Monday, January 19, 2009

Slow-Cooked Root Vegetable Soup

I love root vegetables. I love to roast them, microwave them, steam them, and smash them. And I also love to make soups out of them.

I was recently given a beautiful, blue, enameled, cast iron Le Creuset oval French oven. These pots are versatile. They can go on the stove or in the oven, and thus easily transfer from one to the other for braising or slow cooking. I decided to make a slow-cooked root vegetable soup by chopping up a bunch of root veggies, covering them with broth, then cooking them at a low temperature over a long period of time in the oven. The result was absolutely fabulous.

Slow cooking really brings out the sweet flavors in root vegetables while mellowing out any of the harshness. The result is a rich, almost buttery tasting soup that has absolutely no fat in it. It's perfect for lunch or dinner!

Feel free to substitute any other vegetables (whether root veggies or not).

Slow-Cooked Root Vegetable Soup
Serves about 6

8 oz celery root, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 rutabaga, peeled and chopped into 2-inch pieces
3 carrots, chopped into 2-inch pieces
3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, washed well and chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 small onion, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
6 cups vegetable broth
low-fat Greek yogurt (optional garnish)

Preheat oven to 275˚F.

Put all ingredients into a large, ovenproof pot with a lid. Bring to a simmer on the stove, then place in the oven. Cook for 3 hours, then remove from the oven and take off the lid. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, then puree the soup with an immersion blender.

Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Roasted Eggplant & Butternut Squash Burrito

Happy New Year, and welcome back! I hope you all enjoyed wonderful holidays and ate well. Now it's time to make up for all those cookies we ate, right? Right.

I have the added incentive to get back into fighting shape this year for my upcoming wedding. Add that to the fact that I recently found out that my cholesterol is a little too high (221!!), and I have all the motivation I need to get to the gym and maybe cut back on the eggs and butter (I refuse to give up my very moderate intake of cheese just yet!).

The way I like to "detox" is to avoid eating processed foods. This means using "whole" foods, like vegetables, fruits, rice, beans, etc. (things that haven't had anything added to them) to make my meals. Sometimes it's hard to dispense with convenience for the sake of eating well, but I do try. Take the following situation, for example:

I had just gotten back to my apartment from working out and I was hungry! I wanted food right then and there. I opened the fridge and surveyed: I had about 3/4 of a roasted eggplant, chopped (left over from a small dinner party I threw last week, so I chopped it up and roasted it in a 400˚F oven for about 25 minutes), leftover roasted butternut squash, as well as a package of tortillas and a can of refried black beans with lime juice my sister couldn't fit into a certain someone's oversea Christmas package. I also spotted some cherry tomatoes and Greek yogurt. "Eureka!" I thought.

I decided I could delay eating long enough to heat up the innards of the burrito, so I tossed everything except the beans and yogurt into an olive-oil-lined skillet over medium heat for a few minutes before assembling the burrito. It was quite tasty, and took about only about 10 minutes to prepare. Yum.

Sure, it would have been easier, and faster, to heat up a Hot Pocket or a Lean Cuisine...but it certainly wouldn't have been as tasty or as filling. Next time you're hungry, see if you can't build something from the building blocks that may be lurking in your refrigerator. Also, when you're cooking vegetables, or anything really, consider making more than you'll need so you'll have something waiting for you after those regular post-New-Year workouts you promised you'd be doing by now!

Roasted Eggplant & Butternut Squash Burrito

1 large tortilla, (optional: toast your tortilla in a skillet or under the broiler)
3 TBSP refried black beans with lime juice
2 TBSP chopped roasted eggplant
3 or 4 cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup cubed roasted butternut squash
olive oil
1 TBSP 2% Greek yogurt

Spread the refried black beans on the tortilla, mostly in the center. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes, until they start to "pop" (the skin will deflate and wrinkle a little). Add the butternut squash and the eggplant, and continue to sauté for 2 more minutes. Just before taking the veggies out of the pan, gently mash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

Spoon the veggie mixture into the tortilla, then add the yogurt on top. Roll up and enjoy!