Vegan Creamy Cauli/Split Pea Soup

Last week, a few friends and I went to a retreat in California. Everything about it was wonderful, including the food. The meals included an abundance of vegetables and a great use of whole foods. And whenever I needed to ask, there was a gluten-free substitute – including GF carrot cake and chocolate mousse!

I did, however, eat a lot more meat than I am used to, so when I got home, I couldn’t wait to make a vegan meal for supper.

Fortunately, a Whole Foods email had arrived suggesting “Warming Meals for Cooler Weather,” with a few recipes I wanted to try. I couldn’t decide between two of them – that’s where it began, and this is where it ended!

Vegan Creamy Cauli/Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups water

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup yellow split peas

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped carrot

1 rib celery, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

4 cups chopped cauliflower

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apple

2-3 cups almond milk* (see below)

cayenne to taste

Garnish:

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 t salt

sprinkle of cayenne

Instructions:

1. Bring water to a boil. Add salt and split peas and simmer, covered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender.

2. While split peas are cooking, saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic in oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. After split peas have cooked and are tender, add sauteed veggies, cauliflower, curry powder, apple and 2 cups almond milk. Simmer until veggies and apple are tender. Add extra 1 cup almond milk as desired.

4. Prepare garnish: toss pumpkin seeds, oil, and seasonings until seeds are well coated. Roast in oven at 350 degrees for about 3-5 minutes, watching carefully, until crisp.

5. Taste soup and adjust seasonings. This can be served as is, or you can blend it with a stick blender till smooth. Top with seasoned pumpkin seeds.

*To make your own almond milk, soak 1/2 cup raw almonds overnight in water. Strain and rinse. Add to high speed blender with 2 cups water and blend until almond particles are fully pulverized and milk looks creamy. Use as is for this recipe. Or you could add a pinch of salt, a few drops of vanilla and a bit of pure maple syrup to taste if you’d like to use this for drinking or to pour over cereal. (In this case, you might also want to strain it, but that’s optional. Just shake well each time you use it.)

Tomato, Spinach, Cheddar Quiche – Quick and Easy

 

I wanted to make a quiche to bring to our ladies Bible study this morning and had to scramble (haha) for ingredients because I’ve been away for the past week and had no fresh veggies in the house. No problem! (Alas no picture either because, as usual, I was running late and forgot to snap one! Just imagine this with beautiful chunks of red tomato throughout – very impressive but so easy!)

Blend in blender:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

3-4 tablespoons flour (GF if desired)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

few scrapings nutmeg

Toss together in bowl:

1 1/2 grated cheddar cheese

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 cup frozen spinach, squeezed in paper towel

1 c fresh tomato, cored, seeded and chopped, or equivalent of canned diced (let sit on paper towel for a few minutes to remove excess water)

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1. Turn cheese and veggie mixture into oiled pie pan.

2. Pour blended liquid mixture over.

3. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then at 300 degrees for additional 30-45 minutes. It’s done when it doesn’t jiggle and when knife inserted into center comes out clean.

That’s all!

 

Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

If you would like to receive this blog directly to your email, you’re welcome to enter your email address as directed on the right. Coming soon – homemade butternut squash soup, chocolate chip banana circles, and i-never-thought-it-could-taste-so-good tofu!

Lately, I’ve been wanting to bake with apples or pumpkin. Pumpkin won. 🙂

I’ve been making these scones for many years. The original recipe came from this cookbook published in 1979. Wow – I was single then and not even dating my future husband! I’ve made these with raisins, apples and blueberries, but this time I worked pumpkin, cranberries and toasted pecans into them. Mmmm…

I like the uniqueness of scones. When I eat a scone, I have certain expectations. I want it to be rich and a bit crumbly, not dense. I want to feel the complex texture – the bits of oats, nuts and fruit that I put into it. I don’t want it to be smooth like a biscuit that’s more of a side item. A go-with. A scone is the main fare! It should look earthy. Wholesome. Hearty. And it shouldn’t be too sweet, like a dessert. Just slightly sweet, like I’m eating one of the original scones from Ireland of old where flour and sugar were precious commodities. These scones are whole grain, can be gluten free, and celebrate the coming of Fall!

The ingredients in this are like those in all of my recipes – examined for nutritional content and processed as little as possible. Recipes abound that are rich and sweet that do not do your body one bit of good! I can’t, in good conscience, give you those.

I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give you what will nourish your body  toward good health. Some people really have no idea that nutrition is a science, proven to affect health. Food intolerance, too much protein, too many processed foods, too much bad fat and sugar, too few nutrients – all of these can cause health issues that people go to the doctor for, and then are put on medication. For instance, the CDC estimates that 2.7 million children in the U.S. are currently taking medication for ADHD. Many of these children can be treated by a high-nutrient diet and avoid the side effects of medication.

If you have parents who were aware of the benefits of whole natural foods and passed that on to you, be grateful for it! That’s where I’m blessed – my mom is a retired registered nurse and learned early  about nutrition. She actually introduced me to it when I was a teenager, and my interest in it stuck. Thanks, Mom!

We can learn and affect the next generation. 🙂 That’s what I want to do. How about you?

So as far as I can know, the recipes I use for my family combine good flavor, natural ingredients, and solid nutrition. This is what I offer to you!

On to the scones…

You may remember from here that I am new to a gluten-free diet, which I became committed to after experiencing relief from my long term joint pain. I’m experimenting with all of my old recipes, adjusting them to fit my new nutritional focus. I keep a jar of gluten free flour mix ready in my pantry for when I want to bake. I learned from the master, Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl (this page will give you all the details), how to make a whole grain flour blend. Below is the recipe I used for my GF flour mix that I used in these scones. I’ve written the scone recipe as a regular recipe that anyone can use – just know that for the gluten-free version, you are to substitute GF oats (if you’re extremely sensitive to gluten) and GF flour mix for the whole wheat or white flour.

GF Flour Mix:

18 ounces brown rice flour

7 ounces millet flour

10 ounces potato starch

Instructions:

Whisk or sift all ingredients together till thoroughly combined. Store in mason jar in refrigerator.

Pumpkin Oat Scones with Cranberries and Pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

When preheated, toast 1/3 cup pecans for 3-4 minutes. No more! They burn easily. (I only burned one batch this time.)

Dry ingredients:

1 1/4 c oats (GF if necessary)

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (or GF flour mix)

1 T baking powder

1/2 t cream of tartar

1/2 t salt

2 t cinnamon

1 t ginger

1/2 t allspice

1/4 t nutmeg

1/3 c toasted pecans, broken with fingers

1 T milled flaxseed or chia seeds (optional)

1/3 c dried cranberries, fruit-juice sweetened

Wet ingredients:

6 T melted butter, Earth Balance or extra virgin coconut oil

1/3 c pure maple syrup

1/4 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg

Instructions:

1. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.

2. Whisk wet ingredients together in small bowl.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix with rubber scraper until moistened.

You can form scones in different ways. One was is to turn dough out onto floured pastry board. Form a log, pat down into a rectangle, then cut into about 12 triangles.

Alternately, you could turn it out onto floured pastry board, pat into one or two circles, then cut into 8 “pie wedge” type triangles, separating slightly.

OR you could just drop 8-12 spoonfuls of dough directly onto oiled baking sheet just like drop biscuits. (see “drop” scones above)

Using pancake turner, move to oiled baking sheet. For a nice touch and some added sweetness, you could paint these with milk and then sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. I did that on some of these in the pictures. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Enjoy the fragrance permeating your house. Candle businesses spend a fortune trying to fabricate what you’re creating with natural ingredients! 🙂

Remove from pan immediately. As with most baked goods, they are best while still warm (or briefly warmed up). Brew hot drink of your choice. Put feet up. Enjoy!

Homemade yogurt step-by-step

I realized yesterday morning that I was low on our homemade yogurt. This is never a big deal any more – I can even fit in making it before work. What used to be a project has become a very streamlined process. Try it! The first few times, of course it will take a while as you get used to it, but with practice, you’ll be making homemade yogurt for your family in no time!

Why do I bother making it myself? A few reasons:

1. Taste – can’t beat it. Truly.

2. I know what’s in it – as you’ll see, the ingredients are whatever milk you choose and a tiny bit of  your favorite plain yogurt from the store. No artificial sweeteners or flavoring, no sugar, no thickeners or stabilizers, gums or starches or Carmine. Ew.

3. Freshness – Go to the fridge and look at the date on your yogurt from the store. It could be dated a month in the future. Or it could say today’s date. That means that it could have spent the last month on the shelf in the store! How fresh is that!? The good bacteria culture in yogurt gradually decreases over time, so homemade provides the highest quality product.

4. Price – One quart of store-bought organic yogurt costs approximately $4/quart. One quart of homemade organic yogurt costs about $1.42 for the milk and $.27 for the 1/4 c yogurt, so $1.69/quart. Less than half price! I’m no dummy.

This is what I do to make 1 quart. To make 3 quarts at one time, triple the ingredients, use a larger saucepan for heating, and see picture at the end for incubating.

Gather equipment:

1 quart-sized Ball jar

1 large spoon

1 small whisk

1 food thermometer

1 measuring cup

1 salad bowl (for resting sterilized utensils in)

tongs (for removing hot jar from boiling water)

For best results, sterilize equipment by either pouring boiling water over them or by immersing them in a pot of boiling water. I used to skip this step, and my results were not consistent.

Gather ingredients:

1 quart milk

1/4 cup store-bought yogurt for starter (measured out in your cooled-off sterilized measuring cup)

You can use any kind of cow’s milk yogurt that you want. I’ve tried using almond milk, soy milk, and homemade seed milk with no success. I use Wegman’s 1 or 2% organic milk. I spoke with someone at Wegman’s corporate office and am comfortable with the information they gave me regarding their cows grazing on grass as well as their inspections and accountability regarding organic regulations.

I use Stonyfield plain yogurt because it’s organic and because of the 6 live active yogurt and probiotic cultures that are in it. I recommend that you use plain yogurt with LIVE bacteria in it. If it contains live bacteria, it will say so on the container. After opening and using 2 ounces of the 6 ounce container, I keep it in the coldest part of the fridge in a ziploc bag till next time.

The process:

Heat 1 quart milk in a saucepan on medium heat stirring occasionally. Bring to 180 degrees.

Remove from heat and float in a large bowl of cold water in the sink until thermometer registers between 100-110 degrees.

Pour about 1/2 cup of the cooled milk into the 1/4 cup yogurt in measuring cup. Whisk until fully blended.

Pour milk/yogurt mixture back into cooled milk in saucepan. Stir until fully incorporated.

Pour into sterilized Ball jar. Scrape off most of the bubbles from the surface of the milk. Mine looks like this.

Carefully place jar in electric yogurt maker, or…

…if you don’t have one, you could use a cooler lined with a heating pad. This is a peek into what I use when I make more than one jar at a time. These jars are incubating in my collapsible cooler, with a heating pad set on medium on the bottom, then the jars, then plastic wrap covering the jars and my thermometer poked through the wrap and suspended between the jars so I can keep an eye on the temp to make sure it stays between 100-110 degrees. I run the power cord out through the almost-fully-zippered lid. This method reliably keeps the temperature stable. It has successfully made many gallons of yogurt over the years.

You could also use 8 ounce Ball jars for individual servings. I prefer quarts because it’s less to wash, but 8 ounce cups would be great for individual servings for packed lunches.

With either method, I let them incubate for about 7 hours. This gives a nicely thickened yogurt that’s not too tart. Some people with lactose issues may want to incubate for up to 24 hours. By that time, the lactose should be pretty well dealt with.

When the 7 hours are up, carefully remove the jar, screw the lid on, and place in refrigerator until fully cooled. If you severely tilt or shake the jar, it will not set up as well.

I like this added to my green smoothie, or plain with a little stevia or pure maple syrup, or my favorite, with a little homemade granola sprinkled on top.

I guess I know what recipe I’ll have to share with you soon!

Enjoy! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

You may want to use your homemade yogurt for:

Facial masks

Maple vanilla frozen yogurt

Falafel with cucumber yogurt dressing

Ranch salad dressing

Moroccan Chick Peas and Rice – Quick and Easy

I was looking through cookbooks the other day for something to make for dinner.  I’ve gotten a lot of ideas from this book. He uses all real food ingredients, and his use of legumes is creative. I found a recipe that I used for inspiration, because I don’t know about you, but I seem to be allergic to following a recipe exactly as written!

I prefer the taste of home-cooked beans over canned, so I usually have a stock of them in my freezer. Once in a while, I’ll have a food factory day at home and cook many types of them and pack them into jars or freezer bags (2 c in each) so they’re ready to be used.

I whipped this together pretty quickly, added a green salad and some just-picked corn-on-the-cob that had been given to us be a sweet neighbor, and dinner was ready. I love the blend of savory and sweet, cinnamon and cumin. It was hearty, yet loaded with light vegetables. And so easy! I will definitely make this again!

Moroccan Chick Peas and Rice

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
3/4 t cumin seeds
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 yellow zucchini, chopped
1/2 green zucchini, chopped
1 c cooked chick peas
2 c cooked brown rice
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1/3 c raisins
1/4 c sliced almonds for garnish

1. Saute onion, celery, carrot and cumin seeds in oil about 5 minutes.

2. Add cinnamon, zucchini, and chick peas and saute for another 5 minutes.

3. Finally, add hot brown rice, cilantro and raisins, stir well, and warm through.

4. Top with sliced almonds for crunch!

Zucchini and Tomato Scramble with Goat Cheese

I don’t know about you, but my hungriest time of the week is when I get out of church. I’m so hungry by that point, I can’t wait to get home! Hopefully, we have leftovers, but if not, I’ll throw something together really quick.

This morning after church, I bought some farm fresh eggs from a farmer’s market around the corner. Laid by chickens that graze in the sunshine on grass, not so-called “free range” that could be raised on cement or dirt (you have to ask to be sure of this!). So I took a few of those, and this is what I did with them. Quick and easy.

By the way, consider the health benefits of grass-fed meats, dairy and eggs. Concerning eggs alone, “When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.” Also, “Eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture have from three to six times more chickensvitamin D than eggs from hens raised in confinement.”

Really, this is only the beginning of the health benefits of food raised this way, as opposed to CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) raised products. If you have any  questions about this, this is a great site loaded with information taken from actual studies done on these products.

For the record, we don’t eat much in the way of meat or cheese. And when we do, I try  to only buy organic, free-range and grass-fed. Which is partly why we don’t eat much of it, because it’s expensive!

Zucchini and Tomato Scramble with Goat Cheese

Serves 2

1 T extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

1 yellow zucchini, diced

1 green zucchini, diced

1/2 sweet onion, sliced top to bottom, then halved

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium fresh tomato, diced

2-4 T goat cheese, crumbled (or fresh mozzarella, diced)

4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped

4 eggs, farm fresh organic, if possible

salt and pepper

grated Romano cheese, if desired

1. Have the tomato, goat cheese and basil prepared and ready to be tossed in at the  last minute.

I used a Brandywine tomato from our garden, which doesn’t have many seeds. If your tomato has a lot of seeds, you might want to cut it in half horizontally and slide the seeds out with your finger before you dice up the tomato.

Also, I had to use mozzarella because I was out of goat cheese, and it’s good, but the goat cheese definitely brings it up a notch!

2. Break eggs into a bowl and whisk with salt and pepper. Melt a little butter in a non-stick pan. I like my scrambled eggs creamy, so I cook them on medium-low heat until done but still a bit wet, stirring frequently with silicone rubber scraper.

3. While eggs are slowly cooking, in large hot frying pan, saute zucchini, onion and garlic just until crisp-tender. Turn off heat.

4. Immediately, add fresh tomato and basil to other veggies in pan and toss gently.

5. Finally, add goat cheese crumbles and finished scrambled eggs, and toss gently again.

6. Taste, turn into serving bowl, then add sprinkling of grated romano on top if desired.

Quinoa Black Bean Salad

Just in time for Labor Day!

This is a great dinner-type salad. A meal-in-a-dish. Or you could serve it as a side at a BBQ this weekend!

Quinoa Black Bean Salad

Dressing:

3 T extra virgin olive oil

3 T white wine or white balsamic vinegar

3 T fresh lemon juice

1/2 t salt

1/4-1/2 t cumin

Salad Ingredients:

1 c raw quinoa (makes 3 cups cooked)

1 c black beans

1 c corn

1/2 c sweet onion, chopped

1/2 c scallion tops, chopped

1 c sweet red pepper, chopped

1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 c fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

Prepare quinoa. Measure 1 c quinoa into fine mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly under running water. Put in saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water and 1/4 t salt and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until water is absorbed. (My preference is a rice cooker – no burning!) Turn into a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Whisk dressing ingredients together and set aside.

Add remaining ingredients to quinoa in bowl, as well as dressing, and toss until well-combined. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes approximately 6 cups.