Monday, July 21, 2014

Vacation Soup

Vacation Soup
I call this soup "Vacation Soup" for a few reasons:
1) It's easy to make when you're on vacation.
2) It's a good vacation from heavy, rich food, but still substantial.
3) It's a great vacation for a cook who doesn't feel like cooking.

It's super easy and super quick to make, only requires 3 ingredients - including water- and can be made in a hot pot type appliance in a college dorm, military barracks, or hotel room (fire code permitting, of course!)

We eat this soup a lot when we are on vacation - it's easy to make in a kitchenette, and doesn't require a stocked pantry. At the end of a long day of visiting or sight-seeing, it's easy & fast & satisfying. And, we all like it. A lot. We serve a plate of  fresh veggies & olives alongside to make a complete meal.

I was inspired to make this when I visited a family member in a nursing home, and saw that the residents were routinely passing up the regular fare (which looked quite good) to order a soup like this one. It made me think of one of my Mom's old standbys. The first time I served it, my little daughter asked if I might schedule it into our menu for every Monday from now on!

Here's the recipe:

Vacation Soup
1 liter (or one quart) of boiling water
2 large cubes of Vegetable Bouillon (such as Maggi or Knorr)
1/2 pound (1/4 Kilo) of Fideo type Pasta (if Fideo is unavailable, break Angel Hair into 1" pieces)
Simmer for about 7 minutes, or till pasta is done the way you like it .

Serve. (Some like to add a dash of lemon juice to taste at the table)

Variations: Add your favorite frozen vegetables or dried mushrooms to the boiling water before adding the pasta. The pictured soup includes Broccoli & dried Shiitake Mushrooms - I cut the Mushrooms into bite-sized pieces with kitchen shears just before serving. (But, we most commonly eat just the noodles and broth without the veggie additions.)

Tip for dining with Omnivores: Add diced cooked chicken before serving, or serve a cold cheese, salami & cracker tray alongside.

This is being shared at:
The Art of Homemaking Mondays
 What'd You Do This Weekend

Monday, July 14, 2014

Easy Yeast Bread in the Slow Cooker

 Artisan Bread from the Slow Cooker
In the Summer, I don't like to turn on the oven, but I do like fresh yeast bread that I can slice. It's wonderful to make a loaf of fresh bread in the slow cooker, and it only takes a tiny bit of hands-on time. If no rain is expected, I cook this out on the balcony, so that it doesn't heat up my house at all!

Slow Cooker Yeast Bread
First, prepare dough according to this recipe
Or, if you prefer Whole Wheat, use this one
Easy Artisan Whole Wheat Bread Dough
(Don't be intimidated! This recipe is so easy, simply measure, stir, and wait!)

Once dough is ready, tear off a piece of parchment paper about 1 1/2 feet long (1/2 Meter) . Shape bread as for Boule, and place on the center of the paper. Slash if desired (this isn't strictly necessary in slow cooker bread). Lower the paper, dough and all, into the crock. Press Paper away from the dough and against the edges of the crock (so the bread has a little room to expand in the crock).

Dough Positioned in Crock with Parchment

Sprinkle dough with sesame seeds or other topping if desired. Cover with the crock lid, with 2 paper towels snugly lining the lid. The paper towels absorb the moisture as it evaporates during bread baking, and keeps it from "raining" on the bread while it bakes.

Crock Lid lined with Paper Towels

Place  Slow Cooker with Bread in a warm place to rise for 30 to 60 minutes without turning it on. Then, without opening, turn Slow Cooker on High, and cook for 2 hours. At the end of the two hours, check to see if bread looks done (the top should look barely done, and spring back from the touch - it will not be quite as golden brown like bread from an oven). If it's not quite done, let it cook for 15 or so minutes more (the second time you make it, you should know precisely how long it will take in your machine).

Carefully lift finished bread out of crock using parchment paper. Remove from paper, and cool on wire rack or other place where air can circulate to cool the bread without it becoming soggy. The Bread will be darker on the bottom than it is on the top, and crunchy. The bottom can become tough if allowed to cook too long.

Slice & Enjoy!

This is being shared at:
In & Out of the Kitchen 
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
The Yuck Stops Here
Try a New Recipe Tuesday
Penny Pinching Party 
Fabulously Frugal Thursday 
Inspire Us Thursday
Home Acre Hop 

The Crispy Bottom Crust of Bread from the Slow Cooker

Monday, July 7, 2014

Easy, Cool & Creamy Summer Oats ( Muesli )

Easy, Cool & Creamy Summer Oats ( Muesli )
I always loved Oats when I was a kid. I have always had a major sweet tooth, so I liked either "Instant Oatmeal" (which should be called Instant-Sugar-Rush), or if homemade, I had a little Oatmeal with my sugar. ; )

As I became more health conscious, I sought to reduce my excessive sugar intake some, and I found this way to prepare Oats that is sweetened with naturally occurring sugars rather than processed ones, but still as tasty as that stuff I ate when I was a kid. Even better, it's cool & creamy instead of warm and, um, sticky. But wait, there's more! You can throw this together in the evening, and the next morning, you or your kids can pull a ready-made breakfast from the fridge : ) But, if you really crave the hot stuff, you can warm this up in the microwave before eating it.

This is a standby summer breakfast for me. I've been making it for about 20 years now. I cannot recall for sure, but I think I started out with a recipe from Burgers 'n Fries 'n Cinnamon Buns by Bobbie Hinman, and over the years adapted & simplified it.

Here's the Recipe

Cool & Creamy Summer Oats ( Muesli )

1 ½ Cups Oats ( Old Fashioned or Quick )
1 Cup Non Dairy Milk
1 Cup Apple Juice
Cinnamon (about ½ tsp)
Raisins (lots)
Leave in fridge overnight, eat cold in the morning (or, make at least 15 minutes before eating )

Yield: about 3 cups 

This recipe is infinitely variable. You can substitute Cardamom for the Cinnamon. Dried Figs or Dates or Apricots instead of - or in addition to - the Raisins. Top with your favorite fresh, seasonal Berries or Fruit just before serving. Add nuts if you like. If you like your Raisins chewy, rather than plump, add them just before eating.

If you want a fancier presentation (or want to delight your kids) you can put out several topping bowls and let each Breakfast-er top his or her own.

This is being shared at:
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural

Monday, June 30, 2014

Super Simple Guacamole

Super Simple Guacamole
This guacamole is SO easy to make - and delicious! If you've ever bought one of those overpriced "Guacamole Mixes," you'll kick yourself when you see how easy this is!

I don't usually measure to make this, but I measured last time I made it so I could record proportions here. Don't hesitate to just make it to taste. You may prefer yours very spicy, or very tart, or more garlicky - make it the way you like it, using this as a guideline:

Seed, remove peel and mash with fork
1 ripe Avocado (it should barely give when you squeeze it - rather like a ripe banana, but not be soft and mushy)

Add the following to taste:
Lime Juice till creamy texture is reached (I used 2 teaspoons)
Taco Seasoning to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon - you can use homemade at link or store bought)

Garlic Salt to taste (I used a pinch - about 1/8 teaspoon)
That's it!

Additionally, you can add if you like:
Diced Tomato
Finely Diced Red (or other) Onion
(these ingredients not only add a lovely texture & flavour, they also reduce the fat content, cost, and calories per serving)

Besides having a wonderful flavour and being super easy, this recipe allows you to control allergens and unhealthy additives (Did you know that some commercial Guacamole has added Mayonnaise to optimize the manufacturer's profits? Yuck!)

This is the method I use for pitting & peeling Avocadoes - but I do have friends who have cut themselves by removing the pit this way. If you'd rather not use the knife method, scooping the pit out with a spoon also works quite well, but with much less risk.

This is being shared at
In & Out of the Kitchen 
Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural 
Fabulously Frugal Thursday

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mediterranean Farro Salad

Mediterranean Farro Salad
This is a wonderful entree salad. Filling, chewy, tasty - simple to prepare.

Mediterranean Farro Salad
(Measuring is not necessary - amounts here are approximate)
Cook According to Package Directions. Farro cooking time can vary based on whether you use pearled Farro or not.
1 Pound Farro
Drain if necessary

1/2 Cup Sliced Black Olives
1/2 Cup Sliced Green Olives
2 Tablespoons Capers
1 Cup Diced Tomato
1 Cup Diced Cucumber
1/2 Cup Simply Greek Salad Dressing  (Regular or Fat Free)
1/2 teaspoon Seasoning Blend of your choice - or to taste (I used Mrs. Dash Table Blend)

Toss & Serve. May be served immediately, or stored in fridge to serve later.

Make Ahead Tips: Farro may be boiled ahead of time, and stored, cooked, in refrigerator or freezer. Simply Greek Dressing may be made ahead of time and stored in refrigerator.

Tip for dining with Omnivores: This dish makes a great side to take to a summer barbecue to serve alongside Grilled Meats.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Simply Jicama

Simply Jicama
Jicama is a great veggie, but one that a lot of Americans have never tried. It wasn't SO long ago that I first tried it. It's tasty, high in nutrition, low in calories, and, reasonably inexpensive.

The flesh of Jicama is crunchy, somewhat like carrots or water chestnuts, and has a nice, not very assertive flavor. It's cool & refreshing in summer, but delicious any time of year.

I like to serve Jicama when we're having Mexican food at home. It adds an authentic touch, it's a great appetizer or side dish, and keeps the chips and salsa damage down a little.

If, like me, you sometimes just need something to mindlessly crunch on at meal time, this is a great choice!

When preparing Jicama, cut very carefully, and always keep the knife blade pointed away from your hands on this one- Jicama is hard & crunchy and can make your knife slide.

Simply Jicama
Cut Jicama in half with a large knife, creating two hemispheres.
Place cut side down on the cutting board, and cut off the outer husk with the knife, holding vegetable at the top, while cutting downward around the outside perimeter of the hemisphere, then carefully removing top of the husk with the knife.
Cut the flesh into French Fry Shapes
Sprinkle Jicama sticks with Lime Juice (Lemon Juice will also work in a pinch)
Sprinkle with Garlic Salt
Sprinkle with your choice of spice (I use either Chili Powder* or Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle)

Serve chilled, or at room temperature.

*Note for International cooks: The Chili Powder I mention here is the American Style Spice blend that is mildly hot & spicy, that is used to make the American Stew called Chili- not the very hot Cayenne Pepper. Any Southwestern American inspired spice blend should work here, depending on what is available. You can also use just a dash of Cayenne, if hot & spicy is your thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Veggie & Olive Sandwich

Veggie & Olive Sandwich
This sandwich was originally made for me by my dear Sister-in-Law. It's not just everyone who can pack a lunch for a Vegan and do such a great job! It's simple to make, and super tasty.

Veggie & Olive Sandwich
On your choice of bread or toast:
Spread with Kalamata Olive Spread*
Sliced Fresh Tomatoes
Sliced Cucumber
Crunchy Lettuce

That's it! It's incredibly delicious!

*Kalamata Olive Spread is available in many brands - usually in the Mediterranean section of the grocery here in the U.S. Brands I enjoy are Iliada & Divina, as well as Peloponnese.
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