Quick Vegan Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

This creamy tomato soup is going to become a fast favorite for the whole family.  The quinoa and coconut milk lend the soup and delicious rich creaminess that’s so good, you won’t even miss the dairy!  Plus, the cooked tomatoes are loaded with tons of lycopene, which is an amazing antioxidant.

Quick Vegan Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Serves 4
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 (28 oz.) can organic diced tomatoes with juice

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped, plus a bit more for garnish

1 tsp raw organic apple cider vinegar (or more, if you’d like a little more acidity)

1 cup low sodium vegetable broth, or 1 cup water with 1-2 tbsp Seitenbacher vegetable broth powder

1/2 cup organic coconut milk (you can also use almond milk)

1 tbsp cooked quinoa or millet (optional)

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add tomatoes and juice and apple cider vinegar, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add broth, quinoa, and basil.  Bring to a boil again.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Add coconut milk, stir, and remove from heat.  Blend with immersion blender or in standing blender, in batches if necessary.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with a bit of basil, and serve with a slice of whole grain bread.

{Image}

Quick White Bean and Kale Soup

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

This quick and delicious soup makes for a hearty and healthy dinner.  A rainbow of colors tells you you’re getting tons of yummy vitamins, and the beans mean everyone will feel full and satisfied from a vegetable protein that won’t weigh you down!

Quick White Bean and Kale Soup

Serves 4

Cooking time: 30 min

Ingredients:

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 (32 oz) carton of low-sodium organic vegetable broth, or 4 cups of water seasoned with Seitenbacher broth powder

4 cups packed chopped kale

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds

1 (14.5 oz) can of organic, unsalted cannelini beans

1 (14.5 oz) can of organic diced tomatoes

Directions:

Heat oil over medium heat in a soup pot.  Add onion and cook 3 minutes.  Add garlic and cook another two minutes.  Add carrots and cook another minute.  Add broth, tomatoes and their juice and bring to a boil.  Cook about 5 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Add beans and kale and cook until kale is tender, about another 5-7 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste.  Serve with rye or multigrain toast.

Tonight’s Supper: Split Pea, Fennel and Spinach Soup!

This delicious soup is perfect for the season.  Combining yummy, vibrant, and nutritious late winter ingredients, this warming super green concoction will satisfy even the pickiest palates!

Split Pea, Fennel and Spinach Soup

Serves 8

This vibrant soup makes great use of leftover fennel stalks.  Enjoy with a slice of dark rye toast to make it a meal!
  • 2 cups chopped fennel (1 bulb or 
5 fennel stalks, fronds removed)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • 1 cup dry white wine, divided
  • 15 oz. dried green split peas
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, divided
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 oz. baby spinach leaves

1. Heat saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add fennel and onion, and sauté 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup wine, and simmer 2 minutes. Add split peas, 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, thyme, bay leaf, and 7 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add remaining 1/2 cup wine, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes, or until split peas are tender. Stir in spinach, and cook 2 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.

3. Remove bay leaf, and purée soup with immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Toast remaining 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds in small skillet 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Serve soup garnished with toasted fennel seeds.

{Recipe and photo from Vegetarian Times}

What Do I Eat? Healthy Eating is Easier Than You Think!

how we eat

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

With all the crazy conflicting ideas about what a healthy diet looks like, I’m sure that on more than one occasion you’ve found yourself staring into your fridge, throwing your hands up and asking “What the hell do I eat?!”

I’ll let you in on a little secret. It is SO much easier than you think it is. Healthy eating does not involve slaving in the kitchen for hours on end, calculating complicated ratios and formulas, or resorting to bland, boring food.  I’ll let you in on another secret. You already know how to eat healthy… It’s just a matter of loving yourself enough to do it! (Tweet it!)  

The answers are already there, you know them intuitively. It’s making the choice, consistently, every day, to act on that intuitive knowledge that so many of us struggle with. I dealt with the same challenges in my own long journey toward optimal health, but I’ll tell you what did it, what sealed the deal: Experiencing for myself the drastic difference in how I feel when I eat great, delicious, fresh, healthy foods… And when I don’t, opting for what I think is easiest and fastest. The proof is in the pudding, my dears. And until you give yourself that chance, until you commit to listening to your intuition for a solid few weeks or even months, you will continue fighting an uphill battle.

For me, connecting to that intuition daily has become second nature.  When I’m home, when I’m out, when I’m on vacation or at my parent’s house, I hold on to that knowledge of what feels good (and makes me look good), and what doesn’t.  Now don’t get me wrong. I’ll have an occasional fro-yo (I mean, there’s a Red Mango literally in my building), or share an amazing Neopolitan-style pizza with my hubby; I’ll eat some super yummy goat cheese at a party once in a while, or enjoy a few squares of killer artisanal dark chocolate.  But I’ve experienced first hand that when these yummy things enter the picture more often, I feel bloated, tired, and gross.  And after a while, it starts to show up on my body as well.  It just isn’t worth it!  I would rather look and feel amazing than eat cheese, and meat, and sweets, and lasagna, and all that other crap I know, intuitively, does not make my body happy.

So what do I eat?  My diet is simple, delicious, and super satisfying.  It allows me to eat my favorite foods (with healthy tweaks), eat out at my favorite restaurants, and still maintain my ideal weight.

Breakfast

I have green tea and a green smoothie most days… about 1 cup of organic kale, spinach, or collards; half a cup of fruit (organic berries, pineapple, an apple, or mango); half an avocado; a little handful of nuts or seeds; water and maybe a little squeeze of raw organic agave.  That’s it!

On days when I’m in a rush, I’ll just grab two pieces of sprouted grain toast with some raw, organic almond butter.

A couple times a week, if I’m a little hungrier, I’ll have two farm fresh eggs, sunny side up, over spinach with some toast.  Or, I’ll have a yummy bowl of steel cut oats or a quinoa porridge with apples, cinnamon, walnuts, and agave.

Lunch

As my private clients will tell you, lunch is the most important (and biggest!) meal of the day.  I mix it up, depending on my mood, but I’ll typically have quinoa with veggies (for example: roasted squash, sautéed greens, garbanzos); quinoa pasta with tons of veggies; some seafood and tomatoes over brown rice; or a huge salad with beans, avocado, sunflower seeds, and oodles of seasonal veggies with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil (at least a tablespoon).

I make sure to eat my lunch in a calm, relaxed environment, which promotes digestion and metabolism… No rushing through lunch or eating while working!

Dinner

Dinner is nice and light most days of the week, which, as my clients will tell you, is the number one secret to sustainable weight loss and weight management.  The great thing about these light dinners is that they are quick and easy, which means we spend less time cooking, and more time hanging out and relaxing.  Most evenings, my hubby and I will have soup or a salad, or some cooked veggies (when it’s cold out).  Two nights a week, we order in.  We love sushi Tuesdays, and always share a “sushi for one” and a roll with miso soup or a salad (depending on the weather).  Another night, we’ll order in Thai where my winter favorite is Tom Yum soup… noodles, shrimp, and greens in a yummy spicy broth.

On the weekends, our whole schedule shifts later, so we end up having a late brunch, big, late lunch, and usually we’ll skip dinner altogether.  If we go out to eat, we try to make it on the earlier side, and I’ll typically order yummy veggies off the sides menu or we’ll split a veggie or seafood entree and a salad.

You might notice that there aren’t any snacks.  I am a firm anti-snacking advocate.  If you feel the need to snack, that means your meals (particularly breakfast and lunch) aren’t big enough.  If your meals are satisfying and nourishing enough, you won’t feel the need to snack, which means your blood sugar is more stable and your body has the chance to burn fat all day long.  You’re also not getting all kinds of unnecessary additional calories throughout the day, nor are you feeling hungry and obsessing about food all day long!  Win-win.

You’ll also notice a conspicuous lack of sweets.  Occasionally, I’ll have some dark chocolate or a handful of dried fruit.  Even more occasionally, I’ll have a little bowl of coconut milk ice cream with some berries.  But this happens so rarely that I don’t even include it in my “diet”.  How do I do it?  By keeping my blood sugar stable, my stress levels managed, and my love tank full ; )

Sounds easy right?  Nothing crazy, nothing mind-blowing… just simple, intuitive, healthy eating.  You know you can do it too.  Need help?  Let me know!

Delicious, Healthy Slow-Cooker Recipes!

A slow-cooker is an amazingly convenient kitchen tool that really makes life easier for busy people.  You can basically just throw a bunch of healthy, whole food ingredients into your slow cooker, go to bed, and have a delicious healthy lunch to take with you to work!  Or, have your slow-cooker running while you’re at work to come home to a hearty, healthy soup or stew for dinner!  Especially now, as the weather begins to cool, this is one time-saving tool that you’ll come to rely on for quick, healthy meals.  Check out some of my favorite slow-cooker recipes below… Note how short the preparation time and directions are!

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Stew

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Stew

Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 15m
Total Time: 7hr 30m

Ingredients

  • 4  large organic carrots, diagonally sliced into 2-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
  • 2  medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1  large onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  14-ounce can diced organic tomatoes
  • 1  cup organic vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1  zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1  16-ounce can chickpeas, drained

Directions

  1. Combine the carrots, turnips, onion, garlic, tomatoes (with their liquid), broth, salt, cumin, and pepper flakes in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6 hours, or on high for 3 hours.
  2. Add the zucchini and chickpeas and cook 1 hour longer on low.

{From Real Simple}

Barley Risotto with Fennel

Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3-4 hoursIngredients

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds
  • 1 cup pearl barley, or short-grain brown rice
  • 1 small organic carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1-1 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups frozen French-cut green beans
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional) — You can substitute nutritional yeast for the vegan option!
  • 1/3 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Coat a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Crush fennel seeds with the bottom of a saucepan. Combine the fennel seeds, diced fennel, barley (or rice), carrot, shallot and garlic in the slow cooker. Add broth, 1 cup water and wine, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the barley (or rice) is tender, but pleasantly chewy, and the risotto is thick and creamy, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours on high or low.
  2. Shortly before serving, cook green beans according to package instructions and drain. Turn off the slow cooker. Stir the green beans, Parmesan, olives, lemon zest and pepper into the risotto. If it seems dry, heat the remaining 1/2 cup water and stir it into the risotto. Serve sprinkled with the chopped fennel fronds.

{From Eating Well}

Squash, Chickpea & Red Lentil Stew

Serves 8
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours (including the 1-hour quick-soak for chickpeas)Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried chickpeas
  • 2 1/2 pounds kabocha squash or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Directions

  1. Soak chickpeas in enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches for 6 hours or overnight. (Alternatively, use the quick-soak method: Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain when ready to use.
  2. Combine the soaked chickpeas, squash, carrots, onion, lentils, broth, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, salt, saffron and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker.
  3. Put on the lid and cook on low until the chickpeas are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, 5 to 6 1/2 hours.
  4. Stir in lime juice. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.

{From Eating Well}

Slow-Cooker Seafood Gumbo

Slow-Cooker Seafood Gumbo

Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 25m
Total Time: 5hr 30m

Ingredients

  • 2  stalks celery, sliced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1  medium onion, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1  organic green pepper, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups organic vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1  14-ounce can diced organic tomatoes
  • 2  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2  teaspoons  kosher salt
  • 1  teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1  pound  large raw shrimp, cleaned
  • 1  pound  fresh or frozen crabmeat
  • 10-ounces fresh or frozen okra, thawed and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add the celery, onion, green pepper, and garlic to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Spoon the vegetables into slow-cooker and add the broth, tomatoes (with their liquid), Worcestershire, salt, and thyme.
  2. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 hours, or on high for 2 hours. Add the shrimp, crabmeat, and okra, and cook 1 hour longer on low heat or 1/2 hour longer on high.
  3. Delicious served over rice!

{Modified from Real Simple}

Organic Chicken & Sweet Potato Stew


Serves 6
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 20 minutesIngredients

  • 6 bone-in organic, free-range chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed of fat
  • 2 pounds organic sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into spears
  • 1/2 pound white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 6 large shallots, peeled and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

Directions

  1. Place chicken, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, wine, rosemary, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker; stir to combine. Put the lid on and cook on low until the potatoes are tender, about 5 hours. Before serving, remove bones from the chicken, if desired, and stir in vinegar.
  2. Delicious served over quinoa!

{From Eating Well}