My herb garden is overflowing with sage, rosemary, parsley, chives, mint and basil. Time is running out, so I need to use as many fresh herbs as possible in my favourite family dishes. One of our best is this super quick pasta dish made with a few uncomplicated ingredients – Crispy Sage and Bacon Pasta. In the process of crisping the sage leaves, you need to use fresh sage leaves which is a key feature of this delicious pasta dish. You will have it on the table in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Just pour a glass of wine, relax and enjoy this delicious herb from your garden.…
When I was a culinary student in Vegetable Cookery, we were asked if any of us had ever tried parsnip. I was surprised that there were only a few students in that class who raised their hand. I grew up with parsnips as a staple in my parent’s garden, much like other root vegetables such as carrots or potatoes.
James Beard thought that parsnips were one of the “most neglected” vegetables and I have to agree. My goal in this post is to encourage you to try parsnips, starting with this recipe. Creamy Parsnip and Potato Soup is a humble soup created from simple ingredients that are made into a silky fragrant soup that is fancy enough to serve for a first course. You will be amazed!
The parsnip is closely related to carrot and parsley. Parsnip originated in Eurasia where it was treated as a vegetable since ancient Roman times. It is interesting to note, before the arrival of cane sugar, parsnip was also used as a sweetener.
Parsnip is most often cooked although it can also be eaten raw in salads or crudités. I recently read about a great recipe from Nik Manojlovich for Crunchy Salad with Apple using shredded raw parsnip, carrot and my favourite Honey Crisp apple with a Feta Cheese Dressing. Delicious!
The health benefits of parsnips are impressive with significant levels of minerals, vitamins, fiber, water, protein and antioxidants. Parsnips are also low in calories, carbohydrates and sodium.
Parsnips can be interchanged with carrots in most recipes (see additional recipe links below). When a parsnip is roasted, it takes on a mild sweet taste that compliments many dishes such as roast beef stew or lamb. If you do not already use parsnips in your vegetable repertoire, I would recommend that you give them a try.…
Urbnspice Ultimate Recipe Series
My daughters were both very involved in soccer during their childhood (continuously, for seventeen years), sometimes seven days a week during soccer season. Needless to say, we were very busy parents, often delivering one daughter to a field before driving to the other side of the city for our other daughter’s practice or game. As a working Mom, I needed to be extremely organized with meal prep for breakfast, snacks, lunches and dinners. I developed strategies to make my busy week simpler with a freezer reserve of homemade meals, a repertoire of slow-cooker recipes and a selection of make-ahead meals prepared over the weekend. One of our family favourites was this Unbeatable Meat Loaf.
We often had what we called ‘oven-meals’ on Sunday and meatloaf was a favourite comfort food of the kids. The addition of scalloped or lemon potatoes, roasted butternut squash and an apple crisp made this oven meal wholesome and healthy for two very hungry, fit and growing girls. Meatloaf is an excellent quick and easy make-ahead dish, which also keeps the budget in mind.
Meatloaf can be popped into the oven immediately after mixing together, or prepared up until topping (see Method) and refrigerated until the next day. This recipe makes two family-sized free-form meatloaves – one to have now and one to freeze for later. If you can resist eating it all, there should be leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches!…
Ever since our granddaughter was a toddler, she has had an affinity for polka-dots. She found them everywhere: on clothing, gift-wrap paper, ribbons and on wallpaper. Her excitement when finding ‘picca-bots’ was so contagious that we were constantly searching as well. This endearing term has stuck around our family ever since. She was two years old when I was testing recipes for a cookbook, and she was ‘helping’ me in the kitchen with some Chocolate Chip Shortbread cookies when she blurted out that the cookies were ‘picca-bots.’ My initial thought was to name the little cookies Dalmatian cookies, but as soon as she said it, I knew that the name for these cookies would always be “Picca-Bots” – and the rest, as they say, is history.
These delightful little cookie poppers are, enriched with white chocolate and butter in the polka-dotted dough (they are essentially a shortbread cookie). Since Picca-bots are made with only a few ingredients, make sure that they are of the highest quality (white chocolate couverture, excellent butter and pure vanilla). As these cookies are very rich, I have developed the recipe with this in mind and utilize my smallest cookie scoop. I know that you will love these dainty cookies!…
I love reading cookbooks and food magazines so much – they are like novels to me. Some of the most enjoyable aspects of this hobby is reading the narrative behind how each recipe or article is inspired. I have a lot of ‘ah-hah’ moments as I read through a vintage cookbook or modern cookbooks. The new techniques that have been developed or the old tried and true methods that have long been forgotten are exciting tidbits to incorporate into my day-to-day cooking or baking. This is precisely what happened the other day when I was researching gluten-free thickening techniques. I came across this recipe, which has a very unique technique. I have rewritten the recipe to simplify it (reducing the number of pots and pans used) and I also added bacon and aromatic vegetables. I think that you will find this recipe for Bacon, Mushroom and Toasted Brown Rice Soup with Aromatic Vegetables to be a hearty, flavourful and very satisfying soup.
Experience from my culinary training and working in a high volume restaurant environment has taught me to read a recipe from beginning to end before I start. This is a process that I emphasized to my apprentices as it serves several purposes. You should be asking yourself a number of questions:
- Does the recipe make sense as you read it through to the end?
- Do the steps in the method flow easily from the ingredient list? I often find that the ingredients are out of order from the steps in the instructions.
- Do I have all of the ingredients before I start?
- What is the yield of the recipe? How many servings/portions?
- What is the amount of time required to make it (in my work, it often meant starting certain components of a dessert two or three days ahead).
- Can I make any part of this recipe ahead?
- Do all the steps in the method/instructions make sense?
This particular recipe is a prime example of why you need to ask these important questions. You will note as you read the recipe that this soup uses brown rice in two ways – firstly, as a wholesome soup ingredient and secondly, as a toasted pulverized rice powder (See Method – Step 1 below and Chef Talk). The toasted rice powder is added as a natural thickening agent to the rich broth as it simmers.
I used two different varieties of mushrooms: fresh Cremini mushrooms, which have a pleasant meaty flavour, and dried shiitake mushrooms, which provide a depth of earthy flavour and distinctive shape when sliced for the soup.
As additional flavour boosters, I started the soup base with bacon lardon, cooked until crispy and set aside for garnish. The aromatic vegetables were then cooked in the flavourful fat, followed by the addition of a rich flavourful broth that included the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms.
Mushroom and Brown Rice Soup with Vegetables
Yield: 8 – 10 portions
CHEF TALK: The thickening technique for this soup is brilliant – ¼ cup of the brown rice is toasted, and then it is pulverized in a spice grinder into a fine powder, which is simmered into the soup broth. I used organic basmati brown rice for this recipe. Don’t forget to save the liquid from the dried mushrooms – it is very flavourful! This soup is gluten-free and dairy-free and can easily be made vegetarian by eliminating the bacon (substitute vegetable oil for the bacon fat) and use vegetable or mushroom broth instead of chicken broth. Enjoy!
- ¾ cup uncooked brown rice (divided: 1/2 cup in soup, ¼ cup toast separately)
- 3 slices bacon, sliced into lardons (this is easier if the bacon is partially frozen)
- 1 oz. (30 g) dried shiitake mushrooms
- ¾ lb. (340 g) Cremini mushrooms, diced small
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks celery, diced small
- 1 large carrot, diced small
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 6 cups (1.5 litre) homemade chicken broth or store-bought
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) dry sherry to finish, optional
- Salt and Pepper seasoned to your taste
- Parsley, ¼ cup chopped
- Sour cream, optional
Using Toasted Brown Rice Powder as a Gluten-Free Thickening Agent
- Preheat a large Dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add the ¼ cup of the brown rice and cook until the grains of rice are lightly toasted. This will take about 3 minutes (the rice grains will crackle and pop). Put the toasted rice grains in a spice grinder and pulverize until fine. Set this aside until step 7.
- Place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a measuring cup and add 1 cup of boiling water. Leave the mushrooms to rehydrate for five to ten minutes while you cook the bacon. Once they are rehydrated, slice the shiitake caps into ¼ inch slices. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid. CHEF TIP: Strain the mushroom liquid through a coffee filter to capture any grit or unwanted particles.
- In the same preheated Dutch oven, place the bacon lardons and cook until the lardons are crispy. Set the bacon lardons aside in a small bowl while you cook the vegetables. If you have more than 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pot, remove the excess and discard.
- Add the vegetables: onions, garlic, celery, carrot, and Cremini mushrooms and the reserved sliced shiitake mushrooms. Cook the vegetables for about two minutes, stirring until translucent.
- Add the tomato paste and the ½ cup of uncooked brown rice. Season the mixture well. Stir for a minute or so to cook out the tomato paste and to coat the rice grains.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth and reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and the reserved bacon lardons.
- Stir the pulverized toasted rice powder into the broth.
- Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the brown rice is cooked and the soup has thickened. Check the soup for seasoning and adjust if necessary. (See below for Learning Tips: Tweaking)
- Finish the soup with sherry, if desired. (Mushrooms and sherry are a wonderful pairing of flavours).
- To Serve: serve the soup hot, garnished with chopped parsley and a dollop of sour cream.
- To Store: store the cooled soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The soup freezes well. If necessary, thin the soup with additional chicken, mushroom or vegetable broth.
You Might Also Enjoy these Urb’n’Spice Soups:
Please CLICK the link above to access my Urb’n’Spice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- TWEAKING – A Study in the Amendment of Flavour
If you try my recipe for Bacon, Mushroom and Toasted Brown Rice Soup with Aromatic Vegetables, please leave me a comment below with your feedback. Don’t forget to pin this recipe for later!
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I have been making kombucha in the Urb’n’Spice kitchen for some time now, and as summer approaches, I wanted to try out some other fermented drinks that do not require the more protracted wait times between the first and second fermentations that kombucha requires. Pineapple Tepache (pronounced tay-paw-chay) is a good choice because you can produce a refreshing mildly fermented beverage in three days by using three simple ingredients: the rind of the pineapple, brown sugar (or piloncillo, which is a raw form of pure cane sugar in Mexico) and spices of your choice all combined with filtered water. Pineapple Tepache is considered a non-alcoholic beverage because it has a short fermentation process. The resulting mocktail (an iced drink without alcohol typically made from juice, herbs or spices and soda water) is a satisfying fizzy tropical thirst-quencher, which can be enhanced with a squirt of lime, and sprig of mint and a splash of soda or seltzer or even Prosecco.
Tepache originated in ancient Mexico. The word “Tepache” was a drink made from corn but over time, it has been urbanized and has evolved into two distinct drinks: Tepache and Tejuino. Tepache is a partially fermented drink made from pineapple, water, and brown sugar whereas, Tejuino is a fermented drink made from corn. Tepache is made from the pineapple scraps that would typically be thrown away in the compost. Yeast naturally lives on the peeling of the pineapple and this yeast helps to ferment the tepache, so it is important to consider an organic pineapple if you can.
Pineapple has distinctive properties, including a unique enzyme (found only in pineapple) called bromelain, which aids with digestion. In addition to this, pineapple is a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals; namely, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, calcium, iron and a high source of Vitamin C. Minerals in pineapple include thiamine, riboflavin, folate, fibre, magnesium, manganese, potassium, beta-carotene and antioxidants. When you make Tepache, probiotics are generated as part of the fermentation process. All in all, pineapples are delicious, nutritious and make one of the most refreshing summer non-alcoholic drinks that I have ever tasted. Give it a try! You will enjoy it!…
I enjoy re-engineering vintage recipes. I recently came across a recipe for an Old Fashioned Biscuit Cookie that I remember enjoying in my childhood. We rarely had store bought baked goods in our large household, so the taste of these cookies is still entrenched in my memory. They were so different from the home baked Hermit cookies that my Mom typically made. Cookies that look like a cracker with a chewy texture and crunchy sugar topping were very appealing back then and are still today. Old Fashioned Golden Raisin Biscuit Cookies were originally known as Garibaldi Biscuits and were named after an Italian general named Giuseppe Garibaldi. The biscuit company Peek Freans first manufactured the cookie in 1861. They have been a popular snack for over 150 years in Britain, as well as Australia and New Zealand where they are known by different names such as “Fruitli” and “Full O’Fruit.”
Originally, currants were used in Garibaldi Biscuit Cookies. In this Old Fashioned Golden Raisin Biscuit Cookies recipe, I have substituted Golden Raisins for the currants. The cookie dough is rolled into a thin layer and folded over a layer of golden raisins and firmly pressed flat with a rolling pin to create a thin sheet of fruit-studded dough. While currants were traditional in this distinctive cookie, I like the look of the golden raisins peeking through the dough and in the baked cookie. Golden raisins are also known as sultanas and are made from green seedless grapes that are dried. Golden raisins are the juiciest and lightest in colour of all raisins. Raisins (dark raisins, sultanas and currants) are highly nutritious, high in fibre, potassium and antioxidants. Due to their concentrated nature, they are also high in sugar and calories so it is advisable to eat them in moderate amounts.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
I remember reading about a study that showed eating raisins may lower blood pressure, improve control of blood sugar and also increase the feelings of satiety. On a more romantic note, I remember reading the following quote from a dietician’s manual that has stuck with me for many years:
“Eat a handful of raisins, and you can kiss your husband for an hour! ” Anonymous
I find it quite amusing that this style of cookie is today often referred to as ‘Boomer Cookies’. My husband refers to them as “Old Fart Favourites” – he is a boomer (#oldfart). You will want to try this old-fashioned recipe, which has been modernized to accommodate gluten-free/dairy-free options as well as maintaining the traditional recipe. Both versions are scrumptious.…
Urb’n’Spice Ultimate Recipes Series
In my family, Ultimate Date Oatmeal Squares have a long history. My father-in-law loved these squares and every time we visited, a batch of these squares was always a must-have.
My research indicates that this old-fashioned dessert has been popular for a very long time in Canada, particularly in Western Canada, Quebec and Newfoundland. Date squares are made using layers of oat crumb crust and a date purée filling. These delicious squares are also known as matrimonial cake. I thought that this was an unusual name until I understood the significance of the two layers of oat crumble holding the dates together. Apparently, these layers symbolize the couple courting and then completing that bond in marriage (I suppose it made sense back then).
I have made this recipe for The Ultimate Date Oatmeal Squares for many years. I have always used traditional ingredients such as all-purpose flour, brown sugar and unsalted butter, which always provided a delicious result! In this post, I made modifications to this old fashioned recipe and have adapted it to make a gluten-free and dairy-free version with no loss of flavour, texture or overall appearance. I have provided both recipe versions with the gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients listed first and the traditional ingredients following. Both deliver a great result.…
Urb’n’Spice Ultimate Recipe Series
Homemade apple cake is a favourite any time of the year. What makes it so appealing is the versatility of how these delicious cakes can be served. There is a multitude of apple cake recipes to be found, but I wanted to give you a recipe that kicks up the flavour, texture and versatility up another notch. My Ultimate Caramelized Apple Cake uses a unique technique as well as a distinctive ingredient that is all about building flavour. This special apple cake will be a hit for breakfast, or that next coffee party, or served warm for dessert with softly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You are going to love it as much as we do!…
Everyones chili preferences are very personal; for example, hot and spicy, meaty, vegetarian – the sky is the limit. Chili maestros will always tell you that they make The Best Chili. Well, I am here to tell you that I make the ‘best chili’ and this is the recipe that will back up that claim! If you have been following my blog, you will know that I have been experimenting with recipes that are ‘Blenditarian’, (also known as ‘Blend-and-Extend’ in Canada). By definition, ground meat recipes are stretched with finely chopped mushrooms. For my version, I add finely chopped vegetables with the mushrooms to create an even more aromatic flavour. This represents a more sustainable and nutritious approach to healthy eating. This all ties in very well with the new Canada Food Guide recommendations of eating less meat and more vegetables. I have created a base called Savoury Meat, Mushroom and Vegetable Blend. This blend (or base) can be used in a wide variety of easy to make recipes.
In this post, you will learn how to prepare this base blend to utilize it to make a fabulous chili – “The Best Chili”. I make the blend base ahead of time and freeze it in family size portions. Once you have the blend base made, dinner can be on the table in less than ten minutes. Enjoy!
This Meat, Mushroom and Vegetable base can be used to make many dishes such as: Spaghetti Sauce; Sloppy Joes; Taco Salad; Hamburger Soup; Beef, Cheese and Macaroni Casserole; and much more. (Refer to “What Else Can I Do With This Recipe?” Section below to learn more).…