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Sausage and Kale Soup and Why I need a new pasta shape

One of my favorite jokes of all time goes something like this:

Two sausages were sizzling in a frying pan. One sausage said to the other, “It sure is hot in here!”

The other sausage said, “Oh my god, it’s a talking sausage!”

Anyway.

No matter how old I get, the word “sausage” will probably always make me giggle a little bit—for obvious reasons. There’s really no way around it. I have accepted this about myself.

sausage and kale pastaI first got the idea for this soup from a recipe I saw on How Sweet It Is, which calls for spicy Italian sausage and whole wheat orecchiette. However, instead of pasta, I decided to use up some brown rice that had been in my cupboard for well over a year.

I actually decided to throw out the orecchiette in there because it finally dawned on me that almost all of the not very many relationships I’ve had in the past few years ended within days of sharing a meal that contained said orecchiette, and well, f*** that. It’s 2014. I need a new pasta shape in my life. Energetically speaking, I’m sure there’s something not good about eating pasta that looks like ears, maybe to do with hearing/listening/being heard. I don’t know—I’m over-thinking this, clearly. Let’s just say I’m ready to actually learn from my mistakes by not making bad-karma-pasta anymore. Maybe I also should enforce a new rule about not making pasta too early in a relationship, since the one that did not end with orecchiette ended with ravioli.

But back to the soup…To up the fiber content, I added some green lentils and used less sausage. Speaking of sausage (let’s see how many times I can say “sausage” in one post), I went with a couple Trader Joe’s roasted garlic chicken sausages for this recipe, but you can use whatever kind you want. Turkey sausage, beef sausage, pork sausage, mystery sausage…

You can also play around with using different greens if kale’s not your thing or if you got spooked by that article you read a few weeks ago.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 cooked sausages, cut into half-moon shapes
  • ~8 cups water or broth
  • 1 bunch kale or other greens

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock pot. add garlic, onion, celery, carrot, and leek. Cook until onion is translucent and veggies begin to soften.
  2. Stir in spices, lentils, rice, and sausage. Cook another minute or two before adding liquid.
  3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in kale. Allow to simmer ~30 minutes.

What’s your favorite joke? Does “sausage” make you giggle? Which pasta shape should I try next? 

Chickpeas, Mushrooms, and Kale in Spicy Tomato Sauce

spicy chickpea mushroom stewYou can tell you’re reached “a certain age” (which has nothing to do with numbers) when you go to parties and all anyone talks about is food and cooking. To be fair, this party in question was a cookie exchange hosted by someone I went to grad school and did my dietetic internship with, and the guest list included some of my other friends from school, so of course RDs are gonna talk food together.

Anyway, after hearing my friend Natalie’s plans for a spicy stew she was making for dinner that night, I went home and whipped up something similar using what I had lying around. It’s kind of similar to my favorite post-Christmas detox dish, but soupier and spicier—perfect for a cold January night!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch kale and/or spinach
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste

 Directions: 

1.Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and shallot. Sauté until fragrant and shallot is translucent.

2.Add greens and cook until they start to wilt. Add spices.

3.Add mushrooms. Cook until they begin to soften. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Allow to simmer ~5 minutes.

4.Add chickpeas. Mix everything well and cook until greens are wilted and chickpeas are nice and hot. If desired, cook on low until sauce has thickened up.

 

Polar Vortex

Holy polar vortex, batman! I wish I could just stay inside and make soup.

In case you’d like to do the same, here are a few of my favorites:

I’d also like to wish a very happy birthday my mother, who taught me how important it is to follow your passions and listen to your intuition. Love you!mom and jess dec 18 13

Stay warm out there!

Tofu Mushroom Miso Soup

IMG_4573I’ve been using miso paste in cooking for the past 5 years or so—I think it was Mark Bittman who converted me when I started reading his books and column and getting a sense of what a well-stocked pantry really meant.

The guide he provides in Food Matters was definitely a game-changer for me, as I’d lived off instant oatmeal and canned soup in college, and now found myself sharing a kitchen with a fake-meat vegetarian who gave me a lot of crap (and lectures) for not feeling satisfied by Boca burgers and veggie hot dogs wrapped in pre-sliced bread. I felt miserable and undernourished, so coming across Bittman’s  flexitarian, “Vegan Before 6″ style was a breath of fresh air. I loved his approach to following a plant-based diet with small amounts of high-quality animal protein with an eye toward sustainability. It seemed so…sane. Vegetarian or not, I’ve always found his real-food recipes uncomplicated and adaptable, and yet somehow even the simplest feel like a step up from the everyday, even when consumed in front of a laptop on a weekday afternoon.

Miso paste, one of those key pantry items, makes a wonderful base for soups, sauces, and salad dressings. You can even use it in marinades and in foods like seitan or meatfloaf. Made from fermented soy, rice, and/or barley, it provides that “umami” flavor. Here are some other great ideas for how to use miso paste from the folks at Whole Foods (been loving their blogs lately).

Yesterday after hot yoga, I had a really strong craving for miso soup. Though I could have just gotten takeout from a local Japanese place, I had what I needed to make it at home, so I did. This recipe is far from authentic, but it makes a perfectly restorative brothy lunch for a cold winter day.

Ingredients: 

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/4 c miso paste (I used a mix of red and white—you can use whatever)
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu, cubed (you can use silken if preferred)
  • 8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
  • a few handfuls kale, baby spinach or other greens
  • 1 cup langostino tails, thawed from frozen (optional, but I was use some up)

Directions: 

  1. In a large stock pot, bring water to a boil. Add miso paste and whisk until broth forms. Add ginger and green onions.
  2. After 2 or 3 minutes, add tofu and mushrooms. Lower heat. Cover and cook ~10 minutes.
  3. Add greens and langostino tails. Cook another 10 minutes.

Serve hot. This will make about 4 large bowls of soup. Feel free to add noodles or rice in cooking if you want something heartier—I would have, but that would have meant a trip to the store, during which I would have spent another $40 on things I suddenly really, really needed.

Do you like miso soup? Do you cook with miso paste at home? 

Red Lentil Chili

Yesterday was cold.

I had the day off from my clinical job, but I had some other work to do that was going to require some time in front of the computer. Because I had day-off brain, I kept finding things to do instead of sitting down to my to-do-list items. Naturally, one of those things was to make soup.

Red Lentil ChiliI was thinking about making red lentil soup from this recipe, but I was also sort of in the mood for chili. So…this happened. Because red lentils cook so quickly, this comes together in no time at all. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner for the wintertime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, cut into small cubes
  • 1 c red lentils, dry
  • 4-5 cups water or veggie broth
  • 1 24-oz can crushed or diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 3 c spinach, fresh or thawed from frozen

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and celery. Cook a few minutes until fragrant and onion begins to turn translucent. Add spices and cook another 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Add squash and lentils. Toss well. Cook a few minutes to coat and then add water. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow to simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and spinach. Simmer another 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy hot topped with a little goat cheese—or, you know, slightly more traditional chili toppings. This would also be great over brown rice or quinoa.

What’s one of your favorite cold-weather weeknight meals? 

Something Good

Sunday morning, I was up way early (so what else is new?) and prepping some food for the week. When I paused for breakfast, I was reminded of one of the very awesome things about being single: No one was there to tell me there was anything weird about eating soup for breakfast!

soup for breakfast

This was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. It’s basically the same as my recipe for yellow split-pea soup, only instead of cabbage, I used thawed frozen spinach. Aside from the fact that it tastes good, the hefty dose of turmeric and garlic also helps clear up whatever cold-weather bug is trying to mess with your immune system.

Like I said, cold weather makes me crave savory breakfasts for some reason—this was the perfect way to satisfy that hunger pang.

To be completely honest, as a dietitian, I’d encourage anyone to eat whatever healthy food appeals to them in the morning—sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by limiting our options to the narrow scope of what’s “normal” to eat at a particular time of day. What’s important is getting a balanced mix of nutrients to fuel you for your day!

Do you ever have soup or non-breakfast foods for breakfast? 

Say it with a stick blender this holiday season

This article on the How About We blog cracked me up last night as I was taking a break from wrapping presents to procrastinate on the internet. (Sometimes I think I should actually try How About We‘s dating services since I dig their blog so much, but that’s a post for another blog that does not exist.)

Anyway, the author of this post makes the case that an immersion blender is basically the perfect gift for anyone on your holiday gift list. Here’s an excerpt:

You are giving the gift of blended cold drinks, soups, sauces, batters, and smoothies. And yes, you can absolutely blend all of those things with a normal, standing blender. But would you want to? An immersion blender lets you blend whatever you’re blending right in the container you made it in — bowl, pitcher, pot, whatever — which means you don’t have to pour anything, which means you don’t have to spill anything. Transferring soup from pot to blender back to pot makes soup essentially not worth making. But with an immersion blender, that isn’t necessary, because you do your blending right in the pot. Or the bowl. Or the pitcher. Whatever.

Hand blender

The point is, it’s easy, it’s basically instantaneous, and most importantly, it requires virtually no cleaning, unlike your standing glass monolith. With an immersion blender, you just pop the blending head off the base and rinse it. You’re not just giving an immersion blender, you’re giving the gift of time.

I actually received a stick blender as a gift after finishing my dietetic internship from my aunt and her husband. I think I need to use it soon to make some rosemary mashed potato soup—the secret-ingredient white beans add a nice dose of protein and fiber. I think even Nora Ephron would approve of this version of her favorite comfort food.

I also have to note that the title of this post makes me think of this Rolling Stones song—not Christmas-y at all, but if you can’t say it with a stick blender, you can always say it with dead flowers. It took  me a long time to be able to listen to this song because I used to sing it with an ex all the time (all kinds of weird, I know)—thank god I outgrew the cringe-phase.

Do you have an immersion blender? What do you like to use it for? 

Chicken Chili

Though it’s easy to complain about schizophrenic weather patterns and to whine about the chill when the pendulum swings back toward Seasonal December temps, there are some definitely bright points about it being balls cold outside.

1.) Boots. I heart boots so much.

2.) Soup, stew, and chili.

chicken chiliThis recipe came together when I was cleaning some stuff out of the cabinet one night recently. You can totally leave out the chicken, as it’s filling as is, but if you have some pulled chicken fresh from the slow-cooker, it makes a wonderful addition.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced (can omit)
  • sliced peppers, about 2 (I used about 2 cups of frozen, thawed)
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3-4 c water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • extra cumin if desired
  • a few drops liquid smoke (optional)
  • ~1 c pulled chicken, preferably organic (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic. Cook until onion is soft.
  2. Add peppers, tomatoes, water, sauce, beans, spices, and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken (if using) and simmer another 30-45 minutes. Serve hot and topped with shredded cheese or other desired toppings.

I’m sure this would also be awesome with a little boozy something or other cooked in. Maybe I’ll try it with wine sometime. I know chili is often made with beer, but that would necessitate buying beer I’m not going to drink so…

What’s your favorite chili recipe? 

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

roasted cauliflower soupAs you may or may not have noticed, I go through phases with posting recipes. At times, this has bothered me, but fortunately, in the past year, I’ve gotten better at just rolling with whatever it is I feel compelled to write about.

Interestingly, October and November have found me spending a lot of time experimenting in the kitchen—most likely it’s because cooler temps make it hard to throw stuff in a bowl and call it Salad.

A few weeks ago, I came across this recipe and couldn’t get it out of my head. I even went out and bought chickpea flour for the dumplings. Go figure, though, I forgot to see if I had any baking powder handy before I got to work. Next time, Gadget. No big deal, though. I made a few tweaks to work with what I had on hand, and I have a feeling this recipe is going to be one of those “in the vault” meals for the winter.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ~3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • a few drops liquid smoke
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • Parsley, minced, for garnish

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss cauliflower with 1.5 tbsp pool and salt. Roast cauliflower 30-45 minutes or until browned.
  2. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add onion, celery, and carrot. Cook until soft, ~7 or 8 minutes. Add garlic, cook another 2 minutes, continuously stirring.
  3. Add spices, bay leaf, broth, tomato, and chickpeas. Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower and simmer another 10 minutes.
  5. Serve hot and garnished with fresh parsley.

Do you cook more or less when it’s cold out? What are some of your favorite cold-weather recipes? 

Beyond Sushi

One of the many wonderful things about NYC is the food—this is a town that caters to practically any kind of diet you can think of. It’s especially friendly to vegetarians and vegans. The other night, I had the pleasure of dining with a few herbivore friends at Beyond Sushi (which I think I maybe first heard about on Valerie’s blog?).

This place is the creation of Hell’s Kitchen, finalist, Chef Guy Vaknin, who saw a need for delicious, vegan sushi, and began creating gorgeous fruit and vegetable sushi. Each piece comes wrapped in either black forbidden rice or a customized six-grain rice blend. Tofu, veggie purées, and delicious sauces like toasted Cayenne, Carrot Ginger, Shiitake Teriyaki, Mango Chili, or White Miso take the place of high-sodium soy sauce (though you can still find it on the table). There are also delicious noodle soup bowls as well as appetizers and desserts.

There are only three small tables in the East 14th Street location, but we managed to score a spot by the window. Every single thing we ordered was delicious. My friends shared some sushi (and were kind of enough to share—I can totally vouch for the “Crunch N’ Munch” roll) and coconut curry noodles, while I went with a mushroom-tastic soba noodle bowl with white miso sauce. beyond sushi mushroom noodles

F-ing awesome. Did I ever mention that mushrooms are one of my favorite foods ever? If I lived closer, I would probably eat here all the time. I already can’t wait to go back. For those of you who prefer to stick to the west side, there’s also a location called The Green Roll in Chelsea Market. I’m looking for an excuse to visit soon. You should too.

Have you ever had vegetarian sushi? Do you like mushrooms? 

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