Meatless Monday – Creamy Mushroom Soup (Vegan)

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Calling all mushroom lovers!  My husband declared this the BEST MUSHROOM SOUP HE’S EVER HAD – and I have to agree with him.  I have had some pretty delicious mushroom soups in restaurants but I think this one, stocked with a blend of earthy mushrooms and a rich and creamy base, beats them all.  Best of all it is very easy, ready in less than 30 minutes and requires few ingredients.  It’s vegan too! Many soups are made delicious by adding thick creamy ingredients that add fat and cholesterol and actually mask the natural flavors of the main ingredients.  I substituted the traditional heavy cream with almond milk and veggie broth, thickened with a bit of flour, which really cuts calories without losing flavor.  This soup was wonderful served immediately after cooking, but the small bowl that was leftover that I ate for lunch a couple of days later was even better.  So this is a great soup to make a day or two ahead and reheat when needed.  What could be easier? For other soup ideas, check out last week’s blog post, 12 Vegetarian Winter Soups.

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The stars of this soup are the mushrooms, so choose your favorites but make sure they are good quality. I love a combination of mushrooms to deepen the flavor and add texture.  I prefer brown criminy mushrooms over white mushrooms, also called button mushrooms, since I think they are more flavorful but how do they compare from a nutritional standpoint? White button mushrooms have more vitamin C and slightly more iron but criminy mushrooms are the clear mineral winner.  Criminy mushrooms have twice as much calcium and significantly more potassium and selenium than white mushrooms.  The two mushroom varieties contain similar amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin and niacin. Surprisingly, white mushrooms contain slightly more fiber and protein than criminis, although criminis are slightly lower in fat, however they are both extremely low in fat.(Livestrong) So nutritionally speaking, it’s really a toss up, so go with your tastebuds or better yet, use a combination for the ultimate in flavor and nutrition.

TIPS: I have provided substitutions in this recipe for gluten free people.  For more information on gluten free thickening agents, check out this article from SF Gate.  I would like to offer one word of caution for those who are not used to cooking with almond milk, make sure you buy unsweetened, not original flavor, or your soup stock will have an underlying sweetness that is hard to cover up.

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CREAMY MUSHROOM SOUP

  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, butter or vegan butter ( like half oil half butter)
  • 1 carton criminy or brown mushrooms (about 10 oz or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 carton Portobello mushrooms (2 large or 10 small)
  • 1 generous Tbsn flour (or cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour for GF)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups almond or cashew milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • salt and pepper to taste

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  • Saute onion in olive oil or butter in a large soup pot until translucent.

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  • Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel.  Don’t rinse or they will get soggy.  Cut smaller mushrooms in half and slice larger mushrooms. Really large Portobello slices might need to be cut in half.

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  • Add mushrooms to onion mixture and saute about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to lose their water.

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  • Stir in flour until absorbed by the juices and add thyme.  Let cook several minutes.  If you like really thick soups, add another tablespoon of flour.

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  • Add vegetable broth, soy sauce and 1 cup almond milk and stir to combine.  If you want it creamier, add the remaining almond milk.Cook about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until soup thickens and flavors develop.   If your soup is not as thick as you would like, dissolve another tablespoon of flour in a quarter cup of water, stir in and allow to simmer. Taste (as broths can vary in saltiness) and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • Serve hot with a sprig of fresh thyme

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil, butter or vegan butter
  • 1 carton criminy or brown mushrooms (about 10 oz or 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 carton Portobello mushrooms (2 large or 10 small)
  • 1 generous Tbsn flour (cornstarch, arrowroot or tapioca flour for GF)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups almond or cashew milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (or liquid aminos for GF)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Saute onion in olive oil or butter in a large soup pot until translucent.
  2. Wipe mushrooms with a damp papertowel.  Don’t rinse or they will get soggy.  Cut smaller mushrooms in half and slice larger mushrooms. Large Portobello slices might need to be cut in half.
  3. Add mushrooms to onion mixture and saute about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to lose their water.
  4. Stir in flour until absorbed by the juices and add thyme.  Let cook several minutes
  5. Add vegetable broth and 1 cup almond milk and stir to combine.  If you want it creamier, add the remaining almond milk.
  6. Cook about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally until soup thickens and flavors develop. If your soup is not as thick as you would like, dissolve another tablespoon of flour in a quarter cup of water, stir in and allow to simmer 10 more minutes. Taste (as broths can vary in saltiness) and add salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Serve hot with a sprig of fresh thyme

 

12 Vegetarian Winter Soups

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picmonkey-collage-1 SOUP GLORIOUS SOUP! Soup is the ultimate comfort food for cold, rainy or snowy days.  It’s hot, steamy goodness warms you up from the inside out. As promised, here is a collection of twelve of my favorite soups. Mmm, so good!  All soups are vegetarian or vegan (or easily adapted for vegans) and gluten and wheat free.  Since they are meat free, they are naturally low in calories but nutrient dense, so dig in!  Each link will send you to the recipe and original blog post. Sharing is caring. -J

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Tuscan Bean Soup with Squash and Kale

Cauliflower Leek Soup2

Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup

Black Bean Soup1

Spicy Black Bean Soup

CArrot Sweet Potato Soup1

Carrot, Sweet Potato Soup with Turmeric

Mushroom Barley Soup 1

Mushroom and Barley Soup with Cannelini Beans

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Fall Harvest Minestrone

Autumn Harvest Soup11

Butternut Squash and Potato Soup with Crispy Fried Sage

Black and White Chili

Black and White Chili with Garlic Toast

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup

Carrot Coconut Soup with Marinated Tofu Triangles

Butternut Squash Soup and Polenta Tower2

Butternut Squash Soup with Polenta Towers

Dhal Lentil Sou[p

Dhal Lentil Soup with Quinoa Cauliflower Cakes

 

Meatless Monday – Fall Harvest Minestrone

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It’s been raining outside, so… soup.  I actually could have called this ‘Stone Soup’ from the old children’s fable, because it’s less of a recipe than a gathering of what was readily available from my pantry; like the last of the tomatoes and zucchini from the garden paired with root vegetables and winter squash.  I know several people, like me, who hastily gathered the last of summer’s bounty from our gardens before the season’s first storm hit. This minestrone is a broth based soup so it isn’t heavy but it is hearty and filling with the addition of potato, butternut squash and cannellini beans.

20161015_125926 Fall is a fabulous time for food. It’s a collision of the best of summer and the emergence of hard squashes and root vegetables.  This broth based soup is relatively low in calories, cholesterol and fat but still densely nutritious. Cannellini beans add protein, calcium and iron.  Butternut squash is an excellent provider of Vitamin A and potatoes (wrongfully maligned) is a surprisingly good source of Vitamin C.  The more vegetables you include in your soup will result in a better array of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber.  However, the best thing about soup is that it just makes you feel good and warm inside.

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TIPS: Canned tomatoes make an easy shortcut but if you are trying to use up fresh tomatoes, you can just dice them to make about 2 cups.  If you don’t like tomato skins, just blanch the whole tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute or until you see the skin split.  Then they are easy to peel, seed and dice. Feel free to use whatever fresh vegetables that are available. Try substituting other root vegetables or various types of squash. The more colors you see, the better.

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HARVEST MINESTRONE

1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, scrubbed and cut into half circles
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 zucchini or summer squash, diced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh, see TIPS)
1 Tbsn fresh oregano or thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
6 cups vegetable broth
parsley (for garnish) optional
parmesan (for garnish) optional

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  • Saute onions, carrots and celery in olive oil in a large soup pot until soft.

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  • Add broth, potatoes and spices and simmer about 10 minutes.

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  • Add squashes, tomatoes and cannellini beans and simmer another 10-15 minutes.

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  • Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

Harvest Minestrone

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

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1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, scrubbed
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 Tbsn olive oil
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 zucchini or summer squash, diced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (or fresh, see TIPS)
1 Tbsn fresh oregano or thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
6 cups vegetable broth
parsley (for garnish) optional
parmesan (for garnish) optional

  • Saute onions, carrots and celery in olive oil in a large soup pot until soft.
  • Add broth, potatoes, tomatoes and spices and simmer about 10 minutes.
  • Add squashes and cannellini beans and simmer another 10=15 minutes.
  • Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

Meatless Monday – Minestrone Verde with Spring Vegetables

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This mostly ‘green’ soup is like Spring in a bowl. Dark leafy dino kale, sweet sugar snap peas and cannelini beans are all nestled in a tasty leek infused broth.  Topped with a lemony pistachio pesto, salty shaved parmesan and red pepper flakes, this is one flavor packed bowl.  Did I say Ready in less than 30 Minutes?  I love eating with the seasons when vegetables are at their peak in freshness, nutritional value and flavor. Usually when vegetables are so abundant, they are also the cheapest. For the greatest freshness look for foods that are locally grown and preferably organic.

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Did you know that fruits and vegetables are still  ‘alive’ and continue to breathe after picking through a process called respiration, which leads to a loss of nutrients the longer it takes for them to be transported and sold.  In addition, fruits and vegetables have a higher nutritional value when they are picked ripe, as opposed to picking them before they are ripe and letting them ripen later (for shipping purposes), except for certain crops like tomatoes.  They might get to the right color and ripeness but won’t reach their highest nutritional levels, so buying local is the best bet if you can. Or sometimes, frozen is the best choice since they are picked ripe and frozen right away. (Livestrong)

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I made this minestrone twice this week.  The first time I made it, my husband went back for fourths and my 21 year old son ate all the leftovers.  It was such a disappointment to find the empty container the next morning.  Darn, no free lunch…  So I decided to make it again a few days later for a casual dinner party I hosted for eight women, but this time I doubled the recipe.  I was afraid of overcooking the vegetables while waiting for everyone to arrive and giving them all a chance to have cocktails with the chickens (yes, that is a thing when you have chickens).  So I prepared the soup base, added the cannelini beans and turned the burner off.  Once the soup was only warm and not hot, I added the veggies and let it sit until just before we were ready to eat.  By the time it heated back up, the veggies were the perfect crisp tender.  Of course, the fun part is allowing your guests to ‘decorate’ their own bowls with the delicious pesto, shaved parmesan and red pepper flakes.  The bread can also be toasted ahead of time as it is fine at room temperature.

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This soup gets much of it’s flavor from a good vegetable broth that is poured over sauteed onions, celery and leeks. Italians call this sauteed vegetable mixture soffrito, which is the foundation on which many Italian sauces, and other dishes are built.  Traditional ingredients were lard and finely chopped parsley and onion, but modern cooks substitute olive oil or butter. Garlic, celery, or carrot may be included.  Italian cooks often make a big batch of soffrito and save it to use in various recipes.  Soffrito can be made 3 days ahead. Let it cool; cover and chill, or freeze up to 1 month

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TIPS: Leeks are a delicious addition to soups but can harbor dirt between it’s many layers which will make your soup stock gritty.  The easiest way to clean them is to cut off the stem and the dark green end, then slice in half vertically.  Run each half under running water fanning the layers like a deck of cards to rinse out any dirt.  Then chop into one quarter inch pieces.

RECIPE ADAPTED FROM SPRING MINESTRONE VERDE FROM BON APPETIT, MAY 2016

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SPRING MINISTRONE VERDE

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
  • celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsn fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups vegetarian broth or water
  • 1 14.5-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, sliced in half crosswise
  • ½ bunch small Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shaved Parmesan (optional)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Pesto (recipe below)
  • 4 ¾-inch-thick slices country-style bread, toasted

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  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, leeks, and celery, stirring often, until soft but not browned, 6–8 minutes.

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  • Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer

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  • Remove the tough rib from the kale and roughly chop leaves.

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  • Destring snow peas and cut in half

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  • Place slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Spray or brush with olive oil and broil until golden brown.  Turn and repeat on the other side.

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  • Add beans and sugar snap peas; cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.

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  • Add kale and peas and cook until kale is wilted and peas are tender, about 3 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.

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  •  Serve soup, topped with pesto, parmesan and red pepper flakes, with toast and pesto.

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PESTO

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  • 2 tablespoons pistachios (pumpkin seeds or pine nuts)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 cup (packed) basil leaves
  • 1 cup (packed) parsley leaves with tender stems
  • cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

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  • Pulse pistachios in a food processor.  Add garlic, basil, parsley, and ⅓ cup oil in a food processor until a coarse purée forms. Add Parmesan, lemon zest, and remaining ⅓ cup oil; season with salt and pepper, if needed.

 

Minestrone Verde with Spring Vegetables

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

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  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, finely chopped
  • celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsn fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups vegetarian broth or water
  • 1 14.5-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, sliced in half crosswise
  • ½ bunch small Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Thinly shaved Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)
  • Pesto (recipe below)
  • 4 ¾-inch-thick slices country-style bread, toasted

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onions, leeks, and celery, stirring often, until soft but not browned, 6–8 minutes.
  • Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer
  • Place slices of bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Spray or brush with olive oil and broil until golden brown.  Turn and repeat on the other side.
  • Add sugar snap peas; cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
  • Add kale, beans, and peas and cook until kale is wilted and peas are tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  •  Serve soup, topped with pesto, parmesan and red pepper flakes, with toast and pesto.

PESTO

  • 2 tablespoons pistachios (pumpkin seeds or pine nuts)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 cup (packed) basil leaves
  • 1 cup (packed) parsley leaves with tender stems
  • cup olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Pulse pistachios in a food processor.  Add garlic, basil, parsley, and ⅓ cup oil in a food processor until a coarse purée forms. Add Parmesan, lemon zest, and remaining ⅓ cup oil; season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Meatless Monday – Tuscan Bean Soup with Squash and Kale

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The cold, wet sideways rain is back, so you know what that means…SOUP! I know yesterday was the first day of spring but you certainly wouldn’t know it by looking out the window.  A nice hot bowl of tummy warming soup is just what the doctor ordered for fending off nasty weather, and the sniffles that come along with it, especially a hearty one like this that is loaded with cannelini beans, butternut squash, carrots, potatoes and kale, and of course some crusty bread for dipping.  Mmmm…. Almost makes the wet weather worth it; almost.  I’m sure our water department is doing cartwheels though and my garden is loving it.

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This is one meal where every ingredient adds more goodness; vitamins, minerals, fiber, flavor, color, texture.  You get the picture.  Together they are deliciously yummy and you can taste the healthy.  I was actually looking for a recipe that called for kale since I still have loads of kale from my winter garden which will soon get re-planted for spring.  Since I’ve been picking away at these poor plants all season, they are getting quite tall.  It’s almost time to plant tomatoes and peppers, my garden favorites!

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I spotted this recipe from Saveur and loved the combination of veggies, but I didn’t really know what made it Tuscan (other than the region, Tuscany), so enter smart phone. I googled it.  In response to my typed in question, “What is Tuscan Cuisine?”, The Examiner claims the word Tuscan as a description for food is way overused and often a marketing ploy. Tuscany is the land of simple and honest flavors with cooking that might be heartier than much of the rest of the country. Soffrito, a mixture of chopped celery, onions, garlic, peppers and herbs sautéed in olive oil, is used as a base for soups and sauces and beans are a big part of the diet. Tuscans don’t eat as much pasta as other Italians. So there you have it, Tuscan Bean Soup it is.  I did adapt the recipe to make it fewer steps and a faster cooking time but feel free to check out the original by clicking on the link above.

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TIPS: I love foods with real ingredients, even if that means peeling, scrubbing or chopping.  Oh, I have been known to pick up already cut up butternut squash (like I did today) because butternut squash can be a pain to peel and deseed, and I love shortcuts just like everyone else.  You can even buy a mixture of pre-cut carrots, celery and onions in some stores if you’re in a real hurry, but I usually draw the line there.  You can also substitute any other kind of squash and if you’re tired of kale, use spinach or a mixture of power greens.

I used canned cannellini beans because I didn’t know I was going to make Tuscan Bean Soup last night so I didn’t think to soak my beans overnight.  If you want to use dried beans, soak them overnight in water and then cook them with some of the bean water with the onions, celery and carrots for 30 – 40 minutes.  This soup is thickened by blending about a quarter of the soup (before adding the kale).  If you like a brothy soup, skip this step.  If you like a thicker soup puree a third to a half of the soup.

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TUSCAN BEAN SOUP WITH SQUASH AND KALE

2 cans cannellini beans
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
12 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
5 cups vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic
medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes (about 2 cups)
4 large kale leaves, preferably
 lacinato, stemmed and chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 tsp. thyme
8 thick slices country-style bread
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  • Saute onions, celery and carrots in 1/4 cup olive oil until onions are translucent.

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  • Add broth, thyme, potatoes and squash and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 15 minutes until potatoes are soft.

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  • Add beans and stir to combine.

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  • Scoop out about 2 cups of soup mixture and puree until smooth.

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  • Return the pureed mixture back into the soup and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.

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  • Add kale and simmer 5 to 10 minutes

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  • Slice bread and brush with olive oil, sprinkle with thyme and salt and pepper. Broil about five minutes, turning halfway through.

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  • To serve, place 1 to 2 pieces toasted bread in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle soup over the top. Drizzle soup with olive oil or a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

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  • Or be a purist and serve soup plain.

Tuscan Bean Soup with Squash and Kale

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 cans cannellini beans
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
12 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
5 cups vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic
medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes (about 2 cups)
4 large kale leaves, preferably
 lacinato, stemmed and chopped (or spinach)
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 tsp. thyme
8 thick slices country-style bread
  • Saute onions, celery and carrots in 1.4 cup olive oil until onions are translucent.
  • Add broth, thyme, potatoes and squash and bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 15 minutes until potatoes are soft.
  • Scoop out about 2 cups of soup mixture and puree until smooth.
  • Return the pureed mixture back into the soup and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
  • Add kale and simmer 5 to 10 minutes
  • Slice bread and brush with olive oil, sprinkle with thyme and salt and pepper. Broil about five minutes, turning halfway through.
  • To serve, place 1 to 2 pieces toasted bread in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle soup over the top. Drizzle soup with olive oil or a sprinkle of parmesan, if desired.

Wheatless Wednesday – Collard & Black Eyed Pea Soup

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How about a bowl of comfort?  It’s chilly outside, so we’re making soup; healthy, yummy goodness in a bowl.  I am making this soup for lunch today and the house smells heavenly.   Last night was a stormy and today is another dreary and rainy day in California.  It just doesn’t stop raining.  Can I call the dought over yet?  Our cup streets literally runneth over.   At least my delicious soup is warming me up from the inside out.   I already feel it warding off my seasonal sniffles…

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I don’t see fresh black eyed peas very often so when I do I get very excited as they are so delicious, nothing like their canned counterparts and I have to admit that I don’t often think ahead to soak dried beans overnight (although both of those options will work too).  Black eyed peas are not really peas.  They are beans and high in fiber and protein, and good sources of iron and potassium.  They are also delicious and a personal favorite. Then I spotted these giant collard leaves and the rest is history.

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I have often heard that the pairing of black eyed peas and collard is a natural fit, at least it is so in the South, so decided to give it a go.  Now, I can see why.  I have never used collard greens before, although last year my friend, Kerri begged me for collard recipes because she kept getting collards in her CSA box. Apparently, collard greens are more plentiful in Virginia than they are here. Well here you go Kerri, a year later.  I’m not sure what took me so long.  Collard greens are loaded with nutrition, add more fiber, protein and iron plus a whole slew of other nutrients.  Plus, they are great in this soup.  If you don’t have (or don’t like) collard greens, you can substitute kale or chard.

TIPS:  Black eyed peas are available fresh, frozen, canned or dried.  I have included cooking directions for each type.  For frozen peas, thaw and use as fresh.

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COLLARD AND BLACK EYED PEA SOUP

11 oz tub of fresh black eyed peas (or 1 1/2 cups dried or canned)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning (or fresh)
1 bunch collard greens
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste

  • If you are using dried black eyed peas, pick through peas to remove any debris and rinse well. Transfer to a large bowl, cover by 3 inches with water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight; drain and rinse well.  If you are using fresh or canned peas, rinse and set aside.

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  • Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Saute until onion is translucent, 5 to 10 minutes.

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  • Add peas, broth and tomatoes and simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, about 15-20 minutes for fresh peas and up to 45 minutes for dried.

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  • Rinse collard greens, remove tough stem and ribs and chop leaves.

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  • Add collard greens to soup and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes more. Taste broth and season with salt (if needed), pepper and cayenne.

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  • Serve hot.

Collard and Black Eyed Pea Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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11 oz tub of fresh black eyed peas (or 1 1/2 cups dried or canned)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning (or fresh)
1 bunch collard greens
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste

  • If you are using dried black eyed peas, pick through peas to remove any debris and rinse well. Transfer to a large bowl, cover by 3 inches with water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight; drain and rinse well.  If you are using fresh or canned peas, rinse and set aside.
  • Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Saute until onion is translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add peas, broth and tomatoes and simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, about 15-20 minutes for fresh peas and up to 45 minutes for dried.
  • Rinse collard greens, remove tough stem and ribs and chop leaves.
  • Add collard greens to soup and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes more. Taste broth and season with salt (if needed), pepper and cayenne.
  • Serve with shredded or flaked parmesan, if desired.

Wheatless Wednesday – Vegetarian Tom Kha Soup

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Time for soup… It’s raining!  Our parched flowers and trees are enjoying a much-needed drink of water but for those of us indoors, the weather is gray and gloomy.  Throw in with last night’s storm which was quite a doozy, complete with lightning and thunder, also known as nature’s fireworks, and just like that, winter is here.  I think the only remedy for this wet weather is a hot and spicy bowl of soup to warm us up from the inside out.  Over the last couple of weeks I have travelled from warm and sunny California to unseasonably cold and rainy Virginia, on to warm and balmy Exuma and Florida, then crisp and snowy Maine before coming back to a wet and gray California. Perhaps my laptop dislikes airports and so many changes of venue because it died.  I first lost my mouse but not the touch screen (thankfully) but then, in complete protest, my laptop went on strike, refusing to go on.  So my last three posts (including this one) have been on borrowed computers, which means I’m back to the dark ages of figuring out how to upload photos and use my widgets so be forgiving.  I’m staying put for a while and hopefully, after a visit with a computer technician, my  laptop will forgive me so we can get back to work.

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Last night, at the beginning of the storm, I decided to make a vegetarian Tom Kha soup, which is one of my son, Eric’s specialties.  Tom Kha Gai, the most traditional of Thai soups, is made of chicken (Gai) cooked (Tom) in coconut milk which has been infused with galangal (Kha), lemongrass, and often, kaffir lime leaves. There are other versions of tom kha but these seem to be the most common; made with seafood (tom kha thale), mushrooms (tom kha het), pork (tom kha mu) and tofu (tom kha taohu).  Now you’ll think of me next time you’re looking at a Thai menu.  I wanted to make a vegetarian version, so I substituted mushrooms for the chicken which technically makes this soup Tom Kha Het, however, if you want a boost of protein, you can also add cubes of extra firm tofu and then you will be eating Tom Kha Taohu.  This particular recipe, as are most of Eric’s recipes, is not written down anywhere and resides as memories of past soups in his head (like mother like son).  So, knowing the basic ingredients, we went to work and came up with a delicious and fairly easy Tom Kha Het which is easy to adapt to what you have on hand.

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TIP:  I used the last of the cayenne peppers which I collected from my drenched and bedraggled garden.  They were pretty waterlogged and not as spicy as I would have liked, so I added two dried bird’s eye peppers (which can be found in supermarkets in the Asian food aisle) which I crushed with my wooden spoon before adding to give it the proper kick. The galangal root, lemon grass and hot peppers are added to infuse the broth with flavor so make sure you let it simmer long enough for the flavors to develop.  In slicing the galangal root and lemon grass, slice them in large pieces to make it easier for the diner to pick out, as they are very woody and not really eaten. You can also strain them out before serving but I think they add character. Only the truly fearless eat the hot peppers (unless you slice them into thin circles).  If you want them  hotter, slice each one down the middle but still leave intact. If you can’t find galangal substitute fresh ginger root.  There is no good substitute for lemongrass but sometimes it’s available as a paste or spice. For a vegan version, omit the fish sauce. I added baby corn to add fullness to the soup but it can be omitted or substituted with any vegetable that sounds good to you. Serve with cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and Sriracha for additional kick.

VEGETARIAN TOM KHA

2 16 oz cans coconut milk
3-4 cups vegetable broth (depending on desired thickness)
1 stalk lemongrass Use only the bottom white part (about 6 inches of the stalk part) and discard the woody grass part. With a flat edge, pound and mash the lemongrass so it releases the flavor. Cut into 2 inch segments.
4-5 slices of fresh galangal or gingerroot (about a 1 inch piece)
1 yellow onion
1 red serrano or jalapeno pepper (thinly sliced) or5-6 tiny whole cayenne or other small red pepper (or dried bird’s eye peppers)
1-2 cups mushrooms (button, baby bella or cremini)
1 cup whole baby corn(optional)
1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1-2 fresh limes (1 – 2 Tbsn to taste)
1 Tbsn sugar
1/2 tsp salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of the broth)
Cilantro and Sriracha (optional)

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  • Chop the onion into large pieces and slice the galangal into thin rounds.  Lightly pound the stalk of lemongrass and slice into 1 or  2 inch pieces, slicing on the diagonal to release the most flavor.

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  • In a large soup pot, saute the onion in 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil until softened. Add the galangal, lemon grass and hot peppers and saute a few more minutes.

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  • Pour in vegetable broth and coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, salt and fish sauce, if using and let simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to absorb into the broth.
  • Adjust seasonings, if necessary. If it’s not spicy enough, slice open the peppers and/or add a couple of crushed dried birds eye chilis.  If it’s too spicy, remove some of the peppers from the soup. You can either strain all the solids out of the soup or leave them in for added interest.  Add corn and mushroom and cook another 10 minutes.

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  • Serve with a squeeze of lime juice, chopped cilantro and sriracha sauce, if desired.

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Vegetarian Tom Kha

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

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2 16 oz cans coconut milk
3-4 cups vegetable broth (depending on desired thickness)
1 stalk lemongrass Use only the bottom white part (about 6 inches of the stalk part) and discard the woody grass part. With a flat edge, pound and mash the lemongrass so it releases the flavor. Cut into 2 inch segments.
4-5 slices of fresh galangal or gingerroot (about a 1 inch piece)
1 yellow onion
1 red serrano or jalapeno pepper (thinly sliced) or5-6 tiny whole cayenne or other small red pepper (or dried bird’s eye peppers)
1-2 cups mushrooms (button, baby bella or cremini)
1 cup whole baby corn(optional)
1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1-2 fresh limes (1 – 2 Tbsn to taste)
1 Tbsn sugar
1/2 tsp salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of the broth)
Cilantro and Sriracha (optional)

  • Chop the onion into large pieces and slice the galangal into thin rounds.  Lightly pound the stalk of lemongrass and slice into 1 or  2 inch pieces, slicing on the diagonal to release the most flavor.
  • In a large soup pot, saute the onion in 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil until softened.
  • Add the galangal, lemon grass and hot peppers and saute a few more minutes.
  • Pour in vegetable broth and coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, salt and fish sauce, if using and let simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to absorb into the broth.
  • Adjust seasonings, if necessary. If it’s not spicy enough, slice open the peppers and/or add a couple of crushed dried birds eye chilis.  If it’s too spicy, remove some of the peppers from the soup. You can either strain all the solids out of the soup or leave them in for added interest.  Add corn and mushroom and cook another 10 minutes.
  • Serve with a squeeze of lime juice, chopped cilantro and sriracha sauce, if desired.

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Wheatless Wednesday – Butternut Squash and Potato Soup with Crispy Fried Sage

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Autumn Harvest Soup11

The restorative powers of soup are legendary.  Curing a cold with chicken soup is one of the original ‘old wives tales’.  Regardless of the lack of science behind the power of soup to make us feel better, I am a big believer.  Soup is also a great way to use up random vegetables that have seen better days but are still  lurking in your refrigerator bin.  Just dice them up and cook them in a pot of broth with a few herbs and spices and (unless you’re making the broth from scratch) in a surprisingly short time you are rewarded with a steaming pot of rich and flavorful soup.  I had some leftover butternut squash, which I simmered with onion, garlic, potato and garbanzo beans until soft.  Then I stirred in a couple of handfuls of power greens.  Yum!  Soup is great on it’s own but I love specialty toppings. This time I made crispy fried sage leaves which add an earthy, crispy and salty garnish that offsets the mildness of the soup..   It’s very easy. Just fry fresh sage leaves in olive oil for a few seconds, lay them on paper towels to drain and sprinkle them with coarse salt.

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I have already waxed poetic about the goodness of butternut squash in my last blog post, Butternut Squash, Leek and Apple Gratin so check it out if you want to hear all the  glories of this popular veggie.  Today I’m going to talk about potatoes. My husband has an irrational fear of potatoes. He eats around them like a little kid avoiding peas, but I can tell he secretly wants to run screaming from the room when I serve them. Potatoes get a bum rap.  There is no reason to be afraid of them.  Yes, they are carbs but healthy carbs not empty ones.  Potatoes are good for you and loaded with nutrition.  The potatoes we have to worry about are the ones loaded with butter, sour cream and bacon! Potatoes are fat, sodium and cholesterol free, good sources of vitamin B6 and iron.  One medium potato has more vitamin C than one medium tomato and more potassium than a banana. If that doesn’t convince you that potatoes won’t make you fat are good for you, then substitute another root vegetable like turnip, rutabaga or parsnip.  Or you go even heartier by substituting a quarter to a third of a cup of wild rice to cook along with the squash.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND POTATO SOUP WITH FRIED SAGE

1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsn olive oil
2-3 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 large (or 2 small) potato, turnip, rutabaga or parsnip (about one cup cubed)
2 cups fresh power greens like kale, spinach or chard, rinsed
1 can of garbanzo beans (or cannellini beans), rinsed and drained
1 quart vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
salt and black pepper, to taste
pinch of turmeric (optional)
pinch of allspice (optional)
fried sage – directions below (Optional)

  • Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil large pot over medium heat about five minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the butternut squash,  potato, beans, thyme and vegetable broth.    Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash are fork tender.

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  • Add salt and pepper if needed. For more seasoning, add a pinch or turmeric and/or allspice (optional). Five or ten minutes before serving stir in fresh greens and let wilt, several minutes.

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  • Serve topped with fried sage and grated parmesan, if desired.

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CRISPY FRIED SAGE

Autumn Harvest Soup1

1 bunch fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
Coarse salt

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  • Remove leaves from sage, rinse and pat dry.

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  • Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Fry 6–8 sage leaves at a time, depending on how many will fit in your pan uncrowded, until crisp, about 5 seconds. They should still be green and they will crisp as they cool. Transfer with a fork to paper towels and sprinkle generously with coarse salt.

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  • Fried sage can be made ahead and will store at room temperature, layered between paper towels to prevent breaking, for 2 or 3 days.

Butternut Squash and Potato Soup with Crispy Fried Sage

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

Autumn Harvest Soup11

1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsn olive oil
2-3 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 large (or 2 small) potato, turnip, rutabaga or parsnip (about one cup cubed)
2 cups fresh power greens like kale, spinach or chard, rinsed
1 can of garbanzo beans (or cannellini beans), rinsed and drained
1 quart vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
pinch of turmeric (optional)
pinch of allspice (optional)
salt and black pepper, to taste
fried sage – directions below (Optional)

  • Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil large pot over medium heat about five minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the butternut squash,  potato, beans, thyme and vegetable broth.    Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash are fork tender. Add salt and pepper if needed. For more seasoning, add a pinch or turmeric and/or allspice (optional).
  • Five or ten minutes before serving stir in fresh greens and let wilt, several minutes.
  • Serve topped with fried sage and grated parmesan, if desired.

 

CRISPY FRIED SAGE

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1 bunch fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
Coarse salt

  • Remove leaves from sage, rinse and pat dry.
  • Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Fry 6–8 sage leaves at a time, depending on how many will fit in your pan uncrowded, until crisp, about 5 seconds. They should still be green and they will crisp as they cool. Transfer with a fork to paper towels and sprinkle generously with coarse salt.
  • Fried sage can be made ahead and will store at room temperature, layered between paper towels to prevent breaking, for 2 or 3 days.

 

 

Wheatless Wednesday – Carrot, Sweet Potato Soup with Turmeric

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CArrot Sweet Potato Soup1

Waiter, there’s turmeric in my soup!  I love soup!  It’s a meal in a bowl – easy preparation, easy clean up. One or two days with a tiny drizzle is enough incentive for me to drag out my big soup pot. There is nothing quite like a big pot of soup bubbling away to make your kitchen feel cozy and smell heavenly.   I have made carrot soup before, Carrot Coconut Soup, which I loved but I ran across a recipe for Roasted Carrot Turmeric Soup from Love and Lemons and was intrigued by the use of turmeric, that wildly popular spice touted to be the cure for whatever ails you.  I mean it’s even in my daily vitamin! So what’s the real skinny on Turmeric?

turmeric

Turmeric is in the ginger family and comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. It’s spicy ginger-like flavor is the main ingredient in curry powder and is common in South Asian foods. Turmeric has been used for a very long time in Asia (primarily in China and India), not only for its distinctive flavor but also for it’s powerful healing properties.   We may be slow to the party but the Western World has recently ‘discovered’ the many benefits of turmeric. Why is turmeric considered so great? Can it really prevent Alzheimers, cancer and depression (among other claims) or is it all a bunch of hype? Well, turmeric might just be all that.  According to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Turmeric contains a wide range of antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also loaded with many healthy nutrients such as protein, dietary fiber, niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. These properties are believed to help treat a variety of conditions.  Here are 10 Health Benefits of Turmeric including prevention of cancer, liver disease and Alzheimers, controlling diabetes and relieving arthritis and more… The list is quite impressive.

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Did you know a sweet potato is not really a potato?  Shocking, I know.  It’s actually the elongated root of a vine in the morning glory family.  Who knew? Turmeric is not the only goodie in this soup.  Carrots and sweet potatoes (and other foods in the orange/yellow food group) are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients.  I think I’ll have another bowl of soup!

TIPS:  Try to resist the urge to peel the carrots if at all possible, since most of the nutrients are right under the skin and are lost in the peeling process.  Use a scrub brush or sponge instead and dry with a paper towel.  All veggies can be cut roughly since they will be pureed with a food processor or blender once they are soft so size doesn’t matter.  Turmeric has a beautiful bright yellow/orange color which is used in dying textiles, however, it will also dye your cutting board or food processor (or anything porous it touches), so add the turmeric and curry powder after the vegetables have been pureed.  I would recommend adding 1 teaspoon of each, taste for spiciness and then add more to taste.  This original recipe called for all vegetables to be chopped, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or so before pureeing which may give the soup a richer flavor, so try that if you have the time and inclination.  I was a bit short on time so opted to make this a one pot meal, easy preparation and easy cleanup, plus great results!

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CARROT SWEET POTATO SOUP WITH TURMERIC

6-8 large carrots
1 large sweet potato, or 2 small
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons turmeric, ground
1-2 teaspoons madras curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger (or ginger paste)
4 cups vegetable stock
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

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  • Scrub carrots instead of peeling. Roughly chop carrots and onion.

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  • Saute the onions, carrots, garlic and ginger in olive oil until the onions are translucent

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  • Peel and coarsely chop the sweet potato.  Add to the onions and carrots.

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  • Add vegetable stock, reduce heat and simmer covered for about 20 minutes.

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  • When the vegetables are fork tender, let cool slightly and process in a food processor or blender in batches until silky smooth.
  • Rinse out soup pot and return vegetable puree.  Add one or two cusp of water if needed.  Add 1 teaspoon each of turmeric and curry powder, pinch of cayenne and 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  Taste and add more if desired.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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  • To serve top with plain or spiced yogurt or sour cream (recipe below)

 

SPICED YOGURT (optional)

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1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
a  squeeze of lemon & a bit of zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or Chinese Five Spice
pinch of salt

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.

Spicy Carrot Sweet Potato Soup with Turmeric

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

CArrot Sweet Potato Soup1

6-8 large carrots
1 large sweet potato, or 2 small
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons turmeric, ground
1-2 teaspoons madras curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger (or ginger paste)
4 cups vegetable stock
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  •  Scrub carrots instead of peeling. Roughly chop carrots and onion.
  • Saute the onions, carrots, garlic and ginger in olive oil until the onions are translucent
  • Peel and coarsely chop the sweet potato.  Add to the onions and carrots.
  • When the vegetables are fork tender, let cool slightly and process in a food processor or blender in batches until silky smooth.
  • Rinse out soup pot and return vegetable puree.  Add one or two cups of water if needed.  Add 1 teaspoon each of turmeric and curry powder, pinch of cayenne and 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  Taste and add more if desired.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • To serve top with plain or spiced yogurt or sour cream (recipe below)

SPICED YOGURT (optional)

1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
a  squeeze of lemon & a bit of zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or Chinese Five Spice
pinch of salt

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until needed.


Turmeric Photo Credit:  http://www.sweetartichoke.com

 

Meatless Monday – Butternut Squash Soup & Polenta Towers

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Butternut Squash Soup & Polenta Towers

Although the sun is shining in Northern California this mid-December, it has been deceptively chilly outside, especially once the sun goes down.  With temperatures  below normal this past week, and another “Spare the Air Day” (an Only in Marin phenomenon, I believe, where we are not allowed to burn wood or use pellet stoves), the best way I can think of to make my house feel warm and cozy is to have a big pot of hot soup bubbling away on the stove. It won’t necessarily warm up your house like a good, old fashioned fire, but it will help your kitchen feel homey and welcoming, and smell divine.  I remember my friend, Kim, once telling me that when she wanted her family to think she cooked all day, she would throw onions and garlic in a saute pan for a few minutes.  She was very smart and I’m sure her family loved coming home to the wonderful smells coming from her kitchen.  You can also greet your holiday guests with hot apple cider (apple cider with cinnamon sticks and cloves) which makes your home smell like Christmas.

Butternut squash soup is my standard this time of year. It’s flavorful and low fat, as are most of my dishes, since I use vegetable or chicken broth instead of the cream or cream cheese called for in many recipes.  Roasting the squash first, makes it very easy to peel and retains more vitamins than peeling and boiling. The recipe calls for fresh ginger which must be minced very finely.  An alternative would be to add a 1 inch peeled chunk of ginger to the soup after it has been pureed and then remove before serving.  Another good short cut would be to use a teaspoon of ginger paste.  This soup is especially delicious served piping hot with a dollop of cold sour cream or non-fat yogurt (My favorite is local, Straus Family European Style yogurt, made here in Marin County) and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.

The Polenta Tower is an easy dish to make and fun to serve.  It also works great on a buffet or as a fancy dish to bring to a potluck, although it works better to omit the marinara sauce.  I am a big believer that cooking should be as easy as possible and will take shortcuts when available. For some recipes I would make my own polenta from scratch but not for this dish.  The Food Merchants Brand, pre-cooked polenta in the tube, is perfect for this recipe.  It is organic, (non-GMO), fat free, wheat free and gluten free.  Best of all, it’s already in the perfect shape.  There may be other brands that are just as good but this is what is in my refrigerator. The vegetables in this recipe can be altered for what is in season or what you already have.  Vegetables that can be sliced into rounds work the best.  Be creative and have fun with your food!  Vegans should omit the mozzarella and sour cream.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash

1 large or 2 small leeks

1 medium onion, chopped

2 Tbsn olive oil or butter

1 tsp finely minced ginger, or to taste

6 cups vegetable broth

sour cream or non-fat yogurt (optional)

¼ cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas (optional)

LeeksButternut Squash

  • Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. You can use a dry paper towel to get the last bits of pulp. Oil a glass baking dish and place squash in the dish cut side down.  Cook at 375 degrees for about an hour, or until a fork easily pierces the thickest part of the squash.  Let cool.
  • Cut the leeks lengthwise and wash thoroughly under running water, fanning the layers of the leek like a deck of cards to remove any grit hidden in between. Slice lengthwise and chop, using the white part only.
  • In a large stock pot, saute leek, onion and ginger in olive oil until soft.
  • Scoop out squash from the shell and add to the stock pot, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
  • Add 2 cups of broth and stir, cooking for another 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  • Puree the squash mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth.  You may have to do it in two batches. If your puree does not come out silky smooth or you can see bits of leek, you may want to cook it a bit longer and puree it again.
  • Return it to a clean stock pot and add the rest of the broth. Heat on medium to low heat another 10 to 20 minutes to let the flavors blend.
  • Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small, dry saute pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes until they are golden and lose their raw taste. Let cool.
  • Ladle soup into bowls and top with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Polenta Towers

(Makes about 8 towers)

2 cups marinara sauce (Use your favorite or make your own, recipe below)

1 18 oz tube of cooked polenta

1 ball or 3-4 boccoccini fresh mozzarella (optional)

4 smaller portobella or crimini mushrooms,

1  japanese eggplant

1  zucchini

1-2 ripe tomatoes

1 small bunch fresh basil

2-3 Tbsn olive oil

BasilPepitas

  • Remove plastic from polenta, cut off curved ends and cut into ½ inch rounds.
  • Drain mozzarella and cut into  ½ inch rounds
  • Wash and dry eggplant, zucchini and tomato and slice them into rounds as well. Cut stems from mushrooms even with the cap and sliced in half horizontally.  If they are small, leave whole. Slice mozzarella.
  • Wash and dry about 6 large basil leaves and slice them into ribbons.
  • Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium to medium high heat and saute polenta until golden on both sides.  Remove and set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon oil, a bit of chopped garlic and saute the eggplant and then the zucchini and mushrooms, adding more oil if necessary.  (Note:  If you have time, you can salt the eggplant slices and let sit for 10  minutes or so.  Eggplant which has ‘sweated’ usually absorbs less oil.) Remove from and set aside.
  • To assemble the ‘towers’, ladle ½ cup marinara sauce onto the middle of a plate. Place a polenta circle on top of the sauce, then top with mozzarella, tomato, eggplant, mushroom and zucchini, depending on their size.  I usually go from biggest on the bottom to smallest on the top.
  • Garnish with fresh basil.

Polenta Towers

Marinara Sauce

Makes 3 cups

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsn fresh basil, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsn olive oil

½ tsp salt

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

  •  Heat olive oil in a saucepan and saute garlic for a few minutes.  Add basil and crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil and add salt.  Simmer about 45 minutes.
  • Before serving add balsamic vinegar and stir to combine

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Meatless Monday – Winter Squash Soup

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Winter Squash Soup with Updated Wedge

Winter Squash, Bitter Green and Garbanzo Bean Soup with Updated Wedge Salad

Shorter days and colder temperatures call for food that warms you from the inside out like soup. I love broth based soups that are full of flavor but are also a meal in themselves without adding lots of extra calories. I wanted to pair it with a traditional crispy wedge salad but without the bacon, even though I know there is No Substitute for bacon, I replaced it with salted buttery pecans to mimic that salty, fatty, yumminess.

WINTER SQUASH SOUP
Ingredients:
1 whole kabocha squash (or other winter squash like butternut or acorn) peeled and cubed
5-6 cups vegetable broth
1 can garbanzo beans (or one cup soaked and cooked dry beans)
1 large bunch of super greens (kale, chard or spinach) washed
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon smoked or other paprika
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red curry paste (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Combine the squash and broth in a soup pot and simmer until the squash is almost tender (about 20 minutes). Add the rest of the ingredients and cook another five minutes. I love garlic, cumin and curry and tend to use a lot of these ingredients, however, this soup may be too delicate for a heavy hand so add the smallest amounts and taste before adding more. Stir in the greens and until they wilt. Serve hot.

UPDATED WEDGE SALAD
Ingredients:\
1 head iceberg lettuce
half pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup blue cheese
2 or 3 scallions
8 oz raw pecans
vinaigrette: Olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Roughly chop pecans and sautee in a butter/olive oil combination until aromatic. Salt liberally. Let cool.
Slice iceberg lettuce in quarters or eights. Top with chopped tomatoes, blue cheese, chopped scallions and pecans. Drizzle with vinaigrette.