Monday, December 27, 2010

More Magnesium!

I politely declined when the grocery clerk asked me if I wanted a basket, and doing so limited what I could carry and allowed me to exit the store with a week's worth of fresh local produce for less than $10. Of course, this also caused my peppercorns to slip from my arms, and now my grinder remains on low... but I digress. My intent was to get spinach, and in the end, I was able to create a well rounded meal, high in magnesium, uber delicious, using what I had on hand at home... add spinach.

Why spinach you ask? Well, after learning that a close friend of mine had a migraine, I read up on the symptoms, causes, preventions and treatments. I was intrigued to learn that a deficiency in magnesium, can be related to the onset and/or prevention of these nasty buggers. I've also been craving spinach recently, and I've learned to listen to and then deconstruct my body's cravings. In this case, it is quite possible that my body was letting me know that I was running low on a whole list of things; iron, vita c, folate, vita a, manganese, b2, calcium, b6, potassium, as well as magnesium. Thus, I was inspired to capture this nutrition in the evening meal.

What I had on hand:

1 bunch of spinach, washed and de-stemmed
2 large cloves of garlic, cleaned and sliced
1/2 large onion, chunked
3 medium potatoes, chunked
2 TB olive oil
1 egg
4 oz piece of Black Pepper and Garlic Smoked Alaskan King Salmon
pat of butter
sprinkle of thyme, black pepper and crushed red pepper (optional)

What I did:

Toss the potatoes, garlic, onion and olive oil in roasting pan (ceramic, glass or iron) and roast on 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until soft and fragrant... stirring occasionally. Add spinach, and seasonings, cover and return to oven for 5 minutes, remove and stir, so the heat of the potatoes finishes steaming the greens. Fry egg in butter, while heating up fish in the same pan, next to one another. Spoon veggies into bowl and top with protein. *For a well rounded vegan dish, simply cube marinated tempeh, and add with the potatoes, onions and garlic.

For more information on the health benefits of spinach, click on this link:

For more information on the health benefits of magnesium and what it can do for your body, click on this link:

For a list of foods high in Magnesium, click on this link:                                                   

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seasonal Spanky Bowl

One of my MAD (Making Appetites Drool) favorite links, is this one by Epicurious.
It takes the guess work out of figuring out what's in season. The coolest thing about knowing what's in season is that you can build a meal from a limited ingredient list,  and you will know that it all tastes good together, and because it is in season, it'll be in abundance, which means it'll be on sale. This is what's called a win-win-win situation.

When you buy seasonal produce, you use a little here and a little there and after a few days, you might have random leftovers that you aren't sure what to do with, but they need to be used up so they don't spoil, sooooo... Enter: The Spanky Bowl. Now, when I hear Spanky Bowl, I immediately think about a plethora of steamed or sauteed veggies over potatoes. Don't you? These tators can be any color or variety, mashed or boiled, or roasted or baked. You may even add sauce, cheese, or cheez.

Here what I had on hand:

3 TB of olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1 Japanese eggplant, chopped and salted with the skin on
1/8 of a large cabbage, chopped
1/4 of a large onion, chopped
1/4 of a bunch of parsley, chopped
1/8 of a head of broccoli, chopped
1 green kale leaf, foilage pulled off stem, torn in bits

1 1/2 cup of previously made mashed potatoes
(which were really just boiled yellow potatoes, mashed, with a little Earth Balance and salt)

2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tsp of vegan Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

What I did:

Spread potatoes on toaster oven pan, and reheat at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

Then toss the first 8 ingredients in a big GIANT wok like pan
(I use mine like EVERYDAY of my life!),
and break it up, move it around, and it flip over... steaming, cooking, sauteeing...
with a spatula, until everything is bright green and just tender.
Press garlic onto veggie mixture... stir and sautee for a few minutes more.
(I enjoy my garlic less cooked, but if you prefer, you may add it sooner, or even right at the beginning. You may also add the garlic to the potatoes and have them heat up together)
Season to veggies to taste.
Then spread veggies over potatoes, in a bowl.

If you so desire, you may add feta or goat cheese at the end, but otherwise, this dish is 100% vegan.

Preparing "Seasonal Spanky Bowls" often gives me an overabundance of veggies,
ready to be utilized. Toss them in a container for the fridge
and scramble them with eggs, make a frittata or some veggie pancakes.
Stir fry them with leftover quinoa or rice and you've got lunch, too!

For additional information on the health benefits of cabbage, click on these links:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Broccoli for Breakfast

It seems as though I've been surrounded lately by an influx of peeps talking about their recent broccoli experiences. Most of these culinary discussions started with "Mmmmm..." and ended with "That was the best broccoli I've ever had!!!!" In each case, quality was highlighted and while going with organic is best if it is available, conventionally grown broccoli will do fine, if need be. Choosing bright green crowns with a tinge of purple is best, as darker florets are more nutritionally dense. Buying crowns only are usually more expensive, so I opt for those with the stalks not only to save money, but because when peeled, those stalks are highly edible and nutritious as well and are good for cubing into omelets, soups or stir frys.

So for breakfast, here's what I had:

1 egg
1 red potato
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup of broccoli

Here is what I did:

I added the butter to a heated pan.
Then I thinly sliced the potato into the pan,
flipping things around occasionally and adding some salt and pepper.
Put the pan's lid on too, to keep some of that steam in there.
Mince the garlic and toss it in there, flip things around again.
Chop or thinly slice the broccoli and once the potatoes are almost done,
add the broccoli on top of the potatoes. Put the lid on again and steam for a few minutes.
when the broccoli is bright green and potatoes brown, remove food from pan and into a bowl.
Crack egg and add to already greased hot pan. Add some salt and pepper, cover with lid and cook egg to preference. I like it over easy, with the insides just a little bit runny.
When the egg is done, flop it onto your veggies and VIOLA!
Breakfast. YUM.

For additional information about the nutritional benefits of broccoli, click on any of these links:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Indian Red Curry

Although this post is about curry, I wanted to first mention that having the right cookware - nothing new or expensive, just a few basic pots and pans - will make preparing many of these meals easier, and/or less time consuming.

Pots and pans I recommend having:

1 small saucepan
(good for "meals for one", melting butter, sauces, poached eggs)
1 medium saucepan, with tight fitting lid
(good for cooking rice, quinoa, popcorn, sauces, "meals for two", hard boiled eggs)
1 large skillet, with handle
(excellent for curries, stir frys, omelets, scrambles, risotto and browning proteins)
1 large stock or soup pot, with holes in lid for draining
(super for stews, soups, pasta)
Crock pot
(awesome for soups, stews, beans, curries)

For the Indian Red Curry, I used the skillet.

This is what I had on hand:

a few TB of coconut oil
1 cup of red lentils
(red lentils cook differently - and faster - than other lentils, so it's important to choose this particular kind)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed, minced or chopped
(your preference, really, tho I prefer mine crushed as to not waste any of the precious oil)
3/4 of a medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced and then quartered
2 small red potatoes, chopped the same size as the carrot
1 cup cauliflower florets
(I had a bit of a head leftover, so I just chopped up what I had to match the size of the other veggies... more or less won't matter with any of these ingredients)
2-4 cups of water
several TB of red curry paste
(I buy this at specialty international/Asian/Indian grocery stores in bulk and keep refrigerated. This lasts a long time and makes preparing these dishes simple)
1 cup Brown Basmati rice, cooked

This is what I did:

Sautee garlic in oil for a minute or two, then add onion and stir for a few more minutes.
Add remainder of veggies, stir.
Add 2 of the 4 cups water, stir.
Add lentils, stir.
Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low, stirring occasionally with a rubber or silicone spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the skillet as you go.
As mixture thickens, add the remaining 2 cups of water, a little at a time, and continue to stir occasionally.
After simmering for about 1/2 hour, add curry paste a little at a time, seasoning to taste.
Continue simmering and stirring until the water has been absorbed and both lentils and veggies are soft.
Serve over rice.

If you prefer,
stirring in a bit of sour cream, plain Greek yogurt or any vegan alternative, gives this dish a creamy kick!

For more information on the health benefits of lentils, click on this link:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pho Soup

I've been sick recently. I had a pretty high fever for a few days, so eating wasn't high on my list of things to do... laying around moaning was. Still, it's important to get good stuff into your system and keep yourself hydrated when it's difficult to keep things down. Sipping on coconut water, miso soup and herbal teas is perfect for that, but when you are starting to feel better, one of the easiest to prepare, simplest to digest and most nutritionally dense things to make, is Pho soup.

What you need:

1 package of rice noodles
(I like Thai Kitchen brand, as it comes in individual packages and includes seasoning)
(good ones to use are kale, cabbage, spinach, scallions, chives, onion, broccoli, carrots, garlic, ginger - any combination of any of these, and others that steam easily)
Nutritional yeast

Make noodles according to directions.
When the noodles are almost done, add your veggies and simmer for a few more minutes.
Pour into a ceramic bowl, sprinkle with nutritional yeast.

Often, since garlic is most potent as a natural infection fighter in its raw form, I'll crush a whole clove or two into the soup at the very end. This will give your soup an extra nutritional boost!

To learn more about the health benefits of garlic, check out this link:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

White Bean, Kabocha and Kale Soup

This is a most wonderful soup recipe that I found online last year. It calls for the highly prized (and difficult to process) Kabocha Squash, a sweet and delicate squash that gives this soup a creamy texture without dairy, grain or added fat. It is worth the trouble of peeling and cubing. The soup is incredibly smooth, naturally vegan and gluten-free, and VERY nutritionally dense. One serving will feed your body well! You may certainly add homemade toasted garlic breadcrumbs or a few shavings of your favorite hard cheese on top (I like Pecorino), but it is still excellent without.


3 cups onion, diced
2 cups celery (including the green tops), diced
2 T. olive oil
2 T. garlic, minced
1 T. ginger, minced
8 cups veggie stock

(I only had 4 cups of veggie broth on hand, so I added 4 cups of water, instead)
6 cups Kabocha squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes

(I saved the seeds, rinsed them in a colander, spread them on a cookie sheet, sprinkled them with garlic salt and left them overnight in a 200 degree oven - good snack!)
6 cups kale, destemmed, and roughly chopped

(Use whatever kind of kale you want... I had Dinosaur Kale - also known as Tuscan or Lacinato Kale)
2 t. dried basil
2 t. dried thyme
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 - 15 oz. can baby butter beans, drained, and rinsed
1 - 15 oz. can Great Northern beans, drained, and rinsed

What I did:

In a large pot, saute the onion and celery in olive oil for 5 minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, Kabocha squash, kale, basil, thyme, cumin, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the beans and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Salt further, to taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Yields about 3 quarts, which is great for portioning, freezing and enjoying at lunchtime!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ginger Agave Pear Apple Crisp

In Yakima, WA, last month, I had the opportunity to pick some pears and apples with some friends, from a local farm. I ended up with quite a few more than I had intended, but I quickly figured out how to put them to good use and cleaned out my cupboards at the same time! Although I found several recipes online, I strayed from them all, reducing the amount of sugar and substituting some ingredients for others. The first batch was all pears. The second was a combination. I found blueberries in the freezer and added them into the second batch, as well as cut the sugar amounts below, in half again. If the fruit is fresh and sweet, then adding so much extra sugar is unnecessary, but then, I wasn't raised on sugary desserts. Less is more, and that's one reason I prefer agave. It's also easy to make this recipe gluten free by using only gluten free cereal and flour.

Main body:

7-8 pears and/or apples, cored and cubed
1/4 cup of sugar, brown or white
2 good squeezes of agave
2 TB butter, cubed or sliced
1 teaspoon of ginger
2 teaspoons of Cinnamon
a sprinkle or two of cloves

Combine all of this in a big bowl with a silicone or rubber spatula. Spread in lightly greased pan.


6 TB butter, cubed or sliced
1/4 cup sugar, brown or white
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup cereal/granola/rolled oats/raw nuts and fruit 

Combine all of this in a big bowl and mix up with a fork, and spoon it over the fruit. 
Flatten it gently with the fork, filling in the spaces.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbly.
Let cool and serve! 

By the way... This is fantastic with Scoop's Organic Pumpkin or Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Crack Open a Coconut!

While a friend was in town, we decided to buy ourselves a coconut and share it. As we waited for the delicious water inside to fill a glass, we wondered about the health benefits of coconut. We knew the oil was good for us... We knew the water was good for us... Who knew the whole thing was good for us?!
SO good!

Here is a list of what we found:

  • Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
  • Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
  • Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
  • Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
  • Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
  • Boosts energy and endurance, enhancing physical and athletic performance.
  • Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
  • Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
  • Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
  • Reduces problems associated with malabsorption syndrome and cystic fibrosis.
  • Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
  • Helps protect against osteoporosis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
  • Improves digestion and bowel function.
  • Relieves pain and irritation caused by hemorrhoids.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Supports tissue healing and repair.
  • Supports and aids immune system function.
  • Helps protect the body from breast, colon, and other cancers.
  • Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
  • Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.
  • Helps prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.
  • Functions as a protective antioxidant.
  • Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
  • Does not deplete the body's antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
  • Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement).
  • Reduces epileptic seizures.
  • Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
  • Dissolves kidney stones.
  • Helps prevent liver disease.
  • Is lower in calories than all other fats.
  • Supports thyroid function.
  • Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
  • Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
  • Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
  • Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
  • Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
  • Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
  • Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.
  • Prevents wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots.
  • Promotes healthy looking hair and complexion.
  • Provides protection form damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation form the sun.
  • Helps control dandruff.
  • Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
  • Has no harmful or discomforting side effects.
  • Is completely non-toxic to humans.

    If this does not convince you to RUN to the nearest market and buy yourself a coconut to have on hand for snacking, cooking and drinking, I'm not sure what will!

    For more information on the health benefits of this AMAZING fruit, check these links:

    Now, I'm certainly not suggesting that all you do is eat coconut, but it seems like a welcomed addition to any healthy diet, in moderation. Personally, I only use two oils to cook with; organic extra virgin olive oil and organic extra virgin coconut oil. However, I've rarely taken advantage of the availability of a whole coconut. Drinking the water after a workout and having small chunks for handy snacking, are definitely two ways I will start to use this helpful fruit in my regular diet.

    Also, I learned that since the cavity of the coconut is sterile until opened and mixes with blood easily, it was used during World War II in emergency transfusions! CRAZY AWESOME!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beet and Greens Soup

I arrived home feeling overwhelmed by the amount of last week's farm share still not processed. Meaning, if I didn't use it soon, it was gonna go bad. Now y'all know how much I love to waste food, so this was something I was driven to tackle. One challenge was that the freezer is now teeming with a plethora of meals, and running out of space quick! So I pulled out a big container of broth and some Hubbard squash from last season, to make way for a new soup. This one was going to successfully utilize some of those green tomatoes and lots of leftover greens. It was going to be more sweet than savory, and we were gonna once again, just wing it.

This is what I had on hand:

2 TB olive or grape seed oil
5 small beets 
(raw, peeled and chopped)
2 small beets
(leftovers already roasted partially and chopped, from the fridge)
3 yellow carrots
(orange ones work too!)
12 small new potatoes 
(half red/half yellow)
3 green Roma tomatoes
3 medium green tomatoes
1/2 eggplant
(peeled and cubed)
2 cups shredded zucchini
(this was already shredded from another recipe. Cube it, slice it... doesn't matter.)
2 cups frozen roasted Hubbard Squash
(a huge frozen hunk that I just let simmer in there until it broke apart. I helped it along by poking at it.)
1 large red onion
(3/4 of an onion, actually...)
3 gloves of garlic
(pressed, but you can chop it or mince it, too)
(just a squirt)
(a few squirts)
black pepper
(to taste... we like lots)
sea salt
(to taste... didn't need much)
4 cups mixture of chopped beet greens and rainbow chard
(kale or collards would be good, too.)
20 oz of broth 
(I used chicken cause that's what I had on hand, but you could also use veggie, beef or just water.)
**I would have used chopped celery too, had I had it on hand. I like the sodium and flavor it provides and it prevents me from adding extra salt or seasonings. I like to keep it simple.

This is what I did:

Press garlic into large pot, with oil and heat on medium heat, stirring until fragrant. Turn up the heat a smidgen and add chopped onion, carrots, potatoes and eggplant and stir to coat. Keep stirring and allow veggies to soften - about 5 minutes. Add cubed beets, zucchini, frozen squash, broth, tomatoes and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium to high heat, then lower temp and simmer for 30 minutes or until veggies are tender. Add chopped greens, a squirt of agave, a few squirts of Aardvark (or not), and salt to taste. Stir and simmer another 5-10 minutes.


Provided you use water or veggie broth, this recipe is vegan.
If you so desire, you may add either goat cheese, cream cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt before serving... or any of the vegan alternatives to these dairy delights. Garnish with fresh dill.

For more information on the benefits and nutrition of some of the ingredients I used, 
click on these links:

Beets and Beet Greens:

Hubbard squash:



Monday, October 11, 2010

Crock Pot Experiments = YUM

The thing I love most about culinary experiments, are the times when you just "wing it" and they surprise you by turning out fabulous. This adventure was inspired by the fact that I was about to head out to my second dance of the day and I knew that I was gonna be extra hungry for something substantial, nutritious and heartwarming by the time I arrived home for the evening. Knowing that I had some chicken in the freezer I could thaw was the first step. The tomatoes on my counter that needed to be used soon, put me one push closer to my creation. The eggplant that was gifted to me earlier in the day, sealed the deal, so here is what I did:

Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore


2 chicken legs (thawed, skin on)
2 chicken drumsticks (thawed, skin off)
1 chicken thigh (thawed, skin off)
(I regularly check out the "picnic packages" of chicken when they're on sale, buy organic when I can, and then portion them into small freezer bags so that I can thaw them as needed for a meal)
3 large ripe tomatoes
(I tend to use fresh tomatoes if they are in season ONLY. Off season ones tend to lack sweetness and flavor, and are often mealy. I hate mealy tomatoes.)
1 small can of diced fire roasted tomatoes
(Muir Glen Organic is my favorite)
1/2 yellow summer squash, diced
1/2 medium sized eggplant, peeled and cubed
4 cloves of garlic, roasted and peeled
5 large leaves of red chard
1 large stem of broccoli, peeled and cubed
(This is a great way to utilize the health benefits of broccoli, without wasting what most Americans consider the unusable part of the vegetable. Make sure you peel or cut away the tougher, fibrous outside of the stem)
several small onions, chopped
1/2 bottle of Cajun marinade or grilling sauce
(I love finding super deals on marinades and sauces at Grocery Outlet and keeping them on hand for just an occasion as this! That said, I have also used pasta sauce, ketchup, salsa, V-8 or other tomato based things...)
olive oil 
crushed black pepper
1 cup of quinoa


medium to large Crock Pot

Start by thawing your chicken. Since this meal was a last minute thought and I only had 1/2 hour to prepare it, I defrosted the chicken in the sink, changing the water frequently, as my mother has always done. By the time you are done preparing all of the other ingredients, the chicken should be ready to go. When fully thawed, remove the skin off of 3/4 of the chicken. Leave a little skin on for flavor and for fat, to help break ingredients down as they cook.

Grab your garlic cloves, set on toaster pan or baking sheet, spray them with cooking spray or brush with olive oil and roast them at 300. When they become fragrant and soft, remove from heat and cool.

De-vein your chard leaves, chopping the stems and onions and set aside.
Chop up the remaining leaves and set aside.
Cube eggplant, broccoli and summer squash and add them to the bottom of the pot. (Veggies always take longer to cook in crock pots than meats do, so they need to be closest to the heating element.)
Sauté onions and chard stems in a little olive oil and add to the pot.
Slice up tomatoes and add them (peel and all) to pot.
Add can of fire roasted tomatoes and 1/2 bottle of Cajun marinade or grilling sauce.
Season with basil, oregano and black pepper.
Squeeze garlic gloves out of their skins and into pot.
Submerge larger pieces of chicken first and lay smaller legs and thighs on top of mixture.
Turn on high and let be for 4-5 hours.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and return to a boil. 
Lower heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Fluff with fork.

The meal is done when you can grab a chicken bone with tongs and the meat just falls off the bone.
Remove all of the large bones and any skin left, with tongs and discard.
Stir and salt to preference.

Ladle over quinoa in bowls, with shredded asiago on top. YUM!

For more information regarding the benefits and nutrition in the ingredients I used (many of which are particularly wonderful in assisting with weight loss), click on the links below:







Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soup is Good Food.

Soup is Good Food

For as long as I can remember, anytime my parents left us kids alone for the evening, and we had to "fend for ourselves", we happily perused the pantry for what was usually a can of Campbell's Soup for dinner. It was quick, easy, there was lots of variety to choose from and from the perspective of a parent on a budget, inexpensive to replace. And it filled us up, too. Although I have long since given up Campbell's due to the high sodium and MSG content, soup is still good food and I have learned to make my freezer the pantry that I had growing up. I usually tend to begin my weekly ritual of making giant pots of pipping hot deliciousness in the fall, after the first leaves have fallen. Gifts from the last harvest of friends' gardens, farm share pickup and farmer's markets provide me with enough bounty to stock my freezer full in just a few weeks. However, even with limited fresh produce, one can produce nutrient dense pots of soup or stew for just a few bucks per serving. And even if you aren't an experienced cook, many are SO easy, you hardly need a recipe to follow. I will share one said recipe with you today. Let's call it Lebanese Lentil Soup, as the seasoning I chose tends to be a combination typically found in that precise region of the Mediterranean. My cooking style tends to evolve from the ingredients first, research second, instead of the other way around. This means that most recipes often do not call for what I have on hand, so I tweak the recipe until it is no longer one particular recipe, but rather a creation from several, and a pinch of whatever Sabby throws in. I may or may not measure, but will intentionally try to communicate in clear terms the amounts used. Often, those details are insignificant in my eyes anyway... it's more important to cook for taste - which varies from individual to individual - and for nutrition. I should also mention that 80% of the time, my soups happen to end up vegan, which makes them more affordable and healthier, too.

Lebanese Lentil Soup

a few tablespoons olive oil 
(I tend to eye it. You want just enough to lightly coat what you are about to sauté)
1 1/2 large onion
(I had fridge leftovers in pieces and several varieties of fresh smaller onions - green, red, yellow and white - and combined them all together)
1 1/2 tablespoons of sea salt
9 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of red lentils 
(this type of lentil is probably best for this soup, as it would cook within 15-30 minutes, however I ended up using what I had, which was a mixture of black and French green lentils, which require a longer cooking time)
2 bunches of greens 
(I had beet greens to use up, but I feel that I also could have used collards, chard, kale or mustard)
1/4 head of cauliflower
(again, something I just happened to have on hand)
1 small patty pan summer squash
(another item I wanted to use up... you could use any variety of summer squash or zucchini, or none at all)
1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
fresh crushed black pepper to taste
fresh garlic
(use as much as you prefer. I peeled and pressed 5 cloves for this batch)
lemon juice

I like to start by processing my veggies:
- wash and trim greens (leaf only), slice in thin strips, set aside 
- chop onions, cube cauliflower and dice squash so they are similar size, set aside

In a BIG pot, toss in your oil, onions, cauliflower and salt and sauté on medium heat until they soften.
Add water and lentils, stir, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until lentils are soft. 
In a separate pan, sauté the greens on low heat with a bit of olive oil until slightly wilted, set aside.
Do the same for squash, add black pepper while cooking, set aside.
When lentils are done, add greens, squash, cumin, cinnamon and minced or pressed garlic.
(I prefer pressed, as you retain a lot of the precious oil that makes garlic such a fantastic infection fighter)
Simmer for another 10 minutes to let flavors marry.
Add a splash of lemon juice to finished pot.

Typically, once the pot of soup has cooled, I portion into reusable salsa and hummus containers. 
They tend to be the perfect meal size for freezing and stacking in the freezer.
Then, in the morning, on my way to work, I grab one for my bag. By the time I'm ready for lunch, it's had time to thaw enough to transition to a proper ceramic bowl for microwaving, or a pan for reheating. YUM!

For more information regarding the benefits and nutrients of some of the ingredients I used, 
click on the links below: