Perhaps you, like me, have been indulging yourself a little over the holidays. Perhaps for you, like me, the holidays began with Halloween this year. But even if you’ve been being more sensible than that, the new year is always a good time to rededicate yourself to making healthy choices.
It’s cold this afternoon (or, rather, as cold as it gets in this part of the country), so I started rummaging around in the refrigerator to find the makings of something warm and cozy for lunch. Warm, cozy, and healthy. I found onions, garlic, mushrooms and carrots, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a watery bowl of vegetable soup. I wanted something with a little more stick-to-itiveness. That’s when I saw a bag of baby spinach and a jug of milk. Creamed spinach. Vegetable soup. A recipe started to take shape in the dark kitchen of my mind.
What I came up with was something like a cross between a vegetable chowder and a soup. The Girl and I thought we’d coined the term “choup” until we looked online and discovered a recipe in which Rachael Ray (that culinary wordsmith) had already used the term. Still, we were pretty proud of ourselves for coming up with it without her assistance.
This is a good recipe if you have vegetable-resistant eaters in your household–it’s possible to puree the vegetable mixture into oblivion, if that’s your preference. I left the spinach leaves whole, but I made sure to puree all the mushrooms, since The Girl cannot abide their texture. I also wound up using a can of evaporated milk, rather than the regular milk from the fridge, since it’s thicker. Evaporated milk is an excellent way to fool your taste buds into thinking you’re being treated to something rich and creamy when you’re actually making a much more heart-friendly choice.
All of the vegetable amounts below are approximate, since I just chopped away and threw everything in the soup pot. However, I don’t think you’re going to be harming yourself if you toss a few extra carrots into the mix.
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup carrot, chopped fine
1 carton (32 oz.) chicken stock
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 can evaporated 2% or fat-free milk
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 bag of baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup flour
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and onions. Sweat them together over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the carrots; cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the carrots start to soften.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the chicken stock. Add the remaining stock and the mushrooms to the pot. Stir everything together and allow this mixture to come to a boil, then reduce the heat. Use an immersion blender to puree the softened vegetables and stock (or puree in batches using a regular blender, then return the puree to the soup pot.) Add the evaporated milk and nutmeg. Heat through, but don't allow the choup to come to a boil again.
Toss in the spinach and allow it to wilt in the hot liquid. While the spinach is wilting, whisk together the flour and the reserved (cold) chicken stock. Add this mixture to thicken the choup. Puree again, if you like, or leave the wilted spinach leaves whole.
Serve the choup with a little sprinkle of Parmesan on top.