Saturday, January 22, 2011

soup weekend!

mmmmm soup

Every month or so, Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I have a soup weekend. We make soups. Gallons and gallons of soups. Bean soups and veggie soups and soup starters and thick soups and chunky soups and spicy soups and hearty soups. They cook all day, sit out on the porch to cool all night, get portioned into gallon bags (2-quarts = 4 servings = enough to eat before it goes bad or you get tired of it), and frozen.

My goal is to have each soup come out to 300 calories or less for a 2-cup lunch portion, with as much fiber as we can muster. So after each new soup experiment, I list the cost, calories, fiber, and fat for each ingredient, measure how much we yielded, and determine what we get for each serving. Do we remember that math is hard? Yes, but by doing this I have learned A LOT over the years about which foods are high in fat/calories, and which ones pack a mighty punch of nutrition and belly-filling fiberous goodness for the buck. It's probably one of the top two nutritional learning things I've done for myself.

Last year, we bought a new book, 500 Soups by Susannah Blake, and compiled a list of all the soups we wanted to make, in addition to our favorites from the past year. We've already tried a few of the recipes and they have all turned out very well. The Spicy Cauliflower turned out beautifully (though freezing makes the cauliflower mushy... must not cook it so long next time); the Mediterranean Veg was a wonderful balance of sweet and acidic; and the Spiced Lentil, Chickpea, and Chorizo is my new absolute favorite soup, though it's more like a rich lentil chili than anything else.
I do have one "meh" about this small book and the others in the series (casseroles, cupcakes, appetizers, salads, etc). What they really contain is about 100 recipes; at the end of each chapter, each of that chapter's recipes is adapted to create 4 other soups. They basically just replace/remove/add one or two ingredients. Dude, I never follow a recipe and could really have come up with this on my own. But, many others don't cook like that *coughAbleBodiedBoyfriendisanengineercough*, and the basic recipes are all of good quality and variety, and so I don't mind so much.

It seems that Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I had different takes on how to select a soup. I tried to immediately be conscious of calories, and tended to only pick soups that seemed to fit the bill, using my super-soup-savvy knowledge; he went for "mmmmm this sounds yummy!" Which, overall, is not a bad way to pick soups; just about anything can be adapted to be more nutritious.

Yes, I said just about anything can be adapted to be more healthy... One of our top YUM picks was a Spicy Crab and Coconut (coconut cream... deadly good); besides some flavorful garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili peppers, and scallion, there was little other veg/bean/nutritive value. 440 calories, $4, and 0g fiber per serving later, a half gallon sits in the freezer awaiting a fancy indulgent dinner party :) Lesson learned! Sadly, any attempt to healthify (yes, it's a word dammit!) this soup will only fall flat of the decadence of the original and end up tasting like some normal plain-ole Thai curry.

So this particular weekend, we'll make a Mulligatawny (from the soup book), a Buffalo Bean (a personal creation: the tastiest and best one of all, imho), Squash and Lentil (via {le}Internet Cooking Princess), and Roasted Pumpkin and Apple (another made-it-up awesomeness). Good thing we have two crock pots, and several 6qt + pots!

While Able-Bodied Boyfriend and I have vastly different styles in the kitchen, we have found routines that help and traditions that make us smile. He'll help sous chef for me, chopping bits, as I direct and assemble and organize the process. I'll talk through my adaptations with him, for feedback. He'll take care of lunches and dinners while I'm in the middle of things, and run to the store if I forgot something. He may even find small activities that we can do while things are holding steady at a simmer. And when the soup is just about done, I'll bring a small cup of it with a small spoon to his computer, remind him that it's very hot, and request his opinion (usually, "Oh, this is good! It just needs salt..."). It can get hot and stressful at times, but I'm learning to spread out the cooking rather than trying to get it all done at once. And as long as the weather is cool, the post-cooking soup cool-down outside can last a couple days if I need to leave them to live the rest of my life :)

Do you have any big project weekends on a regular basis? What's the most satisfying thing about it?

Much Love,
Able-Bodied Girl


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