Friday, April 27, 2012

something rather addicting

Our family absolutely loves Italian food and some of them thought me crazy when I canned up 28 quarts of fresh tomatoes last year.  They thought me even crazier when I said that it probably wouldn't last until next year's harvest.  I hate to admit I was right, but we are down to our last 8 or 9 jars which will not last until this August when we get tomatoes from a local grower.  I dream of growing tomatoes, but unless I build a hoop house, like our dear friends, I will not see tomatoes here on the coast - we are just too damp and cold through the summer months.

Since moving to the far northern reaches of California, which is entirely void of most metropolitan restaurant chains some of the family has been going through severe withdrawals.  One of our favorite restaurants to visit on special occasions was Olive Garden.  It never seemed to fail that everyone ordered the soup and salad.  I have a recipe that nearly replicates the Sausage Toscano soup which everyone has enjoyed, but it's the salad dressing that I have yet to figure out.

Until. . . .
the other day when I was perusing around pinterest and I came across this recipe called "Olive Garden Salad Dressing the Traditional Foods Way."

Since, I am working on cooking foods in a more traditional manner my interest was piqued!

Olive Garden Salad the Traditional Foods Way:
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
  • 1/3 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 tb. honey
  • 2 tb. each of grated Parmesan cheese and Romano cheese
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley
  • 1 Tb. lemon juice
  • dash of salt and pepper
Pulse all ingredients in a blender until thoroughly combined and cheeses are finely minced. Drizzle over a green salad to taste and voila! No preservatives or corn syrup here!

I wanted to be the first guinea pig to try this, since we have pretty observant food critics in our home.  At first, it had a very strong lemon/vinegar taste, but over the last few days while it has settled into it's flavors in the refrigerator, it's turned into something that is quite delicious.  While it still does not match the Olive Garden dressing I remember so fondly, I highly recommend making this dressing.  It's flavors sneak up on you and it has a very nice creamy consistency.

Just so that you can compare recipes, here's another Olive Garden Salad Dressing recipe from a blog called Everyone's Gotta Eat.  Her ingredients will make any traditional foodie just cringe.  Even through my own inexperience I could see that most of the ingredients were not healthy.

Salad Dressing like Olive Garden's
1/2 Cup white vinegar
1/3 Cup water
1/3 Cup vegetable oil
1/4 Cup corn syrup
2 1/2 TBSP grated parmesan/romano cheese
2 TBSP pectin
1 egg- beaten
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1 pinch dried oregano
1 pinch red pepper flakes

--Combine all ingredients in blender on medium speed for 30 seconds to a minute. Blending well is key to a smooth, thick dressing. Under-blending will result in a runnier dressing. Chill 2-4 hours shaking occasionally. Keeps for 2 weeks, approx.

Happy Salad Eating!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mexican Bean Soup

Along our journey of eating more whole foods, my precious peas are trying many new recipes.  One of the more recent ones was from the West Ladies, Homestead Blessings Cookbook; Mexican Bean Soup.  This is an amazing cookbook.  I got the cookbook for our daughter, Anne, for Christmas and since then we've tried several recipes; Better Than Carrot Cake Muffins and Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookies.

I quickly realized the other day that if all I do is "pin" recipes and ideas onto my pinterest page, trying nothing, then what really have I gained?   The least I can do is to share my trials, errors and/or successes.   So be ready, I plan on reporting the "testing out"  of my pinterest pins and new recipes that we are experimenting with.  But, back to the Mexican Bean Soup. . . . .

Mexican Bean Soup

2/3 cup dried pinto beans (soaked over night) 
2/3 cup dried red kidney beans (soaked over night)
2 TBSP dried parsley
1 TBSP chilli powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
6 cubes chicken bouillon (No MSG)
1 cup wagon wheel pasta, uncooked
1/2 cup brown or wild rice

Rinse beans after soaking over night.  Place in a large stockpot with 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat.  Let sit for 1 hour.  Drain beans and return to pot.  Add 8 cups of water and contents of flavor packet.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until beans are tender.  Stir in rice and bring to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Uncover and stir in pasta and 1/2 c water.  Simmer 10 minutes.     Makes 8 - 10 servings

Quick Note:  I did not use pinto beans as we did not have any, so I used black beans instead.  I also used homemade chicken stock instead of the chicken bouillon.  I also used regular whole wheat pasta.

I wish that I could paint a rose colored picture of this recipe, but even with these small substitutions, the verdict rang in that it was just okay- not a keeper recipe to cook each week.  Dear hubby said that it needed some kind of acid base, like crushed tomatoes and some type of meat (he's a tried and true meat and potatoes man with EVERY meal - I'd love to change that about him, but changing a man should be left for another post).  The girls turned their noses up to the soup and pushed all the beans off to the side.

I think we'll try the recipe again with some of the suggestions that dear hubby offered up and see what results we get.  As I said before, this is a journey and sometimes along the way we stumble, but what a blessing that we can try again tomorrow with another recipe.

Friday, April 6, 2012

whole foods journey

Have you ever spent every possible free moment indulging your desire to learn something new?  It seems like our librarian knows exactly what books to have ready for me when we visit the library each week.  If my eyes are not glued to one of Steve Solomon's gardening books, then I'm constantly absorbing as much information from a couple of new blogs.

Back in February I began telling about my burden to feed our family better; with whole foods, the way that God intended for our bodies to be fed.  While on this journey, I have been learning the reasoning behind many topics I've been exposed to over the years, but never really understood their importance, such as eating organic foods, sprouting wheat, and soaking grains and nuts.

So, I thought I would share the two websites that have been instrumental in my learning.

The first ~ the Weston A. Price Foundation

This is a good place to start.  It has several articles, by Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions.

The second ~ the Healthy Home Economist

My favorite part about her site is her extensive library of "how to" videos."  I have always loved learning via visual images and each of her videos are very informative.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of the sites.  Do you have something that you are passionate about learning?