12.28.2014

Quick Tomato Soup

How was everyone's Christmas?  I hope you enjoyed time with family and had save travels.  This year, Kevin and I went to his family's in Sequim, WA.  No White Christmas to be found, unfortunately, but still a lovely time.

I got quite a few kitchen goodies over Christmas from my parents, Kevin's family, and Kevin, including a large glass measuring bowl (8 cups! with a lid!), two cookbooks (Thug Kitchen and The New Fast Food), a Washington shaped cutting board, a large Kitchenaid mesh strainer, and a new pizza baking stone.  I'm so excited to try out and use all my new items....

But for now, we are spending some time relaxing and watching football.  (Have I mentioned that I'm in the Championship game for my Fantasy Football league?!)  So today, I needed a quick recipe that I could whip up in less than 15 minutes during the morning game's halftimes.  Since we have been traveling a bit, our fridge is a little bare, and no way was I going to run out to the grocery store. ;)

Quick Tomato Soup
Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 3-4 servings


Ingredients:
        1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups pre-cooked)
        1 can diced tomatoes
        1.5 cups water (more to thin)
        1/4 cup raw cashews
        2 cloves garlic
        1 roasted red bell pepper
        1 tsp cumin
        1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
        black pepper to taste

Instructions:
1.)  In a high speed blender, blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy, adding water 1/2 cup at a time until desired consistency.
2.)  Heat the soup using one of the following methods:
Blender heated option (Blendtek, Vitamix, etc.):  Continue to blend on high until the soup is warm and steamy.
Stovetop option:  Pour desired amount of soup into a saucepan and heat on medium heat on the stovetop.
3.)  Store leftovers in an airtight container.  When reheating leftovers, you may need to add more water to thin.

Amy's Notes:
This soup is wonderfully creamy, and surprisingly filling.  Feel free to top with fresh herbs, green onions, nutritional yeast, etc.

Note that there are two different options to heat the soup once it is blended.  Those with a crazy-powerful blender will be able to heat the soup by blending in just a few minutes.  I have a blender that is great for making things creamy, but doesn't quite have that umph, so I heated mine on the stove.

One thing I love about this soup, other than how quickly it comes together, is that it doesn't require any cutting or chopping.  Just toss the ingredients in, blend and yum!

After finishing the soup, I realized that it would also be an excellent pasta sauce if it isn't thinned by water too much.  This soup would also be very easy to freeze.

*Sorry for the untidy photo.
 I got about halfway through my bowl when
I realized that I NEEDED to share this with you guys. :)

Health and Happiness,

Amy

12.19.2014

Mexican Polenta

Wow!  I can't believe how the weeks have gone by!  Work has been crazy busy with prepping everything for the new year since I have the weeks of Christmas and New Years off.  In the evenings after work, Kevin and I have been working to finish homemade gifts for our families and going to the gym more recently.

Since we have been so busy, I have been relying HEAVILY on my Instant Pot pressure cooker to make my meals of soups, stews, grains, and beans.  My parents came to visit us from across the state to have our Christmas together since Kevin and I are going to his parents' this year.  I had crossed my fingers to get two cookbooks I had really wanted.  One was The Thug Kitchen Cookbook (vegan, Nutritarian adaptable, and 100% hilarious), and the other was Jill Nussinow's cookbook, The New Fast Food (a nutritarian pressure cooking essential).

I have read through most of The New Fast Food, and all of the recipes sound wonderful, but I don't have some things on hand to make the ones I wanted to try (trying to limit grocery shopping since we are going out of town next week), so I adapted one of her recipes for polenta to create my own.  From her recipe I used her general measurements of corn grits to liquid, and used similar amounts of onion and fresh herbs, although drastically different kinds.  I added the spices that happen to be my favorite found in Mexican cuisine.

Mexican Polenta
Recipe adapted from The New Fast Food by Jill Nussinow, Herbed Polenta recipe
Time: 5 minutes prep, 5 minutes at high pressure, 10 minutes natural pressure release
Servings: 3 main servings, 6 appetizer servings


Ingredients:
        1 bunch sliced green onion (approx. one cup, greens and whites)
        2 tsp minced garlic
        2 cups vegetable broth
        2 cups boiling water
        1 cup corn meal/grits
        1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
        1 Tbsp chili powder
        1 tsp cumin
        1 tsp oregano
        1/2 tsp smoked paprika
        1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
     
        fresh cilantro to garnish

Instructions:
1.)  In your pressure cooker, saute the green onion and minced garlic until fragrant (approximately 2-4 minutes), only adding a small amount of water as needed.
2.)  Add in the vegetable broth, boiling water, corn meal, cilantro, and spices.  Stir to mix.
3.)  Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure (manual, high pressure) for 5 minutes.
4.)  After 5 minutes is up, press cancel to stop the warming feature (or remove from heat if you are using a stovetop pressure cooker), and allow for a natural pressure release for 10 minutes.  Quick release any remaining pressure after 10 minutes.
5.)  Stir and serve as is, or place into a glass dish (or dishes) to set.

Amy's Notes:
My version of this recipe might not be the prettiest color, but my goodness, the flavors are phenomenal.  After portioning out the polenta into glass dishes, you better believe I licked that bowl clean!

What I love about this recipe is that it doesn't have salt... and you would have never known.  Not that the recipe tastes extra salty, but the green onion, garlic, cilantro, and spices give it such dimension that salt would never be needed.

When I ate more of the polenta the next day, I had it warmed up with fajita black beans, onions, and bell peppers.  Sorry, no picture, but trust me... it was WOW!

For next time, I think I will try making the same recipe, but instead of portioning it out into bowls, I will use my old cookie dough scooper and my silicon non-stick baking mat to make little polenta balls, each to top with a sprinkle of paprika and a sprig of cilantro.  How pretty would that look for an appetizer at a party!?

For tips on how to make this recipe without a pressure cooker, review how to cook stovetop polenta here (don't add the salt, butter, or cheese... obviously ;)).  You may need to add more water while cooking to adjust for evaporation that doesn't occur in pressure cooking.  Also remember that the actual cooking time will be longer than it is for the PC.


Health and Happiness,

Amy

12.03.2014

Rosemary and Olive White Bean Spread

I made this dip just before we went to Spokane for Thanksgiving.  I had had some white beans I wanted to use up before our trip across state and knew I would be able to bring along the dip to share with my family in the cooler we were packing.

This dip is great for a party, and with the particular olives I used, it gave the dip little specks of green and red.  Very Christmas-y, yes?  If you are just making the dip for your own household use, I would suggest making only a half batch.

What I love best about this recipe is that it has that zing that lemon gives traditional hummus, but without the need to get out your lemon juicer.  However, beware that, depending on the type of olive you use, most come in a pickled form that has quite a bit of salt already added in.  If you are trying to watch your salt intake, perhaps you could rinse off your olives before chopping and blending.

Rosemary and Olive White Bean Dip
Time: 10 minutes
Servings: party-size


Ingredients:
    Bean Dip:
        2-16 oz cans white beans, rinsed and drained (approximately 3 cups cooked beans)
        3/4 cup green olives
        1/2 cup raw cashews
        1/3+ cup water
        2 tsp dried rosemary
        black pepper to taste

    Dip Topping:
        1/4 cup green olives, roughly chopped
        1 tsp dried rosemary

Instructions:
1.)  In a food processor, process 1 can of beans with the cashews and water until smooth and creamy.
2.)  Add the second can of beans and continue to process until smooth and creamy.
3.)  Add the green olives, rosemary, and black pepper, and process until relatively smooth, with a few small chunks of olive.
4.)  Place into a large serving dish and sprinkle with chopped green olives and additional rosemary.  Serve with veggies and whole grain crackers to dip.

Amy's Notes:
Like I said above, be careful with how salty the olives are that you add to the recipe.  If you find that your food processor has a hard time getting cashew pieces to become really creamy, I would suggest soaking them for a few hours before processing.


Health and Happiness,

Amy