Heirloom Tomato Soup: Cheap and Guiltless

Heirloom Tomato Soup

As the weather gets cooler I find myself craving warm comfort. I’ve said it before and ill say it again, soup is the starving artist’s secret weapon: low cost, high yield, mega satisfying. Lately I’ve been eating my stress, which is never good. This weekend I decided I needed to make something warm, satisfying, and completely guilt free. I had grilled cheese on the brain (more on this in another post) and so I naturally thought of tomato soup. I tell you I was tempted to buy a box of Trader Joe’s tomato soup. Like, whatever, I just want soup, I don’t care. And then I came to my senses and realized that for a few more dollars I could make a big pot of my own soup that would knock the pants off of TJ.

So here is what I purchased:

  • 1 package of TJ mini heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 24 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 box vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 cup of chopped fresh basil

And here’s what I used from my own pantry:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt, crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Sugar
  • Tomato paste (in a tube in my fridge)
  • 2 tsp dried basil
Heirloom Tomato Soup
Heirloom Tomato Soup

All I did was get my big enamel soup pot over medium high heat with just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Toss in the heirloom tomatoes and let them heat up while you dice half the red onion (be sure to stir them around occasionally). Once the tomatoes have been heated for 8-10 minutes, add the onion with a good pinch of kosher salt, a few pinches of crushed red pepper, and the dried basil. Once the onions soften, use a garlic press to press in two cloves of fresh garlic right into the pot. Then add a good squeeze (about two tbsp) of tomato paste. Stir and cook for one minute then add the two cans of tomatoes, about 2 cups of the vegetable broth, bay leaves, and about two teaspoons of sugar. Bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the fresh basil, and use a stick blender to puree to desired consistency. Feeds 4-6 people easily. Delicious, healthy, and totally homemade.

Serving suggestions/variations:

  • Adding a can of fire roasted tomatoes will add a new dimension of flavor to your soup
  • Using diced carrots along with the onions will contribute to sweetness and add more flavor
  • Try topping your bowl with some sliced avocado. Or, if you’re feeling indulgent, some grated gruyere cheese. Mmmmmm.

No-More-Flaming Stir Fry

No More Flaming Stir FrySo you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been putting up a lot of recipe posts these days. And you’re probably getting sick of hearing about weight loss and bootcamp and self-discovery and health trends and blah blah – where’s the FOOD? The truth is that being in such a goal-focused state, I’m eating a lot of the same things on a daily basis. You’ve read about my juice, you’ve seen my purple smoothie, and you’ve hopefully by now tried my curried roasted veggie and coconut soup. For me, routine is a way of keeping me on track: I find good things that I love to eat and I stick with them. It works for me. Once I reach my goals and summer arrives, no doubt things here at the starving artist will shift. But for now, we’re sticking with good clean eats.

Today, finally, I have a new recipe for you. This stir fry was inspired my new quest to fight inflammation. You heard me mention this yesterday, but some of you may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Chronic inflammation is a condition that has been identified as the root of many serious medical problems including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. It is also directly linked to smaller ailments like, oh I don’t know, POOR DIGESTION, asthma, and can even be the source of persistant sinus infections – all of which I suffer from. What causes inflammation? Poor diet. GASP!! Shocking? No. Specifically: wheat, gluten, dairy products, meat, white sugar, processed/packaged/prepared foods, and alcohol to name a few. It’s serious business, kids.

Click the link below for the recipe:

No More Flaming Stir Fry (Recipe PDF)

And here are the main things to notice:

  • Soy Sauce Replacement. We all love putting soy sauce in stir fry. I have a gallon jug of Kikkoman in my fridge. But guess what? Soy sauce is not gluten free. It’s true! Look at the bottle. There are gluten free and raw brands you can find at Whole Foods, but personally I love Bragg’s Liquid Aminos – it’s pure, packed with protein, not fermented, not heated, gluten free, alcohol free, and preservative free. Give it a try. You’ll love it.
  • Turmeric. Did you know turmeric is a superfood? Neither did I, until I started researching and came across this fantastic article. A member of the ginger family, not only is turmeric widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties, it is now being discovered that its chief active nutrient, curcumin, can actually fight cancer, not to mention dozens of everyday ailments. The point: use it!!
  • Brown Rice. I know many people are not fans of brown rice, but that’s usually because they are not buying the right kind, nor are they cooking it properly. Go for short grain brown rice (find it in bulk at Whole Foods) and bake it, don’t cook it on the stovetop. For more detail and the recipe, check out this blog post of mine. Brown rice is gluten free and definitely on the anti-inflammatory list. Just be sure to use modest quantities. Notice there is just a sprinkling in the picture.
  • Coconut Oil. I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy this at Trader Joe’s for a while now. Not only does it have great flavor, it is heart-healthy and has many health benefits. You should avoid vegetable oil at all costs and stick to cold pressed extra virgin olive oil or other organic unrefined nut oils like coconut, walnut, and even avocado (though they are all really expensive).  TJ’s has very affordable cold pressed olive oil.
  • Garlic, ginger, shitake mushrooms, broccoli, onion, Sriracha (chili peppers). All are super anti-inflammatory foods! Yes!
  • Eggs are yummy, but beware you should only eat them 2 times per week, lest they could become a source of inflammation. Pay attention to your body and how you feel when you eat them. I really wanted egg in my stir fry, so that’s what happened. :-)

Hope you enjoy as much as I do. What do you think about all this anti-flammatory talk? Share your thoughts. And let me know how you like the recipe!!

Here are more resources to check out:

Seven Spices/Foods that Could Save Your Life
Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid and Diet
Know Your Cruciferous Vegetables!

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable Soup

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable SoupI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if the starving artist has one best friend, it is soup. Bang for your buck, hearty, delicious, and (usually) really healthy. This week I’ve been racking my brain as to what I could cook for dinner that won’t completely destroy all my healthy efforts but is also not a salad or scrambled eggs…. yes, this is what my life has come to.

Vegetables are of course the go to when trying to maintain or improve one’s figure, but come on, how many salads can one consume before having a psychotic breakdown? Now ROASTING vegetables is something I can get behind. The depth of flavor one gets is amazing, but aside from tossing them with brown rice, you can’t really  make a meal of a plate of vegetables…. and then it hit me. There’s a restaurant near me, Tender Greens, that makes soup out of their seasoned grilled veggies. Why not do the same thing here, except up the flavor quotient by using curry powder and some coconut cream. Well, let me tell you, the outcome is one tasty friggin’ soup that is completely vegan and completely amazing.

It’s super easy – all it entails is roasted a few pans of your favorite vegetables, then bringing them to a simmer in a broth made of Trader Joe’s vegetable stock, Trader Joe’s coconut cream, and a few spices. Then you puree and voila, a hearty meal to keep you energized and full without the guilt. Check out the recipe below.

Curried Coconut Roasted Vegetable Soup (Recipe PDF)

For the record, I wish I took the photo before I pureed the soup just so you could see all the colors and big chunks of vegetables. Trust me, it’s good stuff.

Also, I have not forgotten about valentine’s day. Look for a v-day post from me on here tomorrow – and don’t worry, there will be nothing heart-shaped coming out of this kitchen! In the meantime check out my facebook and twitter for fun v-day recipes I’ve been finding, like better-than-sex Chex mix. Any excuse for chocolate is ok in my book.

Acorn Goodness

Roasted Acorn SquashThis time of year I’m seeing bins of acorn squash at all my local grocery stores. It’s perhaps a little off putting to see a vegetable in the shape of a giant hard acorn. I mean what the hell are you supposed to do with it, crack it? Plant it and see if a tree grows? But the truth is that when roasted properly, acorn squash makes a delicious and satisfying winter time dinner that will fill you up without deviating at all from your healthy regimen. Definitely Bootcamp friendly. ;-)

So here is what you do. Very easy. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your acorn squash in half against the grain. Scoop out the seeds and guts from the crevices and then trim the outer ends so that the squash will sit straight up with the crevices facing up. Coat the outside skin with a very thin layer of olive oil, then place them on a foil lined quarter sheet pan. Now for some flavor. In a small bowl combine the following:

  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp maple sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
  • pinch of clove
  • pince of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Mix thoroughly and spread evenly between the two halves. Rub mixture thoroughly over the flesh of the squash and drain any excess that pools into the bottom of the cavity back into the bowl and set aside. Season liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper. Then place a small pat of butter in each half of the squash. Put tray into the bottom half of the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the flesh is soft and the edges are crispy.

Eat directly from the squash, drizzling the remaining maple syrup mixture over each half and adding some extra butter as desired. Or, scoop out all the squash, place into a bowl and lightly mash together with the left over syrup, some extra butter, and an extra sprinkle of maple sugar. As I always tell you, do not run out to buy spices you don’t already have. Make up your own seasoning. Brown sugar can easily be substituted for maple sugar, but maple sugar is really great stuff.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Shiitake Mushroom Gravy with Chia Seed

In addition to my fresh lavender, I got a tremendous bargain at the farmers’ market on Sunday via a tent selling paper bags full of baby shiitake mushrooms. I had only two dollars left in my wallet and spotted the bag of mushrooms marked $3. One of the biggest secrets to going to a farmers’ market is to go towards the end when the vendors are trying to get rid of whatever they were unable to sell. It’s much easier to barter and you are likely to get a really great deal.  Case and point, this bag of mushrooms. I asked if she would take $2. Not only did she agree, she proceeded to fill the bag with some leftover shiitakes in a bulk bin that she considered “deformed” and therefore wouldn’t sell them. Tremendous deal.

In a situation like this, with such fresh and lovely mushrooms, simplicity is best. I decided I wanted to make a gravy using the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and vegetable stock for an easy and satisfying dinner. I wanted to get the gravy thick, but I didn’t want to have to use flour as I’ve been trying hard to avoid it whenever possible. One of my favorite things to do is browse the “New Item” section at Trader Joe’s – there are always such fun new things to play with like coconut cream, honey roasted almond slices, coconut flakes, etc, etc. Recently I discovered Chia Seeds, which I later learned act as an outstanding thickener when they are ground. And they happen to have much the same digestive benefits as psyllium fiber (Metamucil). Who knew?

So here’s what I did. Got a large heavy or cast iron skillet nice and hot. Added butter and just enough oil to coat the bottom and tossed in the mushrooms, about 3 three cups of fresh shiitake. I sauteed them until they began to brown, then added 1 finely minced shallot, 1 clove finely minced garlic, kosher salt, and black pepper. Once fragrant, I added in 1 tablespoon of ground chia seeds, sauteed for an additional minute, then added two cups of vegetable stock. I then let it simmer until it thickened – happens very quickly. Once thick I killed the heat, added in one tablespoon of chopped fresh sage, and bam, a delicious mushroom gravy that I ate over brown rice. This would also be great with steamed vegetables or as a topping for grilled chicken or steak. Yum.

Hope everyone is enjoying the fall! More coming from me over the weekend!