I love to eat! But I'd rather not spend a lot of time cooking. I developed these crockpot recipes with inspiration from Heaven's Banquet—Ayurvedic Vegetarian Cookbook by Miriam Hospodar, and The Ageless Woman—Natural Health & Beauty After Forty, by Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf, an expert in the system of natural medicine called ayurveda.
For a recipe index, see the Blog Archive below.
Crockpot Soupe Basics:
I'm an intuitive cook; I use words like "about" or "handful". My recipes make about four servings of hearty soup. The basic measurements are: 1/4 - 1/3 cup whole grain; approx. 1/3 cup lentils; 1.5 quarts of water; 1.5 - 2 Tablespoons of ghee (clarified butter, highly recommended by ayurveda) or vegetable oil; 1 teaspoon of salt; 1 rounded Tablespoon of spices; and about 3 cups of mixed veggies. I use, and recommend, organic ingredients for the purest food and optimal nutrition. I hope this blog helps you enjoy good eatin', good health, and creative cooking! I love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In praise of parsley

Okay this may be cheating a bit, but I wanted to share this article called Slim Pickings from the NY Times because it has good, realistic tips for healthy cooking on a tight budget.

I would add to these suggestions the humble parsley. Parsley is loaded with nutrients, and is cheap. What's more, you can grow it easily in a container on your porch. If you're making crockpot soups, add a handful of freshly chopped parsley right before serving.

Here's the herb bed I'm going to make, if I get my act together... Otherwise, I'll simply use a container near my kitchen door.

Nutrients in plants come from nutrients in the soil, so be sure to use quality, organic potting mix or good, clean dirt with soil amendment. Start now! Spring is upon us.

Now is also the time to check out local Community Supported Agriculture co-ops. For a seasonal subscription, you get fresh produce, often at great prices compared to grocery store prices.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rutabaga stew

I admit, I was wary of the rutabaga. But when I go grocery shopping I scan the produce sections for anything local and decide if I want to eat it. Rutabagas caught my eye. Why not give it a try? They're healthy (healthful, actually...) and it turns out they're tasty.

Today's lunch:
1/3 cup+ brown lentils
1/3 cup+ mixed millet and brown rice
Bring to a boil 1.5 quart of vegetable stock. You could also use water with or without bouillon cubes. Let it cook in the crockpot for about an hour on high.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of ghee or olive oil, add 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add half of one small sweet onion (or use 1 tsp of hing) and one celery stalk, both finely chopped. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of Simply Organic all purpose seasoning. Add one medium rutabaga, finely diced. (It smelled kind of skunky while I was peeling it, but the flesh itself is sweet.) Sautee on medium until the vegetables begin to brown slightly.

Add a few sundried tomatoes, coarsely chopped, plus 1-2 cups of broccoli florettes, and stir to coat the broccoli with the oil. Add 1 teaspoon of mineral salt.

Mix the whole shebang with the lentils and grains, and turn the crockpot to low/warm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cabbage soup with panir

Yum! This is a complete “Indian meal” in soup form, minus the gulab jamin.

Yesterday evening I made panir, a delicious fresh cheese. This soup may also be good with crumbled tofu*, but the flavor of panir is wonderful. Here is a sure-fire method, taught to me by a friend, which has never failed me: Bring to a boil two glasses (approx. 16 ounces) of organic milk, plus about half a glass of water to prevent the milk from scorching. Use medium heat, and stir pretty much constantly. (In other words, don’t leave the room....) When the milk comes to a roiling boil — and while still boiling — add about 2 Tablespoons of lime juice (Lakewood organic, pure lime juice.) Curds will form immediately, separating from the whey. If the liquid still looks milky, add a little more lime juice. Continue to boil for a few minutes (longer makes firmer panir). Pour through a sieve. (Keep the whey if you want to use it for soup etc. It’s very nutritious.) Fresh panir can be refrigerated but best used by the next day.

Soup starts with 1/2 cup of red lentils, and a heaping 1/3 cup mix of brown basmati rice and millet. Rinse well and bring to a boil in 1/5 quarts of water. Transfer to the crockpot on high heat.

One hour later or so, heat 2-3 Tablespoons of oil. I used sesame oil this time, but ghee or sunflower would be good too. Use medium/low heat and make sure the oil doesn’t start to smoke. If it does, like mine did this morning, start over. (Oils have different smoking temperatures, at which point they become carcinogenic and distasteful. Mustard seed oil is the exception—apparently it becomes tasty, though I've never tried it.)

To the heated oil add 1/2 teaspoon of brown mustard seeds. Sautée finely chopped ginger (1 inch, peeled) and leek or onion (1-2 inches, depending on your onion-preference) until fragrant. Add a heaping Tablespoon of curry powder mix or Vata Churna (from MAPI.com), and a hearty dash of hing. Add some tomato paste and/or several tomatoes—peeled is best—and a little water from the crockpot soup base. Simmer on low for a minute or two.

Add a couple of carrots and half a head of green cabbage, all finely chopped. Add 1 teaspoon of mineral salt, and mix well into the veggies. Add half a can of cooked garbonzo beans and crumble the panir into the mix.

By this time the veggies will be tender/crisp and it’s time to transfer it all to the crockpot. A little squeeze of lemon and a small handful of fresh cilantro... mmmmmm! Mix well, ladle ‘er up and away you go (remembering to turn the crockpot to "warm"...)

* If you opt for tofu, I highly recommend organic if you want to avoid genetically engineered soybeans...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cauliflower soup with nutmeg

I’ve been enjoying the holiday cooking and baking season! For Thanksgiving, I decided to try some recipes in an intimidating Indian cookbook which has been staring at me from the bookshelf for years. While shopping for ingredients in an Indian grocery, I told the owners about my plan. They thought it was so funny, they said they would make a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. I need to go back to follow up... and report my success!

One of the discoveries of the Thanksgiving experiment was a delicious nut paste which I used in today’s soup: I simmered 2 tablespoons of white poppy seeds for half an hour, and soaked 2 tablespoons each of blanched almonds and cashews in warm water for about an hour. Drain the soaking water from the poppy seeds and nuts, place in a blender, adding about 1/4 cup of fresh water. Blend until smooth, and set aside. (I did this yesterday evening.)

Overnight I soaked 3/4 cup of split mung dal. I think a can of organic white beans would also work well. Today I forgot to add grain....! but I would use 1/4 cup of brown basmati, quinoa or millet. (If I were using canned beans, I would simply purée them in a blender and add to the cooked grains. If making this soup without grain, I would add the puréed beans after sauteeing the spices in oil, before adding the veggies.)

I brought the dal to a boil in 1.5 quarts of veggie broth (water would be fine), and transferred it to the crockpot, leaving it on high for a little over an hour while we showered, stretched, and meditated.

In the final countdown to the morning commute, I sautéed a quarter of a sweet onion in 2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or ghee would be great) until the onions become translucent. We aren’t big onion eaters, but they are very healthful so I use them occasionally. I also added about 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. (Note: according to ayurveda, using fresh black pepper heated in ghee is very nourishing for brain tissue, and is recommended for preventing Alzheimer's disease. See The Raj ayurvedic medical spa at www.theRaj.com for an article about this.)

I mentioned nutmeg in the title of this blog, but actually I used powdered mace, my latest culinary fascination. Mace and nutmeg come from the same nut and have similar flavor, so either would work. (Mace has a more subtle, complex flavor.) Freshly grated nutmeg is so much more interesting than the packaged powder; a fine toothed “microplane” zester works really well. In either case, add 1/2 teaspoon of mace or nutmeg to the hot oil and onion mix. (You may need a dash more if using pre-powdered nutmeg.)

Stir in 3 cups of finely chopped cauliflower and dark green chard. Toss in a a few sprigs of parsley, finely chopped. Add 1 teaspoon of mineral salt. Sautée a few minutes until the veggies soften, then add to the crockpot.

Add the nut paste, stir the soup well, and ladle up your thermoses (or turn the crockpot to the lowest “keep warm” setting). And away you go!

On days when I've made more than enough soup for lunch, I leave the crockpot on warm all day and add a big handful of freshly chopped parsley to augment the soup for dinner.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Broccoli and cheese soup

This was an experimental soup. It turned out pretty well on first try and I'll continue to play variations on this theme.

I used split mung dal (beans) to add a creamy consistency without using cream or flour. It's not as smooth as a true cream-based soup, but if you have time you can blend the dal once it is cooked, before adding veggies.

1/3 cup split mung beans and 1.5 quarts of water or broth. Bring to a boil and transfer to the crockpot. Add a small amount of sunflower oil or ghee, and simmer on high for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of butter, or ghee (clarified butter). Add 1 inch of leek or green onion, finely chopped (or a hefty dash of hing, if you don't want onions), and 1 celery stock, finely chopped. Add 1 -2 Tablespoons of Simply Organic All Purpose Seasoning, and sautée the mix until the leek and celery are soft.

Toss in a small handful of chopped parsley. Add a dash or two of black pepper, and half teaspoon of salt.

Add 1-2 cups of chopped broccoli florets and 1 chopped carrot, coat the veggies thoroughly with the spice/oil mixture and transfer to the crockpot, adding it to the mung dal.

I found a wonderful raw goat milk Italian herb colby at my local co-op. Cheddar or gouda could also be nice for this soup. Stir in 1-2 cups of grated cheese, and you're all set!

Ladle to the thermos, and turn the cooker to low for the remainder of the soup.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hearty lentil soup

A cozy, nutritious soup for a cold, wet, winter day!

1/3 cup brown lentils or French lentils.
1/4 cup mix of brown rice and millet. (Do I need to say it? Look for tiny rocks, and wash the lentils and grains thoroughly.)
1.5 quarts of water or broth.

Bring the lentils and grains to simmer on the stove top, then transfer to your slow cooker on high. Add about 1 teaspoon of extra virgin expeller pressed olive oil, and 1 large bay leaf, in the crockpot. Come back in about an hour or so.

Warm about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on very low temperature; do not let it get hot enough to smoke. Add 1-2 tablespoons of Simply Organic All Purpose Seasoning (if you're using water instead of broth, use more spice). When you smell the aroma, stir in finely chopped ginger root, and an ample handful of finely chopped parsley (Italian flat parsely or curly parsley). Add a dash of asafoetida (hing)—optional. (Everything is optional, of course...) You could use an "inch" of finely chopped leek or green onions instead of hing. If you've got fresh oregano, thyme, or marjoram, add about a teaspoon of finely chopped herbs for an extra flavorful stew.

Add 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped medium potato, and a generous amount of finely chopped green kale. You could also add a little tomato puree, or 2-3 chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Add 1 teaspoon of mineral salt. Sautée until the kale wilts, then transfer to the crockpot.

If you're feeling abundant, add a handful of pine nuts—or sunflower seeds will do—for extra protein, a little crunch, and delicious flavor.

Important: Scoop out that bay leaf so that you, or your loved ones, don't get a nasty sharp poke in the mouth!!

Ladle up your soup, and away you go with thermos in hand. Or for those, like me, who commute from the home office down the hall, turn your cooker to low, and enjoy the aroma until lunchtime.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Spices for crockpot cooking

Here are the spices I keep on hand for a variety of soup recipes. (Generally, I use one well-rounded Tablespoon of any spice blend):
  • "Smart Spice Mix", an ayurvedic blend from Dr. Lonsdorf's book The Ageless Woman. (See May 2009 Blog Archive for the recipe, and read the book for an understanding of medicinal properties of herbs and spices.)
  • Lemon Curry powder from Frontier Herbs (an organic blend of turmeric, coriander, cumin, lemon peel, black pepper, freeze-dried whole lemon, cardamom, cinnamon, dehydrated garlic and red pepper/cayenne.)
  • "All-Purpose Seasoning" from Simply Organic (a blend of black pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, celery seed, tomato powder, basil, thyme, sage, oregano, and coriander)
  • Individual spices such as turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper corns.
  • Maharishi Ayurveda Products (www.mapi.com) have spice blends called churnas. Easy to use, and delicious, churnas balance the mind and body according to the season or individual needs.
I also keep on hand:
  • Fresh parsley is loaded with nutrients.
  • Fresh cilantro aids digestions. Wonderful for Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and fusion recipes.
  • Fresh ginger root aids digestion and absorption, and reduces inflammation in the body. How to use: Grate it or chop finely. Add to the hot oil and sautée briefly before adding other spices and vegetables. Store ginger root in a paper bag in the fridge.
  • One can of coconut milk, whole or lite, to use for Asian-inspired or creme soups.
  • One small jar of Thai green curry paste.
  • Brown mustard seeds. How to use: Heat oil on medium, and add 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds to hot oil. When they start to pop, reduce temperature and add other spices. (If using mustard seeds and ginger root, do the mustard seeds first, then ginger, then any other spices.)
  • Hing, aka asafoetida, is a pungent powdered resin available in Asian groceries or well-stocked health food stores. Don't be put off by the smell; the flavor is wonderful! How to use: Add a dash after sautéeing other spices on medium/low heat. Make it brief. Don't let it burn... it's not pleasant.
  • Natural mineral salt
Nice to know: Coriander seeds can be ground in a spice blender or "Magic Bullet" and used in Mexican, Italian, and Asian recipes. A dash of turmeric added to grains and lentils after they've cooked is a great way to incorporate it's anti-inflammatory benefits into any recipe. Black pepper, freshly ground, aids absorption of nutrients. Asafoetida is said to help reduce gas and lower cholesterol.

Keep all spices in air tight containers, not plastic baggies.