Savory Soup Sunday: Garden Vegetable Soup

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We all have favorite times of year.  For me, one of mine is when the seed catalogs begin to arrive. It has been fun to see them show up in the mail. I’m still on the fence about planting a garden. Even if I do, it will be different than previous years. I planted wheat last winter, so there’s that. Unfortunately, the veggies I use most I’ve found the most difficult to grow. Thank goodness for farmers’ markets.

At first blush, it might seem like the wrong time of year for a soup called Garden Vegetable Soup. But the timing serves two purposes. First, it can give you ideas for using things in your pantry or even that you can easily find in the grocery store. And second, it might plant (pun intended) thoughts about what to grow in your garden.

Garden Vegetable Soup

This is your basic vegetable soup. I raided my canning pantry for the ingredients. Though I grew tomatoes last year, they weren’t in the quantity that made it feasible to can them. So I luckily found a veggie stand that had canning tomatoes late in the season, so I bought a supply and canned them. Well, the ones I didn’t turn into tomato powder. I used a jar of whole tomatoes for this soup, but crushed would work as well.

Growing up, one of my favorite dishes was green beans and potatoes. We grew both in our garden. Mom usually just cooked them together in water with salt and pepper. It was served as a soup, often over a slice of bread. I still make the combination as a soup, but I cook in a stock, usually chicken or vegetable. This past summer, though, I decided to can them. I canned green beans and potatoes in separate jars. But I also canned some together. That way, all I had to do was open a jar and put into a pot. I used a jar of those in this soup.

The only non-canned veggie in this soup (I also used a jar of veggie stock) was onion. I had some minced onion I’d dehydrated, but I decided to go with fresh, which I sweated in some olive oil.

This soup is a blank canvas. You can use whatever vegetables, herbs, spices you have on hand. Now I kept mine vegan, but add some meat and use meat stock if you like. For a heartier soup, add eggplant, squash, corn, beans. You can add pasta if you’d like. And top with some cheese before serving. The options are yours. Don’t have home-canned vegetables? Don’t let that stop you. Use fresh, frozen, even store-bought canned vegetables. NOTE: If using commercially canned products, watch for sodium content. It’s even more important to taste for salt before adding more.

Whether you make Garden Vegetable Soup using your garden bounty or that obtained elsewhere, this is a tasty soup for all times of the year. You can find my version here.

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Savory Soup Sunday: Chickpea and Coconut Milk Stew

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I’m loving chickpeas these days. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get on a kick about a food and just can’t stop. Lately, it’s been chickpeas. I know last week was a chickpea soup, but I couldn’t resist posting another one. Especially since it tastes so good. And it has a spicy kick that I love.

Chickpea and Coconut Milk Stew

Like my previous chickpea soup, I used dry chickpeas. Of course you can use canned ones; it’ll speed up the cooking. Just rinse and drain first. Keep in mind that when using canned ones, you’ll probably not need as much  You can always add more.

As for vegetables, I used some of my favorites–eggplant, carrots, and sweet potato. Zucchini also works. In other words, use what you like or have on hand. I often use vegetables I’ve dehydrated. But fresh and frozen work as well.

Now, a word about spice. I really like spicy foods. That’s why you’ll find chili powder, red pepper flakes, and black pepper in this recipe. Of course the amounts can be changed to your liking. Or if there are peppers you like better. For example, I like ground Aleppo pepper as well as ground chipotle in this dish.

I prefer this dish as a soup/stew. It can be served over rice, though. I recommend making it a bit thicker if that’s what you plan to do. You can either add less stock, reduce, or puree some of the chickpeas.

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. It’s worth it. You can find my recipe here.

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“Discard” May Not Mean What You Think

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I’ve been taking such good care of this starter. I’ve even given it a name. And now you want me to what? Discard most of it? Are you nuts?

First, “nuts” is not a valid medical term. And second, yes, but not in the way you might think.

If you’ve ever made sourdough starter–or even just looked up instructions for doing so–you’ve likely come across instructions to discard as much as three-quarters of it before feeding. Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? I know it did to me. The rationale was generally given as one of two things. First, it’s like spent rocket fuel; you get rid of the old to freshen. And second, if you’re feeding regularly, such as when you’re keeping it out of the fridge, you may have an overwhelming amount before too long. Whatever the reason, it seemed like an expensive habit to get in to.

I confess I did so in the beginning. After all, I was completely new at this and had no idea what to expect. But I got over it. I do, however, discard some often, but in a way you might not expect.

Keep in mind that “discard” doesn’t mean throw it away. Uh uh. Oh you can, of course, but who really wants to do that with something they’ve nurtured and even named? Not me. No, I prefer to think of it as the Sourdough Starter Relocation Program.

I may not relocate an entire 75 percent of a starter, but I often pour some out before feeding. I always make sure to have some dried and in the freezer. I also keep a small jar of my favorites in the refrigerator for emergencies. (Like when I accidentally fed Gwen Cooper with vinegar instead of water. Yesterday.) I’ve also sent dried starter to others who want to try making sourdough. After all, that’s how I got some of mine.

Stir-fry with starter spring pancake

But what if you want to use it yourself? There are lots of recipes on the Internet for using starter. But most require planning ahead, which I’m not always good at. Or they’re more work than I want to put in. Then I discovered Brothers Green Eat on YouTube. Particularly this video for scallion pancakes.

A word about Brothers Green. I really like this channel and have learned a lot, but it’s not for everyone. The language is often “salty,” so if you’re offended by such things, this may not be the channel for you or children. This video doesn’t have that issue.

As soon as I saw the video, I knew I had to try it. And it was certainly easy enough, especially since I keep at least one starter on the counter. Unlike the video, I only used scallions. I served it with a stir fry, and it was really good. To cook, I simply poured some of the starter into a hot cast-iron skillet. Of course, you don’t have to use cast iron, but really, why not?

Since then, I’ve made starter pancakes several times. I’ve made them as a vehicle to carry peanut butter and jam. And I made a pizza.

Starter Pizza

I generally keep my starters on the thin side. For the pizza, though, I fed it a higher ratio of flour to water. I brought a cast-iron skilled to a screaming heat on the stove and cooked the starter until lightly browned on the underside. Then I topped with cooked chicken, cheese, sauce, and spinach and put in a preheated oven until the middle was warm and the cheese melted. Then I topped with labneh and returned it to the oven until it was melted. Oh good gosh that was tasty. I’m now experimenting with toppings. There’s no end in sight.

Oh, and if you’re dying for a wrap but don’t have a “wrapper,” these starter pancakes work. See, for example, my starter tuna melt.

Starter tuna melt

The lesson of this post? Don’t send your starter to the trash. Send it to the Sourdough Starter Relocation Program. You’ll like yourself better for this.

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Savory Soup Sunday: Sauerkraut Soup

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Happy National Soup Day! Seems appropriate that it falls on Savory Soup Sunday this year, doesn’t it?

This week’s soup is a twist on a Ukrainian classic–Sauerkraut Soup. Now don’t wrinkle your news and say, “Eww.” It’s quite tasty. And if you use homemade sauerkraut, the flavors can vary tremendously. The classic version includes bacon and chicken broth. I’ve omitted the bacon, and instead of using chicken broth, homemade vegetable stock is used. You’ll also see it calls for white beans. Use whatever beans you like or have on hand. The choice is up to you.

Don’t use commercially canned sauerkraut. But it’s perfectly fine to use the kind that comes in bags. That is if you’re not using homemade. If you opt to go that route, drain and rinse well before adding to the soup. If you like the saltiness and flavor of your homemade sauerkraut, don’t bother.

The recipe also calls for carrots, onions, and celery. I often use those in my sauerkraut. This time, however, I only added shredded carrots to my kraut. But since I like lots of carrots, I added some fresh ones to the soup. I also added some of the kraut juice. But it wasn’t as tart as I like, so I added a bit of apple cider vinegar. Incidentally, I almost always add turmeric to my sauerkraut.

As I said, use whatever white beans you have on hand or like. I used cannellini beans. Actually, I prefer Great Northern beans for soups, but these aren’t bad. Here you again have an option. I used dried beans, unsoaked. Canned beans are fine, but be sure to drain and rinse them well before adding.

When it comes to seasoning, be cautious with salt. Sauerkraut can have a lot of salt. If using homemade and you think yours is too salty, rinse off. Don’t add salt until the end. It may not be necessary.

Granted, this is an unusual soup for many. But every once in a while, we need to change things up a bit. This is a tasty way to do so.

You can find the recipe here.

And don’t forget, the seventh annual International Bake Bread Weekend is February 10 and 11! Yes, that’s next weekend!


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It’s Almost Time–For the Seventh Time!

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Get your bread-baking mojo revved up. It’s almost time for the seventh The Enabling Cook’s Bake Bread Weekend! Mark your calendars. This year, it’s February 10-11. So if you want to start a sourdough, you have time to get the starter going and happy.

What? You’ve never heard of this momentous weekend? Well, where have  you been for six years?

I’m kidding. Kind of. You’re forgiving. “So what’s it all about?” you might ask.

I’m happy to tell you. It’s all about bread. But any kind of bread. Like sourdough? Go for it. Are you more comfortable with yeast bread? Fine. Want to experiment with a new flavor combo, flour, or technique? Now’s the perfect opportunity. Is your mind wandering more toward oh, say a pumpkin or banana bread? That’s just fine, too. And it doesn’t have to be a loaf or boule. Sometimes buns or rolls are called for.

As for rules, well, there’s really only one. Don’t use commercially frozen bread dough. When I was a kid, homemade bread meant there was a bag of loaves of Dakota frozen bread dough in the freezer. But we’re beyond that.

Can you use a mixer or bread machine? Of course. Can you use a mix? Well . . . I’d rather you not. But if it will get you to make bread, then by all means. The important thing is to make bread or some bread product.

And don’t worry about it not being perfect. One of the loaves I made for an earlier International Bake Bread Weekend resembled a brick more than something one would put in his or her mouth. At least willingly.

So start planning. And feel free to ask questions and tell us what you’ll be making.


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Savory Soup Sunday: Moroccan Chickpea Stew

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Many people grow up with the idea that for a soup or stew to be hearty, it must have meat. Or at least pasta. I try to limit my intake of meat products. And because I really like bread, I tend not to eat pasta. But I do like beans, so I’m always on the lookout for vegan or at least vegetarian dishes that use beans.

In prowling around YouTube and the Internet, I found some recipes for something called Moroccan Chickpea Stew. Although some had lamb, most were vegan. According to some posts, there were almost as many versions of it as there are for gumbo and other dishes that have evolved over time. I looked at the ingredients, and I had them all. Plus, they suited my tastes–with some tweaking, of course. So I set out to make my version of Moroccan Chickpea Stew.

First, you may know chickpeas as garbanzo beans. They are the same things. I had and used dried ones, without presoaking or precooking. You can, of course, use cooked ones, but make sure to drain and rinse well before adding to the stew pot.

A word about draining chickpeas. You may have heard about something called aquafaba. This is the liquid that comes from beans such as chickpeas. People trying to avoid dairy products sometimes use it as an egg substitute. You can find more information about it and how to use it at The Minimalit Baker.

Like most soups and stews, you begin by sweating some onion and garlic.  I used dehydrated eggplant and zucchini, but if you’re using fresh, give them a quick saute too. I like the touch lightly sauteed spices have, so I add the chili powder, ground cumin, and cinnamon. But be careful not to let them burn. And trust me, it can happen more quickly than you think!

I used diced tomatoes. But if you only have crushed ones, use them. Whole tomatoes are what’s in your pantry? Use those. But I’d cut them up a bit first. In other words, use what you have. Then add the stock, chickpeas, dehydrated eggplant and zucchini (if using), mint, and apple cider vinegar (again, if using). And don’t forget salt and pepper. Be a little cautious with the salt, especially if you’ll be using green olives.

Simmer until the chickpeas are done. Then add the spinach and olives if using. Check for seasonings. Heat through and serve hot. You can serve with pita or bread if you want, but it isn’t necessary. It’s good enough on its own. And a dollop of plain yogurt (dairy-free if you want to keep it vegan) wouldn’t be out of line here either.

Give this a try when you’re looking for a hearty vegan stew. You can find my version here.



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Savory Soup Sunday: Chicken Udon Soup

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Chicken noodles soup is probably one of the most popular soups, at least in the United States. I confess that Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup is still a favorite because it has the best noodle slurpage factor. Over the years, though, I have bought it less and less. Instead, I make my own.  And I don’t use traditional noodles.

One of my favorite noodles are udon. You can find these in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Well, at least the larger ones. Sometimes they’re listed as stir-fry noodles, but they work very well in soup.

Chicken Udon Soup

Except for the udon noodles, most of the ingredients you’ll likely have on hand. Now, I used chicken breasts that I canned, but you can certainly cook the chicken in the stock. And you don’t have to use breasts. Use what you like or have on hand. The other main ingredients include a carrot, scallions, spinach, and broccoli.

You might not be as familiar with ginger-garlic paste. It’s available in many markets, but you can easily make it yourself. You can find the instructions to do so here. If you don’t have it or fresh ginger and garlic, dried will work.

The  soup comes together quickly, which will be of great benefit those times when you’re busy. And as always, change up the amounts to reflect your preferences. You can find the recipe here.


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Spice It Up and Make It New: Ginger-Garlic Paste

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We all have go-to recipes. You know, things we often turn to when we just don’t know what to fix for a meal or even a snack. Sometimes they’re healthy. Sometimes not. But they are things we like, so we have them a lot. Perhaps too often. At least in their usual forms.

So what’s wrong with that? I mean, if you like them, why not? On the whole, there’s nothing wrong with that. (Now here’s the “but” you knew was coming.) But the fact is we get bored. And what happens when we get bored? We give in to temptation. And sometimes that means we eat things we shouldn’t, especially if we’re tired and just don’t want to take time to cook something. So we stop at a drive-thru or stop by the store and pick up something already prepared or that we can stick in the microwave. Once in a while, that’s fine. But when it becomes the norm, we’re letting ourselves open to all kinds of problems, including health and financial issues.

But there is help to invigorate the tried and true, and make it something new.


Ginger-Garlic Paste

Herbs and spices are some of the easiest ways to change up a favorite dish. But again, we can become mired in the same old, same old. But trying them in a new form can make us think of them in new ways. Ginger and garlic are popular ingredients in Asian and Indian cuisines, among others. While there are times when dried versions are perfectly acceptable, I believe fresh is usually best. Of course, that means extra work, which is not exactly what you’re looking for when tired or pressed for time. Here is where ginger-garlic paste comes in.

The ingredient list is simple: equal parts peeled ginger and garlic. And fresher is better; my ginger was a little “old,” but it worked fine. Roughly chop and put into a blender or food processor. For smaller amounts, a blender will probably work better, especially if it’s a high-speed one. Add about a half-teaspoon of water to aid blending. You may need to add more, but start small. Then whir until it forms a paste. Store in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.

So now that you have it, what do you do with it? Put it in anything calling for ginger and garlic. I like adding it to a stir-fry and soups. It adds a flavorful twist on a chicken soup, for example.

One word of caution. Ginger-garlic paste has a definite bite to it. Oh, it’s not objectionable, but it’s certainly noticeable. So if what you’re making calls for heat from another source, like crushed red pepper, you may want to go lightly when adding the paste or the pepper. It’s much easier to add more than take some out!


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Savory Soup Sunday: Split Pea and Kielbasa Soup

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One of the best reasons to make your own soup, rather than rely on that stuff in cans, is so you can make it the way you like it. Which brings me to this week’s entry in Savory Soup Sunday–Split Pea and Kielbasa Soup.

Split Pea and Kielbasa Soup

The difference is immediately noticeable. The classic split pea soup usually features peas that have been cooked to almost mush state and then pureed. It’s also often made using a ham bone. While I don’t eat ham, I do like that form of split pea soup, but not enough to make it. So I made adaptations, including using turkey kielbasa.

First, I used turkey kielbasa instead of ham or other pork product. Of course, you could use another meat or leave it out. And while I used chicken stock, if you want to make it vegetarian, use veggie stock. And, as you can see, I left the split peas as they are–no smooshing here.

Begin by browning off meat products, if using. Then add the stock and all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until done. That’s really how easy it is.

As for serving, it’s good on its own and even with some sourdough bread, My favorite way is to add some shaved Parmesan cheese on top. A few fresh spinach leaves is also a good, healthy addition to this hearty, warming soup. Here’s my version.

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Savory Soup Sunday: Lentil and Spinach Stew

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Every once in a while I get in the mood to make lentil soup or maybe a lentil burger. So I buy lentils. If there’s ever a shortage, officials may want to check my pantry. You see, I buy them, but then I forget to actually cook them. Even if I had a specific recipe in mind when I bought them. Well, seriously cold weather and Savory Soup Sunday was the impetus I needed to actually make something with them. Ergo, Lentil and Spinach Stew.

This recipe also complies with the January Pantry Challenge as everything in it comes from my pantry, mostly my dehydrated pantry. Of course, you can use fresh or even frozen ingredients. The recipe reflects what I used. You’ll have to make adjustments if using fresh.

You’ll need minced onion, minced garlic, stock, Worcestershire sauce, carrots, diced tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, lentils, and assorted herbs. You’ll also want some apple cider vinegar; trust me on this. A word about the stock. I call for 6 cups of stock. If using dehydrated items where called for, you’ll probably need all 6. But start with 5 cups and add more if needed.

Everything except the spinach gets thrown in the pot at once. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the lentils are almost tender and the vegetable done. Add the spinach–fresh or dehydrated–and cook until everything is done. Add the vinegar just before serving.

A piece (or 2) of sourdough bread makes a great accompaniment.

Thanks to this stew, lentils will be showing up on my menu more often. You can find my recipe for Lentil and Spinach Stew here.

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