Saturday, January 25, 2014

Need an image makeover in 2014? Make soup. Feed many. Pay your taxes.

What could an innocent bowl of soup and a murderous, bootlegging, tax-evading crime boss possibly have in common? A free lunch, that’s what! 

After the 1929 stock market crash, America plunged head first into the Great Depression. The Dirty Thirties got off to a gritty start. Millions of people lost their jobs and their homes. They had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat.  In the 10 years preceding the crash, during the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition was in full force (the banned sale of alcohol in the US) and the underground economy flourished.  The illegal making and selling of liquor was rampant and many men became rich and infamous from their bootlegging exploits, including Scarface Al Capone.  

After the stock crash, while President Herbert Hoover mused over possible new economic strategies and hoped folks would just “suck up” the hard times like good Americans—Mr. Capone had another plan.  Capone had become a skilled opportunist and knew that timing was everything in comedy and crime. Since President Hoover wasn’t exactly stepping up to whet peoples’ appetites, Capone seized the moment to shed his crummy image as a two-bit gangster and began doling out free soup to hungry mobs on the streets of Chicago on a daily basis—sometimes, serving as many as 1,000 people a day! And this, my friends is the nefarious tale of how a feared gangster, bootlegger, and the fourth child in a family of nine children of Italian immigrants would become synonymous with the innocent bowl of soup…and the dawn of soup kitchens in America.

Now here’s an offer you can’t 2014, when you’re looking for a way to reduce your lunch bill, your waistline and time in the cafeteria soup line, why not try making your own soups? And here's the good news, it's cheap and legal! Portion the soup into single servings in plastic containers, freeze and then reheat them in a microwave. Add a sandwich or a few cheese and crackers, some fruit and voila you’ve saved yourself time and given yourself a healthy meal option.

Steal a page out of Al Capone’s methodology and do the soup-job in a big way. Set aside a few hours and make several soups at once. Here are a few gadgets and inside tips to make your soup- making exploits a synch:
  • If you have a slow cooker, make the soup in this so you don’t have to stay at home all afternoon watching over a simmering pot.
  • Also, invest in a hand-immersion blender.  In my mind, it is unsafe, time-consuming and messy to be transferring soup from a hot pot to a stand up blender and then transferring it back to the pot to reheat. With a stick-style hand immersion blender, you simply insert the wand into the soup and carefully zap it to blend the soup into a smooth consistency. No mess…no flying hot liquids decorating your kitchen walls.
  • Save time and energy…for hard-to-peel or finicky vegetables like turnip, squash or broccoli, asparagus-buy the ready peeled and chopped versions in the produce section or freezer section of your grocery store. Be sure to use these veggies right away since they do tend to spoil quickly.
  • Purchase chicken stock and vegetable stock bouillon cubes. You simply add 1 or 2 cups of boiling water to each cubes, stir and… tada you have stock.
  • Freeze the soup base without milk or cream in individual portions. To serve: thaw, reheat and then add a little milk or cream at over very low heat at the last minute. DO not let soup boil with milk or cream in it. It will curdle.
  • Stock up on basic soup making ingredients: onion, garlic, celery etc. The method for soup making is always the same: sauté these ingredients in oil then add the vegetable of choice (carrots, squash, asparagus, peppers, turnips, sweet potatoes, etc.). Sauté for another 20 minutes. Stir in liquid vegetable or chicken stock. Puree. Add spices and additional flavourings as you wish.  
  • Go wild and experiment a little…I add peanut butter, curry and orange juice to my carrot soup! As you know, I believe peanut butter goes with everything.
Give these recipes a try and let me know how what you think!

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
2 large Sweet Potatoes – about 2 lbs
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Dash of pepper
2 cups Chicken broth (chicken broth cubes are fine) plus 3 cups water
1 tbsp lemon juice
Peel and chop sweet potatoes into ½ inch cubes. Place in a large bowl and toss with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Place them in a single layer in a rimmed, large, spray-greased roasting pan or baking sheet. Roast at 450F for about 20-25 minutes. Stir at halftime. They should be tender to a fork and lightly browned when done. Place in slow cooker.

In a large pot, heat remaining oil (1 tbsp) over medium high heat then fry onion, carrot, celery, garlic, pepper and salt. Cook until softened, stirring often. About 8 minutes. Place cooked vegetables in slow cooker with sweet potatoes. Add 2 cups broth and 3 cups water to the slow cooker. Stir well to combine all ingredients

Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours cook on High for 2-3 hours. When ready, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and blend well with a hand immersion blender. Ladle into hot serving bowls.

Optional: if you like Rosemary—add 1 tsp fresh rosemary or ¼ dried rosemary to vegetables when cooking.  Garnish each serving with fresh crumbled rosemary leaves.

Asparagus Soup
10-12 stems of fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (the bouillon chicken cubes are ideal for this)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot combine asparagus, garlic, celery, red pepper and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are tender. About 10-20 minutes. OR At this point, you can place the mixture in a slow cooker (without the stock), then add the stock and cook for about 2-3 hrs on High.

Next, puree with a hand immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Optional garnishes when serving: chopped Kale, shredded aged cheddar cheese or cooked crisp bacon bits

Red and Orange Pepper and Tomato Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 med onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped sweet peppers, red, orange and yellow will do!
2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 19 oz. can fresh plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 ½ cups vegetable broth (bouillon cubes are perfect for this-available in at the Bulk Barn
1 tsp grated lemon peel
½ tsp salt

In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté onion, peppers and celery over medium heat until tender. Add tomatoes and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.
At this point, you may place the mixture in the slow cooker, add the stock and cook on High for about 2-3 hrs. OR you may cook on the stove. Add the stock to the pot and simmer for about another ½ hr.
Next, puree with a hand immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add grated lemon peel.
Serve hot with garnishes of your choice: chopped Kale, parsley, breadcrumbs, grated cheddar cheese, cooked bacon bits.

Broccoli Soup
1 bunch of broccoli, chopped
1 med onion, chopped
2 large white potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (bouillon cubes are fine)
1 tsp orange rind
½ tsp dried thyme
Pinch hot pepper flakes
Pinch of pepper

Peel and chopped broccoli stems. Separate florets from stems and set aside florets.
In a large pot, combine broccoli stems, onion, potatoes, garlic, orange rind, thyme pepper and hot pepper flakes.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add broccoli florets and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes. At this point, you may transfer this mixture to a slow cooker, add the stock and cook on High for 2-3 hours OR on the stove, add the stock to the pot and simmer for another ½ hr on low heat.
When ready, puree with a hand immersion blender.
You have created the base for the soup. You may reheat portions and add ½ cup milk to each portion. Only add milk after soup is heated…do not boil with milk in it. If you choose, you may add shredded cheddar cheese to each serving for garnish.

Butternut Squash Soup
For the soup base:
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
1 cup carrots peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
8 cups peeled, seeded and chopped butternut squash
(Tip: you can buy peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash in the produce section or frozen vegetable section of most grocery stores. It saves a lot of time if you use this!)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups vegetable stock (the bouillon cubes are fine for this)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp allspice
Pinch of nutmeg

When reheating the soup, you may add about ¼ cup per serving of milk, cream or half and half.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and sauté carrots, celery and onion until soft, but NOT browned. *Add squash and garlic and sauté until squash is soft.
*AS an alternative, you may toss the squash cubes with 1 tbsp of olive oil and roast in the over at 450 for about 25 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir the minced garlic into the squash and continue roasting the mixture for another 10-15 minutes.  Then add this to the carrot, celery and onion mixture. Continue with the recipe.

Place mixture in slow cooker and add vegetable stock. Cook on High for 2-3 hours. Or you may leave the mixture in the large pot and add the vegetable stock and simmer for 20 -30 minutes until squash is tender to a fork.

Puree with hand immersion blender. Add spices and stir well. At this point you may portion this soup base into plastic containers and freeze them. When reheating, heat until smooth and hot, then add milk, cream or half-and-half to taste.

Trout Chowder
While making the chowder, you can bake the trout fillets in the oven.

2 small plain or smoked trout fillets.  Brush with a little olive oil, sprinkle with pepper and bake in an ovenproof baking dish at 400F in the oven for 20-25 min. When done, flake the fish with a fork and add to the chowder base.

For the base of the chowder:
2 tbsp butter

Tip: Chop all veggies into ½ inch cubes
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped

2 tbsp flour
1 /2 tsp salt
3 medium size yellow-flesh type potatoes (Yukon Gold) cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetables broth (if I don’t have leftover veggie water on hand, I use Bulk Barn Vegetable bouillon cubes; mix 1 cube with 2 cups boiling water)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence (Bulk Barn does it again!)

2 handfuls chopped greens such as: Kale, Chard and Spinach mixture (sold in a box by PC Organic greens)

2 tbsp parsley, chopped (for garnish when serving)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add celery, carrots, onion, and pepper. Sprinkle with flour and salt. Cook, stirring frequently; until carrots start to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add potatoes, wine, broth and herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.

Simmer, partially covered until potatoes are tender to a fork. About 12-15 minutes. Stir in the cooked trout and Kale, chard and spinach mixture. This mixture forms the base for the chowder.

Add to the base when you wish to eat:
Milk, whipping cream or half&;half to thicken the chowder to your liking!
Heat but do not let boil!

I freeze the base into two-cup portions WITHOUT the milk, cream, etc. When I thaw a portion, I add some milk and whipping cream or half & half to thicken the chowder a little.

Sprinkle each serving with a little chopped parsley.