By Meg Wolff author of “Becoming Whole”
The secret formula to robust health and a healthy heart is right under
your nose – literally! The secret is in the food you eat.
When the cool weather starts and fall comes, I get the urge to make soup. Soups warm us. And not only that – soups eaten at the start of a meal relax our digestive tract, thus preparing the body to receive nourishment.
Making soup is an easy way to start eating healthy meals. They can be made ahead of time and even frozen (though fresh is best). Soups are one of the first types of meals that I started preparing when I started a healing diet for breast cancer nine years ago. They can be served with a grain (such as brown rice, barley or millet), or a cracked grain (such as polenta, a whole-grain bread, or even homemade croutons or mochi, which is a brown rice product).
Soups make a hot, satisfying meal. And they’re a great way to introduce new vegetables into your diet. A vegetable that may taste bitter, or that you’re just not used to eating plain, may take on a whole different taste when cooked in a steaming broth.
By the time fall rolls around, the farmers’ markets should have a plentiful bounty of butternut, buttercup, acorn, and Hubbard squash, to name a few. This late-summer vegetable goes well in all three of the following soups.
I’ve also included a recipe for croutons and some nutritional information. Enjoy!
Squash and Carrot Ginger Soup
1 medium winter squash
6 large carrots
1 medium onion
1-inch piece ginger
4 cups water to cover veggies
Sea salt, or tamari, to taste
Oil, if desired
Sauté onion in oil or water for 1-2 minutes. Cut up squash and carrots and add just enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Add a small pinch of sea salt. Cover, lower the flame and simmer 30 minutes until squash is soft.
Mash the squash with a potato masher right in the pot or use a food processor to puree. Add another pinch of sea salt (or teaspoon soy sauce) and simmer 7-10 more minutes. Serve hot, garnished with fresh parsley and a little juice from grated ginger.
Millet-Sweet Vegetable Soup
1/2 cup millet, rinsed well
1/4 cup each onion, carrot, winter squash, green cabbage, finely diced
5 cups spring or filtered water
2 teaspoons barley miso
1-2 fresh scallions thinly sliced for garnish
Rinse millet by placing in a glass bowl and covering with water. Gently swirl grains with your hands to loosen any dust. Drain well.
In a soup pot, layer onion, cabbage, squash, carrot and then millet. Add enough water to just cover, careful not to disturb layering too much. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove a small amount of broth and use it to puree the miso. Gently stir into the soup and simmer for another 3-4 minutes. Garnish with fresh scallions.
Adzuki Bean Vegetable Soup
1-inch piece kombu (a type of seaweed, available in most health-food sections)
1 cup adzuki beans, sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight and covered with water
7-8 cups spring or filtered water
1 sweet onion, diced
1 cup green head cabbage, diced
1 cup winter squash, diced
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup fresh/frozen corn kernels
3-4 teaspoons barley miso (1/4-1/2 teaspoon per cup of liquid)
2-3 fresh scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
Place kombu on the bottom of a heavy soup pot. Top with beans, discarding soaking water. Add water and bring to a boil, uncovered.
Allow beans to cook for 5 minutes over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until beans are about 85 percent done, 35-40 minutes.
Add vegetables, return soup to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until both beans and vegetables are soft, 40 minutes. Add miso, cook 3-4 minutes. Garnish with scallions.
1/2 to 1 loaf of bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I use local Black Crow Bakery bread)
Dried herbs (optional) (I sometimes use “The Maine Accent,” a combination of parsley, basil, marjoram, chervil, garlic and spices.)
Cover pan bottom with olive or other oil. Heat skillet on medium-high flame. Add cubes of bread. Cook, stirring occasionally as not to burn. Cook until browned. When pan gets very hot, turn to low. When croutons are browned and toasted, add sea salt (and other herbs if desired). Serve a small portion of croutons with any of the above soups.
According to George Mateljan, author of The World’s Healthiest Foods, “Winter squash, unlike its summer equivalent, can be harvested very late into the fall, has a longer storage potential, and still provides an outstanding variety of conventional nutrients. Winter squash emerged from our food ranking system as an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. In addition, winter squash emerged as a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin (vitamin B3) and pantothenic acid.”
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good source of fiber, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Cabbage is also a good source of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, and protein.
Meg Wolff is a breast cancer survivor. Her memoir, Becoming Whole: The Story of my Complete Recovery from Breast Cancer, includes recipes and menu plans. It is available at local bookstores and on her website at www.megwolff.com. Meg currently working on a soon to be released photography book, Breast Cancer: Exposed, The Connection Between Food and Survival.