September 18, 2009

Leek and garbanzo bean soup

Leek soup3

Leeks are apparently quite good for you. I tried to find out just how good for you they are by doing a little web search on the subject - here's a link. Ok, so I can read about how good leeks are, but what has convinced me that leeks have healthful benefits has nothing to do with a nutritional analysis - it's the fact that my husband now requests that I make this soup for him whenever he comes back from a long business trip (usually to China) because he swears it helps him get back on track with his eating habits (because he eats out more, and at irregular times, I think) and feel better after an exhausting trip. Since this soup also has garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in it, then you also get the fiber and nutrients in that as well. This recipe, from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver (who was just a kid when he wrote this one!) calls for dried chickpeas, but I go lazy on this one and make it with canned instead - just be sure to rinse the beans to get off the salt. It's great with Parmesan and a little extra virgin olive oil on top, and fresh black pepper. Dh likes it with sausage on top as well. Picky hasn't tried this one (although I always puree some for her just in case) but she has shown some interest, and I think she'll come around eventually, especially since daddy loves it so much.

Leek soup2

Chickpea and Leek Soup

  • 2 15 oz cans of garbanzo beans, rinsed thoroughly
  • 2-3 small boiling potatoes, quartered
  • 5 medium leeks
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Remove the outer skin of the leeks, slice in half from the root up, and fan them out to wash in between all of the layers. Then slice finely. OR, you can just slice them finely first, dump them in a bowl of water, swish handfuls of them around to get them clean, and then throw them all onto a clean towel. Guess which one I do. I'm not elegant.
Warm a thick-bottomed pan (I like to use my fake Le Creuset for soups - it's an enameled cast iron dutch oven), and add the oil and butter. This gives you a nice butter flavor, but the oil keeps it from burning - I often do this for soups. If you want, you can just use 2 Tbsp olive oil instead. Add the leeks and garlic to the pan and cook gently with a good pinch of salt until tender and sweet. Add the drained garbanzo beans and potatoes and 2/3 of the stock, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. You can eat it this way, or you can puree part or all of it. Dh likes it chunky, but I like to make it a little creamy, so I stick my immersion blender in there and give it a whirl, but not for too long, so that it's a little creamy and a little chunky. If you don't have an immersion blender, get one - you can't feed a texture-challenged child without one of these! OR you can just put some of the soup in a blender, blend it up, and then dump it back into the pan. Add more of the stock, until you get the consistency that you like. Check to see if it needs a bit of salt, and add some Parmesan to taste, or you can just keep that for the top, like I do.

Leek soup

September 17, 2009

Caught on camera!

One of the foods I try to always have on hand is "Martian Soup" - a pureed spinach and potato soup that Picky eats regularly with lots of cheese on top. I make large batches of the soup and freeze portions so that I always have it on hand for lunches and the occasional dinner. Although it's not time-consuming or difficult to make, I've gotten in the habit of making the batches at night while watching shows on DVD (tonight it was "Weeds"). Sometimes I do this in a tiara.


September 8, 2009



Ok, Freezer Week did not work out as I planned. If anything, I have more in the freezer now than when I started. This is not entirely my fault - in our house September is birthday month: My birthday and my daughter's birthday are right next to each other, and my husband's birthday is a few weeks later. That means lots of baking, pizza making, BBQ, etc. Also, when I made the plum jam last week, I ended up with tons of leftover pureed plums, which I froze in ice cube trays with the idea of putting a few cubes in when I make smoothies. And, somehow, I now have a whole wild salmon in my freezer, where there wasn't one before. Not that I'm complaining. We did eat some of the chicken thighs. Soup season is upon us now, so I'll be using up the stock and making a new batch before long - I think I still have several bags of chicken necks, wings, and backs to turn into a lovely stock sometime soon. For now, I'm taking a bit of a break from the kitchen, except to make some fresh yogurt, and bake up a batch of crunchy granola to eat with it... I love to make these two things, because they are so simple to make, and yet they make me feel like a star in the kitchen somehow. Plus it is really nice to know exactly what is in even your most basic foods. Pizza dough and bread are also on my list of foods that make me feel accomplished when I make them myself, plus they make the whole house smell good (well, not the yogurt...) and give you that warm, fuzzy, homey feeling. I love this crunchy granola recipe that I got from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe - the only thing that I change is the soy protein powder (because my mom loves granola, but can't eat anything with soy in it...). There are so many recipes for granola out there, it's easy to find one (or make one up) with all of your favorite ingredients, and with the amount of oil and sweetener that you prefer. The more oil, the crunchier the finished granola - this one has quite a bit of oil because I like it crunchy - but I rarely eat this as a breakfast cereal - it makes a great topping for yogurt (um, or ice-cream...).


Very Crunchy Granola

Nonstick spray (I actually use a silicone baking mat instead)
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup barley flakes (you can just add another cup of rolled oats if you want)
1 cup oat bran
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup light honey or pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp vanilla extract (always use real vanilla - in everything...)
1 cup soy protein powder (I sub. nonfat dried milk, and use between 1/2 to 1 cup)
1/2 Tsp salt
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin seeds (optional - I leave them out because Picky won't eat them)

  • Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spray a 13 by 18 inch baking tray with non-stick spray.
  • Combine the oats and barley flakes, bran, sunflower seeds, and almonds in a large bowl.
  • Combine the oil, honey, and vanilla, and pour this mixture into the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  • Stir in protein powder and salt, and mix thoroughly
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden, stirring once or twice during the baking (really keep an eye on it for that last 10 minutes)
  • Crumble in the sugar as soon as the granola comes out of the oven, and let it melt in. Cool it on the tray, and stir in the pumpkin seeds (if using) as it cools. The granola will get crunchy as it cools.
  • Store the finished granola in a tightly closed jar in the freezer for maximum freshness.


September 4, 2009

Plum crazy!


I've been swimming in plums! When I saw the plum trees in my friends back yard over-burdened with plums, I decided I had to do something to take advantage of the abundance - I started out with loads of plum crumbles - I think we were eating plum crumble almost every day for several weeks! When I saw that I wasn't making a dent in the plum population, I tried my hand at canning for the first time. I have to say, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, although I know I did plenty wrong (like put the plums through a food mill - I guess that's just for apples? You're supposed to leave the skin on the plums - a pectin thing?). Despite that, I have to say that the jam came out really good - just the right texture (at least I think so, although some would like it chunkier...) and sweetness. I think I'll get a book for next year - I had up 6 different websites to walk me through the canning process...many of them were blogs that had their own experiences and recipes. The site that helped me with the technical aspect of sealing the jars in a water bath was this one. I have to say that it is somehow very satisfying to turn a big bag of plums into a neat little row of jam jars...I think I'll have to do the same thing for my apples when they ripen - that is, if the squirrels don't eat them all...
Anyway, I won't embarrass myself by putting up a recipe - I mean, it was plums, sugar, lemon juice, and pectin - plus, It's not like I'm an old hand at canning or anything...but I have to say, I think I'm hooked! And now that the plums are sealed up in little jars, I won't feel the need to stuff myself with them - I can enjoy reasonable amounts of plum jam all year long! :)







September 2, 2009

Vanilla Ricotta Muffins


Oh yes, I did! I got that dinosaur muffin pan! Actually, I didn't buy it from Amazon, though - I found it at Target for 10 bucks cheaper, and then I really couldn't resist any longer! I'm impressed with the pan - it's heavy and has nice details. Today I was testing out a muffin recipe both to see how the dinosaurs came out, and to see if Picky would go for Vanilla instead of her usual chocolate for her birthday party. I put a scoop of home-made plum jam in each muffin (I'll write about my jam making experience later in the week...) to see if that would work as well (the kids liked it, but it did spill out the sides a bit because of the awkward shapes...). This muffin recipe is nice - homey and filling - but it's not my favorite muffin recipe from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe (the chocolate ricotta muffin is my husband's favorite as well as Picky's, and I like a toasted oatmeal one...). This is one of my favorite cookbooks, and is full of kid-friendly recipes, although it's not marketed as a kid-friendly cookbook (but rather as a breakfast cookbook). Anyway, here it is:


Vanilla Ricotta Muffins

Nonstick spray
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry milk powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a pinch (or a few grates) of nutmeg
2 Tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

  • Preheat the oven to 350 - Lightly spray 8 standard (2 1/2 inch diameter) muffin cups with nonstick spray.
  • Combine flour, powdered milk, salt, baking powder, granulated sugar, and spices in a medium-sized bowl. Crumble in the brown sugar, rubbing it with your fingers to break up clumps. Stir until blended
  • Place ricotta in second bowl, beat in the milk. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with a medium-sized whisk after each addition. Stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour the ricotta mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don't over-mix.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. For smaller muffins, fill the cups about four-fifths full. For larger muffins, fill them up to the top. If you have extra batter, spray one or two additional muffin cups with non-stick spray and fill with the remaining batter.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, then remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving.
I also sprinkled powdered sugar on the top, which was a nice touch, I thought - you could still see the details of the dinosaurs. Of course, Picky wants frosting for her birthday, so frosting it is - but I think I'll serve it on the side, so that everyone can admire the beautiful dinosaurs for a few seconds before covering it with frosting and devouring it... sound good?