A Spare Moment (or two.)

This is Part VI of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

How do you spend your “me time”?

Shopping?

Reading?

Walking?

What do you like to do?

This morning, I woke up to a sparkling layer of fresh dust on the ground.

The air was too warm to make the snow crunchy.  Too warm to make it last.  The speckles of snow melted as soon as I stepped out, leaving foot steps of grass wherever I went.

Everything felt so new.  So energetic and fresh.

There’s something about spending time in the outdoors–even for just a moment or two–that always leaves me feeling energized for the rest of the day.

Which probably explains why I feel so strongly about taking some “me time” each and every day.

Tonight, I had another spare moment to myself.

A spare moment.

All to myself.

What to do?

How about throwing on some music and making a pot of soup?

I’ve made this nutrient dense soup dozens upon dozens of times, but I love it so much that it bears repeating.

As is true with many vegetable stews, this recipe is far from fussy.  It offers you just the right amount of “me time” to spend in your kitchen before it goes off and does the rest of the work by itself, simmering on the stove.

I like that about vegetable soups.

I really like this Gypsy soup.

I think you’ll like it too.

Gypsy Soup–modified from the original version seen in Moosewood Cookbook

I almost always double this recipe, as it freezes well and will save you lots of time in case you need a quick and easy dinner the following week.  Serve with a hunk of wheat bread for dunking and enjoy!

  • 1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 c. chopped onion
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 2 c. peeled, diced sweet potato
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. mild paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp basil
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of cayenne (I use about 1/8 tsp to make it spicy)
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15 oz. can of chick peas (drained and rinsed)
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add onion, garlic, celery, and swee potato.  Saute over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add salt, and saute 5 more minutes.  Add seasonings and water, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. Add tomato, bell pepper, and chick peas.  Cover and simmer for 10 + minutes or until all vegetables are as tender as you like them.  Taste to adjust seasonings and serve.

QUESTION: What is your favorite thing to do when you have a spare moment to yourself?

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a cold run and a bowl of soup.

You know those types of mornings when everything seems so still, so perfect?

You know those mornings when you feel like you’re flying, not running?

You know those mornings that remind you of life’s simple pleasures (like seeing your breath in the air, hearing the crunch of snow beneath your feet, feeling the wind tousle your hair)?

Yeah.

It was that kind of morning.

I went out for my third run this week.

As many of you know, I diagnosed myself with achilles tendonitis last month.  For the record, I don’t recommend diagnosing injuries.  But I’ve had this before and I know exactly what it feels like.  Thankfully, it seems to be on the upswing.

This morning I felt like an antsy thoroughbred after a long, cold winter.  I felt all bottled up with energy, ready to be set free at the sound of a gun.  *BAM* Annnnd, she’s off!

That all happened before I somehow managed to take control of myself.  It’s so easy to get ahead of myself on the “good days,” when my legs feel good and everything in me wants to bolt out the miles.  But my body isn’t quite at 100% yet.  It was just three days ago that I was feeling knee and heel pain, and the last thing I want is for this stuff to flare its ugly head.

It’s not easy, but I’m going to be smart about this.  My goal is to enter 2012, injury free.

No makeup? Check. Sweaty? Check. Feeling happy and healthy? Check, check. =)

I honestly can’t think of a better way to warm up from a chilly morning run, than plopping myself down in front of a bowl of steamy, homemade turkey noodle soup.

This soup was ridiculously easy to put together, thanks to the pre-chopped leftover turkey I had sitting in the freezer from Thanksgiving.

I wanted to sneak in some extra veggies and added about a cup’s worth of fresh baby spinach to the bottom of the bowl.  The warm broth wilted the tender spinach, which made for a lovely addition.

Turkey Noodle Soup–modified from a Cooking Light Magazine recipe
(Serves 4)

This is a soulful, comforting recipe.  Thanks to the noodles, vegetables and turkey, you can call this a complete meal.  But I recommend upping the vegetables by including a fresh side salad (and possibly a dish of fruit with a scoop of sorbet for dessert.)  Enjoy!

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (I like “Kitchen Basic No Salt Added Chicken Broth”)
  • 2 cups (3 ounces) uncooked noodles
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cups shredded turkey (about 8 ounces)
  1. Heat a large saucepan with olive oil over medium-high heat.   Add carrot, onion, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until onion is lightly browned.   Add celery, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sauté 3 minutes.
  2. Add broth and next 2 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.   Add shredded turkey; cook 3 minutes. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper, if desired.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite cold-weather soup?  I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but my all-time favorite soup is a thick and hearty split pea soup!  With or without ham, I find it to be simply irresistible.  Especially when there’s homemade bread on the side. 😀

a pot of bean soup.

Honestly?

I haven’t been much in the mood for cooking lately.

This, I’m sure, has something to do with the overabundance of chopping and whisking and baking that was done over the course of the past few days.  It has left me in a funk.

But, alas, even when I’m not in the mood for cooking, people still need to eat (me included.)  And the idea of purchasing a couple of Subways was completely out of the question (I’m practicing a new form of frugality before considering it my official “New Year’s Resolution.”)

Besides, I thought to myself, a pot of soup can basically cook itself.

While the soup did just that (cooked itself, I mean) I wrote down all of the things which I spend too much money on and which things I would like to spend more.  All in preparation for my upcoming resolution.

My motto is that there is never a better time to start than today!

(For the record, bean soup is ridiculously affordable.)

I spend too much at coffee shops.  And books and magazines, which could just as easily be borrowed from the library.

I would like to spend more on fitness (it’s an investment for life) and on the organizations which I feel strongly about supporting (can we say local soup kitchens?)

And I’d like to find more frugal meals for the week, balancing out the pricier meals (wild caught salmon = not cheap but totally worth every penny!)

Let me just get it out there.  This doesn’t always come easy for me.

It’s not that I go crazy at the mall or buy a daily soy latte from the ‘bucks.  But I do have my moments, and I’d really like to put some serious thought into where each and every hard earned penny goes.  Not to be a scrooge or a penny pincher.  Just to be, you know, made aware.  

Huh.  What do you know?

It seems that after all this talk and discussion, the soup is done.

It pretty much cooked itself.

Trader Joe’s 17 Bean and Barley Mix
(Serves: 6-8)

This soup has a bountiful mixture of baby lima beans, black turtle beans, blackeye peas, dark red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, green lentils, green split peas, large lima beans, light red kidney beans, navy beans, pink beans, pinto beans, red lentils, small red beans, small white beans, yellow split peas, and pearl barley.

That would be exactly seventeen nutrition-packed beans.  Phew.

I followed the recipe on the back of the bag very closely, but added in some extra garlic, extra tomatoes, some watercress and some hot pepper to spice things up a little.  It’s a very comforting dish for a chilly autumn day.  Enjoy!

  • 1 16 oz. bag of Trader Joe’s 17 Bean and Barley Mix (or, any combination of the beans listed above)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 2-15 oz. cans diced tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic (or plain)
  • salt, pepper and tobasco sauce to taste
  • 4 oz. bag of watercress, chopped
  1. Soak beans overnight in a large pot with a good amount of water.  Drain and rinse.  Pour 4 cups broth into pot with beans.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate pan, cook onion, celery, carrot, pepper, basil and garlic in olive oil until soft. Combine this mixture and remaining ingredients into the bean pot and cover with more broth. Simmer covered for about 1 hour to desired tenderness. Be sure to occasionally check liquid level and add more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper and add tobasco sauce to desired taste.  Add watercress and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What are some ways you practice being frugal?

Too Much Snow and a Bowl of Soup.

What in the…???

I don’t think anyone saw this one coming.

But this is New England.

Anything can happen.

And I suppose I shouldn’t complain or make a fuss, as some people in Colorado are experiencing over a foot of snow (a FOOT!  Before Thanksgiving!?!?)  As far as I’m concerned, trick or treaters aren’t supposed to have to wear down jackets over their costumes.

Aside from being a sour puss about the whole ordeal, there’s nothing like waking up to a fresh new snowfall and bright blue skies.  The air feels so clean and fresh.

Okay, okay…I’ll admit it.  The weather, the snow, the early morning sun–it’s stunning.  This weather is making me feel more energetic than I have all week.  And, admittedly, I’m pretty excited to get outdoors and have some fun.

But I’m still not sure how I feel about there being a blizzard coming our way this weekend. 😉

Of course, if ever there needed to be an excuse to make a big pot of soup, this is it.

And if you don’t happen to have snow where you live (I heard it’s still 80 in Florida!), save this soup for that first chilly day you get.  It will make you fall in love with winter.  Am I exaggerating?  Okay.  Well.  Cozying up with a bowl of hot soup and a hunk of bread will at least make the chilly weather tolerable.  Promise.

I picked up this bunch of collards from a local farmers market, after running the 5k on Sunday.

Running can make me crave any one of the following: (a) fried eggs, (b) ice cream or (c) deeply nutritious and warm, soulful foods.  Lately, I’ve been craving the latter.  And much like kale, collard greens are nutrition powerhouses.  They offer a nice touch of peppery flavor to soups, and they wilt down nicely after some cooking time.

See?  All wilted.

Collard greens remind me of the more innocent dinosaur kale, which is soft, tender and smooth.  Not rough and boisterous (albeit tasty!) like its relative, the curly kale.

Served with a couple hunks of warmed cranberry pecan bread.

(to warm and refresh day-old bread: preheat the oven to 375 and place a couple slices in foil for 5-7 minutes to warm it up while getting the crust all crispy)

Anyhow.

This snow is a little ridiculous.

But it sure does make a good excuse for welcoming home a big ol’ pot of soup.

Bean Soup with Collard Greens

(Serves about 6)

  •  2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 3 15-oz. cans of a variety of beans (garbanzo, kidney, pinto, etc.)
  • 2 15-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 bunch collard greens, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  1. In a large soup pot, saute garlic and onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add spices and stir.  Add beans, tomatoes, collard greens and broth.  Bring to a boil, add rice vinegar.  Add more water as needed, if soup seems too thick.  Cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: Is it snowing where you live?  In your opinion, is that a GOOD thing or a BAD thing?

your basic bowl of veggie soup.

If it’s raining where you live…

If you’re craving somethin’ warm and cozy…

If you’ve got yourself some veggies…

If you have a cup or so of veggie stock…

If you’ve got some beans or chicken or shrimp…

plus maybe some diced tomatoes too

If you’ve got yourself an awesome dad…

who brings you home a loaf of garlic roasted bread

And.  Well.  If this just so happens to be the case…

…then

…you have dinner.

Your Basic Bowl Of Veggie Soup

(serves 2 or 3, depending on types and amounts of vegetables used)

This soup isn’t fussy.  In fact, I never follow a standardized recipe when I make it.  I simply add a little of this and that as I go.  Feel free to use any spice or veggie combination that you desire.  Have fun with it!

  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stock, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 6-oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • a few handfuls of frozen spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium sized sauce pan, heat 1 tsp olive oil.  Add carrot, celery, and onion.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until tender but firm.
  2. Add zucchini, mushrooms, vegetable broth, water diced tomatoes and spices.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and continue cooking until tender.
  3. Add beans, spinach and salt and pepper to taste.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Continue cooking another 2 minutes or so.  Ladle into bowls, serve, and ENJOY!
QUESTION: Favorite soup?

Silly me.

Silly me.

It was 4 o’clock on a very warm, very summery afternoon.  I was walking barefoot across the cool kitchen floor.  Country music playing softly in the background.

Dad came in after a very long, very stressful day at work and plopped a large brown bag on the table with the same satisfaction as if he had just caught some meat out back.

“What’s that?”  Maybe I was expecting a puppy to pop out.  Or maybe that’s just my hopeless fixation on wanting a dog in my life.

“Corn.” Dad stated the obvious, as the green leaves started to shyly poke their heads out, as soon as the bag had settled.  Dad had been talking about buying some corn for weeks.  There is a farmers market nearby that throws away any and all corn that hasn’t been bought the very SAME day that it was picked.  Fresh, fresh, fresh.

“What are we going to do with it?” I asked.

Dad looked perplexed.  Oh.  Right.  Silly me.

Eat it raw and crunchy.

Or eat it grilled, letting the butter dribble down your chin.

Eat it shaved in your taco salad.

Or.  Make a soup, a stew, a chowder.  The real question is, what can you not do with corn?

I’ve been wanting to make a batch of Farmer’s Market Chowder ever since I saw it featured on the cover of Vegetarian Times.  The thought of roasting everything before it was added to the chowder, while letting the corn cobs steep in the milky broth had me swooning.

Yes.  Literally.

Swooning.

Corn is good in any way you decide to use it.  The important thing is to use it now, while it’s still young and fresh.  Preferably in the company of all kinds of other farm fresh produce.

And that is exactly what we did with this big brown bag of corn.  I popped off my flip-flops (or flip-flaps, as Memere would have said,) and settled right down to  bowl of Farmer’s Market Chowder.  Because that’s what you do with corn.

Silly me.

Farmer’s Market Chowder—slightly modified from the original version as seen in Vegetarian Times Magazine.

This soup has a lot of steps, but it comes together relatively quickly if you’re able to start one step while the other one is still cooking.  Also, don’t feel that you need to be strict with this recipe.  You can easily substitute any of the vegetables (aside from the corn, of course) for another.  Sweet potatoes were used in the original recipe and you can easily substitute any type of herb for the basil and chives.  Enjoy!

  • 5 large ears corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved
  • 2-1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed, plus 3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups chopped sweet onions
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 12 oz. red skinned potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
  1. Combine corn kernels, milk and crushed garlic in saucepan.  Run back of knife down cobs to release milk and pulp into saucepan, add cobs to pan.  Bring to a boil.  Remove pan from heat, and let steep.
  2. Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-low heat.  Add onions, cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add minced garlic and paprika and cook 30 seconds.  Stir in vegetable broth and cook 30 seconds.  Add 4 cups water and remove pot from heat.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add potatoes, saute 8 minutes or until browned; transfer to Dutch oven.  Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to same skillet, add green beans, and saute 3 minutes.  Transfer beans to plate.
  4. Bring mixture in Dutch oven to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes.  Add green beans, and cook 4 minutes more.
  5. Remove corn cobs from milk mixture and discard.  Stir milk mixture, basil and chives into chowder.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Sprinkle with additional herbs for garnish, and enjoy!
QUESTION: What summer vegetable are you loving right now?

a bowl of warm weather soup.

Through the heat of summer, I will eat my weight in leafy salads.  I will also eat my weight in vegetable soups.

Yes.  Soups!

Soups that are served piping hot in the winter are usually versatile enough to be served chilled during the warmer days of summer.

If the idea of chilled soup weirds you out just a little, then I recommend you start with a basic, chunky, minestrone soup.  Filled to the brim with bright, summery vegetables.

(I also recommend that you stock your freezer full of individual servings of this soup, as it will disappear quickly!!)

Since we’re on the topic of recommendations, can I just throw one more out there?

Okay.

I recommend serving this soup with either a grilled cheese sandwich, dunking it into the tomato based broth as you go. Or, serve with sweet potato chips for that delightful, crunchy, sweet factor.  C-R-U-N-C-H.

Yes.  I eat many, many salads in the summer.  I also eat lots and lots of vegetable soups.  Cold, chilly soups that cool me down and fill me up.

It’s like summer.  Summer in a bowl.

Garden Minestrone Soup

(serves 8)

Serve hot in the winter and chilled in the summer!

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
  • 4 cups chopped tomato, divided
  • 3 (14 oz) cans fat-free, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 (15.5 oz0 can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (6oz) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; saute 3 minutes or until softened.  Add oregano and garlic, saute 1 minute.  Stir in squash, zucchini, carrot and corn; saute 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.  Remove from heat.
  2. Place 3 cups tomato and 1 can broth in a blender; process until smooth.  Add tomato mixture to pan; return pan to heat.  Stir in remaining 1 cup tomato and remaining 2 cans broth; bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Add barley and beans to pan; cook 10 minutes or until barley is tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in spinach, salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Serve and enjoy!
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite warm weather eats?