Once upon a time there was chili and chili was good. Back then chili was always made with beef or pork for the meat component, and it was good. For many years all the people in the land ate of the usual beef and pork chili and all was well. Then one cold day came strangers to the world of chili and proclaimed that there are other meats that are good in it. These strange people put ground turkey in their chili much to the surprise of the beef and pork chili eaters. As if that wasn’t enough strangeness they would also use bison instead of the age old method of beef and pork to make matters more unsettling. The “old school” beef and pork chili eaters were upset by this oddness and said, “woe is thee who eateth the turkey or bison chili” and they refused to eat it. This did not bother the “new school” turkey and bison chili eaters, and they blended in as best as they could in the world of the “old school” crowd.
Many years passed and the “old school” chili eaters had children who grew up alongside the children of the “new school” chili folk and in time they became friendly towards each other. It was bound to happen that one day the child of an old school chili eater was visiting his friend who’s parents were of the “new school”. It was cold and nasty outside and the “old school” child was invited to stay for dinner. Lo and behold the family served nothing for dinner but turkey chili. The “old school” child thought it was better to eat of the strange turkey chili than go hungry and upset his hosts so he bravely tried this new chili. What a surprise to his taste buds this milder flavored meat had! It was delicious in a most agreeable manner and he ate much of this warm and satisfying bowl of hot red goodness. He couldn’t wait to go home and tell his parents about what was once thought of as sacrilege amongst chili eaters, was indeed quite tasty. He asked his hosts for the recipe to take to his parents so they too could sample this new chili. When he arrived home with chili smeared on his happy little face he told his parents of the wondrous chili at the “new school” chili eater’s home. He presented them with the recipe and the parents tried it and liked it. Soon all the land was rejoicing in the bliss of two new chili recipes and all was well in the land.
Today I share with you that amazing turkey chili recipe that brought peace and harmony to the land of chili eaters. May it keep you warm and happy.
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 can of pinto beans
1 can of kidney beans
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a 6-8 quart pot add olive oil, onions and garlic, and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes stirring often.
Add garlic and continue cooking for 2 more minutes stirring often.
Add ground turkey, turn heat up to med-hi and cook for 5 minutes stirring every 30 seconds until turkey is no longer pink.
Add rest of the ingredients, cover and bring to a simmer. Cook at a slow simmer for 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so.
Chili is ready to eat after 20 minutes, but improves if cooked for 45 minutes, the last 25 minutes should be with the cover off. Like most chili recipes this one improves the next day.
Soba Noodle Soup With Shitake Mushrooms
Japanese cuisine tends to be healthier than American food and has taught me much about eating right. That’s not to say the Japanese are without health issues, but overall they are slimmer and healthier than us Americans. Most of the foods they eat are lower in fat and sugar than American foods. According to a Business Insider article from February 19,2012 us Americans were consuming one hundred pounds of sugar per year each! The Japanese consume only about forty pounds each. Their fat consumption is less also and other than pork katsu or tempura vegetables and shrimp they don’t overdo it with fat as often as we do.
Even if you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier I want to share a Japanese inspired soup recipe I developed using soba noodles. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are used often in Japanese soups and served cold dipped in broth as well. I sometimes make soba noodle salad and hope to post a recipe for spring or summer this year. Soba can be a bit high on sodium so if you are concerned with sodium be sure and by the less-sodium version sold in most Asian grocery stores. Soba soup or salad is versatile and tastes great with broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, green onions, snow peas, or edamame. For meat additions try pork, chicken, beef, salmon or tofu if you are eating a vegetarian diet.
I love how fast a from-scratch soba soup recipe comes together, and how it incorporates super healthy shitake mushrooms. This recipe of mine can take as little as twelve minutes to make if your veggies are purchased cut-up and soup ready. It’s low-fat, easy to make and filling as well as delicious. There was a time you had to go to an Asian grocery store to buy soba noodles but I’m seeing them in many regular American grocery stores lately. If you can’t find them local try amazon.com where I found one of the brands I like, JFC Brand six pack for $17.36 plus shipping.
So please give it a try and leave comments on how you tweaked the recipe to include what you had on hand, and share on your favorite social media. Here’s to eating healthier in 2015!
Soba Noodle Soup with Shitake Mushrooms
1 quart water
2 teaspoons chicken base, or bullion cubes- see note
1 1/2 tubes of soba noodles
1 cup sliced shitake caps
2 cups chopped green or broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tablespoon soy sauce,optional
Bring water to a boil with bullion, or base.
Add mushrooms and noodles and cook on high for two minutes stirring often.
Add cabbage and carrots cooking for two more minutes.
Add soy sauce to taste, about 1-2 tablespoons.
If you are concerned with your sodium intake buy the “less sodium” soba or bullion.
To make this soup a main course add one of the following:
1-2 cups cubed tofu
1-2 cups of cooked shredded chicken, or sliced pork
Top with La-Yu hot sesame oil to kick it up!
Of all the holidays Thanksgiving is my favorite. It not the only holiday that brings people together in a happy food filled day. Christmas and Fourth of July do that pretty well. Thanksgiving is about gratitude, not just food. It is a very healthy thing to celebrate gratitude all year long, not just one day a year. Sometimes Thanksgiving Day is there to help us realize that.
I have many things to be grateful for and I bet you do too. I have excellent health, a wonderful wife, amazing siblings, my father is still alive after ninety-one years of circling the sun, my dog Tucker entertains and protects us, our cat Boots is a champion purring machine, we live in a nice house, and I have the best friends a guy could ever want. There was a time I didn’t think much about gratitude, and I’m glad that is in my past. Since surviving two near death events in 1986, and remember traveling down the white kaleidoscope tunnel of no return that obviously I did return from I’ve been changed by that. Little things that used to set me off in anger aren’t triggers anymore. Smiles from a friend or stranger are more special now. A good walk in nature with friends or family can be priceless.
I am especially grateful for my ability to cook and share good food with friends and family. From the cooking classes and demos in Kennett Square to visiting Colorado I cook where ever I go whenever I can to share the love. At the table the outside world disappears and life slows. This special time allows us all to focus on the food and the pleasure being with each other. Thanksgiving is a time when we take that to a higher level. A super bowl of good eating is what it seems. We cook up the traditional foods and sometimes go with creative new ways to cook our turkey, potatoes, green beans, squash, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. If we are lucky we are given another shot at out doing ourselves again next year. This year when you are having your feast with friends and family try taking that gratitude into everyday of your life. It shouldn’t take a near death experience like I had to own that level of gratitude!
I’d like to share a recipe for turkey and butternut squash soup that you can make with the yummy turkey stock made from Thanksgiving leftovers. With turkey stock you can make a lovely seasonal soup in minutes for this cold weather that has come down from up north. Please feel free to share this with friends and family, or on social media of your choice.
Turkey and Butternut Squash Soup
1/2 pound diced turkey meat, about two cups
1/2 gallon turkey stock, see note
2 cups butternut squash cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup onion minced
3 ribs of celery sliced thin
12 oz package of frozen mixed vegetables,corn, green beans, carrots and peas
2 cups pasta, bow tie or shell pasta will do
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley, optional
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon fresh sage minced, or 1 teaspoon dried sage
Sauté onions and celery in one quarter inch of the stock on medium high heat in a 4-5 quart soup pot. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring often.
Add rest of stock and cook on high for 5 minutes.
Add butternut squash and bring to a boil.
When it comes to a boil add turkey and mixed vegetables.
Bring to a boil again and add pasta cooking on high heat and stirring often during the next two minutes to keep pasta from sticking together.
Cook until pasta is tender then add parsley and sage, cooking at a simmer for 2 more minutes.
If you don’t have turkey stock you can use chicken stock.
Even when I have turkey stock I put a little bit of Better Than Bouillon chicken base in it.
With the cooler weather some of the remaining veggies in my garden are rebounding from the summer heat. The kale crop is growing like crazy after just pluggin’ along the last two months. With so much kale coming out of my garden I felt the need to create a new soup using it. My friends at Wilbur’s Farm have not had much luck selling their gorgeous Delicata Squash and gifted me about fifteen pounds of it recently. With these two ingredients abundantly crowding my storage facilities I set out to make a healthy, great tasting soup that most people would love, not counting picky kids of course.
Back when I was a kid I wanted nothing to do with any kind of squash. I think there was an unspoken rule to be cool you had to hate all squash as a kid. It was one of the few rules I had no problem adhering to. However I eventually started to eat squash when as a twenty something year old cook one of the restaurants I worked at served acorn squash, and later on zucchini sautéed with onions and mushrooms. Both of these veggie dishes met with my discriminating approval and opened the doors to more squash appreciation and experimenting.
Delicata squash was not on my radar until I tasted it at a Whole Foods produce section about ten years ago. They were sampling it to stimulate sales of this relatively unknown squash. My wife and I tasted it and pronounced it excellent. I’ve cooked to for many people since then with rave reviews. It has been only recently that I started putting it in soups. Delicata works well in soups as long as you don’t put it in too soon. It can turn to mush if overcooked, just like most vegetables. When cooked properly it adds color, flavor and texture that is quite good in many a soup and veggie dish.
October is a great time to buy winter squash and you will find Delicata in many grocery stores. To pick a good one select a firm squash with no big wart like blemishes. When you are ready to cook it run it under cool water with a veggie brush to clean off any dirt clinging to it. Dry it, cut off a half inch on both ends and then cut it lengthwise for seed removal. A soup spoon usually is best for scraping out the seeds which can be cleaned and roasted for a great tasting snack.
At this point your Delicata is ready for what ever recipe you want to try on it. So get out and buy some of this great little squash as I think you will find it to be one of your favorites due to its taste and ease of preparation.
Delicata Squash and Kale Soup
1 delicata squash cut into bite size pieces, about 2 cups
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons oregano
1 can kidney beans, 15.5 oz size
1 can diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz size
5 cups water
1 vegetable cube or chicken bullion
2 cups chopped fresh kale, if buying whole leaf kale instead of chopped, cut out the tough spine.
salt and pepper to taste
In a 3-4 quart pot sauté onion for three minutes in olive oil on medium heat stirring often.
Add garlic and cook stirring two more minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
When it reaches a boil reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Add salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional
use four cups of water instead of five
reduce oregano to 1 teaspoon
Super veggie variation:
1 cup of cut green beans
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup frozen peas, added towards the end
1 teaspoon basil
add all of the above, except peas, after the onion and garlic have been sautéed
By adding meat this can become a main dish. Use 1 pound Italian sausage, or ground beef. Start by browning the meat in oil for five minutes, then add onion and garlic cooking on medium heat stirring for five more minutes.
Add rest of ingredients and cook as directed in original recipe.
I love fall in North America! The weather is great and all sorts of seasonal veggies and fruits crowd farm stands across our nation. Butternut squash is abundant now and is getting almost as popular as kale. Butternut squash is versatile as well as delicious. It’s weird looking back on my life as a confirmed squash hater. That is until just about ten years ago. Part of that affliction was from not finding or trying many a tasty recipe for this wonderful food. There are so many recipes available for this funny looking squash variety. With butternut squash you can make a lovely salad with walnuts and kale, mash it like mashed potatoes, or make many great tasting soups with it.
Peeling a butternut squash is not for just anyone. It’s about as easy as giving a cat a bath and just as dangerous. Luckily most grocery stores sell peeled and cubed butternut squash. This no doubt will save many a home cook a visit to the emergency room. When you buy it already peeled and cubed you can make a soup like this one in minutes! You can also tweak it in many ways to suit your taste. You can add carrots, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, or your choice of herbs to make this personalized. You could also make it with the simple healthy ingredients listed here and have a great soup made from scratch.
Give this fall soup a try soon and see if you agree with me that it’s a keeper. To celebrate fall harvest I am giving a way to two lucky readers some of my heirloom Strawberry Popcorn. This yummy little corn was grown organically with no chemicals or sprays of any kind and produced over a hundred cute little red ears. I have already tested a batch on my stove and pronounce it yummy. To enter this giveaway leave a comment on what your favorite way to season popcorn is and good luck to all who enter.
Simply Delicious Butternut Squash Soup
4 cups butternut squash cut into about one inch cubes, about 19 ounces
1 teaspoon better than bouillon chicken base, see note
1 cup milk, either coconut or cows milk
salt and pepper to taste
Cover squash with water in a 2 quart pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and add chicken base.
Cook for ten minutes or until soft.
Drain off about one cup of the liquid and reserve it.
Add the milk and blend with either a table top blender or immersion blender until smooth.
Add some of the reserved cooking liquid if needed for a thinner soup.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkle of sweet Hungarian paprika.
If you want a vegan style soup use a vegetable bullion cube in place of the chicken base.
Curry powder( one teaspoon) is a nice spice blend to add to this soup for an exotic flavor.
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.