recipes

Smooth Summer Squash Soup

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Call me crazy, but sometimes even in the middle of summer a bowl of soup can be quite nice. I had the most amazing summer squash soup on our California road trip (when it’s 60 degrees in the evening hot soup doesn’t sound as crazy too). Anyway, I loved it so much I decided to try to recreate it when I got home. Plus, my freezer has been stocked full of homemade chicken broth for months.

I know I’ve promised a couple of times on here to share with you my recipe for making your own broths. There are so many health benefits to making stock the way it’s supposed to be made – from leftover bones. The process of slow cooking animal bones for broth pulls minerals, collagen and amino acids out into the broth. Our bodies then use these essential nutrients to rebuild cells and particularly the lining of our intestine – which prevents those food sensitivities that seem to be on the rise these days. I promise to go into all of this a lot more in another post and share with you my stock recipe. I know the image of slow cooking bones in your kitchen may not sound too appetizing, but trust me, the end result is delicious – so much more flavorful and rich than what you’d buy at the store. And so much better for you! It puts store bought to shame… Plus it’s practically free! Can’t beat that. More to come…

Anyway, back to this delicious, smooth summer squash soup. When I got home from our trip I did what I always do when I want to get ideas for a recipe – I started Googling. I am a nerd and read recipes for fun. Sometimes I find one and tweak it to make it my own, or I might combine ideas from two. For this one, I loved Whole Living’s idea to use cilantro stems – something that’s usually tossed. So I pretty much stuck to their recipe with one small change – I subbed in my homemade broth for an added nutritional boost.

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Cilantro Fan or Phobe?
Cilantro (or coriander) is one of those herbs you either love it or you hate it. Cilantrophobes, as haters of the herb like to call themselves, say it tastes like soap or bugs. Turns out their taste buds don’t lie. Cilantro’s smell is produced by aldehydes. You know what else puts off aldehydes? Bugs and soap. Cilantrophobes make the association in their taste-smell memory bank and understandably then just can’t take it. I myself fall in the lover camp. I love adding cilantro to salads, curries and other dishes for a fresh bite of green.

Cilantro (the leaves) and coriander (the seed) are part of the same plant. Both are powerful detoxifiers and natural chelators that helps to draw heavy metals like lead and mercury out of the body. The leaves also have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. These benefits make cilantro a great choice to add to your green juice. Coriander has been considered a healing spice for centuries and long been used in cooking for it’s anti-inflammatory and preservative properties.  If you read the ingredients on your curry powder, you’ll likely find coriander listed there too.

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Squash it to Me
Yellow summer squash is abundant in the summer which makes it great to use in a soup. Before making this recipe I stuck to winter squashes for creamy soups but opting for summer squash, especially this time of year, will be much cheaper and also keep you eating seasonally which is always a good thing. Yellow squash has a lot of water in it (also good in the summer) and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood sugar stabilizing benefits. I love slicing it up and sautéing squash with sweet yellow onion, zucchini and some dark leafy greens. It’s the perfect quick, easy side dish to go with just about any meal.

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Smooth Summer Squash Soup

recipe adapted from Whole Living

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro stems, plus 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 5 medium yellow summer squash (2 1/2 pounds), chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • Sea salt
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cilantro stems, and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add squash and 2 1/2 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then season with salt. Puree soup in batches until smooth. (If too thick, thin with a little water.) Adjust seasoning if necessary and let cool slightly. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with lime.

recipes

Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

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I know this isn’t your typical Hello, Spring! recipe for the first week of the new season… but spring sure is taking it’s sweet time to get here…. at least in Texas that is. The weather here lately has been down right erratic. 80 degrees one day. 30 degrees the next. And rainy. My god, so much rain. It has literally rained every weekend since we got to Austin. Five weekends of rain, people… in a city that’s supposedly in a drought. Some say we brought it with us. So to that I say, you’re welcome.

So what better to go with our rainy damp days here than a bowl of creamy delicious soup that just so happens to be dairy-free too. When cooked throughly and blended, cauliflower takes on a creamy, smooth consistency. It’s great to use for a non-dairy cream-based soup or even a mash, as a substitute for mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc. and like its cousins is full of antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin C, K, folate and manganese. It’s the leeks in this soup that make it say, “Hello, Spring!” A leek is a spring onion, which like the rest of its allium family (and crucifers too) is rich in sulfur – one of the most abundant minerals in the body and it’s required for hundreds of processes that keep us alive and kicking. Leeks are also one of nature’s antibiotics with strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Eating alliums (onions and garlic) regularly can help to ward of infection and keep your immune system strong.

When preparing leeks, it’s the white part that you want to cook with. Cut off the green stems and remove the outer leaves. Cut off the end of the root and then slice again in half longways. Open up the leeks a bit to expose the inside pieces and rinse well under water. Cut again longways and then slice thinly. The thinner the strips, the faster they’ll cook.

Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (just the white part)
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and chopped
6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
salt
pepper

Directions

Place pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Saute the garlic and leeks about 3 minutes, until soft. Add cauliflower and saute for another minute. Add broth, then increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce back to medium and simmer, covered for about 20-30 minutes, until the cauliflower can be pierced easily with a fork.

Blend soup either using a blender or immersion blender until smooth and creamy, with no lumps. Return to pot and warm over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley or chives.

recipes

Creamy Butternut Cauliflower Soup with Chicken and Kale

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There are two types of people in this world. There are those that when food is scarce, put on their boots and walk to the store in the ice. And then there are those that get creative and make do with what they’ve got in the kitchen. I am the latter of the two; my husband is the former. Case in point: when I woke up Friday morning to winter storm Cleon and a forecast below freezing through Sunday, I knew I’d be settling in for the long haul. My husband, on the other hand, wanted breakfast tacos. While he headed out into the icepocolypse, I went straight to the kitchen to figure out what the heck we were going to eat. It’s funny, sometimes it’s the meals where you’re short on ingredients or have to substitute with what you have on hand, when you discover the most delicious combinations.

cook vegetables

add broth

blend soup

add kale

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Creamy Butternut Cauliflower Soup with Chicken and Kale

Ingredients

2 tbsp. virgin coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 inch piece ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1/2 head cauliflower, cut in florets
6 cups chicken broth
1 lb chicken breast, diced
1/2 bunch kale, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper

Directions

Place a large soup pot over medium heat and and add a little (about 1/2 cup) of the broth. Once heated through, add diced chicken and cook until opaque. When done, transfer chicken and broth to a bowl and set aside.

Return pot to medium heat and add oil. Then add onion and cook 2-3 minutes. Next add garlic and ginger. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, 2-3 minutes. Add squash and cauliflower to the pot and stir to coat with oil and aromatic mixture. Cook 5-7 minutes, then add broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered 15-20 or until vegetables are tender enough to be pierced with a fork.

To blend the soup, you can use either a blender or an immersion blender. If using a blender, be careful handling the hot soup. Make sure the lid is secure – you may want to hold a towel over the lid just in case (you don’t want hot liquid flying in your face!). With an immersion blender you can blend the soup directly in the pot. Blend until silky and smooth.

Add chicken and extra broth back to the pot along with kale. Return the soup to a low boil and allow the kale to wilt into the soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

recipes

Mushroom and Rice Soup

I may have mentioned before that I was a picky eater as a kid. Until college, my diet consisted mostly of carrots and turkey sandwiches on wheat bread. Like most kids, I had very strong opinions about certain foods that would never (never) enter my mouth. I couldn’t tell you where these strong opinions came from. They were certainly not based on taste. Because I knew with the utmost certainty that something dreadful would happen if I ate that. As you might imagine, a food labeled “fungi” fell into this category. And I may or may not have pitched a legendary fit over a certain mushroom spaghetti sauce that went down in the annals of my childhood. And here I am 20+ years later eating, cooking and telling you to try nothing other than… mushrooms. Oh the irony.

I’m not sure exactly what turned me on to mushrooms, but now they’re a regular staple of my grocery list. With some dark leafy greens and a little onion, you’ve got one of the quickest and healthiest weeknight meals you can make. Mushrooms are one of the most powerful healing foods on the planet. They’re a staple of Chinese medicine and have been used for thousands of years to treat everything from viruses to tumors. There are more than 200 varieties used medicinally with different powers and properties. But even the most common of mushrooms will do your body good.

Generally, mushrooms are natural immune boosters and also work in the body to help regulate inflammation. I’m talking about the kind of inflammation that can exist and linger at low levels in the body and contribute to all sorts of diseases, like heart disease and Alzheimer’s. We’ve also learned that mushrooms help balance the level of estrogen in the body, essentially helping to prevent certain estrogen-related cancers, like breast cancer. In the world we live in today, where we come into contact with estrogens regularly from plastic bottles and containers, and added soy in so many foods, mushrooms work to block it. They’re also high in vitamins and minerals that are critical to cell and immune function – selenium, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and manganese.

Superpowers aside, mushrooms are incredibly flavorful and add a richness to whatever it is that you’re cooking – like this soup, and I’m sure too that spaghetti sauce I turned my nose up at when I was five.

Mushroom and Rice Soup

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
salt and black pepper
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
20 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme

Directions:

In a medium-sized pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add a little salt and 1 cup of rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until all of the water has been absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Saute until the onions are translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the carrot and celery and cook, covered, for 6 minutes more.
Add the mushrooms, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, covered, until they release their juices, about 4 minutes.
Add the broth, bay leaves, and thyme and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in the cooked rice; remove and discard the bay leaves. If desired, season with additional salt and pepper.

recipes

Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup

I bought the herb turmeric months ago after reading about it’s healing powers and thought I’d give it a try. It’s hailed as a digestive aid, inflammation fighter and cancer defender. It can also be applied directly to the skin to heal wounds and eczema. But until a few weeks ago all it had done is brighten up the spice cabinet with a little yellow.

It was time to put this guy to work. I tried this Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup in Cooking Light. Mine was a bit amateur – I didn’t have coriander or fish sauce and I swapped the snow peas for frozen peas and carrots. But you wouldn’t have known the difference. I was also missing the pad thai noodles, but I did have some leftover cooked spaghetti squash in the fridge. Worked just like noodles. Inventive, no? This is my new favorite now. I’ll definitely be making it the next time the temperatures drop below 30 again.

Recipe serves 7

Here’s what you need:
4 cups water
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
1 package pad thai noodles or brown rice noodles
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tsp red curry paste
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken stock
1 can light coconut milk
1 pound shredded cooked chicken (or diced)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp sugar (or substitute agave nectar or honey)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
7 lime wedges

Here’s what you do:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add spinach and peas to pan; cook for 30 seconds. Remove vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl. Add noodles to pan; cook 3 minutes. Drain; add noodles to spinach mixture in bowl.

Heat canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and the next five ingredients (through garlic) to pot; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth to pot and bring to a boil. Add coconut milk to pot; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Pour chicken mixture over noodle mixture in bowl. Stir in cilantro and red pepper. Add dash of cayenne if you’d like. Serve with lime wedges.

recipes

Healthy Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

I know what you’re thinking … Healthy AND creamy? Liar.

No, really. This soup is rich, smooth and delicious. And it has only 3 grams of fat per serving, plus a solid dose vitamins A and C. How, you ask? There’s no cream. No butter. Just squash, potatoes, stock and seasoning. And it tastes just as decadent. On a cool, rainy day (read: forecast for this week), it’s fall-in-a-bowl perfection.

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Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups chicken stock

Here’s what you do:

Peel and chop up all the vegetables and place them in a large bowl. Heat oil in a big soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add  the ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and stir together until fragrant – about 1 minute. Add the diced vegetables and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until the squash and potatoes are tender.

Transfer the soup to a blender (you’ll have to do this in 2-3 batches) and puree. Hold the lid with a towel to keep from splashing and burning yourself. Return soup to pot and stir to even out texture. Continue heating if necessary and adjust seasoning with salt pepper.

Serve and top with chopped walnuts (omega-3s), pecans, raisins, or a dollop of cream if you like.

Sip, slurp, watch the leaves change colors. It’s fall.