Tuesday, October 27, 2009

2 Recipe #58: Tomato, Red Pepper, & Zucchini Soup

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And here's yet another original soup recipe. This one's extremely easy to make; all you have to do is chop up a bunch of veggies, toss 'em in a sauce pot with water & spices, let the whole thing cook for a few hours, & then just forget about it until the timer goes off, et le voilà‎. Good for those nights when you want to drink something hot, soothing, tasty, & fresh, but don't feel like putting in major effort. :) Make it, drink it, & then crash on the sofa & relax -- You're in for the rest of the night. :)

The addition of zucchini gives the soup its texture, while the red peppers
 & carrots add sweetness, & the red tomatoes give it some zing.

Tomato, Red Pepper, & Zucchini Soup

3 large garlic cloves, minced
2-3 large shallots, diced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 red peppers, innards/seeds removed & sliced into 2 inch pieces
3 large zucchinis, unpeeled & diced into rough chunks
5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into small 1 inch thick chunks
4 fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes (NOTE: You will be using the entire can's contents, including the juice.)
3 Tbsp. flour
4 c. water
2 Tbsp. paprika
1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce (optional)
8-10 fresh basil leaves, OR 2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
1/2 tsp. parsley
salt, to taste (between 1-2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
15-20 sun-dried tomato halves (i.e., the kind that's not packed in oil) (about 1 8-oz. container of sun-dried tomatoes)

1. In a large sauce pot, sauté garlic & shallots in olive oil on medium heat until translucent, stirring frequently.
2. Next, add red peppers & stir, cooking until tender. About 10-15 minutes.
3. Add zucchini & both the fresh & canned tomatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes, continuing to stir frequently.
4. Add flour, stirring until it disappears.
5. Add water, carrots, & all spices.
6. Turn down heat to low & simmer with the lid on for 3 hours. Check on soup occasionally & add water if necessary. Taste for flavor balance & adjust seasonings. Continuing to cook until desired thickness has been reached.
7. In the last 1/2 hour of cooking (i.e., 2 1/2 hrs into cooking), add the sun-dried tomatoes.
8. Remove from heat.
9. Blend mixture in batches, using a hand mixer, potato masher, or food mill. (If you like soup chunky, blend soup only slightly, using the pulse setting.)
10. Serve hot. Reheat if necessary. (Freeze remainder for future lunches & dinners.) Enjoy!

8-10 servings.

Serving suggestions: Garnish with thinly sliced/shredded fresh basil. Serve with a dollop of low-fat sour cream or non-fat plain yoghurt, & a slice of sour dough bread.

2 Recipe #57: "Potatoes in Paradise" Potato Soup

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Yes, I'm on a cooking spree today; I just made Mexican chili & put it in the fridge for Thursday's lunch with friends, chez penguin. :) Chili tastes even better when refrigerated or frozen overnight.

And now, I'm making potato soup for tonight's dinner. Since it's going to be dining for one tonight, leftovers will be frozen for this weekend, when I anticipate a visit from my squeeze & possibly some friends who're planning on stopping into town then.

"Potatoes in Paradise" Potato Soup

1 large yellow onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 large shallots, minced
1 Tbsp. butter (Vegan can replace with 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or omit all together.)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. flour
1 c. dry sherry
8 large potatoes, peeled & cubed, cut in 1/2" chunks (red or yellow, etc.)
2 large carrots, peeled & sliced into 1/4"-thick pieces
1 stalk celery, diced
4 small sprigs of fresh dill
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. dried parsley leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, to taste
4 c. water
2 cup non-fat plain soy milk (buttermilk or skim milk also work well)

1. Melt 1 butter in a large skillet; add olive oil & sauté onions, shallots, & garlic until translucent. Sprinkle with flour, & keep stirring until flour is completely absorbed. Deglaze with sherry.
2. Add potatoes, carrots, & celery, & cook for about 30 minutes on medium-high heat. Add spices & water & bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover, & cook on medium-low heat for 3 hours, or until vegetables are tender.
3. Remove from stove, blend mixture in batches, using a hand mixer, potato masher, or food mill. Return to sauce pot for further cooking. IMPORTANT: Do NOT use a blender, or the potato mixture will very likely turn gummy from overprocessing.
4. Taste and adjust seasoning. A half-hour to one-hour before serving, stir in the (soy) milk & season with salt & pepper to taste. If necessary, add more (soy) milk or water until desired consistency is reached. Heat thoroughly. Ladle potato soup into bowls, garnish with fresh chopped chives, & serve.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

0 Recipe #56: Cyberpenguin's Cincinnati Chili

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The subject of chili is a topic that evokes passionate debate in my family. From the start, my mother put forth some pretty strong opinions about what kind of chili, if any, her family would be consuming, and so, we grew up eating very little of it, & when we did, it was always a vegetarian chili. :)

The irony is that, at university, I won a cooking contest for, you guessed it, my vegetarian chili. :)

And the prize for my efforts? A hardbound copy of Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant. A great reward indeed! This cookbook is virtual goldmine of recipes that I still use to this very day!

It was not until after university, that I ventured forth & tasted the meat version, which was first made using Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili spice mix, in my own kitchen. I don't normally resort to using commercial pre-packaged spice-mixtures; however, for Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili spice mix, it's worth making an exception. :) I'm happy to report that the results of my first meat chili were decent, and since then, I've made several different versions -- both vegetarian & meat versions -- adding different ingredients like green & red peppers, onions, beans, masa harina de maiz (corn flour), and amazingly, even chocolate (for Cincinnati Chili, which, if you're curious, is similar in concept to a chocolate mole sauce, where the chocolate is more of a subtle accent versus an overriding flavor). (I know the addition of unsweetened chocolate might sound bizarre to some people -- and yes, I was a tad bit skeptical about the concept at first too, but trust me, it adds a really amazing flavor to the dish. Plus, it's fun to be adventurous, try something different every now & then, & expand one's horizons. Especially when that something is really, really good. :) )

I've grown to really enjoy & appreciate homemade chili, in part, due to my continual experimentation with it in the kitchen, & also because of my squeeze, Erik, who often requests it when the weather turns colder. :) I've also served this chili to my parents and also to some family friends, and both times it got a very enthusiastic response. (I was especially surprised by the former, given my mother's previously stated, steadfast opinions with regard to meat-based chili. ;) ) In the latter instance, our friend Gerry was over at the house that day and he couldn't stop raving about it. In fact, I saw him during my last visit home, and he mentioned it again. I think he might've been dropping some hints. ;)

Anyhow, here's my own version of Cincinnati Chili. Frankly, I don't like the idea of chili mixed with pasta, (which, I believe is the traditional way it's served in Cincinnati ;) ), so my version is served with tortilla chips instead, which is more like "Cincinnati Chili by way of Mexico." :)

Also, the nice thing about my version of this recipe is that it calls for 93% fat-free meat (or whatever the highest fat-free version is that you can find) & doesn't require any additional oil; the garlic & onions are cooked in the tomato juice from the canned tomatoes. Just one of the low-fat cooking tactics from my bag o' tricks. :)

This recipe is packed with flavor, so those you serve it to won't even realize that it's lower in fat. Shhhhh! :)

Anyhow, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Cyberpenguin's Cincinnati Chili

2 lbs. 93% fat-free ground beef (or whatever the highest percentage low-fat beef you can find!)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes (NOTE: Be sure to reserve juice!)
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
4 fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1-2 c. water
2 tsp. paprika
1-2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (Adjust for heat to suit individual preferences: Adding 1 tsp. will add a small kick to your chili; adding 2 tsp. or more will add a bit more; and, adding 2+ tsp. plus some Tabasco sauce will a "Ka-pow!" :) )
1/3 c. Mexican chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. dried cilantro leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice powder
1/4 tsp. ground clove powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon powder
2 Tbsp. (Hershey's) unsweetened cocoa powder
salt, to taste (between 1-2 tsp.)
1 (15.5 or) 16-oz. can kidney or pinto beans
2 Tbsp. masa harina de maiz (corn flour)
fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Brown meat in large sauce pot. Drain, transfer meat to bowl, & set aside.
2. Sauté onions & garlic in the tomato juice (from the diced tomatoes can) on medium-high heat using the same sauce pot you used to cook the meat. (Using the same sauce pot will add flavor to the onions & garlic & also save on dishwasher loads; this is a good way to be economical & green. And also, it's great for those of us who hate washing dishes & despise cleaning anything in general. :) )
2. Cook garlic & onion mixture until translucent, stirring frequently.
3. Next, add meat & all other ingredients except for kidney beans, masa, & fresh cilantro leaves. Turn down heat to low & simmer with the lid on for 30 min.
4. Check on chili & add water if necessary. Taste for flavor balance, & adjust to suit your personal preferences.
5. Add kidney beans & masa. Slow cook with lid on for 60 more minutes. Taste, and continue to cook until desired thickness has been reached, approximately 30-60 additional minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves & serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Serving Suggestions: Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with low-fat/baked tortilla chips. I personally recommend R.W. Garcia Flaxseed Tortilla Chips, which are a tasty, crunchy, & yes, healthy alternative to plain ole' tortilla chips. :) To accompany the chili, I recommend either the Blue Corn w/Flaxseed or Flaxseed w/Soy varieties. The other flavors are probably too busy for this dish; there's enough flavor sensations already going on with the chili itself. Best not to overdo it & keep the focus on the main event, i.e., the chili. :)

Alternate Ingredients: Add California black olives. Or try fresh green & red pepper (cut into small strips), &/or cooked corn kernels.

Chef's Notes: Chili freezes well, and can keep for several months.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

0 Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes......

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If you've visited this blog lately (via the live page versus the feed :) ), you probably will have noticed that there have been a few changes, some more obvious than others.

Firstly & most obviously, there's the new blog header, which was designed & created by yours truly. :) And then there's the addition of various buttons, some of which I nabbed from various places & then customized, and others of which are unique creations.

As the saying goes, "form follows function," so while I enjoy the design process, the ultimate purpose is to streamline content and make it easier for readers to navigate this blog.

I'm honestly nowhere close to being finished with the design & layout of this blog. There's a lot of work still to be done, & I frankly haven't had a whole lot of time to devote to this leisure activity -- So, as a matter of practicality & priorities, the work has been done slowly over time, & will probably continue to be done in such a manner until further notice. :)

At some point, I plan to add tabs and move a lot of the links to these areas to further de-clutter the page while still continuing to provide lots of detailed content. Although you wouldn't know it from looking at this blog's layout (especially in its earliest incarnations), I'm actually quite the design minimalist. I think the new logo reflects that intent/impulse.

Anyhow, thanks for your patience during the on-going face-lift!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

0 Introducing the NEW "Cook. Eat. Drink. Blog." Facebook Fan Page!

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Introducing the NEW Facebook Fan Page for Cook. Eat. Drink. Blog. Drum roll, please. :)

If you click on the above widget, it'll take you directly to the landing page for this blog's Facebook fan page. (Of course, you need to belong to Facebook first, before you can join this fan page. :) )

Alternatively, you can show your support for this blog by adding your own Cook. Eat. Drink. Blog. widget to your website or blog, either on a sidebar or within a blog post. :)

Thank you so much for publicly showing your support for this blog!

0 Recipe #55: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

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This recipe makes for a great post-exercise fluid/sodium replacement option. I often drink it after long runs on a chilly Fall or Winter’s day. It’s very refreshing & tasty, and so easy to make. Enjoy!

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil (Or, for more flavor, use ½ Tbsp. olive oil + ½ Tbsp. butter)
2 shallots, minced
2 yellow onions, sliced into ¼ inch thick slivers
2 large bay leaves
salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. whole wheat or all-purpose unbleached white flour
½ c. sherry
½ c. dry white wine
¼ c. low-sodium soy sauce, or to taste
6-8 c. water (or for more flavor, can use vegetable stock)
4 slices bread (can use whole wheat or sourdough slices, etc.)
4 Tbsp. shredded Asiago cheese (or vegan Parmesan cheese substitute)
a few sprinkles of a soft, mild-tasting cheese like mozarella* (or vegan shredded cheese substitute)

1. In a large nonstick pot, sauté the garlic in olive oil (&/or butter) over medium heat, until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally, watching pot carefully, to make sure garlic doesn’t burn. Add shallots, onions, and bay leaves. Lightly season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. (If you cook the onions too quickly, they’ll taste bitter.) Add flour, stir well, and cook for 2 more minutes. Deglaze pot with sherry and white wine. Add water/stock, taste and bring to a slow boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Taste soup for flavor & sodium content/level. If necessary, add soy sauce (to taste), and adjust other seasonings as needed. Place 1 slice of bread at the bottom of each bowl/soup cup and ladle in soup. Sprinkle each full bowl with 2 tsp. Asiago cheese, mixed with a few sprinkles of low-fat mozarella, etc.

Yield: Makes 4 servings.

Chef's Notes: *While it's more traditional to use Gruyère, I frankly think that low-fat mozarella tastes better & has a more even consistency when mixed with the Asiago. IMHO, melted Gruyère tastes like a rubber band. :) Of course, do what you like best.

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