No Croutons Required - The Winner for January

Congratulations to Anna of Morsels and Musings who won the January challenge with this delightful Mushroom and Barley Soup. Mushroom lover that I am, I can't wait to try this one.

Holler will be hosting February's edition of No Croutons Required. The theme this month is to make a vegetarian soup or salad featuring potatoes. A recap of the submission guidelines can be found here.

Butternut Squash Sambar

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Butternut Squash Sambar
Served as part of almost every meal, every south Indian kitchen has its own staple sambar recipes to hand down to family and friends. At the same time, these thick, fiery and aromatic vegetable stews cooked with dals and tamarind remain an exotic and virtually unknown dish in the rest of the world, even in Indian restaurants. Once you try an authentic sambar, however, these extraordinary delights will never return to anonymity even as they retain the warm and exotic appeal that stirs images of caravans shambling under scorching suns down the ancient spice routes of the subcontinent.

Much simpler to make than the long list of ingredients would suggest, this colorful and seasonal butternut squash sambar adapted from Padma's udipi sambhar has an inviting fragrance and a satisfying depth of delightful flavors. Toor dal, or split pigeon peas, are easily found at any Indian grocery, along with tamarind pulp, asafetida, and any of the other ingredients listed below.

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Cottage Cheese Scrambled Eggs

I often add cheese to scrambled eggs. Sometimes I grate some aged cheddar or add some goat cheese to the egg mixture. This time I added cottage cheese as I had a package in the fridge that I hadn't got around to using. Cheese never goes to waste in my kitchen! I first made these flavourful eggs as a midnight snack the other week. It might have been the wine, but I enjoyed them so much, I resolved to try them again for breakfast as I was too hungry to take a picture the first time around and wanted to share this simple but enjoyable egg creation with my readers.

The key to fluffy scrambled eggs is to beat the eggs really well and to keep the cooking temperature at moderate. Serve with toast for a satisfying and healthy breakfast. Cook up some hash browns to go along with the eggs and toast if you are hankering for a hearty Sunday breakfast.
Cottage Cheese Scrambled Eggs

1 tablespoon of butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 hot green chilies, finely chopped
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons of yogurt
3/4 cup of cottage cheese
1 heaping tablespoon of chives
dash of cumin
dash of cayenne
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs and yogurt until frothy. Add the chives, chilies, cottage cheese, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper and beat some more.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a frying pan. When hot, add the shallots and stir and fry for a few minutes. Now add the egg mixture to the pan. Stir frequently, taking care to scrap the egg from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the eggs are dry and fluffy.

Serves 2 - 3
Other egg creations you will be sure to enjoy:
Greek Scambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Feta
Indian-Style Baked Eggs Florentine
Greek Feta and Olive Frittata

No Croutons Required - Nourishing Vegetable Soups

What better way to deal with an especially cold and harsh winter than to hover over a warming and nourishing bowl of vegetable soup. If you are looking for healthy and cleansing ideas, settle in and enjoy the varied entries for this month's edition of No Croutons Required. Help us crown the winner for January by voting for your favorite in comments or by email. Please note that neither my soup nor Holler's is eligible for voting.

Our first entry is a classic Cream of Broccoli Soup from Alexandra of Chefspiration. As part of her new year's resolution, Alexandra intends to eat veggie soup once a week. I'd have no trouble sticking to that resolution! 2 heads of healthy broccoli are simmered with celery, onion and garlic in vegetable stock and then pureed in a food processor with some cream. Serve with some crusty bread for a most satisfying meal. (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Next up is Lysy of Munchkin Mail with this creamy Sweet Potato, Fennel and Carrot Soup with Alfalfa Sprouts. This pretty soup might not have detox properties, but it is certainly filled with vitamins and flavour and an ideal way to beat the winter chills. (Warwickshire, United Kingdom)

Wendy from A Wee Bit of Cooking comes up with a unique Lemongrass and Cabbage Soup that sounds every bit as good as it looks. The wholesome flavour of cabbage is combined with onion, chilies, ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk, lime and coriander. Truly, elegance in a bowl. (Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom)

Andrea of Cooking Books takes some inspiration from Molly Katzen and serves up this hearty Gypsy Soup. Onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, celery, tomatoes, green pepper and chickpeas are seasoned with spices and tamari. This chunky soup will not fail to satisfy vegetarians and carnivores alike. Andrea suggests increasing the cayenne and I couldn't agree more. (New York, New York, United States)

From Astra Libris of Food for Laughter we have this colourful and cleansing Borscht that was inspired by one of her professors. The goodness of beets are here combined with sweet vidalia onion, potatoes and served with a dollop of sour cream. You just can't go wrong with a classic like this. (The Deep South, United States)

My submission for this month is this thick and filling Provençal Bean and Vegetable Soupe au Pistou. Red and white kidney beans are simmered with onion, green beans, zucchini, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes and served with pistou, a pesto like blend of garlic, basil, parsley, tomato, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Serve with crusty bread and you have one tasty and satisfying meal. (London, Ontario, Canada)

Anna of Morsels and Musings comes up with a soup that will have mushroom lovers drooling with delight. Her Mushroom and Barley Soup includes 4 types of mushrooms, pearl barley, sherry and is seasoned with garlic, rosemary, thyme and parsley. This soup is 100% vegetarian though it has a very meaty texture. This is a perfect dish to enjoy anytime of year. (Sydney, Australia)

Soma from eCurry serves up a vegetarian version of Harira, a traditional soup from Morocco. This hearty soup is a meal in itself as it contains not only an assortment of vegetables, but also lentils, chickpeas, pasta and dried fruit. The delicious concoction is seasoned with lots of spices, herbs and some harissa paste. Flavorful, filling and good for you too. (Texas, United States)

Our next entry is from Saranya. She doesn't include a picture but her Hot Tomato Soup with Bread Toasts certainly sounds nourishing and pleasing to the palate. A favorite from childhood, tomatoes are combined with cornflour and seasoned with salt and pepper and served with croutons. Simple, but delightful and warming. (Chennai, India)

Priya's entry for this month is a simple but nourishing Creamy Vegetable Soup. Onion, carrots, french beans, corn kernels, mushrooms, and capsicum are simmered in vegetable broth and then filled out with milk and corn flour. Yet another perfect choice to cleanse the body and warm the soul. (Paris, France)

My co-host Holler of Tinned Tomatoes submits a powerfully healthy Curly Kale, Watercress & Potato Soup with Peas. This gorgeous soup was garnished with watercress, and a bit of sun-dried tomato dressing and served with cheddar and dill beer rolls. Clearly, a meal fit for royalty! (Scotland, United Kingdom)

Ivy of Kopiaste has resolved to eat healthier to cleanse her body of rich foods consumed over the holidays and submits this lovely Fakes Soupa. Ivy tells us this tempting Greek Lentil soup, that includes onion, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, celery, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, is enjoyed on cold days. Serve with some olives and some crusty bread for a most satisfying dinner. (Athens, Greece)

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe took advantage of some cooler weather to make this flavourful Potato and Corn Chowder with Basil and Mustard. This creamy soup also includes carrot, celery, onion, garlic, milk, lime juice and some Parmesan cheese. Johanna served this tasty soup with bread, but tells us it is filling enough on it's own. (Melbourne, Australia)

Rachana from The Gourmet Launchpad cooks up a Mushroom Soup that she says is one of her mother's best recipes. We don't have a picture of this soup, but it certainly sounds easy and yummy. Mushrooms are pureed with sauteed onion, seasonings and milk and then gently heated. Certainly this would make for a nice lunch or accompaniment for dinner. (United States)

From Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey, we have this stunning Spicy Roasted Tomatoes and Red Bell Pepper Soup. Easy to make but full of flavour, tomatoes, peppers, red onions, chillies and garlic are roasted together in the oven and then pureed with some vegetable stock. The whole delightful creation is then seasoned with salt and pepper and smoked paprika. Meeta suggests serving this pretty soup with some grilled cheese sandwiches and a salad. Just perfect! (Weimar, Germany)

Manda who blogs at Asparagus Thin enters the fray with this thick and colourful Ranch Roasted Corn Chowder. Roasted corn kernels come together with tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, bell pepper, milk and mushroom stock. Manda used the seasonings that are usually used in ranch dressing to flavour this tempting chowder. (Concord, Virginia, United States)

From Nicisme of Cherrapeno, we have an Easy Vegetable Soup. Her mom used to make this nourishing combination of onions, leeks, carrots, potatoes, seasonings and Parmesan cheese. If you need some healing, or just want a simple and comforting soup, this is the soup you are looking for. (Kent, United Kingdom).

Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf shares her version of Provencal Vegetable Soup with Pistou. Saffron meets pasta, and mingles with onion, carrots, leeks, potatoes and green beans. The meeting is completed with a pistou of tomato paste, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Your taste buds will thank you. (New Jersey, United States)

From Aqua of Served With Love, we have this gorgeous Tomato Basil Soup. The goodness of pumpkin, beetroot, tomatoes, onion, garlic, perhaps filled out with some fresh cream, will not fail to tempt us vegetarians. Serve with garlic bread and salad for a complete dinner. (Singapore)

Our final entry is from Bird's Eye View who posts at Food and Laughter. She has access to plenty of plump fresh peas, so she cooked up a batch of warming Pea Soup. Peas come together with onions and garlic, veggie stock, sage, rosemary, thyme and marjoram and some wilted spinach. Nourishing, healthy and tasty! (Gurgaon, India)

Holler will be hosting February's edition of No Croutons Required. Check back at the beginning of the month for the theme.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup with Black Beans

Peanuts and dried red chilies make a striking complement to orange-coloured winter vegetables, and after the success of a Spicy Peanut Pumpkin Soup I decided to return to the theme with sweet potato. Peanut butter is used instead of whole peanuts this time around to form a creamy base to a chunky bean and vegetable soup that will warm, nourish and delight you and your guests. Be sure to use an unsweetened natural peanut butter.
Spicy Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup with Black Beans

1 cup dried black beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large carrot, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 large sweet potato (about 1 lb.), peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon dried hot red chili flakes, or to taste
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Rinse the beans and soak overnight covered in several inches of cold water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. Drain, place in a medium saucepan, and cover with several inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl around to coat the pan. Add the carrot, onion and garlic and sauté until the onions turn translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn up the heat slightly and toss in the sweet potato and chili flakes. Stir for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato and cook until the tomato has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and water and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the peanut butter and beans and let simmer for another 5 minutes to let the peanut butter melt into the soup and to warm the beans. Remove from heat, and season with salt and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley for garnish. Serves 6.
If you liked this recipe you may also enjoy:

Spicy Peanut Pumpkin Soup
African Bean and Peanut Soup

Spinach Pesto Pasta

What better friend has a cook in a hurry than a no-cook pasta sauce that takes less time to prepare than it takes to boil the pasta? And unlike canned sauces, this warm and earthy pesto gives you all the rich vitamins and minerals of fresh uncooked spinach. I could have used a healthier and less processed pasta for this dish, but rotini was on hand and global warming appears to have gone on a hiatus, so I opted for ease and convenience instead.

I'm sending this quick and easy pasta dish to Haalo, who is hosting Presto Pasta Night this week. This popular and ongoing event is the brainchild of Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.
Spinach Pesto Pasta

8 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 dried hot red chilies
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper

Process the spinach, pine nuts, garlic and dried chilies in a food processor until well chopped. Drizzle the olive oil over top and process for another half minute until blended. Stir in the parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Mix in with hot cooked pasta and serve with a little extra fresh grated parmesan and fresh ground black pepper sprinkled over.

Makes about 3 cups, or enough for one pound of dried pasta.
Other pasta dishes to tempt the palate:
Penne with Indian-Style Tomato Sauce and Mushrooms
Penne with Fennel, Tomato and Blue Cheese
Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup with Rosemary

Spicy Peanut Pumpkin Soup

Spicy Peanut Pumpkin Soup

The comforting taste of warm salted peanuts starts on the palate before yielding to the pleasures of a rich savory vegetable broth and finishing with spicy flourish in this fragrant and multi-layered soup. Adapted from Yamuna Devi's artful and creative but sadly out-of-print Yamuna's Table, this soup makes a wonderful first course to almost any Caribbean, African or South Asian themed dinner, or a delightful lunch on its own.
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Provençal Bean and Vegetable Soupe au Pistou

Provençal Bean and Vegetable Soupe au Pistou

Apart from the "pistou" itself — a pesto-like blend of garlic, basil, olive oil and hard cheese stirred in at the end — the only real requirement of an authentic southern French "soupe au pistou" is that it is made in the summer with seasonal vegetables. Naturally that is almost one restriction too many for me, for whom it seems that a thick, hot and nourishing broth of beans, vegetables, herbs and cheese should be just the thing to fill up and warm a person up on a cold winter day.

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Millet-Quinoa Hash with Peppers and Zucchini on Sautéed Greens

Millet-Quinoa Hash with Peppers and Zucchini on Sautéed Greens

Dark leafy greens lightly sautéed in lemon juice and crushed coriander seeds lend a pleasingly bitter and slightly astringent contrast to a warm and colorful millet, quinoa and vegetable hash. A simple, nourishing and delicious addition to almost any kind of meal, this is another recipe adapted from Yamuna Devi's wonderfully inventive Table.

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Beet, Barley and Black Bean Soup

Beet, Barley and Black Bean Soup

If you are craving a hearty vegetable soup that also contains the recommended balance of grains and beans for a healthy vegetarian meal, consider your desire satisfied. Delightful slices of beetroot, plump kernels of whole barley and tender black beans are enveloped by a purple broth flavored with tamari sauce, balsamic vinegar and a good handful of fresh dill. It's rather like the ever popular Russian borscht but with a unique and satisfying twist.

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Coconut Cilantro Rice

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
cilantro rice

Little specks of green lend vibrant color to this fragrant and spicy rice, making it an attractive and delicious accompaniment to any Indian meal. It's also pleasantly simple, taking no more than 30 minutes from preparation to serving.
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