Paleo Carrot Coconut Soup

This carrot coconut soup is perfect for the spring months with its light texture and ginger zing. 

I recently took inventory of the freezer meals I have on hand and realized I have one of my favorite soups just waiting to be enjoyed! I'm talking about this dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo carrot coconut soup. So delicious and so easy. This is a lighter soup so I suggest adding a protein or salad on the side to make it a full meal. Enjoy! 

Paleo Carrot Coconut Soup Dairy Free Gluten Free

Ingredients
Carrots - (10) Large
Green Apple - (1) with Peel
Onion - (1) Medium
Garlic - (4) Cloves
Fresh Ginger - (1) 1" Piece
Coconut Milk - (1) 13.5 oz Can
Vegetable Broth - (2) Cups
Orange Juice - (1/2) Cup
Lime Juice - (1) Tablespoon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Roughly chop the carrots, onion, green apple, and garlic and place in a large soup pot. Grate or dice the ginger and add to the mix. 

2. Pour the vegetable broth, coconut milk, orange juice, and lime juice into the pot. Add salt and pepper. 

3. Boil until the ingredients are easily pierced with a fork.  

4. Blend the ingredients using your choice of blender. Note: If you like the creaminess that cashews lend to a soup (as used in my Paleo Dairy Free Broccoli Bisque) add approximately (1/2) cup of cashews in with the other ingredients prior to blending. 

If you are interested in reading about my essential kitchen tools for quick and easy meal prep check out this post.

Roasted Beet & Butternut Squash Side Salad Recipe

Try this warm side salad recipe made of beets and butternut squash during the cold winter months. 

For the past couple of years we have been members of a winter CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) through Foxtail Farms. Among a plethora of other fresh vegetables, the shares we received in the last months of 2016 included beets and butternut squash. I decided to combine the two, tossed with a homemade salad dressing, and have a new favorite simple side dish recipe! To make this side dish into a full meal, simply combine with mixed greens and add grilled chicken. 

Roasted Beet and Butternut Squash Side Salad

Ingredients
Butternut Squash - (1) Large
Beets - (3) Medium
*Aim for a 50/50 mix of squash and beets; adjust quantities as needed.
*I prefer red beets for the pretty color contrast against the butternut squash but any type will work. 
Raw or Roasted Unsalted Pecans - (1/4) Cup
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar
Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel the beets and butternut squash. Remove seeds from the inside of the butternut squash. Cut both the beets and butternut squash into 1" cubes. Note: It's best to keep your cubes of similar size for even roasting and cook time. 

3. Toss the cubed beets in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the beets out, in a single layer, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Next, repeat these steps with the cubed butternut squash. Keep the beets and butternut squash on separate baking sheets in case one requires slightly more or less cooking time. 

4. Roast the beets and butternut squash, flipping occasionally, for approximately 30 - 45 minutes. They are done when they can easily be pierced with a fork. 

5. While the vegetables are roasting make the salad dressing by mixing olive oil, red wine vinegar (about 50/50 ratio), and a splash of lemon juice. 

6. Once the vegetables are done combine the beets and butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with the salad dressing, and add chopped pecans. Mix until the beets and butternut squash are evenly coated with the dressing. Serve warm.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try - I would love to hear what you think!

P.S. Learn more about Foxtail Farms and the benefits of joining a CSA by clicking here. I also suggest this interesting article on CSA's from The New York Times

Simple Side Recipe - Roasted Delicata Squash

Roasted delicata squash with a dash of cinnamon is so easy and so tasty - you won't be able to get enough!

If you've never tried delicata squash before, now is the time! Delicata squash is sweet, savory and is a simple fall side dish. When you add a dash of cinnamon delicata squash transforms into a decadent treat. Plus, you can eat the skin so prep is so easy! 

Simple Fall Side Dish - Delicata Squash

Ingredients
Delicata Squash
Olive Oil
Cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut delicata squash into 1/2" thick rounds. Scoop out the center seeds. Do not remove the skin. 

3. In a large bowl, toss squash with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, and cinnamon and continue to toss until seasonings are evenly distributed.

4. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and spread out squash in a single layer. 

5. Place in oven for 10-15 minutes, flip squash and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. The squash is done when it is easily pierced by a fork. 

Delicata squash does not store as well as some of the other fall squashes so gobble them up while you can!

Paleo Recipe - Heirloom Tomato Soup

Make this Paleo, Gluten-Free, and Dairy-Free Heirloom Tomato Soup Now and Freeze Some for Later!

There has been a beautiful assortment of heirloom tomatoes at our local farmers market recently. This means it's the perfect opportunity to make my Paleo, gluten-free, and dairy-free heirloom tomato soup. This tomato soup is warming in the crisp fall air and is also easy to freeze and to enjoy later. When we are in the middle of our cold Minnesota winter, I like to warm some up and remind myself that this weather will not last for forever!

Heirloom Tomato Soup Paleo Gluten and Dairy Free

Ingredients
Ripe Heirloom Tomatoes  (Any size or Variety) - Approximately (2) Lbs
Garlic - (4) Cloves
Yellow Onion - (1)
Vegetable Broth - (3) Cups
Unsweetened Plain Almond Milk - (1) Cup
Note: The almond milk is a nice way to increase the creamy texture of the finished soup. If you are allergic or sensitive to nuts, simply swap out for additional broth. 
Fresh Basil - (1/4) Cup
Olive Oil - (1) Tablespoon
Balsamic Vinegar - (1) Tablespoon
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
Note:  You will blend the soup at the end so there is no need for precise cutting.  
1. Remove stems from heirloom tomatoes, cut into large chunks, and place in a large soup pot. 

2. Dice onion and garlic. Saute with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once soft, add the onion and garlic to the soup pot. 

3. Pour vegetable broth, almond milk, and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. The liquids should barely cover the ingredients. Remember, you can always add more liquid as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper.

4. Turn the burner on high to bring the mixture to a low boil. While this is going, rough chop the basil. After the tomatoes have softened, add the basil and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. 

5. Pour the ingredients into a blender (you know I love my Vitamix!) and blend until the mixture is smooth. Taste the soup to determine if you would like to add additional salt and/or pepper. 

If you plan to freeze a batch, you will need to put this in the blender one more time after thawing as the soup tends to separate. 

Essential Kitchen Tools for Quick and Easy Meal Prep

A Peek Inside My Kitchen - The Imprecise Cook's Favorite Meal Prep Tools

To cook healthy, delicious meals at home doesn't require a lot of kitchen gadgets, but it does help to have some essential equipment to make food prep go quickly and smoothly. Today I want to share some of top choices for tools in the kitchen. Of course, you'll need some basics such as pots and pans, but these are the items I consider my "go-to" essentials.

Essential Kitchen Tools for Quick and Easy Meal Prep

Large & Small Cutting Board
Give yourself space to work. I have two Epicurean cutting boards and love them. They are pricier than some cutting boards but last so long it will pay for itself when you don't have to continually purchase replacements. For the large cutting board I suggest the 17.5" x 13" size. It's spacious enough to give you room to move around and keep scraps off to the side but not too big to be unwieldy. I also suggest purchasing one of the smaller sizes. The Epicurean cutting boards are dishwasher safe so I use a smaller size for cutting meat. The board is then easily sterilized in the dishwasher. 

Chef's Knife & Serrated Knife
If you are only going to purchase one knife make it a large Chef's Knife. Don't be intimidated by the large size. This tool makes quick work of all sorts of food prep. As a bonus tool, I also recommend a serrated knife for easily cutting through tomatoes, delicate fruits, and other items with slippery skins. Now, this should be obvious but don't forget to keep your knives sharp. Dull knives slow you down and make life more difficult than it needs to be. I've had my Wusthof Classic Chef's Knife and Wusthof Serrated Tomato Knife for 8 years and with proper care they show no signs of slowing down. 

Microplane Grater
A mircroplane grater is perfect for adding citrus zest or spices such as cinnamon to a dish. This tool has also replaced my garlic press. Using the grater is quick, ensures all of the garlic juices are utilized, and there isn't a smelly peel to pick out once you are done. 

Parchment Paper
I spent way too much time on clean up before I discovered parchment paper. Most of the time I Use it to line baking sheets before roasting vegetables. The If You Care brand of parchment paper is eco-friendly and the width works well with most baking sheets. 

Vitamix
I spent several years considering whether or not to purchase a Vitamix. There are so many loyal enthusiasts but at first glance the Vitamix appears to be just a expensive blender. A few years ago I finally purchased one and I can't imagine my kitchen without my Vitamix. Soups are my favorite reason to use the Vitamix. The high speed blades whip the ingredients into a creamy, delicious soup, minus any cream. Yes, you certainly use an immersion blender for this purpose but I find the results never quite match up. Aside from soups I use the Vitamix for smoothies, sauces, dressings, make-at-home Lara Bar concoctions, and more. 

Cuisinart
I inherited a Cuisinart food processor from a family friend and it really speeds up some tasks in the kitchen. Shredding cabbage, thinly slicing veggies, and making cauliflower rice with the grater attachment are some of my favorite ways to use this tool. Like the Vitamix, it's an investment, but you'll have it for years and years. 

Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup
I don't measure very often, thus the name The Imprecise Cook, but when I do, I reach for my Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup. It's compact compared to having multiple measuring cups of various sizes and serves as well-sized container to mix up small batches of homemade salad dressings and marinades. I also love all of the storage containers from Pyrex - perfect for storing leftovers to enjoy the next day. 

These are my essentials for quick and easy meal prep - what are your essentials in the kitchen? 

Paleo Recipe - Roasted Asparagus and Eggplant Salad

Roasted Asparagus, Eggplant, and Basil Combine to Create a Fresh, Paleo Summer Salad

It definitely feels like summer here in Minneapolis. The temperatures are rising and best of all, the farmers markets have started up for the season. The sights of farm fresh greens and other early summer produce has me excited to start playing around with summer salad recipes. I experimented with this Roasted Asparagus and Eggplant Salad as a dinner side salad the other evening. The flavors are fresh and it's easy to make, just what you want during the summer months.

Paleo Salad Recipe Roasted Asparagus Eggplant Basil

Ingredients
Asparagus - (2) Bunches
Eggplant - (1)
Basil - (1/4) Cup
Scallions - (2 or 3)
Tomato - (1) Cup (I used grape tomatoes but you could substitute another variety)  
White Balsamic Vinegar
*Choose a high quality vinegar for drizzling and finishing off the flavors. Locally, I love the White Balsamic from Vinaigrette, an excellent source for high quality olive oil and vinegar in Minneapolis (Linden Hills neighborhood). 
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Imprecise Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2.  The eggplant will take the longest to cook so I suggest starting your prep here. Cut off the stem of the eggplant and cut into 1" cubes. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, tossing a couple of times to ensure even cooking. The eggplant is done when it is tender and browned. (Notes on Eggplant Roasting Preparation: Some prefer to remove the eggplant's skin prior to cooking. Another preparation option is that you can salt the eggplant to remove some bitterness and moisture. I personally don't bother with either of these steps in order to save time but feel free to experiment and see what you prefer. This is a good tutorial on how to roast eggplant cubes if you are curious about these options.

3. Next, cut off the hard ends of the asparagus stems and cut the remaining stalks into 1" pieces. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, tossing once to ensure even cooking.

4. While the eggplant and asparagus roast, slice the tomatoes and scallions (both the bulbs and the leaves). Again, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once the asparagus is tender, remove from the oven and place in a mixing bowl. Using the baking sheet you used for the asparagus, spread out the tomatoes and scallions and place in the oven for a couple of minutes just to soften the ingredients.

5. While finishing up the vegetables, chop the basil and add to the mixing bowl.

6. Once all of the ingredients are to your desired tenderness, remove from the oven and combine in the mixing bowl. Drizzle with white balsamic vinegar to finish. Serve warm or refrigerate for a cold salad

Enjoy and let me know what you think of this recipe!

Paleo Recipe - Dairy Free Broccoli "Bisque"

This broccoli soup is decadent yet it is dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo

Whether you already love broccoli or are trying to find delicious ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, this dairy-free broccoli soup is a crowd-pleaser that I make year round. The soup tastes completely decadent, yet it is dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo.  The secret? Its creamy texture comes from cashews. The first time I made this broccoli soup my husband could not believe that it was not loaded with cream. We both felt almost guilty helping ourselves to seconds. Fortunately, we came to our senses. Trust me - it's that good. 

Paleo Dairy-Free Gluten Free Broccoli Soup

Ingredients
*The amounts listed below makes approximately four large bowls of soup.
Broccoli - (4) Large Crowns - I also use the majority of the stalk
Carrots - (6) Large
Celery - (3) stalks
Garlic - (2) Cloves
Yellow Onion - (1) Medium
Dried Dill - (1/2) Teaspoon
Unsalted Cashews - (3/4) Cups
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Water - (3) Cups
Vegetable Bouillon (I like the Rapunzel brand with herbs) - (2) Cubes
Plain Unsweetened Almond Milk (optional) as needed

Imprecise Instructions
1. Chop the veggies into chunks . Since you'll eventually blend all of the ingredients together this can be a quick, rough chop. Just make sure the pieces are roughly of similar size so they cook evenly.

2. Add water and bouillon to a large stock pot and bring to a boil to dissolve the bouillon. I usually start with 3 cups of water and 2 cubes bouillon.  The water should mostly cover the vegetables. Alternately you could choose to boil the vegetables in almond milk. Once the liquid is boiling and the bouillon is dissolved, add the vegetables, dill, salt, and pepper to the pot. The bouillon has salt so you don't need to add much and can always wait to add additional salt at the end. Stir occasionally and boil until soft. 

3. Once the ingredients are easily pierced with a fork it's time to blend the soup and add the cashews. You can use a blender (I'm partial to the Vitamix - nothing gets the vegetables mixed and whipped like this masterful machine), food processor, or immersion blender. For a blender or food processor, add the cashews first so they are closest to the blades. I usually keep a small portion of the liquid out and add as I blend. This soup is supposed to be thick. You can always add more liquid but you can't take it away! If you find yourself without enough liquid, add more water or almond milk. The more you make this broccoli soup the better idea you'll get of the amount of liquid to use to achieve your desired consistency. 

And now it's time to eat! 

Cashews give this soup it's creamy texture but feel free to experiment with other types of nuts or even adding other vegetables. I think the next time I make this I might add some spinach. I'll see how it goes - as I always do in my kitchen :)

Paleo Recipe - Shaved Fennel and Radicchio Salad

Combine Crunchy Fennel and Spicy Radicchio for a Delicious Paleo Side Salad

This Paleo salad, featuring shaved fennel and radicchio, is the perfect excuse to play with the new mandoline slicer I recently purchased. I enjoy the crunch fennel adds to a recipe but the flavor can be a bit intense. Slicing the fennel very thinly mellows and incorporates the flavor into the overall dish. If you don't have a mandoline slicer you can also just use your chef's knife to create thin slices.

Ingredients
Fennel
Radicchio
*A good balance is (2) parts fennel to (1) part radicchio
Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
Fresh Chives
Green Onions
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Imprecise Instructions
1. Chop bulb of fennel off from fronds (the wispy top that looks like dill). Remove outermost layer of blub. Slice off bottom of radicchio and also remove the outermost layers.
Note: The fronded top of the fennel has the strongest licorice or anise taste of the entire vegetable. I personally find this part of the vegetable to be overwhelming but if you enjoy this flavor you can experiment with sprinkling in some of the fronds.

2. Using a mandoline slicer or chef's knife thinly shave or slice the fennel and radicchio.

3. Dice the parsley, chives, and green onions. Combine with fennel and radicchio in a mixing bowl.

4. In a separate container prepare the dressing by mixing the lemon juice (I prefer freshly squeezed if possible), olive oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk together and taste until the flavor balance suits your liking. Pour dressing over other ingredients. If time allows, dress this salad and let sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so. This allows the fennel to soften a bit and soak up the flavors.

And that's it! This is a perfect Paleo side salad to add to a meal. It can also be made into a main dish by tossing in spinach and grilled chicken. A sprinkling of sliced almonds adds another layer of crunch. If you aren't familiar with the philosophy behind The Imprecise Cook, click here to read the full story.

The Story Behind The Imprecise Cook: Going Paleo

How I started eating Paleo and Cooking without a Recipe

When my husband and I first moved in together he was the one that did all of the cooking. I had almost no experience in the kitchen and easily became flustered when trying to prepare more than one item at a time (boil pasta and saute vegetables at the same time - what???). Over time this balance slowly shifted and I started to become the primary chef. After discussions with a physician passionate about Functional Medicine and adhering to a Paleo diet, I became invested in Paleo-style eating and began to think of food as a way to nurture and support our bodies. 

Imprecise Cook Paleo Diet Cooking without Recipe

Although eating a Paleo diet is now second nature, shifting the way that I ate took planning and effort in the beginning. Limited on time, as most of us are, I often found recipes to be overly complicated. I started asking questions such as is it really necessary to prep and cook the ingredients in that specific order, do I really need to purchase that specialty ingredient, what happens if I turn this several pot meal into a one pot meal to reduce clean-up, and what if I swapped out this spice for another I prefer? As a creative I followed my instinct that there are often many paths to a desired outcome. In this case, the desired outcome was healthy meals that were flexible and adaptable. As I started to cook more and share my dishes with others I was frequently asked for recipes and I'd always have to say that I didn't have one to provide. I'd explain that what they had just eaten was something I had concocted based on flavors I had tasted at a restaurant, based on a recipe I had modified to make simpler and healthier, or was simply something I wanted to test out. It can be intimidating to lack a clear set of instructions (especially for us Type-A's), but I found that once I shared some basics, friends and family were able to find the ease in my "imprecise" approach.

Cooking, and cooking without a recipe, takes practice. But as long as you look at simply as that - practice - cooking becomes an experiment and it becomes fun. It's incredibly liberating to slowly gain the confidence to use existing recipes, favorite in-season fruits and vegetables, and various flavors as inspiration rather than a set of strict boundaries. I've had some flops and no dish is ever an exact replica of the one made before but that's ok. I aim for delicious and healthy over exactness and accuracy and that is something I know I can achieve.