Monday, October 25, 2010

Tomato Lentil Soup- Italian Style



Do you like Italian Soup? As the weather gets cooler, I keep thinking more and more about piping hot soup!
Personally, I love soup all year round, but I tend to make more soup in the fall and winter. This recipe is different but delightful, especially if you like things a little tangy. If you eat this soup with a hearty salad or over some aromatic basmati brown rice , you can call it dinner.
I must warn you, the soup is filling.

Now, here is the secret ingredient that I use:  Balsamic vinegar! You have used balsamic vinegar in salad dressings, marinades,dips, and you may have even tried it on some veggies or sweet potatoes. Balsamic vinegar is very versatile and imparts an interesting flavor in all kinds of dishes.

Originally, I tried a basic recipe for tomato lentil soup that a friend had given me. It sounded good,  but each time I made it, it was a little bland. I tried to fix it up, but it was still on the bland side.

 I saw a bottle of balsamic vinegar staring at me from the pantry shelf. I thought , "why not?"
Who would have known that lentils and balsamic vinegar are a perfect match.
Wow! The flavor of the soup was transformed.

 I am fussy about my balsamic vinegar. Some brands taste better than others. I usually buy a bottle that says it is made in Modena, Italy.

"Commercial balsamic vinegar can be a mix of a variety of ingredients, including wine vinegar, water, sugar, conservatives, caramel, and flavoring. There are no standards to ensure that you are getting a quality product. These may be labeled as "Balsamic Vinegar",but they are only pale imitators--not the real thing.

True traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena, or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, is only produced in Modena, Italy and is strictly regulated and controlled by their government. Only an exclusive group of about one hundred families are authorized to make traditional balsamic vinegar. The grapes used to make the balsamic vinegar are grown and harvested in Modena, Italy. They are then crushed, and the juice is cooked over open flame for hours to create a syrupy "must." The must then ages for a minimum of 12 years in a sequence of wooden casks that infuse it with its unique flavor. After this lengthy process, the balsamic vinegar must then pass a panel of five expert tasters. If it is deemed perfect, then it is allowed to be called Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" ( quoted from : http://www.houseofbalsamic.com/vinegar)

Is balsamic vinegar healthy? You bet! Read on..quoted from:

" Each grape that will ultimately transform into balsamic vinegar is a tiny gem packed with powerful restorative qualities. Tucked within each grape seed are pycnogenols, potent antioxidants that can fight stress, arthritis, allergies and cardiovascular disease. The skin of the grape seed contains tannin, another antioxidant that Harvard University researchers have shown controls weight and slows down the aging process.

Far from being just beautiful and delectable, red grapes contain a bioflavonoid called quercetin that fortifies the immune system, allowing it to fight inflammation, infection and even cancer. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin report that flavonoids from grapes also combat heart disease by preventing buildup in the arteries.

In addition to these substances is another true prize of the grape—resveratrol. This therapeutic powerhouse is a restorative wonder and may be a magic bullet in the battle against aging. Studies from the University of Illinois show that it inhibits tumor growth and France’s Liver Research Study Group has found that resveratrol may prevent liver cancer. Other scientists report that it may even prevent breast cancer by halting the development of a linked enzyme."quoted from:  http://www.houseofbalsamic.com/vinegar/healing-properties

OK HERE IS MY RECIPE :    Tangy Tomato Lentil Soup Italian Style
Ingredients:
3/4  of a 16 oz bag brown lentils, rinsed and soaked for about 2-3  hours
1 cup chopped tomatoes ( fresh or canned)
Olive oil spray and 1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 cup onions, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, diced or pressed
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sliced carrots
3 stalks of celery, sliced
10 cups of water. ( may need to add more as it cooks)
2- 3 TBSP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP  fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste and splash of balsamic vinegar for serving


Directions:
Soak the lentils for about 2 hours in water and then drain

Spray the bottom of a tall soup soup pan with olive oil spray and add the olive oil. Add onions and allow to saute for about 2 minutes.

When onions are very hot, add chopped tomatoes, garlic, and the fresh lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.

Stir well and saute for about 2  minutes. Then add lentils and allow to saute in mixture for about 2 full minutes while you stir, coat and toast lentils

 Add water, celery, carrots and bring to a boil. Simmer with a lid for about 20 minutes, then remove lid and continue to cook until lentils and vegetables are very soft. ( add 1/2 cup of water if needed) Add salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end. ( do not add salt while the lentils are cooking or they will be hard)

Step by Step with Pictures.




Assemble Ingredients

Prepare Ingredients

 
Soak lentils for 2-3 hours

Follow directions and cook until lentils are soft


Add sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and another splash of balsamic vinegar
       
                                         Pumpkin Farm in Bucks County

four large pumpkins

                                                       CRAZY PUMPKINS

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Marvelous Mini Quiches

     Marvelous Mini Quiches


Do you ever find yourself browsing through the refrigerator looking for a quick snack or lunch ? These Marvelous Mini quiches are the perfect answer. They can be made in advance, will last for 4 days, or can be frozen for weeks and popped out as needed. They are fast and easy to make and can be made as low calorie with Egg Beaters and fat free cheeses and milk,or low carb with eggs, cream or milk, full fat cheese; your choice depending on the diet ( or not) that you are following this week! ( Am I right? a different diet each week?)


Mini Quiches On A Slice of Tomato

In addition, all kinds of add-ins can be added to the basic quiche recipe.
 I make them with low fat cheese, 0 %  fat Greek yogurt, olives, spinach, etc. and egg whites.
Add any vegetable- broccoli, spinach, artichokes, tomatoes, olives, etc.
Either way they are easy, fast , and good.. and high in protein.

Why I am making mini quiches!
The past month I have been having a wonderful time experimenting with tasty recipes for gluten free muffins, gluten free cookies, and pumpkin and winter squash recipes to use for my blog. I can honesty say we have been enjoying the pumpkin muffins, the sweet potato fries, the oatmeal raisin cookies and a lot of versions of butternut squash, but I am not enjoying the 6 pounds I've gained!

 I guess no matter how healthy complex carbohydrates are with all their fiber and vitamins, they seem to be a little fattening. The winter squashes, sweet potato, the cookies, the bean soups, the pumpkin muffins, did me in.

I was shocking when I stepped on the scale. I realize that for me, its time to get back to my lower carb meals. So, regardless of the beautiful fall produce, regardless of the cool crisp weather that begs for some hearty heavy soups, I am going to focus on lower carb eating at least for this week.

The first recipe that is a staple for my lower carb eating is my marvelous mini quiches that I rely on for a quick breakfast or on the go snack. These little quiches are very versatile.. they lend themselves to asparagus, cheese, red peppers, mushrooms, and all kinds of low carb add-ins.

Recipe:
1 and 1/4 cups Egg beaters  or egg whites or 6 eggs
1 cup fat free milk ( or rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk,)
1/2 cup fat free cheddar shredded cheese
1/2 cup fat free mozzarella shredded cheese
1/2 cup of scallions, sliced fine
1/4 cup pitted Calamata olives, sliced

Add- in Variations:  Put in or take out
Sauteed Spinach and Cheddar
Sauteed Spinach and cottage cheese ( 1/2 cup)
Sauteed mushrooms and onions
Cooked Artichokes, chopped ( Trader Joe's sells them in frozen bags. Simply saute for about 5-10 minutes)
Sauteed red onions
Capers
Asparagus with or without cheese
Cottage cheese ( 1/2 cup) and cinnamon



Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Simply beat eggs and milk with a fork. Add remainder of ingredients and mix until smooth. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. These freeze well and can stay in the freezer for at least 6 weeks. You can take one out at a time and heat for a snack.

                                      Make my recipe or use one of the variations


Mix eggs, milk, cheeses, scallions, and olives


Spray muffin tin with olive oil spray and fill tins with batter




These golden little quiches come out light and fluffy 




Variations  some with spinach and some with sauteed mushrooms
To see the many other healthy gluten free recipes, healthy living tips, kitchen and blogging ideas that I pin each day, follow me on Pinterest Gluten Free A-Z  and Twitter .

Monday, October 11, 2010

GF Banana Pumpkin Loaf with Coconut Flour

Banana pumpkin loaf with coconut flour




This Banana Pumpkin Bread made is with coconut flour....don't have coconut flour? ..
 It is available at any health food store, and you have to try it. It makes a really special silky delicious loaf.


Recipe calls for coooked pumpkin or buy a can of organic               
I have been reading quite a few gluten free blogs who use coconut flour in their baking. I finally broke down and picked some up at the health food store. I tried my first recipe with it, and I must say I was more than delighted. 

The banana pumpkin bread came out a deep golden color, with a silky smooth texture, and was moist and creamy.  The recipe is egg free, milk free, and nut free. 
It tastes great just sliced, or toasted and topped with a little cinnamon and butter.  

Is it healthy? you bet! 

  •  Coconut flour is very high in fiber providing double the fiber of whole wheat flour and five times the amount of brown rice flour.  
  • According to an article in Natural News " Coconut flour also contains the fats that made coconut oil famous: medium chain triglycerides. These protective fats are antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal. As an added bonus, medium chain triglycerides have also been shown to boost the metabolism."
  • The recipe also contains bananas, pumpkin and raisins which add vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you want the loaf less sweet, you can leave out the pure maple syrup.

I also noticed that this quick bread is filling. Most likely it is the high fiber content of the coconut flour that keeps you full.  So, fiber, boost to metabolism, vitamins and minerals, filling, and great taste- This recipe is a winner in my book.

Have a slice or two for breakfast with a nice relaxing cup of herbal tea.... 

Ingredients
1 and 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup of lite organic coconut milk ( the kind from the can works really well. or use the coconut milk from the refrigerator case) or you can use regular milk if you prefer
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup cooked  pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup raisins( or chocolate chips optional )
1 cup organic coconut flour
3/4  cup ( non GMO)  organic corn flour ( or 1/2 cup corn flour and 1/4 cup corn meal for grittiness) or you can substitute another gluten free flour.
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp of baking powder ( gluten free)
2-3 tsp cinnamon 

Directions
Mix wet ingredients in one bowl
Mix dry ingredients in another larger bowl.
Mix wet into dry ingredients mixing until smooth and creamy.
Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for about 30-40 minutes-
the top starts to get lines and look cracked like in picture
(for muffins: about 20 minutes)

*** I use Rumford Baking Powder which is gluten free and aluminum free
**   The batter will be thick and won't rise alot,  but is still delicious

Step by Step With Pictures
Assemble Ingredients

Add Wet Ingredients Into the Dry and Mix Until Smooth


Bake In A Loaf Baking Pan (  I made three of these little ones)

The Recipe Makes Two of These Small  Bread Loaves  
Very moist and tasty. 



Don't have a loaf pan? Make 20 muffins.. it works just as well.



                                       Great for a quick healthy breakfast on the go ...




If you like making gluten free and grain free recipes check out this 
20 recipe grain free round up for crepes, muffins, bread, pancakes, etc. 




This recipe may be shared on Some of


 these blog carnivals and 










Monday, October 4, 2010

Sun Dried Tomato Marinara Sauce & Angel Hair Zucchini

Fresh Marinara Sauce from Sun Dried Tomatoes

This "no need to cook" sun -dried marinara sauce is a keeper. Whip it up for company or enjoy it any night of the week.

This unique marinara sauce recipe is made with a blend of sun dried tomatoes, regular tomatoes, olive oil, lots of fresh basil, and raisins  for sweetness. It is prepared in the food processor and can be served over a plateful of thin little curls of fresh zucchini spirals made in a spiralizer (  recipe below) or eat with your favorite gluten free pasta.

I first tasted this unusual recipe at a holistic awareness food class I took with Nicole from Whole Leaf Nutrition a few years ago. It was definitely the favorite of everyone in the class!

I love this recipe. Since it is not heated,  the health giving enzymes in the vegetables and herbs are not destroyed. In addition, this recipe is rich in vitamin C, lycopene, and is a rich source of antioxidants. It is surprisingly quick and easy to make and tastes amazing!

Because there is no cooking involved simply soak  the sun dried tomatoes and raisins for a minimum of an hour, drain, add to the remainder of the ingredients and blend in the food processor until creamy. The most time consuming part of the recipe is the waiting for the dried tomatoes and raisins to soak.

Eat over "angel hair zucchini" which I make with a tool called a "spiralizer" that is available on Amazon. o
use this fabulous sauce over your favorite gluten free pasta.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes, soaked for at least 1 hour
1/4 cup raisins, soaked for at least 1 hour
2 1/2 cups of fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup (or more) fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic ( optional)
cayenne pepper ( optional)
sea salt ( optional)

Directions:
In the food processor with a metal blade place soaked and drained sun dried tomatoes and raisins, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and a little sea salt. While processing pour olive oil in slowly. Process until smooth and blended.


Picture Step By Step  ( Sorry, my flash stopped working midway)


Add caption

Soak and Drain Sun Dried Tomatoes and Raisins For At Least 1 Hour

Assemble Tomatoes, Basil, Soaked Raisins, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Chop Tomatoes

Place Ingredients in Food Processor


 
Process Until All Ingredients Are Well Blended

Pour sauce over angel hair zucchini strands..
Use a spiralizer on the angel hair setting







Marinara sauce can be traced back to European cooks aboard Napolitan sailing vessels in the middle 1500's. Since tomatoes were very high in acid, this sauce could withstand the long sea voyages without spoiling. The word marinara is derived from the Italian phrase " alla marinara." When we eat pasta with marinara sauce, we are eating pasta "sailor style".






The spiralizer can be bought online. Use raw zucchini to make this low calorie pasta dish.

Linked to  Midnight Maniac Meatless Monday
  Gluten Free Wednesdays
My Sweet and Savory 


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