BRRRR! It is getting cold outside!

Thai White Bean Chili
Thai White Bean Chili

When the weather changes and the mercury dips down in the freezing area, I can’t help but think about a warm pot of soup.  Soups will be commonly featured in this blog because soups are truly the base of everyday cooking around the globe.  Visit almost any corner of the earth and the culture you come upon will have a basic soup recipe used for everyday cooking.  In Japan it is Udon noodle broths, in Africa it is a ground nut soup, in Italy we could say Minestrone and in China we have Wonton.  These are just a few examples and as you begin to think about it you will see, soup is an integral part of humanity’s everyday eating habits.

In the U.S. these days canned soup reigns supreme in most homes, but between sodium levels and added preservatives, these are not always very healthy choices.  So making a soup from scratch is really the best way to go, not just from a health perspective but an economical one as well.  There is no better home for forgotten, unused produce than a pot of homemade vegetable soup.  Soups allow us to use whatever we have on hand and ensure that we aren’t throwing food, especially expensive produce away.  Another bonus here is that cooking vegetables often releases nutrients, however if you are making a soup, those nutrients simply remain in the soup’s broth so quite literally, nothing is wasted.

Since my goal is to get people using what they already have on hand, simplifying the cooking experience exponentially, the recipe in today’s post is fluid and uses whatever you already have.  No special trips to the store for the Optimal Kitchen.  So warm yourself up by the stove and go ahead and try this one out!

PURGE THE FRIDGE SOUP
1/2 Gallon Chicken, Fish or Vegetable Stock
1 large Onion, bunch of Scallions, Shallots or Leeks
A few garlic cloves, minced
1 cup or so chopped Carrots, Celery, Turnips, Parsnips or Fennel
1 head of dark leafy greens (Escarole, Kale, Swiss Chard, Beet Greens or even Spinach) chopped
1 large can or 2 cups soaked and par cooked Beans (Red, Black, White or even Chick Peas)
Fresh or Dried Herbs, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Basil, Thyme or Bay Leaf
Sea Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
Olive Oil for cooking

Saute onions in olive oil until clear, about 5 mins. and then add carrots, celery or whatever hearty vegetables you have on hand and sauté for another 2-3 mins.
If mixture looks a bit dry add some stock, then add garlic and whatever combination of dark leafy greens you may have and sauté for a few more minutes before adding the beans and herbs
Season with Sea salt and fresh pepper at this point and then slowly pour in stock or broth
Keep over a medium high heat until it just begins to bubble then reduce to a simmer for 10-15mins until beans are tender
Serves 8-10 servings

This is the base to which you can also add lots of other goodies you find in your refrigerator. It is always best to add starches like rice, pasta, quinoa that have already been cooked so they won’t absorb all of your liquid and turn your soup into something much more reminiscent of a stew so scan your fridge and toss some in, but keep it at one starch, pasta and rice do not go together, the same rule applies if you add potatoes to your soup, that is plenty of starch. Feel free to toss in cooked chicken, turkey or any other meats you may have in your fridge that will most likely be thrown out if not used, just be sure that if it is seasoned, that the flavorings complement those of your soup and not compete with it.

So go ahead and getting cooking!

The Optimal Kitchen is Back!

After a rather lengthy hiatus, the Optimal Kitchen’s website is back up and running.We hope it will be better than ever. New features include a daily blog and membership services that will allow clients to subscribe to weekly menus, complete with shopping lists and recipes. The Optimal Kitchen is dedicated to empowering people in the kitchen by offering clear, concise and no-nonsense information to make healthy cooking simple and fun.

Raw Beet and Kale Salad with a Ginger Vinaigrette
Raw Beet and Kale Salad with a Ginger Vinaigrette
Asian Vegetable Salad
Asian Vegetable Salad
Thai White Bean Chili
Thai White Bean Chili