Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's determinations + Soup for one

Well, happy new year, everyone!  I see with pleasure that several of my favorite blogs are going light and super-healthy in January, which makes me happy because I'm doing the same thing and we can all play together!

Susan Voisin in particular has articulated her KISSS plan clearly (or technically it's KISSAS, the perfect acronym for a diet, in my opinion, though Susan has chosen not to use it) and although I haven't read Eat to Live and 6-week-type plans don't work for me, free spirit that I am, eating like that is how I lost my weight last year and also pretty much what I'm doing now.

Do I make New Year's resolutions?  You bet!  I love them.  There is nothing like the feeling of a shiny new year, a fresh start, however symbolic, new beginnings, something to enliven the doldrums of January and, if you make it that far, the desperate dreariness of February and March that is weather in Edmonton.  But this year I don't have any plans for self-improvement important enough to be called resolutions, so I've made what are more like New Year's determinations.  This year, I am determined to:

1.  Use up a significant amount of the contents of my deep freezer, pantry shelves (kitchen and basement, I could stock a dry goods store with the stuff I have down there), refrigerator, and auxiliary mini-fridge.  I absolutely love buying food but it's getting to the point where there is simply no place to put it all.  Grains, pasta, sauces, spices, nuts, condiments, pickles, and I don't know what all (actually I do have pretty good tabs on it, but still, there's so much).  How many bags of fereek does one person need?

2.  As a sub-determination of (1), to buy fresh food in small quantities.  I live alone with several good grocery stores within easy reach, which I visit often.  Why then do I feel I have to stock up on everything every time I go, just because it looks so good and buying fresh stuff is such a pleasure, to the point where when I start actually cooking I have to ask myself, hmm, what needs using up today? so though I shop for groceries probably twice a week I'm always ending up cooking with stale vegetables?  Why?  Why?

3.  Really, truly practice cooking for one.  One of the items taking up space in the freezer is containers of stews and soups of various kinds that are delicious, but left over.  Man, I hate leftovers.  To the point where I'll replicate an entire dish two days later rather than simply thawing the leftovers from the first one out.  Once in a while I'll start a project, such as painting my house, where I have no time, space, or inclination to cook, and then I'm glad of them.  Or have company on very short notice.  Or I'm too depressed to cook.  But I only paint once every several years and my friends are generally quite considerate about giving notice, and knock on wood I'm a pretty happy gal these days, plus cooking cheers me up so I'd have to be really depressed to dig down in the freezer for leftovers and that would for me usually mean I'm too depressed to eat anyway.

All these three determinations interlock.  If I have carrots going wilty in the bin, I'm not going to want to just use half of one in a soup, I'll use all five, which is the first step in the Recipe for Disaster.

Phew, I'm feeling better already!

So to begin this overarching personal culinary economic revolution, I've been scouring out the fresh contents of the refrigerator(s; yes, I've had to resort to a creating a sub-depot in the mini-fridge downstairs).  Soup is a very good way to do this, plus I love creating soups and stews, and having to use up odd bits of things is a good way to force oneself to be creative. 

Start with a medium-small saucepan.  You are cooking for one, so you are determined that this time you will not be pouring the contents into a larger saucepan later on.  Measure out your high-calorie, starchy things.  In the picture at the top of this post, you see 1/4 cup of dry black-eyed peas (just washed, which is why the skins are a little wrinkly), plus 2 tablespoons of pot barley, plus a single millet grain that got in somehow.  It doesn't look like much, maybe, but it will expand.  Cover generously with water or vegetable broth (you can add more later, or let it boil down if there's too much, so don't sweat the amount), bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 40 minutes while you go do something else.
Now fry some onions in a little oil, and when they're soft, add garlic, mushrooms, and celery.  You can of course just add all this to the soup pot, but frying is just one more pan, and the added flavour is worth it.

Add diced parsnip and herbs, tarragon and fennel in this case, and fry a little longer, not to cook them through, just to toast everything a bit and mingle the flavours:

Deglaze the frying pan with white wine, and scrape the contents into the soup pot.  Mmmm....

Simmer until the vegetables are tender, and just before you're ready to eat, add some finely chopped broccoli:

Okay, I snuck some kabocha squash in there as well because I'm addicted to it.  But yes!  I kept within the confines of my pot, ate it all (and was very full and satisfied afterwards even though the entire pot contained only about 400 calories), plus I finally made something with black eyed peas for New Year's, which I have been meaning to do for years but for one reason or another never managed.  I'm ready for my abundance and wealth now.  Is it ready for me?


  1. I am so happy to see the black eyed peas! My grandmother by marriage had long been married to a southerner and black eyed peas was a tradition she introduced us to. The eyes look forward to the new year, an idea that just tickles me!! Every year now we have black eyed peas in one fashion or another on new year's day. Yesterday we had them with kale, lots of garlic, a little olive oil and a dash of smoked paprika and a tiny bit of liquid smoke. Fantastic! I love them, maybe especially since they are so flexible. I love the looks of this recipe and the cheery peas winking out!! Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks, Jamie! Southern cooking is not in my family's blood, and I only learned about this tradition on the Internet, but it's one after my own heart. Your dish sounds very Southern, very delicious!

  3. What an elegant Black-Eyed Pea and Parsnip Soup. Interesting combination of Asian and Southern influences.

  4. Hehehe, I love your determinations... we are alike! I have a pantry filled to the brims and I'll be moving in 4 months, so my goal is to eat through it so we don't have to move it.. haha! ;)

    Although I love leftovers because I hate cooking mid-week after work. I typically do a weekend cooking bonanza and relax all week. :)

  5. I've never been a big fan of black eyed peas but everyone else must be cooking them wrong because this dish sounds like the way to do it!
    You're so good with spices; I never really know what to add but fennel seed with parsnips and mushrooms must be greaet.

  6. Yay for going lighter in 2012! And good call on the pantry clearing. I've been working my way through stuff like giant bags of lentils to make way for the new - saves tons of money to just use what you have, too. Soup is the way to go!

  7. Great healthy soup! Thanks for posting :). I have a large family, so I will just scale up the ingredients. I've been looking at the seitan recipes you have as I've recently begun making it; a few must-tries there... you might like my Seitan a l'orange (, posted a few days ago). Good luck with you New Year's determinations...

  8. That soup is gorgeous. I share you dislike of leftovers, as much as I wish it weren't so.

    You asked about Bryanna's slow cooker method for seitan. My absolute all-time favorite way to cook seitan is in the slow cooker. Well, for 'roasts'. I still stick to the oven for cutlets. But I've never made a seitan recipe from Bryanna that disappointed in any way. She's the best!

  9. Shen, that's me, I call it fusion, but really I'm just playing around.

    Janet, I sympathize. I'm kind of like that with books, will do nearly anything not to have to move them, including building bookshelves in my unfinished basement after I had to move all the books down there during renovations. P.S., I *love* your other (home building) blog!

    Foodfeud, I get your funny feelings about black eyed peas. They taste unlike other beans, and in certain recipes tend to cook up into a muddy-coloured mess. I like them, but I like them *best* mixed in with other foods in a soup or a stew so their natural beauty can shine forth.

    Allysia, working my way through bags of giant lentils so I can make way for new [bags of giant lentils] is pretty much the story of my life. Even today, you'd think I'd have every food on the planet but I had used up all my whole dried chilis to make harissa but *needed* some more...

    Yogi, that's the way to do it. All these soup recipes can be totally scaled up, of course. Ho, your seitan a la orange looks fantastic and I am way into savory citrus dishes just now and have a *lot* of seitan on hand...

    Tami, Calorie Count sent me an e-mail today about how to lose weight by eating the very same thing every day. Yeah, I'd lose weight on that diet...and also the will to live...I'd say both you and Bryanna are seitan goddesses. Her slow-cooked seitan seems to be the sort of cornerstone of World Vegan Feast and I'm dying to make it, except that all I have is this weirdly adulterated seitan from Bulk Barn that I don't trust and no room in the freezer, so it will have to wait.

  10. OK, sorry I am slow in commenting on this one. First, your meal looks great. I wish I could hire you as my personal gourmet vegan chef!!! Also, I am also a bit of a food hoarder (lots of pantry staples in my freezer, and I had to restrain myself from buying kale at the farmer's market this summer when we had 2 beds full of kale in OUR OWN GARDEN!!! Crazy!!). Anyhow, I love black-eyed peas and usually only use them in hoppin' John, but this is a delightful alternative!

  11. I've made a similar resolution to buy less fresh food at a time, or I should say convince my husband to do so, since he's the one who loves to shop and over-buy. I like all of your determinations — they make perfect sense — and I like the soup, too!

  12. I love reading about everyone's resolutions, I haven't really made any myself but it's hard not to get inspired. I wasn't planning on going on a health kick this January but seeing all these light and delicious meals is making me reconsider.