Well, your Dad and I fell off the “cleanse wagon” for real this past weekend in New Orleans. But “cleanse consciousness” was never far from our minds as we made the lesser-of-the-evils kinds of food choices throughout the weekend.
We knew we were up for a challenge when we got on the ferry to Gretna (the site of Beast of the Southern Wild) to attend the Gretna Music Fest. Most people on the boat looked older, grayer and significantly larger than us. I’m not judging…I’m just sayin… The baby-boomers have arrived and they are partying hearty! The Gretna Fest, aside from music, features the most extensive array of fried delicacies you can possibly imagine …the usual powdered sugar coated doughy fried fair food along with fried turkey legs, fried shrimp, fried fish, fried chicken, fried Oreos, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I am not kidding!).
NOLA has a culture and essence like no other city I have ever been in and it always leaves me a little sad and bewildered.
So much of the French Quarter seems weary and worn to the bone. Hundred year old homes stand steady with peeling paint and last year’s faded mardi gras adornments still hanging on to windowsills and door frames in anticipation of next year’s new set of beads and feathers and voodoo dolls. A couple blocks away is the familiar Bourbon Street bouquet of alcohol, cigarettes and vomit mingling with the throngs of Saints fans, convention goers and street people… Gentrification never quite made it to the Quarter…or maybe it has come and gone. Even much of the art feels too bright, too harsh, too distorted – as if its subjects have been pushed beyond the boundaries of their natural form. But that is NOLA. Another slice of life. I don’t think it’s going to make our top ten list of places we would like to live someday.
Of course, we had our share of pleasure and partying, too. We saw old friends, went to the Art For Arts Sake annual art galleries event, heard great music (even did a little dancing) and ate incredible food! We ate at a quasi vegetarian restaurant where I had a Freekah Salad made with Freekeh grain, a tasty cold smoked “green grain” I had never heard of before. I haven’t been able to find it here, but if you happen to come across it in D.C., buy me some. Dad had bread pudding with apples and a whiskey sauce at Brunch one day. My ever-present “cleanse conscious” brain immediately thought about how I could make some form of this pudding using oatmeal instead of bread. I was ready for a little more “cleanse” healthy take on life by that point.
In the few days that we were away, it seems like the summer ended and fall arrived with cool nights and kamikaze acorns falling from the trees onto our deck. I went straight from the airport to the Asian store to buy fresh veggies. I didn’t even unpack before I got out my big pot and started cutting up vegetables to make my first fall pot of soup.
Two things about me and soup: 1.) I can’t make a small pot of soup. 2.) There really is no such thing as a recipe for soup. But I did write down the basic ingredients. The problem is, I just keep adding stuff that I find in the frig or think of in the middle of the night. So the Black Bean soup of yesterday is now a Chipotle Chile Black Bean soup. It is cleanse friendly, of course, and can be garnished with plain Greek yogurt and cilantro or just a little grated fresh parmesan cheese. It’s going to be lunch for mah jong group tomorrow, along with a green salad and fresh fruit.
I am also including my experimental Oatmeal Pudding concoction. It will never be a true Bread Pudding dessert recipe (although Dad did pour some amaretto and cream over his), but it would make a healthy Brunch dish as the weather cools down.
I know we’ll see you soon when you come for Dani’s wedding, but I am really excited that you will be home for Thanksgiving, which will be here before we know it. Preparing for Rosh Hashana in the kitchen with you was nothing less than a spiritual experience for me. And I cant wait to do it again for Thanksgiving!
Hope you enjoy these recipes – they’re both very forgiving dishes and the ingredients are only a starting point – Enjoy experimenting and adding your own tastes and touches!
Black Bean or Chipotle Black Bean Soup
Start with a very large soup pot and sauté the following lightly a Tblsp of olive oil.
- 2 Large Onions chopped
- 1 T chopped fresh garlic (about half a bulb)
- 1 Cup chopped carrots
Add to the pot
- 4 Cups water
- 2 tsp sea salt
Cook until carrots are soft and add:
- 2 to 3 cups of cooked Black beans with a little of the liquid from the beans (canned black beans can be used, but precooked dried ones are better)
- Four 14oz cans of diced tomatoes (overripe fresh tomatoes can also be added after peeling)
- 1 Tblsp oregano (or to taste)
- Black pepper
- A handful of chopped fresh basil
- 2 Cups Chopped Bok Choy
- 1/2 Cup raisins
Cook until all veggies are done and flavors blended. Seasonings and ingredients can be adjusted to taste. Add more beans if you like a thicker soup or more water and seasonings for a soupier variety.
At this point, you have basic Black Bean soup. Garnish with grated parmesan or cheddar cheese.
To make Chipotle Chile Black Bean Soup add:
- 1 tsp of Chipotle Chile powder and cumin to taste.
Taste frequently and adjust seasonings. I added more Bok Choy after adding the Chipotle Chile powder. It always tastes better the next day when all flavors have cooked together.
This makes a huge pot of soup. Enjoy some now and freeze some for later.
Oatmeal Pudding Casserole
Cook the following ingredients in a sauce pan until soft and mushy.
- 1 overripe pear cut up in small pieces
- 1 overripe banana (I always freeze my overripe bananas in the peel so I have them whenever I need them)
- 3/4 C fruit juice from a fresh pineapple or orange
- 2 Tblsp cashew butter
- 2 chopped apples
to the sauce and cook until apples are tender, but not mushy: (about 10-15 minutes)
Meanwhile, mix together in a large bowl:
- 1 1/2 Cup uncooked rolled oats
- 2 Cups cooked (liquidy) steel cut oats
- 2 Cups plain organic yogurt
Let stand for 15 minutes
Then add the following to the oatmeal mixture and mix thoroughly:
- The cooked apple/banana/fruit juice mixture
- 4 cut up ripe bananas
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 Fresh apple cut up
- 1/2 tsp grated whole nutmeg
- 1 Tblsp ground cinnamon
- 1 Tblsp vanilla
Adjust seasonings for taste. You can add brown sugar, honey or agave if you like a sweeter oatmeal, but the fruit adds plenty of sweetness.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour oatmeal mixture into a casserole dish greased with 1 tsp walnut oil. Top with chopped walnuts, raisins and additional cinnamon. Bake mixture for 30 minutes or more (until apples are tender).
This is a great way to clean out your pantry of dried/ripe fruits, nuts, grains, etc.
Can be served warm or at room temperature – Garnish with greek yogurt or brown sugar.