Polar Vortex Soup (aka Sausage and Lentil Soup)

Forget me not pond, Kananaskis Country, taken by me November, 2013.
Forget me not pond, Kananaskis Country, taken by me November, 2013.

This soup is great for when cold weather hits – hearty and filling. All that’s needed are some crusty buns.

1 onion, chopped

1 T. oil

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 pepper, chopped

15 small fresh tomatoes (the ones I used were called “blushers” – bigger than a cherry tomato but smaller than a Roma), halved

1 liter carton beef or chicken broth

1/2 farmer’s (or Mennonite) sausage ring, cooked and chopped

handful each fresh baby spinach and kale

1 can lentils, drained and rinsed

1 T. each dried parsley, basil, oregano and rosemary

1 tsp. (or to taste) white pepper

Saute onion in oil until brown. Add the next five ingredients (celery through broth) and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.  Add sausage, spinach, kale and lentils and heat until spinach and kale are wilted.  Stir in herbs and white pepper.  Serves 4-6.

Cajun Rub

1-1/8 cups sweet paprika
1/4 cup cayenne pepper
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon celery seed
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Combine in a jar or spice containers with tight-fitting lids.  If desired, grind in blender or food processor to produce a more powdery consistency. Great on fish, chicken, pasta,  baked potatoes, popcorn. Makes about 2 cups.

Spotlight on: Lemongrass

Lemongrass Cupcakes

According to my research, lemongrass  is a grass that grows to approximately 4′ high and is found mostly in India and Sri Lanka.

Lemongrass oil is used in many cosmetic preparations, perfumes and medicines.  It helps cleanse, revitalize and invigorate.

Medicinally, lemongrass may help with a variety of symptoms such as fevers and digestive disorders such as flatulence and has antibiotic and antifungal properties.

I love lemon so lemongrass with its’ bright, lemony flavour is a natural for me.

For cooking, use the inner stalks of the leaves as the outer stalks can be tough.  Concentrated “liquid” lemongrass is also available for purchase.

Lemongrass pairs well with beef or chicken dishes and is even used in desserts. For example, I found a recipe for Lemongrass Cupcakes I made that were quite tasty.  I believe I adapted the recipe from  http://cupcakeblog.com/?p=57 by using the concentrated lemongrass-in-a-tube to save time and energy.

Used in Asian cooking, primarily Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, it slightly sweetens, brightens and lightens any dish.

Spotlight on Dill

We’ve been enjoying Earthbound Farms Fresh Herb Salad which includes the following:

Organic baby lettuces (red and green romaine, red and green oak leaf, lollo rosa, tango), organic red and green chard, organic mizuna, organic arugula, organic frisée, organic radicchio, organic parsley, organic dill, organic cilantro.

The fresh dill in this salad is very nice.  An annual plant, it grows about 30” high.  A member of the parsley family, it may help to relieve indigestion, bloating, gas and cramping.

This very familiar and popular herb works well in potato salad, pasta salad, scrambled eggs, dips, salad dressings and sauces and leek and potato soup.  It also pairs nicely with salmon or any white fish.

Here is a recipe that is easy to pull together:

Randy’s Cucumber Pasta Salad

3 cups cooked pasta such as penne

½ c. thinly sliced carrots

½ c. thinly sliced celery

1 c. parboiled broccoli florets

1 green onion, thinly sliced

¼ c. chopped onion

½ to ¾ c. creamy cucumber salad dressing

1 tsp. dillweed

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  4- 6 servings.