Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Fresh Corn, Wild Rice Chowder

Fresh Corn, Wild Rice Chowder

This week I made an order for a grocery delivery. It had asked for 4 ears of corn. They were out of the individual ears so she asked if I wanted a pack of corn. She said they were 4-5 to a pack. I said 4 is fine. She misinterpreted it and gave me 5 packs of 5 corn! Since I wasn’t going to eat 25 corn this week I took the kernels off 10 of them. I decided to use them in my wild rice corn chowder recipe. I’ll have to figure out what to use the rest for or freeze them.

What a difference using fresh corn makes in the taste! It was still a little crunchy after cooking with such a fresh taste. One of the best pots of chowder I’ve made. Similar recipe to my other corn chowder but with a much fresher taste!

Ingredients

3-32 ounce containers chicken or vegetable stock (I was out of vegetable stock so I used organic chicken stock this time)

1 cup Wild Rice

9-10 ears of fresh corn kernels (use a knife to take them off the cob-I used 9 for this recipe and froze a baggie with the rest)

6 ounces frozen mixed vegetables

6 tablespoons garlic powder or 2-3 cloves minced

2 tablespoons Montreal seasoning

◦ (I use this frequently, it contains -Coarse Salt, Spices Including Black Pepper and Red Pepper, Garlic, Onion, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavor and Extractives of Paprika so substitute more of these if you don’t have it)

12 turns of salt grinder or 2-3 tsp salt (to taste)

Water to fill pot

1-can Evaporated skim milk

◦ (you can use a cup of heavy cream or whole milk instead if desired)

8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Insta Pot Instructions:

Place all ingredients into the pot except the milk and cheese. Close the vent and use the Soup setting. (2:45). Allow it to come to pressure and release naturally. Before serving, warm the milk or cream in a saucepan and add the cheese to melt as it just comes to a boil. Add to soup. Turn to sauté for a few minutes to blend the cheese and milk.

Crockpot Instructions:

Place all ingredients into the pot except the milk and cheese. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Before serving, warm the milk or cream in a saucepan and add the cheese to melt as it just comes to a boil. Mix into the soup.

Stovetop Instructions:

Use a large stockpot or Dutch Oven pot. Place all ingredients into the pot except the milk. Bring to a boil and then turn it to a low simmer. Simmer on the stovetop for 2 hours or so, checking to make sure the water level is still high. Before serving, warm the milk or cream in a saucepan and add the cheese to melt as it just comes to a boil. Add to soup. Stir to blend.

Enjoy!

Fresh Corn, Wild Rice Chowder

Mexican Stuffed Peppers (Vegetarian Options)

Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Mexican Stuffed Peppers

After receiving two giant red peppers in my grocery order, I decided to make stuffed peppers. I went a little different from a usual stuffed peppers recipe and made it more like a taco style stuffed peppers. It can be made with lean ground beef or vegetarian with ground meat substitute or just beans. I’ve done it both ways with great results.

You can also use poblano peppers instead of bell peppers.

Serve it topped with some sour cream, cotijo cheese, fresh cilantro, hot sauce-your choice. Add a salad and some chips and salsa to complement the peppers.

Ingredients

1 lb extra lean ground beef or Impossible Burger meat (or Beyond Beef) or ground crumbles (Morningstar or Boca)

2 extra large red peppers

1 regular red or yellow pepper (optional)

1 package Spanish Rice (90 second rice-I used Target’s brand) or 1-1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

1 can Black Beans

1 can Rotel Tomatoes

1 can diced tomatoes

1 -8 ounce package of frozen corn defrosted

4 ounces of hot pepper cheese grated (substitute a non-dairy shredded cheese if desired)

3 ounces of sharp cheddar grated (substitute a non-dairy shredded cheese if desired)

2 tablespoons cumin

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons taco seasoning

6 turns of salt grinder (1/2 teaspoon)

2 teaspoons Tajin spice

1/2 lime squeezed

1 teaspoon dried cilantro or fresh

Cooking spray

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degree

Spray a “13 x 9” pan with cooking spray.

Brown ground beef or meat substitute. Once brown add in the corn, rice, beans, spices and can of Rotel tomatoes. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes (5-10) to blend the flavors. Add some of the grated hot pepper cheese into the filling and stir.

Slice tops off the peppers. Clean out seeds from the inside of the peppers. Slice the peppers lengthwise in half.

Place the diced tomatoes on the bottom of the pan. Arrange the peppers on top inside opening up. Use the smaller peppers to fill in the rest of the pan if desired. Take the filling and stuff each pepper with the filling. It can overflow a bit. I used the leftover stuffing around the sides. Top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-45 minutes until peppers are soft and the cheese is melted and browned.

Enjoy!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Mexican Stuffed Peppers
Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Sloppy Joe’s (Vegetarian Options)

Sloppy Joe’s

One of my Mother’s staples in her dinner rotation was Sloppy Joe’s. Sloppy Joe’s was a common dish in the Midwest. There are a couple of different ways of making it. A common denominator is ground meat (or plant based meat) with chopped onions and celery. What changed is what kind of soup is used as the base. My Mother used tomato soup. Some of my friend’s family’s used Chicken Gumbo soup. Looking up recipes show it varies by region, some use chopped peppers, make various types of sauces, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes and brown sugar. I prefer the simple taste of tomato soup with it. It’s quick to make and will be a great addition to your dinner rotations.

Serve it on your favorite bun. It goes well with a tossed salad or coleslaw, some chips or fries or a side of veggies. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Options

I’ve made this many times using Morningstar or Boca crumbles, Impossible burger meat or other plant based meat. Tastes great!

Ingredients

1 lb 90-93% lean ground beef (or plant based ground meat)

1 sweet onion chopped

4 stalks of celery chopped

1 can Tomato Soup (I prefer Campbell’s)

1 tbs garlic powder

1/2 tbs Montreal Seasoning

3 turns of salt grinder (1/2-1 teaspoon)

4 turns of pepper grinder (1/2-1 teaspoon)

Cooking Spray

Optional dash of milk

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray fry pans with cooking spray

Brown the onions and celery in one fry pan. Season with some of the spices.

Brown the ground meat (or plant based meat) until done (your desired type-I prefer it well done) Season it with the remaining spices.

Mix the meat and vegetables in a sprayed baking dish. Add the Tomato Soup and mix well. If it seems a bit dry, you can add a dash of milk.

Bake 35-45 minutes

Serve on buns.

Make it your way-add additional types of chopped vegetables if you wish. It will turn out great!

Sloppy Joe’s
Sloppy Joe’s

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Leftover Taco/Enchiladas Bake (Vegetarian Options)

Taco/Enchilada Bake

Sometimes when I make a Taco Bar or Fajitas, I have a little left over. Usually, we get two nights of dinners for two or one for four if my kids are home. There will often be a bit left of the meat (or meat substitute) and vegetables. Making a baked enchilada type of taco or a tostada extends the meal. If you need additional meat or veggies. I’ll microwave chopped veggies (sprinkle with cumin, Tajin. Garlic powder, squeeze of lime) and sometimes add a can of refried or black beans.

Ingredients

Cooked leftover meat, meat substitute or chicken seasoned with the taco spices

Cooked leftover vegetables seasoned with the taco spices

Baby Spinach (1 cup or so)

6-8 Flour tortillas (fajitas or Street taco size)

Salsa red or green

Pico de Gallo if you have some left

Grated Cheddar Cheese (or vegan cheddar cheese)

Fresh Cilantro

Lime wedges

Optional: can of black beans or refried beans (I like Trader Joe’s black refried beans)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Spray a 9” x 9” baking sheet with cooking spray

Take the flour tortillas and fold them upright in the pan with the opening on top. Add additional tortillas if you have a lot of filling left. They should have a tight fit.

Start to fill each tortilla with the meat, (vegetarian meat sub), veggies and beans-if you are adding beans. Don’t fill too much, a couple of tablespoons-about 1/3 of the way up. Top with salsa, then add some cheese. Carefully roll the tortillas so the opening is on the bottom. After the all fit snuggly into the pan, add additional salsa or pico de gallo on top. Spread evenly. Sprinkle additional cheese on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the top is golden and crispy. Sprinkle fresh cilantro on top. You can reheat the rice and beans on the side of the pan if you still have room after turning the tortillas.

Serve with lime wedges, refried or black beans and Mexican flavored rice. (I often add the rice and beans to the extra area of the pan and bake it with the enchiladas)

Taco/Enchilada Bake

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

This is one of our recipe favorites. It’s comfort food, hearty on a cold day. I make it vegetarian, but it could also be made with ground beef or lamb. You won’t miss the meat in my version.

I use vegetarian ground crumbles as the main protein mixed with chopped vegetables and cheese. You could also substitute cooked lentils, if you prefer. I often use frozen vegetables for convenience, but you can chop your favorite vegetables and add them. (I usually combine both fresh and frozen). It’s topped with mashed potatoes and a little more cheese. Use your favorite mashed potato recipe or go to dried potato flakes for a quick mash. Serve with a cup of soup or a tossed salad for a complete meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 package ground vegetarian crumbles (Morningstar, Gardein, Boca, Impossible)

1-8 ounce package of frozen corn

1-8 ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables (chopped carrots, peas, beans and corn-or use fresh and chop into small pieces)

1-sweet onion diced

3 ounces of diced baby carrots

3 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons Montreal seasoning

3 grinds salt from salt grinder (a pinch or two)

Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s, Savory Spice, The Wizard and Haddan make vegan versions if you prefer) shake it liberally over the whole pie

1 1/2-2 cups of grated cheddar (or vegan cheese substitute)

2-3 cups mashed potatoes

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan

Defrost the frozen crumbles and vegetables.

Combine the crumbles, chopped vegetables and spices. Spread evenly on the baking pan. Mix in 1/2-1 cup of the cheese. You can use more or less cheese-your preference. (If using uncooked Impossible or Beyond meat, or ground beef or lamb-you can sauté it to brown it slightly first)

Make the mash potatoes following your favorite recipe. I sometimes use the Potatoes Buds for a very quick mash. You don’t need much butter (or any) in your potatoes since we are adding the cheese. Spread the potatoes evenly over the top of the vegetables and crumbles. Top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 45-55 minutes-checking to see if the top browns. It’s good slightly crispy so lean towards being over done. Even better the second day. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Taco Bar- Vegetarian Options

Tacos

As I’ve said in other posts, we often travel to Mexico. I love the culture and the food. I try to make some easy dishes that I’ve eaten there and here. Every night can be taco night in my house.

I love a taco any way I make them. Sometimes I want a quick meal so I throw vegetables and chicken into the Slow Cooker. Other times I will make just vegetables with black beans. I’ll post those later. This recipe is a ground meat or vegetarian meat substitute with vegetables as the main ingredients. You can all add your favorite toppings and hot sauces to make that special taco.

Ingredients

1-2 lb 93% lean ground beef or vegetarian Impossible meat or Morningstar Crumbles. Other vegetarian brand ground options work as well.

(Increase amount of vegetables if you are making more meat/meat substitute)

1 red bell pepper sliced

1 yellow bell pepper sliced

1 chopped sweet onion

8 ounces Mushrooms sliced

1 cup baby spinach

Spilt spices for both the vegetable pan and meat pan. (Except taco seasoning-only for meat):

A bunch of Fresh Cilantro chopped or 2 tablespoons dried cilantro

1 jalapeños diced (remove the seeds if you want it less spicy)

4 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons ground Cumin

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoons Tajin spice

1-2 packets of Taco Seasoning (1 for each lb of meat)

Dash of salt

Flour or Corn Tortillas (soft or hard)

Instructions

Spray the fry pans. In one pan, Sauté the meat/vegetarian meat until nicely browned, breaking up the chunks into smaller pieces. Add all of the spices stir and add half to a whole lime (half for 1lb). Add chopped cilantro. Stir turn down heat to very low. Add a dash of salt.

In the other pan, sauté the peppers, mushrooms, spinach and onions. You can add a dash of olive oil. Cook the vegetables until soft and browned. Add spices except taco seasoning. Add half a lime.

While it is cooking, get out all your toppings—guacamole, sour cream or crème fresh, shredded cheese, ( or vegan cheese substitutes), pico de gallo, olives, salsa and any other toppings that you like.

Warm the tortillas on the stove top in a pan or griddle for a few seconds on each side. You can also wet a paper towel and warm them on top in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Serve with your favorite hot sauce, chips, refried beans and Mexican rice.

Enjoy!

Tacos

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Salisbury Steak (Meat Options)

An easy comfort food dinner is Salisbury Steak. I made this version vegetarian. I used Impossible Burger patties which cut some of the prep time. It comes together quickly. Serve it with a tossed salad, mashed potatoes and a side of steamed veggies. It’s a warm stress free meal like a big hug.

Vegetarian Salisbury Steak
Vegetarian Salisbury Steak

Ingredients

6-Impossible Burger Patties

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

1 sweet onion sliced

1 tablespoons Montreal Seasoning

2 tablespoons garlic powder

5 turns of the salt grinder (1/2 teaspoons)

1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (a few shakes)

1-14 oz can vegetarian French Onion soup or vegetable broth. Better than Boullion makes a no beef vegetable Broth and a sautéed onion broth as well.

I didn’t use it this time but if the gravy looks thin, use can use 1 teaspoons of Arrowroot Powder mixed with a bit of water to thicken (you can also use a cornstarch slurry) (I only add it if the gravy seems very thin).

Instructions

I brown the Pattie’s in a fry pan so they stay together when cooked. Coat the pan with cooking spray or a bit of olive oil. Brown on both sides. Add to crockpot. Add sliced onions and mushrooms, spices, Worcestershire sauce and broth. Stir. Add the Arrowroot slurry if the gravy is thin before cooking or the cornstarch slurry afterwards. Cook on high for 4 hours, low on 8 hours. Enjoy!

Meat Options

You can also make this with a lean or extra lean ground beef. You can also use beef broth. I like the onion flavor from the French Onion soup so I prefer it. Your choice. Follow the directions above.

Vegetarian Salisbury Steak

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Cajun Spiced Pasta Bake (Vegetarian Options)

Cajun Spiced Pasta Bake
Cajun Spiced Pasta Bake
Cajun Spiced Pasta Bake

The weather turned very cold for a couple of days last week so I wanted to spice things up. An easy dinner to make is a baked penne dish. I decided to make a Cajun Spiced Baked Penne. It can be made with or without a sausage. Options are a chicken sausage, Andouille sausage, hot Italian sausage or a vegetarian sausage or just leave it out. Adding in additional vegetables will also up the nutritional value (it’s not low calorie after all). I used Barilla Protein Pasta to have a bit more protein. Banza Pasta is another great option. I would usually use Banza, since it has less carbohydrates and more protein, but I was out of it. Barilla Protein Pasta comes in a close second. It comes together quickly, bakes up to a bubbly, crispy dinner. It will warm you up 🌶️

Vegetarian Options

You can include the sausage or leave it out. Some vegetarian sausage options are Field Roast, Beyond Beef, Impossible or other brands. You can also add additional vegetables-zucchini, more spinach or other veggies of your choice. If you add zucchini or additional spinach-cook it first to remove the excess moisture.

Ingredients

1 package Barilla Protein Penne Pasta or Banza Penne Pasta (Ziti also works)

1 cup Baby Spinach

1 lb Mushrooms sliced (you can cook the mushrooms and spinach first to remove the excess moisture)

1 -14 ounce can diced tomatoes

1 jar Alfredo Sauce (I like Rao’s but any brand works)

8 ounces shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

6 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese

2 ounces grated cheddar

1 cup pasta water

4 tablespoons garlic powder

3 tablespoons dried basil

1 teaspoons salt (3-4 grinds of salt grinder)

1/2 teaspoon pepper (2 grinds of pepper grinder)

2 tablespoons Cajun spice (I use Slap Ya Mama) – more or less to taste (use less if you use Andouille sausage as it’s also spicy)

Regular or Vegetarian Sausage Option 2 links of chicken sausage (your choice-I use Aidell’s). Any flavor-Andouille, apple, Italian or regular hot Italian sausage, Vegetarian Sausage (Field Roast, Beyond Beef, Impossible or other brand)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 13” x 9” pan with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to the directions. Cook it (salt water slightly) for a minute less than the package. Reserve a cup of pasta water. Drain

If you prefer it a little dryer-cook the vegetables first and add less pasta water.

Slice the sausage into small pieces. Add to pasta, add mushrooms, spinach, spices and Alfredo sauce. Mix well, add some of the pasta water to make it a little thinner. Add half of the cheese and mix. Finish the top with the rest of the cheese.

Bake for 45-60 minutes until the top is brown and edges are crispy.

Sprinkle with extra Cajun spice when serving if you need to heat it up further.

Serve with a salad, extra steamed vegetables and some crusty Italian bread. Enjoy!

Cajun Spiced Pasta Bake
Cajun Spiced Pasta Bake

Recipes for a Cultural Experience: Easy Dinners-Vegetarian Pasties

Vegetarian Pasty
Vegetarian Pasty

As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in Northern Minnesota on the Iron Range. This area is known for its open pit mines. One of the big local cuisines is a Pasty. A pasty is a meat and vegetable filled large hand/type pie. The miners would take it hot into their lunchboxes and it would be still warm by lunchtime.

It was introduced to the area by Cornish immigrants in the early 20th Century. The miners came to both Northern Michigan and Northern Minnesota because of the abundance of mines to work in. They made pasties to keep themselves fueled for a hard day of labor. The pasties consisted of meat, potatoes, onions, carrots and sometimes rutabagas. They would be wrapped in a pie-like crust and baked until golden brown. They packed them hot into their metal lunchbox and it would stay warm for lunch.

https://www.irpsmn.org/grown-on-the-range/2019/8/25/grown-on-the-range-profile-8-originally-published-in-hometown-focus

https://m.startribune.com/pasties-on-the-range-eating-our-way-across-minnesota-s-pasty-trail/504505452/

My version is a quick vegetarian pasty. It never comes out very pretty but it tastes very good. I’m not very good at making my own dough so I usually use a prepared pie crust. Pillsbury makes a crust you unroll that works pretty well.

Make sure the pie crust is at room temperature when you work with it. I take one of the crusts and cut them in half. Add the filling to one side and crimp it closed. As I said, mine are never very pretty. Making your own dough is much more flexible to work with but takes more time.

Here are a couple of pasty crust recipes:

https://www.mprnews.org/amp/story/2015/12/02/appetites-iron-range-recipes

https://www.mesabitribune.com/mine/pasty-festival-a-taste-of-the-past/article_34d9e700-f9e8-11e9-93c2-277ed8ee2e06.html

I use soy crumbles instead of ground beef or pork. (Morningstar, Boca, Beyond Beef, etc.). Mix it with diced potatoes, onions, carrots and mixed vegetables. (Slightly non-traditional). The Iron Range way is to serve it covered with ketchup or occasionally gravy. My family uses ketchup. Make sure you have a big bottle.

This time I had a lot of filling and only one box of pie crusts so I improvised and used pizza dough. It’s sort of a pasty/calzone. I’ll let you know how that one works. I never seem to have butter or shortening on hand to make the pie crust when I need it.

Ingredients

1 sweet onion diced

2 medium potatoes diced (peeled) or 1-14 ounce can diced potatoes

2 carrots diced

1 -12 ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)

1-14 ounce bag of Soy Crumbles (Morningstar, Boca, Beyond, Impossible or Gardein or other) thawed

2 boxes Pillsbury Pie Crusts

3 tablespoons garlic powder

5 grinds of pepper from pepper mill (1-2 teaspoons)

8 grinds from salt mill (approximately 2-2/12 teaspoons)

Pasty Ingredients

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees

Mix the vegetables, crumbles and spices together. Either use parchment paper or spray your cookie sheet with baking spray. Unroll the pie crust, cut in half. Fill one side of the crust with the vegetable mixture. Use a fair amount. Fold other side over and crimp the edges. Try to close it as much as possible. Continue to fill the crusts. You can make 4 larger ones or cut the dough smaller-in quarters for a small hand pie. Prick the top with a fork to vent. You can brush it with an egg wash or spray it with a butter baking spray to make it brown more.

Bake for about an hour or until browned. Serve with lots of ketchup. A taste of Up North! Enjoy!

Vegetarian Pasty
Vegetarian Pasty

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Soup Weather: Mushroom Lentil Soup (Vegetarian Options)

Lentil Mushroom Soup

This week’s soup is a hearty soup with a lot of spice to warm you up. I had an abundance of mushrooms as well as a larger cans of tomatoes in my last grocery order. I decided to try a lentil soup using these ingredients. I added more vegetables as well. Lentils are not my usual go to, but I’m very happy with the results. You can use the immersion blender if you want a smoother consistency. Soup’s On-Enjoy!

Vegetarian Options:

Substitute a vegetarian or vegan sausage for the Chicken sausage. I use Field Roast Apple Sausage. You can also leave it out and add additional vegetables.

Ingredients:

1 sweet onion-diced

2 carrots diced

1-12 ounce package frozen corn

1-12 ounce package frozen mixed vegetables

1-28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes

1-2 32 ounce container vegetable stock

1-lb bag dried red lentils

1 cup fresh spinach

2 Chicken Sausages (I used Aidell’s Chicken Apple) diced

2 tbs dried oregano

2 tbs dried basil

4 tbs garlic powder

6 grinds of pepper (1/2 tsp)

10-12 grinds of salt (1/2-1tsp)

Water to fill

Instructions:

Slow Cooker

Place all ingredients in the Slow Cooker. Cook on High for 3-4 hours or Low for 7-8 hours. Taste it at 3 or 7 hours to see if it’s done.

Instant Pot

Place all ingredients in the Instant Pot. Add water being careful not to over fill. I use the soup button it’s 2:30. You can also set it manually for the time. Release pressure naturally.

Stove-top

Place all ingredients in the stockpot or Dutch oven. You may have to reduce the amount of the ingredients for the size of your pot. Bring to a boil, then turn it down to a low simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring frequently. Taste to see if it’s done at 2 hours.

It’s a hearty soup. If you prefer a smoother consistency, use the immersion blender. Serve it’s a first course or add a salad and some crusty bread as a main. Enjoy!

Lentil Mushroom Soup

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Vegetarian Chili 🌶️

Vegetarian Chili
Vegetarian Chili
Vegetarian Chili

Chili is a hearty, spicy cross of stew and soup. It can be made many different ways-with or without beans, vegetarian or meat, (chili con carne) spicy or mild. It varies from region to region. Great for a Game Day or a winter meal.

Exploring the origins of chili unveiled a big controversy to its origins. It may be from Native Americans over 2000 years old. Other information suggests it came from the Canary Islands brought to the area around San Antonio in the 1700’s. Chili con carne (meat chili) most likely originated in Mexico. Most agree chili’s modern roots are from Texas. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/the-great-chili-debate

Chili was featured at the World Columbian Exposition in 1893. Chili powder came into play in 1900. https://texasheritageforliving.com/texas-living/the-history-of-chili/

Beans in chili are very controversial. Texas chili is almost never made with beans. I always include beans in my version. In Cincinnati where I have relatives, they serve it over spaghetti 5 different ways. Chili can be 5 alarm spicy or mild depending on your preference. My version is spicy and vegetarian, with beans. As with most of my recipes, I add in extra veggies. It has so much flavor- even meat lovers won’t miss the meat.

Options:

Not a fan of beans-leave them out. Add extra veggies.

I use soy crumbles (Boca, Morningstar, Beyond) and soy chorizo sausage (El Burrito Soyrizo) you can leave them out and add extra veggies and/or extra beans.

I use canned beans and frozen vegetables for convenience- you can prepare fresh dried beans and add them and chop more vegetables if you prefer.

If you absolutely need meat-use a lb of extra lean ground beef (or other grades) sautéed.

Hints: Wear gloves when chopping the peppers. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards. Leave the seeds off if you want it less spicy. You’ll still have the flavor of the peppers.

Ingredients:

2 cans of kidney or black beans

1 sweet onion diced

1 bag 8 ounces frozen corn defrosted

1 bag 8 ounces frozen mixed vegetables defrosted

Boca or other brand Soy crumbles 10-13 ounces depending on the brand (you can leave them out if you wish) defrost if frozen

Soy chorizo sausage (again if you prefer to not use soy meat leave it out) defrost if frozen

1 jalapeño pepper chopped fine

1-2 habanero pepper diced (use more jalapeños if you like it less spicy). (Mine were very small so I used 1 jalapeños and 2 mini habaneros. Adjust the heat by using more or less of the jalapeños and habanero peppers)

1 -28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

2 cans Rotel tomatoes 10 ounce

1 can chopped tomatoes 14.1 ounces

Juice of 1/2 a lime

4 tablespoons garlic powder

3 tablespoons ground cumin

5 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cilantro fresh or dried

1 tbs salt (10 grinds of grinder)

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons Tajin spice

Crockpot Instructions

Chop the onion and peppers (see hint above). Add all the ingredients into the Crockpot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours, high for 3-4 hours. Taste to see if it’s done. I usually do 4 hours on high.

Instant Pot Instructions

Chop the onion and peppers (see hint above). Add all the ingredients into the Instant Pot. Use Soup button or set pressure to 2:30 minutes. Some have a bean/chili button. Release pressure naturally.

Stovetop Instructions

Chop the onion and peppers (see hint above). Add all the ingredients into the stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and then turn it to low simmer. Cook for 2-3 hours stirring frequently.

Add Toppings: you can make a chili bar so everyone can choose their favorite toppings: grated cheddar cheese, extra chopped peppers, lime slices, tortilla or Fritos chips, guacamole, sour cream, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, hot sauce—the list can go on and on: be creative!

You can also serve it over brown rice (or white-or without rice-your preference). Or like Cincinnati chili-spaghetti. Make a chili dog, use it in tacos or quesadillas. All kinds of options.

It’s great with a tossed salad and a side of cornbread. However you top and serve it- it will be delicious!

Vegetarian Chili
Vegetarian Chili

Traveling for a Cultural Experience-Mexican Winter Escape

We are on a winter escape in Cancun Mexico. After 6 months of recovering from rotator cuff, bicep and clavicle surgery, I needed a stress free escape. The last half of the year was very painful and difficult. One of the most trying times I’ve experienced. Fortunately I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve gotten most of my arm mobility back and have much less pain now. It was a good time for an escape before my semester started up. Exercising in the pool every day is my happy place. Watching the waves in the ocean, seeing palms swaying in the wind calm me and create a sense of peace. I wish it would last forever! I love the people and the culture, it’s always a great experience to come back here.

Recipes for a Cultural Experience- Easy Dinner: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna

Lasagna is an Italian layered casserole full of cheesy goodness. Surprisingly, when I looked up it’s history, I discovered it derived from Ancient Greece. where according to Mi’Talia, a dish called laganon was popular. Laganon, as it happens, was the first pasta, made from sheets of dough cut into thin strips. https://www.tastingtable.com/820872/the-origin-of-lasagna-isnt-what-you-think/

It made its way to Italy in the Middle Ages. Early lasagna did not contain tomatoes, only noodles with a béchamel sauce. Eventually a ragu sauce was added with Spinach in the dough. This originated in Bologna. It eventually became popular in Naples in the 1880’s where tomatoes were introduced into the recipe. https://www.italymagazine.com/dual-language/short-history-lasagna

I make a vegetarian version loaded with lots of vegetables. I make it all different ways-usually baked in the oven. This time I wanted to make a very quick version of it in the crockpot. You can use a quick homemade marinara sauce or in a pinch, use a commercial spaghetti sauce. I don’t boil the noodles first. Adding in additional sauce will “cook” the noodles in the pot or pan. I threw this together with some leftover noodles I had in the cupboard so I only made 2 layers. Generally I would use a third layer of noodles. You can layer it up as high as your pan will allow if you have enough ingredients. I’ll give you both the oven and crockpot versions. The oven version is much crispier. You can take out the serving portions out of the crockpot and broil them for a few minutes to crisp. I was pleasantly surprised that the cheese and top browned and was somewhat crisped in the crockpot. You can use all kinds of vegetables, I load it up.

Quick Hint: Cook the veggies first either sautéing or microwaving them to remove the excess moisture. Use a slotted spoon to drain them.

It’s a quick and tasty lasagna. Enjoy!

Other options:

A low carb version can be made with thin zucchini strips (heavily salt first on a cookie sheet and paper towels for a minimum of 30 minutes to draw out the moisture, the longer the better). Replace the noodles with the zucchini strips. You need 2-3 medium zucchini sliced very thin. Some markets sell sliced zucchini.

I usually make this vegetarian. I have sometimes added soy crumbles. You can add in lots of different vegetables (fresh tomatoes, zucchini slices, onions, mushrooms, spinach, etc. ).

If you prefer a meat version-add in cooked lean ground beef, Italian sausage or Italian chicken sausage or pepperoni.

Ingredients:

Make a batch of homemade marinara sauce if desired. I use lots of fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano. There are tons of recipes online. I make a large pot and freeze it for future use. Otherwise use a commercial spaghetti sauce. This time I used a jar of sauce to save time as I was out of homemade marinara.

I -24 ounces jar of sauce. or homemade marinara sauce.

2 cups fresh spinach (microwave to cook and wring out moisture)

8 ounces of sliced mushrooms (additional veggies if desired-sauté or microwave to reduce the amount of liquid in them)

8 ounces of part skim ricotta cheese (cottage cheese can be substituted in a pinch)

2 beaten eggs (I sometimes leave them out, not too much difference in the result)

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

4 ounces shredded part skim mozzarella

4 ounces fresh mozzarella (you can use more shredded if you don’t have fresh available)

2 tablespoons ground basil

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (if you have it)

2 tablespoons ground oregano

4-6 tablespoons garlic powder

1/2-1 tablespoons ground pepper

Shake of red pepper flakes

No boil or regular lasagna noodles (minimum of 5-6 for 2 layers -more for additional layers)

Crockpot Instructions:

Place a layer of the sauce on the bottom of the pot. Be generous as the noodles absorb the sauce. Add a layer of noodles. Break them to fit all the space. Next layer the mushrooms and other veggies. Sprinkle some of the spices on top. Mix the cooked spinach with the ricotta cheese, remaining basil, garlic and oregano. Add in the eggs to the spinach ricotta mixture (if you’re using the eggs). It will make it creamier. Spread a layer of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle a layer of Parmesan and shredded mozzarella. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Next add more noodles. Add a layer of sauce, than mushrooms, cheese (additional ricotta if adding more layers of noodles), or if top layer, more Parmesan and the fresh Mozzarella. (Or additional shredded mozzarella if no fresh). Sprinkle with fresh basil.

Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

Take out your serving portion and Broil for a few minutes to brown further if desired.

Oven Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 13” x 9” baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Follow layering instructions above. Make sure each layer covers the whole pan. Place pan on a large cookie sheet or piece of foil in case it boils over. Cook it for 45-60 minutes until the top is brown and crispy. Let rest a few minutes before slicing.

Serve it with a salad, Italian bread and a nice glass of wine or sparkling water. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Soup Weather: Sausage Gumbo Style Soup -(Vegetarian Options)

Gumbo Soup
Gumbo Soup

Traditional Gumbo gets its roots from West Africa and Louisiana. It dates back over 300 years. It’s a hearty Creole stew which can be made with many different ingredients. A traditional Gumbo is made with a deep roux and okra. It can include chicken, sausage and seafood, game or be strictly vegetarian. It molds to your taste, level of spice and what you have on hand.

This version is a gumbo style soup, rather than a thicker gumbo stew. I’m rather unusual in that I don’t use okra which is traditionally used in the Gumbo. I’ve never been a big fan of okra so I left it out. Feel free to include fresh or frozen okra. I also just use the Andouille Sausage along with the traditional trinity of vegetables. (Carrots, celery and onions and peppers), along with tomatoes and lots of spices. I replaced the roux with Arrowroot to thicken it up. It’s less fat and tradition, but the results are still really good. Go easy on the Cajun spice, it’s strong, add more after cooking if you want it spicier. Substitute chicken apple sausage for the Andouille sausage for a less spicy version.

Serve it with a crusty baguette and a salad for an easy meal. It can also be a first course to a Cajun meal or any main course. It will warm you up this winter.

Vegetarian options:

Replace the Andouille Sausage with a soy or meat replacement sausage. I often use Field Roast as the sausage. You can also add some white beans as well.

Other Options:

If you want more protein, add chicken breast or thighs in the beginning of the cooking as well as some shrimp. (Add the shrimp at the end). You can also add fresh or frozen okra, use a brown roux instead of arrowroot for a thicker soup/stew.

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2-32 ounces of vegetable stock

8 tablespoons garlic powder

2-15.5 cans of diced tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes chopped

4 carrots diced

1 onion diced

3 stalks of celery diced

1 bell peppers diced

1/2-1 tablespoons Cajun spice (I use “Slap Ya Mama”, it’s spicy so use sparingly-start small and add additional to taste)

15 grinds of salt grinder (approximately 1 1/2 tbs)

4 grinds of pepper mill (1/2-1 tbs)

4 Andouille sausage (I use “Aidell’s”) diced; (substitute Field Roast sausage or other brand of vegetable sausage for a vegetarian version)

1 tablespoons oregano

4 shakes of thyme (1/2-1 teaspoon- more to taste, I’m not a big fan of thyme)

1 tablespoons of Arrowroot powder

1 cup brown rice (or white rice if you prefer)

Water to fill line on pot

Instant Pot Instructions:

Add all the ingredients into the pot. Stir in the Arrowroot to thicken it as it cooks slightly. Set the pot to the Soup button. Add additional time (More) to 3:15. Allow to vent naturally.

Slow Cooker Instructions:

Add all the ingredients into the crockpot. Stir in the Arrowroot to thicken it as it cooks slightly. It will also thicken up when you reheat it to boil.

Stovetop Instructions

Add all the ingredients into the Dutch Oven of Stockpot. Stir in the Arrowroot to thicken it as it cooks slightly. Bring to boil, then turn it to a low simmer. Stir frequently. Cook for 2-3 hours.

Serve it with a crusty baguette and a salad for an easy meal. It can also be a first course to a Cajun meal or any main course. It will warm you up this winter.

Gumbo Soup

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Easy Dinners: Chicken Gyro Sandwich (Vegetarian Options)

Chicken Gyro
Chicken Gyro

Gyros are an interesting Mediterranean sandwich. They are full of flavor and spice, tangy and tender. Usually a gyro is made with a combination of beef and lamb cooked on a spit. It is sliced thin and placed in a pita or flatbread pita. Top it with tzatziki sauce (a garlic, cucumber, yogurt sauce), cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Wrap it in a piece of foil to not lose as any of the goodness. This version is made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It has much of the same flavor and taste in a healthier version. Options to marinate it for 30 minutes or more before cooking. I made it in a crockpot but you can grill it, sauté it or instant pot it as well.

Vegetarian Options:

Replace the chicken with strips of grilled or sautéd bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, spinach, onions and/other root vegetables. They can be marinated with the spices below and either Greek yogurt or olive oil. You can also cook them in the Crockpot or Instant Pot (3-4 minutes- release naturally) as well.

Another option is to toss the pepper and mushroom strips with oil and seasoning. Spread the sliced mushrooms on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees

You can also add extra hummus and chunks of feta cheese is you wish. Assemble the gyro as below. Delicious!

Ingredients:

4 boneless chicken breasts (Vegetarian Options above)

2 sweet onions sliced

8 tablespoons garlic powder or 3-4 cloves crushed fresh garlic

4 tablespoons oregano

3 tablespoons cumin

a few dashes of marjoram

1 tablespoon dill

2 fresh rosemary stems

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar

4 turns of the salt grinder (1/2 tsp or so)

4 turns of the pepper grinder (1/2 tsp or so)

Optional: Hummus, Hot Sauce

Crockpot Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours (check temperature at 3 hours-165 degrees). Slice into small pieces or shred with two forks.

Place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp up the top if desired. (Recommended)

Instant Pot Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the Instant Pot. Cook on the Poultry setting (15 minutes, I often add more time depending on the size of the breast-up to 30 minutes)Allow it to naturally release. When finished, check the temperature of the breasts -165 degrees. Slice into small pieces or shred with two forks.

Place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp up the top if desired. (Recommended)

Marinate and Grill:

Place all ingredients into a ziplock bag or covered container. You can also add plain Greek yogurt (8oz) into the marinade or extra lemon. Marinate for 30 minutes to overnight. Oil your grill and grill until finished (165 degrees).

Sandwich Ingredients and Assembly:

Pita bread or flatbread (I prefer pocketless pita flatbread)

Cucumbers slices

Tomato slices

Onion slices

Tzatziki sauce (store bought -I prefer Cedars or homemade, there are tons of easy recipes you can find online).

Hot sauce

Chicken Breast (slice it thick, chunks or shredded-your choice) or Vegetarian Options

Foil or wax paper

Lay the bread on a piece of foil or wax paper. Add some tzatziki, hummus and layer the rest of the ingredients on top along with additional tzatziki and a few dashes of hot sauce – if desired. Fold and close the foil. Eat from the top and enjoy!

Chicken Gyro
Chicken Gyro

Recipes for a Cultural Experience—Quick Steak Fajitas (Vegetarian and Chicken Options)

Steak Fajitas
Steak Fajitas

It’s always taco/fajita night in our house. Often I make lean ground beef or vegetarian chorizo or vegetarian crumbles and make a taco bar. Sometimes I want a quicker meal ready. This recipe uses steak for the fajitas. I prefer a good cut if I’m using steak. I use a rib eye, t-bone or strip steak. It comes out tender and juicy. You could use a different cut, such as flank or skirt steak, it will also get tender in the crockpot. You can also make this in the Instant Pot or sauté it on the stove top.

Chicken and Vegetarian Alternative:

Use boneless, skinless chicken breast. Shred with two forks after cooking, add back to the crockpot and stir. Use a slotted spoon to serve.

Vegetarian options:

A Vegetarian alternative would be to just use the all the vegetables. Adding some root vegetables will also take this to a new level. You can also add cooked black beans or soy chorizos with the vegetables if you wish. Great results for any of these choices.

A quick, flavorful meal with any of the choices.

Ingredients:

1-2 lb steak -I use a ribeye, t-bone or similar steak.

2 red bell peppers-thinly sliced

2 sweet onions-thinly sliced

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

3 tomatoes sliced or 1 -14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

1/4-1/2 cup fresh cilantro

3 tbs cumin

3 tbs garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1-2 tbs Tajin spice

1 -2 small jalapeño or 1/2 habanero peppers depending on your heat tolerance-chopped

1 can Rotel tomatoes

Juice of 1 lime

Crockpot Instructions:

Freeze the steak slightly so it can be sliced easily. Trim off all the fat and then slice against the grain into small slices. (I have also put it in whole and sliced it after but this is easier to slice)

Add all the ingredients to the crockpot and stir. Cover and cook on high 4 hours or 8 hours on low.

Serve with tortillas, pico de gallo, salsa, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce. Rice and beans/refried beans go well with it.

Instant Pot Instructions:

Freeze the steak slightly so it can be sliced easily. Trim off all the fat and then slice against the grain into small slices. (I have also put it in whole and sliced it after but this is easier to slice). Optional-you can brown the meat using the sauté feature with a little olive oil.

Add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot. Cover and set the pressure on high for 4 minutes. Let the pressure vent naturally.

Serve with tortillas, pico de gallo, salsa, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce. Rice and beans/refried beans go well with it.

Enjoy!

Steak Fajitas
Steak Fajitas
Steak Fajitas

Recipes for a Cultural Experience—Soup Weather: Tortilla Soup (Vegetarian and Chicken versions)

Tortilla Soup
Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup is a favorite soup in our house. It’s light and full of flavor. It can be made vegetarian or with chicken. I’ll give you both options below. The flavors come out light and refreshing either way. It’s a great first course for taco night or with any main course. Serve it with a squeeze of lime, some shredded cheese and crumpled tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup Ingredients:

2-32 ounces of vegetable stock

1- 2 15.5 ounce can black beans (add the second one to add additional protein)

8 ounces frozen corn

Juice of 1 lime

1 – 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes

Water to fill pot

8 tbs garlic powder

6 tbs cumin

4 tbs dried cilantro or 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbs Tajin Spice (a zesty lime spice with a kick) (a few shakes)

15- 20 turns of salt grinder (1-2 tbs or to taste)

8-10 turns of pepper grinder (1 tbs)

Shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Tortilla chips

Slices of lime

Chicken Tortilla Soup Ingredients:

2-3 boneless chicken breasts

2-32 ounce containers of chicken stock

1 can 15.5 ounce can black beans

8 ounces frozen corn

Juice of 1 lime

1 – 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes

Water to fill pot

8 tbs garlic powder

6 tbs cumin

4 tbs dried cilantro or 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbs Tajin Spice (a zesty lime spice with a kick) (a few shakes)

15- 20 turns of salt grinder (2 tbs or to taste)

8 turns of pepper grinder (1 tbs)

Shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Tortilla chips

Slices of lime

Shred chicken when cooked with two forks. Add back to soup. You can also use some of the chicken for another recipe.

Crockpot Instructions:

Place all ingredients into the pot. Cook on high for 4 hours, low for 8 hours.

Instant Pot Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the pot. Turn the steam button to close. Close top, use the soup button adding time to 3:00. Allow to vent naturally.

Stovetop Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into a stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer in low. Cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Tortilla Soup
Tortilla Soup

Gardening Thoughts and Photos

Forsythia Blooms
Lilacs
Purple Irises
Purple Irises
Yellow Irises
Early Roses
Early Roses

I love gardening but have a very small yard. I know Spring is coming as soon as the forsythia bloom. Next to bloom are the irises. My former neighbor gave me the purple plants many years ago and they always bloom. They give great hope to the Spring. I planted the yellow irises They always bloom later than the purple ones, I’ve never figured that out. The lilacs bloom in late May. They are short lived but so fragrant. My roses are vine roses. They are late Spring blooms.

I’ve always loved experimenting with vegetables and herbs. Most years are not so successful but I still love to do it. My garden is in pots. We tried garden beds but even with amendments to the soil, it never thrived. We switched to planting in pots and it has been somewhat more successful. I always start off enthusiastically, start seeds as well as plant from small plants and end up with very little harvest. It’s still fun to see it grow though. Part of the problem is that usually I am gone for much of the summer so I have to rely on nature for watering the plants. Nevertheless, my herbs do well-I have perennial mint and Greek oregano. Rosemary did well this year. Basil is much more finicky. Some times we get a fair amount. This past Summer it didn’t thrive. We love to grow hot peppers-jalapeños, habaneros, Serrano and other types. They tend to do well and we have an abundance of salsa and hot food. Tomato plants give us a fair amount of cherry tomatoes. They seem to do better in the pots than larger breeds. Nothing like a fresh picked tomato. We take some of the pots in over the winter before the frost. The peppers can do well indoors and the rosemary is doing quite well. These photos are some of my last harvests before the frost. Although very meager results, it’s always fun.

Pepper plant-end of season.
Last of the harvest before the first frost.
The morning glories come back every summer.

The Best Laid Plans—Isolation Thoughts…

After two years of more or less isolation from Covid, we were starting to finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Since I don’t have any problems being home a lot, it didn’t bother me to self isolate as much as it bothered some people. Now after two years, masks, vaccines and boosters, I was starting to feel better about going places. Even though I am still hesitant to see people, be in a crowd or crowded environment; I was starting to feel better about going out, even traveling. I am still masked and hesitant but felt that I finally could start to do things again. Well, the best laid plans…

The past 5 months were particularly difficult as I had rotator cuff shoulder surgery in July. It put an end to my summer travel plans. It was a long, painful recovery but finally I am starting to feel stronger and closer to normal, so we were traveling a bit and planning ahead. We were away for Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house, did go to a museum and ate out. I was a bit nervous about it all, but it was nice to be out, see family and see artworks. Things have a way of not going quite as planned….

Well, this past week, my husband tested positive! We were shocked! He was not as careful about it all as I am, but was fully boosted and wore masks at least most of the time. He was going into the office a couple of days a week, but mostly driving, not using mass transit. Wednesday night after Thanksgiving, he was coughing up a storm so I told him to take a test before going in to the office on Thursday. Still, I was shocked when he was actually positive and to have to go through the full home isolation, all the cleaning, sanitation again just like in the beginning of Covid. Fearful for him and fearful that I would get it too. Fortunately, my husband had a very mild case, but it is all very unnerving. We kept waiting for it to get worse. Luckily the vaccines and Paxlovid seem to keep it mild. I keep cleaning, masking and testing to make sure I haven’t contracted it. So far so good. The question seems to be not if but when are you going to get it. I try to stay positive and hopefully I will get the nerve up to venture out into society again! Even this introverted homebody gets cabin fever at times. What are your experiences?

Recipes for a Cultural Experience—Soup Weather: Sweet and Sour Cabbage Borscht (Soup)Vegetarian Version

Cabbage Borscht

This soup was one of my Mother and Grandmother’s regular soups. There is a debate as to whether Cabbage Borscht is Borscht or if Beet Borscht is the only real Borscht. Both are staples in many Jewish households. My mother tended to make the cabbage version more often. She used a soup bone and soup meat. Occasionally she made the hot beet version also with meat. More often she would open a jar of store bought beet borscht- served cold with sour cream and diced cucumbers. This was good for a dairy meal or especially during Passover. It was refreshing in the summer heat. I personally prefer the cabbage version.

My grandmother was from Romania, my grandfather was from Russia. On my father’s side, he was from Lithuania. I’m not sure where this soup originated in my family. Researching the soup history shows it was a staple in Jewish households as well as non-Jewish households from many different countries. It may have originated in the Byzantine period of the 9th Century when cabbages were introduced to Byzantium. Every country and century seems to have a version of the soup. Some make it just sour, some sweet and sour. Most have meat, but my preference is a vegetarian version that leans towards the sweet side.

My version is a hearty vegetarian soup. It has a sweet and sour tang (I prefer it more on the sweet side). I’ve tried it sugar-free with Stevia and also had good results. You can make it more on the sour side by adding a squeeze of lemon or a very small pinch of sour salt (citric acid)—very, very small. I ruined a pot of soup by adding too much and haven’t used it since. The tomatoes and juice tend to have a slight tartness alone, so you don’t need much unless you like it to be very sour. Whatever version you make, it will be delicious!

Ingredients

1 -12 ounce bag of coleslaw mix (cabbage and carrots grated)

1-8 ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables

6 ounces of frozen corn

1-28 ounces of crushed tomatoes

1- 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes

1-46 ounce bottle of V8 juice (or tomato juice)

1-32 ounce vegetable stock

6 tablespoons garlic powder

4-5 tablespoons Montreal seasoning

1 tablespoon salt (20 grinds of salt grinder)

1/8-1/4 cup of sugar (can start with less and adjust after cooking). (As my husband prefers it less sweet I often add it to my bowl with some stevia)

Optional sour choices -squeeze of a lemon, tiny pinch of sour salt (I leave these out)

This soup gets better the more it is cooked. Lean towards the longer cooking times.

Instructions:

Crock-Pot

Place all ingredients in the pot. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, on low for 8-9 hours. Adjust sweet/sour flavor as needed.

Insta-Pot

Place all ingredients in the pot. Use Soup function button. Adjust for 3:00. Let pressure release naturally. Adjust sweet/sour flavor as needed.

Stovetop

Place all ingredients in Dutch oven or stock pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 3-4 hours. Stir frequently. Adjust sweet/sour flavor as needed.

Enjoy!

Cabbage Borscht

Recipes for a Cultural Experience-Soup Weather: Almost a Failure- Broccoli, Vegetable, Cheddar Chowder

Tweaked: Broccoli, Vegetable, Cheddar Chowder

Not everything comes out as planned, but I’m not one to give up on a potentially good dish. With some tweaks, this came out quite well. See-Results below for the tweaks I did.

This soup came about from an abundance of broccoli. I had ordered groceries pre-Thanksgiving and asked for a large bag of broccoli florets. They were out of the large bags and gave me three 12 ounce bags in its place (more than double of the original one). I steamed some for pre-thanksgiving and decided to make chowder with the rest. I’ve always loved broccoli cheddar soup so I wanted to make a somewhat healthier version of it. This is a hearty, filling soup full of broccoli and vegetables. I wanted to include other vegetables and try to reduce the calories a bit. Instead of heavy cream and a roux in the usual versions, I substituted low-fat milk and arrowroot. It does have a fair amount of cheese so it’s not totally low fat/calorie but you can make any substitutions you would like. Make it richer with the heavy cream, more cheese and a flour/butter roux, or make it lower fat with less cheese and skim milk. Evaporated skim milk gives a creamy texture to a soup. Add any additional vegetables of your preference. Your choice…it will be delicious either way. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 – 32 ounce containers of vegetable stock

24 ounces broccoli florets cut into small pieces. Remove most of the stems. (If using whole broccoli cut off the florets into smaller pieces, removing the stems).

6 ounces frozen corn

8 ounces frozen mixed vegetables

1 sweet onion chopped or 3 tablespoons dried minced onions

6 tablespoons garlic powder or 2 cloves of garlic crushed

4 tablespoons Montreal seasoning

18-20 turns of the salt grinder (2-3 tablespoons of salt)

2 cups low-fat milk or whole milk (or heavy cream, 1-2 containers of evaporated skim milk)

12 ounces Sharp Cheddar shredded (additional or less cheese if you wish)

2 -3 tablespoons Arrowroot mixed in water (or make a cooked roux with butter and flour) (I don’t recommend cornstarch as it can get gummy)

Crockpot Instructions

Add all ingredients except the milk and cheese. Add additional water leaving room for the milk. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Warm the milk to almost boiling, add the cheese, stirring until it melts. Add to the crockpot, cooking for another 20-30 minutes to meld the flavors. Use an immersion blender if you want it a little smoother. If it is still not thick, you can take some out and place in a large saucepan adding some additional arrowroot mixed in a little water to thicken. Heat to boil, stirring frequently. It will thicken as it boils. It may also thicken when you reheat it to boiling.

Results—tweaked version:

Almost a failure—I found the broccoli to be quite tough. Boiling the soup after it’s done will soften it and thicken the soup. I did remove some of the broccoli to use for another dish and added a few handful of additional shredded cheese (use sharp cheddar) and additional spices. (It was rather bland) I added a cup of whole milk to make it a little creamier. I also used the immersion blender to make some of it a little smoother. The end result was not as low-fat as I hoped but it tasted much better and more like I remember it tasting. The extra cheese, additional spices and removing some of the broccoli saved it, whew!

Serve it as a first course or make it a meal with a salad. Some hearty bread or baguette will be a great accompaniment. It will warm you on these cold days. Enjoy!

Tweaked Broccoli, Vegetable, Cheddar Chowder

Recipes for a Cultural Experience—Soup Weather: Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup
Split Pea Soup

This week the weather turned cold. It’s a dreary, rainy day here. It’s clear that winter is on the way. With all the talk of snow and cold weather around the country, soup can really cut the chill. Split Pea Soup is a hearty, warming soup. It can be made with or without sausage or ham. I usually use a chicken sausage or a veggie sausage. My choices are Aidell’s for chicken (usually the apple one) or Field Roast Apple for the veggie version. Adjust the seasonings to your taste. Some people serve it with thick croutons. It goes well as a first course or pair it with a salad and a crusty baguette for a whole meal as well. It will take the chill off. Soup’s On!

Ingredients:

16 ounce bag of Dried Split Peas

2-32 ounce container of vegetable stock

2-3 tablespoons salt (15 -20 turns of grinder)

2 tablespoons pepper (10 -15 turns of grinder)

6 tablespoons ground garlic powder

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 chopped onion

2 chopped carrots or 1/2 bag of baby carrots

20 ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables

4 tablespoons Montreal seasoning

2 Chicken Apple sausage or Veggie Apple sausage cut into small chunks

Adjust the spices to your taste. Sometimes you need to add additional spices as it may absorb the flavor.

InstaPot Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the pot. Fill with water to fill line. Set the pot using the Soup/Broth button (2:45). Let the steam release naturally. Stir thoroughly to mix. Enjoy!

Crockpot Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the crockpot pot. Fill with water to fill line. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Stir thoroughly to mix. Enjoy!

Stovetop Instructions:

Place all the ingredients into the dutch oven or stockpot. Fill with water to top. Bring to a boil, then turn it to a low simmer. Cook for about 2 -2 1/2 hours. Stir thoroughly to mix. Enjoy!

Split Pea Soup
Split Pea Soup

Thanksgiving Traditions -Side Dishes: Wild Rice Casserole

Growing up all the holidays were a chance to have all of the family and relatives together. Thanksgiving was a joyous occasion. As I mentioned in previous posts I was the youngest in my family and all the cousins. Relatives would come up from the Twin Cities to join us.

Traditional Foods

Aside from the usual turkey, gravy, stuffing and cranberries, pies and jello molds—there was a MN tradition- Wild Rice Casserole. I mentioned the background of Wild Rice, how it was harvested in the Wild Rice Corn Chowder recipe. It’s a hearty casserole with a nutty texture that will add a taste of the north to your holiday table.

Wild Rice Casserole

Ingredients:

1 cup wild rice (do not use a blend)

2 cups water

8 ounces sliced white or baby Bella mushrooms

3 stalks of celery diced

1 onion diced (1 large or 2 small)

1/2 stick of butter

1-2 teaspoons salt (more to taste)

1 teaspoon pepper

4 teaspoons garlic powder

Olive oil for sautéing

Cooking Spray for pan

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil the water and wild rice. When it starts boiling, turn it down to a simmer. Cook about 30 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

Dice the onion and celery. Sauté them in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add the sliced mushrooms. Season with the spices. Add to the cooked wild rice. Stir thoroughly. Taste and adjust the spices as needed. (It tends to absorb the spices so you may need more). Place in a casserole dish or pan that has been sprayed. Mix with the butter (adding more as needed). Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

This can be made ahead and baked when your turkey is resting. Enjoy!

Recipes for a Cultural Experience—Holiday Dinners: Stuffed Rolled Turkey Breast

The Iron Range in Northern Minnesota where I’m from was a real melting pot of nationalities. There were many people with Italian, Scandinavian, Slavic as well as Eastern European and other backgrounds. Many came to work in the mines. Growing up, my father was a grocer and a butcher. We learned a lot from the employees and customers, and their various cultures. We carried many different ethnic foods in the store. Porchetta was a popular Italian recipe. He made Porchetta roasts for his customers but we never ate them as we didn’t eat pork back then. They did look good and my friends loved them so I was curious to try the Turkey version called Turchetta. The Turchetta recipe uses similar spices to a Porchetta roast. This is my version of the recipe. It is similar to the Turchetta recipes with a few changes. This was my first time making it so it was a learning experience. I did make a few changes to the traditional recipe. We are not fans of fennel so I left it out. Since I brought in two large rosemary plants before last week’s frost, I used a lot of rosemary. I also switched out chicken broth for the red wine as we were out. I forgot to buy the fresh garlic as well so I used minced garlic.

After making it, I would recommend using more Parmesan-closer to a cup. Adding cooked spinach instead of the prosciutto would be another option.

I recommend using turkey breast tenderloins or boneless turkey breast. I used a breast on the bone so it was a lot of work to remove it from the bone. (Clearly the butcher skills were not passed to me).

It’s a great alternative to a traditional turkey or turkey breast. It’s full of flavor, very pretty to serve. I served it with a couple of traditional side dishes—green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and cranberries. Since I’m going to my kids for Thanksgiving this year and they like to switch up recipes, I wanted a couple of traditional sides.

Ingredients:

Turkey Breast-preferably boneless or deboned. 7-9 lbs boned

Prosciutto 4 oz (optional leave out and add cooked spinach)

Fresh Sage .05 ounce

6 -8 sprigs fresh rosemary

Minced garlic 3 tablespoons or 4-5 cloves of fresh garlic crushed

Salt 1 teaspoon (4 grinds)

Pepper 1/2 teaspoon (3 grinds)

1/2 – 1 cup shredded Parmesan

Twine for tying

16 ounces Chicken stock or 2 cups of red wine

1 tablespoon butter

Olive oil or olive oil spray

Crockpot Instructions:

If using a bone in turkey breast, use a kitchen shears to cut through the center backbone and front center bone. Take a sharp knife and cut the meat close to the bone to remove the meat, keeping the pieces as large you can. I removed the skin as well. (You could leave the skin on it if you choose to).

Lay pieces flat on a cutting board. Cover with wax paper and pound flat with a mallet. Remove wax paper and discard.

Season the breast with the seasonings. Lay the rosemary pieces (remove from the stem) on the spices, follow with the Parmesan. Lay the sage leaves on and then add the prosciutto. Carefully roll the breast tightly. Use the twine to hold it together, tying tightly.

Place the stock and butter into the crockpot. Add 2 whole sprigs with the stem of rosemary to the liquid. Carefully place the breast in the crockpot. Spray it with olive oil spray or sprinkle with olive oil.

Cook on high for 3 – 4 hours or low for 7 – 8 hours until the breast reads 165 on the meat thermometer.

Strain the gravy into a gravy strainer. Thicken the gravy on the stove if desired with a roux (cooked butter and flour) or arrowroot (my preference—Add a little water to the arrowroot and stir before adding). Broil the breast for a couple of minutes if it needs additional browning. Remove the twine before broiling or slicing. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice it like a pinwheel. Enjoy!

Oven instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Follow the instructions above. (You can brown it with a little oil or butter and some stock or wine on the stove first before putting it in the baking pan. )

Bake in a covered pan until the breast temp reads 165 degrees on the meat thermometer. Check it at 30 minutes. Keep checking frequently until it’s 165.

Broil if it needs additional browning. Remove the twine before slicing or broiling. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice it like a pinwheel. Enjoy!

Recipes for a Cultural Experience—Easy Dinners: Balsamic Glazed Chicken and Vegetables with Feta and Pomegranate Sheet Pan Dinner

Balsamic Glazed Chicken and Vegetables with Feta and Pomegranate Sheet Pan Dinner
Balsamic Glazed Chicken and Vegetables with Feta and Pomegranate Sheet Pan Dinner

Sheet Pan dinners are quick and easy. There are so many different combinations you can try. This is a combination of a couple of different recipes. It has Mediterranean flavors with the mellow feta cheese and balsamic glaze. The pomegranate seeds give it a sweet/tart tang. When the feta bakes, it mellows out the flavor. Choose the vegetables you prefer or have on hand.

If you prefer a vegetarian option-leave out the chicken, add a can of drained garbanzo or cannellini beans. You could also add Extra Firm Tofu chunks.

Ingredients:

1 block of feta cheese (don’t use pre-crumbled)

1 – 2 onions chopped

1 bell pepper (red or yellow)

1 bunch fresh broccoli or broccolini

2 boneless chicken breast cut into chunks

1 pack of cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes (slice in half if large)

Kalamata Olives-12 olives or to taste

Pomegranate Seeds 2 ounces (additional for serving)

Balsamic Glaze

1/4 cup Chicken or vegetable stock (optional)

Extra Version Olive Oil

4 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons basil

2 tablespoons oregano

3 grinds of the salt grinder 1 teaspoons or so

4 grinds of pepper (2 teaspoons or so)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray.

Spread the vegetables evenly on the pan. Break up the feta into small chunks. Spread them around, nestle them into the vegetables. Add olives spreading them around. Place the chicken chunks on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle liberally with olive oil. Add the spices. Sprinkle the balsamic glaze on top. Add the pomegranate seeds all over. You can add the stock before the oil if you want a more gravy like consistency. I made it without the stock. Bake in a preheated 350 oven. Check every 20 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. Check the temperature of the chicken. It should be 165.

Vegetarian Options:

Leave out the chicken. Use vegetable stock if desired. (I didn’t use it). Add a cup of cooked garbanzo or cannellini beans. (Or a drained can). You could also add chunks of Extra Firm Tofu. Follow baking instructions, checking frequently for the vegetables to be tender.

Spread Vegetables, Nestle Feta
Add Chicken
Use Balsamic Glaze and Spices, top with Pomegranate Seeds

Serve with extra balsamic glaze and pomegranate seeds. A baked potato, soup or salad all can go well with it. Enjoy!

Balsamic Glazed Chicken and Vegetables with Feta and Pomegranate