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 🙂

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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.

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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!

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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)

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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

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

Black Bean Veggie Taco Recipe

Ground turkey tacos are a healthy alternative to ones made with ground beef, but with the report released this week about contaminated turkey, I decided to go vegetarian for this Cinco De Mayo! I have a plant-based vegetarian diet most of the time that includes eggs and fish, but tend to eat pasture-raised turkey or chicken on occasion a couple of times a month. In addition to the ground turkey news, I just covered food safety and technology in my classes at Bucks (talking about all the nasty bacteria, hormones, etc in animals and showing videos about their treatment), which means I will have no desire to consume any sort of meat for a while!

So here we go with some healthy, delicious, spicy-but-not-too-much, black bean and veggie tacos! My husband even made a mistake when having them for dinner and said “the seasoning on the meat is really flavorful”. He loves plant-based meals 🙂

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Because I was having some of the jalapeno cornbread I had just made, I opted for lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. Tim had them in my homemade garlic chili tortillas which added even more amazing flavor. You can also make a taco salad with some baked chips and top the salad, lettuce wrap, classic taco (or however you eat this!) with some guacamole for healthy fat and even more flavor. If you consume dairy, try greek yogurt in place of your sour cream. If you love Mexican food all year and not just on Cinco De Mayo like me, head to my Pinterest page for recipes that build a “Healthier Fiesta” including homemade tortillas, salsa and margaritas!

Do you love Mexican food too? Please comment and share your favorite recipes – I love trying new things!

Black Bean Veggie Tacos
(GF, V, DF)

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Ingredients
:

  • 2 Cups cooked from dry* or 1 can of black beans
  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 2 large whole carrots, shredded
  • 1 15 ounce can organic diced tomatoes with green chiles
    or 15 oz can diced tomatoes + 2 oz canned green chiles
  • 1 Cup packed fresh chopped kale or 1 Cup frozen spinach
  • Taco Seasoning
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder, paprika, cumin, black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon each oregano, cayenne, salt

*Prepare with water & a dash of salt as indicated on package. They come out the most tender if you cook a full 1 1/2 hours but I recommend at least 45 min simmer and let sit an hour covered.

Directions

  • Prep ingredients as listed above.
  • Make your taco seasoning by mixing all the spices together.
  • Place a large saucepan over low-medium heat and add the oil
  • Add the garlic and hot peppers and stir for 1-2 minutes (do not let garlic turn brown).
  • Add the onions and shredded carrots, stir and cover for 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the beans and tomatoes and stir. Add all of the taco seasoning and stir well.
  • Cover and let simmer about 5 minutes.
  • Add kale and stir until wilted or thawed. Turn off the heat and serve!
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Real Ingredients with Real Health Benefits:

Black Beans are a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, potassium, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, iron, copper, magnesium & manganese. Black beans and kidney beans also provide calcium. Phytochemicals include lutein, epicatechin, quercetin and proanthocyanidin.

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.

Carrots are most known for the role in eye health. This is because carrots have a high content of Vitamin A and other phytochemical carotenoids which not only support your eyes but also skin, hair and antioxidant systems. Carrots are also high in Vitamins C & K and the mineral potassium. Antioxidants work to keep your heart healthy and potassium is important for fluid balance and plays a role in maintaining normal blood pressure. Celery contains many of the same nutrients.

Even though “superfood” has no definition, I refer to kale one. One serving gives you more than your daily need of Vitamins A, C and K. It is also a known vegetarian source of calcium and iron as well as magnesium and copper. In terms of phytochemicals, kale provides about 40 flavonoids which are great antioxidants.

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 and green chiles 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!

Canola Oil is my go to when I am cooking. While olive oil has great flavor and a good fat profile, canola oil actually has much more omega-3 than olive oil and even less saturated fat. I don’t eat animal products on a daily basis and my fish consumption is low, so using canola oil in cooking helps me meet my daily needs of omega 3. Since most canola oil in stores is genetically modified, choose an organic brand – it will still be cheaper than conventional olive oil.

Cayenne & chili powder all contain capsaicin. 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. Oh and you aren’t the only one who gets a runny nose from spicy food – these peppers can all help clear your sinuses!

Paprika is one of my favorite tasting spices and it actually contains a decent amount of Vitamins A, E, K, B6 ans riboflavin as well as some potassium. While there are many varieties of Paprika, they all have similar nutrition benefits and the generic one you see at the store is just fine! It’s phytochemical benefits are similar to cayenne and chili powder due to the capsicum.

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

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.

Potato, Leek and Kale Soup Recipe

Teaching last semester was so hectic that I really took my mid-semester break to relax. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking up some delicious, real food meals. One of my favorite soups to make in the winter is potato leek and adding kale is not only great for its nutrition profile of but also for color and taste! Potatoes tend to get bashed in the “diet” world but they are actually a very nutritious staple carbohydrate to consume. They have twice the potassium of a banana, plus vitamin C, selenium and B vitamins and more! It’s the deep frying or the addition of bacon, cheese, sour cream and butter that you don’t want to do to these nutritious potatoes too often.

potato leek kale soup

Continue reading

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts & Cranberries

There are SO many possibilities with a butternut squash and below is a great option for a Thanksgiving side dish. We’ve been enjoying it at our Thanksgiving table for at least 6 years now!


This colorful and flavorful dish gives you a feeling of fullness without packing in lots of excess fat or sugar. Plus, it has Brussels sprouts, which I literally could eat everyday! In addition to standing alone as a side dish, this recipe is perfect over a green salad with your preferred source of protein.

Need more healthy, but delicious Thanksgiving recipes? Check out this easy Refined-Sugar Free Cranberry Sauce, Butternut Squash and Leek Soup, and Black Rice and Squash Bowl.


Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts & Cranberries (GF, V, DF)

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash (roughly 3 lbs), de-seeded, peel cut off and flesh cubed into 1/2 inch pieces**
  • 1/2 stalk Brussel sprouts / about 30 pieces, halved or quartered
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 Tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 Tablespoons 100% Pure maple syrup
  • Ground pepper and salt to taste

*Purchasing tips: it may look funny but buying an actual stalk of brussel sprouts means lower cost, and possibly higher nutrient content since you won’t slice and dice the veggie until very close to consumption. Same goes for buying a whole squash versus pre-cubed.

**You can cube & freeze the other half of the butternut squash to use at a later time, or double the recipe if you’ll have lots of Thanksgiving guests

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Prep vegetables and, if desired, slice cranberries in half.
  • Mix brussel sprouts and squash with the cranberries in a large bowl.
  • Drizzle oil and maple syrup over mixture and season with pepper and salt. Toss well.
  • Place mixture into 2 large baking dishes (If you use 1 you may have to cook for longer) and place in the oven.
  • Bake for a total of 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven, stirring every 10 minutes.

Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Eat a 1 Cup serving of Butternut Squash and you’ve hit 4x your Vitamin A needs for the day as well as half of your needs for vitamin C! You’ll even get Vitamins E and some B vitamins from this nutrient powerhouse as good amounts of magnesium and potassium. The carotenoids & bioflavonoids in butternut squash are known to boost immunity and work as antioxidants that support the hearth, eyes and even work to prevent some cancers.

Brussel Sprouts contain many antioxidant phytochemicals including sulfurophane which is found in research to aid the livers detoxifying actions and fight cancer cells in the body, especially linking to colon cancer. Another phytochemical group in brussel sprouts (isothiocyanates) has been linked to fighting bladder cancer. The vegetable is also a good source of Vitamins C, K and folate and even provides you with some omega-3!
Cranberries are a fruit that is very low in sugar. People may associate it as a sugary food because its often consumed as juice, dried & sweetened, or used as cranberry sauce (which means the addition of lots of sugar). A full cup of fresh cranberries contains more fiber than sugar (5g vs 4g)! The berries are bitter though so adding them to other dishes is a good way to balance flavors. Cranberries are rich in vitamins C, E, K, and the mineral manganese. These berries really pack in the phytochemicals though and contain flavonoids, flavonols, phenolic acids and proanthocyanidins. Some new research shows cranberries can protect from certain bacteria, inflammation, cardiovascular disease (1) and act against cancerous tumors (2).
Maple Syrup is a source of added sugar but can have some benefits if it is 100% pure and is used in moderation. it actually provides small amounts of calcium, iron, mangnesium & zinc. One study in 2010 found Canadian Maple Syrup to contain over 26 antioxidant compounds (3)!
Avocado oil is my go to when I am cooking. While olive oil has great flavor and a good fat profile, avocado oil actually has omega-3 and a higher smoke point making it better for cooking at medium to high temperatures.

References:
1. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2009 Oct; 49(9):741-81. Phytochemicals of cranberries and cranberry products: characterization, potential health effects, and processing stability. Pappas E, Schaich KM.
2. Am Society for Nutr 2007. Cranberry and Its Phytochemicals: A review of In Vitro Anticancer Studies. Neto CC.
3. J Agric Food Chem 2011 Jul 27;59(14):7708-16. Further investigation into maple syrup yields 3 new lignans, a new phenylpropanoid, and 26 other phytochemicals. Li L, Seeram NP.

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