Sweet Potato and Leek Soup…A Warm, Winter Treat

Two of my favorite “super foods” are sweet potato and coconut, and winter is the best time to find some North Carolina sweet potatoes at the grocery store or farmers market. Sweet potatoes are chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber; while coconut is a healthy fat that is essential to include in your diet. Throw some chopped onions, garlic, cumin and leeks into the mix, and you have a warm, creamy, and delicious soup that is a great comfort food or post-workout recovery meal. This was my first time cooking with leeks, but I really did enjoy the taste. I made this soup after a long day at work and a workout at the gym, so I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home and got a whole grain bread bowl to eat my soup out of! It was delicious…you need to try it!

 

Sweet Potato and Leek Soup

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tbsp cooking fat like coconut oil or clarified butter (I used Smart Balance butter blend)

2-3 large leeks, top part removed, and softer part sliced into rounds

4 cups chicken stock

1 can coconut milk (I used an organic, light coconut milk)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

 

Preparation:

1. Saute the onions with the cooking fat in a large sauce pan over medium heat for a few mintues. Stir frequently to prevent the onions from burning.

2. Add the garlic and leeks to the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes to allow everything to soften.

3. Sprinkle in the cumin, combine well.

4. Add the stock and the sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are softened.

5. Remove the soup from the heat and slowly mix in the coconut milk

6.Puree the soup in a blender and serve.

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Bran Flax Muffins…They Taste Better Than They Sound!

Are you looking for a quick, on-the-go, and fiber rich breakfast option? How about something that tastes different than your typical cereal, oatmeal, or granola bar options? Definitely check this recipe out. I happened to stumble upon this recipe while pouring my usual tablespoon of ground flax seed into my fruit smoothie…it was the recipe on the back of the flax seed bag! I already had most of the ingredients in my pantry, so I decided to try it out one weekend. These muffins are hearty and healthy for you, and can be used as a great breakfast or snack. I put a little extra cinnamon in mine, to make them taste a little sweeter without the extra sugar or calories.

 

 

 

Bran Flax Muffins

Yields 15-20 muffins

Ingredients:

1.5 cups unbleached white flour (you can use wheat flour too)

¾ cup flaxseed meal

¾ cup oat bran

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1.5 cups carrots, shredded

2 apples, peeled and shredded

½ cup raisins

1 cup nuts, chopped

¾ cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Preparation:

1. Mix together flour, flax, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl.

2. Stir in carrots, apples, raisins, and nuts.
3. Combine milk, beaten eggs, and vanilla.
4. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until moistened, but do not over mix.
5. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.

 

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These are a few of my favorite things…

There is nothing better than roasted butternut squash, cranberry sauce, or fresh and flaky coconut. When you combine all three of those flavors into one meal, it can’t get any better than that! Try this as a hearty lunch entree or as a side dish at dinnertime. Either way, it is a seasonal, low calorie dish loaded with vitamins and minerals!

Curried Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Toasted Coconut

Serves: 6

This is a rich, healthy, and crowd-pleasing fall side dish, and would be a sweet and spicy addition to any holiday meal. Almost every ingredient in this recipe has powerful antioxidant properties, especially the garlic, cinnamon, curry powder, and cranberries. This recipe is also rich in heart healthy fats.

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash (2# total)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

3 Tbsp. 100% pure maple syrup

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. curry powder

2 tsp. chili powder

Pinch of salt and pepper

3 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted

2 Tbsp. dried cranberries

 

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut and peel squash, chop into 1-2 inch pieces.

3. Place in a large bowl and add remaining ingredients except coconut and cranberries; toss well to coat.
4.  Pour into a large glass casserole dish and bake for 1 hour, stirring once or twice.
5. Top with toasted coconut and dried cranberries before serving.

Nutrition Facts:

Per ½ cup serving: 178 calories, 9g fat (5g mono, 1g poly, 2g saturated), 0mg cholesterol, 2g protein, 27mg carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 17mg sodium

 

What are some of your favorite ways to prepare butternut squash during the fall and winter months? Share your recipes here!

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Vegan Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

In an attempt to try some new recipes this year and try to eat as clean and fresh as possible, I decided to try Vegan Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes, which I found on Genna’s blog. I am a HUGE fan of pancakes, but sometimes all of the sugar, oil, and eggs that are added into traditional fluffy pancakes weigh me down for the remainder of the day. I decided to try something new, and used honey, flax, and yogurt to create pancakes instead. To my surprise, I really enjoyed these pancakes…they were a little thicker and denser than a typical pancake, but when served with a tablespoon of peanut butter and sliced banana on top, they were tasty! This is a great option to try for a weekend brunch or a great snack before or after your workout.

Although I would consider myself a “flexitarian,” I have become really interested in the vegan diet. I enjoy dairy way too much to become a strict vegan, but I do see many benefits to eating a plant based, vegan diet. Vegan recipes are light, fresh, and chock full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables…a Dietitian’s dream! So, you may be seeing more vegan-inspired recipes posted throughout the course of this year. But fear not, I’m sure there will be plenty of vegetarian and meat-based recipes as well. I hope you enjoy!

PS: I apologize that I do not have the actual pictures of the vegan pancakes posted. I cannot seem to find where I saved them on my computer! For the time being, enjoy the pic art :)

 

Vegan Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients:

1/2 C plain yogurt (I used plain, non-fat Fage yogurt)

1/4 C almond milk

1 T flax meal

3 T warm water

1 T honey

1 T organic cane sugar

3/4 C whole wheat flour

1/2 C old fashioned rolled oats

Pinch salt

1/4 tspn. baking soda

1 tspn. baking power

1 tspn. cinnamon

 

 Preparation:

1. Mix the flax meal and water. Let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Mix the yogurt, milk, honey, and flax in a bowl.

3. Mix the sugar, flour, oats, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add the wet ingredients and mix until a batter is formed.  If it is too dry, add milk in small amounts.

4. Spray a griddle with oil and heat to medium.  Ladle the batter onto the griddle to make medallions and cook until brown on one side. Flip the pancake and cook through. Serve with 100% maple syrup, sliced banana, or your favorite jam.

 

Do you have any delicious vegan recipes that you would like to share? 

 

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Health Starts Here in the New Year!

Happy New Years! I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2012, and hope that many good things happen this year! Everybody wants to start off the new year on the right foot, and new years resolutions are a very common way to make a commitment to yourself. However, many choose to make extravagant resolutions, such as losing 50 pounds, going completely vegan, or exercising 6 days a week. Although these are wonderful ideas, they can soon become overwhelming and the goal is never achieved. The best way to accomplish a new lifestyle change is to conquer several smaller goals along the way. For instance, instead of immediately exercising 6 days per week, try going for a jog after work 2 days a week. Once you have accomplished that goal and feel comfortable keeping that in your schedule, you can add onto your workout regimen.

Are you ready to make a few simple dietary changes for lifelong health? Whether you’re just getting started on a healthy eating journey or have been on this path for several years, there are a few basic principles or goals to accomplish along the way. Whole Foods actually has a great list of healthy eating pillars that can help guide your journey, so be sure to check out their page called “Health Starts Here.”

1. Eat whole, unprocessed foods- food in its purest state is the best tasting and most nutritious food available

2. Be “plant strong”- eat a colorful variety of plants, and have the majority of each meal come from veggies, fruits, legumes, beans, and whole grains.

3. Eat healthy fats- get your fat from whole plant sources, such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. Limit your amount consumed from extracted oils and processed foods.

4. Eat nutrient-dense foods- these are foods that are the richest in vitamins and minerals when compared to their calorie content. To locate the nutrient density scores of your favorite foods, check out Whole Food’s ANDI Scoring System. 

5. Eat local foods- support your local farmers by buying and consuming fresh, local produce. Produce that is grown in season is fresher and filled with more nutrients that your body needs. Eating local foods helps to benefit your body as well as your environment! For more information on local foods, please visit www.localharvest.org

What are your new years resolutions? Share them here!

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My Earliest Food Memory

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope that each and every person has a wonderful holiday filled with food, fun, and family! I also hope that everyone gets a chance to relax and enjoy the friends and family that surrounds them. Is anyone having a “White” Christmas? It is rare to get any fluffy white snow here in North Carolina!

 

Christmas Eve is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. I have a long-standing tradition of going to the church that I grew up in and attending the midnight mass on the 24th with my Dad and best friend Lisa. It is my time to reflect about how the past year went, and to be thankful for my friends, family, and my presence here on earth. Unfortunately, I will be unable to continue this tradition this year, but hopefully I will be able to find some peace of mind and time to reflect this Christmas Eve. I will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with my Mom, and then traveling to Philadelphia to visit my Dad and friends back home for the remainder of the holiday season. I am looking forward to visiting everyone! What are your travel plans for the holiday?

Speaking of long-standing traditions, I wrote a paper for my Gastronomy class last year about my “earliest food memory.” It is directly related to Christmas, and is actually one of my favorite descriptive papers I have written over the years. My hope is to get everyone in the holiday spirit and to think about what your earliest food memories or holiday traditions are!

 

For those that have read MFK Fisher’s book The Gastronomical Me, the author describes her first food memory as eating warm peach pie with thick cream poured on top. Her father served this dessert to her and sister Anne while traveling back home after a trip to Los Angeles. She states that she does not remember what she ate, except for the peach pie at the end of the meal. She describes her food experience by saying, “Perhaps that is because it was the first conscious one, for me at least; but the fact that we remember it with such queer clarity must mean that it had other reasons for being important. I suppose that happens at least once to every human. I hope so.” I can relate to MFK Fisher with my own food memories throughout my life, because most of the time it isn’t the foods that are important to you, it is the people that you shared the foods with and the experience you had at that time.

My earliest food memory dates back to when I was about four years old. My younger brother and I absolutely adored Christmas morning when we were children, and we used to get up really early in the morning and wake our parents out of bed in order to open up our gifts. My parents of course did not want to wake up as early as my brother and I did, so we were told that we could not open any gifts until breakfast was made and coffee was prepared. In the meantime, my brother and I would impatiently sit at the top of the staircase, staring down at the glowing Christmas tree in excitement with all of our mysterious gifts placed underneath the tree.

My mother was always the first one to get out of bed, and while still in her pajama bottoms and white shiny Isotoner slippers, would carefully hurdle over my brother and I at the top of the staircase to start the coffee in the kitchen. At the time I did not drink coffee, but I can distinctly remember the strong, bitter aroma that encompassed the entire house and the sound of the coffee percolating into the pot. Then, my Mom would reach into the refrigerator and pull out a cylindrical tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. I know this may sound very trivial to others, but baking Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning has turned into a tradition since that year. I can remember the distinct “pop” of the can and the sound of the cardboard and foil unraveling in order to get to the dough. I can smell the vivid and sweet aroma of cinnamon and bread seeping from the oven for the short ten minutes they take to bake. Once the cinnamon rolls were finished baking, that was a sign to my brother and I that it was time to race downstairs and open up our gifts.

I always waited until I finished unwrapping my presents to go into the kitchen and select a cinnamon roll to eat. I enjoyed savoring the smell of the rolls cooling off in the kitchen while opening my presents, and eventually the smell made me so hungry that my stomach would start to growl. I selected the largest cinnamon roll in the batch, and remember taking a blunt butter knife and spreading a heaping portion of gooey white icing on top of the roll, making sure to melt the icing into all of the nooks and crannies of the roll. To be honest, I do not remember exactly what the cinnamon roll tasted like at that time in my life, I just remember all of the events that preceded the consumption of my cinnamon roll on Christmas Day.

From that year forward, the smell of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls baking in the oven and coffee brewing reminds me of Christmas Day.  Not only do I love the taste of cinnamon rolls, but I enjoy reminiscing about what that food represents to me. It brings me back to my childhood and being together with my family, and when the biggest concern my brother and I had were opening the gifts underneath our Christmas tree. Just like MFK Fisher says, “When I think of that food, it is the people I see.” Although my Mom cannot fully replicate the memories behind baking the original Pillsbury cinnamon buns now, she still continues to bake them every Christmas morning with a steaming pot of hot coffee, and I get excited to open my Christmas gifts once again.

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Beat the Holiday Sugar Rush!

Like most people during the holiday season, I often find myself saying that I’m “too busy to exercise” or that I’m “too tired to cook” during the holiday season. With all of the holiday baking, present wrapping, and tree decorating that occurs during December, it is definitely difficult to stick to your normal diet and exercise routine. The holidays are also well-known for calorie-dense, sugar-laden treats…and don’t get me wrong, I love them as much as you do! However, I have two recipes here that are simple, easy, tasty, and require minimal ingredients. Many of the ingredients are fresh and include a serving of fruits and vegetables and have minimal added sugars. So beat the sugar rush this season and try these two recipes for great on-the-go yet sustainable nutrition! You can have these for a quick breakfast, a post-workout snack, an on-the-go meal while traveling, or a unique holiday treat! After all, the spinach and the red peppers make for some festive dishes!

Spinach Shake

This recipe includes all of the food groups…protein, dairy, fruit, vegetable, and healthy fat. How convenient! I just tried out this recipe today as a post-workout snack and it was delicious! And, it takes less than 2 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

½ banana

¾ cup almond milk

1 tsp. peanut butter

1 cup spinach

Ice

Preparation:

Combine ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Easy Egg Muffins

Here is a perfect snack to enjoy guilt-free! Each muffin is packed with protein that will fuel your day and support muscle growth. Make a bunch of these and save them in the fridge for snacks on-the-go, or make them for a quick Christmas Day breakfast! You can conveniently find all of these ingredients at your local farmer’s market.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

6 free range, organic, omega-3 eggs

½ red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/8 cup organic, low fat shredded cheese

Pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease lightly
  3. Mix up the eggs, add bell pepper, cheese, salt and pepper.
  4. Fill 6 muffin tins
  5. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until eggs are fully set.

Nutritional Analysis:

1 muffin: 89 calories, 6g fat, 120mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, .16g fiber, 7.5g protein

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