Portobello mushroom soup with caramelized onions

Soup simmering in the CrockPot.

Soup simmering in the CrockPot.

This smells amazing while it’s cooking. First there’s mostly the aroma of the onions caramelizing in the oven. Then after they’re added to the soup, the aroma of simmering portobello mushrooms really comes to the fore.

You can begin the onions either before or after you start the other ingredients in the CrockPot. It doesn’t take long to preheat the oven and prep the onions so it doesn’t make any difference in the amount of time they cook with the other ingredients. Though this recipe is made in the CrockPot it’s not one you can start and walk away from for several hours. The onions need a couple of hours in the oven, and need to be stirred before being added in with the rest of the ingredients. This is a good recipe for being stuck inside on a cold day. The kitchen is toasty warm and the aroma is homey and enticing.

Note: my CrockPot is 6qts. You may need to adjust amount of liquid or ingredients if your slow cooker is smaller.

Mushroom soup with carmelized onions

Mushroom soup with caramelized onions

5 portobello mushrooms
3 medium yellow onions
1/2 cup split red lentils
1/2 cup pearlized barley
2 stalks celery
32 oz vegetarian broth
4 cups water

I use split red lentils because I usually have them on hand and they cook quickly, disintegrate and thicken the soup. They don’t keep their bright red-orange color, but it’s that irresistible color that makes me continue to buy them. They brighten up my pantry.  🙂 The broth I use is Central Market Organics Vegetable Broth. Most vegetable broths aren’t too strongly flavored, so I could probably use it for all the liquid, but with portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions, I really want those flavors to dominate so I dilute the broth with water. (I add celery, which is a strong flavor, simply because I so strongly associate it with hearty soups and stews.)

Wash mushrooms and coarsely chop. I shoot for making pieces that look about an inch, maybe slightly less. Slice and chop the celery, but not too finely. If the leaves look good, use them too.

Put the mushrooms, celery, lentils and barley into a slow cooker. Add the broth and water. Stir well. Set the slow cooker for 4 hours. (It won’t hurt to cook a bit longer.)

Preheat the oven 350. Prep the onions by peeling and slicing them. This recipe works best if they are sliced pretty thin. I would guess I slice them into 1/4 inch slices or less. Place onions in 9″ x 12″ baking pan. (I line it with foil because despite all the margarine and periodic stirring, it does tend to stick in places. ) Dot liberally with margarine. (I use Smart Balance Original.) I scoop the margarine out with a spoon and I’d guess I use about 10-12 spoonfuls, divided up and dabbed on the onions.

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Bake 350 for 2 hours, stirring periodically. (I set the timer to stir every half hour.) When the onions are done, add them to the contents of the CrockPot, stirring well. Let the soup finish cooking. (My CrockPot rolls over to warm when it’s done.)

You can add herbs to the soup when you start it, if you want to change the flavor, but it tastes good with no seasonings. I don’t even add salt and pepper.

Before serving, stir the soup very well. The lentils (what’s left of them) and barley tend to sink.

All gone!

All gone!

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Hot and Hearty Multi-bean Soup

Hot and Hearty Multi-bean Soup

Hot and Hearty Multi-bean Soup

The problem with buying bags of multi-bean soup mixes is that it includes a seasoning packet which is very salty and not that great as seasoning. They also require the addition of ham and bacon. Which, of course, means even more salt added to the soup. I’ve discovered a trick to get around the addition of meat-salt combo without flattening the flavor.

I usually have several types of dry beans, peas, and lentils in the pantry. I buy them in bulk from Central Market and many stores now have a bulk section where you can get a wide assortment of beans. You can buy as much or as little as you want or need. I usually get a good amount of all types of beans which can be cooked by type or added to soups. These will keep a long time in a sealed container, but not forever, so I use multi-bean soup as a way of using up small amounts of beans left over before restocking. I have the ingredients for this soup on hand all the time, with exception of the Anaheim peppers, though in a pinch you can add a can of canned green chilis instead of fresh peppers.

2-3 cups mixed dry beans and peas (7, 9, 10, 13, 16)
1 large onion
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatos
2 Anaheim chilis
Dried herbs and seasonings
Tabasco or other similar hot sauce
Liquid smoke (optional)

Cover beans with water. Soak overnight and drain.

Add bean mixture, 2 qts. fresh water (a bit more if you use more beans) plus the can of diced tomatoes and the onion and pepper to Crockpot. Add seasonings such as thyme, marjoram, parsley, garlic powder. I don’t measure; I just sprinkle. It’s hard to go wrong. I don’t use premixed seasonings which have salt added. (Conventional wisdom is that salt at this point would interfere with the beans absorbing water. I don’t know if that’s true, but you can always add salt later if you want.)

Add a few shakes of the hot sauce. This you can go wrong with. The relative hotness of various sauces varies quite a bit.  For instance, After Death Sauce is hotter than Tabasco because it’s made with habenero peppers. Know your sauce and use it sparingly. Better for the seasoning to be mild and people spike the soup with more sauce in their own bowls than make it too hot to eat.

Cook on Low in the Crockpot 4-6 hours.

(If you want to cook this in a big pot on the stove, bring to a boil then simmer for 3-4 hours.)

About a half hour before it’s finished taste and season with salt and pepper, if you wish.  Add some liquid smoke if you want. It doesn’t take much. A small amount 1-2 tsp should be enough for most tastes.

Flavor improves over time, so the soup will taste better the next day.

Fast and Easy Homemade Ramen for Two

Why make instant ramen with packets of artificial flavors and salt when you can make homemade ramen with natural ingredients in almost the same amount of time? 😀

Homemade Ramen Soup, as quick and easy as instant!

Homemade Ramen Soup, as quick and easy as instant!

1/3 package (3.1 oz) Hakubaku Organic Ramen
3 cups vegetable broth (I use Central Market Organics Low Sodium Vegetable Broth)
1/4 tsp cilantro
1/8 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried green chives
1 Tbls reduced sodium soy sauce (or leave it out and add soy sauce to taste in each bowl)

The package of ramen is divided into 3 bunches of noodles. One bunch is about right for 3 cups of broth. The broth I use is a regional brand: use whatever your favorite brand is — or use homemade if you’ve got some on hand. I prefer a low sodium broth because soy sauce, even a reduced sodium type, adds salt to the soup. I go for low sodium or no sodium products whenever I can. You can always add salt, but you can’t take it out!

Heat up the broth with the seasonings. (The soy sauce can be added now or after cooking, to taste.) When it’s reached a boil, add the ramen noodles, breaking the bunch into smaller pieces. (If you don’t break them more than once, you’ll need chopsticks — or a fork to eat them spaghetti-style.) Boil for 4 minutes (or according to package instructions).

This is a very basic, mildly flavored, soup. You can “soup it up” (pun intended) by adding more seasonings (like red pepper) or vegetables. Most vegetables should already be cooked before being added to the soup because the amount of time it takes to bring 3 cups of liquid to a boil, plus the 4 minutes it takes to cook the noodles isn’t sufficient to cook most vegetables, the shredded leaves of greens and thin-leaved leafy vegetables being a notable exception. If adding leftover vegetables, consider first whether they’ve had strong or clashing seasonings added. Dehydrated vegetables might be a possibility, too. (I don’t use dehydrated vegetables much so I haven’t tried this.)

Having given you those options, I should add that I like this mild oriental flavored ramen soup just fine the way it is! 😀 Because this makes a small amount, it’s a nice way to experiment with seasoning combinations. Try it out, then rummage among your seasonings and customize it to your taste! 🙂

Creamy Onion and Kale Soup

What better way to fend off the winter chills than with a warm, creamy soup?  I use a food processor for this recipe, but a blender (or perhaps a good dicing technique) will work just as well.

creamy onion soup with kale

Ingredients:

4 onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 ml (1/2 tsp) cracked black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 whole allspice
1.25 L (5 cups) of vegetable broth
3 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
5 ml (1 tsp) paprika (dissolved in 25 ml (2 tbsp) of lemon juice)
1 L (4 cups) chopped kale

Slice onions and garlic.  Place saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic to saucepan and cook, stirring until softened.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Add peppercorns, bay leaf, and allspice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add broth and potatoes and stir well.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Discard bay leaf and allspice.  Stir in paprika/lemon juice and kale.  Cover and cook until kale is tender, about 10 minutes.  Place a strainer over a large bowl and strain soup.  Transfer solids to food processor and add 1 cup of the liquid.  Puree until smooth.  Return pureed solids to saucepan and stir in remaining liquid.  Reheat.  Creamy, yummy, and vegan!