Category Archives: Vegetarian

Rustic Tomato Marinara

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First of all, I owe my family, friends and coworkers a big huge apology.  You see, I will not be giving away my excess homegrown tomatoes from my garden to them ever again.  It’s not that I don’t like to share or that I am a stingy person or that I like to hoard my garden produce.  It’s just that I need the tomatoes because I have learned how to make my own homemade Rustic Tomato Marinara Sauce from scratch. And in my opinion, this Rustic Tomato Marinara sauce is worth apologizing for.

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The key to this delicious sauce is freshly picked, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes.  This bucket full of lemon boy’s, early girls, green zebras, pineapples, mortgage lifters and a handful sweet millions was used in my Rustic Tomato Marinara.  What makes this sauce “rustic” is that I did not peel the tomatoes or seed them before tossing in the pot for cooking.  I say, so what, who cares?  A stick blender takes care of the tomato skins and as a result there’s very little waste and a fantastic tomato flavor.

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My Rustic Tomato Marinara is one of those recipes that works better by taste and feel rather than following the recipe exactly.  Why?  Every variety of tomato is different and some cook faster than others.  Also, you can add whatever blend of spices and herbs you like.  If you like it spicy, add some red pepper flakes.  It’s all about you and your taste. The next time you have an overabundance of tomatoes, make some Rustic Tomato Marinara.  Enjoy! Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon tomatoes (about 5 pounds, quartered)
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup wine (I used red table wine)
  • 1 cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • about 2 – 3 cups water
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 Tbs sugar (optional)

Grab a large pot and saute the onions in the olive oil until they turn translucent.  Meanwhile, wash and remove stem scars from tomatoes. Quarter the tomatoes, making sure that all the tomato chunks are somewhat uniform in size.  Add tomatoes, wine, water, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to the pot, Cook on low uncovered for 2 – 3 hours, stirring often.  Add garlic near the end of the cooking process.  Using an immersion or stick blender, blend sauce until smooth or desired consistency.  If the sauce is too watery or thin, cook the sauce longer to reduce or if it’s too thick, add more water.  Taste your sauce, add sugar if necessary.  The purpose of the sugar is to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Correct your seasonings.  Remove from heat.  Use sauce immediately or cool and put into plastic containers to freeze for later use.  Makes about 2 – 2 1/2 quarts.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Zebra Vinaigrette

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Every spring and summer I dedicate time to plant a vegetable garden.  Those who have a vegetable garden knows full well that having one takes quite a bit of work.  Fortunately, my garden is small in size.  It consists of 2 – 5′ by 8′ raised beds, a 3′ by 6′ planting strip and 5 large half barrel containers.  Chances are that you’ll find me in my garden every night after I come home from work.  I generally spend about 20 minutes a day watering, weeding, and tending to my vegetables and herbs.  It may be an effort but I love it.  Gardening is one of those activities that is productive, therapeutic and good for the soul.  Not to mention, the ultimate reward is delicious fresh picked vegetables and fruit for you and your family.

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Everything that I grow in my little garden is organic.  That means I don’t use bug sprays, processed fertilizers or non-organic composts.  I prefer it that way.  I’m far from perfect but I do try my best to feed my family healthy foods free from chemicals and pesticide residue.  So I do take the extra time to pull weeds or deal with garden pests the old fashioned way by plucking them off the leaves by hand.  Planting, weeding and watering is the easy part of gardening.  Dealing with the garden pests such as snails slugs or beetles is not.  It’s not my favorite part of gardening but, left unchecked, those annoying little pests can destroy your precious plants within a few short weeks.

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Every year I plant several Green Zebra Tomato plants in addition to the dozen other varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  Green Zebra Tomatoes are my son’s favorite variety of tomato so I grow at least three plants just for him.  Green zebras are immensely flavorful and have a beautiful green color.  And, don’t let the bright green color fool you.  The green tomatoes that you see are perfectly ripe and ready to eat.  After growing many heirloom varieties for many years, I have learned to pick my tomatoes by touch and feel, and not by color.  Why?  Heirloom varieties come in a variety of colors such as yellow, green, orange, red and even black.  When picking tomatoes, I gently squeeze the fruit to check for ripeness.  If it’s too firm, it remains on the vine until it’s ripe and ready to be brought into my kitchen.

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My Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Zebra Vinaigrette is a simple combination of ingredients that packs some serious summertime flavor.  Don’t worry if you can’t find Green Zebra Tomatoes…  My the tomato vinaigrette can be made with any kind of tomato you wish. Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 5 cups Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (mixed)
  • 3 – 4 Tbs Green Zebra Tomato Vinaigrette (See recipe below)
  • Sprigs of fresh snipped Basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by washing and stemming the cherry tomatoes.  Cut in half.  Arrange on 4 salad plates.  Garnish with the fresh basil.  Drizzle with Green Zebra Vinaigrette.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Makes 4 salads.

Green Zebra Tomato Vinaigrette:

  • 4 – Green Zebra Tomatoes (quartered, about 10 ounces)
  • 1 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 shallot (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tbs White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp Garlic Paste
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Parsley (minced)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • garnish with sprigs of basil

Grab a small saucepan and heat 1 Tbs olive oil on the stove over medium high heat.  Add tomatoes and shallots and cook about 10 minutes stirring constantly, be careful not to burn.  Remove from heat and add the white balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic and honey.  Use an immersion or stick blender and add olive oil slowly until the mixture is smooth.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Stir in the minced parsley.  Cover and chill.  Makes about 1 cup.  Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container for about 3 – 4 days.

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Frank’s RedHot Sunflower Seeds

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If you ever peeked into my refrigerator, chances are that I have a big bottle of Frank’s RedHot Sauce stowed away on the refrigerator door.  Actually, I have a whole door shelf dedicated to spicy hot sauce mixtures and blends.  I love hot sauce.  I love spicy food.  Bruce thinks that I am crazy because I love that lingering burn from hot peppers.  Little does he know, I’m perfectly fine…

My fondness for fiery food began when I was about 10 years old.  I did not want to eat the bland and boring dishes that the other kids in my family were eating, I wanted what the adults were putting on their plates.  Things have not changed.  Now when someone asks me how hot I want my food, my typical response is “make me cry”.

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The other day while shopping at a wholesale food/restaurant supply store, I stumbled across a container of Frank’s RedHot Seasoning blend in the spice aisle.  I’ve never seen it in a regular grocery store before so I think it’s something that is meant to be sold to restaurants and commercial food establishments.  Frank’s RedHot Sauce is a delicious blend of an aged variety of red cayenne peppers, vinegar and garlic.  I use Frank’s RedHot Sauce in and on so many dishes that I prepare.  And, when I first discovered that spice blend, I knew I had something amazingly delicious in my hands.  I could not wait to get home and try it out!

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As soon as I got home, I opened the lid of the container, poked my finger into the spice mixture and tasted it.  It had that same Frank’s flavor that I knew and loved but it was in a dehydrated form perfect for sprinkling on french fries, homemade potato chips, popcorn, chicken or whatever my little heart desires.  I then put the spice blend in a shaker for an even better distribution of flavor on my dishes.

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My Frank’s RedHot Sunflower Seeds are a simple combination of three ingredients.  Raw shelled sunflower seeds, an egg white and Frank’s RedHot Seasoning blend.  That’s it.  Plus, it’s so easy to make, you can have a pound of these delicious little snacks knocked out in about 15 minutes.

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These little sunflower seeds are packed with serious cayenne flavor.  You can adjust the flavor level to suit your taste buds by adding or minimizing the amount of Frank’s RedHot Seasoning that you choose to use…  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a medium sized bowl whisk the egg white until frothy.  Add the raw sunflower seeds and Frank’s Seasoning blend.  Go easy on the seasoning the first time out…  You can always add more at the very end.  Toss and coat well.  Grab a large cookie sheet and spray with non stick spray.  Add the sunflower seed mixture to the cookie sheet spreading out the sunflower seeds evenly.

Place the cookie sheet on the highest rack in the oven.  Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes.  Stirring the sunflower seeds often.  Carefully taste a seed or two before removing from the oven to make sure you get the desired crunchiness and toasty color (they’re hot!).  Remove from the oven, shake more Frank’s Seasoning on the sunflower seeds if desired, let cool and place in an airtight container.  Lasts about 5 – 7 days.

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Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops

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Sometimes the most interesting recipes come from trying to figure out what to do with leftovers from the day before…  Two weeks ago, Bruce and I had a backyard barbecue at our home with family and friends.  I love to entertaining guests but I don’t care for dealing with any kind of leftover fruit trays, appetizer platters or main dishes.  After the last barbecue we had at our home, we had more than a boat load of fresh strawberries, melons and assorted fruit.  After our guests left for the evening, I begrudgingly peeled the rinds off the melons, hulled the strawberries and tossed all the remaining bits of fruit in the freezer.

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When freezing fresh fruit for use at a later date, be sure to place them single layer on a cookie sheet. Once the fruit is frozen, remove the fruit from the cookie sheet and toss in a releasable plastic bag.  Curious as to why?  The deal is, when you throw all the fruit in the plastic bag first, you end up with a big ball of frozen fruit that is all stuck together like a brick.  It’s a pain to break apart and to deal with.  Trust me.  I learned that lesson the hard way. This cookie sheet technique makes the fruit not stick to each other in the freezer and makes it easy to grab a handful of fruit whenever you need it.  Leftover frozen fruit chunks from fruit trays is great for smoothies, sorbets, and boozy little fruity concoctions such as my Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops.

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In addition to leftover fruit, I found myself with several cans of Straw-Ber-Ita’s floating around in the ice bucket the next day.  Straw-Ber-Ita is a margarita-like alcoholic beverage made by Anheuser Busch.  It has a refreshing strawberry lime flavor and is “supposed to” mimic the flavor of a strawberry margarita.  Frankly, they remind me of those fruity little wine coolers that were so popular in the 1980′s.  As an alcoholic beverage, they are a bit too sweet for my taste but they do work amazingly well in my Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops.

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My Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops are super easy to make and taste great on a hot summer day.  Enjoy!  Tessa

*****Note:  These fruit pops contain alcohol.  Please enjoy these fruit pops responsibly.  Do not serve Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops to people under the legal drinking age and/or to children.*****

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound frozen fruit chunks (I used strawberries, watermelon and mango)
  • 2 8 ounce cans Straw-Ber-Ita’s
  • Stevia to taste (optional)

Toss all ingredients in a blender.  Pulse until the fruit is broken down to fine bits.  Pour mixture into frozen Popsicle molds.  Add Popsicle sticks.  Freeze until firm and serve.  Makes about 10-12 frozen fruit pops.

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Banana Avocado Mango Smoothie

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My “go to” breakfast or morning snack during the hot summer months is an ice cold Banana Avocado Mango Smoothie (aka BAM Smoothie).  I love preparing smoothies because they are good for you, quick and easy to make and most importantly, they’re portable.  After blending, just pour it in a spill proof container or glass, add a fat straw, and breakfast is served!  My Banana Avocado Mango Smoothie is made with a fresh banana, avocado, frozen mango chunks, and chilled unfiltered apple juice.  My BAM Smoothie is a simple combination of ingredients that is simply satisfying and tastes delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized banana
  • 1/2 medium sized avocado (skin and pit removed)
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • stevia (optional, for additional sweetness)

Add all ingredients to a blender or a single serving blender cup.  Blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Serve immediately.  Pour into a glass, add a straw and enjoy!  Makes 1 serving.

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Shredded Romaine Salad with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShredded Romaine Salad with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

It’s been a very long while since I picked up my camera and even thought of logging onto my food blog.  It’s not because I’ve lost my passion for cooking, or that I’ve burned out or that I’m the laziest person that I know…  It’s just that my day job has completely devoured my personal life for over a year and I can now say that it’s finally starting to wind down. I look forward to regularly getting back into my kitchen and creating healthy (and sometimes not so healthy but totally worth it) home cooked dishes for my family and friends.  I also look forward to catching up on what’s been happening at all my favorite food blogs.  And with all that said, I’m happy to say that I am thrilled to be back.

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Even though I have been busy all year, I still found time to tuck some fresh herbs and flowers in my garden earlier this spring.  This season I’ve added a variety of  herbs including curled parsley and nasturtiums.  The nasturtiums are from seeds that I gathered last fall and the parsley was from starts that I found down at the Grange.  I prefer to grow my own herbs.  First of all, I know that they are grown organically (I know, because I refuse to use sprays or pesticides), and second, it saves me a bunch of money.  Oh, and third, you can’t get any fresher herbs than hand picked straight from the garden.

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Nasturtiums are edible annual flowers that I love to add to salads for bright cheerful color and a peppery flavor.  They also make gorgeous garnishes on appetizer trays and desserts.  They are easy to grow and require very little attention.

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Today I want to share with you a simple delicious Shredded Romaine Salad with a tangy Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette.  Green salads are an every day part of my family’s diet and this green salad is now one of my new favorites.  This salad is super easy to make, bright in flavor and can be served alongside a variety of dishes.  This salad was inspired by a salad served at one of my favorite restaurants, the Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville, Oregon and the Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette recipe was adapted from Epicurius.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce
  • handful fresh picked parsley (washed and minced)
  • several fresh nasturtium blossoms (washed and lightly chopped)
  • Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by washing and drying the romaine lettuce.  With a sharp knife, cut the romaine lettuce into thin strips.  Loosely toss and place onto salad plates (about two cups of lettuce per plate) and garnish with minced parsley and nasturtium blossoms.  Lightly drizzle with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • Zest of a large lemon
  • Juice of a large lemon
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley

Whisk all ingredients together and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well before serving.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Makes about 1 cup.

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Easy Lentil Chili

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One evening after work last week, Bruce and I had quite the discussion on how we wanted to eat healthier meals in the New Year.  We talked about eating more vegetarian dishes and avoiding white bread, white sugar and most the most damaging thing of all, fast food.  Our conversation was not about making any resolutions, it was all about making some positive lifestyle changes.  I particularly liked that idea for I don’t believe in resolutions.  I know that when I make New Year’s resolutions, you can bet that I will break them within a few short months.

One of the challenges with cooking healthy meals in our home is finding dishes that both Bruce and I will enjoy.  For instance, I love ingredients such as kidney beans, green peas, fresh picked asparagus and mushrooms.  Bruce on the other hand, will not (knowingly) eat those foods.  He considers them taboo.  And trust me…  He has quite the list of “taboo” ingredients.  So, in order to accomplish preparing a meal that I know that Bruce will like, I sometimes have to get really creative and super stealthy.  That sometimes means chopping the forbidden ingredients into smaller pieces, not telling Bruce what he is “really” eating unless he asks and putting the focus on creating fabulous flavor profiles that distracts his attention.  In other words, out of site, out of mind is the key when preparing a dish for Bruce.

While shopping at Trader Joe’s last week I found a package of precooked lentils in the produce section of the store.  Fortunately, after about ten years of marriage, Bruce has finally warmed to the idea of eating lentils.  Unlike Bruce, I have always loved lentils and with our busy lives this precooked ingredient was something that I just had to try.  I figured that the precooked lentils would be delicious in salads or soups for lunch during the work week.  This evening, I opted to put the lentils in a quick chili for dinner.  As a result, I am glad that I did.  Bruce absolutely loved it!  And the cool part about all this was that he did not notice that he just ate a meal that was hearty, and high in fiber and iron.  And, as a final double bonus, it was vegetarian and cholesterol free!

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My Easy Lentil Chili is super simple to make, incredibly flavorful and tastes great with fresh baked cornbread and a leafy green salad on the side.  Garnish my Easy Lentil Chili with some shredded cheddar cheese, a little dollop of light sour cream, a spoonful of salsa and a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 17 oz. package Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils (about 2 1/2 cups, cooked)
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or more if desired)
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 Tbs flour (whisked with 1/2 cup stock to make a slurry)
  • 2 Tbs extra dark cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbs dark chili powder
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • Top with shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream or fresh cilantro (optional)

In a medium sized pot on medium flame, cook onions in canola oil until onions are translucent. Add 1/2 package of lentils, vegetable stock, coffee, flour slurry, extra dark cocoa powder, dark chili powder, brown sugar, garlic paste, cumin, sriracha, thyme, salt and pepper.  Turn down the heat, cook uncovered on low for about 30 – 40 minutes stirring occasionally, taking care not to burn the chili.  Add remaining lentils and cook covered for an additional 15 minutes.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa and/or chopped cilantro.  Makes about 4 servings.

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Angel Hair Pasta With Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAngel Hair Pasta with Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

Last week I paid close attention to the weather forecast and as a result I went out to my little garden and stripped all my tomato plants of any and all tomatoes that had color.  According to the weatherman on the television, summer was officially over.  After what I witnessed yesterday, I should have known better.  You know what I’m talking about…  For example, the meteorologist tells you in the morning that it is going to bright and sunny and by mid afternoon, you wished you had brought an umbrella.

Well, when it comes to the weather, sometimes I need to remind myself that Mother Nature can be very unpredictable.  After picking all those tomatoes, I ignored my garden thinking that it was over and done for the season.  Nope.  Not even remotely close… When I walked out to the garden yesterday, I was astonished at what I saw.  There were dozens of tomatoes ready to picked once again.  The first thing I thought was, great!, I will have fresh tomatoes for lunch and dinner!  The second thing I thought was oh, shii…take mushrooms, there are so many tomatoes left out on the vines and I have a lot of work to do!

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Do you see what I mean?  Most of the tomatoes will be made into a sauce, some will be roasted, and some will be frozen.  Some will be given away, and some will be eaten fresh.  You get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I’m happy to have them.  You will however, hear me complain this winter when I don’t have any fresh picked homegrown tomatoes to eat.

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These are Indigo Rose Tomatoes.  They are small in size, red in color and with a splash of dark purple.  These tomatoes are another favorite of mine.  They are great roasted, sliced fresh in salads and can even be stuffed with chicken or tuna for wonderful little bite sized appetizers or a light lunch.  They are also really pretty and different looking than your average red tomato.  A wonderful way to prepare Indigo Rose Tomatoes is to roast them and then toss them with some angel hair pasta, baby spinach, fresh basil, olive oil and fresh grated Romano cheese for light and flavorful dinner.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces dried angel hair pasta
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbs olive oil or more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Romano cheese (more if desired)
  • garnish with fresh basil

Cook angel hair pasta according to manufacturer’s direction, drain and set aside. If needed, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the pasta to keep it from sticking.  Heat a saute pan over a medium high flame.  Add roasted tomatoes (with the juice), olive oil, baby spinach, basil, garlic paste, red pepper flakes and cook until the spinach begins to wilt.  Add the angel hair pasta and cook until heated through.  Add additional olive oil if desired.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Place on serving platter, top with Romano cheese and garnish with fresh basil.   Makes 2 servings.

How to Oven Roast Tomatoes

This is a simple recipe that will yield some flavorful tomatoes for soups, stews and sauces.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half or into large chunks.  Gently squeeze out some of the seeds.  Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper.  I added some sprigs of basil and rosemary for some flavor.  Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a foil lined cookie sheet (for easy cleanup).  Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the size or variety of tomatoes.  Cook until the tomatoes start to shrivel and get a bit of color or until your liking.  Remove from oven, let cool, remove basil and rosemary, place in plastic bags and toss in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Can be frozen for later use.  When freezing the tomatoes, measure the roasted tomatoes and juice in one cup portions and place in sandwich bags.  Lay the sandwich bags flat in your freezer in order to maximize your freezer space.

Note: if you don’t like the skins on the tomatoes, just pull the skins off after cooking.  They pop off pretty easily.

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Fava Bean and Ham Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFava Bean and Ham Soup

I can’t even believe it.  It’s starting to feel like autumn.  The mornings are cool and the days are getting noticeably shorter.  As I look out my kitchen window, I see that the leaves on many of the trees are starting to turn yellow and some are even beginning the fall drop.  My garden is starting to wind down and the tomatoes are slower to ripen.  With the official start of fall in a few days, the first fall frost is likely to happen later this month or early October.  Once the frost hits, my summer garden is pretty much done for the season.  After that, no more fresh picked organic tomatoes, basil, beans, cucumbers or summer squash.  Bummer…  I will have to wait until next year for the convenience of fresh picked veggies or spend big bucks at the local co-op to get my organic fresh  vegetable fix.

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A bucketful of some of the last of the cherry tomato crop…  If you never have had home grown cherry tomatoes you are missing out big time.  Home grown cherry tomatoes taste so different than the ones you may find at your local store.  They are thinner skinned, juicier, sweeter and pack some hard core flavor.  One of my favorite things to do while watering my garden in the evening is to stand next to one of the cherry tomato plants and pop handfuls of these little red gems in my mouth.  They are so delicious!

While looking for some dried Lima beans at the grocery store yesterday, I ran across a bag of Bob’s Red Mill fava beans.  I’ve never cooked with fava beans before.  Fava beans looked like large Lima beans so I thought that I would give them a try.  Fortunately, the fava beans were shelled so I did not have to deal with the tedious task of shelling them myself.  All I did was to rinse them well and to pick through them to make sure that there was no debris mixed in with the beans.  I then soaked the fava beans in cold water for about 4 – 5 hours to soften them up.

My Fava Bean and Ham Soup is made with roasted tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, carrot and onion and then simmered in a good quality chicken stock with herbs and spices.  It’s a wonderfully hearty and flavorful soup that’s perfect for a cool fall day.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried fava beans (shelled, picked over and soaked at least 4 hours)
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup celery (chopped)
  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 carrot (chopped)
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound ham (chopped)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garnish with fresh chopped parsley

Place a large sized heavy bottomed pot or a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid on the stove.  Turn heat to medium high and add canola oil, onions, bell pepper, celery and roasted tomatoes.  Cook, stirring constantly until onions are translucent.  Add remaining ingredients, cover, and turn stove down to simmer.  Cook for 2 – 3 hours until the fava beans are tender or to your liking, stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leaf.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Makes about 4 – 6 servings.

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Green Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen Bean Tomato Salad with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

I’ve never seen purple colored “green beans” at the grocery store before and when I saw the seeds for the Trionfo Violetto Beans in one of my seed catalogs earlier this spring, I knew that I had to grow them myself if I wanted to try them.  When it comes to planting vegetables in my little garden every year, I try to grow plants that tend to be uncommon or hard to find at the store.  As for the Trionfo Violetto beans, they certainly fit the bill…

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A big handful of fresh picked Trionfo Violetto Beans.  I absolutely love the dark purple color.  What’s so interesting is that when you slice them, they have a vibrant green center.  While picking my beans one morning, I was startled to see a large purple and green dragonfly sitting on a stem in the middle of the vines.  I’ve seen dragonflies in our backyard around our koi pond but never on the garden side of the house.  This one was big!  Its wingspan was easily 4 inches across.  I did not have my glasses on so I was way closer to the dragonfly than I would have liked.  As soon as I recognized what it was, I pulled my hand slowly away from the beans (taking care not to freak out, scream at the top of my lungs and wake up the neighbors) and ran straight back into the house to grab my camera.

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I was amazed that he was still there in the same spot when I got back! I was fortunate to snap a few photos before he flew away.  He was camouflaged extremely well and was very similar in color to the bean plants.  I’ve been out to the garden several times since and unfortunately I have not seen this beautiful dragonfly again.

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Do you see what I mean about the Trionfo Violetto Beans?  They are really beautiful and very unusual.  What I found is that once you cook the Trionfo Violetto Beans, they turn green just like a regular green bean!

In addition to the gorgeous Trionfo Violetto Beans, I grew some Kentucky Wonder Green Beans.  The Kentucky Wonder variety of bean is similar to the type of green beans you will find at the grocery store.  They are your basic “all purpose” green bean.  You can put them in salads, cook, can, or freeze them.  They are easy to grow and produce an abundance of smooth green pods.  I have to say that for the first time growing pole beans, I was fairly successful with strong plants and a decent sized crop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

My Green Bean Tomato Salad with a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette can be made with pretty much any variety of green bean.  In this recipe I used the Kentucky Wonder green beans and cherry tomatoes that I grew in my garden.  The Green Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette is wonderfully tangy yet slightly sweet.  The bright colored tomatoes make this vibrant green bean salad a stunning side dish. It’s easy to make, fresh and delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans trimmed and cut into 1″ sized pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tbs shallot (minced)
  • 2 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Begin by boiling a medium sized pot of water with a big pinch of salt.  Add the green beans and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.  Don’t overcook.  If you do, your beans will look gray and not a pretty bright green.  As soon as the beans are done, immediately place them in a medium sized bowl of ice water.  The ice water stops the cooking process and cools the beans.  Remove ice cubes and drain well.  Meanwhile whisk together in a small bowl, olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot, mirin, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.   Taste and correct your seasonings.  In a medium sized bowl lightly toss the beans and tomatoes with the Dijon vinaigrette.  Add to a serving dish and serve chilled.  Makes about 3 servings.

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