Since my husband prefers primarily vegan meals, there is virtually no vegetable that has not crossed our threshold. However, it is amazing how far we have strayed from making meals from scratch! We’ve found frozen or canned versions of many staples, rather than relying on local & seasonal produce. While we’re told that many foods retain their nutrients when canned or frozen, I appreciated the challenge to obtain minimally processed food.
With that in mind, I purchased a giant tub of fresh spinach – an item we’ve avoided because it is delicate and spoils easily. In addition we purchased carrots, celery & onions. I know these sound very basic, but we’ve not been using them, since we’ve found organic pre-made food. I went back to the basics this week – a huge victory, and hopefully the start of new eating habits.
As a nutrition powerhouse, I adore spinach! And having it fresh allowed me to note its more delicate texture and flavor and the smaller quantity of stems present – as compared with frozen spinach. I used the spinach in three recipes: (1) Salmon with rice & veggies, (2) Curried beans, and (3) lentil soup. The other items I made from scratch this week were a cannolini bean dish and split pea soup. Having soup made from scratch this week renewed my awareness of how many shapes and sizes can be created when chopping veggies for soup – it was part of the fun! Also the flavor and texture of the carrots, celery & onions were so far superior to what we’ve been eating in canned soups, that it would be difficult to purchase those flavorless alternatives again – despite their being organic! Not to mention how much better the peas tasted, when prepared from dried, split peas – and how much cheaper. And my husband gave the soup rave reviews!
My personal favorite of all the dishes I made this week was a cannolini bean dish, which featured red cabbage and apples (what we happened to have left in the fridge) and is seasoned with caraway seeds and sage. It was so satisfying! But I want to continue to tweak that recipe and plan to include it in next week’s blog…I need to make it tempting enough for my husband to try to steal it for his lunch box.
Recipe #1 Salmon w/ Rice & Veggies
This invention stemmed from a rather large portion of salmon left over from a lunch outing. In its first life, it was part of a nicoise salad, and I wanted to use it to create something entirely different. I gave it an Asian twist by marinating with minced garlic & seasoning I’d purchased in Hawaii that included nori seaweed, wasabi, ginger & mustard. I diced the leftover green beans & potatoes & sautéed all with the marinated salmon, then added the marinade & simmered, then served with brown rice & a dash of tamari.
Recipe #2 Curried beans, wilted spinach, and brown rice
This invention included Indian spices (hot and smoky curries and turmeric), canned tomatoes, diced onions, and dried kidney & pinto beans. The crockpot makes it easy to cook all day, until all is soft and the veggies disappear to become a thick sauce. I warmed half-bowls of leftover brown rice, filled the other half of each bowl with fresh spinach, then poured the curried beans on to wilt the spinach. Easy and delicious!
Recipe #3 Split Pea Soup
I diced a picnic ham & placed in crockpot with 4 quarts of water with herbs de Provence, 2 garlic cloves with a whole clove stuck in one and 2 bay leaves. My husband dislikes meat unless it is extremely falling-apart tender, so my solution was to cook it low & slow. About 4 hours later, I added a dash of smoked paprika, 1 can diced blackened tomatoes, 4 diced carrots, sliced celery, a large diced onion, and 2 cups dried split peas. In four more hours, the entire house smelled wonderful! I toasted two potato rosemary rolls to serve alongside.
To be certain to fulfill our homework assignment and to avoid wasting any of the wonderful, fresh spinach, I also included spinach in our lentil soup. The basic soup was made with diced carrots, celery & onions, 1 1/2 cups lentils, 1 1/2 quarts of chicken stock, 1 bay leaf, 1 clove of garlic, a splash of apple cider vinegar, tarragon & thyme. It was heated, and I stirred in the spinach at serving time.