Thursday, December 29, 2011

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

My new photo of Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup (non-dairy) (The Souper 2012)

What do you do when there is a brisk chilly feel to the outside air and the wind is howling around the house but it is brilliantly sunny outside? You make soup, of course!
I took out from my refrigerator the very basics for a good hearty, spicy vegetable soup. There was a half of a large butternut squash sitting quietly in my refrigerator along with a large bag of carrots. I discovered a half of a large onion just waiting to jump into a food creation of mine. Supporting the major components of this throw-together soup are my spices always ready to flavor-up a dish.
With a full stock of staples in the pantry, I of course had a box of low-sodium chicken broth to blend into a pot of soup or rice stirfry sidedish.
There you have it. Chopping the vegetables, adding seasonings and broth blends into the most satisfying, creamy tummy-warming soup in just about one half an hour. Yes, from the chop to the blend I was eating not one but two bowls of this velvety smooth liquid meal in under an hour! How wonderful is that?
With the basic kitchen skills and tools, you too can impress yourself as well as your loved ones with a healthy, nutritious pleasure.

Prep time about five minutes. Cooking time about one half an hour.
Serving suggestions: Add soup crackers, or small cooked pasta to a bowl of soup. (If you can tolerate dairy, grate some melting cheese on top of the soup or a tiny bit of cream.)

What you will need:
Cutting board, large
Kitchen knife
Vegetable peeler
Small bowls for chopped vegetables
Large pot with matching cover
Wood spoon
Large soup spoon
Measuring spoons
Pot holders
Immersion blender or food processor (even a blender if soup is cooled.)

Canola or Olive Oil, 3 tablespoons
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 large butternut squash, cubed into small pieces
2 medium carrots, washed, peeled and cut into thin discs
1 box, 32 ounces of low-sodium chicken broth. (Swanson's)
Kosher salt, add during cooking and flavor cooked soup
(about 1 teaspoon during cooking onions, 1 teaspoon when butternut squash and carrots added to the cooking onions. Add 1 teaspoon if needed when soup is finished cooking and still in the pot if more flavoring is needed.)
Crushed black pepper, 1-2 teaspoons during the cooking process
Turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon on top of the cooking butternut squash and carrots
Smoked Papika, 1/2 teaspoon on top of the cooking butternut squash and carrots.

The process:
Wash, peel, cut the carrots and set aside until needed
Peel butternut squash and cut into small pieces
Peel the onion and chop into small pieces and set aside until needed
Peel clove of garlic and crush into small pieces
Add the oil into the large pot and put on the stove burner turned on medium-high heat
Add the chopped onions, some salt and stir with the wooden spoon often.
When the cooking onions look shiny and appear to be softer in texture, add the crushed garlic and keep stirring with the wooden spoon often.
Quickly add the cut butternut squash and cut carrots into the cooking mixture and keep stirring around often with the wooden spoon.
Add more salt, add crushed black pepper as well as the turmeric and smoked paprika and keep stirring with the wood spoon.
When the cooking vegetables appear to be softer, slowly add the chicken broth and keep stirring the mixture.
Reduce the heat under the pot to a low setting, cover slightly with the matching cover.
Check on the cooking soup in about 25-30 minutes, taste a little bit with the clean, large soup spoon and add more salt or crushed black pepper to your personal taste.
The flavors come together with a correct balance of seasonings. (Your tastebus will tell you if more seasonings are needed.)
With the stove burner off, use the immersion blender slowly to blend the cooked chunks of vegetables into a smooth, velvety texture.
If using a food processor or blender, let the soup cool a bit before blending.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


This Lasagne is both Gluten-free and Non-dairy

It was exciting to find a lasagne pasta made of brown rice so that I could prepare a gluten-free lasagne for people on a restricted diet AND while thinking about dietary needs of others, I decided to make this recipe for lasagne to be dairy-free as well. Did I have concerns how this recipe was going to turn out? You bet I did. Did I have concerns about how a lasagne without cheese would hold up in the cooking process? You bet I did, again.

I am happy to report that this lasagne with ground beef and sauted vegetables turned out to be one of the best tasting culinary experiments I have prepared. There was an abundance of flavor in this meat lasagne from the spiced-up seasonings used during the cooking of the ground beef. The sauted veggies of choice for this recipe added their own flavor and texture to the entire lasagne. How surprised was I? Very surprised and satisfied with this homemade creation.

Although I technically am not restricted to a gluten-free diet, I enjoy the wonderful new products appearing in the markets for those restricting gluten in their nutritional diets. A personal observation: when eating too much bread or white pasta, I find a bloated feeling after a meal and see more puffiness under my eyes. Again, this is just a personal observation. The same feeling is personally observed when eating a lot of dairy products. So, good to know that substitutions of ingredients still allows for a hearty flavor in favorite meals.

Noting here that I chose ingredients for this lasagne without promoting any products. I enjoy their flavors.

Gluten-free, brown rice lasagne pasta. Organic and Kosher, too.

Organic Tomato Sauce with Herbs (no cheese)

What you will need to prepare this dish:
Large pot with matching lid
Large skillet
Large cutting board
Kitchen knife
Box grater
Wooden spoon, two
Pot holders
Large lasagne pan or high baking dish
Olive or Canola Oil spray
Baking sheet
Large spatula

Lasagne pasta, gluten-free
Olive oil, 3-4 tbs for sauteing vegetables and ground beef.
Small onion, chopped
Garlic, 3 cloves, fresh and chopped
Carrot, 1 large, washed, peeled and grated
Red or Green pepper, 1 medium, washed and cut into small pieces
Butternut squash, 1 cup, fresh, cut into small pieces
Zucchini, 1 small, washed, cut into small pieces
Kosher salt, 1-4 tbs (add half of total amount during vegetable saute; add some salt to taste during cooking process after the ground beef is added but save some salt to add to boiling water for cooking pasta)
Black pepper, 1 tsp, crushed
Ground beef, 1 lb, lean OR White ground meat turkey, 1 lb.
Tomato sauce, one jar prepared tomato sauce of choice (with/without added herbs, but no cheese.)
Tomato paste, 4 tbs from tube or small can
Water, 1 cup, cold (add half of the water to determine thickness of mixture)
Tumeric, 1 tsp, powder
Smoked paprika, 1 tsp, powder
Oregano, 1 tsp, dried
Basil, 1 tsp, dried
Gluten-free bread crumbs

Lasagna Preperation Process:
Fill the large pot with cold water, put lid on the pot and put the pot on a stove burner, high heat, to bring water to a rolling boil. This will take 8-10 minutes depending on your stove temperature. When large bubbles appear in the boiling water, remove the lid, add some Kosher salt and carefully add the dried lasagne pasta. Stir gently to separate each noodle so they do not stick together.
When all the lasagne pasta is softer, but still firm, turn off the burner under the pot, put the colander in the sink and carefully lift the pot with pot holders and slowly drain the boiling water from the pot leaving the partially cooked lasagne pasta in the collander.
While the water is reaching a boiling temperature, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
At this time put the large skillet on another stove burner, add the olive oil into the skillet and turn the burner under the skillet to medium-high heat. In a minute or two, carefully add the chopped onion and stir around the skillet with a wooden spoon. When the onions look softer add the rest of the vegetables and keep stirring the mixture. Add some of the Kosher salt and all of the crushed black pepper. Keep stirring the mixture with the wooden spoon.
When all the vegetables look softer, add the uncooked ground beef (or ground turkey), add all of the herbs, the tomato paste and continue to stir with the wooden spoon until the ground beef (or ground turkey) turns brownish, more firm looking texture to the meat. Then, add 3/4 of the jar of tomato sauce. (save 1/4 of the tomato sauce for the top of the lasagne before baking)
Keep stirring the mixture above and then add the water, as much as needed for the desired consistancy of the mixture. The mixture of vegetables, meat and sauce should not be too watery.
Turn the temperature under the skillet with cooking mixture to a low setting and keep stirring with the wooden spoon until cooking mixture is fully heated and bubbles begin to form in the mixture.
Turn the burner off under the skillet after the mixture is hot and bubbly.
Spray the large baking dish with some olive oil spray to keep the bottom of the lasagne from burning while baking.

The Layering Process Before Baking:
With a clean wooden spoon, add a little bit of the cooked mixture from the skillet to the bottom of the baking dish.
With tongs, carefully take several partially cooked lasagne pasta and put them on top of the first layer of cooked ground beef (or ground turkey) and vegetable mixture. Add a bit more cooked mixture on top of the lasagne pasta and repeat this process until the top layer is cooked meat and vegetable mixture.
Add a thin layer of gluten-free bread crumbs for a crunchy topping (optional)
Add last 1/4 of jar of tomato sauce to the top of the lasagna.
Put the baking dish on a clean baking sheet so oven will not get messed up if the cooking lasagne overflows with tomato sauce.
Put the baking sheet with the lasagne baking dish on it into the preheated oven.
Bake the lasagne for about 20-30 minutes until heated totally in the middle.

Serving suggestions:
Cut the cooked lasagne into large squares and serve each individual portion with a spatula on a dinner place.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup in Natural Light - my personal photo (The Souper 2012)

When I was a little kid home with a bad cold, my nose stuffy, chills running through my body from a fever and all I wanted was to be comforted and be held in loving arms. With a scratchy throat I did not want to eat anything solid that I had to chew and I did not want to talk.
Ah, but then warm, soothing relief came in the form of a bowl with steam rising out of it. My Mom brought me her homemade cold remedy, Chicken Soup! As the steamy bowl of soup came closer to my face, breathing became a little bit easier. Then a spoonful of hot soup reached my mouth. My dry lips from breathing from my mouth felt moistened as soothing liquid entered my waiting lips. The first drops of this salty, tasty warmth slid down my sore throat. "Mmmm," automatically came as my first words since being sick. I wanted more soothing soup immediately. I began spooning this miracle liquid faster. The warmth ran through my body and then my nose started to drip from the hot steam of the soup and I reached for the tissue box. Yes, I was beginning to breathe again. What a miracle!

Fresh Chicken Soup is easy to prepare. Prepare some for your family and friends. A big potful of soup will make several quarts. Freeze some for the times when you need this wonderful relief from a cold and congestion. Or when you just want comforting memories, defrost and heat a quart of fresh Chicken Soup and get your bowl and spoon ready for your treat.

What you will need:
One large soup pot with matching lid
One whole fresh chicken (about 3 lbs) or assorted chicken parts of choice.
One large onion, fresh
Carrots – 3-4, fresh
Celery – 1-2 stalks, fresh
Parsnips – aka white carrots (optional), 1-2 fresh
Cold water – enough just to cover the chicken (NOT to fill whole pot)
Kosher salt – several tablespoons to begin with. Add more to flavor when final tasting the soup.
Soup ladle
Small bowl
Large spoon
Large spoons with holes or strainer with handle
Large bowl or platter

Preparing Chicken Soup:
Take out any inner plastic bag full of giblets, remove chicken neck for soup but other giblets not needed for the soup.
Rinse fresh chicken (inside and out) or chicken parts with cold water and pat dry.
Put the chicken or chicken parts into the large soup pot
Add cold water only to cover the top of the chicken, not any more. This will make a more flavorful chicken broth instead of a watery, diluted broth.
Cover the pot with matching lid and turn stove burner to medium high heat.
Wash, dry and peel carrots, celery and/or parsnips.
Peel the whole onion and do not cut it.
When you hear the water boiling or see steam escaping from under the lid, carefully take off the lid and turn down the heat of the stove burner to medium heat.
At this time take a large spoon with a small bowl to collect the foam off the top of the soup. This is called skimming.
Discard all of the foam that you have collected from skimming the soup.
While the soup is still at a rolling boil, add the vegetables.
Add the Kosher salt
Return the lid partially back on the soup pot while cooking continues.
Lower the stove burner to low heat.
Continue to cook the soup for about an hour and a half to two hours. The chicken should be floating to the top of the pot and the meat should be tender.
Carefully taste the soup for salt content. Add more Kosher salt at this time to your personal taste.
Turn off the stove burner under the pot, remove the lid.

Serving chicken soup:
Carefully lift the chicken or chicken parts out of the pot with large spoons with holes or strainer with handle. Put chicken in/on a large bowl or platter. Let chicken cool a bit and then take meat off the bones. Discard skin and bones of the chicken.
Remove the celery, onion and parsnips from the soup pot and discard.
Keep the cooked carrots for serving in the bowl of soup.
Ladle soup into a small serving bowl with pieces of the soft, cooked carrot.
Add some cooked chicken meat into the bowl.
Now enjoy a steaming bowl of wonderful, flavorful homemade chicken soup
Options: add some soup crackers to your bowl or cooked thin soup noodles or small pasta.