Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Portabella Mushroom Fajitas

Last year for Lent, my daughter wanted to give up all meat, dairy and other animal products.  She decided to become vegan for Lent; unfortunately, she decided this on Ash Wednesday.  I flailed around trying to come up with something she could eat, but I was ill-equipped and ill-prepared for her to become vegan with such short notice. I think she starved for a couple of days before I convinced her to give up something else.  I promised I would do some research, so she could be vegan for this year’s Lent.

True to my word, I have been adding vegan recipes (or recipes easily made vegan) to my arsenal, like Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Black Bean ChiliWinter Vegetable Stew with Moroccan Flavors, and Barley Kale Salad.  I’ve been doing research and testing recipes, and about a month ago, I was testing a recipe for red lentil burgers.  I gave one to my daughter, and she said she liked the burger, but she wanted a “real” hamburger.  I explained I was trying out recipes for her vegan Lent this year.  She looked at me and said, “Oh yeah, about that, I’ve decided to give up soda this year instead.”

I walked away stunned.  Really?  Really!?! I had to regroup after her declaration, but when I came out of my shocked disbelief, I realized all my work could still be used.  Les and I would cut out meat and dairy for Lent!  Les was on board, so I continued with my plans.  And, with her dad and me as good role models (yeah, right!), our daughter has decided to join us in our Lenten sacrifice (our son is another story).  So, for the next 40 days, I will be posting mostly vegetarian/vegan recipes.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

I tested these Portabella Mushroom Fajitas last weekend, and I will be making these quick and easy fajitas again.  The fajitas are moist, flavorful and have nice meaty bite.  I might add a little non-dairy sour cream or guacamole to the fajitas next time I make them.  Yum!

Portabella Mushroom Fajitas
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of two limes
1 tablespoon tequila
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 small Serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 large portabella mushroom caps, washed, stemmed.
½ yellow onion, sliced
1 sweet bell pepper, sliced (I used ½ green and ½ red bell pepper)

Corn tortillas, warmed

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, lime juice, tequila, cumin, coriander and salt.  Stir in the Serrano pepper and cilantro, and set aside.

Gently remove the gills from the portabella mushroom with a spoon.  Slice the mushroom into ½ inch slices.  In a large bowl, add the mushrooms, onions and bell pepper.  Pour marinade over the mixture, and stir gently.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to distribute the marinade.

Heat a scant teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven, and add the mushrooms, onions and peppers in batches, so you don’t crowd the pan.  Cook until the mushrooms are browned and the onions and peppers are soft.  Pour any remaining marinade over the hot mushrooms and peppers.  Serve in warmed tortillas.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Yeah, I know. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like Barley Kale Salad! I did have visions of posting cookies, cupcakes or something else sweet and gooey, but after thinking about Valentine’s Day as the day to celebrate love, instead of a day to gorge on sweets, I decided to take a different path. The love of my life, the one I’ve been married to for almost 20 years, has been battling high cholesterol for most of his adult life. I’ve made changes in what we eat to help with his cholesterol, so we are now eating more fish, whole grains and good fats, and less meat, white flour and saturated fats. Some weeks are better than others, but on the whole we have been making progress, and his numbers have been looking good!

So, with my Valentine in mind, I decided to share my friend Beth’s Barley and Kale salad. Beth served this salad to go with my beans, and barbequed tri-tip for a camping trip last June (We eat really well on our camping trips!). I made her salad this Sunday, so Les and I could bring it for lunch during week. I packed Les some for his lunch Monday, and as I was sitting down to eat my bowl, I received a text from him saying he really liked the salad, and he hoped there was more for Tuesday. Awh, how sweet! I’m glad he liked it!

Barley and Kale salad is low fat, tasty and filling. The dressing adds a tartness that blends nicely with the kale, the edamame adds a nice amount of protein, and the cranberries are just plain yummy. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Barley Kale Salad
Printable Recipe
1 10-ounce bunch Lacinato (dinosaur kale), washed, leaves trimmed from stem and chopped
½ cup chopped parsley, one bunch
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
Juice of two lemons
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Generous grinding of freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cooked barley
2 cups frozen edamame, cooked and cooled
½ cup dried cranberries

In a large bowl, combine the chopped kale, parsley and red onion. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Add the vinegar mixture to the kale and toss together. Stir the barley, edamame and cranberries into the kale mixture. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. Refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors combine. Serve.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Surfer Soup

We are having a beautiful, mild winter here in Northern California.  I would enjoy the weather more if the specter of drought wasn’t hanging over our heads, but we have had beautiful days to hike, bike and enjoy the outdoors.  January and February are usually gray and drippy, so we don’t plan many camping trips or outdoor activities.  The weather in October is a different story. 

Northern California beaches are best in the fall.  The summer fog is gone, and the ocean water is a little warmer than in the spring, although less cold is probably a better description.  With the good weather of fall in mind, Sandy and Brian plan a beach camping trip for the beginning of October every year.   My son loves this trip!  We head to the beach campground on Friday, set up our tents, and hike down the cliff to enjoy the sand, water and a beautiful sunset before heading back up to our campground.  The kids go up without complaint because they know they will be spending all day Saturday in the water.

Then on Saturday, while I’m sitting on the beach under my umbrella, our friends Janet and Tony are usually decked out in wetsuits riding the waves on boogie boards with the kids.  This year, though, they roared into camp with surfboards strapped to the roof of their Yukon.  This raised their cool factor enormously. I’m sure my son wishes he had parents like Janet and Tony!  Never mind we never actually saw Janet and Tony surf.  They used the excuse that the waves were better at another beach, blah, blah, blah, but they allegedly surf.

Janet was in charge of dinner on Friday night, and she brought—you guessed it—Surfer Soup!  Janet’s soup was perfect for camping.  She calls the soup Surfer Soup because she makes the soup in the morning before they head to the beach.  When Janet’s family returns from surfing, they have a delicious dinner to help warm them up after a day in the ocean.

I made a double batch of the soup a couple months ago, so I stashed the leftovers in the freezer. I pulled the soup out for a quick dinner last night.  The soup tasted just as good, and maybe a little better out of the freezer than it did the night I made it.

Surfer Soup is a hearty, healthy, low fat soup perfect for when you’ve spent the day surfing the waves, or if you’ve only spent the day surfing the net. 

Surfer Soup 
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
½  yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 15-ounce can petite cut diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 6-ounce bag of baby spinach, chopped
Parmesan cheese
Tabasco sauce

In a large saucepot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil, add the onion and cook until the onion is soft.  Add the turkey to the onions, and cook until the turkey is no longer pink.  Stir in the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and cook for another minute.  Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, cannellini beans, and chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to simmer, and simmer the soup for 15 minutes.  Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan cheese and Tabasco sauce.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mediterranean Layer Dip

What are you doing for Super Bowl?  I know I’ve mentioned I love going to Super Bowl parties.  The parties combine some of my favorite things: socializing, eating, watching football and talking about food (talking about food might be unique to my group of friends, I don’t know).  We were invited to two different Super Bowl parties this year.  We are heading over to Joanne and Todd’s so, I’m not going to compete in Tammy and Tom’s pizza cook-off this year.  I am excited to hear what Sandy and Brian come up with, since they usually win.

I’m not competing in a food competition, but I know we will be eating well!  Joanne and Todd are great hosts, so no one goes home hungry, and I’m excited to bring Mediterranean Layer Dip with me to share.

I made Mediterranean Layer Dip to enjoy while watching the Pro Bowl last weekend.  I have to admit that the Pro Bowl, though meaningless, is a fun to watch.  The players are having such a good time, and their joy in being there is a blast to see.  This layer dip was great to nosh on while we watched the game.

I have a soft, comfortable spot in my heart for traditional layer dip.  I love the salty chips and the creamy dip, so when I saw this creative take on layer dip in Bean by Bean a Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon, I had to try it.  I’m glad I did.  The flavors are fresh and lively, and the combination is unique.  I made the hummus from scratch, but you can easily use store bought hummus for this layer dip.  I do have to admit the homemade hummus really shines in this layer dip, and is so easy, I have to ask myself why I don’t make hummus from scratch all the time.  Les and the kids liked the layer dip too.  We ate about half of it Sunday, and we were all happy to polish it off Monday before dinner.

Mediterranean Layer dip tastes lighter than traditional layer dip, so it is perfect to serve when there are plenty of other heavier appetizers around.  If you are looking for something light and unique to bring to your Super Bowl party, try Mediterranean Layer Dip.

Mediterranean Layer Dip
Adapted from Bean by Bean a Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
6 to 8 radishes, tops and tails removed, well washed and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
2 bunches green onions, white and light green portions only, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped dill
2 ½ cups hummus (recipe follows)
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 cup kalamata olives, chopped

Pita chips

In a medium colander with a bowl underneath, stir together the cucumber, radishes, jalapeno, lemon juice and salt.  Let the cucumber mixture drain for at least 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the green onions, parsley, and dill.  Set aside.

Spread the hummus on the bottom of a glass pie plate.  Sprinkled drained cucumber mixture over the hummus, and add the green onion mixture on top of the cucumber mixture.  Add the feta cheese, and top with the sour cream.  Sprinkle the sour cream with the tomatoes and the kalamata olives.  Serve immediately with pita chips.

Adapted from Bean by Bean a Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon
2 15-ounce cans reduced sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained, liquid reserved
3 tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons, or more to taste
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Combine the garbanzo beans, 2 tablespoons of the reserved bean liquid, tahini, olive oil, garlic and the juice of one lemon in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until very smooth.  Add more bean liquid and lemon juice until the hummus is the consistency of sour cream or a little thinner.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the flavors combine.


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