Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom-Barley Soup

Mushroom-Barley Soup

Here I am in my kitchen on the first really frigid day we’ve had.  The wind is blowing and  there’s a light cover of snow on the ground. We’re in for some bitter cold weather…..the Canadian Clipper has arrived.  (Canadian friends, thanks a bunch!).   I’m going to indulge myself today and wear my warm leggings, a sweater, heavy socks and slippers. And as you can probably guess I’m making…..soup!

This is excellent, excellent soup.  If you like mushrooms and you like barley, this combination in a soup can’t be beat. It’s very easy and economical to make and only takes about an hour.

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This is a hearty soup with rich depth of flavor.  It’s even better the next day.  If it thickens up too much you can always add a little water or more broth.  I used two kinds of mushrooms;  baby bella(s) and porcinis that I cut rather thick, so biting into them is like eating meat.  The flavor is outstanding!!

Be sure to taste before adding salt as broth will have some salt in it, even if it’s lower in sodium.  I thought that the 1/4 cup olive oil was a bit too much so only used about half that amount, and the veggies sautéd just fine.  If you use regular barley instead of pearled, it will cook quicker if you soak it overnight.  Pearled barley cooks in about an hour or a little more.  When making soup it’s always best to plan a little extra time, but keep it 98% covered so the broth doesn’t evaporate away while it simmers.

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MUSHROOM BARLEY SOUP

Yield:  Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:IMG_8541

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 cups beef broth  ( Vegetarians use vegetable broth.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms (use 2-3 different kinds if possible)
  • 3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

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Directions:

1.  Heat oil in a large soup kettle over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic;  cook and stir until onions are tender and transparent.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil.

Saute the veggies in a little olive oil.

2.  Stir in mushrooms and continue to cook for a few minutes longer.

Add in the mushrooms.

Add in the mushrooms.

Pour in the beef broth and add the barley and thyme.

 

3.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.  Cover and keep at a low simmer until barley is tender, about 50 – 60 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper as needed before serving.

Hearty and delicious.  Full of umami flavor!

Hearty and delicious. Full of umami flavor!

 

SOURCE:   Slightly modified from Allrecipes.com

(Lighter) Spinach-Bacon Quiche

Bacon Spinach Quiche

Spinach Bacon Quiche

If brunch is in your plans in the near future, one favorite menu item is quiche.   Quiche, however, can contain lots of hidden calories and fat.  One wedge can contain in the neighborhood of 600 (or more) calories.  Yet we love it, so the dilemma is how to lighten it up, and still get all the creamy goodness that we love.

One way would be to eliminate the crust, but really, who likes a quiche with no flaky crust to support all that eggy, cheesy filling.  This recipe uses a crust made with olive oil instead of the traditional butter or shortening.  The heart healthy olive oil lends a “green”, flavor to the crust.  The filling is bulked up with mushrooms and spinach, adding few calories, but great nutritional value.  A nutty flavored cheese like Gruyère, or Swiss is the perfect compliment to the vegetables, and only 2 ounces go into this quiche.  The egg custard is made using mostly low fat milk (I used skim milk) plus a splash of half-and-half that adds richness but fewer calories and fat than heavy cream.  The quiche is finished off with a sprinkle of crisp bacon on the top, which you taste first, so you get a savory crunch in every bite.  One sixth of this quiche is a 317-calorie slice of heaven.  Vegetarians would find this quiche very satisfying even without the bacon, or could use a substitute.

I tested out this recipe earlier this week, served it for dinner with a side salad, and Mr. D.  loved it,  never suspecting it was a “lighter” version. I thought it was luscious.

This quiche with salad and bread makes a complete meal.

The quiche with salad and bread makes a complete meal.

(LIGHTER) SPINACH-BACON QUICHE

Yield:  Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 5.6 ounces all-purpose flour, about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons

    Ingredients ready to start cooking.

    Ingredients ready to start cooking.

  • 3/4 kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • cooking spray
  • 3 slices bacon, lean center cut, if possible (vegetarians can omit bacon)
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 cup 1 % low-fat milk (I used fat-free)
  • 1/3 cup half and half, or light cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (swiss cheese, or any good melting cheese may be used instead)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425*F.

2.  ** Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup.  Combine flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and baking powder in a food processor; pulse 2 times to combine.  Combine oil with 3 tablespoons water.  With processor running, slowly add oil mixture through food chute; process until dough comes together.  Turn dough out onto slightly floured surface.  Knead 1 minute.  Press dough into a 5-inch disk; wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 20 minutes.

3.  Roll dough into a 12-inch circle.  Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Line dough with foil;  arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil.  Bake at 425*F. for 12 minutes until edges are golden.  Remove weights and foil; bake an additional 2 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.

4.  Reduce oven temperature to 350*F.

5.  Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings;  crumble and set aside.  Return pan to medium-high heat.  Add shallots to drippings in pan; sauté 2 minutes.

Bacon crisped, shallots being sautéed

Bacon crisped, shallots being sautéed

Add mushrooms and thyme; cook until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach; cook 2 minutes or until it wilts.  Remove from heat.  Drain any excess liquid.

Mushrooms and spinach added to skillet.

Mushrooms and spinach added to skillet.

6.  Place milk, half-and-half, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender; process until smooth.

Prepare egg custard in a blender.

Prepare egg custard in a blender.

7.  Arrange half of cheese over bottom of crust; top with spinach mixture and remaining half of cheese.

Cheese goes into the crust first.

Cheese goes into the crust first.

Next goes the spinach mustard mixture.

Next goes the spinach mustard mixture.

Cover with remaining cheese.

Cover with remaining cheese.

Carefully pour milk mixture over cheese.  Sprinkle with bacon.

Sprinkle crumbled bacon over all, and pour in milk mixture.

Sprinkle crumbled bacon over all, and pour in milk mixture.

Bake at 350*F for 45 minutes or until filling is set and top begins to brown.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Bacon Spinach Quiche

Bacon Spinach Quiche

**As a time saving step, and if calories in the crust are not a concern, you could use a frozen pie crust.  Bake as directed in step #3, according to package directions.

Serve with salad.

Serve with salad.

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SOURCE:     Cooking Light Magazine

 

Pork Tenderloin with Cheesy Polenta

Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Sauce

Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Sauce

With a name like pork tender loin you would expect this cut of meat to be tender, right?   I may be in the minority here, but I’ve had the experience where it wasn’t tender at all;  more like dry, stringy, tough.  Did I do something wrong that ruined it,  or was it the cut of meat?   Most of the recipes I see for pork tenderloin have you cooking it (in the oven) at a very hot temperature, for a short time.  This may be the method of choice, but it doesn’t give me the results I want.

One thing I know about cooking most meats, is that the outside of it needs to be sealed in some way in order to contain its juices within.  This is what makes a cut juicy.  Without this step, cooking it at a high temperature will only dry it out,  and that equals tough!

So, with that in mind, I experimented with a pork tenderloin that weighed about a pound.  The recipe that follows describes what I did, and I’ll tell you right now that I got the results  I wanted:  a juicy, tender piece of meat with the added benefit of deep umami flavor thanks to the browning of the meat and the mushrooms used in the sauce.  Served with a cheesy polenta to spoon the sauce over,  this meal was outstanding.  In the words of my husband, it was “plate-licking good”.

A moist cut of pork with mushroom sauce to spoon over polenta.

A moist cut of pork with mushroom sauce to spoon over polenta.

PORK TENDERLOIN with CHEESY POLENTA

SERVINGS:   about 4

  • 3 Tablespoons EVOO, divided
  • 1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound weight
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 small – medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1  8-ounce pkg. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cream, light cream or half and half
  • 1 cup polenta ( cornmeal that cooks in 3 minutes)
  • 6 ounces shredded semisoft cheese, such as fontina, gouda, or jarlsburg
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley, or dried parsley, for garnish

1.  Preheat the oven to 375*F, and lightly spray a baking dish appropriately sized to the meat.

2.  In a large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Season the meat all over with salt and pepper, and cook in the skillet, turning until browned, about 10 minutes.  Do not skimp on this step, it’s what produces the sear to keep the juices inside.

3.Transfer meat to the prepared baking dish.  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.  Put into the oven and roast until the temperature registers 145*—-about 12 – 15 minutes.  When temperature has been reached, remove from the oven, cover with foil to keep warm and let rest while you continue.

4.  In the skillet, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil, and over medium heat cook the shallots and mushrooms until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes.  Cover and remove from heat.

5.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring 3 1/4 cups water and the cream to a boil.  Whisk in the polenta.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking, until thick, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese;  season with salt and pepper.  Cover and keep warm.

6.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board and slice on an angle.  Arrange on a serving dish, top with mushroom sauce and garnish with parsley.  Serve with polenta.

Slice pork, pour mushroom sauce over top.

Slice pork, pour mushroom sauce over top.

Cheesy Polenta

Cheesy Polenta

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This meal can be completed by the addition of a green vegetable, such as green beans or broccoli.  In the event polenta does not appeal to you,  substitute mashed potatoes or rice to spoon the sauce over.  It will be very good however you serve it.

SOURCE:  A Carolyn Original

Umami Shrimp and Vegetable Stir Fry

Have you been reading or hearing the word Umami a lot lately?  I have, and no, it does not mean an asian vegetable, fish or any other kind of food.  It is the “fifth taste”, say many food writers; to be added to salty, sweet, acidic and bitter.  Umami is a rich deep flavor such as that  of cooked mushrooms, for example, or aged cheese.  There is lots of umami in this dish what with the mushrooms, tamari and sesame oil.  The dish goes together very quickly, once you have the vegetables sliced and ready.  Purchase precooked shrimp from the market, and save even more time.

UMAMI SHRIMP AND VEGETABLE STIR FRY

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tamari ( reduced sodium soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • dash pepper
  • 1/2 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 small head broccoli  florets
  • cooked noodles
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt lightly and add raw broccoli.  Cook broccoli florets to crisp tender and remove with a skimmer to a plate.  Use the same water, and cook noodles as package directs.  As pictured here, I used Angel Hair pasta, but any thin pasta will do fine.
  2. While broccoli and pasta are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a wok or large shallow skillet, over high heat.  Add the mushrooms, stir-fry until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
Transfer mushrooms to a plate.  Add more oil to pan, if needed.  Add the green onions, and stir-fry 1 minute.
Add the 1/2 cup chicken broth, tamari, sesame oil and  pepper to taste.  Heat to boil.  Stir in 1/2 pound  cooked shrimp and cooked broccoli, and reserved mushrooms.
Heat until hot.
Drain noodles, and serve with shrimp and vegetable mixture over the top.

Serves 2

Adapted by Carolyn from a newspaper article.