Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creamy Butternut Soup with Chickpeas

Food can taunt you.  In particular, a certain butternut squash that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for several weeks can taunt me.  Every time I walked into the kitchen, I felt a pang of guilt about not having used it. It sat there, lying motionless on its side, somehow always in my line of sight.  Whole.  Uneaten. 

Finally, I caved.  I got out my peeler and the biggest knife I had and chopped it up.  I roasted it in the oven.  And then I made it into a delicious soup.

This is the perfect soup to warm your body and your soul on a crisp fall evening.  The seasons are turning here in Swaziland; the summer rains are subsiding, and the cold fronts are creeping up on us daily, lingering longer each day.  It makes you want to come home and sit in front of a fire, sipping hot cider and reading a thick book in front of jumping, soothing, warm flames .  

You'll think about that as you eat this soup, of how comforting it is in its thickness and heartiness.  And how much of autumn it evokes. 

Creamy Butternut Soup with Chickpeas

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped very finely
1 small golden delicious apple, peeled and chopped very finely
3 tbsp. minced garlic or 4 -6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes, roasted
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. oregano
1 small bay leaf
Dash of cayenne pepper
Vegetable or chicken broth to cover (about 1 – 2 cups)
1 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed
¼ - ½ cup coconut milk (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked rice (brown or jasmine) – optional

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Peel and dice the butternut squash, toss with a small amount of the olive oil, and place in a glass baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent sticking.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a pot, heat the remaining olive oil and add the diced onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.  Add the diced apple and continue to stir for another 3 – 5 minutes, or until the onions become translucent.  Add the roasted butternut squash, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper and stir.  Cover with the vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and reduce to a simmer, continuing to cook for another 10 – 15 minutes or until you are happy with the taste and consistency. 

If you have a hand mixer, you can puree the soup that way, or you can puree it in batches in a blender.  If you are like me and don’t have either, just take a fork or potato masher and smash it manually.  Add the chickpeas once you like the consistency, and then the coconut milk to your own taste.  Continue to adjust the seasonings, and be sure that the coconut flavor does not overpower the butternut flavor.  Add salt and pepper to taste, place into bowls, and sprinkle some parsley on top to serve.

If desired, add some cooked brown rice into the pot before serving, or serve with some crispy quinoa crackers. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Almost fat-free Oatmeal Cookies

If you are gluten-free and miss oatmeal on.

If you are a consumer of gluten and love oatmeal cookies, you can keep reading, too.

These taste just like the real thing.  No butter and no oil, yet they turned out moist and full of oatmeal cookie flavor.  I made several different varieties: chocolate chip, cranberry-raisin, dried figs with chopped hazelnuts, and maple pecan (for this, I added an extra teaspoon or two of maple extract with the chopped pecans).  They all turned out delicious, and the only dangerous thing is having them around the house, practically demanding to be eaten en masse.

Almost Fat-free Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup mashed bananas (3 medium ripe bananas, mashed)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla or maple extract
2 tbsp. honey
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 ½ cups flour (1/2 cup millet flour, ½ cup tapioca starch, 1/4 cup potato starch, ¼ cup brown rice flour, ½ cup buckwheat flour, ½ cup sorghum flour)
½ cup shredded coconut
2 ½  cups gluten-free rolled oats
2 cups raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, chopped dates, chopped figs, hazelnuts, or chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Cream together the mashed bananas and sugars.  Add the vanilla/maple extract and honey and stir well.  

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flours, salt, and baking soda.  Add them, little by little, to the wet ingredients, mixing well.  Add the coconut and oats and continue to mix well.  

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are white with stiff peaks (you can do this with a hand mixer or roll up your sleeves and give your arm a workout).  Fold the egg whites into the rest of the cookie batter as gently as possible.

If you are making the whole batch the same way, then add the ingredients of your choice - raisins, cranberries, nuts, or chocolate chips.  However, if you want to end up with several different varieties, then separate the batter and mix the ingredients of your choice in.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or in the freezer for 30 - 45 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 F and place about 2 tbsp. of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10 - 14 minutes, or until the edges are just turning brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before serving.  They'll harden a bit as they cool, so it's ok for them to look a little undercooked when they come out of the oven!