Orzo Veggie Soup

orzo soup2This soup has simple ingredients, but it’s a delicious lunch. It’s a light vegetarian meal that I also enjoy when not feeling well. The original idea was from here.

Ingredients (1-2 servings)
480 mL (2 cups) vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock too, though it won’t be vegetarian)
1/2 cup (uncooked) orzo pasta, or other tiny pasta shape
1 tomato
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp olive oil
1 egg white
1 handful fresh spinach
Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the pasta and cook according to the box directions until done.

Meanwhile, cut up the tomato and add the salt, crushed pepper, and olive oil. Cook briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop until done.

When the orzo is done, stir or whisk quickly while pouring in the egg white. It will cook instantly when it hits the hot broth. Finally, add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Put the tomato into 1 or 2 bowls and pour the orzo soup over. Stir, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Winter Bean Soup

Picture to come!

This soup is not an exact recipe, but it’s something I make variations of all the time in the winter. As you might know, Japanese homes don’t have central heating, so winter can feel especially chilly. Like most people, we use our “aircon” (in Japan, they function both as AC in the summer and heaters in the winter) and space heaters to heat only the room we are in. But we also try to keep the heat low and wear sweaters. During the day I sometimes make this soup for lunch as another way to keep warm.

Japan Notes: Dry beans are one of the few things I have really not been able to find in Japan. Of course, there are plenty of soybeans and azuki beans, and I have seen dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in import stores, but canned black or kidney beans are quite hard to find, and I have never seen dried beans. We get ours from family members in the U.S.

Ingredients

dried mixed beans
water
red pepper flakes
onion
garlic
vegetable bouillon
salt and pepper to taste, other toppings if desired

Instructions

Follow the instructions on your beans for how to cook them. Some require soaking. Mine just require simmering for 2 hours, so I usually put them on the stove in the morning and then let them cook while I do housework or study. After the beans are fully cooked, add thinly sliced onion and minced garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you want some spice. Also add some veggie bouillon. I use my homemade vegetable bouillon.

Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until onion and garlic are cooked. Taste it and add salt if necessary.

At this point you are basically finished, so you can eat it just like it is, or add some toppings. I usually like to drizzle about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil in my soup bowl, then add some Parmesan cheese and black pepper. There are also other variations you can do: for example, you can add a little milk for a creamy version. If I have leftover baguette or stale bread, I cut it into cubes and put them in my bowl, then pour the soup over them. You could also add some other veggies if you wanted. I think leafy greens would be good, like spinach.

White Bean Chili

white chiliThis chili is great in the winter. In Japan, beans can be hard to find, but you can buy them at import stores, or online. This recipe is adapted from here.

Ingredients
450g (1 lb) chicken breast
1 onion
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp oil
2 cans white beans (or 4 cups cooked white beans)
400mL (14oz) chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans green chiles (In Japan, these are not easily available. Instead you can use fresh peppers, such as togarashi, or a small amount of dry pepper flakes.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream (this amount can definitely be reduced)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and chicken until the chicken loses its pink color.

Add the garlic powder, beans, stock, chiles, salt, cumin, oregano, pepper, and cayenne. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Add sour cream and cream, and reheat just until simmering.

Serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, tomato slices, etc.

Autumn Soup

This recipe is known as Autumn Soup, and it really is a great soup for autumn (and winter too). It’s made with ground beef and veggies like carrots, potatoes, and onion, so it’s inexpensive, but also warm and delicious. This recipe was originally a microwave recipe, but I usually make it on the stove these days.

Ingredients
1 lb (400g) lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups (950mL) hot water
3 cubes beef bouillon
2 cups ½-inch diced potatoes
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
14-oz (400g) can diced tomatoes, undrained

Japan notes: here in Japan, beef can be expensive, so I sometimes make this soup with ground beef/pork mixture, or of course you can lower the amount of meat you use in the soup with no problem.

Instructions

Put ground beef, onion, and celery in a saucepan; cook and stir until meat is browned.

Add hot water, bouillon cubes, potatoes, carrots, basil, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).

Remove the bay leaf. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Cook for a few minutes more until back to a simmer, then turn off the heat and serve.

This soup is great together with bread or biscuits. My family always ate it with baking powder biscuits.

Corn Chowder

When I was in university, one particular place on campus served a great corn chowder every Wednesday, and I made sure to be there at lunchtime once a week to get my soup, because it was so delicious. They used an herb that I couldn’t identify until I went home and smelled everything in my cabinet. It turned out to be thyme, and since then I have always added it to my corn chowder!

Ingredients
3-4 strips bacon (optional – leave out for vegetarian version)
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 can corn, undrained (400g / 14oz)
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
1/3 cup hot water
1/2 tsp thyme
1-1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp flour
salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

Cut bacon into strips and cook in a saucepan. When the fat starts to render, add the chopped onion and cook together. (If omitting bacon, start with the onion and a little vegetable oil.)

Add potatoes, corn, bouillon, hot water, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Add 1-1/4 cups milk. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk with 2 tbsp flour until smooth, then add into soup. Stir over medium heat until thickened.

We sometimes like to top this soup with chopped green onions and shredded cheddar cheese.