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.
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Lentils, Sweet Potatoes and Spinach in Pumpkin Curry

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We’ve received a lovely dose of frigid weather this week, and it has us craving hearty, hot meals. This dish is perfect cold weather comfort food–hot, hearty, nourishing and healthy. I wouldn’t normally associate a vegan stew with stick-to-your-ribs winter fare, but this fits the bill and is on our list of make again meals. The combination of pumpkin, spices and coconut milk makes a rich base for red lentils, flavorful sweet potatoes and fresh spinach. You could thin this out a bit and serve it as a soup, but we prefer it thick like a stew. You could also substitute butternut squash for the sweet potatoes and chard or kale for the spinach. Don’t let the long list of ingredients keep you from trying this. Most of the list is spices and the whole dish comes together very easily in one pan!

A note about red lentils: Red lentils are smaller than other varieties and will dissolve into a sauce if cooked for long periods of time. If you use a larger, thicker variety of lentil, adjust your cooking time accordingly.

Lentils, Sweet Potatoes and Spinach in Pumpkin Curry (serves 4)

  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground, black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 cup dried, red lentils
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, washed and trimmed of stems
  1. Mix the first 10 ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. In a deep skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 1 minute.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes to the pan and stir well, coating the potatoes with the oil.
  5. Pour the pumpkin curry mixture over the potatoes, stir well and reduce heat to medium low. If the sauce is too thick, add 1/2 cup water and stir.
  6. Cover the pan and simmer the potatoes for 10 minutes, stirring frequently and adding water if needed to keep the sauce from sticking.
  7. Add the lentils, cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  8. Add the spinach and cook another 5 minutes or until the lentils are soft, but not dissolved, and spinach is wilted.
  9. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary for your palate.
  10. Serve immediately.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

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If the Snuggie could be duplicated in food form, it would be this soup. Warm, comforting and nourishing, this soup makes the most of some very humble ingredients.

Split Pea Soup with Ham (4-6 servings)

  • 1 pckg. dried, green split peas
  • 1 organic yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into small, half rounds
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium store bought
  • 1 pasture-raised cured ham steak
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
  1. In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  3. Chop ham steak into 1/2″ cubes and add to pot. Stir well and cook 1-2 minutes. Remove about 1/2 of the ham and set aside.
  4. Add chicken stock and split peas. Stir well.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour or until peas are soft. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Use an immersion blender (CAUTION: soup is hot!!!) and blend the soup to a creamy consistency.
  7. Add reserved ham to pot and cook on medium/low heat until soup is thick and creamy (another 20-40 minutes).
  8. Serve immediately. Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
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