Vegetable Soup

I haven’t planted a seed yet this spring, but my gardening already has started, and with it, the first pot of soup with fresh vegetables.

How’s that, you say?

Well, for the third straight year, I left a row of parsnips in my garden over the winter. And just like the first two crops, this spring’s bounty was nothing short of spectacular.

I harvested enough parsnips for a couple of meals (they’re great sliced and fried in a little butter, seasoned with salt and pepper) and about a half-dozen bags (vacuumed sealed) that wento into the freezer.

And then, there’s the soup. Along with the fresh parsnips, I added some carrots, an onion, a couple of stalks of celery, a handful of pearled barley, a bag of frozen green beans, about 8 to 10 cups of broth, a pint of homemade tomato juice and a few tablespoons of tomato paste.

The result was really delicious, and it proves the point that you don’t need meat to make a good soup.

As many of my friends and readers know, I’m kind of a soup nut. I usually make a pot at least once a week, even when the weather turns warmer. I’m lucky to be able to go home for lunch, and having a bowl of soup is a great way to stay on the straight and narrow if you’re trying to maintain your weight.

I’ve recently come across a couple of other soup recipes that look pretty tasty. One — Italian Harvest Vegetable Soup — is from a publication called Delicious Living, which is available at must Hugo’s supermarkets. The other — Spicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup — was on one of our wire service’s Web site.

Both are loaded with colorful vegetables, which means they’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Italian Harvest Vegetable Soup
2 cups chopped celery (4 to 5 stalks)
2 larges carrots, peeled
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
2 tablespoons organic canola or safflower oil
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ red bell pepper, sliced into ½-inch strips
½ green or yellow bell pepper, sliced into ½-inch strips
6 cups water
1 28-ounce can diced San Marzano or fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels
1 cup chopped fresh fennel bulb (1 small bulb) or 1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
4 to 5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 small zucchini, sliced into ½-inch pieces
Chop celery, carrots and onion into ½-inch dice
Heat oil on medium-high in a large, heavy-bottom pot. Add carrots, celery and onion. Saute until edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic and bell peppers. Stir frequently for 1 to 2 minutes, then add water, tomatoes, corn, fennel, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes. Add spinach and zucchini, simmer another 5 minutes, salt and pepper to tasted and serve.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 101 calories, 33 percent of calories from fat, 4 grams fat (no saturated), no cholesterol, 3 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 273 milligrams sodium.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 14½-ounce can no-salt-added whole tomatoes
1 14½-ounce can fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender. Stir in sweet potato and corn.
Drain tomatoes, reserving juice. Chop tomatoes. Add tomatoes and reserved juice to soup.
Stir in broth, water, pepper, salt and cayenne. Heat to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in beans and cook 5 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 160 calories, 10 percent of calories from fat, 2 grams fat (trace saturated), no cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 334 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

Pecan Pie

My former co-worker and friend, Naomi Dunavan, and her husband, Jim, recently returned from a trip to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where they had a wonderful time.

While on their trip, they got together for dinner with Barb and Warren Halvorson, two of my old friends and co-workers, who now live there.

Over the course of conversation, Barb mentioned to Naomi that she would like my mom’s recipe for pecan pie. Barb recalled that I once brought one to work when she and Warren were at the Herald and thought it tasted wonderful. So, I obliged her and sent the recipe via e-mail.

It’s true, my mom does make great pecan pie. It’s one of my favorites. I remember years back, when my Aunt Harriet and Uncle Curt would go to Gulf Shores, Ala., for a couple of months during the winter. They always brought Mom back a bag of pecans, and naturally she used most of them for pie.

Here’s my mom’s recipe for pecan pie. I hope you enjoy it!

Pecan Pie
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoonp salt
1/3 cup or margarine, melted
1 cup dark Karo syrup
1 cup pecans
Beat eggs. Add sugar, salt, butter and syrup and mix with a hand beater. Stir in nuts. Pour into unbaked pastry shell. Bake at 325 for 40 to 50 minutes or until filling sets.

Burgers — Tops On The Grill

Some people like to grill year-round, so the conditions outside don’t mean that much to them. Others prefer nicer weather. But one thing is for sure, hamburgers are at the top of the grilling food chain.

At least that’s what a survey conducted by the experts at Napoleon Fireplace and Grills and the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association say.

According to the 2009 survey, hamburgers were the most commonly grilled food, followed by steak, hot dogs and chicken. Ribs came in sixth, despite being a "taste favorite" to eat off the grill. That goes right along with my thinking. It’s hard to beat a good burger off the grill.

The study also shows that more people are beginning to spend more time at home on the grill and that 82 percent of people own a grill or smoker, while 24 percent have two grills; the second being either a charcoal grill or at a seasonal cottage or cabin.

The majority of consumers still choose liquid propane or natural gas as their preferred type of grill, while 30 percent enjoy charcoal. However, as condo-living and restrictions on gas increase, it is likely that electric grills will show a solid increase in the coming years. Electric is convenient, too. Just consider the Foreman grill.

Other statistics coming out of the survey show that grilling accessories are more widely used due to the creative inspiration and prevalence that barbeque cooking shows have on television. Among those being used are grill toppers to create minihamburgers, or sliders; rib racks to hold a multitude of racks, which opens up more space on the grill surface; and baskets to steam veggies — all of which enable multitask grilling.

Here’s a burger recipe, courtesy Canadian chef Ted Reader, author of several cookbooks. 

The Banquet Burger la Frans
1 pound thick-sliced strip bacon
2 pounds ice-cold regular ground beef chuck
2 tablespoons Bone Dust BBQ Seasoning (or you choice)
½ cup white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
8 American processed cheese slices
8 plain hamburger buns
¼ cup butter, melted
Crisp green leaf lettuce
2 red ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 2
1 red onion, sliced
Nonstick cooking spray
Fry the bacon in small batches over medium heat until just crisp and
the fat has been rendered from the bacon. Drain on paper toweling and
set aside. Reserve the bacon fat.
Take half of the cooked bacon and coarsely chop. Set aside.
Place the ice-cold regular ground beef in a large bowl. Add chopped
bacon and 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. Add barbecue sauce, white onion,
garlic and Worcestershire sauce. Form into 6 patties as uniform in size as possible. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the burgers to rest.
Preheat grill to medium-high, 450 degrees. Spray burgers on both sides lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Grill burgers for 5 to 6 minutes per side for medium-well doneness, basting burgers lightly with reserved bacon fat.
Warm remaining cooked sliced bacon. Top each burger with a slice of American processed cheese. Place 2 slices of bacon on top of the cheese. Close lid and allow cheese to melt.
Brush burger buns with melted butter and grill, cut side down, until crisp and golden brown.
Assemble Your Burgers. Bun bottom, leaf lettuce, tomato, red onion, bacon cheeseburger, bun top. Garnish with your favorite burger toppings and serve with a pickle.
Note: For a little extra flavor, add some diced bacon to the meat mixture.
Yield: Serves 6.

Mac And Ham And Cheese

Whenever I’ve asked people what they were going to have for Easter Sunday dinner, the reply about 90 percent of the time has been ham.

Growing up, that’s we almost always had. Our family usually ate Easter dinner around noon, so later in the day, we could have ham sandwiches for a snack. And if there was any meat left over, Mom sometimes would make a ham salad or spread.

I was reminded of that the other day by Tim Johnson of East Grand Forks. Tim said when he was younger, there hardly was any ham left after the sandwiches when his extended family got together, and if there was, it was used for ham salad.

Tim told me about some he made with his family’s leftover ham this past Sunday. I can’t exactly remember all the ingredients, but it included some pickles and a bit of horseradish, which sounded pretty good to me.

We don’t have ham that often these days, but when we do, I’m always looking for new recipes for leftovers. Of course, if the ham came with a bone, bean soup  always is an option. That is what my dad did with our leftover ham.

Here’s a recipe I came across recently, which looks like something worth trying. If you’re fond of mac ‘n’ cheese, it should appeal to you, too. Also find a simple recipe for ham salad.

Mac and Ham and Cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (whole or low-fat, not fat-free)
12 ounces Gruyere, finely grated
1 pound ham, chopped (smoked, wet-cured)
1 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and squeezed for any excess moisture
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mango chutney
1 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves or 1½ teaspoons dried tarragon
12 ounces dried ziti, cooked and drained according to package directions
1 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Position the rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, then whisk occasionally over the heat just until the mixture is bubbling and a very pale beige, about 2 minutes.
Whisk in the milk and continue whisking over the heat until thickened, about 4 minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the Gruyere, ham, artichoke hearts, mustard, chutney and tarragon. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cooked ziti.
Pour the contents of the pan into a 3-quart casserole dish (greased or prepared with nonstick spray), or even a 9-by-13-inch baking dish if you like more of the top exposed to the heat and many more crunchy bits as a result.
Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the casserole and bake until brown and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.
Yield: Serve 6.

Ham Salad
2 pounds ham
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
½ cup salad dressing or mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
Chopped celery, green pepper or pickle relish (optional)
Whip softened cream cheese with salad dressing and sugar. Put ham through food chopper, use large grinder. Mix eggs, ham, celery, green pepper and pickle, if using. Spoon in cheese mixture. Refrigerate. Best to mix at least 10 to 12 hours before serving.

Do The Jerk

As if people who love to grill using marinades and barbecue sauces need another reason to continue this popular pastime, researchers at the University of Western Ontario in London have obliged them.

A new study published recently in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis has found that sauces and marinades are a rich source of antioxidants (cancer-fighting agents) if they contain spices and herbs.

The Canadian researchers tested seven popular brands and flavors of marinade containing herbs and spices as the main ingredients. These included jerk sauce, garlic and herb, honey garlic, roasted red pepper, lemon pepper garlic, sesame ginger teriyaki and green seasoning.

The study found two varieties contained the most antioxidants. The jerk and sesame/ginger/teriyaki combination outperformed the other five sauces tested because they contain substantial quantities of ingredients such as hot peppers, allspice, sesame and ginger.

The researchers did offer one caveat, though: Marinating meat before cooking reduces antioxidant levels by 45 percent to 70 percent. But the lead study author says despite the antioxidant loss after marinating and cooking, the sauces still provide benefits.

The researchers offered a couple of ways to get around losing some of effects of the antioxidants — choosing sauces with the highest antioxidant levels before marinating and cooking, brushing the sauce on just before serving the meat or consuming it without cooking. They also said some marinades can be used as a salad dressing.

Besides their cancer-fighting properties, antioxidants also play a huge role in preventing cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, inflammation and problems associated with aging.

Following is a grilled chicken recipe that fits right in with study’s findings. And not a bad way to start the grilling season, I might add.

Grilled Island-Style Chicken
1½ cups Jerk Marinade (see recipe)
1 3½-pound) broiler fryer, cut into serving pieces (or 3 pounds breast, leg and thigh pieces)
Discard excess fat from chicken and put pieces in a large, self-sealing food storage bag. Pour on 1 cup marinade and rub it in, lifting the skin and pushing marinade under where possible. (If you have sensitive skin, wear rubber gloves.) Seal and refrigerate at least 2 hours and as long as 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Heat grill to medium-high; oil the grates. Lift chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off (discard marinade). Place on grill and cover. Cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is blackened in spots, about 10 minutes.
Move chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Grill, covered, basting from time to time with remaining ½ cup marinade, until chicken is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 649 calories, 62 percent of calories from fat, 39 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 167 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 420 milligrams sodium.

Jerk Marinade
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon dry leaf thyme (not powdered)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 inches fresh ginger, washed and cut into chunks
½ Scotch bonnet pepper or 3 or more jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Yield: About 1½ cups.

Cooking Around the World

A couple of my friends, Mac and Bettye Salisbury, know of my fondness for cookbooks. And because of that, they’re occasionally giving me ones they’ve picked up over the years of browsing at thrift stores, flea markets and rummage sales.

The latest addition to my collection is the late Sheila Lukins’ All Around the World Cookbook, which was published in 1994.

Lukins, who died in 2009, was well-known in the food world, succeeding Julia Childs as food editor at Parade Magazine in 1986. She is the cook and co-author of The Silver Palate Cookbook, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook and The New Basics Cookbook, all among the most popular ones every published.

After reading her introduction in All Around the World, I can’t wait to try some of the recipes it contains. Just about every section of the coobook — from the "First Bits and Small Plates" to the "Great Melting Pot" to the "The Grand Tour — has three or four recipes that piqued my interest.


The following recipe, from Lukins’ 2008 cookbook "Ten: All the Foods We Love and Ten Perfect Recipes for Each," is another that I’d like to try, especially since the Hugo’s supermarket on 32nd Avenue South occasionally has clams.

Sheila Lukins’ Spaghettini with Clams and Herb Sauce
6 ounces spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup bottled clam juice
¼ cup dry white wine
2 pounds little neck clams
2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
2 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup snipped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghettini and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain, toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, 2 minutes. Add clam juice and wine. Cover with a lid, raise the heat to medium-low and simmer 3 minutes to blend flavors. Add the clams, cover and simmer, shaking the pan, until they open, about 5 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open.
Transfer clams and their juices to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes and scallions and toss. Sprinkle with the basil and tarragon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss lightly to combine.
Divide the spaghettini between 2 shallow bowls. Top with the clams and tomato sauce. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 560 calories, 26 percent of calories from fat, 16 grams fat (2.2 grams saturated), 23 milligrams cholesterol, 22.5 grams protein, 77 grams carbohydrates, 5.6 grams fiber, 198 milligrams sodium.