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Kale & White Bean Soup

18 Feb

I was a little skeptical about a kale soup. It sounded just a little too… healthy. But I ended up loving this.

Each week when we receive our CSA, the nonprofit who provides it highlights an ingredient and a recipe for that ingredient. This week was kale, which I found out is rich in antioxidants and vitamins K, A, and C.

Since I had a ton of greens (it’s that time of year!), I decided to go ahead and try out the kale and white bean soup recipe that the CSA people shared with us. I followed the instructions but halved the amount.

Kale & Bean Soup

I thought it was a very delicious soup, especially when I dipped a hunk of baguette in it. It has a vegetable Italian -ish flavor, maybe kind of like a minestrone. And it didn’t occur to me until after I made it, but this dish is both vegan and gluten-free, so if you have dietary restrictions, this is a great option. Though if you want to substitute chicken broth for the vegetable broth, you certainly could.

I added in a tablespoon of flax seed, which adds fiber and serves as a thickener. It’s not necessary though, so if you’re not into it, just leave it out.

The recipe called for white beans, and had I planned on making a trip to the grocery store, I probably would have used white beans, Great Northern, cannelini, or something like that. But since I had everything else and didn’t want to go out, I just substituted garbanzo beans (chickpeas). You can use whatever variety of beans you prefer.

I had a big bowl of it for dinner, and there’s probably enough left for 2 or 3 more bowls.

Buon appetito!

Buon appetito!

Kale & White Bean Soup from Community Nutrition Partnership

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups kale, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1 can white beans
2 tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 Tablespoon flax seed (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic and onion; saute until fragrant. Add kale and stir frequently until wilted.

Add about half the broth and half the beans. Also add all of the tomatoes, seasoning, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile,  use a blender, food processor, or fork to mix the remaining broth and beans until smooth. Stir into soup to thicken. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Linking up with:

YOLO Mondays from Still Being Molly and Lipgloss and Crayons
Monday Meet Ups from Covered in Grace
Market Yourself Monday from Sumo’s Sweet Stuff
Your Great Idea Link Party from Or So She Says

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

31 Jan

O. M. G. This is so good, and so worth the hassle. Bear in mind that since it calls for fresh strawberries, the quality of your strawberry is going to be really important. You may want to save this one for the summer time. But, one reason I wanted to post this now is because it’s pretty common for grocery stores to get shipments of decent quality strawberries for Valentine’s Day. So if you’re looking for a seasonally appropriate frosting, this may be a great pick.

First, set out a stick of butter to soften and prepare your strawberries. I first cup them up, discarding the stems and slicing the rest into manageable pieces.  My pieces measure up to about 1/2 cup strawberries. (I would buy at least a pint, but probably two, just to make sure you have enough.) Then I use the back of a spoon to push the strawberry chunks through a fine-mesh sieve. The strawberry goo that comes out the other side of the sieve is exactly what you’re looking for.

Start out with 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter. Add it to your mixing bowl with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Beat with a hand mixer until soft and creamy. Then alternately add 4 cups powdered sugar and the strawberry goo, using the hand mixer to incorporate the new additions. That should do it, but of course you could add extra sugar, strawberries, or vanilla to your taste preference.

The frosting is a beautiful light pink color, usually with some pink specks in it. But since you pressed the strawberries through the sieve, it’s nice and smooth.

I topped vanilla cupcakes with this frosting for a pink-themed bridal shower:

Strawberry and Coconut Cupcakes

And I topped my rainbow tie-dye cake with some strawberry frosting:

Rainbow Cake with Strawberry Frosting

Fresas deliciosas!

Blueberry Burgers with Nectarine Salsa

3 Jul

Sounds weird, huh? I thought so. And honestly, they’ve got blueberries in them — of course they taste a little weird. But weird isn’t always bad. Weird can be good. Like keytars. And blueberry burgers. These don’t taste like normal burgers, but they do taste good. I prepared them two ways, so you can take your pick. There’s 3 different recipes in this 1 post — get excited.

 

Blueberry Quinoa Burgers

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is actually a seed, but it’s used more like a grain. It’s also super duper healthy, so hipsters love the stuff. It’s a complete protein source, which is unusual for plants, so it’s a great staple in a vegetarian diet. It’s also high in fiber and amino acids. You cook is basically like rice, and it reminds me a lot of couscous.

I thought a veggie burger would be great with blueberries, and I decided to use quinoa to give it that extra protein that is sometimes lacking in vegetarian meals. I started the burgers by cooking the quinoa: I boiled 3/4 cup water and then added 1/2 cup quinoa. I cooked it until the water was absorbed, about 12-14 minutes, and set it aside.

Quinoa

I set up my food processor and added in the burger ingredients: 1 can great northern beans (drained and rinsed), 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (if you use regular breadcrumbs instead, use about 1/4 cup), 1 egg, 1/3 cup fresh blueberries, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp oyster sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, a dash of salt, and a  dash of pepper

Quinoa Burger IngredientsI pulsed everything until it was combined but still a little chunky. I divided the mixture into four and formed four patties. They were a little soft and mushy, so I put them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and refrigerated them until I was ready to cook them. (At this point, I prepared the other burgers, but I’ll continue with this recipe for the sake of clarity.)

Quinoa Patty

In a large skillet, I heated some olive oil over medium heat. I cooked the blueberry quinoa burgers until browned, about 8-10 minutes per side.

You can dress up your burger however you like, but I added spinach and mozarella to my burger and served it with a side of chips.

Blueberry Quinoa Burger

 

Blueberry Burger

I wiped out my food processor and started over with the meat burgers. I put two slices of bread in the food processor, processed it to crumbs, and set that aside.

Next, I put the ingredients in the food processor: 1/3 cup fresh blueberries, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard,  1 tsp oyster sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, a dash of salt, and a dash of pepper. I processed it until it was pureed and then dumped it all into the bowl with the breadcrumbs. I added 1/2 pound ground meat (I used turkey, but you could use beef or whatever you prefer) and mixed everything together. I didn’t have a potato masher, so I used the mixing attachment from my hand mixer. 

Turkey Burger IngredientsOnce it was all mixed up, I divided it into 4 portions and shaped them into patties. I sent the BF out to the electric grill with them, and he grilled them over medium-low heat until done, about 7-8 minutes per side.

Meat Patty

Again, you can dress up your burgers however you like. I added a scoop of nectarine salsa on this one and served it with tortilla chips and more salsa.

Blueberry Burger with Nectarine Salsa

 

Nectarine Salsa

Honestly, this may have been the best part of the entire meal. I thought it was so good. If peaches are in better shape when you go to the store, by all means, use them instead. I went with nectarines because they were a little more ripe.

First I chopped everything up — not too finely since they go for a stint in the food processor, but just enough for the processor to find them manageable. I used 2 ripe (but firm) nectarines with the skin on, 1 shallot,  and 1 jalapeno (I threw out the stems, seeds, and ribs, which are the spiciest parts).

After I got those chopped up and put in the food processor, I added in the juice of half a lemon, 1 T grated ginger, 1 tsp sugar, a dash of salt, and a dash of pepper. I pulsed it just a couple times to get most of the pieces small, but not liquified. It’s salsa, not soup.

Nectarine Salsa

This was great on a blueberry burger — it really made the whole thing nice and sweet an fruity. It was also good with tortilla chips, both that night and the next day — it didn’t last any longer than that.

 

Notes:

  • If you make the salsa, I suggest doing that first so that the flavors have time to sit and meld while you make the rest of the meal.
  • Feel free to flavor your burgers however you like. You can always substitute other flavors and sauces to get the right burger consistency with a different flavor.
  • These would be so fun to serve with a toppings bar that guests can use to dress their burger themselves. Maybe a red, white, and blue summer cookout?
  • Both of these burgers made great leftovers. The next day, I had the turkey burger with more nectarine salsa, and the day after that, I had the quinoa burger with pita and Greek yogurt.

Filet Mignon with Port-Strawberry Reduction

29 Jun

Alright, so I made this a while back, got lazy about posting it, lost the pictures and thought I’d just wait to post till I made it again, eventually decided I should just post it since strawberries are nearly out of season, and then couldn’t find the recipe. Obviously I simply do not have it all together for strawberries. But I’ll tell you this recipe the best I can remember, and if I ever get around to making it again, I’ll post the pictures and we’ll pretend this never happened.

[UPDATE: I found the pictures! They were on my digital camera. Obvious, right?]

I do remember that the first time I made this, my big mistake was that the reduction took wayyy longer than I thought it would, and the steaks were finished for quite some time before the reduction was presentable. Because a sauce can just sit in the stove and simmer for a while, I recommend going ahead and making the reduction in advance and grilling the steaks when it looks about ready.

Strawberries!

Sliced Strawberries!

In a sauce pot, I heated 1 1/2 cups port wine over medium-low heat. If you’re not picky, you could substitute any red wine, really, preferably on the sweeter side. I added in 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup sliced strawberries (cut to the size you prefer — I like them small), 1 diced shallot, and 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme. I let this cook down till it was thick like a sauce rather than a runny liquid. It took about half an hour over medium-low heat.

Simmering Strawberries! Sounds like my new curse word.

When it looked about done, I seasoned two small filet mignon steaks (you can use whatever cut you prefer) with salt and pepper and then sent the BF out to the grill to cook them to about medium-rare. When they were finished, we served the steaks with a spoonful of the port-strawberry reduction on top and accompanied with rice pilaf. Very tasty, plus, it gave the rice some flavor as well. The BF was very happily surprised that I served red meat, and I was happy with the fruit reduction served with it!

Filet Mignon with Port Strawberry Reduction

I acknowledge that it looks a little gross like blood. But it’s really tasty, I promise. And I thought even this was a bit watery, but I was hungry and impatient. Simmer it for a long time and it will thicken even more.

We also made this delicious salad with spinach, carrots, strawberries, walnuts, and goat cheese:

Spinach & Strawberry Salad

Bon apetit!

Seasonal Ingredient: Blueberries (mid May – mid July)

26 Jun

Of any one food, blueberries may be the quintessence of summer. With these 95 degree days and Independence Day just around the corner, blueberries and strawberries are where it’s at. All the home magazines profile blueberries for their July issues, and people just go blueberry crazy. I’m not a huge fan of just eating plain blueberries, but I do appreciate a good blueberry cobbler or some such.

And, blueberries are super healthy for you. According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, this superfood has a huge amount of antioxidants, which “help to neutralize free radicals, which are unstable molecules linked to the development of a number of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s.” And they’re low-fat and have a lot of vitamin C and fiber. (The Council website has a bunch of health tips, and even better, tons of blueberry recipes. Check it out!)

Blueberries!And now, so you can impress everyone at your next cocktail party, Blueberry Trivia!

  • While Maine is the leader of lowbush blueberry production in the United States, (and possibly the world, but Wikipedia didn’t seem to be very clear on that), Michigan is the leader of highbush production.
  • Different species of blueberries are found all over the world. North Carolina has pretty good ones.
  • My dad loves blueberries! He has a huge blueberry bush in the backyard, but they’ve already ripened and been picked.
  • Although blueberries are not among the most contaminated and therefore aren’t officially part of the Dirty Dozen, there’s still a lot of question about them. It’s probably best to just buy organic.
  • Sorry, you missed the North Carolina Blueberry Festival, which is held annually in Pender County every June. Don’t worry, more are still to come! The Blueberry Council keeps a list of upcoming blueberry festivals. And if I have any readers up north, happily for you, blueberries and their attendant festivals are still in season for a couple more months.
  • Color layering technology was just being developed when Denise Nickerson, the actress who portrayed Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, needed to be blown up like a blueberry. They were able to turn her face blue, but not her hair.
    • Trivia Bonus: Where Is She Now? Denise Nickerson is an accountant and single mom in Denver, Colorado.

North Carolina’s blueberry season lasts only a couple more weeks. If you can find any left, try out these recipes:

Fresh Strawberry-Lemon Bars

11 Jun

I was joking in my last post about how I don’t really like strawberries, but I actually do. I was just joshin’, y’all. They’re just not my fave. But if I thought I didn’t like strawberries, this dessert would totally change my mind. It took a bit of time but was way worth it. I found the original recipe in an issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and it actually called for raspberries. But I thought, Hey, strawberries are in season, and they will probably work just as well. And damn was I right! These are good!

I started off by preheating the oven to 350 F and preparing my baking pan. I lined a 13×9 inch pan with aluminum foil, making sure I had enough to hang over the edges to make handles for later.

I threw 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted organic butter into a large bowl, and then beat them with my hand mixer on medium about 30 seconds. Naturally, maybe because I forgot to cut them into chunks first, the butter got all stuck in the mixer and I had to push it all back into the bowl.

Then I added 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. I mixed that on low speed for another 30 seconds.

I added 2 cups all-purpose flour and beat on low speed until incorporated. Then I increased the speed to medium and continued mixing until it formed a dough. For a long time, it stayed really crumbly and seemed like it wasn’t going to form into a dough. I turned off the mixer and scraped the mixer and sides of the bowl. When I started mixing again, it came right together into the dough. I don’t know if it needed a break or if I just needed to keep going or what, but it worked. Since you want a bar crust and not just a crumble bottom, it’s better to over-mix then under-mix, so don’t stop too early.

Now there's a dough

Once I had a dough, I dropped it in chunks into the foil-lined baking pan. This made it easier to smooth it out into an even dough. I popped it in the oven for 20 minutes, which was the perfect amount of time to clean up and then chop 1 pint strawberries into quarters.

Dough chunksDough layer
Once the dough finished its 20 minutes, I let it cool for 5 minutes and then brushed the exposed foil with butter. Then I spread a small jar (10 oz? I don’t remember) strawberry jam evenly over the crust.

Jam layer

For the next layer, I spread the quartered strawberries evenly.

Strawberry layer

Now for the custard filling. In another large bowl, I mixed 4 oz. (1/2 package) cream cheese and 4 oz. goat cheese with a hand mixer on high for about 30 seconds. Then I added in  1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, the zest of one lemon, the juice of one lemon, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Of course when I tried to get just the egg yolk, I accidentally poured the whole egg down the drain. But take two worked just fine. And then I beat the whole mixture on medium until smooth, about one minute.

Custard

A tip or two about lemon… To zest a lemon, use a flat grater to grate the lemon peel directly into the bowl. Grate the yellow, but stop when you see white — you don’t want to use that part. To juice a lemon, roll it around on the counter under your palm, putting a bit of weight into it. This will loosen up the juices a bit. Then cut it in half and squeeze each half directly into the bowl. If you have trouble keeping seeds out of your bowl, wrap a paper towel around the lemon and squeeze the juice through it. The paper towel will hold back the seeds and any pulp.

Custard Layer

I poured the lemon custard batter evenly over the strawberries and then baked it for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I pulled them out and let them cool for about 10 minutes. I asked the BF to help me remove them from the pan — we each took an end of the foil and lifted it out, pulling it tight so it wouldn’t slide in on itself. Since I wanted to serve them for dessert and dinner was already halfway through, I stuffed them in the fridge to cool a little faster.

Strawberry Lemon Bars

When I was ready to serve, I cut them into bars and served a little piece to everyone, and omigod they were soooo good. Lots of strawberry, very lemony, really rich, and oh so sweet. But even though the goat cheese and cream cheese made it rich, the lemon also made for a pretty light, summery flavor. Deelish.

Strawberry Lemon Bar

Notes:

  • Wow, these are good. I am actually kind of surprised how much I like them considering they don’t have any chocolate.
  • I was a little skeptical that these would hold up as bars. I’m guessing I didn’t chill them long enough because they were a little runny at first. But when I chilled them again and sliced the other half the next day, they held up really well. And I figured that even if they didn’t, this would make just as delicious and satisfying a dessert if it were called a cobbler, crumble, or custard. Try them the first day with a spoonful warm out of the oven and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Then refrigerate the rest, and after they’ve chilled, try them the next day as a firm, chilled bar. Both are pretty delicious!
  • This recipe could be made the exact same way but with a variety of fruits. I’d love to try raspberries, blueberries, peaches, anything really. Maybe I’ll try this again with other seasonal produce.

Seasonal Ingredient: Strawberries (mid May – mid June)

2 Jun

Strawberries! Everyone gets excited about strawberries! They’re the first sign of spring, The Beatles love them, cartoon has-beens love them… everyone loves them! Everyone except me. I don’t love strawberries. I never did much — I prefer super sweet fruit like pineapple and watermelon rather than tart fruit, so I never ate plain strawberries. And as a kid, I basically would only eat chocolate desserts, nothing else. But now, I have an appreciation for strawberries. I enjoy many strawberry desserts and have occasionally been known to eat a plain strawberry or two.

But I still don’t love them. You know why? Because I don’t like liars or fakers. And I found out that strawberries aren’t real berries. They’ve been posing all this time. Imposters!

Posers.

Well, other than my weirdness about berry fakers, I really don’t have much to say about strawberries. We’re all pretty familiar with them. They taste good, they’re good in salads, they’re good in desserts, they’re good with chocolate, blah blah blah. I can sit here and think up a few different strawberry desserts in my head right now, but it’s a little more  a difficult to think up a meal. I’ll have to do some research and plotting, and hopefully I’ll get a few recipes posted before strawberry season ends.

Oh, and don’t forget! The strawberry is one of the dirty dozen, so buy organic!