Friday, January 31, 2014

Sweet Potato Soup from

I bought a couple of cans of Farmers Market Organic Sweet Potato Puree on sale at Thanksgiving, (am I caught in a time warp that hasn't brought me to Valentine's Day yet???) and I had one can remaining in my cupboard.  So looked at the website for the Farmers Market brand and found a recipe for this soup to polish it off.  It has a classic sweet potato taste, with traditional spices of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves to create a comforting, nourishing soup for another cold day in Duluth. My only modifications were to use coconut oil rather than olive oil, and to reduce the amount of vegetable broth. For variation, I added about 1/4 cup coconut milk to a serving one day (not included in nutritional analysis) and that was delicious, too.  

So, I know I should be thinking Valentine's Day and all things red and sweet and chocolate. Hmmmmm......I'll think about that for a while.  Stay tuned to see what I create for Valentine's Pzazz.  

2/3 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped carrot
2/3 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
15 oz. can Farmers Market Sweet Potato Puree (1.5 cups)
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Saute the celery, onion, and carrots in the oil.  Add the garlic and saute until the onions are translucent. Transfer the sauteed vegetables into a food processor or other device (Magic Bullet) and add one cup of the broth.  Puree to a smooth consistency. Return it to the soup pot, and add the sweet potato puree and the remaining broth.  Stir well to combine.  Add the spices.  Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes to meld the flavors.  

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 5
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 91
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 110 mg
Total Carbs: 20 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 2 g

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Art!

It's here! My son, Dan, made this new illustration for my blog as my Christmas present.  Isn't it beautiful!!  He had carefully asked me about what vegetables I love and use most in my recipes, as well as what type of "feel" I wanted to inspire on this blog.  He captured my responses to those questions amazingly well.  

It has taken me a bit of time to remember how to import the image into the blog, as well as how to customize the features on the blog.  Those might require a few more "tinkerings", so I appreciate your patience with my lack of high-tech skills as I continue to work on it.  But you can be assured that the organization of the site will remain the same, as many of you have commented about how easy it is to navigate this site.   

To read more about Dan and how to contact him to do illustrations for your needs, see the Illustrator Tab above.   In addition to being a talented illustrator, he works at the premier natural foods co-op, The Wedge, in Minneapolis.  His knowledge of healthy food has soared since working there and the two of us often have fascinating conversations about health, nutrition, and tasty delights.   The creativity of The Wedge is a good fit for his personality, skills, and interests.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Broccoli Stalk-Potato Soup

This is my adaptation of a recipe from Soup Bible (2007, Penguin Books). It makes use of those broccoli stalks that are often discarded in favor of using only the broccoli florets.  But why waste them when they can be whipped into such a lovely soup?  With the "polar vortex" swooping down upon us once again (though I don't think it ever left Duluth), a hearty bone-warming soup is my most reliable technique for comfort.  This one truly nourishes me in many ways.   I omitted the creme fraiche and butter from the original recipe and I didn't miss them a bit in terms of taste.   

And this soup is a favorite because it has potato in it.  So what's up with me and potatoes lately? I am having potatoes in some form at least three times a day because I love them, I easily digest them,  and because I am trying desperately to gain weight.  ( I know...I know...that's not a common problem in the general population but it is typical for those of us with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.)  It's not easy to gain weight when I can't eat most fats, with the exception of coconut oil, which doesn't require pancreatic enzymes to digest.  But being as underweight as I am puts me at risk for many complications and freezing in this brutally cold weather!  Another helping of soup, please.  

For one meal, I finely minced ham in the chopper attachment to my Cuisinart Smart Stick and then put it with broth in the Magic Bullet to puree it and then mixed it into the soup.  Great way to add protein. 

So add some Pzazz and warmth to your day with this soup!
Peeled and chopped broccoli stalks

    1 tablespoon coconut oil 
    2 leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green portion only), and
              rinsed thoroughly of any grit
    2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    2 pounds broccoli stalks, peeled and thinly sliced
           (4 cups chopped)
    1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cubed into 1" pieces 
      (this makes about 1 cup)
    3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    freshly ground black pepper
    Lemon pepper seasoning

In a soup pot, heat oil and add leeks and garlic. Cook over gentle heat until soft. Add broccoli stalks and potato and pour in broth. Slowly bring to a boil, and cook, covered, for 15 - 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and cool a little.

Puree soup until smooth. (My immersion blender stick worked well for this soup.) Gently reheat.  Sprinkle with a bit of lemon pepper seasoning. Potential garnishes: croutons, chopped chives, chopped scallions.  

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe:  4
Serving Size:  1 cup
Calories:  171
Total Fat:  4 g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium 123 mg
Total Carbs:  29 g
Dietary Fiber:  2 g
Protein:  10 g 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Potato Leek Soup - Quick Version

I adapted this recipe from one in The Dysphagia Cookbook by Elayne Achilles. The original recipe included half and half, so I omitted that, and it was still fabulous.   I think it was the white wine that made it so tasty. Besides the great taste, the ease of making this soup won me over immediately. Simply put all of the ingredients in a pot and let it cook.   I had posted a recipe for Potato Leek Soup in November, 2012, and it was also delicious, but was much more complicated to make.  This recipe is the kind I love - easy and full of Pzazz!  

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 leeks, cut into 1-inch pieces (use all of white and half of green part)
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves 
Possible garnishes:  yogurt, finely minced scallions, parsley, or celery leaves.

In a 5-quart pot, cook the potatoes, leeks, broth, wine, pepper and bay leaves until the vegetables are quite tender, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly and remove the bay leaves. Puree to desired consistency. My immersion blender stick worked great for this soup.   Savor on a cold winter day!

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 6
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 150
Total Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol:  3 mg
Sodium: 567 mg
Total Carbs: 32 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 4 g

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Corn Chowder

I realized recently when looking through my recipes how many of them use Mid-East or East Indian spices, simply because I love those ethnic cuisines.  But it occurred to me that many of you may not share my love for those spices.  So I was looking for more traditional/MidWest American cuisine and found this one at Food and Wine.  It used milk and fresh corn cut from the cob, as well as butter. And the whole soup was not pureed. So I made the necessary modifications for me and it turned out exquisite!!  My husband, Tom, and our daughter-in-law also loved it.  Pzazz!  

2 Tablespoons coconut oil
4 scallions, white bulbs only, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 lb. (about 3) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled,  and cut into "1/2" cubes
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 cups frozen corn kernels

1. In a large saucepan, melt the oil over moderately low heat. Add the scallion bulbs, bell pepper, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, the bay leaf, broth and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the frozen corn kernels and cook until tender, about 10 - 15 minutes longer. (The Food and Wine recipe stated that since the corn is already cooked, it might get tough if it is added earlier. It also suggested adding a pinch of sugar, too, to keep it tender.) 

3. Remove the bay leaf. Cool slightly.  Then puree to desired consistency. The VitaMix was a great tool for this soup because corn can be very fibrous, but the VitaMix turned it into a velvety texture without any corn kernel residue. 

4.  Potential garnishes:  chopped scallion greens and red peppers (they make such an appealing garnish, but if you can't eat them, just remove them prior to eating), yogurt, Greek yogurt, sour cream and/or finely minced celery leaf.   

Servings per recipe: 6
Serving Size: Scant 1 cup                    
Calories: 206
Total Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium:  422 mg
Total Carbs: 35 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 7 g

Monday, January 6, 2014

Syrian Spinach Soup

With the sub-zero weather we are now enduring in Duluth, the thought of a cold smoothie or juice with healthy greens just doesn't work for my brain or body. So bring on a nourishing soup!! Pzazz on a cold day!

This soup was inspired by a recipe that I found at the New York Times food section for Pureed Spinach Soup with Middle Eastern Spices. The original recipe had rice cooked in it, but I omitted that and opted instead to add cooked rice to the soup when I served it if I chose to do so. It also used a bouquet garni of a bay leaf, fresh thyme, and fresh parsley, but I improvised with what I had available and simply used a bay leaf and ground thyme.  This is what I love about cooking as opposed to baking. Improvisation based on what I have in the kitchen keeps the process intriguing and creative and, many times, more budget-friendly.  
I also used the last of the onions we had from the garden. We had kept them in a bowl in a cool room and only a couple of them had sprouted, as you'll see in the photo below.  

Last of garden onions
I made several other adaptions to the recipe, including substitution of coconut oil for the olive oil, and I used goat yogurt instead of Greek Fage yogurt. Pairing yogurt with spinach is typical of Mid-Eastern cuisine and in this soup the yogurt contributes a mild tart flavor. The original recipe also used crushed walnuts as a garnish, which I omitted.  I chose to garnish mine with crushed beet vegetable chips.  

The mixture of spices creates a distinctly Mid-Eastern flavor, but in a delicate sort of way.  If you aren't familiar with toasting cumin seed, it is definitely worth the minimal time it requires.  Simply put them in a dry pan on low-heat and toast them for 2 - 5 minutes, just until they are fragrant. Then crush them with a mortar and pestle.
Toasting cumin seed

Don't have cumin seed?  Just throw in about 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin and you'll be fine, with a bit less robust flavor.   

Fresh Spinach

    1 tablespoon coconut oil 

    1 medium onion, chopped

    1/3 cup finely diced celery

    Salt to taste (I didn't add any and it was delicious without it) 

    2 garlic cloves, minced

    6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

    1 bay leaf                                         

    1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

    1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed and washed thoroughly in 2 changes of water

    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

    1/8 teaspoon ground clove

    1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg) 

    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1 scant teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground (or use about 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander if you don't have coriander seeds available)

    Freshly ground pepper

    1 teaspoon cornstarch

    1 cup yogurt  ( I used goat yogurt, but Greek yogurt was used in the original recipe.)


1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, and add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring, until tender about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic smells fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Spices added to the soup

2. Add the stock, bay leaf, and thyme and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the spinach and spices, cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. The spinach should wilt but should maintain its bright color.

3. Using an immersion stick hand blender, or in batches in a regular blender, purée the soup. Return to the pot and heat through, stirring.Whisk the cornstarch into the yogurt. If you want a pungent, garlicky yogurt, mash a garlic clove to a paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle and stir it into the yogurt.  Stir the yogurt into the soup. Alternatively, you can use the yogurt as a garnish and swirl into each soup bowl when you serve it.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4.  Serve the soup, garnishing each bowl with a sprinkling of crushed vegetable chips or croutons.  Add cooked rice, if desired.  (Rice is not included in the nutritional analysis.)

Nutrition per serving:       
Servings per recipe: 6
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 82
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 7 mg
Sodium: 254 mg
Total Carbs: 11 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g        
Protein: 5 g

Friday, January 3, 2014

Greet the New Year with Ease

Maybe this year, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for flaws, but looking for potential.
Ellen Goodman

For daily inspiration, I generally start my day by viewing Jules of Nature, a stunning tumblr site created by my dear friend.  She pairs a quote with one of her photos each day. You will not find more magnificent photography anywhere. I encourage you to visit her site for inspiration.   

The quote above wasn't on her site, but it is certainly a perspective she has helped me embrace. As a college student and then as a young professional, and later as a wife and young mother, I made New Year's resolutions with determination to see what I might accomplish or change about myself in the coming year.  But my perspective has changed, and the quote above is one I embrace now, and think it creates much more peace and ease in my life.  Hopefully, each of you will find ease and potential in your life this year.  

Larsmont 2012