Chorizo, Lentil and Vegetable Soup

When I can’t decide what I want for dinner, or if I’m not particularly hungry, I almost invariably turn to soup. I just love it – especially the broth kinds.

Today was one of those indecisive days – I didn’t have a clue what I wanted, and I wasn’t feeling hungry or inspired, so looking through my (way too many) cookbooks and saved recipes didn’t float my boat.

So I did what never fails – I trawled my My Fitness Pal recipe collection to see what looked good and had a decent amount of calories and macros – basically, I let nutrition make the decision for me. After scrolling for what seemed forever, this recipe, from Smitten Kitchen, jumped out at me when nothing else looked even mildly interesting.

Of course, I had changed everything in it when I put it into MFP months and months ago. No oil instead of 1/3 of a cup of it, Chorizo instead of sausage meat, baby spinach instead of chard, chicken stock instead of water, and I threw in a zucchini, too. I knew the sum of the parts were good, so I just hoped for the best.

Which is exactly what I got. A flavoursome, complex, delicious, nutritious filling and textured soup that had all of us eating in almost complete silence. I made garlic bread using bread rolls I had laying around, and while they were delicious, the soup is more than able to hold its own, too. The servings are generous, too. The recipe yields six servings for 238 calories per serves, and by ‘serves’, I definitely mean ‘full bowls’.

Ingredients

180g chorizo, sliced into small coins

1 onion, diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

400g tin brown lentils, drained and rinsed

800g tinned tomatoes

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper, to taste

6 cups chicken stock


1 medium zucchini, diced

60g baby spinach

4tbs grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan, cook chorizo over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until golden.
  2. Lower heat, and add onion, carrots and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until vegetables have softened.
  3. Stir in lentils, tomatoes and bay leaves, and season well.
  4. Add chicken stock, and bring to the boil. Turn heat down to medium, and simmer for 20 minutes, until lentils are soft but not mushy.
  5. Tumble zucchini into soup and cook for 3 minutes, until zucchini is tender. Add spinach and remove from heat as soon as it wilts (within 30 seconds or so).
  6. Ladle soup into bowls, being careful to remove the bay leaves. Serve with extra pepper and topped with parmesan cheese.

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Vegetable Nuggets

I’ll just come out and say it… Vegetable nuggets > chicken nuggets.

Yeah, you heard me. Not a sentence I was expecting, either. However, not only are they absolutely delicious, they’re packed full of nutrients and are only 40 calories each. Throw 5 or 6 into a container, add a salad and some salsa you’re good to go with a fabulous work lunch in all of 5 seconds flat. And they’re so cheap and easy to make. You probably don’t have to buy a single thing from the store.

I could go on and on. Suffice to say, these are awesome. Which is a pleasant surprise, because while I was cooking them, I was sure they’d be a disaster. I got the recipe from Taste.com, but found the mixture too wet to roll in egg and breadcrumbs, so I just dumped them into the mixture, and then I worried that they’d fall apart while frying in oil, so I baked them first, then finished them off in a nonstick frypan. Bonus: they’re healthier this way!

This recipe yields 30 nuggets, but I think they’d be great as larger rissoles, too. Maybe as veggie burger patties?

Ingredients

1 brown onion, peeled

1 zucchini, trimmed

1 carrot, peeled and trimmed

2 x 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained

35g Mexican style cheese

1 egg, beaten

1 3/4 cups dried breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly spray two baking trays with oil.
  2. In a food processor, pulse zucchini, carrot and onion until finely chopped. Scrape into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Pulse beans and add to vegetable mixture. Add cheese, egg and breadcrumbs, and season well. Mix to combine.
  4. Roll mixture into 30 balls, place on trays, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from trays and allow to cool and firm up.
  5. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Spray with oil. Add half the balls and fry until golden brown. Remove from pan and repeat with second half. Allow to cool.
  6. Serve with salsa and salad.
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Japanese Curry

Once again, dinner at my house was ascertained by the husband watching TV characters eat something, then looking at me with a half sly, half sheepish grin that absolutely means “hey… you could make that for us!” i KNOW that this is what this smile means, because the worlds usually tumble out of his mouth shortly after the grin spreads across it.

So, props to whatever show had the characters eating a Japanese curry. Actually… I think it might have been a Youtube video of some sort. At any rate, I spent the next hour or so hunting down a good recipe. Which was challenging, because while I have certainly eaten more than my fair share of Japanese food, and a moderate amount of curries, I don’t believe I’d ever had a Japanese curry. So evaluating it was tricky. What sold me on this recipe from Just One Cookbook was that while Nami assures us that we can use store bought curry roux (many sites insist that it’s the done thing), she also provides a fabulous recipe to make it from scratch. The whole dish was out of this world: the sweetness of the apples and honey is perfectly balanced with the heat of the other spices, and made my house smell nothing less than divine. Of course, I’ll keep researching Japanese curries (for science), but I could not be more pleased with this one. The whole family gobbled it up, and as is so often the case with curries, the leftovers the next day were possibly even better than when freshly cooked.

Honestly, I didn’t change much with this recipe. I just wanted to put it all together in one place for ease of reference. Because of the potatoes, rice is unnecessary (but not altogether unwelcome), and one fifth of the recipe is only 396 – very respectable for such a flavour bomb!

Ingredients

Roux:
3 Tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

3tsp curry powder (6 g)

2tsp turmeric

1 Tbsp garam masala

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Curry

  • 600g boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 pinch maldon salt flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • ½ tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups good quality chicken stock
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup
  • Rice to serve (optional, not included in calorie calculation)

Method

To make the roux:

Melt butter over low heat. Add flour, and using a rubber spatula, cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent roux from catching. When roux is browned and bubbling, add the spices and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside until step 7

To make the curry:

  1. Soak the potatoes in warm water while making the roux, or for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and set aside until step 5
  3. Heat oil over low heat and sweat the onions and carrots for five minutes. Add onions and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the chicken, and brown all over.
  5. Pour the stock over the chicken. Bring to the boil.
  6. Peel the apple (discarding the skin) and grate directly into the broth. Stir in honey and potatoes and simmer for a 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not mushy.
  7. Incorporate a ladleful or two into the reserved roux, and stir until it is a smooth paste. Spoon the roux into the stock, and stir to combine.
  8. Add soy sauce and ketchup. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or so, until the curry becomes thick.
  9. Serve with rice if using, and steamed vegetables.
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Pea and Barley Salad

The number of cookbooks in my house is nothing short of ridiculous – and yet, they continue to grow despite occasionally finding one that I don’t remember ever buying or reading. Once I get over the guilt, it’s like nerdy foodie Christmas.

The other day, my son found some such gem hidden in with the rarely touched board games. The Healthy Life Cookbook, probably purchased well before I really cared about such things, was covered in a thin layer of dust – I swear I don’t remember how or when it got into my house. But, with renewed enthusiasm, I pored over the recipes, and stopped dead in my tracks at this one. Barley? Feta cheese? Spinach? I’m in!


At 311 calories for a hearty serve (this recipe yields 4 serves), it’s filling enough for a light dinner, and absolutely perfect for a work lunch. I did learn the hard way, however, to sprinkle the cheese on as you go if you plan on it lasting more than two days (it really doesn’t last much longer than that anyway, but you don’t need slimy feta ruining your Tuesday). Sounds obvious as hell now, but oh well… live and learn.

Ingredients

2 cups vegetable stock

250g frozen peas

3 radishes, diced

40g baby spinach

1/2 cup raw pearl barley

70g Greek feta

Dressing

1tbs olive oil

2tbs red wine vinegar

2tsp dried mint

1 clove minced garlic

Black pepper, to serve

Method

  1. Bring stock to boil over a high heat in a medium saucepain. Boil peas for 4 minutes or until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and combine with radishes.
  2. Add barley to the stock, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 40 minutes or until barley is tender and stock has been absorbed.
  3. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.
  4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in radishes, baby spinach and peas, then add the dressing. Crumble feta over the salad and season with generous cracks of black pepper.

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