Vegetable Powders

Magic in the kitchen is really all about enhancing flavor and, whenever possible adding nutrition.  That often means very expensive little jars of flavorings, extracts and packages of fresh herbs.

Recently I discovered a way to make many of those extra special ingredients at home for much less money (thank you, doomsday preppers).   I started with dehydrated tomatoes.  I used both fresh from the garden, and a #10 can of diced organic tomatoes from Costco ($2.79 for the whole thing).  It seems like a lot, but the end product could easily fit into a 1 gallon zip lock or a couple of quart jars.  It took about 24 hours (time can vary) to get the tomatoes to a dehydrated state.  I loaded up the spice grinder, and pulsed until the tomatoes were a fine powder.

Making Tomato Powder

Making Tomato Powder

After grinding, press the powder through a sieve to remove the large pieces.  Save the larger pieces to use in soups or as a sprinkle on garnish.

Tomato Powder

Tomato Powder

Store the powder in the cupboard in a tightly capped glass jar.  Add a spoonful to sauces, soups, homemade pasta dough, almost anywhere you would like to have the tomato flavor with out the need to reduce the water content.  Careful though, it’s pretty intense flavoring.

Another really great flavor enhancer is mushroom powder.  This is very expensive to buy so making it at home is a real money saver, and it’s also a stealthy way to add great mushroom flavor to any dish without upsetting all the anti-mushroom eaters.  I bought the mushrooms on sale.    I cleaned and sliced the mushrooms and put them in the microwave for about 1 minute.  This enhances the flavor.  (Some people even cook them first, or use the mushrooms from their stock, puree and spread them on the fruit leather sheet in their dehydrator, but it’s not a necessary step.)

Quick Steaming Mushrooms

Quick Steaming Mushrooms

After microwave steaming them, I placed the mushrooms in a single layer in the dehydrator.  It took about 12 hours to reach the desired state, but this can vary.

Dried Mushrooms

Dried Mushrooms

Once dried, I put them in the spice grinder and pulsed until I had a fine powder.  A word of caution, don’t open the spice grinder right away or you’ll be inhaling mushroom powder for the next 5 minutes or so.  I like it in my food, just not in my lungs.  Again, pass the powder through a sieve and put into a glass jar.

Drying Mushrooms 009

Last, but certainly not least, there’s kale.  We drink a lot of protein shakes and smoothies, and adding green vegetables is a super way to up the nutrition and to put some extra vegetables in your dishes without attracting any unwanted grousing.  The process is very similar to both tomatoes and mushrooms.  I cut and washed the kale and dried on paper towels.

Fresh Kale

Fresh Kale

Place the kale pieces on a single layer in the dehydrator.  You can crowd them, but don’t stack them up.  It’s easier to handle if you work with smaller, salad size pieces.

After the Drying

After the Drying

Process in the spice grinder until you get a fine powder.



Kale Powder

Kale Powder

Pass it through a sieve and store in a glass jar.

Add a teaspoon to shakes, smoothies, soups or pasta dough.  You can do this in your oven if you don’t have a dehydrator, and they are great additions to your pantry.


Three Seasonings

Three Seasonings

Let me know your ideas for using powders.

E Sign



Bean Day

This is my first post in quite some time due to some medical issues, but I’m back and full of beans, so to speak.

One of the most nutritious and least exBlack and White Beanspensive ingredients, and something I always keep in my pantry, is dried beans.  Canned beans are convenient, but ounce for ounce, dried beans are less expensive and you don’t have to worry about what the can is lined with, or how much salt is in the beans.  So I make beans the old fashioned way, sort, soak and simmer.  It’s not as complicated as you probably think.  About once a month, usually on a weekend, I have Bean Day.   Red and White BeansThe night before I sort through the beans I have on hand:  red kidney, white beans, black beans, pintos or even black eye peas.  I measure out a couple of cups of each, sort and rinse and put into bowls.  Cover the beans with water (about 2 inches over the beans) and soak overnight.

The following morning I set up the slow cookers (I have two) and if needed, the cast iron Dutch oven and/or the stock pot.  I rinse and drain the beans and put them into the pots, separated by type, and throwSoak the Beans in a bay leaf.  NO SALT TIL THE END.           

The hard part is over.  Now you just turn on the cookers and the burners, let them come to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and go do something else like work on that novel you’re writing (you could do laundry, but what fun would that be).

Check on the beans periodically to make sure they haven’t boiled dry.  Burnt beans cannot be saved, so pay attention.  It takes about 1 ½ to 2 hours to cook the beans to “just tender” depending on the pot (slow cookers take a lot longer than cast iron).  When the beans have reached the tender stage, add some salt, turn off the pot and let the beans rest for about 15 minutes.  I like to drain off the cooking liquid which I save for soup stock, that way the beans can be used for salads or other side dishes as well as soup.  Portion the cooled beans into labeled quart size freezer bags (for larger families you can use a larger bag).  Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet and put in the freezer for a couple of hours.  At that point you can more easily stack the frozen bags and save freezer space.  For a minimal amount of work you have beans ready to add to any dish, you’ve saved some money and you don’t have to worry about extra unwanted ingredients.

By now you’re starving so here is one of my favorite bean dishes:

Two Bean and Kale Soup

Two Bean and Kale Soup


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (which you can also make and freeze in flat bags)
  • 7 cups stemmed, chopped kale (about 1 bunch from the super market or a frozen bag from last summer’s garden)
  • 2 cups white beans (great northern or cannellini)
  • 2 cups red kidney or black beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or savory


1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté until tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in 3 cups of the vegetable broth and kale. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer until kale is crisp-tender.

2. Place half of the white beans and remaining 1 cup vegetable broth in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Add pureed beans, the remaining white beans, kidney or black beans, and pepper to soup. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the remaining teaspoon salt, or to taste, vinegar, and herbs.

Forget About it Until the Smell Makes You Crazy

Sometimes you find a dish that’s just so delicious you can’t believe it’s made from something as ordinary as lentils.  At my house, vegetarian lentil soup is a huge favorite, and since it’s one of those soups that’s great on Monday and just gets better and better by lunch time Thursday, I’m making plenty of it.  It’s also really easy and cheap so what’s not to love about that.   Best of all you can do something else while it cooks.

There are countless recipes for lentil soup, but this is my version and I encourage you to use whatever combination of ingredients suits your tastes.

Really Easy Vegetarian Lentil Soup

  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 carrots, rough chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, rough chopped
  • 2 cups fresh kale (any kind), rough chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 red pepper (jalapeno, anaheim), rough chopped
  • 2 cups dried lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves (mine are small, so I use two)
  • 4-6 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper

Sometimes you just get tired of chopping vegetables, so I really like this dish because I get to use my food processor.

  1. Put the onion, carrots, celery, kale and red pepper into the food processor and pulse several times until you have a small chop mixture.
  2. Spray the bottom of a soup pot or dutch oven, and bring to a medium heat.  Add the vegetable mixture and sweat until the fragrance is unbearable.

Lentil Soup Veggie Base II




3.  Add the broth, lentils, herbs and salt and pepper.

Vegetable Broth

4.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, put the top on and wait.  Let everything simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, checking now and then to make sure it doesn’t boil dry.

The great thing about lentils is that they don’t get mushy (unless you mush them).  You can blend for a smooth soup, but I like the homey, rustic texture of the lentils.  Serve in bowls with a big chunk of fresh bread, or a dollop of sour cream.

Best Vegan Lentil Soup 001

Helpful Hint:  You can make extra of the veggie mixture. Put some in a zip lock and stick in the freezer for another soup day.