When I was a child my somewhat eccentric parents invited foreign exchange students staying at Buckly Airforce Base east of Denver for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Why they were staying there I don’t know, but I remember going to the base to pick them up. Through this exchange I met someone from the Phillipines, and Nigeria. There were one or two others but I forget where they were from. The guy from the Phillipines showed my mom how to make adobo which we all liked very much, and instilled a love for the dish that has lasted a lifetime. The meat of choice was doves as dove season was the previous month and we had many of the tasty birds in the freezer.
The guy from Nigeria was interesting because of his family. My mom casually asked at dinner, “what does your father do”, and the answer was, “he is the ruler” which shocked my mother. It’s not every day you have someone for dinner who’s father is the king of a country so that gave my parents something to talk about for years to come. For me the guy was fun because he indulged me with some archery in our backyard as I had just received my first bow and arrow set for Christmas that day. Apparently I thought at that young age, I think I was eleven years old at the time, that men from Africa knew how to shoot an arrow. Pretty funny in retrospect as we were both rather bad at it.
Over the last twenty years my wife and I have had only one foreign house guest and he was a chaperone from Japan assigned to a bunch of middle school aged kids visiting Denver. It was fun and I would have liked to do more hosting. In June of this year I saw a home made sign announcing “20 Spanish students need host families” and called after getting approval from my wife. We ended up with a great kid from Burgos, Spain who at the ripe old age of sixteen speaks very good English and is a great addition to our household.
Turns out he is a natural cook. Even though his mother does almost all the cooking in his home I found out that he has significant talent in the kitchen. His first homework involving food was to prepare an American dish for a competition in class on Tuesday. I helped him select the dish to prepare and he made shepherds pie with virtually no help from me. Then that night he cooked us two traditional Spanish dishes for dinner. He made a Spanish tortilla and a gazpacho soup. For those of you who have never had a Spanish tortilla it’s nothing like what we see in Mexican restaurants. A Spanish tortilla has potatoes, onion and eggs in it and looks like an omelet.
Both dishes Manuel made for us were excellent but I really liked the gazpacho, and since I have a lot of tomatoes getting ripe lately I wanted to make another batch the next day. Manuel didn’t use a recipe but I took notes and tried to copy his gazpacho. The results were good but it took some more testing to come up with the recipe I share with you here. It’s fast and simple as well as healthy. If you have an abundance of garden tomatoes like I do it’s a great way to use them up. With these hot summer day upon us give this a try and see if you agree with me that this is one great Spanish cold soup.
Gazpacho Soup with Heirloom Tomatoes
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 yellow onion chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 cup peeled and diced cucumber with seeds removed
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 medium sized apple peeled and diced
1 clove garlic minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons good quality apple cider vinegar, I like Bragg’s brand best
1 slice of bread cubed, about 1 cup
1 teaspoon salt
Soak bread in water for five or more minutes to soften. Drain water off before adding to the blender.
If using a blender instead of a food processor put tomatoes in first to facilitate faster blending. Then add rest of the ingredients.
If it won’t all fit blend for thirty to sixty seconds and add rest of ingredients.
Blend thoroughly for two to three minutes, depending on the strength of your blender. There should not be anything larger than a sesame seed for best results.
Best if chilled for and hour or two, but can be eaten right away if needed.
I tested this with both a blender and a food processor. The food processor I have held all the ingredients but was a bit slower to blend thoroughly. The blender did a good job blending but didn’t hold all the ingredients at once and I had to add the rest after a minute of blending reduced the volume.
Due to a heavy travel schedule the last three out of four weeks and a computer crash I haven’t posted my usual once a week recipe. I’m glad to say the computer has been fixed and I’m up and running at full speed again!
I just came home from a lovely ski vacation in the Colorado Rockies Sunday night, and it’s great to be home in time for Spring! Never mind the fact that it was snowing when we landed in Baltimore as I’m sure it’s time to plant the garden and welcome in the warmer weather that is forecasted this week. While on vacation I had time to read the book Grain Brain by Dr David Perlmutter. It’s a very interesting book about how gluten messes with our brains by causing surges in blood sugar which in turn causes inflammation in the brain. That inflammation in turn causes Alzheimer’s and Dementia according to the good doctor.
Now I don’t know if the good Dr. is right on with his findings, but it does make for an interesting read. What is really interesting is his view on low fat/high carb diets. He promotes a diet low in carbs and fairly high in healthy fats like:
He also says eggs are healthy to eat often. This seems to go in an opposite direction from current health guidelines, but then this morning on national public radio I heard a story on the low fat/high carb diet being unsuccessful in combatting heart disease. The story:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/03/31/295719579/rethinking-fat-the-case-for-adding-some-into-your-diet featured an interviewed with Walter Willett from the Harvard school of public health. Willett’s study was submitted for publishing but not accepted because it flew in the face of popular thinking at the time.
The story went on to say the healthy fats are butter, olive oil, nuts, and avocados. There seems to be a trend reversal in the works for our diets. You never know for sure with these kind of stories though. After all it has to stand the test of time, but it does confirm what Dr Perlmutter is saying about healthy fats and carbs. So in the interest of science yours truly is testing Dr Perlmutter’s diet plan to see if I feel any better on this diet. Not that I feel sick mind you but I am interested to see if the diet brings about any positive changes in my health. Especially the mild to moderate headaches I have had for years several times per week.
So far the gluten free diet plan that includes many things I have eaten sparingly previously has gone well. I have been eating eggs two to three times a week instead of oatmeal and toast for breakfast. I have brought butter back into my diet more than once a week, and have eaten a bit more meat than usual. I have noticed a decline in the occurrence of headaches and digestion has been better with a few exceptions.
It does help that gluten free products are gaining space in grocery stores so I’m not having much trouble staying gluten free. The only time I ate any gluten I know of is at dinner in Denver last week on of the items on my plate was cauliflower with a bread crumb topping that I was able to scrape off mostly.
In the near future I’ll be posting gluten free recipes that I aim to make attractive to those who need to avoid gluten as well as those who don’t. It will be interesting to see how far this gluten free diet goes as research uncovers the truth about gluten in our diets. After all you can’t believe everything you read. Remember when margarine was healthy!
To start out my gluten free recipes I give you a cream of asparagus soup that even if you can tolerate gluten you will love this simple yummy soup. It came out great in testing using 2% milk, but if you use whole milk it’s even more rich and tasty.
Gluten Free Cream of Asparagus Soup
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 cups water
1 cup 1/2 inch diced peeled red potato
14 ounces fresh asparagus cut in 1 inch lengths, see note
1 1/2 cups milk, 2% or whole
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
optional, 1 vegetable bullion cube, or chicken bullion
In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart pot sauté onion and celery in 1/2 cup of the water for seven minutes stirring once or twice. If you have never done this water method of sautéing, don’t worry as it’s easy.
Add the rest of the water, potato, and salt/ bullion if using and bring to a boil. As soon at it reaches a boil reduce heat and simmer for seven minutes covered.
Add asparagus, and white pepper, cover and cook for ten to twelve minutes covered stirring once halfway through.
Turn off heat and add milk. If using a tabletop blender, carefully add soup and blend in two batches if necessary. I prefer to use an immersion blender and blend it on the stove top. If eating soon, reheat to just a simmer and serve.
One pound of asparagus with the tough end cut off will yield about 14 ounces of tender asparagus.
If using a vegetable bullion cube or chicken bullion cube cut salt in half to 1/4 teaspoon.
Here is another fast and healthy recipe from my kitchen to yours. It must be Spring because daylight savings time kicks in tonight. Not to mention it’s sunny and warm out today too! Pretty soon us vegie gardeners will be outside planting lettuce, beets, kale, peas, cabbage, and broccoli. Broccoli is one of my favorite healthy green vegetables to eat. I like it in stir frys, salads, casseroles, just steamed, and in soup. I have been thinking of making up a recipe for a gluten free cream of broccoli soup for all the gluten intolerant folks out there to enjoy. Most cream of broccoli soups contain roux, which contains flour. I figured that if I cooked potatoes with the broccoli it would thicken the soup quite well. So into the Fast and Furious test Kitchen I went and developed this gluten free cream of broccoli soup that so many gluten free folks can eat. You don’t have to be gluten intolerant to like this soup. The rest of you can give this a try too! It’s fast and easy, as well as healthy. You can try it with coconut milk to make it a Vegan soup, or lowfat milk to make it low fat and healthier. Please leave comments so I can continue to improve my recipes. Without your input I don’t know how well the recipe works in your kitchen.
Cream of Broccoli Potato Soup
1 1/4 pounds fresh broccoli
1/1/4 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable stock
1 3/4 to 2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
Optional, 4 ounces of grated colby or mild cheddar cheese
Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and put in a bowl of cool water until needed.
Trim broccoli and stems. Cut tops into golfball size florets and chop the stems.
In a 4-5 quart pot with a lid bring potatoes to a boil in vegetable stock. When it comes to a boil reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes covered.
Add broccoli stems and cook for 4 minutes covered simmering.
Add broccoli tops and cook 4 minutes. Stir and cook 2 more minutes or until potatoes and broccoli are just tender.
Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and lesser amount of milk and blend in a table top blender or use an immersion blender.
Taste and add milk, salt or pepper if needed.
Return to heat and bring it to a simmer just before serving.
Top with grated colby or mild cheddar.
Vegetable stock varies a lot, and you might not need to add any salt depending on how salty your stock is. I used a recipe from the Moosewood cookbook for my vegetable stock.
Chicken stock can be used also.
This can be a very thick soup or thin depending on how much stock and milk you use.
I am but the conduit from which many chefs and cooks speak through me in the language of great food. Yes it was great learning old school cooking from my mom, grandmother and aunt, but I really put together my cooking skills when I worked at over thirty restaurants. I am so fortunate to have some natural ability with food, and cooking but the most important aspect of my culinary journey is my passion for learning more about cooking great food. Without all the great cooks and chefs that have taught me over the years you would not benefit much from my writing as I could not have done this on my own. Unless that is all you wanted to read about was scrambled eggs, and hamburger recipes. That is not to say I was a pushover when working as a young cook! I was a young lad of 27 when I worked at the famous Brown Palace in Denver. It was there that I told the sous chef I thought the head chef’s mornay sauce sucked. He jokingly asked me if I’d tell that to the head chef to which I replied “of course”. Mind you this was a kitchen where to get to sous chef status you had to be working there for about 25 years back then in 1982, and the chef had been there for over 40 years.
I continued to move around the restaurant world and ended up working at the Trans Alpen a restaurant no longer in business where I cooked with a couple of young chefs from the CIA(Culinary Institute of America). One of them went to the New York State school, and the other went to the Napa, California school. These two chefs were constantly in a friendly competition to see who was better. I learned so much from these fun yound chefs while working there. Lessons like every main course needed a sauce of some type to bring life to the plate and palate. The visual as well as the taste factor must be considered before devising our specials for the night. I still remember well some of the dishes we cooked there.
For learning soups my best teacher was the US Coast Guard where I was required to make a soup from scratch every day for over two years. When you live with a crew of 30 guys day in, and day out you don’t give them the same soup too often. I learned that soups should change with the seasons, and I cooked up hearty soups and stews for the cold winter months, and lighter soups for summer. After more than two years of this soup journey I felt like I could make soup in my sleep! Along the way I became enamored with soup and it’s ability to make people happy on a cold day. With this very chilly winter we are having I have developed more new soups than ever to add to my original recipes database. This sweet potato soup is already one of my favorites this winter. It’s fast, simple and healthy as well as delish! I hope you give it a try and please leave comments on how it turned out.
2 tablespoons olive oil oil, or garlic infuse olive oil
1/2 cup minced onions
1 cup chopped celery
1-2 4 inch Portabella mushroom caps with the stem removed
2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 1/2-3 cups water
1 1/2- 2 cups milk, or coconut milk for Vegan
1/4 teaspoon thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
optional, omit salt and use 1 1/2 teaspoons Better Than Bullion chicken base
Sautee onions in a 3 1/2 or 4 quart cast iron pot on medium low heat for 5-7 minutes in 1 tablespoon of the oil then add celery and cook for 5-7 more minutes stirring often.
While onions and celery are cooking using a checkerboard like pattern lay the mushroom cap gil side down on a cutting board and cut the Portabella mushroom into 1/4 inch pieces. They will be about an inch long, but that’s ok.
Sautee mushroom pieces in a saute pan with a bit of salt (1/4 teaspoon), white pepper (a dash), 1 tablespoon oil, and thyme if using. Stir mushrooms every 2-3 minutes and cook until well done, and a little crispy. This takes about 12-15 minutes.
When celery and onions are soft add sweet potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and water. Increase heat to medium high and when it comes to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook at a simmer until sweet potatoes are soft(about 15 minutes).
When potatoes are soft turn heat off and add milk. Use the full 2 cups if you want a thinner soup. Blend with an immersion blender or tabletop blender until nicely pureed.
Stir in Portabellas and taste to see if it needs more salt, or pepper. If it’s too thick just thin it out with some more water or milk.
Note: 1/2 cup chopped carrots added with the sweet potatoes are a nice addition.
2 pounds sweet potatoes
1-2 portabella mushroom caps
milk, either cow’s milk or coconut
Optional, Better Than Bullion chicken base
‘Tis the Season to Eat Smarter
Here we are at the start of the new year and already the television and radio campaigns are hitting us with weight loss, exercise commercials and stories. I heard a story on the radio this morning on bariatric surgery for those who just can’t seem to lose weight. That is one serious way to try and lose weight stapling your stomach! Surgery is not something to take lightly. I have watched the television show The Biggest Loser enough to have seen interviews with some of the contestants that had this type of surgery to lose weight. It didn’t work for any of them or they wouldn’t be on the show.
I was over weight(topping out at 190) for about ten years towards the end of my twenty year cooking career and was lucky to be able to figure out what worked for me without having to try something as radical as surgery. I’m no expert on nutrition, but from my experience I can tell you it’s not rocket science to eat healthy. I dropped most of my thirty pounds in 60 days from eating a low fat, low sugar diet of my own design, and ate that way for the next two years. I kept off the weight and felt great!
I’ll share the key points of my current eating and exercise program with you to see if it can help those of you who might want to lose weight and feel better.
Eat three meals a day at the same time each day.
Eat low fat, low processed foods, or non processed foods.
Don’t eat past 6 pm, or whatever time is four hours before going to bed.
Exercise at least thirty minutes per day six days per week. Walking or bike riding is great!
Eat enough that you don’t feel deprived.
Have a splurge meal once every week or two, or splurge snack.
Eat lots of vegetables and beans.
Eat an apple a day.
Consult with a doctor, and or nutritionist.
See yourself as being thinner, and enjoy the ride.
After I got off this strict way of eating about twenty years ago I gained some of the weight back, but kept refining my eating habits until just three years ago fine tuned my eating to where I don’t have to worry about gaining weight again. Now I eat a diet of about 80% vegetarian/vegan meals to 20% meals with meat. Most of the meat I eat is wild salmon from Alaska, a sustainable healthy food source. I also eat chicken, and lamb two to four times per month.
Most of the recipes I have developed here on my blog are to reflect what has worked for me. I believe they are simple, healthy recipes that will work for you too. After all, the recipes reflect 42 years of cooking experience! What’s most important after the fact that they are healthy is they taste great too! Give it a try and see if this is the year you start eating healthier, and feeling better using my Fast and Furious Cook recipes.
Here is one of my favorite soups for you to start the new year right. It’s a black bean soup recipe I developed that takes about 25-30 minutes start to finish that tastes great and is good for you too! Please give it a try and leave your comments. Feel free to share with family and friends too.
Fast and Furious Cook’s Black Bean Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil, or water, see note
1/2 cup yellow onion diced small
1/2 cup celery diced small
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked black beans
salt and pepper
In a two quart pot saute onion, celery and garlic on medium low heat stirring often for five minutes.
Add cumin and continue cooking on medium low heat for three more minutes stirring often.
Add stock and increase heat to medium high while stirring well. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for five minutes.
Add beans and simmer for five to seven minutes.
Using an immersion blender puree the soup, or a tabletop blender will do.
Taste the soup and add salt and pepper if needed.
Serves two but is easily doubled.
For a lower fat version use 1/4 inch of water instead of oil when sauteeing the onions, celery and garlic.
Top with a bit of steamed rice or quinoa if you like. I used a quarter cup of cooked quinoa in mine.
Thanksgiving is upon us, and definitely one of my favorite holidays. After all how can you not love a holiday that is about family and friends gathering to share good food and conversation? I am always amused by the many new recipes for Thanksgiving standards that come out each year, however I usually stick to the same old roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce. Why do I stick to the usual? Because I only eat this specific meal once per year and I know from over twenty five years in a row of cooking Thanksgiving meals what taste best to me.
That is not to say I don’t appreciate some new ideas for Thanksgiving favorites, because I do. I just cook up the new recipes I find afterwards, or for Christmas dinner. But to each his/her own and by all means learn new recipes for your holidays if that’s what churns your butter.
What I plan on blogging about over the next several weeks is the healthy meals you should be eating in between these big, rich meals that are coming at us for the next five weeks. I too will be eating the good stuff when it comes my way at parties and family get togethers, and will want to eat light healthy meals in between so I come out the other end of this five week food fest feeling good.
One of my favorite meals growing up in Colorado was a good leg of lamb, and the stew that usually followed the next day made from the leftovers. It qualifies as comfort food in my book. Today I give you my original Fast and Furious Cook lamb stew recipe that is very easy to make, delicious, and fairly healthy too. I have tested it this last week to be made in the crock pot and it came out great! During the next five weeks when you need a hearty, healthy easy to cook stew I hope you give this one a try and please leave comments on how it turned out.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
1 oz dried mushrooms, chanterelles or morel
2 cups water
1 pound lamb stew meat
1/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium sized yellow onion chopped
3 stalks celery sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 clove minced fresh garlic
1 8 oz package white button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup of dry red wine(Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 carrot sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1-2 teaspoons Lawry’s seasoning salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
*Soak dried mushrooms in water for at least 10 minutes.
Dredge lamb pieces in flour and set aside. In a saute pan or enamel cast iron pot cook onion, garlic and celery in half of the oil on medium heat for five minutes stirring often. Add fresh mushrooms and cook stirring for another five minutes. Pour into crockpot, then wipe pan/pot clean and brown lamb in remaining oil on medium to medium high heat. Add lamb, wine, mushrooms, seasoning salt and carrots to crockpot and cook for 4-5 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low heat. If you are able to stir it halfway through the cooking time it is helpful but not necessary.
Serve over a cup of steamed brown rice, or your favorite pasta.
Dried mushrooms vary in the amount of grit hiding in the nooks and crannies. One way I have found to reduce the grit is to soak the mushrooms in a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup and stirring them gently before using them to allow the grit to settle on the bottom. I then take the floating mushrooms from the top of the water and add them to the dish I’m cooking and carefully pour the mushroom water into the dish leaving the last couple of tablespoons of liquid on the bottom to throw out with the grit that has settled there.
You can skip the fresh mushrooms and double the amount of dried mushrooms if you like.
If you can’t buy dried mushrooms in your local grocery store consider ordering them online as they don’t cost much to ship and at $5.99 for one ounce of chanterelles most people can afford that price. Here is a link to my favorite source: http://www.thewoodlandsatphillips.com/dried-mushrooms-1/
It’s good to be back home and in the groove. My 10 days in Spain gave me many ideas for recipe development that I’ll work on in the weeks to come. One of my favorite dishes was the ever present breakfast and or tapas dish the “tortilla”. It’s a simple preparation of potatoes and eggs served at room temperature or warm. What I like about it is that you can add so many ingredients to this base recipe to come up with your own favorite way to eat it. At the resort where I was staying they served it with a side of a nice tomato garlic salsa that went great with it. I don’t plan on eating this sort of thing every day, but would like to incorporate it into a special weekend type of breakfast food in the near future.
With the holiday upon us I will mainly focus on healthy recipes to counterbalance the good stuff most of us will indulge in during this feast a plenty few weeks. I do believe in eating healthy most of the time and splurging during Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc. I tested a recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites cookbook I bought while visiting Ithaca, NY last September. For those of you not familiar with Moosewood they are a collective of owners running one of the best farm to table, mostly Vegan, and Vegetarian restaurants in the US. They have been around for forty years, a feat that is difficult to say the least, putting out inventive meals for those who love to eat healthy delicious food.
The recipe I tried out last night was the Navajo Stew, a lovely stew of sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers, beans and tomato seasoned with ground cumin and coriander.
I don’t own many cookbooks or use them much, but this one is fast becoming one of my favorites.
I actually followed the recipe closely, and only deviated a bit when adding Korean sweet potatoes to come up with four cups total as I was a little short using just regular sweet potatoes.
The result was a wonderful tasting, quite filling stew that was served with a side of whole grain baguette that satisfied and warmed us on a chilly dark night. I suspect one could use delicata, or butternut squash in this stew in place of sweet potatoes with good results. For those of you that want meat in a stew like this I believe it would be easy to add chicken, beef or pork at the beginning while sauteing the onions.
2 T olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves minced
1 t salt
1 red or green pepper seeded and chopped
1 T ground cumin seeds
2 t ground coriander seeds
4 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes(1 inch cubes)
2 cups water
one 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 T canned chipolte peppers in adobo sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 cups black or red beans rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels(optional)
Warm the oil in a covered soup pot on low heat.
Add the onion, garlic, and salt, and cook about 10 minutes.
Stir in the bell peppers, cumin, and coriander and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and water, cover, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes covered or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes, chipoltes, and cilantro in a blender.
When the vegetables are tender, stir in the tomato puree and the beans. Add corn, if you like.
Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Serving and menu ideas.
Top each serving with Cilantro-Yogurt Sauce(page 310), plain yogurt, or sour cream, or shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. Serve this stew with cornbread(see pages 283 and 284), flatbread, or tortilla chips. Also nice on rice.
Thanks to Moosewood for letting me share this great stew recipe.
Moosewood Inc copyright 2005 from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, published by Clarkson Potter.
It got down into the mid forties here last night and that means it’s officially soup season. Even though I had to make soup every day for almost three years in the US Coast Guard I still love to make and eat soup. It’s high on the list of comfort foods in taste and ease of cooking and re-heating. It invokes memories of mom’s making soup for their children home from school sick watching TV with a tray to hold the soup and crackers close by. And memories of coming in from the cold to a steaming bowl of mushroom soup, or cream of tomato soup. Tops on the list of soups is chicken noodle soup, a soup that really does help cure a cold according to many.
There are so many types of soup from the chunky to the bisques, and creamy to clear.Or made from chicken, beef, and other type of stocks. There are soups made to start a meal, and soups made to be the meal. When it comes down to picking a soup that is hearty enough to make it a meal almost nothing beats chili. Served with crackers, tortillas or bread this is an American favorite. When I was living and working in Frisco, Colorado back in the 1980’s I worked at The Moose Jaw and loved their chili recipe. I would eat a bowl of that great chili at least once per week in the winter time while at work. BTW, they are still open and celebrating 40 years in the same location, and run by the remaining member of four owners who bravely bought the place so long ago.
Fast forward to the present and there is a movement to make chili healthier, and with less meat. When the good folks at Phillips Mushrooms asked me to develop a recipe blending mushrooms with meat into a new kind of chili I was up to the task. After all I love mushrooms and chili so why not mix the two? This recipe is super healthy due to less meat and no added oil or fat. It is started by sauteing the onions, garlic, meat and mushrooms in water. If you have not tried this method of sauteing it’s worth a try. With recipes like this most people would never guess it was made without sauteing in oil.
So when it gets cold where you are give this easy, healthy chili recipe a try and don’t forget to pass it on. If you like it or have something to add please leave a comment.
Portobello Mushroom and Beef Chili
1/2 yellow or white onion diced
2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb portobellos cut into 1/2 cubes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15 ounce can black beans
1 15 ounce can kidney beans
1 4.5 ounce can chopped green chilies
1 jalapeno minced, optional
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Cook onions in a 3 12 quart cast iron enamel pot, or other heavy pot in just enough water to cover bottom by 1/2 inch on medium heat for 5 minutes stirring often.
Add mushrooms and beef and cook on medium high for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium cooking 5 more minutes.
Add tomatoes and sauce then stir in spices and salt. Add beans and bring to a simmer cooking for 20 minutes stirring about every 5 minutes uncovered.
I use about a quarter cup of water to rinse the tomato cans with then pour into the chili so as not to waste what doesn’t come out of the can easily.
Chili powders vary in flavor and spiciness so feel free to add or reduce accordingly. I used McCormick’s chili powder for this recipe.
I like it hot and will add red pepper or jalapeno powder to kick it up.
I remember those days that I would spend hours cooking up some complicated recipe in restaurants or at home that would inevitably turn out well. Whether it was a classic French cake, or deboned and stuffed chicken hind quarters, with gravy made from home made chicken stock that cooked for 8 hours or more. I did not shy away from recipes that took a lot of time, but now it’s a wonderful thing to embrace simplicity in cooking especially when you don’t sacrifice taste in doing so. In this phase of my 42 years of cooking I love finding the simplest ways to prepare foods that taste great. It’s not that I don’t have the time to cook the complicated stuff. It’s just that I have so many other things to do rather than spend hours cooking a meal that should only take 30 minutes.
With asparagus season in full swing here in the Mid Atlantic I have been cooking the lovely stalk once thought to be from the lily family often and in many ways. I’ve stir fried it with rice. I’ve simply steamed it. I’ve baked it with garlic infused olive oil, salt and pepper. And it’s made many an appearance in green salads. My favorite invention of all my newly developed recipes has been the dairy free, chilled asparagus soup made with unsweetened almond milk. This one is so yummy, simple and so easy to make. Gone are the times where I would have used home made chicken stock for the base and half and half for creaminess. This soup needs no heavy calorie additions. The almond milk gives it a nice texture and the asparagus if treated right will hit you with it’s distinctive wonderful fresh green flavor. You still have a few weeks of asparagus season so get to your local asparagus place, whether it’s a farm stand or grocery store and give this one a try.
3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cup fresh asparagus cut into 1 inch lengths
1 1/4 unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Spike, optional
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, optional
In a 1 1/2 quart pot bring 3 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil. While water is heating wash asparagus and trim off the bottom tough part until you have about 2 cups cut in 1 inch lengths. Cook simmering for about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness of the asparagus then drain and rinse briefly in cold water. Add almond milk, oregano, salt and Spike, if using. Blend well in a table top blender or use an immersion blender. Chill for about an hour then serve with chopped chives on top.
Serves two but can doubled if needed.
Note: If you want a bit of a kick add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
I bought one pound of asparagus and ended up with a little over 2 cups after trimming the tough part off.
* You could probably use whole milk instead of almond milk and this would still turn out well.
Can’t say that I have ever woke up with them bullfrogs on my mind, but I did wake up with butternut squash and Rory Gallagher the Irish blues legend on my mind today. And why did I wake up with these two completely different things on my mind? Bullfrog Blues was on my mind after a chat with my friend Bobby in Alaska who called me to hook me up with some Rory G songs on the internet. If you need a taste here is a link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33Jaodra7AY&noredirect=1. This is a good morning maniac music type song to get you going.The butternut squash was on my mind due to a visit to the Home and Garden show in Timonium, Maryland yesterday where I sat through a 30 minute demo of Kitchen Craft cookware. I usually wouldn’t do such a thing however it was at a point where my wife and I had seen just about everything, and had some time to spare to see what this whole “cooking without water” thing was about. It was very interesting especially the presenter’s claim that you lose 70% of the vitamins and other good stuff when you cook vegies in water. The presenter made some good points on why to get rid of your aluminum cookware, and especially your teflon cookware. Not that I believed everything he said, but it’s probably a good thing to dump the aluminum, which I have been doing in stages for about 15 years anyway. But I digress. The reason I had butternut squash on my mind was because the presenter made a good point on why to include it in your diet often, and I had a lovely butternut hanging out on my kitchen counter just waiting for inspiration on what to do with it. So today is the day it gets prepared, but before I get into that here’s some good info on the nutritional benefits of butternut squash from www.wholeliving.com:
Per 1 cup cooked, approximately 205 grams
Fat: 0.2 g
Vitamin A: 1,144 mcg = 163 percent* of DRI**
Vitamin B6: 0.3 mg = 20 percent of DRI
Vitamin C: 31 mg = 41 percent of DRI
Folate: 39 mcg = 10 percent of DRI
Potassium: 582 mg = 12 percent of DRI
Percentages are for women 31 to 50 years old who are not pregnant ** DRI, Dietary Reference Intake, is based on National Academy of Sciences’ Dietary Reference Intakes, 1997 to 2004
You can probably see that it is full of good stuff for a body, but the best part is all the ways you can prepare it. I love butternut squash soup, or oven roasted butternut squash. It cooks up well with so many different types of herbs and spices from onion and garlic to cinnamon and ginger. You can cook it seasoned with Indian Curry, or your favorite steak seasoning. I will admit it is a challenge to peel a butternut squash, but most grocery stores sell it already cut into cubes for fast and easy preparation. For todays post I decided to do Butternut squash 3 ways using a 1 pound 2 ounce organic specimen. To make it a bit more interesting I’m going to make it in 3 ways that I have never seen or had before today so hang on, here we go.
#1 Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Soup
#2 Butternut Squash with Walnut Oil and Sage Tossed in Penne Pasta
#3 Butternut Squash and Celery Salad
I’m back at the laptop and done with the whirlwind Butternut project and quite pleased with the results. For the pasta and salad dish I oven roasted the squash all at once sparing me some time. While cutting up the squash I decided to try a new idea on roasting the seeds so I put the seeds from the squash in a small baking dish prepped with a quarter teaspoon of walnut oil and seasoned them with ground dried chipolte pepper powder and Lawrey”s Seasoning Salt. They came out great! The pasta dish was good, but would be better with the addition of mushrooms, or Italian sausage. I liked the way the salad turned out and will try it with dried tarragon next time to see if that’s a better herb.
The soup however was the best of the bunch. It came out thick and rich tasting with just the right amount of curry. For you my dear readers since I usually only post one recipe per post I’ll give you the soup recipe here today, and the rest will be re-tested for addition to my cookbook project. For you brave souls that try the Butternut Squash Soup please leave your comments. Bon Appetit until we meet/eat again.
Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut and Curry
1 tablespoon walnut oil, or canola oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
1/4 cup minced celery
1 cup sliced carrots
2 cups water
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 can of coconut milk,(14 oz)
1 teaspoon Better Than Bullion Chicken Base, or 1 vegetable stock cube
salt and white pepper to taste, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each
Saute minced onions, and celery with oil in a 1 1/2 to 2 quart pot on medium low for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add carrots, squash, curry powder, turmeric, chicken base and water. Increase heat to medium high and cook covered until it starts simmering. Turn it down, stir, and continue to cook simmering until squash is cooked, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, salt and pepper then cook for about 3 more minutes. Turn off heat and blend with an immersion blender or table top blender until smooth. Serve with roasted squash seeds on top, or a small sprinkle of nutmeg.
* Low fat coconut milk can be used.