Soup Night: Pasta Fagioli!

Many of you are aware that I won a GREAT prize package from Storey Publishing. In it was a FABULOUS soup pot, cookbooks, beans, spices and a trivet.  It was amazing!  Look at the picture of all this stuff:

prizeLast week, we had soup night on a chilly night that was just screaming for hot soup.  I made Pasta Fagioli which was based on the Italian Bean and Pasta Soup recipe in the Soup Night Recipe Sampler book from Storey Publishing.  In my prize package, I received the hard copy of this book in full, but I already had the sampler book, so I hit it first for a recipe. I took liberty with the recipe a bit (as I often do), so here are the ingredients that I used.  You will see some slight variations if you compare the two. As with any type of soup, particularly vegetable soups, feel free to add whatever you want!

What do you need:

  • 1 pound of Fall Soup Blend Beans (these were in my prize package; you can use anotherdry bean of your choosing)
  • 10 C of Veggie Stock (here is my recipe for that; I had some in the freezer) (approx amount)
  • 1/2 C Olive Oil
  • 2 med. onions, chopped
  • 4-5 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small bunch Kale, chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh Italian Parsley
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 – 2 pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (save these for soups and sauces!)
  • 3/4 pound of small pasta (I used Ditalini)
  • Fresh parmigiano for serving

Here we go:

Bring beans and enough veggie stock to cover them to a boil and boil for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for a couple of hours. You can save this liquid for later. BUT since I used mixed beans, there were some dark beans in there and the liquid turned almost black.  Not too appetizing for Fagioli, so I did not save it.  You make your own call here. 🙂

DSCN3642 Beans Soup Pot

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oil in a heavy pot; add the onions and a bit of the salt.  Stir occasionally and cook for about 8 minutes; just until they start to turn a little brown.  Then add the carrots and celery and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the beans, parsley, rosemary, kale, salt and pepper and veggie stock to cover and the cheese rind. Simmer until beans are tender.  This could take anywhere from 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours.   Check them occasionally and add veggie stock (or water) as needed.

pot

In a separate pot, bring water to boil for the pasta.  Cook the pasta according to the directions. Do not cook this in the soup; keep it separate.

To serve, ladle soup in a bowl and then add a spoonful (or 2) to the top of the soup.  Crack a little black pepper on and grate a little fresh parm on the top.

done3

 

What are your favorite soups for cool temps? Let me know if you try this one or any of the ones from the Soup Night Cookbook!

Happy Unleashing your Soup Pot!

Drying My Cayenne Peppers

pickedpeppersAs a newbie at gardening some of my judgment calls were a little off when I decided on plants and how many of them were needed last spring.  Yellow pear tomatoes were one of those.  We had 10s of thousands of those.  They are super yummy, but even after I pulled the plants we were still harvesting from them. 🙂

Peppers were no exception—poblanos anchos, cayenne and habaneras were bountiful to say the least!  I charred the poblanos/anchos and froze them. They will be a welcome addition to many recipes in the next few months.  The habeneros had limited use actually for us.  I LOVE hot, but these are a little too hot and I cannot serve a dish in them for company!  They were awesome however in making pepper/garlic spray to keep the bugs away and the garden smelled like salsa every time I sprayed (no complaints there!).

The cayenne peppers are so pretty on the plant and I can use them in some of my dishes.  BUT these plants put out ALOT! So I decided to dry them and make my own crushed pepper to sprinkle no things instead of buying the stuff at the store.  Have you ever dried with a dehydrator? I did not have one so I compared many and this is what I got-Nesco FD80.  I have dried basil so I figured I would give it a try on the peppers.

I picked a bunch, rinsed them and then started slicing them in half.  Remove as many of the seeds as you can. WEAR GLOVES and don’t touch your face or eyes while you do this unless you really enjoy that burning feeling.

gloves  removeseeds

Then lay them flat in the dehydrator. They should not be touching.  They need the airflow to dry.

dehydrate

The length of time and the settings are based on your dehydrator.  It took my peppers about 48 hours to dry.  When they came out I gave them a whirl in my small food processor.

chopped

Oh my goodness, did I sneeze while this was chopping!  My hubby walked in the room and started at it also! 🙂  It was pretty funny!

Look how pretty they are?  I used a little glass jar that I had washed and saved.  I cannot wait to sprinkle this on some pasta or pizza or kale… or whatever!

finished

Do you dry any of your food?

Happy Halloween and Happy Unleashing!

Fall Farro

Fall Farro

Have you tried farro?  I had never heard of it until about 5 years ago.  And once I tried it, I was sold!  Grains sometimes get a bad rap, but I love grains and most of the time will prefer a grain over another side accompaniment.

So what is farro?  It is a grain derived from various types of wheat dependent upon the variety.  The the best explanation I found is from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals , by Maria Speck, who writes that the term farro is “commonly used when referring to three ancient wheat varieties first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent and still grown in Italy:farro piccolo (also known by the German einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (also known as spelt).”

All I know is that it is easy to cook, chewy to bite into (not mushy), and it is from Italy, so that makes it seem really awesome to eat in my book.

In my effort to eat seasonally, I took some farro out last night to see what we could do with the veggies from the garden and CSA.  This is what I came up with and it was MIGHTY good.

What you need:

  • Farro (you will follow the container’s directions)
  • 3-4 cloves, garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 2 bunches kale
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 3 sweet potatoes (you could use another type of squash)
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts
  • Small handful of dried cranberries
  • Lemon juice, fresh from 1 lemon
  • Splash of balsamic
  • Goat cheese
  • S&P

Here we go:

Start with smashing 3 – 4 cloves of garlic and begin to soften them up in some olive oil over low heat.  I love using low here as it won’t brown the garlic (making it bitter).  It takes a few minutes longer to get it going, but I can chopped while it is filling the kitchen with great fragrance.

garlic

 

Start chopping.  I chopped 2 bunches of kale & 1  bunch of swish chard and  diced into 1 inch pieces, 3 sweet potatoes. You can vary these amounts.  This recipe is a creative mishmash of what you have on hand, so don’t feel tied to this!  After the slicing and dicing is complete, set the kale/chard aside and drizzle the sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Toss it around, put the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet at 400 degrees and set the timer for 30 minutes. 

sweetpotatoes kale_chard

 

 

 

 

 

At this point I started my farro. Mine cooked in 20 minutes so this was the perfect time to start it.  Yours may be different so read your directions and start it when appropriate.  You want it done by the time the potatoes are done, because that is when you will throw this all together. 🙂

Toast about 1/4 cup of pine nuts (or a little more if you nibble on them like I do!).  I simply toast over medium heat in a little skillet.  Keep close by as they will burn (personal experience speaking).  When they are done, turn off the burner.  I added a small handful of dried cranberries here.  They do not need to cook, I just wanted them together so I wouldn’t forget them.

pinenuts

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, your garlic should be soft and looking good.  Toss in the kale and chard into the garlic and olive oil over medium low heat continue to toss it around. It should get bright and soften, but don’t cook it to the point of mushy greens.

Squeeze one lemon for it’s juice.  I do this through a strainer and into a bowl so seeds are caught.  This will be used at the end; I just wanted it ready to rock when needed.   TIP: did you know you can freeze lemons?  Whenever I get lemons, I freeze a couple of them.  One, they are easy to zest from the freezer and you can use it over and over since it is frozen and will not go bad now that you have broken into it.  Two, if you think ahead and take the lemon out about 45 minutes before squeezing it, you will get TONS of juice from that little thawed guy.

lemon

 

 

 

 

By now your farro is done and drained.  Toss it in with the greens and garlic.  Remove your potatoes from the oven and toss them in there also. YUMMY!  We are almost there!

After everything is all tossed and getting friendly with each other, hit it with the lemon juice, a splash of balsamic and some freshly crumbled goat cheese (because it is just good on everything!)

Fall Farro

I hope that you try this; it is fantastic and healthy! And super simple; it took me longer to write the post than cook the meal. 🙂

 

Buona tavola!  (good eating)

 

Edamame

I have bought edamame frozen and at a restaurant before so I thought I knew its characteristics very well. But this week, when we got a surprise of edamame in our CSA bag, I was excited and then surprised when I saw it and read the blurb our coordinator emailed us. 

It was still on its stems which were really stiff and the pods were really FUZZY! They are actually baby soybeans so I guess it is like baby fuzz that my girls had when they were born. 🙂

stem stems

Then I read in the email that you must boil these before you eat them.  In raw form they can be toxic to both people and animals.  Boiling for 5 minutes takes care of that.

So I snipped them off, rinsed them, boiled them for 5 minutes and then lightly salted them. 

Afterwards it was so fun to pop them out and eat them.  I must say they were FAR better than any frozen ones I have purchased or any that I have ordered in a restaurant before.  They were oh so good! 

I love trying new veggies from the CSA and even though edamame was not totally new to me, the experience was!

Try anything new lately?

Fresh Cantaloupe Sorbet and Blackberries

Being in Indiana this time of year means cantaloupes.  AND BIG ONES.  This week, through various means, I found myself with three huge melons.  When I say huge, I mean huge; they each weighed in at just under 7 pounds!

I went on the search for things to do with cantaloupe, besides slicing it and eating it for breakfast and snacks (although that has been fantastic!)

I came across several recipes for cantaloupe sorbet. Now that sounded like something I had to try.  It was so easy and so yummy. 

Ready?

Make simple syrup- 1 c water, 1 c sugar and heat on stove until sugar dissolves.  Then cool.

IMG_20130730_193017_463

While you are making the simple syrup and cooling it, cut the melon into pieces (remove seeds and rind).  Pop them in your food processor.

IMG_20130730_193140_731 IMG_20130730_194142_645

Pour into a bowl and then slowly add 1/2 the syrup.  Taste (fun part).  Then add a little more (more fun).  It should taste sweeter than you might prefer; some of the sweetness diminishes in the freezer. Then find a container and freeze.  Stir a few times as it is freezing.

IMG_20130730_194239_009 IMG_20130730_201147_451

If I were to do this again (which I will), I would choose a flatter container.  It REALLY freezes and scooping it out is a little challenging, BUT worth it!

I topped it with fresh blackberries and a smidgen of honey.  The blackberries are from bushes in our back.  It was so yummy last night that I had it again for breakfast today!

IMG_20130801_072707_666

What else can I do with my cantaloupes?  Ideas????

Freezer Jam!

There is nothing so yummy and decedent as freshly made jam.  This recipe is so easy you can have strawberry jam in no time; freeze the extras – if it survives that long.

If you have never made jam and think that it is too hard, think again!  Easy and yummy…what could be better.

Here we go:

Start with fresh strawberries–make sure you know your source.  You want organic or those that come from a farm you trust (or your own garden that you have kept free from pesticides).  Remember these are on the list of “The Dirty Dozen” which means these little guys absorb whatever is put on them.

Rinse them well and cut them up:

 

Fresh Strawberries   Rinse  Cut

 

Then smash them up with a potato masher or something similar.  You still want it chunky.  Then measure out 1 2/3 c of strawberries, add one package of powdered fruit pectin and 2/3 c of sugar.  You can also look up other recipes on the web, but they are all pretty similar.

Alton Brown adds a dash of pepper.  YES! Pepper!  Add about 1/8 tsp.  Trust me on this one!

Sugar and Pectin  Pepper

Then stir for 3 minutes with a wooden spoon.

Now you are ready for the jars; make sure they are clean jars made for canning/freezing.  For this I like the small Ball Freezer containers.  Funnel in your jam to the fill line on the container.  This recipe will fill 2.

Fill  Rest

Let the jars sit for 30 minutes.  Then add the lid.  You can make more jam in the  30 minutes if you are hooked at this point.  I did!

Finished Strawberry Jam

You are now ready to freeze, fridge or EAT!  I choose the latter on fresh baked, whole wheat bread that my hubby baked.

Eat

 

Recipe amounts for 2 jars:

1 2/3 C Crushed Strawberries

2/3 C Sugar

1 package of Powdered Fruit Pectin

1/8 tsp Pepper

Try it and let me know what you think!  It is fun and easy and there is nothing like eating jam that you have just made or taking some out of the freezer in the winter when strawberry season is far away.

Unleash your inner farmgirl today!

Tortillas!

I was so excited to get my tortilla press.  In my journey to make more and more things myself, rather than buying something processed, it seemed to make sense that tortillas were next on the hit list!  I make my own chips from tortillas so the next logical thing to do was to make my own tortillas.  So I ordered my press  and was so excited to open the box and get it out!

DSCN2986     DSCN2987

I was amazed to find out how simple (and cheap!) this is to do.  All you need is Harina De Maiz and water.  How simple is that?  Mix the maiz with hot water– we used 1 3/4 C Maiz and 1 1/8 C boiling water.  Then into the mixer it went.  You need to knead it for about 10 minutes.  We let the Kitchen Aid do that…

DSCN2988   DSCN2989

You divide the dough into about 16 pieces.  Roll into a ball and place into the center of the press (lined with grocery bags!).  Press and into a dry hot skillet.  They cook up very fast and then they are heaven to eat!

DSCN2992  DSCN2993  DSCN2994  DSCN2996

We served ours with salad with a mojo dressing  and pinto beans that had been cooking all afternoon. I used my veggie stock in the pinto beans as I am obsessed with it.  I know the beans do not look appetizing in this picture but they were fantastic.

DSCN2990   DSCN2991

Very simple meal that was full of freshness and flavor.  I cannot wait to get my press out again!  It will definitely get a lot of play time!

Veggie Stock

stockpotI love vegetable stock. Whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, pescetarianism or anything else that is out there, veggie stock is the best!  I love the full flavor of it.  Whenever I make ANYTHING that calls for stock or water, I use it.  You might say I am obsessed with it.  I am a veggie stock evangelist and have converted many. 🙂

That being said, I was spending ALOT of money on this precious boxed stuff.  It was getting ridiculous actually.

One night while cooking and tossing my veggie scraps away (no I am not composing yet; it’s on the wanna do list), I had the eureka that I would start making my own.  I actually don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago.  I love making stuff myself and rarely by processed food, but this eluded me until a few months ago. stock.

Simple, simple process.  Simply throw your veggie scraps in a ziplock or other container and keep it in the freezer until needed.

When I need stock or want to make it to freeze, I simply fill my pasta pot with water to cover the veggies.  I add some black peppercorns, thyme and a bay leaf and let it simmer.  The directions are so easy, there is no measuring; the seasonings are up to you and I just let it simmer until the veggies looked really “cooked to death.”. I simply drain it and then I either freeze it for use later or use it immediately in a recipe.

vegstock113x201 stockpot vegdraining

Try this and let me know what you think  I guarantee your next soup will be the best ever with this as your base!