Sunday, August 1, 2010

Spanish Influenced Meal with Red Peppers and Mushrooms

Last night I had a hard time sleeping, for some unknown reason I was still awake at 1:49am. *ugh* When the alarm went off at 6am for the farmers’ market it was tough to drag myself out of bed. Of course I went but I wasn’t in the most chipper mood. ;-) As usual we did a quick lap around the market to see what the farmers had and to get our blood pumping. It seemed to help a little.

When we got to one of our favorite organic farmers he was just setting up. We gave him a hand unloading the truck and had everything out and on the tables in a few minutes. Doesn’t it always change your mood when you help another person? No matter how tired I am when I leave the house I always know I will feel better once we get to the market.

Once we got back from the market I realized I had forgotten a few things (including my list, duh). Dan and I walked over to the grocery store for another 5 pounds of organic carrots and a bag of apples (both for juice of course).

As tired as I was this morning the idea of making food was not the slightest bit appealing, though we needed to eat and my parents were expecting me to cook a late mid-day meal which has become traditional. I had barley mushroom risotto in mind but there was no way I felt like that much stirring. That is where the idea of soup came from; it was definitely much easier and just as tasty.

Since I was in the mood for Spanish food I decided to flavor the soup as if it were a tapas dish I order often. Knowing that I was going for a Spanish influence on the soup I decided to make my healthy version of another dish I order at our local tapas restaurant for our appetizer. It is very simple and takes only a few minutes to prepare if you are using jarred peppers. Here is what I made:

Slightly Sweet and Sour Roasted Peppers with Almonds and Capers
Serves 4


4 peppers, roasted and skin removed, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon agave
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dulse granules, to taste (or flaked sea salt)
1/2 tablespoon capers, drained – optional but recommended


Drain the roasted red peppers thoroughly and place in the container with a tight seal.  Or roast your own, directions here.

Water sauté the garlic for a few minutes until the water has evaporated. Combine the garlic, sherry vinegar and agave and pour over the peppers and refrigerate until needed.  Toss the peppers periodically to make sure they all absorb the flavor of the marinade.

To serve, bring the peppers to room temperature (to maximize the flavor). Top the peppers with almonds, capers, parsley and freshly cracked pepper. Add dulse or salt if desired. With the capers I didn’t think it needed any additional saltiness.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 44.79
Calories From Fat (25%) - 10.98

Total Fat - 1.34g
Saturated Fat - 0.11g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 36.07mg
Potassium - 204.69mg
Total Carbohydrates - 8.13g
Fiber - 2.78g
Sugar - 0.28g
Protein - 1.47g


The appetizer was definitely the star of the meal. Everyone remarked that it was so good and there was not a drop of oil. *pats self on back, LOL* Dan, who does not like peppers but eats them anyway, said “this was the best pepper dish I have made in a long time” and that he would be happy to eat this again. Seriously for Dan to mention this means it was home run. I really hope you try this. It is lightly sweet from the agave, a little tart from the sherry vinegar. There are salty pops from the capers, freshness from the parsley and crunch from the almonds. Can you tell I liked it? ;-) LOL

Mushroom and Barley Soup with Spanish Flavors

The poor soup almost didn’t stand a chance with the popularity of the appetizer. But I think it held its own. ;-) If you like mushrooms, lemon and smoked paprika you will enjoy this. The cashew crème fraiche added a little richness to the otherwise fat free soup. Here is what I did:

Spanish Flavored Wild Mushroom and Barley Soup
Serves 4


2 cups dried wild mushrooms
4 cups water
2 carrots
3 stalks celery
½ red onion
6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 cups water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1 cup barley, uncooked
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons freshly parsley, finely minced
1 lemon zested and juiced
4 tablespoons cashew crème fraiche
smoked paprika to top cashew crème


Combine the dried mushrooms and 4 cups of water in a microwave safe container. Heat until hot and allow the mushrooms to soak for 30 minutes. When the mushrooms are tender cut them into pieces that will fit on a spoon and strain the mushroom soaking liquid to add to the soup.

While the mushrooms are soaking cut the carrot and onion into rough chunks and put in your food processor. Chop the celery finely and add it to the food processor as well. The processor blade alone doesn’t do a great job on the “strings” in the celery. Toss in the garlic and process until everything is finely ground. You want the smallest pieces possible as you were making a Bolognese sauce. The mixture will almost be the consistency of mush.

Place this mixture in a larger heavy pot and add the other 4 cups of water. Add the mushrooms, soaking liquid and the remaining ingredients except (parsley, cashew crème and smoked paprika for garnish). Simmer (with the lid slightly ajar) until the barley is tender. This will take about an hour depending on the power of your burner. Be sure to simmer so the liquid doesn’t evaporate and stir every 10 to 15 minutes so you know it is sticking. Add more water if necessary.

To serve, remove the bay leaf, top the soup with a dollop of cashew crème fraiche and a pinch of smoked paprika

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 321.98
Calories From Fat (8%) - 27.14

Total Fat - 3.28g
Saturated Fat - 0.61g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 126.45mg
Potassium - 798.67mg
Total Carbohydrates - 70.25g
Fiber - 14.66g
Sugar - 4.26g
Protein - 9.8g


This is definitely not your traditional mushroom barley soup but we really enjoyed it. I like the lemon aspect as well as the smoked paprika. Of course I love any opportunity to get the antiproliferative properties of mushrooms into us. I will definitely make this again. All four bowls were empty at the end of the meal so I think everyone liked it.

Last night:

Dan and I decided to kick back and relax after the late mid-day meal with my parents yesterday. While I cleaned up the kitchen Dan watched a little sci fi he had DVR’d. Then we decided to watch a movie. While I don’t always mention movies this one was much better than we both expected so I wanted to share. We finally got around to watching “It’s Complicated”. Neither of us are huge Alec Baldwin fans but we both like Meryl Streep so we expected her to do a good job. I have to admit Alec Baldwin was much better than we expected. Parts of the movie had us both laughing out loud it was so funny. If you haven’t seen it I would recommend it if you need a “funny movie night”.

We ended up skipping dinner and having popcorn with the movie. Dan had his usual strawberry banana soft serve after the movie. I swear he could eat that stuff every night.

This morning:

After the market today and our unexpected trip to the grocery store for the things I forget we were a little hungry. I wonder why since we skipped dinner? For breakfast this morning we split a cantaloupe. I really love fresh local melons. They are so flavorful and juicy when they are in season.

Then we had a quick bowl of oatmeal topped with an equal amount of frozen wild blueberries, and a spirnkle of cinnamon and ginger and a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds for omega 3's.

Dinner tonight:

At the moment dinner is completely up in the air. We may have something simple like a big salad with lentil and walnut pate. But I actually have no idea. Also being so full from lunch doesn’t give me any desire to think about dinner at the moment.

Unrelated Note:

I think Dan wants to watch another movie this evening. If we choose something worth watching I will let you know about it later tonight or tomorrow.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. Talk to you again soon.


  1. I am so behind on your posts. The food looks so good right now. I am having a great trip but can't wait to get home to my own meals. Hope you are doing well!

  2. Heather,

    Your trip sounded like so much fun so far. I can't wait to hear all about it. ;-) Glad you are having a good time. I know what you mean about wanting to get home to your own kitchen and food. I get like that too!

    Enjoy the time you have left on your brief vacation. At least the weather has been better for you than we usually get this time of year.

    talk to you soon,


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