Monday, March 5, 2012

Hearty Black Bean Soup

So, it's March, and in Northern Michigan, that means it's still only about 20 degrees out!  I'm longing for some delicious "spring food", but alas, here I am, cooking food that should only be consumed in the depths of winter.  Good thing this tastes so amazing, that I have forgotten about my spring-time longings, and am completely content to be sitting here (next to my heater) eating this wonderfully tasty, warm and filling bowl of soup.  (And if we're being honest, I'd admit that I actually had two bowls!)  Did I mention how easy this was to make?  Well pay attention to's a one pot meal, no mess, no hassle, no worries!  Did I also mention that my lovely sister, Danielle came up with the recipe for this little beauty?  We all have her to thank for this wonderful if you see her walking down the street, or in the grocery store (which is much more likely), give her a big hug and tell her how much you love this!

In a large pot combine:

1 carton of Imagine Bistro Cuban Black Bean Bisque (4 c total)
1 carton of Imagine Bistro Fire Roasted Tomato Bisque (4 c total)
3 c. vegetable broth (go ahead and use 4 c if you got a quart container and don't want 1 lonely cup just chilling in your fridge)
3 c. black beans (I cook my own beans, so they're measured differently than canned ones.  If you're using canned, rinse 2 cans of black beans and throw them in!)
1 c plain coconut yogurt (or unsweetened almond milk OR vegan sour cream)...I only had the yogurt on hand, and thought the added probiotics would be nice.
1 1/2 c. chopped, frozen tri-colored bell peppers
2 c. chopped, frozen zucchini (you can use fresh for the veggies if you'd like, but I had prepared a bunch of peppers and zucchini from the farmers market this fall, for instances like this when I don't feel like chopping and washing!)
3 T. taco seasoning
6 T. nutritional yeast
1 t. sea salt
1 T. garlic powder
1 t. lemon juice

I cooked mine low enough so that it didn't boil, so as not to kill the probiotic.  It takes a little longer to cook, but I had time.  If you're not using the yogurt, or you just don't care about the live active cultures it contains, boil until the peppers and zucchini are ready to eat and have absorbed the flavors.  Done!  You can eat it just like this, OR here are some topping ideas:

chopped cilantro
chopped tomatoes
chopped avocado
chopped green onions
sprinkle of nutritional yeast
sprinkled with Daiya Cheddar Shreds (these are amazing!)
a dollop of vegan sour cream
a dollop of veganaise mayonnaise (highly recommended!)
crunched up tortilla chips
served in a bread bowl

With the same pot of soup, you could possibly have a different tasting bowl of this soup every time, just by changing up the toppings!

*Note:  For all of you out there who detest peppers (like my dear Brother) you can definitely get away with skipping the peppers and adding the same amount of chopped onions...AND if you don't like onions, then you can certainly just skip them all together!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coconut Yogurt

While this might not be the most attractive picture I could have taken of this, the benefits of this beauty are enough to attract me to make it over and over again!  (Was that cheesy?  I'm thinking, yes!)  Moving on...I love coconut everything, and when you add the benefits of fermentation, simplicity, and saving money, this is a no-brainer!  This recipe starts with homemade coconut milk which I will list below (super duper easy), because I don't like all of the fillers and unhealthy things that are in canned food (plus it tastes better!)

Coconut Milk:

2 8 oz bags of shredded unsweetened coconut
8 c of hot water

Soak the coconut in the water for 1-2 hrs, then put everything into a blender. 

*When I make the milk strictly for yogurt, I don't add anything to it, however, if I'm making it for the kids to drink, I will add 6 T. agave or coconut palm sugar, 1 t. vanilla, and a pinch of Pink Himalayan Sea'll think you died and went to's like dessert in a glass!

Anyways, back to the milk.  Blend everything really well.  I have a Vitamix, so this only takes 1-2 minutes, but when I make it in a regular blender, it takes just a minute or two longer.

Strain the milk into a large pot.  I've used anything from a nut milk bag (preferred) to a tee shirt (clean of course!)  Squeeze every blessed drop of milk you can from the pulp.  Once the pulp is dry...DON'T throw it away...we'll talk about that later.

Put the pot onto the stove and heat gently until it just begins to boil, then remove.  This will kill any bacteria that may be in the milk that would ruin the fermentation process, or make you really sick! 

Mix in 2 T. Guar Gum with a whisk.  Things will get lumpy, don't worry...we'll take care of that later.

Now whisk in 6 T. coconut palm sugar or agave.

Cool down to room temp.

At this point, if this is the first time making it, you can add 1 capsule of a good probiotic (obviously opening it up and sprinkling it in, then mixing it...I use Garden of Life...they are incredible!)  But if you don't already have a probiotic in your home, you can also use 1/2 c. of unsweetened coconut (or soy if you want) yogurt, and mix thoroughly.  Now, if you have left over yogurt from a previous batch, (I always save 1/2 c of mine so I can just mix that in), then you can mix that in right here.

*Make sure that the milk cools down to room temp first, or it will kill the live bacteria that you need to ferment your yogurt.

Once everything is mixed together, place in a glass container (I use mason jars) and place in a towel-lined crock pot.  Set to warm and cover.

*Important note:  make sure that the containers you put them in are sterile, and that all your utensils you use are also sterile.

Now all you have to do is wait.  I recommend doing this over night, as the yogurt does not like to be disturbed while it's fermenting, and if you're anything like me...I'm "a checker"...I'd keep pulling it out and checking it to see if it's ready!  Leave it for a good 12 hrs.

Taste it sour?  I like mine pretty sour, so I'll generally leave it out for about 5 more hrs on the counter before the next step.

*Note:  it may look a little brownish tinted, and it may be separated...that's normal, don't worry.  If it has somehow grown mold or is a purpleish tint...don't eat it!

Last step!  Throw it all back into the blender and blend until the clumps of guar gum are gone!  Done!  Seems like a lot of steps and a lot of work, but it's really not, and it's really really satisfying to be able to make something that's amazingly healthy for your family, and a lot cheaper!  You'll get about 4 pts of yogurt! (Which is perfect for us, because we eat it just about every day!)

**Note:  I buy my coconut by the case off of Amazon, and I also get the guar gum from Amazon in bulk...this is why it's so cheap to make for me.  I would recommend doing a trial run and just buying the ingredients from your health food first.  Then if you think you'll do this on a regular basis, look into cheaper ways of doing it.

**Now for the coconut pulp that has been left over, turn it into coconut flour!  Spread it out on a sheet pan and put it in the oven at 200 until it's completely dried'll have to occasionally stir it up.  This will take a few hours.  When it's done, throw it in a food processor for about 5 minutes...done!  I've made some pretty delicious cookies with this flour!!  And the best thing is, nothing is wasted!