Someone Likes it Hot

I used to think I didn’t like spicy foods but as I get older I find myself appreciating them a bit more.  Here are two recipes I’ve tried lately that really bring the heat:

  • Chipotle Lentil Pasta
  • Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower

Chipotle Lentil Pasta

If you’re bored with the same old spaghetti and ready to try something different you might enjoy this recipe for Ziti With Chipotle Lentil Tomato Sauce from the Vegan Richa blog.

I’ve written about my love for chipotle peppers before. There’s something about this sweet, smoky, and spicy condiment that hits my taste buds in all the right places.

 

The recipe calls for fresh tomatoes.  You could make it with canned tomatoes but I am lucky to live in a town that has the only indoor year round farmer’s market in my state.  Local growers are producing tomatoes and greens all year long and I was able to purchase fresh tomatoes here in the Midwest in the middle of March.  I love that!

I added a generous amount of sliced sweet mini peppers to increase the veggie content and used shells instead of ziti because that’s what I had on hand. If you wanted to make a non vegan version you could substitute cooked ground beef, turkey, or chicken for the lentils.

Like many savory stew and soup recipes this tasted even better the next day.

Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower

Cauliflower is enjoying a moment these days. Many people are using it as a low carb substitute for potatoes or rice. Yes, it’s white and although we’ve been taught to “eat the rainbow” cauliflower doesn’t pale in comparison to other vegetables. It’s a surprisingly good source of vitamin C and protein. It also belongs to the “cruciferous” family of vegetables that may protect against cancer.

In this recipe from The Fitchen, cauliflower florets are glazed with a combination of Sriracha (another very spicy and popular condiment I am learning to appreciate), maple syrup, and soy sauce before baking in the oven.  One word of caution – the sodium content is a bit high here.  You can balance that by making sure that the rest of your meal is very low sodium and watching the sodium level in other meals during the day.

I used a large Ziploc to combine all the wet ingredients.  Add the cauliflower, zip the bag, and toss everything around to coat the florets evenly before spreading on your sheet pan.

 

These two recipes will definitely warm you up.  If you try them let me know how you liked them.

 

Scratching the Can

  • Homemade Vegetable Stock
  • Mexican Cabbage Soup

Everybody loves a nice bowl of soup but most canned soups come with an unhealthy amount of sodium.  The can itself can also be an issue if you are trying to limit your exposure to certain chemicals. These are just two of the reasons that I make a lot of my own soups.

I’ve recently discovered how easy it is to make my own vegetable stock as well so my soups are about as  homemade as you can get.  Here’s how I make the stock and following that you will find a recipe for a Mexican Cabbage Soup I made recently.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to start with canned broth or stock if I’m hoping to avoid sodium and BPA. A money saving bonus here is that I use vegetable scraps that might go down the garbage disposal otherwise.  I just keep a quart size bag in the freezer and any time I cook something with onions, celery, or carrots I save the peels, leafy parts, and scraps in the bag.  When the bag gets full it’s time to make stock.

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I add the contents of the bag and any additional vegetables I need (usually an extra carrot or two since I eat carrot peels) to a stock pot with 8 cups of water. I put in about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a bay leaf (or two depending on size), and 6-8 whole peppercorns.  Bring the whole thing to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat so that the contents are just simmering.  Let it simmer for 60-90 minutes or so.

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Set a colander into a large bowl and pour in the stock.  I use a potato masher to press down on the veggies and push out as much of the moisture as I can.  My stock can then go in the refrigerator for a few days or into the freezer if I’m not going to use it right away. Here’s my big bowl of homemade stock.  I usually end up with about 6 cups.

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Mexican Cabbage Soup

EatingWell is one of my favorite recipe sources so when I saw this recipe I had to give it a try.  Between the cabbage and the beans this soup is full of fiber.  The chipotle pepper, spices, and tomato paste give it a nice deep flavor.  I didn’t have any fresh peppers so I used a can of green chiles.

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Fair warning: the chipotles add a lot of heat so go easy if you don’t enjoy that. I mince them them up using one of my favorite kitchen tools; this handy chopper from Pampered Chef.

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The colors of this soup are so pretty if you use the red cabbage and especially if you top it with some cubed avocado (which I recommend because it provides a nice cooling contrast to the chipotle heat!) I also sprinkled on a bit of Mexican enchilada cheese.

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Soup and stocks from scratch are so easy and so healthful.  Why not join me in kicking the can?

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff It

  • Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
  • Spinach Stuffed Portabellas
  • Simple Stuffed Peppers
  • Stuffed Pepper Soup

Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

A few years ago I discovered the ingredient search function on Allrecipes.com.  This feature allows you to enter ingredients you have on hand and search for recipes that use those ingredients.  Genius!  One of the first searches I tried was for dishes that combined sweet potatoes with black beans. After I tried a recipe that paired these two ingredients with Southwestern spices I’ve been hooked on the combination ever since.  This recipe for  Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Hell Yeah It’s Vegan hits all the buttons.

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Tip: I simplified the avocado cream and reduced the number of dishes to wash by combining the avocado, lime juice and spices (skip the water) in a quart size ziploc freezer bag.  Squeeze out the air, close the bag, and squish everything together until there are no avocado chunks remaining.  Snip one corner of the bag and squeeze contents on top of the finished dish. I might have added a little chipotle chili powder to the stuffing mixture also because I have a bit of a chipotle problem.

Spinach Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

There are thousands of recipes for stuffed mushrooms out there.  I’ve eaten and cooked  some really good ones and I’ve eaten (and cooked!) some really bad ones. Bad stuffed mushrooms are often soggy but this recipe for Spinach Stuffed Portabellas from Allrecipes works because the mushrooms are partially cooked and drained before stuffing. Don’t skip that step.

I made these mushrooms vegetarian by using sun dried tomatoes in place of the pepperoni.  As you can see my mushrooms were a bit over stuffed but the filling cooked down nicely.  These make a nice side dish or vegetarian main dish.

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Simple Stuffed Peppers

In the Health Transformation Program at CGH Medical Center our employees learn how to reduce their risks for diabetes and heart disease. One of their assignments is to cook a meal from scratch using whole fresh ingredients.  I’m calling this submission from Jason G. “Simple” Stuffed Peppers because it shows that cooking for yourself can be easy.  You don’t have to have a lot of fancy ingredients, or even a recipe.  Jason told me he didn’t have it down to a science yet and he wasn’t sure how helpful his cooking style is.  I think he did a great job!

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Ingredients:

1lb ground turkey

1 jar of salsa (I had used homemade)

Boil-in-bag brown rice (1 package)

6-8 bell peppers (I prefer to use yellow and orange)

Instructions:

  1. Brown turkey
  2. Prepare rice according to package directions
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  4. Cut peppers in half starting near the stem and then scoop out seeds and remove rest of stem
  5. Drain any excess fat out of turkey (hopefully none)
  6. Add rice to turkey
  7. Scoop in salsa about ¼ cup at a time in case you do not like the consistency to be too runny.
  8. Scoop mixture into bell peppers
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes. If desired, add shredded cheese and bake for an additional five minutes.

 

Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

Our hospital cafe offers some pretty outstanding homemade soups.  If you love stuffed peppers you will enjoy this easy to follow recipe:

Ingredients:

2# Ground Beef, cooked and drain fat

2 ½ cups Canned Diced Tomatoes

12 oz. Fresh Chopped green Peppers

2-3 oz. Beef Base

1 ¼ Cups Uncooked Rice

Approximately 2- ½ Quarts Water

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for minimum 2 hours. Yields 1 gallon.

Hope you enjoy stuffing your face with these recipes.  Next week’s post is all about beans!

 

Better for Your Buns

Many people would agree that few things smell better than a beef burger sizzling on the grill.  That being said, there are those of us who would prefer not to eat red meat as frequently.  We still want our burgers though!  Here are a few great tasting alternatives to put on a bun:

  • Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burger
  • Grillable Veggie Burgers
  • Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burgers:

I’ve also used ground chicken for this burger recipe I found at Allrecipes.com.  I usually skip the cheese and dress this burger with veggies like sliced tomato and avocado.

Here’s a tip: Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce can be found in the Hispanic section of most grocery stores.  There are several in a can; I sometimes freeze the leftover ones.  The sauce in the can is also great for flavoring mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc.  Here’s what you’re looking for:

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Grillable Veggie Burgers

I was so excited to find this recipe from The Minimalist Baker for a grillable vegetarian burger.  I’ve made vegetarian burger patties in the past from beans, rice, quinoa, etc. They are usually quite fragile and tend to fall apart in the fry pan.  I’ve never attempted to put one on the grill because of that.

These had a meaty, dense texture and the spice combination along with the barbecue sauce made them mighty tasty. Here are my ingredients prior to mixing and my finished burger.

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Grilled Portobello Mushrooms:

I am perfectly happy to brush a little olive oil on a big portobello mushroom, season it with salt and pepper, grill it and slap it on a bun but I saw this recipe for an enhanced version called Grilled Portobello Magic Mushrooms and had to try it.  These were very good although I’m not sure why they are called “magic” mushrooms.  I mean they made me happy, but not in an out of body kind of way.

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So the next time you are grilling, think outside the beef and try one of these healthier option. Let me know what you think!