◊ Life Soup

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Dear mom,

Maybe we’re on different planets because mine tells me that 20s are supposed to be the best years of life. Us 20-somethings are free of weighty obligations and responsibilities… we are in our prime… the world is our oyster. We have opportunities at our fingertips and the spirits to grab them all.

It’s great. I have all the energy in the world to agonize over which opportunities to pursue, what part of the world to call my own, how I’ll spend the most prime Friday nights of my life. No patience for mah jong – no time for yoga.  Gahhh. Can you set a recurring alarm in your phone to remind me about the life’s a journey bit each week… I need to hear it on the regular.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that the 60s are where it’s at.

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It’s freezing in DC and I’ve been making lots of soup. I live off these thick, hearty  and nutritious everything-in-a-pot soups. Packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, veggie soups are a perfect way to welcome 2013 (I tell myself that eating enough of it will remedy my Christmas/Chanukah cookie overdose).

The soups in this post  – and most others I make – are like my life. I need to cram EVERYTHING in. I start out with a basic lentil or vegetable soup, get bored or distracted and feel adventure calling … usually in the form of turmeric and ginger and coriander and whatever else I find in my house’s pantry. These are my life soups –  Lentil Life Soup and Green Life Soup – messy looking but really quite simple. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the long list of ingredients (tell me about it), so I laid out the basics for you + a section for suggested additions.

What should I wear tonight and where is my life going?

Love ya,

Shaina

Lentil Life Soup

I make a huge pot to start off the week and spice up the leftovers to make different meals throughout. This may sound weird, but I like eating it with an egg on top for extra protein and B12. You can make a meal of either soups over rice and/or with a dollop of yogurt and some nuts. I’ll start out by sharing a basic recipe and then include some suggested additions.

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The basics:

  • IMG_16022 cups french lentils,  beluga lentils or other
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt (plus or minus if you’re using veg broth or bouillon)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups water or vegetarian broth (I like to throw in a cube of vegetarian bouillon)
  • 3 cups greens (spinach, kale, chard, collards or a combination), chopped
  • 3 tbs balsamic vinegar or wine

Suggested additions:

  • 6 stems Celery, chopped
  • 2 cups butternut squash or 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • dash of chili powder or fresh chili, chopped
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • parsley, scallions or cilantro to garnish
  • dollop of plain or curried yogurt (recipe below), toasted walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds to garnish

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Bring 5 cups of water to a boil with lentils and cook for about 20 minutes. Drain once tender.

While you’re waiting, heat oil in soup pot and saute onion, salt, pepper and garlic until onions are translucent. If you choose to add other spices like cumin and turmeric, now is your time. Stir cumin with onions until seeds begin to pop. Add 2 cups water, tomatoes, carrots, lentils and other veggies and bring to simmer for about 20 minutes. Once all veggies are tender, stir in chopped greens for 1 -3 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonsings – get creative! Remove from heat and stir in balsamic vingar. Top with nuts, yogurt, fried egg, etc.

Curried yogurt topping:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • dash of sea salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped

Combine ingredients and stir. Add chopped cilantro and toasted nuts for a special garnish to any soup or rice dish.

Green Life Soup

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This is a creamy, thick soup dense with nutrients. I like to eat it when I feel a cold coming or when my tummy needs warmth. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the ingredients. And WARNING: Vitamin A overdose is real… I may be turning yellow.

  • IMG_19991 tbs olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 tbs sea salt
  • 3 cups water or veg broth/boulion
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
  • 2/3 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp Indian curry powder, 1 tsp garam masala, dash of cayenne pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp Coriander seed
  • ½ tsp whole cumin seed
  • ½ tsp mustard seed
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach
  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • Fresh juice of 1 lemon
  • Parmesan cheese, plain yogurt or curried yogurt (recipe above) and toasted cashews for special garnish

Heat oil in soup pot and saute onion, and salt until onions are brown. Add 3 cups water, carrots, mushrooms, ginger, sweet potatoes and cashews. Add turmeric, curry powder, cayenne pepper and garam masala and bring to simmer for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat oil and stir in chopped garlic, coriander seed, cumin seed and mustard seed until garlic is brown and mustard seeds pop. Add to soup pot.  Once all veggies are tender, stir in spinach for about a minute. Taste and adjust seasonings – get creative! Remove from heat and blend until smooth (I use a handheld immersion blender – it’s so easy! You can also use a regular blender or food processor). Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice. Top with nuts, cheese, yogurt, fried egg, etc.

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IF YOU DON’T HAVE ALL THE INGREDIENTS, DON’T WORRY! The essentials are spinach, onions, sweet potato, ginger, curry powder, lemon and cumin – everything else is just an added bonus.

Carrot Zinger

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This is an adapted version of Deb’s Miso Carrot Soup that I found on smittenkitchen and made last winter. Yumm so gingery. I didn’t have miso this time around, so i used Bragg Liquid Aminos and a spoonful of rice vinegar instead. The vitamin A situation is out of control. My palms are turning yellow.

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 lbs carrots, chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 – 3 large onions, chopped
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 5 cups water mixed with vegetarian boullion or vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tbs rice vinegar
  • small dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 4 tbs sesame seeds, toasted
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped

Heat olive oil in a deep soup pot. Add onions and stir until cooked through. Reduce heat and stir in carrots and garlic until the garlic is browned. (about 10 minutes). Add vegetable broth, pieces of ginger, and  lemon zest, and simmer, covered, until carrots are soft (about 30 minutes). Stir soup occasionally throughout.
Puree soup with an immersion blender (best tool ever) or food processor. Stir in Braggs amino acids or soy sauce, rice vinegar,  cayenne pepper.  Top with sesame oil, sesame seeds and chopped cilantro (and yogurt if you want!) and serve over brown rice for a warm, healthy, hearty winter meal.

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