Oven Baked Vegetable Soup

IMG_2035It took me a long time to learn to make a good soup. A long. Long. Time. For years, the soups I made were flavorless and disappointing. I had no idea what I was doing wrong, but it didn’t seem like soup could really be that complicated. Turns out, soup isn’t that complicated, but you do have to pay attention and follow a few simple rules. And you also need patience. Once I figured this out, I was on my way to making all kinds of simple, but delicious and nourishing soup combinations. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Use stock, never water. Homemade stock is always better than what you can buy and almost any stock is better than starting with water.
  2. Cook your onions and garlic before adding them to the soup pot. Bringing out the sweetness of onions and garlic before adding them to your soup pot will yield a richer flavor.
  3. Use herbs with abandon and salt with a generous hand. Okay, I know salt is supposed to be evil and all, but unless you have a health problem that prohibits you from having salt, use it along with an assortment of fresh and dried herbs. Use Kosher or sea salt. Don’t use table salt. Maybe ever.
  4. Make your soup a day ahead. If you have the time, make your soup a day ahead and reheat. Soup and stew both benefit greatly from allowing flavors to mingle.

This soup is almost more of a vegetable stew, and it bakes in the oven rather than simmering on a stove top. This is perfect for my favorite fall activity–watching football. The entire pot assembled quickly and baked until we were ready at halftime. The house also smelled terrific–all cozy and comforting.

The original recipe for this dish was posted to Eating Well, and I changed it up to suit my tastes. I used homemade chicken broth instead of water (see lesson #1 above), but you could make this vegan by using vegetable broth and eliminating the Parmesan cheese rind. I also altered the original recipe, substituting some fresh vegetables I had on hand and adding fresh herbs and garlic. I used my ceramic coated Dutch oven to make this–you will need a very large pot or Dutch oven. The original recipe says it serves 8, but I think it may serve more–it is a LOT of soup. This recipe comes together quickly and you could really use whatever fresh vegetables you have handy. The next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I may add some cannellini beans for protein. Whatever you choose, this is a wonderful versatile recipe for an easy, lazy weekend meal that is healthy!

Oven Baked Vegetable Soup (serves 8-10)

  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound potatoes, cubed or use tiny potatoes, cut in half
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper, divided
  • 3 zucchini, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 medium leeks, halved and sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh oregano
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh corn off the cob
  • 4 cups artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1-15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1 2-inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
  • 6 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour oil into a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven. Arrange potatoes in a single layer over the oil.
  3. Sprinkle with half the salt and half the pepper. Add the leaves from one sprig of rosemary and 1 tablespoon of the oregano.
  4. Layer zucchini, leeks, carrots, mushrooms, corn, artichoke hearts, leaves from one sprig of rosemary, remaining oregano, salt and pepper.
  5. Tuck the Parmesan rind into the vegetables.
  6. Pour the tomatoes and juice over the vegetables. Add the chicken or vegetable stock.
  7. Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 2 or 2 1/2 hours.
  8. Serve immediately garnished with cheese and accompanied by a good, crusty bread.

 

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Winter Vegetable Soup

20140127-083909.jpgWhen I was much younger and just beginning to cook for myself, I tried making soup several times and completely failed. My strategy was to dump some vegetables and meat in a pot, add water and cook. The soup was flavorless and often not very attractive. I gave up for a while and relied on canned soups to satisfy my craving for warm, comfort food. There are some decent prepared soups out there, but I don’t think any of them come in a can, and most of them rely on sodium to boost their flavor, making them questionable as a healthy food. It wasn’t until I started making my own chicken stock that I realized much of what I was doing wrong. Rather than layering flavors and preparing vegetables to bring out their best, I was just boiling the life out of everything.

This soup started with Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone recipe, but I altered it to make use of what I had on hand. It is very easy and although it takes more time than the “dump and stir” method of my past, the time is infinitely worth it. You can change this up yourself to make use of what you have in your refrigerator or pantry. If you froze some pesto from the summer, this is a great time to use it!

This recipe makes quite a lot, so either prepare to freeze some or invite some friends over!

Winter Vegetable Soup (makes about 10-12 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 large, yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups of diced carrots
  • 2 cups of diced celery
  • 1 cup peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 1 cup peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 26 ounces of canned or boxed chopped tomatoes
  • 8 cups chicken or beef stock, preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 (15 ounce) can organic cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup brown rice pasta (I used a spiral pasta)
  • 3 cups fresh baby kale or Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or stock pot. Add the pancetta and cook about 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Stir frequently to keep the pancetta from sticking.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, squash, sweet potato, broccoli and thyme to the pot. Stir well and cook about 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Check seasonings and correct if necessary with salt and pepper.
  4. Uncover, stir well and add more liquid (either stock or water) if the soup is too thick. Simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Serve immediately with a nice, hearty bread or green salad.

Ham and White Bean Soup with Kale

20140122-092248.jpgOne of my earliest memories of winter is walking off a curb, into a snow bank and finding myself surrounded by snow over my head. It seemed like such a magical thing, to be completely enveloped in soft, noise muffling snow. I may have been only 2 or 3 years old at the time, but that image of looking up and seeing nothing but snow and a peek of sky has stayed with me.

Friends, I am here to tell you that the magic of winter is gone for me. I am cold–are you cold? I am not the biggest fan of cold weather in the best of circumstances, but this winter has just been downright ridiculous. Since I can’t change the weather (I have tried), the best thing I can do is hunker down and eat cozy, warm, comfort foods. Like this soup. For me, winter soups need to be substantial, but also healthy. I like them hearty, with lots of delicious vegetables and either beans or pasta. This rustic white bean soup is easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of chopping or prep work. Easy, warm, nutritious and comforting. Just the thing to help me survive until spring!

I prefer cooking soup in a stock pot, but you can make this soup in a slow cooker by cooking on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4 hours. Don’t skimp on the rosemary or garlic–they give this dish a lot of great flavor!

A note about the beans: This dish will taste even better if you use dried beans and dehydrate them overnight, but if you are in a hurry you can use canned cannellini beans instead and cut your cooking time to about 45 minutes.

Ham and White Bean Soup with Kale (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 cups (1 quart) organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups rehydrated organic white cannellini beans (about 2 cups dry) or 3 cans of organic white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 organic carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large handful of baby kale (or chopped regular greens)
  • 2 springs of fresh rosemary, stems removed and needles chopped
  • 1/2 cup smoked ham, prosciutto or side meat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Night before (if using dried beans): Put the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water plus about 2″. Cover and let sit overnight or for 7-8 hours.
  2. In a 10″ saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. If using dried beans, drain the beans, discarding the soaking water.
  5. In a stock pot, add all the ingredients except kale, salt and pepper. Heat over medium low and simmer for 4-6 hours. Check every once and a while and if the soup is too thick, add additional stock or water.
  6. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the kale and simmer for another hour.
  7. Serve hot with crusty bread or a side salad.

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup

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What do you do when it’s cold and rainy and your CSA delivers 5 pounds of fresh carrots? Make carrot soup! This soup is very easy to make and has only a few ingredients. The coconut cream gives a rich flavor and mellows out the curry without tasting too coconutty.

Fresh carrots have a wonderful, sweet flavor that their grocery store cousins often lack, so if you have access to fresh dug carrots, I would use them here! Also, if you are not a fan of curry, you could substitute fresh ginger for the curry and have an equally delightful soup! This soup freezes well, so while it makes a lot, you don’t have to eat it all right away!

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup (makes about 8-10 servings)

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon organic coconut oil
  • 3-4 lbs. fresh carrots
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can full fat coconut cream
  • 1 heaping teaspoon red curry powder
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Scrub, peel and chop all the carrots into 1″ pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a stock pot or large Dutch oven, heat the coconut oil over medium low heat.
    Add chopped onions and sauté until very soft and transparent (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.

  3. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot, cover and simmer over medium low or low heat for about 1 hour. Stir frequently.
  4. When carrots are very soft, use an immersion blender (CAREFULLY as soup is hot) to blend all the ingredients to a smooth consistency.
  5. Add a bit of water if the soup is too thick or cook a bit longer if you want a thicker soup.
  6. Taste for seasoning and correct if needed.
  7. Serve immediately.

Broccoli Potato Soup

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We have loads of fresh broccoli available from our local farmers right now and it is absolutely delicious! I’ve never been able to grow broccoli myself, so I appreciate the efforts of those who have the right touch. Broccoli is one of our favorite vegetables, and we are eating as much as we can while it’s in season.

This broccoli soup is very heart healthy, low in fat and (if you leave off the sprinkle of Parmesan), vegan! It is thick and creamy, but uses no cream at all. Instead, potatoes fill in for cream and also add a hearty weight to this dish.

Broccoli Potato Soup (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 organic, yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 quart homemade or organic vegetable stock
  • 1/2 lb. organic baby red potatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 1 large head of fresh broccoli, florets and stems chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the onions in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes or until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and increase heat to medium high.
  5. Add the potatoes and boil for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the broccoli to the pot and reduce heat to medium. Add water if necessary to just cover vegetables. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Use an immersion blender to VERY CAREFULLY blend all ingredients in the pot. Taste and correct seasonings as needed.
  8. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Lentil Kale Soup with Sausage

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This soup has a lot of great things going for it. First, it is packed with protein and (thanks to some delicious chicken sausage) it is low in fat. Second it is super high in fiber and third it is inexpensive to make. So what’s not to love? If you ask my daughter, it’s the mushrooms, so we’ve listed them as optional in case you have mushroom haters in your house, too. This is one of those soups that came together at the last minute–a little of this, a little of that. Adjust the vegetables and seasonings based on what you have handy. Carrots would be great and so would tomatoes!

Lentil Kale Soup with Sausage (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (we used chicken with sun dried tomatoes)
  • 1 organic, yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 package baby Portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • Kosher or sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 small bunch organic kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups organic small, whole lentils
  1. In a Dutch oven, brown the sausages whole over medium heat and cook through, about 15 minutes. Remove sausages to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Save 2 tablespoons of the sausage drippings (use grape seed or olive oil if you need to).
  3. Heat oil over medium low and add onions. Stir well and cook until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, stir and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning and stir. Cook another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the kale and cook an additional 3 minutes. Cut the sausages into bite sized pieces.
  7. Add the vegetable stock and sausage pieces. Stir well to combine and simmer over low for 1 hour. Lentils should be very tender.
  8. Serve immediately with a salad or with some crusty bread!

Chicken, Rice and Acorn Squash Soup

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This soup is total comfort food. Think of it as your favorite sweatshirt in food form–simple, but soothing. It is easy to make, delicious, and is the perfect food for a rainy, fall day. I used the last of our homemade turkey broth from last year’s Thanksgiving feast and wow, that made a huge difference. If you have some homemade stock, it will make a great soup superior. If not, use a good quality chicken or vegetable stock.

Chicken, Rice and Acorn Squash Soup (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 quart homemade chicken, turkey or vegetable sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
  • 2 acorn squash
  • 1 large, sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 1 cup organic rice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Wash the acorn squash, cut in half widthwise and remove seeds.
  3. Brush cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil, and put squash halves cut side down on the lined baking sheet.
  4. Roast squash for 45 minutes or until squash is soft. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.
  6. In a large stockpot, add stock, thyme, onion and garlic, and warm over medium heat.
  7. Scoop pulp from the squash halves and add that to the stock. Blend with an immersion blender.
  8. Add rice and chopped chicken, stir and simmer for about 45 minutes.
  9. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve hot with a green salad.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

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You need this soup.

Are you sitting somewhere looking out a window staring in disbelief at white snow, thinking “what in the world???”. You need this soup.

Are you wondering what lowlife bribed the groundhog to convincingly tell us all a boldface lie about spring? You need this soup.

Are you wondering why the heck people believe a rodent about seasonal change, but refuse to believe science about global warming? Well, then you need to come sit with me…’cause I like you…and we’ll have this soup.

This recipe came from a great vegan food blog called the Lunch Box Bunch. It is so very, very good. Slightly sweet, spicy and rich. A great winter soup that is also vegan and gluten free (yes, really!). And once you have a baked sweet potato, it takes about 10 minutes to make. Easy, delicious, healthy and quick. What’s not to love? Except that snow outside…and that damn groundhog…

You can get the original soup recipe HERE. I changed it up a bit, using coconut milk instead of vegetable broth/soy milk and one chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (I love those things) instead of chili powder. Also finished with a squeeze of lime and some home baked chipotle lime tortilla strips. Next time, I might try adding curry to get some turmeric in that soup! YUUUUUUMMMMMM. My version is below.

Check out the Lunch Box Bunch blog (and Twitter feed) for more great, healthy, vegan recipes!

Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup (2 servings)

1 large, organic sweet potato
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 lime

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap sweet potato in foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove pulp from sweet potato when cool enough to handle.
Combine sweet potato pulp, coconut milk and chili pepper in a sauce pan. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add juice from half the lime and stir.
Heat through, then ladle into serving bowls. Squeeze remaining lime half of lime into serving bowls. Top with crispy tortilla strips, avocado chunks, lime zest or roasted pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

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