Creamy Garlicky Hummus using the Instant Pot


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I. Love. Hummus.

I mean, it really is the perfect food. Such a vehicle for a multitude of flavors yet equally delicious plain. I could eat buckets of the stuff.

But oh the fat!  Typically there are 5 grams of fat per 1 ounce of hummus. By the way, most store bought tubs of hummus say that 1 ounce/2 tablespoons is a serving. Who are they kidding? So, I set out to make a lighter version.

Water. Who knew? I have always made hummus by blending olive oil into the mixture as it whirled through the blender. But I recently came across a recipe using water instead. I’m still using tahini so there is still some fat involved… but not nearly as much as when using oil (most store bought hummus has soybean oil in it – even worse!).

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Pineapple Agua Fresca


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So oddly enough I’ve never been a huge pineapple fan. But right after the long harsh winter we had this year – I was craving ANYTHING that even hinted at summer! So once again, I was perusing the aisles of my new favorite Mexican grocery and they had these big beautiful pineapples stacked in neat little rows… and they literally called my name. No seriously. They did.

I was watching one of my go-to cooking shows, Mexican Made Easy and Marcela made this delicious looking pineapple agua fresca (which simply means water with fresh fruit). So I made it and it is incredible! I give all the props to Marcela Valladolid – she’s never steered me wrong.

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Summer Pea Soup with Green Curry and Toasted Mustards Seeds


Nothing says summer like a bowl of pea soup! Okay, maybe there’s a lot of things that “say” summer, like grilling, pool parties, vacations… yea, soup normally isn’t high on the list.

But this soup is so refreshing and can be served hot or cold! Low in calories and quick and easy. See – it’s perfect for summer!

This recipe is also vegetarian and vegan-friendly. But you may use chicken stock or garnish with crumbled bacon if you are phobic about eating a meat-free meal.

Ingredients (yields 3-4 servings)
1 12 oz bag frozen peas – thawed
1 small sweet onion – diced
1 Poblano pepper
1 med fennel bulb – diced
1 tablespoon garlic – minced
1-2 tablespoon green curry paste
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coconut oil (substitute extra virgin olive oil if you must)
1 cup coconut milk (from the can for a thicker soup, unsweetened from carton for thinner soup – I use canned)
2 tablespoons of green onion (chives) – chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Have a bowl of ice water standing by. Bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Add peas and reduce heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes until softened but not over-cooked. While peas are cooking dice onion and mince garlic.

Ready to Cook?
Saute onion,  garlic and fennel in coconut oil until translucent. Remove peas from boiling water and put into ice water to stop the cooking process (this is called “blanching”). This helps the peas keep their bright green color. Remove peas from ice bath and place in food processor. Roast Poblano pepper on the grill or on top rack of oven until nicely charred. After it cools a bit, remove skin with the backside of your knife. Remove seeds and stem. Add  peas, onion, garlic, Poblano, coconut milk and curry paste to food processor or large blender (remember to remove spout cap if ingredients are hot to allow steam to escape or you will blow the lid off! I may speak from experience). Puree until smooth. Add additional coconut oil or milk, if too thick.

Toast mustard seeds in a dry saute pan until golden brown. This takes less than a minute so be careful not to burn.

Here is an optional step: Using a sieve, pour pea soup through (with a pan below) and work with a spoon until all has been strained. This will help eliminate any pea shells or chunks of onion or fennel that did not get processed thoroughly. If you like a little texture in your soup, just skip this step. But if you’re looking for silky smooth soup – go this extra mile (extra 15 min).

Heat soup on low to medium until warm… or serve cold! Sprinkle with toasted mustard seeds and chives.

The Perfect Bite
Of course the perfect bite of soup is a slurp… but make sure it includes some mustard seed and chive! Also, this is perfect with crostini drizzlde in olive oil.

The Perfect Pairing
Try pairing it with an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. It’s a light, fresh, lively and delicate wine that will compliment this soup whether served warm or cold.

The Perfect Health
When your mom told you to eat your peas, she knew what she was talking about. Peas flaunt twice the protein of most vegetables, so they’re the ideal substitute for fattier protein fare, providing an excellent strategy for controlling your fat intake. Read more about the heath wonders of peas here.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup


Fall just calls for soup… I’ve never really liked Butternut Squash soup – until a couple of years ago when I was in Calgary, Alberta.. Canada. And believe it or not it was in catering at the arena we were working in! But it was incredible, thick, flavorful… seasoned just perfectly! I ate it by the bowl, used it as a dip for bread and veggies. I couldn’t get enough of it! Normally, my complaint about butternut squash soup is that it’s too bland. Not enough flavor to keep me interested beyond a couple of spoonfuls.

So I’ve been on a mission the last couple of years – trying to perfect this soup. And I wanted to keep it purely vegetarian – not adding cream or chicken stock like many recipes call for… and I think I’ve finally done it. It’s a little labor intensive – but once you taste it you will certainly agree it’s worth all the effort. So make a huge batch, freeze some for later and enjoy it throughout the Fall season!

*A tip for using veggies in any soup – try roasting them before adding to the soup. It brings out their natural sweetness, the caramelized edges add an earthy nuttiness and will give your soup that wow factor.  Plus, your kids will be asking for seconds… on vegetables!

Ingredients
extra virgin olive oil
2 medium sweet onions, chopped
1 large fennel bulb (cut off “fern”)
3 large butternut squash
1 large red bell pepper
2 tablespoons roasted garlic
2 cups white wine
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
32oz *garlic veggie broth

*Vegetable Garlic Broth
this broth will make ALL the difference in your soups… and you can make as much or as little as you like!  I prefer to make the largest batch I can manage so I can freeze small containers worth and have this ready to add to any soup, any time. This recipe is based off of 2.5 quarts. (More recipes to come using this tasty broth!)

2.5 qts vegetable stock preferably from scratch but try to use organic if purchasing cans or boxes of broth (it’s roughly six 14oz cans).
4-5 tablespoons (heaping) coursely diced garlic (roughly 2 bulbs)
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 pinch salt

Add all ingredients to the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat… cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth or mesh strainer. Use immediately for soup or freeze in individual portions. TIP: freezing broth in ice cube trays allows you to use small portions at a time.


Place olive oil coated squash flesh side down on tray for roasting

Be sure to let the squash cool before scooping it out


This fresh garlic came from a friend’s garden – so yummy!


Adding roasted red bell pepper gives the soup extra flavor – these came straight from my garden!


Ready To Cook?

Pour generous amount of olive oil to cover bottom of a stock pot. Heat over low-medium heat. Add chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Clean fennel bulb and the fern (the fern is the top, finely-leafed portion of the fennel) under cold water and pat dry. Detach fern from stems, discarding stems (they can be pithy). Chop bulb, discarding tough outer layer. Add chopped fennel bulb to onion and continue to sauté over low heat, stirring occasionally.

Turn heat to medium, add 1 cup white wine to onion and fennel; cook until alcohol “burns off”, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Seed and quarter red bell peppers and coat in olive oil… place on cookie sheet flesh side down and roast at 425o for 20 minutes or until skins have blistered and started to brown. The trick to removing skins from peppers is remove peppers from oven and immediately place in a bowl and cover with cellophane. Let sit for at least 15 minutes and then skins should peel off easily!

*Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, then quarter if squash is large. *Coat in olive oil and place flesh side down on cookie sheet (*see photos above). Roast on top rack of oven at 425ountil tender… roughly 45-50 minutes. Be sure to use a cookie tray with at least a 1/2 inch lip as squash will give off a lot of water. Meanwhile, add vegetable/garlic broth to pot of onions and fennel. Cover and bring to a slow boil. Mince several sage leaves. Add to pot. Reduce to simmer.

When squash is done, scoop flesh from peel and add to pot. Add roasted bell pepper and remaining cup of wine.

Add cinnamon, cayenne pepper, curry powder and ginger powder.

Remove soup from heat and puree with hand mixer or immersion blender. Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to food processor for a smoother texture. Again, many recipes call for cream at this point to create that smoothness we all want in a bisque-type soup. But with a little extra work – you can eliminate the need for dairy products and get that creamy-smooth texture without the fat. For an even silkier texture… go one more step and work soup through a sieve with a spoon. I, for one, am completely okay with the texture of the soup without the extra step!

Garnish your bowl with the leftover fennel fern and enjoy!

The Perfect Bite

Soup is such a versatile dish. It can be a main course, an appetizer, a side dish, a snack… it’s’ your call. So the Perfect Bite really depends on what you’re having this with… but anytime… a big chunk of warm pumpernickel bread swirled and scooping up some of the sweet and savory goodness… is truly the perfect bite.

The Perfect Pairing

This is such a hearty soup that I hesitate to suggest any meal to compliment – other than what I suggested earlier – other than a big hunk of pumpernickel or whatever your favorite bread may be. But for something different in a beverage to enjoy try the 2008 Chateau St. Jean Gewurztraminer – this spicy flavorful grape is hard to pronounce but will be a perfect compliment to the rich earthy flavors of this butternut squash soup.

DId You Know?

Butternut squash is not just low in fat and calories, but winter squash are high in Vitamins A & C and high in Potassium and dietary fiber. It’s also a great source for anti-oxidants and works toward heart and lung health. Read here for more details.