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A Hug in a Bowl: Sweet Potato, Carrot & Ginger Soup

February 16, 2012
Sweet potato, carrot & ginger soup

This soup is amazing! It warms me when I’m cold, and makes me feel better when I’m sick. The onion, broth, and ginger are perfect for soothing cold and sinus symptoms, and the potatoes and carrots offer tons of vitamins to help boost your immune system. It’s easy to make (the veggies only need to be roughly chopped), and has a simple ingredients list. I always have something on hand to make a variation of this soup. This week, I used both carrots and parsnips, and I even added a spoonful of coconut oil to a warmed bowl of  soup to amp up the flavor and enhance the nutritional value!

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (I use Vidalia onions for almost everything) sliced
  • 2 pounds of sweet potatoes (which is about 2 large potatoes) peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 pound carrots (you could also use parsnips, or both carrots and parsnips) peeled and sliced
  • 6 cups of low sodium vegetable or chicken broth (homemade broth is best)
  • 1 Tbsp.  freshly grated ginger
  • A pinch or two of black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot (or dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender (*Note – You may need to reduce heat to keep the onions from scorching).
  2. Toss the sweet potatoes, carrots (and/or parsnips), broth, ginger, and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil.
  3. Decrease heat and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the veggies are tender.
  4. If you have an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don’t, allow it to cool off a bit and the puree in a regular blender. You may need to return it to the pot to reheat a bit before serving.
  5. Enjoy!

Oh My! Maya is 4!

February 15, 2012

Four years and 1 day ago, my Valentine’s day date got cancelled due to the early coming of my youngest child. Maya came into the world after a fairly quick and definitely easy labor. She is a sweet little girl, and one of the brightest and most independent little people I know. My children make me the luckiest mom in town!

Tiny one.

Adorable in her Blueberry diaper.

Sweetest face ever!

Happy Birthday!!!

I’m baaack!

February 12, 2012

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.

Wow! 2011 was a tough year for me. Last spring I started feeling sick a lot of the time, and just keeping up with our daily demands has become a struggle. I have been suffering from severe headaches, body pain, and extreme exhaustion. Initially I thought this was something that I could fix on my own. I’m a firm believer of the “Let thy food be thy medicine” school of thought, so I focused on my diet and tried to eat all the right things. I read countless books on nutrition, and spent hours online researching food and diet only to emerge more confused and overwhelmed with all the conflicting viewpoints out there. It seems that everyone is trying to sell a book or a program, and my bullshit detector is not so keen lately.

I have also been to several doctors over the past year; and I have been offered a number of drugs, all promising to treat one symptom or another. I started out refusing everything, but eventually caved due to the desperate need for relief; only to be totally disappointed or sickened by the adverse effects of the drugs.  I have taken tests and labs galore. All that I have come up with thus far is that I have elevated levels of inflammation in my body, and I’m allergic to everything (and I mean everything). I don’t know if the inflammation is causing the allergies, or if it is the other way around, but I intend to find out.

My primary care doctor seems to think there is nothing really wrong with me (hello, the inflammation) but that I’m in danger of getting sick later on in life. Whatever that means? I tried to argue with him, but he’s the MD. This reminds me of a YouTube video posted by my ND friend (and soon-to-be-healer), Dr. Peter Swanz, in which he discusses how we should  rate our health based on our vitality; and that the “absence of disease” doesn’t necessarily mean that we are healthy. Our health is totally connected to our quality of life, and feeling so awful for so long has definitely negatively impacted my quality of life.

I have high standards for my family, and tend to exhaust myself trying to meet them. I have high standards for myself, and can never live up to them. It’s the same for the blog. I want to give it my all, but I feel like a hypocrite for preaching about healthy eating and the health of the planet while feeling as sick as a dog. All these wants and needs I have are fine and normal. I think. The problem is that I feel the need to do everything amazingly, and totally beat myself up every time I fail. And with standards like mine, I fail A LOT. I absolutely love to write, but can’t do it with even the slightest distraction. My life is full of distractions, and I’m never alone. Never.

Enter the stress factor! Apparently, stress can make you really, really sick. In fact, Chris Kresser, licensed acupuncturist, integrative health practitioner, and amazing blog author believes that stress reduction/management is absolutely mandatory in achieving true health! According to step #6 of his informative series, 9 Steps to Perfect Health, “…no matter what diet you follow, how much you exercise and what supplements you take, if you’re not managing your stress you will still be at risk for modern degenerative conditions like heart disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism and autoimmunity. Geez, stress is a bitch!

So, I have to fight to keep doing this thing that I love! Why I am rambling about all this, you ask? Well, because my days of trying to be perfect are over. I’m sure I wasn’t fooling anyone (except myself) anyway, so I’m coming clean for my own sake. I will write this blog. Some posts will be great, and some posts will suck. Some days it will be about green living or some healthful topic, and others it will be about whatever it is I need to get off my chest. I begin my journey to wellness here and now, and I want to share it with you!

It’s our planet…we have to take care of it!

October 12, 2011

Taken Sunday in Brown County, IN.

The weather has been glorious for the past two weeks, and I have been fully taking advantage of it. We have been eating picnic lunches in the front yard, riding bikes, and taking in the scenery. I’ve enjoyed it so much that it’s got me thinking about how precious nature is, and how in danger we all really are. Everyone should be an environmentalist because we depend on this planet and it’s resources for our very survival. Things like climate change, habitat destruction, and the pollution and contamination of ecosystems are attacking the biodiversity that is our life blood, and our livelihood! The consequences aren’t just cosmetic. We won’t just be losing this gorgeous fall foliage that is esthetically pleasing; we will lose food sources, clean water, and other vital resources. It’s our planet…we have to take care of it!

We have to stop taking things for granted. Here are a few simple pleasures compliments of Mother Nature…

It started raining one evening last week as we were putting the kids to bed, so I stepped outside to take the front porch ferns off their hooks and set them out in the yard for a drink. As I reached for the fern, I looked up and saw a cute little tree frog clinging to the plant hanger; waiting to get in on the seemingly endless supply of flying critters buzzing around the porch light. Of course, I scooped the kids out of bed and brought them out to see the frog while my husband snapped a few pics. We’ve seen this little guy before, and consider him a welcome friend; along with the many porch-dwelling spiders who live share their flying feasts with him.

Our friend the tree frog.

My husband and father-in-law took Elliott fishing recently, during one of our trips to southern Indiana for a visit. They went to a small pond, and fished for fun (meaning they threw back their catches). I’m told Elliott caught the first and the biggest fish of the day. He had a blast!

Elliott's big catch!

During that same visit, my mother-in-law sent us home with 3 huge sunflowers so that we could harvest the seeds for the birds. My husband filled the bird feeder, and for whatever reason, the birds weren’t touching it, I thought maybe they were having a hard time accessing the seeds, so I knocked a bunch of seeds to the ground with hopes of attracting a few. Instead, I came out one day to find an adorable chipmunk stuffing its cheeks full of our sunflower seeds. The kids and I have spent the past three days putting out seeds for the chipmunk (which we have named ‘Alvin’) so that we can watch it eat.

Meet Alvin.

Look at those cheeks!

Meatless Monday: Greens with Carrots, Feta, and Brown Rice

September 19, 2011
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Happy Monday! How was your weekend? I spent the weekend in Kentuckiana, and while I had a really great time, my diet wasn’t so good. I’ve been eating whole grains, fruits, and veggies for a few weeks now, and my body has gotten used to going without eating meat and dairy products. I tried to be good! At the bbq we went to on Saturday I avoided the meat (but ate two cupcakes), and I even skipped sausage gravy with Sunday morning’s biscuits.  That is where my discipline ended though, and before Sunday was over I had topped off a slice of meat lover’s pizza and even a cheeseburger! I feel like sh*t today!

It’s a new week, and I’m relieved it’s Meatless Monday.  My hubby knows to expect a vegetarian dinner tonight (and probably most nights this week)! Tonight’s meal is super easy to make, takes only a few ingredients, and is really versatile. You can make it vegan by leaving out the feta, sub in a different cheese (grated parmesan sounds good to me too), switch up the greens, and even use quinoa instead of the brown rice.  I made a big batch of this last week, and ate it for lunch almost daily. I even tossed some into a covered glass dish and took it to the park for a picnic with the kids!

I found this recipe on the Whole Foods website, and here is a printer-friendly version for your convenience. Enjoy!

Meatless Monday: Sweet Potato & Lentil Stew

September 12, 2011
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Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve done a MM post. It’s not that we haven’t been eating meatless meals; in fact, we’ve been eating predominantly vegetarian meals this summer. Some of our unposted MM meals are: slow-roasted tomato sauce served with baked spaghetti squash, a light(er) version of eggplant parmesan, and numerous combinations of veggie tacos, quesadillas and pizzas. The problem is that I just haven’t had much time to blog. My son (sniff, sniff) started kindergarten last month, and family life has picked up the pace a bit. Also, the weather has improved and I’m not too keen on sitting at the computer when it’s beautiful outside!

In an effort to further my own knowledge about nutrition, and to keep us with an abundant supply of new recipes to try out, I’ve been borrowing stacks of cookbooks and “diet” books from the library. I just read The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, and now I’m reading If it Makes You Healthy by Sheryl Crow. Both books discuss the influence diet has on our health, offer perspective on why these women eat the way they eat, and share tons of recipes. I like these books because they quench my thirst for knowledge AND for cooking – I’m a mom, so I have to multi-task!

This recipe came from The Kind Diet, and is a vegan recipe (which I’m currently “dabbling” in). Alicia recommends serving it on its own, with a side of steamed greens and a corn muffin, or as a “soupy stew” over brown basmati rice or couscous. I’m enjoying some at the moment, and I have to tell you it tastes so good its’ like there is a carnival taking place on my tongue! Yep. I went there!

Ingredients

1/4 c. safflower oil (I used olive oil)

1 medium onion, diced

2 small tomatoes, diced (one can of no-salt-added, diced tomatoes, drained would work too)

1 tsp. fresh minced ginger (I didn’t have any on hand, so I omitted it)

1 1/2 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander (once again omitted due to supply)

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

A pinch of fine sea salt

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes

7 c. vegetable broth (I used Better than Bullion vegetable base)

1 c. lentils (whatever kind you have on hand will work)

Directions

  1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, deep pot. Add the onion and cook, stirring often until the onion starts to soften (about 2 minutes).
  2. Stir in the tomatoes (and ginger) and cook for 3 minutes. Add the turmeric, cumin, (coriander), cinnamon, cayenne, and a pinch of salt and cook for another 2 minutes stirring constantly.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes, vegetable broth, and lentils. Stir well, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Once the stew starts boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 4o minutes (or until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender).
  5. Enjoy!

Brown Rice Syrup: A Healthier Sugar Substitute

September 8, 2011
lundberg_syrup

I recently discovered Brown Rice Syrup, a sweetener made of (surprise!) brown rice. About 50% of this syrup is made up of complex carbohydrates, so it’s a lot easier on the blood sugar than regular sugar, and contains fewer calories.  While it is a great choice for those trying to limit the amount of sugar in their diets, it is a calorie-containing food, so you can’t go crazy.

I made the most amazing brown rice crispy treats last week, and the recipe (which I will share eventually) introduced me to this sweetener. This morning I used it in my coffee instead of stevia, and it was pretty good. It’s not quite as sweet as sugar (or stevia), and I like that it didn’t completely overshadow the flavor of the coffee.

You can bake with it, use it in place of syrups, add it to smoothies, etc… I plan to use a lot more of this in the future in my muffin and quick bread recipes.

According to the jar of Lundberg rice syrup I purchased:  “To substitute sugar in recipes, use 1 1/4 c. rice syrup for one cup of sugar, and use 1/4 c. less of another liquid needed in the recipe.” Also, this link shares some pretty interesting information about brown rice syrups.

What do you do with brown rice syrup? Do you have any recipes to share?

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