Farm Fresh: Spicy Celery Root Soup

Image courtesy of Blake Royer

Image courtesy of Blake Royer

With no less than 8 ugly celery roots residing in my refrigerator, I needed a recipe. With the cool autumn weather settling in, this warm and hearty soup caught my eye. The chile adds a pleasing warmth for cool, damp days.

Ingredients
1 Medium onion, finely chopped
1 Red chile, finely chopped and seeds removed (leave some or all of the seeds for a spicier soup)
2 -3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Ground coriander
1 1/2 lbs Celeriac, peeled,trimmed and cut into cubes
3 Cups Chicken broth
1 Cup Water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper (I use 1 tsp salt and 1/2-3/4 tsp pepper)
1/3 Cup Light cream
Fresh coriander or parsley for garnish, chopped

In a large pot, sauté the onion, chili and garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat. Stir in the cumin and coriander, and season with salt and pepper. Add the celeriac, chicken broth and water.

Bring up to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or just until the celeriac is cooked.

Remove from the heat and use a handblender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the cream, adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed,and ladle into bowls. Top with a few chopped coriander or parsley leaves if desired, and serve immediately.

Alternately, allow the soup to cool, pour into pint sized wide-mouth jars or other freezer safe containers and freeze.

Adapted from Creamy Curried Celery Root Soup and Celeriac Soup with Coriander and Chiles.

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Farm Fresh: Hearty Butternut Squash Soup

Photo courtesy of Taste of Home

Photo courtesy of Taste of Home

I’m quite a bit behind on my “Farm Fresh” posts for the year. Luckily, the early fall produce we received in our CSA shares at the end of the season will be available for a few more months.

I’ve never had much of an interest in squash. With the exception of a newly discovered affinity for acorn squash filled with butter and brown sugar, I still don’t enjoy it much. Receiving two large butternut squash in our CSA share felt like the universe challenging me to really give it a chance. My mother taught me to try at least one bite of everything put in front of me, and I’ve learned through experience that tastes change and it’s possible to find at least one method to make almost any food edible (and sometimes even enjoyable). Apparently, butternut squash was made for soup! This one is smooth, creamy, rich, slightly spicy, and extremely flavorful. It is one of my favorite soups. I made one batch to try, and a second days later to freeze. We finished up the last of it a few days ago and I’m making yet another batch for the freezer. This soup has become a staple in my house!

Ingredients
1 pound Italian sausage
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 medium Red bell pepper, chopped
4 Garlic cloves, minced
1 large Butternut squash (about 5 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 package (16 ounces) Frozen cauliflower
4 cups Chicken broth
1 cup cooked great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup frozen corn (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Light cream and minced fresh parsley (optional)

In a large pot, cook the sausage, onion and red pepper over medium heat 9-11 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink and the onion is tender, breaking the sausage into crumbles. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Remove with a slotted spoon; discard drippings.

Add the squash, cauliflower, and chicken broth to the same pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 15-20 minutes or until squash is tender.

Remove from heat and cool slightly. Process in batches in a blender until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot. Add beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper, sausage mixture and corn (if desired); heat through. If desired, drizzle servings with cream and sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 12 servings (4-1/2 quarts).

Freeze option: Freeze cooled soup in wide-mouth quart-sized jars. To use, partially thaw the soup in the refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.

Adapted from Hearty Butternut Squash Soup in Taste of Home September/October 2013, p3-6.

Honey Oat Bread (Gluten-free)

SlicedLoaf
Bread and I have an interesting history. I began my life eating white bread, as did most children in the 80s. I was never one for the limp, dry crust, so my mother kindly removed it by cutting my sandwiches into circles and other creative shapes using cookie cutters. I was popular at lunch time! As the anti-white bread movement picked up steam in the 90s, my mother decided to switch us to potato and whole wheat breads. By whole wheat, I don’t mean the beautiful quality grainy breads that are available today. I’m talking about the bread that was little more than caramel colored white bread.

Eventually, I found my way to the beautiful whole grain breads with tangible bits of grain. Twelve-grain and honey oat breads became staples in my home. I had finally fallen in love with bread. I had my first experience with homemade bread when I was sick and a lovely older lady from my church brought over a freshly baked loaf and some chicken soup for me. WOW! If I had been in love with bread before, I was now over the moon. Sadly, the love affair ended when I became intolerant to wheat about two years ago.

Then, something amazing happened. I met a young woman with a ton of food allergies herself, including many of my own (wheat and corn among them) and she suggested a wheat and corn-free oat bread that she buys from a local health food store. While that sounded appealing (and a personal endorsement of a gluten-free product is important to me), I knew there had to be a way to make it myself. I found this recipe for Gluten-free Honey Oat Bread and it has been a minor miracle. It’s hearty, perfectly textured, wheat and corn-free, delicious, and amazingly easy! Even better, most of the ingredients are things I keep around the house anyways. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

Ingredients
2 scant Tbsp yeast
1 1/2 Cups Warm water
1/4 Cup Olive oil
1/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp Honey (Agave may be substituted, see below**)
3 1/3 Cups Oat flour* (10.6 oz)
1/2 Cup Rice flour* (2.8 oz)
1/2 Cup Corn starch (or tapioca flour)
2 tsp Xanthan gum (for a xanthan gum replacement, I like this)
1 tsp Salt
4 Eggs, warmed to room temperature

Preheat the oven to 200° F. Line a 10 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and spray well with cooking spray.

Combine the yeast and water (105-115° F) and allow to sit for several minutes until the surface begins to foam. Add the oil, honey (or agave), flours, starch, and xanthan gum (or alternative) and beat until combined (do not use bread hooks). Add the salt and eggs. Beat for a few minutes minutes more until dough appears fluffy. Pour into the parchment lined loaf pan.

RisenDoughCover the loaf pan with a damp cloth. Turn the oven off, and place both the loaf pan and a shallow pan containing a small amount of water into the warmed oven. Allow the dough to rise for 20 to 30 minutes until doubled, checking after 20 minutes.

SlicedBreadWhen the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and increase the temperature to 350° F. Sprinkle the top of the risen loaf with some more oats and cut a few slits in the top with a serrated knife. Bake for about 45 minutes. Removed the bread from the pan immediately and place on a wire rack. Allow to cool before cutting.
 
 
*You can make your own oat or rice flour by grinding dried oats or rice in a blender or food processor until they become a fine powder. When grinding my own, I found that the oat flour felt like a very fine powder and the rice flour retained a slightly gritty texture.

**If using agave nectar, reduce the temperature by 25° F and increase the baking time. The bread is done when the internal temperature reaches 200° F.

Bacon Wrapped Pickles

Bacon Wrapped Pickle
This may seem like an incredibly unlikely post for a blog that attempts some kind of health consciousness. However, I’ve had a rough couple of days and I needed something special. I was talking to a friend about wanting comfort foods including pickles and bacon. Somehow, we ended up joking about bacon wrapped pickles. The joke became an idea and the idea became a reality. The universal “they” does say that bacon makes everything better, right?

Here is the “health conscious part” (Notice how health conscious is in quotes? I’m completely rationalizing this unhealthy behavior, but it’s totally worth it for a bacon wrapped pickle!): Everything is made from scratch!

Ingredients
1 Dill pickle spear (recipe)
1 Slice bacon

Wrap the pickle with the slice of bacon, securing the bacon ends to the ends of the pickle with toothpicks if necessary.

Heat a pan over medium, add the bacon wrapped pickle, and fry on all sides until crispy.

Enjoy your bacon wrapped pickle. You’re welcome.

(P.S. I suspect this will become the next big thing at those southern fairs where fried food reigns. Move over Fried KoolAid; Bacon Wrapped Pickles are here!)

Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles (Refrigetator Method)

Almost Pickles

I’m way behind in my posts, and I feel horrible about it. I’ve been cooking up a storm, but haven’t had much time to assemble it all into useful blogging magic. I have a legitimate excuse, promise. I’ve been working nights in the Emergency Department of the local hospital to complete my Advanced EMT license. Saving lives is worth a little blogging delay, right???

Unfortunately, that means this pickle recipe is just a little bit out of season. A while back our CSA bag included both pickling cucumbers AND fresh dill in the same week! The obvious solution? Dill pickles! I searched far and wide for a decent recipe. I, personally, do not like sweet pickles. I won’t touch them. So many of the recipes I found suggested adding a small amount of sugar to the mix, but I don’t like even a hint of sweetness in my pickles so I was determined to avoid it. This recipe does the trick. When I finally cracked open the first jar, I ate the entire thing in about an hour. These are THAT good!

I strongly prefer to use fresh dill in my pickles, but I turn to dry dill in a pinch. This year, with the exception of the first batch, there was no fresh dill to be found at any of the grocery stores in town. It seems that lots of people around here pickle things and like their fresh dill. I made my second batch with dried dill, but that created its own unexpected problem. Dried dill floats and sticks to the pickles. I finally found the trick with the third batch…tea bags. I created my own little dried dill teabags and put them into the bottom of the jars with the rest of the spices.

Although some people boil their pickles in a water bath canner, I can survive without an apocalyptic supply of pickles so I stick to the refrigerator method. If you’d like to process yours to make them shelf stable, you can find instructions here.

Place your spices in the bottom of each jar.

Place your spices in the bottom of each jar.

Cut cucumbers and place into the jars. They should fit tightly but not be squashed.

Cut cucumbers and place into the jars. They should fit tightly but not be squashed.

After about 2 weeks, enjoy your pickles. The longer they sit, the better they taste!

After about 2 weeks, enjoy your pickles. The longer they sit, the better they taste!

Ingredients
2 pounds pickling cucumbers
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
6 garlic cloves, peeled (2 per jar)
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (1/4 teaspoon per jar)
6-12 sprigs fresh dill (2-4 per jar), or 2-3 tsp dried dill per jar
1 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (1/2 tsp per jar)

Wash the cucumbers, remove the ends, and cut them into spears no larger than 1 inch shorter than the height of the jar.

In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer.

Arrange the jars on the counter and divide the spices between them. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars, but not so tightly that they are bruised or damaged.

Pour the brine into the jar, leaving approximately ½ inch headspace.

Tap the jars gently on a table or counter to dislodge any trapped air bubbles.

Apply the lids and rings, and allow them to return to room temperature. When cool, place them in the refrigerator. Your pickles are ready to eat in about two weeks and will last up to six months in the refrigerator (if you can leave them alone that long

Adapted from Garlic Dill Refrigerator Pickles by Marisa Mcclellan.

Farm Fresh: Tomatillo Curry

Tomatillo Curry

What in the world is a tomatillo? That’s the question I found myself trying to answer this week. Although I’d seen them a few times in the grocery store, I was never interested enough to try one. Then, I found myself saddled with three pounds of them! Roommate has been out of town for nearly three weeks now, so I have double the produce to use up.

At the beginning of the summer, I spent a lot of time looking up canning recipes that I’d like to try this year. One of the recipes I came across was for Curried Green Tomato Sauce from Ann Gardon’s book “Preserving for All Seasons.” After a bit of research, I discovered that tomatillos have a flavor quite similar to that of unripe tomatoes with a decidedly citrus-y twist. It seemed like it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to substitute tomatillos for the green tomatoes. With a few minor tweaks, I was quite pleased with the outcome.

Ingredients
1/4 Cup butter (or olive oil for a dairy free/vegan option)
2 Onions, diced
3 lbs Tomatillos, washed and cubed (do not peel or remove seeds)
4 Tbsp Curry powder
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Brown sugar
1/2 Cup Golden raisins
3-4 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Salt (or to taste)

Melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onions until soft. Stir in the curry powder and cook 3 minutes more. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

This recipe makes 4 pints (8 servings). It can be canned or frozen for later use.

To can this, ladle the sauce into pint canning jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes or in a pressure canner for 10 minutes.

Serve over rice as a vegetarian meal or as a side with grilled chicken or fish.

Farm Fresh: Spicy Sesame Cabbage

Spicy Sesame Cabbage
This week, I was so excited to see cabbage on the CSA list. I’ve never been very interested in cabbage, but it has such interesting possibilities. A few nights ago, I made Ginger Garlic Green Beans for dinner, and I loved the sauce. I thought it might make a great pairing with cabbage and honey ginger marinated chicken. At first, I only sauteed half of the cabbage, and it was delicious. Despite Boyfriend’s noisy complaints that I was feeding him “healthy green crap” again, he asked for more. When I told him we didn’t have anymore but that I could make some, he asked me to fry up the other half of the cabbage! Now THAT’S an endorsement if ever I’ve heard one!

Ingredients
6 Garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp Soy sauce**
3 Tbsp Ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Rice vinegar (not seasoned)
4 Tbsp Canola oil, divided
1 tsp Sesame oil
1 Head of cabbage
1 Tbsp Sesame seeds, toasted

Combine the first four ingredients and 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and set aside. Cut the head of cabbage in half, remove the core, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil and sautee the cabbage, turning every 5 minutes, until the edges of the cabbage start to brown. Toss with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds just prior to serving.

**Soy sauce often contains gluten, so be careful when choosing one if you want this recipe to be gluten-free.

Recipe adapted from Ginger Garlic Green Beans on Epicurious.

Zucchini Bread (Grain, oil, and dairy free)

Zucchini Muffins
I grew up in the era of processed food, in a time when scientists and nutrition gurus told us that margarine and Snackwells cookies were healthy and that whole foods like beef and eggs were not. Much of my mother’s baking came from a boxed mix, but one thing that she always made from scratch was zucchini bread. I could eat that stuff for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I enjoy other quick breads, but zucchini bread has always been my favorite. I suppose it reminds me of sitting on the counter, wooden spoon in hand, learning how to bake with my mother.

On Sunday, a coworker gave me two beautiful zucchini squash and my first thought was about zucchini bread. I may not be able to have wheat, but I can still have my zucchini bread. This time, I made muffins because I wanted something easy and portable.

Ingredients
Cooking spray
2 Cups Cooked chickpeas
2 Eggs
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 Tbsp Unsweetened applesauce or full-fat yogurt
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with cupcake papers and set aside.

In a food processor, process chickpeas and eggs until smooth. Add remaining ingredients except for zucchini and continue to process until fully blended. Fold in zucchini and pour into prepared muffin tin.

Bake until the muffins are a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Cool in the tin on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan and continue cooling on rack.

Ginger Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (Wheat/grain and oil free)

Ginger Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
You might need to stage an intervention…or sign me up for chickpeas anonymous. I’m pretty sure Boyfriend has heard enough about chickpeas over the last month to last him forever. I suspect that the only reason he hasn’t taped my mouth shut yet is that he benefits from my delicious experiments. But even I must admit it…my chickpea addiction is becoming a problem. I’m baking so much now that I’m having to bribe friends and co-workers to take the resulting morsels off my hands. Chickpeas cakes and cookies may be relatively healthy, but even they will expand the waist-line if eaten too often. Oh well, I suppose I could be obsessed with worse things. At least I’m an EMT with lots of firefighter friends; firefighters will eat (almost) anything.

This week was a perfect storm of available ingredients and cooking inspiration. I cooked up an entire bag of dried chickpeas for the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies earlier this week, so I had quite a few left over. Our CSA bag has also been brimming with carrots for the last two weeks. I’ve been very interested in baking with chickpeas and I wanted to branch out beyond cookies. What better way to use up sweet carrots and delicious chickpeas than in a carrot cake?

I knew that it had to be possible, but I had no idea where to start. After a few days of searching through recipes, I figured out the magic ingredients from which a variety of delicious cakes could take shape: two cups of cooked chickpeas, 4 eggs, and one teaspoon of baking powder. With those three ingredients, magic happens. All of the reviews for chickpea cakes were positive, and quite a few said that the chickpeas were an all-but-invisible secret ingredient, so I was quite hopeful about this one. Then again, I had never done anything quite like this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Luckily, those three ingredients really are magical and the flavors of carrot and ginger shined in this moist and delicious cake! The frosting is mildly sweet with just a hint of lemony tang and compliments the cake without overwhelming it.

I’m always looking for new ways to cook things. What’s your favorite way to use fresh carrots?

Ingredients
2 Cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 eggs
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamon
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1-2 Cups grated carrot

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Add the eggs and chickpeas to a blender or food processor and process until smooth; this can be done in two batches if necessary. Spoon the puree into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients stirring until fully combined. The batter should be thin.

Grease an 8×8-inch cake pan*. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before frosting. While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting.

*If using a 9×9-inch square pan, reduce baking time to 40 minutes.

8 oz Cream cheese
1/4 Cup Butter (if using salted butter, omit salt)
1/2 tsp Lemon extract
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Powdered sugar, sifted

Whip together the cream cheese, butter, extract, and salt until light and airy. Add the powdered sugar and whip until smooth. Keep this frosting (and anything you cover in it) refrigerated.

Farm Fresh: Curried Squash Griddle Cakes

Curried Squash Griddle Cakes

Apparently it’s a great year for squash in Maine. Every week we get more squash in the CSA bag. While I’m thrilled to find zucchini and summer squash in the bag, we’re all getting rather tired of parmesan roasted squash and sauteed squash. After a brief Google search for creative ways to use squash, I decided on griddle cakes. I’ve been cooking with chickpeas a lot lately, so curry’s been on my mind. Curried squash sounded like an excellent idea!

Ingredients
1/2 tsp Curry
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Ground coriander
1/4 tsp Ground ginger
1/8 tsp Ground cardamom
1/8 tsp Ground cinnamon
2 yellow squash, shredded
1 egg, lightly whisked
3 Tbsp oat flour
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Set spice mixture aside.

To prepare squash for fritter mixture you must squeeze all of the water out first. Place a handful of shredded squash in the center of a clean dish towel. Pull the sides of the towel up and twist to squeeze water out of the shredded squash. Repeat a couple of times per handful. Place squash into a large mixing bowl.

Add eggs, flour, salt, and spice mix to shredded squash. Using a fork, gently stir until the mixture is combined.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to the pan. Using a fork, place about a heaping tablespoon worth of squash mixture into the skillet. Carefully spread out the squash mixture to form a small thin pancake shape. Cook griddle cakes for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Recipe makes 6 to 8.