Wheatless Wednesday – Curried Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

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Happiness is…hot soup on a cold day.

On Monday I shared 25 things to make with sweet potatoes since I had just been gifted a big back of them…So which of the recipes did I decide to make?  Soup!   Curried Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup to be specific.  It finally rained more than a few drops here in Northern California and when its cold and wet outside, soup is the ultimate comfort food since it warms you up from the inside out. I love this flavorful gingery soup, made creamy from the sweet potatoes and not from adding cream or butter.  At only 144 calories per serving (1 1/4 cups), this is a low calorie, zero cholesterol meal with a high nutrient payoff; 4.1 grams protein, 3.9 grams fiber, with loads of vitamins, including Vitamin C to help fight winter colds, plus iron and calcium.

This week we are eating orange on the rainbow.  So what does orange do for us?

“Most yellow and orange food is packed with carotenoids, which give them their vibrant colour. Three of the most common carotenoids – alpha-carotene, beta carotene and beta cryptoxanthin – can be converted from foods into vitamin A in the body. This nutrient is needed for good vision in dim light, normal growth and development, a strong immune system and to keep the skin and cells that line the airways, digestive tract and urinary tract healthy. But thanks to their antioxidant activity, there’s also evidence to suggest that carotenoids – and especially beta carotene, found in orange and yellow food – might help to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

However, these findings haven’t always been shown with supplements of beta-carotene, so it’s much better to boost intakes through eating foods which are naturally rich in beta-carotene such as carrots and sweet potatoes.” (Weightloss Resources)

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TIPS:  If I have really fresh, youngish carrots, I like to keep their peels on since so many of the nutrients are in or just under the peel and it’s a shame to cut them off.  Just scrub them with a vegetable brush or sponge and rinse.  They should be smooth and shiny.  If you have older carrots, you may have to peel them because the skins can have a bitter flavor that is best removed.

CURRIED CARROT, SWEET POTATO AND GINGER SOUP

1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots (2-3 large)
3 cups peeled sweet potato
1 1/2 cups carrots (2-3 large)
1 tablespoon grated ginger (or ginger paste)
2 tsp curry powder
1 quart vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Peel and cube sweet potato into about 1/2 inch pieces.

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  • Scrub carrots and slice or chop them into 1/2 inch pieces.

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  • Peel  ginger and grate about a tablespoon.

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  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots; saute 3 minutes or until tender.

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  • Add potato, carrots, ginger, and curry; cook 2 minutes.

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  • Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender; taste and add salt if necessary.

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  • Pour half of soup in a food processor; pulse until smooth. Repeat procedure with remaining soup.

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  • Clean saucepan and pour soup back in and reheat.

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  • Serve with a swirl of plain yogurt and cilantro with a pinch of paprika (optional).

Curried Carrot, Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots (2-3 large)
3 cups peeled sweet potato
1 1/2 cups carrots (2-3 large)
1 tablespoon grated ginger (or ginger paste)
2 tsp curry powder
1 quart vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt

  • Peel and cube sweet potato into about 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Scrub carrots and slice or chop them into a/2 inch pieces.
  • Peel  ginger and grate about a tablespoon.
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots; saute 3 minutes or until tender.
  • Add potato, carrots, ginger, and curry; cook 2 minutes.
  • Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender; taste and add salt if necessary.
  • Pour half of soup in a food processor; pulse until smooth. Repeat procedure with remaining soup.
  • Clean saucepan and pour soup back in and reheat.
  • Serve with a swirl of plain yogurt and cilantro with a pinch of paprika (optional).

Meatless Monday – Roasted Red Pepper and Red Lentil Soup

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This is a One Pot Wonder!  Soup is known to be a comforting and healing food. I just got my first cold of the year, possibly a result of the multiple cross country airplane flights I’ve taken or maybe its just a change of season sniffles.  I was craving warm, hearty and a bit spicy to clear everything up.  So soup was a natural choice. My friend, Sandy had just given me a platter of roasted red peppers and tomatoes that she said her family wouldn’t eat.  Their loss was my gain and the inspiration for today’s soup.  I decided to pair both roasted red veggies with red lentils to make a flavorful and spicy soup.  Yum…  Just what the doctor ordered.

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People often ask me  if I’m getting enough protein since I’ve stopped eating meat. The answer is YES! This soup is rich in protein as well as vitamins and minerals, from both the lentils and the veggies. The protein content of Red Lentils is comparable to that of one serving of meat, but generally healthier because they contain low levels of fat. In one cup of red lentils, you consume nearly 18 grams of protein which is the same as one 3-ounce serving of chicken breast but without the 3 grams of fat. Lentils are also rich in slow-digesting carbohydrates and dietary fiber that keep you feeling full and satisfied.  (Read:  Less likely to find yourself standing back in front of the open refrigerator.) I will throw one last little factoid at you.  We learned from Eating the Rainbow that red foods (especially tomatoes) are loaded with lycopene, an important antioxidant which is good for a healthy heart, lowering the risk of some cancers and protecting the skin from ultra-violet light. So dig in!

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TIPS:  Okay. I was just given roasted tomatoes and red peppers, however, if you don’t have the time or inclination to roast them yourself, you can buy them already roasted in jars or substitute a can of fire roasted tomatoes and saute diced red peppers with the onions.

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ROASTED RED PEPPER AND RED LENTIL SOUP

2 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers
2-3 large red tomatoes (or one can of fire roasted tomatoes)
1 red chili pepper (or jalapeno)
2 cups dried red lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp cumin
1/4 – 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

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  • If roasting red peppers (and tomatoes), broil until the skin has blackened, 5-8 minutes.  Turn to broil the other side.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Roughly chop and set aside.

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  • In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, chili pepper, and garlic and saute several minutes.

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  • Add the red peppers and tomatoes and stir to combine.

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  • Add the lentils, vegetable stock and spices and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

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  • Let the soup cool slightly and puree in a food processor or blender.  You may have to do it in two batches.

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  • Clean the stockpot and return the soup to the pot.  Reheat.

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  • Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt, sliced chili peppers or fresh herbs.

Roasted Red Pepper and Red Lentil Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers
2-3 large red tomatoes
1 red chili pepper
2 cups dried red lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp cumin
1/4 -1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

  • If roasting red peppers(and tomatoes), broil until the skin has blackened, 5-8 minutes.  Turn to broil the other side.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Roughly chop and set aside
  • In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, chili pepper, and garlic and saute several minutes.
  • Add the red peppers and tomatoes and stir to combine.
  • Add the lentils, vegetable stock and spices and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Let the soup cool slightly and puree in a food processor or blender.  You may have to do it in two batches.
  • Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt, sliced chili peppers or fresh herbs.

Wheatless Wednesday – Cauliflower Quinoa Chowder Topped with Caramelized Shallots

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It’s starting to look like Soup Season – and this one is magic!  I just arrived at my house in Maine, where summer and fall are definitely having a collision. Summer is not over yet; the days are still sunny and beautiful, but once the sun goes down the temperature drops and sweaters come out. School is back in session, so that means that grownups have to actually go back to work too.  It is this time of year when I still eat salads for lunch but start to crave warm homey food for dinner.  Last night I made this savory vegan Cauliflower Quinoa Chowder topped with caramelized shallots (not bacon), parsley and sliced green onion.  Mmmm… a definite Winner!  This is an easy One Pot Meal that serves about 6 adults with generous portions. This will be one I make again and again.

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This soup has two magic ingredients:  cauliflower and quinoa.  Cauliflower is the chameleon of vegetables.  It can take the place of flour (Pizza Crust), pasta (Mac and Cheese), grain (Tabouleh) or potatoes (Cauliflower Puree).  Adding Cauliflower to foods is a sneaky smart way to get some nutrients in your diet.  Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and a whole host of vitamins and minerals.  I only used one potato in this dish and the cauliflower stepped in for the rest.  If you are trying to avoid carbs (even though potatoes are good ones), you can elinimate the potato altogether and add a bit more cauliflower.

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Quinoa is another master of illusion and can be the star of a main course casserole or added to veggies in a salad.  In this dish it is mixed in towards the end as a thickener and, as one of the Worlds ‘nearly perfect foods’ (as described on the package) it also provides a huge protein boost.  I used Pearl Quinoa which I have never used before, partially because I thought it would add good texture to soup (it did) but also to support the company, Alter Eco, a Fair Trade company who gets its organic quinoa from Quechua and Aymara farmers in who grow the grain 13,000 feet up on the arid and desolate Soar De Uyuni salt flat of Bolivia.  I want to support that kind of effort!  That said, any kind of quinoa will work, so use what you have.

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I adapted this recipe from  Foodie Crush but made a few changes to make it vegan (trying to use less milk and dairy) and based on what vegetables I had on hand.  She has a great recipe though, so you can click on the link to see the original.  I love the color and sweetness that the carrots added.  The original recipe called for red bell pepper which I didn’t have, so I added more carrots and a stalk of celery.  Follow your own tastes (or pantry).  I also used Original flavor coconut millk instead of regular milk and LOVED the added flavor.  This chowder gets it’s thick and creamy texture from the quinoa but also from pureeing one third to a half of the vegetable mixture before adding the quinoa.  If you like it chunky, puree less, if you like a smoother soup, puree more.  Its that easy!

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I love toppings and these really turn chowder into something special.  The caramelized shallots are worth the 15 minutes it takes, trust me.  I recommend making the shallots ahead or while the cauliflower and potatoes are cooking.  This is my Go To substitute for bacon and it works!  Be creative – or be a purist and go bare!

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I eased myself into Maine yesterday with a windy and challenging kayak across the lake where the headwinds tossed water into out kayaks at each wave.  Luckily we had the wind at our backs on the way back and breezed home but I definitely earned my dinner.  I was not disappointed.  I hiked Pleasant Mountain this morning instead of writing this blog (Sorry not sorry).  In the photo above you can see the White Mountains in the distance.  Now I’m looking for leftovers…

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CAULIFLOWER AND QUINOA CHOWDER

1/4 cup olive or coconut oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk (or any other kind of milk)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup pearled quinoa (or regular quinoa)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

TOPPINGS: (optional)

Carmelized shallots*Recipe below
Chopped parsley
Sliced scallions

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  • In large stock pot, garlic and onions in oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are opaque. Add celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes.

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  • Add potato, cauliflower, vegetable broth, coconut milk, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until cauliflower and potato are softened.

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  • Remove bay leaf. Ladle about 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add back to pot. Add salt and pepper.  Taste and add seasoning if desired.

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  • Rinse 1/2 cup quinoa in cold water and add to cauliflower mixture. Reduce to simmer and cook until quinoa is softened, about 15 minutes. If soup gets too thick add water and lower temperature.

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  • Add more liquid if needed.  Serve with desired toppings.  I highly recommend carmelized shallots, parsley and sliced scallions.

CARMELIZED SHALLOTS (makes about 1/4 cup)

6-8 shallots
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Peel and thinly slice shallots into rounds.

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  • Saute in oil for 15  minutes or so until golden brown.

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  • Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

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  • Place in a small serving dish along with other toppings.

Cauliflower Quinoa Chowder

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
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1/4 cup olive or coconut oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, diced1 teaspoon salt
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped (about 3 cup)
1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk (or any other kind of milk)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup pearled quinoa (or regular quinoa)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • In large stock pot, garlic and onions in oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are opaque.
  • Add celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Add potato, cauliflower, vegetable broth, coconut milk, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until cauliflower and potato are softened.
  • Remove bay leaf. Ladle about 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  • Add back to pot. Add salt and pepper.  Taste and add seasoning if desired.
  • Rinse 1/2 cup quinoa in cold water and add to cauliflower mixture. Reduce to simmer and cook until quinoa is softened, about 15 minutes.
  • Add more liquid if needed.  Serve with desired toppings.  I highly recommend carmelized shallots, parsley and sliced scallions.

CARMELIZED SHALLOTS (makes about 1/4 cup)

6-8 shallots
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

  • Peel and thinly slice shallots into rounds.
  • Saute in oil for 15  minutes or so until golden brown.
  • Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
  • Place in a small serving dish.

Meatless Monday – Summer Vegetable Chowder – Fully Loaded (Vegan)

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Sometimes in Summer you just have to step away from the salad bar and belly up to a big bowl of creamy comfort food.  Last night, the Maine skies were filled with Mother Nature;s fireworks.  Lightening  made a dramatic light display across the night sky, quickly followed by booming thunder, while we sat and counted the seconds on our fingers. If my dog was here, she would have been hiding under my bed.  This was a perfect night for Summer Vegetable Chowder, fully loaded, or more specifically, topped with tasty brown onion bits (instead of bacon), scallions, flaked parmesan and cilantro.  Yum!   This thick, creamy chowder is filled with seasonal veggies; zucchini, summer squash, potato and sweet corn simmered in a light vegetable broth with creamy coconut milk.

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I have been trying to experiment with more vegan recipes and using fewer animal products in my cooking.  This recipe is vegan except for the addition of parmesan as a topping which, of course, is optional). When I was sauteing the onions and celery, I forgot to stir for a few moments and some of the onions turned brown on the edges.  I started to pick the brown bits out and then tasted one and realized I had hit paydirt!  The browned onions were just the flavor that my vegetarian chowder was missing, so I decided to take the other half of the onion and make them on purpose to use as a topping.  Loved them! I used to be a big bacon lover and I am always looking for good substitutes.  These onion bits don’t get crispy like actual bacon does, but they have that same umami that we love so much.  Of course, toppings are optional, but… why not?

TIPS:  I used unsweetened coconut milk (fresh from a carton not a can) but any kind of milk would work, vegan or regular.  I also made it creamier by pureeing half of the cooked vegetables and putting the mixture back into the soup.  It’s a great way to add creaminess without adding heavy cream.  If you prefer a more brothy soup with more vegetables, then skip this step.

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SUMMER VEGETABLE CHOWDER WITH BROWNED ONION ‘BACON BITS’

1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped celery, diced
2 Tbsn coconut or olive oil (or vegan butter)
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound yellow summer squash, diced
1 pound zucchini, diced
3-4 ears fresh corn, cut off the cob
1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk (or other milk)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
TOPPINGS (Optional):
Browned Onion ‘Bacon Bits’ (*See directions below)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
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  • Saute onions and celery in olive oil or butter in a large stockpot for about 10 minutes or until tender.

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  • Add potatoes and vegetable stock and cook until softened, 15 to 20 minutes. Add squash, zucchini, corn, thyme and coconut milk and simmer until vegetables are soft.  Season with salt and pepper.

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  • For a thicker soup puree half of the potato/onion mixture in a blender or food processor and return to the stockpot. (This can also be done after cooking the potatoes instead if you want more chunky veggies.)

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  • While soup is cooking prepare Browned Onion ‘Bacon Bits’, if using, and set aside (Directions below).

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  • Prepare toppings, if using. In addition to the onion bits, I also served fresh herbs, shaved parmesan and sliced scallions.

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  • Ladle soup into bowls and allow guests to ‘decorate’ their dish with desired toppings.

BROWNED ONION ‘BACON BITS’

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  • Chop one half large onion and brown in 1 Tbsn olive oil or coconut oil and 1 Tbsn butter, vegan butter (optional) in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until browned, about 20 minutes.

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  • Transfer to a paper towel and let cool.  They won’t crisp like bacon but add that great salty, fatty flavor.

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  • Place in a small serving bowl when cool.

Summer Vegetable Chowder

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped celery, diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 pound yellow summer squash, diced
1 pound zucchini, diced
3-4 ears fresh corn
1 quart vegetable broth
2 1/4 cups coconut milk (or other milk)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
TOPPINGS (Optional):
Browned Onion ‘Bacon Bits’ (*See directions below)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • Saute onions and celery in olive oil or butter in a large stockpot for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  • Add potatoes and vegetable stock and cook until softened, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • For a thicker soup puree half of the potato/onion mixture in a blender or food processor and return to the stockpot. (This can also be done after cooking the squash)
  • Add squash, zucchini, corn, thyme and coconut milk and simmer until vegetables are soft.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • While soup is cooking prepare Browned Onion ‘Bacon Bits’, if using, and set aside (Directions below).
  • Prepare toppings, if using. In addition to the onion bits, I also served fresh herbs, shaved parmesan and sliced scallions.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and allow guests to ‘decorate’ their own bowls with desired toppings.

BROWNED ONION ‘BACON BITS’

  • Chop one half large onion and brown in 1 Tbsn olive oil or coconut oil and 1 Tbsn butter, vegan butter (optional) in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until browned, about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer to a paper towel and let cool.  They won’t crisp like bacon but add that great salty, fatty flavor.
  • Place in a small serving bowl when cool.