Day 140: Yellow Squash Soup with Spinach ♥
aka Early Autumn Leaves in Soup

Yellow Squash Soup with Spinach ♥, just squash, bell peppers and spinach in a simple soup but somehow ever so much more. Low carb. WW friendly. Easily vegan.
graphic button small size size 10 Today's easy soup recipe: Just yellow squash, bell peppers and spinach in a simple soup but somehow ever so much more. Great color, low carb and just one or two points for Weight Watchers. When made with vegetable broth, not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real". graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2005~
~more recently updated recipes~

FIRST THE POETIC It's still summer-warm here in eastern Missouri and even as I write, outside the cicadas are calling, described by Faulkner as the "rasp of summer, August". But this afternoon, an early-turning tree in the neighborhood began to glimmer with autumn gold. It'll be mid- to late-October before peak leaf color reaches the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys. Until then, our rolling hills will be a mix of green with yellow, then yellow with green. Just like this pretty soup!

NOW THE PRACTICAL If you've over-indulged for a few days and need/want to cut back, BRING ON THE CAKE. It's counter-intuitive, I know, but follow the logic.

graphic button small size size 10 You're feeling so full, intuition says to eat little, perhaps nothing.
graphic button small size size 10 But your body doesn't understand that rationale. If it's deprived of the calories it needs, it fears the onset of starvation and changes your metabolism to preserve body energy, to form body fat.
graphic button small size size 10 So ... the trick is to trick the body. Give it the calories it needs but in calorie-dense foods without bulk – i.e., cake.
graphic button small size size 10 Once you feel less full (with exercise added, for me it takes a day) return to the normal regimen, providing the body, each day, the tight range of calories (and nutrients and bulk) it needs but no more – i.e., not much cake.

Slow Cooker Tomato Grits ♥ Recipe

Slow Cooker Tomato Grits, another skinny recipe ♥, tastes way richer than its calories.
graphic button small size size 10 Today's slow cooker recipe: A "skinny" pot of grits that tastes every so rich, thanks to ripe tomatoes and a tiny bit of blue cheese. Weight Watchers friendly. Naturally Gluten Free. Vegetarian. graphic button small size size 10

So there comes the time, about now, when the tomato plants are at the height of their production, when it's suddenly time to start cooking tomatoes from the garden, not just chopping raw tomatoes for salads.

They're piling up on the counter, as ripe as can be, you don't want them to go to waste. But as a seasonal eater, you're also not going to pull out all the canning gear to make tomato sauce or something similar. Because, you see, here in the Midwest, garden tomatoes are for August, September and in good years, the early part of October. They're not for winter.

And so it came to be last fall. (Yes, I saved this recipe from then, knowing you'd appreciate it now more than then.) Twas a Friday night, the end of a long two weeks. Briefly, we talked about heading out for dinner, a strong Old-Fashioned called. Instead? I warmed up some Slow Cooker Tomato Grits cooked earlier in the day and cooked Frozen Steaks, you got it, straight from the freezer. With a good bottle of wine from downstairs? The best "Free" meal ever.

Curried Corn Chowder with Coconut Milk ♥

Curried Corn Chowder with Coconut Milk, another healthy soup ♥ A Veggie Venture
A hearty corn chowder, laced with zucchini and carrot and pungent with curry.

It's the time of year to throw a zucchini into everything we can. I know, I know, it's folly to think a household of three could make a dent in a backyard garden's zucchini production. Could a barnyard of pigs? I wonder.

For this soup, however, the zucchini was Plan B, after all, the goal was corn chowder not a mixed vegetable soup. But Plan A's farmers-market corn was wormy, only three of six ears were edible, the other three went straight to compost. But it turns out, I loved the zucchini addition, it not only added volume but also balanced the corn's natural sweetness. Besides? Color! The green inspired the addition of still more color, orange grated carrot.

Baked Orzo Casserole ♥ with Eggplant, Olives, Goat Cheese & More

Baked Orzo Casserole with Eggplant, Olives, Goat Cheese & More, another flavor-packed make-ahead summer casserole ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 A gorgeous summer casserole, orzo loaded with Mediterranean vegetables, every single bite delivers a surprise of fresh, summer flavors. The orzo casserole is inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi and is a great dish to carry during late summer and early fall. It easily switches between a vegetarian casserole or my favorite, laced with chicken. graphic button small size size 10

Oh people. I do love this casserole. SO.MUCH. You know how some casseroles are dense and heavy? Good for girding ourselves for cold weather! But this casserole is light and almost airy in texture, even though it's packed with late-summer and early fall vegetables like eggplant and tomato. Good for summer!

But what really makes this casserole special is how every bite includes so many different textures and flavors, tiny cubes of creamy eggplant and slivers of briney olive and sun-dried tomatoes and tiny burst of salty capers. And did I mention goat cheese? Yeah, goat cheese. For the record, I also buried chicken in the casserole, not too much, just enough to make it a substantial supper. But don't worry, the chicken is optional, this makes one mean, mean Meatless Monday vegetarian supper.

For my book club last week, I served it with Tomato Platter with Olives & Feta and a big summer salad. Sumptuous, that supper!

Fresh Tomato Sauce ♥

Fresh Tomato Sauce ♥, how to make tomato sauce, not for canning, but fresh for supper with perfect summer tomatoes.
graphic button small size size 10 How to make tomato sauce, not for canning, but fresh for supper. Make it with summer's best tomatoes and eat it straight-away, still warm from the stove, laced with the essence of basil. graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated~
~more recently updated recipes~

WAY BACK IN 2007 In the years I was digging my roots as a cook, I had the great fortune to move to Texas – nothing to do with Texas itself and everything to do with the fact that my mother's best friend from grade school lived all of two miles away. Phyllis and her husband tucked me under their culinary wings and on occasion, I'd spend a Sunday on a stool in their working gourmet kitchen, some times helping, mostly wide-eyed and soaking up the possibilities: I'd never heard of the stove-maker Viking, had never known a house with two ovens let alone a third dedicated as a warming oven, didn't know that pastry rolls out best on stone-cold marble.

So I have a whole collection of recipes bearing Phyllis' name. This is one. You'll see, it's not fancy food (though Phyllis would chide me for not blanching the tomatoes to remove the skins) but it is what I hope you think of as "classic Alanna", simple food prepared well.

The one requirement is really good tomatoes. If you're going to make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes, at least a sauce this simple, the tomatoes must-must be perfect-perfect. That said, my notes say that when tomatoes aren't in season, Phyllis also makes tomato sauce from boxes of Pomi Tomatoes, a good choice when good tomatoes aren't available. I also have good luck with (albeit pricey) canned San Marzano tomatoes, watch for them at Trader Joe's, I used them to make Quick Tomato Sauce two years ago.

EVER SINCE, OVER THE YEARS This is simple, spare fare, such an easy, celebratory way to revel in summer tomatoes. Another summery recipe from Phyllis I remade just last month? Cold & Creamy Cantaloupe Soup. Dreamy good!

"[Phyllis'] tomatoes/basil sauce - just perfect!" ~ Barbara
"I am making this again today ... awesome recipe." ~ Barbara

Day 107: Pasta with Zucchini Noodles, Ricotta & Basil Pesto ♥

Pasta with Zucchini Noodles, Ricotta & Basil Pesto, a summery Meatless Monday vegetarian supper ♥ A Veggie Venture
A summer classic, hot pasta tossed with ricotta and basil pesto. But here I've added zucchini noodles, both lightening the dish and somehow making it more substantial. And besides, it's zucchini season! It makes a light pasta side dish (it made a great base for Italian sausage) but also works as a pasta entrée for Meatless Monday, say.

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2005~
~more recently updated recipes~

So Full Disclosure. Way back in 2005, I hated this recipe. It just didn't work, the proportions were too far off. It called for a pound of pasta and a pound of zucchini and left it all swimming in oil. Not good. (And yeah, during A Veggie Venture's first year of experimentation, learning how to cook vegetables by cooking one in a new way every day, some of the recipes weren't up to my current standards. It's half surprising to me that so many did work really well even if others were complete duds.)

But that was then and this is now. I've completely turned the recipe upside down and oh man – oh man oh man oh man – it's so good!

I stuck with the premise, hot pasta and zucchini tossed with ricotta. But I changed the proportions completely. Now the recipe calls for just a half pound of pasta (don't worry, it remains very much a "pasta dish") and a full two pounds of zucchini. Better still? Zucchini noodles! :-)

And get this! While I didn't set out to create a Zucchini Mac 'n' Cheese, that's what this turns out to be except in a grown-up, sophisticated sort of way. For dinner one night this week, the guys at the table had it as a side dish with grilled sausages – that includes my 90-year old father who turns up his nose at "mushy" vegetables but has yet to realize those noodles he gobbles up once a week are actually not pasta but zucchini – me, I happily skipped the meat for a vegetarian supper.

"... delicious! Really easy to make with only few ingredients.." ~ Madli

Black Bean & Corn Salad ♥

Black Bean & Corn Salad, another great summer salad recipe ♥
Summer in a bowl, just fresh vegetables and a can of black beans, brightened with a cumin-lime vinaigrette. So good! A great salad for dinner or a potluck and just to keep in the fridge.

Well, hello, friends. It's been awhile, more than three months truth be told although not without reason. Since New Years, I've been caring for our 90-year old father, first long distance and then in March, he came to live with us. Oh, the time it's taken to get him settled in, making our home senior-safe with ramps and grab bars, finding/working with new home health caregivers and doctors – we love Dr. Milta Little! – and the thousand-and-one details that insist on instant attention.

Day to day, time moves in a sort of slow motion now. Often I just like to sit with my dad in a sunny spot outside the kitchen, just "being" – watching the birds at the feeders, basking in the sunshine, knowing he'll soon nod off but glad he's safe and comfortable and finding a measure of pleasure in another day.

And I cook. A lot, as one must since, get this? Three meals a day don't put themselves on the table! As I too settle into this new rhythm, I've learned the wisdom of routine. Every week I make bread and a pot of soup and a salad for the fridge. This way there's always something handy for a quick lunch or when a day is kidnapped by a trip to the emergency room, say. It happens but supper's covered.

Mostly, I'm revisiting the hundreds of tried 'n' true recipes from and A Veggie Venture. But every week, new recipes emerge too. This salad totally got me last week, it's made of staple ingredients, chances are good you might have all of them on hand right now. I loved the mix of vegetable crunch and bean softness. Glorious, this.

I'll be back when I can. Thank you for your understanding, I know I can count on that.