Sweet Potato Soup

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This soup is:
A) ridiculously simple
B) ridiculously delicious
C) ridiculously adaptable
D) all of the above

I love sweet potatoes. They are loaded with vitamin A and a great source of vitamin C and fiber. While potatoes grow well in the San Luis Valley where we now live, the growing season (at around 75 days) is far too short for a sweet potato. However, my home state of North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the US, so I always hope those NC taters find their way to me here, almost 1700 miles away.

This slightly spicy soup highlights the sweet potato’s creamy, rich nature without overpowering it. For a plainer option, omit the avocado and replace the cumin and chile powder with 1 tsp orange zest.

ingredients
2 sweet potatoes (you can also use about 2 cups of butternut squash or pumpkin)
1 1/2-2 Cups vegetable broth (maybe more, depending on your preferred texture)
1/2 Cup plain almond milk (or soy)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chile powder
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 avocado diced
Optional: nutritional yeast, cannellini beans blended in; cilantro and lime wedges for a garnish

preparation
Bake sweet potatoes. I actually baked mine yesterday while I already had the oven on. It took about an hour and a half at 350F, but you can certainly get it done quicker at 400F or, I’m told, in a microwave. Let the potatoes cool enough to handle and peel. Put the peeled potatoes in a blender with the broth, almond milk, and spices. Purée. If you baked your potatoes the day prior, as I did, empty blended soup into a saucepan and heat through over medium, about 10 minutes. Add more broth and spices as desired. Top with diced avocado, a dash of chile powder, and serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

By the way, my vote for the multiple choice question is D. What’s yours?

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Farro Minestrone

It’s been cold lately, minus 30F cold, and I’ve been making lots of soups. Some people think of soup as a course rather than a main dish; but this minestrone, which uses farro instead of pasta, is filling and capable of stepping up to the task of main course.

For some reason, I never remember to get a picture of this delightful minestrone. It always goes quickly, especially when paired with a loaf of multi-grain bread and a pear and spinach salad. I vary the ingredients from time-to-time, but here’s the basic recipe with some options:

ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp each: oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 quarts vegetable broth
28 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes (whole or diced)
2 zucchini, quartered longways and cut into half inch slices
1 cup farro
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and peeper to taste
optional: 4-6 ounces of fresh spinach; 2-3 tsp Balsamic vinegar; 1 cup of peas; 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

preparation

Heat olive oil in a large stew pot (6 quart), add onion and cook until lightly browned. Stir in spices and garlic and cook briefly- about 30 seconds, before adding broth and farro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with their juice. If using whole tomatoes, smush them against the side of the pot to break them up. Stir in cannellini and zucchini. Cook another 10-15 minutes, until farro and zucchini are tender.

Stir in parsley and any of the optional ingredients you are adding. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Last night’s dinner, Thanks Lisa and Vegan Pact!

The Vegan Pact

Thai for is great for vegans, isn’t it? Veggie-based, hardly any emphasis on dairy…the only real road block is sometimes the noodles, but for the most part, it’s herbivore-friendly. I had honestly never tried much Thai food until we shared some with Arikka and Derek on her birthday a month ago. I’m not one for creating culturally charged dishes, but I figured these wraps are a good mix of different flavors and textures and the spicy peanut sauce is the only true indication that it’s a Thai influenced meal. These yummy sandwiches were my inspiration to make homemade peanut butter and I was really pleased with the results. And of course, I also REALLY like that all the veggies tucked inside the wrap are raw!

3 or 4 whole wheat tortillas

2 cups shredded purple cabbage

1 cucumber, seeded, peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 1/2 cup…

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Soba Salad

This Japanese inspired salad is always a hit.

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ingredients
3 carrots
Medium zucchini
8 oz soba noodles, cooked an rinsed in cold water
1 bunch green onions
for dressing
Scant 1/4 oil
1/3 cup tamari, more to taste
1.5-2 Tbsp minced ginger
4 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sugar

preparation
Mix dressing in large bowl. Thinly cut scallions, add to dressing. Cut carrots and zucchini into matchsticks (save time by thinly slicing instead), add to dressing. Top with cooled soba noodles, toss and enjoy!

Zucchini Cakes

Summer means zucchini. I live in a town where if you leave your windows down enough, your car may end up filled with zucchini in just a few short hours.

While I’ve had a garden for several years, I have never planted zucchini- there has never been a need. Furthermore, my parents’ experience with zucchini years ago haunts my family to this day.

It was the mid 70’s. My parents and some friends decided to plant the large garden at their rural Western North Carolina home. As they planned, carrots, radishes, spinach, and other greens were all included, but zucchini took the forefront. “Just think of all the things you can do with it!” they said, launching into something akin to Bubba’s shrimp monologue in Forrest Gump. Stuffed zucchini, sautéed zucchini, zucchini bread… you get the picture. They planted 50 hills. For those who may not be familiar, that is a lot of zucchini. Given that one plant produces anywhere from 2-5 zucchini a week, they were harvesting 100-250 zukes- a week. For six people. As the season went on, the zucchini grew and grew, morphing into baseball bats. The dogs wrestled them from the vine.

In the years that followed, I do not recall eating zucchini. Sure, we had squashsicles- Popsicles made from acorn or butternut squash- which all the neighborhood kids gagged at, but zucchini was not even mentioned in our household. In fact, 15 years would pass before my father ate zucchini again.

I’m not sure if they made zucchini cakes back then, but I’m certain these are yummy enough to tempt my father to give up his zucchini fast.

ingredients

2 small to medium zucchini, grated
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
Olive oil- for frying

preparation

Wrap grated zucchini in paper towels and wring/ squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place in bowl with eggs, garlic, and Parmesan. Stir. Add breadcrumbs and let sit a moment, if the batter is still wet on the edges, add more breadcrumbs until batter is moist, but not wet.

Heat olive oil 1/8-1/4 inch deep in a cast iron skillet. Add spoonfuls of batter, flattening each slightly. Fry each side 2-4 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel covered plate and repeat until all the batter is cooked. Enjoy! makes 6-8 medium cakes

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Grilled Fajita Salad

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This salad is adapted from Almost Vegetarian, a great cookbook that was given to me by an intern a couple years ago. I’ve added sweet potatoes, marinate the peppers and onions, use more beans, and have ocassionally made it Vegan by omitting the cheese and dressing. Most recently, I made it like this:

ingredients
2 bell peppers, cut into 1.5-2 inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups cooked kidney beans
1.5 cups cooked diced sweet potato
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cup cheese
1/3 cup tomatillo salsa
1/3 cup sour cream
Avocado slices
Fresh cilantro (optional)

preparation
Coat peppers and onions in oil and spices and let sit for at least two hours- the longer the better. Then, skewer vegetables and grill over high heat for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix sour cream and tomatillo salsa in a small bowl, set aside. Arrange a layer of cabbage on each plate, then top with beans, rice, sweet potato, cheese, and finally the grilled veggies. Dress with salsa/sour cream mix and garnish with avocado slices and fresh cilantro.

Enjoy!

Raw Pesto

Raw cooking has been popular at our house this summer. Between the record breaking heat and busy schedule, eating raw has made sense. Plus, we are getting so many great enzymes and nutrients!

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This two serving raw pesto is simple to make:

ingredients
2 medium zucchini, sliced julienne (peel or not, your preference)
2.5-3 cups fresh basil
1-2 small cloves garlic, minced
1.5-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste

preparation

Julienne zucchini and place in medium bowl. In food processor, process basil, garlic, and oil until smooth. Add to zucchini, with tomatoes and pine nuts. Stir. Arrange on two plates and enjoy!