Category Archives: Soups

Keeping Score: Chickpea & Bread Soup

The USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines were released this past week.  In the spirit of mixing business with pleasure, I used its Key Recommendations to see how this recipe for Chickpea & Bread Soup scores nutritionally:

  • Recommendation: Use oils to replace solid fats where possible (in order to increase one’s intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce heart disease risk). I used a saturated, i.e. solid, fat to saute my vegetables (butter).  -1 point.
  • Recommendation: Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages. Okay, so Muenster cheese isn’t the leanest choice in the dairy aisle.  -1 point
  • Recommendation: Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. The star of this dish, chickpeas, are full of protein, folate and fiber.   +1 point
  • Recommendation: Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains. Fiber-rich whole grain bread sops up the vegetable broth and creates contrasting texture to the crunchy chickpeas. +1 point
  • Recommendation: Increase vegetable and fruit intake. As a legume, chickpeas are technically a vegetable.  Onions add flavor. +1 point
  • Recommendation: Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. I’m hitting these nutrients with the cheese, the bread, and the chickpeas.  +1 point

So it looks like I tipped the nutritional scale in my favor, striking a balance between tasty yet wholesome.  But shouldn’t I get points for buying local and ensuring the quality and treatment of ingredients?  The butter is from Maplehofe Dairy, where happy, pastured cows not subjected to hormones or antibiotics live.  Pastured cows have been shown to have higher levels of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) a beneficial fatty-acid(For more information on the locally acquired ingredients, please click on the ingredient hyperlinks, below.)

The Dietary Guidelines are all about balance, enjoying your food, but eating less of it.  A healthy lifestyle is all about give and take, just make sure you don’t take too much, and too often.  🙂

(For interesting commentary on the new Guidelines, check out Marion Nestle’s blog, the New York Times article, and/or the Huffington Post.)

Chickpea & Bread Soup

Adapted from Bitchin’ Camaro blog


  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter (or olive oil)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chickpeas (or one 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and well rinsed), soaked overnight
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups whole grain bread, cubed into small pieces
  • 2 – 3 oz. shredded cheese (I used Muenster cheese, but use your melted favorite. Or, omit all together.)


  1. Set a medium heavy pot over medium heat and add 1 tbsp. of butter or olive oil.  Saute the onions for 10 minutes, or until they’re soft and almost brown. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pot, then the chickpeas. Toast the chickpeas until they’re golden on all sides, about 20 minutes. Resist the urge to stir them too often, or they won’t toast well. You should hear the chickpeas popping in the heat. Give them a good stir occasionally to make sure they’re not sticking, but don’t worry too much if they do.
  3. Once your chickpeas are golden and toasted, add the stock, using a wooden spoon to scrape any chickpea residue from the bottom of the pot.  Add the onions back into the pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the bread.
  4. Ladle the soup into oven-safe dishes or small pots. Sprinkle each one with cheese and place them under your oven’s broiler for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned. Remove carefully and serve immediately.

(You may need to add more stock depending on your preference for the thickness of the soup.)

Going Meatless: Black Bean Soup

Hot on the tails of new research indicating that red meat’s precarious nutritional profile deserves a closer inspection, I choose beans.

The research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health reviewed 20 studies to discover that salt found in heavily processed meats such as bacon, sausage and hot dogs, rather than saturated fat or cholesterol,  may be the more convincing factor when it comes to heart disease risk:

“…the researchers found that daily consumption of about two ounces of processed meat was associated with a 42% increased risk of heart disease and a 19% heightened chance of diabetes. By contrast, a four-ounce daily serving of red meat from beef, hamburger, pork, lamb or game wasn’t linked to any increased risk of heart disease.”

Hm. This definitely isn’t the green light to eat a hamburger every night; just a reality check in the decision tree of food choices.  Essentially this research confirms that fresh, whole, minimally-processed foods are sound choices for optimal health – meat included.   Yet the fact remains that eating less meat remains a healthful, environmentally-savvy, and even money-saving resolution.  The folks at Meatless Monday are helping others achieve this goal and the Washington Post reports that it’s really started to catch on.  The Cheap Healthy Good blog has “10 Ways to Eat Less Meat” for those looking for inspiration — my favorite tip is to not eat meat before dinner, which is very realistic for me, especially when I have this Black Bean Soup on hand. Continue reading

Vegetables Over-Board: Mushroom & Parsnip Soup

My recipe for Mushroom & Parsnip Soup began in a crowded fashion.   Crowding the pan is a culinary faux-pas, a sure-fire way to end up with a mix of temperatures and potentially uncooked foods.  Might I suggest an additional culinary blunder – crowding the cutting board.  Enter Exhibit “A”:

Exhibit A - Veggies Over-Board

Though I ambitiously harbored the chopped onion and shallot on the cutting board as well, these ingredients quickly found their way into the pan as I realized my naivety.  Rather than use additional housewares (i.e. bowls) to hold each ingredient as I chop away in preparation, I remained hopeful that I could finish this recipe with one or two less dishes left to clean.  I hate doing dishes.  Yet rather than having to scrub a few extra bowls or another cutting board, I ended up cleaning vegetables off the floor, counter-top and stove.

Crowding aside, the inspiration for this recipe came from my best friend who suggested I make a Mushroom Barley Continue reading

Beet the Freeze: Roasted Beet Soup

Roasted and peeled Beets

Interesting that after trying a muffin recipe off a blog titled, Modern Beet, I end up with 10 beets in my CSA share.  I can’t recall the last time I ate a beet (perhaps at a salad bar, in the canned form).  Just the name of the food is cause for alarm.  Beets.  Just seems counter-intuitive to subject myself to them.  To top it off, they looked unappetizing when I picked them up at Greensgrow yesterday, lacking the brilliant and distinctive purple-red color.  But I picked up my share and walked on… time to beat the beets stigma I’ve held for years.  

Turns out beets are quite versatile.  Roast, boil, sauté, microwave; serve in salads, roast with vegetables, fix in pasta dishes and even garnish on top of chicken or beef.   It is a very nutritious root vegetable that is low in calories and a great source of folate, vitamin C and potassium.  The pigment that gives beets their rich, purple-crimson color is betacyanin, a powerful cancer-fighting agent.    

In honor of the freezing weather and my obvious penchant for making soups, I decided on a Roasted Beet Soup from Epicurious.  A word to Continue reading