Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Serendipity: V8 Minestrone

My about to turn 21 year old (help!) is not the world's most enthusiastic cook, but I'm realizing she likes to re-create dishes she's had in restaurants, like a chicken sandwich she loves at Panera, and now makes at home regularly. So a few weeks ago she tried making a Cajun pasta dish she'd liked at one of the chain restaurants.

The recipe flopped, but what was significant was that it had called for V8 vegetable juice, and JR had bought a huge bottle of it. Not something any of us drink.

So I hit upon using it as the basis of a minestrone soup. I also had a container worth of cooked white beans with rosemary that had been part of a crock pot pork roast dish which could go in as well.

I based this on a "Skinnytaste" recipe. I am not one of Gina's worshippers by any means, but that doesn't stop me from occasionally grabbing one of her recipes and making it my own. And the end result here is one of the yummiest soups I have ever made, one that I will be making again and again.

You can look at Gina's recipe if you want to do this in an Instant Pot--I don't have one and don't want one. She also has slow cooker directions, and you COULD do it that way, but this soup cooks so quickly I don't see why you would do so.

This soup as I've made it here is a thick, creamy tomato soup. If you want it thinner, add more liquid. But we liked it this way, as is.

As done here, this soup is GF. My older daughter has lost 11 pounds and her digestive issues have just about disappeared, so I'm trying not to bitch about how it effects my cooking and our food bills. You can add ditalini or other small pasta, or even that overpriced crap they call GF pasta, but it's fine as is, and we gluten eaters had bread with this.

V8 Minestrone\
       2 15 oz can white beans, drained, rinsed (cannellini or navy)

 Saute in a small amount of olive oil:

1/2 cup chopped onion                                   Many supermarkets sell this combination, 
1/2 cup diced carrots                                      ready chopped,in the produce section. 

1/2 cup diced celery                                        Or you may find it in the frozen vegetables.
                                                                        The term for it is "mirepoix." 

 Add in:  2 garlic cloves (minced) or a big schloop of chopped garlic, and saute briefly

 Add in:1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes
              Parmesan cheese rind
(optional, supermarkets often sell these in the cheese section)

Stir in: 32 oz V8 or other similar vegetable juice

In a food processor, or by hand, puree  1 15 oz can of white beans. (Cannelini or Navy types)(Drain them first, and use a little of the liquid to puree them.

Stir in the pureed beans. Add a second 15 oz can of white beans

Add in:

   1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 bay leaves
cup chopped fresh Italian parsley  (Or a big handful of dried parsley)
cups chopped fresh spinach (if you get baby spinach, you don't have to chop it, or you can use the frozen kind, defrosted) 

Let this simmer for about 1/2 hour, then taste it, and add salt and pepper as needed. 
If you want to add pasta, you can cook it separately, and toss it in at the end. Best choices would be ditalini, tiny shells or small macaron.

The original recipe called for basil. I didn't add it, but a swirl of pesto might be nice in this.
We did not add zucchini, but you can add that too, and any other vegetables you like.
The cheese rind will soften, and if you reheat the soup in the microwave should get nice and gooey!


Monday, January 8, 2018

Chickpea Soup

2020 Update: SC's digestive issues have put her on a gluten free diet, which I hate, but it does seem to be helping. Feel free to use GF pasta in this soup.

You can also use gluten free broth. Most of the commercial ones are flavorless, but to my relief Minor's, who make very good chicken and beef bases, are now making gluten free versions that have made it possible for me to make onion soup again. You can find them at Amazon. They are ridiculous priced when you throw in shipping, but you only use a teaspoon or two at a time, so a container will last for months.

SC can't eat a lot of fat since having gall bladder surgery. I am trying to eat healthy foods and lose the menopausal extra weight I've acquired. So this simple to make soup was the perfect thing to eat on a cold, cold night.

It is based on a recipe from "The Splendid Table," though as usual, I used a few short cuts of my own. I used curly fusili noodles that I buy up in Lancaster, PA instead of the cavatelli in the original recipe, but you could try any pasta you liked. I also used more chickpeas than there were in the original recipe.

Chickpea and Pasta Soup
  • 2 cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans (drain both, save the liquid from 1 can)
  • 1 onion, chopped (I use frozen chopped onions)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped (I just chop up some baby carrots--we always have them)
  • 2 ribs celery, diced  (I buy diced celery in the supermarket. Freeze it and use it as needed)
  • rosemary leaves, chopped (I had fresh rosemary, but dried would work too. Use to taste.) 
  • 6 cups of chicken stock (I use Minor's Chicken base. Use a vegetable stock if preferred)
  • 8 oz dry pasta--cavatappi, rotini, whatever you like
Heat a tablespoon of canola or live oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high.

Add celery, carrot, onion, and rosemary and cook until soft, 8–10 minutes.
(If you are using frozen onion/celery and a non stick pan, you can use even less oil.)

Add stock and  1 can of chickpeas (drained!) and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile put half of the second can of chickpeas into a food processor with a little of the chickpea liquid and purée until smooth.  Add the pureed chickpeas to the pan. (You can add the other chickpeas or save them for a salad garnish. SC loves just eating them!)

Add pasta and cook until al dente, 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as wanted.

We like to eat this with a little cheese sprinkled on top. SC likes Parmesan, I like Pecorino Romano!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Eat Your Heart Out, Mickey D's: Southwest Dressing

I use this blog as a place to store recipes, so here's a keeper.

I have been obsessed with McDonald's Southwest Salads with grilled chicken for quite some time. Though I work in a tourist area, there are few drive through places around here, but there is a McDonald's that I can get to, get my lunch, and still have enough time to eat it when I get back to work. And the Southwest Salads are pretty good, and fairly healthy. Because alas and alack, the dressing is pretty fatty.

I researched (I AM the Library Lady, after all) and found that the Newman's Own Southwest dressing is only available at McD's.  You can buy just about any other Newman's dressing in your supermarket, but for some reason, only the golden arches has this particular flavor.

So I researched some more, because there are lots of "copycat" sites. And sure enough, I found a version on a site called "Joe's Healthy Meals."

You can find the original recipe by Joe here.  But wanting to make this healthier, I tinkered with it a little. Sour cream? Nah, Greek yogurt. Light mayo too.  I also omitted the onion and garlic powders <I shudder to remember I used to use them> and the cayenne, because I find the chili seasoning makes this spicy enough. And no--yuck!--cilantro!

It took me about 5 minutes to throw a batch of this together. I had some grilled chicken breast to hand, tomatoes from my garden, some crushed tortilla chips, and a bag of salad greens. I also had 1/2 an ear of cooked sweet corn, and I cut it off the cob and threw it in. No black beans, maybe next time.

Anyway, it's delicious and flavorful and reasonably healthy. And a few minutes at home saved me a drive to McD's, and probably cost less too!

Lighter Southwest Dressing
2    Tbs  light mayo
1    Tbs plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2    tsp  honey
1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp    chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Add 1 tsp water if needed.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Carrot Cake Frosting

It has become a tradition of mine to make carrot cake for the library staff on Halloween. After all, it's got all those orange carrots in it, and we can have pumpkin stuff in November too as part of Thanksgiving.

I've tried and liked several of the carrot cake recipes at the Baking Bites website. There's a one bowl carrot cake I made for home, lightening it for SC by replacing the fat with applesauce. I like the spicing on it, with the orange and orange zest added too, but I think it needed more carrots. And I decided that my go to recipe from there, the low fat carrot cake I bake in a 9x13 pan needed jazzing up, so it got a little nutmeg and allspice added to the usual cinnamon.

In both cases I use bagged matchstick cut carrots and chop them up well in my mini food processor.

The frosting recipe came from the Skinnytaste website, long before she started doing her cookbooks. I have mixed feelings about her stuff--I often find that they sound a lot better than they taste, and that I have to tweak them for best results. But this simple cream cheese frosting is tasty, and making it with reduced fat cream cheese (often called neufchatel) is just fine.

I throw myself on the mercy of the foodies, and admit that I frosted the cake for work today with the canned stuff. This is mainly because the cake sits out for hours, and the true cream cheese frosting melts quickly, and the Halloween sprinkles I add for fun melt along with it.  But for the home cake, I made the real thing. It took less than 5 minutes with a hand mixer.

And it tastes far, far, better!

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese  (reduced fat is fine)
1 cup confectioner's sugar 
1 tsp vanilla 

Beat the sugar and cream cheese together until creamy. Beat in the vanilla.

That's it!

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