# Vegetarian

Monday meal: Lower-fat Thai coconut soup with butternut squash

Spring is coming to Iowa soon, judging from the snowdrops my son spotted coming up a few days ago, but it’s still soup weather in my book. Tonight I’m making a lower-fat version of the Thai coconut soup called tom kha kai. You’ll need to visit an Asian grocery for a few ingredients, or order them online, but other than that, the soup is very fast and easy to prepare.

My recipe is adapted from Nancie McDermott’s book Real Vegetarian Thai, which I highly recommend for omnivores as well as vegetarians. I used one can of coconut milk instead of the two cans McDermott calls for, and I substituted low-fat coconut milk. That makes the soup a lot less rich but also cuts the fat and calorie count way down. I also left out one can of straw mushrooms and 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, because I am one of those people who doesn’t like the taste of cilantro.

This dish is suitable for vegans and can be gluten-free, depending on the kind of soy sauce or tamari you use. Any orange winter squash or sweet potatoes can be substituted for butternut, and if you’re using mushrooms, shiitake or portobello could be substituted for straw mushrooms (add to soup pot along with squash).

The full recipe is after the jump.

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Monday meal: Four dishes with cheddar cheese

The Sunday Des Moines Register included a feature on Galen Musser, the 18-year-old in charge of making Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze Cheddar.

The small-batch Cheddar cheese that he makes for his family’s fledgling cheese-making operation in southeast Iowa claimed a gold medal in November at the World Cheese Awards competition in London.

The only American-made Cheddar to win a medal in the extra-mature creamy category, Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze Cheddar was judged “the highest example of the category,” sharing honors with 10 British cheeses.

Musser said they use old-fashioned techniques to make cheese in small batches. The milk comes from 11 local Amish farmers who all milk their cows by hand.

I’ve been buying Prairie Breeze Cheese at the Gateway Market in Des Moines for years. In October I brought it and a few other Iowa selections to a reception, and several people asked me where I got that “incredible,” “amazing” cheese. It even inspired Bleeding Heartland user PrairieBreezeCheeze’s screen name. It’s great on crackers, but after the jump I’ve posted four other ways to use this flavorful cheddar cheese.

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Christmas weekend open thread

Merry Christmas to those in the Bleeding Heartland community celebrating the holiday. Hope you have a joyful day with friends and family. To everyone else, I hope you enjoy some peaceful downtime this weekend. Yesterday our family finished a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle and went out sledding twice before enjoying Chinese food and a movie with a bunch of other Des Moines area Jews.

Today more sledding is on the agenda, and probably a new jigsaw puzzle. My boys received several new games for Chanukah, so we’ve been playing them a lot, especially “Sorry” and the Lego Harry Potter board game. For dinner, it will be my variation on my mother’s noodle kugel, which has become a sort of Christmas tradition for Mr. desmoinesdem. I’ve posted the recipe after the jump. It’s a lot less work than the traditional Christmas dinner Patric Juillet grew up with in Provence. Patric used to blog as Asinus Asinum Fricat. I am going to try some of his sweet potato recipes soon.

We received a card this week from a friend who usually bakes up a storm for Christmas. This year she got behind on her holiday baking, so instead of bringing over a package of goodies she made a donation in our name to Central Iowa Shelter and Services. That was a nice surprise. Food banks and shelters need cash donations now, and we don’t need any extra calories around our house. If you prefer to support charity working globally to reduce hunger, kestrel9000 suggests making a gift to Oxfam.

I didn’t notice too much “war on Christmas” silliness this year, but The Daily Show had a funny go at this American staple: “The holiday season wouldn’t feel the same without people going out of their way to be offended by nothing.” Locally, Gary Barrett tried to stir up some outrage over the demise of a “winter tree” at Ames High School. I felt my children’s public school did a good job of exposing the kids to different holiday traditions. Many children talked about their family’s rituals (religious or not) in class, and a display case had holiday decorations representing Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Devali.

The U.S. Census Bureau delivered Christmas cheer to some states this week, including our neighbor to the north, but as we all expected, Iowa will lose a Congressional district.

This is an open thread for anything on your mind this weekend.  

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Monday meal: Four ways to make soup from Thanksgiving leftovers

My family rarely has trouble finishing off the Thanksgiving turkey within a couple of days. We like sandwiches so much I’ve never had to experiment with turkey tetrazzini or other ways to use up the bird.

Some leftovers, like mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, aren’t appealing cold and don’t reheat particularly well. I can’t stand wasting good food, so after the jump you’ll find some soup recipes incorporating Thanksgiving leftovers.

The first two ideas assume you are roasting a turkey this Thursday. The second two would work equally well for vegetarians and omnivores.

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Monday meal: Easy mashed winter squash (3 variations)

Winter squash may be the most versatile “superfood.” Often included in “ten best things you can eat” lists, winter squash works well in soups, casseroles, Italian or Asian dishes, muffins or quickbreads. You can substitute it for pumpkin in pie or other desserts.

Winter squash keeps well at room temperature–maybe too well. If you haven’t got a lot of preparation time or don’t know what to do with the vegetable, it’s easy to just let it sit on your counter week after week.

After the jump I’ve posted the three easiest ways I know how to cook and serve winter squash. Use any squash with orange flesh, no matter what the outside looks like. Good options include butternut, acorn, blue hokkaido, hubbard, kabocha, red kuri or turban. Any of the variations would work alongside a meat or vegetarian main dish. Mashed squash is just as filling and more nutritious than white potatoes.

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Monday meal: Black-eyed peas, Indian style

The elections kept me so busy that it’s been more than two months since my last food post. I’m starting a new Bleeding Heartland tradition of posting one recipe every Monday.

Black-eyed peas are a traditional southern American food that I don’t recall ever eating when I was growing up in Iowa. I love to cook with them now. They contain a lot of vitamins and minerals and are more digestible than some other beans. I like to substitute them for the pinto beans in any chili recipe (here’s my favorite).

Black-eyed peas are especially convenient if you like to cook your own dried beans. Unlike many legumes, they don’t need to be soaked before cooking. Bring a pot of unsalted water with some peas to a boil, reduce to simmer, and they should be ready to eat or add to a recipe after 45 minutes to an hour.

After the jump I’ve posted my favorite way to eat black-eyed peas. I adapted this recipe from Vegetarian Indian Cookery by Shehzad Husain, a British food writer.

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Summer stir fry thread

I don’t love the heat, but I love the produce of high summer. Last night’s dinner featured a stir-fry with local onions, carrots, kohlrabi, kale, bok choi, broccoli and Iowa-made tofu. Only the soba noodles and sauce weren’t local.

Usually I make my own stir-fry sauces. One light version is an Asian marinade from Moosewood Cooks at Home. In a small saucepan heat about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup dry sherry, the same amount of tamari or soy sauce, half that amount of rice vinegar or cider vinegar, a tablespoon or two of brown sugar and a few slices of peeled fresh ginger. Bring to boil, stir and simmer for a minute before removing from the heat. I soak the cubed tofu in this sauce, then add it to the rest of the stir fry a couple of minutes before serving. I toss in a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil at the end too.

I also like to make a variation on the Spicy Peanut Sauce from Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites. This can be drizzled over almost any steamed vegetables or added to a stir-fry near the end of cooking. To make it, throw the following in a blender: about 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup water, 1 pressed garlic clove, a little fresh chile or dash of hot sauce, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar or rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 1 Tbsp lemon juice and about 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger root. Moosewood says to throw in 1/4 cup of diced tomatoes, but I leave those out. If you have extra sauce, you can keep it for a couple of weeks in the fridge (tightly sealed).

Share your own stir-fry secrets in this thread.