Monday, June 25, 2012

Asian Bok Choy Soup

Asian Bok Choy Soup
The wonder of raised garden beds is how well they survive devastating flood conditions!  Despite the deluge of rain last week, Tom's vegetable garden survived remarkably well.  The bok choy is abundant and more than ready to be used.  Bok choy, an Asian green, contains high amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, calcium and iron.   That's why Tom planted copious amounts of it.  The first harvest yielded nearly a bushel basket full of hearty, yet tender, greens.  I was armed with recipes to try.  The one that looked most enticing was an easy Asian-inspired stir fry.  I decided I could easily modify it into a soup.  But my first attempt was entangled by my desire to be frugal and use the chili sauce I already had available in the refrigerator, rather than purchasing the sweet chili sauce listed as the ingredient in this recipe.   YAWZA!  It was hotter than I could tolerate.  But again, my frugality reigned and I was desperate not to waste any of the luscious bok choy greens.  So I boiled and pureed potatoes to add to it, and stirred in plain yogurt, and the resulting product was quite delicious.  But I still had an abundance of bok choy, so decided I would try making this soup again, using the sweet chili sauce.  Yes!  Delicious and definitely full of Pzazz!

Garden bok choy
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2" slice ginger root, minced
6 cups chopped bok choy leaves                              
1/2 Tablespoon Thai-style sweet chili sauce     
(use more if you like it spicy)
1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth

Optional garnish:  dollop of plain yogurt

Saute garlic and ginger in coconut oil until fragrant, but not brown.  Add chopped  bok choy and cook until it is wilted.  Add sweet chili sauce (more if you are adventurous) and distribute evenly.  Add broth and simmer until the  bok choy is tender.  Puree in a VitaMix or food processor.  The VitaMix did an incredibly great job of making this a smooth and creamy consistency.  Garnish with a dollop of plain yogurt if desired.

Cooking the bok choy with sweet chili sauce
Servings per recipe: 2
Serving Size: Close to 1 cup
Calories: 169
Total Fat: 14 g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium: 204 mg
Total Carbs: 10 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 7

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho

Cold summer soups are delightful, especially when it is sizzling hot outside. We need more heat and less rain in Duluth.  Gazpacho is a tomato-based, vegetable soup traditionally served cold, originating in Spain and Portugal. It is mostly consumed during the summer months, because of its refreshing qualities and cold serving temperature.  I have savored the traditional tomato/cucumber/celery type of gazpacho and have posted that recipe for Easiest Ever Gazpacho on this blog previously.  So when I saw this recipe in the Whole Foods Co-op for a unique twist on an old favorite I was eager to try it.  Once again, the Whole Foods Co-Op did not disappoint me. I never would have imagined strawberries and tomatoes making a compatible friendship in a gazpacho. But after I made this soup and enjoyed it on the deck yesterday, I would now consider them close companions.  

When I made it, I made just a half-batch because I didn't know yet if I would like it or not.  Now I wish I had made a whole batch.  I used a small jalepeno pepper, and you might want to adjust the amount based on your tolerance or desire for spicy food.  

Enjoy -- and hope for more sunshine than rain.   

1 lb. strawberries, washed, hulled & coarsely chopped
1 lb. tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped cucumber (peeled and seeded)              
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 small fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds & removed                          
Zest of 1 lime
4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional garnish:  freshly snipped chives or cilantro

Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender or VitaMix.  Stir well and adjust for salt, if desired.

Servings per recipe: 6
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 51
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 229 mg
Total Carbs: 11 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 2 g

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Strawberry Pineapple Smoothie

Smoothies are high on my list of summer breakfast treats. Refreshing, quick and delicious! And most enjoyable with a fresh peony from my garden. That was before the Duluth monsoons arrived on Tuesday night.  It has been a dramatic few days in Duluth which received 10 inches of rain in 24 hours. 

1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup plain low-fat kefir
4 -5 mint leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon ground flax
1/2 Tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut

Process all ingredients
 in blender.  

Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 11/2 cup
Calories: 168
Total Fat: 5  g
Cholesterol: 5 mg                                              
Sodium: 68 mg
Total Carbs: 27 g
Dietary Fiber: 6
Protein: 32 g

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blueberry Basil Smoothie

I like to kick-start my mornings with a waft of the herbs on my deck. A few days ago, I realized the basil had exploded!  Acting purely on impulse and a sense of what sounded good, I put some chopped basil, thawed blueberries and kefir into the blender and made an awesome smoothie.  I discovered that blueberries and basil make a remarkably great combination of flavors. After I sipped my smoothie on the deck, I did an on-line search to see if there were other recipes using this combination of flavors and found that yes, blueberries and basil were paired for salsa, vinegars, and a variety of other options.  Oooooh, I love it when my culinary instincts are affirmed.  This refreshing smoothie was made even better with the knowledge of how healthy it was.  The glory of blueberries is that not only are they delicious, they contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than practically any other fruit or vegetable.  And adding ground flax offers a healthful boost of omega 3s, fiber, and protein.   The probiotics in kefir are helpful for the immune system and the digestive system. Truly a summer delight!  

Potted basil on the deck
1/2 cup plain low-fat kefir
1/3 cup thawed blueberries    
4 -5 fresh basil leaves
1 Tablespoon ground flax

Note: For additional protein, Fage yogurt could be used in place of or in addition to the kefir. Or protein powder could be added. The nutritional analysis used kefir.

Process all ingredients together in a blender or VitaMix to desired consistency.  

Ready to puree basil, blueberries and kefir

Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 1 cup (approximately)
Calories:  113
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol:  5 mg                                                    
Sodium: 65 mg
Total Carbs: 15 g
Dietary Fiber: 3
Protein: 7

Monday, June 18, 2012


Wow!  What an amazing weekend!  TeamHope is an outreach of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan) for individuals to participate in marathons across the country to raise funds and awareness for pancreatic cancer.  On Saturday , there was a group of 50 TeamHope runners that participated in Duluth's famous Grandma's Marathon.  They raised more than $26,000!   I had helped plan the event in a small way and my husband, Tom, and I helped staff our TeamHope water station at mile marker 22, cheering on TeamHope runners.  Tom's enthusiasm and good humor were appreciated by both runners and volunteers, while I often rested in a chair on the sidelines, amazed at how this event had all come together so well.   

Tom does everything with gusto!  Runners could easily grab a cup of ice from his unwavering, strong arm!

Marathon Goddess

There were many inspiring stories of  runners who have been affected by pancreatic cancer and have turned their anguish into a determination to advance funding for pancreatic cancer.  One of the runners, Julie Weiss, is a self-declared Marathon Goddess, who lost her father to pancreatic cancer last year.  She is slated to run 52 marathons in 2012, and Grandma's Marathon was her 10th one this year.  She has already raised over $100,000 for pancreatic cancer research. Amazing!!!

See her website at:

Another such story is Sara Peterson, whose father is on the board of directors for Grandma's Marathon and is now battling pancreatic cancer.  See this link for an inspiring article about their journey.

Pancreatic Cancer:  Know it. Fight it. End it.

Join the Effort!
Contributions for Grandma's Marathon TeamHope will be accepted online  until December 31. 
You can donate to any individual listed there, or make a general team contribution. 

Runners gratefully
grabbed cups of ice from 
our volunteers.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Savory Lentil Rhubarb Stew

Rhubarb is another one of the hallmarks of spring.  But it requires so much sugar to make it tasty that I don't use much of it anymore.  So my rhubarb plant has been burgeoning with the stuff.   Then I remembered that a few years ago the local Rhubarb Festival (yea, yea, I know -you are wondering what a Rhubarb Fest is all about) printed some of their best recipes in the newspaper and had included a savory rhubarb lentil  dish of some kind. Where did I put that red folder of rhubarb recipes? And why do I remember a funky recipe when I can't remember what I went downstairs for two minutes ago?  Yep, there was the red rhubarb recipe folder next to my stack of cookbooks.  And there was that recipe for combining rhubarb and lentils. Looking more carefully at the recipe from the June 22, 2005 issue of Duluth News Tribune, I realized this recipe of international intrigue wasn't submitted by a local cook, rather it was by the great culinary guru Mark Bittman.  Definitely worth trying if this renown chef said it was good. An added enticement for me was the use of East Indian spices, which I love.  Mark Bittman made the point that rhubarb is really a vegetable, so it is well suited to a savory dish rather than only pie.   So I gave it a try, and wowza.  Easy and tasty!  And I was lucky enough to have some cilantro growing in pots on the deck, thanks to my husband, Tom.  I might even share this healthy version of rhubarb with him.  Maybe.   

3 - 4 stalks rhubarb, strings removed
      (about 2 cups chopped)
1 cup uncooked orange lentils, well-washed
2 tablespoons minced ginger                              
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 cloves
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 dried ancho or other mild chile, optional
salt to taste  (about 1/4 tsp)
chopped cilantro leaves (at least 1 tablespoon)

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients, except salt and cilantro and add water to cover by about 1 inch.  Cook at a steady simmer until the lentils and rhubarb are quite soft, 20 - 30 minutes.  Remove cloves and cardamom pods.  Add salt, then taste and adjust seasoning.  Add cilantro.  Puree if you want a smoother texture, but the wonder of orange lentils is that they are remarkably soft and cook quickly.  

Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: 1 cup                                  
Calories: 206
Total Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium: 8 mg
Total Carbs: 35 g
Dietary Fiber: 17 g
Protein: 14