Monday, February 27, 2012

Early Spring Blossoms

It may still be winter, but our whacky weather has fooled the trees and plants into thinking it's spring. Only a week ago we had snow! Then a few days later, temperatures in the 70s and a thunderstorm! Crazy weather, indeed. The cherry trees by the church down the street from us are blooming beautifully, showing us that spring is right around the corner.




Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Black Bean Soup


I know a lot of my posts are recipes, but I love cooking and I love food. My hope is to share some really good recipes with others who love food too. Especially healthy, easy-to-make vegetarian food. Here's a nice, simple and quick recipe for black bean soup. The first time I made it, I jotted a note in the margins that it was a bit bland -- the recipe didn't call for any salt or pepper! I also increased the amount of spices. The original recipe called for 8 ounces of cooked, diced ham, which I'm sure would add nice flavor if you include meat in your diet.

Black Bean Soup

Directions:
1) In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 small red onion, finely chopped, and cook about 3 to 4 minutes until lightly browned. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 3/4 teaspoon oregano. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add 4 cups water, three 15-ounce cans of drained and rinsed black beans, 1/8 teaspoon green pepper sauce (Tabasco brand jalapeno sauce), 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. 

2) Remove soup from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves. Using an immersion blender (or regular blender, working in batches - do not fill more than halfway), puree soup until smooth.

3) Ladle into bowls. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges. Note: sprinkle diced cooked ham over soup in this step, if using.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Curried Tofu and Spinach


Indian food is one of our favorites, and this curried tofu and spinach dish is especially easy to make at home. I buy pre-cubed, super firm tofu to make it even easier. 

Curried Tofu and Spinach

Directions:
1) Drain the liquid from a 14 oz. package of pre-cubed, super firm tofu (if you cannot find pre-cubed, then cut the tofu into 1/2" cubes). Line a large plate with a few layers of paper towel, then spread the cubed tofu over the paper towel and top with a few more layers of paper towel. Place one or two heavy cans on top to press out most of the liquid from the tofu. Let sit for about 5 minutes. In a large skillet, saute the tofu in a little canola oil. I like to season the tofu at this point with a touch of curry powder and freshly ground pepper. Cook until slightly browned. Transfer the tofu onto a plate that is lined with fresh paper towels to drain.

2) In the same large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 yellow onion, chopped, and 4 garlic cloves, minced, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until fragrant.

3) Add a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach, cut into chunks (unthawed), and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, breaking up spinach with a spoon. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost all liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes.

4) Reduce heat to low and stir in 3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream and the reserved tofu; cook just until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes (do not boil). Serve with white basmati or jasmine rice.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hyacinth

When I spotted some hyacinth at the market the other day, I thought they would be a lovely way to bring a touch of spring into the house. This weekend they began to bloom. I love their sweet shade of pink and their amazing fragrance. 

Outside, this weekend's frigid temperatures and gusty winds are reminders that winter is still with us. But inside, we're enjoying this beautiful little preview of spring. It won't be long now ...
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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Valentine's Day Treats

A friend requested that I do more baking posts -- in particular, some yummy Valentine's Day treats. She also asked that I post them a couple of weeks before the holiday, allowing time for planning. It's nice to have supporters who make requests and spark your creative juices -- even if it does put a little pressure on (wink!). Keep the requests coming!

Last year I posted chocolate sweet heart cookies and molten mocha cakes, which are sublime, and make great Valentine's Day desserts. Give them a try.

If you are looking for a lighter Valentine's treat, how about these mocha chip meringues? They are only 23 calories each and have very little fat, but they are incredibly chocolatey with a hint of coffee. I could eat a dozen of them! I shared some at work and they were SO popular -- even the people who said they don't like meringues liked these. Note: instead of using instant espresso powder, I used the same amount of instant decaf coffee. This recipe does not use flour but does use cornstarch, and is a good choice if you're sensitive to gluten (just make sure your brand of cornstarch is considered gluten free).




Another "lighter" version of a chocolate dessert are these triple chocolate brownies. Making them a little healthier than standard brownies is a secret ingredient: pureed black beans! They replace about half the butter found in regular brownie recipes. My husband and I love nuts, so I added 1/2 cup chopped walnuts for added protein and fiber. These brownies are amazing -- moist and very chocolatey. With 155 calories per brownie (yield: 16) and 7 grams of fat (4 g saturated), you don't have to feel too guilty enjoying this treat.


I hope you try one of these wonderful recipes. Have a happy Valentine's Day!
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