Leek and butternut squash soup

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Adpated from Delia Smith’s Leek and Butternut Squash Soup

I eat a lot of soup.  Most days this is what I have for lunch and there a few reasons for this.  Firstly, if you make a big batch of soup it’ll last you 3 days (assuming you don’t mind eating the same thing several days in a row).  When you’re pressed for time there is great value in this, and if you vary the toppings and/or accompaniments (bread, breadsticks, cheese shavings, garlic croutons, chives, yogurt swirls, chilli oil, olive tapenade… the list is pretty much as endless as you want it to be), then you are almost eating a different soup every day.  Secondly, I’m feeding a pre-schooler and you can get all sorts of veggies in them via soup.  Not that C has a problem with vegetables in their original format, but there’s limits to how much she will eat and you know, every little helps.  Lastly, you can do a lot more damage to your calorie intake eating a cheese sandwich every day, so soup is often a more sensible option, especially if you also bake as much as I do.  This soup has a delicate flavour and the almond milk gives it a comforting texture akin to a cream of soup.

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Chicken, mango, avocado and quinoa salad

Chicken, mango and avocado quinoa salad

Adapted from Climbing Grier Mountain’s foodie fridays: grilled chicken, mango, and avocado quinoa salad

Time for some therapy.  Me, not you (unless you’re up for that sort of thing).  I’m settled on the couch, so I hope you’re sitting in an uncomfortable looking chair.  I’ve been pondering why it is that I’m frequently eating meals with at least one ingredient on the cusp of perishing.  On the one hand I could argue that by getting a veg box I am always running the risk of not being able to eat up all the contents in time.  Were I to live next door to a farm shop I could pop in daily for fresh ingredients, and I wouldn’t be hoping to make a pile of veggies last a whole week without any of them disintegrating into mush.  But this is not entirely true.  If I’m honest the problem is me and my shopping habits.  When I go to a store I go with a list and I don’t go very often.  I buy what’s on it.  But I often put things on that list for a planned future meal that never materializes because other things got in the way.  I often find I’m changing my meal plan because we’re not hungry enough for the dinner I had planned or we’ve got back too late for me to make the thing I had in mind.  Friends joke that if the zombie apocalypse comes mine is the house we should barricade ourselves in, as we won’t need to venture out for food any time soon.  I know that it has irked me in the past to not be able to make something exactly because I don’t have the right ingredients, but I’m not like that so much now.  Unless I’m actually craving something a specific way I’m now more willing to fiddle around with a recipe and not freak out.  I think I need to be more strict with myself on shopping trips, to not pop things in the trolley just because they might be useful in something.  I’m probably about evens on feeling chuffed I found the thing I suddenly need in the fridge because I bought it on a whim, and eating something odd because I’ve suddenly got a sausage, a pineapple and a open carton of passata to use up!  Which leads me to this recipe.  Mangos were on sale, so I had one of those and the thing was borderline self-juicing when I finally used it.  And I had half an avocado.  That’s another part of the problem.  I am but one, and C is still tiny, so I’m often using half of this and half of that because I would be the size of a house if I cooked for even two adults and then ate most of it myself.  Combined with leftover chicken from a weekend roast this recipe was using up three things that needed to go, and luckily it was gorgeous!  As the original recipe said – summer in a bowl.  You wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have some of that, would you!  I didn’t have the parsley called for in the original, and I’m not a big fan anyway, so I subbed in a bit less mint, which worked wonderfully.  You should use whatever you prefer.

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Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

Adapted from Frugal Feeding’s Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

It’s raining so it’s time for comforting soup!  I might have mentioned before I’ve got friends doing WeightWatchers and some seem to regularly eat zero point soup.  The basic concept being that most vegetables (though not all apparently) are worth zero points and therefore these can be included in the diet without having to count them against the day’s allocation of points.  This is within reason obviously – I’m sure if you ate a mountain of anything, including broccoli, you could still put on weight.  But anyway, the idea is to cook a soup without fat and plain starches, like potatoes, rice or pasta which incur points.  If you like broccoli soup, and normally sweat onions in butter or oil, then I still think you’re going to be surprised how good this tastes without them.  I was inspired by the beautiful soup made over on Frugal Feeding, and that did come with a caveat about the large chunk of butter included!  This soup still looks, tastes and feels creamy, which I think is the magic properties of cauliflower when cooked and blended.  You get a more vibrant colour if your broccoli is fresh and green, but this is an excellent way to use up anything that has got a bit bendy in the fridge.  I’ve included an optional sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy garnish if you are so inclined, what with all three vegetables having a natural affinity with cheese.  Still vegan then, still with no added fat, still zero WW ProPoints per serving and super quick to make as well!

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Creamy tomato soup

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Adapted from Poppy’s Patisserie | Bunny Kitchen’s Tomato and Coconut Soup

I’m sure I’d like you to all think that I’m 200 recipes ahead of my publishing schedule and I’m planning weeks of meals way in advance with a tightly controlled, recipe led, shopping list in hand.  It is true I’ve got a lot of draft posts in the bag, but I can’t publish things until I’m sure they’re going to work, and anyway I really am at the mercy of the weekly veg box for much of the time.  I know I could just ditch it and go completely with organisation and certainty, but I know I’d miss that vegetable lottery.  I genuinely revel in the challenge of planning meals around what turns up.  My life is that exciting!!  It’s like living in a game show based on constant rounds of Ready Steady Cook.  So, I found myself with some rapidly collapsing giant tomatoes and a heat wave.  I ate this soup chilled, but I tasted it hot and both ways it was lovely.  I’ve robbed the method directly from Poppy’s Patisserie and her Tomato and Coconut Soup, rather shamelessly!  But I wasn’t in the mood for coconut – I may have overdosed after making dairy-free ice cream last week (recipe to follow) – hard as that is to believe!  If you like a very smooth soup then you may want to sieve this after blending, but I liked the texture as it was.  Super tasty from roasting the ingredients.  It has no dairy in it, but it still tastes creamy – that’ll be the little bit of almond milk in there.  Delicious.

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Pork and aubergine noodles

Pork and aubergine noodles

Adapted from Ching-He Huang’s Fragrant Pork and Aubergines on BBC Food

In case you are wondering what happens to “the troublesome feline” when I go away, I can tell you that a house/cat sitter comes and looks after him.  It’s not that I object to taking him to a cattery, it’s just the nearest ‘nice’ one is a little journey away and, as with most things, it is not cheap.  When he has to stay in one then working on the basis you get what you pay for I’m glad it is a bit pricey, but I reserve it for special occasions.  I’d rather have a housesitter anyway, especially when it is hot, because the garden gets watered as well!  I always get the box of vegetables I would normally have for the housesitter – and they always vow to eat them – and then they never do.  So I’ve been the queen of stir-fries since I came back hefting through the rapidly expiring veg mountain.  One pack of bok choy and some celery didn’t make it (composted) but I’ve been impressed with the amount C and I have got through.  I’m a bit obsessed with tofu at the moment (I think it was the mostly meat and fish fest that was France) although we did eat veggie one evening.  So you may expect a little run of recipes featuring that to come up soon.  I’ve not quite perfected the sriracha and peanut sauce one yet but I’ll let you know when I have.  In the meantime, here’s a little something for the carnivores amongst us.  I am working on getting a gluten-free chilli-bean sauce, which is what the original recipe called for.  Many apologies for the general mauling of what, in the original, was probably quite an authentic dish from this cuisine.  If you like chilli you should pop some in from the start but as you’ll probably know by now I’m happy to swap some out with hoisin when I’m cooking for C.  It does change the lean of the whole dish, but it is no less tasty.  And with my trusty bottle of sriracha I can spice things up at the end for myself with no worries.  You just go right ahead and do whatever works best for you.  I won’t come round and tell you off!

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Mushroom and spinach risotto

Mushroom and spinach risotto

Continuing my cunning plan to get more mushrooms into C without her noticing, I attempted a mushroom risotto.  She’ll never spot them right?!  Ha, ha, ha…. Actually I billed this as “cheesy rice” and indeed she exclaimed it was “very cheesy mummy” and ate half the bowl before she followed that up with “yuck mushrooms!”  I think I got away with it for a while there because I did dice them up small, but you should feel free to chop them up in any way you find attractive, or less obvious, as per your own situation.  I went for an entirely vegan risotto, using oil instead of butter, almond cream instead of crème fraîche, vegetable stock instead of bone stock, and nutritional yeast instead of cheese.  But I’ve made this many times using any combination of the above depending on what is in the fridge and cupboards, and every time it is delicious.  Don’t let my three-year-old’s aversion to mushrooms put you off!  Unless you don’t like mushrooms either, in which case fair enough.  I often change-up the serving size on this to suit just me and C but also, if you cool and refrigerate any leftover risotto quickly, it can be used to make very tasty arancini for lunch the following day.

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Roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup

Roasted pepper and sweet potato soup

For the record, I’d just like to make absolutely clear, this soup is red, ok?  It is not orange.  it is red.  And I’m sticking to that story.  Of course, it is yet another soup recipe and that’s because although it is nearly June it has still been raining and cold here in good old England.  I’m not surprised because I’ve lived here all my life.  I am just resigned to it.  However, this soup is as lovely chilled as it is warm so take that weather!  I don’t care what you do, this soup will conquer all.  I’m actually in a little bit of a flap because this weekend it is the annual street party in our road.  We started having them for the last royal wedding, then last year it was the Queen’s Jubilee and this year, well, there is just another one.  Bunting at the ready!  Of course this year I won’t eat anyone else’s food, because this year is the first year of being gluten-free.  We are supposed to bring one savoury and one sweet dish but I might do more, just to give myself some variety.  I don’t feel up to quizzing the neighbours about what’s in their offerings.  I foresee a lot of pasta salad, sausage rolls and cake!

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