Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Perfect Soup for Fall

Fall is the perfect time for soup. There's just something about the crisp, cool days, wearing sweaters and jean, crunching through fallen leaves, that makes me crave a steaming bowl of soup.  And warm, crusty bread, but I'm not eating trying not to eat bread anymore, so you all can indulge.  BUT this soup is so incredibly simple and delicious you might not even miss the bread...much. Although I did find these really great German breads, and the rye version (no gluten) goes really well this soup.  It serves as a great texture counterpoint to the smooth soup. So, in case you, too, are trying to decrease your carb/gluten consumption, you might want to try that kind of bread (at our grocery store, I've found them in the International aisle).

This soup is vegetarian, with delicious roasted parsnips, onions and apples that taste like fall in a bowl. Seriously, it's absolutely delicious!  I don't have any long-winded descriptions about going to the farmer's market or an orchard to personally pick my ingredients. Nope, just picked them up at the grocery store.

You might be tempted to skip the roasting step, and that's your prerogative, but I think the roasting pulls out more sweetness from the veggies and apples so the flavors are so much smoother.  But try it both ways and judge for yourself!

Roasted Parsnip, Apple, Onion Soup


1.5 lbs parsnips
2 medium onions
2 medium apples
Olive oil
salt and pepper
3 sprigs rosemary
1 qt. low sodium (or homemade) vegetable stock

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel parsnips and cut into large-ish chunks. Size isn't as important as making sure that all the pieces are the same relative size.  Peel onions, then cut into wedges: don't cut out the root end completely, then cut into quarters.  The root will help keep the wedges together. Cut apples into quarters, then cut out the core. Toss the parsnips, onions, apples and rosemary with some olive oil (about 2 Tbsp.), a couple of sprinkles of salt and pepper. Don't go too heavy on the seasoning, because you can adjust that later. Put everything on a baking sheet (you might need two), and spread out into a single layer.

Roast parsnip/apple/onion mixture until veggies are soft, about 30 minutes, but it will really depend on how big you cut the parsnips.  Use a spatula to flip the veggies over about halfway through the roasting process.

Once the veggies are tender, pull them out of the oven and let them cool enough to handle them.  Put the parsnips in a 3-quart saucepan, then add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook 10 more minutes.  Parsnips should be very soft.  Add onions to the saucepan, peel off some of the rosemary leaves (I'll let you decide how much rosemary flavor you want in it) and add it to the pan, then scrape off the peel from the apples, adding the flesh to the pan as well.

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.  If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a blender or food processor (you'll have to do it in batches).  Add liquid to get to the consistency you want (you could use more vegetable stock, or water, or apple cider, depending on the flavors you want to come out).   Add the liquid little by little until you get the consistency you want. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Reheat the soup so that it's nice and warm.  Serves about 4 (even more if you serve it with a nice salad and some delicious, crusty bread).

Because it's me, I added a little hot sauce (sriracha) to my bowl, but to each his own preferences.

Happy Fall, everyone!

Friday, October 12, 2012

What's in YOUR Freezer?

Some days, I just don't feel like cooking.  Sound familiar? And sometimes, I get tired of moving random containers of unknown frozen leftovers around, trying to make room for other stuff.  At those times, I like to play "Guess what's in that container" with the family.  I got to that point last week, so I took out a few containers to thaw so that we could at least eat some of it up...to make room for more leftovers, which will also probably hang out for months.  Yeah, I know.  Don't judge me.

Here's what I found:

 Don't I have lovely Tupperware containers? I love Tupperware and have had a couple of parties (yes, they still have them!).  She doesn't know I'm doing this, but my Tupperware Lady rocks, so contact her if you want to get yourself some quality storage containers.  I'm not kidding.

But now you know why I didn't know what was in there. I didn't label. Rookie mistake, and I should have known better.

There are no recipes with this post, because, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I don't even remember what was in the containers, much less how I made them, so you're on your own this time.  In two of the containers was some sort of mushroom-barley concoction that may have been soup at one time, but a lot of the liquid had been absorbed by the barley. I honestly can't remember if I made them both at one time or two different times.  One had bacon and the other didn't -- it was the only discernible difference I could find. The third container had some sort of green soup.  It had zucchini in it and...other green vegetables.  This container definitely had a freezer burn-y taste to it (I taste-tested a little from each container to make sure it was all still edible).  Again, I have no idea how long it's been in there.

To my family's credit, they did eat the leftovers, but I couldn't in good conscience make them eat this stuff more than once, so after everyone ate their fill, I chucked the rest.

Behold! My delicious lunch that day.  I took one for the team and ate the green soup.  Honestly, though, it wasn't all that bad.  Really.

So, what did I learn?  1) label and date your frozen leftovers and 2) have some sort of plan to use them in the near future, otherwise they'll just get lost, and leftovers aren't useful if you just throw them out anyway.

This cautionary tale and public service announcement has been brought to you by the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association, Inc. (not really, but there actually is such an association.  I'm not kidding. Look it up.).

Happy freezing!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fish Soup -- Another Variation (dairy-free)

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might have already clued into my love for fish soup.  Actually, I love soup in general. It's easy (one pot), fast (fish only takes minutes to cook) and healthy, because you can get away with only a little bit of milk or cream, or in this case, no dairy at all, plus lots of veggies. And on a cool fall day, there's nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of soup.  Am I right?  :-)

As I've mentioned before, I've been trying to cut my dairy intake and looking for dairy-free alternatives for some of my favorite recipes, but hate recipes where you try to make something taste like something it's not (tofurkey, anyone?).  In this case, I was going to use coconut milk as a substitute for the cream, so I embraced the coconut milk as a jumping off point to make a more Asian-inspired soup.

I found a recipe on another blog as a starting point.  Here's the original: http://strongertogether.coop/recipes/thai-fish-soup/

Here's my version:

  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 half-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (or tamari)

  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 3/4 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen

  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon basil, minced
  • 12 ounces salmon fillets cut into bite-sized cubes

  • Bring vegetable broth to boil, then add ginger and fish sauce in a large pot (I used a 3 qt saucepan). Let that simmer for 5 minutes, then take out the ginger pieces (if you want more ginger flavor, you could grate the ginger before adding to the stock). After removing ginger pieces, add corn, mushrooms, and fish.  Bring back to a simmer and cook until the fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add the carrots, red bell pepper and lime juice. Cover the pot, but do not stir the carrots and peppers into the soup.  Let them steam on top for a couple of minutes (you still want them to have a little crunch).  Then add the coconut milk and lemon basil.  Stir together, then turn off heat and let sit for another 10 minutes with the pot covered.


    My version basically used what I had on hand -- salmon instead of white fish, lemon basil from our garden, rather than cilantro, and extra veggies, because that's how I roll. :-)

    For those who don't think you're very good at improvising, take a look at the two recipes (mine and the linked one) to see how easy it is to cook off the cuff. It's especially easy with soups, so if you need a little confidence booster, you could start there.  Plus, Fall is the perfect time of year for a nice, hot bowl of soup, isn't it?