Cabbage and Barley Soup

I overdid it this Easter. Like, really overdid it. So much so that I woke up this beautiful Easter Monday feeling terribly ill and with a pain in my belly that my husband was convinced was my appendix getting ready to burst. It wasn’t. It was just my body in revolt from the shocking way I’ve “nourished” it over the past couple of days. I’d entered the long weekend knowing that my usual rules were going out the window, and had every intention of getting back to my usual routine today. It’s always destined to be a Monday, right? However, my body thought it would help me be damned sure that I did in fact get back into it, by making me sick to my stomach at the mere thought of food.

After a few hours of feeling like total crap, I slowly, slowly started feeling better. By late afternoon, I was actually starting to feel hungry.  I was craving vegetables and simplicity. But I also wanted a new-to-me dinner that was interesting, while not putting any stress on my somewhat ginger stomach. Nothing fatty, or rich, and in no way related to chocolate or cake.

Once again, I was relieved that I have an arsenal of recipes stored in My Fitness Pal, with the calories already calculated, links to the recipe, and my own adaptations noted. It REALLY makes life easier, especially when you don’t really have a clear idea of what you want. Scrolling through, I saw the link to Smitten Kitchen’s Cabbage and Farro Soup, and knew that I’d found what I’d be cooking tonight. I did make some changes – I added ginger, used red cabbage instead of green to give it a beautiful rich purple colour (Deb bemoans how beige her soup is, but using red cabbage yields quite a dramatic looking soup), swapped out the farro for the pearl barley I already had in my cupboard, and eliminated some of the oil, because you really don’t need quarter of a cup here. All in all, the results were fantastic, and I’m looking forward to leftovers tomorrow, when the barley has drunk the soup and it transforms into a whole new cabbage dish. I also used a whole – albeit tiny – cabbage, and discarded the core, as a matter of preference. That left me with more cabbage than the original recipe calls for, so I increased the ingredients by 150% , meaning it serves 6, rather than 4. Which is a blessing, because, like I said, leftovers. My take on the recipe yields servings of 222 calories each, and that includes the parmesan with which the soup is served.

Ingredients

1 x 3 second spray olive oil

1 brown onion, thinly sliced

3 tsp  minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

1 small red cabbage, core removed, thinly sliced

1.5tbs red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup raw pearl barley

6 cups chicken stock

1tbs lemon juice

4tbs grated parmesan cheese

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan/stockpot over medium-low heat. Sweat onions for 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured. Add garlic and ginger, and stir to combine.
  2. Add the cabbage over the top of the onion mixture and Cover pot with a lid. Steam the vegetables for 5 minutes, until cabbage starts to wilt. Stir to combine.
  3. Replace lid and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cabbage will be very tender, and sweet to taste.
  4. Stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Be very generous with the pepper, as it complements the dish so well. Add barley and stir to combine.
  5. Pour in the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for up to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
  7. Serve in bowls. Top with parmesan cheese and another good crack of black pepper.
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Winter Vegetable Soup with Parmesan and Spinach Dumplings

It’s finally cooling down, which means I can pull out my beloved red cast iron pot and whip out the comfort food recipes to help warm me up. Seriously, people joked that I would feel the cold after losing all the weight. They weren’t wrong. Last winter was miserable – I was ALWAYS cold and found it difficult to warm up. I’m hoping this winter, I will be more acclimated and less uncomfortable, despite being slightly smaller again.

It has to be said, that during the Winter months, I sometimes miss some of the heavier stews and casseroles that are suprisingly high in calories despite feeling like a wholesome bowl of goodness. Of course, rather than throwing in the towel and giving in to temptation, I’ve turned to searching for lighter, but equally comforting – recipes to fill the void. Some of them have been sad failures – watery, lame slop with little flavour and no texture. Some – like this awesome “stoup” (soup so thick that it’s almost a stew) adapted once again from Taste – bring joy to my cold self. It’s only 423 calories, and fills the cravings for veggies, bread, cheese and potatoes, making it the perfect winter staple. And unlike many winter warmers, it doesn’t take hours and hours… it’s done in less than an hour. Just to add one more tick to the boxes, this soup is also vegetarian if you use the correct parmesan.

Serves 6

Ingredients

dumplings

large handful baby spinach, shredded

1 1/2 cups flour

2tbs butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

2/3 cup milk

 

Soup

2-3 second spray oil

1 brown onion, diced

1tsp minced garlic

1tsp minced ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried sage

2 carrots, diced

1 bulb fennel, diced

1 medium potato, diced

2 parsnips, diced

400g tinned tomatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

500g pumpkin, diced

 

Method

1. Combine spinach flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. In a jug, combine the rest of the dumpling ingredients and pour into the well. Mix gently until well combined. Roll into 15 balls and place on a clean, dry plate.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and sweat onions over medium heat until translucent. Add nutmeg and paprika, stirring for 30 seconds until fragrant.

3. Tip in all vegetables except for the pumpkin and stir to coat with the spices. Add tomatoes and stock, using the stock to clean out the tomato tin. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes, until starting to soften. Stir every few minutes to prevent veggies from catching. Add pumpkin, and cook, covered, for a further 5 minutes, still stirring periodically.

4. Gently place the dumplings atop of the soup and lower the heat to medium-low. Cover again, and cook for 20 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through. Serve garnished with fennel fronds.

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Miso Barley Soup

I’m sure I’ve waxed lyrical plenty of times about how much I love soup, but oh my God, I LOVE soup. Scrap that – I love hearty, warming, sticks-to-your-ribs soup. You’re extremely unlikely to catch me with a thin, watery cup of powdered soup anywhere near my lips, but if I could swim in a thick homemade soup, I would happily dive in.

I also have this weird obsession with pearl barley. Is it weird to have a favourite grain? It’s chewy, tasty, filling, low calorie, healthy and lends a sense of nostalgia that makes absolutely no sense, seeing as though I don’t remember ever eating it as a child. I guess it’s just comforting.

This miso barley soup combines three of my very favourite foods. And while it takes a while to cook, the most labour intensive part of it is chopping the vegetables. It’s a forgiving, undemanding recipe that’s perfect for those cold winter nights where you have plenty of time, but don’t want to spend it slaving over the stove.

I was a little shy about this recipe, although I have no idea why. So, I made chicken to go with it. I’m usually of the opinion that soup is a meal unto itself, but there was something holding me back. Perhaps concern that my family would find it unfilling, or bland? Neither was the case, however, a couple of honey soy roasted chicken drumsticks absolutely lifted this soup to a whole new level. Eaten separately, or thrown into the soup – either ways works a complete treat. Sans chicken, the soup is a diet-friendly 246 calories, and assuming that you’re using regular chicken legs and those of not some mutant giant bird, you can allow for about 103 calories per drumstick.

Ingredients

2tsp olive oil

3 celery sticks, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 brown onion, diced

3tsp minced garlic

1tbs minced ginger

1/2 cup pearl barley

5 cups water

2tbs white miso paste

400g edamame beans, podded

2tsp soy sauce

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy based saucepan (a cast iron pot is perfect!) over low heat. Add diced vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened and onions are sweating.
  2. Add garlic and ginger, and stir for 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Mix in barley. Add water and miso paste, and stir well to combine paste.
  4. Increase heat to high  to bring to the boil. Reduce to medium low, cover and cook for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent grains from sticking to the bottom.
  5. Add edamame and soy sauce, cover, and cook for a further 8 minutes.

 

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Risoni Meatball Soup

So, I mentioned in the last post that there are some days where I just can’t be bothered. Well, I’m having a week of it. Everything seems a chore, and I’m just exhausted. More mentally than physically, but it definitely has an impact on how much I want to do when I get home from work.

In the olden days – when I was 46 kilos heavier and infinitely more depressed – it’d mean a week of takeout and excuses. I’m not above the odd takeout these days, but I’m certainly more judicious about it, in terms of both quality and frequency, so having an arsenal of Can’t Be eFfed meals is important.

Which is where this rockstar of a soup shines. It’s so easy, so quick, so tasty, and so filling. At 381 calories (for a smaller serving, but it’s more than enough), it’s pretty low-cal, too. All boxes for a good dinner ticked! And call me crazy, but there’s something cathartic about rolling meatballs with music blaring the stresses of the day away.

You know what, also? As great as this is at the end of a long, crappy day, it’s also a fantastic way to celebrate a good day or lift a neutral day into good day territory.

Adapted from the Taste website, as so many of my day-to-day recipes are.

 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

500g lean mince

1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1tsp minced garlic

700ml passata

4 cups good quality chicken stock

1/2 cup risoni pasta

1tbs olive oil

1 large zucchini, diced

1tsp parsley

1tsp basil

parmesan cheese, extra, to serve

Method

  1. Combine mince, breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic and egg. Roll teaspoons of the mixture into tight meatballs, cover and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Bring stock and passata to the boil in a large saucepan, then reduce heat slightly. Add herbs and risoni, and stir frequently to prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frypan. When hot, add meatballs, turning frequently to cook evenly.
  4. When cooked through, gently add meatballs and zucchini to soup. Cook, still stirring, for two minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve with extra parmesan.

 

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