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Yummy Artichoke heart salad

This artichoke hearts recipe is dedicated to my Charlotte, NC, friends Nancy and Uli – two fellow artichoke heart fiends.

A bag of  Trader Joe’s artichokes in my freezer and a pot of fresh herbs, also from Trader Joe’s, inspired this dish. If you cannot buy Trader Joe’s or another brand of frozen artichokes, then simply substitute 2 cans of artichoke heart halves and use less lemon juice. The reason I like the frozen artichoke hearts is that ascorbic acid rather than citric acid is used as a preservative, resulting in much less of a pickled taste.

If you’re really pressed for time (who isn’t?), you can also substitute roasted red peppers in a jar from the supermarket. But as far as I’m concerned, their taste does not come close to that of a fresh-roasted red pepper.

1 bag of Trader Joe’s artichoke hearts, defrosted
1 red pepper, roasted and chopped
1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
2 Tablespoons minced red onion
1 minced garlic clove
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of vegetable glycerine or agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Roast the red pepper: Cut the red pepper in half lengthwise, cut out seeds and white membrane. Lay each red pepper half face down on an oiled pan and position under a broiler for 10-15 minutes or until the skin turns black. Put the two red pepper halves into a brown bag and close the top. Leave the red pepper in the brown bag for at least 15 minutes and then rub off the charred skin, discarding them. Cut one of the halves into strip slices and chop into pieces.
  2. Put the artichoke hearts in a mixing bowl. Add the roasted red pepper strips, minced onion, minced garlic, chopped fresh oregano, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetable glycerine or agave nectar.
  3. Gently toss mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust lemon juice and glycerine to taste.
  4. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Tuscan white bean soup with kale

While there’s still a chill in the air, an easy vegetarian soup is a great meal option for warming the bones and satisfying the belly. Filled with flavor, this satisfying Tuscan white bean soup with kale is a mainstay of Italian country cooking. Tender beans give it creaminess without fat, and olive oil, garlic, leeks, and kale add healthy-promoting benefits as well as great taste.

Another plus is that this white bean soup recipe is easy to make. Just remember to soak the beans overnight or for 8 hours and then drain the water before you begin cooking. This is very important! By doing this, you will eliminate or greatly reduce the flatulence, or gassiness, of this easy vegetarian soup.

I believe that this white bean soup recipe tastes delicious, as is. However, for those who prefer to add grated cheese to their soup, that is certainly an individual option.

1 pound dried white navy beans
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, washed well and chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 carrots, scrubbed and diced
5 cups good-quality vegetable broth, such as Imagine organic or Trader Joe’s low-sodium organic
2-in piece of kombu or wakami sea vegetable (to speed cooking time of the beans and add iron, calcium, and minerals to the soup)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon

To do-
1. Soak beans in water overnight, then drain and rinse well.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and add leeks. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until leeks begin to soften. Add celery, garlic, and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add stock, rinsed navy beans, herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring soup to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and allow to simmer over low heat for 1 hour.
3. Puree 3 cups of soup in a blender (to make the beans creamy) and pour back into the pot. Add lemon juice, and more self and pepper if needed.
4. Ladle soup into individual bowls. Top each portion with some of the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Serves 6

Buon appetito!