Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lima Bean Soup

April is a month for babies, isn't it? I mean, I'm sure perfectly lovely children are born in other months of the year, but the height of spring seems a perfect time for new life like chicks, lambs and babies. A friend of mine had twins at the beginning of the month and in addition to taking her dog hiking last weekend I made her a soup. She is a vegetarian so I was looking for something hearty enough for someone eating for three, simple and frugal enough that I could make a giant batch for two households, and that would be delicious. I decided on a lima bean soup using home made vegetable broth and dried lima beans. At the bottom of the recipe are some non-vegetarian options for those of us who appreciate the nourishment that comes from bone broth.

Veggie Lima Bean Soup

1/2 pound dried lima beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked in water overnight.

For the veggie broth:
1/2 a yellow onion
2 stalks of celery, broken to fit in the pot
1 carrot, chopped in two or three pieces
1 small potato, scrubbed and quartered
2 cloves garlic, cut in half
Small bit of arame seaweed (optional)
A couple pieces of dried mushroom
1/2 tsp herbs de Provence and/or Italian seasoning
A couple peppercorns
Trimmings from the vegetables for the soup

For the soup:
Olive oil, butter and/or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, sliced
2 large carrots, chopped (note: should be about equal on those three)
2 cloves garlic, minced
herbs de Provence and/or Italian seasoning, red chili flakes if you'd like
black pepper and salt
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs lemon juice
red wine, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar

Start by making the veggie broth. Cover all the vegetables and trimmings with water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. I didn't add very much salt to the broth because I am always afraid beans will stay hard if well salted. The above made about 2 quarts of broth.

When the broth is done or mostly done, start heating the cooking oil over medium heat in a large enameled, cast iron dutch oven. Turn the oven on to 300 degrees. When the fat is hot add the vegetables and dried herbs. Add some salt and pepper at this time. Again, I under-salt because I'm afraid for the beans. Stir and cook until they are starting to turn golden brown. Add the garlic at this time and stir another minute until fragrant.

Strain the veggie broth into the soup pot and turn the heat up to high. When the broth is close to boiling add the drained lima beans, a splash of soy sauce, and a splash of lemon juice. When the soup is just coming to a boil put the lid on the dutch oven and put it in the oven to cook.

Check the beans at 1 hour to see if they are tender. If not, continue cooking and checking every 30 minutes. I didn't time mine but they couldn'tve take more than an hour and a half. When the beans are tender bring the pot out of the oven and adjust for seasoning. Add salt at this time, and maybe a splash of wine, more soy sauce, some Worcestershire sauce and/or vinegar. Hot sauce would be nice if you are into that kind of thing.

You can drop some tender greens like chard or spinach in the pot at this time, or add the raw or cooked greens to each bowl to get wilted. Serve with toast, croutons, sour cream, sauerkraut or any condiment that sounds good.


I actually really appreciate the pure and simple flavors in this soup. The beans are so soft and delicious. How did lima beans get a bad rap? I guess generations of moms have made spinach taste bad too. Criminal.

When I had some of this for my own lunch I fried up some bacon and crumbled that on top of the soup (ok, I also drizzled some bacon grease over top too...) If I were making this for myself I would do any number of the following:

*Use chicken stock instead of the veggie broth. Though, I gotta say, the veggie broth really does leave the dish very pure and light. But still, chicken broth for me.

*Add some bacon, sausage or chicken. Beans and pork are a classic combination, but again I love the pure flavor of this dish so I might use bone-in, skinless chicken thighs instead.

*Use chicken fat instead of the olive oil and butter.. though, refined coconut oil is a fine, neutral flavored oil for sauteeing veggies.

All that being said, this is delicious and as easy as falling off a log, especially if you have chicken stock in the freezer already. And it was greatly appreciated by my new mom friend and her boys.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Instead Foods

A couple of years ago my sister was going through a phase where she only wanted to eat hot wings. OK, so that phase has lasted up until the present (we've gone to Fire On the Mountain, THE place to get wings in Portland, OR twice in the last five weeks), but it kind of used to be worse. When she was trying to loose weight her friend suggested she make "hot wing salads" of baked chicken breasts over lettuce with hot sauce and blue cheese dressing.

This is an example of what I call an instead food - instead of eating the thing that is really not good for you, you eat something that kind of fills that craving you are having. Unfortunately, like the hot wing salads, most instead foods just aren't quite the real thing.

I have recently been in need of an instead food for my ice cream addiction. Firstly, no one needs to be eating ice cream at the rate I can put the stuff away. Sweet, creamy and chocolate are my three favorite things and there's a grocery store in my neighborhood that sells Hagen Dazs at less than 3 dollars a pint. Secondly, I am coming to the realization that with my third decade of life is coming less and less tolerance for conventional dairy products. Especially fatty and sweet dairy products. Sadness.

So I began the hunt for my chocolate ice cream instead food. Coconut milk is a wonderful substitute for creamy and sweet so I looked into coconut milk ice creams. There is one good quality, all natural brand here in Oregon called Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss that really is blissful but at 7 dollars a pint or more that is just not gonna cut it. So Delicious makes a coconut milk ice cream that is more reasonably priced, but is full of guar gums and "natural flavors". I was lamenting this situation on Facebook when a friend of a friend said that she makes ice cream in her freezer without an ice cream maker. I immediately turned to google to see if this miracle could be true. Sure enough, David Lebowitz has a recipe for ice cream made in a shallow pan that you stir up every 45 minutes or so. I combined his method with The Nourishing Gourmet's recipe and ended up with an amazing product. Who knew it could be so easy?!?

I wondered what else I could accomplish with this amazing coconut milk and chocolate combination and my mind immediately turned to pudding. I didn't grow up eating pudding but have come to appreciate it's creamy texture and the fact that it comes in truly single serving size containers. I this recipe from vanilla & lace and was very pleased with the flavor and set of the pudding. For the ice cream I had used a canned coconut cream but for the pudding I used So Delicious brand coconut milk. It comes in a tetrapack, is much lower in fat and more like cows milk in consistency. It doesn't give the same really creamy texture as the coconut cream, but the cornstarch does a fine job of creating the pudding texture that fools you into thinking its really fatty and creamy. I poured the hot pudding into 1/2 cup sized tupperware containers and had my own pudding packs in the fridge.

The main problem with my first batch of pudding was the lumps of cornstarch that come from adding the cornstarch to the hot chocolate milk. For my second batch of pudding I used Martha Stewart's recipe that has you whisk small amounts of milk into the cornstarch at the very beginning of the process to form a paste, then add the rest of the milk. I also added a little cinnamon to the pudding for a refined, adult flavor and again poured it into small plastic containers for individual servings. The recipe was 100% successful and definitely a dessert worthy of eating alone in front of a rerun of Sex in the City or serving at the end of a dinner party.

Photos by stu_spivak and llsimon53. Please click on their names or photos and see what else they've been cooking up!