I have been asked to post recipes before I go any farther, which is probably where I should have started in the first place. Bear with me, while I get a feel for where this blog should go; I’m open for suggestions and questions.
I should have explained that this all started as a letter to answer a call from an alumna of my husband’s college begging for ideas for ‘meatless Fridays’, as her kids were tired of tuna sandwiches and mac & cheese. I later had the idea to put out a pamphlet when I saw people struggling with meatless or less-meat entrees. Then I started a book when I found that people were intimidated by the idea of entertaining. I wanted to help put people’s minds at ease. So here I am pulling pieces out of the middle of what supposed to be my book, and kind of making hash of it all! This blog is not about meatless eating. It is about eating and entertaining.
But here are the first recipes, most suitable for Lenten Fridays, Ash Wednesdays, vegetarian, some vegan, some cutting back on cholesterol, and of just plain good food.
I will give recipes with as many optional shortcuts as I can .
There will be plenty of meat recipes and tips in upcoming postings.
Let’s start with beans and legumes.
A slow-cooker, (Crock Pot), is a blessing when it comes to cooking dried beans and legumes. I will go so far as to say it is almost essential when living at high altitudes.(I had a neighbor who confided that although we lived about 25 feet above sea level, as a young bride she used the ‘high-altitude’ directions on cake mix boxes when she lived in a nearby high-rise apartment).
Without a slow-cooker, overnight soaking is required, and at high altitudes, bringing the beans to a boil, soaking, rinsing and repeating is required,(and even then I could not get them soft enough when I lived in Denver.) A basic slow-cooker can be found at the time of this posting from ten –fifteen dollars; well worth the investment. Cooking times may need to be adjusted because of varying temperatures of brands and the size of the cooker.
There are quite usable pre-cooked , bottled white beans available in local supermarkets. Canned beans are too soft and not as suitable for these soups.
Note about oils: Extra Virgin (first pressing) olive oil has the taste of olive; regular,(later pressings), olive oils have a more neutral taste, which is actually more suitable for most recipes. Olive oils burns easily. Peanut oil is good with beans and is better for frying than other oils as it does not easily burn and never smokes.(It is the only oil used in submarines for that reason).. These are the three oils used in my kitchen; Extra V olive oil, regular olive oil, and peanut oil. A little oil not only adds body but aids in the softening of beans. It can be omitted. I know some people are against any and all oils.
The Country-boy in my father liked black-eyed peas and they were a ‘must-have’ on New Year’s Day, as they are considered to bring good luck.(Why it was continued throughout the years, I’ll never know, as we never had a lot of luck). Mom liked to add a little vegetable oil to them and to any bean she cooked. My father once caught her and told her never to do it again. If my father was anywhere near the kitchen, she didn’t, but if she knew he’d be out, the oil would go in. Every time he would ask her which brand of peas or beans she had fixed. If she had added oil, they were a good brand; if she hadn’t, well, let’s remember not to buy that brand again, even though he was sure that was the ‘good’ brand he’d eaten the last time. And Mom would snicker either way, every time.
Nothing could be simpler than these quick, tasty soups. If you have a vegetarian or vegan guest or in the family, they will love you for these:
Basic White Bean Soup: (slow-cooker, or shortcut below)
One pound of dried white beans( Navy or Great Northern)
One Tablespoon Salt
¼ cup minced onion
1/8th cup minced celery
two Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon white pepper (optional)
one Tablespoon dried parsley (optional)
Place all ingredients in a slow-cooker with 1 1/2-2 quarts of cold water. Cook on ‘high’ setting for 8-10 hours, checking and stirring every couple of after the first six. You want the beans fairly soft.
(to cook beans suitable for other dishes, omit celery and onion; cook only for 6-8 hours.
SHORTCUT: Sauté onion and celery in two Tablespoons oil. Add to a pot with bottled, precooked beans, salt, pepper and one quart of water. Simmer for at least one hour.
Mediterranean White Bean Soup-Greek style
One pound white beans
One cup of thinly sliced carrots
¼ cup thinly sliced celery
one cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons crushed/chopped garlic,(or 1 teaspoon of dried)
one 16 ounce can of tomatoes or 2 cups fresh, pealed and chopped
½ cup vegetable oil (preferably regular olive oil
one bay leaf
1 Tablespoon salt; 1 teaspoon pepper
(Mediterranean White Bean Soup-Macedonian style:
Omit celery, add 1teaspoon dried thyme)
Add all ingredients to slow-cooker with 1-1 ½ quarts water; cook for 6-8 hours.
SHORTCUT: Cook vegetables with oil, herbs and spices for one hour in 1 quart of water; add bottled , cooked beans. Cook for at least one half hour.
OPTIONS: Serve with open-faced grilled cheese,(cheese on bread under broiler for a few minutes.) Experiment with cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Muenster, Edam, Gouda and Mozzarella with Parmesan.
Adding a little extra water and quick-cook barley to the soups will make a vegan one-dish complete protein meal, as will adding pre-cooked rice.
More about Rice and rice cookers next time.