Friday, March 30, 2012

Kale Apple Soup

Kale Apple Soup

Drama Duluth.  That's how I would describe our weather.  First it was "the winter that wasn't" with hardly any snow and average temperatures much higher than usual for the months of December through February.  Then a week of  12" of snow.  Followed by a week of 50- 60 degree weather that coaxed some daffodils to peek through. Today it is a mixture of snow and rain.  Time for a hearty bowl of soup!  I never tire of any variation of kale soup. My favorite type of kale is the Black Tuscan, also known as Black Palm.  Its striking puckered leaves are a beautiful dark blue spruce color.  The ease with which I can remove the leaf from the tough stem is another reason I choose it over the other types of kale when making soup.  The apple in this soup compliments the kale remarkably well, giving it a tart and slightly sweet undertone.  I might not be able to eat an uncooked apple or kale, but pureed together in this soup, it's delectable!  

1 large bunch kale, destemmed and chopped (5 cups chopped)
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 Tablespoon coconut oil, divided into two portions (or 2 Tablespoons olive oil)
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 tsp sea salt
Chopped Kale
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped                
1/4 cup non-fat Fage Greek yogurt
freshly ground black pepper

Wash the kale and remove the tough stems.  Coarsely chop the leaves. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the kale in 1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil.  Cook, stirring, until the kale begins to wilt.  Add 2 cups vegetable broth, lower heat to medium-low and cook, stirring  occasionally for about 10 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or VitaMix and puree.  In the same skillet that was used to saute the kale, add the remaining oil, the onions and the salt, and cook over medium-low heat until they are just barely turning color.  Add the chopped apples and remaining 1 cup vegetable broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender, about 20 minutes.  Add this mixture to the kale in the blender and puree it all together.  If the soup seems too thick, add more broth or water until it reaches the desired consistency.
Garnish with a dollop of non-fat Fage yogurt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Servings per recipe: 4
Kale Apple Soup
Serving Size:  1 cup                                  
Calories: 122
Total Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 293 mg
Total Carbs: 19 g
Dietary Fiber: 6
Protein: 4

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cold Asparagus Soup

Nothing says spring to me more than asparagus.   Green, glorious, green.  Fresh, vibrant, and lively.  Yes, that describes this soup, too.  It's an adaptation of one from Anna Thomas' cookbook, Love Soup.  And I do indeed love this soup.  The original recipe used heavy cream, for which I substituted fat-free half-n-half.  It also used full-fat goat cheese, and I used fat-free feta cheese.  And I used coconut oil rather than olive oil.  And I omitted the cayenne pepper that was used in the original recipe.  I wanted the fresh dill taste to stand alone with the asparagus, which it did quite well.  Savor the fresh taste of spring!  

1 1/2 lbs. fresh untrimmed asparagus
3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
3 Tablespoons fat-free half-n-half
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 oz. reduced-fat Feta cheese
1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil (or 1 Tablespoon olive oil)
sea salt to taste
freshly ground white pepper to taste

Optional Garnishes:
fresh sprigs of dill
Greek yogurt

Break off and discard the tough bottoms of the asparagus stalks, then thinly peel the lower parts of the remaining stalks. You want as few of the strings as possible.  Cut the asparagus in pieces and simmer it in the vegetable broth until it is tender, about 10 minutes.  Allow the mixture to cool.  Combine all the ingredients and puree them in a VitaMix or similar blender.  The VitaMix did an extraordinarily good job of pureeing any asparagus strings that remained.  

Servings per recipe: 5
Serving Size: Just a bit over 1 cup
Calories: 84
Total Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 4  mg
Sodium: 21   mg
Total Carbs: 8 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 7

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Skinny on Coconut Oil

A couple of years ago, I was hospitalized for a complication related to the neuroendocrine tumor on my pancreas.  Generally, I think of hospitalizations as an event to be avoided at all costs. However, I learned a new piece of information that made the stay worth it.  

The attending oncologist talked to me about the benefits of coconut oil for individuals who don't produce enough pancreatic enzymes to digest fats properly. He explained that coconut oil is composed primarily of medium chain triglycerides, which makes it more digestible for people with pancreatic insufficiency. Wow...maybe I could add some fat back into my diet!  But what is a medium-chain triglyceride?  I had no idea.  

So, here's the skinny on this fat. 

Fats are comprised of chains that range in length.  Most common fats used in our Western diet consist of long-chain triglycerides.   Long-chain triglycerides require the action of pancreatic enzymes and bile salts for digestion.  In contrast, medium-chain triglycerides can be absorbed directly by the wall of the small intestine without the need for pancreatic enzymes. That is the key to why coconut oil, which is comprised of at least 65% medium-chain triglycerides, is an excellent choice for someone like me who doesn't  produce sufficient pancreatic enzymes. And even though I take prescription level pancreatic enzymes with each meal, I still have difficulty digesting fat.  (That's my polite way of saying I am ready to shove everyone out of my path to the bathroom after eating even small amounts of most fat.) But when I eat coconut oil, I am confident I look like a Polynesian model out for a leisurely stroll.    

So that is why I modify recipes calling for olive oil or butter etc, and use coconut oil instead.  And you were thinking that I used it because I was hoping to be transformed into a tropical beauty.   

If you would like more in-depth information and resources about this topic, please post a comment and I will gladly give you my long-version on the merits and potential problems of coconut oil with  references.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pok Choy Broccoli Soup

Pok Choy Broccoli Soup

It's a good week to love green soup.  St. Patrick's Day can inspire green beer as acceptable for some, so why not green soup for those of us who love the healthy lifestyle instead?  This soup was simply a way to use up some leftovers in the refrigerator, with tasty results.  Now, how could I have made this look more attractive?   

1 cup chopped pok choy (which is baby bok choy)
1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
3/4 cup vegetable broth

Put all ingredients into a microwave safe container.  I used my 4-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup. Cook until the vegetables are tender.  Using an immersion blender, puree to desired consistency.  I garnished it with some crushed crackers. (Garnish not included in nutritional analysis.)

Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: About 1 1/2 cups
Calories: 27
Total Fat:  0 g
Cholesterol:0   mg
Sodium: 120 mg
Total Carbs: 5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein:  1 g

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Creamy Raw Zucchini Soup

                                   Watch March Madness turn into March Gladness with this soup!

Kris Carr is a self-proclaimed wellness warrior.  She was diagnosed with a rare and incurable stage 4 cancer in 2003 and there was paltry information about what types of treatments would be of benefit to her.  So she blazed her own trail into a terrain of whole foods, raw foods, meditation, and joyful living.  She has published many books, including Crazy Sexy Cancer TipsCrazy Sexy Cancer Survivor, Crazy Sexy Diet and her newest book that will be released soon is Crazy Sexy Juices and Succulent Smoothies. Her approach to life and challenges is joyful, zany, and inspiring!  The recipe below is my modification of one of her original creations.  I reduced the amount of avocado in it and omitted the olive oil, predicting my digestive system would be screaming if I had that much fat.  I also peeled the zucchini prior to putting it into the VitaMix. Yep, my new VitaMix is getting a workout this week.  I am finding that it creates much smoother purees than my blender did.   Pzazzed Gladness!

1 zucchini, peeled and chopped (about 1 generous cup)
1 cup fresh spinach (or other greens such as kale, chard, etc)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white miso
1/4  avocado, chopped
2 - 4 tablespoons fresh dill (or use dried dill)
1/4 cup water

Blend all ingredients on high in a VitaMix or blender until smooth. Garnish with a sprig of whatever herb is growing in your kitchen herb garden. Oregano, thyme and rosemary are thriving in my window these days.

Servings per recipe: 1
Serving Size: Approx 1 cup
Calories: 122
Total Fat:  7 g
Cholesterol: 0  mg
Sodium: 215  mg
Total Carbs: 15  g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 3 g

Monday, March 12, 2012

Feta-Red Pepper-Mint Dip

Our son, Caleb, enjoys culinary experimentation as much as his dad and I do.  (He makes a great brew too!  But that's off limits for me...darn this disease.)  He suggested I make a feta cheese dip like he has made.  He provided me with approximate amounts of each ingredient and I took it from there and modified it to meet my needs.  Tom used it as a dip for cucumbers and I used it as a dip for some pita chips.  Great flavor combination!  Thanks Caleb!

6 oz. jar of roasted red peppers ( or equivalent of peppers you roast yourself)
1 cup reduced-fat feta cheese
1/4 cup or less non-fat plain yogurt
2 -3 leaves fresh mint, chopped
Approximately 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Put all of the ingredients except the yogurt into a blender and puree to desired consistency.  Add yogurt a little bit at a time to make desired consistency.  

Servings per recipe: 6
Serving Size: 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons)
Calories: 93
Total Fat:  5 g
Cholesterol: 13 mg
Sodium: 591 mg (this will be less if you roast your own peppers)
Total Carbs: 2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0
Protein: 9,g

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Asparagus-Zucchini-Spinach Puree

As a spread on a sandwich 

The New Scenic Cafe north of Duluth wowed me once again on Tuesday!  Not only do they cheerfully accommodate my need for pureed food, but the chef willingly shares the approximate measurements of the ingredients he uses to make the new creation so that I can try to replicate it. He views it as a fun challenge, using whatever ingredients he has available.  He pureed asparagus, zucchini and spinach together with shallots and garlic to create a thin spread to put on shredded roasted chicken atop a toasted baguette.  Using the information he provided, today I made a puree that tasted quite close to what he had made.  I made a much larger batch than he did, so that I can have more another day.  This puree could be used in a variety of ways - as a spread on a sandwich, as a sauce for pasta, or thinned with broth to make a soup.  The possibilities are as vast as your Pzazz. 

Making this puree was doubly fun today.  First, because my friend was here to join me.  Second, because she brought her VitaMix for me to try.  I was skeptical that it couldn't do anything that the appliances I already have couldn't do.  Well, I was wrong. WOWZA!  It was fast, it was quiet, it was efficient pulverizing the vegetables to the desired consistency, and it was easy to clean.   Tom had purchased one for me at Sam's Club a couple of weeks ago, but I hadn't even taken it out of the box yet, thinking it was incredibly indulgent to buy it and had planned to return it. My friend offered to let me try hers before I returned mine.  Hmmmmm.... our 30 year old food processor has only one feature that still works and our blender needs more liquid than desirable to easily make spreads or pureed dips, limiting how I can use it.  Hmmmmmmm....pureed food is my required diet.  Time to rethink my initial decision.  Sam (our 18 year old son) does love to make fruit smoothies in the summer and neither our blender or food processor can chop ice.  So I wouldn't be entirely selfish, would I?   

1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
As a soup
4 Tablespoons chopped shallot                    
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 cup chopped asparagus
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 1/3 cup fresh spinach
1/2  Tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat the 1/2 tablespoon of oil over medium heat and saute the shallot, garlic, asparagus and zucchini until tender.  Put it all in the VitaMix and add the fresh spinach and remaining oil and be amazed as you watch it turn a vibrant, silky green!

Nutrition:  (using coconut oil rather than olive oil)
Servings per recipe: 3
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Calories: 84
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 17 mg
Total Carbs: 10 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 3 g

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Beans and Greens Soup

White Bean and Kale Soup (Beans and Greens) 

During the first week following my monthly injection of Octreotide, I need to increase my intake of pureed fiber, particularly food like hummus or bean dips. (Believe me, you don't want to know all of the medical details regarding why this is necessary.)    

But one day last week I was weary of the several varieties of hummus and white bean dips I had consumed and stood with the refrigerator door open for far too long looking for something to satisfy my palate as well as my dietary needs.  Then it came to me.  

I had a small amount of kale in the crisper and had some cooked white beans that I hadn't used for making dip.  I have seen several recipes for kale and white bean soups, but had never ventured to make a pureed soup with those ingredients.  The challenge was on.  What proportions and herbs would yield a creamy, healthy, fiber-filled delectable pureed soup?  Following my culinary instincts, I started chopping, mixing, and measuring....quickly, because I was getting hungry. The resulting soup was nutritionally dense, creamy but low-fat, and yes, definitely tasty. When Tom walked into the house, he asked what I had made that smelled so delicious.  Pzazz!  

Just a quick side-note:   If you use canned white beans rather than cooking your own, choose a brand, such as Eden Organic, whose cans contain no bisphenol-A in the can linings.  

2 cups cooked white cannellini beans
2 cups chopped kale (tough stems removed)            
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 - 3/4 cup water
1/2  - 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Cook the kale in the broth until tender.  Add the cooked white beans and rosemary. Simmer until thoroughly heated.  Puree with an immersion blender in a deep container, or puree in a blender.  If a thinner consistency is desired, add a bit more broth or water.  Season with just a bit of sea salt.  (Did you know that typical table salt is bleached, but sea salt isn't.  Sea salt is garnered from the natural evaporation of seawater.  It's far healthier than common iodized table salt and contains more than eighty valuable trace minerals.  Have fun trying the many varieties of sea salt available, each imparting a unique flavor. Tom is my household "expert" on sea salt and he has introduced me to a vast array of fascinating sea salts,)

Simmering soup

Servings per recipe: 3
Serving Size: A generous 1 cup
Calories: 163
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 120 mg
Total Carbs: 29 g
Dietary Fiber: 9 g
Protein: 10 g

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Carrot Parsnip Puree

How can something this naturally sweet be so incredibly nutritious!  I must have taken 50 photos of this puree in an attempt to make the photo look as delicious as the puree tasted, when I realized I simply don't have that caliber of photography ability.   So, please, please, try this wonderfully nutritious and delightful puree. You won't be disappointed.  It passed Tom's Taste Test with flying colors!

As I mentioned at the beginning, the puree is a nutritional powerhouse, too.  Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant beta-carotene, which is linked to reducing the risk of cancer, heart attacks, and cataracts.  Other vitamins, minerals and enzymes in carrots support liver, digestive and kidney function, according to Rebecca Katz, author of One Bite At A Time - Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends.  (If you haven't seen this cookbook, I highly recommend it.) And parsnips provide an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, pantothenic acid, and manganese.  

The recipe I devised is a compilation of several I found online, looking for ways to use up two lone parsnips in the crisper section of my refrigerator.  Oh, the beauty of forced creativity.  

Ingredients in soup pot

1 Tablespoon coconut oil
(or olive oil or butter if you don't need coconut oil)
1 cup peeled and sliced parsnips
2 cups peeled and chopped carrots
2 garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup chopped)
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water

Melt coconut oil in a soup pot.  Chop all vegetables and add to the oil.  Saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add broth and water.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer with a cover on the pot until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.  Puree with an immersion blender.  This will make a puree that can be used as a side dish or you can add some more broth and use as a soup.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro.

Starting to puree with immersion blender

Servings per recipe: 3
Pureed with immersion blender
Serving Size: 1 cup                                                      
Calories: 127
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 0  mg
Sodium: 161 mg
Total Carbs: 20 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 2 g