Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's Resolutions; Food Budgets; and Sweet Potato and Kale Soup

I read this post on Lifehacker about eating healthy foods and I hadn't quite formulated my New Year's resolution yet, but I'd been mulling it over. Technically you have all of January to decide, right?

Anyway I gave it some thought and my plan, goal or resolution for the year is to pare my food budget. It's out of control, and it's easy to get that way shopping at farmers' markets on a regular basis. Oh, I'll still be at the market every week, and I'll indulge in my favorite healthy foods and support local farmers, but I need to set limits since our income fluctuates and it got so low for the past few months, I need to get real about budgets.

I already cook at home ninety-nine percent of the time, but lately I've been giving a lot of thought to soup and how this humble healthy dish has fed the poor for centuries. Every cuisine around the world includes soup.

My idea is to make two nights a week soup nights. (Okay, stew and chile will count, too.) I love the creativity of making soup so it will be a fun project to come up with creative ideas every week. If you're new to soup making and want some tips (and a recipe for Mushroom Barley Soup with Merlot), check out my "Take 5 Column" in The Sound Observer from Marlene's Market and Deli in Tacoma. The soup recipe with the article is one from my cookbook.

Or you could make this fabulous sweet potato and kale soup that was inspired by a recipe in The South American Table by Maria Baez Kijac, who says that this soup originally came from Portugal and is a favorite today in Brazil. I think my version will end up in my favorites for the year.

Sweet Potato and Kale Soup
(Serves 4)
Maria says her original recipe is meant to be served with a plate of sausage. Pass it around and everyone adds what they want to the soup. And while the recipe listed potatoes, I love the color of sweet potatoes or yams and that's what I had in my pantry, leftover from Ayers Creek farm at the Hillsdale Market. I had the frozen roasted tomatoes in my freezer. I'd splurged on Tuscan kale this week, so that's what I used.

1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 frozen, thawed roasted tomatoes, or 1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
4 to 6 cups water
1 large sweet potato or yam, chopped
1 potato, chopped
About 6 kale leaves, removed from stems and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers (optional)
Grated cheese or croutons for garnish (optional)

1. In a soup pot saute onion in oil over medium heat. When onions soften add garlic and stir for a few minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, water, sweet potato and potato. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in kale and cook until wilted.

2. Add salt and pepper to taste, Mama Lil's (if you like heat) and grated cheese or croutons, if desired.

My Cooking Assistant says he loves the idea of my New Year's resolution, but only if every meal is as good as this one. (However, I must confess, he'd be mighty excited if a plate of sausage meant to accompany the soup was passed his way. And he'd be unapologetic about eating it all.)

P.S. Do you have any meat-free recipes you'd like to share? My Cooking Assistant and I would appreciate some cool ideas.

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