Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cream of Spinach Soup (& Polenta Pizzas with Shaved Romano): 5-Ingredient Recipes from Robin Takes 5

There are days when you you have the time, energy and ingredients to spend lingering over a complicated recipe and then there are the days when you need to get something quick, easy and hopefully healthy on the table with just a few simple ingredients from your pantry. Robin Miller's new cookbook, Robin Takes 5: 500 Recipes, 5 Ingredients or Less, 500 Calories or Less, 5 Nights a Week at 5:00 PM is for those busy days.

Robin Miller is a food writer and a nutritionist who specializes in creating quick and easy recipes that are simple enough to make you think twice about ordering take out. She even has a Food Network series, Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller (which unfortunately Food Network seems to bury in the earlier weekday morning hours) that helps families get healthy meals to the table fast.

The book contains 8 chapters: Soups, Stews & Chowders, Pizzas, Flatbreads, Calzones & Strudels, Pasta, Risotto & Rice, Chicken & Turkey, Beef & Pork, Seafood & Shellfish, Side Dishes, and Desserts. Nutrition information is included with each recipe and the lower sodium recipes are tagged to make it easier for those trying to limit their salt intake. In order to meet the need for quick meals (most recipes can be made in about 20 to 30 minutes), there is some use of canned or packaged foods, but it isn't excessive. Ingredients are ones that you have have handy in your fridge, freezer or pantry, making coming home and preparing a weeknight dinner easy. Miller did include many recipes that are marked as suitable for entertaining on nights when you are feeling a little fancier or want to have friends over. There are several sections of color photos so you can get a look at some of the dishes in each chapter.

Recipes I tagged to make include; Sesame Miso Soup with Tofu and Scallions, Red Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Almonds, Hummus Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper, Wild Mushroom Strudel with herbed Cheese, Linguine with Olive Butter, Somen Noodles in Miso-Black Bean Broth, Penne with Seared Tuna and Capers, Grilled Salmon with Sriracha Mayo, Coconut-Almond Mahi Mahi, Grilled Shrimp with Peanut-Lime Dip, Fennel and Lemon Salad, Tempura Brussels Sprouts, Rice and Goat Cheese Cakes, No-Bake Chocolate-Peanut Butter Oat Cookies, and Bittersweet Fudge with Dried Cherries.

I was especially pleased with the many soup recipes, so when choosing a couple of recipes to "road test" this book I selected the Cream of Spinach Soup (I have been eating far too many brown foods this week with Stuffing, potatoes, mushroom gravy, etc. and needed some green.) Rather than a sandwich or salad, I thought the little Polenta Pizzas with Shaved Romano would be a fun and colorful accompaniment to the soup and I happened to have tube of polenta in my pantry and homemade pesto in the freezer.

Robin says, "What makes this rich soup creamy is the addition of Yukon gold potatoes. I like Yukon golds because they're not as starchy as regular baking (russet) potatoes. I also add half-and-half for extra creaminess, but you can cut calories and fat by substituting low-fat milk."

Cream of Spinach Soup
Adapted from Robin Takes 5 by Robin Miller
(Serves 4)
Prep Time 5-10 Minutes / Cooking Time 15 Minutes

6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (I used low-sodium veggie broth)
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lb baby spinach
1 cup half-and-half (I used 1/2 almond milk and 1/2 non-dairy creamer )

Combine the broth, potatoes, and garlic in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Puree with an immersion blender or regular blender (when using a regular blender, work in batches to prevent spillover). Stir in the spinach and half-and-half and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper before serving.

Nutrients Per Serving: Calories: 222, Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 5 g, Cholesterol: 36 mg, Carbohydrate: 25 g, Protein: 11 g, Fiber 4 g, Sodium: 262 mg

Robin says, "Tubes of prepared polenta are sold in most grocery stores, and they make preparing meals with this cornmeal treat a snap (rather than spending the time cooking the cornmeal until tender and waiting for it to cool so you can cut it into rounds). Be sure to buy ripe (preferably vine-ripened) tomatoes so that you can enjoy the tomato's full flavor potential."

Polenta Pizzas with Shaved Romano
Adapted from Robin Takes 5 by Robin Miller
(Serves 4)
Prep Time 10 Minutes / Cooking Time 10-15 Minutes

1 (1-lb) tube prepared polenta, cut into 12 rounds
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
1 cup thinly sliced beefsteak or plum tomatoes, about 2 large beefsteak or 4 small plum
1/2 cup shaved pecorino Romano cheese (use a vegetable peeler)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Transfer the polenta rounds to a baking sheet. Top each round with the pesto, tomato slices, and cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the polenta is toasted and the cheese is melted.

Nutrients Per Serving: Calories: 314, Fat: 19 g, Saturated Fat: 7 g, Cholesterol: 19 mg, Carbohydrate: 24 g, Protein: 12 g, Fiber 2 g, Sodium: 761 mg

Notes/Results: The soup and polenta pizzas were both on the table in less than 30 minutes and tasted great. I liked the simple flavors in the soup--the spinach got to be the star and the soup tasted silky and rich. I did make my soup vegan--using veggie broth, almond milk and non-dairy creamer. The polenta pizzas went well with the soup and had good flavor. Next time, I would take an extra few minutes and bake the polenta circles for 5 minutes or so before adding the pesto, tomatoes and cheese--just to make them a bit more crisp in texture. Otherwise, I would make both of these simple recipes again.

Robin Takes 5 is a handy resource to have in the kitchen--the 500 recipes are a great place to look when you aren't sure what to make for dinner. It would be a great gift for a busy family that wants to eat healthier, someone starting out and gaining kitchen confidence, or even a more experienced cook, looking for new ideas and recipes to add to weekly menu planning. Miller has done a great job making healthier options accessible.

Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher but as always, my thoughts, opinions and experience cooking from the book are entirely my own.

Now lets take a look in the Souper Sunday kitchen where we have some delicious and warm bowls of goodness waiting.

Janet from The Taste Space has a healthy, stew to share and says, "Continuing with my white bean kick, and my abundance of kale, I modified Isa’s Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew from Appetite for Reduction. I thought it might be plain and boring, but it was anything but. It was sublime. A great, comforting stew with tons of mellow flavours without bogging you down. I substituted the leek for onion and fennel, swapped the white potatoes for sweet potatoes, upped the carrots and parsnips and used up the last of my kale including the stems, which was only 1/2 lb. Thankfully, this soup makes a ton. I will be slurping it up all week and then some!"

Joanne of Eats Well With Others jazzed up her soup bowl with this Rosemary White Bean Soup with Fig and Walnut Tapenade and says, "Soup is the answer to all of life's most rhetorical and profound problems. Feeling cold? Soup. Feeling tired? Soup. Feeling like skinny jeans are just too much for you to handle? Soup. Feeling like you need a stiff drink in anticipation of all of the cooking meltdowns you know you'll be having in the next four days? Soup with vodka. --- A house smelling like rosemary with a soup that tastes like comfort is totally our answer."

Heather of girlichef says that this gorgeous Poor Man's Bread, Kale and Black Pepper Soup from Mediterranean cooking wonder Paula Wolfert is a "...simple rustic soup chock-full with ribbons of lacinato kale, the hint of porky goodness, and a toasted country bread rubbed with garlic that sucks up the flavorful broth like a brand new sponge. girlichef also notes that, "It was a delicious escape in the midst of Thanksgiving dinner preparations."

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes tried Ina Garten's Mexican Chicken Soup and says, "I know. You were probably expecting some wonderful post about what to do with all your turkey leftovers. Except that it’s only the Friday after Thanksgiving, and if you’re like me, today is just yesterday warmed up, or maybe made into a turkey sandwich; you’re not really into the whole using the turkey meat for something else yet. So, then this post is kind of timely, because you could easily make this with a turkey carcass or a turkey leg or two. I used a couple of my rotisserie chicken carcasses that I have always have readily available in my freezer."

Tigerfish from Teczcape - An Escape to Food made a simple Mixed Beans Cabbage Soup to combat holiday excess. She says, "Well. Ok. Thanksgiving is over. No more hard work in the kitchen for a while (at least in the next two days). But eating out 3 meals a day is not an option. A well-accepted idea for busy cooks is to cook one big pot of food and have leftovers for the next 1-2 meals. Sure beats eating out. Me included. The same but for a different reason.I am the lazy cook."

It's nice to have Shri from Tiffin Carrier Antic/que's! back at Souper Sundays and here with a lovely Butternut Squash and Adzuki Beans Soup. Shri says, "This dish mimics the traditional Kerala dish, the Erisseri where coconut is ground with cummin and also roasted to meld with pumpkins, raw plantains, yams, beans and lentils. Heat comes from black pepper. Fried Shallots were added in some regions, or on some occasions. In the 'feast/sadya' version, the moisture was cooked away and coconut oil was used generously. In this soup, I have used coconut milk with ground cummin powder and white pepper powder for the heat."

Such a good variety of soup this week, a little something for everyone. Thanks to everyone who joined in on this holiday weekend. If you have a soup, or salad or Sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week.


  1. Mmmm...fantastic choices from this handy book! The soup sounds creamy and lovely...and those polenta pizzas- awesome. Delicious roundup, as well :D

  2. Lovely mix of soups: greens and hearty winter vegetables and beans.

  3. I miss that show! these dishes look wonderful!

  4. I always enjoyed watching Robin's show and am happy that she has a new book out. I love creamed spinach and could probably use it as a condiment. I think I could probably drink this soup:) And, I love the little polenta pizzas. They're just too cute!

  5. I'm always wary of Food Network Star cookbooks but this one sounds like a winner! I want to make all of the recipes you bookmarked!

  6. Tubes of prepared polenta are not available in the UK! They look very nifty.

  7. Love the soups this week.. I wish we still had summer-ripe tomatoes here. Gone are the days of flavourful tomatoes from the store... have to wait until next summer!

  8. Looks like I should get an immersion blender soon so that I can puree and get creamy soup easily.

    Thanks for the round up.

  9. Heather--thank you! It is a handy book isn't it? ;-)

    Shri--thanks! I am happy to have you join in again.

    Kat--it is a great show--like Ellie's, I wish they would show it more.

    Kim--I think you would love the soup then. ;-)

    Joanne--this one is a good resource I think and the recipes are easy and good. ;-)

    Foodycat--I am surprised they don't sell it there. You could of course make your own and cut it into rounds. ;-)

    Janet--I am spoiled that we get good tomatoes here most of the year.

    Tigerfish--An immersion blender is so handy. ;-)


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