It’s definitely Spring, but we’re still having some chilly days every now and then, and when we do, I always want to make soup.

kabochasoup

This is one of my favorite easy healthy soup recipes…the Japanese ingredients (wakame seaweed, kabocha squash, daikon radish, and miso) sound exotic and hard to find but they’re really not– I found them at my local Hannaford supermarket.

Kabocha squash is very sweet and has a smooth texture I love. Like the other orange winter squashes, it is high in anti-oxidants and fiber. Seaweeds help to protect the body from environmental toxins, and they excellent for weight loss and weight maintenance.  Daikon radish, too, is very nutritious. It is excellent for the liver and therefore for cleansing the body; it also has bitter properties that help with digestion. Miso is a fermented food that also aids digestion.

Kabocha Squash Soup

Makes at least 2 servings

Ingredients:

*2 cups water
*1 handful (about 1/2 cup) of wakame seaweed
*1 kabocha squash, cut into cubes (no need to peel it)
*1 daikon radish, peeled and cut into cubes
*tops from 1 bunch of scallions, green onions, or ramps, chopped
*2-4 cups additional water, vegetable stock or homemade chicken stock
*2-3 tablespoons white or red miso (I like South River Brand Chickpea Miso)
*1-2 teaspoons Thai chili garlic sauce
*2-4 tablespoons whole coconut milk--optional

Directions:

1. Heat 2 cups water in a pot; add wakame, kabocha, scallions, and daikon radish. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes.

2. Check to see that the wakame is softened and the squash and daikon are cooked through and soft; if not, simmer 5-10 more minutes. Add the additional liquid. Because it is important not the boil the miso (boiling destroys the healthful enzymes), remove about 1/2 cup of the hot soup to a small bowl, and whisk the miso until it dissolves.

3. Return the miso mixture to the soup pot and stir to combine. Add the chili sauce and the optional coconut milk, and mix well. Taste and add more of these, if desired.

Serving suggestions: add thinly sliced fresh ginger and/or chopped baby bok choy or kale to the soup with the pumpkin. If you’d like to add some healthy protein to your soup, you can crack 1-2 organic, free range eggs into the soup, cover the pot, and allow to poach in the hot liquid for several minutes. Check to see that the egg is cooked through and then turn the heat off. You could also add shelled edamame (young green soybeans) or cooked sliced organic chicken or tofu before serving (I added some chicken to mine, as you can see in the picture above). 

I am a big fan of quinoa. It’s a gluten-free seed that has the versatility of a grain, but with more protein and it cooks very quickly…try it in this one-pot dish and I think you’ll become a fan, too.

quinoaasparagus

Quinoa With Asparagus and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

*1 tablespoon olive oil
*1/2 onion, chopped
*2 stalks celery, chopped
*1 Portobello mushroom, or 1/2-1 cup other mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
*1 cup quinoa, rinsed in cold water and drained (use a fine mesh strainer for this, as quinoa seeds are pretty small)
(1 1/4 cup water
*1 small bunch of asparagus, cleaned and chopped
*1 cup chopped additional vegetables, such as broccoli or dark leafy greens--optional
*Himalayan or sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for a minute or two, until it is golden and translucent. Add celery and mushrooms and cook for a minute or two longer, stirring to ensure the veggies do not burn.

2. Add the quinoa and the water, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat so that everything can simmer for about 15 minutes. Cover the pan during this time.

3. Toward the end of the 15 minutes, add the asparagus and the other vegetables, and cover again. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and allow everything to sit for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and check to see that all the water is gone and everything is cooked (if not, leave the cover off and simmer for a few more minutes). Season with salt and pepper.

You can serve this “as is” as a side dish to accompany a healthy fish, chicken or meat dish, or, if you’d like it to be a vegetarian entree, you can try it topped with some organic tomato sauce and fresh parmesan cheese (it’s very yummy this way). You can up the vegetarian protein by adding in an egg or two; you could also mix in some beans or nuts/seeds, as well.

The May 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living had a small feature on dates that caught my eye;  I liked the healthy simplicity of her recipe for dates with strained ricotta and cocoa powder, and  I adapted it using figs, Greek yogurt, and raw cacao.

figsandyogurt1

Figs are high in natural sugars (which makes them sweet and delicious) but they also contain many nutrients including the minerals calcium, iron and potassium. They are high in fiber, too. You can make this recipe with fresh or dried figs: you’ll find dried figs in markets year round, while fresh figs are only available seasonally.

I love Greek yogurt because it is  thick and creamy and so high in protein and calcium. When dolloped onto figs and dusted with magnesium-rich raw cacao (chocolate) powder, this is a tasty and nutritious snack or dessert.