Friday, December 16, 2011

In The News

One Dough, Endless Cookies by Mark Bittman

I'm looking forward to baking!  I'd love to hear what you do with this recipe.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blessed Earth and Vegetable Barley Soup

One of the books I am currently reading is Go Green, Save Green: A Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money, and God's Green Earth.  Nancy Sleeth has written an excellent biblically-based book of tips on how to live an environmentally friendly life and save money.  In writing this book, she follows in the footsteps of Dr. J. Matthew Sleeth, her husband, and Emma Sleeth, her daughter, who have each written books about how and why we should be and can be taking better care of this place we call home.  The Sleeth family is an incredible inspiration in many ways.  Rather than repeat their story here, I encourage you to learn about them and their mission by visiting their website Blessed Earth, which I have added to the links section on the left, and/or reading any of their books.

Several years ago, Guidepost Magazine printed this recipe from Nancy Sleeth.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.  It's wonderful in that it can change with the seasons, depending on what produce is available.  We've actually replaced the barley (which can get a bit gummy) with Quinoa, to add more protein as we move to a more vegetarian diet.  We've also used about a cup of lentils instead of kidney beans.

Vegetable Barley Soup

2 quarts vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked barley
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups diced tomatoes or 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 (15 ounce) can dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons Italian seasonings
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh or frozen vegetables (peas, corn, string beans, squash)

1. Heat broth in a large pot. Add barley, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, beans, bay leaves, seasonings, garlic. Bring to boil; cover and simmer for 90 minutes.
2.  Add additional fresh or frozen veggies; cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Experiment with different vegetables.
  • Double everything if you’re expecting a large crowd. 
  • Add 1–2 cups cooked chicken for a non-vegetarian dish. 
  • Freezes well.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Peaches are in season! We ventured out to the State Farmers Market yesterday and came home loaded with Freestones and White Peaches.  There are so many wonderful ways to prepare peaches that I could list recipes and ideas like Bubba in Forest Gump listed ideas for shrimp.  Running around in this heatwave yesterday left us all with small appetites, so I just made a quick peach crisp in the microwave for dinner.  We can ignore the butter and sugar and focus on the oatmeal and peaches, right?  I plan to freeze skinned, chopped peaches for making jam (I'll put them in the freezer to make into jam when it's cooler!), freeze some for our Christmas fruit salad, and puree and freeze some for smoothies over the winter. I love Peach Smoothies because they are quick, easy, and make a good breakfast or lunch.  Hmm...  Lunch.  I think I just solved that dilemma...  :-)

Peach Smoothie

4 oz (1/2 cup) orange juice
4 oz (1/2 cup) plain, non-dairy, yogurt, low or non-fat
1/2 banana
1 peach, sliced (with skin, without pit)

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

1.  Reduce juice to 1/4 cup and use 1/4 cup water, depending on sweetness of peach
2.  Add 1/4 tsp cinnamon, which can help lower blood glucose levels
3.  Add some ice cubes before blending to make it cool and slushy
4.  3 fruit servings

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Nature Principle

I'm looking forward to reading Richard Louv's newest book, The Nature Principle!  I enjoyed Last Child in the Woods where he coined the term "Nature Deficit Disorder".  This time he is writing about the importance of nature to adults.  A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at a commencement ceremony.  I could have listened to him for much more time than he was given.   If you have a chance to read any of his writing, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mexican Pizza

Tonight we had Mexican Pizza for dinner.  This has become a very popular meal at our house and it's very adaptable to what is on hand.  We did them with refried beans, cheese, and salsa on toasted corn tortillas.  You can use soft taco tortillas, burrito tortillas (for a larger pizza), and any number of toppings.  I make them on the stove top on my griddle, but they can also be done on a stone in the oven or, for a softer "crust", in the microwave.

Getting started:  warming griddle, cooking refried beans, shredded Monterey Jack, and fresh salsa.

Toasting corn tortillas.

Flipped corn tortillas topped with refried beans.

Add cheese.

Finished off with salsa.

Pinto Beans

We go through a lot of Pintos Beans around here.  We do pintos with rice and cheese, burritos, tacos, refried beans, or, like tonight, Mexican Pizza.  As I have written before, we cook our own pintos from dried beans.  The recipe I use is from The Feast of Santa Fe.  They have a lot of flavor and make excellent refried beans just by mashing them (so much better than canned refried beans).  As usual, I make 2 pounds of dried beans in my crockpot.  I use them for a meal and then freeze 3 containers of 3 cups each.

Pinto Beans

1 lb dried Pinto Beans, soaked all day or overnight in 8 cups of water

Drain and rinse beans (save water and pour it over your garden to save water!).

Put beans in crockpot and cover with water to about 2 inches above the beans.
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp whole cumin seed
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt (I use Kosher)

Cook on low for 18-20 hrs or on high all day.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This Week's Menu

As I watch the Buckeyes playing Penn State in the Big Ten Ten Tournament Championship, I am working on our menu for the upcoming week and a half.  I usually go to the grocery stores on Wednesdays, but we were out of town this past week, so I'm making this week's trip a bit early and stretching the menu an extra couple of days.  Putting together a menu takes some effort, but there are many advantages to doing this:  1) I don't have to wonder each night what we'll be eating, 2) it saves time because I'm not stopping at the store every day or so to pick up what we need as I plan on the fly, 3) I save money because I know what we need and it's easier to keep track of what I've spent so that we stay on budget, and 4) we eat a much more balanced and healthier diet.  So, here's what we'll be having this week:

Mac & Cheese
Purple Hull Peas

Fish (whatever I get at the store tomorrow)

Mexican Pizza (corn tortillas grilled on griddle and topped with refried beans, cheese, and salsa)

Pasta with Meat Sauce (see the Power Cooking Tip, I add this meat mix to homemade pasta sauce)
Angel Food Cake, tinted green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Pizza (cheese and veggie)

Smoked Polish Sausage
Mashed Potatoes

Lentil Soup

Breakfast (from whatever is on-hand)

Greek Chicken
Veggie (TBD)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Taco Soup, version 2

I have gradually been converting our canned bean recipes to dried beans.  There are several reasons for this.  First, dried beans are cheaper than canned.  Canned beans are a great for the budget, but considering you can get the equivalent of 4 cans of beans from one pound of dried beans for less than the cost of 2 cans of beans, dried beans are even better for the budget.  Personally, I use the savings to buy organic dried beans from the bulk section of our local Whole Foods (it doesn't have to be expensive to shop there).  Secondly, by using dried beans, I control the amount of salt that goes into our food.  Thirdly, we avoid cans coated with BPA.

My goal was to convert the previous version of Taco Soup, but have inadvertently ended up with a whole new version that has received thumbs up from around our table.  So, I'm inclined to not mess with it too much more.  It's taken me a while to post this recipe because I kept mental notes of what I was doing, got caught up with life around here and didn't write it down, and then I had to make it again to refresh my memory.  This happened several times over a few months.  However, I think I have it down now, committed to memory.  At the encouragement of my sister, I made it again this week just to be sure so that I could post it.  I had to laugh late last week when she e-mailed me and asked me to convert the previous version to dried beans - I hadn't mentioned this project to her.  So, Karen, this is especially for you!

This does take a while to cook.  I cook it on low for about 16 hours.  You could also cook it on high for 8 hours.  This gives the beans plenty of time to soften.  Also, you can add the additional ingredients whenever you'd like once you start cooking the beans.  However, I've read that adding the salt too soon lengthens the amount of time it takes for the beans to soften, so I would at least save the salt for later.  Speaking of salt, please adjust as necessary for your palate.  We have gradually been reducing our intake of processed foods (even canned) and have become used to less salt in our food.  Therefore, my recipes tend to not be as salty as most are used to.  I am not the least bit offended by someone who picks up the salt grinder to adjust for this.

Taco Soup

2 lbs Dried Beans (combo of pinto, black, and kidney)
2 Portabella Mushroom, finely chopped
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 28oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 Tbsp. Cumin
Taco or Southwestern Seasoning mix, equivalent to what you would use for 2 lbs ground meat for tacos
1-2 tsp Kosher Salt

Sort, rinse, and soak dried beans in water all day (I do this in my 7 qt crockpot.  I put the rinsed beans in the crockpot and fill it nearly full with water).

Drain and rinse beans and put them in crockpot.  Fill crockpot 3/4 full with water and cook overnight on low.

Cook onion, mushrooms, and garlic on stove until cooked through and crumbly.  Pour mixture into crockpot with the beans.

In the morning, add meat mixture and all other ingredients to the crockpot and continue to cook on low all day.  Soup will be ready for dinner.

Serving ideas:
  1. Top with shredded cheese and/or crushed tortilla chips (great for crumbs at the bottom of the bag).
  2. Serve over brown rice and topped with shredded cheese.
  3. Use as taco and/or burrito filling.
  4. Use as a topping for nachos.
This makes plenty of soup for a large crowd or to put away for future meals.  Our family had it for dinner the other night, my husband and I are having it for lunch today, and I put a couple of lunch servings away in the freezer for future use (it's so easy to grab a cup of soup from the freezer and put it in a lunch box for work - saves money and it's healthier than eating out).

Powercooking Tip:  When cooking the meat, I used 2 lbs ground bison, 2-3 large portabello caps, 2 onions, and 4 cloves garlic.  I used one quarter of the mix for the soup and put away 2-3 containers in the freezer for future use in soups or pasta sauces.  Cook once, use several times.  Love the time savings!

Meatless Mondays:  Replace the meat, but use the onion, garlic, and portabella to make it a vegetarian dish.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Family Meal Time

While catching up on current events today, I found this blog series about the importance of eating together as a family.  Eating as a family is something we strive for at our home.  It is rare when we don't sit down together for dinner and then it's usually because either my husband or I (not both) are working that evening.  I know we have a challenging (brief) period coming up when I will have to put more effort into coordinating our family dinners, but I know it's coming and I'm already putting mental notes together - thinking, as I cook, about what comes together easily and what "picnics" well.   Robin Shreeves does an excellent job in her series of addressing the obstacles of the family dinner, how to overcome those obstacles, and why eating as a family is important.  I hope the information she provides is helpful to those of you who would like to bring your families to the dinner table more and encouraging for those of you who do, but constantly struggle with the obstacles.

Getting dinner on the table, part 1: The obstacles
Getting dinner on the table, part 2: Overcoming the obstacles
Getting dinner on the table, part 3: Why do it anyway?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lentil Soup

I have tried working with lentils several times in the past. When I first started, lentils were the one food my not-too-picky-eater (at the time) would not eat. It didn't matter how I fixed them. They were off the list, especially lentil soup. So, when we finally started to reintroduce them, we called them by a different name - split peas (split peas were loved - go figure). We started with red "split peas" for dahl. Then we took a favorite recipe, Cincinnati Chili, and made it with lentils instead of meat. At first we didn't say anything, but it went over well and we quickly confessed. Next we tried Taco Style Lentils and Rice, another hit. We are finally over our issues with lentils. Yesterday I decided it was time to reintroduce lentil soup. This time I consulted several cookbooks and came up with my own version using what I had on hand. The soup went over very well, especially paired with rice. As an added bonus, I have enough leftover to put away for future lunches, saving money and providing a healthier option at noontime.

Lentil Soup

2 cups (1 lb.) Lentils
8 cups Broth
3/4 cup Onion, chopped
1 Carrot, thinly sliced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 can (14 oz) Diced Tomatoes

Sort and rinse lentils. Put all ingredients in a stockpot or crockpot and simmer for 2 hrs. Serve with rice (optional).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What I Love About Winter

Last week, on Ground Hog's day, I heard a conversation on NPR about mid-winter traditions that were started to spur us through the last six weeks of the season. Ground Hog's Day whether we should dig in our heels for six more weeks of cold or if we should start looking forward to warmer days. Some cultures have proverbs about making sure you have half of your wood and food left to get you through the rest of the season. I thought it would be fun to make a list of all the things I love about winter, things I think about in the middle of a run of upper 90-degree days in the summer.
  • Christmas! - the holiday, not the consumerism
  • Playing in the snow - sledding, snow angels, snow forts, snowball fights, etc. We usually don't get much around here, so if there's enough to play in, I'm happy.
  • Hot chocolate
  • Hot tea
  • Soup cooking in the crockpot all day
  • Sweaters
  • Wool blankets
  • Wool socks
  • Heavy coats, scarves, and hats
  • Snow days (it doesn't take much for things to shut down around here)
  • Winter squash
  • Fires in the fireplace
  • Baking (too hot to do in the summer - I didn't turn my oven on for 2 1/2 months last year)
  • Ice cycles
  • Seeing cardinals in the snow
  • Animal tracks in the snow
  • Garden planning
  • Curling up on the couch with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate or tea (although I'll do this in the summer with a glass of iced tea or water)
  • Bare trees with the winter sun shining through
  • Cold groceries staying cold in my car as I run all my errands
Food for thought, in the middle of a long, hot summer, I look forward to all the things I love about winter. However, as much as I may love many things about summer, even in the long cold of winter, I do not look forward to the possibility of a long, HOT summer (i.e. too hot, meaning dangerous, to go out and enjoy ourselves: upper 90s, low 100s). Last summer was way too hot for too long. Interestingly, it has been followed by the coldest and snowiest winter I think we've experienced here.

Seeing as how we had two ground hogs make opposing predictions last week, I think I'll look to the robins playing in my backyard. Then again, we're about to get hit with more snow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

New Cookie Recipe

I'm looking forward to trying this cookie recipe:

Oatmeal Bittersweet Chocolate and Cocoa Nib Cookies

I just need to figure out where I can buy cocoa nibs. We also have the same problem she has, how to make cookie dough last until baking time!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rice and Beans

I have commented before that it sometimes feels like we live in a test kitchen. This recipe reflects that. We had a favorite Rice and Bean recipe made with a variety of canned beans and a packet of chili seasoning. It's a very healthy recipe and, in fact, I found it in the Champions in the Kitchen: Great Food for Healthful Living - a compilation of recipes published by the Arthur G. James Cancer Center Hospital and Research Institute at The Ohio State University.

Even though it is a healthy recipe, we felt there was some room for improvement. Our first adjustment was to rinse the beans, which can reduce the amount of sodium in a recipe by something like 40 percent. Then we used cumin and chili powder instead of the chili seasoning packet, which can have a lot of additives. Then, for budgetary and health/environmental reasons, we switched to organic dried beans (thank goodness for the Whole Foods bulk section!). At this point, I'm not sure how this compares taste-wise to the original recipe. I just know that our adjustments have evolved to a new recipe that received thumbs-up all around the table. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Rice and Beans

4 cups dried mixed beans (we used a combination of pintos, black, cannellini, kidney, and black-eye peas)

Rinse and soak overnight in 8 cups (?) of water. Drain and rinse in the morning.

Saute in pan spritzed with olive oil:
1 cup chopped onion
1/2-1 cup diced green peppers

Put beans in crockpot and add:
Sauteed onion and green pepper
Diced Tomatoes (28 oz can)
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
3/4 tsp Garlic Powder (I was feeling lazy or I would've used 3 cloves minced garlic)
Water (I used the tomato can and filled it 1 1/2 times)

Simmer in crockpot on high all day. Just before serving add:

2 tsp Kosher Salt

Serve with rice and top lightly with shredded cheddar cheese.

My husband, who loves really spicy foods, adds New Orleans Voodoo Hot Sauce, or something comparable as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

In The News

My mom subscribes to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in her area and receives a newsletter each week with news and recipes as well as what will be in her box. We like to compare CSA offerings and share other foodie info, so she forwards her newsletter to me. I found the links to recent news articles this week particularly interesting and thought I'd share them with you.

America's Food Fight

Why the banana crisis doesn’t make me stop worrying and love GMOs