Kitchen Sink Soup

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Sometimes you just have a bunch of veggies you need to use – they wouldn’t all necessarily fit together well into a neat side dish or salad.  Well, it’s probably a great time to consider making a soup!

I found myself in this situation last night.  I decided I was going to make a soup then started scoping out what I had that would fit together well…. a bag of carrots with a few left, a bag of celery, a red bell pepper, 2 zucchini, half a container of baby bella ‘shrooms, onions, garlic, shallot, a can of diced tomatoes plus two fresh tomatoes, and about a pound of fresh green beans.  Maybe you don’t have all these ingredients… the beauty of the kitchen sink soup is you use what you have.  Maybe you don’t have all those fresh veggies but you have a few fresh veggie and a few frozen (peas, corn, spinach, broccoli)… throw it in.  Here are the basics of what you’ll need to make a delicious soup:

(1) Veggies to develop flavor.  Any of these are great flavor agents: onion, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, celery, fresh herbs, tomato (canned diced tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes with garlic & herbs, tomato paste).

(2) Veggies to add color.  Any of the following would be great examples: carrots, green beans, broccoli, spinach, squash, sweet potato, peas, corn, okra, Swiss chard, asparagus, kale, leek, etc, etc, etc — you get the point, just use what you have and what you think would go well together!

(3) If this is going to be an entire meal (which I recommend, because that makes it super easy) then choose a protein to round it out: could be ground turkey or ground beef that you brown (fully cook) and then throw in, canned beans (black, Great Northern, pinto, lentils; drained & rinsed before adding), tofu, or a rotisserie chicken that you skin and pull apart before adding.

(4) Liquid.  Obviously every soup needs liquid.  I recommend using a homemade or low sodium stock (veggie, chicken, beef) versus a store bought full sodium stock or bouillon.  If you can find a lower sodium bouillon, that would be a great healthy choice, too.

Okay, have what you need?  Now you’re going to want to sauté those flavor developing veggies in some olive or canola oil – I like to sauté them on a high temp at first then turn down the temp and cook them low & slow to derive the most flavor.  Watch them carefully to make sure they don’t burn.  When they’re looking nice and mushy – and if you’re using onion, when they’re looking a bit translucent, then add your liquid and bring to a boil.  Throw in all the other chopped veggies then bring it down to a simmer.  Add your cooked protein.  Add any additional seasonings (I used cumin, salt, and pepper – but get creative and use what you have!).  Congratulations, you just made a healthy, high fiber, balanced, and delicious meal!  Serve.

See?  Cooking without a recipe is easy – and you waste less and save money!  Win-win-win!


Healthy Holiday Spinach& Artichoke Dip

Do you need a dish to bring to Thanksgiving or a holiday potluck?  Search no further.  This holiday spinach dip is sure to please your crowd as they’re snacking and waiting on the main event.  I doubled the recipe – ‘Tis the season for crowds & friendship!  Bring a double recipe to your large holiday gathering OR freeze one to pop in the oven before the next get together or just to snack on at home!

I have been bringing spinach dip to my Thanksgiving get togethers since I was a teenager – it was the first thing I volunteered to bring, it was a hit, and it is requested annually now!  I know it’s not considered one of the traditional items but it works.  I usually bring a few other dishes now that I’m a full on grown person, and since our family gatherings tend to be on the smaller side more cooks are needed.  But this has continued to be a staple dish.

This version of spinach dip is: high in fiber, packed full of healthy protein, uses non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and at the same time doesn’t completely skimp on fat with full-fat cream cheese and parmesan.  I served it with some yummy whole grain pita points.  If that’s not your cup of tea you could also use pita chips, tortilla chips, or bake it up in a bread bowl if you wanted to get super fancy!

I used freshly chopped spinach but you could just as easily substitute the same amount of frozen spinach.  If you’re going to go with frozen, just pop it in the fridge to thaw the day before you make it and follow the same recipe steps.

Ingredients:

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

2/3 cup cream cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

20 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

2 10 ounce cans artichoke hearts, chopped

2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 tsp lemon zest

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

8 whole wheat pitas, cut into points, for serving

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees and get out 2 8×8 baking dishes.  Chop spinach and artichokes (the more finely you chop, the easier dipping will be!  Whisk yogurt and cream cheese together until no lumps remain.  Stir in parmesan cheese, salt, garlic powder and lemon zest.  Stir in spinach, artichokes, and mozzarella.  Bake 20 minutes, or until bubbly around the sides of the pan.

Enjoy and happy holidays everyone!


Pumpkin & Flax “Pancakes”: A High Energy Way to Start Your Day

I’m kind of obsessed with pumpkin in the Fall.  I usually roast a whole pumpkin and freeze the pumpkin puree so I can make pumpkin bread, pancakes, smoothies, etc. on into the winter as well.  I was really sad when the huge pumpkin I bought for this molded two days after I bought it.  There’s still time, but I picked up some pumpkin goodies to make this recipe that doesn’t involve homemade pumpkin puree.  Canned pumpkin works great in recipes, and sometimes better than a homemade puree because it’s thicker.

This recipe was inspired by a lecture on circadian rhythm I attended at FNCE in Chicago earlier this week.  The presenter made a strong argument for consuming more calories earlier in the day – think a heavier breakfast and lunch and smaller dinner.  This can theoretically result in less fatigue and having more steady energy throughout the day.  It also has implications for sleep quality and duration.  My colleague David of TD Wellness wrote a great synopsis of this here.

I attended another lecture on thyroid function and diet that I found equally fascinating.  We have moved further and further into the low carb fad in this country – I found it interesting that a low carbohydrate diet is directly related to poor thyroid function.  I’m going to write a separate blog post about that later, because I think it’s super important, but in the mean time – don’t fear carbs, they’re not the bad guy.  Think balanced eating overall, getting a healthy balance of macronutrients throughout the day.

If you’re tired of the same old breakfast day in and day out, this may be for you on a morning you’re able to spare about 30 minutes!

 

Pumpkin Cereal “Pancakes”

Pancake Ingredients:

1 11.5 ounce package Nature’s Path pumpkin seed + flax granola

2 TBSP ground flax seed + 6 TBSP water (or you can use 2 eggs)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

2/3 cup unsweetened dried cranberries

Topping Ingredients:

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 tsp honey

4 fresh bananas, sliced

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix 2 TBSP ground flax with 6 TBSP water and let thicken until it is about the texture of an egg.  Add all pancake ingredients in a large bowl and mix until the ingredients are well combined.  Using heaping 1/4 cup scoops, form into 16 pancakes on baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Let pancakes cool.  While pancakes are cooling, whip heavy cream and 1 tsp honey with a hand mixer until air is well incorporated.  Serve 2 pancakes with 2 TBSP whipped cream and 1/2 a sliced banana.  Serves 8.

 

 


Nana’s Banana Bread Recipe Gets a Makeover

My grandmother, AKA Nana, used to make me my favorite banana bread every time I came to visit.  She would even freeze it and bring it with her when she came to visit my family.  When I started making it myself when I was a teenager, I noticed it was absolutely loaded with sugar…. a full cup per loaf.  Cutting the sugar by half and adding whole wheat pastry flour to her original recipe not only makes it a bit healthier, but also tastes better in my opinion!  No offense Nana, I’ll always remember your banana bread fondly from my childhood, just enjoy it now with a bit of a revamp 😉

 

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt (or use salted butter)

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 very ripe bananas

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup granulated sugar OR sugar in the raw

2 eggs

1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Soften butter.  Spray a loaf pan with olive oil, then sprinkle a bit of flour over it, so the bread doesn’t stick coming out.  Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt with a whisk in a medium size mixing bowl.  In a another mixing bowl, smash the bananas with a fork until there are no big chunks left.  In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, olive oil, sugar, and maple syrup together until uniform.  Add the flour mixture to the large mixing bowl with the butter mixture and combine well.  Then add the bananas and combine well.  Lastly, add the vanilla extract, and… you got it… combine well.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake for an hour and ten minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy!

 


Quick and Easy Chickpea and Quinoa Salad

Today I’m giving a presentation on making healthy food fast.  I’ve been testing some new recipes in my kitchen to make sure they make the cut.  They have to be prepped and ready in 30 minutes or less with minimal clean up effort (i.e., they don’t use multiple pots and pans, just one in most cases).  Here is one of the recipes I’ve tested this week leading up to my presentation.  It is really good, and my lab rats AKA my family all gobbled it up.  Hope you like it too!

Quick and Easy Chickpea and Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

2 TBSP EVOO

1 onion, finely diced

1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly

10-15 large Swiss chard leaves (usually 1 bunch from the store)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

2 cups unsalted vegetable stock

1 cup uncooked quinoa

 

Method:

Heat EVOO in a Dutch oven or large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until translucent.

Add the chickpeas, Swiss chard, and spices and cook about 3-5 minutes or until the chard is cooked down.

Stir in the vegetable stock and quinoa.  Continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.  Taste and add a bit more pepper or garlic powder as needed.

Enjoy!  This serves 4 as an entree or 8 as a side.


Overnight Magic: Slow Cooker Steel Cut Apple Cinnamon Oats

Mornings can be hectic… trying to get out the door for work, school, or whatever else you’ve got going on.  So many people label themselves as “not a morning person.”  I’d definitely fall into that category, so anything to simplify the morning I vehemently support.  If you find yourself with some spare time in the evening to go ahead and prep breakfast to make your morning go smoothly, I highly recommend throwing this into the crock pot.

I first made this recipe when I was staying with a friend for several people.  It was a huge hit!  I’ve made it in my house a few times since for my family at home.  Check it out!

 

Ingredients:

2 large or 3 small apples, peeled and diced

2 cups steel cut oats

5 cups almond milk, or other milk of your choice

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

 

Method:

Place all ingredients into the crock pot.  Stir until well combined.  Set crock pot to low and cook for 8 hours.  Stir and serve.


This Rosemary Orange Smoothie Goes Great with a Chill Weekend Breakfast!

 

I’m a huge smoothie lover.  They’re a quick, easy, and fun way for me to get fruits and veggies in my kids (and myself), and many of my digestive health clients need to be on a liquid diet as a part of the management of their condition.  Finding a smoothie that packs in some green veggies without sacrificing flavor is an added bonus.

We first tried this smoothie when we happened to have all the ingredients on hand as a little “experiment” – looking at all the ingredients I wasn’t quite sure how it would taste.  It was a HUGE hit with everyone so we’ve made it many more times since then.  Foodies will especially appreciate how nicely the flavors meld together.  Enjoy!

This recipe is by Julie Morris, L.A. based natural foods chef.  I greatly admire her creativity – I have a few of her books and always love everything I make from them!  Earlier this week I reached out to her to see if she’d mind if I published this recipe on my blog.  She wrote back yesterday and graciously agreed!  I recommend Julie’s book, Superfood Smoothies, to friends and clients a lot and am happy to recommend it here too.  Check out her book and her site if you like this recipe!

 

Rosemary Orange Smoothie

Makes 2 16 ounce servings

1/4 cup dried white mulberries

1/4 cup raw cashews

3 cups baby spinach

2 TBSP mashed avocado

1 tsp orange zest

1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary

1 1/2 cups orange juice

2 cups ice

Blend together all the ingredients, except the ice, until smooth.  Add the ice and blend once more until frosty.  Taste, and sweeten if desired.