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Monday, January 24, 2011

Heart healthy Tuscan soup


Most of my friends and family know that I am vegetarian. By "hard core" terms, I'd actually be known as a flexetarian because I do, on very rare occasion, take a taste of meat. I also cook a Thanksgiving turkey and a New Year's ham, hence the term, flexetarian. But for all intents and purposes, I avoid eating meat.

So, what does this mean for my family, since I am the resident cook? Well, let me answer that by first sharing what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean we're limited to spaghetti, salads, and variations of potatoes (though we eat those too).

It does mean I make our own lunch "meat".

We also eat colorful, flavorful calico beans over brown rice, incredibly delicious soups like coconut spinach potato and garlic kale. We also eat grilled tofu "egg" salad sandwiches, enchilada casseroles, and sloppy "fauxs". I could go on and on, but fact is, we do not hurt for variety, we supplement with daily vitamins, and our blood pressure, cholesterol, and general health are great. The kids check out just fine on their development as well.

We went sled riding all afternoon yesterday, and something hot sounded "just right". Enter...Tuscan soup.
It's a recipe that I tweaked and changed from its former heart-insulting version. It's fairly quick to prepare (especially if you can cut veggies the evening or morning before), and is a very healthy alternative to other similar dishes. If you love sausage, but love your heart more, this one will help you to care for it without compromising too much on taste. I promise!

HEART HEALTHY TUSCAN SOUP
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-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 whole head garlic, peeled and minced (I use the mini food processor for this)
-3 celery stalks, diced
-10 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
-1 large bunch kale, washed, stripped from center vein, torn into smaller pieces
(note: you can use the greens of your choice. Collard or mustard would work fine.)
-10 cups water
-5 cubes Edward & Sons vegan boullion cubes (trust me, they're the BEST! I prefer the garden veggie flavor, but any of them will do and there is a low sodium option)
-1 can fat-free evaporated milk
-1 box Boca breakfast links (found in the health food or "meatless" freezer section of your grocery store). Note the wonderfulness of zero trans-fat and 75% less fat than regular sausage. And they really taste good.

1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil. Saute onions and celery in oil for at least 5 minutes, allowing to soften, before adding garlic and continuing to saute about 2 minutes longer (note: always let chopped onion or garlic sit for 5 minutes before cooking. Why? Go HERE to learn more.)

2. Now add potatoes, water, and boullion. Bring to a boil, then add kale, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fully cooked (approximately 15 minutes). If you prefer a firmer texture, you can wait to add the kale when potatoes are fully cooked.

3. While soup is simmering, heat Boca breakfast links according to info on package. I use the microwave for this. Next, cut each link into six bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

4. When potatoes fully cooked, stir in the can of evaporated milk and the breakfast link pieces. Test soup and and season to taste with salt and pepper (remember, we're going for heart healthy. There is plenty of flavor from the garlic and broth, so passing on the salt is perfectly fine.)
5. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with whole grain bread. Enjoy!
(this recipe makes enough for our family of 6 to have at least 2 bowls each.)

Live wise in Him!

~Toni~

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