I feel like in January soups and salads battle it out for prominence on our plates. Salads because so many of us are looking to balance out the overindulgence of the holidays. And soups because, well, nothing is better for balancing out the cold weather. For me, soups have to win hands down. After all I can eat a salad any day of the year. But I’m not going to go for a hot bowl of lentil soup in the heat of July. I embrace soup season wholeheartedly.
This soup from the New York Times has been a staple in my kitchen since it was published in 2008. I love it for its pantry friendly ingredients list, its freezer-friendliness and its easy set and forget nature. I like to top it with toasted spiced pumpkin seeds. Or a dollop of yogurt. Or lots of cilantro. What will be your favorite garnish? Find the recipe here.
When it comes to either/or questions I try to remember first to question the question. Why should I choose one or the other? Form or function? Yes please. Republican or Democrat? No thank you. Healthy or tasty? Of course.
Hummus is the proof you don’t have to choose. Tasty enough to make an afternoon break with vegetables something to look forward to and packed with protein and fiber, hummus fills both sides of the equation with flair. Flexible enough to dress up with any number of spices or flavors, it’s also incredibly cheap to make and freezes so well that the slight inconvenience of planning ahead to soak the beans is more than made up in the ease of making and storing a large batch. Though if you are in a hurry, hummus made with canned beans still out-performs the store-bought stuff any day.
Hummus to me is bound up with a memory of making batch after batch in a sunny kitchen with only a mini food processor while my roommates and friends sat around the table eating it with lime chips and laughing. At the time I improvised my hummus recipe but for some reason was intimidated to use anything other than canned beans. Since then I have been converted to using dried beans and experimented with different techniques and flavors, throwing in dill or paprika, using freshly toasted and ground cumin, sometimes roasting my garlic. I even tried peeling the chickpeas (Yes, peeling the chickpeas gave me a lovely creamy hummus. No, it was absolutely not worth the hassle). There is always homemade hummus in the freezer.
When my friends ask for my hummus recipe I want to tell them to just look at the ingredients list and pull out their food processor – it’s that easy to figure out. But if you would like to have more specific guidance, check out these two recipes. You can’t go wrong.
Vegetables and I are not exactly soulmates. When I’m hungry I don’t instinctively long for broccoli or any of its cousins. I have to plan, set goals*, and regularly remind myself of how good I feel after I eat the vegetables. Let’s not even start on how undeservedly virtuous I feel when I’ve added a healthy dose of greens to my post-workout smoothie. Oh yes, I pat myself heartily on the back when I act like an adult and actually eat my veggies.
In my world, one of the best tricks to get me to perform this grown-up responsibility (aside from adding bacon or butter) is to make it convenient. Enter the leafy green purée.
My grocery stores give the option of buying spinach or kale in clamshells or plastic bags or in super large bunches. Even if the produce in the clamshells or plastic bags didn’t smell faintly of death upon opening, all of the options are too much greenery for one person to eat before things start to wither. So I purée and freeze them in mini silicone muffin cups. They take up hardly any space in my freezer, I’m no longer feeling guilty about wasted wilted produce, and they conveniently sit right next to the frozen bananas also intended for a smoothie. A couple of mini muffin’s worth of greens is plenty to earn me a vegetable pat on the back for the day.
This doesn’t exactly rate as a recipe, but it is one of my favorite kitchen tricks. Stay tuned for a soup recipe that makes use of the frozen greens.
Leafy Green Purée
1 bunch Spinach or Kale Enough water to purée A splash of lemon or lime juice
Combine all ingredients in your food processor or blender. Process until as smooth as you like. Pour into cups. Freeze. Once frozen, I prefer to remove the purée from the cups and store them loosely in a Ziploc bag.
Alternatively, throw a can of coconut milk in with or instead of the water.
*Currently, my vegetable goal is at least one daily serving of leafy greens, at least one daily serving of a red or orange vegetable, and at least one daily serving of legumes. And yes, it takes painful amounts of self-control to meet this goal.