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Soups & Stews

Comfort Food

Mediterranean Inspired Red Lentil Soup

June 19, 2017

We are attracted to food as much by color as by flavor.To my eye, red lentils have always looked so much more appealing than the typical, muddy-colored lentils I usually cook up with a big old ham hock. Their color lies something between creamy orange sickle and apricot.
Plus, they have the added benefit of cooking up pretty quickly.

The pretty soup took only 25 minutes to make … from beginning to end, yet it has a surprising medley of flavors going for it. It’s has  a bit of heat, a touch of tang, and a few surprises. Plus, it is super quick and easy to prepare.

Here’s how I did it.

RED LENTIL SOUP WITH MINT & BASIL

Into a deep sauce pan or soup pot, dribble 2 tablespoons of good olive oil.
To this, add:

  • 2 claws garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 small potato, cubed

Sauté the above mixture about two minutes, then add:

  • 1 cup water (adding more as needed as the lentils cook)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 tbsp vegetable bouillon, photo below (or 1 chicken stock cube)
  • 2 tbsp real butter or good butter substitute. I use Earth Balance in just about everything.
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1 shake of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar or white vinegar (or lemon juice). Do not overdo the acid.

Allow this concoction to cook until the lentils are nearly soft, about 10- 15 minutes.
Then add:

  • 10 leaves freshly chopped basil leaves
  • 10 leaves freshly chopped mint leaves

Simmer until the lentils are soft, the carrots and potatoes soft to bite, but not mushy.

TIPS: If you’re a meat-eater and  want to make this into a heartier meal , add 8 ounces of breakfast sausage a few minutes after adding the lentils. Add by breaking the raw sausage up with your fingers or a wooden spatula in order to make small, bite sized bits.  Serve with warm bread or croutons.

My Daily Kitchen

Lemony, Minty Vegetable Soup

June 5, 2017

Here you go people. It’s Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian & Vegan!

Many years ago, I spent about 10 fascinating days in Istanbul where I was introduced to flavors profiles I had never tasted growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut.

My very learned mother was keenly interested in just about everything and she did her best to bring the world to our kitchen table. Well, it was really a counter, probably one of the very first “kitchen islands” before they became popular. It was long, like a bar, and we kids bellied up every night at 6 pm, perched on stools, waiting to see what country was being served on any given night.

She and our dad exposed us kids to an impressive variety of international foods. We were taken to Manhattan for Smorgasbords, but also never left the “city” without stopping at the now famous Papaya King for that then rare and exotic papaya smoothie.  We tasted real Honduranian “Picadillo” with tender raisins. I  watched, bug-eyed,  my sister Madeleine cringing in complete horror, as our mother peeled and sliced up delicious beef tongue. I would sit on the counter by the stove,  fascinated,  as I watched my dad slice and fry up yummy these dark sausages he called “black puddin” which I later learned were also called blood pudding’. Enough said.  But with all my parents’ interest in international fare, never had we been introduced to the flavors I discovered during the few weeks I spent in Turkey.

One afternoon in Istanbul, I stopped to  grab a regular meal at a cheap and local cafeteria style diner. I can’t remember all I put on my tray, but will never forget the surprise in my mouth as I tasted what I expected to be a plan, salty lentil soup. Wow! Turkish Lemon & Lentil soup bursting with unmistakable notes of mint, lemon and heat.  Mint? In a soup? This was new to me. And lemon? Lemon in a soup with tomatoes? The experience, all those decades ago, was something entirely unexpected to this little New England girl.

Today, as in the same morning of this posting, I wanted to try to recreate that never forgotten experience. Alas, I’m back on a the no-grain wagon with a renewed commitment.  When  you eat truly grain-free, lentils and other legumes are not on the menu!

What to do?

Well, only days ago, I had bagged up some cups of “riced” cauliflower so I thought I’d try using these in place of lentils.

The result was a low-carb, vegetarian & vegan (without the dollop of sour cream) hot, spicy, minty and lemony medley.

I enjoyed my first taste of this soup in a nice bowl, but I think tonight I will place a poached egg on top for protein.

Lemony, Minty, Spicy Vegetable Soup

  1.  Pop your favorite soup pot on the stove, turn the heat to  medium and fire up 2 tablespoons of good olive oil. To this, add…
  • 3/4 cup of diced onions & 1 tsp salt.  Sautee this for a minute or two, then add…
  • 1 Grated carrot
  • 1 Grated sweet potato
  • 1 diced, fresh tomato.
    Sauté this mixture for a few minutes, then add…
  • 1 can of salt-free, diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups of riced cauliflower
    (about 1/2 a head of cauliflower, riced in a food chopper. See photo, below.)
  • 1/4 cup well-chopped fresh parsley  OR 3 tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh, chopped mint leaves OR dried mint.
  • Juice from 1/2  a fresh lemon
  • 1/2 tsp (or more) of red pepper flakes

2.  Cover and allow  to simmer on low for 10  minutes, adding salt or lemon or mint to taste.

3.  Now add 1 cup of  good quality vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you are not vegetarian.)

4.  Once your vegetables are soft and the flavors have emerged, pull out  your hand-blender (or a regular blender)  – do not puree – and lightly mix up all the mixture until you still have visible vegetables, but not slush.

5.  Now that the mixture is all smooth and lush, I added about 1/2 a cup of sour cream. (Vegans, substitute the same amount of any creamy  vegan product, such as a  Half & Half substitute or any creamy product you like to use.)

6  Ladle into a nice  bowl. Garnish with parsley or mint and a nice dollop of sour cream, or sour cream substitute. 

TIPS:
You can make this same recipe SUBSTITUTING RED LENTILS and OMITTING the Cauliflower. If you do this, do NOT add the sour cream.

If you are serving this as an appetizer, cut up some oldish bread, sautée quickly in salted olive oil until crispy and golden, and serve on top!

I enjoy a nicely poached egg on top of spicy vegetables and the lemon will be fine. Remember, Hollandaise sauce is very lemony! When I really want to make this a warm, late night comfort meal, I melt a slice of mild and  creamy cheese on top of the egg. That is not for vegans though.

Comfort Food

10-Minute Mushroom Soup

October 25, 2016

With all the healthy food I post here on With Love and Butter, you might be shocked,okay,  even disgusted, to discover that I have some truly appalling choices when it comes to what I consider “comfort food.”  But hey, it’s personal, isn’t it?  Doesn’t everyone have a closet comfort food they’d rather not admit to the world? Some sinful, completely non-gourmet slop you eat when you have the house to yourself, curtains drawn, shutters closed, snuggled up in front of the TV?

So here is my confession, the greasy, salty, truth. My go-to favorites usually come from 1. a can and 2. they’re loaded with sodium, usually 800 or 900 mgs.,  enough send the needle on my scale soaring at least 4 extra pounds the next morning, and zoom my blood pressure into the stroke zone.

Give me tamales (I’m not even a little discerning; they can come from the Dollar store!), or mushy, sugary kid-friendly Ravioli, also a frequent dollar find. I’m good for the whole can. Also,  I’m not above devouring  a couple of eggs poached atop a greasy plate of canned corned beef hash, extra crispy on the bottom, occasionally topped with a slice of melting, cheese (um, more salt!).  But my all-time favorite, sinful, salty satisfier is Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, usually made with Half & Half, and dotted with gooey, melty bits of cheese. There’s just something about that combination that takes me to an emotional comfort zone rarely found anywhere else but the occasional bowl of warm Mac ‘n Cheese.

Sure, I can cut down on the salt by choosing the so-called healthier version, but check the label. There’s still a load of sodium in there plus, I usually end up adding more.

Finally, speed is a factor. When you are in need of an emotional food high, comfort food is something you need now.  No waiting. So I came up with an admittedly still slightly sinfu– l but much healthier — home version and it took only 10 minutes. That’s no lie.

10 MINUTE MUSHROOM SOUP MAGIC

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of your favorite healthy butter substitute in a saucepan. To this, add:
  2. 1/2 Sweet, white onion, very finely chopped. Let this cook a few minutes, until the onions are clear but not burned. Now add:
  3. 1 Teaspoon of finely chopped, fresh Tarragon.
    TIP: Substitute fresh Thyme if you have it. Now add:
  4. 1 cup finely chopped, white mushrooms.
    TIP: I like to leave my mushrooms uncovered, in the refrigerator,  for a few days. They develop a deeper flavor as they dry out a little.  Stir these until the mushrooms are supple, about 2 minutes. Now add:
  5. Salt & Pepper to taste.
    I used very little salt and I like the pink, Himalayan, Kosher, or Sea Salt.  Now add:
  6. 1 Cup of Half & Half (or any non-dairy creamer that you like, but nothing sweet!)
    (TIP: If you want to save calories, use milk. We are going to thicken this in a moment.)
  7. Once your mixture is bubbling away, grab a tablespoon of Gluten-Free Flour (or regular, white flour if you use that but I find the Gluten-Free flours tend to incorporate easily, without needing to make a roux. Also, I use my fingers to sprinkle it gently over my mixture, like a fine snow. Then quickly whisk it in to avoid clumping.  If your soup seems to loose and you want it thicker, just sprinkle in more, a half teaspoon at a time.

Voila! You’re all done! Now you have a rich and creamy, home-made mushroom soup with very little salt, the benefits of fresh mushrooms, onions and herbs, fit for company!

DON’T FORGET: You may substitute Fresh Thyme for Tarragon, and if you don’t have fresh herbs, just use dried.

Comfort Food

Everything’s Better with Bacon

March 29, 2016

Let’s face it. Most things really are better with bacon.

The key to getting a lot of flavor into this soup is the bacon, and also using either a good, home  made stock, a high-quality store bought stock, or a combination of the two. No hard, dried little flavor cubes!

Here is how I make my truly mouth-watering, Lentil Soup.

FIRST

Boil 1 cup of dried, quick cooking lentils in about twic 2-1/2 times as much liquid.
Add 2 small cloves garlic, minced.
(If you need or want more liquid, go ahead. I just add more if I think I need it.)

For liquid/broth, I use a combination of good quality beef stock and my own, delicious, super healthy bone broth, if I have some.
My lentils take about 20-25 minutes to really soften up so you ca  get these bubbling away on the stove top while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

WHILE YOUR LENTILS COOK…

Peel and dice a medium potato (I used red but removed the peel). You can set these to boil about 15 minutes OR you can toss them in to boil with the lentils for the last 15 minutes of lentil cooking.  Peeled and diced potatoes will not require that much time to soften and you don’t want them too mushy.

NEXT…

In a frying pan, sauté 6 strips of bacon, cut up (I use scissors leaving all the fat right in the pan as the bacon sizzles away.

  • Slice 2 small or 1 medium carrot
  • Dice 1 stick celery
  • Chop 1/4 cup of onion

By now, your bacon is nearly done so toss the carrot, celery and onion into the bacon pan and cook for about 5 minutes.

FINISHING UP

When the lentils are soft and the potatoes are cooked (i.e., easily stabbed with a fork), add the bacon and vegetable mixture and every drop of bacon fat.  Salt and pepper to taste.

TIPS:  For a heartier meal, add chunks of  sauteed ham or bratwurst. You can also add some of the tender celery leaves, chopped, for additional flavor.

The better your broth, the more flavorful your soup will be. I recommend reading up on the health benefits of your grandma’s good, old fashioned bone broth. Real bone stock imakes a pivotal difference not only on how flavorful your soup will be, but how healthy!

Comfort Food

Creamy Soup: Veggies in Disguise

February 14, 2016

I find Caulifower takes on any flavors you add, so it pays to be bold, not shy, when it comes to this gorgeous, healthy vegetable flower.

I just made this up, so add or change any items you wish.
And have fun with it!  I have added some suggestions for substitutions below. (See photo below.)

CAULIFLOWER SOUP — FIRST INGREDIENTS

  1. Break up a medium to large head of Cauliflower.
  2. Place all the pieces in 1 inch of water, in a large sauce or soup pan.  You do Not need to cover the vegetables! Just an inch for steaming or your soup will be too watery.
  3. Toss – right on top — 3 whole spring onion stems, cut in half, the green part and all.
  4. Add 2 tablespooons of chopped, sweet red peppers.
  5. Shake in about 1/8 tsp Hot Red Pepper Flakes. (This is optional, but if you like heat and don’t have flakes,  try cayenne.)
  6. Add 1 tooth of garlic (or used 1/2 tsp dried flakes or chopped, jarred.)

Shake in some of your favorite salt to taste.Not too much as you or your guests can add this later.

STEP TWO – BLENDING & ADDING

  1. Cover all the above and steam first on high, then medium, until all the ingredients are easily broken up with a fork… About 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Blend throughly with a hand mixer right in the pot. This will remove some of the heat. If you don’t have a hand blender, use A regular blender…but do this in small batches to avoid explosion as the heat expands in a closed environment.
  4. Once blended but still quite warm, add 1/2 cup of Half & Half.
  5. Now, add also about 3/4 cup of shredded Cheddar (or any preferred cheese) and stir or blend lightly. You can cream the cheese at this point, or leave visible bits.
  6. For color and taste, NOW add 1 tsp. ground Turmeric. If you have fresh, wonderful. (See below for suggested substitutions).
  • Blend all the above together.
  • Reheat before serving and garnish with more spring onion or parsley, and a little black pepper

SUGGESTIONS  & SUBSTITUTES

image

  1. If you are Vegan, use Coconut milk and a cheese substitute.
  2. Don’t have or care for turmeric (which contains serious anti-inflamation properties), try curry powder, or a little fresh or powdered ginger instead.
  3. Try roasted peppers or jarred pimento instead of the fresh, sweet red pepper.
  4. Try steaming your vegetables in chicken stock.
  5. Use another vegetable, such as broccoli.
  6. Don’t tell the kids about the cauliflower! Just say it’s a creamy, cheddar soup!

 

My Daily Kitchen

Surprise Soup Thickener

March 8, 2015

One way to thicken soups and stews, and avoid using wheat flour or roux (butter & flour), is simply to add a sliced, unripe Plantain to the pot.

imageDid you know that Plantains are edible at every stage of maturity? And they are healthy.

Plantains can be powdered (my neighbor turns hers into a fine powder that I can mix in with smoothies or milk for my son and his friends). They can be sautéed, deep fried, and baked.

To get a truly sweet, ripened plantain, you have to wait until the skin is soft and is very black, almost as if rotting! Look at the black plantain in the photo. This is thoroughly ripened and, hard to believe, you won’t find bruising when you peel it.

Because I like to avoid wheat flour if I can, and because I like my comfort food creamy, I can use green plantains to thicken my soups and stews, and avoid flour.  (Gluten from the my olden days was not as chock full of the added “vital gluten” that permeates the prepared food market today.  I am not an obsessive about this, or about anything. (Of course, if you have Celiac Disease you have to be strict!).

For me, a substitutes has to be easy, which means accessible and affordable, otherwise, I give up the quest. I sometimes use a few teaspoons of “Quinoa” flour  to lightly thicken stews and soups. Quinoa isn’t cheap where I live, but since I need to sprinkle only a few teaspoons over my dish to thicken, it doesn’t break my purse. And since Quinoa is really a seed, it doesn’t have the same properties as a grain.

But my favorite easy-thickener is green plantains! I live in Central America where plantains are common and  super cheap! They either grow for free in your back yard, or can be purchased for literally pennies at the market. Plus, I need only one for an entire pot of soup.

I simply cut it up and add to my stock, along with my garlic and onion and spices, and whatever else I am using to flavor the broth. Then I blend it all up before continuing with my soup.

image

Chopped Green Plantains, ready for stock.

Many people use corn flour and corn starch as a substitute for wheat flour. But this is still a grain and there are benefits to eating grain-free.

Years ago I  read “Going Against the Grain by Melissa Diane Smith” and followed a strict gluten- and grain-free diet for about 6 weeks. The first two or three days were challenging, but then it became an easy ride! After four years of trying to shed the first extra 17 pounds I had ever carried as extra weight, those pounds literally fell away with stunning rapidity. And they never came back.  Today, I do not follow a strict grain-free diet (hey…my favorite adult beverages are distilled from grains!), but I know I can if I need to. So when I can find an inexpensive alternative to using flour or anything made from grains,  I go for it.

Patacones

Patacones

Green plantains can be sliced into rounds, deep- fried once, smashed by hand, or in a small press, and fried again to make “Patacones,”  or “Tostones,” an alternative to French Fries.

Sweeter Plantains can be sliced lengthwise,then  pan-fried until caramelized, to make Tajadas, and served as a side dish. They can also be baked in butter and brown sugar, and stuffed with farmer cheese, or Ricotta. Delicious!

Tajadas

Tajadas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comfort Food

Hearty Taro Soup

March 4, 2015

In Panama, we call it “Otoe” (pronounced oh-toe-y), or Taro Root. It is the root of the lovely “elephant ear” plants that grow in my back yard.  What I love especially about Taro is that it cooks up super creamy, much more so than a potato, and it’s full of nutrients.

Taro can replace potatoes in any soup or main dish, even mashed. This soup here is high is healthy carbs and excellent on a day when you exercise, plus it’s  extra comforting if you’re coming in from the cold or snow.

For this very hearty soup, I simply made a stock out of Beef Tail (but I would prefer Ox Tail).

To start broth:
Simmer meat & bones for about 10 minutes in water.
Now discard this water and heat again in fresh water.

When your new, fresher water is piping hot & boiling away, transfer liquid abd all to a crock pot and let simmer on high for about 2 hours. You want the meat to really soften and the bones to flavor the stock.

After a few hours, to the hot broth, add:
1/2 Cup Sliced, Italian sausage or Chorizzo.
1/2 Cup dry white beans (any kind). If using canned beans, add at the end so they won’t be too mushy.
3 Medium Taro Roots, about the size of a medium potato, diced

3 Teeth chopped garlic
1 Chopped onion
2 Sliced carrots
1 Stick celery, cut
Fresh Rosemary, about 1 tsp., minced
Fresh Cilantro, about 1 tbsp., chopped
1/2 Tsp. Sriracha (or any hot pepper, for a little zing.)

When the meat is falling off the bone, pull these out, cool, then pull the meat and reintroduce to the pot.

My Daily Kitchen

Arugula Soup-One soup fits all!

February 27, 2015

Trying to find a dish that will meet the dietary restrictions of all your guests can be a challenge. So here is something I created in My Daily Kitchen that will suit all. And I mean all. Diebetic or Low-Carb; Gluten- or Grain-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian and even Vegans will be happy. And for the meat eaters… read on.

Personally, I think of Arugula as the “steak of lettuces.” It’s peppery, like Nasturtium, but the flavor is broader and hearty, like meat. When I am eating vegetarian or vegan, I sometimes miss the substance of — horrors — a great steak, something pungent and powerful and, well, “meaty.”  For me, Arugula seems to fit the bill and fill the void.

I lack for nothing after a beautiful salad of fresh Arugula covered with lovely, shaved Parmesian cheese. So I wondered, “What would happen if I made it into a soup?”  Well, what happened, for me, was magic.  Let’s go!

Arugula Soup

In a medium to large saucepan, place:
6 medium (not large)  potatoes, diced and unpeeled
1 medium onion, loosely chopped
1/2 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 sprig parsley
1 tooth garlic
2 cups water
1 flavor cube vegetable stock, any type of your choice (non-vegans can use chicken stock)

Simmer in the pot until all the vegetables are soft to a prodding fork, about 20 minutes, because you are going to puree this in a bit.

Into the saucepan, add:

4 large handfuls (about 6 cups) of fresh, uncut, Arugula
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground pepper
Salt to taste

Using a hand blender, (or transferring all the mixture to a traditional blender), puree the entire mixture until Arugula is still discernable, but mostly integrated.

Garnish with an Arugula leaf, or parsley.

For an added element of comfort, I personally love dipping cold, buttered bread into hot soup. (I use Good Earth oil spread, which comes close to my idea of creamy butter.) I love the combination of the cool, creamy buttery spread melting into the bread now warmed and moistened from the dipping. However, if you are grain- or gluten-free, skip this part!