Mushroom Gumbo (GF/V)

Don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but we’ve settled into pretty sustained soup and stew weather around here, which is just fine by me. I could eat soup every day and be totally happy about that. Unfortunately not all the members of my little tribe feel as universally friendly to soup as I do, so I am pretty constantly trying new versions to try to draw the resisters in. This week I thought I’d rely on the appeal of tomato based recipes and try something new. And so we did.

I found a gumbo recipe in my More With Less cookbook, which tends to offer a wide variety of flavor profiles in fairly simple recipes that don’t tend to rely on too many exotic ingredients. Sounds like a good way to go, eh? The original recipe was for chicken gumbo, but I decided to use sautéed mushrooms instead. We often replace meat with lentils or a lentil bulgur mixture, but having had a fair amount of those recently, I thought we’d put the umami of the mushrooms to work for us. The result? An approval rating of 75%, which is an A- for the cook in our house. Yes, we grade on a sliding scale based on reality. This gumbo, while originally called “spicy” was not particularly so, so if that’s your thing you should crank it up a bit in the chili department. On to the gumbo…

Mushroom Gumbo

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  • oil for the pot
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 T flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 1 large can or box chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 c frozen okra
  • 2/3 c tomato paste
  • 3 c veggie broth or stock
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 1/2 T soy sauce or Bragg’s
  • 1/8 t ground cloves
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • pinch dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • about 12 oz mushrooms, chopped into rough quarters (I used cremini)
  • 1 T gumbo file (no idea why I had this in the pantry, the original recipe says it is optional)
  • chopped parsley for garnish
  • cooked rice for serving

Warm the oil in a large pot. Add onions and sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add green pepper and sauté for an additional minute or so. Add 2 T flour and stir in, cook for another minute or so, stirring to prevent the flour mixture from burning. When peppers have begun to grown tender add the rest of the ingredients and bring to gentle boil. Drop heat to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes.

While stew is simmering, sauté mushrooms in a pan of warm oil with a dash of salt. Let them sit to brown a little – which means don’t turn them too much. When the mushrooms are browned, add to gumbo pot to simmer together. When gumbo is warmed through and flavors have developed, serve over rice with a sprinkle of parsley. Delish!

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Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF)

 photo IMG_0726.jpgI have cucumbers coming out of my ears – and no Big Brothers, I did not eat a seed. I can only assume that our relatively cool Maryland summer has delayed the usual onset of powdery mildew (which has now arrived and I’m combatting according to Big Sis’ suggestion) long enough for my cucumber plants to go bananas, so to speak. I’ve regularly been harvesting not just 1 or 2, but anywhere from 6 to 16 (yes, I said 16) delicious cukes from my 4 cucumber plants. What variety is doing so well in my not very well tended garden? I have no idea. Seed mixups are a real bummer. I digress.

In order to take advantage of my cuke bounty, we’ve been experimenting with some things, and I’ll share more of them over the next few weeks before it snows and puts an end to this whole summer bounty thing. Today, while it is relatively hot, I’ll share a lovely cooling use for all those wonderful cukes.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you already know how I feel about Deborah Madison. In addition to my Deborah Madison cooking bible, I have a slimmer volume dedicated only to soups, because I really like soup. In this beautifully produced and photographed cookbook, there are a few cool soups perfect for beastly weather. Last night I was inspired by her Cool Cucumber Soup, although as usual I was compelled to make some changes. At any rate we had an 85% approval rating (meaning Picky Pants initially enjoyed it and changed her mind later). So, for all you cucumber lovers, or just those of you who like the sound of an easy cooling meal made from the most abundant veggie out there right now…

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF) adapted (and made larger and milder) from Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen(serves 4)

Soup

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  • 2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 c cashew cream (here, from our lovely friend Annie) or yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 c herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley to great effect
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Relish

  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 2 T chopped scallions
  • 1 T dill
  • 2 T chopped basil and parsley
  • 2 t olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the cucumbers – dice 1/3 of them (or one pound) and set aside for the relish. While I often recommend skipping peeling and such, in this case I peeled to remove the bitterness sometimes in the skins. Coarsely chop remaining cukes and place in blender with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Blitz until smooth. Place in fridge to chill. Yes, that’s it. No, I’m not joking.

Just before serving, combine ingredients for relish in bowl and stir. Done. No muss, no fuss, no cucumbers wasted. Delish. Happy super late summer!

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Avocado Bisque with Garden Peas & Dill (DF)

 photo IMG_0421.jpgThe peas are ready! The peas are ready! Oh how I do love garden peas – the real deal, the kind you have to shell. I didn’t much care for them as a child (one for each year of life with a liberal swallow of milk so as not to choke), but have grown to like peas, but this is one area where frozen is really not the same as fresh. If you don’t care for peas, see if you can find the real McCoy at a farmer’s market and give them a go – raw, straight from the shell. Oh mercy. Spring is glorious.

I have found that my family enjoys garden peas most when they are left alone. Yesterday’s harvest may have yielded enough to cook and serve as a side, but I knew they wouldn’t like them as well, so I just rinsed those puppies and threw them in a bowl – shell and eat at will. But what else to serve? A ravenous 7 year old cannot live on garden peas alone, even if his mother would…

An old standby of mine that was ripe for an update: Avocado Bisque. I first encountered this recipe in the cookbook that came with my VitaMix, the cookbook that my sister previewed for me and annotated. Avocado Bisque earned a Bigg Sis rating of “Great,” and it is. I made a few adaptations to remove the moo and the chick and we enjoyed a lovely and light dinner of Avocado Bisque (with garden peas and dill), whole wheat bread (as evidenced by the crumb that snuck into my soup picture), and a fabulous green salad with garden lettuce. Continue reading

Soup De Doo!

Everyone I’ve talked to in the last week or so has at least one person in their house who’s sneezing, coughing, hacking, and otherwise feeling miserable.  Both of the Sis sisters have been plagued as well. In my house, all four of us fell to this school born scourge.  And so, while appetites have not been hearty around here lately, we do seem to agree on the goodness of soup.  All soup, any soup, warm wonderful soup.  The fact that we had our first TRUE cold weather of the season only made the call for soup more compelling.

I’m assuming we are not the only coughers and hackers out there, so I thought I’d pause for a moment to do a bit of a soup tour.  But why, you might wonder, why worry so much about soup  recipes when there is nearly an entire aisle full of prepared soups waiting for me at the grocery store? There are many reasons why we prefer homemade to “factory” soup (my nephew’s designation). Canned soup is extremely high in sodium, when the label says low sodium, it means it’s lower than the salt lick next to it.  Canned soup also contains MSG (a good one to avoid according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest) even when it says it doesn’t, apparently.  Canned soup contains a plethora of unnecessary preservatives and unusual ingredients (like monster carrots and celery) that are in that can solely because it is a highly, and violently processed, canned food.  Finally, canned soup is expensive.  No, it’s not the most expensive thing you can buy, but compared to homemade soup, which can be one of the most frugal meal choices you can make, it costs a fortune.

So for all you coughers and hackers, all you frugal home cooks, all you folks who are feeling the first signs of winter, I bring you Soup De Doo!

Soups for Healing

   

1. Cold Kickin’ Soup –  My go to choice for headcolds and other respiratory yuck.

2. Shweet Potato Stew – Super soothing anti-inflammatory sweet potatoes with fantastic flavors.

3. Lentil, Mushroom and Sweet Potato Soup – Warming broth with healing mushrooms and anti-inflammatory sweet potatoes.  Greens for added nutrish and power protein lentils.

Crock Pot Wonders

 

 1. Slow Cooker Vegetable, Bean and Barley Stew – So easy, so delish.

2. Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup (DF) – You know you miss that tomato soup – you don’t have to.

3. Slow Cooker Creamed Lentil Soup – A surprising and simple slow cooker soup.

Twisted Classics

1. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – Roasting the veggies brings out their sweetness.

2. Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup – Wild rice is so great in soup – never mushy.

3. Bellywarming American Black Bean Soup – We always think of Southwest flavors for black bean soup – this twist reminds us that black beans are very versatile.

Ready for a great big bowl of soup? I know I am (sniffle, hack, cough).  Be well, and get better before the gathering extravaganza begins!

Bellywarming American Black Bean Soup

Have I mentioned that I LOVE soup? What could be better on these increasingly chilly days than a big bowl of warm and delicious? While I’ve shared quite a few soups with you (you’ll see they have their own category on the sidebar), I’ve admittedly been in a bit of a soup rut.  My Go To soups are really delicious, but after a while, the kids “THAT one again?” resonates a little too deeply.  I’ve gotten a little tired of my faves, and so went a wandering, with too little time for prep and a well stocked pantry. Problem solved.

Apparently it is possible to make black bean soup that is not Southwestern.  It had never occurred to me, despite my bean friendliness, to use those guys for a different flavor profile – talk about being in a rut! Once again my friend Deborah Madison (perhaps I should just call these posts Little Sis and Deborah), showed me the way out of my self-inflicted black bean tunnel vision.

IMG_0270Ms. Madison suggests a simple American styled black bean soup, and with a few adjustments it worked stupendously for Mr. Little Sis and I. After the whole crew tasted it, with lackluster response, Mr. Little Sis and I decided that since the kids had passed on it anyway, we would in fact add the bit of Madeira called for in the original version, and boy howdy was it great, even with my radically shortened cooking time.  This one would go gangbusters in a slow cooker. I finished the last bowl tonight and am happy to report that, as with so many soups, it’s even better after a few days.

American Black Bean Soup – adapted for speed and dairy considerations from Deborah Madison’s Black Bean Soup in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • olive oil for the potIMG_0263
  • 2 c onion, chopped
  • 1 c celery, chopped
  • 1 c carrot, chopped small
  • 2 c green pepper chopped small
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 t chopped rosemary
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 4 c black beans, soaked, cooked and drained or drained and rinsed from cans
  • 4 quarts water
  • leftover grains if desired (I used 1.5 c cooked brown rice)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 c Madeira
  • 1 c coconut milk (or cream)
  • chopped parsley

Warm oil in the pot.  Add onions and saute for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and herbs and cook until the color deepens a bit. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute.  Add the beans and the water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, partially covered for at least 20 minutes.  Add salt to taste and grains if using.  Cook and additional 5 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and puree as much of the soup as your textural preferences dictate.  A smoother puree can be achieved in a blender, but I don’t like to do all that pouring of hot soup, so I use an immersion blender.  Add Madeira and coconut milk (or cream if you do moo). Serve with chopped parsley.  Wow.  So simple, so delish.  Perfect wholesome antidote for Halloween’s madness.

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Halloween Madness

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Lentil, Mushroom, and Sweet Potato Soup (GF,V)

You know how we feel about lentils around here…  OR, if you’re new and you don’t, I’d like to send you here first before you then do a search on lentils and see how ridiculously fond we are of this little protein and fiber packed cheap meal makin’ legume.  Lately our weather has been driving my food cravings and after our recent spate of unseasonably warm weather (leading to Cold Sesame Noodle perfection), we’ve had a predictably unpredictable Mid-Atlantic weather shift to slightly cooler than average with rain – lots and lots of rain.  Not much better remedy for wet and damp days than soup.

And so we turn to our humble pantry staple, the lentil. This soup is great because it doesn’t require that much in terms of super fresh food, but packs a nutritious and flavorful punch.  I found it on Dr. Weil’s site after doing some basic searching for soups.  He apparently got it somewhere else.  I’ve done a little tinkering – out of necessity rather than critique. I’d encourage you to do the same.  Soup can be very forgiving and is a great place to use up veggies that are on the verge of being unusable. Continue reading

Gingery Sweet Potato Black bean soup

Wow!  It’s been awhile since I’ve posted!  Little Sis and I have another project up our sleeves and she’s been holding down the fort with incredible food and garden posts while I’ve been working on our other project.  It is so nice being part of a team – especially with Little Sis!

Seems like lately I have found myself elaborating on our own creations rather than starting from scratch or adapting other people’s brilliance to my palate (or ingredient list).  In fact I am going to have to write another post with updates and twists on some of our recipes…. the least we can do is tell you if we figured out how to make it easier or better, right?

Besides busy-ness, an additional test to my culinary creativity is that Mr Bigg Sis has now been advised to avoid tomatoes, peppers, soy and corn as well as dairy and wheat.  You’re killing me Mr. Integrative-Physician-Man!   Did he provide us any recipes?  No.  However, he is a nice man, and, as is true to the name of the blog, a peep in the pantry revealed some ingredients calling to be introduced, or thrown into a speed dating situation with an old stand-by to see what kind of lasting relationship might result.  I think a cooking show should take up the speed dating of ingredients idea to find new interesting pairings, but then again, I’m a little strange 🙂

Looking for love or not, sweet potatoes are always a good starting point for me.  I thought I’d build on Shweet Potato Stew by adding some new ingredients and flavors.  I’m happy to report that a second date is definitely in the offing and while I don’t like to rush anyone, all sides apparently see the potential for lasting bliss.  The result? Continue reading

SOTW: Slow Cooker Tomato Soup

What could be better on a chilly day than a hot bowl of tomato soup?  I have an answer to that – on a chilly day, the only thing better than a hot bowl of tomato soup is a hot bowl of tomato soup that is waiting for you, nearly complete, when you walk in the door with two pool-soaked “freezing cold” six year old swimmers.

I should confess that as a child I was never a tomato soup eater – the ever present Campbell’s soup can didn’t do a thing for me, but Mr. Little Sis was a huge fan.  I was always happy to simply eat the grilled cheese that usually accompanied a great bowl of tomato soup.  As my love affair with the tomato became a permanent state, however, I’ve given this simple dish another chance.  In the past I found that creamy versions usually were my preference, but in more recent days, I’ve avoided creamy soup.  What to do?

I was confident someone on the vast internet had conquered the creamy tomato soup with no cream conundrum, and lo and behold, I was correct.  I stumbled onto a recipe that uses beans to thicken, fortify, and give soup some body.  Being the me that I am, I took the recipe to heart and promptly began changing it to meet my increasingly particular standards. 😉  The result was a creamy and flavorful soup that was warming to the toes, each bite full of tomato goodness.  Smoked paprika evokes roasted goodness and smoky warmth.  So flavorful, and so perfectly simple. Continue reading

SOTW: Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

While it is sunny and lovely today, we’ve just come through a long spell of cold, colder, and then (my personal fave) cold and wet.  My soup pot has taken up permanent residence on the stove.  There is, simply put, nothing better than soup on a cold day.  Warms the belly and soothes a grouchy spirit (at least it does mine).  So we’ve been having soup as often as I think I can get away with it.  We have one soup detractor in the bunch – yes, the same detractor that I site for most other food groups, but the rest of us really do enjoy a hot bowl of yum.

IMG_8711This particular soup was so delicious, and so simple, that I am declaring it the Soup Of The Week so that I can share it with you with the appropriate verbal fanfare.  The  broth is so warm and comforting and the wild rice adds so much texture and nuttiness that I may just have to make another batch.  I’d thought I’d made enough to freeze some, but the soup’s popularity defeated that plan. Continue reading

Souped Up – We Double Dare You

So I’m talking to Big Sis on the phone (yes, that could have been just about any day and we like it that way – so glad these babies are cordless) and inevitably the “Whatcha havin’ for dinner?” part of the conversation arose.  I told her I was making bread and chopping veg for soup, a Deborah Madison soup incidentally.  And in another mystery of nature vs. nurture, it turned out Big Sis was also in the process of making soup from her beloved Deborah Madison cookbook.  “Sounds like it’s time for a soup post.”  I’m not sure which one of us said it, but I’m pretty sure it hardly matters.  And so you are the unwitting beneficiaries of our non-coincidentally parallel lives.  There’s a sign post up ahead… Insert Twilight Zone music here 😉  (Bigg Sis here – no italics)  Oh and Little Sis gave me the big fat Deborah Madison book as an impromptu gift.  Made me feel as warm as soup!

My most recent Deborah Madison experiment was a blatant attempt to capitalize on my picky daughter’s relative willingness to eat lentil dishes.  I wanted soup; she likes lentils; the answer was self-evident.  I whipped up some bread to insure my dinnertime victory (carbs are the answer to my daughter’s every question) and checked out the pantry to see what kind of lentil soup would make the most sense.  After a fruitful pantry dive, I consulted my favorite chef and settled on Lentil Minestrone.  Heck, I knew it would make ME happy.

Lentil Minestrone – Adapted from Deborah Madison in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1.5 c chopped onion
  • 2 T tomato paste (I freeze mine in a big blob on wax paper after I open a can and cut off what I need from the frozen blob)
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 carrots cut small
  • 1 c celery cut small
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 c lentils (I used green)
  • 2 bay leaves, several branches parsley and a few thyme sprigs,  (or dried herbs to taste)
  • 9 c water or vegetable stock (I went halfsies)
  • Bragg’s or soy sauce to taste
  • 1 bunch greens, chopped (I used chard from the garden)
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (we used leftover homemade green pasta)

Warm olive oil in a large pot.  Saute onion for about 10 minutes until soft and starting to brown.  Add tomato paste through the celery and the salt.  Cook for a few more minutes.  Add the lentils, the herbs, and water/broth.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about a half an hour. Taste and add salt and or pepper.  If the soup tastes flat, add soy for richness.  Cook the pasta in a separate pot and drain.  When the soup is ready, spoon pasta and raw greens into bowl and ladle soup on top.  Add parm if that works for you.  We just dipped sunflower cheese bread instead. Delish.

That sounds really good.  I think we’ll be swapping soups here over the next couple of days.

My Deborah Madison recipe took advantage of the fact that my son will eat chickpeas – and many other things he objects to – if in soup.  For your slurping from a big spoon pleasure – I give you:

Potato and Chickpea Stew.  from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, p. 252

Ingredients:
1 pound Yellow Finn, fingerling, or red potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced (I diced, but not so finely as is my sloppy way)
2 generous pinches of saffron
2 Large red bell peppers, finely diced… (again – I’m a chunky dicer, not a fine dicer)
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into strips  (now you’re talking!)
2 large garlic cloves, minced (I’m a masher, not a mincer)
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika (I used regular paprika – is there a difference?)
1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup medium dry sherry
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, plus their juices (I used diced)
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, or 2 15 oz. cans rinsed
3 cups chickpea-cooking broth or water – I used vegetable broth here – bean cooking water is pretty gas-forming
salt and freshly milled pepper
Picada on top:
1/2 cup peeled (can you guess?  I didn’t peel), toasted almonds (350 degrees for 8-10 minutes)
2 slices white country bread (I used the whole grain I had) fried up to crisp in 2 Tbsp olive oil – both sides
2 – 4 cloves garlic.
Deborah Madison tosses these 3 ingredients in a food processor.  I added the garlic (mashed) to the saute pan with the bread, chopped the almonds in a chopper, broke the bread into bits and was done.  My food processor was dirty and I prefer sauteed garlic.

Luckily I gave birth to a little free help in the kitchen 11 years ago. Ain’t he somethin’?

Warm oil in a large pot and add onion, saffron, peppers, garlic and potatoes, over medium-low, stirring occasionally until potatoes are softening but firm – about 25 minutes.

Beautiful fragrant saffron

Add paprika, parsley and pepper flakes and cook 3-4 minutes

Add the sherry and cook until juices are thick and syrup-y, about 12 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth to cover. And 1 1/2 tsp salt and plenty of pepper.  Cover and cook over low heat until potatoes are very tender.  She uses the picada as a thickener, I used it as a crunchy topper.

She also adds a Romesco sauce.  I did not do this and thought it was fabulous and it was not hard – but not easy either, so I was done and sampling said it was done as well.  Everyone liked this a lot.

So there you have it!  Little Sis and I are in the soup, all souped up, and will be boiling something tasty up tonight as well!  I hope there’s some soup in your future, it sure is fine!

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