Since it’s been quite cool around here these days, it just seems like soup weather. Reading on Facebook that so many friends were pulling out their crockpots to make soup gave me the incentive to play around with an old favorite. I’ve used the usual bean recipe but tweaked it with what happened to be in the fridge. Take heed and use up what you have lying around and you’ll find all kinds of great combinations you wouldn’t have tried before. Leeks and black beans? Yup. Kale and pine nuts? Yup. Just give it a try. I will admit I’ve made some real stinkers in the past, but that’s the price you pay, Dear Chef, for experimenting. The majority of the time you come up with a winner.
Leek and Bean Soup
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 carrots, sliced
1 red pepper (or 5-6 small, sweet red peppers)
3 cans black beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 cups veggie broth
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup frozen corn
1. Saute leeks, carrots and peppers until soft-about 10 minutes.
2. Pour the rest of the ingredients (except corn) into the crockpot and turn on high.
3. Pour veggies into crock pot, mix and cover.
4. Cook for 3 hours on high or 5 hours on medium.
5. Remove about 1.5 cups of the soup and set aside. Take an immersion blender and smooth out the rest of the soup in the pot.
6. Add retained soup and corn back to crockpot and stir. Wait about 5 minutes for corn to warm up.
7. At this point, add salt and taste. Adding salt while cooking beans can make them tough, so wait until the end to add it.
7. Serve with shredded cheese (optional) and tortilla chips. This soup comes out so thick, we use the tortilla chips and scoop it up like a dip. Hmmm, there’s an idea.
You may recognize this as the soup we usually add Taco Bell taco sauce into. Today, I decided to go without and add my own spices. It came out with a great texture and just enough bite without making it too spicy. Feel free to add tabasco or more hot sauce if you want. I prefer to make it mild to start with.
Since there are very few places we can head out to for a slice of pizza, what’s a GF girl to do when she wants a slice? What if I don’t want to make an entire pizza? What if I want it now, not after making it myself and letting it proof, spread it out, etc.?
I found the answer, at least here in Phoenix. Visit Gluten Free Creations (glutenfreecreations.com) in Phoenix and buy their Italian Pizza Crusts. There are 15 or 30 in a bag. They are individual sized, or enough for two if you eat a little at a time. I’ve been breaking them in half lately and baking the equivalent of one slice of pizza lately. It’s the perfect size, and since I keep them in the freezer it breaks right in half very easily.
Why, other than their convenience right out of the freezer, do I like them so much? They taste great. They are crispy around the edges with the right amount of chewiness and just the right amount of oregano inside. They work with any topping and can be baked in about 10 minutes, no mixing involved. Tonight we had five teenagers hanging out and ordered pizzas, I baked mine in 10 minutes and we all had pizza together.
Some of my favorite toppings…
+ cheese and tomato sauce
+ red onion, mozzarella and toasted pistachios (try it, it’s very good)
+ garlic, tomatoes and spinach
+ mushrooms and spinach
+ roasted corn and spinach
It all depends on what you like, as I’m sure you know dear Chef. I make sure to put the pizza in the oven on a large cooling rack. This way it’s not touching the oven rack and it still gets the heat all the way around.
First off, Merry Christmas to all my readers. I hope your day is lovely, and your year is even better. May your year be stress-free, full of love and contain lots of hugs.
On to the food- For the first time, we decided to have brunch rather than dinner with the family for Christmas. Since we’re all up early anyway, why not all be together? It’s much less stressful this way and we all get to enjoy each other’s company. Grandma, Niece and Niece’s SO joined Daughter, Husband and me for brunch in the morning. We opened gifts, drank mimosas with fresh OJ (4 trees right outside, you gotta’ love Phoenix in winter), and ate till we dropped. It was a lovely day, low stress, easy food and plenty of hugs for everyone. There was even a hoola-hoop competition after brunch (Grandma rocked!)
I know it’s a cardinal sin to try a new recipe on company, but today it worked out beautifully. With quiche tarts and fruit salad, we needed something else. I found a box of Gluten Free Pantry Coffee Cake mix in the cabinet and we gave it a try. After tweaking it a little, it turned out magnificent. The cake was moist and fluffy with a crunchy sweet topping I remember from my gluten-eating days. I felt as if I were cheating-it was that good. Even my husband, who would rather not eat GF if he doesn’t have to, ended up eating 3 pieces and commenting on how great it was. Trust me, make this cake and nobody will know it’s GF or I’m your monkey’s uncle…(is that the right way to say that?) Anyway, you’ll love it.
Christmas Coffee Cake
For the box recipe, you’ll need:
1 egg/ 1 yolk
3/4 cup Yogurt or Buttermilk (I used regular milk, didn’t have rice milk)
Butter (just a few tablespoons)
Gluten Free Vanilla
Gluten Free Pantry Coffee Cake Mix
My additions were:
1 cup chopped Trader Joe’s candied pecans
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
8 inch Spring Form pan
Just make the cake according to the directions. Add my additions to the topping mix and follow the directions from there. In just a few minutes, you’ve got a wonderful coffee cake to bring to a tea with friends or have with your honey when you have coffee in the morning. The best thing about this cake is that I made it the night before and it was still moist and fluffy the next day. Crazy in the GF world, right?
Throughout the ages, we’re all looking for that great, quick soup recipe. Well, here it is. This is the reason for buying a crockpot, just to make this soup. I must give credit to the original recipe-I found it on crockpot365.com. I did have to tweak it, you know that’s the way I roll. I love using a crockpot since the work is done for you. Follow the recipe and you can’t go wrong (unlike the mushroom/broccoli risotto fiasco just a week ago in the crockpot. I won’t even tell you how that turned out. Let’s just say we all make mistakes!)
Awesome Black Bean Soup
3 cans black beans, drained
1 can stewed tomatoes, do not drain
2 cups veggie broth
6-9 packets Taco Bell mild taco sauce (yes, I’m not kidding)
1 TBS cumin
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup frozen corn
shredded cheese (optional)
1. Pour all ingredients except corn and cheese into crockpot. (I usually spray the inside just to try and make cleanup easier).
2. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, medium for 8-10 hours.
3. At the end of the cook time, take out two cups of soup (trying not to get too many tomatoes) and use an immersion blender to blend it till smooth.
4. Return the reserved soup and frozen corn.
5. Cook for about 5 minutes to warm corn.
6. Serve with shredded Mexican cheese if you want, or even tortilla chips.
My daughter loves to scoop the soup with tortilla chips. I prefer to just eat it with a slight pinch of cheese. Husband adds a boatload of tabasco. Whatever floats your boat, dear chef. And I tend to double the recipe if I’m bringing it to a potluck. It goes over very big and is one of the first things to be empty.
Our local CSA basket has had some wonderful golden beets lately. Since my partner in veggies doesn’t care for beets, I’m in heaven each week they are in the basket. Simple-olive oil, salt, pepper in a foil wrap and bake in a 400-degree oven for about an hour. Open and enjoy. I know there are so many other things you can do with beets, and I’ve done them, but nothing beats just roasting in the oven and eating warm. Yum! I can’t wait for Wednesdays and I’m bummed when there are no beets. Rainbow chard is also a favorite in the basket, but I know, dear chef, that you’ve seen what I can do with that.
I highly recommend ordering a basket of locally grown veggies. Not only are you supporting a local business, but the time from dirt to your plate is minimal, not weeks. The vitamins are stronger, taste is better and chemicals are non-existent. Try it, you’ll be helping the environment, your body, and a local business. And your cooking chops will be tested each week you open the box and say, “What the heck is that?” Cook it and find out.
I made a quiche tart with the spinach and beets in the basket, as well as the free-range organic eggs that week. So yummy, fresh and good for you. Just spray a tart pan, cook spinach and some onion until soft. Add eggs (I use 2 eggs and 4 egg whites) and pour into pan with veggies, then add some cheese if you want. (Fontina melts great). Then space a few beets on top and bake for about 35 minutes. Yummy!