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Food with a Great Personality (and Tuscan Bean and Chard Soup)


[Dinner Bowl with millet, sesame chard, grated carrot, avocado, grape tomatoes, and almond sauce.]

When I was about four and the Nurse was eight, my parents decided to have our portraits taken.  Now, in those days (we’re talking Dark Ages of technology, folks) no one had heard of digital photography, let alone Photoshop; you had to make due with photos as they appeared once developed, sometimes days or weeks after you’d snapped them in the first place. 


[Insalata Roma: Mesclun greens with roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, “goat cheese” and balsamic vinaigrette.]

In those days, the style was to dress up your kids, have them sit still for an hour or so while a photographer (who had arrived at your home hours earlier, toting enormous cameras, lenses, black boxes, velvet throws and a host of other tools of the trade) cajoled your child into staring at the camera long enough so that he could snap fifty or so photographs.  Then, he went away and developed the photos, returning a few weeks later with the contact prints so that you could choose the one you wanted.


[Purple Monster I: gluten-free pancakes with blended berry sauce and tofu scramble.]

In order to simulate traditional artists’ portraits, the photographer blew up the black and white print to portrait size, then painted over the original with colored oil paints. These “portraits” were then hung in ornate gold frames, usually in the living room or family room.  Most of my parents’ friends had similar portraits hanging in their own homes (with their own kids in the frames, that is).  In fact, the  image of four year-old me, a Mona Lisa smile on her face and hair teased and flipped like a 50s housewife’s, wearing my favorite dress with the white princess collar and pale blue crinolines, still gazes over my dad’s sofa (with matching portraits of each of my sisters on either side).


[Purple Monster II:  Red cabbage slaw with green apples, toasted walnuts and poppyseed dressing.]

Why am I telling you all this, you wonder?  Well, occasionally there were kids who simply wouldn’t participate (I recall hours of silly voices, fuzzy bears and sparkly jewelry passing before the CFO’s tear-stained face on the day, years later, of her portait-sitting; after almost four hours, the disheveled photographer finally elicited a semi-smile, which is the shot that was ultimately used).  Worse, there were sometimes kids who were more than happy to oblige the photographer, but who, after all the developer was mixed, the paper bathed in the stop bath and the photos hung to dry, simply weren’t meant for such things.


[Gluten free pizza with pesto, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic and red onion.]

Well, sometimes, I cook food that tastes great, but for one reason or another, doesn’t give good blog. You know the meals–either you chomp them up too quickly, and by the time you remember to snap a pic, the meal is half gone; or else you snap and snap, eventually tuning in more to the rumbling in your stomach than the food on the table, and give up before you acquire that one useful photo.  In these cases, I usually file the pics away, assuming I won’t be using them. 


[Thai-inspired Coconut Curry Tofu Scramble with spinach, carrot, peppers and cashews.]

Still, some of those foods were really tasty.  And just because they’re not photogenic, does that mean they should miss out?  Heck, no! Just like the legendary blind date “with the great personality” (ah, if only I had a dime for all the times I was described in such a way), these dishes are really wonderful if you give them a chance. 


[Tuscan Bean Soup, adapted from this recipe–my version below.]

And so, I thought it might be fun to share some of the more homely–yet still appealing–foods I’ve made in the past few months.

Just don’t try to snap their portraits.


Mum, you know, we let you snap our portraits all the time.  But if you want me to smile, well, how about a little cajoling with treats or a frisbee?”

Tuscan Bean Soup

This is a thick, filling, and comforting soup for cooler months.  I used the stems from the chard, but found their flavor a bit overpowering; I’d leave them off next time.  

1 pound (450 g) dried white beans (Great Northern, cannellini, or navy),  picked over and rinsed

2 Tbsp (30 ml) organic coconut oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

6 cups (1440 ml) vegetable stock or broth

2 cups (480 ml) water

1-2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp (1 ml) black pepper

1/2 pound (225 g) swiss chard (silverbeet), stems discarded and leaves chopped

1 tsp (5 ml) salt, or to taste

nutritional yeast for sprinkling on top

Soak beans in cold water overnight, or at least 8 hours.  Discard water, rinse the beans, and set aside.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, fennel and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the beans, stock, water, bay leaf and pepper and simmer, uncovered, until beans are tender, 45 minutes to an hour.

Stir in the swiss chard and salt to taste and continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Remove about 2 cups of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth, or use an immersion blender and blend briefly in only one or two spots so that most of the soup remains chunky.  Stir the blended soup back into the pot, simmer until heated through, and season to taste.  Garnish with nutritional yeast, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings.  May be frozen.

Last Year at this Time: Beans Nested on Greens

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs



28 comments to Food with a Great Personality (and Tuscan Bean and Chard Soup)

  • mmm. that soup looks so tasty! and so does everything else, especially those pancakes 🙂 and your puppy is so cute, as always 😀


  • A-K

    Well, I think all of those dishes are making me hungry, so I don’t understand this lack of photogeneity (is that a word?)… but I do understand about the not-good-blogging thing. Yum, though, seriously! I want to know more about those gf pancakes!


  • Your soup sounds delicious. I agree some dishes really don’t photograph well for me either. Typically I post them anyway hoping people will read the recipe instead of focusing on the photo. Although I really know that isn’t likely to occur.



  • I’d say that this soup has much more than a great personnality: it is beautiful too! But hey, I’m a soup lover, so I may be biased…


  • I don’t know Ricki, these foods all look pretty good to me – your standards are just so high… But I do know what you mean. I file “those” photos into a folder called “random.” Then I may pull them out if I can’t think what to post, or, if I’m doing vegan mofo, and posting every day. I’ve gone through quite a few “random” photos this month.


  • GLUTEN FREE PIZZA!! MUST HAVE RECIPE!! I am thinking that I may start an ACD and you make it seem so much more possible than it seems. It is definitely a daunting diet no matter how healthy I eat.


  • that food looks awesome, and the pictures are great! But I do have many super yummy dishes that just aren’t as purty.


  • You need to open a restaurant, my dear.


  • Ricki, these photos are gorgeous! Truly, you are an incredible artist! These recipes form quite the powerful collection, because they all sound like they have positively delicious personalities, AND they’re beautiful! 🙂

    P.S. LOVE the puppy photo… 🙂


  • my younger sister would not smile for her baby portrait and was told she was so beautiful she didn’t need to – maybe that is what the photographer said to difficult babies 🙂

    actually I think you must be getting fussy about your photos because these all look very appealing


  • Oh Ricki, I hope you are working on a second cookbook already!


  • Your pictures always look gorgeous Ricki! That was one of the first things that drew me to your blog.


  • Courtney

    As usual, all of your photos look amazing and drool worthy and make me hungry, so I don’t think you have to worry about your food being unphotogenic…you could make a pile of slop look appealing! And that soup?! Perfect for a cool rainy day–which is exactly what today is here 🙂 Yum!



  • Jes

    The soup is beautiful and the recipe looks delicious–I often find that unphotogenic food is some of the best!


  • You big liar! Those pics are gorgeous, and the food looks amazing! I love the look of that cabbage slaw, and the dinner bowl (one of my favourite methods of presenting dinner) makes my mouth water! Where’s my bib??!

    However, I confess that I too have a whole library of photos that I’ll probably never blog about…Funny, eh?

    And ps. When I was 14 or 15 my mum’s friend persuaded to get me to do some “glamour shots”…Two things: feather boas and lip liner up to my nose. I suppose the lip liner was supposed to make my thinnish upper lip look fuller, but it looked more like a rash. Or maybe a nosebleed….and btw, my mum still hangs this photo in her living room (to my horror)…


  • Your meals are all so appetizing! Pizza looks amazing!


  • ooohhh that pizza! Heaven 🙂

    Love the puppy pic.


  • To me, all the pics look great; they made me hungry…and I just finished breakfast. Everything looks colorful and nutritious.


  • Kim

    I agree, those pics all look beautiful, and I’d eat any of it in a heartbeat. speaking of which, I think I may make this soup over the weekend, it looks great!


  • Mom

    I LOVE beans&greens! Before retiring a spur-of-the-moment lunchbox might contain a serving of turnip greens topped with kidney beans – nutritious, filling and fast, usually seasoned with whatever was the current favorite salad dressing – definitely not upscale or elegant.
    Thanks for sharing about the pictures. Mine are never as great looking as yours.


  • You seem to think we’re all here for your baked goods. And we are. But not exclusively. In fact, my favourite post of yours to date has been the tribute to bowl food — your versions of the mish-mash bowl with recipes for assorted sauces. Yes, I love to look at DDD’s baked goods, but it’s largely window shopping. We bake once a week, at most. Lunch and dinner, on the other hand, we make every day. Healthy, simple and inspired dishes — exactly what you’ve deemed non-photogenic and not quite worthy above — are ever so welcome and useful. More please! (And no apologies necessary.)


  • [To Everyone–thank you so much for your kind words about the photos. I really wasn’t fishing for compliments! There’s just “something” about certain of my photos that I either like or don’t like. . . and these were not favorites.]

    The pancakes were a mix of recipes from a few GF blogs, and some other stuff I threw in myself. I didn’t keep the “recipe” because I wasn’t entirely happy with the final result (or the ugly purple sauce!). I’m still working on a GF pancake, though, and will post it as soon as I’ve got it down!

    Vegan Epicurean,
    I think most people read food blogs for the recipes, don’t they? I don’t worry too much about the photos if the recipe sounds good! 🙂

    Organic Ashley,
    The pizza “crust” was the same as in my Freeform Tomato Tart. It wasn’t perfect for a pizza, but worked really well in the tart!

    If someone wants to supply the space, I’m in. 😉

    That photo story is too funny!–“like a rash”!! Ha! But it IS sweet that your Mum still has the picture up in her house!

    Thank you so much! I guess I never thought of it that way–but we DO eat 3 meals a day and eat baked goods only occasionally (well, now I eat them only occasionally!). Since my own bent is toward baked goods (well, all desserts, actually, as the blog name will attest), I assume everyone else over here feels the same way. Glad to be disabused of that notion! Lots more food will be coming your way, no worries 🙂


  • As usual, Ricki, my mind is blown! Too much veggie goodness. Love the pizza and REALLY love the curries, not to mention that cabbage slaw. Yum!


  • my mom would dress us up and take us to JC Penny’s to have our photos taken. weeks later she’d pick out the prints she wanted – i remember those days. she was pretty cool about it & i even convinced her to let me bring along my guinea pig to be in one of the photos, too! ah ah ah! it was awesome, and kinda fun! i think all the eats you showed look super stellar, Ricki – especially the gluten-free pizza, dinner bowl with tasty millet, and the coconut curry ‘fu scramble. your tuscan bean & chard looks looks lovely, and dan & i love us some tasty bean soup with greens. i can’t wait to give it a whirl! mmmmmmmmmmm!


  • I love this post! I sometimes have some seriously beige coloured dinners, they’re might delicious, but….very….um….well….beige. This dinner sounds delicious!


  • What are you talking about?? All these meals are totally photogenic! As I was reading through the post and looking at the meals and captions I was thinking wow I wish all my meals looked this good! The dinner bowl at the top and the Thai inspired coconut curry tofu scramble would be my first choices though I wouldn’t turn down any of the meals!


  • It’s not quite soup weather in Texas but you had me at Beans & Greens – one of my favorite combinations!


    Ricki Reply:

    Ha ha! As much as I’d love you to make my recipe, I’m glad it’s not soup weather over there. . . lucky you! 😉


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