Kale and Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

If you would have asked me to eat a “root vegetable” last year, I’d have gagged and said no way, even though I had no idea what root vegetables were. Roots? Just sounds bad. It turns out, though, that I really like the root veggies that I’ve tried since going organic! (For the record, the root veggies in question for this recipe are onions, carrots, garlic, and sweet potatoes). Yum!

The “firsts” for me in this vegan-friendly recipe include:

  • First time I’ve cooked with or eaten kale
  • First time I’ve made beans from dried and not from a can
  • First time I’ve made soup from scratch
  • First time I’ve worn my new Asics GT 2150 running shoes

OK, so the shoes are probably irrelevant to the recipe, but they sure are comfy! And hopefully, they’ll not cause blisters the way my old gym shoes did.

The recipe below comes from Emily’s blog – The Front Burner. Check out her recap – she takes much better food photos than I do, and explains every step in detail. This soup covers a slew of nutritional bases – it’s a good source of Vitamin B6, Folate and Potassium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese. It’s low fat, with no saturated fat and no cholesterol.

On with the cooking!

First, I should explain that I did not use canned beans for this recipe. As part of this week’s homework in the GNOWFGLINS e-course on traditional food preparation, we were to make beans from scratch. I bought some dried navy beans at Whole Foods yesterday, so to prepare for this recipe, I soaked 2/3 cup of dry beans in water with a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar. I soaked the beans overnight, then this morning, rinsed them and put them in the crock pot to cook on high for an hour then on low for 6 more hours. I added a thumb-sized chunk of kombu (a sea vegetable) to the crock pot during cooking to tenderize the beans and break down some of the sugars in them that tend to make them… gassy. Kombu also imparts some mineral goodness. By the time I was ready to cook dinner, the beans were ready to go.

The next step was to chop up carrots and a sweet potato and stick ’em in the oven to roast. They didn’t look very exciting so I didn’t take a picture.

Up next: the stranger in my fridge, Kale. (No, not Kato). Here’s what it looked like, fresh from the bunch:

kaleThe recipe instructed me to pull the leaves from the stems. I wondered all the while if I was doing it right….

Peeling kale leaves from stemsI sure had a lot of kale…. the leaves reminded me of a cross between broccoli and seaweed. (Maybe I just had seaweed on the brain from my recent trip to Whole Foods).

Next I chopped up an onion and minced some garlic and sauteed them for a few minutes before throwing in the roasted carrots and sweet potato.

Roasted veggies awaiting kaleThen, in went the vegetable broth, and then the kale. The kale was huge and fluffy in the pot! I feared I was messing the whole thing up, but I took Emily’s word for it that the kale would wilt. I covered the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes. At the 5 minute mark, I was still pretty nervous – the kale was huge! I think I might have had a little too much kale to begin with, so I added 1 cup of water. That helped, because by the end of 10 minutes, I could stir the kale into the mix and it was starting to look like soup.

I added the seasonings and simmered for 5 more minutes (ready to jump out of my new shoes because it smelled SO GOOD!)

When the soup was done, I ladled it into a bowl and topped it with a dollop of homemade guacamole that I had in the fridge. (Emily recommends topping with chunks of avocado). I slathered some Earth Balance spread onto a slice of my homemade sourdough bread, and…

Dinner!

Kale soupAll I can say is… this soup was AWESOME!! So tasty! My first impression of kale: thumbs up! Kale is a form of cabbage, a relative of cauliflower and broccoli. It’s a highly nutritious, dark leafy green, and has good anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to have potent anti-cancer properties as well. In this soup, it tasted mild – almost sweet. It’s a hearty green – good for chewing!

For all of its nutrition, a big ol’ bowl of this soup clocks in around 235 calories. I can’t wait for the leftovers! 100% delish.

[recipe-show recipe=kale-soup]

EpicOrganic.net

Gnowfglins: Soaking Grains

I’m wrapping up Lesson 2 in the GNOWFGLINS e-course on healthy and traditional cooking, and tonight’s dinner featured a technique I learned this week: soaking grains. Well, I actually learned this last month in the Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge, but for that challenge, I soaked flour for baking. Today, I soaked rice and made it from scratch.

I’ve never made “real” rice before; all of my rice experience is of the boil-in-bag, instant variety. This was the other extreme!

It’s important to soak grains to prepare their nutrition to be fully utilized by the body. Whole grains contain enzyme inhibitors and other natural substances that can actually interfere with digestion and block absorption of minerals and vitamins. Soaking the grains in an acidic solution neutralizes these substances to make the grains’ nutrients more available in digestion.

I started with a cup of dry brown basmati rice. I soaked the rice in 2 cups of filtered water with 2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar. (Lemon juice or other acidic liquids could also be used). I let my rice soak for 9 hours, though overnight is even better. One benefit (besides the nutritional benefits) – this process cuts down the actual cooking time of the rice.

When my rice was ready to go, I drained the soaking liquid and replaced it with filtered water (though you could cook the rice in the soaking liquid – I wasn’t sure if I’d like the tang of the vinegar in my rice, so I played it safe).

Then, I cooked the rice and turned it into Nutty Carrot Rice!

To go with my rice, I made an Italian breaded chicken breast. I actually get 2 meals out of 1 chicken breast, so I made 2, which should feed me well next week.

Add some baby spinach with vinaigrette on the side, and you’ve got… dinner!

Chicken and riceThe rice was very good – a nice departure from plain ol’ boring rice. It had a bit of a kick to it – I guessed at the cayenne pepper and used 1/4 teaspoon, and I think I probably should have cut back to 1/8th. (I like spicy food, but “spicy” to me is “mild” to the rest of the world). It complemented the chicken very well, and had a nice, nutty flavor. Nutty rice with a kick! Mozzarella cheese would have been good on the chicken, too. I didn’t have any!

The rice recipe makes 6-8 servings (I ended up with 7), so I’ll be eating rice for a while….

Try it out! This was an easy combo, and the whole meal clocked in around a half hour prep, a half hour cook time, and around 375 calories (assuming you eat the entire chicken breast). Lots of vitamin A, too.

[recipe-show recipe=nutty-carrot-rice]

[recipe-show recipe=italian-breaded-chicken]

EpicOrganic.net

Pasta and Bolognese Sauce

Tonight, after checking out the Hadley Valley Preserve trail for the first time (it’s nice! A 2.5 mile looping trail through prairie), I tried out another one of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious recipes: Pasta and Bolognese Sauce (with Stealth Ninja Sweet Potatoes). This one is healthy all around, with a bunch of carrots in there, too!

I suffered a false start on this one, as I got the onion and carrots all chopped up and in the skillet, then minced a couple garlic cloves right into the pot – only to find that my garlic had gone bad while I was away last week. Oh well. Tossed it all out and started over!

Instead of garlic cloves (I didn’t trust what I had left), I used 1 tsp of Garlic Earth Italian garlic salt – an organic seasoning that my friend Becky makes.

Score another winner for the Stealth Ninja Vegetable Experiment, and another winner for all organic ingredients! This one was so tasty I very nearly licked my plate clean. Highly recommended, and easy to throw together.

The recipe serves 8, so I immediately froze half of the sauce after dinner, then portioned the remaining 3 portions in the fridge for leftovers. I love a recipe that I can get some mileage out of!

[recipe-show recipe=pasta-bolognese]

EpicOrganic.net


An Un-Winning Smoothie Combo

I’ve got another new recipe post coming up soon, but thought I’d jump on and share an un-winning smoothie combo that I came up with today (so that you don’t try it with the same results!)

Two things worked to my disadvantage: first, I was out of vanilla soy milk, so I used regular skim milk. I did not realize just how much flavor I actually get from the soy milk – it’s much more dense, maybe a bit more sweet, and… well, it’s vanilla. Second, the fruit combo I chose was not sweet or powerful enough to mask the taste of the greens – so this tasted more like cucumbers than anything else.

The mix:

1 cup skim milk
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 carrots
1 handful baby spinach
1/3 of a cucumber
1 whole apple
1 whole pear

So… it seems like fruits with stronger or sweeter flavors are required to mask out the taste of the greens. Strawberries are a standard component of my smoothies, and even when I only use 3 or 4 strawberries, they make a huge difference. I was just trying to mix it up today, and even though I used a whole pear and a whole apple, they weren’t sweet enough to be noticeable. I couldn’t even taste them.

The end result was incredibly bland and tasted mildly of cucumber. I won’t be making this combo again!

Purple Smoothie!

This morning’s smoothie concoction was PURPLE thanks to strawberries and blueberries!

purple smoothie

Tip: stick to 1/2 cucumber. I tried a whole cucumber in the smoothie today (along with 2 carrots, 3 strawberries, and a handful of Blender - purple smoothieblueberries, plus vanilla soy milk and vanilla protein powder), and I could taste the cucumber. Good thing I like cucumbers!

Have a great day, everybody!

Cool Pink Smoothie

In my quest to discover, “Will it blend?” I made up a new smoothie concoction tonight. I call it: the Cool Pink Smoothie.

I suppose it could be called a “green” smoothie, if by “green” you mean, it contains vegetables (or, 2 culinary vegetables but 1 botanical vegetable and 1 botanical fruit). That whole fruit-or-vegetable thing will confound me for life. But anyway….

It’s a delicious, cool, crisp drink full of strawberry vanilla goodness!

As I tossed everything (including 2 carrots, half a cucumber, and 5 strawberries) in the blender, I thought to myself, “That looks wonderful!” I should have run to grab my camera but I was too excited to mix it all up.

Behold:

Carrot Cucumber Smoothie

The verdict: delish! Absolutely wonderful!

[recipe-show recipe=cool-pink-smoothie]