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Raising the Bar at the Salad Bar

If you’re gonna eat lettuce and carrots like a rabbit because you’re on a diet or a diabetic or health nut…you will very quickly get sick and tired of the average bagged salad that sits in your fridge drawer quickly forgotten until it starts smelling bad or you stumble on it when looking for something else behind the mayo and mustard.

If you’re gonna eat lettuce and carrots like a rabbit, you must learn to raise the bar on your home salad bar…otherwise eating salad will become just another health food to log into your food diary.

But before we talk about all of the different leafy greens that are available, let’s learn a few basic rules that you should remember…

Nutrition…As far as nutrition goes, all leafy greens are good for you—being great sources of folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and calcium…but not all leafy greens are as healthy as the rest of the family.

As a general rule, the darker the green, the healthier the green.

Kale and spinach are always better choices than iceberg lettuce or endive.

Lettuce is about 95 percent water…and gives you half as much of the recommended daily value of vitamin K and vitamin A.

Selecting Leafy Greens...Make sure that the leafy greens are buying to make your salad are fresh and crisp… not wilted, limp, and withered.

Avoid any leafy greens that have brown or yellow edges, or dark or slimy spots.

If you are buying bagged greens, always check the use-by-date.

Storing Leafy Greens..Always rinse your leafy greens before using because the folds in leafy green vegetables easily accumulate dirt.

The best way to store your leafy greens is to wash and dry them, layer the leaves in wet paper towels or a kitchen towel, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate in the crisper drawer.

Never store greens near fruits, such as apples or bananas, Fruit gives off ethylene gas as it ripens and will cause the greens to develop brown spots and decay rapidly.

Drying Greens…Always make sure that the greens are bone-dry before using them in your salad. Otherwise the dressing will not cling to the leaves and you’re more likely to have a soggy salad.

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Let Us Talk About Lettuce

  • Whether you are a diabetic or on a diet or a vegetarian or raw foods advocate, it might seem like you are eating salad night after night after night…not to mention for lunch also.

  • But the same old salad made the same old lettuce can get extremely boring…extremely…
  • So why not add some variety to your mandatory salad by adding more leafy greens to your instacart order?
  • There is a wide range of leafy green vegetables to choose from other than lettuce…
  • But these can seem to overwhelming, and you’ve only been eating lettuce for how long…
  • So let’s now take a look at the various leafy greens vegetables that are available—starting with the basics of selecting, storing, and using them in salads. ..as well as the nutritional value of different varieties…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sing A Ballad to the Salad

So now that we all know how to make the perfect soup…

Now what?

 

 

Well, since my goal is to work my way through the Raw Foods pyramid in an effort to learn how to cook more healthy for the sake of my newly-diagnosed diabetic husband,

and the base of the Raw Foods yramid is leafy greens…

 

It only goes to reason that eventually we’d talk about salad, right?

 

…but salad can get so very boring…especially when you are constantly eating  bagged salad night after night after night.

 

So let’s see what’s required to make a salad actually worth eating, and then sing ordinary baggad salad a farewell ballad.

In the next few posts, we’ll be taking a look at…

  • Leafy green
  • Vegetables
  • Add-ins
  • Dressing your salads
  •  

So let’s get ready to all raise the bar on our at-home salad bar, ready?

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Finish the Dish

But what?

But what if you go to all this trouble and simply find your soup one great big inedible or at least tasteless mess…

Then what?

There are still some things that will help rescue your failed soup and to also make your soup one that you would even be happier to feed your family.

Such as what?

1.If you like crumbly cheese, add some crumbly cheese such as…

  • feta
  • goat cheese
  • ricotta salata

2If you like grated cheese, add grated cheeses such as…

  • Asiago
  • Parmesan
  • pecorino

3. If you want to add some creaminess, add… 

  • crème fraiche
  • sour cream
  • yogurt

4. If you want to add some crunch, add…

  • croutons
  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • toasted sesame seeds

5. If you would like to give you soup more of a kick, add one of the following, depending on which tye of sou you are making…

  • apple cider vinegar
  • beer
  • white wine

6. If you want a brighter flavor, add a squeeze of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar.

7. If you want a savory flavor, add one of the following…

  • anchovy paste
  • fish sauce
  • miso
  • soy sauce
  • Worcestershire

8. If your soup is too salty, add one of the following and then boil for about twenty minutes more…

  • raw otato
  • finely shredded cabbage
  • cooked beans
  • rice
  • pasta

9. If your soup is too watery or simly boring, add… 

  • canned or frozen mixed vegetables
  • cooked kidney or white beans
  • corn
  • drained canned tomatoes
  • finely shredded cabbage

10. If you want to add even more flavor, add some fresh herbs, such as…

  • basil
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • parsley

11. If the bottom of the dish has scorched…Leaving the heat on too high or not keeping an eye on the sou as it cooking often means that your sou will burn at the bottom. If this haens, salvage whatever liquid you can from the to without scraing the bottom cra into the sou, but do not scrape the burned meat and veggies into the rest of the remaining good sou, or you’ve just wasted your time and your ingredients for nothing.

12. If you would like to reduce the fat content in your soup, make the soup a day or two before and refrigerate. When you get ready to serve it, simply scrape off the fat that will rise to the top and reheat.

13. If you want your soup to taste even better, cooking and refrigerating like this makes them also taste better.

And if your soup is too hot, take a walk around the block…

Who knows…you might even find Goldilocks at your house when you get back?…Just hope that you don’t see a bear…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Mastering Ministrone

So now that we’ve bought the perfect pot, found the perfect recie, bought the best veggies, sliced and diced, and so forth…

Now what?

1.Constantly keep an eye on your soup while it is cooking. This will allow you to  adjust the spices and cooking temperature as needed.

2. Cook on low heat. Don’t think that cooking your soup at a higher temperature will ensure that everything will actually get cooked instead of being raw or hard when you are ready to serve the soup.

Doing this will instead turn your meat into tough, hard-to-chew pieces…not to mention possibly ruining the bottom of that expensive soup pot that we all went out and bought after reading a previous article, right?

Instead bring your soup slowly to a boil and then allow the soup to simmer for the rest of the cooking time.

This will allow the ingredients to maintain their structure and integrity, while at the same time combining all of the ingredients into a flavorful soup.

3. Cover or not?…Depending on the finished product that you want,  leaving the soup uncovered or covering the soup with the lid is a matter of personal  reference. Leaving the lid off will make the soup base evaporate faster, creating a thicker and more flavorful soup.

4, Dig in Deep…There are many soup recipes out there that  require taking some of the soup as it is cooking and blending it and then adding it back into the soup in order to thicken the soup. Using an immersion blender will reduce the risk of your getting burned and make this job easier and neater.

Here is a list from Good Housekeeping of some of the most highly recommended immersion blenders available…

5. Use your brain when using grains…Pasta and grains that are called for as ingredients will often overcook. Avoid this by cooking them separately and then adding them into the soup just before serving.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Spice Is Right

Now that you have created or chosen your base liquid…and sliced and diced and maybe even roasted your veggies…it’s time to add any spices and other seasonings that you might like.
The seasonings that you add to your soup at this point will honestly be a matter of personal preference, Feel free to add only one seasoning, but also experiment to find a spice combination that you and your family all enjoy.
Seasonings also can be based on what you are cooking. Good choices would be…

  • Beef soups…marjoram, rosemary, thyme
  • Chicken soups…celery seed, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and sage
  • Chilis…chili powder, cumin
  • Cream soups…parsley, thyme.
  • Meaty, hearty soups…cumin
  • Tomato-based soups…basil, oregano or fennel

Regardless what you are making or what seasonings you are adding, never use so much seasoning that it is overpowering.

 

Here are a few of the most commonly used seasonings…

 

1. Fresh herbs…You can add only one fresh herb or a combination of herbs to your soup, based on what your family likes best.

You can add the fresh herbs either with the woody stems still attached or not. It really doesn’t matter because the stems and leaves will drop off as they cook, Once your soup is finished, simply remove these can be removed with tongs or a slotted spoon before serving.

Fresh herbs will have a more intense flavor if added near the end of the cooking time.

 

 

2. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhance rhat brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhancer that brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Even if a soup recipe doesn’t call for garlic, you can always add two or three cloves of garlic without worrying that your soup will have a garlicky taste.

 

.3. Ginger...Ginger is another flavor enhancer. Adding ginger to vegetable and chicken soups adds a slightly sweet taste and aromaFresh herbs…Fresh herbs provide an intense and complex flavor. Use three or four tablespoons of chopped, fresh herbs for ten to twelve cups of soup.

4. Spice Cabinet Spices…Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground spices per ten to twelve cups liquid.

Some of the most commonly used spices include…

  • allspice
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • fennel
  • turmeric
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Roast for the Most

As far as prepping your vegetables to go into your soup there are at least four trains of thought…

You can either add them without cooking them first, boil or steam them, saute them, or roast them.

Roasting is perhaps your best opption because roasting caramelizes the vegetables’ natural sugars to bring out a delicious natural sweetness and helps emphasize the unique flavor of each vegetable.

Roasted vegetables can also be used as a flavorful side dish or meatless entree.

So which vegetables can you roast? And how do you do it?

Pretty much any and all vegetables can be roasted. There are no set rules as to which vegetables to roast. It’s more a matter of what you have on hand and what you discover that you like or don’t like.

Here are some of the most commonly roasted vegetables, as well as how to get the vegetables ready to be roasted and the time that you should roast them.

Always choose the best veggies for roasting that you can. The best raw veggies will obviously give you the best cooked veggies also.

Keep in mind that these may vary about five or ten minutes, depending on how small you cut your vegetables before roasting them.

Also keep in mind that green beans, broccoli, and other green-hued vegetables will turn an ugly olive green, and green beans tend to shrivel before becoming tender.

Flip the veggies half-way through baking time: Around the 20 minute mark of roasting these veggies, make sure to flip and stir the vegetables around a bit. This ensures an even roasting on ALL sides of ALL the veggies.

 

Prep

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Roasting vegetables at such a high temperature helps caramelize on the outside. If the oven temperature is too low, the vegetables will overcook before achieving the desired browning.

Wash your vegetables and pat them as dry as possible. The drier the vegetable, the better it will roast…

Slice and dice your veggies into bite-sized pieces.

More on this later, but for now two things to keep in mind..

  1. Uniform pieces cook more evenly.
  2. Smaller pieces cook more quickly.
  • Asparagus:…Wash and break off woody bases where spears snap easily. Leave spears whole or cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Baby leeks:…Trim and halve lengthwise. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Roast at 450°F for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Beets, baby or regular:…Scrub and peel beets. Trim off stem and root ends. If desired, halve or quarter them.
  • Bell peppers:…For regular-size peppers, wash, seed, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. For small peppers, if desired, roast whole, then remove stems and seeds.
  • Brussels Sprouts…Trim stems and remove any wilted outer leaves; wash. Cut any large sprouts in half lengthwise.
  • Carrots…Trim and peel or scrub baby carrots or regular carrots. Cut regular carrots into bite-size pieces or thin strips
  • Cauliflower:…Wash and remove leaves and woody stem. Break into florets
  • Eggplant:…Peel if desired. Quarter lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  • Fennel:…Trim stalks and cut a thin slice from the bottom of the bulb. Cut the bulb into thin wedges.
  • Onions:…Remove papery outer layer. Cut into thin wedges.
  • Parsnips:…Trim and peel parsnips. Cut into bite-size pieces or thin strips.
  • Potatoes…Whole tiny potatoes, quartered, work especially well for roasting. For larger potatoes, cut them into bite-size pieces. Peeling is not necessary, but scrub well before using.
  • Squash:…Baby zucchini can be roasted whole. Larger zucchini should be cut into bite-size pieces or slices.
  • Sweet potatoes:,..Scrub and peel. Cut into bite-size pieces.
  • Tomatoes:…Wash and halve lengthwise.
  • Zucchini…Baby zucchini can be roasted whole. Larger zucchini should be cut into bite-size pieces or slices

Once you’ve cut your vegetables down into bite-sized pieces, toss them a tablespoon or two of oil—such as olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil. I normally do this in a huge Ziploc bag.

This will help the vegetables cook more evenly, make them crispier, and add a rich flavor.

Feel free to add whatever you want to your vegetables before you roast them. This is not necessary, but a few of the things that can be added to your veggies are…

  • balsamic vinegar
  • brown sugar
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • pomegranate syrup
  • spices—such as ginger, nutmeg, rosemary or sage

Rub the oil into the vegetables with your hands to make sure they’re evenly coated.

Spread the vegetables out on a foil-lined and sprayed rimmed baking sheet, in an oven-proof skillet, or in a baking dish. Make sure they are in a single layer with a little space in between. If they are too crowded, the vegetables will steam instead of roast.

Add more oil if the vegetables still look dry or don’t seem evenly coated.

 

 

 

Oven

Cooking times will vary depending on which vegetable or vegetables you are roasting. It is possible to roast different vegetables together, but you want to wait to add those that will require the least amount of cooking time so they won’t burn.

  • Stir the vegetables occasionally while they are cooking.
  • Cook until the vegetables are tender and brown on the edges.

10 to 15 minutes

  • asparagus
  • baby leeks
  • bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts):
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • summer squash
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini

30 to 40 minutes

  • acorn squash
  • beets
  • butternut squash
  • carrots
  • fennel
  • garlic
  • leeks
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • parsnips
  • potatoes
  • shallots
  • sweet potatoes
  • turnips

Roast until the vegetables are tender enough to pierce with a fork and you see some charred bits on the edges. Those charred bits are what make roasted vegetables so good, so even if the vegetables are already tender and cooked through, keep roasting until you see the vegetables start to turn toasty around the tips and edges.

Once the vegetables have finished roasting, scrae them onto wire cooling racks to…what else, cool…

Once they have cooled, store them in airtight containers in your fridge. They will stay good for about five days.

Check and stir the vegetables every 10 to 15 minutes. Continue roasting until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork or knife and they are showing crispy, charred bits at the tips and edges.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Veggie Tells—Using Vegetables in Soups

There are many ingredients that could be added to your “stone soup” to make a meal fit for a king…or a diabetic husband.

These could include…

  • Aromatic vegetables such as onions, celery and mushrooms…to  add rich flavor
  • Chiles…to give your soup a little “kick”
  • Citrus peels and juice…to brighten and lift flavor
  • Fats such as butter or olive oil and strong cheeses…to provide richness and texture
  • Nuts of all types…to act as thickeners
  • Sweeteners such as honey and brown sugar… to mellow tart ingredients

In these next few posts, we’ll look at these ingredients, the method, and the finishing touches that will help you create soups that anyone would be proud to serve.

 

Don’t throw anything away…The stems and tops from such veggies as broccoli, chard and leeks. These will become tender when cooked and provide extra nutrients and fiber.

 

Fresh is Best…One of my main goals in the last year has been to eliminate as many processed foods—those foods that contain added preservatives, flavor and color.

So it only makes sense for me to tell you to always use fresh veggies if you can get them.

Fresh vegetables will add both more flavor and nutritional value to your soups and stews.

If you must choose something other than fresh veggies, always choose frozen over canned.

 

Add the vegetables to your soup in the order of the time it take  to cook them...Here are the cooking times of some of the vegetables most commonly used in soup…

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peass
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

Rinse canned beans before adding them to your soup. This will reduce the amount of sodium by a third….

 

Roast for the Most..Typically you would first saute your veggies in about Tbsp of some type of healthy fat, like butter or olive oil, before adding to the soup.

But another great idea to roast them instead.

Roasting your vegetables in the oven before you add them to your soup will give them a much more intense flavor.

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making Stock

    This last year I’ve been trying to cut back on how much processed food our family eats and also to save money on groceries.
    And being that I make lots of sous and stews during the months of January and February, I’ve decided to start making my own broth and stock for sous.
    No other ingredient makes as big of a difference in the result of your soup making than its liquid. If the liquid is not very good, even the bst ingredients cannot be enjoyed either.

 

Store Bought Options…Sure, you could buy your broth or stock straight off the grocery store shelf in the standard can or paper container

But making your own is well worth the time…

 

Why?

  • Making your own stock is less expensive.
  • Most store-bought versions contain way too much salt.
  • Most store-bought versions  contain too many preservatives.
  • Most of these contain ingredients that you yourself would never want in your stock in the first lace.

If you do choose to use store-bought stock, you can add more flavor by adding extra meat, herbs, and spices…and then simmer for at least twenty minutes.

 

So now it all comes down to the how…and the how much…

As far as how much, most soups will require about eight cups of stock or broth as the liquid base, or one cup per serving.

There are four basic tyes of stock that should be in your recie reertore…

  • Beef…adds lots of richness to pasta-based soups…Martha Stewart
  • Chicken…your basic stock for almost every recie there is…Simply Recipes
  • Fish…obvious choice for chowders and soups that need extra savory flavor, such as tomato…The Spruce Eats
  • Vegetable…for soups that require some complexity such as curries and for vegetarians…Martha Stewart

Regardless which stock you make, you can always make it and freeze it for later. I like to freeze the stock in old 32-ounce yogurt containers.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Soup’s On

Now that the Christmas ornaments are all being taken off the tree and the lights are…or not…being taken off the house…it’s time to get back to the real world.

And the real-world responsibility of having to plan and prepare decent meals for our families almost every night of the week.

Having these nightly meals requires planning and thinking ahead…more so when you find our that your significant other has type 2 diabetes…the main thing I have learned this last year.

Fortunately this is also the time of year for one of my favorite things…

SOUP…

Soup is definitely the ultimate comfort food—both nourishing and warming to the body as well as the soul.

And soup can be made so many different ways—such as chicken noodle soup, vegetable beef stew, clam chowder—to name a few.

Regardless the type of being made, there are certain things to keep in mind as you add soup to your menu plan this winter…certain things that will always remain the same regardless the type of soup being made.

Soup is great this time of year also because as a chef, or at least as a cook, you can easily transform practically any ingredient into a delicious, satisfying meal that will allow to use  whatever ingredients you already have on hand and not have to get back in the cold now that the holidays are over.

In this next series of posts, we’ll look at the ingredients and method used to make a great pot of soup…much better soup than anything you could ever get out of a can or a box…