HOT & SOUR SOUP – Super Duper!!!

hot & sour soup textOne of my family’s favorite soups is HOT & SOUR. Not only does it have an appealing kick, but I love that you can eat a lot of it with almost no calories. Yay! When I start my meal with a big bowl, it takes the edge off my hunger so I don’t inhale half a dozen eggrolls.

Added bonus:  HOT & SOUR SOUP is fast and easy!  Who doesn’t love that?!

HOT & SOUR SOUP – makes about 7 cups

  • 6 cups vegetable stock (homemade or purchased)
  • 9 oz (1 cup) fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 oz canned bamboo shoots
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1¼ tsp fresh grated ginger, or 1/2 tsp powdered
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 4 T soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T + 1/2 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 3 T + 1 tsp water, divided
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin

Thoroughly wash shiitakes, discard stems, then cut into 1″-ish pieces. hot & sour6Cut bamboo shoots in half widthwise, then into slivers lengthwise. hot & sour9Press out excess liquid from tofu, then cut into 1/2″ cubes. hot & sour7Bring vegetable stock to a boil.  Add in mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Simmer for 5 minutes. hot & sour1In a small bowl stir together 3 T cornstarch and 3 T water. flour-pasteStirring stock, pour in slurry (cornstarch/water mix). Add in tofu, white pepper, tomato paste, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce, and & sour4Simmer 5-10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, 1/2 tsp cornstarch, and 1 tsp water. Turn off heat. VERY SLOWLY drizzle in the egg in a thin stream, going in all directions. hot & sour2Turn the heat on again and whisk gently to break up egg strands. & sour3


CARROT-GINGER SOUP: Easter Bunny Favorite!

carrot-ginger soup text

This recipe is perfect for Easter! Why? Because the Easter Bunny is a rabbit…and rabbits love carrots, of course!

Okay, I may be stretching the association a bit (a BIT?!), but this soup is delicious, filling, and low-cal. And, like most soups, is very easy to make.

NOTE: You can make this soup with carrots of various colors – purple, white, yellow, and orange. Choose one, or mix and match. Warning: mixing the colors (particularly with purple) produces a soup color that’s not very pretty, although it’s still scrumptious.


  • 2 T butter
  • 2½ cups onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger (found in the jarred spice section or bins)
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
  • 2 lbs carrots (buy the ones with tops – they’re the freshest)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1½ cups carrot juice, divided
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 T red cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • grated hard cheese (such as Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan)
  • optional:  chives, sour cream, croutons

Melt butter in a stockpot. Add in onions, garlic, salt, sugar, crystallized ginger, and fresh ginger (or dried). Sauté for 5 minutes.

Remove tops from carrots and discard. Chop carrots into small pieces and add to onion mixture. Add in water, 3/4 cup of the carrot juice, thyme, and baking soda. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Cool for at least 15 minutes. Pour into a blender (in batches, if necessary) and purée. Return to stockpot and add vinegar and the remaining 3/4 cup carrot juice. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Heat and serve. Sprinkle on cheese. Add a dollop of sour cream, chives, and croutons, if you like.

Potato Cheese Soup = A United Family Meal

Potato Cheese Soup

Potato Cheese Soup

You know those kids who happily eat (or, at least, TRY) any food that’s put before them? Well, unfortunately, none of them lives in my house. My children have never exactly been culinarily curious.

I suppose I should have insisted like June Cleaver did on Leave It To Beaver when The Beav refused to try his Brussels sprouts. Mom & Dad made him stay at the table until he took a bite. Naturally, he grudgingly sampled one, loved it, and everyone rejoiced in the glow of Brussels sprout bliss.

Often times I’ve felt like a short order cook – making one meal for my husband and me, and one for the kids (sometimes each child even got his own selection). This may sound like a lot of work, but for me it was just simpler to crank out the food so I could enjoy dinner without the wheedling, bribing, threats, and anger.

There were, thankfully, a few meals that satisfied the entire family. It goes without saying that I prepared those frequently.

Potato Cheese Soup is high on the preferred list. Not only is it easy to prepare, but because it’s creamed in a blender (or food processor), you can add in a little spinach, etc., and the kids will never know. (We moms have to be a bit sneaky – it’s for their own good….they’ll thank us later.) Also, you can plop in broccoli or cauliflower – the soup is kind of like a cheese sauce.

As noted, this recipe requires a blender or food processor. I haven’t nagged about owning one or both of these appliances in awhile, so with the after-holiday sales, I’ll suggest these items go on your purchase list, if you don’t already own them. Both are invaluable in the kitchen. I use my food processor and blender nearly everyday.

POTATO CHEESE SOUP – makes  7 – 8 cups

  • 3 T butter
  • 2 cups onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, pressed
  • about 1¾ pounds unpeeled russet potatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large unpeeled carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, purchased or homemade (recipe:
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 5 oz cheese, shredded (I use medium cheddar)

Melt butter in a stockpot. Sauté onions and garlic over a medium flame for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Add in the potatoes and carrots, and continue to sauté another 10 minutes.

Add in the stock, dill, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down flame to simmer the soup. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender – test with a fork.

Remove the lid and let cool about 10 minutes – you don’t want to put boiling liquid in your blender. Pour in milk.

Purée the soup in a blender or food processor.  You will probably have to do this in batches and, because of this, a second pot will be needed into which you empty the puréed batches.

Melt in the shredded cheese over a low heat.

This soup is delicious served with homemade French bread –









Cream soup without the cream? What?  How can this be?

Oh – it be!  Thanks to your handy-dandy blender.

Wait – you say you don’t have a blender?!  As many of you know, I don’t like to throw money away on frivolous things (cheap!). There are many kitchen gadgets that are one trick ponies – you can only use them for one thing (such as a bread maker). I’m not a fan.  BUT, I do believe in stocking your kitchen with tools that will ease the task of cooking, thus making it more likely you WILL actually cook. Items such as a food processor, toaster oven, a wide assortment of pots, and a BLENDER!

Please note, that I put food processor AND blender on the list.  That’s because they are both useful in different ways. The food processor is great for shredding carrots & cheese, chopping tomatoes and onions, kneading dough, finely grinding nuts. The blender uses a funnel action and is great for puréeing soups, pesto, and yogurt shakes. By the way, you can find these items at thrift shops if you’re on a tight budget.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about eating soup for lunch (click on Slim Down With Vegetable Soup) to help lose those extra pounds one accumulates during the winter months and (let’s be honest) just plain life. I based the idea on that old Campbell’s Soup commercial where the girl wanted to fit into her itsy bitsy bikini so she replaced her calorie laden lunch with soup.

I decided to add another soup to the list:  Creamy Sweet Potato Soup. Which brings us back to the blender. (See how I did that?  I returned us seamlessly to the beginning of the blog.) Did you know if you purée soup in a blender it gets creamy, even if there’s no cream in it? It makes you feel like you’re indulging in something decadent when, in reality, it’s low in calories. Plus, soup fills you up pretty quickly which satisfies you long enough to get you away from the table.

The last time I was in London, I had a wonderful Sweet Potato Soup made with coconut milk and coriander. It was a lovely blend of flavors. I decided to try to duplicate the essence while ditching a lot of the calories.  Also, to make sure it met vegetarian criteria (this is a vegetarian blog, as you know), I used vegetable stock in lieu of the suspected chicken broth.

So I started throwing ingredients together until I came up with a taste I was happy with. (OR, ‘of which I was happy’, for you English majors). A little tip for those of you who like to either create your own recipes or just tweak other peoples’:  write down the ingredients and the amounts you use.  Then make notes about the taste and possible suggestions for future attempts.  You don’t have to write a novel – just a quick, ‘try oregano instead of basil next time’. I’m a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel. When you find something that works (or doesn’t) keep track.  That way you’ll save yourself time in the future AND be able to make it again. No matter how good your memory is, over time one forgets minutia such as ‘was it 1 cup or 1½?’ or ‘did I use garlic SALT or POWDER?’.  Once you write it down, it frees your mind and you don’t have to worry about it again.

As far as the coconut milk goes, you can use either canned or powdered.  Canned is more accessible in my town, but I prefer the powdered so I just order it online. If you use the canned, you’ll need to decrease the amount of vegetable stock since there’s water in it already. By using the powdered, I can play around with how much coconut goes in the soup. Also, I can half the recipe and don’t have to worry about what to do with the unused half. Plus the powder takes up less cupboard space. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter as far as taste is concerned which you choose.

SWEET POTATO SOUP – makes 10 cups

  • 9 cups sweet potatoes or yams, chopped
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1½ tsp dried cumin
  • 1½ tsp dried coriander
  • 1/3 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk powder (or 1  14 oz can)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (or 2¼ cups if using canned coconut milk)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • few twists of pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

Heat the olive oil in a very large stockpot and sauté the onions about 5 minutes – until they begin to brown. Add in the cumin, coriander, ginger, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Stir for another minute to bring out the flavors. Pour in the sweet potatoes, coconut powder, and vegetable stock. If you’d like to make your own stock (which I ALWAYS do), you can find my recipe by clicking on BACK TO BASIC: VEGETABLE STOCK. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender – about 20-30 minutes.

Let the soup cool down a bit, REMOVE THE BAY LEAF (notice the caps – this is important!), then pour into your blender (in batches, if need be) and purée. Serve either hot or cold.

NOTE:  Toasted pumpkin seeds are a tasty topping – and they’re visually appealing.

If you’re in a hurry (and who isn’t?!), you can make this soup even faster by skipping the sauteing onions part and just throwing everything into the stockpot. I’ve done this many times, and the soup is still excellent.