Vegetable-Packed Miso Soup

Today, I needed to take a break of all the holiday indulgences I’ve been enjoying.  They’ve been impossible to avoid.  I baked my first pie this week, the break room at work has been littered with cookies and candy, and yesterday we got a package in the mail straight from Jeremy’s mom in Georgia with southern-style holiday treats.  I recently heard that the average American gains 1-2 pounds during the holiday season each year.  Which doesn’t sound like a lot…except that most of us never lose it again.  Add that up over the course of a few decades and you’ve got a pretty sizeable problem.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to sit here and tell you to deprive yourself of all the sweetness that the holiday season brings.  I am the worst (THE WORST!) at staying away from tempting goodies.  For me, the best solution is to load up on healthy foods when I can so that I’m simply not that hungry when I’m faced with items that don’t fit into my healthy eating plan.  Yeah, I’ll still eat them, but I’ll have smaller portions.

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This soup, with its nourishing veggies and umami-filled broth is a good way to step back from the holiday fray…so you’ll be even more ready to fully enjoy that holiday meal.  I used bonito flakes in the broth for a more authentic miso flavor.  You can find them at a well-stocked asian grocery store, but feel free to substitute low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (the miso and soy sauce will add plenty of their own saltiness at the end).

Miso Soup with Vegetables
makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
– 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
– 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
– 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
– 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
– 6 cups water
– 2 cups lightly packed bonito flakes
– 3 carrots, halved and sliced
– 2 heads baby bok choy, thinly sliced
– 1 block medium-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
– 3 Tbs miso paste
– soy sauce, to taste

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute longer.

2. Add water.  Place bonito flakes in a mesh container (I used a nut-milk bag) and immerse in the water to steep.  You just want to be able to remove the flakes once they’ve imparted their flavor.  Add carrots and white sections of bok choy and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Lower heat and remove bonito flakes.  Add leafy sections of bok choy and stir until wilted.  Add tofu.

4. Ladle some broth into a bowl and add miso paste.  Stir until miso has dissolved and return to stock pot.  Taste and add soy sauce, if desired.

Paleo Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup

Yup, I said it.  “Cabbage” and “liver” in the same recipe title.  But trust me, if I didn’t find it to be 100% delicious, I would not be sharing it with you.  I’ve been intrigued by the amazing health benefits of grass-fed liver for a while now, but I wasn’t really sure of how to introduce the topic on this site.  Liver is not something that most people tend to get excited about and so in order to sell it, I knew I’d have to find an incredible way to prepare it.  I’ve tried the classic liver and onions, a chopped liver sandwich, and even a curried version (which was actually pretty good but I forgot to write down my recipe).  This is the first that I feel I can confidently promise you will love.  Now, on to a discussion of the health benefits.

Beef liver is an extremely nutrient dense food, providing an abundance of vitamin A, B vitamins, copper, zinc, iron and folate.  These vitamins are essential for proper functioning of the immune system, combatting fatigue, promoting healthy metabolism, and protecting against oxidative stress.  On top of all that, it is very high in protein.  I find that when I eat liver, it takes hours for me to feel hungry again.  Which is unusual for a snack-monster like me  🙂

The nice thing about this recipe is that there are many layers of flavor that make the liver much less noticeable.  There is a savory, salty broth made with a parmesan rind, lots of hearty vegetables, and the meatballs which contain ground beef, liver, and spices.  You can also adjust the amount of liver according to your taste.  Try just 1/4 pound if you’re not sure about the stuff or go all the way to 3/4 pound if you’re a liver-eating pro.

Do you include liver in your diet?  If so, what are your favorite ways to prepare it?

Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup
makes 12 servings

Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 3 large carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ pieces
– 4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
– 1 zucchini, quartered and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
– 1 large head of cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
– 8 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
– 1 parmesan rind
– salt, to taste

– 1 lb ground beef (grass-fed, if possible)
– 2/3 lb beef liver (use more or less, to taste)
– 1 egg
– 1 Tbsp ground flax
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp dried oregano

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add carrots and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and sauté another 5 minutes, until vegetables are starting to soften.  Add cabbage and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add broth or stock and parmesan rind.  Bring to a simmer and prepare meatballs.

3. Place liver in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Place in a large bowl with ground beef, egg, flax, salt, paprika, and oregano.  Mix ingredients until uniformly distributed.  In a large sauté pan, heat a little more olive oil.  Drop beef mixture by tablespoonfuls into the pan and cook for about 1 minute on each side, until lightly browned.  They do not have to be cooked all the way through as they will continue cooking in the stock pot with the soup.

4. Add meatballs to the soup and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot.

* I shared this post with this week’s Whole Foods WednesdayReal Food WednesdayAllergy Free Wednesday, Gluten-Free WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysHearth and Soul HopFat Tuesday and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.

On the Menu: Potato Sour Cream Soup + Salmon with Wilted Watercress

Last night, I survived my first hospital night-shift.  It was a first for me: I’ve never been one to stay up all night and I’ve never worked for 12 hours straight.  I’m gearing up for another shift tonight and one the night after.  Basically, I’m worthless for anything but sitting on my couch.  Which is why I decided to make a decadent, delicious dinner before my week got started.

The lovely thing about this meal was that I was able to prepare the salmon and watercress as the soup bubbled on the stove.  Just preheat your oven to 450F, season your salmon with salt and pepper (and olive oil, if you like), and bake for 12-15 minutes.  For the watercress, heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, add watercress with a pinch of salt, and lightly sautee for under 5 minutes.  A bit of lemon juice would also be lovely.

The soup takes only about 30 minutes to prepare, so you’ll have dinner on the table in no time.

Sour Cream Potato Soup
makes 6 servings
adapted from A Southerly Course

Ingredients
– 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
– 2 large shallots, roughly chopped
– 3 cups Yukon Gold or red potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
– 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
– 1 cup sour cream
– salt and pepper to taste
– chives for garnish (optional)

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add shallots and sautee, stirring regularly until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Blend soup with an immersion blender or regular blender until creamy.  Add some of the warm soup to the sour cream, whisk until incorporated and then add that mixture back to the soup.  Serve hot.

Salmon Bisque (Dairy-Free)

Believe it or not, this last week has given us several days of what I would call “soup weather”.  Overcast skies, a chill in the air, drizzling rain.  We even had spectacular thunder and lightening storms the last two nights in a row.  I liked them.  The dog did not.  So while other bloggers are posting their favorite rhubarb or spring salad recipes (which really do look good), I’m curled up on my couch with a blanket and a bowl of soup.

Despite the visions of butter and heavy cream usually conjured up by the mention of “bisque”, this recipe has neither.  And I can tell you that it doesn’t need either one.  The salmon adds a richness all its own and a couple small potatoes makes for the perfect amount of body.  The pictures here show it topped with a dollop of greek yogurt, but it’s just as lovely without.  Perhaps you could even add a swirl of olive oil for some extra healthy fats.

One other nice thing about this soup: It helped me finally figure out what to do with a certain specialty salt that I’ve had in my kitchen for almost a year!  You see, last summer when my parents visited, my mom bought a large container of a nice coarse gray salt.  The flakes (chunks is actually probably a better word) had a nice taste and look to them but I just didn’t know how to handle them.  They were too large to use for most cooking applications and too fancy-seeming to just dissolve into soup or broth.  I put my container on the top shelf of my pantry and forgot about it.  Then, a couple of weeks ago, our neighbors gave us a very belated Christmas present of 3 gorgeous salt vials.  One of them contained the same coarse gray salt from Guerande, France (the same place fleur de sel comes from).  Now, it seemed, I was really going to need to find an appropriate use for this unusual salt.

Well, I think I finally did it.  When a few flakes are added to a warm bowl of thick soup like this one and then mixed in, it creates pleasant little pockets of saltiness with some crunch where the salt didn’t dissolve completely.  I think this would also work nicely with a lentil or split-pea soup.

Question: Have any of you received gifts for the kitchen that you weren’t quite sure how to use?  What did you end up doing with them?

Salmon Bisque
makes 4 servings
adapted (slightly) from Tartelette

Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and sliced
– 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 2 carrots, sliced
– 2 small red potatoes, sliced
– 2 Tbsp extra dry vermouth
– 3 cups vegetable broth
– 1 lb skinless salmon, cubed (I found some for a good price in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s)
– salt and pepper, to taste
– greek yogurt, olive oil, and/or salt for serving

Heat olive oil over medium in a large pot.  Add vegetables and sautee, stirring so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Add vermouth, vegetable broth, and salmon and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender (let the soup cool a bit if your blender is not designed for hot liquids).  Garnish as desired and serve.  This soup keeps for a few days in the refrigerator.

*I added this post to this week’s Sugar Free Sunday, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Monday Mania, Hearth and Soul Hop, Fat Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, and Mix it Up Monday.

Many-Mushroom Soup

Hello!  Just a quick weekend post to tell you about some mighty tasty soup I made last week.  I’m afraid it’s not much to look at, but it was quick enough for a school night and made delicious leftovers for lunch the next day.  And yes, the recipe really does only make about 2 servings.  I know how strange it is to make such a small batch of soup.  I usually subscribe to the belief that the amount of soup in the stock pot should be enough to feed a small army with leftovers to stick in the freezer.  But mushrooms are expensive, people!  And I decided that I’d rather get a smaller yield of mushroom-heavy soup than a big pot with only a few fungi floating around.  I can tell you that was the right decision.

Many-Mushroom Soup
makes 2 servings

Ingredients
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 small onion, diced
– 7 oz assorted mushrooms, with the large ones sliced into bite-sized pieces (Try to get at least 3 different types. I bought a package with several kinds already mixed together)
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste
– 2 cups vegetable broth
– 1/4 tsp ground thyme
– 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook until soft, about 7 minutes.

Add mushrooms, garlic, and salt and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vegetable broth, thyme, and nutmeg.  Cook for another 10 minutes or so.  Serve immediately or enjoy the next day when the flavors have melded more.

I added this post to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night and Superfood Sunday.

Goodness Green-ness Soup (Vegan)

I’m not sure I would have tried this soup if I hadn’t heard its author raving about it on The Splendid Table last week.  I found the recipe online and became convinced that I should make it after I saw the healthy and inexpensive list of ingredients.  I’m so glad I did!  The taste of caramelized onion and lemon really stands out and the little bit of rice gives it a smooth, creamy texture.  I stored half the batch in the freezer and am looking forward to pulling it out as I enter another hectic week of school!

Goodness Green-ness Soup
makes 8 servings
adapted from Anna Thomas’ recipe

Ingredients
– 2 Tbsp olive oil
– 2 large onions, chopped
– 1 tsp salt, divided
– 2 Tbs, plus 3 cups water, divided
– 1/4 cup arborio rice
– 1 bunch chard, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
– 1/2 lb spinach
– 4 cups vegetable broth (I used homemade leek broth)
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– juice of 1 lemon

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stockpot.  Add onions and 1/4 tsp salt and cook until onions are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add 2 Tbsp water, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover pot.  Allow to cook until caramelized, about an hour, stirring occasionally.

2.  Meanwhile, in a separate pot, combine rice with remaining 3 cups water and 3/4 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover the pot, and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.  Stir in the chard greens and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Strain remaining water out of rice and chard.

3.  Add the rice and chard to the caramelized onions, along with broth, cayenne and spinach.  Simmer just until spinach has wilted enough to be covered by the broth.

4. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.  Stir in lemon juice.  Serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

* I added this post to Sunday Night Soup Night, Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival and Real Food 101.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

With my Thanksgiving break drawing to a close, I decided that I needed to use my last free day to make a big pot of soup.  Since we didn’t have Thanksgiving at our place, I don’t have any leftovers from the feast.  And since this is my last week of class before finals, I know I’m going to be quite busy with non-culinary projects starting…about…now.  I decided that some healthy and hearty lentil soup would be just the thing to take for lunches for the next few days, especially given the cold and rainy weather we’ve got coming up.

This recipe comes from Heidi Swanson’s blog 101 Cookbooks.  I have loved every recipe of hers that I have ever made and this is no exception.  The pictures on her blog and in her cookbooks make me want to go live in her world for a while, which I do by making her food.  I used a little less lemon than she did, but feel free to experiment and see how lemony you want your soup to be.  I highly recommend adding the spinach but have to say I’ll probably be skipping that step with my leftover soup for ease of lunch-packing.  Stay warm, everyone!

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
from Heidi’s at 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients:
2 cups / 14 oz / 400 g split red lentils, picked over and rinsed well
1 tablespoon turmeric
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
fine grain sea salt
1 large onion / ~ 2 cups, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of three lemons, or to taste
1 large bunch of spinach leaves, chopped

plenty of cooked (warm) brown rice, to serve
plenty of plain Greek yogurt, to serve

Put the lentils in a pot with 7 cups / 1.6 l water, the turmeric, 1 tablespoon of the butter, and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft and falling apart – twenty minutes or so. Puree with a hand blender. Add more water until the soup is the consistency you like, then taste and add more salt if needed. Keep the soup warm/hot.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onion. In a skillet over low heat cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter along with the cumin and mustard seeds, stirring occasionally. When the onions have softened, roughly 10 or 15 minutes, add the cilantro and cook for a few seconds before removing from the heat. Add the onion mixture to the soup, then add the juice of the lemons, one lemon at a time – until the soup has a nice bit of tang. Also, add more salt to taste at this point if needed.

Just before serving, add the last of the butter to the skillet, when hot add the spinach and a good pinch of salt. Stir well, and cook just long enough for the spinach to collapse.

Serve by placing a scoop of rice in each bowl, then soup, spinach, and a dollop of yogurt.

Serves 6.

I submitted this post to this week’s “Real Food Wednesday“.

Fall Minestrone

A few days ago when it was chilly and rainy outside and I could smell Fall in the air, I decided that I should welcome the new season with a warming soup.  I settled on minestrone and gathered the ingredients at the grocery store.  Today, I finally had time to chop and simmer…and it was was 83 degrees outside and sunny.  I waited for the apartment to cool off from the afternoon sun and then reheated it with my stove.  Yeah, the timing could have been a little better but I’m not about to complain about the wonderful bowl of soup in front of me.

Since I am going for a “waste not, want not” kind of policy in my kitchen (living on student loans is a great motivator for frugality!) I’m saving the peelings from my butternut squash along with what remains of the leeks to make veggie stock.  I’m also saving the squash seeds to toast once my kitchen cools off.

Fall Minestrone
Makes a big pot of soup

Ingredients:
– 2 Tbs butter or oil
– 3 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced then roughly chopped
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
– 1 can (15 oz) italian style tomatoes
– 1 can (15 oz) white beans, drained and rinsed
– 3 large kale leaves, chopped into small pieces
– 4 cups vegetable broth
– 1 rosemary sprig
– salt and pepper, to taste

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add leeks and garlic and cook until tender, 5 minutes.
2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper.

Note: After I took the photos, I remembered that I had some aged manchego in the refrigerator and shaved some onto the top of my pile of soup.  I strongly believe that fancy cheese should not go to waste.  Parmesan would also be a good choice!