Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup

"Summer Solstice" vegetable soup with garlic cheese bread

I’ve recently found out that onions are generally a bad idea for me.  If I don’t want to end up having certain health issues that I won’t discuss here, I need to generally avoid them like the plague.

To say the least, this has really put a cramp in my cooking-style.

Almost every recipe out there involves onions of some description or another. Sliced, diced, chopped, minced, pureed… somehow, it’s present in everything from soups and stews to burgers and meatloaf. What’s an onion-avoiding girl to do??

With the recent rainstorms and cooler summer weather, I’ve found myself craving a good, hearty, warming soup. Yes, soup in the summer — I’m not crazy, I promise! But again: soup = onions. Right? Well, not exactly. I’ve found  that I have no adverse effects from onion powder. There’s hope yet! Based on this and wanting to get something equally tasty and nutritious into me, I went out to buy some veggies I haven’t had in recent days: cabbage  and sweet potatoes.

Sure, I’ve got potatoes in my pantry but the  sweet potatoes are generally so much better for you and they just have a different taste. So, today, after I had gotten up from a short afternoon nap, I started chopping and slicing and  whipped up this yummy little number. I’ve dubbed it Summer Solstice Warming Vegetable Soup because I created it on the Summer Solstice and the flavours are warming without being “spicy”. Feel free to play with the seasonings to make it more to your taste, but  I have to say that this turned out better than I originally imaged!

This also makes a huuuuuuuuuge pot of soup/stew, so feel free  to cut these measurements in half to make a dutch oven’s worth of soup. This one took my large stewing pot, just as a warning.  (See the end of this posting to see the “leftovers” after hubby and I both had two full bowlfuls!) Also, this was an instant hit with my hubby, though there was no meat in the soup. Woo! Here’s what I did…

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Jamie Oliver-inspired cooking: slow-cooked beef stew

Jamie Oliver-inspired Slow Cooked Beef Stew in a bowlI have always made stew the same way: saute onions in some oil, then brown some flour-covered beef in batches, deglaze, add the rest of the veggies and liquid and bake for an hour or two, then try to thicken it up on the stove-top with a flour-slurry, because it just  never seemed to thicken in the oven.

I’ve never been happy with this so I’ve been poking around, looking for a better technique.

Then I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Jools’s favourite beef stew. In it, he talks about how it’s really not necessary to brown the meat in batches, as so many chefs would have you do and that he actually prefers the taste and texture of  the stew when he doesn’t pre-brown. He simply sautes his onions, then throws in the floured, seasoned meat, the liquids, vegetables and then brings it to a boil on the stove before throwing a lid on it and forgetting about it in the oven for 3-4 hours. Let me tell you, when I followed these instructions, I preferred the outcome. The taste and texture was indeed better than any stew  I’ve made in the past and the meat was perfectly tender (it’s been tough in the past).

So here’s what I did this time around for my best ever slow-cooked beef stew…

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Barbecue chicken barley soup

A bowl of barbecue chicken barley soup

The summertime isn’t a usual time for soup, I’ll admit, but since I’ve been on this lower carb kick, I’ve been eating a lot of soups and stews. Avoiding too much pasta cuts out a lot of casseroles, right? So I had a pre-cooked barbecued chicken in the fridge from the grocery store. But honestly, I am not a fan of chicken noodle soup. I think I got sick too many times when I was a kid, so I’m just not a fan of one of the best home remedies in the world. I’ll eat it if I’m sick, but I’m not going to eat it “just because”.

So, I thought, why not make something heartier? Why not make something more flavourful? I still had barley in the cupboard and a lot of veggies in the fridge and freezer that could be used up. Why not? Before long, I was saying to myself, “Soup’s on!” I’ll warn that since I don’t use a lot of salt anymore, my soups are getting heavier and heavier in the seasonings department. But don’t worry, it’s worth it, and it’s not as bad as it looks.

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Homemade chicken biscuit pie

A bowl of chicken biscuit pieWe’ve had grey skies on and off this week, so I’ve found myself craving comfort food. Keeping in mind my new meal plan regimen, I decided to see how I could revamp an old favourite: chicken pot pie. My old version was no doubt loaded full of sodium, fat, calories and carbs. This new recipe still has all that, but the values are no doubt cut back. Choosing lower sodium ingredients and limiting portions on the bread-like topping by using perfectly sized biscuits helps keep some of those values in check.

Here’s what I did…

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Hearty turkey barley soup

A bowl of turkey barley soupDue to the summer heat, I’ve been using my crockpot a lot more than my oven, especially for cooking large quantities of meat. I recently threw two large turkey breasts into the crockpot with a seasoning rub (that I threw together) and some reduced sodium chicken broth.

From this, I decided to reserve some of the meat for a turkey-potato-veggie dinner, some for sandwiches (turkey club anyone??) and the rest, I threw into a stewpot on the stove with some barley and vegetables. Yes. Soup in the summer. I’m okay with eating soup in the summer. I like to freeze it into smaller portions and then pull it out on a rainy day! Here’s what I did:

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Low-carb adventures: vegetable barley soup

A large bowl of vegetable barley soupIn my quest for low carb-friendly comfort foods, I got thinking about the things  I loved when I was a child. One of those things was my mom’s beef barley soup. It was to die for! I miss that soup and wanted to capture that again, except that I had no beef in the house for  it. Broth, yes. Meat, no. Well, why not make  it without the meat? Despite there being no meat in it, I found this soup to be insanely satisfying and filling. Next time, I might even add some more veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower to add some texture to it. Here’s what I did:

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Low-carb adventures: A new spin on Shepherd’s Pie (sweet potato-style!)

A bowl full of Shepherd's Pie made with ground chicken and sweet potatoI come from an English-Irish upbringing. Shepherd’s Pie was a bit of a staple in our house when I was growing up. You know, that English-Irish-Scottish-whatever type of casserole designed to use up leftovers? I’m not talking about the traditional one that’s done with a lamb mince.

I’m talking about the kind that your mom would whip up with the leftover mashed potatoes and veggies from the night before with some seasoned ground beef because it was a) economical and b) the only way she’d get the kids (you) to eat leftovers. 😉

Needless to say, I love Shepherd’s Pie, or at least the North American version of it. The only problem is, I don’t make it too often because we try to limit how often we’re eating red meat (especially of the ground persuasion) and with the starchy potatoes, it’s not exactly the healthiest of dishes.

Not wanting to give it up entirely in my quest to eat healthy, I had a bit of an epiphany. I had some sweet potatoes in the cupboard and ground chicken in the fridge that needed to be cooked up; why not do some substitutions? I had no idea how it would turn out, but here’s what I did.

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