Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas, a week early...

Zeke is ready for Christmas!

Despite a little bit of asynchrony at the beginning, our Christmas Party went exceptionally well. The conversation was lively, the ornaments were sparkling, and the food was delicious!

The big hit of the night appeared to be the chili. My vegan chili recipe came directly from me not knowing anything other than the fact that I like chili, but I like it to be healthy. I also like colorful foods. The chili is all of the above! Plus it's easy to expand to serve as many people as you like....provided you have enough pots and pans to cook it in...

Ren's Vegan Chili
for every six servings you need:
2 teaspoons margarine
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 bell pepper chopped (I start with a green, and then add yellow, orange, and finally red if I'm going from 6 to 12 to 18 to 24 servings)
1 19oz can of diced, unsalted tomatoes
1 can chickpeas
1 can black beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
cayenne, salt, and black pepper to taste

In a medium-sized pot or dutch oven, melt the margarine. Sautee the onions, garlic, and pepper until carmelized. Add the tomatoes, and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the tomatoes simmer, drain and rinse the beans. This is critical, as kidney beans in particular come packed in corn syrup, and nobody needs that sugar!

Once the beans are rinsed and drained, stir them into the pot, followed by the chili powder. Season otherwise to taste. Allow to simmer for a minimum 15-20 minutes before serving. As most things of this nature go, the chili is best made a day ahead. Serve over crumbled corn muffins with cheese and sour cream. (Which, by the way, I completely forgot to put out for the party! Remember that out-of-whack start? Yeah...)

Cheddar broccoli soup had also been on my mind these past few weeks, however, when I went to buy the broccoli, there was none to be had. Briefly I converted my plan to a cauliflower carrot soup, but held out hope for broccoli to magically appear -- and sure enough it did!

This recipe is similar to my earlier recipe for cheese soup, however this time I substituted some Fat Free evaporated milk for some of the skim milk, to add some richness.

Ren's Reduced Fat Rich Cheese and Broccoli Soup

6 cans of evaporated milk, heated but not simmering
1 quart skim milk
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1.5 lbs of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tossed with 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
2 bags of frozen broccoli florets
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Blend the milks in a saucepan, and heat over medium-low until steam just rises from the top. Increase the heat to medium, and whisk in the mustard and shredded cheese.

**Space-saver/dish-saver TIP! Buy the pre-shredded cheese, and add the flour directly to the zipper bags. Shake to coat evenly, and then pour right into the pot!

Once the cheese has melted, add the broccoli, and return to medium-low, stirring periodically, and watching to ensure the soup does not boil. This transfers extremely well to a crock pot on low once the cheese has been melted in. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Allow to cook until broccoli is tender -- roughly 40 minutes. Serve with crackers or breadsticks.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Coming back again....

It's been a long two months off. My apologies, but food and I have had to renegotiate our relationship in some serious ways. Sure makes it hard to plan out a food blog, when you don't even know what you can eat!

But, things are evening out yet again, and hopefully we'll be able to be back, in force, starting with this weekend's event: Our annual ornament exchange!

The Menu:
Chex Mix (the real kind...not out of a bag!)
Chex Muddy Buddies
Oreo Truffles
Ren's Easy Vegan Chili
Ren's 3C Soup (Cauliflower, Carrots, and Cheese!)
Corn Muffins
A special offering from my friend Jen, the
Beantown Baker!
Oh, and of course, chocolates.

I have a love/hate relationship with Chex Mix. I love eating it. It may be one of the most delicious things I have ever experienced. But, I hate Chex as a cereal. Until now, I have always had to find a way to choke down the leftover Chex, or watch it go to waste, taking up precious room, on my small kitchen shelf. But no longer!

Careful merging of the two recipes currently found on the back of the Rice Chex and Wheat Chex boxes allows for 100% utilization of said Chex in delicious ways! You just have to know what to omit....

Grocery List

1 Large box of Rice Chex
1 Regular box of Wheat Chex
2 sticks of margarine or butter
Worcestershire sauce
Peanut butter
Chocolate chips
Unsalted Cashews or Peanuts
Pretzel nuggets (small ones)
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Seasoned Salt

Chex Mix -- the efficient variation!

6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4 cups Rice Chex® cereal
5 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 1/2 cup mixed nuts
1 1/2 cup bite-size pretzels

Preparation Directions:
1. Heat oven to 250°F. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated.
2. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.
Microwave Directions: In large microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in remaining ingredients until evenly coated. Microwave uncovered on High 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

1 Serving: Calories 140 (Calories from Fat 60); Total Fat 6g (Saturated Fat 2 1/2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 10mg; Sodium 330mg; Total Carbohydrate 17g (Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 2g); Protein 3g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6%; Vitamin C 2%; Calcium 4%; Iron 25% Exchanges: 1 Starch; 0 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 1
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Muddy Buddies -- Again, efficiency style!

All remaining Chex
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation Directions:
1. Dump cereal into a large bowl; set aside.
2. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, stir together chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter. Microwave uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
3. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

1 Serving: Calories 220 (Calories from Fat 80); Total Fat 9g (Saturated Fat 4g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 5mg; Sodium 200mg; Total Carbohydrate 30g (Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 17g); Protein 3g Percent Daily Value*: Vitamin A 6%; Vitamin C 2%; Calcium 6%; Iron 25% Exchanges: 1 Starch; 1 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat Carbohydrate Choices: 2

Tomorrow, we'll have the soups -- and pics!

Thanks for reading...happy eating! :)