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I love soups, stews and chilies. During cold-weather months, soup is my go-to meal. Not only is it a great comfort food, it can be a great way to get essential vitamins and nutrients to keep your body and immune system strong during the cold and flu season.

Additionally, soup is a great make-ahead meal that can be low in calories and fat, which helps you stay satisfied while working towards those 2013 personal health goals.

Here is my step-by-step guide to making great soups with some basic ingredients and options to utilize items you already have in your pantry and fridge.

Step One: Building the base

For a great tasting soup, I always start with a simple mirepoix, which is a fancy French cooking term for chopped onions, carrots and celery. Adding 3-5 chopped garlic cloves (depending on your taste for garlic), while the mirepoix is sautéing in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil will create a nice flavor base for your soup.

Step Two: Choosing a broth

Depending on your personal dietary choices, the broth type is up to your tastes. I recommend using a low-sodium, organic broth base or homemade stock. The amount also depends on how much soup you want to make. I typically use about 2 quarts of stock.

Step Three: Pick a healthy starch

Potatoes, pasta, and grains (cooked brown rice, farro, barley or quinoa) are great for a hearty soup. Potatoes, pasta and quinoa can be cooked in the soup, but any cooked starch you have on-hand is a good addition and reduces cooking time while utilizing leftovers.

Step Four: Add essential nutrients

Canned whole tomatoes (if you can, get them in a glass jar), with their juices, helps balance flavors while adding lycopene to your diet, which has been shown to be a cancer-fighting agent. Also, adding dark leafy greens like spinach, kale or collards provide essential vitamins such as A, C and K as well as folate and calcium. I just use my hands to lightly crush the tomatoes and after washing my greens, I give them a rough chop and add them to the simmering soup.

Step Five: Pack in protein

Finally, I like adding a simple protein such as white beans, cooked chicken or turkey. Almost any bean or cooked, lean meat is a tasty and hearty addition to your soup.

 

One of my favorite recipes is Rachel Ray’s Tuscan Kale & Farro Soup. I use only 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and add 1 cup of chopped celery and use 1 cup of chopped carrots to incorporate more vegetables.

Happy Cooking,

Holly

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

For those of you who know my husband, you know that he’s quite a trooper. If I’m cooking, he’ll eat whatever crazy vegan creation I am making. He embraces healthy eating (for the most part) and in fact, he is the creator of this recipe, which has become one of my favorites! Also, don’t let the name or the ingredients scare you—as it is quite delicious. For those of you scared of greens, the broccoli or celery flavors are not strong at all. It has a nice, subtle taste and the lemon gives it a welcomed “zing.” I encourage you to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: ~4 servings
  • Prep Time: ~10 minutes
  • Cook Time: ~30 minutes

Ingredients

  • ~1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 bunches of broccoli (depending on their size)
  • 5-6 stalks of celery
  • 1 box (32 oz) vegetable stock
  • Filtered water
  • A small amount of unsweetened original almond milk (optional)
  • 1 lemon

Preparation

  1. Add olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent ( ~5  minutes).
  2. Chop off ends of celery and pull off any obvious “strings”. Chop broccoli into smaller pieces.
  3. Add celery, broccoli, vegetable stock and water to pot. Add enough water so that the chopped veggies in the pot are covered (after the veggie stock has been added).
  4. Simmer covered on medium heat until veggies are soft (~20 minutes).
  5. Take portions of the soup and add to blender or food processor, blending until a creamy texture is reached.
  6. In the “old” version of this recipe, we would add heavy whipping cream to the soup to thicken it up and add “creaminess” to it. Since cream is no longer a part of our diets, we now use unsweetened almond milk (original) on occasion. It’s personal preference, however, as it’s not a necessity.
  7. Pour soup into individual bowls.
  8. Cut lemon wedges for each bowl, squeezing the juice of one wedge into each bowl. Mix juice in with soup and enjoy!

I can’t wait to hear your feedback on this recipe! It’s one of my favorites and I have to tell you, I’m not a huge fan of broccoli OR celery!

Happy Healthy Eating,

Melissa (+ Juan)

This recipe is dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian and vegan.

I had made a large batch of pearled barley the other day and after using some of it in a soup, I still had a lot left over and wasn’t quite sure what I could do with it. Since beets are in season right now – and are antioxidant superstars containing compounds that fight inflammation and help neutralize toxins making them easily flushed from the body – I was inspired to create a roasted veggie barley salad. Since I had already cooked the barley, this dish was quick and easy to put together for a weeknight meal.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 cups cooked barley (room temperature)
  • 2-3 beets with stems and greens
  • 1 lb. baby brussels sprouts
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2 lemons, halved crosswise
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 2 Tbsp. for sautéing
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425° and place a rimmed cookie sheet in the oven while it’s preheating.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the stems and trim the bottoms of the beets, then wrap each beet with foil.
  3. Trim the stem ends of the baby brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Place in a bowl and toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt & pepper.
  4. Once oven is preheated, turn prepared sprouts out onto the hot cookie sheet along with foil-covered beets and halved lemons, cut side up.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes. Beets may need longer depending on size – check for doneness by piercing largest beet with a knife, if it goes in and out with ease—they’re ready, if not—remove sprouts and set aside and continue cooking the beets until done.
  6. While beets, sprouts and lemons are cooking, rinse beet greens and cut the greens away from stems then slice into ribbons. Chop garlic and sauté for about a minute in 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the beet greens and sauté until wilted, about 5-7 minutes.
  7. When beets are cooked, let cool slightly and remove outer skin. Dice into bite-size pieces.
  8. Finally, in a large bowl, combine barley, diced beets, sautéed greens & garlic, roasted Brussels sprouts and toasted walnuts. Squeeze roasted lemons over the salad and add salt and pepper to taste.

This entrée salad is delicious served at room temperature and although it may seem slightly involved, if you can get an extra hand in the kitchen it can be ready in no time. I added the leftovers to fresh greens the next day with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon for a lunch-ready meal!

Happy Fall Eating!

Holly

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, grain-free and vegetarian.

When shopping at my favorite local farm in Austin, I picked up a few baby eggplants and asked one of the farmers for recommendations on the best way to cook these beautiful little gems. She suggested to not cook them at all, but to slice them raw into thin slices to best enjoy they’re sweet, light flavor. Wanting to balance the sweetness of the eggplant, I paired them with quick-pickled onions and arugula for a slightly sour and spicy contrast.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 4 servings
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2-3 baby eggplants, thinly sliced
  • ½ red onion, pickled (see Quick-Pickling recipe below)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 10 oz. washed arugula
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Quick-Pickling Recipe

  • 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 allspice berries (or ¼ tsp. ground allspice)
  • 5 whole cloves (or ¼ tsp. ground cloves)
  • 1 small, dried chile pepper

Directions for Pickling

  1. In a small, non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, salt, seasonings and chile until boiling.
  2. Add the onion slices and lower heat, then simmer gently for 30 seconds.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  4. Transfer onions and liquid into a far and refrigerate until ready to use.

seasonal summer salad eggplantDirections for Salad

  1. Rinse quinoa and cook according to directions. Let cool.
  2. Toss arugula, eggplant, pickled onion (along with 1 tsp. pickling liquid), quinoa and oil in a bowl.
  3. Add salt & pepper to taste.

I made this salad part of a satisfying meal by serving it alongside baked sweet potato fries. For an extra flavor and protein boost, add shavings of parmesan cheese before serving the salad. Using local, seasonal ingredients like eggplant and arugula are a great way to ensure your getting the most nutrition and flavor from your produce, not to mention the environmental advantages of buying local!

If you like this recipe, try our Grilled Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad.

Happy Eating!

Holly

This recipe is gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and dairy-free.

This recipe is one of my favorites from CLEAN by Dr. Alejandro Junger. The halibut is light but filling and the zucchini, lemons, olives and rosemary add a unique and refreshing touch! And best of all, it’s EASY to make!

Notes

  • Recipe yields: 2 servings
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 12-15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 (5-ounce) portions of halibut
  • ¼ cup of pitted, halved kalamata olives
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary (or thyme if you prefer)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced in discs (skin on)
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Parchment paper cut into two 12-inch circles (if you do not have parchment paper, use a covered ovenproof dish)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425°F.
  2. Brush each parchment sheet with olive oil.
  3. Place one piece of halibut in the middle of each sheet and season with sea salt.
  4. On top of the fish, first place three slices of lemon, then three slices of zucchini, then top with a sprig of rosemary.
  5. Sprinkle the olives over the top and drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Pull the sides of the parchment together like a calzone. Fold paper over and crinkle together to seal.
  7. Place each package on a baking tray and place in the lower third of the oven.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes. The paper will puff up and brown lightly.
  9. Remove from oven and place on plates to serve. Open packages at the table and enjoy!

 

If you’re like me, long-term meal planning is typically something reserved for party planning only. Although I make my weekly shopping list, which may even include some specialty items from a recipe I’ve wanted to try, I tend to go for the same staple items and whatever is in season at the Farmer’s Market. By the end of the week I find myself standing in front of an open pantry, searching for inspiration to utilize the remaining produce in my fridge.

At this point I am always grateful for the following “must-have” pantry items. With these items on-hand, delicious and healthy meal options are only minutes away. No need call in take-out or dig out that frozen pizza in the back of your freezer.

Here’s a list of pantry necessities that can lead to a multitude of yummy, healthful family meals.

Dried Cranberry HeartDried fruits

Cranberries, Raisins, Dates, Blueberries, Apricots, etc.

Keep a stash of any one or more of these dried fruits in your pantry to add to salads, rice dishes, homemade trail-mix/energy bars/recovery bars, chicken salad and more.


Health Benefits: Great sources of fiber and vitamins.

AlmondsNuts & Seeds

Almonds, Walnuts, Pine Nuts, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Flaxseed, etc.

As with dried fruits, nuts and seeds add texture and flavor to salads, grain dishes, and snacks. They’re also great additions to sweet treats and desserts, like Raw Brownies!

Health Benefits: Excellent source of protein and nutrients as well as providing heart-healthy unsaturated fats.

QuinoaWhole Grains

Quinoa, Brown Rice, Steel-Cut Oats, etc

Whole grains provide a filling and delicious base to any meal. Cook grains in large batches and use throughout the week in salads, soups and side dishes such as this Quinoa and Green Bean Salad.

Health Benefits: Whole grains are made up of complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates give our bodies the FUEL we need, the energy that most of our body systems need to function.

Black Beans
Beans & Legumes

Black Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, Kidney Beans, etc.

I like to buy these items in bulk (dried) and prepare large batches at the beginning of the week. They can be an excellent side or as part of any main dish. Beans and lentils lend themselves to a variety of flavors and uses—Get creative and see how other cultures utilize these power foods! Beans and legumes are must-have items for vegans, who rely more heavily on them for adequate daily protein intake. Check out our featured recipe for Lentil Dal.

Health Benefits: Loaded with protein, fiber and minerals.

Cocoa NibsOrganic Dark Chocolate Chips or Organic Raw Cocoa Nibs

These little morsels of rich, deliciousness have saved me from over-indulging my sweet-tooth many a time. When purchasing the chocolate chips, be sure they are organic with NO added sugar. As a satisfying addition to trail-mix, or melted to make these yummy Chocolate Apricot Nut-Bars, dark chocolate chips are a crave-curing go-to. For an even healthier alternative, try using organic raw cocoa nibs. This superfood can be used just as chocolate chips are!

Health Benefits: Rich in antioxidants, organic dark chocolate helps protect and repair your cells from damage by free radicals. Organic raw cocoa nibs are full of antioxidants as well as flavonoids, amino acids and magnesium helping improve mood, reduce anxiety, increase energy levels and reduce symptoms of PMS.

 

These are the absolute essentials that I keep my pantry stocked with regularly.  When you’re either feeling creative, or just desperate, having a well stocked pantry can make all the difference in the world.

For more advice on Building a Natural Foods Pantry, 101Cookbooks.com has some great tips.

This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free and vegetarian.

This recipe was inspired by Bobby Flay’s, “Grilled Sweet Potato and Green Onion Salad.” I loved the flavors of Bobby Flay’s recipe and wanted to create a complete meal which included protein and vitamin-rich leafy greens.

Notes

  • Recipe Yields: 4 servings
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Notes: You can parboil potatoes and cook quinoa up to one day prior to making this recipe.

Sweet potato quinoa saladIngredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, do not peel
  • 10 oz. washed spinach or mixed greens, or a mix of both
  • ¼ c. dried cranberries
  • 4 scallions, whole
  • 1 c. Quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

For the Vinaigrette

  • ¼ c. balsamic vinger
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Whisk vinaigrette ingredients together and set aside.

Preparation

  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover by an inch with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until just cooked through but not soft, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from water and let cool.
  2. Cook quinoa according to directions and let cool.
  3. Rinse scallions, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. When sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice crosswise into ½-inch thick slices (must be fork-tender), brush with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Grill the sweet potatoes until slightly browned and cooked through, about 1½ minutes per side. Grill scallions until slightly charred and softened, about 4 minutes.
  6. Cut grilled potatoes into cubes and chop the scallions.
  7. Toss greens, sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, scallions and cooled quinoa in a large bowl with the vinaigrette.

This is a great one-dish meal to serve at room temperature, which makes it easy to bring to a BBQ or as an easy week-night dinner. Sweet potatoes and spinach are packed with Vitamin A and C, providing antioxidants and fiber, while the quinoa is a delicious, protein-rich addition to this simple salad.

 

Eating healthy becomes much easier when we are in control of what and how we cook. It is possible to find healthy meals outside of your own home, but you lose control over how such items are cooked. Eggs cooked in oil, sweet potatoes fried instead of baked… restaurants typically take the cheap and easy approach to all things. This week, we are going to focus on cooking our own food. This is going to be an essential concept in achieving a healthier lifestyle.

This week, you will cook at least 6 meals on your own. That means you, not a spouse or anyone else. This week you will prepare breakfast twice, lunch twice and dinner twice. This should prevent folks from only preparing say, breakfast for example, and taking the easy way out of the challenge. But none of you would do that, right? After all, this program is voluntary, and the goal is to step outside your comfort zone to learn new ways to become healthier. Everyday, at a minimum, you will be preparing one meal for yourself.

For some of you, this will be easier than others. This challenge is currently geared towards those that do not prepare very many meals for themselves. If you currently cook at least 6 meals on your own each week, you’re going to need to find a way to make this challenge one you will find more difficult. For instance, say you always prepare your own breakfast, always bring a fresh lunch (prepared by you, not a frozen meal) to work, and sometimes cook dinner for yourself… this week, I challenge you to cook dinner for yourself every day. Or maybe dinner isn’t the problem, but you’re a slave to the sodium-filled Lean Cuisines at lunch. If that is the case, challenge yourself to bring your lunch every day this week.

The point of these challenges is to make them difficult for yourself. If you come across a challenge that is going to be easy for you, find a way to modify it to ensure you will be learning something and at the end you will have taken something positive away from the week’s challenge. This is all about you, don’t forget that!

Below are some helpful resources I recommend for healthy recipes. Please try some new recipes this week, and if you find one you like, please share it with us! Do exercise caution, however. Healthy recipe sites will sometimes contain recipes that might contain healthy ingredients, but could be high in calories, etc. If you have questions, please feel free to email me!

Live Whole Be Free

CLEAN Program Recipes

Whole Foods

Chef Chloe

My New Roots

The Urban Poser

Skinny Scoop

100 Days of Real Food

You are in control of what you put into your body. You are responsible for how you look on the outside, and how you feel on the inside. Think of food as fuel. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to eat going to give my body the proper nutrients to function optimally? Good luck this week!

Peace, love and responsible eating,

Melissa

 

This recipe is: Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian and vegan*. *This recipe can easily be altered to include meat, dairy, gluten, etc.

This is what I eat for lunch everyday, Monday through Friday, and I have done so for roughly the last 3 years. I know exactly what you’re thinking… “boring!” Ah, but it is not. I’ve been eating spinach everyday for so long, that now if I go without it, I just don’t feel right. I actually crave it, yes, it can happen. I also like that “what to have for lunch” is never a question in my mind, therefore giving me one less decision I have to make in my day. Phew! The trick to keep this interesting, is to switch up the ingredients, dressings, toppings, etc. I’ll list some optional ingredients here, but don’t limit yourself, branch out and make a salad that you’ll actually look forward to eating. The truth is, if you are forcing yourself to do it, and you don’t enjoy it, it won’t last long. 🙂

Notes

Prep time: 5 minutes, so you really don’t have any excuse not to pack your lunch!

Ingredients

  • Organic, baby spinach (as much as you’d like, I fill a medium-large tupperware container full of spinach)
  • Red and yellow peppers
  • Raw almonds (I prefer the sliced/shaved almonds)
  • Diced green apple
  • Unsweetened, dried cranberries (watch the calorie/sugar content, don’t go overboard with these)
  • Fresh, organic strawberries
  • Kalamata olives (pitted)
  • Carrot slices
  • Extra virgin olive oil and a squirt of agave nectar for dressing

Other Optional Ingredients

Please note that the inclusion of some of these ingredients will no longer make the salad raw, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, vegetarian and/or vegan.

  • Walnuts, pecans or other nuts
  • Blueberries, mandarin oranges, avocados or other fresh fruit
  • Zucchini, squash, beets, carrots, corn, peas, kidney beans and other vegetables
  • Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, other seeds
  • Croutons (Omit if going for a gluten-free dish)
  • Feta Cheese (Omit if you’re going dairy-free)
  • Quinoa (An amazing superfood which gives the salad more “bulk”, esp. if you are omitting meat)
  • Leftover meat from dinner the night before (Save some of your chicken, steak, fish, etc. from last night’s dinner and put it on your salad the next day. It’s delish! Obviously, omit if vegan/vegetarian)
  • Dressings: balsamic vinagrete, other things to mix with extra virgin olive oil. Be cautious of pre-packaged dressings. They likely contain lots of sodium, preservatives, sugars, allergens like soy, etc. If a dressing is “fat-free”, chances are they added lots of additives to make it taste good without the fat. Olive oil does contain fat, but it is good fat, just like the good fat in avocados. A little on your salad everyday is good for you!

Directions

Put all ingredients together in the tupperware, except the dressing. Use another, small tupperware for a single serving of dressing for your salad, or bring a bottle of extra virgin olive oil to the office with you, if you can. You want to avoid putting the dressing on your salad the night before because your leaves will be soggy by the time you go to eat it.

Also, I use baby spinach because it tastes the best and because it is the most nutrient-dense of all the lettuces. Stay away from iceberg lettuce because it has no nutritional value.

Lastly, when people in the office give you a hard time because all you eat is “rabbit food” for lunch… they’re just jealous, so don’t let it bother you. 🙂

**Update** Thank you Shellie Argeanton for submitting your photos of your version of the spinach salad! It looks delicious! 🙂