Friday, March 8, 2013

No More Boring Lunches!

Ugh!  It’s that same question again!  “What will I bring for lunch?”  As a busy mom, working outside of the house, it is easy to just throw some leftovers into a pyrex container and call it lunch.  The problem is, with a husband and 2 hungry boys, I never have a complete meal leftover.  It ends up being too many carbs without enough protein or veggies or just the veggie or just the protein.  This leads to me over eating in the afternoon, ya know, like at 3pm when that sweet tooth comes a calling and that apple just won’t do.  At times like that I run downstairs to the Dunkin Donuts or I sneak over to see if any colleagues brought in any sweets.

Lately, I’ve started to bring in a salad, packed with veggies, some kind of protein whether it is turkey or chicken breast or a hardboiled egg, lightly dressed with a homemade salad dressing.  But now, of course, the salad thing is boring.  So, I found myself asking “What will I bring for lunch?”  I looked around the kitchen to see what sparked my interest.  Hmmm….nothing. I looked again….hmmm….  Then I realized I have a box root vegetables from my CSA share or Community Sponsored Agriculture share.  The winter root vegetable share had quite a few carrots.  My boys love to munch on carrots but these are not as sweet as younger carrots and I think they taste better cooked.  I decided to roast some that night so that I could make Carrot Soup. 

Later that night when I was making dinner, I peeled some carrots, rough chopped them, tossed with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I roasted them in a 400 degree oven until tender.  You don’t have to roast them, you can just cook them up on the stove but there is something special about roasted vegetables.  There is a sweetness that comes out when you caramelize carrots in the oven.   

After my family was done with dinner I prepared the rest of the soup.  That’s how easy it is to make.  I was inspired by all of the different carrot soup recipes I’ve read and made before.  I wasn’t working from a recipe I just added things that felt right and you should feel free to adjust the amounts to taste.  I diced some onion and threw it into a stock pot and cooked in just a little olive oil.  After about 5 minute or so I added ¼ tsp cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  I let that cook up a little until I could really smell the spices (yum).  I added the rough chopped roasted carrots and mixed to coat with the spices.  You can use vegetable stock or chicken stock – it is up to you.  I used some homemade chicken stock that I had in the fridge.  It was about 6 cups – just make sure you cover your veggies (I actually had to add a little water).  I added a pinch of salt, a bit of cracked pepper and brought the soup to a boil and then simmered it for about 15-20 minutes.  At this point I shut the heat off and had to put my oldest son to bed.  This was perfect timing because I like to cool the soup a little before pureeing. 

After our night time rituals of bath, teeth brushing and reading, I went downstairs to finish the soup.  I pureed using a hand immersion blender but you can use a food processor or blender.   I added ¼ cup of 2% milk but you can skip it since the soup is velvety smooth without it. 

This made the perfect lunch.  I brought some to work and enjoyed it with a turkey roll-up (using all natural turkey from the deli) and some strawberries!  It makes 6-8 servings so I put some in a mason jar and froze it – this will make a nice quick dinner on nights that we need to run to gymnastics or cub scouts in the evening.  Last night was one of those nights so I had a bowl of soup with a dollop of homemade plain yogurt and 2 slices of smoked salmon on the side.  A little sunshine on a cold and dreary March evening in Upstate, NY!

Carrot Soup

2lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 C veggie or chicken stock
Salt and pepper (if you are using store bought stock go easy on the salt)
¼ C 2% milk, optional

Cook carrots in oven or on stovetop with onions until soft.  Add the spices and cook until aromatic.  Add stock and bring to a boil.  Then simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  Cool slightly and puree.  Add milk, if using, just before serving.  Enjoy!
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