Monday, December 24, 2012

(Yet Another) Hearty & Healthy Winter Stew: Chicken Meatball meets Tuscan Kale

I have a feeling I'll be making a lot of soup this season.

I don't think I touch soup half the year, but when the weather turns cold, there's nothing so comforting as a steaming, fragrant bowl of it for lunch or dinner.

(By the way, if anyone could explain the difference between soup and stew to me, please do!)

Anyway, another joy of soups and stews is that it's so easy to make them healthy without taking out any of the things that make them filling and satisfying...

This stew is inspired by a recipe I found in Mollie Katzen's The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest, my absolute favorite cookbook.  The book is full of vegetable-laden recipes, and I think it's geared to vegetarians and vegans for the most part.  But to be honest, it's really good for anyone trying to increase the amount of vegetables in their diet. If you haven't read any of her cookbooks (she's the author of the Moosewood series) you really need to check them out.

Since the recipe is geared toward vegetarians/vegans, as a meat eater I decided the soup would be a perfect base for little chicken meatballs that would bake right in the soup.  It also makes the soup feel more like a main meal.  Even Mr. Minimalist was satisfied with a big bowl of it for dinner.

Chicken Meatball meets Tuscan Kale: 
A Hearty and Healthy Winter Stew
You can swap out the kind of greens and meat you use in this recipe.  I used kale, but the original recipe called for escarole, and suggested spinach, chard or collards as good substitutes.  Likewise, turkey can easily be swapped in for chicken.  Vegetarians can disregard the meatballs and double the beans.  This stew is healthy, dairy-free and can easily be gluten-free and even egg-free (use ground flax seed or EnerG instead of the one egg).  Totally guiltless!

Serves 6 (hearty entree portions)
Prep time: under 1 hr (mostly cooking time)

For the soup:
2 tbs olive oil
2 small/medium onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 bay leaf
2 tsp salt
6 cups water
1 cup vegetable broth
1 15 oz can cooked white beans
3 tbs minced fresh garlic (about 5 large cloves)
1 1/2 lbs kale (one medium bunch) chopped

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground chicken
1 egg
1/3 cup very fine breadcrumbs, flour or ground up oatmeal (I used infant cereal since we have it in spades)
1/2 tsp each coriander and dried parsley
1/4 tsp each of the following: cumin, nutmeg, garlic powder, salt

For the garnish:
Grated nutmeg and fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large soup pot.  Add onion, celery, carrots and salt.  Cook on low heat, 10 min, stirring occasionally   Add water, broth and bay leaf, cover, bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for 20 min.

While soup is cooking, mix the meatball ingredients and form little meatballs, no more than 1 inch in diameter.    Set aside.

Add beans, garlic, and kale (if it doesn't all fit, cover and wait until it's wilted, then add in batches).  Cook 5 min at a simmer.  Gently drop in prepared meatballs into the simmering soup.  Cover, cook aprox. 8 min, until meatballs are cooked (test one by removing and cutting in half).

Serve with an optional topping of fresh chopped fresh parsley and a dash of nutmeg.

Enjoy!  And let me know what you think!

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