Saturday, September 10, 2011

More detoxin': a bright and perky orange soup to liven up your day

 God I just love that color, don’t you?

Okay so maybe you don’t love that color. Maybe you’re all “I’m not ingesting anything THAT orange”, but the thing is, That Orange is all natural and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with any ingredient I used, nothing unhealthy, no garbage; which makes it perfect for detoxing.

I feel a lot better (physically) since returning from Camp Hedo At the Speedway last weekend - although I do miss my friends whom I don’t see very often.  We had a blast.  But since returning to Day Job Activities, working out, and eating normal food again, my body has thanked me.  And after I finished the last drop of the white bean and collard green soup, I went rooting around in the fridge to see what I could blend up with the boat motor (aka stick blender), and found some vedge that needed to be used up.  Half a butternut squash, a red bell pepper that I bought weeks ago, some carrots lounging away in the Rotter Drawer (aka the so-called Crisper Drawer), and you’ve got yourself the makings of a soup.  Butternut squash, carrots, and red bell peppers all have boatloads of nutrients, are low in calories, and are powerful antioxidants. Once blended with a bit of liquid (in this case, fresh vegetable stock), they create a thick texture that is hearty enough to sustain me for lunch and through the afternoon.

You could use any winter squash, really.  Pumpkin would be good.  Any other squash may not have a finished product as orangey, but it would be just as good.

Roasted butternut squash, carrot, and red pepper soup

yield: approximately 4 cups

  • 1 pound butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cut into ½ inch half moons
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into large strips
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Few generous pinches of Madras curry powder
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock (see note that follows)
  • Toasted or roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • Plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss the vedge with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a couple of pinches of salt, and a couple pinches of curry powder.  Place the baking sheet in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes (prick the vedge with a fork to see if they're tender).

2. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.  If using a stick blender, transfer the contents to a heat-proof bowl and add a little of the vegetable stock at a time while blending until it's reached the consistency you like. taste for seasonings (could use more salt or just a hint of the curry?).  If using a blender, you will need to blend the veggies and liquid in small batches so as not to have a veggie volcano in your kitchen (not to mention the burn you'll probably get on your hands and face, not that i have any experience in that, ahem).

3. Sprinkle on a handful toasted pumpkin seeds if you have some.  To toast them, do so in a dry pan on medium heat, keeping an eyeball on them until they’re browned. Do NOT, for the love of Pete, walk away and go do something else for a bit – keep a sharp eyeball on them.

For real decadence (but not exactly detoxy), top each bowlful with a spoonful of plain low fat yogurt or low fat sour cream and slowly blend that in with your spoon.

For the vegetable stock:

Save the trimmings and peels from the vegetables you’re using for the soup; add those to a stock pot along with some cut up celery (minus the leaves – they’re bitter), a couple of bay leaves, couple of peppercorns, a stalk or two of fresh thyme and parsley (you can use whatever vedge you want, actually. This is just what I had on hand). Add 6 or 7 cups of water; bring to a boil and reduce it to simmer while the vegetables roast in the oven.  Then, strain this, saving the liquid and discarding the solids.  You'll have extra for another recipe. And voila, vegetable stock.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Lord, what a weekend. I spent Friday through Monday at the sun-drenched then rain-drenched infield at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for our annual “Lets Get Drunk and Make Asses Out of Ourselves Weekend”. This included a PigFest – we ate a lot of pork products and we ate like pigs, if you catch my drift.   It was also the boy's 40th birthday, so we whooped it up right.

Want some pictures? Of course you do! I must stress that going to the infield means you’re camping. And every year, there is always some broad or two in the bathroom putting on a full face of makeup and straightening her hair. This year was no exception.

That’s me on the right and I was attempting to do jazz hands. Because that’s what you do when you’ve had 4 beers before noon and are making fun of people. Which I’m REALLY good at.

This is our friend Quinlan. He’s drinking a pickle martini, because why not? This was also before noon (of course).

And this video, this is of Jane. She stays about 3 campsites away from ours, and is entertaining as all get out. Jane is the epitome of what goes on in the infield. Don’t believe me?


Jane, um, “appropriated” a Rascal (one of dem dare fancy wheelchairs) and was dead set on getting our friend Erica to sit on her lap. Her method was to ram the damn thing into Erica, which is why Erica is now limping around and unable to wear shoes to work this week. I can only imagine the conversation Erica had with her boss as to why she’s wearing flip flops with dress pants. You can’t make this stuff up.

I always have a really great time, but I’m always supremely pleased to get home because frankly, there is only so much beer and pig I can ingest. My stomach and brain beg for a break.

So! Now begins the Great Detox of 2011, which I hold every year for the week following this race. When I go all detoxy, I tend to unknowingly gravitate towards Asian food. It’s fresh, refreshing, not particularly unhealthy for you unless you’re ordering take-out Chinese from around the corner; and it tastes good. Namely, it satisfies my taste buds. So yesterday morning, I woke up and began my detoxing by reaching for Terry Walters’ Clean Food. I wanted something hearty to satisfy me after my grueling workout but it needed to be light enough to not make me feel heavy. I adapted her Autumn Harvest Soup slightly, then ate two bowls.  It is absolutely what I needed, and very tasty.

Asian-inspired white bean and collard green soup
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms 
  • 6 cups water 
  • Olive oil 
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (or not – I kind of like having larger chunks for this recipe) 
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced up, enough to make 1 tablespoon 
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced 
  • 4 big handfuls of collard greens (kale works too) 
  • 1 can of white beans (Great Northern beans or cannellini work), drained and rinsed 
  • ¼ cup of mirin 
  • 1/8 cup (or more, to taste) of tamari soy sauce
  • Couple of dashes (or more, to taste) red wine vinegar 
  • Sesame oil 
  • Black pepper 

1. Put the water in a pot with the mushrooms and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let it go for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, remove the mushrooms, chop them up (discard stem if you wish) and return to the pot.

2. In the meantime, in a larger pot over medium heat, sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger in a drizzle of olive oil for a few minutes. You don’t want the garlic or onion to burn, so stir often and keep an eye on the heat (reduce heat if necessary). Add the carrots, stir and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes until the carrots become slightly softer. Add the greens, white beans, mirin; continue to sauté and stir occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes (be careful not to break up the beans while you stir). Add the broth with mushrooms, the tamari, the vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Taste at this point; if it seems a bit flat, add a dash more of vinegar and tamari until it’s savory enough for you and is no longer flat (it should “sing”). Add a dash or so of sesame oil, a couple pinches of black pepper; stir, and it’s ready.

The sesame oil I use is infused with hot chilis, and I like that extra kick in my soup. If you only have regular sesame oil, that’s fine; just drop a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes to the pot when you add the broth. Also, you shouldn't need salt as the tamari should add enough savoriness to the dish, but feel free to add some if you want - just be careful not to go overboard with it.