Thursday, October 18, 2012

Curried Bean and Rice Soup

Hello again, my dear ninja readers!  Fall is upon us, with beautiful cool days and chilly nights, not to mention there seems to be a wicked cold/flu going around (Mike, his kids, and I all have had bouts with it), so it seems like high-time to make a big ol' batch of soup to chase away those sniffles and cold nights.

I made this soup to make use of some of the brown rice and dried beans I have in the house.  Every time I see my mother, she loads me up with non-perishables, and at this point I have literally 10 pounds each of brown rice and various dried beans.  The soup is a bit spicy, which is great if you're sinuses need some clearing out, and like all good soups, it only gets better the longer the leftovers hang out in the fridge.  When re-heating leftovers, you may need to add a bit of water or vegetable broth to thin it out if you like a brothy soup, as the rice continues to absorb the soup broth while in the fridge.  Mike loved this soup, as evidenced by his second and third helpings on the night I made it!  In addition to the spicy sinus-clearing properties, it packs a nice wallop of protein and vitamins from the beans and kale.  I think this is going to be my new go-to "get better" soup whenever someone in the ninja household is sick, but whether chasing away a cold, warming up from a chilly fall evening, or just craving a comforting bowl of yumminess, this soup is where it's at.  Serve with some crusty bread and you've got yourself one awesome meal. 

Curried Bean and Rice Soup


2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1" cube of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
3/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
7 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
1 cup uncooked brown rice
14 ounce can coconut milk
1 bunch kale, leaves only, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste 
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, ginger, carrots, onion, and jalapeno.  Saute 4 minutes or until vegetables start to soften.  Add the curry powder, coriander, cumin seed, turmeric, and cinnamon and cook another 2 minutes until spices are fragrant.  Add the vegetable broth, water, and soaked beans.  Stir everything together and make sure you scrape up any stuck-on spices from the bottom of the pot.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  As soon as the soup is boiling, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and partially cover the pot.  Simmer for 45 minutes.  Add the uncooked brown rice and simmer partially-covered another 45 minutes until both the beans and rice are tender.  Add the kale, coconut milk, maple syrup, lime juice, salt, and pepper, and return to a gentle simmer, uncovered.  Simmer the soup for 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted.  Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.  Remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh basil.  Allow the soup to sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to incorporate before serving.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Fresh ginger - seems like a pain in the butt, but really isn't if you know a couple of tricks.  Peel your ginger under running water with the edge of a spoon.  The skin should come off easily without losing too much of the root.  Instead of mincing my ginger with a knife, I pulverize my peeled ginger in a coffee grinder until it's a mushy pulp so that its flavor infuses the dish more evenly.

2. Make sure you are using whole cumin seeds and not cumin powder for this recipe.  If you only have cumin powder, you can use it but you will need less, so halve the amount and add more at the end if needed.  The flavor will be altered slightly.

3. Make sure you are actually simmering your rice and beans and not continuously boiling them or they will be mushy.  Leave the lid on the pot slightly askew so steam can escape and check to make sure your heat isn't too high periodically during cooking.

That's all for today, lovely readers.  I've still got ninja chocolate chip cookies, and cheezy spread recipes soon to come.  Plus it's Mike's birthday on the 24th, so expect a recipe for vegan red-velvet cake with cream cheese frosting (his requested birthday cake) at some point in the near future.  Until next time!


The Fur Ninja

P.S. I see from my blog stats that there are a lot of UK folks reading lately.  Not sure if this is due to me posting again in the Hair Extension Forums (hello lovely ladies and thanks for reading!) or something else, but either way, it's good to have some ninjas here from across the pond  :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Welcome to Fall! ~ Peanut Butter Apple Bars

Ahhhh....fall.  The weather is cooling, leaves are turning, and it's time to dig deep in our closets for those comfy hoodies that we put away when spring started to bloom all those months ago.  Fall is Fur Ninja's favorite season for many reasons - Halloween (who doesn't love playing dress-up?), hiking, hot chocolate, snuggling, birthdays (mine, Mike's and my sister-in-law's are all within a week of each other), pumpkin carving, and.....apples.  I somehow got it stuck in my head at the end of last summer that I really just HAD to go apple picking this fall - something I haven't done since I was a child.  And, as luck would have it, since Mike has some little ninjas of his own, it was a childhood memory that I got to share with the younger generation too.  One Saturday a few weeks ago, we took our little modern family to Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, PA for some fun for both kids and grown-ups alike. 

After a day filled with giant pillow-jumping, goat-feeding, tractor rides, haunted houses, a corn maze, pedal carts, and of course the apple-picking, we returned home to Fur Ninja headquarters tired, happy, and with an obscenely large amount of apples.  I decided to whip up some kid-friendly apple-peanut-butter bars as a treat to use up some of the yummy fruit, and here's what I came up with. 
This recipe is pretty healthy and low-in-sugar (especially if you forgo the powdered sugar glaze, which is optional) so I felt okie dokie serving it for breakfast.  Mike's middle boy liked them, although the youngest turned them down in favor of strawberry Pop Tarts.  Oh well, guess you can't win them all.  The grown-up ninjas, however, thought they were delicious. 

Peanut Butter Apple Bars


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup non-dairy butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used creamy but chunky is fine too)
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large apples, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)

Glaze topping (optional):
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 16x9 inch pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix together non-dairy butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, peanut butter, non-dairy milk, and vanilla until smooth.  Add wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined.  Fold the chopped apples into the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out mostly-clean, and the top of the cake springs back when touched.  Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
While the bars are cooling, make the glaze.  Mix together all ingredients until smooth.  Pour evenly over the bars.  The glaze will harden up in the refrigerator, or you can eat it right away as long as you don't mind gooey fingers!

Tips and tricks:

1. Make this recipe even healthier by substituting 1/2 of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour.

2. Let's talk apples - to be honest with you, I'm not even sure what type of apples I used for this recipe, since we picked several different types at the farm.  I know we came home with Gala, Cortland, and Honey Crisp, so there was probably a mixture of all of those in the bars.  As I have said before in my post about Ninja Applesauce (found HERE in case you were wondering), the only type of apple I recommend against cooking/baking with is the Delicious variety.  I know there are more complicated schools of thought on this, with specific types of apples that are best for pies, applesauce, cakes, etc., but I can't remember all that.  In Fur-Ninja-Land, it's simple: Delicious = bad.  Everything else = good.

3. Going against my own "heck no; I'm not peeling this [insert name of produce here]" rule: I peeled the apples for this recipe because I was feeding it to kids, and because I thought the texture of peels in these rather fluffy, cake-like bars wouldn't necessarily be a good thing.  If you'd like to leave your peels on, more power to you.

That's all for now.  Recipe for ninja chocolate chip cookies, curried vegetable and rice soup with kale, and Fur Ninja's own recipe for cheezy spread (perfect for vegan grilled cheese sandwiches!) up soon.  Also, attempt #2 on vegan mayo was undertaken in the Fur Ninja kitchen last week.  We're getting closer to the goal of delicious, homemade, egg-free mayo here, folks, but some more experimentation is needed before we declare this mission accomplished.  Hopefully that will soon be a success and be posted in the blog as well.

Until next time, ninjas - snuggle with the one you love and some good food!


The Fur Ninja