Chickpea Noodle Soup

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I can’t explain this midsummer soup that I made at the end of a July heat wave, except by saying, “sometimes you just need comfort food.”

It was the end of a long, stressful day and I needed a quick late night dinner. Although it had been 90 degrees that day, I really wanted soup. So I scoured the pantry and fridge and came up with almost all of the ingredients for chicken noodle soup, except for chicken. No problem, I thought. I had chickpeas.

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Don’t worry. I haven’t lost my mind (yet). I am aware that chickpeas are nothing like chicken, and I know that just because an ingredient sounds like another, that does not mean they taste the same. However, I needed some protein and chickpea noodle soup just sounded so right that it couldn’t be wrong.

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I used a vegetable soup base blend that I had picked up from the frozen vegetables section, and I think the okra in this blend really helped to thicken the soup. I also added some texture by tossing a third of the chickpeas into the food processor before adding them to the soup. The noodles and legumes were very filling, and the veggies made me feel like I had made a semi-healthy meal choice.

If you just can’t bear the thought of hot soup in July, or you think it’s a waste to use canned and frozen ingredients in the middle of the best season for fresh produce, I get it. Really I do. I’ve eaten a fresh tomato sandwich for dinner the last two nights in a row so you know I appreciate what’s coming out of the dirt over what’s coming out of the can right now. But at least toss some fresh green beans and okra in the freezer now and bookmark this recipe, because if you aren’t ready today, I think this is just what you’ll be looking for in January.

Chickpea Noodle Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb frozen vegetables (I used a vegetable soup blend that included carrots, potatoes, corn, green beans, lima beans, okra, peas, celery and onions)
  • 1- 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quart low sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 oz. egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend (optional)
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and onion to pot and sauté until onion is translucent.
  3. Add vegetables to pot, and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Divide chickpeas into three equal portions. Add one third of the chickpeas to a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped.
  5. Add whole and chopped chickpeas, broth, and 1 cup water to pot. Bring to a boil.
  6. Add noodles and the rest of the ingredients, return to a boil, then cover and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
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Grilled Gruyere and Radish Sandwich

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My husband is a radish fiend. For three years I have brought them home from the market nearly every weekend that they are available, and he never tires of them. This time of year, Kyle is in radish and greens heaven, and I am constantly trying to find new ways to prepare both. We have always eaten radishes raw, so last week I roasted a bunch of French breakfast radishes with carrots – big win! I highly recommend it. This week, I got home from the market and immediately dumped my purchases out and searched for lunch inspiration.

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This week at the South of the James farmers’ market, I picked up Agriberry strawberries, Norma’s Produce baby yellow squash, Norwood Cottage craisin bread, Crumptown Farm Tokyo Bekana (a new-to-me green!), Walnut Hill Farm turnips (with bonus greens – two vegetables for the price of one!), Bella Grove purple radishes, and Broadfork Farm dill. Our cluster of radishes was small and it was calling my name. It was a little cool outside that day, and I thought grilled cheese sounded pretty good. I decided to add some sliced radishes to our grilled cheese sandwiches to provide a little crunch and flavor.

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I used some smooth, nutty, Gruyere cheese that I had leftover from last week’s groceries, leftover spinach leaves, and thinly sliced spicy radishes, with a thin spread of Dijon mustard, sandwiched between two slices of Ellwood’s Bakery whole wheat bread, over-buttered and griddled to golden brown in a pan. I wasn’t planning on making these sandwiches for a post, but they turned out so well that I decided to take some photos and share the recipe with you. This is super simple, but a little different, so I thought it felt special. I served with a  bowl of fresh strawberries and iced coffee. If we were having these for dinner, I would definitely serve with a glass of Syrah instead.

Sometimes the recipes you come up with on the fly, with the freshest local ingredients available, are the best ones. So, while you probably don’t need the instructions, I’m giving you a grilled cheese recipe. Enjoy!

Grilled Gruyere and Radish Sandwich

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Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bread (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 ounce Gruyere cheese
  • 2 small radishes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup spinach leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Butter

Preparation:

  1. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Melt a dab of butter or oil in the pan to coat.
  2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Stack them with the buttered sides facing each other, On the top slice of bread, spread the Dijon mustard.
  3. On top of the mustard, place the spinach, cheese, and radishes.
  4. When the pan is hot, take the top slice of bread with its toppings and place it buttered side down in the pan. Top with the other slice of bread, butter side up.
  5. Cook for 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Fancy Tomato Sandwiches with Hummus and Goats R Us Greek Chevre Dip

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When tomatoes are good, they are so very good. And when they are out of season, they are so very bad.

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While we have the pleasure of seasonal tomatoes’ company, we should enjoy them every chance we get. However, some people get a little tired of tomatoes this time of year and need to change up their usual tomato sandwich. I suggest they trade up to this “fancy” tomato sandwich instead.

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It’s easy enough to pack for lunch and sophisticated enough to make for dinner. Recently I made these on a Friday night when Kyle and I were headed out to Crossroads in Forest Hill to watch some live music. This sandwich was quick, easy, and very satisfying. It helped to lay a good carb and protein foundation for the libations we were about to consume, without filling us up so much that we couldn’t enjoy a beer (or three).

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This sandwich is a tale of two spreads. In one corner, Greek Chevre Dip from Goats R Us (found at Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Market and the South of the James farmers’ market). In the other corner, homemade black bean hummus.

To make the black bean hummus, simply puree in a food processor: 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh dill, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the hummus on one slice of bread, and the Greek chevre dip on the other. If you don’t have the Greek chevre dip, substitute any fresh chevre or tzatziki.

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You may see the rest of the ingredients in this sandwich and ask, “Black beans? Really? Why not white beans?” Sure, the flavors might make more sense with Cannelinis or Great Northerns, but the color of this hummus is the reason for black beans. It looks great opposite the white chevre dip, with bright red tomato and dark green spinach sandwiched in between. But really you could use whatever beans you want.

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Stuff the sandwich with fresh sliced tomato and spinach. Add whatever other vegetables you have on hand. Cook each sandwich on a panini press or grill until dark brown grill marks appear and the sandwich is warmed throughout. Serve with a side of fresh veggies.

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Curried Pearl Couscous Salad

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Recently, a very fortunate set of circumstances resulted in the creation of my new favorite summer salad dish.

  • I wanted to make something at the beginning of the week to pack for lunches for the rest of the week.
  • I needed to make sure I had protein, veggies and some carbs in my lunches.
  • I had made my dinner plan for the week and I had an abundance of fresh vegetables leftover, with no plan for how to use them.

The veggies in question were half of a head of orange cauliflower from Pleitez Produce, and a bunch of green beans from Walnut Hill Farm. The lunch setting: lunchtime in the break room. The weather: outside, warm all week with a slight chance of thunderstorms; inside, temperature could range from “balmy” to “beginning of the next ice age.” The goal: build a lunch that fills me up but doesn’t make me feel like I’m reversing all the health karma points I have racked up this week in my workouts.

Based on the temperature, I knew I wanted a cold dish, but with a little kick to keep me warm just in case my office felt like a meat locker this week. I decided to combine my old favorite, Whole Foods’ cracklin’ cauliflower, with a pasta salad to give it a little more oomph. I chose pearl couscous (or Israeli couscous) because I love the texture, but you could substitute the grain or pasta of your choice. Quinoa would be my second choice for its superfood nutrition benefits. I used roasted cauliflower, blanched green beans, fresh tomatoes and roasted chickpeas for the mix-ins, then dressed it all in a curry vinaigrette. You could throw in whatever veggies you have on hand.

I have definitely found my new favorite pasta salad! I can’t get enough of this stuff. I think the dressing is what really makes this salad special. The roasted chickpeas don’t hurt. Mmmm. And (bonus!) this is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Just in time for summer barbecue season.

Scroll past the recipe for a Gardenology update!

Curried Pearl Couscous Salad (serves 4-6 as a meal, 8-10 as a side dish)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pearl couscous (uncooked)
  • 1 Tbsp oil (olive, coconut, or vegetable)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, or half of a large one, cut into florets
  • 1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 handfuls of green beans, snapped and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes, sliced into halves
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the cauliflower and chickpeas together with the 1 Tbsp of oil, spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Cook the couscous according to package instructions. I added my 1 cup of couscous to 2-1/4 cups of boiling water, then reduced heat, covered, and cooked for 10-12 minutes. Pour out of pan and into a large bowl. Let cool.
  4. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Then remove green beans from hot water and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
  5. While everything cools, prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together curry powder, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and olive oil until combined.
  6. To the large bowl of couscous, add cauliflower, chickpeas, and green beans. Toss with the dressing. Add halved tomatoes and stir until combined.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

 

In other news, I have some green beans in my garden! Here are some gardenology progress photos:

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The first harvest was nine green beans. If I don’t get another thing out of this garden all summer, at least I can be proud of the nine green beans I grew from seeds. Never mind that that achievement probably requires the skill of a third grader. I am a remedial gardening student, okay?! It’s the little things.

For more BYOBB (bring your own brown bag) lunch ideas, type BYOBB into the search bar.

Just the Highlights

Hello there! I just had to pop in to celebrate the return of my internet connection. Once again, our Verizon modem has failed and we were without service for 5 days. Lucky for us, when we reported the problem, our friendly Verizon customer service representative packaged up a new modem and swiftly put it in the mail. Verizon must be using bike messengers for their preferred method of outbound shipping because I can’t figure out how else that modem could have taken a full 5 days to get to us. I guess Hi-Speed is sometimes too much to ask.

Anyway, rant over. Let’s talk about food! I’ll just go through the highlight reel of the last week, starting with a lovely linen rental display that reminds me of the famous shirts scene in the Great Gatsby.

Kyle and I joined my parents and sister for a tasting with our wedding caterer this weekend. Beggars Banquet did a great job planning our menu and incorporating all of our suggestions to execute our vision for a local, seasonal meal that offered something for everyone. Here is a sneak peek of a few of the things that we might serve.

You will have to wait until next Fall for the details!

Another exciting smorgasbord that I participated in this week was our healthy potluck lunch at work. Several people from my team each brought in a healthy dish to share and then we swapped the recipes. There was a good variety of food there, from snacks to sides to a healthy dessert. Two out of the five participants are vegetarian, yet my whole team brought vegetarian dishes that we could all enjoy. I love that my company encourages us to plan activities like this. It really makes a difference when your employer and coworkers support your healthy habits.

I decided to bring two off-the-wall contributions that I knew no one else would come up with. My coworkers are very creative and many of them enjoy cooking, but I figured kale chips would be new to them. Most of the people I shared them with had never had them before, and they got mixed reviews (as expected). You have to love kale to enjoy a kale chip. And I do! I also brought a curried cauliflower salad, inspired by the crackling cauliflower found on the Whole Foods salad bar .

In addition to my two dishes, we had Mexican bean salad, carrots and hummus, cheese and crackers, pimento stuffed olives, wheatberry salad, and a reduced-fat, reduced-sugar fresh berry pie. Everything was delicious!

Despite the deep freeze we have experienced over the last two days, it is about to warm up again in central Virginia, just in time for a new spring recipe I have been working on. Cross your fingers that my internet connection will remain strong, and I will post a recipe that highlights tasty spring vegetables in anticipation of warmer weather.

What are you most looking forward to this Spring? Any highlights on the horizon?

 

VAis4Bloggers Meetup at Feast! Charlottesville

Kyle and I ventured out to Charlottesville this weekend to meet with potential caterers and photographers for our wedding this Fall. I also had the privilege of meeting up with some great VA bloggers at Feast! Charlottesville. How have I never been to this place before? Clearly I need a Cville tour guide to reteach me all the great spots around town.

Feast! is a market and lunch-counter-style restaurant that shares a building with a kitchen supply store, a wine bar, a chocolate shop, and a few other food-related local businesses. As bloggers arrived, we hugged, shook hands, took pictures, and moved tables to make a little corner of the restaurant our own. Like a group of America’s Next Top Model contestants, we struggled to “find the light” to get great shots of our food, our friends, and, well, everything. Every time I meet up with bloggers, I get a kick out of being around other people who will stop traffic to get a good photo of their food. I don’t think we turned the place completely upside down or anything; we were all very respectful and the great people at Feast were very accommodating.

Everything on the menu looked positively delicious and I had a difficult time deciding what to order. I was ultimately very happy with my decision: a cup of the vegan spicy chickpea and local chard soup and a half winter salad.

The soup was very filling and had just the right amount of spice. The winter salad featured arugula, roasted butternut squash, curried lentils, chevre, and a white wine vinaigrette. Do these people do catering? I am starting to think that I should have contacted them to do our wedding (there is still time…). This is the kind of food I love. Fresh, seasonal, wholesome food. Delicious.

And there were gifts!

Sarah brought us homemade peanut butter in adorable little jars.

And Brittany made Heady Goo Balls, which were so tasty! Check out the recipe that she posted here: Energizing Heady Goo Balls. These sweet little treats have all kinds of healthy stuff in them, including Amazing Grass. One of my favorite moments of the VAis4Bloggers meetup was when a fellow blogger (who shall remain nameless) bit into a Heady Goo Ball and exclaimed “I can taste the grass!”. . . (snicker). . . I assure you that while these delightful little goodies were delicious, there was nothing “special” about them, if you know what I mean. Totally legal.

I had a great time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I recommend that you check out Feast! the next time you are in Charlottesville. It seems like a place that would have something for everyone. And a special thank you to Sarah of The Smart Kitchen for organizing the outing.

Check out all the ladies’ blogs here:

Hope you had a great weekend too!

Welcome Relayers!

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions for BYOBB lunches that you wrote in the comments on my last post and sent via twitter. I really enjoyed getting some fresh ideas for my brown bag lunch dates.

Speaking of fresh ideas, check out the Relay Living Blog today, where the good people of Relay Foods have featured my recipe for Engagement Tofu as a Valentine’s Day special. And I would like to add that you don’t have to have a special someone in your life to enjoy this delicious vegetarian dish. The most important relationship we have is the one we have with ourselves. Show your self a little love and whip up this tofu sometime soon!

If tofu doesn’t quite do it for you, I have a new recipe for cupcakes that will satisfy your sweet tooth. If you’re a chocolate lover, look out for this post in the next few days. This cupcake was by far the most beloved confection I have ever brought into my workplace. And I have brought quite a few cakes, cookies, and scones into that office in the past. None have compared.

And hey, if you found me through the Relay Living blog today, welcome! You can find out more about vegology by clicking on the About link at the top of the page. If you like what you see, you can subscribe by clicking on Sounds Delicious on the right hand side of the page. Check out my review of Relay Foods here!