Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mind Changing Carrot Soup

Carrot Quinoa Soup

      Somewhere in my past , I must have had a bad carrot soup experience, because even though I like carrots, I held to the idea that I didn't want a soup made out of them. Luckily this soup came along and changed my mind.
   The first time I had it, I was on a three day silent meditation retreat at the Insight Meditation Society  (IMS) retreat center in Barre, Ma.  There were ninety participants, and we all started our day with meditation at 6AM, and ended the same way at 9PM. The sound of the bells would call us to the meditation hall, where we would silently take our places on a cushion, or a chair if the floor was too uncomfortable for us.  We all meditated, did our assigned chores, ate our meals, and relaxed in silence. We were to spend the entire time being present (in the moment), and settling our minds. To help with this, along with not talking, we were discouraged from reading and writing, and cell phones were a big no-no. 
   I am not a talkative person, so the silence was not much of a challenge for me. The hardest part of the retreat for me was staying alert while just sitting there in a silent room. I guess focussing on your breath is supposed to be interesting enough to keep you awake, but really-it just doesn't cut it. I had an ongoing battle with fatigue. Luckily we alternated between sitting and walking meditation, so I was able to steal a couple of naps in my room when I should have been walking. That may sound like cheating, but I figured since it was a silent activity, it was allowed. Don't you think?
   It really was a great experience overall though. It made me more aware of how filled with distractions my days are. How I turn to something outside of myself when I don't know what to do with myself. I also found it interesting how even without sharing words, just sharing the experience made me feel connected to every person in the room. We all had our own reasons for being there, but we were somehow all in it together. I left the retreat feeling very peaceful, and with a renewed commitment to practicing on my own at home, which I find helpful. It doesn't keep me from getting scattered or stressed out, but I do notice that when I do spiral into an emotional frenzy, it's easier to observe the chaos in my head and quickly get to a better place.  I am looking forward to going back for five days in February.
   The silent part of the retreat ended with lunch on the last day, giving us a chance to share our experiences, and talk about the food!  This carrot soup was a favorite of everyones. I have to admit though, the first time I made it something went wrong. I don't know if there was a mistake in the recipe, maybe the amount of water was wrong, or maybe it was because of my zealous blender habits. I have a Vitamix Pro 300 and like to crank it up to maximum speed. I find it exciting how fast it it can go. It's the most amazing blender. Anyway, I ended up with a smooth paste. I made a few adjustments to the recipe and my technique. Now it works. It now has a clean carrot flavor, with a hint of curry spice, richness from the coconut, and a nice texture.

Carrot Quinoa Soup
serves 5-6

2T. coconut oil (or olive)
1 1/2 lbs. carrots
1 large onion
1 large stalk of celery
1T. minced garlic
2T. minced ginger 
2 tsp. of curry powder
2 tsp. of salt
4 c. vegetable stock, or water
1c. coconut milk
1/4c. of rinsed quinoa ( I soak my grains before using to remove the phytic acid)
1 T. lemon juice and some wedges to serve with individual servings
toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

This soup is very simple.

Since it is going to be pureed, you can rough chop the vegetables into 1/2 inch chunks.

Heat a medium sauce pan with the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. 

Add the garlic, ginger, and spices and sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the carrots and celery.

Add the broth, salt, and coconut milk. If your broth is salted, you may need to reduce the amount of salt you add. Simmer for about 20 minutes, and then add your quinoa and continue simmering for another 10 minutes, or until the quinoa is done. 
You could also use leftover quinoa or pre-cook the quinoa, and throw it in after the soup finishes cooking.

Remove it from the heat, and let cool a few minutes before pureeing it in the blender. You can make it smooth, but not so smooth that you completely destroy the quinoa. 

Add in the lemon juice, and taste. Adjust if needed. You can also add more liquid if needed.

Top with pumpkin seeds, and serve with extra lemon wedges.

Phytic acid is present in grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. It is a natural substance utilized by the seeds when they sprout, but it impairs our bodies absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium. Soaking beans and grains overnight, or at least for several hours, and rinsing them well removes the acid and increases the amount of minerals we absorb from them. 

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