Spicy Chorizo and Bean Soup

Spicy Chorizo and Bean Soup

When we were living down in Mexico, I learned to love chorizo. That was a time before we all knew what processed foods were really doing to us. But since a few years ago, we have learned to eat healthy, and we really try to walk that road. Though you can splurge a little now and again. That piece of so wanted “Double Fudge Cake” is okay to eat.

The point I guess I am trying to make, is chorizo isn’t really good for you. It’s really overly greasy, and a heart attack waiting to happen. But today we splurged, we had been saving up, and the chorizo was our piece of “Double Fudge Cake.”

There can be some good to say about that chorizo though, and here it is.

The Mexican style chorizo in this soup provides 24.1 grams of protein per 3.5 ounce serving, and because chorizo is made from animal sources — beef and pork — it contributes essential amino acids required for tissue repair and food breakdown. One serving of chorizo sausage (3.5 oz.) contains 0.6 mg of thiamine, or vitamin B-1. The thiamine in this food allows your body to more effectively use certain amino acids, and it helps convert food to energy.

To boost your intake of this vitamin even more, serve chorizo with a side of lentils, pinto beans or black beans. The 3.5 oz. serving of chorizo also has 2 mcg of vitamin B-12, a nutrient that plays an important role in nerve function.  A serving of chorizo contains 21.1 mcg of selenium, a significant portion of the suggested intake of 55 mcg per day. The selenium available in the sausage creates antioxidants, which ward off damage often triggered by free radicals.

Here is what you will need to prepare the soup that is very nutritious and sure to warm your insides:

ingredients for Spicy Chorizo and Bean Soup

1 large white onion, finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. of smoked paprika

2 celery stalks, cut into fine slices

2 roman tomatoes, quartered and cut into chunks

1-16 oz. can pinto beans, drained

Black pepper

4 cups chicken stock

½ lb. beef chorizo, torn into small chunks

2 tbsp. of olive oil

chopped tomatoes, onion, celery and garlic

First dice the onions and celery. Then quarter and chop the tomatoes, and mince garlic. Set all of that aside.

pulling apart beef chorizo with hands

Remove the casing from the chorizo and pull it apart into small pieces.

frying beef chorizo

In a medium stock pot over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. When heated, add chorizo and fry until crisp about 2 to 4 minutes.

soaking up fat from chorizo

Using a slotted spoon, spoon out chorizo onto a paper towel lined plate, and set aside.

adding tomatoes

Lower the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat. Now add the chopped onion, and celery. Fry while stirring until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Next add chopped garlic and smoked paprika and mix in well, frying another 1 to 2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and mix in well.Fry for another minute.

adding beef broth

Next add the beef stock and chorizo. Bring to a boil, turn heat down, and simmer for 10 minutes.

adding pinto beans

Next add drained pinto beans, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm in soup bowls and spoon sour cream on top and sprinkled with chopped cilantro.

What’s your favorite not so healthy food to splurge with now and again?

 

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Choosing the Right Honeydew Melon

Choosing the Right Honeydew Melon

Honeydew is another summer favorite fruit. If you missed the prior articles about the watermelon and cantaloupe you can read about them here: Articles on Melons.

It’s so disappointing when you get a melon that just doesn’t taste good. It may not be sweet enough or not ripe enough. It just makes the whole melon eating experience a let-down. That’s why we’re going to ask Mark a vendor at our local Farmer’s Market to show us how to pick out just the right honeydew melon so you can get the most flavorful, enjoyable melon possible.

Squeeze the ends of the honeydew melon. You want them to have a little bit of a give to it, as that means it’s ripe.

Look at the color of the outside of the honeydew melon, the more yellow it is, the better. Look for a golden hue to it.

The skin will have almost a sticky texture when it’s at its ripest.

Brown spots on the rind of a honeydew melon are kind of like brown spots on a banana. That’s where the fruit is the sweetest. So don’t shy away from a few brown spots.

Pay attention to the shape of your honeydew melon. You want it to be spherical in shape for the tastiest melon.

Weight matters, too. Because melons consist of mostly water, you want one that is heavier than it appears. This will be the juiciest melon.

Use all of your senses when checking your honeydew melon. Give it a smell. If it has a nice, pleasant aroma, then it’s going to taste good too.

Mark grabbed a honeydew melon up to his ear and started shaking it side to side. He said, “If you can hear the seeds rolling around in there, then it’s ripe.” I tried it, but couldn’t hear the seeds. He said that one takes practice.

Tapping on the melon with your knuckle and hearing a hollow sound, means the melon is ripe.

I asked Mark about honeydews that are orange inside?

orange flesh honeydew

An organic orange flesh honeydew…Picture credit: http://www.burpee.com

Mark said, “If you find honeydew with orange-flesh, that’s okay. This is a new kind of honeydew which is easier to tell if it’s ripe, the more orange it is, the better. However, be warned – it might not have as sweet of a taste as your typical honeydew melon.”

Make also said that if f a honeydew melon is picked too soon, that is, before it turns yellow, it will never ripen. He also said it’s best to avoid buying melons past August, because you probably aren’t going to get a very tasty melon unless you live in California where they are grown.

Mark pointed out that the most important thing when choosing just the right honeydew melon is to pay attention to the color of the rind. A honeydew melon starts out green. If it remains green or even has a greenish hue to it, then it’s not at all ready yet. Watch out for green spots too. This means it’s not ripe yet either. And it’s not going to get that way with time like bananas will. Honeydews don’t keep ripening after their picked.

Honeydew melon is really a melon you have to buy to eat right away. It doesn’t get better if you buy it early and let it sit in the sun. You also want to store it at room temperature.  However, after it has been cut into you will need to store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. This will help keep it fresh for up to two weeks.

Now go out and pick your perfect honeydew melon and then enjoy all of its sweet, watery goodness. You’ll never pick a disappointing melon again, thanks to the tips Mark shared with us on how to choose the best honeydew melon.

 

Header image credit: Epicurus

 

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How to Choose and Store Watermelon

How to Choose and Store Watermelon
With the onset of summer we start to think about summer fruits, like watermelon. This is always a favorite treat in the summer because of how refreshing and light it is. But, nothing is worse though than biting into a watermelon that has gone bad or just wasn’t ripe enough to begin with. So you want to make sure you choose the right watermelon from the get go, and then also make sure you store it correctly(check out our article on How to Chose a Ripe Cantaloupe).

Here are some tips from Mark a vender at our local Farmers Market to make sure you get the most out of your watermelon this summer.

Choosing the Right Watermelon

Mark says, “You need to decide if you want a seeded watermelon or a seedless watermelon. There’s no difference in appearance between the two watermelons. The only difference is convenience, though I personally feel the seedless watermelon has a sweeter taste than the seeded melon.”

Mark showed us the easiest method for picking out the perfect watermelon is to give it a little tap on the side. If it sounds solid it’s not ripe, or if it sounds thick it isn’t quite ripe chosing a ripe watermeloneither. But if it sounds hollow then it’s ripe and just right.

After tapping on the melon and hearing that hollow sound don’t pick up that melon just yet, Mark says take notice of the melons appearance. A bright, green-colored skin that’s free of cuts and is firm and symmetrical is what you want to look for. You don’t want one that is narrow on one end or misshapen, because this means it grew in bits and spurts. It should also feel heavier than it looks. Since watermelon is 90% water (which is what makes it so refreshing), you want plenty of water in your watermelon. More water means it’s nice and ripe, giving it a much sweeter taste.

Now that you have picked the perfect watermelon for your summer event, you want to make sure you store it correctly so it lasts longer.

How to Store Watermelon

Mark advises storing your watermelon is in a dark, cool place, like a basement if you have one. But if not, then the next best place is in the refrigerator. This keeps the melon from rotting. Not only does it keep it fresh, but the coolness will also make it a much more refreshing summer treat.

Once you have cut into your watermelon, you want to make sure you tightly wrap the opened end with plastic wrap to store in the refrigerator. If it’s cubed or balled, just place it in a tightly sealed glass or ceramic container. If you sliced it, just place some plastic wrap over the exposed edge. This way it won’t attract the other flavors and scents from the refrigerator and change its taste.

Mark says your melon should last about a week in the refrigerator.

There you have it – the facts on how to choose and store a watermelon this summer. Look for our next article on – Choosing the Right Honeydew Melon -.

 

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Sweet Pork and Apple Wrap

Sweet Pork and Apple Wrap

When your hungry but to tired to make a big deal about preparing something to eat can be discouraging. But isn’t it great when you just go looking through the refrigerator to see what you have, and you come up with a simple idea. That’s what happened here with our Sweet Pork and apple Wrap.

homemade tortillas

 

The day before we thawed out some pork loin pieces. But by dinner time I was just too tired. So we just boiled the pork in water with some garlic and cooled it down and put it away in the refrigerator. That same day some home made tortillas were made.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what I came up with, our featured recipe: -Sweet Pork and Apple Wrap- and here is what you will need:

ingredients for Sweet Pork and Apple Wrap

The amount of ingredients for the wrap depends on the number of wraps you want to make. The recipe we are preparing makes about 5 to 6 wraps.

1 cup cooked pork loin pieces, thin sliced, about 1 -inch

1/4 lb. snap peas

1 red apple, cored, sliced 1/2 inch thick, do not peel

1/3 cup avocado oil

1 teaspoon Maya Coffee Rub (bought at Whole Foods Market)*

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

* If you don’t have a Whole Foods Market near by, here is a similar if not the same recipe you can use for the coffee rub spices…

⅓ cup fresh ground coffee (dark french or Italian roast)

¼ cup cocoa powder (dark Dutch cocoa)

⅓ cup dark brown sugar

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp sea salt

Instructions

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container like a mason jar.

mixing oil and spices for Sweet Pork and Apple Wrap

In a large mixing bowl, add and combine well, the oil, vinegar, and coffee rub. Next add the cooked meat, vegetable, and fruit, and mix with the wet coffee rub until meat and produce are well coated. Keep in mind we are not marinading the meat and produce, as the meat is already cooked. The coffee rub is going to give the meat mix a great flavor.

cooking Sweet Pork and Apple Wrap

Next add avocado oil to a large frying pan over med-high heat. In the Splendid Recipes kitchen, we always use ceramic coated pans (link here on some good reading about ceramic coated pans verses Teflon or non-stick pans).

When the oil is heated, add the meat mix and cook until the snap peas turn a brighter green, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Sweet Pork and Apple Wrap

Once meat mixture is warmed, remove from heat. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoonfuls of mixture on to an open tortilla in the center. Fold tortilla up into a wrap or burrito.

Plate and serve, 2 wraps per person.

We want to add, if you let the cooked meat mixture set awhile, the apples seem to have a sweet onion taste. That is how Splendid Recipes came up with Sweet Pork and Apple Wraps. If you like these wraps you might like our Oriental Chicken Wraps.

 

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Taming the Flavor of Bitter Greens

Taming the Flavor of Bitter Greens There are literally hundreds of different types of greens that are categorized as bitter greens. They all have flavors that are mild to strong, some are intensely peppery, almost spicy, while a few are slightly sweet.

If you have found yourself staying clear of bitter greens because of the flavors, maybe you should give them another chance, because of the new understanding of their health benefits. Many of these bitter greens have disease-fighting phytochemicals like polyphenols, flavonoids, glucosinolates and betalains.

These phytonutrients can help lower your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Here are some tips for taming the bitter flavor of bitter greens so you can enjoy their healthy benefits.

1. Select young, small leaves, since they tend to be the most tender and milder in flavor.

2. Add a small amount of bitter greens to a dish that has multi-ingredients, like soups, stir-fry’s, casseroles, or salads.

3. The flavor is also tamed by the addition of fat, such as olive oil, avocado oil or butter. Also adding salt from tamri or bacon or sweet flavors from dried or fresh fruit , and including balsamic vinegar.

4. Add a small amount of bitter greens to your smoothies, like bananas, pineapple, berries, as they are good for masking the flavor of bitter greens.

5. Tear the bolder, peppier flavored greens into small pieces and mix them with milder to sweeter leafy greens to liven up salads without being too overpowering.

You may need to acquire a taste for these bitter greens, but with the right preparation you can enjoy them. Even in small amounts, these greens can give big benefits for your body and your palate.

Here are some splendid recipes you could start with to acquire the taste for these healthy foods – bitter greens.

Smoked Turkey, Black Bean, Bell Pepper and Corn Salad

Smoked Turkey, Black Bean, Bell Pepper and Corn Salad with the bitter green Arugula

Chicken Curry with Mango and Spinach Salad...close up

Chicken Curry with Mango and Spinach Salad using the bitter green Spinach

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Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

This recipe focuses on the roasted vegetables as a side dish. We did use skinless chicken thighs (bone-in) as this is my families favorite part of the chicken. Though I do prefer, de-boned, skinless chicken breast.

You can roast these vegetables with about any meat you wish, including fish like Salmon or Halibut. The blend of seasonings that we used are common culinary herbs with the zest of citrus fruits, orange and lemon. This seasoning blend is well suited for many uses in the kitchen, like adding spice to a fruit salad, or add it to a grain, such as quinoa. For lean meats, you can use the citrus herb seasoning as a dry rub before grilling.

The seasoning consists of  the following:

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried sage

1 tsp. fennel seeds

Mix the ingredients together in a spice grinder and store the blend in an airtight container.

The fresh ingredients you add to the seasoning when ready to use are:

1 1/2 tsp. fresh orange zest

1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest

Here are the vegetables you will need, but keep in mind, you can use just about any vegetable you like:

vegetables neede for Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Here we are using 2 zucchini squash, 2 crookneck squash, 2 carrots, about 15 Brussels sprouts, and 1 small to medium eggplant. Note if you are going to bake some chicken or fish with the vegetables, you may not use the amount that is called for, due to spacing in the baking pan.

pouring season mix into baking pan

In a mixing cup add the zest of both citrus fruits, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the herb seasoning mix. You may want to add about 1 teaspoon of sea salt. To the dry mix add 1/4 cup olive oil or avocado oil, 2 tablespoons of honey or 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, and 1/4 cup orange juice. We used the juice of a fresh Navel orange. Of course it juiced almost 1 cup. One fourth cup was added to the mix, and the cook got their dose of vitamin-C (he drank the rest). This is optional, add 1 minced fresh clove of garlic.

Mix the dry ingredients with the wet till well combined and pour into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Now if you don’t like meat, than maybe you will want to look away as we show you the next step.

putting chicken thighs over seasoning face down

Next, depending the meat you want to use, place meat into pan. Here we used skinless chicken thighs, placed bone side up. If using fish with skin on, place fish in with meat down.  Bake in a preheated oven on 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Placing chopped vegetables into baking pan to roast

Remove pan from oven and turn thighs over and arrange chopped vegetables over and around meat. If you are going to just use the vegetables only, than pour wet seasoning mix into baking pan, add vegetables and roast for 30 minutes in the 400 degree oven.

Place baking pan back into oven and cook another 30 minutes. This will insure chicken meat is cooked to 165 degrees internal temperature and will roast the vegetables.

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables

Remove roasted vegetables to a serving dish, then place meat on to a serving platter. Pour or spoon as much of the seasoned liquid as you like over the roasted vegetables.

Citrus Herb Roasted Vegetables with Baked Chicken Thighs

Plate and serve.

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Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Another great cupcake recipe I found in the April 2014 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

The muffins came out perfectly, so soft and moist! Dark chocolate and banana is a great flavor combination. You can bake this recipe into a dessert bread as well. Just pour the batter into a 9-inch bread pan and enjoy.

Dark cocoa according to Health News Library (HNL) has great health benefits, like potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron in high concentrations. You know what that means, right? Dark Chocolate is great for your heart and lowering high blood pressure.

HNL states, “The copper and potassium help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular disease. The iron protects against anemia, and magnesium helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease” (read more here: Dark Chocolate Helping with Health Concerns).

Now for the featured recipe: Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins and here is what you will need:

ingredients for Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup buttermilk (we forgot to add this to the cutting board)

½ cup sour cream

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 bananas, peeled

Honey for topping

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

 

Grease twelve 2 ½ -inch muffin cups; set aside.

Mixing dry and wet ingredients for Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

 

In a large bowl stir together flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, coffee powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a 2-cup measure whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, eggs, and butter. Add all at once to flour mixture. Gently stir just until moistened.

 

bananas cut for topping Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Peel and trim ends from bananas and cut each into 6 pieces. You should do this before mixing dry ingredients in with the wet. Once the wet ingredients hits the dry portion, it activates the soda. As a rule of thumb, once you have mixed the wet and dry together, get it in the oven as soon as possible.

Next, spoon the batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full and press a banana piece into each prepared cupcake batter, but the banana should not be covered completely, only push in half way.

Now the next part says to drizzle with honey, then bake for 15 minutes. But it is not recommended to heat honey above 100 degrees, it kills the enzymes that benefit good health.

Ask A Scientist says, “Honey bees keep the temperature of their brood nest at just under 100 degrees. Many figure that honey should not be raised above this temperature to preserve many of its good qualities. If honey is heated above that, there is disagreement on what the temperature is at which the helpful enzymes are damaged. It is likely in the 120 to 140 range.”

They go on to say, “Honey distributed by large distributors and sold in larger stores is usually heated to 180 degrees.This is to dissolve even the smallest crystals that might act as “seeds” that promote crystallization. Although crystallization does not harm the honey in any way, it is considered less desirable (in the US but not necessarily abroad). The enzymes that are not visible are sacrificed for the sake of “good” looks.”

Here at Splendid Recipes and More, we use raw honey, in its whole form. To liquefy the honey: boil some water in a sauce pan. Place the amount of honey you want to liquefy into a small glass jar and dip the jar into the hot water. The honey will soften and become runny, but will not heat to above 100 degrees.

 

 

cooling Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins

Now bake the muffins for 15 minutes or until tops are firm, then remove and cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

 

 

Dark Cocoa Banana Muffins (end article)

 

Remove from muffin cups. Drizzle with honey and serve warm. Here we drizzled with raw honey. As a side note, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar dosen’t sweeten the muffins to well. But adding the honey will sweeten every bite. If you don’t wish to drizzle with honey, increase your dark brown sugar to add the sweetness you desire. Enjoy!!

 

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