Tag Archives: corn

Summer is almost here!

26 May

I can almost feel it. We’ve had quite a few warm sunny days and LOTS of spring rainy days, but I think summer is just around the corner.

Most of my vegetable garden is planted, although the wild turkeys that visit my yard every day have decided this year that my garden is nice place to stop for a snack! About a week ago I went out to check on it and they had walked all over in my raised beds and rooted through the dirt, kicking a lot of it out of the wood frame. I don’t know if they’re eating the seeds I planted or looking for worms, but what a mess. Unfortunately, most of the seeds had been in the ground for only a week, so they hadn’t sprouted yet and I can’t tell if seeds are missing or if they will still be coming up. I’m going to have to wait a little while and then try to determine what’s left. I’m sure I will be replanting many things.

I did notice the lettuce was sprouting, which is a good thing because I have recently turned into the salad queen! For some reason, I’m finding it necessary to have a salad every day. I guess that’s a good thing! I can’t wait for all the delicious fresh veggies coming soon. (See below for my latest salad addiction.)

Because I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, I wanted to share a few things I’ve enjoyed recently.

On Mother’s Day, we all went to my in-laws for dinner. She, of course, made a wonderful dinner, but — the dessert was insanely simple and insanely satisfying. These were called Berry Dessert Nachos. I don’t have the recipe (which came from a diabetic cookbook of hers), but basically you build nachos out of dessert items. For the base, she took whole wheat flour tortillas and brushed them with melted butter. They were sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until they became crispy chips. Those went into the bottom of the bowl. On top of that were all kinds of fresh berries — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. This was all topped with a sort of sweet sour cream mixture. I’m not sure what was in it, but I think a scoop of vanilla yogurt or vegan ice cream would be just right. And then — just to blow your mind! — she sprinkled on toasted almonds and shaved a bar of dark chocolate over that. Absolutely delicious and not at all bad for you.

One of the people I most refer to for what I should be eating is cookbook author Mark Bittman. I borrowed his latest book from the library — “The Food Matters Cookbook.” (If you haven’t read his book, “Food Matters,” definitely put it on your to-read-soon list!) Last week, I made one of his new recipes, Skillet Tamales. It’s a casserole with all the flavors of tamales. The finished dish was really good and the whole family enjoyed it. I had a little trouble mixing up his corn bread topping, even though I followed the recipe exactly. In the end, it came out okay and I will probably make this again, but I need to work on the topping a little. Anyway, check out this picture of total yumminess. I topped mine with guacamole. Jason and the kids garnished theirs with shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Do you ever make something to eat and then you sort of become obsessed with it? Like, you eat it for days and days and days and you keep making it all the time until you get burned out? Um…I do this pretty often. For a long time, my favorite homemade lunch was a whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus and then piled up with any kind of salad ingredients I had. I’d roll it into a wrap and enjoy. I still have those once in a while, but I went for months eating that almost every day! Well, my latest lunch addiction is Taco Salad. I made this up off the top of my head one day and now I eat it pretty often — sometimes with the vegan “chicken” and sometimes with black beans. Sometimes with guacamole and most times without. It’s so satisfying! Plus, it makes a huge plateful and is only about 300 calories.

makes 1 serving

1 vegan “chicken” breast, thinly sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons salsa, divided
2 cups mixed greens
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa (addictive!!!)
1 corn tortilla, baked until crispy

Spray a small skillet with nonstick cooking spray and add the oil. Over medium heat, saute the “chicken” pieces until lightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon of salsa and stir to coat all pieces. Sprinkle with ground cumin, if desired.

Spread out the lettuce on a large plate. Drizzle with lime juice and toss to coat the lettuce. Layer on the corn kernels, grape tomatoes, green onions, and Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa. Top with the “chicken” and the remaining salsa. Crumble the corn tortilla over all and enjoy!


Sub-zero temperatures mean it’s time to make SOUP!

9 Feb

If you live in the Midwest, you know what I’m talking about. This weather is absolutely ridiculous! Today’s high was 13. The low overnight tonight will be -7 and the high tomorrow is 7 with wind chills at -15 to -25. I mean…brrrr!

We’ve also been pounded with a crazy amount of snow in the last month. So far this winter, my kids have had 7 snow days and I’m expecting a snow day or delay tomorrow morning because of the extreme temperature. Every day when I pull into my driveway, I almost cry because I know the piles of snow will be here for a while. I don’t even know if it will melt before May!

On the little side porch on the left, there’s a cafe table and two chairs but you can’t see them because the snow is so deep!

There’s nothing better during weather like this than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Honestly, I could eat soup every single day, but it really hits the spot on bitter cold days like today. Yesterday I decided to veganize one of my favorite soup recipes. The original recipe is my sister’s and it appeared in my mom’s first cookbook, Of Peaches and Pansies. It’s a thick, creamy soup loaded with good stuff — Corn & Potato Chowder. A couple of easy substitutions made this meat free and dairy free, and equally as yummy as the original.

The original recipe called for diced ham. I used vegan bacon (Smart Bacon) because that’s what I had in the freezer. Next time, I’ll try a little vegan sausage. I think it will give more of that smoky, saltiness of ham that works so well with potatoes and corn.

Serve this with a salad and my gluten-free, vegan cornbread muffins (see November 5 post).

Vegan Corn & Potato Chowder
serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 strips vegan bacon or 4 ounces vegan sausage
1 onion, diced
2 cups diced potatoes (peeled)
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 can vegan creamed corn (no salt added, if you can find it)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Saute bacon and onions until onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Add potatoes, red pepper and thyme and saute for a minute or two.

Add milk and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Add cream corn and frozen corn and simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with minced fresh parsley, if desired.

That’s what you get for asking.

29 Jan

As we sat down for dinner on Thursday night, I reminded everyone that I would be grocery shopping after Cub Scouts that night. That meant we needed to come up with ideas for dinner for the next week. I always shop from the week’s menu so I’m not wandering aimlessly through Kroger just grabbing random stuff. Without a plan for meals, how do you even know what to buy? Aside from that, not planning ahead means running to the store several more times during the week to pick up miscellaneous items for that night’s dinner.

So I asked for ideas and they all looked at me blankly. “Okay,” I said, “here’s the deal. Everyone gets to choose one complete dinner. Whatever you pick, I will make.” Well, then everyone had an idea! Jason immediately said “brats on the grill.” I said, “Fine.” (Followed by a look of surprise from him!). Next?

Someone said “panini.” I said, “how about a soup with that?” “Tortilla Soup, please.” Done. Next?

“Can we have taco pasta?” Done.

I said, “How about something with fish?” I think in unison they said “Fish Tacos.” They’re kind of time-consuming, but I agreed, since I haven’t made them in forever.

That left one day, and a bunch of blank faces staring at me. I said, “There’s one more day and the first person who comes up with an idea gets it.” Madison immediately said, “Can we have those vegan chicken nuggets from the store?!” And Logan shouted, “with that purple sauce you made one time?!” (the blackberry-mustard dipping sauce from Eating Well magazine.) I said, “what else do you want with those?” And before anyone else could respond, Madison said “mashed potatoes!” Done.

Well, that was easy enough. Only thing is, we’re eating a lot of taco-ish meals this week! I guess that’s what I get for asking, huh? 🙂

Here’s the breakdown:
Sunday – fish tacos, southwestern slaw, fresh pineapple
Monday – grilled brats (portobello mushroom for me), grilled marinated vegetables, applesauce
Tuesday – taco pasta, salad
Wednesday – vegan chicken nuggets with dipping sauce (June 24 post), mashed potatoes, corn
Thursday – tortilla soup (October 26 post), grilled panini

I guess I’ll worry about the weekend when it gets closer.

Regarding the brats, I had planned on buying the same old Johnsonville brats I usually buy in the summer, along with a pack of vegan brats for myself and Madison. When I got to Kroger and went to pick up the brats, I couldn’t bring myself to buy them. I stood there staring at that package…knowing it was 100% factory-farmed meat. I looked at every single package there. Nothing but factory-farmed meat. I contemplated the turkey brats…for about a second…then remembered all I had read about factory-farmed turkey. Disgusting. I put them back and walked over to the health food section again. I considered vegan brats for all of us, but I knew that wasn’t what Jason had in mind when he said he wanted brats. I kept looking. I finally came across a package of Organic Prairie’s Organic Pork Bratwurst. The front of the package says “Pork used is humanely raised on family farms without antibiotics.” I bought them ($6.99 for 4 brats…not too outrageous).

When I got home, I checked out their website. Organic Farms is a co-op of family farms whose owners believe in farming ethically and sustainably, providing their animals with as much pasture time as weather will allow. Here’s the description for the bratwurst I bought:

Ours start with pasture-raised, heirloom-breed hogs that frisk in the fresh air and sun, yielding the big-hearted flavor and gusto that brats are justly famous for.

If you get a chance, and are in the market for ethically/sustainably raised meats, check out their website at www.organicfarms.com. Be sure to read the sections on pasture-fed animals and some of the descriptions of their farmers. Though I’d much rather buy locally-raised meat, I have yet to find pork raised happily. This suits me just fine for the two or three times a year that I make brats on the grill.

I’ll give you a full report on the taste of the brats after dinner on Monday!

And the winner is…

5 Nov

I’ve been contemplating the gluten free thing for the last couple weeks, and I just don’t know if I can be vegan and gluten free. I love the vegan lifestyle, but give up whole wheat?! Oooh, I don’t know about that. I’m part Italian — I need my bread and pasta!

So I decided to do a little experiment. I went to www.allrecipes.com and looked up recipes for corn bread. I selected the one with the highest ratings and I made them. Only here’s the thing — I made half the muffins as listed in the recipe, and the other half with all the substitutions to make them vegan and gluten free — Ener-G egg substitute for the egg, almond milk for the regular milk, and gluten-free flour for the whole wheat flour. The original recipe ones went into Halloween cupcake liners and the vegan/gluten-free ones went into plain cupcake liners. They baked in the oven in the same muffin pan and for the exact same amount of time. I even rotated the pan halfway through to ensure even baking of all muffins.

And the winner is…
the vegan/gluten-free muffins!

I had my kids and mother-in-law do the taste testing since the original recipe muffins contained dairy. They thought both kinds were really good, but said the vegan/gluten-free ones were slightly more moist. I was actually surprised that they baked up the same height. I didn’t expect that. The only real difference was that the vegan/gluten-free muffins did not crack on the top or brown as much as the regular ones. Otherwise, they tasted exactly the same.

My conclusion? I can at least have tasty corn bread! I’m going to make them again to use in an upcoming Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. In the meantime, I’ll keep experimenting with all the substitutions and see what else I can come up with.

The original recipe is here. My version is below.

Original recipe on the left; vegan/gluten-free recipe on the right

Original recipe on the left; vegan/gluten-free recipe on the right

Vegan & Gluten-Free Corn Muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Ener-G egg substitute for 1 egg, mixed per package directions
1 cup plain almond milk
1/3 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg substitute, almond milk and oil until well combined. Divide evenly between the cupcake liners.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

¿En el humor para la sopa?

26 Oct

That’s Spanish for “in the mood for some soup?” I am! More on that in a bit…

About six months after Brady was born (June 2001), my husband and I decided to make a serious effort to lose the baby weight. My father-in-law had just joined a program through work that included Weight Watchers. To help support him in his endeavor, and to lose weight ourselves, we decided to follow the diet and exercise program without the meetings. We measured our foods, we counted points, and we walked every day with the kids in the stroller. It worked. Both of us lost about 30 pounds in six months! (Sadly, we both put weight back on when baby number three came along.)

In the Weight Watchers program, most vegetables are zero points. This is the key to losing weight on this program. Tons of vegetables means a full belly without using up all your daily points. One of the most filling and satisfying ways to eat vegetables is in soup. So we ate soup. Lots of soup. I would make it for dinner one night and the next day we would both eat the leftovers for lunch. Then the day after that, I’d make another kind of soup for dinner and we’d eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I have tons of recipes for every kind of soup imaginable, but there’s one that was always there to save our butts when we didn’t leave ourselves enough points for a big dinner. One day, way back then, I started throwing all kinds of vegetables into a big soup pot with broth. Then I started adding seasonings and came up with a zero point Taco Soup. It was delicious! Lately, I’ve been wishing I had soup in my fridge ready for me to warm up for lunch. Last night, I decided to make a pot of the Taco Soup. Once I got started, I changed things a bit and I think the end result is even better than the original. (It’s now about one-and-a-half points per cup instead of zero, if you happen to be a points counter.) The recipe makes 12 cups but can easily be halved.

I served this for dinner last night and will be devouring it for lunch today. The homemade tortilla chips and chopped cilantro on top are the perfect garnish.

Tortilla Soup
makes 12 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup shredded or sliced carrots
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, shredded or diced
1 cup shredded cabbage
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
3 cups frozen corn kernels
1 tablespoon Bob’s Cajun Spice Mix (see October 22 post)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
tortilla chips for garnish

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onions, green pepper and garlic and saute until carrots are just tender. Add zucchini and cabbage. Stir in the vegetable broth, water and tomato paste until the tomato paste dissolves into the soup. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, corn, Bob’s Cajun Spice Mix and cumin. Continue to simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the black beans and lime juice and stir until beans are heated through. Stir in the cilantro, reserving a tablespoon or two for garnishing. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. You can also add more of Bob’s Cajun Spice Mix if you want to heat it up even more.

Serve hot with crushed tortilla chips and cilantro on top. Enjoy!

Challenge ends on a somewhat disappointing note.

31 Aug

In the August 2010 issue of Eating Well magazine, the editor offered up a challenge to cook 10 new recipes from that issue and blog about the results. The first 7 recipes that I made for this challenge were fabulous, family-pleasing and easy to make. I have raved about them in my previous blogs. The last 3 recipes…well…not so much.

I don’t want to say anything bad about Eating Well magazine. I love the magazine and have always enjoyed the recipes and articles in each issue. But the last 3 recipes that I chose for this challenge were not quite as successful as the others. Not that they were bad in any way. They were all quite good. They were just not as successful as the others.

This past Sunday was one of those hot, muggy days where you walk outside and begin to sweat before you even step off your porch. After a crazy, busy summer of jam-packed weekends, not one of us had any desire to be outside. We stayed inside our cool, air-conditioned house watching movies, playing the Wii, and enjoying some “down” time. Since we were pretty much oblivious to the fact that it was 100 degrees outside, I decided to make the magazine’s Roasted Tomato-Bread Soup with grape tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes from my garden. I also made the Rosemary-Pine Nut Biscotti to dunk in the soup since I didn’t have any country bread per the recipe.

Let’s talk about the soup first. This is nothing like what you would imagine for a tomato soup. It’s loaded with onions, fresh tomatoes and garlic, which are roasted in the oven and then simmered in vegetable broth. You serve it topped with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil. It’s almost like a light version of French onion soup. It’s not tomato-y. Jason, Madison and I really liked it. The boys did not. All in all a very tasty soup.

But, here’s the problem with it. It’s a lot of prep work. You have to thinly slice 4 cups of onions, cut in half 4 cups of grape tomatoes, and peel and thinly slice 1/2 cup of fresh garlic. Half a cup of garlic! It took forever and by the time I was done, the kids (who were playing the Wii in another room) were whining because their eyes were burning! In addition, if you decide to make this soup, the directions tell you to add the roasted vegetables to the broth, bring it to a simmer and then shut it off. If you have roasted the vegetables per the time in the recipe, you will have onions that are still slightly crisp. Jason and I both thought they needed to simmer for a while in the broth to soften completely like they do in French onion soup.

So, not a bad recipe. Just one I’m not sure I’ll make again unless I can buy half a cup of sliced garlic cloves! By the way, this soup is vegan if you leave off the cheese, which is what I did.

Now, about this biscotti. Wonderful flavor. Almost like a sweet, dense cornbread with rosemary in them. Worked well with the soup. I probably will not make them again.

I’ve made a lot of biscotti. A lot. This recipe needs some help. I usually put all of my ingredients in the food processor and pulse it until it forms a dough. The directions for this one were to simply mix it in a large bowl until the dough formed so that’s what I did. But the dough didn’t want to cooperate. It was a little too dry and didn’t want to hold together. After working it for a while on the countertop, I managed to form it into a nice looking loaf and placed it on the baking sheet and into the oven. When I pulled it out 30 minutes later, the whole top had cracked and pulled apart — big time. I moved it to the cooling rack, waited 20 minutes and then attempted to slice it so it could go back in the oven for round two. What a mess. It crumbled as I cut into it and some of the slices fell apart as I moved them back to the baking sheet. The picture above has the best looking ones in it — and they are nowhere near as nice looking as the magazine’s picture shows.

In addition, the recipe calls for 2/3 cup of pine nuts. Unless you can find somewhere that sells them in bulk, you’re looking at a rather pricy recipe. I bought a 1/2-cup bag for $5 at Kroger and that’s what I used because I didn’t want to spend another $5 for another bag! Luckily, I have rosemary growing in my herb container outside. Otherwise, I would have had to buy one of those little packages of fresh herbs at Kroger and they run about $4 each.

End result? Yummy, but too crumbly and too expensive to make again.

The final recipe for this challenge is Eating Well’s Roasted Corn & Shiitake Mushrooms. I made this tonight as a side dish with dinner. The recipe worked very well and, again, Jason, Madison and I thought it was okay. The boys didn’t like it. It was extremely easy to make since I used frozen corn instead of cutting it off the ears of fresh sweet corn. I didn’t read the recipe before I went to the store, so I only had enough shiitake mushrooms for 2 cups. The recipe calls for 4 cups so I used baby portobellos that I had in the fridge for the other 2 cups. I would say the only downfall to this recipe is the expense of buying that many shiitake mushrooms. They aren’t cheap. Also, it’s not the most attractive-looking dish. Good flavor, but I’m not sure I would serve it to guests.

Anyway, I have to say it’s been a fun summer of blogging about the recipes in my issue of Eating Well. (I call it my issue because it’s the one I’m featured in!) Thank you, Eating Well, for this challenge. It’s been a summer of good eats!

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Has it been a week already?!

24 Jul

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I posted anything here. My apologies to my regular readers! Needless to say, summer is in full swing and the activities are endless.

I’m still cooking every day — just not as many new recipes nor as many attempts at creating recipes. I think my brain is fried from the summer heat, so throwing meat and veggies on the grill and tossing together a salad has become the norm.

But, I do have two new Eating Well magazine recipes to report on for the challenge this month. My in-laws were over for dinner last Sunday so we did burgers on the grill (we had just picked up the beef from our sustainably-farmed cow. Veggie burger for me.). I served them with my friend Lisa’s salad with the poppy seed dressing (can you say “addicted”!) and Lemon-Garlic Glazed Corn on the Cob from the latest issue of Eating Well magazine. I also made Raspberry Limeade from the magazine.

The corn on the cob recipe was fantastic! Everyone liked it and it was such a nice change from just buttered sweet corn. It was very easy to make, but I do have to say it’s a little bit of a challenge if you’re serving more than 4 people. You have to use a pan that the ears all fit in the bottom of because they cook in the lemon-garlic mixture. My biggest saute pan only fits 4 ears of corn on the bottom. I needed to make 10 ears. So I ended up making the full recipe two-and-a-half times and keeping the finished ears warm in the oven. Otherwise, we loved it.

Let me tell you about the Raspberry Limeade before I give our reviews. With the recipe, you mix the fresh lime juice, fresh raspberry juice and sugar together in a large pitcher and store in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, you’re supposed to stir in the specific amount of seltzer water (I used sparkling water). But — here’s where I didn’t follow the directions. I mixed the juices and the sugar and put it in the fridge. At dinnertime, I put ice in all the glasses then divided the juice mixture evenly among them. Then I had Jason fill each glass with sparkling water. We didn’t use the measurement in the magazine. So they were absolutely gorgeous in the glasses — dark raspberry red at the bottom fading up into pink and topped with a white foam. But, because we didn’t measure the water, I think they were too diluted. We stirred the juices in, but everyone agreed they needed more of the juice flavor. So — lesson learned — next time we’ll measure the water! Definitely give them a try, though. They were very refreshing. Oh, and we all agreed it could easily become a delicious summer cocktail with the addition of tequila or rum or something.<

Challenge recipes #4 and #5…successful! Thanks, Eating Well!