Mexican Veggie Soup – Caldo de Res (Sorta)

There is a great Mexican grocery store near us and recently, I noticed a really interesting tray of veggies in the produce section, simply labeled “Mexican Soup Mix.”

Curiosity piqued, I brought them home, along with a ½ lb. of Chorizo. (Not sure if that’s traditional, but I love how Chorizo adds flavor. You could really probably leave it out, too.)

The closest recipe I could find is called Caldo de Res, so that’s what I based my recipe on. Though this is not a classic Caldo de Res, it is an easy and delicious soup, and makes a big batch – perfect for cool fall evenings.

Really almost everything you need is in the package, including about a million extra red chiles. I am not brave enough to use all those chiles, but maybe someday! Here’s all the veggies, in case you can’t find the mix.

The mix includes a Chayote Squash, which is the green veggie on the far left. I used it like any other squash, though I removed the pit, which oddly it has. I chopped all the vegetables in small bite-sizes like for soup, so not too finely.

Ingredients:

½ lb. Chorizo
1 tsp olive oil
½ onion, rough chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 long red chiles, whole
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cumin
2 carrots, diced
½ small cabbage, rough chopped
1 Chayote squash, pit removed and rough chopped
2 potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled and rough chopped
1 small zucchini, rough chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
1 ear of corn, cut into 4-5 sections, or corn kernels removed
4 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped
Juice of one lime

Serve with:
Sour Cream
More chopped Cilantro
Grated mild cheese
warm corn tortillas
lime wedges
Jalapeno slices

Add oil to large Dutch oven and add Chorizo. Cook a few minutes until lightly browned. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and chiles and cook for a minute or two.

Add seasonings and all veggies, except for cilantro and lime. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, covered.

When Chayote Squash and potatoes are soft, gently stir in Cilantro and Lime juice.

Serve in a wide bowl, topped with sour cream, chopped cilantro, mild cheese, lime wedges and Jalapeno slices.

Warm corn tortillas are delicious too, especially dipped into the broth. You can easily heat corn tortillas in the microwave.

Just lay 5-6 tortillas on a small plate and cover with another plate. Microwave for 30 to 60 seconds, until nice and warm. Keep covered when you serve.

So good!

Napa Cabbage & Noodle Salad

This is a tangy and delicious cabbage and noodle main dish salad, based on Hannah Che’s recipe from The Vegan Chinese Kitchen Cookbook. It’s perfect for a late summer evening supper, because it’s easy, super fast and has a dressing that is unbelievably good – plus it’s gluten-free and vegan. If you can’t get Napa cabbage, Romaine lettuce works, too.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 head Napa cabbage, cut in half lengthwise
1 small cucumber, julienned
1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 cups fresh rice vermicelli noodles (Pho noodles) or Mung bean vermicelli noodles.

1 medium carrot, julienned
1 scallion, cut into 1/8″ rounds (both white and green part)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 chopped cashews or peanuts

Dressing:

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp rice vinegar (cider vinegar would also be fine, I think)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 large garlic cloves, crushed

DIRECTIONS

Cut cabbage lengthwise a few times, then cut very thin slices. Add cabbage and and cucumber into a colander and toss with the salt. Leave to drain.

Start water boiling in a small saucepan, add noodles and cook 5-10 seconds. Drain and rinse with cool water. Cut noodles into smaller sections with a scissors. If you are using other noodles, cook as directed on the package, then drain and rinse with cool water. You want to end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked noodles.

Mix dressing ingredients well in a small bowl. Taste and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Gently press cabbage and cucumber to remove some of the water. You can also squeeze it gently in your hand. Place in a large bowl, and add noodles, carrots, scallions and cilantro. Pour dressing over and toss to coat Toss into a large bowl, and top with nuts.

Serve immediately. Yum.

End of Summer Pasta with Zucchini and Spinach

Last night, as I started making Mushroom Ravioli with Spinach from JuliasAlbum.com for a potluck at a friend’s house, I realized that what I thought was ravioli in the freezer was actually Chinese Dumplings and the mushrooms were sludge.

But I did have some nice pasta, fresh spinach and a giant zucchini from my neighbors Amy and Steve, so I switched it up and made Pasta with Zucchini and Spinach. It was delicious and bonus point: another way to enjoy excess end-of-summer zucchini!

Ingredients:

1 lb Trottole or any other nice chunky pasta, cooked al dente
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter
a sprig of Rosemary and a few sprigs of Thyme, or a generous pinch of dried Rosemary and 1/4 tsp dried Thyme.
4-5 cups thinly sliced Zucchini (If really large, cut into quarters first.)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
5 oz. spinach (I’d be happy doubling this.)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed or 1 generous tsp garlic powder
1 large pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente stage and drain, saving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

In a large frying pan, heat butter and olive oil on medium heat with Rosemary and Thyme. Add zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes with the oil they came in. Sauté for several minutes, until the zucchini have broken down quite a bit and are mostly translucent. They will reduce a lot in volume. Remove herb stems.

Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Then add spinach in batches, continuously stirring and folding so the spinach wilts.

Add in the pasta and 1/4 cup of pasta water to start and stir to coat the pasta with the veggies. Add more pasta water if it seems too dry. Check seasonings and serve immediately.

For a vegan version, skip the butter and just use olive oil.

Salad with Warm Pasta and Balsamic Vinaigrette

With all the great fresh veggies available right now, we’ve been eating lots of salads. Having a warm element in a salad some how makes it feel like a main dish, and tonight it was Spinach and cheese Tortellini.

That contrast of temperatures, textures and colors takes an ordinary salad to something really quite amazing. I also had some lovely baby radishes from my friend Gene, so with a good drizzle of my favorite balsamic vinaigrette, it was a perfect summer supper!

Ingredients

1/2 lb. fresh Tortellini (any kind)
1 tsp olive oil
Good pinch kosher salt
Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
pinch of garlic powder

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes (about 1/4 cup)
8-10 baby radishes, halved (if larger, quartered)

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (Costco’s is amazingly good)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2/3 tsp dijon mustard
1/3 tsp honey
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cook Tortellini as directed on package.

Chop lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and radishes, and mix gently in a large bowl.

Mix all ingredients for vinaigrette in a mason jar and shake like crazy.

When Tortellini is cooked, drain water and toss pasta in a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

To serve, place salad in a wide flat bowl, sprinkle with several warm Tortellini and drizzle everything with dressing.

Yum!

Baked Eggplant & Tomatoes with Pesto

This is a delicious dish that looks gorgeous, but is very easy and really ticks all the boxes for me! The eggplant gets all creamy and the cheese gets all melty, and the pesto gets all… pesto-ey. Well, you get the point.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, stem end removed and sliced lengthwise in 1/2″ slices (save end pieces for another use)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Pesto
4-5 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/2″ slices (Any tomato is actually fine.)
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper the sliced eggplants and place in a bowl, leaning on the edge so the water can run off a bit from the eggplant. Let drain for at least 15 minutes.

Lay the first slice of eggplant in a 9×12 baking dish. Spread about 2 tsp of Pesto on the first slice. Top with a layer of tomatoes, and sprinkle on a spoonful each of Mozzarella and grated Romano. Slide the layer over until it is at an angle leaning on the side of the dish.

Repeat for the second layer, sliding eggplant over to partially overlap the first layer.

Continue with all remaining slices of eggplant. Sprinkle any remaining cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 20 minutes.

Serve hot – it’s so good!

Mel’s Kale & Chicken Salad

This is a super delicious, super satisfying salad from Mel’sKitchenCafé.com. I made it for lunch today and Ali, who had popped in for a bike ride with Kumy enjoyed it, too. It looks like a lot, but it was really just about enough for 3 servings as a main dish. It’s got enough crunch and texture to make it interesting and satisfying.

Fresh Kale by Deborah Rainford on Unsplash

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups cooked rice, slightly warm or at room temp. (Mel uses a wild rice blend, but I had Basmati in the fridge. Trade Joe’s has a great frozen rice blend that would be great, or you could use quinoa.
6 ounces (about 5 lightly packed cups) coarsely or finely chopped kale
5 boneless, skinless thicken thighs, cook, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium apple, cored and diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup Craisins
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 medium avocados, diced

Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS
Cook the rice according to package directions, and let cool to room temperature.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil, season chicken thighs, and cook thighs over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Flip over and cook another 4 minutes or so, or until the chicken is browning nicely and cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Cut into 1″ pieces.

At the same time, start a smaller nonstick skillet on a low heat and add slivered almonds, shaking occasionally so they toast on all sides.

Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a blender. Process until smooth and well-combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

Assemble the salad by placing the greens in the bottom of individual wide serving bowls. Top with rice, chicken, apples, almonds, Craisins, feta and avocados.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately.

NOTES
You can also use 3 cups rotisserie chicken, chopped up, in which case you don’t need any olive oil, or you could leave out the chicken altogether for a vegetarian dish.

Classic Pork (or Vegan) Stew from Southern Boys Dishes

With the arrival of Fall weather, I’m starting to think of stews again. I made this stew a while back and it was delicious! One of those recipes that you save in your inbox so you remember to make it again – rich, hearty and super flavorful.

Looking at the recipe recently, I realized it could be made vegan super easily – by substituting Seitan for Pork. Or you could honestly leave the meat out altogether and just enjoy it as a hearty veggie stew!

Ingredients

2 ½ pound boneless pork roast, cut into 1″ cubes
Or, for a vegan version, use 2 lbs. Seitan cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
2 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small leeks, white and green part thinly sliced
1 cup chopped shallots
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4″ pieces
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups chicken or veggie stock
1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
10 oz button mushrooms, halved
Chopped parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. In medium bowl, toss pork or Seitan cubes in flour, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Place one half on the pork or Seitan in an even layer in the dutch oven. Do not overcrowd. Brown for two to three minutes. Turn each piece and brown for two to three minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining pork or Seitan, transferring to plate when browned.
  3. Add leeks, shallots, and garlic to dutch oven and saute for two to three minutes until the leeks are wilted. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove browned bits.
  4. Add carrots, potatoes, chicken or veggie stock, tomatoes, vinegar, bay leaves, basil, oregano, thyme, two tsp salt, and one tsp pepper to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, mixing well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Add pork to the stew, cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
    (If using Seitan, see note below.)
  6. Add mushrooms and continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately garnished with chopped parsley.

Note: I believe Seitan can be added in the last 5 minutes of cooking, since it’s basically just being rewarmed. The gravy and delicious flavors will be coat the Seitan so it should be fine. (I’ve never cooked Seitan for a long time in liquid, like in a slow cooker though I’ve seen some recipes for it, so you could definitely try it.)

Oven-roasted Asparagus

Beautiful image from Oklahoma Academy Country Store on Unsplash

I planted Asparagus in a back corner of my garden several years ago and always kind of forgot about it, until it was a giant mass of ferns. Yesterday, I checked and there were 7-8 beautiful little stems coming up! So I harvested them and we had them for supper last night, using a recipe from Allrecipes.com. Really fresh asparagus is such a treat!

Ingredients

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1½ Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed into bite-sized pieces.

Preheat oven to 425. Mix everything in a bowl, and add asparagus. Pour out onto a baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes (longer if the stems are thicker). Remove from oven, and splash with just a bit more lemon juice.

Mustafa’s Daal (Lentils)

After visiting Kumy’s Mom at the beginning of last year, we were reminded how incredibly delicious Pakistani food is!  We were also lucky enough to learn how to make Daal from Mummy’s cook, Mustafa, who is an amazing cook.

It’s a fairly easy recipe, and uses a “bagaar” to add flavor.  It was one of the first things we made when we got back.  I’m happy to say it was just about as good as Mustafa’s and a welcome reminder of our visit back “home”.

Ingredients:

1 cup Masoor Daal (small, round, split red lentils)
1/2 cup Moong Daal (small, oval split yellow lentils)

4 cups water
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (add more if you dare – it was originally 1 1/4 tsp – but that was too hot!)
1/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 cup diced onions
3/4 cup diced tomato  (Can also substitute 1 can of Rotel Tomatoes for the tomato and jalapeno.)
1/2 jalapeno, diced, optional
1/4 cup cilantro, rough-chopped, optional

Bagaar:
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/4 tsp whole cumin
3 dry red chilis/peppers (small, round ones, but you can use two long red ones instead.)

Wash both daals well, swirling and rinsing until the water is mostly clear. Add to a large pot. Then add water, garlic, salt, cayenne, turmeric, onions and tomatoes. Cook 30-40 minutes.

Whisk well and add water to get a thick gravy consistency, as needed. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the daal, but be careful not to over do it. Add Jalapeno and Cilantro, and cook 10 minutes more.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil and add the rough-chopped garlic, cook for a minute and then add the dry red chilis/peppers and cumin seeds. Cook 30 seconds more and pour oil mixture right into the daal. Stir to combine and serve with basmati rice or Naan. Can also add a squeeze of lemon when serving if you wish.

New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John

It’s a Southern tradition to eat Hopping John (Black-eyed Pea Stew) on New Year’s Day for good luck all year, and this year, I’m not taking any chances!

I started with Ree Drummonds recipe. Ree adds a ham hock and says that you can also add a can of diced tomatoes, or a few cups of torn-up Kale. I skipped the ham hock, but may try the tomatoes or kale the next time I make it. If you don’t like black-eyed peas, it’s also good with black beans – it’s a great, comforting dish perfect for a cold Winter’s Day!

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter (or 2 Tbsp bacon drippings & 2 Tbsp olive oil) (Or just 4 Tbsp olive oil for a vegan version)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 14-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock (or veggie stock for vegan)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Good pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
White rice

Heat butter or bacon drippings and oil in a cast iron skillet. Add, onions, bell pepper and celery. Saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings. Don’t add the vinegar yet! Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook 30 minutes. Remove lid, stir and let cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vinegar and stir. Check seasonings. Serve in a bowl over hot rice.