Thursday, March 27, 2014

Diane's Butter Bean and Vegetable Soup (G)

Years ago, I made all my soups from scratch. I knew the vitamin and mineral values and the flavors were better than the canned varieties and it was an economical way to use up left over food items.

Unfortunately, most of the soups I concocted were horrible. They were often tasteless because they were overcooked. Other times, the soups were bitter or lacked any definitive flavor because I had not developed the broth or, again overcooked the vegetables.

I never threw the concoctions out, however. Instead, I would bulk them up with pastas, rice or potatoes. While these additions helped, I knew the soups were not what I had envisioned.

Fast forward to my empty-nester life and voila - the soups are flavorful, wonderful and unbelievably delicious. I am glad I did not give up my quest to master the art of soup-making!

Diane's Butter Bean and Vegetable Soup
1 qt. chicken broth
3 tsp. chicken base bouillon
Carrots, steamed and cut up
Cabbage, steamed, cut up
Sweet onion, steamed, chopped
Potatoes, red - boiled and cut up
1-2 cans butter beans, drained
Spinach, fresh
Mushrooms, sliced
Parsley flakes
White wine (optional)
If you notice, very few of the ingredients have measured amounts. This is because soup should be made with love! Measuring everything will cut down on its possibilities and "wonderfulness".
Heat the broth in a large pot. Add the bouillon base and stir well. Add the cut up, *steamed vegetables and the butter beans. Continue to heat the soup and add the mushrooms. When they are tender-crisp, drop in leaves of spinach or Swiss chard. Heat until the leaves are wilted. Add parsley flakes and about 1/4 C white wine. Stir and taste. If the soup needs salt, add it now. Turn off heat and ladle soup into bowls. Put a pat of real butter in the middle of each bowlful. Push it down under the broth as it melts. Serve and ENJOY!

*Hint: Vegetables may be steamed in a pot over water, but I like to use the microwave steamer bags available in most grocery stores. It only takes a few minutes to steam most vegetable perfectly. Carrots are the exception, they are better steamed with water.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Best Brussels Sprouts - Not Bitter

Much-love foods can stretch from the extremely complicated, like Mile High Lasagna Pie, to the very simple, like a piece of fresh fruit. Some flavors take some time to train one's palate to enjoy or even like. For me, it was Brussels sprouts.

My husband loves this small cabbage-like vegetable while I always hated their bitterness. The evil, lingering odor of  cooked Brussels sprouts only added another layer of something to dislike about them.

Sometimes, though, persistence pays off. Every time sprouts were served, I tried one or two. I wanted to like them, but it was not to be. Not until the day I discovered a wonderful and simple  preparation method. It not only eliminated the horrid odor, but also removed the bitter flavor.

My husband said they were the best Brussels sprouts he had even tasted!

The Best Brussels Sprouts

Select fresh or frozen Brussels sprouts. If fresh, rinse off sprouts and slice a thin layer off the cut end to remove the discolored part.

Place 1 cup of sprouts in a microwave-steamable bag. Zip the bag end closed,  Cook as directed. Immediately remove sprouts to a bowl, add butter, stir gently to combine. Enjoy.

You will not believe the sweetness - and - NO ODOR!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bee-Bim Bop - easy version (G) (V if desired)

The Sunday magazine clipping from nine years ago is still in good shape. It is a photo of a wonderful dish and a recipe called Bee-Bim Bop*. While it is a familiar favorite in Korea, bee-bim bop, a decade ago, was new to me.

 *(Bi bim bap, bee-bim bop or bi bim bopBi bim means to mix and bap, pronounced bop, is the word for rice. If the words are strung together it roughly translates to “mix it up)

The recipe from the Sunday magazine is complicated. Meat is marinated and braised, eggs beaten and fried, vegetables, chopped and stir-fried with sauces and others blanched. Each set of ingredients is served in separate bowls and each diner is given a large bowl of hot rice and asked to help themselves to the prepared ingredients. The wonderful bowls of food are mixed - like crazy - and enjoyed, often with a side disk of kimchee.

There are many versions of Bi-bim , see Post # 246. They are enjoyed for their variety of textures and flavors, but the complicated process to get to the end product has kept me from making it often.

I wanted the dish, but not the work. Then, one day, a light bulb moment happened. I decided Bee-bim bop could be just as tasty with reduced preparation! The meal I devised was delicious; actually, it was better than delicious. It had just the right amount of crunchy texture from the vegetables, a slight saltiness from the sauce and pure comfort from the hot Basmati rice.

While I used braised turkey sausage links for the meat portion of the Bee-bim bop, chicken, pork or beef strips would be just as delicious. Omit meat for vegetarian version.

Diane's Bee-bim Bop - Easy Version
1/4 Green pepper, chopped
3 Green onions, chopped
1 Carrot, diced
3 Celery stalks, diced
1 Garlic clove, diced
2 C Spinach or spinach blend
1/4 C Carrots julienne
4 Turkey sausage links (your choice of meat or omit for vegetarian version)
2 Eggs, beaten
Sushi/sashimi sauce
Rice, Basmati, hot
Prepare desired amount of rice and set aside, keep warm.
Prepare vegetables as described above. Add 1-2 T oil to a hot, heavy pan or wok. Stir-fry first four ingredients together until tender crisp. Add garlic and braise while combining with other vegetables for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl. Wipe out pan, add 1 T oil. Toss in spinach blend and sauté until wilted, transfer to a second bowl. Sprinkle pan with julienne carrots and stir quickly until slightly caramelized. Put in a small bowl. Wipe out pan, add oil, add beaten eggs. Lift edges to allow the runny egg to run under cooked egg. Flip egg over for 20 seconds, transfer to a cutting board. When slightly cool, roll egg into a cylinder and slice into thin ribbons. Cook sausage as directed. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
Place hot rice in the middle of two serving bowls. Arrange the cooked meat, egg and vegetables around the edge of each bowl attractively. Sprinkle the top of each with green onion and julienne carrots. Drizzle with sauce. (Be sure to mix-it-up when eating!) Serves 2.
(Recipe may be increased for more servings).