Tuesday, 6 March 2012

SmartCooks Gets Souped Up!

March 2012

SmartCooks here.

Soup's on... 

Curried Zucchini Soup.  

Tasty, spicy, warm, satisfying.  Made with organic produce and organic vegetable stock.  Store, freeze it, take it for lunch at the office, heat it and inhale the aroma.... can't help but beat the March blues.  

Thankfully, I have been finding March super busy.  Work continues apace with a couple of presentations, one in particular dealing with International Women's Day at a 'brown bag' lunch to employees at my workplace.  I agonized over that one, wondering how much of my background I really wanted to share with PCO staff.  I decided to come clean.  What the hell... I even included a photo of myself in a demonstration on Parliament Hill... hehehehehe  

To distract myself further from winter, a work colleague and I signed up together for Greco's Lean and Fit Program, (the studio is almost literally at our work doorstep), a 10-week circuit training (kind of tabata rapid fire 3-minutes per station x 7 stations x 3 circuits in 45 minutes... Phew), with meal recording and monitoring.  Great to do this with another colleague sufferer.  

I added two sessions a week of personal training with a nice young guy/trainer (he claims he's mean but I don't believe him) doing PNF Stretching which hurts like hell but is working big-time on my flexibility and range of motion. Put Greco's together with Goodlife Body Attack classes (just can't get enough) and throw in some swimming... and I am managing to fill the hours in a given day just fine.  March will go by in a flash.  

But getting through March also requires comfort food.  Curried Zucchini Soup fits the bill.  I make a special effort to make it completely organic -- both the stock and the produce for the soup and even the spices when I can get them organic.  If you're in a hurry, of course you can use any low-sodium vegetable stock. If you're not in a hurry, try it. I sometimes double the recipe and freeze the stock so that I always have some on hand.  A vegetable chopper or mandolin saves a lot of work! 

Curried Zucchini Soup with Vegetable Stock 
(Makes about 8 cups)

Vegetable Stock Ingredients
2 T sunflower oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (light) 
1/2 cup finely chopped leek
2/3 cup finely chopped carrots
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped fennel
1 small tomato, finely chopped
10 cups water
1 bouquet garni (or parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf) 
Garlic and/or 2 potatoes optional

Soup Ingredients:
(Serves 4)

2 tsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 lb zucchini, sliced
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp (or more depending on taste) medium curry powder
1/2 cup no-fat sour cream, if desired
Salt and pepper


For the Stock:

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the onions and leek and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened.  Add garlic (if using) and the remaining vegetables, including potatoes if using, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.  Add the water and bouquet garni, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Strain the stock into a bowl, let cool, cover, and store in the refrigerator.  Use immediately or freeze in portions (or ice cube trays) for up to 3 months.  

For the Curried Zucchini Soup:

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes or until it begins to soften.

Add the zucchini, stock, and curry powder, along with a large pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook gently for about 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Allow soup to cool slightly, then transfer it to a food processor or blender.  Alternately, use a hand stick blender in the pot (my preference!).  Process until smooth, with some green flecks.  

Stir in the sour cream, if using.  Warm but do not boil.  Ladle into warmed bowl, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream or basil.  

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