Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Sunday, October 4, 2009

When the Weather Turns Colder...

we turn to bowls of delicious, warm, hit-the-spot soups. The other day, I made an extremely flavorful Red Lentil Soup and today Jim made a Tomato Chickpea Soup with Pasta & Herbs, both adapted from Vegan Express. I've had a few bad seasonal allergy days so these really were perfect.

Red Lentil Soup

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 carrot, chopped into small chunks

2 C red lentils, rinsed

1 cube vegetable bouillon (I use Rapunzel brand)

2 tsp seasoning mix (I use my own all-purpose spice mix)

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup or stock pot & add the onions, garlic, & carrot. Saute until onions are translucent (but be careful not to brown the garlic).

Add 6 cups of water, then the lentils, bouillon cube, & seasoning mix. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower heat, cover, & cook gently until lentils are very soft, about 25 minutes.

Remove from heat & use an immersion blender to process until soup is as smooth as you want it; I like to leave some chunks of carrots & onions to taste, so I use this sparingly.

If soup is too thick, add more water & spices. When you reheat the soup, you will definitely need to add more water & spices as it becomes very thick when refrigerated. So good!

This is the Tomato Chickpea Soup. Jim is now exclusively using brown rice or wheat pasta because he has discovered that regular semolina pasta does not digest well. In this recipe, he also added fresh parsley, jalapenos (for some heat) and basil (instead of the fresh dill the original recipe calls for). This soup will also thicken because of the pasta so, when reheated, you will need to add more water & spices to taste.

Jim also tried his hand at making crackers! He's just such an adventurous guy. We had this recipe (given to us by Jim's violin teacher, Jack Robbins) along with a box of Grape Nuts cereal, and they're surprisingly easy to make. Jim doubled the amounts in this recipe. Also, Jack uses a microwave oven (which we don't own anymore) while Jim used a conventional oven instead.

Jack's Healthy and Tasty Crackers
1/4 C corn masa flour or substitute other whole grain flour
1/4 C quick oats
1/4 C Grape Nuts cereal
1/4 C water
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1/4 tsp each of garlic and onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (his recipe called for grated Parmesan cheese, but the nutritional yeast is wonderful in it)
1/4 tsp sea salt

For a smoother texture, grind the Grape Nuts cereal & quick oats in a food processor or grinder until it is more like flour in consistency.

Using a fork, mix all dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add water & oil. Continue mixing for about a minute. If dough is too crumbly, add a bit more water, but make the mixture too loose. It should have a thick, paste-like consistency. Form into a ball & place in center of a large cutting board. Roll (or flatten with your hand) into a 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick crust, working from the center to the edge.

Jim used a biscuit cutter but you can also use a pizza cutting wheel (or mouth of a drinking glass) to form into either circles or 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch squares. If you want, you could sprinkle sea salt lightly over them. Jim left them unsalted.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Watch carefully so they don't burn! If you use a microwave oven, bake for 4 to 5 minutes. Crackers are done if they don't yield to light finger pressure. Let cool on cooling racks.

I know, you're thinking, why bother, right? Well, we know exactly what's in them. They're very fresh tasting, & they are only about 30 calories each.

Jim never does anything halfway, so he also decided to try another cracker recipe from the October/November issue of MaryJanes Farm magazine:

Basic Farmhouse Crackers
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 C oil (we used grapeseed)
1/2 C water
2 tbsp ground flaxseed meal (w/3 tbsp water)=1 egg
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine ground flaxseed meal with 3 tbsp water & set aside. In a medium bowl, add first 4 ingredients & mix well. Add oil and stir until you get a coarse meal. Add water & stir until dough forms. Turn dough onto lightly floured board & roll very thin. Cut into crackers, then spread with the flaxseed mixture & sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Bake about 15-20 minutes until almost firm to touch. Transfer to cooling racks.

Very good and perfect with the soup. Store leftover crackers in an airtight container. If they lose crispness, reheat in the oven (or toaster oven) at 250 degrees for a few minutes.

Personally, I might not have made these crackers but, as I said, Jim has a different kitchen philosophy, and I'm never sorry when he makes good things like these!

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