Thursday, April 17, 2014

Warm Cucumber Soup

The song "Stuck In The Middle With You", has been running through my brain all week, as a metaphor for the way Duluth is stuck between winter and spring. (Who cares that the rest of the lyrics have nothing to do with my weather-weary soul. In fact, I never knew what the lyrics were until I looked them up before I posted this.) We are tantalized by a beautiful sunny 50 degree day, followed by 5" of snowfall the next day.  So when I saw this recipe for Warm Cucumber Soup in a Rachael Ray magazine, it seemed apropos.  Spring-like cucumbers, yet warmth on a chilly, snowy day. 

I made a half recipe as I often do when trying new recipes, but after one taste, I wished I had made a triple batch instead! (The recipe below is for a full batch.) Of course, my modifications were to use coconut oil rather than olive oil to saute the onions and garlic, and to eliminate the additional olive oil pureed into the soup when it was finished.  I also eliminated the cheese toasts as a side....oh, it made me ache for a gluten/bread "fix".   But, alas, one of my blood tests that was done last month suggested that eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet has been beneficial for me. 

Fresh mint and cannellini beans are the surprise ingredients that make this soup so delicious and will add some Pzazz to your hopeful waiting for spring! And if you are lucky enough to have warm sunshine the next day, the soup is also delicious chilled.  Gotta love it!

1 Tablespoon coconut oil
2/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups peeled, seeded, chopped cucumbers

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, gluten-free
1/2 cup cooked, drained cannellini beans
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Few fresh mint sprigs and diced fresh tomato for garnish

In a medium pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and chopped garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add the cucumber and lemon juice and cook until golden. Stir in broth, beans and chopped mint and cook for 8 - 10 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat and cool.  Puree to desired consistency and THINK SPRING!

Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 75
Total Fat: 4  g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 322  mg
Total Carbs: 8  g
Dietary Fiber:2 g
Protein: 3 g

Monday, March 24, 2014

Coconut Spinach Soup

I recently discovered a new food blog, Beyond the  It features many recipes using coconut oil and coconut milk, so it caught my attention for this reason.  This particular soup takes only about 15 minutes to make, start to finish. Pzazz for sure!  

For the yogurt-cilantro sauce, I used plain goat yogurt to fit my dietary and taste preferences, but you could use whatever type you like and/or need. The sauce is definitely one I will make for other uses, too.   I think it would be great with a salsa/rice combination.  

For the cilantro, I used Garden Gourmet refrigerated cilantro paste. Just stir it into the yogurt.  As I was taking a photograph of it, I looked more carefully at the ingredients, and realized it contains a small amount of whey (milk). Hmmm..  I am on a dairy-free and gluten-free diet as a possible remedy for a type of autoimmune disease that sometimes responds well to eliminating these products.  I don't think such a small amount will make very much difference for me, but I will need to consider it more carefully before I use it again.  The ease of using this product is great, though, because it eliminates the need to puree anything. I simply stirred it into the yogurt.  These tubes also stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least a couple of months, so it tends to be cheaper than buying a whole bunch of cilantro that often doesn't get completely used at my house.  

Oh...decisions, decisions.   Only in the abundance of America do we even get to consider such possibilities and luxuries.  Speaking of luxuries.....

The ease of preparing this soup allowed me the luxury of making some gluten-free dairy-free biscuits to accompany the meal.  Yum and Pzazz!

2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cups fresh spinach
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (1 can) (I used Taste of Thai brand)
dash of freshly ground pepper

For the garnish:  (not included in nutritional analysis) Simply combine these ingredients by stirring or use a Magic Bullet to ensure the cilantro is pulverized well if you use fresh cilantro.  
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or 1 Tablespoons Garden Gourmet Cilantro paste
1/4 cup plain yogurt (goat, dairy, soy, coconut, etc.)

Put the onions and garlic into a large soup pot with just enough water to simmer/sweat them over medium heat until tender, about 3 - 5 minutes.  Add the cumin, and continue cooking for another minute or so.  Add the spinach (no need to chop it) and stir frequently over low-medium heat until the spinach is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and continue cooking for about 3 - 5 minutes.  

Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or other device. Return to the burner and stir in the coconut milk, gently heating it through.  Pour into soup bowls and garnish with the cilantro-yogurt sauce.
 Relax and enjoy!

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 7
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 49
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 73 mg
Total Carbs: 7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 2 g

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Potato Cabbage Soup

Tom has been playing Celtic music most of the day, setting the tone for St. Patrick's Day.  One of his Irish co-workers makes a feast that rivals the best in Ireland, consisting of corned beef brisket, Irish Colcannon, and a host of other gastronomic delights.  

My venture into St. Patrick's Day cuisine is far less complicated and adventuresome, but I decided I wanted to make a cabbage soup of some kind that would not be too difficult to digest. The one that inspired me came from Real Simple.  The inclusion of potatoes in the soup made me hopeful that the cabbage would not cause too much digestive distress. Of course, I used coconut oil rather than olive oil and butter. 

I also added ground fennel, a known digestive aid.  I had fennel seeds in the spice cabinet as Tom frequently uses them in a variety of his Italian meat entrees, so I ground them in our electric spice grinder.

I wasn't familiar with Savoy cabbage, but was wowed by its brilliant, tightly dimpled leaves that formed the head. Tom looked at me quizzically as I exclaimed over the beauty of this humble vegetable, wondering at what inspires me.  As I tore off the outer leaves, I was impressed with the tenderness of the leaves in contrast to the typical red and green cabbages.  These obvious differences prompted me to take a quick look at one of the seed catalogs to find out more about Savoy cabbage where I discovered that it is a milder tasting than typical red or green cabbage. Seems like it is my Lucky Leprechaun Day! 

The garlic cloves are simply halved and added to the soup while cooking. Then as they are pureed with the rest of the soup, the flavor is imparted to the whole soup.  Yummy for those of us who like garlic!!

I garnished my bowl of soup with some shredded fresh dill.  I'm not sure I liked the taste of the dill with the fennel, so next time I will try something else. Any ideas?  Let me know if you try something that works well for you.  

Enjoy the Celtic music, food, and festivities!

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 head Savoy cabbage, shredded
3 - 4 scallions, trimmed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
dash of salt
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound Idaho/Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
3 dried bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
freshly ground black pepper

Heat coconut oil in large saucepan over medium heat.

Add the cabbage, scallions, garlic, and dash of salt.  Cool until the cabbage is slightly softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth, potatoes, bay leaves, and ground fennel.  Simmer, covered, until the potatoes and cabbage are tender, about 15 - 20 minutes.  Discard the bay leaves.

Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup until smooth.  

Nutrition per serving:
 Servings per recipe: 4

Serving Size: 11/4 cup
Calories: 186
Total Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol:  0mg
Sodium: 592 mg
Total Carbs: 26 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 7 g

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cream-less Asparagus Soup

It's the "green" time of year for many Irish people and those who just want a reason to drink green beer. Me? I could be considered Irish all year round with all of the green food I eat on a daily basis.  St. Patrick's Day also means the heralding of spring in my mind, though in Duluth that just means we won't endure too many more days of subzero weather or 8" of snow.  (I woke up on Wednesday morning of this week to 4" of fresh snow in our yard.  Enough already!!)   

So, as I was saying, spring...which means asparagus to me.  Though I know I have a few other asparagus soup recipes on this blog, that doesn't stop me from trying a new one to share with you. 

This recipe is an adaptation of one I found at Martha Stewart's site.  The original used olive oil to saute the vegetables as well as more for drizzling into the soup as it was pureed for a whopping total of 1/4 cup.  I easily substituted coconut oil and used only 2 Tablespoons of it.  I also omitted the water that was added to the chicken broth and thought it was still just a bit on the thin side, so you might want to reduce the chicken broth slightly if you like a thicker consistency.  But it's the crushed red pepper flakes that really makes the wonderful clean flavor of the asparagus stand out.
Lucky Leprechaun Pzazz! 

    2 Tablespoons coconut oil
    1 large shallot, thinly sliced lengthwise
    pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
    dash of salt
    1# fresh asparagus, woody stems removed, chopped into 1" slices, with a few tips reserved for   garnish
    4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    1 cup loosely packed spinach leaves

Heat coconut oil on medium heat.  Add shallot, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are tender and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add chopped asparagus and cook for one minute. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer. Continue to cook until asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Add spinach leaves and cook just until wilted. Puree with an immersion blender.  Now wasn't that easy!!

If you saved some asparagus tips to garnish the soup, boil them just briefly, then place in a ice-water bath to stop the cooking, then drain. This will soften them, but depending on the consistency of the soft or pureed food you need, you may need to omit this for yourself. But you might enjoy the visual appeal it adds. Yet, if you are just going to toss them anyway, its not worth the bother, unless you are also serving this delicious soup to guests and want to wow them a bit. I originally saved quite a few (as you see in the photo), but then added most of them to the soup to puree instead because I thought that soup was a bit thin.  

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 5
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 83
Total Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 494 mg
Total Carbs: 6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 4 g

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Root Vegetable Soup

This recipe is from the Soup Bible (Penguin  Books, 2007).   The modifications I made were to use coconut oil rather than a combination of butter and olive oil, and to puree all of it, and to omit the cream. The original recipe, Chunky Root Vegetable Soup, pureed half of it and left half of it chunky and then stirred it together with cream.  When I made it for our son, Dan,  and Tom, I left all of it chunky and didn't bother to put in any cream and they both loved it. So the recipe is highly adaptable.  And I'm glad that my guys like soup as much as I do!

Parsnips, carrots, leeks, onions, potato, and sweet potato

    2 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil 
    6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
    2 large onions, roughly chopped
    2 large leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green part)
    2 turnips, peeled and cut into small chunks
    2 parsnips, peeled and cut into small chunks
    1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
    1 large potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
    6 cups chicken stock
    freshly ground black pepper
    chopped fresh chives for garnish

Cut vegetables

In a large soup pot, heat oil. Add carrots, onions, leeks, turnips and parsnips and cook, stirring occasionally, over gentle heat until lightly browned. Add sweet potato, potato and stock. Slowly bring to a boil and then reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cool a bit. Puree to desired consistency. I used my VitaMix to puree it and this worked well.  
Garnish with chives.

Cooking the vegetables

Nutrition per serving:                     
Servings per recipe: 10
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 143
Total Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 422 mg
Total Carbs: 25 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 4 g

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Classic Butternut Squash Soup

I adapted this recipe from one on the site for the Whole Foods Co-Op to make a simple, classic butternut squash soup with mild seasoning. Yes, winter is just as good of a time for squash soup as fall.   I was debating what to put on it for a garnish for this photo and I tasted it again and thought, oh...the sage flavor is so delicious in this soup.  And then  I remembered I had some dried sage hanging in my window so decided to crumble that and put it on top of a dollop of goat yogurt.  Ah...beautiful. But OOPS. As I looked at the recipe again I realized there was no sage in this soup.  There was thyme, but no sage.   No thyme for sage? Or no sagely advice for thyme?  Or only sage and thymely advice?  I'm soooooo confused.  And delighted I made this wonderful soup.  

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
4 cups cubed butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp ground thyme
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
dash of freshly ground black pepper 

Heat oil in a large soup pot.  Add carrot, celery and onion.  Cook until vegetables have begun to soften and onion turns translucent, 3 - 4 minutes.  Stir in butternut squash, thyme, broth, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes.  Puree to desired consistency, using an immersion blender or other device.  I used my VitaMix and it was velvet creamy.

Servings per recipe: 6          
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 120
Total Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium:  66 mg
Total Carbs: 19 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 3 g

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I don't know if those of you who subscribe to my blog will receive this by Valentine's Day or not, but I will send it out to CyberSpace in high hopes that it will. I had planned to do it earlier this week, but Tom and I decided to do a celebration get-away for a couple of days.  It was a combination of a Valentine's Day celebration, a belated anniversary celebration, and an improved health celebration since my surgery on February 15, 2013.  Yes, much to celebrate!  So this blog post was put on hold until we returned this afternoon.  

This Valentine's dessert may seem downright weird to you.  But I discovered there is more to make with an avocado than guacamole.  Combined with cocoa powder it is Cocomole!  I was first introduced to the idea of combining avocado with cacao powder by my son Dan, who works at the Wedge Co-Op in Mpls.  I asked him what was the difference between cacao powder and regular cocoa powder and he explained that cacao is the raw unprocessed form of chocolate and supposedly retains more of its nutrients. Cocoa is the more processed form because it has been dried and roasted and is what we typically find on the grocery shelves.  I used cacao powder that I purchased from the bulk bin at the Duluth Whole Foods Co-op so that I could buy just a small amount of it. You could certainly use cocoa powder for this recipe if that is what you have in your cupboard.

The original idea Dan gave me included only avocado, cacao powder and some natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup.  I tried that and thought it was ok, but decided to add a bit more Pzazz with a banana and coconut milk.  Definitely the Pzazz I was looking for!  Yes, the fat content looks high for this pudding, but remember that it comes from a healthy source of fat found in the avocado, and hopefully my digestive system will handle it well. 

May your Valentine's Day be filled with love and Pzazz!   

1 medium banana
1 avocado
6 Tablespoons lite coconut milk
(I used canned Taste of Thai coconut milk)
4 teaspoons raw cacao powder or coco powder

Blend all of it together in device of your choice.  (I used my Magic Bullet, but because it was quite thick, it didn't do quite as good of a job as I had hoped, so I mashed it more with a mortar/pestle.)  You can also put this into the freezer to make more of a frozen dessert.  Garnish with a dollop of pureed strawberries or raspberries.  I pureed the strawberries in the chopper attachment of my Cuisinart Smart Stick and it worked like a charm for a small amount.

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 2
Serving Size: Scant 1/2 cup
Calories: 234
Total Fat: 13 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 15 mg
Total Carbs: 21 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 3 g