whole wheat pasta with greens, beans, tomatoes, and garlic chips

copy-of-dscn4711.jpg

Dave recently told me that he’d prefer to eat less meat. Because I do all of the meal planning and cooking, we generally have an understanding that I get control over what we eat. On the other hand, Dave is so open-minded about what we eat that it’s fair for him to offer up some opinions.

And our meat intake has increased in the last few months. We used to eat meat around 1-3 times per week, and lately we’ve been eating vegetarian around 1-3 times per week. Because I have more free time lately, I’ve been more adventurous with my cooking, and because I don’t have as much experience cooking with meat, it’s more challenging for me. (In other words, I’m not very good at it.)

But Dave’s right, we should eat less meat. For our health, for our budget, for the environment.

This recipe for whole wheat pasta with greens, beans, tomatoes, and garlic chips is definitely Dave’s type of meal.

copy-of-dscn4709.jpg

This is only a quarter of the kale the recipe calls for, or just under one serving. (I cut the recipe in half, and accidentally only bought half as much kale as I needed.) Hey, he asked for more vegetables…

The pasta, wholesome though it is, is surprisingly flavorful. A dish like this lends itself well to personalization. I left out the olives, because they’re one of Dave’s few food hang-ups. Because I only made half the recipe for the two of us, I’m left with half a can of beans and half a can of tomatoes leftover. I plan on doubling those ingredients in the future so I can use the whole can. I only used half the amount of kale the recipe calls for, which was convenient because it was one bunch. I could see how more would be good, although I don’t know if I’d want twice as much.

The recipe did take longer to prepare than I prefer for a weeknight pasta dish. Using bags of pre-washed spinach would cut down on prep time and cooking time. The garlic chips are a nice addition, but could also be skipped to save time.

All in all, this was a great tasting dish with lots of vegetables and no meat, as per Dave’s request.

copy-of-dscn4716.jpg

Whole Wheat Pasta with Greens, Beans, Tomatoes, and Garlic Chips (from Cooks Illustrated November 2005)

Serves 4 to 6

CI note: If you can’t find a 13.25-ounce package of Ronzoni, the winner of our tasting, use ¾ pound of a whole wheat pasta of your choice. If you like, pass extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling over the finished pasta. For a vegetarian dish, substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.

Variation: Spinach can be substituted for the greens. Replace kale or collards with two 10-ounce bags of crinkly-leaf spinach, trimmed, chopped into 1-inch pieces, and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves (about 16 cups), and reducing chicken broth to ¾ cup. After adding second half of spinach to pan, cook for 2 minutes, until spinach is completely wilted. Continue with recipe as directed.

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, 5 cloves sliced thin lengthwise, 3 cloves minced or pressed through garlic press (1 tablespoon)
Table salt
1 medium onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
14 cups kale (loosely packed) or collard greens (1 to 1½ pounds), thick stems trimmed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces and rinsed, water still clinging to leaves
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
13¼ ounces whole wheat spaghetti
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus additional for serving
Ground black pepper

1. Heat oil and sliced garlic in 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring and turning frequently, until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer garlic to plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

2. Add onion to pan; cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add half of greens to pan; using tongs, toss occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add remaining greens, broth, and ¾ teaspoon salt; cover (pan will be very full); increase heat to high and bring to strong simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until greens are tender, about 15 minutes (mixture will be somewhat soupy). Stir in beans and olives.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add spaghetti and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is just shy of al dente. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add greens mixture to pasta, set over medium-high heat, and toss to combine. Cook until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Parmesan; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, passing garlic chips, extra-virgin olive oil, and Parmesan separately.

four soups

1-copy.jpg

I have backlog of soups to be blogged, so I’m going to throw them all into one soupfest entry.

First up is lentil soup, which I was excited about because I found the fancy French lentils, but it seems like I’m cursed to never quite have all the right ingredients for this soup. The first time I made it, I was entrenched in step 3, after the vegetables are softened and the lentils are darkened, adding the wine, and running out of wine. Eh. I played around with some other acidic ingredients, and ended up with a delicious but teensy bit vinegary soup. This time it was chicken broth that I ran out of. Chicken broth! I never run out of chicken broth! I carefully monitor my Better Than Bouillon supply because I loooove Better Than Bouillon. Bummer. I substituted some vegetable (not better than) bouillon. Still a damn good soup. And healthy! The only non-healthy item in the whole thing is a few slices of bacon. That’s nothing.

4-copy.jpg

Next up is white chicken chili. This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, and I seem to remember liking it more the first time. It was far from bad this time – look at all that flavory goodness, how could it be bad?

2-copy.jpg

I just didn’t feel excited about it. Maybe it would have been as simple as adding salt. Another possibility is that adding 50% more beans than the recipe called for made the soup a little bland. I will make it again, but it’s on trial.

5-copy.jpg

Poor cream of mushroom soup. It’s been relegated to nothing more than an ingredient in bad casseroles, so when I saw a recipe for the real deal, I did a double take. People actually eat mushroom soup? Unheard of! Dave and I are both big mushroom fans, so I was excited about this soup. Unfortunately, it just didn’t deliver. It wasn’t bad, it was just so dominated by pureed mushrooms. It was a little intense, even for mushroom lovers like us. Maybe because I used all cremini mushrooms instead of the button mushrooms that the recipe calls for? Whatever, next time I’ll be trying this highly recommended recipe.

6-copy.jpg

And finally, we have my favorite of these four soups. I served this hot and sour soup with the potstickers, which we’re a little crazy about, so this soup had a tough job standing up to that. But it holds it’s own, oh yes. I loved the moo shu I made a few weeks ago, and this has most of the same ingredients, but in soup form. I also really like when tofu is used in recipes where it’s actually the original ingredient, instead of covering for some maligned but more flavorful meat. Mmm, and black vinegar. This is good stuff. And I’m all about the texture that the cornstarch gives the soup. It doesn’t thicken it to a paste, it just provides a little body. The soup has so many strong and contrasting flavors, I just love it. And, it’s healthy! In fact, it’s so light, that I don’t know if I can recommend serving it as a meal on its own. I made the full recipe, we ate it with potstickers for two meals, and then we snacked on it throughout the week. I wasn’t complaining about having hot and sour soup around all week!

So there you have it – a January’s worth of soups. Yum!

Hearty Lentil Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

Lentils du Puy, sometimes called French green lentils, are our first choice for this recipe, but brown, black, or regular green lentils are fine, too. Note that cooking times will vary depending on the type of lentils used. Lentils lose flavor with age, and because most packaged lentils do not have expiration dates, try to buy them from a store that specializes in natural foods and grains. Before use, rinse and then carefully sort through the lentils to remove small stones and pebbles. The soup can be made in advance. After adding the vinegar in step 2, cool the soup to room temperature and refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 2 days. To serve, heat it over medium-low until hot, then stir in the parsley.

Makes about 2 quarts, serving 4 to 6

3 slices bacon (about 3 ounces), cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped medium (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 can (14½ ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup lentils (7 ounces), rinsed and picked over
1 teaspoon table salt
ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
4½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1½ cups water
1½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Fry bacon in large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, bay leaf, and thyme; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in lentils, salt, and pepper to taste; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until vegetables are softened and lentils have darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to high, add wine, and bring to simmer. Add chicken broth and water; bring to boil, cover partially, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until lentils are tender but still hold their shape, 30 to 35 minutes; discard bay leaf.

2. Puree 3 cups soup in blender until smooth, then return to pot; stir in vinegar and heat soup over medium-low until hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley and serve, garnishing each bowl with some of remaining parsley.

White Chicken Chili (from Cooks Illustrated)

Adjust the heat in this dish by adding the minced ribs and seeds from the jalapeño as directed in step 6. If Anaheim chiles cannot be found, add an additional poblano and jalapeño to the chili. This dish can also be successfully made by substituting chicken thighs for the chicken breasts. If using thighs, increase the cooking time in step 4 to about 40 minutes. Serve chili with sour cream, tortilla chips, and lime wedges.

Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, trimmed of excess fat and skin
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chile peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions, cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin
1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños; mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

3. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 160 degrees (175 degrees if using thighs) on instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes (40 minutes if using thighs).

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (see note above), and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

Per Serving:
Cal 370; Fat 6 g; Sat fat 1 g; Chol 115 mg; Carb 25 g; Protein 52 g; Fiber 7 g; Sodium 710 mg

Creamy Mushroom Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

To make sure that the soup has a fine, velvety texture, puree it hot off the stove, but do not fill the blender jar more than halfway, as the hot liquid may cause the lid to pop off the jar.

Makes 8 cups, serving 6 to 8

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large shallots, minced (about 3/4 cup)
2 small cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, freshly grated
2 pounds white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3½ cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups hot water
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed well
1/3 cup dry sherry or Madeira
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
Table salt and ground black pepper

Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms or chanterelle, oyster, or cremini mushrooms, stems
trimmed and discarded, mushrooms wiped clean and sliced thin
Table salt and ground black pepper

1. Melt butter in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-low heat; when foaming subsides, add shallots and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and nutmeg; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Increase heat to medium; add sliced mushrooms and stir to coat with butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release liquid, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and mushrooms have released all liquid, about 20 minutes. Add chicken stock, water, and porcini mushrooms; cover and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer until mushrooms are fully tender, about 20 minutes longer.

2. Pour soup into a large bowl. Rinse and dry Dutch oven. Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth, filling blender jar only halfway for each batch. Return soup to Dutch oven; stir in Madeira and cream and bring to simmer over low heat. Add lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with sauteed mushroom garnish, if desired. (Can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated up to 4 days.) If making ahead, add cream at serving time.

3. For the Sauteed Wild Mushroom Garnish (optional): Heat butter in medium skillet over low heat; when foam subsides, add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 10 minutes for shiitakes and chanterelles, about 5 minutes for oysters, and about 9 minutes for cremini. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid released by mushrooms has evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 2 minutes for shiitakes, about 3 minutes for chanterelles, and about 2 minutes for oysters and cremini. Sprinkle a portion of mushrooms over individual bowls of soup and serve.

Hot and Sour Soup (from Cooks Illustrated)

To make slicing the pork chop easier, freeze it for 15 minutes. We prefer the distinctive flavor of Chinese black vinegar; look for it in Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find it, a combination of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar approximates its flavor. This soup is very spicy. For a less spicy soup, omit the chili oil altogether or add only 1 teaspoon.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer

7 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch, plus an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons
1 boneless, center-cut, pork loin chop (1/2 inch thick, about 6 ounces), trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch by 1/8-inch matchsticks
3 tablespoons cold water, plus 1 additional teaspoon
1 large egg
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup bamboo shoots (from one 5-ounce can), sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick strips
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 cup)
5 tablespoons black Chinese vinegar or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar plus 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (see note above)
2 teaspoons chili oil (see note above)
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 medium scallions, sliced thin

1. Place tofu in pie plate and set heavy plate on top. Weight with 2 heavy cans; let stand at least 15 minutes (tofu should release about ½ cup liquid). Whisk 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in medium bowl; toss pork with marinade and set aside for at least 10 minutes (but no more than 30 minutes).

2. Combine 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 3 tablespoons water in small bowl and mix thoroughly; set aside, leaving spoon in bowl. Mix remaining ½ teaspoon cornstarch with remaining 1 teaspoon water in small bowl; add egg and beat with fork until combined. Set aside.

3. Bring broth to boil in large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; add bamboo shoots and mushrooms and simmer until mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes. While broth simmers, dice tofu into ½-inch cubes. Add tofu and pork, including marinade, to soup, stirring to separate any pieces of pork that stick together. Continue to simmer until pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir cornstarch mixture to recombine. Add to soup and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens and turns translucent, about 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, chili oil, pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce; turn off heat.

5. Without stirring soup, use soupspoon to slowly drizzle very thin streams of egg mixture into pot in circular motion. Let soup sit 1 minute, then return saucepan to medium-high heat. Bring soup to gentle boil, then immediately remove from heat. Gently stir soup once to evenly distribute egg; ladle into bowls and top with scallions.

Per Serving:
Cal 120; Fat 5 g; Sat fat 1 g; Chol 12 mg; Carb 12 g; Protein 8 g; Fiber 1 g; Sodium 1110 mg

a healthy choice (braised white beans with potatoes and vegetables)

dscn1968.jpg

You know those days after you’ve eaten nothing but crap when you just feel heavy and unpleasant? Usually they happen after a vacation or maybe just a particularly decadent weekend. This is my go-to meal for those days.

My parents recently visited, and it was four days of mostly eating out. Waffles for breakfast, pizza for lunch, a big plate of sausage and potatoes for dinner. Yikes. I may not generally be a vegetable-lover, but days like that make me crave something healthy.

And this meal is perfect for that. It has lots of tomatoes, garlic, and zucchini, plenty of beans, and just a bit of starch in the form of red potatoes.

Not only is it healthy, but it’s quick and forgiving as well. After a bit of chopping, there isn’t much to do except give the occasional stir while everything simmers together into deliciousness. At the end, the flavors of garlic and crushed red pepper permeate the sauce, the zucchini is softened but not mushy, and the beans and potatoes have soaked up the tomato-ey juices. This is one of my favorite ways to be healthy!

Braised White Beans with Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Garlic
(adapted from Vegetarian Classics, by Jeanne Lemlin)
Serves 2 (plus leftovers)

I’ve taken to drizzling a bit of extra-virgin olive oil over everything right before serving.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) can ready-cut diced tomatoes
¼ cup water
1 medium boiling potato (red or Yukon gold), cut into ¼-inch dice
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch slices (the size I buy depends on how healthy I want to be)
1 (14-ounce) cans small white beans, such as Great Northern or navy, rinsed well in a strainer
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Heat the oil, garlic, and red pepper in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook for about 30 seconds after the garlic begins to sizzle. (It should not become at all colored). Stir in the tomatoes, water, and potatoes, and cover the pan. Cook at a lively simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost cooked through.

2. Mix in the zucchini, beans, rosemary, and salt. Cover the pan again and cook, stirring often, 10 minutes more, or until the zucchini and potatoes are tender. At this point check the consistency of the sauce; it should be thick and soupy, not dry or watery. Add a bit of water if the mixture doesn’t have much sauce; cook it uncovered if the juices seem watery. Serve in large pasta bowls, preferably, or on plates.

to clear our sinuses (crockpot rice and beans)

dscn1760.jpg

Well, we can’t eat sandwiches every night! We also had rice two nights in a row. Not a great week for variety.

I realized recently that I only have one crockpot meal that I make regularly. That needs to change! My sister is a crockpot fiend, so I need to ask her for some good ones.

This recipe came from my brother. The first time I had it was when I visited him in Oklahoma. We drove there from Indiana, and our car broke down in Missouri, so…we ate at like 10pm or something. Incidently, while we were waiting around for the car to be fixed in Missouri, we wandered into a bar, where we met up with an older couple who had just gotten married. Cute!

copy-of-img_9807Photo updated 12/02/08

Back to food. I’ve made a few changes to the recipe. It originally called for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but I decided they weren’t really necessary. There’s plenty of protein from the beans and rice, right? Sometimes I do add bone-in, skinless chicken thighs and then shred the meat right before serving. There’s something about shredded chicken that I just like. Also, it’s supposed to be served over spanish rice, but white rice is easier and there’s plenty of flavor in the beans. Oh, and I changed the beans from pinto to kidney. My friend from Puerto Rico makes rice and beans with kidney beans, so maybe they’re more authentic? I don’t know, I bought them on accident once and liked them better.

And! I had to use actual canned green chiles! My New Mexican green chile supply ran out, and no one resupplied me this year!

Spicy Crockpot Beans
Serves 3

2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (4-ounce) cans green chile, diced
2 chipotle chiles from adobo sauce, minced
1 (0.85 ounce) package chicken gravy mix (I use Simply Organic)
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tomatoes, chopped, or ½ (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked white rice

Add first five ingredients to crockpot and cook on low for 3-5 hours. Stir in tomatoes 30 minutes before serving. Serve over white rice. (If you use chicken pieces as well, add them skin side down on the bottom of the pot and cook for 6-8 hours.)