White Bean, Ham and Quinoa Soup

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We definitely have fall here in North Carolina, and it is great soup weather! I love traditional white bean and ham soup–studded with tender white beans and aromatic rosemary, this soup tastes and smells wonderful. The combination of garlic and rosemary is pretty magic, isn’t it?

Although this soup has a thick, creamy texture, it is dairy and gluten free! I get the creaminess from blending some of the beans with an immersion blender. Voila! Creaminess without the fat or lactose of cream! This time I also added some leftover quinoa that was parked in the refrigerator and I have to say, I like it! The quinoa didn’t add any flavor to the soup, which was already very savory, but it did add protein and thickened up the broth even more. It was also very filling. A two-cup serving kept me full from lunch until dinner (bonus–no 3:00 snack craving!).

I used dried beans for this recipe, but if you are in a hurry, you can substitute canned cannellini beans that have been drained and rinsed (look for BPA – free cans). Also, you could leave out the ham and use vegetable stock instead of chicken and make this a vegan dish as well!

You could double this recipe and freeze some for later. This soup freezes wonderfully!

White Bean, Ham and Quinoa Soup (makes 6 servings)

  • 2 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans (white beans)
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 cooked ham steak or 2 cups leftover cooked ham
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cooked white quinoa (or 1/2 cup of uncooked)
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper

If using dried beans, prep the beans the night before by rinsing them and putting them in a bowl. Cover the beans with water + about 2″ of water above the top of the beans. Cover the bowl and let the beans soak overnight.

  1. Put the beans and the stock in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook the beans for 20 minutes.
  2. While the beans simmer, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion for about 2 minutes or until soft. Add the carrot and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the beans, plus some cooking liquid from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add the cooked vegetables to the pot and stir.
  5. In a bowl for an immersion blender, combine the beans, cooking liquid and rosemary. Blend until thick, about 5 seconds.
  6. Add the bean paste back to the cooking pot and stir well.
  7. Chop the ham into bite sized pieces and add to the pot, along with the quinoa.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Simmer the soup for at least one hour if using dried beans (20 minutes for canned beans).
  10. Serve hot with crusty baguettes or with a tossed salad.

Pumpkin-Kale-Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

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Okay, okay, I have jumped on the crazy pumpkin bandwagon at last. I was doing just fine resisting all the pumpkin muffin, pumpkin, cookie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin smoothie recipes. Because, you know, I’m still hanging on to summer. It helps a little that fall hasn’t arrived in NC, at least not in any meaningful way. Fall here is like a teenage girl texting–here one second, completely distracted and bumping into people the next.

Summer seems to focus on us like a laser beam, so I’m sticking with it until fall decides to pay attention.

I did decide to acknowledge fall this weekend, however, when I saw this recipe from Amy at What Jew Wanna Eat. It is easy, delicious, and made the most of foods that are available right now, like fresh bell peppers from our garden, organic kale, sweet onions and locally made organic cheddar cheese. The only substitutions I made from her recipe were to use kale instead of spinach and plain almond milk instead of milk–both worked great! I added the chopped kale raw and it cooked just fine. Next time, I may try this with sweet potato instead of pumpkin since we are typically up to our ears in them by November!

This recipe is flavorful, nourishing, and absolutely delicious. Measurements and cooking times are spot on. All the thing you want in a healthy, fall (or late summer) supper. Click HERE to get the full recipe!

Crunchy Chai Spice Granola

Crunchy Chai Spice Granola

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I love granola, but looking at the ingredients list of most commercial granolas leaves me thinking I’d be better off eating a candy bar (not true, but still…). This granola recipe has been on my mind for a week now. We love chai and chai spiced flavors and oddly, we happen to have some raw macadamia nuts we received for Christmas, so why not? The original recipe used powdered chai mix and espresso, but the only mixes I could find has sugar as their first ingredient, so I made my own chai mix with what I has in my spice cabinet. And since Ellie doesn’t need the espresso, I left that out, but I’m sure it’s good!

I thought this might make a good cereal/snack for Ellie. Turns out, she may have to pry it away from me! Not only does it have a nice chai flavor, but the oats and nuts give it a wonderful, earthy taste. And it is not too sweet either! And really, best cereal milk ever!

Adapted from Espresso Chai Granola from Wanna Be a Country Cleaver.

Crunchy Chai Granola (makes about 6 cups)

3/4 cup organic tri-colored quinoa
2 1/2 cups organic rolled oats
1/2 cups chopped raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup roasted coconut
1/4 cup organic brown cane sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup applesauce
2 tbsp. raw honey

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except applesauce and honey. Mix well.
In a small bowl, combine applesauce and honey.
Mix wet ingredients into the dry and stir well to combine all.
Spread mixture onto the lined baking sheet. Make sure granola is in an even layer.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. Stirring gently after each 15 minutes.
Turn oven off and leave granola in for another 15-20 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven and let granola cool completely without disturbing.
Granola should be browned and very crunchy when cool. If not, toast in the oven again for another 20 minutes or so.
Store cooled granola in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

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The Quinoa Dilemma

English: Quinua (Quinoa) plants near Cachora, ...

So, I read an article lately that claimed vegans are responsible for consuming so much protein-rich quinoa that poor people in South America, who have lived on quinoa for centuries, can no longer afford to buy it. Now, I have to say that I am an avid fan of Snopes, the urban-legend busting website. This sounds like something I would read on Snopes. Hoards of American and European vegans descending like locusts and stripping fields bare of their trendy quinoa. True? Well, like most stories, apparently “yes” and “no”.

Quinoa, as a trendy food item, has increased in popularity and (as a result) in price as well. But that money is going somewhere, right? And some of it must be going to farmers (or at least, it should be). So what’s up? As it turns out, in our global economy, things are often more complex and nuanced than they seem in a screaming headline.

Ben Alford, a blogger with Earth Eats, dissects the issue a bit more and reveals that while there are some truths to the negative impact of quinoa’s popularity, the issue is more complicated. You can read his article HERE.

It goes to show that when we talk about sustainable and ethically sourced food, we need to look at a larger, global picture. How is our food grown, how are the workers compensated and how does increased demand for a trendy product affect the overall food system? If farmers are paid more for their crops, but average or poor people are priced out of the food market, is that ethical? If a healthy food has to be transported thousands of miles, is that sustainable? If we all stop eating quinoa, what happens to the farmers who depend on selling their crops? Where is the balance between carbon footprints and heath outcomes?

What does that mean for us? Well, in terms of our family, we eat very little rice and quinoa as it is, so it isn’t so much an issue for us in terms of our weekly grocery list. It does show, however, that when you expand into a global food market, the impact consumers have on economies and resources across the world and complex and often unintended.

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