Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup

Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup not only tastes amazing, it’s a cancer-fighting machine.

For those of you on a diet with concerns about the ingredient list, allow me to dispel some myths (italicized, and best read in a valley-girl accent).

Oh, I don’t eat potatoes, they have carbs, and carbs will make me fat. 

Not all carbs are created equal. If you over-consume processed carbohydrates, you will not see the results you are hoping for in your body; however, whole potatoes are unprocessed, extremely nutrient-dense, and sweet potatoes, in particular, rank the lowest on the glycemic index.

Sweet potatoes are nutritional rockstars, and they’re a potato you should say yes to – assuming you aren’t coating them in butter, marshmallows, or any other ingredient that turns them into candy. That’s like adding a candy bar to your oatmeal.

I heard carrots are like sugar sticks with orange food coloring. 

Carrots get a bad rap because they’re a starchy vegetable. Do they have carbohydrates and sugars, yes, but they are all natural, and hold a lot of awesome nutritional wealth that is absolutely worth it in the right portion sizes. The energy boost and fat-fighting properties of carrots cancel out the carbohydrates.

Horses are smart to go for these orange sticks, and you should follow suit. You’ll get vitamins A, K, C, and B6, beta-carotene (for healthy eyes, and cancer fighting power), potassium (fight off the muscle cramps you’ve been experiencing in your workouts), calcium, and more. Besides, natural sugars don’t act the same in your body as refined sugar, and Mother Nature uses more reasonable amounts per serving size than candy companies.

Coconut milk has fat, so I can’t have that either. No fat. No carbs. No sugar.

The fat in coconut milk is not the same as the fat in your french fries.

Although it should still be enjoyed in moderation, the fat in coconut milk is actually good for you. It helps your skin stay elastic. Coconut milk is also high in phosphorus, iron, magnesium, fiber, zinc, potassium and vitamin C.

The bottom line: You should eat all “real” food in moderation. Don’t eat something that’s processed simply because it claims to have less fat or carbohydrates. If your body can’t easily recognize an ingredient, it doesn’t know how to use it, and it will get pushed to the side to live in your problem areas and cause your body to run less efficiently. Choose unprocessed food, and eat the appropriate portion size

  • If you’re a vegetarian, this soup is great without the chicken, too.
  • You can skip a cooking step by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
  • If you like a little kick, add a bit of cayenne with the other spices. You’ll feel nice and toasty after a bowl of this goodness.

Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or real butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken/vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed or not from concentrate)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pkg (about 6) chicken tenderloins, cut into chunks
  • Arugula for garnish (A green that serves as your pepper!)

Cook chicken in olive oil and set to the side.

Saute onion in 1 Tbsp coconut oil/butter over medium heat until soft. Add carrots, potato, and second Tbsp coconut oil/butter. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add orange juice, salt, spices, and half of the chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until potatoes and carrots begin to soften (about 8 minutes), then process until you reach desired smoothness. Add processed soup back to pot and add remaining broth and coconut milk. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add chicken to soup and heat through. Serve topped with arugula. Enjoy!

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Sweet potato, sausage and white bean stew

I try to use almost everything I have in the pantry and refrigerator before I head to the store. I do it partly for the challenge, and partly because I don’t always feel like going to the store. This process has turned out all kinds of food combinations I wouldn’t ordinarily mix, but it also keeps me from churning out the same old dishes all the time.

Yesterday I found myself with one sweet potato (lots of nutritious bang for your buck – they should have a label that reads, “eat me”), a package of light Hillshire Farm (Go meat!) sausage, and white northern beans. Also on hand (because I always need them) was onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, and, of course, a plethora of seasonings. Since I’m writing about it, you have already guessed that the result was delicious.

A few notes about this dish before we get to the recipe:

  • Don’t add salt. Between the sausage and the canned beans and tomatoes, you don’t need it.
  • Don’t serve it over rice or pasta. You wouldn’t serve mashed potatoes that way, so don’t serve sweet potato stew that way.
  • You could also make this in the slow cooker.
  • I don’t have a photo because we were really hungry from smelling it, and we ate too fast for my shutter.

Sweet potato, sausage and white bean stew

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 pkg. light smoked sausage
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a handful of the fresh stuff if you’ve got it handy)
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped (1 inch chunks work)
  • 1 can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 can white great northern/cannellini beans (drained)
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion, cook for 3 minutes, then add sausage and garlic. Cook another 3 minutes and add potato and seasonings. Cook 3 minutes, stirring well, then add tomatoes and stir/smash to blend. Finally, add beans. Cover and cook for 20-30 mins, adding chicken broth as needed too keep it from getting to thick and sticking to the skillet.

Enjoy!


Roasted sweet potato and pineapple

I ran across this delicious side dish in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine and enjoyed it so much I wanted to share the recipe.

Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index score than other potatoes, making them a good carb, and they come loaded with cartenoids, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.

Pineapple is another nutritional powerhouse with a natural sweetness that only gets better when roasted.

Don’t be shy about the cayenne used in the recipe. I would not categorize this as a spicy dish.

The basic recipe for this dish calls for preheating the oven to 450F and roasting the potatoes and pineapple for 30-35 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. The night I made this I was also cooking a pork loin and wanted to roast everything at the same time, so I actually cooked it all at 400F for 40 minutes, stirring at the halfway point. It made for a very easy dinner all-around.

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pineapple

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces, or one 20 oz can of chunks in natural juice (drained)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Few cracks of sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes, pineapple, oil, salt and cayenne pepper together and spread evenly on baking sheet. Roast until sweet potatoes and pineapple are tender and golden, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.


5 Meals to get you back into your pre-holiday jeans

Over the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time cooking, and even more time eating.

What’s more?  It’s only the beginning of our holiday season eating extravaganza that ends with New Year’s resolutions meant to undo the damage.

That rattling in your closet is all of your buttons shaking in fear of what you intend to consume over the next month. 

I’m not going to ask you not to eat at parties or enjoy the many holiday treats that will surely show up at your home or office this season. Instead, I’m going to suggest some meal options for the days in-between the butter, cream cheese, sugar, mayonnaise, icing, eggnog-laden gatherings.

Below are five meals you can feel good about. Not only are these dinner ideas healthy and tasty, they are also easy. You’ve already slaved over a turkey. Now you’re off the hook for the rest of the year.

After the holidays, I will absolutely help you get back in shape even if you break every rule in my book; but, success will come sooner and easier if we can temper the damage on the front-end.

What’s for dinner?

1) Meatloaf (using oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs) with cauliflower mash instead of taters

For the meatloaf, use 1 lb of lean ground meat, 2/3 cup of oatmeal, 1 egg, 1/4 cup of chopped onion, 1/2 tsp of minced garlic, 1 drained can of diced tomatoes, 1 Tbsp of worcestershire and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Mix and bake at 350 for 40 mins, top with Heinz 57 and bake for an additional 10 mins.

For the cauliflower mash, steam or boil fresh or frozen cauliflower until tender, then process with your favorite mashed potato ingredients.

2) Lentil sauce over quinoa

Cook 1/2 lb of sausage or ground meat in a pot with 1 tsp of olive oil. Once the meat cooks, add 1 can of lentil soup and 1 can of Rotel. Heat through so some of the liquid evaporates, and serve over quinoa.

3) Taco salad

Cook ground meat with 1 tsp each of the following: chili powder, onion powder, paprika, garlic salt, cumin and red pepper. Add 1/2 cup of diced onion and cook until translucent. Serve over torn up lettuce and top with grated cheddar, diced tomatoes, diced peppers, a dollop of plain yogurt (greek is best because the flavor mimics sour cream) and a sprinkle of crushed tortilla chips.

4) Steak and salad with blue cheese dressing

Marinate steak in 2 Tbsp worcestershire, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp of orange or apple juice and 2 tsp pepper for at least 30 mins. Grill to desired doneness, and serve with romaine, diced red onion and a dressing made of the following: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 2 tsp chopped onion, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, splash of red wine vinegar and 1 Tbsp of blue cheese – process till smooth and salt & pepper to taste.

5) Roasted chicken and veggies

Heat oven to 400F. Mix juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp pepper, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 Tbsp freshly chopped herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary or sage will work) and 1 tsp minced garlic. Baste chicken breasts, and use the rest to toss with vegetables of choice (broccoli, carrots, onion, fennel, sweet potato chunks, bell peppers, cauliflower, etc.). Bake chicken and vegetables for about 20 minutes, or until done.


Crock Pot fall soup with butternut squash, chicken, coconut milk and… peanut butter

Just so we’re clear, I love peanut butter and would use it in/on everything if that was an acceptable option. From this information you can derive that I was more than excited to add it to this batch of soup. You can omit it if you’re dealing with allergies, but “hint of pb” goes a long way in it if you are cleared for peanut consumption.

I made this soup the same day I had the pleasure of staying late at the gym to workout with Tony Horton. What an excellent excuse to work late, and a wonderful dinner to come home to.

Before I start with the recipe, I’ll cover some variations for this soup. You can use rotisserie chicken (pulled/chopped with skin removed) as a shortcut, dark or white meat will work equally well – you could even use turkey to make it taste more like Thanksgiving; the cayenne is optional if you’re not into spice; you can puree the squash (or use frozen butternut squash puree) rather than cube it depending on your desired consistency.

This soup is perfect for fall and full of protein, good carbs, and spices that will make you feel warm from the inside out.

Spiced Butternut Squash and Chicken Soup

  • 1 3lb butternut squash cubed (Click here for instructions on peeling and chopping these tough buggers!)
  • 1 pkg (just under 2lbs) boneless, skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp of each of the following: ginger, cumin, cinnamon, paprika (smoked paprika, preferably)
  • 2 tsp curry
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • salt and pepper

Add cubed squash, red pepper and dried cranberries to the slow-cooker /crock pot. Salt and pepper the chicken and cook with red onion in olive oil until you can’t see anymore pink on the outside of the chicken. While chicken and onion cook, mix all remaining ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. It’s okay if peanut butter doesn’t separate while stirring. It will blend easily by stirring once the soup is hot from cooking. Add chicken and onion to crock pot and pour liquid-spice mixture over it. Mix with a wooden spoon, and don’t worry about the liquid not appearing to be enough. It will all cook down and magically turn into soup.

Cook on med-high for 4-6 hours (medium if all day). Before serving, scoop out about 1.5 cups of the squash and mash it up with a fork. Stir the mashed squash back in to make the soup thicker and creamier. Give it a taste and add more s&p if your tastes say it needs it.

Serve on its own, or you can top soup with a spoonful of yogurt, cilantro, basil, toasted squash seeds or parmesan.


Carrot, apple, nut muffins

I’m currently obsessed with making (and eating) uber-healthy muffins. The idea is to pack as much of the stuff my body needs, with as little of what it doesn’t, into little baked goodies I can eat on the go.

I’ve been playing with fruit, veggies, nuts, grains, spices, etc., and I encourage you to do the same.

The recipe below is from today’s batch (I’m actually eating one while typing) where I made a point of writing down measurements. I work off of what we have in the house when I’m cooking, so things rarely come out the same twice, but who cares as long as it tastes good, right? The trouble is, I’ll mention having made something yummy recently and, of course, the common response is to ask for the recipe.

I say all of this so you’ll realize that you can make a gazillion variations of the muffins below. You can substitute any dried fruit for the dates, applesauce for the apple, pumpkin or sweet potato for the carrot, use any kind of nut, any kind of milk, etc.

The sweetness from the natural sugars in the carrots, apple and dates mean you only need a touch of actual sugar, and using oatmeal cuts down on the amount of flour required. Real sugar and whole grains mean you’ll stay full longer and keep your blood sugar level stable.

If you do make the muffins according to the recipe below, you can feel good about getting a boatload of vitamins, potassium, fiber, folic acid, beta carotene, calcium and omega-3, just to name some of the goodness. Whether you have these for breakfast, a treat, or a snack, you will be making a better decision than you will with most alternatives. I love to have one (or two) with a cold glass of skim milk. So yummy!

Carrot, apple, nut muffins

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 1 apple (quartered)
  • 3/4 cup pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick oats)
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ea baking soda and powder
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Preheat oven to 350/180. Combine first 9 ingredients in the food processor and let it do its thing. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer wet ingredients from the processor to the dry mixture and stir. Grease a muffin pan and fill up the cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!

Mashed sweet potato with roasted banana

Mashed sweet potato with roasted banana is easy to make, delicious, and healthy to the nth degree. One sweet potato and one banana is all you need. One large potato is usually large enough to feed two, or you could do a small one per person. You’ll need one banana to each potato.

Sweet potatoes are nutritional rockstars. They’re lower on the glycemic index than other potatoes, making them the “good carbs,” and they’re loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Unfortunately, we love them with butter and sugar, which add back in the same things we were trying to avoid.

Bananas are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and they’re also a great source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and vitamin B6. They are higher in sugar than some fruits, but natural sugar is better for you than refined and bleached sugar or artificial sweeteners.

When you roast a banana the skin turns black, and the inside becomes sweet and gooey, like sweetened butter. Thus, sugar and butter, without the actual sugar and butter. Get excited.

Try this recipe next to a spicy steak, chicken/pork with a peach-balsamic sauce, or even as baby food. It’s a very versatile dish.

Mashed sweet potato with roasted banana (You’re not going to believe how easy this is!)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Scrub potato(s) and pierce a few times with a fork. Bake for one hour. Forty-five minutes into baking, place banana(s), skin on, in oven. After the final 15 minutes, remove potato(s) and banana(s). Slice potato and scoop out filling. Mash in a large bowl. Make a slit in your banana and scoop contents out with a spoon over the potato. Mash and mix together. That’s it! Enjoy!