Summer Soup – Sweet and Spicy White Bean

Out of your weekend food prep rhythm because its summer? Add this soup to your list and get back on track! It doesn’t have to be freezing outside to enjoy soup! Even in the summer, soups are a great meal to prep ahead for the week so you have an easy lunch to bring to work,  or dinner ready to go once you’re home after a long day. I used white beans and peas as a protein source and brown rice as a grain. The sweetness of the yellow bell pepper and tomatoes tone down the spice of habenero, and both flavors blend perfectly with some fresh rosemary! And since we eat with our eyes first it’s a good thing all of the ingredients look gorgeous together – all of these colors mean lots of different antioxidants too 🙂

20140729-233643-85003526.jpg

Sweet & Spicy White Bean Summer Soup (GF, V, DF)

 

Ingredients (see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients): 

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 – 1 habanero pepper, minced (amount depends on how much spice you like)
1 large red onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced (about 1- 1 1/2 cups)
3 C fresh beefsteak tomatoes, diced (or 1 can organic diced tomatoes)*
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 C dry organic brown rice (Trader Joe’s has a quick cook done in 10 min!)
1 C dry white cannellini beans prepped (or 2-2.5 Cups canned)*
1-1.25 Cups fresh or frozen peas
4 Cups (1 container) organic low-sodium vegetable broth (if you like broth-y soup add 2 C water)
-note: Trader Joe’s “organic low sodium hearty vegetable broth” is THE best pre-made broth you will find!
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1/2 tablespoon dried)
3/4 teaspoon fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
fresh ground black pepper to taste

*Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free – recently, Muir Glen tomatoes also went BPA free.

20140707-115243-42763624.jpg

Directions:
-Wash the carrots and peppers and prep all of your ingredients as listed above.
-Place a large saucepan or stockpot over low-medium heat and add the oil. Spread w/ rubber spatula so that it coats the bottom of the pan.
-Add the garlic and habanero and stir for 1-2 minutes (do not let garlic turn brown)
-Add in your rosemary, oregano and pepper (I like to do this early so the flavor infuses better)
-Add the chopped onion, carrots, bell pepper and tomatoes (If using canned tomatoes, wait on those)
-Stir well and cover for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-Add the broth and bring to a boil
-Add your rice, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. If you did not buy the quick cook brown rice like me, you’ll have to wait about 30 minutes – clean the mess in your kitchen from the prep and do some squats while you’re waiting 🙂
-If using canned tomatoes, add them now and stir the mixture
-Add your white beans and peas
-Add 2 C water if desired. I personally like soup more thick so I leave the extra liquid out. Let simmer another 5 minutes or so and then you’re done!

20140729-085125-31885054.jpg

 

While not pictured, I have found I love this most with some diced avocado. It gives it even more of a fresh summer taste and adds even more color. With a side salad this is a perfect lunch at home or work!

 

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Beans are a great source of  potassium, thiamin, vitamin B6, iron, copper, magnesium & manganese. They also provide a little calcium. Phytochemicals include lutein, epicatechin, quercetin and proanthocyanidin these benefit your eyes, reduce inflammation, and support the immune system.

Rice provides a good amount of Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, Riboflavin & Manganese. You can also get phytochemicals like quercetin (great for your immune system and lungs) & several carotenoids. Purchase organic rice as it is not as likely to be contaminated with inorganic arsenic.

Bell Peppers provide you with tons of Vitamin C (even more per serving than citrus when fresh), lots of Vitamin A and fiber as well as Vitamin E, B6 and potassium. Phytochemicals include the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are great for eye and cardiovascular health.

They’re finally becoming more known for it but peas are a good source of plant protein! Per 2/3 Cup serving you get 5 grams! As a reference, an egg contains 7 grams. Peas are also an excellent source of Vitamins K, C, A, B1, and folate. They contain the phytochemical coumestrol which has been found in research to reduce stomach cancer risk as well as other phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory properties.

Carrots and are most known for their role in eye health. This is because they have a high content of Vitamin A and other phytochemical carotenoids which not only support your eyes but also skin, hair and antioxidant systems. They are also high in Vitamins C & K and the mineral potassium.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgotten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Garlic and onions are all part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin, quercitin, and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Both onions & leeks provide Vitamin C. Onions are also a great source of vitamins B6 and folate while leeks contribute vitamins A & K in great amounts as well as the mineral manganese.

The heat level of habenero peppers directly relates to their high capsaicin content. Capsaicin has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation.  In addition they have been found in research to be anti-bacterial, and even anti-allergy due to nutrient content including vitamins A and C, some B vitamins and potassium – and yes its normal for them to clear your sinuses 🙂

Oregano actually contains manganese, iron and Vitamins A & K. It can also benefit your immune system as its phytochemicals thymol and carvacrol are anti-bacterial.

Rosemary contains carnosol which has been found in studies to be an anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compound and carnosic acid that has neuro-protective (brain &nervous system protective) properties. Some studies show it can aid the GI tract too and as an oil, it has also been used for centuries to improve circulation! Per weight it has a high content of nutrients but since we consume small smounts of it, it provides a little folate, riboflavin, and vitamins A & C as well as the minerals iron, calcium and potassium.

 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Dairy Free)

fullsizerender4

Spinach and artichoke dip has become a very popular appetizer whether at restaurants, parties or just at home with family. While spinach and artichokes are healthy veggies, the average dip contains so much cheese and saturated fat though that you can hardly call it healthy. I’ve attempted several times in the past to make a healthier version and finally on Super Bowl Sunday, I got it right! This easy lightened up version has great flavor and a creamy texture without shocking amounts of fat and sodium. Continue reading

Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Avocado Walnut Pesto

20130820-193248.jpg

Spaghetti squash was actually not on my grocery list this past week. I only purchase it in season and always classify it as a fall/winter food. But there in Whole Foods was a display of local Lancaster, PA organic squash. I couldn’t resist and am happy I didn’t! I have made a variety of different pesto in the past with avocado, cashews, walnuts and of course pine nuts, but had never combined the creamy avocado fruit with the crunchy texture of the nuts. Definitely a winning combination!

20130820-193257.jpg

Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Avocado Walnut Pesto (GF, V, DF)

Ingredients (see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients):

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

1 Medium-Large avocado

1/3 Cup Walnuts (chopped or in pieces)

5-6 cloves garlic (we love garlic, you might want to halve this!)

1/2 Cup packed basil (about 1 ounce on the food scale)

1.5 cups green peas, cooked from frozen (I used Whole Foods Organic-not pictured)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

20130820-193235.jpg

Directions:

-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
-Take your spaghetti squash and carefully cut in half lengthwise. The first cut may seem difficult but once the knife is in its a lot easier to cut the rest of the squash.
-Dig out the seeds & pulp (pictured w/out seeds on left below)
-Save the seeds for the roasted seed recipe that I posted in November with my Italian Style Spaghetti Squash.


-Set the squash cut side down in a large glass baking dish & add 1/2-3/4 C water
-Place in the oven and cook about 40 minutes (may vary depending on size of squash & oven)

-While the squash is cooking, you can make your pesto and cook your peas
-Get out your food processor, bullet blender, or other blending tool
-Add all ingredients except for the peas and pulse until most of the mixture is smooth but you can still see tiny pieces of walnuts for texture
-Cook the frozen peas in a pot according to package instructions (I just cook over low-medium for about 5-7 minutes)
-When the squash is done you should easily be able to stick a fork in through the skin
-Remove it from the oven & carefully flip so the flesh side is up
-With a fork, you’ll basically want to “rake” from one side to the other to remove the “spaghetti”

-We used all of the pesto mixture and peas with about 2/3 of our squash to yield 4 servings. This will vary since your squash probably won’t be the exact same size. The leftovers can be used on a salad, in an omelet, or you can top it with any sauce.
-You can either stir your pesto mixture & peas right in with the squash, or keep separate for each dish that you plate and add the mixture on top.
-We also chopped up an heirloom tomato to add a little color and sweetness to balance out the delicious but strong garlic and basil.

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Spaghetti Squash isn’t going to provide you with tons of one specific nutrient but it will contribute a balanced amount of most vitamins and minerals to your diet especially Vitamins C & B6. What shines for spaghetti squash is the fiber & healthy carbohydrate content as well as the carotenoid antioxidants.

Avocados contain mostly the healthy mono-unsaturated fat that your body needs for heart health, brain function, joint protection and immune function. Avocados are also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins E, C, and K, as well as the B-vitamins folate and B6. Another compound this fruit gives us is beta-sitosterol. Just like we get cholesterol from animals, we can get plant sterols from certain plants. Sterols like beta-sitosterol help block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, enhancing heart health. The phytochemicals that avocados are highest in are the carotenoids lutein + zeaxanthin which are associated with eye health, immune and antioxidant function.

Walnuts have been pinned as the most heart healthy nut by many researchers due to their high omega-3 content (discussed here at walnuts.org) and their vitamin E and antioxidant phytochemical content. Omega-3′s support heart health by helping to regulate inflammation, Vitamin E is heart protective by protecting cells and fatty substances in the body, and the phenols present are thought to support a healthy metabolism and healthy blood vessels.

Did you know that peas are a good source of plant protein? Per 2/3 Cup serving you get 5 grams! As a reference, an egg contains 7 grams. Peas are also an excellent source of Vitamins K, C, A, B1, and folate. They contain the phytochemical coumestrol which has been found in research to reduce stomach cancer risk as well as other phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory properties.

Basil also packs a lot of vitamin K as well as some iron, calcium, and Vitamin A. The phytochemicals in basil have been found to be anti-inflammatory, heart healthy, and anti-bacterial.

Garlic provides the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgotten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

20130821-111212.jpg

I am not at all ready for summer to be over but have to admit I’m getting excited for fall foods!

Eggplant, Red Pepper & Spinach Farro

Rather than cook a pasta salad or even cook pasta & sauce, I generally reach for a less processed whole grain such as farro, bulgur, amaranth, or quinoa. They all provide so much more from a nutrient standpoint, they offer different textures for variety, and they are much more filling and satisfying. This farro dish could be a great addition to a Father’s Day cookout this weekend! Continue reading

Lentil Burger Recipe

Here’s a delicious recipe to help in celebrating National Hamburger Day! It’s a good idea to go meatless if only for one day a week, and after all the Memorial Day grilling that Americans enjoyed this past weekend, a meatless burger is a fantastic filling and nutrient dense option. Continue reading

Easy Homemade Guacamole Recipe

molcajete & ingredients

A couple of years ago, Tim and I would buy the Trader Joe’s packaged guacamole because it seemed easier than making our own. Well, being the spice loving foodies that we are we started to add chopped jalapeno because the store bought stuff just wasn’t enough. Then we thought it needed more garlic…then tomato…and then cilantro… and then we realized it was silly to not make the whole recipe fresh and from scratch!
Making guacamole is SO simple and should take no longer than 5-7 minutes. Avocados are very nutrient dense and are so delicious I end up adding guacamole or the avocado itself to meals close to 5 times a week. However, this recipe tastes great after it freezes and thaws too so, if you won’t eat it as frequently or don’t have enough people living with you, save half for next week.
We make guacamole so frequently and have become such food snobs that we just had to add the Crate & Barrel molcajete pictured above to our wedding registry last year. In addition to just looking really cool, it does make mashing all the ingredients together easier than doing so with just a fork.

Using avocados for the first time can be intimidating if you don’t know what to look for and when to use them. The California Avocado Board has a page on how to select and ripen your avocados here.

Spicy Guacamole


Simple Homemade Guacamole
(GF, V, DF)

Ingredients :

2 avocados
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 – 1/4 cup onion (I use red usually), minced
2 jalapenos, minced (only use 1 if you aren’t a huge fan of heat!)
1/4-1/2 medium tomato, diced very small (about 1/4 cup)
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro**
2 dashes of cumin & garlic powder
Fresh ground black pepper & sea salt to taste
Juice of 1 lime wedge

molcajete guac ingredients

*If not purchasing organic for these items, at least choose Non-GMO Project Verified brands to ensure your food is free of genetic engineering.

Directions:
-Cut & peel the avocados and add to a medium sized bowl or molcajete. When not using the molcajete I generally make the guac in a large pyrex so I don’t have to transfer it for storage. Also via California Avocado, here are directions and even a video on how to cut & peel your avocado.
-Add the jalapeno, garlic, onion and tomato (once minced/diced) to the same bowl. Mash with a fork or even a muddler until the avocado is mashed and the ingredients are well distributed.
guac ingredients chopped

-Add the dried spices, cilantro and lime juice, and stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until all are well incorporated.

guacamole

Serving Options:

-Use as a dip with some Trader Joe’s “reduced guilt” baked tortilla chips, chopped bell peppers, or jicama.

-Use as a condiment for burgers, sandwiches and wraps.

-Top chili, taco’s or even chunky black bean soups with a couple of tablespoons for added flavor & nutrition.

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Yes, avocados are technically high in fat. However, they contain mostly the healthy mono-unsaturated fat that your body needs for heart health, brain function, joint protection and immune function. Avocados are also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins E, C, and K, as well as the B-vitamins folate and B6. Another compound this fruit gives us is beta-sitosterol. Just like we get cholesterol from animals, we can get plant sterols from certain plants. Sterols like beta-sitosterol help block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, enhancing heart health. The phytochemicals avocados are highest in are the carotenoids lutein + zeaxanthin which are associated with eye health, immune and antioxidant function.

Onions & garlic are part of the same family, providing the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health. Onions also provide Vitamins C, B6 and folate.

Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgetten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.

Jalapeno peppers contain capsaicin which has long been used for decreasing joint pain and inflammation topically but in the body may aid in appetite control, metabolism and intestinal inflammation. Oh and you aren’t the only one who gets a runny nose from spicy food – these peppers can all help clear your sinuses!

Cilantro may be an herb but herbs have fantastic nutrient profiles too. Cilantro provides vitamins A & K and many antioxidants, especially quercitin. Quercitin is a flavonoid linked to respiratory (great for asthmatics and athletes) and heart health.

While cumin does contain manganese, magnesium, calcium and especially iron, you generally do not get high amounts of those minerals since it is used in such small amounts in recipes. We do know however that cumin is a potent antioxidant containing phenolic acids and carotenoids.