Healing Potage with Parsley and Basil

Serves 4 as a meal or 6 as appetizer=)

Parsley-Basil Drizzle and Coconut Milk drizzled on potage.

As the title suggests, this potage is trés healing and last week, it was just what I needed to help me kick a cold that caught me by surprise.  With all the festivities; the cooking and eating, the drinking, snacking, socializing, the shopping, decorating and wrapping, we forget that it’s a common time to come down with colds and other unwanted ills.  There’s a lot going on and our bodies and our minds get run down eventually needing a break from all the fun.

When I’m feeling under the weather, the first thing I think of is soup to help get me on the path to better health.  Soup is love in a bowl, so it’s a good place to start.

I first encountered this (adapted) recipe in a Vegetarian Times issue some years ago.  Apparently, potage, a thick, creamy soup traditionally consisting of leeks, carrots and potato, is often served at meals in French hospitals.  That’s a far cry from what we see in most hospitals here.  It’s a very simple soup and quite unassuming considering its power in the healing department.  But, it’s often in simplicity that we find the greatest gifts.  There are several gifts that make this soup so healing.

In a nutshell:

Leek– Excellent source of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which provide the body with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant protection.  Leeks also support movement, meaning if you are feeling stuck, physically, emotionally or mentally, you’d be wise to add these to your diet.  “They subtly tonify and support energy movement.”¹ I love Traditional Chinese Medicine interpretations of food.

Garlic– A member of the allium family that is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral.  Need I say more?  Ok, ok, one more thing-it helps eliminate toxins from the body.

Carrot– Beta-carotene is the most researched carotenoid and for good reason.  It’s an antioxidant that kicks a**!  It’s also anti-carcinogenic, anti-aging, and enhances immunity.  Yes, you should be eating more carrots.

Potato– Eaten in moderation, potatoes reduce inflammation and neutralize body acids.  They also boast a good amount of Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins.

Thyme– Thyme enjoys a long history of being used naturally in medicine to treat problems with cough, congestion, bronchitis, etc.²  The volatile oils of thyme contain enough anti-oxidants and anti-microbial properties to round out an already super-hero potage!

I thought I’d sneak this recipe in just before the fun December recipes appear, just in case.  And, you might want to re-visit Trick for Treat, too.  It’s never too late to build some credit for your body!  In case you found yourself in the red however, keep coming back to this soup.  It will always clear the way for you to start feeling better, fast!

*Note – I borrowed Rebecca Katz’s, Parsley Basil Drizzle to jazz it up a bit and boy did it ever!

You’ll need:

2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil

1 large leek, white and pale green parts, sliced (about 3 heaping cups)

1/4 C dry white wine

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small fennel bulb, diced

5 medium-large carrots, sliced

1-2 small yukon potatoes, diced

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 small bay leaves

6-7 C water or vegetable stock (or water with a vegetable bouillon would do fine, too)

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make:

1.  Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the leek and a healthy pinch of salt and cook for about 8 minutes until the leeks are tender.  When tender, add the garlic and fennel and cook for 3-4 more minutes before adding the wine.  Cook everything together until most of the wine has evaporated.

2.  Add the carrots, potato, thyme and bay leaves and about 1/2 C of the water/stock.  Cook together until it’s mostly evaporated.  Add the rest of the water/stock and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, partially covered, or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

3.  Turn off the heat, cover completely and let sit for about 10-15 minutes.  Something magical happens in this time of waiting.

4.  Using a 1C ladle, ladle the soup into a blender keeping liquid and veggies about equal.  Blend until smooth (being sure to hold down the lid with a hand towel).  Pour creamy soup into another sauce pan.  Repeat the process until done.

5.  Bring the creamy potage to a simmer over low heat, if necessary.  Stir in the lemon juice and adjust for salt and pepper.

6.  Serve just as is or with Parsley-Basil Drizzle (see below)

7.  Enjoy and feel better!

Parsley-Basil Drizzle (as deliciously written per Rebecca Katz)

1/4 C tightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 C tightly packed fresh flat-leat parsley leaves

2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 T water

1/4 t sea salt

1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a blender or food processor and process until finely chopped.  Slowly pour in the olive oil (with motor running, if possible) and process until smooth.  Adjust for salt or olive oil or lemon.  Drizzle over soup and Enjoy!

¹Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=77

A Side of Gratitude…and Bacon

Bacon.  That I, a once, decade-long vegetarian would start anything with bacon as a statement is hilarious.  Louis CK Hilarious.  But the truth is that after all the Thanksgiving ideas from all the food blogs I follow and the food magazines I read, (read is strong…more like flip through-I do have a 1 year old after all), I was feeling bombarded and uninspired.  Then I found this recipe in my Bon Appetit magazine:  Mashed Root Vegetables with Bacon Vinaigrette.  I was intrigued.  And along with my swiss chard slaw, this will come with me to my in-laws’ on Thursday.  Yes, there was a vegetarian time when I would have criticized to no end the idea of bacon at the Thanksgiving table, but those days are over.  It’s best to embrace change and to keep an open mind.

Gratitude.  There’s a whole lot of talk about this this week and it’s nice to read and hear what people are grateful for.  As a yogi, it’s a daily part of my practice.  As a Catholic, it comes in just before guilt so it’s pretty important.  (Just a little humor there!)  As a cook, it’s an essential ingredient.  As a MOM, every moment is drenched in it.  You get the picture.

If I imagine gratitude to be served on a dish, I imagine it would be like a chutney.  So simple, stewed with spices and aromas of citrus that add depth and complexity.  It heightens a dish and delights the palate.  Gratitude is warming like that for the soul and it’s spiciness, tanginess and sweetness have a way of opening the heart.  It’s simple yet complex because we have to find ways to be more grateful and not just for the things that are working out in our lives.  That’s easy and it’s a great place to start practicing gratitude.

We have to find a way to be genuinely grateful for those tougher things; those relationships that seem impossible to fix but are even more impossible to let go of, the job you’re still at even if you don’t know why, that nagging knee pain that keeps you from running your personal best, those tight hamstrings that are keeping that graceful standing split elusive-at best, the unfulfilled dreams that toy with you still.  We have to find that gratitude for the challenges that push us to be better versions of ourselves, to be better listeners, true listeners.  Everyday.  It’s humbling.

Being grateful is a practice for a reason, because while our lives may never be perfect, we can perfect gratitude.  And our planet, our communities, our individual selves will all benefit from this act.

My favorite quote on the topic comes from Rumi:

Gratitude is the wine for the soul.
Go on.  Get drunk.

Sounds good to me, friends!

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S.  Thanks for reading.

Pumpkin Oat Waffles

Makes 12 waffles

One of the pluses of all this crazy weather is that there’s plenty of time to use up all that fresh pumpkin puree sitting in my fridge AND freezer!  I’ve had my fill of pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies.  It’s pretty amazing all the places pumpkin sneaks its way into!  I needed a more creative way to use my pumpkin puree and waffles for breakfast was the answer.

One of the things about pumpkin in everything is pumpkin spice.  There are many variations but most have varying amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves.  I took a slightly different route and added ground cardamom and freshly grated nutmeg.  For me it made a world of difference and really woke my tastebuds up!  The other thing that made a difference is FRESH pumpkin puree.  It’s a bit of work, but if done ahead, you’ll have a ton of it for all your recipes, for a while.  And, as always, the hard work is worth it.

The yellow/orange color of pumpkin screams of carotenoids.  Carotenoids are a group of organic pigments found in plants and are responsible for the yellow, orange and red color of vegetables and fruit.  The most popular of the carotenoids are beta-carotene (alpha and gamma, too), lycopene and lutein.  How are they good for us?  Well, carotenoids are powerful anti-oxidants, protecting our cells from free radical damage.  They have anti-cancer properties and play a significant role in inter-cellular communication.  “Researchers now believe that poor communication between cells may be one of the causes of the overgrowth of cells, a condition which eventually leads to cancer. By promoting proper communication between cells, carotenoids may play a role in cancer prevention.”¹  Carotenoids also enhance immune function as well as reproductive processes.  All good reasons to incorporate these colored vegetables into your diet!  (Start with these waffles!)

I also made these waffles for Claire.  I opted for coconut milk and a blend of gluten-free flours (1/2 C oat flour, 3/4 C all-purpose gluten-free flour and 1/4 C coconut flour).  I diced a waffle and topped with fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and a drizzle of coconut oil.  She LOVES this breakfast.  She’ll eat both the GF/dairy-free version as well as this recipe below with the same enthusiasm.  Yay!

You’ll need:

1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 C rolled oats

2 T coconut sugar

2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 t ground cardamom

a pinch of sea salt

1 C milk (or buttermilk if you have it!) – Any nut milk will also work well here.

3 large eggs, at room temperature*

1 C fresh pumpkin puree

2 T coconut oil

1 t vanilla

To make:

1.  Preheat oven to 180° (to keep waffles warm) and prepare your waffle iron.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and soda, spices and salt.  Whisk to blend well.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil and vanilla.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir gently until you reach a smooth batter.

5.  Lightly grease your waffle iron with some coconut oil (or butter if you’re going in that other yummy direction) and add about 1/4- 1/3 cup of batter and spread it to the corners.  Close the lid and let waffles cook until they’re golden brown, until the light on your waffle iron goes off, or roughly about 3-4 minutes!  (It’s best to follow the directions for your specific waffle iron.)

6.  Put waffles in the oven to keep warm while you repeat the process.

7.  Top the waffles with spiced fruit, maple syrup, whipped cream (or whipped coconut cream) or have some over easy eggs with them.

8.  Enjoy!!

*If you have the time and are so inclined, separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the other wet ingredients.  Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer (or whisk if you’re brave!) until soft peaks form.  After you mix the egg yolk/pumpkin mixture with the flour mixture and get the smooth batter, fold in the egg whites.  You’ll get a fluffier waffle!

Claire’s Breakfast

¹ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=116

Creamy Parsnip Soup and Homemade Croutons

Serves 6

Parsnips are one of those intimidating root vegetables.  They’re not exactly in the same category as celery root or kohlrabi, for example, but they do carry a hint of intimidation in them. They look like carrots, in fact, they’re cousins. Parsnips are much sweeter, however and even nutty in flavor. And they often sit in heaps at farmers’ markets, waiting to be picked up, cooked up, eaten!

In lieu of getting our CSA delivered, the past several weeks, my husband, Claire and I have made the 1 hour trip to Blooming Hill Farm. They have a heavenly farm stand.  Let me reiterate: HEAVENLY!  It’s a beautiful farm with beautiful and abundant produce.  They also have eggs, non-homogenized milk, cheese, freshly baked breads, the list goes on.  On top of that, they have a little cafe area where a chef prepares simple fare (frittatas, pizza) with the bounty from the farm.  It was on one of these trips that I picked up everything that went into this soup.  I can’t deny that I get a sense of utter joy knowing that my entire dinner (or breakfast or lunch) came from an organic farm 1 hour away from where I live.  We’re very lucky.

So, while parsnips are busy intimidating some cooks, they’re also intimidating to inflammation and cancer thanks to the anti-oxidants they have.  They are good sources of Vitamin C (another more famous anti-oxidant and water soluble vitamin), rich sources of the B-complex vitamins, especially folic acid (pregnant mamas, take note!) as well as a number of minerals.  According to Rebecca Katz, “ounce for ounce, boiled parsnips have about 31% as much calcium as milk”.¹ (Great for vegans and vegetarians and any lactose-intolerant peeps to know.  There are MANY non-animal sources of calcium!)  Lastly, parsnips are another wonderful source of dietary fiber which is necessary for a healthy gut and colon.

A quick note before we get to the recipe.  Parsnips are quite bold in flavor and can easily take over any dish.  I used fingerling potatoes and the herbs as a way to balance the parsnips out.  I think you’ll love it!

You’ll need:

2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 1/2 lbs. parsnips, roughly chopped (I had 3 large ones that came to about that.)

3-4 medium fingerling potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 C)

a Bouquet Garni of 3 sprigs parsley, 3-4 sage leaves and 1 bay leaf, tied between 2, 3″ pcs of celery

8 C water or vegetable stock (I used water and a low-sodium vegetarian bouillon this time.)

1/4 C rolled oats

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 T lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

For the croutons:

6 small slices of your favorite bread, large dice

2 T extra virgin olive oil

Dried herb of choice (basil or oregano or thyme are delish:)

Sea salt, to taste

To make:

1.  In a medium or large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for 5 minutes before adding celery and carrots.  Season with sea salt.

2. When mire poix (remember that’s the onion, celery and carrots in a 50/25/25 ratio) is tender, add parsnips and potatoes and season again with a little salt.  Deglaze with a 1/4 C of the water or stock and continue cooking for a few more minutes.

3.  When all those veg are sufficiently mixed together, add the water/stock and the bouquet garni.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce to medium-low, add rolled oats and partially cover.

4.  Cook for about 30 minutes or until the parsnips and potatoes are very tender.  Remove the bouquet garni and take saucepan off the heat to settle for 10 minutes.  In the meantime, set up your blender and have a kitchen towel handy.

(While the soup is cooking, you can get the croutons going.  Place the croutons on a sheet pan, drizzle olive oil evenly on bread, then add herbs and salt.  Toss to coat evenly.  Place sheet pan in the oven at 325° for 10-15 minutes, checking often to make sure croutons don’t burn.  Toss when necessary.  Alternatively, you could toast them stovetop but placing the croutons in a sauté pan and cooking over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes.)

5.  One ladleful at a time, carefully place hot soup in an even amount of veg and liquid into the blender.  Blend on high until ultra creamy.  Repeat this process until the soup is done.  Be sure to use the hand towel to hold the lid of the blender because the steam will lift the lid.

6.  Return the soup to the saucepan and place over low heat.  Add the lemon juice and let warm for a couple of minutes.  Do a last minute check on flavor and add salt and/or pepper as needed.

7.  Ladle soup into individual bowls and top with fresh, warm, crunchy croutons!

8.  Enjoy!

¹ Rebecca Katz, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia