Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Book Review & Recipe: "Change Anything" with Sunny Carrot Hummus

If you are like most of the general population you find sticking to and achieving goals and changing behaviors difficult. "Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success" by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzer sets out to give anyone the tools to change the areas they are stuck in--from enhancing a career, to losing weight and getting fit, to getting out of debt, to improving relationships, to overcoming addiction. According to "Change Anything" it isn't having willpower that will get you to change your behaviors, it is learning the strategies and understanding the six sources of influence that affect your daily decisions and using them in your favor that will enable you to master your goals.

The authors identify the Six Sources of Influence as:
  1. Personal Motivation (having the will or desire to change)
  2. Personal Ability (having the skills necessary to change)
  3. Social Motivation (having good role models to influence positive behaviors)
  4. Social Ability (getting help, information & support from others)
  5. Structural Motivation (linking short term rewards & punishments to new habits)
  6. Structural Ability (making changes in your environment that help you focus on your goals)
The book provides plenty of tactics to support each of the six sources of influence and also gives examples of how they were used by individuals in making the different behavior changes. Everything is broken down step-by-step so although there are a lot of ideas and information in this book, it doesn't feel overwhelming. Strategies like identifying those crucial moments and temptations that distract from your goal, coming up with ways in advance to avoid them and establishing guidelines for circumventing them, or looking at slip ups as an opportunity to learn and adjust your behaviors rather than viewing them as failures, are valuable and go beyond basic goal-setting. The authors based the book on an award winning article they wrote called "How to Have Influence" and the research behind the articles found that people who used the change model increased the likelihood they changed their behavior tenfold.

I decided to practice the ideas using the six sources of influence and some of the tactics from the book as I completed my 28-Day Engine 2 Challenge--a vegan diet challenge that I went on with a group of Whole Foods employees and customers.

What my Six Sources of Influence Looked Like:
  1. My Personal Motivation: I wanted to complete the challenge without cheating as I was speaking to the group and wanted to set a good example (personal pride!) and I also set a goal of losing ten pounds on the challenge--something I was anxious to achieve.
  2. My Personal Ability: My ability to cook well and come up with recipes, as well as my studies in nutrition and vegan diets made it easier for me know how to eat so I was satisfied and getting my nutritional requirements, making it easier to stick to the plan.
  3. My Social Motivation: Going through the challenge with a peer group and meeting once a week, as well as avoiding situations (or at least preparing for them), where I would be tempted helped me stick to the challenge plan.
  4. My Social Ability: Whole Foods provided information, foods to try, a 28-day food journal and advice from others who had completed the challenge. Between that and a copy of the Engine 2 Diet book, I felt like I had information and support.
  5. My Structural Motivation: Some short term rewards I used when I hit daily and weekly goals were--lunches out at a great vegan place with a vegan dessert, a couple of new vegan cookbooks, a piece of expensive dark (vegan) chocolate when I hit my exercise goal for the day, etc. No junk television unless I completed my exercise goal for the day was a "punishment" that motivated. ;-)
  6. My Structural Ability: The diet was vegan/no oil so I put the olive oil (and my other oils) away during the challenge. I also hid the salmon, butter and other no-no's so I wasn't looking at them. I made fruits and veggies front and center in my fridge and prepped them so that they were easy to eat. I also used my journal daily--having to write down what I was eating made me focus on it, and I put my walking shoes, resistance bands and weights in the living room in plain sight.
The result? With a little thought and preparation I completed the challenge without any cheating or slip ups, lost 11 pounds (one more than my goal), and I got a cute challenge shirt from Whole Foods for completing it. It was such a positive experience that I signed myself up for another 28 days eating vegan--both for overall health and to drop a few more pounds. (Although I did decide to add a little olive oil back in this time!). ;-)

I found "Change Anything" to be helpful and a great resource for achieving my own goals as well as in coaching others to reach their goals. So much of it rang true and even applying just some of the many tactics it contained seemed to work. Although it takes a little thought and preparation--if the results last, it is worth it. If you are looking to make some changes in any area of your life and want some support in eliminating stubborn habits--this book is a great place to start. It is one of the best books on goal setting and achievement that I have read. The book even has a companion website with additional tools and support for making changes at changeanythingbook.com.

As part of my structural influences, I made it a point to have delicious, healthy snacks around. I came up with this Sunny Carrot Hummus when I was trying a recipe for a carrot "butter" that was very blah and boring. I knew I could make something better so I took the pureed carrots and added chickpeas and spices to make a healthy, oil-free hummus that has pleased everyone I have served it to--even the carrot haters.

Sunny Carrot Hummus
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups)

2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced, (1/2 cup of cooking liquid reserved)
1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup natural almond butter (or peanut butter)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste)
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt or to taste
ground black pepper

Place the sliced carrots in a medium saucepan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer carrots for 10-15 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside. Drain carrots well.

In a food processor combine cooked carrots, garbanzo beans, almond butter, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until mixture is smooth, adding small amounts of the cooking water from the carrots to keep ingredients moving and until the hummus is the consistency desired. Taste for seasoning and add more if necessary. Cover and chill for one hour or more. Will keep about 1 week in the fridge--but it may need to be stirred before serving or using.

Notes/Results: bright and tasty. This is great as a dip with healthy, low fat / low sodium crackers or the raw veggies of your choice. It also is wonderful as a sandwich spread--especially with avocado, cucumber and tomato on a multi-grain bread or wrap. I like almond butter, but you could also use a natural peanut butter or tahini. It is nice with the kick from the cayenne but you can lessen the amount or leave it out if you are making it for kids or don't like things spicy.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher and PTA Reader Rewards but I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Simple Miso Soup for the Soul and for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It's been a long week. A very long week. I took on a job coaching and mentoring current students through the school program I completed last year. Since I have 24 students, it means four days of back-to-back, 50-minute coaching calls once a month and this past week was our first round. Between the differing levels and expectations, and even some language challenges with International students, it was rewarding but exhausting and when my last call was over yesterday, I needed something simple and restorative to bring me back to life.

Chicken soup may be good for the soul but miso soup is equally as good, maybe better. Miso has an alkalizing effect on the body and helps to strengthen the immune system. It is high in antioxidants and full of protein, vitamins B12, B2, E and K and a good source of linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), and fiber. I made a simple, quick version--with a ginger and wakame seaweed laced broth and the vegetables I had on hand. Mushrooms and tofu helped make it a satisfying. light and healthy dinner.

Simple Miso Soup
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 large )

4 cups water
1 Tbsp low-sodium tamari or soy sauce (plus more if needed)
1 Tbsp ginger, finely minced
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 /2 onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup dried wakame seaweed
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 block firm tofu, cubed
1/3 cup miso (white for a milder soup, red or barley for a heartier soup)
thinly sliced scallions, enoki mushrooms and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Place water, tamari, ginger, carrot, onion and wakame seaweed in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Allow to simmer about 5-6 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add shitake mushrooms and tofu and simmer an additional 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to very low.

In a small bowl, place miso and 1/2 cup of the soup liquid and mix until miso is dissolved and smooth. Add the miso liquid to the the saucepan and gently mix and warm through. (Do not boil or overheat or it will remove it's enzymes and healthy properties.) Taste and add additional tamari if needed. Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with scallions, enoki mushrooms and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: Simple and delicious-I could feel myself relax as I spooned up each bite and all became right with the world (well mostly right with the world, a hot bath, a good book, a piece of chocolate and a full night's sleep also helped sealed the deal). ;-) The broth had plenty of flavor from the ginger, seaweed and miso. You can of course use whatever vegetables you have on hand--I usually like to add some daikon but forgot to pick some up. Fast and easy to make, it reminded me that I need to enjoy miso soup more often.

There are a few good friends hanging out in the Souper Sunday kitchen on this busy Memorial Day weekend--let's take a look.

Fellow Hawaii blogger Spencer (The Mouse), of Live2EatEat2Live Blog made a thick stew of Balsamic Braised Mushrooms. He says, "I first deconstructed this dish when Portobello mushrooms and Balsamic vinegar were the rage (kind of tells you how long I’ve been making this). I tasted something similar at a restaurant (it was one of their signature dishes). This dish goes well with steak or chicken, on rice or with warm crusty bread. Drool. As a bonus, it’s totally vegetarian. I’ve even used the leftover sauce to dress pasta salad (it’s not pretty, but very tasty)."

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes has two salads in this week's round up. First up, this Asian Chicken Salad. Pam says, "What I bring you today is a salad that you can make in about the same time it takes to drive to a fast food restaurant. I used leftover rotisserie chicken, and even with cutting the carrots myself (you could use those already cut carrots), I had this ready in less then 20 minutes. ...I found this Asian Chicken Salad at Cooking Light... I didn’t change a thing, other then not using bottled ginger. I keep my ginger in the freezer and when a recipe calls for ginger, I get a chunk, still frozen, and grate it on my micro plane. Works like a dream. The ginger comes out really fine and disperses the flavor nicely through the recipe."

For her second salad, Pam made this refreshing Greek Salad and says, "Even though you really don’t need a recipe for Greek Salad, I found one in Everyday Food: Great Food Fastbecause I can always count on Martha for a good salad. We had this for dinner one night last week, and I realized that if I always kept these ingredients in the fridge (and I almost always do), I could easily have this salad on the table in 20 minutes, anytime I felt like it."

girlichef sent along her unique Nopalitos Salad (Cactus Paddle Salad) to share and says, "While we most often make a simple Cactus Paddle salad using cooked nopalitos, diced tomatoes and onion, and crumbled queso fresco with a bit of cilantro mixed in...this version is quickly becoming a close runner-up. The creamy goat cheese just sort of melts into each bite...and the slick cilantro dressing is a nice compliment to the crunch of the onion and the tomato. No matter which version you try, I hope you'll add Cactus to your list of addicting veggies (if it's not there already)."

I couldn't resist adding my take on Jamie Oliver's Wild Rice Salad to the round up this week. With adding can of lentils and some pine nuts, it turned out to be a tasty and satisfying lunch salad that I have been enjoying all week. The lemony dressing, combined with the sweet roasted red pepper and kick from a red chile make it much more interesting than a typical rice salad. Definitely one to make again.

My friend and fellow Cook the Books host, Rachel, The Crispy Cook made two sandwiches this week, a Rachel and a Ruben with a twist. About her namesake, the Rachel, she says, "The Rachel sandwich is a twist on the traditional Reuben, that cardiologist's nightmare: grilled sliced corned beef and Swiss cheese, laced with sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The Rachel subs in pastrami and cole slaw, but is no less awesome. Served up with a garlicky dill pickle, and you're talking awesome eating!"

And her Rueben is a special wheat-free / meat-free tofu version for her hubby. Rachel says, "To assemble your Tofu Reuben, generously spread some Russian Dressing on the inside of your bread (classic rye bread is out for celiacs, so we used one of Dan's chewy gluten-free rolls), top with a mound of Corned Tofu slices, a mound of braised sauerkraut and a couple of slices of Swiss Cheese. You can then grill or microwave up your Reuben to ensure that the cheese melts, and then hoist into your mouth for an amazing, messy taste treat."

Some wonderful dishes to enjoy this week--mahalo to all who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sunday logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend and a great week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jamie's Wild Rice Salad--Perfect for a Healthy Summer Meal

We are Mad About Herbs at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week, making dishes that feature fresh and fabulous herbs. I wanted something simple, healthy and meat-free so I chose the Rice Salad from "Jamie's Food Revolution." It has a medley of finely chopped basil, mint and parsley and features the lemon dressing from the same book. Since I am still eating vegan (although my 28-Day Engine 2 Challenge finished up this week, I am keeping most of it going for another month and just adding back in a little much missed olive oil), I wanted to make the salad a little more substantial. A can of organic brown lentils adds fiber, iron and some protein, and a sprinkle of pine nuts add crunch and vitamin E and antioxidants.

Jamie says, "Ready-prepared rice salad, like potato-salad and coleslaw, is really popular but largely miserable and bland. Have a go at this recipe and you won't go back to buying containers from the grocery store. First feel free to play with different rice grains--they have a variety of tastes, colors, and textures, which can be a bonus in a rice salad, so have a look around when you're shopping. The big thing to remember, though, is to use good olive oil, a touch of lemon juice, and to get some spice and sweetness into the salad with chiles and roasted red bell peppers (you can use sun-dried tomatoes if you don't have any peppers). You'll have a salad that looks and tastes great. Best eaten at room temperature rather than straight from the refrigerator."

Wild Rice Salad

Adapted from "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution"
(Serves 4-6)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups mixed long grain and wild rice (I used a mix called Whole Grain 5 Blend from the Whole Foods bulk bins)
a few sprigs of fresh basil
a few sprigs of fresh mint
a few sprigs of fresh parsley
8 oz roasted red peppers from a jar or deli counter
1/2 a fresh red or green chile (I added a whole small red chile)
1/4 cup lemon dressing (see recipe below)
1 lemon
(I added one (15 oz) can of lentils and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts)

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook it according to the package instructions.
Once cooked, drain the rice in a strainer and spread it out on a tray to help it cool down quickly.

Meanwhile, pick all the herb leaves off the stalks. Finely chop the bell peppers. Halve, seed, and finely chop your chile. Make your lemon dressing. Put your cooked rice in a big serving bowl. Finely chop your herb leaves and add them to the bowl, together with the bell peppers and chile. Zest over your lemon, add the dressing, and mix well. Taste, add salt and pepper if you think it needs it, and serve.


Lemon Dressing:
Put 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a jam jar with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon. Put the lid on the jar and shake well.

Notes/Results: Excellent--this is a tasty blend of flavor, texture and color. The combination of the tangy lemon dressing with the sweet pepper works well. I ended up using my whole red chile pepper so that it had a nice little kick in each bite. I liked the slightly dense, chewiness of the brown and wild rice mix and the added lentils make it satisfying without being heavy. Good for a potluck, as a side dish for a summer meal, or perfect on its own as a light lunch salad. I will make this again.

Go over to the IHCC site to see how everyone got "Mad About Herbs" this week.

Happy Aloha Friday and have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Watermelon Sorbet--Fresh & Fruity for Food n' Flix: "Under the Tuscan Sun"

Newly divorced after finding out her husband was cheating on her, writer Frances Mayes is just existing in a gloomy temporary furnished apartment. Her friend Patti convinces Frances to go on the "gaycation" that she and her partner were going to take before Patti finds out she is pregnant. Reluctant at first, Frances soon finds herself traveling by bus through the Tuscan countryside. In a small town she sees a posting for a villa for sale and later that day, as the bus has to stop for a herd of crossing sheep, she finds herself in front of the same villa and sees it as a sign. After impulsively buying the house and hiring a group of Polish immigrants to fix it up, Frances also begins to rebuild her life in gorgeous Tuscany--making friends and even flirting at romance.

The movie version of "Under the Tuscan Sun" is based on the memoir of author Frances Mayes, and it brings the book to life with beautiful scenery that makes one long to find their own villa in the sun-dappled country side to escape to. It's a fun foodie film and this month's Food n' Flix selection, hosted by F n' F's founder, girlichef. I purchased the DVD of this film when it came out but had not watched it in quite some time. I forgot how much I enjoyed it and I ended up enchanted all over again.

The movie inspired me to pull out "Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book" by Tessa Kiros, "Twelve" is full of drool-worthy food and when combined with the film made my imaginary trip to Tuscany complete. There were many dishes to choose from to represent the movie, but in thinking about what to enjoy on a sunny afternoon in Tuscany, I was drawn to the Sorbetto di Cocomero or Watermelon Sorbet. I have been craving watermelon lately and picked up a small, seedless one at the farmers market. I changed the sugar to agave and reduced the amount, ending up with a cool and delicious healthy treat. (My changes are in red below.)

Kiros says, "This is about the most refreshing thing that can happen to you on a hot day in August. Sorbets are difficult to make without an ice-cream machine. You can however, successfully make a granita-type dessert. If you have an ice-cream machine, pour the mixture in and follow the manufacturer's instructions."

Sorbetto di Cocomero (Watermelon Sorbet)
From "Twelve" by Tessa Kiros
(Makes about 6 cups)

750 g (1 lb 10 oz) skinned and deseeded watermelon (I used about 4 cups of melon)
300 g (10 1/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (replaced with 1/3 cup of agave syrup)
500 ml 92 cups) water (I omitted the water)
juice of 2 lemons

In a blender, puree the watermelon until completely smooth. Simmer the sugar with 250 ml (1 cup) of the water in a saucepan to just dissolve. Remove from the heat, mix in the remaining water, lemon juice and watermelon puree. Put into a plastic bowl, cover and put in the freezer.

After an hour or two, remove the bowl from the freezer and, using a fork or spoon, break down the ice crystals that have formed. Return the bowl to the freezer. Repeat after a couple more hours or until you have a soft, frozen slush.

Alternatively, pour the mixture into your ice-cream machine and freeze, following the manufacturer's instructions. (I added the watermelon, agave and lemon juice to my blender and blended it until it was smooth, poured it into my ice-cream machine and let it churn for about 35 minutes, then froze it for an hour or so to finish firming up)

Remove from the freezer to soften very slightly before serving.

Notes/Results: Lovely--cool, velvety and refreshing. I was a little afraid that the lemon would overpower the watermelon, but instead it brought the flavor out more. I found mine plenty sweet with the reduced amount of agave but you may need to add more depending on the sweetness of your watermelon. Bright and pretty, it's a perfect dessert or snack for a warm afternoon (you don't have to wait for a hot August day), a good way to welcome summer and get the ice-cream maker churning. Simple to prepare and oh-so-good, I will definitely make this again.

The deadline for "Under the Tuscan Sun" is May 30th, and girlichef will be rounding up the entries soon after. Or join me for June's Food n' Flix, when I'll be hosting "No Reservations" with Catherine Zeta-Jones and (yum!) Aaron Eckhart. Details on that are coming soon.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cauliflower & Tahini Soup (Velouté de Chou-fleur au Tahini) for Cook the Books: "Lunch in Paris" & Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Food and romance in Paris--what could be a better setting for a great book? Elizabeth Bard's "Lunch in Paris" is our current Cook the Books selection, selected by Francophile Johanna at Food Junkie not Junk Food. It's the kind of book that transports you directly to the small cafes, busy fresh markets, trendy bistros and homey kitchens of France, as it is there that the American-born Bard learns to love her new country as she falls deeper in love with the handsome Frenchman who becomes her husband.

My measure of success for foodie memoirs is how much time I want to spend with the author; do I actually care about their life and their story? Would I want to hang out with them? I wanted to cook and eat along with Julia Child in "My Life in France" and to explore the underbellies of restaurants with Anthony Bourdain in "Kitchen Confidential." Conversely, I mostly wanted to smack Julie Powell in "Julie and Julia" and tell her to just stop whining already. Luckily Elizabeth Bard falls firmly in the want-to-spend- time-with camp. She writes conversationally, like chatting over a cup of tea with a fun and witty friend and so descriptively that you share her experiences and can almost taste the food. Speaking of food, there are plenty of delectable recipes at the close of each chapter that caused my copy of the book to be studded with sticky tabs (and quite possibly a few drool spots). ;-) A sweet book that draws you in from the start and keeps you enchanted and hungry throughout.

It was difficult for me to decide what to make for this book. In the final week of my vegan Engine 2 Challenge, it was hard to adhere to no meat and no oil and find something from the book that I wanted to make. I was drawn to the Cauliflower and Tahini Soup (Velouté de Chou-fleur au Tahini). Although considered a "winter soup" in the book, I live in Hawaii where we really don't have winter, so why not enjoy it now? ;-) I liked that it could be easily made to adapt to my challenge eating plan by reducing the olive oil to just what is in the tahini, and changing the chicken broth to vegetable broth. I had just made homemade tahini too. (which if you have not done before, you must as it is easy, cheaper than buying it pre-made and it tastes even better--you can read my post on how-to from last year here). Whether due to the vegetable stock being darker than chicken broth or the tahini, my soup did not turn out to be "white as freshly fallen snow"--it was more an ecru or winter white, but still it was a rich and elegant soup to enjoy.

Bard says, "This soup was inspired by a winter lunch at Scoop, a small American-run restaurant near the Louvre. The owner, Anne Leeder, always keeps a stock of long grain wild rice and animal crackers on hand, and she makes the best yogurt ice cream I've ever tasted. This soup is a traditional French velouté that uses tahini (sesame seed paste) instead of cream to add richness and depth. Subtly flavored and as white as freshly fallen snow, it looks lovely garnished with a few poppy seeds."

Cauliflower and Tahini Soup (Velouté de Chou-fleur au Tahini)
"Lunch in Paris" by Elizabeth Bard
(Yield: Serves 6)

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 lbs (1 medium) cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
poppy seeds

In a stockpot, heat the olive oil; add the onion and sauté until softened but not colored, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the cauliflower and stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth, cover, and steam for 20 minutes, stirring once at the halfway point.

Add the remaining chicken broth, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Cauliflower doesn't like to be overcooked--it gets gray and smelly, so don't just leave the pot on the heat forever.

Get out your trusty hand blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the tahini. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Party time: This soup can be elegant as well as homey. For a winter-white New Year's Eve, serve a small portion of soup in a shallow bowl, topped with poppy seeds, chervil, and a trio of seared scallops.

Notes/Results: I loved the silky texture of this soup and the creaminess in each bite. The small amount of tahini adds a nice element of flavor and makes the soup seem decadent. The poppy seeds make a simple garnish that adds a little textural interest to the soup. I used a low sodium veggie broth--so I added a touch of sea salt to bring out the flavors. This soup makes a good starter for a meal or a nice pairing with a veggie sandwich. I would make this again.

For more reviews of "Lunch in Paris" and dishes inspired by the book, check out the Cook the Books site. Our host for this selection Johanna will be rounding up all of the dishes at the end of the month.

Now let's venture into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see this week's fabulous dishes.

Danielle from Cooking for My Peace of Mind made a unique Beef Tortilla Soup. She says, "I am fairly new to the whole tortilla soup thing. As a matter of fact, I've only recently had my first ever bowl. (recently means....within the past year.) So you'd think, being so new and all, that I'd stick to the rules. Think again When I looked in my freezer for dinner ideas, I found a big ole bag of beef broth and a beef tenderloin. Both needed to be used pretty quickly. Now mind you, I normally wouldn't use a beef tenderloin for soup.....but I was in the beginnings of a yucky head and chest cold. I needed soup. That I could taste. And with all the flavors and spices and heat in tortilla soup....it fit the bill."

Libby from The Allergic Kid is here this week with her Kitchen Sink Soup. She says, "This soup is a bowl of comfort with endless variations, perfect for that transitional period and any time after. It has a tomato base with lentils and potatoes plus any vegetables that are in season or on hand. It's gluten free, vegan, nutritious, thrifty, delicious and filling. I've added turkey sausage when my meat eating Midwestern family comes to visit, and lost track of the other variations I've made over the years. Soup has another magical property. Vegetables that are controversial on my son's plate get gobbled down without hesitation when bathed in a savory broth. What's not to love?"

Debbi from Debbi Does Dinner... Healthy & Low Calorie made a healthy Cabbage Patch Kidney Bean Soup and says, "Talk about your hearty, delicious stew! Whew! This had it all. Hubs wasn't sure about the cabbage but didn't even notice it. We all loved it. It was quite mild. If you like things heated up, you could add a can of green chiles or maybe some hot sauce. I made this awhile ago and am just now getting around to posting it and I'm so wanting to make it again!"

About this Creamy Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Corn, girlichef says, "With less than two weeks to go in my year-long quest to try as many versions of Tortilla Soup as possible...with the help of my friends...I want to share this creamy version that has an unexpected heat that seems to lie beneath the bright, creamy pool that fills each spoonful. I was intrigued by a tortilla soup recipe that Carol linked up the the quest, and decided I needed to try it as soon as humanly possible. It was a creamy version...and I had yet to try a TS labeled "creamy". I wound up loving this version. It was right up there with the best of them."

girlichef also has a homey Warm Bread, Pancetta, & Poached Egg Salad to share and says, "I think that greens salads with warm components are probably my favorite types of salads to eat. ... That said, I like crisp, fresh salads, too...but salads tossed with warm things scream "full meal" to me! This one is particularly satisfying with crunchy, chewy chunks of warm bread and salty crisps of pancetta over tender young greens and a warm, sunny yolk finding its way down through all the nooks and crannies. Good Day, Sunshine...."

Danielle from Cooking for My Peace of Mind also has a sandwich to share this week, her Sloppy Joses. She says, "Nope...it's not a type-o. I didn't make a sloppy joe. What you're looking at is Joe's south of the border cousin, Jose. Not only is this baby packed with amazing flavor, but it takes a fraction of the time and effort typically used to make homemade sloppy joes. No extensive lists of ingredients. Minimal preparation. Fabulous results."

Miriam from In Vogue at Home is back this week with some Chicken Sammies. She says, "I love having sandwiches for breakfast especially on weekends, they are simple, easy n' you can add just about anything you fancy as an ingredient and it never fails...My amma specialises in sandwiches n soups I think (she makes them in a jiffy). She insisted I keep a few pieces of the chicken aside last week before making a curry and guess what? I was able to use that for these sammies. ;)I love referring to sandwiches as 'Sammies'. I think this filling tastes better with grilled than plain bread. I know the snaps aren't looking as 'bite into me' as I wanted them to, but trust me it tastes great."

About her Sardines and Chard on Toast Sandwich, Tigerfish fom Teczcape - An Escape to Food says, "Can Swiss Chard be eaten raw ? With some sources which state that cooking, rid some nitrates out of them, I tried blanching before using them in my sandwich. Cooking reduces concentration of oxalic acid (some sources state a link between oxalates and kidney stones) in the vegetable, reduces consumption by the body.After blanching, I squeezed out as much water (moisture) out of them, and julienne them really thin (to a "slaw-state"), worthy of Nature Pride Hearty Wheat with Flax sandwich."

Another week of wonderful dishes--thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Foodie Fiction Review & a Recipe: "Already Home" by Susan Mallery & Jamie's Creamy Rice Pudding (With Some Healthy Changes)

Jenna Stevens is feeling adrift after her marriage breaks apart and she leaves California and the trendy restaurant she served as sous-chef for her ex-husband to come home to Texas and her loving adoptive parents. On a whim she sees a for-lease sign on a great building in a thriving location and spontaneously decides to open her own cooking store. With minimal experience in retail and a lack of confidence in her abilities, she hires savvy Violet to help out. Violet is escaping her own past and trying to build a future and after a rocky start she and Jenna begin to make Grate Expectations a success. Just when Jenna is starting to feel more settled, she receives an unexpected visit from a pair of aging hippies--Tom and Serenity, her birth parents who want to strike up a relationship with Jenna, throwing her world back into turmoil.

This is the story of "Already Home" by bestselling women's fiction author Susan Mallery. Although the story centers around Jenna, it is also the story of three other strong women, Violet, Beth--Jenna's loving adoptive mother, and Serenity her birth mother. Themes of family--the ones we are born to, raised by, and the ones we create ourselves, food, love and finding one's place in the world come together in a charming and poignant story. I enjoyed this book and was sorry to have it end--I wanted more time with the characters, especially Violet and Jenna, and more time at Grate Expectations--Mallery's descriptions of the store and it's cooking classes made me want to hang out there. A good foodie novel to escape with.

For a recipe to represent this book, I wanted to make a vegan rice pudding --a dish that Serenity brings to a get acquainted breakfast with Jenna and her parents.

"Refrigerator or oven?" Jenna asked Serenity, raising the casserole slightly. "If we are eating in the next half hour, it can stay out. I made a breakfast rice pudding with vanilla rice milk and dried fruit." Which didn't sound too awful, Jenna admitted.

"Rice milk, not soy or almond milk?" "Too much soy can mimic estrogen. Almond milk is delicious, but too sweet for the recipe I use rice milk often. Most people who have grain issues are fine with rice."

"The rice was well-cooked, the texture creamy. It was sweet, and the dried fruit was just moist enough to balance the consistency. "This is good," Jenna said, hoping she didn't sound as surprised as she felt. "Could I get the recipe?"

Because I was multi-tasking for a busy week and the theme is "Potluck" over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I found Jamie Oliver's recipe for Creamy Rice Pudding with the Quickest Strawberry Jam and decided to adapt it to be vegan and a bit healthier. Instead of Serenity's choice of rice milk, I chose my favorite So Delicious Unsweetened Vanilla Coconut Milk. For the rice, I chose a medium grain brown rice for the extra fiber and a slightly chewier texture (which works better for me and my "mushy" consistency issues). I used honey and a little extra vanilla in place of Jamie's vanilla sugar and added golden raisins because I wanted some dried fruit in there, as in Serenity's recipe. Instead of making the jam for the swirl, I took the easy way out and used the last bits of a container of my Mom's homemade strawberry jam that I had in the freezer. Made with fresh, gorgeous, Oregon strawberries, it is my favorite strawberry jam. Finally instead of topping it with the meringues, I used some freeze-dried strawberries and almonds thinking that it would add a similar crunchy texture. Yeah, yeah, it's a whole lot of adapting, but Jamie's spirit and ideas are all there (especially the strawberry jam swirl which is genius) and now it fits into the vegan 28-day Engine 2 Challenge I am taking part in. (See I told you I was multi-tasking!) ;-)

You can find the recipe on Food Network here. My changes / additions are in red below.

Jamie says, "Rice pudding is loved by everyone, and it's one of my favorite desserts. Proper feel-good food, it's gorgeous served on its own or with whatever fruit you've got knocking around. For me, though, the best way of eating it, especially in the summer, is really cold with hot strawberry jam. As an alternative, you can broil or roast peaches and plums to serve with it. Beautiful!"

Creamy Rice Pudding with the Quickest Strawberry Jam
Heavily Adapted from Jamie Oliver: "At Home with Jamie"
(Makes 6-8 Servings)

5 cups organic whole milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
7 oz medium-grain rice (I used medium-grain brown rice)
2 Tbsp vanilla sugar (I used 2 Tbsp honey + 1 tsp vanilla)
(I added 1/3 cup golden raisins)
2 oz store-bought meringues, crumbled (I used freeze-dried strawberries & sliced almonds)
Optional: a few wild strawberries, to serve

Place the milk, rice and vanilla sugar in a deep saucepan. Bring to a medium simmer and put on the lid. Cook for half an hour, stirring occasionally, until the rice pudding is thick, creamy, oozy and moist. If it ends up being a bit too thick, you can thin it down by adding a little more milk. (The brown rice needed a little over an hour to cook. I threw in the golden raisins for about the last 20 minutes so they plumped up nicely.)

To serve, divide the rice pudding between your bowls. Spoon over a big dollop of your beautiful strawberry jam, then slowly swirl it in so it marbles and ripples through the rice pudding. Sprinkle over the meringue pieces and scatter with a few wild strawberries, if you like.

The Quickest Strawberry Jam:
2 pounds strawberries, hulled, washed and drained
1/2 cup sugar

Place the strawberries in a wide, stainless steel pan and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Scrunch the strawberries up with your hands, really pushing them between your fingers to pulp them up - the mixture will start to look like jam at this point. You want all the sugar to dissolve in the strawberry juice before you put the pan on the heat and bring it to the boil. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on a medium heat, and every 5 minutes or so come back to your jam to skim off the foam. Don't worry if it's still a bit liquid - it needs to be so you can swirl it into your rice pudding. Remove the pan from the heat and put aside. There you have it - beautiful, quintessential strawberry jam!

Notes/Results: Excellent--sweet, creamy and delicious. It's good either hot or cold--although I prefer it warm--it's more "comfort food-like" that way. I ended up very happy with the changes I made--especially using the vanilla coconut milk as it made it very creamy, even with using the slightly chewier brown rice. I think the golden raisins put in towards the end of the cooking time are essential too. This is still a rich an indulgent dessert but if I can cut the processed sugar, add more fiber, make it non-dairy and have it taste this great, it works for me. My only regret is making just a half-batch as I wanted more. ;-) I will be making this again.

You can check out what the other IHCC participants made for their Potluck dishes by going to the post here and following the links.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher and PTA Reader Rewards but I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.