfying vegan meals!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vegan Week Begins

In my last post I mentioned that I'm trying to eat vegan this week. We've all heard it a million times, Americans eat an unhealthy diet and eat too much meat. That combined with the ethical and sustainability issues involved in raising meat made me want to experiment with cutting it out for awhile. I am not planning on giving up meat forever, but I would like to cut back some and thought this challenge might help me find new dishes.

I'm always striving for more variety in the kitchen so I recently signed up to receive daily recipes from Spark People. Last week they sent this vegetarian curry recipe, I wanted to find a vegan meal that was hardy and curry sounded like the perfect dish! This recipe is for a slow cooker, but I just let it simmer on the stove. To make it extra healthy most of the veggies I used were either from our CSA or home grown. Feel free to experiment with extra veggies you have, I threw in some extra squash we had.

Chef Meg's Slow Cooker Vegetable Curry

1 T canola oil (I used olive oil)
2 c carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 T curry powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t turmeric
4-5 Yukon Gold or red potatoes, quartered
8 oz. green beans, fresh or frozen
3 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 c tomatoes, diced
2 c vegetable stock
1/2 c peas, frozen
1/2 c light coconut milk

Heat oil in a saute pan until moderately hot. Add carrots and onion; saute 3-4 minutes.

Add garlic and spices to the pan. Continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the spices become fragrant.

Remove vegetables from the saute pan and transfer to a slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients, except for the peas and coconut milk. (I just left mine in the pot and added everything else to it).

Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 5 1/2 hours.

Add peas and coconut milk and continue to cook for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving. I also made rice to serve with the curry.

This recipe serves 9 people. I think the only change I'll make next time is to use a variety of beans instead of just chick peas. Also, I didn't have cayenne pepper so I used paprika and hot sauce, next time I'll be sure to buy cayenne pepper, it probably adds a nice depth to the dish. Happy vegan eating!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Why

August was National Psoriasis Awareness month. I wanted to post my story in August, but I was dealing with a number of personal and professional things that kept me from blogging. I've also been nervous about mentioning psoriasis, it's not really the sexiest topic, but it's the real reason I started this blog and thought it was important to finally share.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin; over 7.5 million Americans have it. Essentially my immune system is attacking my skin and causing the skin cells to produce more quickly than normal. I inherited it from my grandfather (it's often a genetic condition) and it is not contagious. Those with psoriasis also have a higher chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, IBS, depression, and some types of cancer.

I've had a mild case my whole life, it's typical for it to flare sometimes and then calm down other times, for seemingly no reason. Doctors do not know what causes flare ups, but they have found a relation to stress. For years I used steroid creams to help control the break outs, and I was able to control it enough that it didn't affect my life too much.

Then 2009 happened. I'm not sure what changed, but I had a horrible flare up. My dermatologist wrote me a prescription for a new cream. When I went to the pharmacy the pharmacist asked me if I really wanted to fill the prescription because of the cost - it was over $300 for the bottle! It was at that moment that I decided I was no longer going to spend tons of money on expensive medicines that really weren't good for me anyway.

So I started researching natural control methods for psoriasis (there is no cure, but there are ways to control it). I found a number of articles and studies that mentioned the relation between gluten and autoimmune conditions. So last August I gave up gluten, I was very strict about it for 3 months until we went to Paris, and then I was "gluten-ous" for a week. I came back from Paris with very itchy skin. That was all the proof I needed. However, gluten wasn't the only culprit and my food panel proved that my immune system also reacts to diary, eggs, red meat, and almonds. The hope is that by removing these foods my immune system will relax enough to the point where my body can control the psoriasis on it's own.

However I am human and since it's not for an immediate response like celiac disease or life threatening allergies it can be challenging for me to avoid these foods all the time. Over Labor Day we went to visit family and I could not resist that yummy east coast pizza, but I did manage to only eat one slice. My hope is that if I avoid these foods on a daily basis I can occasionally have a special treat without upsetting my immune system too much.

There are a number of theories on how food affects psoriasis so I continue to experiment with them all - I think the hardest would be to completely give up sugar - God bless those who can! Basically the idea is to eat as healthy as possible, though it's a process and I continue to learn and develop my eating habits. Because of my cheats over Labor Day weekend I've decided to try a "Vegan Week" to help cleanse my body, but more about that soon...