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Recipe Roundup: 7 Seasonal Winter Soups

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Soup is always a good idea but especially with the crazy weather we have been having where some mornings you wake up and it’s 28 degrees, oh joy. The good news is it’s so easy to incorporate more seasonal vegetables into your diet with winter soups. Also a great way to rescue wilting vegetables that need a little help but are still begging to be eaten.  Check out these recipes I have put together for seasonal soup inspiration. Happy cooking!

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Scarlet Runner Beans and Turnip Soup – No scarlet runner beans around? No problem, use whatever dry beans you have in the pantry. And don’t forget to put those extra turnip greens to work with some Spicy Skillet Turnip Greens.

Chorizo & Winter Vegetable Stew  from Kristi’s Farm to Table

 Spicy Pork and Mustard Greens from Bon Appetit

Cauliflower, Bacon and Potato Soup from The Whimsical Wife

Black Bean, Pork and Sweet Potato Stew from Kristi’s Farm To Table

White Bean Swiss Chard Soup from Pickled Plum

Red Curry Coconut Chicken Thai Soup from Vanille Verte

 

 

 

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Spaghetti squash with meatballs

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When I get that busy, I have two goals – try to eat healthy at home as often as possible and not waste my produce delivery.  This usually keeps me just focused enough on my crisper drawer to keep cooking simple, nutritious meals, but creating new recipes is out of the question.

Fortunately, I have blogger friends who provide terrific inspiration when I’ve lost mine.  Natanya Anderson at Fete and Feast does a meal plan for her busy family and is the queen of make ahead shortcuts for busy weekday meals.  Megan Myers of Stetted and Lisa Lawless at Lisa is Cooking make beautiful dishes featuring fresh, local produce and I often turn to them when I need a culinary spark.

I did manage to eek out a pretty tasty meatballs with spaghetti squash dish.  I use a pretty basic meatball recipe (below) so that by the time the spaghetti squash is done, the meatballs are ready.  I made four servings which gave me enough for a delicious dinner and plenty of leftovers for lunch that week.  I don’t put a sauce on my spaghetti squash, but you could definitely add another layer of flavor to the dish with a simple spaghetti sauce.

One of the challenges for me in January was having a plethora of beets on hand.  I don’t mind beets, but I don’t love them.  I usually saute the beet greens as soon as I get my produce delivery, but then the beets sit in the fridge until I force myself to cook them.  I have a few go to recipes for beets like beet pancakes and beet risotto, but I get bored with them.   I love this beet ravioli recipe from the now closed restaurant Aquarelle, but it’s more work than I’m willing to do for a dinner for one.

I reached out to my Twitter friends for ideas on new beet recipes and they offered up several great suggestions. I’d never thought of using beets in curry before and loved the idea.  I tried this recipe from Cooking and Me and it was very tasty.  I didn’t dice the beets small enough so it took a little longer to cook than the recipe suggested, but I look forward to trying it again.   I’m also looking forward to trying Megan’s beet brownies and my friend Hector’s beet muffins.  Since we still have three months of beet season in Austin, I’ll have plenty of time to experiment.  If you have a favorite beet recipe, I’d love to try it.

What are your strategies when life gets too busy for creativity in the kitchen?  I highly recommend turning to others rather than not cooking.

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Spaghetti squash with meatballs

 

1 spaghetti squash

1/4 cup water

1/2 pound Italian sausage (I use spicy)

1/2 pound ground beef (you could also substitute veal, lamb or turkey)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

2 eggs

1/2 cup grated paremsan

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Butter and salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Split the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Put a 1/4 cup of water in the bottom of a baking dish and place the spaghetti squash flesh side down in the dish. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until you can easily pierce the skin of the squash with a fork.

When the squash is finished, remove the pan and allow the squash to cool enough for you to handle it safely.  Turn the squash flesh side up and use a fork to scrape the squash meat out of the skin.  The meat will come out in “strings” that look like noodles.

 

While the squash is cooking, combine the sausage, ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, parmesan, garlic and pepper flakes in a bowl and combine it well with your hands.  (Yes, your hands.)  Form the meat mixture into balls that are about an 1.5 inches in diameter, like a ping pong ball.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and place the first batch of meatballs in the pan so that they do not touch. (If you are using a lean meat like turkey, drizzle olive oil in the pan before placing the meatballs in it.)

Turn the meatballs at least twice so that all sides are browned and the meat is cooked through (160 on a meat thermometer.)  Remove the meatballs to a plate and cover with foil while you cook the next batch.

Place a scoop of spaghetti squash in each bowl.  Place a small pat of butter (about 1/3 tbsp) on the squash and sprinkle with salt to taste.  Place 2-3 meatballs on top of the squash and serve.

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Pesto to the Rescue

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This summer has been absolutely brutal.  Just about everything has surrendered to the sweltering Texas heat (at this writing, we’ve had over 69 days of 100+ heat in Austin alone).  I finally knew it was time to pull up all but the hardiest of the plants in my garden when my basil started giving out.  I watered like crazy, I even moved the basil out of the direct sunlight, but those plants just weren’t having it.  By late afternoon each day, they were wilted and miserable.  It was time to put my basil out of its misery and make pesto.

I like making pesto because it is simple, versatile and it freezes well.  I tend to use pecans because they are plentiful in Austin and I’ll substitute whatever type of leafy green I think might work.  When mustard greens arrived in my produce delivery last fall, I made a spicy Mustard Green Pesto that turned out to be a terrific way to use greens that I was otherwise lukewarm about eating.

I usually make a few batches at once and freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays so that I can portion out what I need later.  You can also freeze in plastic bags if you want to reheat larger batches.

Sauteed zucchini and mushrooms linguine with pesto

What’s your favorite pesto recipe?  Do you have a creative spin on this classic sauce?

Basil Pesto

2 cups loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pecans, walnuts or pine nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Combine half of the of olive oil, basil, pecans and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Slowly add the other half of the olive oil through the feeding tube of the food processor, combining until smooth.  Add more olive oil as desired to create a thinner mixture.  Add the parmesan and blend.  Add salt to taste.

 

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Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Project: Beets Two Ways

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As I considered what I would make for my final Austin Food Bloggers’ Hunger Awareness Project for the Capital Area Food Bank, I found myself thinking of what it feels like to be in the place of choosing between buying food and other essentials like medicine or paying rent.  What most of you may not know about me is that I know that feeling all too well.
Many years ago I made a series of truly regrettable and painful choices that turned my life upside down and forced me to start over.  For the two years before I started the blog, I lived on a budget so tight that I had $25 per week for food – $1.19 per meal.  Lisa Goddard from the Capital Area Food Bank told me that I probably would have qualified for SNAP, but I never asked for the help.  
I made it through that period because I had a safety net of friends and family who loved me through it and kept me fed, inviting me over for dinner and sending me home with more leftovers than we ate.  I also found a job where I traveled quite a bit and my clients often picked up the tab for my meals.  I was lucky, but not everyone has such fortune which is why the SNAP program exists – to help people fill those gaps so that they don’t have to make those choices.  
One of the great lessons I learned on that tight budget was to use every little bit of food.  Scraps that I used to throw away became valuable commodities and I would seek out foods that could be used for more than one purpose.
Beets became a new favorite in my kitchen then.  Before that I wasn’t really sure what to do with beets other than roast them and I had never considered eating the greens.  My friends Ana and Sandy changed all that.  Ana gave me a recipe from Mark Bittman for beet pancakes, similar to a potato pancake, that can be eating on their own or as the patty for a veggie burger and Sandy taught me to saute beet greens like spinach.  
I started making the two together using the beet pancakes as my entree and the beet greens as the side.  For $3-$4, I could make two vitamin-packed meals.  Perfect. 
Now you know why I am so passionate about helping end hunger in Central Texas and why I still volunteer for the food bank today.  If you agree that hunger is unacceptable, please donate to the Capital Area Food Bank.
Beet Pancakes with Sauteed Beet Greens

Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman

Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsps olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of beet greens, rinsed
Separate the beets and the beet greens.  Rinse the beet greens in a colander and set them aside to dry.  Tear the beet greens from the stems into bite sized pieces and set aside. 
Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes.  It helps to leave part of the stem on the beets so that you have something to hold on to while you peel them.  After the beets are peeled, you can trim off the ends.

Beets

Beet greens

Grate the beets in a food processor or by hand.  If you grate by hand, place a towel over the bowl to keep the beet juice from getting all over the kitchen. (Thanks Hector for the tip.)

Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.
Form patties with the beets – four smaller patties or two large patties. 
Preheat a skillet over medium heat and heat two tablespoons of the olive oil.
Place the patties in the skillet and turn the heat to medium-high.  Cook until the beet cakes are nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the cakes and continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned.
Remove the beet cakes from the skillet, and either heat the final tbsp of olive oil in a new skillet or add it to the previously used skillet.  Add the garlic and beet greens and saute until the greens are wilted.

Plate the beets and greens.  If desired, add a small dollop of sour cream to the top of the beet cakes.

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