Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Soup by Many Names

My favorite soup is smiling at YOU!
I make a version of this pot of soup every couple of weeks and it always satisfies. Sometimes I call it Black Bean Soup (but it usually has pinto in it, too, so that seems biased toward the little guy). Other times, it's Chipotle or Southwest Soup. It could be called, "Not Really Chili" or you could just call it yummy. It's SO easy and delicious and the leftovers are perfect to pack for work lunches or school dinners and can be modified at home by adding all kinds of things to give a bowl a different taste or texture. Oh, and it's vegan (as long as you don't add the cheese), gluten free, and full of protein and fiber to keep you full.

Below you'll find the basic recipe and some options to dress it up if and when you are so inclined. Use this as a blueprint and get creative! Don't forget to leave a comment with your ideas for even more variations!

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tb canola oil (organic, non GMO)
1 can black or pinto beans, rinsed
1 can refried vegetarian black or pinto beans
1 can diced tomatoes (fire roasted, petite, or with green chilies or chipotle)
2 cans water or low sodium veggie broth
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
dash sea salt

1 sweet potato, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small zucchini or summer squach, diced
1 cup greens, chopped very small
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 bay leaf
1 cup tofu, cubed
partially blend with stick blender

Possible Garnishes
serve over brown rice
serve over quinoa
serve over crushed tortilla chips
top with dollop of Greek yogurt
top with dollop of guacamole
top with sliced avocado
top with shredded cheddar or jack cheese
garnish with fresh cilantro, chives, or green onions

Saute onion in oil over medium heat until soft. Add carrot and sweet potato/bell pepper if using. Saute a couple minutes then add the garlic and dried herbs and spices. Add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cans of water/broth, beans, and rest of ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 10-30 minutes, until carrots/sweet potato are tender and soup is heated through. You can blend partially with a stick blender or make a creamy homogeneous soup by blending it until it's smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate in pint-sized ball jars (fill them with warm soup and let them sit on the counter for 10 min before transferring to fridge and they will form an air-tight seal, extending shelf life) for up to a week.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sweet Potato for Breakfast

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods of all time. My grandparents used to make them when they knew I was coming over for dinner. I have this distinct memory of forcing sweet potato through the tiny hole of my plastic care bear mask one year. I must have been around 5 and unwilling to compromise between removing my Halloween costume and eating sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are delicious baked, mashed, roasted, and fried and are great in juices, soups, stews, and even in baked goods. They also happen to be a perfect single-serving nutritional powerhouse pre-packaged by nature.

Their only downside? Sweet potatoes, like lots of healthy root veggies, take time to cook! For that reason alone, they're not always practical for dinner after a long day of work and school, so I started thinking of ways to bake them in advance of eating them to get more yummy sweet potato into my belly. Last week, I picked a couple up along with some beets and the other night, I poked some holes in them with a fork, wrapped them in foil, and popped them in a 400* oven for about an hour. I turned the oven off and left the potatoes in the oven for a bit longer. I removed them from the oven and let them cool on the counter before popping them in the fridge.
I didn't remove the tin foil until the morning when I unwrapped and peeled (personal preference when not organic) the potato and microwaved it for 90 seconds when I got to work this morning. It was the PERFECT breakfast and such a welcomed change from my standard oatmeal. The natural sweetness was satisfying and the fiber was filling. It might be nice to top this meal with some nut butter, avocado, steamed greens, Greek yogurt, a poached egg, or some pastured butter, but it was delicious all by itself!

Sweet potatoes are a great way to make sure you're eating the colors of the rainbow. Their orange hue means they're high in Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene. A 1-cup serving provides over 700% the RDA of Vitamin A, 6.6 g of fiber, and is a great source of Vitamins C and B6 and minerals potassium and manganese (source linked below).  So eat up those yummy sweet potatoes!

Oh, if you're sitting there wondering about the protein, you'll be pleased to know that 1 cup of sweet potato contains 4 grams of quality protein that can be complemented nicely by mushrooms, corn, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. Americans tend to be overly-concerned with protein and are often surprised that vegetables like sweet potatoes contain any at all. Those of us who opt out of meat need to be mindful of where our protein comes from to make sure we get a good balance of the amino acids that help our body build, maintain, and repair muscle tissue, but even for omnivores, a couple 4-6 oz servings of animal flesh a week is more than enough for most.

Want more sweet potatoes?

Sweet Potato and Spinach Soup RecipeSweet and Sweaty Vegetarian Chili RecipeCorn Chowder (No Dairy or Wheat) Recipe