Claudia and Hans Make Stuff

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Crock Pot Lentil Soup

So not all recipes turn out how they are supposed to…tonight’s kitchen experiment is a great example. I got the inspiration from a cook book and modified some minor things…at least I thought they were minor. It turns out that maybe brown lentils (as suggested by the recipe) and little green lentils (as I used) may not cook the same way.

The taste of the soup was great but the lentils stayed chewy, even after pouring the content of the crock pot into a pot to simmer on the stove for an additional 35 minutes. So I will have to do some reading about the different types of lentils, because they may not be used interchangeably as I thought. I will definitely try this recipe again with brown lentils.

Ingredients (2-3 servings)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot (I love using rainbow carrots)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock (2 1/2 veggie bouillon cube and 5 cups water)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and ground pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until softened. Stir occassionally.

2. Meanwhile pick over the lentils and rinse them. An easy way to pick over the lentils is to spread them out on raised baking sheet (see picture). You do not want to miss this step. Check for anything that is not a lentil (e.g., tiny rocks) and damaged lentils. After picking over the lentils, make sure to rinse them. If they are too small for your strainer, place them in a bowl. Gently fill bowl with water and carefully drain the water. REpeat 2 or 3 times.

3. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 3.5 quart crock pot, add the lentils, water, veggie bouillon cubes, and soy sauce. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Trouble shooting: The soup was still very “soupy” and the lentils were still harder than expected after 7 hours. So I increased the temperature to high for the last hour, with not much success. I ended up pouring the Crock pot content in a large pot and simmered the soup for an additional 35 minutes on medium heat on the stove. The soup thickened a lot, but the lentils were still not as soft as I thought they should be.

Based on the package instructions, the lentils should be simmered for 35-40 minutes. Since I had never cooked with little green lentils before, I will now have to read up on the different types of lentils and their corresponding characteristics.

Lentil soup_6_small

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Black Bean Soup that Boasts with Flavor

I have noticed lately that barely any of the canned soups that I used to like can measure up with the taste of making home-made soups. The inspiration for this soup recipe came from a slow cooker cook book we got for Christmas last year.

The soup is easy to make and is filled not only with lots of flavor but also lots of healthy ingredients.

Ingredients (2-3 servings):
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and chopped
½ small green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (or pressed with garlic press)
1 (14-ounce) can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can organic diced tomatoes, left undrained
2 cups vegetable stock (2 cups water and 1 veggie bouillon cube), less if thicker consistency desired
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 3.5-quart Crock pot, add the beans, tomatoes, and spices. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
3. Remove and discard the bay leaf and taste to adjust the seasonings. To thicken, purée at least 2 cups or up to one half of the soup solids with an immersion blender right in the cooker, or ladle into a regular blender or food processor and return to the cooker. (Puréeing some of the solids gives the soup added flavor and a creamier texture.)
4. Serve hot. Optional: Sprinkle with shredded cheese (suggestion: Mexican cheese mix).

Hearty meal:
* Beans are a great meat alternative. They are high in proteins, while being low in fat and high in fiber.

Note: If you prefer a thicker soup, you may try to use less vegetable broth.
Reheats well the next day.

Adapted from: Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Roberson

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Crock Pot Tortilla Soup

Thanksgiving is always an interesting holiday for vegetarians. Usually people serve turkey, ham, and gravy…all food items that are not vegetarian-friendly. Well, Hans’ family isn’t different. So in order to have “vegetarian-proof” food, a relative called a couple weeks ago and asked whether we could bring something we would like to eat. She mentioned that she was interested in the type of food we eat…I wish I could remember the exact phrasing she used…

Well, we decided we were gonna make Crock Pot Tortilla soup, which actually comes pretty close to Dutch Oven Tortilla Soup, and is soooooooooooooooo much better than Tortilla Soup made on the stove.

So we made Crock Pot Tortilla Soup, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffin Tops, and German Apple Crisp for Thanksgiving dinner.


Ingredients (3-4 servings, or more if used as appetizer)
½ onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ jalapeno pepper, minced
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 can organic tomatoes
1 can organic mixed beans (Whole Foods had salad beans which included kidney, pinto, and garbanzo beans)
2 rainbow carrots, sliced
3-4 fingerling potatoes, cubed
½ green pepper, cubed
1/3 cup multicolored quinoa
1 cup water
1 veggie bouillon cube
Taco seasoning
Cayenne pepper to taste

1. Saute onion in olive oil for 3 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper and continue sauteing until onion is translucent.
2. Add all ingredients to the crock pot (3.5 quarts). We added the tomatoes and beans first, including the water. Add all the other ingredients, except spices. Add the onion mixture.
3. Set crock pot to cook for 4 hours at high or for 8 hours at low. A few minutes before it is finished cooking add the taco seasoning and a dash of cayenne pepper to taste.
4. Serve with cheese sprinkled on it and cheese quesadilla. Pretty traditional Thanksgiving meal, don’t you agree?! Well, it just makes for a very yummy and delicious meal. Enjoy!

Tortilla soup is super delicious with cheese quesadillas.

Tortilla soup is super delicious with cheese quesadillas.

Note: Can easily be used as appetizer for Mexican-style pot-luck. =)

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Sweet Potato & Tomatillo Soup

It’s been far too long…sadly we have been cooking/baking things…but have had no time to blog about any of the recipes. Despite having 5000 other things, that I should be doing right now…I decided to blog at least one new recipe.

The month (November) has become tomatillo-inspired recipes. We had 5 tomatillo plants that produced enough tomatillos to feed a village. It is kind of comical that about 6 month ago, I didn’t know what tomatillos were and now I have already made 3 recipes with tomatillos.

This one was inspired by a recipe that a friend of mine posted on my facebook wall, after I had inquired about tomatillo recipes. Believe me, we still have plenty of tomatillos and if you know of other vegetarian tomatillo recipes, please DO NOT hesitate to share them.

This soup is likely one of my cold season favorite soups. It turned out spicy, tangy, and thick…perfect to dip homemade bread into. So here it goes, enjoy!

10-12 tomatillos, husked, washed, and halved (I used about 24 garden-grown tomatillos, they tend to be a bit smaller than store-bought tomatillos)
8 large garlic cloves, cut into small pieces
6 large cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
4 cups vegetable broth (4 cups water and 2 veggie bullion cubes)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups water (depending on how thick you want the soup)
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne pepper

Preparation (4 servings)
1. In a large roasting pan, combine the tomatillos, garlic, and tomatoes. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and roast in oven at 350 F for about 25 minutes.
2. While the tomatillos, garlic, and tomatoes are roasting, boil the sweet potatoes in the vegetable broth for about 45 minutes.
3. Saute the onion in a bit of olive oil, for about 5 minutes until the onion looks golden.
4. Once the tomatillos, garlic, and tomatoes are done roasting, blend the mixture in a blender or food processor. Add the tomatillo mixture and the sautéed onion to the sweet potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes, then blend in blender for smooth consistency (alternatively for a chunkier consistency, you can just mash-up the potatoes with a potato masher or use an immersion blender).
5. Serve with home-baked bread and decorate with parsley leave. Enjoy!


Note: I have frozen a batch of this yummy soup. I will keep you updated on the taste and consistency, when I pull it out of the freezer.

Sweet Potato & Tomatillo Soup

Sweet Potato & Tomatillo Soup

Recipe inspired by:

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Minestrone soup

Minestrone soup is among my favorite types of soups. It is so easy to make and it is offers so much flexibility. It is a great way to use up a variety of veggies that need to be used up. It also easy to change the ingredients, so you can choose your favorite ones or can skip one if you do not have it at hand. Furthermore, depending on what you add to the soup, you can change how filling it is.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
same asparagus
3 rainbow-colored carrots, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 veggie buillion cube
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
optional pasta (for example, elbow pasta)

1. Saute onions and carrots, until softened. Then add the other ingredients, except pasta and cheese (if using).
2. Continue heating the soup on low to medium heat. You do not want to cook the soup. Heat until all vegetables are desired tenderness. Meanwhile (if using pasta), prepare the pasta according to directions on pasta package.
3. Once vegetables are tender, pour soup into bowls and add pasta. Serve with shredded cheese, baguette bread, or grilled cheese.
Note: This soup stores well in air-tight container in refrigerator. If you add the pasta before storing it, the pasta will soak up all the liquid in the soup, so it may be best to store the pasta in a separate container.

Minestrone (sad this picture has glare on it)

Minestrone (sad this picture has glare on it)

Minestrone soup with elbow pasta

Minestrone soup with elbow pasta

Health benefits:
* Carrots are a great source of beta carotene, vitamin C and B, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium.
* Kidney beans are rich in potassium and magnesium, thus they help to keep blood pressure in check. In addition, the high fiber content can help to reduce bad LDL cholesterol.. Kidney beans are also rich in iron and protein, making them a great meat substitute for vegetarians.
* Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and E, beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, and calcium

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Minestrone soup–Dutch Oven Version

Here is another recipe that we successfully adapted for cooking in the dutch oven. The great thing about this recipe is that you can adjust its list of ingredients based on what produce is in season and better yet based on what you need to use up from your fridge or pantry.

Ingredients (Makes 2-3 servings):
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, sliced (my favorite type of carrots to use are rainbow carrots)
3 fingerling potatoes, cubed (these are small potatoes which come in different colors, I used one purple, one violet, and one yellow potato)
1 can organic kidney beans
3 Roma tomatoes, diced including the juices
1 veggie bouillon cube
Approximately 3 cups of water
salt, pepper, dried oregano, and dried basil to taste
a dash of Cajun pepper

Cooked pasta (we used bicycle-shaped pasta) and shredded cheese (optional)

1. Use a little bit of butter and coat the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven (8 inch).
2. Add all the ingredients, except the pasta and cheese. Add some water to the dutch oven. I rinsed the can of beans and the flexible cutting board with some water that I added into the Dutch oven–it’s the whole leave-no-trace thing. (It is advised especially in areas where there are bears to not dump any water that may contain food particles on the ground. Therefore, I used the rinse water for the soup and brought pasta that I had cooked at home. If you cook pasta in “bear-country” without outhouses or restrooms, you are advised to drink the pasta water…yuck!!!)
3. Place Dutch oven on hot coals and cook for approximately 20-30 minutes. The length may vary depending on heat of fire, size of the veggies, and the desired done-ness). Check periodically and stir to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom or the sides of the Dutch oven.
4. Once heated, serve in bowls with pasta and shredded cheese. Enjoy =)

Minestrone soup in Dutch  Oven

Minestrone soup in Dutch Oven

Minestrone soup served with bicycle pasta

Minestrone soup served with bicycle pasta

Health benefits:
* Carrots are a great source of beta carotene, vitamin C and B, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium.
* Kidney beans are rich in potassium and magnesium, thus they help to keep blood pressure in check. In addition, the high fiber content can help to reduce bad LDL cholesterol.. Kidney beans are also rich in iron and protein, making them a great meat substitute for vegetarians.
* Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and E, beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.


Tomato bisque with goat cheese

So here is finally the updated recipe to make soup instead of pizza sauce 😉

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup diced onion (optional)
2 (14-ounces) organic petite tomatoes
1 tablespoon raw organic sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 dashes red pepper flakes
4 ounces good-quality goat cheese
fresh basil leaves, cut into small pieces (to taste)

1. Put oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add garlic and saute until just fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add onion (if using) and continue cooking until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).
2. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, chile flakes, and onion mix into blender. Puree until smooth.
3. Return to saucepan. Add goat cheese and basil leaves. Heat slowly, stirring often, until mixture is creamy and most of cheese has melted.
4. Ladle into bowls and serve. Enjoy with grilled cheese.

Tomato bisque with goat cheese and grilled cheese

Tomato bisque with goat cheese and grilled cheese