Sunday, December 23, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Soup for Christmas

Merry Christmas dear friends and followers of my blog!   May you find moments of great peace, contentment, and joy during your celebrations and contemplative moments.   

I made this quick and easy soup today in preparation for my Christmas Dinner.  It is from the December 2007 issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  The vibrant taste is wonderful.  

Simmering soup
6 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons  finely shredded orange peel
2 cups orange juice
4 7-oz. jars roasted red sweet peppers, drained (3 cups)
2 large onions, chopped (2 cups)
2 teaspoons sugar

In a large pot, combine all ingredients plus a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. (I didn't add this extra salt, because I know the broth is already high in salt.) Bring to boiling, then reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cool slightly. Using an immersion hand blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. Or it can be pureed in a blender.  
Nutrition per serving: As listed in the recipe in the magazine
Servings per recipe: 12
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 50
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg                                        
Sodium: 579 mg
(The sodium is less is you don't add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
Total Carbs: 11 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 1 g

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sweet Potato Pancakes

This has been my morning treat in recent days.  It nourishes me with savory taste, vitamin-packed sweet potatoes and protein.  And it only takes ten minutes to make if you have roasted sweet potatoes waiting for you in the refrigerator.  I often make large quantities of roasted sweet potatoes and use them in a variety of ways.  This is one of my favorite uses for them.  Great way to start my day with Pzazz.  The fresh rosemary is the star ingredient.  I don't think the taste would be nearly so fine with dried rosemary.  

1 cup cubed raw sweet potato (1/2 " cubes) to make 3/4 cup roasted sweet potatoes
1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or less if desired)
1 teaspoon melted coconut oil (or olive oil if you prefer)
Approximately 3/4 cup Egg Beaters or similar egg substitute

Optional toppings:
Ricotta cheese
Yogurt with maple syrup
Rosemary sprigs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the sweet potato cubes with the rosemary, oil and a dash of salt.  Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender.  The one cup of cubed raw sweet potato will yield about 3/4 cup after roasting. Roasting a large quantity of sweet potatoes to have available is a great time-saver.  Put 3/4 cup roasted sweet potatoes into a Magic Bullet pr similar appliance with the egg substitute, and puree until smooth.  I have also used a combination of egg whites and Egg Beaters, using about equal amounts of both.  Pour the batter into six pancakes on a griddle which has a small amount of coconut oil on it to fry the pancakes.   These pancakes take a bit longer to cook than typical pancakes to ensure the center is thoroughly cooked.  I made the mistake on my first trial of not having the batter thin enough so the inside was still a bit gooey.  After about three trials, I think I figured out the right proportion of sweet potato to egg mixture.  Feel free to adjust to fit your preference.  These store well in the refrigerator to reheat another morning or for a healthy side dish.

A mixture of 1/2 Tablespoon pure maple syrup and 2 -3 Tablespoons plain yogurt makes a delicious topping. One time I put a dollop of ricotta cheese on top.  Whatever Pzazz you want to add is up to you!

Nutrition: (does not include toppings) 
Servings per recipe: 2 servings of 3 pancakes each
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 180
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 2 mg
Sodium: 354 mg
Total Carbs: 18 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 18 g

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Charred Zucchini Soup by Anna Thomas

Charred Zucchini Soup
I'm still not feeling well enough to do much cooking, so I smiled when I saw the label on the freezer container that said "Charred Zucchini Soup".  Ahhh, it was one of my favorites last summer, made from the abundance of zucchini in Tom's vegetable garden. I am so thankful that I froze enough for this winter.

This recipe is from Anna Thomas' cookbook, Love Soup, which I have raved about previously on this blog. (See my previous post for her Zucchini and Basil Soup and a description of her legendary culinary career.) Not only are her soups exquisite, she is a gracious, giving soul.  I contacted her about the possibility of posting her recipes on this blog.  She replied with warm, generous permission to share her recipes occasionally here, and was delighted that her pureed soup recipes could be helpful to those of us who need this type of diet.   When such an acclaimed chef responds with heart-felt authenticity and warmth, it makes me believe, at least for a bit, that all is right with the world.

With great thanks to Anna Thomas, I share her recipe with you. It is truly outstanding!  While she has several recipes for pureed soups, this recipe didn't include pureeing it, but I found it pureed with Pzazz!

Oh....the photos are from last summer when I made the soup. The picnic table where I ate it in August is now covered with 8" of snow.

Zucchini from Tom's vegetable garden
3 lbs. slender green zucchini
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
      2 medium red onions
      7 cups vegetable broth  
      (I used a low-sodium variety)                 
      3 Tablespoons Arborio rice
      1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
      2 - 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      freshly ground black pepper

      Optional garnishes: 
      Drained Greek-style yogurt, preferably goat yogurt                                                   
      Fruity olive oil
      A few toasted pine nuts
      Mint leaves 

Mint growing in greens mix on our deck

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Wash and trim the zucchini and cut it into spears, then toss it with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Spread the zucchini spears on a large baking sheet and roast them in the hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour, turning them once or twice during that time. You want the zucchini to be soft, shrunken and blackened in spots. The charred flavor of the zucchini makes the flavor of the soup, so don't hesitate to leave it a little longer; it should really look done. 

Zucchini roasting in the oven

When the zucchini is ready it will be reduced to 3 or 4 cups, and its flavor will be concentrated and infused with a smoky depth.

While the zucchini is in the oven, peel the onions, cut them in half crosswise, and then cut them into 1/2 in" wedges. Put the onions in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and cook slowly over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions are soft and dark brown in places, about half an hour. Anna Thomas' rule about caramelizing or browning onions is: when you think they're done, give them at least another 10 minutes, and maybe more than that. You'll see how the flavor deepens and improves.

In an ample soup pot, combine the vegetable broth and the rice and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. Give the charred zucchini a few chops, just enough to have bite-sized pieces, and add it to the broth, along with the browned onion and the chopped mint. Continue simmering for another 5 minutes. Puree in small batches in a blender, or use a VitaMix which easily accommodated all of it.Return the soup to the stove top.

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice, taste, and add more, a teaspoon at a time, until the soup has a faintly tart edge. Grind in some black pepper, and correct the salt if needed. Over low heat, bring the soup back to a simmer. 

To serve, put a rounded tablespoon of drained yogurt in the center of each bowl and pour a big ladle of soup over it. Anna Thomas suggests pouring a drizzle of fruity olive oil over each serving and scatter toasted pine nuts on top. For my dietary needs, I omitted the drizzle of olive oil and pine nuts, though it sounds divine! Instead, I garnished my soup with mint sprigs.   

Nutrition per serving:                                                                                  
Servings per recipe: 7
Serving Size:  1 cup                                  
Calories: 110
Total Fat: 4 g                                                                          
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium:  603 mg
Total Carbs:  18 g
Dietary Fiber:  5 g                      
Protein:  9 g

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Turkey Pzazz

Jan, 2012, Lake Superior 
My recovery from having a bile duct stent placed on Nov 16 has been remarkably slower than usual.  Not entirely convinced that all of my symptoms when I went to the ER were attributable to bile duct issues, my doctor advised me to be especially cautious with what I eat, strictly adhering to his guideline of "if the food can squeeze through a tube of toothpaste, it is safe for me to eat."  While I eat a lot of soft fish and tofu most days to fit that criteria, those are simply not acceptable for my Thanksgiving dinner.  Even though my appetite was minimal, I wanted at least a taste of turkey.  So I put some of the turkey that Tom made for Thanksgiving dinner into my Magic Bullet with a bit of chicken broth and pureed it.  Frankly, it was disgusting!  

So today, I tried a different approach.  I used the chopper attachment for my Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Hand Blender to chop the turkey into very, very,very tiny pieces.  Yep, they would squeeze through a tube of toothpaste.  Then I stirred it into some dressing I made in the microwave.  Yes, finally a true taste of Thanksgiving!   And I am wholeheartedly thankful for my variety of kitchen tools!

Sorry, but there is no photo of the turkey/dressing.  I just don't have the energy to do more than absolutely necessary right now.   Use your Pzazzed Imagination!  The photo above is one I took of the Lake Superior shoreline in January of this year.  Stunning beauty that calms my soul.  

1/2 cup Arrowhead Mills Savory Stuffing Mix        
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup diced cooked turkey breast (after it is minced in the chopper attachment, it will yield about 1/4 cup)

Mix the stuffing mix with the chicken broth and cook in the microwave until it is soft and moist.  I microwaved it on high power for about 30 seconds, then stirred it, then put it in again for another minute or so.
Finely mince the diced, cooked turkey breast in the chopper attachment for the Cuisinart SmartStick, or other similar appliance.  It will yield about 1/4 cup finely minced turkey)
Stir the turkey into the dressing and heat again for about 30 - 45 seconds.

Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: Approximately 3/4
Calories: 196
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 33 mg
Sodium: 586 mg
Total Carbs: 20 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Protein: 17 g

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks

“When it's over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. 

When it is over, I don't want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument. 

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.” 

Thanksgiving isn't really about food.  It's my favorite holiday, because it asks that each of us remind ourselves of the amazing goodness in our life.  When Tom drove me home from the hospital on Sunday after 4 days there, I was awed by the sunshine, the beauty of sumac on the hillside, the stark graceful branches on the bare trees, the towering pines whistling their calming invitation to embrace life. Mary Oliver's poem says it so eloquently. And as I spent 4 days in the hospital, once again, I did indeed, contemplate my time on this earth.

I'm glad Thanksgiving is more about gratefulness than it is about food, because food is still not appealing to me. But if that changes in the next day, my husband said he will gladly make these soups for me.  They are the ones I made last year for Thanksgiving. Below that are some other possible soup ideas for you.  More importantly, enjoying the presence of  Caleb and Kiara, and Dan, and Sam and my husband is all that really matters to me.

Sweet and Savory Vegetable Soup
Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Here are some other pureed possibilities from this blog: 

Carrot Parsnip Puree

Squash Soup with Fennel

Squash Bisque

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Friday, November 9, 2012

NET Cancer Awareness Day- November 10

Worldwide NET Cancer Day is 
Saturday, November 10.


Animal Camouflage Image Gallery

  • NETS are the "zebras" of the cancer world.   When doctors are in medical school, they learn when diagnosing illnesses that they should be looking for horses, or common disease causes, rather than zebras, or rare causes. NETS are rare, occurring in approximately 35 in 100,000 cancer diagnosis annually. That is why NETS are zebras, their unique stripes being a symbol of the disease.

  • Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) arise in cells that can produce hormone-like substances, and arise primarily in the gastrointestinal tract, but can also be found in the pancreas, lungs, and other organs. 

  • Neuroendocrine cancer, is listed with the National Organization of Rare Disorders. 

  • Because NETs are rare, over 90% of all NETS are incorrectly diagnosed and treated for the wrong disease.  Many patients go untreated for years and have been told they have another disease. Patients with mid-gut NETs for example, have often been told they have Crohn's disease or IBS –irritable bowel syndrome.  From initial onset of symptoms the average time to proper diagnosis exceeds five years. 

  • Because neuroendocrine cancer is rare, the public, and sometimes even the medical profession, lacks full awareness. 

  • When the tumors are found early and treated, many NET patients can experience excellent longevity. On the other hand, failure to diagnose the disease, or a ‘wait and see,’ approach, has dire consequences, as in the case of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple,who had a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor similar to the one that I have. 

  • Because of the disease’s rarity and complexity, it is important to obtain care at a center specializing in the care of neuroendocrine cancer. There are a handful of such centers throughout the U.S. and in Europe. Notable among these, is the NET clinic within the Ochsner Health Care System in Kenner, LA, just outside New Orleans (504-464-8500).  Having now treated in excess of several thousand NET patients over many years, the team of doctors and care providers in Kenner have a 80% 5 year survival for patients with metastasized small-bowel NETs. 

  • Because of the rarity of NETS, it has had very low priority for funding in the medical research arena. With new diagnoses of neuroendocrine cancer increasing by more than 5% annually, the need for funding for medical research for these rare tumors is urgent. 

  • Donations are invited to: 

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation and the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation also provide incredibly useful information for people with NET cancer.  

Thanks to Jeff Drifmeyer, the NET Cancer Awareness Day website, and the Northwoods Nets group for ideas for writing this blog post.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Winter Squash and Cannellini Bean Soup

Winter Squash and Cannelini Bean Soup

Have you read Mark Bittman's recent book, Food Matters: A Guide to Conscience Eating?  I checked it out from the library last week and have been mesmerized by it.  Mark Bittman, who also wrote the bestselling How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and writes a culinary column in the New York Times, offers an easy-to-read rundown on how government policy, big business marketing, and global economics influence what we choose to eat.  In this book, he provides a compelling argument for increasing the amount of plant based foods and reducing the amount of processed foods and meat in your diet as a way to improve your health as well as reducing your carbon footprint. His flexible, simple and non-dictatorial style makes his advise "easy to swallow".   You can purchase his books at his site,  Mark Bittman or at most any local bookseller or on-line.

In his approach to reduce the amount of processed foods a person eats, he encourages people to increase their intake of whole grains such as quinoa, bulgar, and oats, as well as increasing intake of beans and legumes.  He provides great tips for how to cut down preparation time as well as costs. Most people think that eating healthful food is more expensive, but forget that processed foods are actually much more expensive. I tend to wax and wane in my efforts to cook large quantities of dried beans to have on hand in the refrigerator for a variety of uses. I know that it is much cheaper to cook my own beans and that buying canned beans also includes buying BPA (Bisphenol A), since that is what is used in most cans.  The taste of home cooked beans is also superior to the ones in cans, and the sodium content is much lower.  But sometimes I have not planned enough in advance to soak the beans adequately to make digesting them easier and reduce cooking time. 

Cooked cannellini beans and uncooked winter squash 
But reading his book revived my motivation. In response, on Saturday I cooked the dried cannellini beans I had in the cupboard. Cannellini beans are large white beans, about 1/2" long, with a firm texture and skin and a nut-like flavor.  Very popular in Italy, cannellini beans are mild in flavor and hold their shape well.  The many health benefits of beans are that they are low in fat, high in protein, high in fiber, minerals and B vitamins. One cup of dry beans makes about 3 cups of cooked beans.

Cannellini beans, like other kidney beans, require special preparation to make them more digestible. Soaking and boiling are the keys.  Put your cannellini beans in a bowl with enough tap water to cover, and set them aside for up to 12 hours.  Then drain the beans, and put them in a large pot with a tightly fitting lid and cover with cold water by a couple of inches.  Bring the pot to a boil and let it boil, uncovered for at least 10 minutes.  Then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the beans are nearly tender, which will take from 45 - 60 minutes. Adding salt to the cooking water can toughen some beans.  Mark Bittman's advise is to add the small amount of salt needed toward the end of the cooking process. I concur that this works well. 

Cooked Winter Squash

So as I looked at the cooked cannellini beans I decided to puree them with the cooked winter squash that was waiting to be finished in the refrigerator.  Surprise Pzazz!  I didn't realize how the white beans would add a thick creamy texture to pureed soup without adding a bit of fat!  I added garlic powder and ground sage to the puree and then put a sprinkle of cardamon on the soup when I put it in the bowl.  Of course, fresh sage and garlic would undoubtedly have enhanced it, but the route I used was conveniently easy.  Now that I know the wonderful combination of winter squash and white beans, I can think of many perfectly Pzazzed  seasonings to experiment with. Maybe I'll try cannellini beans with rosemary and winter squash, or cannellini beans with garlic and kale.  Or....create your own Pzazzed Possibilities! The chilly damp air today invites a warm, hearty soup.

1/2 cup cooked white beans (preferably cannellini beans)            
1/2 cup mashed cooked winter squash
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground sage powder              
Dash of salt and pepper
Sprinkle of ground cardamom

Puree all ingredients to desired consistency in an appliance of your choice.   I put all ingredients into my 4-cup glass Pyrex container and then used my Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Blender to puree it and then warmed it in the microwave.

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 11/4 cup
Calories: 166
Total Fat: 0 g                                              
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 109 mg
Total Carbs: 34 g
Dietary Fiber: 7 g
Protein: 9 g

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Broccoli Crepes

Think of this broccoli crepe recipe as a template for any savory pureed green vegetable crepe.  I just happened to have leftover broccoli puree from supper last night so that dictated what I tried tonight.   When I rolled them up, I put a dollop of low-fat ricotta cheese in it sprinkled with a bit of nutmeg.  Nutmeg and broccoli are exquisite partners.  The next time I make these with broccoli, I might add other seasonings to the batter, such as Nature's Seasoning, or garlic and onion powder, or Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb blend, then sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese on the crepe before I roll them up. 

I know that most crepe recipes use more flour than I have used here, but I wanted to keep the carbohydrate count low, while emphasizing the vegetables.  It worked well enough that I am dreaming of many more savory vegetable possibilities.  Maybe they are more like pancakes than crepes.  Hmmmm......How about a pancrepe????  A crepcake????  

I used the liquid egg substitute of Egg Beaters for this recipe.  While I don't like the idea of artificial ingredients, Egg Beaters are incredibly handy for this application and I'm not sure yet if egg whites would work.  I'll try it and let you know.  

Anyway, this template can be used in a variety of ways, I think.  Another time I might try pureed asparagus enlivened with mint or dill.  Or go Indian with pureed spinach and curry.  Or head for the Mediterranean with pureed broccoli seasoned with oregano, thyme, and basil.  Pureed kale with onion and rosemary.  You get the idea.

Of course, it's probably not limited to green vegetables, either.  What about winter squash pancrepes?  Pzazz in so many places!

1/3 cup Egg Beaters
2 teaspoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup broccoli puree  ( This was leftover from last night.  One cup of chopped broccoli , then steamed and pureed with enough liquid to make a thick consistency will yield about 1/4 cup of puree. )
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of freshly ground pepper
Other seasonings to taste (not included in nutritional analysis)

Use a fork to mix the egg substitute with the flour.  Add the broccoli puree with seasonings as desired and mix well again.
Coat a saute pan with non-stick spray and heat the pan to medium-high heat.  Pour one-third of the batter into the pan and cook until bubbly, which only takes about 1 - 2 minutes.  Then carefully flip and cook until just lightly browned, about 1 minute.   Repeat twice more to make a total of 3 small pancrepes.  Fill each with a dollop of low-fat ricotta cheese sprinkled with nutmeg, if desired.  Or sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (These optional fillings are not included in the nutritional analysis.)

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 3 small crepes
Calories: 82
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg                                                                  
Sodium: 317 mg
Total Carbs: 8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 11 g

Friday, November 2, 2012

Powerful Purple Pzazz Smoothie

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month!

And November 10 is World NET Cancer Day! 
(NET is the acronym for NeuroEndocrine Tumors)

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has chosen purple as the designated color to increase awareness of this deadly cancer.  Please see their website at to learn more about pancreatic cancer and how you can become involved in raising awareness and participate in raising funds for research.  It is the only type of cancer that has not seen an improvement in the 5 year survival rate in 40 years.  

My type of cancer is a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, which is the same type that Steve Jobs died from, and comprises only 5% of all pancreatic cancers. 

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) is the umbrella term for a group of unusual, often slow growing cancers, which develop from cells in the diffuse endocrine systems.  They are found most commonly in the lung or gastrointestinal system, but they can arise in other parts of the body, such as the pancreas. 

November 10 is World NET Cancer Day!
For more information about this exciting event, see

The World NET Community was established in March 2010, in Berlin, and works to provide worldwide awareness of NET cancer. 

The zebra is the logo for NET cancer. I will explain more about this another time.  
On November 10 I will be wearing my zebra scarf with a purple blouse!  
Pzazz for sure! 

NET cancers are frequently misdiagnosed and patients are treated on average for 3 - 7 years  for the wrong disease.  There are a number of different types of NETS and they all have a different way of expressing themselves in terms of symptoms as well as how they look under a microscope. 

The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation provides comprehensive and remarkably useful information about NET cancer for the newly diagnosed. 

The Caring for Carcinoid Foundation is another remarkable foundation that focuses on raising funds for research for NETs, as well as providing support for individuals with NETS.   

So, to kick off this important month, I made a Powerful Purple Pzazz Smoothie for my breakfast. A recent addition to my smoothies has been black raspberry seed nutri-powder. Black raspberry (which is different than red raspberry) has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be a potent anti-tumor agent. See below for citations..And while I firmly believe that no extract from any food will ever be as powerful as the synergistic effect derived from eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, I am eager to add to my cancer "survivorship" in whatever ways possible.  Thus, this smoothie is a Pzazzed and Powerful way to continue to blaze my trail to longevity in November!

1 Tablespoon Black Raspberry Seed Nutri-Powder (Botanic Innovations is the source I use to purchase my black raspberry seed powder. Other on-line resources are BerriHealth, and there are probably others, too) 
1/2 cup frozen triple berry mix (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries)
1/4 cup frozen blueberries  (I still have some in the freezer from summer 2011!)
1/2 frozen banana, sliced 
1/2 cup Westsoy Organic unsweetened soy milk
2011 Garden Blueberries

Blend in a MagicBullet or blender to desired consistency. 

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 151                                                      
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 26 mg
Total Carbs: 30 g
Dietary Fiber: 9 g
Protein: 6 g

Citations of some studies supporting anti-angiogeneis and anti-oxident properties of black raspberry extract:
1.  Liu Z, Schwimer J, Liu D, Greenway FL, Anthony CT, Woltering EA. Black Raspberry Extract and Fractions Contain Angiogenesis Inhibitors. J Agric Food Chem 53; 2909-3915,


3. Fatty Acid Content and Antioxidant Properties of Cold Pressed Black Raspberry Seed Oil and Meal, J. Parry, Liangli Yu, PhD.
4.  Inhibitory Effect of Chardonnay and Black Raspberry Seed Extracts on Lipid Oxidation in Fish Oil and their Radical Scavenging,  J. Parry, Liangli Yu, PhD.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Carrot Soup with Garam Masala

One of 4 bowls filled with carrots
This soup was inspired by two things.  First, I finished the rest of the pink banana squash for my lunch today and was sad that it was the last of it. (Though I froze some for a treat this winter.)  I had added garam masala, an Indian spice mix, to the squash and tossed it with the left-over tofu I made yesterday with a marinade of tamari(soy sauce), ginger, curry, and garlic.  Delicious combination. So garam masala was on my brain as I looked at the heap of carrots harvested from Tom's garden yesterday.    Hmmm,,,,carrots and garam masala.......

If you aren't familiar with garam masala,  it is a common spice blend from India and Pakistan, and usually consists of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, and black peppercorns.  It is generally a mild, sweet seasoning, but can be spicier, depending on how much black pepper is used, which is the type I had in my cupboard.  

A quick look on-line for pureed carrot soup recipes yielded one that included garam masala at the blog of Three Many Cooks. But it also used olive oil, butter, and whole milk, so I adapted it to fit my dietary needs.  Rather than adding milk or cream at the end, I swirled in plain goat yogurt and found that it was the perfect compliment to the flavors. You could use any type of plain yogurt that you enjoy.  I made only a half-batch of the soup, as I often do when creating something new, but was sorry that I hadn't made a whole batch because I will quickly deplete what remains!  

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 lbs carrots, cut into approximate 1" slices (about 5 cups)    
2 teaspoons sugar
3 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
2 Tablespoons garam masala (If you are unaccustomed with this spice, you might want to use less.)
3 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste (I didn't add either)

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large deep saute pan. Add carrots and then onions; saute, stirring very little at first and more frequently at the end, until vegetables start to turn golden brown, 7 - 8 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add sugar and garlic; continue to cook until all vegetables are a rich caramel color, about 10 minutes longer.  Add garam masala; continue to saute until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute more.

Simmering carrots with garam masala
 Add broth; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce to low and simmer, partially covered until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Puree in a VitaMix or with an immersion stick.  Ladle into small bowls, and swirl in some plain yogurt.  I used goat yogurt from my friend, Christal, and it was just the right amount to tame the garam masala.  I also added a very tiny sprinkle of ground hazelnuts.  The nutritional analysis doesn't include the yogurt or the nuts.

Soup without the yogurt

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 156
Total Fat: 7 g                                              
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 153 mg
Total Carbs: 21 g
Dietary Fiber: 5
Protein: 3 g

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gingered Kale Soup

The kale falafel flopped. Does this sound like the start of a Dr. Seuss story?  Nope, it was the tale of my day yesterday.  I had found a recipe for Baked Sweet Potato Kale Falafel on Diana Dyer's blog,   365 Days of Kale .  I thought it was definitely worth a try, because I love kale and the recipe pureed the ingredients before forming them into patties, so I was hopeful it would work for me. In making them, I made only a half batch so thought the ingredients could be processed in my Magic Bullet.  Nope..too small.  So I moved it to the VitaMix.  Nope. Not enough liquid.  So I moved it to my early 1980's food processor.  Just right.  (Now it sounds like the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears!) Then the patties stuck to the parchment paper when they were baking, probably because I omitted the coating of sesame seeds.  So I took them out and tried frying them in coconut oil. That helped the process, but they were ugly at best.  Taste was ok, but not as good as I had hoped.  Oh gads......I still had to clean the Magic Bullet, the VitaMix and the food processor I had used, in addition to the the two pans, and the mixing bowl.  I am sure Diana Dyer's Baked Sweet Potato Kale Falafel's were delicious, and I had done something wrong.   If anyone wants to give them a try, here is the link to her recipe for her Baked Sweet Potato Kale Falafel and let me know how you did. Interestingly, I found myself munching on them today.  I think the day of melding the flavors improved their taste, and they provided a much healthier alternative to munching on the brownies I made for Sam who is coming for dinner tonight.

While I was tasting the kale falafel last night, I commented that I wished I had made a kale soup instead.  So that's what I made for tonight.  It's a combination of several other "green soup" recipes I had done and this one turned out superb.  Pzazz after all!  While many of my "green soups" look similar, the taste differences make each one distinct and keep me coming back for more. 

And yes, kale is still available in Tom's garden!   The photo at the top of this post is of the kale harvested on Monday morning.  Beautiful, isn't it! I like Diana Dyer's description of kale as a terrific cancer "phyter" because it is power-packed with phyto-chemicals that promote general good health and have been linked to cancer reduction.   While I don't think I meet her goal of eating at least 1 - 2 servings daily of foods from this power packed family, I certainly aim for one.  I concur with her that this improves my chances of long-term cancer survivorship and I would like to think that this has helped me live for 14 years since first diagnosed with a 14cm pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 1998.  Now that is Poweful Pzazz!!!!

2 teaspoons coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 medium red garnet yam, peeled and cubed
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 cups chopped kale
1 small leek, white part only, thoroughly washed and chopped
2 -3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 - 3 Tablespoons grated ginger
About 1 cup water
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat coconut oil in pan and add the chopped onion with the salt.  Cook over low heat, stirring several times, until the onions are nicely caramelized, which takes at least 20 minutes, but is well worth the time.
While the onions are cooking, wash the kale and take any tough stems off, and chop coarsely.  Set aside.  Put the garnet yam and the whole garlic cloves in a soup pot with the vegetable broth, and cook until almost tender. Add the kale, leek, ginger and enough water to cover the contents by about 1".  Simmer until the kale is tender.  Add a few grinds of black pepper.  Puree contents in a VitaMix or blender.  

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 3
Serving Size: Generous 1 cup                
Calories: 146
Total Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0  mg
Sodium: 360 mg
Total Carbs: 26 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 5 g

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Squash Bisque

Winter Squash Bisque

 15 lb. Pink Banana Squash from Tom's garden
This remarkably large Pink Banana winter squash from Tom's garden was substituted for the butternut squash in this soup recipe from my friend, Regis.  When I served the soup for myself at dinner last night with Tom, Dan and his friend, they asked for a taste, and then asked for a bowl of it for themselves.  Yes, this soup is one that has appeal to anyone who likes winter squash soup.  Tom added a drizzle of Half-n-Half and a few pine nuts to their soup bowls, while I reveled in it just as it was.  Today for lunch I added a swirl of kefir and finely ground pecans to dress it up for this photo. Hearty soups made with winter squash are the hallmark of autumn for me. The addition of a bosc pear and apple to this soup make it just different enough to give a new Pzazz to my array of fall squash soups.  

Pink Banana squash is a variety of winter squash that tastes similar to butternut squash. It is an earthy, dense, flavor-filled squash.  Similar to the butternut squash, it has a very thin skin, so if you purchase it in the store, it is an economical choice as opposed to the types of winter squash that have a thick skin that can't be eaten, yet you pay for it by weight.  But most importantly, butternut and pink banana varieties of winter squash that won't disappoint in taste and will keep in a cool place for weeks while I create more ways to use them.  

1 Tablespoon coconut oil
Seeded center of Pink Banana Squash
1 cup finely chopped onion
2# butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
(2# squash= about 3 cups peeled, cubed)
2 medium bosc pears, peeled, cored and cubed
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored,
  &  cubed
4 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
1 Tablespoon finely grated gingerroot
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 (14 1/2 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup apple juice
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1.  In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and saute 10 minutes.
2.  Add the squash cubes, pears, apple, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, grated ginger, cumin, curry powder, cayenne broth, apple juice, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
3.  Let cool slightly.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked solids with a little of the broth to a blender or VitaMix.  Puree until very smooth and add the rest of the soup and puree all until very creamy texture is achieved.
4.  Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and the pepper.  Heat through.  

Nutrition per serving:
Squash patch in early summer
Servings per recipe: 8
Serving Size: 1 cup                                        
Calories: 121
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium: 95 mg
Total Carbs: 27 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 2 g

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple Squash Soup

Apple Squash Soup

This is a tale of two winter squash plants.  They cross-pollinated and created one very large and very delicious squash.  It weighed 14.5 pounds! 

Mystery Winter Squash

Tom really isn't sure what varieties of squash cross-pollinated, but it is likely a cross of one variety from Japan and one from New Zealand.  He had ordered several heirloom varieties of squash seeds and started them in the greenhouse, then planted them in late May in our garden. But that great start came to an abrupt end when a neighbor dog dug up most of the plants. The dog's life nearly came to an abrupt end that day too when Tom discovered the damage.  But true to gardener spirit, his persistence prevailed and he salvaged and replanted what he could.  But he was unable to identify each squash variety, and thought that it wouldn't matter since he would be able to identify the squash it produced.  But this huge squash does not look like any of the varieties he planted and we can only surmise that two plants cross-pollinated because they were in such close proximity.  So we were a bit skeptical about how it would taste.  Ah....surprises can be so joyous!  Tom cut it into several wedges to roast in the oven and we reveled at the bright orange flesh. And when it was tender after about an hour in the oven, we sampled a bit and our taste buds exploded with rich, sweet wondrous squash! PZAZZ!   Having large amounts of delicious cooked squash ready to use in a variety of ways is a definite time saver.  I even like to put it into my egg-white omelets.   Winter squash is a dream food for those of us with diabetes because a full cup of cooked squash is only 18 grams of carbohydrates and is remarkably filling.

Squash wedges ready to roast in the oven

While I can enjoy soft squash just as it is with just a bit of sea salt, I also delight in a hearty squash soup.   This one was an impromptu creation inspired by several recipes I had seen in magazines recently, as well as a desire to use up onions, carrots, and apples harvested by Tom. This is one I will definitely make frequently.  Squash is full of vitamins A and C and a healthy dose of fiber, making this soup a nutritious and delicious lunch. I like to add just a dash of cayenne pepper to many of my soup creations.  Be sure to add just enough to add a little bit of Pzazz, but not so much that you overwhelm the other earthy tastes.     

2 teaspoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
2 cups cooked, mashed winter squash
2/3 cup shredded apple
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
dash of cayenne pepper

Heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Saute onions and carrots in the oil until softened, about 5 - 7 minutes.  Add the apple and cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth and cooked squash. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, making sure the carrots are fully cooked. You may need to add more broth if the carrots take longer to cook.  Transfer to a VitaMix and puree until creamy.  Add cayenne pepper carefully, a little bit at a time, to desired taste.  Or just sprinkle a bit on top of the soup in the serving bowl.

Nutrition: (using coconut oil)                            
Squash coming out of the oven
Servings per recipe: 3
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 135
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg                                        
Sodium: 160 mg
Total Carbs: 27 g
Dietary Fiber: 7 g
Protein: 2 g