Lunch at Work v.4 – Coconut Lentil Soup

12 03 2011

Lunch at work got you down? I started a new contract a few weeks ago, and phew, it has been busy. I wasn’t off that long, but throw Christmas and January in there you really do fall into a sleepy state in the dark of winter. Getting back into the swing of things took a few weeks. I think the biggest challenge is that we have been in a cold snap here in Calgary. You know, I’m okay with it, I didn’t think it was that bad until March came. Then I was like, ‘ok, I’m done with this weather’. We have holidays coming up and the weather is sunny and above zero here today so things are looking up!

I have been packing soup almost every day to lunch, and my pick the last three weeks (yes, a bit of a habitual eater) has been lentil soup. It is nourishing, rich in fibre and protein and easy to consume on the go with the right thermos. Throw some cut veggies and whole grain crackers on the side, hunger is gone, energy sustained.

I have tried a few versions of Lentil Coconut Soup this past month, but my favourite is the one below. It honestly takes all of 30 minutes to make. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe from. Unless it is in a book I have, I google recipes until I find a few I like, save them all, try them and tweak the recipes to my liking. That’s the fun of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.

2 cups Red Lentils
3/4 inch Fresh Ginger (2 cm), peeled and chopped
1 small Onion, chopped
1 Garlic clove, chopped (or a touch of garlic powder, or omit altogether)
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 tsp Turmeric
1 2/3 cup Veggie Stock (1 -2 cubes of low sodium variety in hot water)
1 can (398 ml) Crushed or Diced Tomatoes, with liquid
1  can (398 ml) Coconut Milk
2 cups filtered Water

  • Rinse and drain lentils (I have been finding red kidney beans in my Indian ones I have, too funny)
  • Heat the coconut oil in a pot and sauté ginger, onion and garlic until softened
  • Add turmeric, hot veggie stock, coconut milk, water, tomatoes and the lentils; bring to boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Take off the heat, puree the soup using a hand-held blender (or in a blender carefully, read the last post on this here)

Seems weird to blog about such trivial things as to what I ate at work. I hope that all my blog friends are paying close attention to what is happening in the Middle East. Our people, our human relatives are striving all over the world to voice their rights. Rights that we take for granted in our country and more importantly, don’t pay attention too. What is happening in Wisconsin is an extension of the struggle that goes on in Egypt, Tunisia etc. As well, today, we watch the unfolding disaster in Japan. The feats of our engineering have saved thousands of lives in comparison to what happened in Haiti last year, an earthquake of similar magnitude. High rises swayed instead of collapsing. Although, those same feats of engineering and science have us holding our breath as we monitor the breakdown of a nuclear power plant. If only we stopped fighting one another and embraced our human-ness. The trillions of dollars in debt we have from our previous poor decisions over the decades has put us in even greater risk as we figure out how to survive and support one another. Priorities.

Be well, Eat Well,

Nat





Parsnip Soup

19 01 2011

I recently went to NOtaBLE for lunch with a fellow Health Food Junkie and we had the most amazing parsnip soup (followed by a killer grilled cheese, not so healthy, but satisfying :)). The soup was very simple, parsnip, apple with a blue cheese creme fresh on top, yum. I hadn’t made parsnip soup before, so I looked around for recipes. I found this recipe on Food Network Canada and it looked great, developed by a holistic dietician. I made a few changes based on taste. With the research I did I can experiment with recreating the parsnip and apple soup now too.

There is so much to love about this soup recipe.

1. I love parsnips and could eat roasted parsnips every winter day. Mmmm, roasted with carrots and beets. Parsnips are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. I got these fine organic parsnips from my favourite market, the Kingsland Farmers Market.

2. It calls for coconut oil. According to some health practitioners coconut oil is the most healthiest of oils. It is a saturated Medium-Chain Fatty Acid (MCFA) and is metabolized differently then saturated and unsaturated Long-Chain Fatty Acids which is what animal and vegetable fats are. Although saturated they do not negatively effect cholesterol. I won’t bore you with the science, but it is worth looking into for yourself and while you’re at it, look into why you shouldn’t be congesting margarine and oil like products. Some fats are good for you, investigate this, it is part of healthy digestion, metabolism and weight management.

3. It has white cannellini beans so it is a hearty soup, with a good source of protein and fibre.

4. It is so easy to make! You don’t even peel the carrots or parsnips. Buy organic and scrub them a little with a veggie scrub.

1 cup dried White Beans, Navy or Cannellini, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 Yellow Onion, chopped (for sattvic, skip)
2 stalks Celery, chopped
1 Carrot, unpeeled, chopped
4 medium Parsnips, unpeeled, chopped
1 clove Garlic (or 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder, or skip for sattvic)
2 tbsp Organic Coconut Oil
1/2 tsp fresh or dry Thyme
1/2 tsp fresh or dry Sage
Sea Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
5-6 cups of Filtered Water

  • In a soup pot, add the coconut oil, carrots, celery and onion over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until the vegetables start to brown, about 5-10 min.
  • Add the beans, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper, stir well. Cover with water, about 2-3 cups. Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Add parsnips to pot and cover with water plus two inches over the top of vegetables, about 2-3 cups. Bring to boil and then turn down to simmer for another 20 min or so, stirring occasionally. When both the parsnips and beans are tender remove from heat.
  • Using a hand blender, blend the soup until smooth (or let soup cool and use a blender). If the soup is thicker than you’d like (and it will thicken a bit more) add a 1/2 cup or more water. Adjust with salt and fresh cracked pepper.
  • Serve with homemade or sourdough bread. Yum.
  • If you want to make this same day, replace the dried beans for 2 cups of canned beans, do only one boil/simmer step, add the beans 10 min into simmering and then blend when the parsnips are done. That should work but dried soaked beans are always better – keep them in the fridge for a day or so if you run out of time to make the soup.
  • I doubled the recipe, made a nice big pot!

Eat Well, Be Well,

Nat





Spicy Black Bean Soup

13 12 2010

Oh Hi, still there, it’s bean awhile, sorry, couldn’t resist the pun to the blog title. But it has been some time since my last blog, they say time makes the heart grow fonder, or in this case, the tummy hungrier 🙂

I have made this bean soup over and over again, Tony loves it, I love it, it is just so good. It is from a cook book that will remain nameless but I think with my edits we’re safe. I make it using Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce. You have probably seen this can to the right when perusing the grocery isles? I picked it up at Planet Organic awhile ago knowing an opportunity to use them would come along. Does anyone else do that, just buy different food ingredients in hopes to use them one day? My favourite thing to do when travelling is grocery shop, I have got some of the best stuff that way!

I tried this recipe for the first time last winter and when it asked for chipotle peppers, jalapeno peppers that have been smoked and dried, I was stuck. Until ‘Oh yeah, I have a can of chipotle in adobo sauce’! What’s adobo sauce? It’s a general Latin American sauce of tomatoes, garlic, vinegar and spices (so says Wikipedia). I thought, that’ll work. What I love about using these is they go a long way and I freeze the rest (not in the can).

  • 1 small Onion, chopped (I don’t skip the onion in this recipe, but if you want to make this sattvic, than skip, I’m sure it would be fine. I don’t add garlic, but you can do that too, 2-4 cloves)
  • 1 stalk Celery
  • 3 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, chopped (if you don’t like spice, maybe try 1-2 peppers for first pot of soup; if you do have dried Chipotle Peppers, use them instead!)
  • 2 cans of Black Beans (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tsp white wine or regular white Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground Cloves (about 8 whole cloves)
  • 2 small Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp ground Pepper
  • 6 cups Vegetable Stock (2-3 low sodium cubes and 6 cups boiling water)

In a soup pot, saute the onion and celery (and garlic if using it) in the olive oil until soft. Add everything else, including the vegetable stock, stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and cook uncovered until the sweet potatoes are softened, about 10-15 minutes. Once sweet potatoes are soft, take it off the heat and puree with an emersion blender. You can use a regular blender but remember not to close the lid tight, better to let the soup cool and then blend, the steam can cause an explosion. Bad for hands and ceiling. I have also seen cooks put a dish cloth between the blender and lid so the steam escapes and is not trapped when blending. Whatever you do, be careful and if you make soup now and then, go get an emersion blender, the best kitchen investment you’ll make.

I like to serve this soup with diced tomatoes, red peppers or avocado on top with a splash of lime juice and tortilla chips.

Eat Well, Be Well,

Nat





Quick Thai Curry

22 11 2010

The theme around here continues to be comfort foods, and being so cold and snowy right now, this is an easy sell. We love curry of any kind, and for us it is a comfort food. As a wedding gift we received green and red Thai Curry bases purchased at Williams and Sonoma. Although I can’t find it on the website, I think they still sell it in the store, but it’s been a long time since I was there to see. It is the best Thai curry base I have used (including ones bought in asian markets). It is made from whole ingredients and you can see the lemon grass and lime leaves crushed up in it. I prefer making Thai curries from scratch, but when you are in the mood and don’t have all the ingredients, these bases are a comfort food saver. As for Indian curry bases, I tend not to use them. Unlike Thai, Indian curry ingredients are easy to keep around the house, lemon grass and lime leaves, key ingredients in Thai, do not keep well (unless you know a secret and want to share it with me).

Saturday night the weather was a mere -20 degrees Celsius, and this has gone on for a week now, so what to make for dinner? A warm Thai Curry. Here is an easy recipe and how I use the same recipe for a shrimp version and then convert it to a veggie dish for left overs. Always thinking ahead to lunch for the week 🙂

Quick Thai Curry

  • 1 cup of Jasmine or Basmati Rice (cook it with a few tbsp of dried or fresh grated coconut, we had some fresh coconut in the fridge, it was a great addition to the rice)
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Red Pepper, sliced
  • 3-4 Carrots, sliced on an angle
  • 3-4 Stalks Celery, sliced on an angle
  • 1 Large Zucchini, sliced in half rounds (I would use eggplant too, but couldn’t find any that night)
  • 1 can Coconut Milk
  • 2-3 tbsp Green or Red Curry Base, depending on level of spice
  • 12 large Shrimp, tail on
  • 1 package Snow Peas (hard to find organic, so I wash them really well, eh)
  • 1 can Chick Peas

Cut all of the vegetables so they are about the same thickness. While the rice is cooking, heat the oil on medium high heat in a wok or large pot. Add the carrots, celery and pepper, stir fry until the start to soften but are still firm, about 10 min. Add the zucchini, stir fry until the zucchini start to soften, 5-10 min, they might even caramelize a bit. Add the coconut milk and curry base, stir well. Add the shrimp and snow peas, continue cooking on medium heat until the shrimp are cooked and the coconut milk thickens, about 10 min. Shrimp are cooked when they are opaque and no longer pink. Serve over the rice, removing all of the shrimp. There should be plenty of veggies and some sauce left, add the chick peas to it, voila, lunch is served. Of course you can skip the shrimp completely and just add the chick peas, I do this with all sorts of veggies and curry through the winter.

Eat well, Be well (stay warm),

Nat





Comfort Food

14 11 2010

When life hands you lemons you can react a couple of different ways. Leave your head on the pillow or get up and put one foot in front of the other. After leaving my head on the pillow for a few days, I got up, put one foot in front of the other until I was in the kitchen doing what makes me feel better, cooking. Unfortunately for Tony and I, the past few weeks have dealt us some blows, but we are surrounded by amazing family and friends. Thank-you to those that read this and have been by our side.

I have made Borshch with my mom many times (assuming ‘made’ means drinking wine and watching). Last year and at the start of this blog, I chronicled our Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, which includes Borshch. My mom measured out the recipes as she cooked from memory. This way I could write them down and make it all on my own one day. I’m workin’ on it.

Well I grew great beets this year, although small, and they’ve been in the fridge since October. I paired them up with some organic beets from Planet Organic to make a big pot of Borshch. I followed the recipe, consulted mom and found solace in a quiet kitchen and the comforting smell of soup simmering on the stove like the generations before me. Here is our family Borshch recipe, I hope it brings you as much comfort as it did me last night.

  • 6 large Beets, I ended up using about 12 small beets
  • 1/2 c dried Brown Mushrooms, broken and chopped up (if not dried, then saute them in a bit of olive oil before using)
  • 2-3 Chicken Bouillon cubes (I use the veggie variety)
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 6 Pepper Corns
  • 1 1/2 c diced Celery
  • 1 1/2 c diced Carrots
  • 1 1/2 c diced Green Beans
  • 1 1/2 c Peas (frozen okay)
  • 1 medium White Onion, diced and sautéed until golden brown
  • 3-4 c of Beet Tops, chopped small, separate the stems from the leaves
  • 1 tsp Dill (dried okay)
  • 1/2 c Italian Parsley, chopped well
  • 2 tbsp Flour
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil (choose a natural oil, stay away from processed oils, aka Canola)

Clean off the beats, no need to peel, cut the roots and tough parts off. Grate the beets using a food processor, rough chop them first, the grating attachment makes this very easy and less messy. If you don’t have a food processor, grate whatever way works for you. Makes about 12 cups.

 

In a soup pot, place the beets, diced beet stems, mushrooms, bay leaves, pepper corns and bouillon cubes and cover with water. Bring to boil, cover, simmer covered for 15 min. Add celery, parsley, simmer covered for 15 min. Add beans, carrots, simmer covered for 15 min. Add peas, chopped beet greens, sautéed onions and 1/4 to 1/2 c of water if you think it needs it. Simmer covered for 15 min, the veggies will be al-dante.

Once the soup is done, in small sauce pot, cook the flour over medium-high heat, stirring continuously for 60-90 seconds. Take the flour off the heat and add the butter and oil, continue stirring, the butter should melt and maybe froth up a bit. You’ve just made a roux and probably didn’t ruin it over the heat, good job. Add three cups of the borsch to the roux, one cup at a time, mixing well, and then add it all back into the main soup pot. The cooked flour and roux brings the flavours together and makes the soup glisten. Look at it, isn’t it pretty.

Serve with a dollop of sour creme or plain yogurt and fresh cracked pepper. It’s like a hug in a bowl.

Eat well, Be Well,

Nat





Lunch at Work v.3

16 09 2010

This week I ate bean, cheese and corn quesadillas for lunch, well for three days anyhow. We had Mexican last Friday after work and I had opened a can of Amy’s Organic Black Bean Refried Beans so I had to use up the beans. I had one cob of corn left, so I used that too. I made three quesadillas by slathering a thick layer of beans onto whole grain tortillas, then sprinkled some cheese, corn and a little shake of dried cilantro (which is not the best, but in the absence of fresh cilantro, it does the trick, well sort of).

Fold the filled tortillas in half and on a heated non-stick skillet brown each side, melting the cheese and fillings together. To cool without sweating, place on cooling rack. When they are cool, cut into three triangles, stack and wrap up for lunch. I placed them in a container with fresh garden carrots and tomatoes. When lunch came, I didn’t worry about warming them, just dug in when the time came. Satisfying as they are or pack a little bit a salsa with you. Ole!

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Lunch at Work v.2

10 08 2010

mmmm I had the yummiest lunch today and yesterday. Continuing on my ‘Lunch at Work’ series, here is another version.

I wrote about a Bean and Feta Wrap awhile back. This recipe is similar, I just played with the ingredients to make a delicious spread you could put on a grainy piece of toast, rice crackers or whatever you like. Remember, at lunch you want to balance your veggies, grains and protein. Grains are important, aim for whole grains and high fibre. It will be more satisfying and keep you full longer. I really like sugar-free grainy and seedy breads. I toast a slice the night before, spread a bit of butter, let it cool and throw it in my lunch. For crackers I love Finn Crisp Original.

Bean and Goat Cheese Spread

1 can Organic Butter Beans

1 small package of plain Goat Cheese ( 100 g size)

2-3 tbsp Lemon Juice

2 tbsp Olive Oil

1 tbsp fresh or dried Oregano

3 tbsp fresh Parsley

1 tbsp fresh finely chopped Chives

4 large Green Olives chopped (or any olives of your choice)

Pinch of Salt, lots of fresh cracked Pepper

Drain and rinse the beans. In a bowl, mash the beans using a fork. Add the oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. The beans don’t need to be smooth, add the goat cheese and all the other ingredients. If you let the cheese sit at room temp for 10 min, it is easier to mix. This makes about 4-5 lunch servings. I packed with it some cut up veggies I picked up from my new favourite market, Kingsland Farmers Market (have I mentioned that I love that market :)) and five Finn Crisps. I put the container in my lunch bag in the morning and by lunch it was still cool and the spread was easy to smear on the crackers. Yummy yummy in my tummy.

Eat well, be well,

Nat





Lunch at Work v.1

17 07 2010

At work, not sure what to eat? I have said before that buying lunch while working is more of a treat then a necessity, at least that is how I approach it. I am not a fan of buying lunch every day especially if the choices are less than desirable and unhealthy. I do my best to pack food to work where ever I go. I eat a lot in the day and not so much at night, and this helps with sleep, digestion and getting up to practice.

I got a comment (thanks Heather) for ideas for packing lunch to work. For this I am going to start a blog series called Lunch at Work, with new versions as they come to mind. I eat a fairly ‘mono-diet’ so it might be awhile before the next one. The recipe i’ll share today can be changed so many ways so experiment! I started a new contract assignment two weeks ago and between friends in town, yoga workshops, Stampede and adjusting everything else I was doing and adding in an additional 8 hours of work a day, lunch preparations were tough, but I made it through. Here’s the low down on surviving a crazy two weeks and an idea for lunch.

Breakfast: This stayed consistent, green smoothie packed with me. 1 banana, 1 pear+1/2 cup of ice or 3/4 cup frozen berries, 2-3 cups of raw spinach or kale. Blend together until smooth, go.

Second breakfast (lately, sometimes eaten at lunch): 1/2 cup sprouted oat groats or kamut, cooked with a bit of cinnamon. 2 tbsp toasted nuts, drizzle of agave syrup. See previous post Kamut for Breakfast. I make two portions at a time, ready in the fridge, eaten cold, no need to stop and make oatmeal.

Lunch: The best thing I brought to lunch was a rice salad. I did buy lunch a couple of times. The deli/cafe at my client is really good. They have lots of healthy selections and soup options.

Rice Salad: Cook 1 cup of whole grain, brown or mixed rice. I love this one from Planet Organic bulk, it takes about 45 min to cook. You can keep the cooked rice in the fridge and make a fresh salad each night, or even add with some dinner left overs. It’s important to eat whole grains through the day, it is long-lasting energy and high in fibre = better metabolism.

To 1/2 cup of cooked rice I added 1/3 cup mixed beans (canned or pick up your favourite mixed bean salad from a deli, planet has a few good ones), diced veggies like carrots, red/yellow pepper, cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, cilantro and sprouts. I had a few olives left over so I added those one day. Another day I added cubed goat gouda I had in the fridge. Toasted pine nuts left from a bean dish I made tasted yummy. For dressing, make it simple, olive oil and apple cider vinegar, fresh cracked pepper. Eat cold on the go.

Afternoon: Always, always, an apple. I love apples and I can’t wait to start buying delicious organic apples from BC this summer. As well I pack a ‘power cookie’. I make dozens at a time and keep in the freezer and in a jar on the counter. That recipe another time.

Eat well, be well,

Nat





Bean Soup

17 06 2010

I {heart} legumes. This week I made my grandma’s recipe for a bean soup I remembered as a kid. In my visit last week we talked about soup, my grandpa loved soup and so do I. She makes this bean soup with a ham hock (a real thing, I just googled it, thought it was slang). So if you are a lover of ham, go ahead. I used organic chicken bouillon powder instead – or you can use the low sodium veggie ham or chicken bouillon. To serve, for some reason we seasoned this soup with a splash of white vinegar, not sure why, maybe someone out there does. That’s just the way it is and it tastes like 1979.

1 cup Speckled Beans (might be a speckled kidney, I saw some at Planet, my grandma just gave me a cup)

3 Bay Leaves (I have some dried from grandma’s plant)

8 cups of Filtered Water (estimate)

2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes (or your equivalent, to taste though, can be too salty)

1 tbsp Flour (had to get this off grandma too, she might as well made the soup for me. you can use other thickeners like kuzu or cornstarch)

1/2 cup Sour Creme

1-2 cups Milk (or your equivalent, I am doing this old school the best I can)

White Table Vinegar for ‘garnish’

Soak the beans overnight, I did for two days because I ran out of time to make the soup the next day. I just rinsed them and replaced the water. They will turn into 2 cups of soaked beans. Put the beans into a soup pot, add enough water to cover the beans plus one inch of water above the beans. Add the bay leaves and bouillon (if you choose to go ham hock, I think you add it here), bring to low boil, cook, stirring once in a while. Get comfortable, don’t plan to leave the house, you are kitchen bound for a few hours. As the water absorbs add more, so it is one inch above the beans. After a couple of hours, start to test the beans for softness, you want them to be real soft. Keep cooking. I left the lid off, but not totally, like an inch or two open for the steam to mostly escape. Be careful adding water near the end of the cooking time (up to 5 hours depending on the beans and pre-soak success) because you don’t want to much water. You want the beans to be almost even with the water, like 1 cm of water over the beans.

When the beans are done mix together 1/2 cup sour creme and 1 tbsp flour. (You could use a bit less sour creme, I used organic thick sour creme and it might have been a bit too much. I left the soup covered and off the heat and the flavours are coming through as time goes by, like all soups, they are so much better with time.) Add the sour creme + flour mixture to the soup. Add 1-2 cups of milk (I ended up using 1/2 cup of Tony’s creme for his coffee, sorry Tony, and 1/2 cup home-made almond milk, forgot to pick up milk). Mix in one cup of milk at a time, I think 2 cups is too much, but you decide based on what you think. I heated this up and then turned the heat off, covered it and let sit. I’ll dig into it for dinner later. Remember to add a splash of vinegar. Mmmm…memories.

Eat Well, Be Well,

Nat





Bean and Feta Wrap

14 06 2010

I am always experimenting with lunch ideas. I am getting ready to start another year-long contract, so the lunches have to get portable again. I hate eating out at work. In all the years I’ve spent in corporate Calgary I think I ate out 1-2x a month. The rest of the time I brought my own healthful meals. After all these years, I have the quick go-to’s, the weekly mono-plan made on Sunday and the tried and trues. The trick is to keep the house stocked with fresh veggies and fruit, healthy grains, tuna, beans and the like. Don’t get me wrong there are days when it’s veggies and humus, a handful of rice crackers and an apple. But this to me is way better than having to forage at the company cafeteria or head to a restaurant.

I have recently enjoyed a new wrap, adapted it from a recipe I have. The original is a bit bland, so I’ve changed it enough to call it my own and have some ideas on how to repeat this with other additives. Even though I warm this on my stove top Panini grill, you can make the filling, bring a pita, bread or rice crackers and eat it on the go.

1 can shelled Fava, Lima/Cannellini or Butter Beans (my fav) Beans

3/4 c Crumbled Feta Cheese

2-3 tbsp Lemon Juice

4 tbsp Olive Oil (I replaced half with Coconut Oil)

1 tbsp fresh Oregano (or 1/2 tbsp dried)

3 tbsp fresh Parsley (optional)

2-3 tbsp chopped Black Olives

Pinch of Salt, lots of fresh cracked Pepper

Drain and rinse the beans. In a bowl, mash the beans using a fork. Once you start mashing, add the oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. The beans don’t have to be smooth, choose a consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well, taste and adjust. Spread on a whole wheat/grainy wrap, top with spinach, roll up, folding in the sides. Warm on a Panini or in a fry pan until grill marks/toasted. The sandwich isn’t hot, just warm to your liking. Serve with a salad or a stack of carrot sticks (remember this is supposed to be easy for lunch).

Eat Well, Be Well,

Nat