soup

why dieting is bad / aromatic french lentil soup with curly kale

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When the calendar year comes to an end, it’s time to let go of what you did or didn’t do and start anew with a clean blackboard and fresh set of chalk. Translation: it’s almost New Year’s and you’ve been naughty. But despite our best efforts, many of us will end up writing our lofty (or not so lofty) goals for the new year until our theoretical board is more scribbled upon than a kid’s homework doodles. But hey, it’s always a good idea to be better today than you were yesterday. And many of us tend to slack off in the same category. Translation: your body is increasingly fluffy and your gym membership is comparable to paying taxes i.e. you’re essentially giving your money away so that other people can bounce around on an elliptical machine. Solution? Think smaller…not just in the literal I-wish-my-waist-was-as-small-as-either-of-the-Beckam’s way, but in the sense that you need to hone in on the specific food or foods that are forcing you to pretend to love the new one-piece bathing suit trend. Maybe that inner tube around your waist isn’t to protect you from sinking to the bottom of a pond after all, but a manifestation of a gluten intolerance or an overconsumption of sugary foods?

Diets that target the elimination of a specific food or food group are increasingly popular in a culture of perpetual busy-ness. I don’t believe in diets because they are targeted for quick weight loss and aren’t usually suited for long term weight solutions. If you’re overweight and sick all of the time, it’s due to an unhealthy lifestyle, and chances are it won’t be fixed by a short term diet. So to prove that dieting is crazy, I’ve comprised a list of popular diets and broken down the scientific jargon into layperson’s terms. Translation: I make fun of them and then tell you to stop dieting and go vegan. Yay!

Atkin’s: Pound down on bacon, cheese and cream and lose weight. That’s right! It’s called water weight aka the result of glycogen depletion, not some metabolic miracle. You’ll lose weight, but you’ll probably end up with a stone over your head from congestive heart failure. Ask Dr. Atkins about it…oh, wait, he died from a heart attack.

Paleo: Pretend that you’re Fred Flintstone and eat what the cavemen used to eat: lard, tallow, duck fat, foraged berries and nuts. Yummy! Or go hipster and join a farm where you can slaughter your own animal to get “in touch” with your carnal, inner warrior self. Side effects include loss of touch with reality, high cholesterol, and angry neighbors after you shoot their guinea hens with a homemade tomahawk.

Macrobiotics: You want to look like Gwenyth Paltrow, not her fat suit from Shallow Hal. This diet makes a lot of sense, but you’ve got to like seaweed and brown rice…a lot. Like a lot, a lot. And steamed food. And you have to chew your food at least 30 times before swallowing it. So unless you have a 3 hour lunch break or no life at all, this diet ain’t gonna cut it.

South Beach: Carbs are evil. Eat sand and fish. Side effects include wobbly walk and disorientation of the Hunter S. Thompson variety. Okay, not exactly but its got the word “beach” in the title so I couldn’t resist.

Weight Watcher’s: Confusing point system that creates a community of strange people who only talk about food in terms of their number value as determined by Jessica Simpson, who still thinks tuna is chicken.

Jenny Craig: Give Jenny all of your money and she’ll send you crappy food with no taste, but you’ll lose a million pounds just like Jennifer Hudson and become rich and famous!

Solution? Make your new year’s resolution less about dieting and more about a lifestyle change…and cut out one thing. Okay, three things: dairy, sugar and animals. It might be a challenge at first, but you’ll ultimately become as hot as Olivia Wilde, develop abs like Usher, a voice like Carrie Underwood, strength like Mike Tyson, Jared Leto’s eyes, and the comedic genius of Ellen (yup, they’re all vegan!) Now that you’re considering vegan stardom, why not try out this amazing aromatic lentil soup? Lentils are packed with protein, iron, trace minerals and fiber so you’ll be satiated long after you’ve finished your meal (and as a bonus you will see at least one unicorn by the end of the day.)

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Aromatic French Lentil Soup with Curly Kale (adapted from The Artful Vegan)

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

6-8 cloves garlic, smashed through a garlic press or minced

2 inch knob of ginger, peeled and serrated

2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted dry in a pan over low flame until fragrant, then ground with a mortar and pestle

1 tsp caraway seeds, prepared the same as above

1 tsp dill weed

1 tsp thyme, rubbed between your palms

1/2 tsp allspice, or combine equal amounts of nutmeg, cloves, black pepper & cinnamon

4 bay leaves

1/4 cup sherry

2 tsp date sugar or coconut nectar

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 15 oz. can of organic chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 cups french lentils, cooked*

6 cups homemade stock or 4 cups No-Chicken Stock + 2 cups water

1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and chopped

1/4 cup white miso (I recommend South River Miso)

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over a medium flame. Add onions, garlic and ginger and saute until onion begins to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cumin, caraway, dill, thyme, allspice, and bay leaves. Stir and saute for another couple of minutes, then deglaze with sherry, using a wooden spoon to scrap off any pieces of the mixture that have become stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, sweetener, lentils, vinegar, and stock. Bring to a boil, then lower flame and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the kale and simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the flame and whisk in the miso. Season with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaves. Serves 6 dieting unicorns suffering from malnourishment and hallucinations.

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*To cook lentils: In a medium sized pot, add 2 cups of lentils and 4 cups of water or stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender but not mushy.

no power / asian ginger noodle soup

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After ranting on about how hysterical people are about the weather, I’m feeling rather humbled. A Nor’easter in October is all I needed to realize why those nutters (translation: Americans) buy so much bottled water whenever there’s a storm prediction. And speaking of no power, it’s amazing how different your life suddenly becomes when you don’t have it anymore…
Day 1: When it first goes off, it’s kind of exciting in that “hey, this is an adventure” kind of way. You grab a flashlight and pull out all of your candles, then tell the unicorns that they’re not allowed to open the refrigerator door (or any door for that matter) unless absolutely necessary. “We have to keep it cold,” you say with authority, “and we need to keep the house warm”. Then you converse about the last time you lost power and make predictions for when it’s going to come back on. Ten minutes later, you’re already missing it…
It’s 4:30pm and dark, there’s no internet, no TV, no music, no comforting droll of running machines, and you realize that being a pioneer isn’t fun at all. There is really only one thing you can do: read. Reading is fun when you want to read, but not when you have to read. It’s like when you’re at school and your professor tells you that you have to read fifty pages of a book. You instantly feel like reading anything other than the book assigned (and it doesn’t help when the book is Chaucer’s Canterybury Tales…let’s just say that middle english didn’t last for a reason). Luckily, there’s an old issue of Us magazine with Brangelina and her brood on the cover…
Another hour passes. Then another. Then it’s dinner time. You decide to eat all of the perishable food first (translation: one big-ass salad), but it’s so dark out that you can barely see the knife while cutting vegetables…
Another hour passes, and you think, “is it too early to go to bed?” You look at your phone and it says 8:05, so you reorganize a bookshelf. Then you pile the magazines on your coffee table by date, oldest on the bottom, newest on the top. Then you play a game of checkers with your unicorn friend. And then you give up and go upstairs.
Day 2: You wake up to the sound of a distant generator, and look out your window at your neighbor’s house. It’s lit up like a christmas tree and you decide that you never really liked them anyway. Outside, it looks like a war zone and a branch is lying over your car. “Great,” you mumble before walking down the stairs. Suddenly, a cold gust of wind blows into your face; you reach the kitchen and find a branch jutting through one of the windows. This is about the time when you let out one of those high-pitched crazy person laughs and your unicorn friend looks at you with concern.
Day 3: The house is 50 degrees, the refrigerator smells, and you’ve developed a cold. The best part of the day is when you win a game of Words with Friends on your iphone.
Day 4: You’ve finally broken down and have begun reading a book, while dressed in a puffer coat and wearing two pairs of socks. Your hair is in a braid, a dog is in your lap, a candle burns on the table beside you, and you suddenly realize that you’re Laura Ingalls from A Little House on the Prairie. 
Day 5: You spend half of the day trying to move a paperclip after reading a short book on telekinesis.
Day 6: Your unicorn friend wakes you up after you fall asleep with a half eaten can of beans in your hand. You mumble something unintelligible and fall back asleep.
Day 7: The most glorious, stupendous, unimaginable feeling of joy washes over you when you hear the noise of a machine. “Ssshhh!” you yell at the unicorn, “Do you hear that?” He perks his ears forward and nods his furry head. Then you see a light on in the kitchen. It’s too good to be true. You leap and twirl in the air like a madman and feel positively euphoric as you do laundry and dishes…
Day 8: internet and cable still don’t work and the bliss of having hot water, heat and light is already wearing off. Simple creatures with simple needs? I think not…

Since I’ve been cold for about a week, I’m craving something warm and comforting. Solution? Asian ginger noodle soup. This is like mom’s chicken noodle soup, minus the dead bird. Ginger is anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, and a great thing to eat when feeling a little under the weather or nauseated. The best part? This takes less than 30 minutes from prep to finish.

Asian Ginger Noodle Soup
4 scallions, chopped
1 package or 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 heaping tablespoon of peeled and grated ginger (I use a microplane grater)
2 cups (1/2 bunch) of collards, stems removed and sliced into thin ribbons
1/4 cup mirin (I use Eden brand)
2 cups stock (or water) + 1 cup water
1 large handful of thin brown rice noodles (I use Annie Chung’s)
1 can navy beans (or bean of choice) (I use Eden Organic…no bisphenol-A in lining!)
1 T + shoyu or tamari (naturally brewed soy sauces)
2 tsp. brown rice vinegar
A few shakes of Gomasio as a topping, optional (Gomasio is a delectable combination of sesame seeds and sea salt that is absolutely delicious! I use Eden’s garlic gomasio)

In a soup pot, heat oil and add scallions and ginger. Cook a few minutes, then add mushrooms and collards. Deglaze with mirin and allow to bubble for a few minutes, then add stock or water + additional water, cover with a lid, and bring up to a boil. Once boiling, add noodles and cook until soft, about 2 minutes, then reduce heat to low, add beans and allow to simmer, partially covered for a few more minutes. Season with rice vinegar and shoyu, then serve in bowls with gomasio sprinkled on top. Serves 3 unicorns suffering from Vampire Diaries withdrawal…

sentimental pillows / cozy butternut squash soup

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Why is it that people feel the need to write sayings on clothing, pillows, wallpaper, plates, absurdly small dog collars, cat food bowls, and generally every object found in a child’s room?  My husband and I used to live next to a family with a stencil above the doorway that read: “have I told you lately that I love you?”.  Oh, crap- no you haven’t, but now that it’s permanently written above the doorway, I’ll always remember that you do love me!  I’m sorry, but there’s no way that this kind of blatant gesture of paint on a wall can be interpreted as genuine (at least to me).  And why is it necessary to begin with?  Do we really need to be reminded of these things so that we don’t forget to “live, love, laugh”?  I can’t even imagine living in a house like our neighbors…
You wake up to the sound of the alarm and slowly open your eyes, but then the bronze letters above your bed reading “dream a little dream” lull you back to sleep. Twenty minutes later, your dog licks your cheek and you grab a decorative pillow to protect your face, but then you notice the writing embedded in the needlepoint “cold nose, warm heart” and you suddenly feel guilty.  You slide into a pair of slippers that say “pink isn’t just a color, it’s an attitude” and walk into the kitchen, feeling sassy. Your cats are already standing impatiently beside their bowl “cats make everything purr-fect” so you pour them some food, then heat up some water for tea.  The backsplash behind the stove say’s “the queen doesn’t cook” so you fix your tea and decide to wait for your husband to make breakfast while you sit in the den.  Then you notice a plaque above the television that says “king of the remote” and you’re suddenly annoyed with him for waking up later than you.  Feeling lonely, you wrap yourself in a blanket that says “mother is another word for love” and the next thing you know, you’re crying on the couch and have forgotten all about your tea, which is in a mug decorated with the phrase “instant human: just add coffee”.  It somehow seems like a lie to have tea in such a mug, so you waddle back to the kitchen in your blanket and dump the tea out in the sink and put the coffee pot on.  Next to the bread basket is a cake stand painted with the words “life is short, eat dessert first”, and it suddenly occurs to you that you no longer care about your diet anymore, and besides, “well behaved women rarely make history” stares back at you from the plate in your hand (you know this doesn’t mean “stuff your face you rebellious woman” but you’re feeling emotional and need some sugary support).  Third cupcake in hand, you sit at your computer and smile at a framed picture of your best friend with sparkly letters that reads “if friends were flowers, I’d pick you” and you decide to write her an email, explaining how you have inexplicably eaten three cupcakes, cried, and felt both guilty and empowered all in the course of the last hour.  Solution?  I think you already know…

In the spirit of sentimentality, let’s make some cozy, sit-by-the-fire and watch The Sound of Music butternut squash soup.  Butternut squash is my favorite winter squash variety, and with it’s natural sweetness and velvety texture, it’s just perfect for a yummy soup.

Cozy Butternut Squash Soup

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 3 inch cubes
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 T dried parsley
4 cups stock (Imagine No-Chicken stock or homemade)
1-2 T apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s Organic)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed stock pot (I use an all-clad copper corepot and I love it!), heat oil on medium flame and add squash, onions, celery, parsley and the bay leaf.  Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes, then add the stock and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cover with lid, reduce flame to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup (remove the bay leaf first!) in batches, and return to pot.  Gently reheat if needed and add the apple cider vinegar and more salt and pepper to taste.  If you prefer a sweeter soup, you may add 1-2 T maple syrup instead of the apple cider vinegar.  Serve with a crusty loaf of sourdough bread to 4 sentimental unicorns as starters or 2 sentimental unicorns as a main.

why I love golf / evil seitan stew

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My husband (Don Draper) works in the golf industry (translation: he works weekends and now I hate the summer).  In fact, he is the reason we moved to Hawaii in the first place; to learn the ins and outs of the industry, otherwise known as “how to keep rich men happy in the great outdoors”.  The short answer?  Give them alcohol, a set of metal clubs and rubber balls, and a motorized vehicle.  It’s the simple things.  Of course many women (including myself) like to play golf as well, but let’s just say the golf club experience is a little different for us girls.  The first problem is the locker room.  Unless you have a map of the underground, it’s nearly impossible to find the ladies locker room.  “Go down the stairs, turn left, and follow the corridor to the end of the hall, just past the laundry room”.  Gee, thanks, I can’t wait to see the view.  The ladies locker room is typically saturated in some shade of pink with flowered, pouffy cushions and little bottles of scented creams and plastic hair brushes (because we love pink, soft things like bunnies and puppies and we’re very sensitive to dark colors and loud noises).  The men’s locker room?  How could you miss it; go straight through the damn entrance and it’s right in front of you with a stuffed deer head above the doorway.  What happens inside is a mystery of course because the women aren’t allowed in such places (I’m fairly sure, however, that the men are honing the blades of their swords, suiting up in chainmail, and eating raw meat).  After lacing up my tasseled, white golf shoes and popping up my collar (so that you know I went to private school), I emerge from the locker room, and run into a laundry woman. Oops, I’m still downstairs…she gives me directions.
Out on the driving range, men stuffed in pastel polo shirts, shorts with animal prints, and sock-less loafers are demoing the latest clubs and congratulating each other on being masters of the universe.  I love the smell of freshly cut grass, the crisp thrusting sound of a club across a tee as it sends a ball into flight, the muddled thump of the ball as it lands on a moist green…and the laughter of old men quoting Caddy Shack and telling racist jokes.  What more could a woman ask for?
For a couple of years, Tom and I did the whole “following the season” thing, where you go south for the winter so you can continue to play golf (translation: a never-ending winter of work for Tom).  At first, I was excited about this idea because it meant that we were going to spend the entire winter in Florida.  Sounds pretty amazing, right?  Wrong.  As soon as my flip flops touched the warm sand, I realized that Florida is full of semi-retired, retired, or semi-dead people who eat egg salad sandwiches, play bridge, and eat dinner at 5:00pm.  Needless to say I had to get creative…
Solution?  I Read the entire Twilight series and became so withdrawn from reality that when Tom came home at night, I looked at him with disappointment.  “You really wish I was a vampire, don’t you?” he asked.  Yes, I replied, I really do…

Speaking of vampires…let’s make some Evil Seitan Stew!  This stew is filled with sinful red wine, seitan himself, and tons of naughty vegetables.  Seitan (yup, pronounced just like our old buddy, the devil) is a delicious meat alternative made from wheat gluten that’s packed full of rebellious protein.  I love making stews, so even though it’s still warm outside, I am channeling my inner autumn princess and forging ahead in the 70 degree weather.  I think you should do the same.

Evil Seitan Stew

1 package seitan, rinsed, squeezed & sliced thin (I use The Bridge seitan, which is locally made in Middletown...Hooray for CT!)
2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 T Organic Earth Balance butter (Earth Balance will become your new best friend because it tastes like butter, but without the nasty dairy and cholesterol)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
5 small potatoes (I use yukon gold), quartered
2 cups butternut squash or sweet potato, chopped in small chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups stock (homemade or Imagine No-Chicken Stock)
1/4 cup + a few splashes dry red wine, divided
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup tamari or shoyu
1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
3 cups, loosely packed kale, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
Sea salt & black pepper to taste
2 tsp arrowroot (look in spice section of Whole Foods for this thickener, which isn’t GMO and heavily processed like cornstarch)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery, and cook for a few minutes, until softened.  Add the potatoes, squash, garlic, wine, bay leaves, and stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.  While it’s simmering, take out a saute pan, heat the remaining oil and butter over medium-high flame, and add seitan.  Cook for 2 minutes, then add a splash or two of wine, and salt & pepper.  Use a wooden spoon to gently detach seitan from pan and flip over, cooking for a few more minutes until golden brown.  Set aside to cool and tell that unicorn to stop sampling the stew!  Add the tamari/shoyu, mushrooms, kale, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Stir in arrowroot and cook until stew begins to thicken.  Add seitan to reheat, and serve with crusty bread or noodles!  Feeds 4 unicorns after a tough round of golf.