Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simplify: Cooking

We certainly don't have seasons here in Mexico like those north of the border, but at 5,000 feet, it does cool down a bit and houses here rarely have heaters in them. I see that as an opportunity to cook. Make something delicious while warming up the house. 


Step one
Today I decided to make a southwestern chipotle vegetable soup. When I make soup, my goal is always to fill my largest pan to the brim. This soup is going to take a while to make from scratch so I want it to last a long time.


First, I cover the bottom of the pan with extra virgin olive oil and heat it up. Then I toss in:
  • one chopped onion
  • 2-3 stalks chopped celery
  • one chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 sliced carrots
I love the way that looks in the pan - like I'm cooking a bit pit of confetti. While that is softening, I cut up:


Step two
  • 2 courgette zucchinis
  • 2 serrano chiles, seeded and diced
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 small can of corn (or an ear's worth)
Stir it all together and continue cooking until everything is getting soft. Now it has even more colors.

This soup doesn't have any seasoning at all in it at this point -- not even salt or pepper. But the wonderful aroma is already filling the house and making me very hungry. I like making soups like this that require me to cut up lots of fresh produce. I find that kind of work to be very relaxing - a mindfulness meditation.


I want this soup to be a complete meal when I get done with it: vegetables, grains, and legumes. It will be full of fiber and protein and antioxidants. The next step is to add:
Step three - it's starting to look like soup
  • a liter of tomato sauce  
  • a liter of water 
  • a cup of rice.
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chipotle sauce
I like to use a rice blend that has brown rice and red rice and wild rice. Now stir everything up and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is about half-cooked.

Now is a good time to clean up your mess from all the chopping and wash the few dishes you have accumulated.

One bad thing about covering the pot is that it holds in the smell instead of letting it drift out to fill the house, but we don't want the water to evaporate and we want the rice to cook. We'll let the smell out again pretty soon, though. By this time I'm really hungry so I grab a piece of fruit for a snack to hold me over until the soup is done.


Step four
You need something to do for the next little while, so now is a good time to chop up a half of a head of cabbage into small pieces. You can also open and rinse two cans of black beans. 


You could make the beans from scratch, but you would have had to start yesterday to get them soaked overnight and then cook them for however many hours it takes. I usually use canned.


When the timer goes off, you can take the lid off and stir in the beans. 


Finally done!
Then you are going to pile the cabbage on top of the soup. I always try to push it down into the soup but it just keeps floating back up to the top. You have to be careful because the pot is going to be very full, but somehow that cabbage always cooks down and everything fits eventually. As soon as it's all down into the soup, cover the pan and let it continue cooking until the cabbage is soft. 


Removed the lid occasionally to give it a stir, but be careful because it is probably very full.


It's too hot to eat yet, so take a few minutes and clean up your mess again. I always make big messes when I cook so I always try to clean up often as I work.


Lunch time!
After I've dished up a big bowl of this colorful healthy soup, I like to cut up some avocado on top. So far, this is a vegan soup. But if you feel daring, you can always sprinkle some crumbled goat cheese on top. It's up to you.


Even though I was starving a little while ago, this big bowl of soup is very filling. It's tastes wonderful and it makes me feel good to know that something that tastes so great is really healthy. 


This would have been a lot of work if I were preparing it for just one meal, but my next step, as soon as it is cool enough, is to divide the remaining soup up into containers so I can freeze it for future meals, too. So I not only got a great lunch, I also have enough for nine more big bowls full of soup. Usually though, I end up making each one of the containers into two cups of soup and serve it with a salad, or a sandwich, or a quesadilla.


And next week, I'll do this again with a different kind of soup. Pretty soon my freezer is full of containers (labeled in black marker) of different soups and other containers of ready-made meals. 


Last week it was a gluten-free vegetarian lasagna. Next week, it might be a cream of potato-leek soup made with soy milk. 


These containers have been used over and over again; I just scratch out the old label and add a new one beside it. It has to cool a bit before I put on the lids and pop them in the freezer.


Even if you don't eat vegan or vegetarian, I hope you'll give this recipe a try. You might find out that vegetarian food can be really good. And I might have spent a couple of hours making the soup, but my house is nice and warm, and I have enough packed away for nine more meals.


Thanks for reading and bon appetit!

1 comment:

  1. This looks right up my alley, and I look forward to giving it a try.

    Just tonight hubby and I enjoyed a wonderful potato broccoli soup from my favorite Vegan/Vegetarian cookbook - Veganomicon. I found a link to the recipe at

    It tasted absolutely wonderful. Oh, and I left the potato skins on because I like my potato soup a bit rustica.