Got Vegetables? Make Soup

It can be a challenge cooking for two. When I made a big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack the other day, I had a lot of tender vegetables left over. I turned them into creamy soup in 30 minutes.

The thin slices of potatoes and tender ribbons of cabbage seemed to demand caraway, that distinctly flavored seed typically found in rye bread. I used to love ladling my mom’s sauerkraut dotted with caraway seeds over creamy chunks of boiled potatoes.

I started the soup by sauteing chopped onions and caraway seeds in hot oil. I tried a bit of the Butter Olive Oil I bought at Oh! Olive, a cute little shop in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The oil is organic with natural butter flavor, but is dairy-free and contains no animal products. I’ve discovered it’s perfect for popping corn, or drizzling over a bowl of hot popped corn. Anyway, when the onions began to turn golden brown, I dumped in all my leftover vegetables (I had quite a bit — only two of us ate a meal from that big pan of veggies), poured in a few cups of vegetable broth and let it all simmer together for about 20 minutes.

The potato slices were falling apart at that point and the green beans and carrots were very tender.

I used my immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot. Of course you could use your blender or food processor for the job. I wanted to have control over how chunky the final product would be. And then, I just stirred in about a cup of milk and seasoned to taste. A sprinkle of minced fresh parsley over the top gave it the final touch.

The soup was so satisfying. The dark caraway seeds softened during the saute and simmer and added that German-style flavor I remember from years of eating the sauerkraut and dumplings my mom used to make whenever she wanted to make my dad’s day.

Either use up some vegetables you’ve already cooked or follow the recipe below.

Turn leftover Baked Garden Vegetable Stack into Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup.

I plan to bake another big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack, just so I can have more of those vegetables to turn into soup.

Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup

First, cook the vegetables. Serve some up as part of a meal, then use the rest for soup. Here’s how to bake the vegetables:

  • Olive oil, for preparing pans
  • Yukon Gold potatoes, about 2 to 2½ pounds, peeled
  • Carrots, about 1 pound, peeled
  • Onion, 1 medium, sliced thin
  • Green Beans, 5 to 6 ounces, topped and tailed (trimmed), cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
  • Cabbage, about 4 ounces, sliced thin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare 2 shallow baking pans or baking dishes that are the same size. Two jelly roll pans (11- x 15-inch) if you are feeding a family or 2 to 4 gratin dishes if you are cooking for one or two. Lightly coat the inside of each baking pan or dish with olive oil. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife or a mandolin to slice Yukon Gold potatoes and carrots 1/8-inch thick, keeping them in separate piles.

Salt and pepper the inside bottom of one pan. Arrange about half of the Yukon Gold potato slices, shingle style, in the prepared pan, covering the bottom completely. Make another layer with all of the carrots, arranging them the same way. Sprinkle the onion slices, green beans and cabbage over the potatoes. End the stack with a layer of the remaining Yukon Golds, arranging them shingle style. Push the mixture down with your hands to pack it in to the pan tightly.

Brush olive oil over the top layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Set the other prepared pan upside down over the pan of vegetables. Wrap the pans up tight with heavy-duty aluminum foil to hold them securely together.

Bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. Carefully flip the pans over (be sure to use oven mitts) and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven. Allow the baked stack to rest for 5 minutes, then very carefully remove aluminum foil.

Lift off the top baking pan. Lay a large cutting board over the top of the baked stack and flip the stack over onto the cutting board. Carefully remove the baking pan. Slice the hot stack into squares or rectangles and serve. Refrigerate leftovers to save for soup.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 3 (approximately) cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dairy or non-dairy milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and caraway seeds. Saute until onions just begin to turn golden brown. Add all of the leftover vegetables to the pot. Add enough broth to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are falling apart and cabbage and green beans are tender.

Add milk.

Puree to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle some fresh parsley on each serving. Makes about 6 servings, depending on how many vegetables you started with.



What would Julia do with a load of fresh vegetables?

I think Julia Child would love Bemidji, the community in northern Minnesota I’ve called home for 11 years. I never had the opportunity to meet the woman who brought French cooking into American home kitchens, but I’ve read a lot about her and I’ve visited with people who knew the wonder woman who suggested good fun, good food and good flavor go hand-in-hand in the kitchen.

I know Julia Child demanded fresh ingredients. She would be thrilled with the two farmers markets we have in our community, offering shoppers appreciative of good food prime pickings from local gardens.

She might like to teach some cooking classes in the community kitchen at Harmony Co-op, centrally located downtown just a few blocks from the farmers markets. She’d love to visit some of the community gardens where families have an opportunity to grow some of their own food.

I’m sure she’d be amazed at all of the sharing, caring and friendly people who live in Bemidji. One of those people is Doris Swedmark, who spends 8 hours a day working in her vegetable garden that measures 30 feet x 60 feet. All of her hard work pays off — her cabbage won a blue ribbon at the county fair this year. She keeps plenty of plastic bags on hand, ready to share the bounty of her garden with others.

Swedmark shows off red cabbage in her garden.

I am one of the lucky people to come home from Doris Swedmark’s garden with a load of

Swedmark with mangle beets.

vegetables. She yanked some enormous orange mangle beets from the soil, picked some beans, carved out a chubby red cabbage with her very sharp knife, pulled some carrots, cut some kale and gathered some tomatoes. She invited me to grab some fennel and dill on my way out of the garden.

I’m not sure what Julia Child would do with all of these fresh vegetables — ratatouille, maybe? I did know what to do with my treasured loot.

I pulled out my Clay Coyote cazuela and started in on a Greek-style vegetable dish.

I weighed out a pound of beans from one of the bags, chopped an onion, minced some garlic, squeezed the seeds from some tomatoes and chopped them up, and diced a small zucchini. I sauteed the vegetables in olive oil in the cazuela, then added some water, tomato paste and a bundle of mixed fresh herbs that are commonly found in Greek cooking.

I do have luck growing herbs when I tuck them in around my flowering perennials. It took a quick trip around my gardens to collect Italian parsley, oregano, Greek basil, rosemary, thyme and marjoram. I tied the sprigs together with kitchen twine, feeling very Julia Child-like, and tucked it into the mixture in the cazuela. And then, into the oven it went for about 40 minutes. As it bubbled in the heat, a wonderful aroma wafted through my kitchen.

I planned to serve the Greek-Style Vegetables with orzo. None in the pantry. I chose some brown rice Caserecce instead. It was a good pick.

You could top the baked dish with crumbled feta cheese before serving. I didn’t. The meal was aromatic, satisfying and delicious. It’s not French, but I’ll bet Julia would approve.

Today is Julia Child’s birthday. If she was living, she’d be 100 years old. Celebrate with good fun, good food and good flavor in the kitchen — French or not. Bon Appetit!

One pound of beans from Swedmark’s garden ready to go into Greek-Style Vegetables.

Greek-Style Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 3 chubby cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of green beans, topped and tailed (trimmed) and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or beef soup base
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 sprig each of: Italian parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley, for serving
  • 1 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese, optional

In a large skillet or cazuela, heat olive oil. Add onions and saute until tender. Add garlic and beans and saute. Add tomatoes, zucchini, water, soup base, tomato paste and lemon zest. Stir to mix. Bring mixture to a boil. Tie sprigs of fresh herbs together with kitchen twine. Tuck them into the bubbling mixture. Cover the skillet or cazuela with aluminum foil and bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with cooked orzo or pasta of choice. Offer feta cheese at the table. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

P.S. Greek-Style Vegetables is one of the dishes I’ll be preparing on Saturday, August 18th during my cooking demonstration at 11:00 at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes.



Eat Indian tonight — start with Pakora

My favorite guy had a birthday last week. We decided to make Mango Rice Pilaf and Pakora for the evening birthday meal. We had never even heard of Pakora until we ate at an Indian Restaurant in Fridley, Minnesota a month or so ago.

When I asked the server how the crunchy dumpling that tasted like well-seasoned onion rings was prepared, he mentioned chickpea flour and water, onions and I think he said chili powder.

When I got home, I checked my copy of “Sherbanoo’s Indian Cuisine: Tantalizing Tastes of the Indian Subcontinent,” by Sherbanoo Aziz. I found her recipe for Pakora. I knew it would be good. Several years ago, Sherbanoo came to Bemidji from her home in Moorhead to do an Indian cooking class for a small group of people. The food was amazing.

Sherbanoo told me when she moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area from Arlington, Virginia in 1996, not many people in the area were familiar with Indian food. She had a hard time finding the ingredients she needed for her recipes. Now many of those ingredients, such as chickpea flour, often referred to as garbanzo bean flour, are available in mainstream grocery stores. Sherbanoo reminded me that garbanzo bean flour has a low glycemic index making it a good choice for those who must watch their blood sugar levels, it’s a good source of protein and it’s gluten-free.

Pakora is similar to a fritter that’s fried until golden and crispy on the outside. Sherbanoo told me it is a generic food enjoyed as an appetizer or snack in India. Pakora can be made with a variety of vegetables and seasonings depending on where in India you are eating. In some parts of India the crunchy dumplings are called wada.

My favorite guy and I have been experimenting on our own with pakora. Sherbanoo’s

My favorite guy frying up pakora made with recipe from “Sherbanoo’s Indian Cuisine: Tantalizing Tastes of the Indian Subcontinent.”

recipe is one of our favorites. You can find our own blend of ingredients in the pakora recipe I share in my column this week. It’s a little different than Sherbanoo’s recipe, but we find it to be perfect for our tastes, with bits of minced jalapeno and cilantro mixed in with sliced onions. Click here for that recipe.

You will find more information about Sherbanoo as well as some of her Indian recipes on her website. Click here.



  • 2 cups gram flour (most commonly called garbanzo bean flour when you see it in the grocery store)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red hot chili pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooking oil for frying

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and water until all the lumps are dissolved. Add the spices and the onions. Mix well. The batter will be of banana fritter consistency.

Pour the oil in a medium frying pan and place on high heat. When heated to 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, lower to medium heat. Gently lower one teaspoon of batter at a time into the oil. Continue until the surface is covered. Fry for about 1/2 minute on each side. Remove and drain excess oil on side of the pan. Place on a plate with a paper towel to drain more oil. Pakora may be made ahead of time and served at room temperature or warmed up in a microwave oven prior to serving. Serve with hot chutney.

Makes 10 3-piece servings. Per serving: (with 1/2 cup oil absorbed) 164 calories, 12 g fat, 9 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 2.3 g fiber, 259 mg sodium.

Recipe from Sherbanoo’s Indian Cuisine: Tantalizing Tastes of the Indian Subcontinent, by Sherbanoo Aziz. 2001.

Summer salad easy to tote to Independence Day picnics.

If you’ve been to a Twins baseball game at Target Field on a Sunday afternoon, you may have satisfied your hunger pangs with a refreshing healthful salad from the Roots for the Home Team Garden Goodies Cart.

A couple of weeks ago, along with with other members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter of , Les Dames d’Escoffier International, I had an opportunity to have a taste of one of the salads created by young people who are participants in the Community Design Center of Minnesota (CDC), a youth development program on the east side of St. Paul.

Bryan and Ly’s Epic Quinoa Salad was tossed together on an outdoor patio at Swede Hollow Bakery and Cafe by two young CDC program participants who work in organic, sustainable vegetable and flower gardens in several locations in east St. Paul. One of the gardens borders the Swede Hollow patio.

Garden at Swede Hollow Bakery and Cafe planted and cared for by Garden Corps interns with the CDC.

As they dumped prepared ingredients into a large mixing bowl, the girls told us that quinoa is an ancient grain that is very good for us. When all the vegetables, fruit and herbs had been tossed together, they added an Asian-inspired dressing. This salad recipe was created by CDC members.

Bryan and Ly’s Epic Quinoa Salad prepared on the Swede Hollow patio by youth participants in the CDC.

I made the salad over the weekend and packed it into jars. They traveled well in a cooler on my weekend road trip. The unusual, refreshing combination of quinoa, kale, vegetables, grapes and mint gets a little kick of heat from chili garlic sauce in the dressing. It was a very satisfying meal in the park on an afternoon with temperatures over 90 degrees.

This easy-to-tote salad is perfect for 4th of July picnics and meals on the boat.

The Twins still have several home games scheduled for Sundays at Target Field. Stop by the Roots for the Home Team Garden Goodies Cart and try one of the fresh, flavorful and healthful salads. Roots for the Home Team makes it so easy to eat well at the ballpark.

Dates you’ll find the Garden Goodies cart at Target Field:

  • July 15th and 29th
  • August 12th
  • September 9th, 16th and 30th

 Bryan and Ly’s Epic Quinoa Salad

(recipe from Roots for the Home Team Garden Goodies Cart)


  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups packed shredded kale leaves (remove thick ribs)
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 4 cups mixed spring greens
  • 1/2 cup roasted & salted sunflower seeds

1. Mix all dressing ingredients in large bowl. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Rinse with cool water; drain well.

2. Place quinoa in bowl; toss with half of the dressing. Add kale, tomatoes, grapes, cucumber and mint. Gently stir until well blended. Serve on top of spring greens. Drizzle each serving with remaining dressing and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Tips from the cook

  • I’ve discovered peanuts are a delicious substitute for sunflower seeds in this salad.

Portobello Mushroom Sandwich — It’s Amazing.

“I can’t believe we’re sitting here eating mushroom sandwiches.” My husband took another bite of the thick sandwich filled with a mix of sauteed portobello slices, onions, garlic and spinach. “A year ago, we wouldn’t have gone near a mushroom,” he said.

He was right. Until we’d gone hunting for chanterelles with Dick Ojakangas in Duluth last August, we had no idea what we’d been missing as mushroom-challenged individuals. The moment we tasted the chanterelles that Beatrice Ojakangas had sauteed, we were hooked. And that opened up a whole new world of culinary magnificence to us. You can read about that mushroom-enlightening experience on a blog post I wrote last year. Just click here to get to that story.

Since that mushroom turnaround last year, I went to Mushroom Camp, joined the Paul Bunyan Mushroom Club, tramped through the woods on a few forays and have been eating mushrooms with enjoyment. Nothing from a can, though. Only fresh mushrooms will do for my palate.

These Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches have become a favorite. It takes little time to slice up a couple of large Portobellos and marinate them for a few minutes in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Italian seasoning blend. While the mushroom slices marinate, you can saute the onion and garlic, adding some fresh spinach or kale that wilts in just seconds. Then, add the mushroom slices, cook for a few minutes and serve on toasted bread slices.

It’s a gourmet sandwich. It takes minutes to make. We think it’s amazing — in more ways than one!

The Confetti Bean Salad in my column this week goes well with Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches. You can get the Bean Salad recipe by clicking here.

You might also enjoy Mushroom Crostini. I posted that recipe on this blog not too long ago. Click here for that recipe.

Marinated Portobello Mushroom Sandwich

  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, stems removed, tops dusted with a dry paper towel
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons dried Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 chubby cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 or 3 handfuls baby spinach leaves or baby kale leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Bread slices, toasted or grilled

Prepare marinade by whisking 3/4 cup olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian seasoning together.  Cut portobello mushrooms into slices about 1/4-inch thick.  Arrange slices in a 9-x 13-inch glass baking dish in a single layer. Pour marinade over the slices. Use your fingers to rub mixture over the slices, coating them completely. Turn slices over and  make sure all of the cut sides are coated. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet (cast iron works well) over medium heat. Add onions to hot oil and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add spinach or kale and cook until wilted.  Add mushrooms, scraping any leftover marinade from the dish into the skillet. Stir and cook for about 5 or 6 minutes, until mushrooms are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on toasted or grilled bread slices. Makes 4 sandwiches, depending on size of bread slices.

Tip from the cooks

We like to brush both sides of bread with a light coating of olive oil and toast them in our grill pan on the stove.

Celebrate Earth Day with Mushroom Crostini

Mushroom Crostini

I’ve spent most of my life turning up my nose at mushrooms. That all changed last summer when I discovered the sublime flavor of chanterelle mushrooms plucked fresh from the forest floor and sauteed in butter with garden-fresh sage leaves. I blogged about my foraging experience in Duluth with Dick Ojakangas last summer. Beatrice Ojakangas immediately transformed our chanterelle harvest into a luscious appetizer. You can read that blog post by clicking here.

That foraging experience was followed by my weekend at Mushroom Camp. After that, a visit to Dallas Flynn’s farm in Frazee, Minnesota. He sent me home with some of the shiitake mushrooms he raises. Those beauties went into a pasta dish. I became hooked on mushrooms.

On this Earth Day weekend, I’m making Mushroom Crostini. Buttery cremini mushrooms or creamy and light shiitakes are both good choices for this appetizer or snack. It’s so easy to make.

First, toast some baguette slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil. I toast them in a grill pan. When the weather is nice, use your outdoor grill.

Then, saute thinly sliced mushrooms with dried Italian seasoning blend. When I made this treat during a “Cooking with Herbs” demonstration for the Lakes Area Garden Club in Detroit Lakes the other night, I added a sprig of fresh thyme and a sage leaf to the pan as the mushrooms cooked. Some garlic, salt and pepper is all that’s needed for the finishing touch of flavor.

Serve the warm mushroom mixture on the little toasts, or crostini.

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than enjoying a gift from its soil?

It will soon be time to hunt for morel mushrooms. Won’t those be the perfect treasures to create this delicious crostini? I can’t wait!

You can watch as I prepare Mushroom Crostini on my weekly Lakeland Public Television segment, Good Food, Food Life, 365. Click here to go right to the video.

Mushroom Crostini

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini or shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed, sliced thin
  • Italian dried herb blend, to taste
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine, optional
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Baguette slices, toasted

Heat olive oil in saute pan. Add sliced mushrooms and Italian seasoning. Saute until mushrooms are soft and tender. Add garlic and optional dry sherry or wine. Continue to saute for a minute or two, just long enough for garlic to lose its raw flavor. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Serve warm on toasted baguette slices. Makes about 8 crostini.

Tip from the Cook

  • Brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil before toasting in grill pan or on outdoor grill.


Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

Not too many years ago I was standing in the produce department at a grocery store, gazing at a variety of pears. I was planning to make a special dessert that involved poaching pears. I’d never poached pears. I had no idea what kind of pear to use.

Lucky for me, the produce manager recommended Bosc pears for poaching. He explained that their flesh is firmer than most pears, so they tend to hold their shape well during the poaching process. His voice took on a note of passion as he described their wonderful flavor, “Like the best white wine you could ever taste,” he said. “That is what a ripe Bosc pear tastes like.”

The cinnamon-colored skin of the Bosc makes them stand out in a crowd of Anjou and Bartletts. Their elongated neck flowing down to a rounded bottom gives them a look of regal elegance. The produce manager helped me choose Bosc pears that were ripe, but still firm. I tasted one as soon as I got home. That man was absolutely right. The juicy pear was divine. That was the day I fell in love with the Bosc pear.

The pears looked perfect after poaching and tasted divine.

When I brought a bunch of Bosc pears home from the store the other day, I had no plans for poaching. I made a batch of Honey-Glazed Roasted Pears and served them for dessert with a generous dollop of coconut milk yogurt. I made enough so that some of the roasted pears could go into the refrigerator to be used another day in my breakfast bowl of hot oatmeal.

The rest of the Bosc pears got peeled and cored and cooked into soup. Bosc pears marry perfectly with Garnet sweet potatoes. Garnet sweet potatoes are moist with dark orange flesh. I didn’t even peel the sweet potatoes before chopping them and cooking them in water with a cinnamon stick. While the sweet potatoes simmer to softness in cinnamon-spiked water, the pears simmer in white wine to reach tenderness. Then everything gets pureed together in a blender or food processor. I like to use my blender for this soup. It gives a velvety texture to the soup that the food processor doesn’t offer.

I made the soup dairy-free by replacing butter with the organic coconut spread I had in my refrigerator. Rather than using half-and-half to add a touch of richness to the soup, I used coconut milk creamer. These substitutions actually make the soup perfect for vegans.

I served the the thick, creamy soup with flaky turnovers filled with spinach, sundried tomatoes, onions and tofu. The turnover recipe came from “Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.” I’ve got four of the Moosewood cookbooks and use them often. I’ve never been disappointed with any of the recipes I’ve tried from the books.

It’s also a nice soup to start your special Valentine’s meal. Velvety, rich, creamy, not sweet with a hint of cinnamon hiding in the background while the pears and sweet potatoes marry and become one. Perfect!


Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter or organic coconut spread
  • 3 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup white wine or apple or pear juice
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half or coconut milk creamer
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Combine sweet potatoes, water, cinnamon stick and salt in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Remove cover and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and set sweet potato mixture aside.

Melt butter or organic coconut spread in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pear pieces and saute 5 minutes. Add wine. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until pear pieces are tender.

In food processor or blender, puree sweet potato mixture and pear mixture in batches. Return pureed soup to Dutch oven. Add half-and-half or coconut milk creamer and pepper. Stir well to combine. Heat through and serve. Makes about 8 cups.

Recipe adapted from Perennial Palette, by Southborough Gardeners in Southborough, Massachusetts. 2001.


Easy Winter Meal: Wild Rice and Sprouts

Many would say the only way to prepare Brussels sprouts, the cruciferous vegetables that look like a miniature cabbage, is to roast them. I do love the ease of preparing roasted Brussels sprouts. The nutty flavor they develop in a hot oven is magnificent. But, there is another way to prepare the little green sprouts that offers wonderful flavor and crisp texture.

I’ve discovered that by slicing Brussels sprouts into thin ribbons, they can be stir-fried with other vegetables.

A little time with your chef’s knife is all it takes to prepare the sprouts for stirring up in a hot pan with onions, peppers and garlic. Add some honey and vinegar for a sweet and sour flavor. Then, just stir in some cooked wild rice. Viola!

Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber. For it’s small size, the Brussels sprout is a powerhouse of nutrients with loads of vitamins that offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. If you are counting calories, you will love Brussels sprouts. They will fill you up while adding few calories to your day.

You can read more about Brussels sprouts in my column this week. You will also find my recipe for Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples. Just click here.

North Country Wild Rice and Honey Sprouts

  • 3/4 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Rinse Brussels sprouts. Peel off any discolored leaves. Trim stem ends. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise. Lay each half flat-side down on work surface. Slice lengthwise into thin ribbons. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in large skillet or wok. When oil is hot, stir-fry onion and red pepper until just tender. Add garlic and stir-fry one minute. Add prepared Brussels sprouts and salt. Stir fry until just tender. Stir in vinegar and honey. Continue to stir until honey melts. Add cooked wild rice. Blend and cook until rice is heated through. Taste and season with black pepper and additional salt, if needed. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 side servings or 4 main servings.

Tips from cook

  • This dish can easily become an entree by stirring in leftover cooked meat or sauteed tofu.



Beans, beans

At the start of each  new year, I promise myself that I will eat a wide variety of healthful foods on a daily basis and work to avoid cravings for sweet and salty foods. I do pretty well the first couple weeks of January, but as I move into the third week, my resolve begins to wane.

This year, I’ve taken affirmative action that will help me stay on track. I turned to some health-conscious people I know to get their suggestions on some basic foods I can keep on hand along with creative ways to prepare them that will be flavorful and keep me satisfied, happy and healthy — I call it the “Good Life” track.

I first met Kelly Jo Zellmann, RD, LD when she volunteered to be my assistant during a cooking class I was teaching several years ago. As soon as I saw Kelly Jo’s bright smile and the sparkle in her eyes, I knew she would be an amazing person to work with in the kitchen.

Registered Dietitian, Kelly Jo Zellmann, was happy to share her knowledge about nutritious foods with me and with all who read this blog.

What is one food you recommend people add to their menus for a healthy 2012?

Hmm…Beans!  I actually didn’t have to think too long on this as beans popped into my head right away.  Even though there are so many healthy foods to choose from, beans are at the top of the list.  Any kind of bean is good and the list to choose from is plentiful ~ black beans (one of my personal favorites), garbanzo (also known as chickpea), kidney, chili, cannellini , pinto, soy, navy, green, edamame, lima , black eyed peas, and refried beans.  And, there are many more!  According to a recent survey that identified top food trends for 2012, a key theme is that Americans will be eating more locally grown, unprocessed foods, along with increasing fruit and vegetable intake.  Both of these contain fiber, a key nutrient often lacking in many people’s diets.  Beans, whether canned or dried, are a great option to meet these trends.

Other than the fact that they can keep us trendy in 2012, why are you so jazzed on beans, Kelly?

Versatility, variety, economical, and availability (no matter what the season) are a few reasons that come to mind.  More importantly, though, beans pack a powerful punch when it comes to nutrition.  If there is a magical food (which there really isn’t) beans are as close to it as you can get!  With the new USDA “ChooseMyPlate” recommendations to fill half your plate with produce, beans are a great food because they are a vegetable and if you already have plenty of colors on your plate, they can also count as a protein source, too!

Beans can be particularly helpful in lowering cholesterol levels, aiding in weight loss, stabilizing blood sugar levels in diabetes, as well as decreasing risk of colon cancer.  Beans offer healthy amounts of several nutrients including; niacin, thiamine, B6 vitamin, complex carbohydrates, fiber, which helps slow absorption and increases satiety (feeling of fullness).  Beans are also a good source of potassium, folate, iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium, and are naturally low in fat.  In addition to all of that, beans also provide a great source of protein and can be a wonderful alternative to meat.  For every ½-cup serving there are six to seven grams of protein, which meets at least 10% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, yet costs about 20 cents per serving.

Although most beans are fairly high in carbohydrate content, they are also high in fiber.  A half-cup serving of cooked dried beans provides about 7 grams of fiber, which meets ~25-30% of the Daily Value of dietary fiber.  If you have diabetes, for example, and are counting carbohydrates, if a serving has >5 grams fiber, you can subtract “half” the fiber content from the total carbohydrates.  For example, if you have a 1 cup serving of beans with 14 grams of fiber, you can subtract 7 from the total carbohydrates.  But, don’t let the numbers get you confused, the bottom line is beans are beneficial, so just eat them!

Canned or dried?

Canned beans are fast and easy to use.  But, you can also use dried beans for any recipe that calls for canned.  The trick to using dried beans is you need to plan ahead and soak the beans.  For greatest economy, cook up a whole bunch at one time and freeze in quantities similar to the can sizes you use.  (1 cup dried beans = about 3 cups cooked beans, 14 oz can beans = about 1½ cups drained beans).

Bean tip from Kelly Jo:

About the only drawback to eating beans is that they can often result in passing gas.  Remember the old saying:  Beans, Beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you ____?!?  Well, that saying is partly true and false.  Beans are not a fruit but a vegetable, and they do often result in flatulence due to the high amount of oligosaccharides (sugar) present in beans.  A good tip to remember is whenever you are increasing the amount of fiber in your diet, go slow and always drink plenty of water.

Do you have some favorite ways you incorporate beans into the meals you prepare for your family?

There are so many ways to add beans to your diet.  First think about foods or meals you already enjoy.   If tacos are on the list, for example, try adding black beans to them for a change.  Another idea is to sautée edamame, combine with cooked chicken or grouse, and add some corn to make a tasty salad.  You can also add almost any kind of bean to a number of soups.  Experiment to find out what kind of beans you like best, and then have fun throwing them in to some of your favorite dishes.

Please share some information about yourself that will give us a glimpse of who you are.

I am a full-time, working mom of three boys – ages 7, 5, and 1½ and have been married to my husband for eleven years.  I can relate to the struggles of getting a good meal on the table and sitting down to eat together as a family.  Some days it’s a quick dinner thrown together at the last minute, but that’s reality.   A key to making this happen is having all your favorite ingredients on hand so that you can do this in a pinch.

Currently I work part time at the Leech Lake Diabetes Clinic in Cass Lake and Neilson Place – WoodsEdge Senior Living in Bemidji.  I also do independent nutrition consulting for individuals, corporations, and groups.  I am a licensed provider for Real Living Nutrition’s Balance program, an online weight management program ( and a Registered Dietitian for   I am looking forward to making 2012 a great year of exploring new foods and yet more ways to incorporate beans into our diet and wish the same for you!

Happy and Healthy 2012!

Kelly Jo Zellmann, RD, LD *

Kelly Jo shared a recipe she uses for vegetarian chili. I did a little tweaking and came up with a meatless chili that is loaded with a variety of beans, deep, spicy flavor and good-for-you peppers. That recipe is in my newspaper column this week. Click here to get to that recipe.

After visiting with Kelly Jo Zellmann about beans, I remembered a black bean burger I made about five years ago. I found the recipe that is very quick and easy to prepare.

As I’ve been seeking out health-conscious people, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with some who have chosen a vegan lifestyle (eating no animal products). I learned a trick from them that I tried out in the burgers. Apparently, a tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water serves as a satisfactory replacement for an egg in cooking and in baking. Since my Black Bean Burgers incorporate 2 eggs into the mix, I experimented with the flax and water combination. The texture of the burgers became mushy inside, which was not as appealing to me as the nice firm texture that results when eggs are used. So, it’s up to you. I didn’t mind it, really. If you are a vegan, I think you’ll be quite satisfied.

Beans, beans — you’ll get plenty of them in these burgers.

Black Bean Burgers

  • 3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked quick oats
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (or to taste)
  • 1 or 2 dashes hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • oil for frying
  • 8 hamburger buns

Coarsely mash beans in a large bowl. A pastry blender or potato masher works well for this job. Add oats, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, hot pepper sauce, salt and eggs. Mix well.

Shape mixture into 8 patties. Stir together flour and cornmeal in shallow bowl. Dredge patties in dry mixture. In a large skillet, pour just enough oil to cover bottom of the pan. Place pan on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add patties and cook about 5 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Serve on buns. Makes 8 servings.

Some favorite toppings:

Lettuce, arugula, smoked cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, sour cream, roasted red pepper, salsa.

Tips from the cook:

  • Mix and shape the patties early in the day and keep in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
  • Uncooked Black Bean Burgers freeze well. I wrap each  individually in plastic wrap, then slide them into a freezer-strength zip-top bag. I do thaw them before cooking.
  • Freeze leftover cooked burgers. To serve, heat in microwave on low power, turning burger over once.
  • Update: I’ve been reading through “The Vegan Table,” by Colleen Patrick- Goudreau and came upon her recipe for Matzoh Ball Soup where she uses “flax eggs” to mix into matzoh balls for soup. This is her method for making the “flax eggs:” To make a substitute for one egg, whip 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds with 2 tablespoons water in a food processor for 2 to 3 minutes, until a very thick, creamy, almost yogurt-like consistency develops. I’ll give these Black Bean Burgers one more try with “flax eggs.” Obviously, I used too much water when I made the substitute eggs in my first try.



It’s a good B.A.D. sandwich

It hardly seemed like Fall on the day my favorite exploring partner and I strolled the streets of the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago just two weeks ago. From our hotel on West Surf Street, a leisurely five-minute stroll down Diversey took us to The Counter for an early lunch.

I hummed along with Macy Gray’s “Beauty in the World” playing in the background as I created a customized vegetarian burger from the list of fresh ingredients on the menu attached to a clipboard. My partner sitting across from me at our table along the front wall of wide open windows designed a loaded beef burger. We started filling our hungry tums with a “Fifty-Fifty” plate — half sweet potato fries and half crispy onion strings. I highly recommend that platter.

Filled with burgers, strings and fries, oh my — we continued our exploration by foot. We did have a destination in mind. About a mile and a half from The Counter, we knew we would find a luscious dessert at Floriole Cafe and Bakery.

The temperature soared to near 80 degrees as we headed west from The Counter on Diversey. South on Halsted, West on Fullerton and south on Sheffield, passing the lovely Lincoln Park campus of DePaul University. We admired the architecture of the stately homes lining the streets along the way. Finally, west on Webster. We passed trendy boutiques and tiny restaurants as we walked the last few blocks to our sweet destination.

There, tucked into a cozy block of old buildings between Racine and Magnolia, was Floriole. Lunch time at the cafe was in full swing. Mothers clad in shorts, t-shirts and running shoes fussing over their children dined beside women dressed in suits and heels at tables on the sidewalk in front of the bakery.

Inside, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and sweet desserts wafted through the air. The glass bakery case was filled with edible temptations — tarts, cookies, scones, croissants and sticky buns. Dainty madeleines dusted with powdered sugar and round pumpkin tea cakes decorated the top of the case.

We chose a table for two, not far from the huge window at the back of the cafe, allowing customers to watch the bakers at work on the other side of the glass.

What did I choose for my dessert?

A tart, just the right size to share with my favorite guy. Spicy gingerbread crust held velvety smooth butternut squash custard. A dollop of sweetened cream shared the top of the tart with two leaf-shaped gingerbread cookies. Luscious and satisfying.

I wished we would have had enough days left in our Chicago vacation to pay another visit to Floriole Cafe and Bakery for lunch. A sandwich described on the blackboard hanging on the wall behind the counter caught my eye. The B.A.D. sandwich included bacon, arugula and date-almond spread with goat cheese on their own yeasted corn bread. I made note of the sandwich in the little red book I keep in my purse.

I love Chicago! So many neighborhoods to explore, so many restaurants to try, so many places to see. Each time I go to Chicago is a brand new experience. I’ll go back soon.

In the meantime, I’ve made my own B.A.D. sandwich. I decided to try adapting my recipe for Apricot-Fig Tapenade. This time of year, I love serving the delectable tapenade with goat cheese and crostini as an appetizer.

I came up with an almond-date spread, spiked with port and flavored with orange zest, garlic and shallots. Bacon from Steve’s Meat Market in Ellendale, Minnesota, Uncle Paul’s bread from 3rd Street Bakery in Duluth, Minnesota, peppery, fresh organic baby arugula and organic goat cheese made in Wisconsin completed my breakfast sandwich. Yup, I made it my first meal of the day.

Works for me!

B.A.D. Sandwich

For each sandwich you will need:

  • 2 slices bread
  • Date-Almond Spread (recipe below)
  • Goat cheese, softened
  • Bacon slices, cooked crisp
  • Arugula
  • Olive oil

Crumble goat cheese over one side of a slice of bread. Try to gently spread it over the bread with the back of a teaspoon. Sprinkle some goat cheese over one side of remaining slice of bread. Spread with a layer of almond-date spread. Arrange slices of crispy-fried bacon over the spread. Pack a generous amount of baby arugula over the bacon. Lay remaining slice of bread over the arugula, cheese side down. Brush olive oil over the top of sandwich. Place the sandwich, oil side down, in a preheated heavy skillet, cast-iron pan or a hot griddle. Brush the top of sandwich with olive oil. When sandwich is brown, flip with metal spatula. Or, grill the sandwich in your panini press. When sandwich is golden, remove from pan. Cut sandwich in half and serve warm.

Tip from the cook

  • I make my own panini press by weighting down the sandwich as it cooks in my grill pan with a heavy cast iron pan.

Date-Almond Spread

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 8 ounces pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 (2-inch) strip orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Put toasted almonds in work bowl of food processor. Pulse until nuts are finely ground.

In small heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add shallot and garlic. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Add ginger, dates, port and zest; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until port is a syrupy consistency and dates are softened, stirring occasionally. Add water as it cooks. Remove and discard zest. Let mixture cool slightly, then transfer to food processor containing ground almonds; process all together until smooth. Transfer to small bowl. Stir in vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool. (Make ahead: Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)