Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

I don’t need an excuse to make Chinese food at home, but Chinese New Year is a fun excuse to have. I love Chinese food. All the different seasonings like soy sauce, chilies, ginger, and dark sesame oil, create a rich and flavorful meal. Additionally, some meals like stir fries are quick and easy to prepare. As a cook, it is one of my aspirations to learn how to make a variety of Chinese foods. I have an insatiable curiosity about all things food related so it is hard to resist the temptation to write a post about this special occasion. As I learn about different foods and cultures, I want to share my findings in hopes to encourage you to expand your food repertoire. Also, in the process of sharing, I might learn a thing or two from one of you.

With such a rich and important Chinese American history in the US, learning about the different traditions is one way to respect our differences and common values. Traditions. Good Health. Long life. Success. Prosperity. Auspiciousness. Family. Food.

A list of some dishes served for Chinese New Year and their meaning

Celebrate Chinese New Year Lunar Year of the Dog

Spring Rolls symbolize wealth because their shape resembles a gold bar.

Dumplings, because of their shape symbolize family reunion and wealth. The crescent shape is like the ancient Chinese coins called silver ingots.

Longevity Noodles symbolize long life and happiness. Never cut the noodles, it is ok to slurp these babies up.

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Whole fish symbolizes an increase in wealth, or surplus, “May you always have more than you need.” The word for fish in Chinese, “Yú”, sounds like the word for surplus. I linked my recipe for rainbow trout. If you make this recipe for Chinese New Year, do not cut off the heads and tails. Serve the fish intact. The “beginnings” and “ends” have significant meaning for Chinese New Year. Another recipe to try is whole steamed fish from David Tanis of the New York Times.

Whole Chicken, is usually boiled in a flavorful broth and cut up. Yet, I think it is ok to serve a whole roast chicken. A whole chicken is a symbol for family togetherness and happiness.

Celebrate Chinese New Year the Lunar Year of the Dog

Vegetable dishes are also important because the spring is the time to plant new seeds. Bok Choy is a favorite or try my Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms. Even my Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise would work.

Fresh fruit like oranges are important, as the round shape and color represent wholeness and good fortune.

Glutenous Rice Cakes  Nian Gao, the round shape symbolizes family togetherness and the sweet taste means a rich and sweet life.

Celebrate Chinese New Year, the Lunar Year of the Dog

On New Year’s Day it is important to eat a vegetarian meal. You can make my fried rice recipe and omit the salmon and add sautéed broccoli and spinach.

Links for more information about Chinese New Year

This list of foods and their symbolism is short and generalized. My idea to write about the different foods and their symbolism is not meant to Americanize an important Chinese tradition, but to introduce the significance for each dish. You can find more information from these websites that I used as resources. The SpruceChinese New Year 2018, and China Highlights. Here is a link for information about the Lunar Year of the Dog.

The idea of preparing a traditional Chinese New Year feast is daunting, especially because I have no experience at it. In preparation for Chinese New Year the making and eating of specific foods is a huge part of the celebration. Also, having family around to celebrate with is central to the New Year celebration. This list is just a small selection of some foods served during Chinese New Year. Because preparing a Chinese New Year feast takes a lot of work, I plan to build up my menu a little at a time. Every year I hope to get closer to making a full feast of my own. Until then, baby steps. It is my hope that this sample whets your appetite for more and inspires you to cook Chinese food at home.

Gǒunián dàjí, “Lots of luck for this Dog year”

Xīnnián hǎo, “Happy New Year”

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Purée of Vegetable Soup

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Oh baby it’s cold outside and nothing warms up a numb body better than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Purée of vegetable soup is an easy recipe made with ingredients typically found in a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Canned tomatoes, canned or fresh cannellini beans, onions, carrots and celery make up the foundation for this hearty soup. The additional ingredients, like herbs, spices and other vegetables, add extra body and flavor for a bright tasting vegetable soup with great depth of flavor.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Puree of Vegetable Soup recipe.

My original intention was to create a hearty tomato soup recipe. I love tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Essentially, I did develop a tomato soup, but one with a blended flavor of tomatoes, aromatics and legumes. As a result, compared to a traditional tomato soup, the tomato flavor is less pronounced. I found the generous amount of mixed vegetables softens the tomato flavor, creating a hearty and fresh tasting blend of garden delights.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

I love living where there are four distinct seasons, but during this dark and chilly winter, I sometimes need a reminder of the sunny and warm days to come. These short days with harsh and biting temperatures can make a person feel sad and extra hungry. Do you find your appetite increases during the winter? Mine does. I believe the body needs extra calories to maintain a normal body temperature. That is my theory but some scientists disagree.

If you find you are always craving something extra during the winter, instead of reaching for a bunch of crackers, or cookies, make a bowl of vegetable soup. Not only will it provide sustenance and warm you up, the bright color and taste will lighten your winter mood and give hope for the spring days to come.

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

Warming winter foods:

Swedish meatballs

Beef stew with Horseradish Sauce

Cod Braised in Tomato Saffron Broth

Puree of Vegetable Soup, recipe.

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Purée of Vegetable Soup

This is a fresh tasting and hearty soup perfect for cold fall and winter days. It is an easy and delicious soup made with canned tomatoes, canned white beans, onion, celery, and carrots. I also added fennel bulb for a brighter flavor. If you prefer, substitute it with roasted red pepper or any leafy green vegetable you wish. Also, any canned or fresh white bean works with this recipe. If you are using canned beans, make sure they are the low or no salt variety. Homemade stock is preferred, but low-salt store bought stock will work just fine. You can also use chicken stock if you are not making this a vegetarian meal. Fresh herbs like thyme, basil or tarragon are nice additions as well. Add the thyme instead of the Herbs of Provence, and the fresh basil or tarragon after the soup is puréed.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 7 cups
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion (about 9 oz / 254 g), minced
  • 3 celery stalks about 8 oz /223 g, minced
  • 2 carrots about 6 oz/ 165 g, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 fennel bulb about 7 oz / 219 g, minced (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup 60 ml dry white wine
  • 1- 28 oz can 800 g whole peeled tomatoes in purée
  • 1- 15 oz can 425 g cannellini beans
  • 2 1/2 cups 625 ml vegetable broth
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Garnish

  • 2 TB raisins
  • 2 TB chopped walnuts
  • 2 TB chopped celery leaves
  • 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Small pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf. Cook the vegetables until they begin to get soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. While cooking occasionally stir the vegetables so they don't brown or stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add the fennel and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute.
  4. Add the white wine and cook until almost evaporated.
  5. Cut up the tomatoes into 3-4 irregular size pieces and add them and their juices to the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock and cannellini beans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Taste the soup after 7 minutes and correct the seasoning with more Kosher salt and or fresh ground black pepper.
  6. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
  7. Purée the soup with a blender or an immersion blender, until smooth or to your desired consistency.
  8. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
  9. Garnish with croutons, your favorite garnish, or the celery raisin walnut garnish.

Garnish

  1. Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix together. Taste and correct the seasoning. Let the garnish sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve room temperature with the soup.

Recipe Notes

You can make this soup any consistency you like. If you do not own a blender or food processor, keep it chunky. Add more stock to thin it out if you think it needs it.
To make it smooth with chunks of vegetables, strain out about 2 cups (500 ml) of the cooked vegetables from the soup before you purée it. Once the soup is puréed to your desired consistency, add the mixed vegetables back in.

For more pronounced tomato flavor, add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot of cooked vegetables before you add the tomatoes and other liquid ingredients. You may need more stock to thin out the consistency.

Nutrition Facts
Purée of Vegetable Soup
Amount Per Serving (1.5 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Puree of Vegetable Soup, an easy recipe with bright fresh vegetable flavor.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint, recipe.

Gluten-Free, Recent Posts, Soup, Vegan | January 12, 2017 | By

Broccoli. Spinach. Fresh herbs. These three ingredients are all that is needed to develop a nutritious and velvety smooth soup. No fat. No diary. Just vegetables and fresh herbs. It doesn’t get any purer and simpler than this. What I am talking about, is broccoli soup with spinach and mint. This broccoli soup recipe is deliciously satisfying, and so wonderfully smooth you won’t believe there is no added cream. Broccoli soup with spinach and mint is also the easiest soup that I have ever made.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint, recipe.

 

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

 

This recipe is from the cookbook, Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell. I love this cookbook. The recipes are inventive, not complicated to make, and Jane likes to enhance the flavor of her food with a lot of fresh herbs. Jane Coxwell is the personal chef to Diane von Furstenberg aboard her sailing yacht. She gets to sail around the world, shop at international seaport markets, and cook delicious food for Diane von Furstenberg and the boat’s crew. The photographs of the food and markets are sunny with vibrant colors, and Jane always has a laughing smile on her face.

 

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

If you have never made soup before and want to try, this is the soup recipe for you. Most soups begin with a base sometimes called mirepoix or sofrito. They usually consist of celery, carrots and onions that are sautéed until softened.  Mirepoix is the bodybuilder for stews, soups and some regional foods.  However, this broccoli soup does not have it or need it. Broccoli is the base, spinach mellows the broccoli and contributes to the smooth texture, and the fresh herbs add interest. All the ingredients contribute to the soups bright and pure flavor. If you love broccoli and spinach, then you will love this soup.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint, recipe.

Keys to Success Making Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

The number one key to success is all about the blending. You will need special equipment to make broccoli soup with spinach and mint. The original recipe specifies using a blender, but I do not own one. I have made this recipe at different times using a food processor or an immersion blender. Both appliances worked with excellent results. My advice is to be patient, and keep at it. The whole blending process will take time. Just when you think you are done blending, blend some more. Later when you think you are done, blend some more. As you continue to whirl, the soup will become thicker, velvety smooth and develops an amazing bright green color. I have never been to Ireland, but I imagine the soup is the color of Ireland’s grassy emerald fields.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint, recipe.

Another key to success comes from the secondary ingredient, the spinach. I believe the raw spinach, along with the blending, is responsible for creating the luxurious texture. Broccoli alone will not blend so smoothly because of its own texture. Understand that if you substitute the spinach with other leafy green vegetables like chard, it might taste great, but omitting the spinach will create a completely different soup.

This is a minor suggestion: I cut off the stems of the raw spinach before it is added the blender or food processor. Sometimes, even baby spinach leaves can have stringy stems.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint, recipe.

What to serve with Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint:

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint pairs beautifully with goat cheese and olives. If you are lucky enough to have access to a delicious olive rosemary bread, toast it and spread it with creamy goat cheese.

Or, make croutons with the olive rosemary bread and garnish the soup with the croutons and a drizzle of yogurt or crème fraîche.

Additionally, any open face melty cheese sandwich made with crusty bread is yummy with soup.

We like to serve broccoli soup with spinach and mint for dinner smorgasbord style. Accompanied with grilled herb marinated chicken breasts, marinated artichokes, olives, goat cheese, and toasted bread. Joe refers to this type of meal as, “Soup and Stuff” and is one of his favorite dinners.

Anything salty, crunchy, tangy, creamy is divine served with broccoli soup with spinach and mint. Enjoy!

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Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint is a healthy, delicious soup that is velvety smooth. The fresh herbs and the luxurious texture make this soup special. This soup is super healthy for you with no added fat. A cinch to make. You can change the herb combinations to suit your taste, but always use fresh herbs. Watch the quantities of each herb so they do not overpower the taste of the broccoli and spinach. Other fresh herb pairings are: mint and tarragon, cilantro and mint, parsley and mint, Fines herbs which is a classic blend of tarragon, chervil, and chives. Special equipment is required to achieve this velvety smooth texture. A blender is the best choice to get the velvety texture, but a food processor, or immersion blender will work as well. Recipe is from Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell
Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Servings 4 12 oz servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled sliced in half and green germ removed
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 small handful mint leaves
  • 1 small handful basil leaves
  • Flakey Sea Salt such as Maldon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • Honey or agave to taste optional

Instructions

  1. Fill a saucepan large enough to accommodate all the prepared broccoli with water add about 1/2 tea of Kosher salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Cut the broccoli heads by separating the florets and the stems. Trim the florets into small pieces. Set aside. Then cut the rough and thick end off each broccoli stem and discard, Chop the remaining stems into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. When the water comes to boil add the garlic halves and the chopped broccoli stems. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and cook until the florets are tender, but still bright green. About 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli and put into a bowl of a blender or food processor. (*If you are using an immersion blender you will need to do some juggling. Once you have removed the broccoli, pour the broccoli water into a container and reserve. Put the broccoli back into the stock pot that you cooked them in.)
  5. Measure 2 cups of the broccoli water and place in the blender (or pot) with the broccoli. Reserve the remaining broccoli water.
  6. Blend the broccoli until it is smooth. Add the spinach, mint and basil and continue to blend until very smooth. If you think you are done blending, blend some more. One of the outstanding features of the soup is getting the soup to have a luxurious and smooth texture. The blending step is what will set this soup apart from any other broccoli soup. It will take awhile to accomplish, even longer depending on what equipment you are using. The blending should take at least 5 minutes but possibly longer.
  7. If using a food processor or blender, pour the vegetable puree into a clean pot. Turn on the heat to medium and add broccoli water, a little at a time, into the stock pot with the vegetable puree. Keep adding until you reached your desired consistency. Taste the soup and season with the lemon juice, about 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. (Be careful with the amount of lemon juice you add. The acid reacts with the green vegetables and changes the color from bright to drab.) Sweeten with about 1 teaspoon of honey or agave if needed. (optional) Taste and correct for seasoning.
  8. Serve warm for lunch or dinner. The soup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The color might change after a day or more in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

The amounts of the ingredients are somewhat open to interpretation. Every head of broccoli is not the same size, as well as every handful is not the same. But one of the great characteristics about making soup is you can play around with the amount of ingredients without totally messing it up. The key ingredients are the broccoli and spinach. To give you some guideline, the two heads of broccoli weighed a total of 1 lb 8 1/2 oz / 697 g and the total amount of spinach weighed 2 1/8 oz / 61 g.

I once bought a head of broccoli at the farmers market that was so big, it could have been the equivalent of two or three heads of broccoli. Use your judgement and let your eyes and tastebuds be your guide.

You can add around 3 -4 sprigs, or less, of each fresh herb to your liking.

Broccoli Soup with spinach and mint. A healthy soup recipe with broccoli, spinach, basil and mint.

© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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