Tag Archives: Gluten-free

Book Club: Vegetable Soup On A Foggy, Crisp Night

Wednesday night was book club, with an evening of dense fog and a light drizzle after a day of welcome rain.  I always bring something homemade to our gatherings, and try to make it gluten and dairy-free for one of our members. After taking stock of what was in the house, I discovered that I had everything to make a vegetable soup – perfect for our mountain weather! While it takes some cooking time, it is easy to put this soup together. It is chock full of fresh vegetables (carrots, onion, celery, zucchini, yellow squash, snap peas) and has a delicious, rich and chunky tomato broth. Typically, cooked pasta is added to vegetable soup, but I used garbanzo beans (chickpeas) because of their great flavor and nutritional value – they were a big hit. This is a versatile recipe and even better with spinach; had there been some on hand it would be in the soup. Other substitutions are frozen vegetables, or angel hair or ditalini pasta (Mary and Nada enjoyed their soup with a bed of angel hair pasta). A flavor secret: the longer cooking time allows for a parmesan rind to melt into the soup, giving it a rich deep base. This batch was sans the cheese rind for Sybil, and grated parmesan cheese was served on the side.

What books have we been reading, you ask? Wednesday night we discussed “Someone Knows My Name” by Lawrence Hill, which was September’s selection. And for October, we are reading “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.

For more information about these thought-provoking reads, click on each image.

One of the benefits of being in the kitchen: The cook always gets to do a taste test!

And of course I had to make something crispy to top the soup – a whole grain boule from our freezer was the perfect candidate for some homemade croutons. They are so much better than store-bought and only take a few minutes to make. Any type of bread will do and I use my trusty toaster oven for the task, but the broiler will work just as well. If the bread is frozen and you have a paper sandwich bag, it can be harmlessly defrosted in the microwave (see recipe for details). For salads, the croutons are even better if you brush the bread with your favorite vinaigrette recipe – the same as what you are using to dress the salad. Along with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, the croutons are a delectable garnish.

What good books have you read lately? We’re always looking for  interesting novels to read, so please leave a comment and pass on any of your favorites. I would love to hear your thoughts. I am hosting book club next month and look forward to sharing the love, direct from my kitchen!

Eat well and share the love!

Vegetable Soup with Homemade Croutons (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
For Book Club: Makes enough for 6 servings, or 12 small servings
Recipe can be reduced by half for a smaller portion

Olive oil
½ medium sweet onion, diced into ¼ inch pieces
1 large zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
Large handful of sugar snap peas, chopped
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence OR Italian herbs
Fresh ground pepper
1 medium garlic clove, minced
28 oz. can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
5 cups vegetable broth (or water)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and beans well rinsed
1 small rind of Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan (substitute: 2-inch piece of parmesan)
4 to 5 thick slices of any good bread*
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese
Homemade Croutons
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a 6-quart Dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the vegetables along with the herbs de Provence, ¾ teaspoon salt and a good pinch of pepper; stir well, cover pot with the lid and sauté for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often, until vegetables are soft.

Add the minced garlic, stir well and let cook for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vegetable broth (or water) and garbanzo beans along with ¾ teaspoon salt, another good pinch of pepper and the parmesan rind or piece of cheese. Increase heat to medium and let simmer gently, uncovered, for another 1 to 1½ hours.

Croutons: Brush both sides of bread with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper, toast or broil until both sides are lightly golden. Rub one side with the garlic clove and dust both sides with grated parmesan cheese. Return slices to toaster oven or broiler and toast again until both sides are golden brown, let cool slightly and cut into bite-size pieces.

Serve the vegetable soup hot, and garnish with a few croutons and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

* Croutons – To defrost frozen bread in the microwave: Place bread in a paper sandwich bag, fold down top to close and microwave (on half power) for 1 minute increments until just starting to defrost, about 2 minutes for a whole boule. Use a serrated knife to cut into slices.

  • More vegetables to add, fresh or frozen: Bell Pepper (red, yellow or orange), Green or Yellow Green Beans, Steamed or Blanched Cauliflower florets, Spinach (add with liquids).

Last Sunday we took a drive to see the changing colors of Fall……. Murphy and I followed in the SUV (I imagined it was a Porsche 911 while driving through the curvy mountain roads, keeping up with the bikes) while David and friends rode their motorcycles through some of Colorado’s high passes. It’s beautiful here!

Book Club: Gluten-free Quinoa Salad

Last night we had our monthly book club outside on Teri’s deck.  We are a group of amazing, strong, intelligent and accomplished women who discuss current issues and books, laugh a lot, readily offer each other support and have thought-provoking discussions.  We also enjoy a glass (or two) of wine and eat really good food.  My time was short so I decided to make a quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) salad and only use ingredients that were in the house, while still making it gluten-free for someone in the group.  I had slim pickings with frozen broccoli being the only vegetable available; it all came together with a quick walnut Dijon vinaigrette for Quinoa Marco Polo (keep reading for why I chose that name).  We discussed “The Last Chinese Chef”, a foodie novel by Nicole Mones (author of Lost in Translation).  Yes, it was my recommendation last month and I enjoyed the discussions about the book – it’s been a while since food was the main topic of our book selection.  This recipe was simple to pull together with minimal ingredients.  My pantry is typically stocked with quinoa because it’s a versatile whole grain that can be served as a side salad, main dish or used to stuff vegetables.

I buy Eden Foods Organic Quinoa (uncooked grains shown at right), available at my local grocery store in the rice aisle.  This whole grain has a nutty flavor, is rich in fiber, ready in less than 20 minutes and easy to cook.  According to their package, quinoa is grown in the Andes at over 11,000 feet in elevation and called the “chisaya mama”, mother of all grain.  When cooked, the grain puffs up and the outer shell has a light give – they have a great texture.  I like to mix in some of the walnut Dijon dressing with the quinoa while it is still hot so it absorbs more of the flavors.   

Why call this recipe Quinoa Marco Polo?  With broccoli as the main vegetable and having the other ingredients on hand, I thought it would be fun to pay homage to the long-ago restaurant, The Good Earth.  They made an unforgettable, delicious entrée called Chicken Marco Polo that had a cooked grain, chicken, broccoli, walnuts, onions, raisins, water chestnuts, a creamy mustard sauce and topped off with melted cheddar cheese.  There isn’t any chicken or cheese in this recipe but the walnut Dijon vinaigrette dressing gives it a great zing of flavor.  It’s perfect for the nutty, light quinoa along with the mixture of red onions, broccoli, toasted walnuts and sweet raisins. 

This is one of my favorite books; the vivid and descriptive writing transported me to the kitchen where the character created delectable, tradition-filled dishes.  I also developed a new respect for the Chinese history and culinary traditions.  Here is an excerpt from Nicole Mones’ website: “You may know Chinese food; you may even love it. But The Last Chinese Chef will take you into a world of Chinese food you never even knew existed. Here is the hidden universe of one of the world’s great cuisines. Its philosophy, its concepts, and its artistic ambitions are all illuminated in a story that’s entertaining, emotionally satisfying, and erudite…… This is a novel of food, friendship, and falling in love, one that will forever change the way you look at Chinese food.”

If you haven’t tried quinoa, you should give it taste – it’s perfect for a pot luck or picnic.  Eat well and share the love!

Quinoa Marco Polo
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies
Total Cooking Time: 20 minutes          Total Prep Time: 10 minutes

Walnut Dijon Vinaigrette
4 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon good white vinegar (white balsamic or Pinot Grigio)
1 ½ teaspoons stone ground mustard

¼ teaspoon honey or agave nectar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8  teaspoon pepper
1 cup Quinoa grains (yields about 2 cups cooked)
1 ¼ cups water
Vegetable Mixture
½ cup thinly sliced red onions, cut into thirds
6 to 7 broccoli florettes, sliced (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons raisins
½ cup walnuts (toasted), broken into pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Walnut Dijon Vinaigrette
Add all ingredients to a small blender and pulse a few times until well emulsified.  If you have it, use your immersion blender with the small blender attachment to make the dressing.

Bring water to boil and add stir in the quinoa.  Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Turn heat off and let sit for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.  Add 1 tablespoon of the Walnut Dijon vinaigrette and stir well to coat all the grains.

Vegetable mixture
While the quinoa is cooking, start the vegetables.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil.  Add the sliced onions, ¼ teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and sauté until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the broccoli, raisins and walnuts along with a good drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir well and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the cooked quinoa to the vegetable mixture along with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and stir well.  Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool.  Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and serve.

  • If using fresh broccoli, blanch the florettes in salted boiling water for 1 ½ minutes.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.  Cut into slices.
  • Quinoa Marco Polo can be served hot or cold.  Can be made one day ahead – cover and refrigerate; reserve remaining vinaigrette and add before serving.