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3 Reasons to Meal Plan + a Quick Guide to Getting Started

by | Feb 25, 2015

pea soup

JULES CLANCY loves keeping things simple, especially in the kitchen. She has a degree in food science and blogs about healthy meals made easy at www.thestonesoup.com.

3 Reasons to Meal Plan + a Quick Guide to Getting Started

by Jules Clancy

When I was first getting into cooking in my early 20s, I spent loads of time planning my meals each week. I’d pour over cookbooks and magazines, and write lengthy shopping lists. I actually enjoyed it in a funny way, but as life got busier my meal planning habit was one of the casualties.

I found myself falling into the trap of either picking something up on the way home from work or, more often than I’d like to admit, getting takeout or going to a restaurant.

Over time, I realized that having some sort of plan and shopping on a weekly basis was not only better for my waistline, it was also easier on my wallet. But the best discovery was that meal planning didn’t have to be as time consuming as I’d originally thought.

These days I only spend a few minutes a week on meal planning. I’m not kidding.

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For the Love of Food

by | Feb 13, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week Costco is making you fat, meditation protects the brain, and the strange psychology of taking a pill.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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For the Love of Food

by | Jan 16, 2015
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the truth about calories, the magic of broth, and why weight loss requires more than Real Food.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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Foodist Approved: 4-Ingredient Silky Butternut Soup

by | Dec 31, 2014
butternut and leek soup

butternut and leek soup

I’ve got a feeling that 2015 is going to be a good year for you. Why? Because you’re finally going to learn to cook—and cook well.

So well that eating out just won’t impress you much anymore. Once you start donning that apron, you’ll find yourself thinking, “I could have made this better myself.”

This realization is kind of a bummer every time you eat out, but it’s definitely good for the wallet and waistline.

To get you warmed up (resolutions never last unless you ease into them), here’s a foolproof recipe for Silky Butternut Soup.

This flavorful wholesome soup requires just four ingredients and a few basic seasonings that are probably already sitting on your spice rack. The creamy richness you’re about to indulge in comes from the tahini, no dairy needed.

An immersion blender (stick blender) is a useful tool to have in your kitchen for pureeing soups and sauces.

To dress this soup up for a dinner party, top it with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a handful of toasted pecans.

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Foodist Approved: Tuscan Red Lentil Soup with Kale and Farro

by | Jan 15, 2014
Red lentil soup with kale and farro

Red lentil soup with kale and farro

This past week has been a pinch hectic as my husband and I closed on our first house and are getting ready to move.

Dinners had to be quick and easy with minimal cleanup, meaning one-pot meals instead of my usual nightly disaster in the kitchen (which always keeps my husband busy scrubbing). But into those single pots I also needed to fit a lot of healthy goodness, as I’ve been extra hungry lately (have I mentioned that I’m pregnant!!).

My best concoction from the week was a creamy, hearty soup that I loved so much, I made it twice. This recipe takes less than fifteen minutes to throw together and then you can just sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy the smells while it simmers (no wine for me!).

I got lucky with how good this soup turned out as I was actually just trying to use up a few random ingredients in our pantry. I found a bag of red lentils that had been sitting neglected for a while. I like how red lentils take on a creamy texture when cooked in a broth. They’re perfect for thickening a soup and they add a healthy dose of protein and fiber.

I tossed in a cup of farro to make it a meal. That, combined with the kale, made this a one-pot meal loaded with both nutrition and flavor.

It also makes for a delicious vegan soup (there is no actual cream in this creamy soup). Simply use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and skip the sprinkle of parmesan.

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For the Love of Food

by | Oct 25, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week the nutrition of raw vs cooked veggies, the tremendous benefits of sleep for health, and how personal values motivate your food choices.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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Foodist Approved: Immune-Boosting 8-Vegetable Minestrone

by | Oct 16, 2013
8-Vegetable Minestrone

8-Vegetable Minestrone

Cold weather is ahead and that means all the good things that come with it. Cozy fires, hot chocolate, comfy sweaters, and holiday parties.

Oh, and flu season.

But fret not. Darya and I are here to help you stay healthy all fall and winter long. A recent post of hers contains ten great tips on how to avoid getting sick. And my recipe for a hearty, healthy homemade soup will help you nail her #9: Eat well.

For years I’ve been working to perfect the recipe for my Immune-Boosting 8-Vegetable Minestrone. I love the result.

This isn’t your average minestrone with some beans and a few wimpy vegetables floating in some tasteless broth. My minestrone alone is a complete meal. It satisfies like a bowl of your favorite hearty pasta, and in addition to eight different fresh veggies this soup includes whole-wheat penne, cannellini beans, spicy chicken sausage (optional), and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Even better, it is easy to make and hard to mess up.

Ready to beat cold and flu season? Don an apron and dust off your pots and pans. It’s a lot of vegetables to chop, but enlist the help of a friend and you’ll both benefit from the big batch of soup this recipe makes. It’s so good you can eat it multiple nights in a row, or freeze the leftovers and enjoy a quick, healthy dinner at a later date.

Enjoy!
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For The Love Of Food

by | Jan 20, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

There are certainly some must reads this week, including Ruth Reichl’s speech from the Good Food Awards about how the food landscape has changed (for the better) in America. I also found an excellent discussion of the Paula Deen fiasco, and a handful of studies showing exercise is even more awesome than we knew.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

by | Sep 15, 2010
Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Last weekend I bought some amazing, gnarly looking chantenay carrots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market. When I found them at Tierra Vegetables they were just begging me to turn them into soup. I rose to the challenge, but first I had a few problems to solve.

Usually when I eat or make carrot soup it is in one of two styles. It can come either curried, warm and spicy, or gingered with hints of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. While I love these soups, they feel a little too much like fall and winter for me to get excited about them when summer in SF is just starting.

I didn’t want a soup that is warm and wintery, I wanted a carrot soup that is bright and summery.

To achieve this I started with carrot and ginger, but add a twist. Rather than spicing the soup with cinnamon and other fall flavors I added tumeric and a few Thai chili peppers to give it color, flavor and some heat. Then I brightened it up with lemon juice and preserved lemons. The soup is finished with crème fraîche, scallions, ginger flowers and lemon-scented olive oil.

To my delight this soup turned out amazing and unlike anything I had ever tasted. And it was exactly what I wanted. If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’m sure zest would produce a similar effect. Likewise, you can swap a serrano pepper for the Thai peppers and sour cream for crème fraîche. Ginger flowers and lemon oil are just bonus.

To blend the soup I used my new Cuisinart immersion blender (aka hand or stick blender), and I was very pleased with the result. I’m really happy about this because the Cuisinart is half the price of the Braun blender I used to use.

You can make the soup in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender.

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 3 chantenay carrots or 5-6 regular carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2-3 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped and seeded (optional)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (and zest if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp preserved lemon strips
  • Crème fraîche
  • Scallions
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • salt to taste

Heat butter or oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot and add onions. Saute until they become translucent then add the carrots, half the ginger, peppers and tumeric and cook until carrots are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.

When the carrots are soft add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carrots are very tender and can easily be cut with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, add the rest of the ginger and preserved lemons and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to thin the soup. I ended up adding 2 full cups.

If you are using a regular blender, be very very careful when blending hot liquids. Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches, holding the lid down with a kitchen towel. I’ve had many steaming soups explode and burn me, and it is not fun. That’s why I love my hand blender.

At this point you can filter the soup through a fine mesh strainer if you like, but I prefer to keep all the fiber in the soup and simply blend it very well. The texture is rich and silky this way, but will be thinner if you filter it.

Whisk in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. Ladle hot soup into a bowl and garnish with crème fraîche, scallions and lemon oil.

This makes a fairly large batch of soup. However, carrot soup freezes extraordinarily well so feel free to freeze a couple pints for later. The soup will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite way to make carrot soup?

Originally published Sept 7, 2009.

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How To Get Started Eating Healthy: Stock Your Freezer

by | Apr 15, 2009
Rice Balls

Rice Balls

There are many places you can turn when you’re feeling lazy or are too busy to cook a fresh meal, but instead of reaching for the take-out menu I prefer to turn to my freezer. For one thing, even the taqueria directly downstairs from my apartment cannot whip up something as quickly as I can. And their grilled veggie burrito (not to mention the carne asada burrito!) is substantially more expensive than anything I would make–I’m sure you can guess which is healthier too.

(This post is part four of the series How To Get Started Eating Healthy. Part one is Stock Your Pantry, part two is Essential Groceries and part three is Seasonal Shopping.)

Your freezer is an invaluable resource for storing foods that are best made in large batches. Frozen fruits and vegetables from the grocery store can also come in handy when you are in a pinch. Below is my personal list of freezer essentials, but please add your own in the comments and tell us how you use them:

  • Frozen rice balls The single most essential item in my freezer is my giant bag of frozen brown rice balls. When I first explained the best way to make rice, I mentioned that I prefer to make a large batch and freeze it in individual servings. This is a trick I learned from a former housemate that always cooked traditional Japanese food (thanks Kiyoshi!). He used white rice, but I think this method is even more valuable for whole, intact grains since they are not particularly easy to integrate into your meals unless you make them yourself. Whole grains take quite a while to cook, but if you make a lot and freeze them you only need to cook grains occasionally. In addition to rice, you can also freeze other grains like barley and steel cut oatmeal.
  • Cooked legumes To know me is to know that I love beans and lentils. Legumes are some of the healthiest food you can eat, and are among the best sources of protein on the planet. The only problem is they can take a long time to cook. Lentils cook pretty quickly (~20 minutes), but I like to make beans in large batches in the pressure cooker and freeze the rest in 1-2 tupperware containers that I thaw at my leisure. Lentils can be frozen as well.
  • Green legumes In addition to beans I have cooked myself, I also keep a stock of shelled, frozen soy beans and petite green peas in the freezer. These cook in just a few minutes and are delicious tossed with nuts, garlic and fresh herbs. My recipe needs some serious updating, but if you want an example of what I mean check out my Edamame and Peas Quick Fix.
  • Frozen fruit I always have a few bags of frozen wild organic blueberries for the days I run out of fresh fruit for my cereal. They thaw pretty fast (sometimes I put them in the microwave for 30 seconds) and are pretty tasty. They are great in oatmeal and pancakes as well.
  • Walnuts I keep my walnuts in the freezer to prevent the unstable omega-3 fatty acids from going rancid. Other nuts likely store well in the freezer too but tend to be more stable at room temperature than walnuts, which are particularly high in omega-3s.
  • Soups I love soup and cook it often. If you have ever browsed through James Peterson’s book Splendid Soups, you know why. The problem with soup is there is only one of me and the recipes tend to serve at least 4 people. Unless you want to eat the same thing all week long, freezing your left overs is your best bet. An added bonus is that you end up with a freezer filled with your favorite creations that can be eaten on lazy days.
  • Bread I do not eat bread often, but love to have it in the house just in case. But I never buy regular, sliced grocery store bread that is full of preservatives, dough conditioners and other bizarre ingredients that belong in the lab. Instead, I like to go to my local bakery (Acme or Tartine), get a fresh loaf, cut it up into single servings and freeze it in gallon freezer bags. You would be shocked at how nicely frozen bread reheats in an oven set to 325. Alternatively you can take it out a day early and thaw it in the fridge.
  • Meat Most of you already know that meat stores well in the freezer, but you can also store scraps and bones to make your own stock. Conveniently, you can also freeze your homemade stock.
  • Sauces During the summertime my local markets are practically giving away basil. It is such a wonderful herb, I cannot help making big batches of pesto all season. Leftover sauces can be frozen and taken out in winter when your favorite flavors are harder to find.
  • Spices I have recently started grinding my own spices, but like many things it is easier to do it in large batches. Extra spices store well in sealed containers in the freezer.

Your freezer is a great resource and I encourage you to be creative. It can make healthy eating much easier by giving you quick access to healthy foods, and also spares you from monotony when you cook in large batches.

How else can your freezer help you eat healthy?

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