Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Roasted root vegetables

Following on my last couple of posts about roasted vegetables, here is an alternate and incredibly easy use for roasted root vegetables: soup!  My husband loves soup and although he prefers chunky soups to purees, I find a hot and hearty pureed soup really comforting.  This is another way to repurpose one meal into another.

Roasted root vegetable soup is so simple to make, I don’t even think I need to post up separate instructions:

  1. Dump roasted root vegetables into a blender.
  2. Add some vegetable stock.
  3. Blend.
  4. Serve.

The thing about making roasted root vegetables is that I find it incredibly easy to make a massive amount at once.  But eating roasted vegetables every night for a week can get a bit boring, so it is worth it to find alternate uses for them.  If it is possible to make a huge amount of something one night so I can do minimal cooking the other nights of the week, I am game.  Who doesn’t love a life hack like that?

Often when we repurpose leftovers, it’s tempting to just change them marginally.  But they still retain the same mouthfeel, even if the flavors change a bit.  By turning the roasted root vegetables into a soup, you completely alter their texture and taste.  Normally when we eat roasted root vegetables, we taste each individual vegetable.  You can close your eyes and tell if you are eating a potato, a carrot, or a beet.  Even if you get a couple of different flavors in one bite, they are only marginally mixed and still identifiable.  But once they are blended into a soup, the flavors meld seamlessly and create a new taste.

Simply adding all these vegetables to a pot, boiling, and blending will not give you the same result as roasting.  Roasting is a process that tends to intensify and concentrate flavors.  The caramelization process that takes place during roasting naturally intensifies the sweetness of even the most bland ingredients.  Boiling and then blending will leave you with a soup that is much more bland and flavorless, whereas blending up roasted vegetables will give your soup all the oomph and power of sweet, concentrated flavors.

Another bonus of turning leftover roasted root vegetables into soup is the freeze factor.  Roasted root vegetables cannot just be frozen as they are because some vegetables just will not maintain the right kind of texture and flavor when later defrosted, plus you’ll lose all the crunchiness that comes from roasting and be left with soggy cubes.  Not appetizing!  But once you blend all the vegetables up into a soup, you can definitely freeze it.  Just remember that if your mixture contains potatoes, you will need to stir well when you reheat it to redistribute the moisture in the soup evenly throughout.

Perhaps the best part about this soup is that it is so easy and fast.  Once you have your roasted root vegetables, you basically just need to spend one minute blending them.  If they’re cool, then just heat and serve.

And of course, it is versatile, too.  You can change the flavor of the soup dramatically depending on what vegetables in what amounts you’ve chosen to roast.  Is it a sweeter soup with lots of things like pumpkin and beets?  Or is it more savory, with flavors like potato and celeriac?

Changing the seasonings on the roasted root vegetables also dramatically changes the flavor profile of the soup.  Make Indian-style curried root vegetables and you’ll have a curried soup.  Italian herbs give you an Italian style soup.  Virtually any flavor combination that works for roasted root vegetables works for roasted root vegetable soup, too.

Finally, jazz it up with different toppings.  A soup heavy in orange colored vegetables, like pumpkin, carrot, and sweet potato, begs for a sprinkle of nutmeg and some toasted pumpkin seeds.  Pine nuts and soaked raisins are the perfect topping for a Moroccan-style blend.  Try sour cream and spring onions (or finely diced jalapenos) on a Mexican-style blend.  A curried soup goes great with some yogurt and chutney on top.  As far as toppings go, they sky’s the limit!

Because roasted root vegetables often include more starchy or high-calorie ingredients, a big bowl of this soup is satisfying enough to constitute an entire meal.  Alternatively, serve it up as a pre-course, or even during the meal itself.  A curried soup can be a nice side during a meal of thali while a Moroccan-style soup could even be poured over a mound of couscous.

Heat it up really hot before school and fill a thermos to send with your child as a healthy school lunch choice – it should still be hot, but not too hot, by the time they are ready to eat it.

To me, roasted root vegetable soup is the ultimate comfort food.  It’s easy and fast and is a great way to repurpose leftovers.  I hope you enjoy!  We enjoyed it so much I completely forgot to take a picture until it was all gone!

Easy Fat-Free Vegan Tomato Soup

Easy Fat-Free Vegan Tomato Soup

Given the recent study that was released, showing a low-fat vegan diet is the best way to reduce heart disease risk factors in children, I thought it is a great time to showcase one of my family’s staple meals: tomato soup.  If you’re like me, you grew up with tomato soup as the ultimate comfort food.  When I was a kid, I would have a can of Campbell’s tomato soup with a buttery grilled cheese sandwich and it would warm up my whole world.  Today, I make my own, homemade tomato soup, which takes just about the same amount of effort as the canned version, but is much, much healthier.  Instead of an unhealthy sandwich of refined white bread holding together a clump of gooey animal fats, I ladle my homemade comfort soup over brown rice and voila! I have instant, healthy, completely fat-free vegan comfort food for the whole family.

Before making this soup, I toss all the tomatoes I need to use up in a big tub of water and wash them as I go.

Before making this soup, I toss all the tomatoes I need to use up in a big tub of water and wash them as I go.  You can use up any type of tomatoes you have around, and can even use up tomatoes that are older, going mushy, or have bad spots (just cut them out).

One of the biggest complaints in the heart disease study I examined yesterday was that vegan foods with no added fat were more expensive and difficult to find.  I believe that if people only knew how easy it is to replicate traditional unhealthy processed foods at home they would no longer rely on the processed versions.   Tomato soup is amazing and it is also amazingly easy to make a delicious version to rival anything you can get in a can.

Begin by adding onion (then garlic) to the bottom of your soup maker or pot.  Normally I add a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil but for this no added fat version I simply omit that step.  Because the entire soup cooks together in broth, rather than sauteeing the onion and garlic in oil first, the oil is purely optional.

Begin by adding onion (then garlic) to the bottom of your soup maker or pot. Normally I add a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil but for this no added fat version I simply omit that step. Because the entire soup cooks together in broth, rather than sauteeing the onion and garlic in oil first, the oil is purely optional.

I guess I have become a bit of a tomato soup connoisseur.  I have tried and tested dozens of tomato soup recipes.  Some I like better, some less. My all-time favorite tomato soup recipe is one I picked up from the cookbook “Market Vegetarian: Easy Organic Recipes for Every Occasion” by Ross Dobson.  It’s a bit more time consuming, however, with the added step of roasting the vegetables prior to turning them into soup.  When I was single, I was happy to take that extra step, but as a busy mom… who has time for that?!  I want tomato soup, I want it now, and I don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes of active time making it!

I add fresh tomatoes to my soup maker up to the fill line before adding broth.

I add fresh tomatoes to my soup maker up to the fill line before adding broth.

I will admit this is a bit of a cheat recipe for me.  One day nearly two years ago, my husband came home with a masticating slow juicer and a surprise – a soup maker!  At the time we joked that it was a “wife replacer” because my husband is obsessed with soup, so we have soup as a meal almost every day of the week, especially when the weather is cool, but even frequently when the weather is hot.  I asked him why I would need such an item when I make so much soup on the stove.  But I have since changed my tune.  While I still make a lot of my soups on the stove or in my trusty crock pot, the soup maker has become my go-to for quick soups.  This recipe is one example of a recipe I love to just toss in and let go, but if you don’t have a soup maker, don’t worry.  I’ll provide easy instructions.  It might take an extra couple of minutes of time, but it still won’t be much more involvement than making a can of soup would be!

The finished tomato soup in the soup maker, still frothy from being blended just 1 minutes ago, but a bright red color and smelling great!  My mouth is watering!

The finished tomato soup in the soup maker, still frothy from being blended just 1 minutes ago, but a bright red color and smelling great! My mouth is watering!

One thing I love about this recipe is that you can use up whatever tomatoes are around.  If I end up with a lot of tomatoes that are just too ripe to make salad with, into this soup they go.  If I have a few tomatoes with spots, I cut them out and toss the good parts in the pot.  If I have too many tomatoes or if they are in season and I can pick up a case for cheap, I make a massive quantity of this soup and into the freezer it goes for future consumption on a lazy day.  My baby is obsessed with tomatoes, so anything that tastes like tomatoes is an instant winner with him.

Are you saying I need to give up my tomato for the paleo diet?!

I love tomatoes, in any form!

Another great thing about this recipe is that it is really versatile.  You can mix it up and add in all sorts of different flavors and even different ingredients.  You can make it thicker or thinner.  You can add fat or not. You can add dairy or not.  Or you can just make it as is.  After all, it only calls for four ingredients!  What’s not to love?!

Easy Vegan Tomato Soup

Ingredients

10-12 tomatoes (depending on size)
1/2 medium onion, preferably red
2 large cloves garlic
~2 cups vegetable broth
(pinch salt, if your broth is a low-sodium version)

Instructions

  1. (Optional) Put 2 cups of brown rice and 4 cups of water in a rice cooker and set to cook.
  2. Quarter your onion half, peel your garlic, and add them to your pot (or soup maker).
  3. Quarter your tomatoes – approximately 12 roma tomatoes, 9 vine ripened, or 6 beef tomatoes.  If using giant beef tomatoes, you should cut them in eights instead of quarters.
  4. Add tomatoes to the pot and add broth to just below the tomatoes (not too much unless you want a very watery soup).  If your broth is low sodium, you should add a pinch of salt here.  Salt helps bring out the flavor of tomatoes.
  5. Plug in soup maker, set on “smooth” setting, and go relax until it beeps.
  6. Put on the stovetop on medium-high and cook for approximately 30 minutes.  Watch to be sure it does not boil over – if it begins to boil reduce to a simmer.  Stir at 20 and 25 minute marks.
  7. Pour soup into a blender and blend until smooth, approximately 1 minute.
  8. Place a mound of brown rice in a bowl, pour soup over, and serve.

Variations

  • If you’re not going for the fat-free version, I find a small amount of oil can help make this soup taste a bit more creamy.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the bottom of the pot before adding all your other ingredients.
  • Try a red pepper and tomato soup.  I know this is a flavor of soup I’ve seen in the organic brands at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  Just substitute a red capsicum/bell pepper for a couple of the tomatoes.  You don’t need more than one really big one or two smaller ones to get a good flavor.
  • Add fresh herbs.  Almost any fresh herbs will work – tomatoes are so versatile and seem to work in pretty much any cuisine I’ve ever found.  Toss in some leaves of fresh basil just before blending.  Fresh oregano, rosemary, and thyme are great.  Add a nice big sprig of rosemary or thyme and remove just before blending, or sprinkle just a bit on top and blend it in. Or try dried herb blends, like an Italian herb blend.
  • Add spices.  Spice mixes give a fantastic foreign dimension to this all too traditional American soup.  Add some curry powder, moroccan spice mix, or even Mexican taco seasoning for an all-new experience.
  • Add some dairy.  Keep it vegan by topping your bowl of soup with some cashew sour cream, or splurge and go for the real thing.  Or sprinkle some cheddar or shredded pepper jack cheese on top.  Mix cream or whole (full cream) milk throughout before serving to turn it into a cream of tomato soup.
  • Double, triple, quadruple this recipe… it freezes well and doesn’t take much effort to double.  You will need to extend the cooking time before blending so the increased amount of liquid and vegetables come to the right temperature.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring 10 and 15 minutes into the simmering.

I hope you can see that this soup is soup-er easy (I couldn’t resist).  It is also incredibly versatile.  I think it tastes just as good as the tinned kind – no, better!  Because it’s made with fresh tomatoes, it has that mouthwatering fresh flavor no tinned version ever could.  And with all the possible variations your family will never get bored.  You can play with the flavor variations endlessly!

For families with kids in school, consider making this in the morning and sending it for lunch in a thermos.  In a good thermos it should still be hot enough to eat at lunchtime.  Send it with a container of brown rice on the side your child can spoon in as they go.  In other parts of the world, soup for lunch is a standard, but in western society it is much less common.  Your child will no doubt really enjoy the change!

I hope you enjoy this easy and tasty recipe.  Please let me know what variations you have tried and how you like them!

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Island Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

Kale! Oh, how I love kale.  I love it raw. I love it cooked. I love it in a smoothie.  I even love it in a juice.  To me, kale is simply magical.  But to a kid, kale is not always magical.  Thankfully, I have always found creative ways to cook it to make it palatable, so my kids have always eaten it.

Sautéing onions first

The thing about kale is that the leaves are really tough.  This makes it hard to chew when it’s raw, even if it’s been languishing in olive oil for a while.  Kids don’t really want to chew something for a long time just because you tell them it’s healthy, especially if it doesn’t taste like something kids particularly like, such as chocolate or bubble gum.  So the first rule for feeding kids kale (and getting them to love it) is to cook it.

Raw kale, sweet potatoes, and peppers added to the soup

If you’re going to cook it, you basically have two really good options for kids: boil it (to make it soft) or roast it into kale chips (to make it crunchy).  Because it can withstand being boiled really well, kale is perfect for soups.  My favorite kale soup has long been Food & Wine’s Island Kale and Coconut Soup.  This was the first thing I ever cooked for my husband, back before we even knew we were dating.  It’s vegan. It’s gluten free. And it tastes amazing.

When the kale and sweet potatoes are soft, stir in the coconut milk and heat through, then it is ready to serve!

When the kale and sweet potatoes are soft, stir in the coconut milk and heat through, then it is ready to serve!

I’ve been making this soup as a regular family favorite since the beginning of 2010, before we were even a family, and there’s been an evolution of sorts.  So my version is heavily inspired by, but not identical to, Food & Wine’s version.  I’ve added and subtracted to make it significantly healthier and possibly even tastier.  I’ve also omitted elements, like spicy peppers, that put kids off, so this is a more kid-friendly version.  I’ve also changed it to make it not only vegetarian, but vegan as well.  The best part? Not only is it healthy, but it’s also an entire meal served in one bowl!

How to clean kale

Kale leaves soaking in a salt water soak

Kale leaves soaking in a salt water soak

The first step when you’re working with kale – for any recipe – is to properly clean it.  Kale, whether dinosaur kale or curly kale (or whatever other name for kale you come across), has leaves that are dimpled or curly or otherwise adept at hiding bugs.  I always try to buy organic when I am buying leafy green vegetables because they are so heavily sprayed.  But whether sprayed or not, you are almost guaranteed to find at least a few bugs in your bunch of kale.  I’m really strict about not eating bugs, but if you don’t mind a little extra protein and crunch, that’s up to you.  For everyone else who, like me, doesn’t fancy eating bugs, make sure to wash your kale well!  My husband thinks the most effective way to do this is to first wash each leaf under running water.  You just want to rub your hands back and forth on each side (placing it between your hands accomplishes this well).  This helps dislodge any bugs that might be hiding there.  My favorite way to clean any kind of greens is to do a salt water or vinegar water soak.  I use a salt water soak, which means placing the greens in cold water, mixing salt in until it dissolves, and letting the leaves sit for a few minutes.  The cold shocks bugs, the water drowns them, and the salt makes leaves a bit slippery so the bugs come right off.  Then before I remove the leaves, I rub my hands along both sides of each leaf to help knock off any little bugs that might still be hanging on.  Then I empty my bucket of water and refill it to rinse the leaves, removing both salt and any remaining dirt or bugs.

Island Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

1.5 cups brown rice

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch organic kale, washed well, stems removed, and shredded
2 banana peppers, seeds removed, sliced or diced
3 medium organic sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs or 3/4 kg), peeled and cut in 3/4 in dice
8 cups vegetable broth
1 cup organic coconut milk

 Instructions

  1. Add 1.5 cups brown rice and 3 cups water to rice cooker and press button to cook. Alternatively, follow package instructions to cook on the stovetop while you prepare the soup.
  2. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat to melt it.
  3. Add the onion and banana peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the sweet potatoes and broth, and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are almost tender, about 15 minutes.
  7. Add the kale and stir through, then simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes.
  8. Add the coconut milk and just heat through.
  9. Place a generous scoop of rice in a mound in the center of each bowl and ladle soup on top.
  10. Watch your kids enjoy eating kale!

Variations

  • If banana peppers are not available try using yellow or red capsicum/bell pepper instead.  It won’t have quite the same flavor, but it gives some extra vitamins and minerals.
  • If you’d like yours more “salty” don’t add salt, use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, All Purpose Seasoning to get a great salty flavor that complements the flavor of the soup and some extra nutrition at the same time.
  • For extra protein, try adding some black beans (rinsed well) or cubed tofu.

Akiva enjoying his kale and sweet potato soup

Latke Soup: A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Latke Soup: A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Latke Soup with Homemade Greek Yogurt

It’s the holidays again! In our house, we’re celebrating Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. It’s another typical Jewish holiday where we celebrate “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!”  As with many of our traditions, our holidays are centered around food.

The miracle of Chanukah was that one bottle of olive oil burned for eight days and nights.  So we commemorate it by eating lots and lots of food fried in oil.  The most famous traditional foods are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).  True, it would be healthier and more true to the miracle to celebrate by eating a salad with some olive oil drizzled on top, but that wouldn’t make me a very popular Chanukah hostess!

Both latkes and sufganiyot are, as most things fried in lots of oil are, absolutely delicious.  But they’re also pretty unhealthy.  What, I wondered, could I make in the spirit of Chanukah, which would also rank a bit higher on the health food scale?

So, I decided to make latke soup.  I couldn’t find a recipe out there, so I had to make one up.  It was so distinctive and so reminiscent of actual latkes that even my husband, without being told what I was serving him, asked immediately, “Is this latke soup?” Why yes, yes it is!

Traditional latkes are served slathered in sour cream or (for a healthier and sweeter alternative) applesauce.  This soup screams out for sour cream, but that’s not an ingredient I often use.  My healthier option is homemade Greek yogurt.  I regularly make my own yogurt at home and strain some of it to make it a super thick and creamy, tangy and delicious (sugar free!) plain Greek yogurt.  Of course, in a pinch you can always buy some in the supermarket, just check to be sure it’s the plain kind. I’m not so sure sweet yogurt would complement the soup quite as much as the tangy, sour flavor of plain yogurt does!

Try it out for yourself. It would make a great addition to a Friday night Shabbat Chanukah dinner, especially if you live in a place where it’s cold at this time of the year!

This recipe gets a nutrient boost from the fact that the skins can be left on when you grate the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Just wash them really well.  Once they’re grated, your kids will never notice that the skins were left on.  You should peel the apple, though, as the skin is a bit tougher and could affect the texture of the soup as you eat it.

For Working Moms

Okay, I get it, I’m a stay-at-home mum, and so while that does mean I have a lot more housework and childcare to do, it also means I have more time to spend preparing elaborate dinners.  Working mums should know that this recipe really requires only about 10-15 minutes of actual hands-on time, provided you use a food processor to do your grating.  Cheat by using store-bought Greek yogurt rather than making your own.  Follow the tips in the instructions to cut down on preparation time even further.  Use extra bits of time in the recipe to wash the dishes and do the clean-up.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium white/brown/yellow onions, chopped
8 medium washed potatoes, grated
2 small sweet potatoes, washed well & grated
3 medium carrots, washed well & grated
2 small green (Granny Smith) apples, peeled & grated
1.5-2 L vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
Plain Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in your pot on medium-low heat. (You could also start with a frying pan and then switch, but I prefer the easy clean-up of one-pot cooking!)
  2. While the olive oil is heating, chop your onions.
  3. Add the onions to the heated olive oil and fry them to caramelize, 5-10 minutes.
  4. While the onions are frying, grate your other ingredients. Add the potato to the pot and stir to fry it a bit, approximately 2 minutes.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Adjust the amount of stock you add to suit how “soupy” you prefer it to be.  Turn the heat up to a boil, then keep at a simmer approximately 1/2 hour until all ingredients are cooked through.
  6. Add a generous dollop of Greek yogurt and serve!

Variations

  • To increase the nutritional value but to keep the “latke” feel of this soup I added sweet potatoes and carrots, but feel free to add any other “grateable” veggies you have around the house – turnips, rutabagas, and zucchini would all be great additions!
  • To make a sweeter soup, add a couple more apples and mix in some cinnamon or nutmeg.

Enjoy – and Happy Chanukah!