Restaurant Review: Rye, Louisville, Kentucky

Rye, Louisville, Kentucky
Rye, Louisville, Kentucky

Restaurant: Rye, Louisville, Kentucky

While Indy was in town this past week, we really wanted to treat her to a nice dinner, welcoming her in true foodie style, to the area.  It just so happens that while we were at Disneyland last September, she treated everyone to a tasting menu at the Chef’s Counter of Napa Rose…complete with wine pairings.  It still ranks up there as one of the most amazing meals I have ever had the opportunity to eat.  Disneyland’s chefs work really well around my dietary needs, and my meal was completely gluten-free and vegetarian…complete with the perfect wine to compliment each dish we were served.

Well, this gave us an idea…to treat her to a tasting menu at one of our local restaurant’s chef’s tables.  It happens that three local restaurants have a chef’s table.  And after a little debate…Cathy and I decided on a new hotspot in town, Rye.  Rye is located in the NULU region of Louisville…and it seemed right up our alley.  Cathy got in touch with the restaurant, speaking with PR and Events Coordinator, Erin MacDonaold, and made arrangements, explaining my dietary needs and that she and Indy would be up for anything.  But they had to stay within the perimeters of my diet for me.  The chef and the restaurant had no problem with that, so…it was set.  Friday night…we’d be treating Indy to a tasting menu with drink pairings at Rye.

The most difficult part was not telling Indy we were doing this.  The only instruction we gave her was to bring something nice to eat dinner out in on Friday night.  That was it.  That was all she got.  And we didn’t even give her the name of the restaurant until we were getting close to it, even though she asked because she wanted to look it up on Yelp.  We have our ways.  Anyway, once she knew which restaurant, she seemed pretty excited about that.  The chef’s counter, however, remained a surprise until we got inside and Cathy let them know our reservation.  As we were being walked back to the counter at the kitchen, Indy leaned in and said, “Did I hear chef’s counter.”  HAHAHA!!  Yes, my dearest foodie friend.  Yes…you did!

We were seated at the counter, facing into the kitchen, getting a first-hand view of the chefs at work.  I was soaking this in, just watching how they worked together, talked, and even put together each dish.  It was heaven to me.  I still have a dream of being a chef.  Maybe one day it will happen.  But this…was a treat and I was enjoying it.

At Rye, that evening, we were assigned to the caring hands of Chef Joe Banet, Bar Manager Doug Petry, and Alyssa, who was around for anything we might need or questions we might have.  Let me tell you, this team was amazing.  Doug had the drinks out to us just before the food was brought over by Chef Joe.  And Alyssa made sure we had everything we needed, from fresh silverware to full glasses of water.  It was incredible.  And, within a few minutes of looking over our menu that Chef Joe prepared, he came over to introduce himself and explain that he would have our first course up in no time.  Our first course…of what would be an 8 course tasting menu.

The only difference between my menu and those of Indy and Cathy was that mine was strictly vegetarian, so I was served a cooked vegetable instead of the protein they received.  My drink was different in a few occasions too, better paired with my vegetable than their meat.  Other than that…it was time to enjoy some good food and soak up the experience.

Rye's Radish with Whipped Butter and Black Salt, served with Dolin Blanc, Sugar, Meyer Lemon Bitters
Rye’s Radish with Whipped Butter and Black Salt, served with Dolin Blanc, Sugar, Meyer Lemon Bitters

And it was off to a good start.  Doug brought out our first drink, a Dolin Blanc with Sugar and Meyer Lemon Bitters.  This accompanied our first course, which arrived a moment later…Radish with Whipped Butter.  Granted, they had Caviar Butter with their Radish as well as a Potato Roll…but since I’m a gluten-free vegetarian…I received extra garnish on the radish with the whipped butter just beneath it with a hit of black salt.  The radish was bitter, as it should be…and it was a bit odd being served with butter…especially since I had no way of really eating the butter.  I put some on each bite of radish and it complimented the flavor well enough, the black salt cutting back on the bitterness by adding a little zing to each bite.  Still a bit bizarre, but delicious.  And that’s what mattered.  The pairing with the Dolin Blanc was brilliant.  The effervescence and lightness was a great way to start off the meal.

Rye's Beets with Lavendar-Mango Chutney, Labne, Hazelnut, Chervil, served with a Raspberry Lemonade
Rye’s Beets with Lavendar-Mango Chutney, Labne, Hazelnut, Chervil, served with a Raspberry Lemonade

Our plates were cleared and things were given time to settle.  But, after about 10 minutes our next drink was brought out.  It was a Strawberry Lemonade.  No alcohol in this one.  Just a sweet palate refresher.  Not but a moment later, Chef Joe appeared with three identical plates.  The second course was Beets with Lavender-Mango Chutney, Labne, Hazelnut and Chervil.  THIS…my dear friends, turned out to be my favorite course of the entire meal.  Yes…this one.  The roasted beets were fresh and fantastic.  Perfect, really.  And it paired so well with the labne (strained yogurt).  The lavender-mango chutney was light and fresh.  And topping it with toasted hazelnuts was a stroke of genius, as it gave a hit of texture when it was needed most.  The fruitiness of the raspberry lemonade paired and played well with the sweet, yet earthy flavor of the beets.  I was in foodie heaven with this one.  I could have eaten another plate of that and been a happy girl.

Plates were cleared again and we were once again given time to chat, watch the chefs at work (we were trying to figure out just how many

Rye's Asparagus with a Smoked Egg, Endive, and Pignoli, served with Chono Sauvignon Blanc
Rye’s Asparagus with a Smoked Egg, Endive, and Pignoli, served with Chono Sauvignon Blanc

oysters they shuck per night, because there was a lot of shucking over on our end of the counter!), observe some cooking techniques…and watch as the lights flickered and caused problems.  The owner came over to apologize for the technical difficulties with the lights over the pass and asked if it was going to bother us as they fixed it because he could move us.  We were content where we were, however.  (On a completely different line of though, the phrase ‘where we were’ is kind of interesting to type!)  Anyway, with that decision made, we were soon greeted by our third drink pairing prior to our entree.  Cathy and Indy received a Stillwater Classique beer.  This was a change from what was printed on the menu, so it took them by surprise.  Since I’m gluten-free, my drink stayed true to the menu that was created, and I was served a glass of Chono Sauvignon Blanc.  Cathy tasted her beer and didn’t like it much…but we still had food to pair with it.  And Chef Joe appeared soon after, serving up our third course.  This course was Asparagus with a Smoked Egg, Endive, and Pignoli (pine nuts).  First of all…a smoked egg is the most wonderful thing in the world.  It’s smokey and savory and rich and creamy and just made of complete yumminess.  Seriously…if I had a smoker I would do this every morning for breakfast.  In fact, I asked Chef Joe how to smoke an egg…and now I kind of feel like I need a smoker just to be able to do it.  Yes…this was a rich dish.  The smoked egg was velvety smooth and paired so well with the bitterness of the endive and the perfectly cooked white and green asparagus.  I savored each and every bite.  And because it was so rich, the wine pairing was perfect.  This course was comfort food to me.  For the record, Cathy never did really like the beer.

When plates were cleared, we all gazed down at our menus to see what was up next.  This is where dishes started to really get different.  Cathy and Indy were about to start getting their proteins.  Mine stuck to a tried and true vegetable replacement for said protein.  The rest of the dish would mirror each other.  And, on some occasions…the drinks would be different.

Rye's Sweet Potato Soup with Kaffir Lime Leaf, Coconut Milk, Cilantro, served with a Pineapple Shrub
Rye’s Sweet Potato Soup with Kaffir Lime Leaf, Coconut Milk, Cilantro, served with a Pineapple Shrub

Such was the case for the fourth course of the night.  This one was a light serving, which was what we needed after all the richness in the smoked egg and asparagus course.  Doug brought over our drink pairings for the upcoming course.  Cathy and Indy were given another beer, this time Stiegl Grapefruit Radler.  Cathy was pretty certain she’d hate it since she hates grapefruit, but this turned out to be one of her favorite drinks of the night.  Go figure.  As for me, Doug paired mine with a Pineapple Blush, which he described in great detail and all I remember about it is that it had vinegar in it.  That just seemed strange.  But I gave it a sip prior to the dish coming up and it actually had a refreshing taste.  The vinegar worked.  Chef Joe brought over soup bowls for us.  My soup was Sweet Potato in a broth made from Coconut Milk and flavored with Kaffir Lime Leaf and Cilantro.  The broth was the same for Cathy and Indy, but they had Crab and Clam in their soup, not sweet potato.  I loved how light this course was, and how refreshing.  I am a sucker for soups as it is, and this one was perfection.  Seriously.  The broth was creamy without being filling.  The sweet potatoes were soft and delicate and perfect.  The seasoning was spot on.  And who doesn’t love an amazing soup?  Fantastic.  And the drinks paired perfectly.  I enjoyed sipping my Pineapple Blush between tastes of my soup.  Delish.

Our bowls were taken away and we watched as more food was prepared, put up at the pass, looked over by the expediter, and then sent out to

Rye's Cauliflower with Harissa, Almond, Arugula, Cucumber, served with a Gin, with Lemon, Sugar, Cucumber Sea Foam
Rye’s Cauliflower with Harissa, Almond, Arugula, Cucumber, served with a Gin, with Lemon, Sugar, Cucumber Sea Foam

tables.  It was so awesome watching the kitchen work while we ate.  Doug returned with three glasses of identical drinks.  We were each served one and he explained that we were about to taste a Gin that was done up with Lemon, Sugar and topped off with a Cucumber Sea Foam.  I figured this one would be interesting because I’m not a big fan of gin…at all…but the cucumber sea foam sounded A-MAZ-ING!  I took a sip, and while it did taste a little gin-y…the cucumber sea foam gave it this refreshing taste.  I actually found myself liking this one.  And, on cue, Chef Joe came over with our course.  The fifth course of the night, for me, was a fantastically grilled Cauliflower with Harissa, Almond, Arugula and Cucumber.  Ah…a match to that cucumber sea foam.  Cathy and Indy were served Monkfish instead of the cauliflower.  First of all, the harissa was amazing.  This chili pepper paste was a nice play against the refreshing cucumber and the warm cauliflower.  In fact, I was trying to get a little harissa in each bite because I loved how it worked with everything on the plate.  The almonds added a nice hit of texture.  Yeah…this one was so good.  Now I want harissa in my kitchen to use on my own cauliflower when I cook it.  Cathy fell in love with the monkfish, but Indy wasn’t as sold on it.

Rye's Broccoli Rabe with Ramps, Hon-Shemeji Mushroom, Yellow Grits, Lovange, served with Leese-Fitch Zinfandel
Rye’s Broccoli Rabe with Ramps, Hon-Shemeji Mushroom, Yellow Grits, Lovange, served with Leese-Fitch Zinfandel

Another plate clearing and more time to let things settle.  We were starting to get full, but we were over the halfway point.  And thankfully these were small plates.  This time, our food beat the drink to our counter.  So, Chef Joe went ahead and described our sixth course to us.  For me, I was given Broccoli Rabe with Ramps, Hon-Shemeji Mushrooms, Yellow Grits, and Lovange.  Cathy and Indy were served Rabbit with their ramps, mushrooms, grits and lovange.  We waited for a moment and a minute later, Doug was at our sides giving us each a glass of Leese-Fitch Zinfandel.  We now felt ready to dig in.  I sipped the wine first, finding that bitterness that I often find with red wine.  But it was good.  And when I took a bite of the broccoli rabe with the ramps (onions) and the earthy mushroom…it was a perfect pairing.  My favorite part, however, was the grits.  And as I lived in Alabama for six years and never liked grits, this totally surprised me.  I couldn’t say enough good things about these grits.  This was a fantastic course and we all polished it off.  Indy much preferred the rabbit over the monkfish, saying that the cuter your food is, the better it tastes.  Veggies must be really cute, because my food was really good.

Rye's Fennel with Parsnip, Black Garlic, Red Watercress, Pistachio, Orange-Mustard Jus, served with Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir
Rye’s Fennel with Parsnip, Black Garlic, Red Watercress, Pistachio, Orange-Mustard Jus, served with Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir

And so…our plates were cleared once more and we waited, talking about how the impending food wall was approaching.  But we didn’t care.  The food was some of the most amazing I had in a long time.  This was definitely a treat.  Doug appeared at our sides with a glass of Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir and talked about how it would pair well with our next course.  Chef Joe arrived with our plates.  I was given Fennel with Parsnip, Black Garlic, Red Watercress, Pistachio, and an Orange-Mustard Jus.  Cathy and Indy had Duck instead of the fennel.  Wow.  I loved how the Fennel was grilled and cooked down to perfection.  The parsnip puree was perfect.  It wasn’t gritty at all.  The black garlic paired well with everything, seasoning it perfectly.  I loved how the pistachio gave it some texture.  And, surprisingly, the orange-mustard jus was delicious and just amped up the flavor of the dish.  Cathy and Indy definitely seemed happy with the duck.  And when we were done eating, we were all eying the menu.  One course to go…and it was dessert.  I always have room for dessert.

Rye's Lemon Curd with Macadamia Brittle, Pink Peppercorn Meringue, served with Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux
Rye’s Lemon Curd with Macadamia Brittle, Pink Peppercorn Meringue, served with Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux

Gone were our dishes and Cathy was really, really looking forward to our dessert.  Why?  It was lemon.  And we are both huge fans of anything lemon.  Seriously.  Even better, the chef changed the way it was made so we could all have the same dish and it could be kept gluten-free.  This made me a happy, happy girl.  Doug appeared with our final drink pairing of the night.  This was a Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux.  I love dessert wines.  LOVE.  If I could drink dessert wine all the time, I would totally do it.  Pure perfection.  This was light and crisp and just…delicious.  I had to remind myself to save some for the dessert.  Chef Joe brought out the most amazing looking dessert of all time.  Seriously.  It was Lemon Curd with Macadamia Brittle and a Pink Peppercorn Meringue.  First of all…salty and sweet.  Second of all…LEMON!!  This was a fantastic and light dessert.  And I wanted to devour it quickly because it was so delicious…but I managed to keep my  sweet tooth under control and really savor each bite.  The lemon flavor was spot on.  Not too much.  Just right.  And the pink peppercorn meringue was fantastic.  Light.  Fluffy.  Topped with the macadamia brittle that just tied everything together and gave it a crunch, which was needed in an otherwise soft dessert.  This was love in dessert form.  Lemon-y, nutty, meringue-y love.  And I had to make sure I got a bit of everything in each bite.

Rye really, really outdid themselves.  Not only were we treated well from the start, but the food they served up was beyond anything I could have imagined.  They were more than happy to work with and around my food allergies and dietary needs.  Sitting at the chef’s counter was an amazing treat that was worth every bit of money we poured into that meal.  This was more than a dinner out with my foodie friends…this was a foodie experience.

If you haven’t checked out Rye yet…you should.  Their menu sounds amazing and they are very good with dietary restrictions.  Their kitchen is clean and kept that way.  Their staff is knowledgeable.  And I can’t wait to go back again and try some food off their standard menu.

Thank you, Rye…for such a treat that night.

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup

Trader Joe's Latin Style Black Bean Soup
Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup

Product: Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup – $2.79+

The weather outside is back to being frightful.  I wish it would just warm up.  Honestly.  I am so done with winter.

One thing, however, that is good about colder temperatures outdoors is…soup!  Granted, I can happily eat soup in the spring, summer and fall, but it just feels so right and homey when consumed in winter.  Especially on really bitterly cold days.

My roommate and I actually had picked up this box of soup at Trader Joe’s awhile back.  But other soups came first…mostly homemade.  And this kept its place in the pantry.  That is until last night.  What was so different about last night?  Well…I had nothing in my fridge or pantry due to being out of town and cancelling my CSA bin for another week.  Sure, I grabbed a few items at the grocery store, but nothing condusive to a soup.  And I really, really wanted soup.

Thank goodness my pantry is usually stocked with some sort of soup or vegetable broth.  I chose to make vegan and gluten-free BLT sandwiches and serve it with bowl of the Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup.  An easy, stress-free dinner.  Just what I needed as my day had been rather tiring and long, mostly on the road.  Cathy said she was okay with that dinner and so…that’s what I ended up making.  I pulled the soup box out of the pantry and put 2 cups of it into a bowl, reserving the other 2 cups for today when I make the same dinner again because…well…I can and I have everything!

The soup was easy enough to warm up, so while it warmed on the stovetop, I toasted some bread to top with baby kale, tomato slices, and slices of vegan and gluten-free bacon that I made a week ago.  It’s good to go from freezer to pan and it is awesome.  I posted the recipe a couple weeks ago and just linked it there.  Anyway, the soup was a crazy purple-brown color.  So, yeah…not the most appetizing looking soup, but it smelled fantastic as it cooked.  I stirred it on occasion while taking care not to burn the bread in the oven nor the bacon in a pan on the stove.  I managed.  And as everything finished up and the bread slices were spread with Veganaise and topped with the vegetables and bacon, I got out a ladle to dish up the soup.

I filled the bowls with a serving each and settled in for dinner.  Soup and sandwich.  Classic…and one of my favorite combinations.  I almost did gluten-free and vegan grilled cheese…but the BLT was too tempting.  And it worked so well with this soup!

First of all, this soup was not much to look at, but HELLO FLAVOR!  The seasoning of this soup was beyond amazing.  It had a little bit of heat and layers and depth to each spoonful.  I tend to dip my sandwiches into my soup, especially when it’s a non-chunky soup like this, and it meshed really well with the vegan and gluten-free BLT.  I thought as far as flavor went, this soup had it going on.  The spice was just enough…not too strong.  And the other flavors, garlic, cumin, and chipotle didn’t overpower.  I sipped at this soup, really just taking it in to form my opinion.  And when I asked my roommate what she thought of it, she echoed exactly what I was thinking.  It was good…but it was lacking something.  It was just…black bean broth.  It was missing…something.  That’s the thing about boxed soups, all you get is the flavor base.  When you make it at home, it’s usually thicker, maybe chunky, has more depth.  That’s what this lacked.  It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong…but it was just lacking.  That’s why when I cooked the rest of it up tonight, I made some homemade crackers to float on top.  HA!  I can be resourceful.

That being said, Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup is made up from filtered water, black beans, onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, flavor concentrate (tomato puree, sea salt, sugar, canola oil, spices, chipotle pepper, natural flavor), tomato paste, garlic, sea salt, olive oil, cumin, guar gum, and black pepper.  For being the last ingredient listed, the black pepper and chipotle flavors really do stand out the most.  But, I like heat, so I’m okay with that.  None of these ingredients raised any flags to me.  I recognized them all.

Nutritionally speaking, Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup is almost a rockstar.  A serving is 1 cup of the soup.  This 1 cup bowlful will provide you with 70 calories and 1 gram of fat.  A serving also dishes up 520 mg sodium and 3 grams of sugar.  While it seems a bit high in sodium, it is a packaged soup and I knew that when I purchased it.  And, in the grand scheme of things and compared to other soups on the market, 520 mg of sodium isn’t the worst I have seen.  A serving of this soup also provides 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.  So, you will feel full…trust me…after eating this soup.  Yes…even without the chunks.

So, the basic feeling on this soup is that, it is good and tasty, but definitely lacking.  I liked the spices and the heat, but the texture was just…not quite what I expect when I hear the term black bean soup.  I was disappointed there, but would definitely consider getting this soup again, perhaps to use more as a base for a chili, or next time add some rice or vegetables or…even black beans, instead of a soup on its own.

Trader Joe's Latin Style Black Bean Soup (with my homemade crackers)
Trader Joe’s Latin Style Black Bean Soup (with my homemade crackers)

Recipe: Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Apple Soup with Brown Buttered Kale Leaves

It’s flippin’ freezing cold outside!  For real.  This entire country is under some sort of deep freeze.  That polar vortex is making air temperatures unbearable.  And, during this sort of weather, my body just wants to shut down…curl up…hibernate.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

This past week, we had more winter weather and sub-zero temperatures plaguing my area.  My CSA bin was scheduled to arrive a day later now, for the safety of the delivery drivers.  So, on a very cold and snowy Saturday afternoon, I returned home to find my new bin waiting outside my door.  Inside was a plethora of fruit and veggie goodness.  For real.  But…with one less day to use the items, I needed something I could make that was simple, clean, and perfect for cold weather.

I stumbled across a recipe for a Sweet Potato and Apple Soup at a blog called 100 Days of Real Food.  Intrigued, and having received every necessary ingredient in my bin, I decided to cook it up.  After all, I could leave it going on Sunday while I was out for my long run and finishing up my grocery shopping.  Perfect.

And this soup…also perfect.  As the mercury has fallen again to unbearable temperatures…the fact that I have a nice, steaming bowl of soup waiting for me at home makes the day a little easier to stand.  I did a little crispy kale topping for this soup, which is an extra step and not necessary, but trust me…it’s worth it.  The original recipe called for sage…but I work with what I have.  It’s amazing.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Apple Soup with Brown Buttered Kale Leaves

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Apple Soup with Brown Butter Kale Leaves
Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Apple Soup with Brown Butter Kale Leaves

Servings: 6-8
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Cook 5 hours

Ingredients:

  • ½ large onion, cut into large dice
  • 1 lb white potatoes (2 small or 1 large), scrubbed clean and cut into 1 inch pieces with the skin left on
  • 1½ lbs sweet potatoes (3 small or 2 large), scrubbed clean and cut into 1 inch pieces with the skin left on
  • 2 apples, cut into 1 inch pieces with the skin left on
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • ¾ cup fresh kale leaves, cut into strips (using culinary scissors or a knife)

 

Directions:

In the bottom of a slow cooker put in the onion, potatoes, apples, garlic, and salt.  Pour the vegetable stock over top.

Turn the slow cooker onto high and cook for 5 hours.

Puree the hot soup either in batches in a counter top blender or by just sticking a hand immersion blender right into your slow cooker (recommended).

Stir in 2 tablespoons of the butter.

In a medium sized pan over medium heat melt the other 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the kale leaves and cook while stirring until butter browns and leaves are crisp, about 1-2 minutes.  Top soup with brown buttered sage and serve immediately.

~*~*~

Warm, hearty, yet still light…this soup is the perfect way to warm up in winter.  I love a good soup and this one is definitely packed with flavor.  And made with real ingredients and real food.  It’s no fuss too, which I loved.  Coming home from my errands on Sunday, my apartment smelled amazing.  I pureed the soup and then dished out 8 servings into individual dishes.  I have two in the fridge ready for tonight after I hit up the gym.  The rest are in the freezer, because this recipe freezes well.  So, don’t worry too much about how much it makes.  Make some room in that freezer and save it for a day you really don’t feel like cooking.

ENJOY!

Recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Vegetarian Chilli

Ah, Jamie Oliver…I adore you.

Obviously.  Because when I went to Huntington, West Virginia, I made a point to go by Huntington’s Kitchen.

So, when I had some sweet potatoes that I needed to use up from my CSA bin this past week, my roomie suggested that I finally get around to making the vegetarian chilli recipe from your Web site.

We only needed a couple of items for the rest of the dish itself…so it was on!!

What I love about this recipe is how much depth of flavor the roasted sweet potatoes add to this dish.  It’s indulgent, but guilt-free.  So healthy.  I think it might be my favorite chilli so far.

So…thank you, Jamie Oliver.

And for my followers and readers…here is the recipe:

Recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Vegetarian Chilli

Jamie Oliver's Vegetarian Chilli
Jamie Oliver’s Vegetarian Chilli

Servings: 6-8
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, approximately 500g
  • 1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cans beans (I used black beans and great northern beans)
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes (I used Muir Glen organic fire roasted tomatoes)


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized chunks.  Sprinkle with a pinch each of cayenne, cumin and cinnamon, drizzle with olive oil and scatter with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss to coat then put them on a baking tray.

Peel and roughly chop the onion.

Halve, de-seed and roughly chop the peppers.

Pick the cilantro leaves and put aside, finely chop the stalks.

De-seed and finely chop the chillies.

Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Put the tray of sweet potato in the hot oven to cook for 40 minutes until soft and golden.

Meanwhile, place a large pan on a medium-high heat and add a couple lugs of olive oil.  Add the onion, peppers and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the cilantro stalks, chilli and spices and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

Drain the cans of beans, then tip them into the pan with the tinned tomatoes.  Stir well and bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium-low heat and leave to tick away for 25 to 30 minutes.  Keep an eye on it, and add a splash of water if it gets a bit thick.

Get the roasted sweet potato out of the oven and stir it through your chilli with most of the cilantro leaves.

Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, if needed.

Scatter the remaining leaves over the top, and serve with some soured cream, guacamole and rice or tortillas.

~*~*~

Best vegetarian chilli I have ever made.  Or eaten.  I love the sweet potato.  It’s a super nice addition to the ingredients and really sets this chilli apart from other vegetarian chillies.  It has a mild heat…which is perfect for my roomie.  I like mine a little spicier, so if you’re like me, feel free to turn up the heat as you desire.

This recipe freezes really well, which is great, because you’ll definitely want more!

Recipe: Almost the Best Ever Gluten-Free Potato Soup

Okay…claims are made all the time about something being “the best ever _____” and they hardly ever live up to the reputation they have just put out there in public.  Trust me…I’ve been disappointed many times.

That’s life.

Life also is a smorgasbord of different tastes, textures, and ingredients.  So, when I’m in the kitchen, sometimes I like to change things up…get a little creative.  And that’s what happened.  You see, I was sitting at work on Monday trying to figure out the best way to use up some bin ingredients that I have yet to touch.  Sometimes my week gets too busy and cooking with the items from my CSA bin isn’t always possible.  I tend to make it up the following week as another week of CSA bin goodies are cramming my fridge.  I love it…but it can be overwhelming.

That being said, I messaged my roomie and told her I had red potatoes that needed to be used…and she sent me a recipe from Gluten Hates Me (.com) for what was being described as the BEST gluten-free potato soup…EVER!  EVER!  That’s a huge, huge claim to be making.  But, there were only 5 ingredients, so…I figured why not?  I had most of them on hand anyway.

The best part is…this soup cooks in the slow cooker.  I started mine after dinner the night before and it was ready for me to tackle it with the immersion blender when I woke up.  EASY!!  This recipe is easy.  Is it the best gluten-free potato soup ever?  Probably not…but I will tell you this…it is rich, creamy, and packed with flavor.  I even added a few touches of my own, which I’ll include in this recipe.

Recipe: Almost the Best Ever Gluten-Free Potato Soup

Almost the Best Ever Gluten-Free Potato Soup
Almost the Best Ever Gluten-Free Potato Soup

Servings: 8
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Cook 10 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 pounds Russet potatoes, washed but NOT peeled, and diced into 1/2 inch(ish) cubes (I used red potatoes)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 4 cups gluten free vegetable broth (I used Pacific.  Do make sure yours is gluten-free!)
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Cumin
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese)

Directions:

Put the diced potatoes, onion, garlic, and vegetable broth into the crock pot.  Season with your chosen seasonings.  I used cumin, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.

Once it has cooked, cube your cream cheese into 2-inch cubes and stir it into the crock pot.

Then, using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup in the crock pot.  If you do not have an immersion blender, don’t add the cream cheese into the crockpot.  Simply put it in the blender with 1/3 of your soup and blend.  Then reincorporate it back into the crockpot.  This will give you a chunkier soup…so I do recommend the immersion blender.

Top off however you like.  I topped mine with green onion and vegan cheese.

~*~*~

Simple flavors, but what a combination they had.  The soup is this rich, thick, creamy consistency, aided by the cream cheese.  It is really fantastic and just wows the taste buds.  It is definitely soup season and this was a hearty, delicious, and rather healthy soup to add to the winter lineup.  I was very impressed with every bite.  And I have more in my fridge and freezer…just waiting for another cool evening.

Enjoy!

Product Review: Star Anise Foods Happy Pho – Garlic Goodness Vietnamese Brown Rice Pho Noodle Soup

Star Anise Foods Happy Pho Garlic Goodness Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Soup
Star Anise Foods Happy Pho Garlic Goodness – Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Soup

Product: Star Anise Foods Happy Pho – Garlic Goodness Vietnamese Brown Rice Pho Noodle Soup – $3.49+

Splurges happen.

For real.

And for me…splurges tend to happen when food is involved.  Mainly…grocery shopping.  Something catches my eye, peeks my interest, and before you know it, the plan to stick to the already tight budget is out the window and I’m scraping by the rest of the week.  But it’s okay…because I have food.  Right?

Sure.

Well, a splurge happened this past weekend.  I was wandering the aisles of Whole Foods, which already is a dangerous thing, when my roomie spotted these little brown boxes.  The words “PHO” caught her attention first.  Followed by “GLUTEN-FREE.”  Now we’re talking.  She’s been wanting to have pho for a long, long while…but…I just don’t know of where to go in Louisville to make that happen for her.  Instead…we figured this might be a good way to use up some of the produce and make our own version of a pho.  And why not?  If you can’t get creative in the kitchen…there’s no point to having one.

The product we spotted was by Star Anise Foods.  It’s called Happy Pho, and it comes in three different flavors.  We chose the Garlic Goodness Vietnamese Brown Rice Pho Noodle Soup.  We figured we’d eventually try them all…if the one we tried was any good.  Cathy loves garlic…so I had a feeling that would be the one to start us off.

Instead…with a little refrigerator magic…and a Organic Vegetarian Pho Base by Pacific Natural Foods (which was in my pantry, swear to the culinary gods!), this splurge of a purchase became tonight’s dinner.  And tomorrows lunch for that matter.

Let’s talk a little bit about this product though.  First of all, Star Anise Foods Happy Pho – Garlic Goodness Vietnamese Brown Rice Pho Noodle Soup is not only gluten-free, but also non-GMO, low in sodium, contains no MSG, made from 100% brown rice with organic green tea, vegan, all natural, made with organic ingredients, fat-free, wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, free from artificial colors and preservatives.  It’s ALL NATURAL, my little pho babies!!

One serving is 1/2 the packet, which my roommate and I stretched out into 4 meals, so we’re only eating 1/4 of the packet each.  Regardless, a regular serving will provide you with 222 calories.  A serving only has 190 mg of sodium, which is amazing for a shelf-stable, packaged product.  The Garlic Goodness variety of Happy Pho also will has 1 gram sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein.  That’s really good!!

To make my pho…I pan fried up some thinly sliced tofu.  While the pho starter came to a boil, I added the packet of seasoning that comes with the noodles and allowed it to blend with the pho starter.  I then sliced up some bok choy (compliments of my CSA bin) and put it into the broth.  Once the tofu was nearing completion, in went the brown rice noodles to soften up in the hot soup base.  As the noodles finished up, I poured the tofu in to warm and…dinner was easily served.

And…OMG…was it ever good!!  I mean super good.  As in I make a mean vegetarian pho thanks to Star Anise Foods and their Happy Pho starter kits.  Honestly.  I was so happy with the flavor of this noodle soup.  The brown rice noodles were a bit gummy, but that tends to be the trend with brown rice noodles.  Sadly enough.  But…the flavor was there, and the noodles, broth, tofu, and bok choy all married together to make this incredible, flavor-filled meal.  The seasoning packet combined with the pho soup base made a perfect base for the vegetables, tofu, and…the noodles.  My roommate and I devoured this with chopsticks.  Happy girls, we were!  Food Yoda, I speak like.

Go to your local Whole Foods…check out their aisle with the Asian foods.  If you spot Star Anise Foods Happy Pho kits…buy one.  Buy them all.  Trust me, they are totally amazing and I intend to pick up more of them, other flavors, and give them a taste as well.  This made for a quick, easy, and very delicious (and nutritious) dinner tonight.  I was beyond impressed.

Star Anise Foods Happy Pho - Garlic Goodness Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Soup
Star Anise Foods Happy Pho – Garlic Goodness Vietnamese Brown Rice Noodle Soup

Recipe: Vegan Potato Leek Soup

Just a couple minor changes to a recipe can make or break it.  Honestly.  But…a couple years ago, Cathy bought me the cookbook for Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s restaurant in Las Vegas.  In fact, we dined there when we were in Vegas and had one of the best food experiences of our life up to that point.  It was, in a word, heavenly.

And then…I just sort of let this gem of a cookbook sit on my shelf…never really pulling it out to explore.  But when my CSA bin gave me leeks, I remembered one of the dishes we had in Vegas was…Potato Leek Soup.  So, I pulled out my cookbook and got settled in to see if it was something I could, indeed, set out to make…and make properly.

There were a couple of minor tweaks necessary, for my food allergies and the like…like making it vegan.  It actually worked out perfectly.  Honestly.  I was so happy with the way this soup turned out that I am eager to make it again…and again…and again.  The best part was…save for a few minor ingredients (chives)…this recipe was made from items that were already in my pantry.

I will make not of my changes in parentheses.  But huge props to Thomas Keller for this amazing recipe.  And if I hadn’t eaten at Bouchon…well…I might never have experienced this or been inspired to make it for myself.

Recipe: Vegan Potato Leek Soup (inspired by Thomas Keller’s Bouchon recipe)

Vegan Potato Leek Soup
Vegan Potato Leek Soup

Servings: 6
Time: Prep 15 minutes: Cook 60 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds (about 3 large) leeks
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz.) unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • Heaping 1/2 cup sliced (about 1/4 in. thick) shallots
  • 1/3 cup sliced (1/4 inches thick) onions
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound (about 1 large) russet potato, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Bouquet garni or sachet of 8 thyme sprigs, 2 Italian parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp. black peppercorn, wrapped in cheesecloth
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used a low-sodium organic vegetable broth)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (I used So Delicious Culinary Coconut Milk)
  • 1/2 cup minced chives
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cut away and discard dark green leaves and roots from leeks, leaving only white and palest green sections.  Cut in half lengthwise, rinse in cold water to remove dirt between layers.  Place leeks cut side down and cut in 1/4 inch thick slices (yields about 3 cups).

Melt butter in large saucepan over med-low heat.  Add leeks, shallots, and onions.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Increase heat to medium and sweat the veggies, stirring often, for 3 to 5 minutes – veggies should wilt but not brown.

Meanwhile, cut potato lengthwise into quarters, then cut crosswise into 1/4 in thick slices, yielding about 1-1/4 cups.

Add garlic to the sauteing veggies and cook for another minute, then add sachet and potatoes.  Cook for 2 to 4 min longer.

Add 6 cups stock, adjust seasonings.  Bring to simmer, then reduce and simmer for 30 min, or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and let soup cool for about 15 min.  Remove the sachet.  Transfer soup in batches to blender and puree, starting at low speed (to release heat remaining in soup), and then slowly increase speed until soup is smooth.  Don’t overfill the blender, since hot liquid can spurt out.  It is helpful to place your hand over the lid while holding a towel.  Strain through a fine sieve or the like if you want the soup to be extra smooth.  (That part is optional…I chose not to, and my soup was still smooth!)

To finish, return soup to a rinsed out pan and bring to simmer.  Add cream and simmer on low for 5 min – stir frequently and careful not to burn!  Remove from heat.  Stir in chives if serving hot.  If refrigerating, pour into container and place in ice bath to cool (it keeps about 2 days).  Serve sprinkled with chives and olive oil and fresh ground black pepper.

~*~*~

You would be hard-pressed to tell that this soup was vegan.  Honestly, the changes I made didn’t affect the creaminess or the taste of the soup.  It was so good, and Cathy and I feasted on it for three delightful evenings.  It was super packed with flavor and still super creamy.  Substituting culinary coconut milk for the heavy cream didn’t change the texture at all.  It worked brilliantly.

So…with soup season coming on strong…give this recipe a try.  Thomas Keller is a brilliant chef and this recipe is one of the best soups I have made so far.  Truly a delight.

Recipe: Gluten-Free and Vegan “Clam” Chowder

Awhile back, Prevention magazine did a profile on Kris Carr.  If you’ve never heard that name before, you’d be inspired by this woman.  She is a best-selling author, a wellness activist, and a cancer thriver.  Yes…thriver.  You see, on Valentine’s Day in 2003, Carr was diagnosed with a rare and incurable stage 4 cancer.  This diagnosis made her want to feel better, love harder, and enjoy life more fully.  She wanted to live life to the fullest…and live it like she meant it.

Part of that journey was changing the way she ate.  She went to a complete lifestyle makeover.  She switched to a nutrient dense, plant-based diet, began exercising, and found joy and fun in everything.

Really…this woman is amazing and her story was one I remembered from the plethora of magazines I receive each month.  I appreciate Prevention for profiling her…because it led me to her book: Crazy Sexy Kitchen.

This book just happened to be on the shelf of my local library.  And after flipping through it briefly…I went ahead and borrowed it.  Immediately I had recipes I wanted to try…but the one that interested me most is the one I made for dinner tonight…and, believe me when I say, it’s worth the effort to make.  I had to make modifications with the ingredients at times, but in the end…it turned into a beautiful dish.

The recipe is below.

Recipe: Gluten-Free and Vegan “Clam” Chowder

Gluten-Free and Vegan
Gluten-Free and Vegan “Clam” Chowder

Serves: 12
Time: Prep 60 minutes; Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients for Cashew Cream:

4 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed under cold water

Ingredients for Kombu Broth:

4 pieces kombu seaweed (I didn’t pick this up, so I used sheets of nori)
2 quarts water

Ingredients for Smoked Mushrooms*:

1 tablespoon small hickory chips
1 heaping cup diced king trumpet mushrooms

*(NOTE: I had 10 ounces of crimini mushrooms on hand and no stovetop smoker, so I improvised…)

Ingredients for Chowder Assembly:

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced celery (I used diced carrot because I didn’t have celery, but I did have plenty of carrots)
1 cup peeled and diced baking potato
2-1/2 to 3 cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon Tobasco or other hot sauce, more to taste (I used Sriracha)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste

Directions:

Prepare Cashew Cream:  Put the cashews in a bowl and cover with water.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to soak overnight.

Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water.  Place the cashews in a high-speed blender (this will need to be done in a couple of batches) and add enough water to cover by an inch.

Purée until completely smooth.  If needed, pass the cashew purée through a fine strainer to remove any course bits; the final “cream” should have a smooth, thick consistency of heavy dairy cream.  This will make about 3 cups cream (consistency will depend on the amount of water added while blending, and can vary from just over 2 cups to about 3-1/2 cups; thin as desired)

Prepare Kombu Broth*: Combine the combu and water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook 40 minutes, then strain.  This makes about 5 cups kombu broth, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe.  The broth will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 10 days.

*(Note: I didn’t have kombu on hand, so I used nori sheets, and followed the instructions as if they were kombu.  The flavor was probably milder than it would have been…but this worked.  I did, however, have to press on the nori to wring out the rest of the broth)

Prepare Smoked Mushrooms*: Prepare a stovetop smoker: Spread the chips in the base of the smoker, directly over the burner.  Place the drip pan (if using) over the chips and a rack on top of the drip pan.  Place the diced mushrooms on the rack (be sure to use a rack fine enough so the mushrooms don’t fall through) indirectly over the chips (do not place the mushrooms directly over the chips, as this can cause them to oversmoke and turn bitter).  Partially cover the smoker with a lid, leaving it open a cuple of inches.  (If you do not have a commercial stovetop smoker, you can substitute by using a heavy roasting pan, a cake rack, and heavy duty foil to cover the pan as a lid.)

Heat the smoker over medium heat just until you see smoke escaping through the opening.  Close the smoker entirely and gently smoke just to infuse the mushrooms with smoke flavor, not to cook, 3 to 5 minutes.  Be careful not to oversmoke, or the mushrooms will become bitter.

*(Note: I don’t have a stovetop smoker or anything I could have used to do the makeshift one…so instead I went about this a little differently.  After rinsing my mushrooms and cutting the stems even to the caps, I put them in a bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons of Liquid Smoke (make sure it is a gluten-free brand), a touch of salt, and some kelp granules.  I mixed this until everything was coated then placed them on a baking pan and roasted in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes.  I then diced them as the recipe called for. It yielded perfect results.)

Assemble Chowder: Heat the oil in a medium-size soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, celery (in my case, carrots), and potato.  Sweat the ingredients, stirring frequently, until softened, 8-10 minutes.

Add 1-1/2 cups each of the Kombu Broth, Cashew Cream, and all the smoked mushrooms.  Reduce the heat, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes to develop and marry the flavors.  The Cashew Cream will thicken as it cooks, and you will need to add water from time to time to thin and adjust the consistency.  We added about 3 cups of water as the soup cooked.

Season with lemon juice, Tobasco (or hot sauce of choice), salt, and pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.  This makes a generous 2 quarts of soup.

~*~*~

This recipe looks labor intensive at first glance, but I soaked the cashews overnight and making the cashew cream was a synch.  As for the broth, I made that ahead as well and let it chill in the fridge.  Then, when I needed it, I poured out the amount for this recipe and it was all set to go.  All I really needed to do was chop the vegetables and get everything cooking.

And what emerged was a flavorful, creamy, delicious vegan clam chowder.  The flavors were awesome.  And the texture of the mushrooms after roasting in the oven for that long was just like a clam tasted (back before my vegetarian days and when chowder was safe to eat).  I wasn’t sure what to think about this as I started to cook everything together in my big pot on the stove, but the end result was awesome.

I can’t wait to heat up more and enjoy it all over again.

As a side note, this soup is freezer-friendly.  So go ahead and freeze the extra if needed and allow it to thaw when you’re ready to have more.  Otherwise, the soup does keep for about 1 week in the fridge.

This is TOTALLY going to be made over and over again.  Shockingly delicious.  But, then again, Kris Carr enlisted the help of Chef Tal Ronnen for this one…so it’s no surprise this soup is packed with awesomeness.

Make it.  Go ahead.  I dare you!

Subway and Quiznos could learn a thing or two about gluten-free options from Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop

Erbert & Gerbert's Sandwich Shop, Apple Valley, Minnesota
Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, Apple Valley, Minnesota

Restaurant: Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, Apple Valley, Minnesota

It has been ages since I have set foot into a sandwich shop.  Ages.  No Subway.  No Quiznos.  I used to frequent them all the time.  ALL.  THE.  TIME.  Then, the news came that I had to go gluten-free…and these favorite places to grab a quick sandwich fell to the wayside.  No gluten-free options available.  At least not here.  I have heard the rumblings that Subway has tested a gluten-free market in some locations…but nothing further has come of that.  Which is too bad.  I really loved my lunches from Subway.

My sandwich shop hiatus, however, came to an end while I was visiting Minnesota this past week.  I came to see my family, spend time with my grandpa, aunt, cousins…old friends…and run.  Run a freakin’ half marathon while there.  Because…that’s what I do.  Every trip I take these days has to be centered around what I eat and where.  It’s imperative, when you have food allergies and intolerance that you have an idea of where you can safely eat while on the go.  I am on the go a lot on my trips, even ones to see my 91-year-old grandpa and company.

On my last day in Minneapolis, I was tooling about the Twin Cities, hitting up some bookstores, running stores, indulging in a massive banana split (which I split with my roomie) to celebrate a good race on Sunday…and as 3:00 p.m. neared, and the imminant time to head back to grandpa’s house to pack up and head to the airport for our 7:00 p.m. flight back to Louisville, Cathy and I knew we needed to get some actual food into our system.  And it was best done outside of the rather exorbitant airport choices, not that there is ever much that I can eat at an airport.

Before leaving Louisville, we were scouting out some restaurant options and Cathy spotted this small, regional chain called Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop.  Why did it catch her eye?  Gluten-free options…and not limited to a salad bar.  In fact…salad isn’t even an option (like at other sandwich shops like Subway and Quiznos) on their menu.  This place is all about the sandwiches, and they proudly serve up a gluten-free option on Udi’s bread.  Not just any Udi’s bread though.  Erbert & Gerbert’s serves up their gluten-free sandwiches on a specially designed 6-inch Udi’s sub rolls.  So, you get to actually eat like everyone else in your party.  How amazing is that?

Never heard of Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop before?  You are not alone.  The small, very regional chain got it’s start more than 20 years ago in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and have since grown to include 50 sandwich shops within the United States. Their sandwiches are given fun names and prepared with flavor as the main focus.  If flavor doesn’t shine in a sandwich, why bother eating it, right?  So, at Erbert & Gerbert’s…it’s more about finding ingredients that work together, flavors that really inspire and astound the taste buds, and it’s not just an assembly line of various fillings and toppings.  Sandwich making is an art.  And it’s one that they do very well.

Cathy and I came into the Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop in Apple Valley, Minnesota with an early dinner on the mind.  I ordered first, as I was the problem child between the two of us.  A gluten-free vegetarian, however, is no challenge here.

My choice of sandwich was a Gluten-Free Jacob Bluefinger ($6.44 – regular price is $4.49, but there is an additional charge of $1.99 for the gluten-free bread).  No problem at all.  They rang it up.  Cathy chose the Giza ($5.49), which is, basically, Erbert & Gerbert’s BLT Sandwich.  It has cherry wood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and Hellmann’s mayo.  She got her sandwich on the honey wheat bread.

So…how does a sandwich shop handle gluten-free without the fear of cross contamination?  For Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop, it’s as simple as having a separate prep station for the gluten-free options.  Psst…Subway…Quiznos…you might want to start taking notes!  The chain actually certified three of their subs, the Boney Bill (classic turkey breast sandwich), the Comet Morehouse (ham & provolone), and the Jacob Bluefinger (vegetarian) as gluten-free as they are prepared separately from the rest.  You can get any of the chain’s 21 sandwich’s done gluten-free for an additional charge…but those sandwiches will not be certified gluten-free as the ingredients will be taken from the other sandwich prep area.  Erbert & Gerbert’s also reworked two existing soup recipes, the Cheddar Cheese & Broccoli as well as the Cheesy Asparagus soups to be gluten-free without changing the flavor of the soup.  Gotta love that.

I took a seat at the table and watched as Cathy’s sandwich was prepared on one station by one of the workers behind the counter.  Mine was prepared on a separate station by the one who took our order in the first place.  Both sandwiches came up to the counter at the same time and she and I tucked back into our booth to enjoy.

Aside from being a certified gluten-free sandwich as well as a great vegetarian option, I bet you are wondering what the hell the Jacob Bluefinger sandwich might be.  Let me enlighten you…

Jacob Bluefinger is one of Erbert & Gerbert’s Classic Flavors.  For me, it’s a gutted gluten-free sub roll from Udi’s that is packed full of double provolone cheese, tomato, lettuce, Hellmann’s mayo and avocado.  Sound delicious?  Believe me…it is.  In order to pack as much flavor into their sandwiches, Erbert & Gerbert’s removes the soft inner layer of bread and really layers in the toppings.  When the sandwich is complete, they place the “guts” of the bread on top of the sandwich and serve it up.

I took one bite of my sandwich…and knew…right then…that I needed to make this at home.  Because there are no Erbert & Gerbert’s locations anywhere near where I live.  Nope.  None.  Zero.  This sandwich was phenomenal.  The provolone cheese really paired well with the sweetness of the avocado.  The tomatoes added another nice taste, as they were ripe and just mingled well with the other ingredients.  The lettuce was crisp and fresh, bringing some texture to the sandwich.  Oh…this was heaven.  Here I was…finally eating a sub sandwich.  It had been over two years since I had been able to do that.  And I did so without any worries or fears that I could get sick from cross contamination.  And, the sandwich itself contained all of my favorite things…especially avocado, which I am obsessed with.  This cold sandwich was amazing.  Packed with creamy flavors that all worked together.  I savored every bite I could.  This might be the only time this year I got to actually enjoy a gluten-free sub sandwich.  And yes…I really enjoyed it.  Flavor definitely is key at Erbert & Gerbert’s…and this combination is a stellar winner in my book.

Here in the Louisville, Kentucky area, there are certainly a plethora of sandwich shops.  However, these have no options for me nor any way of preparing something safely without fear of cross contamination.  In my world, Subway and Quiznos are no-go’s.  To have a place like Erbert & Gerbert’s Sandwich Shop would be amazing.  For now, though, it looks like I must leave it as something to look forward to on my annual trek up to Minnesota.  I was blown away by the standards and the food here.  Now I know why this is my cousin Natalie’s favorite place to grab a sandwich.  Delicious.  And certified gluten-free!  This…is my happy face.

Erbert & Gerbert's Gluten-Free Jacob Bluefinger Sub Sandwich
Erbert & Gerbert’s Gluten-Free Jacob Bluefinger Sub Sandwich

Amy’s Black Bean Vegetable Soup a filling and mildly seasoned meal in a can

Amy's Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup
Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup

Product: Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup – $4.29+

As you may very well know by now…I love soup.  Absolutely LOVE soup.  If I have the time and ingredients, I will make any soup from scratch, freeze it, and eat it whenever the urge to slurp something hot and filling on a cold (or sometimes warm) day strikes.  This winter has been particularly good for soup.  Except my time hasn’t been as free as I wish it were at times, so a from-scratch soup doesn’t happen as often as I would like.  That being the case, I stocked up on a couple gluten-free and low-sodium cans of soup to grab if the need to warm up and have a quick meal should strike.

This was the case last night.  Over a week ago, my office moved buildings.  And, unfortunately, the temperature control is…not the best.  The building is old…but I still like to be able to feel my toes when I’m at the office.  Just sayin’.

Needless to say…I was freezing pretty much the entire day.  Which made me really not want to go on my fun run.  It was not bad outside last night, actually.  Somewhere in the low 40s, which is great running weather.  But, after being chilled to the bone all day, the last thing I really wanted to do was step outside, on purpose, and go for a 30 minute run in Louisville.

BUT…on the way home, my roommate talked me back into it.  After all, I had already had it in my head to prepare an easy meal prior to going (soup with a gluten-free and vegan grilled cheese sammie), that wouldn’t be too heavy, but will still power me through my run.  So, I agreed that I was being a wuss and said that when we got home, I’d warm up the soup and get the sandwiches cooking before changing and heading over the river to run with my running group.

Upon walking through the door to the apartment, I shed my jacket and immediately went to the kitchen to pull out a pot to warm the soup in.  The only can of soup left in my pantry (mental note made: buy more soup!) was Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup.  My roommate retrieved the can for me while I turned on the stove and got out the vegan cheese and other such items for the sandwiches.  I left the bread in plastic bags to thaw while we were at work.

I opened the can and poured it into the pan, setting it over a medium heat so that it gave me time to get the sandwiches assembled and into the skillet.  At first…it looked…rather disgusting.  This thin brown broth followed by chunks of vegetables and this thick black bean puree.  Yeah…it smelled okay…but it didn’t look very good.  I managed to give it a good stir and get all the ingredients incorporated together. This thickened up the broth and made it look much better overall.  I mean, it’s black bean soup…of course it’s not going to be beautiful.  But…it needs to at least look appetizing.

It heated while I got to making the gluten-free and vegan grilled cheese, and they did finish up at the same time. Miracle of miracles.  So, I plated the sammies and then grabbed a couple of bowls from my cabinet to ladle the soup into.  It wasn’t as thick as most black bean soups tend to be, but I loved being able to see the variety of vegetables that were included in this soup, so it wasn’t just beans and spices.  That was a nice touch.  And yes…it smelled amazing.  I will definitely concede to that fact.  I walked the bowl out to my roommate then went to put water in the pot to soak while I went to eat before getting ready to head out to my running group’s Monday run.

I asked her as I was getting my food together what she thought of the soup.  She said that it reminded her a lot of chili, which she has been craving, so that was a good thing.  And if the roommate likes it…that’s also a good thing.  She can be quite picky about certain things.  And, human nature deems that all of us prefer different flavors and textures.  I love a lot of spice in my food, so I found this rather unimpressive in that category, while she thought there was some heat to it.  I found it mild, she found it sort of spicy.  See what I mean?

Overall, however, it did it’s job.  It was a satisfying meal that provided plenty of nutrients, protein, and wasn’t overkill on the calories and sodium like a lot of soups can be.  Especially when they involve heavier ingredients like beans.

In fact, a serving size of this soup is half the can.  And that will only set you back 140 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.  How awesome is that?!  A serving does contain 620 mg of sodium, which is higher than I like…but lower than a lot of soups on the market.  So, we went with it.  And, thanks to the black beans, one serving packs 6 grams of protein to your diet.  That’s amazing.

So, while I would have liked a little more spice, this soup is a safe, gluten-free and dairy free soup.  No cholesterol.  And, most importantly, filling and delicious.  If you like a little more flavor…add some of your own spices or a dash of hot sauce.  I might do that next time.  This soup is rich and filling and was the perfect way to warm up before going for a chilly run.

Another delicious product from Amy’s Kitchen.

A bowl of Amy's Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup
A bowl of Amy’s Organic Low Fat Black Bean Vegetable Soup