Three times and counting…..

red lentils for spiced red lentil soup with kaleI’ve made Spiced Red Lentil and Kale soup at least three times this winter! It undoubtedly deserves proper recognition. For anyone who might be squeamish about lentils, the cute little red ones were grown for you. They are mild, perhaps slightly sweet and act like delicate sponges absorbing the flavors around them. They are often used to thicken and lend body to broth, and honestly, in this soup the spices are so prominent that you might find yourself wondering if there are even lentils in there…..

I found the recipe in a cookbook by Angela Liddon called the Oh She Glows Cookbook. Angela is also the author of a blog by the same name. She practices plant-based eating and offers recipes that celebrate the depth and diversity of plants. Two other recipes from her blog that have become staples in my kitchen are her Vegan Caesar Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and homemade crackers….the latter being an excellent compliment alongside this soup…and they are easier to make than a batch of cookies… I promise.

kale for spiced red lentil soup with kaleBecause this soup hinges on powerful spices, the ingredient list is short and it comes together quickly- easy enough to make after work. Make sure to use homemade vegetable broth as your base. Of course, chicken stock can be substituted, but the vegetable broth makes for a much cleaner taste.

By the way, I’ve also been holding out on two other of Angela’s lovely soups….both a little creamy and a lot healthy! Hmmm….what could they be?!

Spiced Red Lentil and Kale Soup

Spiced Red Lentil and Kale Soup

Adapted from the Oh She Glows Cookbook.

This calls for kale, but I’ve used spinach, baby kale and Swiss chard. Simply use your favorite…or better yet, the one you need to eat more of.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 3 stalks celery, small chop
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp mild chili powder
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, reserve juice
  • 6 cups homemade vegetable broth
  • 1 cup uncooked red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 healthy handfuls of kale
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In large pot (I used a 6.75 quart Dutch oven) heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent- about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  4. Add the celery and ½ tsp salt and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the spices and the bay leaf and cook for 1 minute until.
  6. Pour in the vegetable broth, the tomatoes and their juices and the lentils.
  7. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 25 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle in the remaining ½ tsp salt and pepper then stir in the kale. Be sure to remove the bay leaf.
  9. Once the kale has wilted taste for seasoning and serve.
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Slow-Cooker Vegetable Broth

vegetables for slow-cooker vegetable stock

Hmmm….if you can make chicken broth in the slow-cooker, why not vegetable broth? Turns out there is no reason, it just hadn’t occurred to my imagination yet. But thank goodness it did, because it’s my new go-to broth. An animal-free liquid gold poised to enhance any quinoa, risotto and of course soup that meets your heart’s desire. Last October I made a Fall Vegetable Stock that, while equally delicious, included more labor and I’ve learned that in the Texas heat you don’t go looking for more ways to exert yourself or let a simmering stock pot heat up your perfectly air conditioned home. Enter the slow-cooker. Your thermostat will remain constant and you won’t be chained to the stove when you’d rather be out by the pool sipping margaritas and devouring guacamole…..or at least that’s my take on the situation.

Besides the steamy 9 hour bath the vegetables lounge around in, the secret ingredient is coconut aminos. Often employed as an alternative to soy sauce, coconut aminos are nutrient dense, raw, gluten and soy free and are derived from coconut tree sap. When added to marinades, dressings or in this case vegetable broth they provide a rich, savory almost meaty flavor that adds a certain depth that cannot otherwise be achieved. They are inexpensive and found in the Asian section of the grocery. If you haven’t given vegetable broth a try, your golden moment is here. I dare you!

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Broth

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Broth

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts chopped into discs
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into thirds
  • 3 celery stalks, peeled and chopped into thirds
  • 4 cremini mushrooms cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1/2 TBSP whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • 2 TBSP coconut aminos

Instructions

  1. Pour the olive oil in the bottom of the slower cooker pot.
  2. Add all the ingredients except for the coconut aminos.
  3. Set the cooker to low and cook for 9 hours.
  4. Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve and discard the vegetables.
  5. Stir in the aminos.
  6. Enjoy within 3-5 days or freeze for 90.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/08/27/slow-cooker-vegetable-broth/

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Friendship.

squash for Mexican Squash Soup

I’m always amazed how people come in and out of your life. Sometimes they are there for the long haul, other times they just seem to pop in and out and then there are those in the middle that you expect will endure, but surprisingly fade away. I used to mourn the idea of losing touch with a friend, but I’ve come to realize there is a better way by enjoying the time you have, finding personal growth in the relationship and learning about yourself and the type of friend you are and strive to be. Hopefully, both your life and theirs will be enhanced having spent time together….no matter the duration.  Moving half-way across our country has made me appreciate this sentiment, but I don’t do it with a heavy heart, rather with the awareness of how fortunate I’ve been to have cared for so many who reciprocated with matched affection.

squash and serrano for Mexican Squash Soup

Funny how life works out, but just before I arrived in Texas a special friend also relocated here from NC. I crossed paths with Sarah through the club industry and was quickly impressed by her professionalism and desire to excel and master her field.  It’s almost second nature to her to consider the impact of decisions and policies far beyond the immediate result but rather for the vision of the organization. Impressively her ambitions don’t preclude her from a willingness to seek alternate perspectives nor does she shirk any chore or request as something “outside of her area”. The flip side (there’s always a yang) is that her dedication at work often conflicts with a commitment to self….which leaves going to the market, let alone cooking, a dismal priority. Needless to say, I worry…her poor taste buds need a little week day ooolala!

red pepper for Mexican Squash Soup

I’ve not been to Rancho La Puerta (sniff sniff), but this creamy, spicy and yes, healthy squash soup hails from the famed spa. On a good day, if I squeeze my eyes shut and imagine so hard that billows of steam practically puff from my ears, I’m transported there in one delicious spoonful….albeit only for a few brief whiffs of wellness heaven. Obviously I didn’t come by the recipe firsthand (ahem), I came across it 5 years ago in Bon Appétit and have been making it ever since- for me, as well as my close friends  Eileen and Catherine who evidently endorse it because I’ve never seen one remaining speck  in either of their bowls. Sorry ladies! I figure if I make Sarah a pot of this soup she’ll have a dinner waiting for her each night that is tasty, nourishing and perhaps a bit inspiring. It’s the least I can do to express how having her in Texas makes my husband and I less disconnected from our previous life and more like being home…..a sense of family in this vast state.

Mexican Squash Soup

Mexican Squash Soup

Adapted from Rancho La Puerta's Azteca Squash Soup.

I go crazy for homemade chicken broth and you can make this soup with it, but you really don't need to as there are so many bold flavors going on already.

Ingredients

  • 3 lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for squash
  • 2 cups yellow onion, medium chop (about 1 large)
  • 4 celery stalks, medium chop
  • 2 TBSP chopped garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 5 cups homemade vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can black beans (low or no sodium)
  • 10 oz bag frozen sweet corn, thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and medium chop
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 serrano chile, minced (cored and seeded if you want to reduce heat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.
  2. Rub the cut side of the squash with some olive oil, generously sprinkle with salt and pepper and place cut side down on prepared baking sheet. Roast for 45-50 minutes until fork tender. Let cool until comfortable to handle and scoop the flesh out and reserve for later.
  3. While the squash is roasting, heat the 3 TBSP of olive oil over medium-high heat (I used a 9 quart Dutch oven, but a 6 quart pot will do the trick). Add the onions, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and slightly browned.
  4. Add the garlic and celery and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in 1 cup of broth, bring to a simmer and cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir once.
  6. Add the squash, cumin, remaining 4 cups of broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
  8. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup.
  9. Add the beans, corn, both peppers, cilantro, thyme and salt. Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  10. Enjoy as is or with some sinfully delicious toppings! Like cool sour cream and crushed tortilla chips. Fresh chopped cilantro is also a nice contrast.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/03/03/friendship/

 

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Fall Vegetable Stock

parsnips for fall vegetable stockIn the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t use much vegetable stock. It’s always kind of reminded me of dirty dish water and frankly I didn’t think it tasted much better. And FORGET the boxed stuff, they might as well call it “Liquid Salt”, correction “Orange Colored Liquid Salt”. I’ve said before that I’m not big into meat, but I do love homemade chicken broth. Makes me all warm and tingly AND anything I make with it is all the tastier for it. However, I have no business writing a soup blog if I don’t put my heart into learning how to make, not just passable, but really good vegetable stock. It’s taken a while but these days you can find me swooning over vegetable stock as one might say chocolate cake, or in my case a rotisserie chicken stock.

celery root for fall vegetable stock

There are three keys to fabulous vegetable stock. First and foremost use seasonal vegetables as they will be freshest produce available and the flavors will compliment the seasonal dishes being prepared in your kitchen.  Two, sauté your vegetables in order to coax out their flavors.  Lastly, use a parchment lid to trap precious liquid and sinfully sweat your vegetables to sweet deliciousness.  Yes, your vegetarian friends will love you for it, but even chicken stock devotees like myself will surprisingly find themselves keeping a reserve in the freezer.

Fall Vegetable Stock

Fall Vegetable Stock

Consider customizing the vegetables to your preference, but beware of using produce that has a strong, overpowering presence like cabbage, tomatoes or big meaty mushrooms. You’ll find vegetable stock is a whole lot easier to make than beef or even chicken broth, but because it has a delicate flavor it will lose its flavor nuances very quickly, so you’ll want to use it within 24 hours or freeze for future use.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small celery root, peeled and medium chop
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and medium chop
  • 4 large garlic cloves, skins removed and smashed
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and medium chop
  • 20 sprigs of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • ½ ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms, crumbled
  • 3 quarts filtered water

Instructions

  1. In large stockpot (I used a 6 quart) heat oil and butter over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, parsnips, fennel, celery root, mushrooms, onion, garlic and salt. Stir to ensure everything is evenly coated with oil.
  3. Cover with a round of parchment paper that you cut to accommodate the size of your pot.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the water and herbs and bring to a gentle simmer.
  6. Barely simmer for 45 minutes.
  7. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.
  8. Use immediately, freeze or cool and refrigerate for use within 24 hours.
  9. Yields 2-3 quarts.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/10/28/fall-vegetable-stock/

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Dinner Delivered

There are people that work and people that grind it out at a pace that leaves the rest of us exhausted spectators hanging out on the sidelines. Their endurance is a freak of nature, driven by some unnamed force that propels them to achieve more, push harder, give more. I can name on one hand an elite collection of this driven bunch that is in my life. Besides my husband, Eileen is one of them.  She is a self-made, businesswoman with a flourishing practice. An entrepreneur with a constant thirst for learning, she see’s patients, teaches, mothers three, respects her body, and under all that Teflon has a soft heart that makes her a cherished friend.

Regardless of your philosophy on what it means to “work”, at some point we are all the same in that we need to nourish our bodies. Eileen is devoted to clean, nutritious eating, but when the clock blares 8:30 pm as you walk through the door, the dog still needs to be walked and you have to be back at it by 8:00 am, your options are limited. For this very reason, a few months ago, although it wasn’t the most appropriate season for it, I made Eileen Split Pea Soup. I knew she was having a long couple of weeks and would be getting home well past 8:00 pm. I also knew she would be grateful for a meal she didn’t have to think about and would desire something wholesome.

Certainly now is the season for such a hearty soup, but at that time we were amidst a heat wave where sane, normal people were looking for ways to cool off versus raising their core body temperature with a bowl of steaming soup. Well, Eileen and I are gladly not normal so soup (hot or cold, brothy or creamy) works for us all year. That night, after the soup drop had been made, I received a text with a profound compliment. Eileen always thought her mother’s split pea was supreme, however, mine had just moved into the coveted slot.  She especially loved the chunky bits. Sorry mom!

This week I surprised Eileen at her office with another batch of Split Pea Soup. As you might have guessed, her pace has not mellowed. For me, making soup for Eileen typifies what cooking for someone should be. An unselfish, yet rewarding, act that comforts and rejuvenates through the goodness of food and love.

Chunky Split Pea Soup

Chunky Split Pea Soup

From Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of chopped yellow onions (about 1 large)
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups of carrots, peeled and medium-dice (about 8 large or 14 small)
  • 2 cups red potatoes, medium-dice (4-6 small)
  • 2 lbs. dried split green peas
  • 16 cups of homemade chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Give the dried peas a vigorous rinse in a colander to remove dust and dirt and so you can sift out any unwelcome particles that may have got mixed in.
  2. In large stockpot (I used a 6 quart) heat the oil over medium heat.
  3. Sauté the onions with the oregano, salt and pepper until they are soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic during the last minute of cooking.
  4. Add the carrots, potatoes, 1 ½ pounds of the dried peas and the chicken stock.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  6. Skim off any foam that develops. Don’t be alarmed- it’s just starch.
  7. Add the remaining peas and simmer for another 40 minutes. Stir frequently.
  8. Taste to be sure the peas are tender and the seasoning is to your liking.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/11/09/dinner-delivered/

Notes:

  1. Swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock for a vegetarian version.
  2. Should you prefer a thicker soup, simply extend the second simmering. Start with an additional 15 minutes and check for your preferred consistency.
  3. If you prepare this in advance or reheat it for leftovers you may need to add a little water or stock to thin it out (again it’s based on preference).

 

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The Temper Tantrum

But, I want to go to Paris! Me! Me! Me!

I’m all but stomping my feet and throwing myself to the floor when I read the email that our good friends are going to France this summer for a month. Jerks. Yes, jealousy is unbecoming and of course I’m happy for them (they did share with me some luscious crème de cassis procured from their last trip to you know where) but I can’t keep wondering when will it be my turn? I’m 36…..maybe for my 40th? I cling to this notion for hope…and that it might mitigate my envy.

To celebrate the trip we met at a French place down the road…..not across the Atlantic like I’d dreamed…had champagne, eggs, steak frites, béarnaise sauce and of course leeks. It seems as though every cookbook, TV personality, chef are always saying “leeks are so French”.  Embarrassingly, I’ve even caught myself saying it when I’m trying to impress, but I honestly I don’t have a clue why leeks are soooo French. Thank goodness no one ever challenged me!

At our dinner the leeks were classically combined with potatoes for a remarkable soup- one that both my husband and I gravitated towards and ordered, among other things, to share. When it arrived I was envious (again) that the waiter placed it in front of him. And then it sat there. He didn’t move. He just kept talking and ignoring the soup while my mouth became an ocean and my eyes fixated on the steaming bowl with perfectly minced chives scattered atop its smooth silky canvas.  Suddenly my instincts took over and I grabbed the bowl with an abrupt, strange verbalization that was intended to say “It’s going to get cold.” My startled husband relinquished the soup (like he had a choice) with a strange embarrassed look presumably directed at my animal like behavior. So what. I was spooning those delicate, creamy puréed leeks into my soup-hole…..

Sadly I don’t have the recipe, but there are so many online it’s ok. I’m infatuated with Ina’s Roasted Potato Leek (when no one is looking I’ve used my finger to scrape the bowl clean, it’s that good.), but I thought as homage to Paris I should try David Lebovitz vichyssoise-like version. I’m a big fan of his blog, but sheepishly (thank god he doesn’t know I exist) I’ve never made any of his recipes. So here’s to David and my impending visit to Paris.

Turns out leeks have been cultivated in Europe for so many centuries, actually thousands of years, that they are an inexpensive market staple (not the chic explanation I was hoping to uncover) and therefore a mainstay in restaurant and home kitchens alike.  No matter, they still make me feel very chefy when I cook with them.

Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup

Adapted from David Lebovitz.

The Yukon’s lend an inviting golden hue, while the leeks are subtle and the white pepper has just enough presence to make this soup interesting, not just healthy. It’s strangely delicate in an earthy way. Make the soup and you’ll know what I mean.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 cups washed and sliced leeks (about 4 leeks)
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • ¼ tsp chile powder
  • 1 ¼ lbs peeled and chopped Yukon gold potatoes
  • 6 cups of filtered water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp freshly-ground white pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp salt (divided)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven (I used 6.75 quart) heat olive oil over medium.
  2. Add leeks, season with ½ tsp salt and cook for 5-7 minutes stirring frequently until soft and translucent.
  3. Add thyme and chili powder and stir for about 30 seconds until their fragrance is released.
  4. Add water, potato and bay leaves.
  5. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife- about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaves, add white pepper and remaining 1 tsp of salt.
  7. Remove from heat and purée with an immersion blender.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/11/the-temper-tantrum/

 

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