Spanish Spiced Red Pepper Bisque

>> Monday, February 29, 2016

Spanish Spiced Red Pepper Bisque

This velvety pepper soup is super-healthy and packed with vitamins, but the title is what really made me want to make it. "Spanish" and "bisque" are two words that always attract my attention.. Barcelona is next on our world-travel bucket list (Ibiza! Sparkling Mediterranean! Tapas!), and bisque....oh, myyy!

So here's to a gorgeous dose of smooth, creamy, satisfying vegetables. You know how we love roasted peppers. We added sweet potatoes for texture and sweetness, and a whole lot of herbs and spices. As usual, we departed the text when it came to seasoning this luscious soup.

Spanish Spiced Red Pepper Bisque

When Joe was stirring up these veggies, I was thinking of all of you and wishing you could smell what I was smelling. Oh my, this is good, and good for you.


10 medium red peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
Salt and pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 cup fat-free chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sweet curry
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika (trust me, the smoked kind is the best - buy a lot!)
1/4 cup low-fat yogurt


Heat broiler to high. Line two baking sheets with foil. Lay out the halved peppers on the sheets and broil the peppers until they are slightly soft and the skins are well blackened. You're going to remove the skins, so let them get nice and charred.

While they are cooking, heat the sweet potato chunks in the microwave until they are just barely tender.

Put the blackened peppers into a paper bag and seal; let cool until they are easy to handle. Peel off the skins (Joe uses a knife to strip the skins where they are stubborn) and chop into small pieces. 

Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onions and garlic until they start to become tender. Add the broth, peppers, herbs, paprika, salt and pepper, and sweet potato chunks. Simmer 5 minutes, then turn off heat, take out the bay leaf, and stir in the yogurt.

Using an immersion blender or your food processor, puree the soup until it's smooth. Serve with extra oregano scattered on top, as Weight Watchers suggests

Serves 6. 

If you're on a Weight Watchers plan, this recipe is 3 points for a one-cup serving. Each cup is one serving of veg.


Ethiopian Lentil-Okra Stew

>> Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ethiopian Lentil-Okra Stew
Okra seems like a Southern US food, but lentils and okra are also staples in Ethiopian cooking.

I have a most wonderful problem. I'm playing with so many different hobbies and jobs that I keep running out of time...which is why this recipe that we made two weeks ago has been languishing unfinished on this blog for so long.

Perhaps somebody somewhere is wondering how to make an authentic Ethiopian vegetarian stew and I've let them down. Instead, I've been painting and working with mixed media art photographs and working as a marketing manager and preparing for a new launch of my Etsy shop, full of beach-inspired crafts and themed photography.

Ethiopian Lentil-Okra Stew

But let me tell you about this richly-flavored Ethiopian stew. My vegan friend lent me her copy of Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food, in which the writer provides recipes for dozens of traditional Ethiopian dishes with substitutions for vegan and gluten-free eating.

I didn't know much about Ethiopia, other than what I remember of the horrific droughts and starvation back in the 1980s. I learned that Ethiopia is on the horn of Africa, right below the Middle Eastern countries and the Red Sea. While we won't visit Africa anytime soon, we can still take a food vacation there.

Thanks, Wikipedia, for this photo!
Some of the earliest human remains have been found in this country, and it was one of the most powerful countries in the world around 200 A.D. A culture this old must surely know a thing or two about cooking good food, and this lentil-okra stew is amazing. It's also cheap,gluten-free and vegan, low in fat and cholesterol, and easy to prepare.

According to Papa Tofu's recipes, the staple spice mix Berbere used in this recipe can be in paste or dried form, and contains many of the same ingredients used in Indian cooking: red peppers, cardamom, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, etc.  We made a jar full of berbere paste that we froze to enjoy in a lot of foods. I hope you like it as much as we have!


For the berbere paste:

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the Ethiopian lentil-okra soup:
1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh okra, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup berbere paste


To make the Berbere paste:
Saute the garlic, ginger, and onion in the oil until tender. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend into a thick paste.

For the lentil stew:
Rinse the lentils and place them in a medium saucepan with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until the lentils are tender. Skim off any foam that rises in the pot. Drain the lentils and set them aside.

Place the tomatoes and berbere paste in the pot and simmer until they soften and become a puree. YOu can use an immersion blender to make the sauce an even texture, if desired. Stir in the okra, vegetable broth, and lentils, and simmer until the okra is just tender and the sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes.

Serve over rice or with flatbreads such as naan, pita, or Ethiopian injera bread.

Serves 4.


Chana Masala (Indian Chick Pea Stew)

>> Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chana Masala (Indian Chick Pea Stew)

Chana masala is a stew made of chick peas (or garbanzos) from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan - the vast territory at the top of India, touching the Himalayas. This is my friend Sheilja's homeland.

When she was a girl, her mom was determined to send her to an English boarding school up in the Himalayas, far from her family. Her mother wanted her to have the best possible chance for a good life, and a solid education was the path, even if it wasn't the traditional path for women in her family.

Sheilja went on to college in West Virginia, then worked in New York City before settling down in the Chicagoland area. She speaks perfect, nearly unaccented English, too. What a fascinating life!

channa masala Indian food

Punjabis sure know how to cook. This filling and healthy traditional Indian stew is completely meatless, but I promise you won't miss the meat for the highly flavored and slightly spicy party of flavors in this bowl. The garam masala and chole masala spice mixes give it a distinctive taste - in a pinch, you can use an equal amount of generic sweet curry powder.

Because many Indians cook with a variety of dried beans, lentils, seeds, and corn, you can often find a pressure cooker in the kitchen. This cuts down the prep time for Indian food enormously. But if you don't have one, soaking and then boiling the dry legumes is a perfectly good option, or allowing them to cook all day or overnight in a slow cooker before making the recipe.


2 cups dry chickpeas, rinsed and picked over, or 2 15-oz cans garbanzos, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and minced
2 tbsp grated ginger root
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground punjabi chole masala
1 tbsp ground garam masala
1 tsp tamarind paste, or 1 tsp sugar and the juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

Cooked rice for serving (optional)
Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)


Cook the dry beans in a pressure cooker according to the manufacturers directions, or soak them for 1 hour and then boil about 2 hours until tender. Drain well.

Heat a large skillet and toast the cumin seeds until slightly browned and fragrant. Set the seeds aside. Heat the oil, then saute to garlic, onion, pepper, and ginger until tender. Sitr in the rest of the ingredients, including the chick peas. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Serve over rice with a side of warm naan or chapatis.

Serves 4-6.


Turkey / Chicken Croquettes with Aioli Sauce

>> Thursday, February 11, 2016

Croquettes are traditionally served as tapas in Spain. My Spanish teachers have told me that in many places in Spain, the large meal of the day is around noon and people sometimes take off a couple of hours for lunch. After work, people often go to the bar/restaurants for a drink and a few little bites to eat - tapas. If you live in a small town, you might have to make the rounds of the two or three pubs around you, for fear of insulting one of the innkeepers.

Like many places in Europe, bars are not intended as adults-only spots, but as an extension of a family's living room. Kids play on the floor, people take turns singing with the band, teens giggle in the corner, and everyone catches up with their neighbors before going home for a light meal and bed. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

The original recipe comes from Kim and Ellory's Kitchen, a fantastic personal chef and catering service in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago. They gave fun tapas cooking demonstrations for Joe's business clients and friends each year. Sadly, Ellory has passed away and Kim is cooking in New Orleans, but they left behind wonderful memories with us.


Aioli Sauce (Garlic Mayonnaise)

3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg, at room temperature
1 cup olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chili powder

In a blender, mix the egg and garlic for 15 seconds. Gradually add the olive oil while continuing to blend, then slowly add the lemon juice and chili powder while blending. Chill before serving.


4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp nutmeg
6 oz cooked turkey, chicken, ham, or fish, finely minced
2 oz cooked pancetta or lean bacon, finely minced
2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp red or green pepper, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup fine bread crumbs


Follow the aioli directions above, then refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

In a small sauce pan melt the butter. Add the flour and stir until well mixed. Slowly pour in the milk and keep cooking until thickened and creamy. Stir in the nutmeg.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the turkey, parsley, red pepper, salt, and pepper. Add to the white sauce. Put it in the refrigerator and allow it to cool at least 2 hours.

Divide the mixture into 20 balls and dip into the beaten eggs, then roll in the bread crumbs. Return to the refrigerator to cool for 30 minutes more.

Deep fry the croquettes until golden brown, or bake on a greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until golden and crunchy.

Serve with aioli sauce for dipping.

Makes 20 croquettes.


Our Favorite Party Appetizers

>> Thursday, February 4, 2016

I'll be honest, we're not usually football fanatics, but we love a good Big Game commercial as well as anyone. One year, a friend of ours had a source that leaked the commercials to her a week ahead of time. At her party, she gave us a little game sheet to play "Guess the Commercial?" Her clues were pretty hilarious, and nobody got up to use the bathroom in the breaks.

Elote (Creamy Corn) Dip

Elote (Creamy Corn) Dip

These appetizers are really any kind of party snacks. A lot of these have been well-loved by our monthly bible study group and our Cooking Party friends.

Roasted Red Pepper-Pine Nut Bruschetta

Joe has been making the roasted red pepper-pine nut bruschetta since I first met him, and if he ever starts wondering what he should make for the next get-together, I always suggest this one. There's some sort of magic that happens when you let the nuts, fresh roasted peppers, garlic, golden raisins, and herbs marinate together. I'd really like a bowl of that right now.

Salted Caramel Dreamboats

I learned how to make chocolates in my Grandma's cake and candy store, and I love throwing a candy-making party with my friends. These are truly addictive little bites, so you might want to make a big batch. They're super easy to make!

P.S. I call these "dreamboats" because once in a while my grandma would talk about the days when she dated grandpa, and he was a real dreamboat. That translates just fine over generations.

Hot Reuben Dip

We usually make this in the fall, because it kind of fits an Oktoberfest theme or maybe it's just a fall type of food. One time we showed up a day early for our friends' Oktoberfest party, then stayed to help them cook, including this dip which I immediately needed to make again. Awesome.

Seafood-Stuffed Portobella Caps

This may be a bold statement, but I believe you could stuff just about anything in a mushroom cap and I'd like it. Um, when I say "anything", I do, of course, mean any reasonable food item. That leaves out tripe and edible insects.

Ahem, This stuffed mushroom recipe will make you forget that people eat such things. In fact, let's pretend it never came up.

Eat well, my friends!

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