Monday, September 23, 2013

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

The photo below shows the patio table filled with tomatoes that Tom harvested on Sunday evening when he heard the frost warning.  He covered the rest of them on the vine and they are ripening quickly in the warmth of this week.   There are several different varieties of heirloom tomatoes - yellow, black, golden, and many types of the common red tomato. (He will chastise me for not specifically naming all of the varieties that he so carefully chose to plant.)  He has been harvesting more summer squash, too, as well as peppers.  The "red lipstick" sweet red peppers are...well...cute. They were a great addition to this soup, which is an adaptation of a recipe I found in the Soup Bible by Penguin Books, 2010. The roasted tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic combined to make a richly satisfying soup. The next time I make it, I will definitely make a double batch, as the robust flavor captures the essence of a great Italian soup. And the finishing touch of balsamic vinegar sealed the deal for me.  

Red Lipstick sweet peppers and green bell peppers
    2 lbs. ripe, firm (unpeeled) tomatoes, quartered, cored and deseeded
    1 cup sliced sweet red peppers
    1/2 red onion, peeled and quartered
    3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
    a few sprigs fresh basil (I used two types of Italian basil - Purple and Genovese) 
    2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    2 Tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
    1/2 cup vegetable broth
    2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the peppers and tomatoes in a glass baking pan with the onion, garlic, basil and oil. Season with salt and pepper, then roast for 1 hour or until the edges of the tomatoes are slightly blackened.

When the vegetables are ready, remove from the oven. Remove the garlic cloves, squeeze out the pulp and discard the skins. (You have just roasted garlic, which is much sweeter than a regular garlic clove.) Blend the contents of the baking pan (including all of the juices) with the broth.  I used my immersion blender stick. Add balsamic vinegar to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh basil.

Roasted vegetables 
Purple and Genovese basil 

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 2      
Serving Size: 1 1/4  cup
Calories: 329
Total Fat: 22 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 547 mg
Total Carbs: 37 g
Dietary Fiber: 8 g
Protein: 6 g

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pattypan Squash Soup

Pattypan summer squash is growing as well as all of the other varieties of summer squash in Tom's garden this year. And the days are getting shorter and the temperatures cooler, prompting me to make hot soups, which can only mean one thing....the forbidden four letter f-word has arrived.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the colors and the decreased humidity of this season.  But I am not ready to bid goodbye to the summer sultry heat.  Summer visits Duluth for such a short time, that I grasp it tightly each day it is here.  But now it is time to harvest the summer squash, signifying the end of the season.  

This particular soup is from the blog of Naturally Ella.  The only modification I needed to make was to substitute coconut oil for the olive oil.  The combination of spices coriander, turmeric, paprika, cumin, mustard powder, and cinnamon was subtle but exquisite, giving it a mid-eastern flavor.  

Any type of summer squash could be used for this soup.  This is just the type I needed to use today. If you aren't familiar with pattypan summer squash you may have passed them up at your local farmers' market, not recognizing them or knowing what to do with them.  They have a strange shape, and either a pale green or golden yellow skin.  Other names for this variety of summer squash include scallopini, sunburst, white squash, or button squash.  Nutritionally, they have a lot going for them, according to Organic Authority.   They are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese, as well as a good source of magnesium, vitamin A, folate, fiber, potassium, copper, riboflavin, and phosphorous.    

Tom gave this soup a five-star rating, which always makes me feel jazzed and Pzazzed.  Even though it is the end of summer.  

1 Tablespoon coconut oil
6 cups cubed pattypan summer squash (no need to peel it)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cubed, peeled raw potatoes
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups vegetable broth (I used Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth)
1/4 teaspoon each: coriander, turmeric, and paprika
1/8 teaspoon each:  cumin, mustard powder and cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper, if desired
1/4 cup lite coconut milk

In a medium pot, heat oil over medium low heat.  Add the garlic and onions, sauteing until onions begin to soften and garlic becomes fragrant.  Add the squash, carrot and potatoes- continuing to cook until squash and potatoes begin to soften, about five minutes.  During this time, begin to add spices.  Once vegetables begin to soften, add the white wine to deglaze the pan.  Finally, pour in the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Let simmer until potatoes and squash are soft, 20 - 25 minutes.

Once potatoes and squash are done, use an immersion blender to puree.  Return the soup back to the stove top, stir in the coconut milk, and heat again until the soup is hot.  When ready to serve, place soup in a bowl, a sprinkle a little paprika on top of each.  The original recipe also suggested swirling a tablespoon of additional coconut milk onto the top of the soup.  

Nutrition per serving:                                           

Servings per recipe: 5
Serving Size: 1 cup                          
Calories: 99
Total Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 225 mg
Total Carbs: 13 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 3 g

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Crookneck Squash Soup with Curry and Ginger

This is another tasty way to use up that abundance of yellow crookneck squash in your garden or that your neighbor keeps giving you.  I won't be giving mine away because Crookneck  is one of my favorite varieties of summer squash, with fast-growing prolific plants, and a mellow flavor.  The slightly bent neck is what earns it the name of Crookneck.  The bumpy skin looks deceptively tough, but it is actually quite thin and tender, and there is no need to peel it off.  Any type of yellow summer squash could be used for this recipe.  

This recipe is an adaption of one I discovered on   The ease of making it and the use of ginger were what grabbed my attention.   Ginger is a one of the world's oldest and most popular medicinal spices. It's reputation as an aid for digestion is what I think of first.  In many of my recipe books, the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger are also mentioned.  But most importantly for me, I thoroughly enjoy the taste of ginger. Then, mix it with curry, and I dive in. The amount of fresh ginger root and curry spice was just right for me, but if you enjoy the tamer side of life, I suggest you reduce the amounts by about half.  The original recipe also used cream, but obviously, I omitted that for my dietary needs. 

Did I mention that this is easy to make?   Just put all of the ingredients together in a large soup pot and let it simmer until the squash is tender.  Preparation Pzazz!    

2 1/2 lbs yellow crookneck squash, cut into 1" cubes (6 cups)
1 onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, shredded(about 1/2 cup)
Variety of summer squash from the garden

1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger (1 tsp dried)
(or less if desired)

2 teaspoons curry powder (or less)

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Paprika and chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot and simmer over medium-low heat until squash is tender.  Use a handheld blender to puree the soup, or transfer it to your blender in batches.

Servings per recipe: 6                                
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 39                        
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 81 mg
Total Carbs: 8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 2 g

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lemon Balsamic Beets

The beets in Tom's garden are ruby red and delicious!  I relive my favorite childhood memories of planting and harvesting beets with my mom in her garden, then enjoying their sweetness together. Maybe that is why I asked Tom to plant more beets this year.  With each bite, I recall those fine summer days of long ago.  Our Duluth summer will come to a close all too quickly, but fortunately Tom's garden is doing remarkably well, as you can see in this photo from August 18.  That was just a portion of the harvest in a single day. Tom has been busy daily harvesting the bounty, while I have been trying to keep up with processing and cooking it all.  

One of my recent ways to add Pzazz to my food without fat or carbohydrates is to add flavored balsamic vinegar. The Rustic Olive is a new premium olive oil and balsamic vinegar "tasting bar" in Canal Park in Duluth. They carry an amazing line of flavored balsamic vinegar and high quality extra-virgin olive oils. I have never seen such an array of balsamic vinegar!  Blueberry, Espresso, Mango, Maple, Dark Chocolate, Pear, on and on it goes! Their Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar seemed like a good option to try for a variety of summer foods. I splashed some on my finely pulverized beets and let them marinate for about an hour before I ate them. Refreshing and lively!  Definitely my new favorite way to enjoy summer beets.   

As a side note, I read in a diabetes magazine sometime in the past year that there have been studies indicating that about a teaspoon of vinegar can help lower blood sugar for that meal. Fascinating.  I'll see if I can find that article again and do more research into the topic and report back to you.  Meanwhile, check out The Rustic Olive for Pzazz if you are in Duluth! Or stop by my house for an armful of kale, chard, beets, and a variety of summer squash that I will gladly share with you, my sweet friends!

1 cup peeled and cooked sliced beets
1 teaspoon Sicilian Lemon white balsamic vinegar or more as desired (another type of white balsamic vinegar could be used)

I chopped the sliced,cooked beets in the chopper attachment of my Cuisinart Smart Stick. This gadget minced them so fine! Then I added the lemon balsamic vinegar and let them marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. I garnished them with a sprig of lemon basil. Of course, a couple of flowers from the garden also added some Pzazz to the meal!

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: About 3/4 cup
Calories: 57
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 75 mg
Total Carbs: 14 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 2 g