"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: vegetable soup

‘easiest homemade vegetable soup” . . .

vegetable-soup-1In these turbulent times, it’s comforting to make a simple vegetable soup from whatever you happen to have in your fridge and pantry. I made a pot after breakfast this morning that is simmering on the stove right now. Here’s my recipe:

  1. Look in your fridge’s vegetable bin for an onion, carrots, celery, squash (yellow or zucchini).
  2. Chop up a half (if small) Vidalia onion and cook on low heat in a stockpot drizzled with a little olive oil.
  3. Chop up 2 carrots into bite size pieces; ditto for the peeled yellow squash or unpeeled zucchini squash – use half of the vegetables if they are good-sized.
  4. Take the leafy parts of celery hearts, rinse and chop up – add all to the pot and stir.
  5. Open a can of Del Monte stewed or diced tomatoes without salt with garlic and oregano. Pour into the pot and add two cans of spring water.
  6. Use a container of Knorr beef broth gelatin and add to the pot. Stir well – or use a can of beef broth instead.
  7. Put on the lid and simmer for a couple of hours so the soup has a chance to soften and meld together. Taste for saltiness and add more water if needed to correct the seasoning or if the soup is too thick. Add a handful of small macaroni or pasta 20 minutes before serving if desired.
  8. Serve bowls of soup with toasted dark pumpernickel bread – which crisps up beautifully on the surface and remains chewy in the middle. I butter my toast with unsalted Kerrygold butter. Serve the toast alongside the soup.

Benefits of this soup are that you usually have all or most of the ingredients already in the fridge and pantry without having to go to the store so that you can make it on the spur of the moment. Other vegetables such as beans, lima beans, peas, corn, tomatoes can all go into the pot. What I have to watch out for is that I’ve laid up a few cans of the stewed tomatoes and the beef broth (either in gelatin or can form) in the pantry beforehand.

Goodness in a pot. Honestly, it will make you feel better, no matter what kind of day you are having.





intermittent fasting . . . and homemade vegetable soup!

Now that I have been on a water fast for almost 3 days, I decided to try intermittent fasting as a possible new lifestyle to “have our cake and eat it too,” a way to eat what we love and yet watch our weight and our health.

It’s not that onerous: 5 days of regular eating (yay!) and 2 separate days of “fast” days – limited to 500 calories a day. After I started toting up the calorie count for sample 500 calorie day menus as a guide for myself, I rediscovered that homemade vegetable soup is one of the most nourishing, taste-filled and satisfying meal that only contains about 80-100 calories per cup. Even if you have a large bowl of it, it wouldn’t exceed 150 calories.

simmering vegetable soup before cabbage is added. . .

simmering vegetable soup before cabbage is added. . .

So this morning, I set about making a large pot of soup that would be healthy, tasty and appetizing. I have made vegetable soup often in the past with a beef shin bone to add flavor so am used to making big pots of vegetable soup, especially when it’s snowing hard outside or one of us feels like we are coming down with a cold or flu.

Today’s ingredients included a whole vidalia onion chopped, 4 stalks of celery, 6 carrots, 3 small summer squash (peeled and chopped,) low-sodium chicken broth, no-sodium beef bouillion, a packet of Lipton’s onion soup, a can of Del Monte no-salt diced tomatoes and distilled water to fill my very large soup pot.cabbage and farfalline

After it simmered down for an hour or so, I added a whole small cabbage sliced thin and a cup of tiny farfallini egg noodles to thicken the broth. I tasted it when setting the soup to simmer to see how the broth mixture was coming along, fearing that perhaps the Lipton’s onion packet might make it too salty. Thankfully, it was mild and tasted like a sweet vegetable broth. That might be due to the size of my pot and the amount of water (more than half) that makes up the soup stock.

Townhouse low-fat crackers and some blue cheese spread on top might be a nice accompaniment to eat along with a cup of homemade vegetable soup. All told, the count for soup, crackers and cheese would still be less than 200 calories per meal! Leaving another 300 calories left in the 500 calorie fasting day quota!

A soft-boiled egg and tomato juice for breakfast, vegetable soup, crackers and cheese for lunch and a romaine caesar salad with four medium size shrimp (only 23 calories!) for dinner comes within the 500 calorie limit. It hardly tastes, nor feels like “fasting” to me!  Given my nature, what works for me is to experiment with these 500 calorie menus comprised of food that we already like to eat but in smaller portions.

During my research, I was flabbergasted to discover that one packet of ramen (Sapporo Ichiban) was a whopping 463 calories and 63 grams of carbs, just by its boring self! I had thought maybe a noodle dish with baby spinach and shrimp might work but apparently not. Boring as it sounds, looking up what the calorie/carb counts are for food we like has been an eye-opening exercise. I’m going to continue to fashion 500 calorie menus for myself so as to make the 2 days off a week easier to take. Who knows, maybe we’ll even come to enjoy them as much as the other 5 days of the week!

After we had it for lunch, this large pot of vegetable soup yielded 6 individual servings and 3 additional quart size containers for sharing, all stored in the freezer. I guess I won’t have to make another batch anytime soon! Homemade vegetable soup is healthy, nourishing, tasty and economical to make in abundance.

Meanwhile, back to knitting a Noro yarn tunic for myself and taking care of some business this week in New Hampshire on Wednesday.

Bon Appetit on a smaller and more manageable scale!



tastes, part 2! . . .

green tea

It’s been about a month now since I embarked on an immersion course to explore ways of eating to lose some weight and lower my blood glucose level. I’ve tested a panoply of new recipes including baking with gluten-free flours, alternative sugars and reading cookbooks by health gurus (Mark Hyman and Joel Fuhrman) plus “Superfood” cooking gurus such as Julie Morris and other cooking mavens.

After a three week precipitous drop in my glucose level which I was excited about, I was disheartened to find that it went up ten points after only one week of eating gluten-free muffins and gluten-free pasta, I learned the hard way that there are potentially MORE CARBS in gluten-free ingredients than in those with gluten. Moreover, honestly, the various muffins I tried tasted just awful even though the GF spaghetti was appetizing. So much for the large cardboard box of newly acquired gluten-free flours, coconut sugar, sucanet that I’ll remove from my pantry, hoping to find someone who’s gung-ho on using them.

I’ve decided that my modus operandi will be to AVOID baking anything for awhile. Period. But when the time comes, maybe in the Fall or around the holidays, I’ll make wonderful high puffed popovers and maybe a cake or pie or two. In other words, LESS (flour & sugar) might be MORE, health-wise, but it won’t just disappear from my life. And when these ingredients are called for, I’ll use unbleached regular flour and turbinado sugar – just as in the past and everything will turn out tasting delicious. And so, we’ll also know that we can continue to live a little. – just in moderation.

My brother has reminded me a couple of times that he lost ten pounds last year just by cutting out carbs and fast food. By eschewing gluten-free products, we’ll actually be cutting out carbs we didn’t realize we were using!

Another thing I discovered is that SMOOTHIES are just not my thing. It takes too many various ingredients for a single smoothie recipe; and a whole slew of other ones for a different smoothie. It also usually requires freezing a banana – and eating a whole banana (which has a lot of sugar); plus various bags of frozen fruit full of sugar which never get finished and cramp up the freezer. I also confess that I usually can’t finish the smoothie even though I make smaller portions AND it’s a nuisance to clean the blender (which can go in the dishwasher) or the Vitamix (which runs soapy water to clean it out. So, there go the packets of hemp and chia seeds and other exotic ingredients that I can’t even remember the name of them – substitutes for cocoa and so on– that will go into the same box as the gluten-free ingredients. I’m sorry that smoothies gotta go even though they look so delectable in Julie Morris’s “Superfood Smoothies” cookbook.

Although I realize I am sounding like a health food heretic, I am nevertheless now going to name the one food that has become the Holy Grail of healthy eating (even Bill Clinton!) and that is . . . KALE. I’ve tried massaging kale leaves with olive oil and/or dressing to help it absorb the flavor. I actually really like the LOOK of lacinato kale with its bumpy ridges and dark green color. I just don’t like the taste and I’ve tried it numerous ways: sauteed, in salads, in smoothies. It’s just not a vegetable that I feel compatible with. It almost feels sacriligious to type out these words: “I d-o-n-‘t  l-i-k-e  K-A-L-E!”

I don’t feel bad about these experiments though, because this journey is about gradually shifting our eating lifestyle to something we’ll want to keep eating.. We haven’t had any red meat in all this time and neither G. nor I have a desire to have any either. Our weekly menus have included wild caught grey sole which we enjoy simply cooked meuniere style with a little lemon butter and parsley.

Homemade vegetable soup once a week has supplied us with warm broth on chilly, rainy days as well as providing a “stone soup” concept for using up vegetables before they spoil. Making salads that are composed and attractive in a wooden bowl along with some new salad dressings have been a boon too. A fresh buttermilk peppercorn ranch dressing tops them all. To the online recipe, I increased the amount of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and sour cream, added lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice, a dab of honey and six grindings of multi-colored peppercorns into the mix. We thought it tasted divine, unlike the sometimes gloppy ranch dressings we’ve had in the past.

I found that drinking a large pottery tea bowl of green tea in the middle of the afternoon is a good substitute for when I’m thinking about having a snack.

So, there it is: I’ve bought tons of baking and smoothie ingredients, read books and experimented with numerous recipes that have drawn me to these very personal conclusions: I’ll bake less often but when I do, I’ll use regular ingredients; I won’t be making smoothies in the near future but will use my blenders to process delicious cream of cucumber soup and other dishes. And finally, I’ll pass up buying lacinato kale and maybe even collard greens. But I’ll still fill up my basket with broccoli, cauliflower, English peas, romaine, arugula and butter lettuces, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, eggplant, artichokes and garden fresh spinach. We’ll wait until the cool Fall and Winter months to bake Japanese sweet potatoes, acorn squash and other starchy root vegetables.

I’m still feeling optimistic after these lessons learned. Unless we enjoy what we eat, a new lifestyle of eating won’t last for very long. I can’t just follow recipes of food that don’t appeal to our palate. And some of the recipes have long lists of ingredients that require more effort than the simple way that I like to cook. The tweaking I’ve described above feels good to me although they might not be for everyone. And I feel a little lighter now that I don’t feel forced to conform to foods (and fads) that don’t taste or feel right for the way we live and the way I like to cook.

Bon Appetit! To each our own!



soup for lunch . . .

soup photo

The other day, I posted a piece about umami taste and in particular about making a fragrant vegetable broth from scratch that I froze to use as a base for when I make soups or sauces.

Today, when I returned from my physical therapy appointment for my ankle, broken in February, I thought I’d make a small batch of soup for our lunch. I’ve been thinking about composing a vegetable soup recipe that would become a constant companion drawn from ingredients that I have on hand most of the time. Here’s what I cooked up:

1/4 Vidalia sweet onion, chopped and browned in extra virgin olive oil;


3 stalks of celery hearts with leaves, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and quarter cut*

(*hold the carrot (ends trimmed) perpendicular on the cutting board and make a small diagonal slice; turn the carrot a quarter turn; diagonally slice again; turn a quarter turn, slice again–keep doing this until it is cut up. This also works beautifully on fresh asparagus and parsnips too where you want irregular shaped but diagonally uniform cuts of vegetable.)

2 small cousa squash, cut in pieces (slice lengthwise; stack together and then cut diagonally to make bitesize pieces.)

1 small garden tomato cut in wedges

Stir-fry while browning vegetables and then add:

3 cups homemade vegetable broth

Cover pot and simmer until vegetables are tender but not overcooked.

Add a few stalks of chopped fresh parsley towards the end.

Serve with cold sliced ham, corn muffins and dark rye crackers with blue cheese.

It’s supposed to be hot today, but this soup tastes sublime and is so easy to make on a slow summer day. I think it’s also a good candidate for repeat performances!

When I make it again, I think I would keep everything the same except for reducing the celery and carrot to two instead of three. That would make the batch just right for two people to have a bowl and a half each of this delicious soup.