Here are the things I learned this week:
1) Although I love being barefoot or in sandals, rain boots are definitely the right choice when it’s raining.
2) Madonna still totally rocks. Like, seriously.
3) Steaks can be made out of cauliflower (see: Thursday’s post).
4) Curling up on the couch with something warm (i.e. a blanket, freshly baked bread, breakfast for dinner, and soup) is the perfect way to ward off chilly weather.
So below, find some of my favorite cozy, low-sodium recipes for when the temperature drops. Make one, two, or all three this week. And save your salt for de-icing your driveway. Or whatever people on the East coast have to do during the winter.
Salt-Free Veggie Pulp Bread
the perfect compliment to freshly made, silky vegetable soup and the perfect use for the veggie scraps left after you strain it
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup of veggie pulp from strained soup (be sure to squeeze to get it as liquid-free as possible)
- 3 cups bread or all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- 2 teaspoons sodium-free baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder or red chili pepper flakes
- 1, 12 oz can of beer
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 eggs
- Tomato slices, salt-free mayo or creme fraiche, and any herbs for bread spread
Preheat your oven to 375 dg F. You’re doing great already.
Then, in a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking soda, black pepper, and chili powder. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Make a well in the center and add your dry veggie pulp. Mix until distributed, breaking up any clumps with your spoon. Then, make another well in the center and slowly add the beer, mixing as you pour. When all the beer is added, there may be some flour left in the bowl unmixed. So roll up your sleeves and get in there, using your hands to give the dough a final mix and knead. Add a little more flour if it is too sticky and a little more water if it is too dry. You want it to be a slightly wet, but not can’t-get-it-off-my-hands goopy.
Finally, dump the batter into a greased 9 x 5 bread pan, spreading the dough out with your hands or wooden spoon until it fills the pan evenly. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. When time is up, drizzle olive oil over the bread and put back into the oven for 30 more minutes.
Take the bread out of the oven and allow it to cool, 15 minutes minimum.
Slice 4, 1/2″ pieces of bread and place on a baking sheet. Put them back in the oven on the next to highest rack, under the broiler on high, until crisp and brown, 2-3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, fry two eggs in an oiled saute pan, 2-3 minutes so the yolk is still a bit runny.
When bread is toasted, spread a bit of greek yogurt on one half, layer with tomato slices, and top with the second bread half. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately alongside some warm and creamy soup.
Baked Eggs Over Herbed Couscous
You will not believe how much punch this little dish packs and, since each baked egg is cooked in individual oven-safe dishes, the presentation is pretty awesome too. And if you are low on time, or patience, you can also use some low-sodium tomato sauce (30 mg per serving).
- 2 eggs (70 mg of sodium each)
- 1 orange
- 1 cup couscous (0 mg of sodium)
- 1 cup water
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 poblano pepper
- 2 tomatillos
- 1 jalapeno, diced
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- a few dashes of chipotle powder
To prepare the tomatoes and poblano pepper, first wash and then remove the stems. For the tomatillo, remove the outer leaves and rinse quickly under water. For the poblano, slice off the very top and make another slice down the side. This will give you access to the seeds which you can simply remove by hand. Place the tomatoes, tomatillos, and the poblano in an oven pan.
Turn on the oven broiler to low and place ingredients from step one on the top rack directly under the flame. Allow for them to char on one side for 5 minutes. Turn the tomatoes, tomatillos, and poblano two more times until all the sides have had a good amount of heat (a total time of 15 minutes). Remove the tomatoes, tomatillos, and poblano and allow them to cool.
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium flame and add the shallot and garlic. Allow the garlic to brown and shallot to become slightly transparent, stirring constantly.
Peel the charred skin from the tomatoes, tomatillos, and the poblano. An easy way to do this is to put them in a paper bag and rub. Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, poblano, and the roasting juices to the pot. Blend in a blender or with an immersion blender until mostly smooth and allow it to reduce for another 15 minutes over medium heat. Add pepper to taste.
In another small pot, heat 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add in the couscous and stir for 2 minutes. Remove couscous from the flame and add juice from one small orange, the jalapeños, and the parsley. Mix well.
In two oven safe dishes, layer the couscous and roasted tomato/pepper sauce. Crack one egg in each dish and dust with chipotle powder. Place the two dishes under the oven broiler on low for 5 to 10 minutes or until the white has hardened.
To serve, sprinkle leftover parsley on top and dig in.
Salt-Free Roasted Fennel Chowder
A quick word about soup: two things make this food group the ultimately easy homemade meal:
1) You can use pretty much any vegetables you have lying around–frozen peas and corn are hearty and nutritious, leftovers always work well, even leafy greens in a light broth can be comforting–which enables you to avoid grocery store wastefulness and make low sodium meals without spending much money.
2) With the right tools–I think you all know by now that I’m talking about an immersion blender–you can whip up fresh soup in a matter of minutes without making a mess. It can be a one-pot clean up.
Soup also doesn’t need much to be tasty, and if you want to add depth, there are simple no-salt tricks that can enhance flavor:
- Roast or caramelize your vegetables first–this will bring out the natural smoky and sweet notes of your tomatoes, cauliflower, onions, corn, fennel….well you get the point.
- Top it off with fresh herbs. Not only does it perk up your taste buds, it can turn a bowl of slop into something that looks refined.
- Add a dollop of heavy cream, crème fraiche, or low-sodium Greek yogurt to lighten the taste.
- Gentle citrus notes, like a squeeze of orange, can add a surprising brightness to soup and work well with root vegetables and squash.
- A pinch of spice never hurts. Stir in some curry powder (great with pea soup and cauliflower) or sprinkle some red chili pepper flakes before serving. If someone wasn’t paying attention before, they will be now.
I created this particular caramelized fennel corn chowder recipe on the fly after assessing the ingredients I already had in my possession. It took me less than 30 minutes to make and consisted of only 5 products: fennel, roasted garlic, frozen corn, heavy cream, and low sodium bread. So take a spin with some homemade soup this week, the weather is perfect for it.
- 1 head of garlic, roasted
- 1 bulb of fennel, diced or sliced, either way it’s getting blended
- 1 ½ cups of frozen corn
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon of heavy cream (0 mg of sodium)
- fresh herbs, chives and parsley work well, roughly chopped or torn
- 2 slices of low sodium bread (10 mg of sodium per slice), cut into 1/2 inch squares and toasted
Spoiler alert: this recipe was so quick because I already had roasted the garlic for a dinner party the night before. To roast the garlic, cut off the tops of the entire head of garlic and put into a little boat made of tinfoil. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil onto the garlic and throw it into an oven on 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until the garlic is soft. If you are in a rush though, skip the roasted garlic and simply sauté in some olive oil in your soup pot on medium heat.
Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in your soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the fennel (and garlic if you are not roasting it). Stir constantly and allow the fennel to soften and turn to a nice, brown caramel color. Should take 5 minutes. Add the corn and allow it to soften for another 5 minutes. Add the roasted garlic (if you made roasted garlic) and the cup of water. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes to draw out the flavors.
Take pot off of the flame and plug in your immersion blender. Blend on low to medium for 2 minutes or until the consistency is nice and creamy. You can always add an extra step of running the soup through a sieve if you want it to be absolutely silky. Put pot back on the burner and turn flame to low to reheat. 5 minutes before serving/eating, add the cream and stir.
Ladle steaming soup into a gigantic bowl or cup and top with fresh herbs, croûtons, and pepper flakes if desired.