Just a brief pause in the house updates to say that I hope everyone in the storm's path this weekend is safe and warm! Even though winter has not exactly slammed Chicago with the white stuff, it is still plenty chilly out there, and in weather like this, I turn to soup. Usually I like to begin a meal with a salad, some good fiber and veggies, a little bit filling to help me not overdo it with the entree. But while I don't abandon my salads completely in the cold months, I do tend to prefer to have soup on hand for everything from easy lunches, to a warming afternoon snack, to a replacement for my dinner salad.
In terms of the whole dieting plan, healthy soups, especially ones that are veggie focused, can be a really useful tool for me when I'm craving comfort foods. And this one is an old family favorite, amped up a bit for my palate.
First off? Please do not confuse this soup with the "Cabbage Soup Diet" soup. Yes, it is a cabbage soup, but it is the sweet and sour cabbage soup favorited by my Eastern European ancestors, and it has some oomph, not that watery wan sad stuff promoted as a way to quick weight-loss.
This has sweetness from fresh orange juice, agave nectar, and thick sweet black soy sauce. It has acidic punch from fresh lemon juice, tempered with a mellow sherry vinegar. It is rich in fiber and super good for you, and with some of the optional add-ins, can be a meal unto itself. The recipe as-is is vegan, fat free, and clocks in at about 70 calories a cup, so it is a total guiltless pleasure. But even if you thicken it up with rice or barley, add beans or lentils, give it a twirl of olive oil, or even toss in a bit of leftover beef or chicken you have floating about, you are hard pressed to make it either unhealthy or horribly caloric.
I make mine in the slow cooker, because it makes the house smell fantastic all day, but a large stockpot over low heat is fine too, ditto a big covered Dutch oven at about 250 degrees for several hours in your oven. The key is to cook it low and slow so that the veggies retain a bit of substance while getting soft and giving up all their goodness. If you boil it, it becomes mush. Delicious mush, but mush nonetheless. I usually make this big batch and freeze half of it for the next storm.
If you have a favorite cold weather recipe, be sure to share in the comments section!
Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup
makes approx 24 cups
1 medium head white cabbage, chopped into one inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped into half inch chunks
6 ribs celery, sliced
1 28 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes (I use scissors to chop them up in the can, use juice and all)
3 T tomato paste
1 T demerara sugar or brown sugar
2 T kecap manis or sweet black soy sauce (you can substitute 1 1/2 T of plus 1 T of soy sauce)
4 T sherry vinegar
1-3 T agave nectar
juice of one orange
juice of one lemon
1/2-3/4 t red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Dump everything into a 6 qt slow cooker and add 7 c cold water. Turn slow cooker on high and cook 8 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting for seasoning. It should have a mellow sweet and sour flavor with a bit of heat on the back and some savory richness. Use the sherry vinegar and either sugar or agave to adjust to your taste. If you like it with more umami, try replacing the water with chicken stock. Serve hot with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Approx 70 calories per cup.
Some wonderful add-ins to make it heartier, use 2-4 c total of any combination of the following:
Cooked barley, brown rice, farro or wheat berries
Cooked orzo or other small pasta
Cooked meats, like shredded chicken, small chunks of steak, ground beef, or even frozen meatballs!
Yours in Good Taste,