What I’m reading:

Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers

In Hamlet’s Blackberry William Powers discusses what appears to be our obsessive need to be constantly digitally connected and stimulated.  I have to admit that as soon as I heard about the book (using that old fashioned device–the FM car radio) I downloaded it onto my I-Pad.  Later that night I was reading it and letting the concept of being over connected sink in.  It did not take long to experience his message on a personal level.  I realized that before I was more than a few chapters in to the book, I had stopped reading several times to open an e-mail that my device had diligently let me know had arrived by sending a little “ping” noise my way.  He talks about how we are wired to respond to new stimuli, and the biochemical effect of this “ping” may be that it causes a change in neurotransmitter levels, basically a little chemical stimulation. He discusses that some of us may be in danger of losing the ability to connect deeply with our families, our books, ourselves, and our inner thoughts. He discusses the need to have some quiet time for the brain, a time in which to reflect, and for new and great ideas to surface. make no mistake however. He does not feel that we are doomed, or that this is a new phenomenon.  He points out that humanity has been through similar episodes in the past when a new technology has arisen.  He is confident that we will learn how to cope with the constant connectivity and make the best use of the technology available to us. In short, none of us from this point forward will become less connected.  It is up to us to try and set boundaries and good behaviors with regard to the constant stimulation, allowing us to maintain good mental health.  This book is a nice reminder of that.

 

From My Kitchen To Yours:

Garlic and Kale Soup

This is a great soup to make when you are feeling a bit under the weather.  Not only does it
taste good, but the ingredients have potential health benefits.  Mushrooms contain beta glucans which modulate and support the immune system, and the garlic (yes 10 cloves) contains natural antibiotic compounds.  If I am experiencing respiratory symptoms I will add some extra crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to kick the heat up a notch.

Regardless of how you are feeling, this soup tastes great.  The mushrooms add a nice meaty depth to the broth, which also has a slightly tangy flavor reminiscent of a thin Hot and Sour Soup.  Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz of shiitake or other mushrooms sliced thinly
  • 10 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 carrot thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 5-6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup quick cooking barley
  • 3-4 cups chopped kale
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper if desired

 

Heat oil in saucepan and add mushrooms and carrots.  Sauté until mushrooms are beginning
to brown.  Add onion, garlic, and pepper, sauté 2 minutes.  Add rice vinegar and deglaze pan, scraping up any brown bits.  Cook until vinegar nearly evaporated.  Add broth, water, and barley. Simmer for 10 minutes.   Add kale and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

 

 

Lightning Fast Black Bean Soup with Lime-Cilantro Cream 

Why this recipe works, and is frequently on our table:  1) It is incredibly fast, literally 20 minutes from opening the first can to putting it on the table. 2) Despite how quick it is to make, it tasts like it took much longer and was much more invoved than it is.  Much of this is due to the use of prepared salsa and the smoked paprika.  3) It is incredibly healthy.  Low fat, high protein, high fiber, gluten and dairy free.  As a side note, I prefer to use 1/2 cup red salsa and 1/2 cup green salsa, feeling that the deeper notes of the cooked tomato in the red salsa match well with the more acidic green salsa–making a more complex soup.

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 15 ounce cans organic black beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 cans chicken or vegetable broth (I prefer chicken)
  • 1 cup prepared salsa (see above)
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves (1/4 cup each for soup and garnish)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup non-dairy sour cream
  • 1 tsp of lime zest or 1 Tbsp lime juice

Puree beans, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup cilantro, smoked paprika, and cumin in a blender till smooth.  Pour into a saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes.  While the soup is cooking, mix thogether the sour cream, reserved 1/4 cup cilantro, and lime.  Garnish each bowl of soup with sour cream mixture just before serving.