Simmer Time: Cold Weather “Warm-Ups”

Cold weather means soups or stews are often simmering on my stove. The aromas wafting from my Dutch oven or soup pot on a cold winter night warm me up even before I start to eat.

Sometimes I make a soup stock and then add veggies, while other times I create the soup and stock at the same time, so there is quite a bit of flexibility in these recipes. Don’t be afraid to be creative! For example, all of these recipes are meatless, but feel free to add bits of chicken or fish to the pot, especially if you have some from a previous meal, but not enough for another whole meal.

Stir Fries are generally made by frying in oil, which I avoid. Instead, I add oil after the dish is cooked, so I “simmer-saute” in water or broth instead. Simmer-Saute is a term I use to describe cooking veggies in a small amount of water, stock, or tomato juice until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Then I turn off the flame and add a small amount of olive oil. (Words in bold italics are found in the Glossary.)

I have read that even monosaturated oil with high smoke points, such as macadamia and olive, are still not the best way to use oils, so my way of cooking these dishes may differ from most of the recipes you read, which start out: “Saute the onion and garlic in oil until onions are clear.” You will rarely find that in my recipes. (More on fats and oils in a Special Report in a future posting.)

The simmering recipes below may take a little longer to prepare, but in the case of soups and stews, a double batch means you can prepare enough for another meal. The soup stock can be frozen in small batches for other recipes. So relax and allow yourself to “simmer” while these dishes are on the stove. Being in touch with your food can be very healing, as well as enjoyable. This means viewing food preparation not as a chore, but rather reframing cooking as a creative act that stimulates your senses and hopefully adds to your goal of staying healthy. To this end, all the veggies and grains in this posting are fresh and organic.

NOTE: I have added utensils needed, plus preparation and cooking times to give you a better idea of what “tools” you need and how much time to allow for making a dish.
When making soups and stews, you can be cooking some of the veggies while cutting up others, so the preparation times and cooking times often overlap.

Kitchen Sink Soup Stock

(Soup stock veggies simmering on the stove. The lighter part in the center are dried herbs.)

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use almost any veggie in your ‘frig that is no longer useful for a main or side dish recipe or is beginning to wilt, but still edible. Then you can go out and shop for new produce without a guilty conscience, because you will have used up all your produce and your vegetable crisper will be empty.

Utensils: Cutting board and sharp knife; large soup pot
Preparation Time: About 20 minutes
Cooking Time: about one hour

Ingredients(any or all)

Cauliflower stems and greens
Broccoli stems
Scallion tips or (ends of) onions
Parsley (stems)
White potato
Green beans/wax beans
Any leafy green, even lettuce starting to wilt*
2-3 T. Herbs of your choice (oregano, basil, thyme, dill, etc.)
* Strong greens such as kale and chard will add a bitter taste to the soup, so use only milder greens, such as cabbage, chard, or wilted lettuce.


1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven place 3-4 quarts of water and put on a high heat.
2. Wash and cut and peel the veggies as needed. Add to water that is heating. Add herbs of choice. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for about one hour, covered.
3. When all the veggies have cooked thoroughly in the water, remove them. Set aside carrots and any other veggies you want to use in the soup recipe below.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use as a base for soup or pour into containers and freeze for future use, saving one or two quarts for the recipe below.

Note: Feel free to use whatever veggies and herbs you have lurking in your crisper, such as turnips, rutabaga, etc.

Kitchen Sink Soup


(This is basically the same soup I featured last January, only this time I gave you the soup stock recipe as the preliminary step. If you like, you can substitute cooked rice or cooked kasha or any other cooked grain of your liking.)

Utensils: Cutting board and knife; soup pot
Preparation Time: About 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1/2 – one hour, depending on which grain is used


4-5 cups vegetable broth
one cup barley, rice, quinoa, kasha, etc.
Carrots & celery from the broth, sliced
1-2 c. peas (In winter, I use frozen) or cooked beans


1. Cook barley or other grain according to package directions. It expands a lot, so for every 4 cups of water, you can use 1/2-3/4 cup barley. For a really thick stew-like soup, use up to one cup of barley.
2. Take 4 cups of the stock and place in a smaller pot. Add some cut up potato, carrot slices, and celery pieces from the stock veggies. Add frozen peas and place put soup on simmer for about 1/2 hour or until veggies are tender. (If you are using beans, make sure they are cooked.)
3. Add cooked barley (when all or most of the water is absorbed)
4. Allow to simmer a few minutes longer, adding additional seasoning if necessary.

Variation: If you want to make the soup and stock at the same time, you can add the barley to the stock, then remove the other veggies want you do not want in the soup. (I remove the cauliflower and broccoli pieces, the parsley stems, the garlic pieces and the wax and yellow beans.)

Chunky Vegetable Stew


Note: Many of the veggies from this dish can be used in this stew. For example, I use the tops of the cauliflower and broccoli here and save the bottoms for the stock.

Utensils: Cutting board and knife; large pot or Dutch oven
Preparation Time: About 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 min. – one hour


About one inch of water or stock in a large pot
one sweet potato, peeled and cubed (or carrot)
one cup shelled edamame beans or beans of your choice
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
3-4 scallion tops or 1/2 of a leek, peeled and sliced
cauliflower pieces (tops)
broccoli pieces (tops)
green beans and/or wax beans
collard greens, optional (cooked separately)
2-3 T. olive oil
Herbs to taste (basil, oregano, thyme, etc.)
Salt & Pepper to taste


1. As with stir fries, the longer-to-cook veggies goes first into the pot, after placing the garlic cloves for flavor: sweet potato, broccoli and cauliflower tops, green and wax beans, and leek or scallions.
2. As they simmer, add herbs and salt and pepper, a little at first, adding more as needed. (Note: If using stock instead of water, you may not need additional seasonings.)
3. (Optional step): If you want to add collards, then bring another pot of water to boil, roll up one or two sheaths of collards, and cut thin strips crosswise. Cook on medium heat until almost tender before removing from water and adding to soup.
4. When veggies are tender but not mushy, remove from heat and stir in 2-3 T. olive oil for flavor. Serve immediately once the oil is added. (You can keep dish on simmer, adding more water if needed to prevent burning, and add oil right before serving.)

Kasha Pilaf “Stew”

(This dish was hard to label, because it is a combination of a casserole-style dish and the roasted grain idea of a pilaf.)

Utensils: fry pan and soup pot; cutting board and knife
Preparation Time: About 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 1/2-3/4 hour


one cup kasha (roasted buckwheat)
2 cups boiling water
2 garlic cloves
2-3 scallion tops, washed and sliced
one carrot, washed and sliced into 1/2″ wide “coins”
broccoli and cauliflower or other veggies of your choice*
salt & pepper to taste


1. Bring 2 cups of water or soup stock to a boil.
2. While waiting for the water to boil, place one cup rinsed kasha in a large fry pan. Dry roast the grains until they are lightly browned, stirring often so they don’t burn.
3. Add boiling water carefully to roasted grains, along with garlic and scallions, as well as the other veggies. Place on simmer and cook until all water is absorbed, adding salt & pepper(or soy sauce) to taste.

Important Note: Depending on the size of your pan and how high simmer is on your stove, you may have to add extra water or broth to keep the grains from sticking. A true pilaf is made by roasting the grains in oil, which I no longer do, as explained above.

4. By the time the water is absorbed, the veggies should be tender, but not mushy. (If you are not sure of the timing of the grains and veggies, you can steam the carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower in a separate pot until tender yet not mushy, and add them to the cooked grains after all the water in the fry pan is absorbed.)
5. Stir in 2-3 T. olive oil right before serving, after the dish has been cooked.

* A note about vegetables: I made the soup, soup stock, and veggie stew all within a few days of one another, so the broccoli was divided with the tops going in the stew or pilaf and the bottoms going in the soup stock. Feel free to use other vegetables that you like. Be creative and choose what you enjoy and what is seasonally available, such as cabbage or turnips.

Short Cut Hint: Imagine Foods has created soup stocks, both meat and meatless, available in health food stores and supermarkets. These stocks are handy when you don’t have time to make a stock or want more flavor for all of your dishes. There is a variety of stocks, from chicken and beef to mushroom and just plain Vegetable Broth.

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